Sunday, December 21, 2014

2015 New Year Wishes

This is the one time during the year when everyone all over the world joins in the countdown to a New Year.

As 2014 moves into the past, let us all be thankful for what we have achieved, and mindful of our responsibility to continue our good actions, activities, endeavors and accomplishments.  

As 2015 dawns, let us consider how we can use the New Year to make a difference for our friends, our fellow workers, our neighbors, our families, our country and the world. This is the time of year to renew our obligations and make renewed commitment to help others in our community, our nation, and our world.

Together, let us bless our world leaders, with knowledge and wisdom to lead our world to peace; our families and friends, the people we work with and with who share our life.
Bless us all with Peace, Happiness, Love and Joy.

New Year is not about changing Dates but Direction; It's not about changing the Calendar but Commitment; It's not about changing Actions but Attitude; It's not about changing Frills but Force and Focus! 

It's about making the Commitment to Create the best New Year ever!

My own wish for you is that the New Year will turn out to be a very special, filling each day with health, happiness, prosperity and serenity.

Jim Pinto
January 2015

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Everyone wants to be “happy”.  But, what exactly is Happiness?

I remember seeing a wealthy woman who was eating a big steak in an expensive restaurant and complaining about how miserable she was. Whenever I think about happiness that image pops into my mind.

Decades ago, while I was still quite young and inexperienced, I was complaining about something and a wise friend said as we were driving past a local hospital, “There are plenty of people in that hospital there who would be happy to change places with you.” After that, whenever I complain, I remember that comment and quickly get a balanced perspective.

Not Happiness

Happiness is not just feeling good all the time. An even-keeled mood is more psychologically healthy than a mood that attains occasional heights of happiness. Research suggests that focusing too much on trying to feel good all the time will actually undermine the ability to feel good at all. (1) (2)

Happiness is not being rich. I have seen poor people in India and other third-world countries who radiate happiness. Living below the poverty line certainly makes it hard to be happy. But money does not buy happiness.

Bonus Expectations

Unexpected bonuses cause short-term happiness. I remember when the company I founded, Action Instruments, had record results one year and we decided to give all employees a 10% increase. Everyone was happy. But the gratification quickly dissipated when expectations changed to fit new budgets. 

The same problem occurred with the annual bonus: Everyone was happy when the annual bonus doubled from last year.  But, as the next bonus time approached, the calculations began, “Will my bonus double again? Or will the increase be smaller?” Some optimists spent the bonus before it arrived, only to be unhappy when it was less than expected. When results were poor and the bonus went down, there was a lot of unhappiness. 

Christmas Gift Giving

This reminds me of the 1989 movie, “Christmas Vacation”. Clark Griswold was planning to spend his annual bonus on a swimming pool. His family’s disappointment was palpable when the bonus turned out to be just a subscription to “Jelly of the Month Club”. Everyone, including the boss’s wife and the police SWAT team, thought that was despicable. (3)

This kind of transient happiness applies to new houses, cars, gadgets, and all the other material goods that people want. We teach our children to expect lots of Christmas gifts, from parents, friends and relative. And in turn, it imposes an obligation to reciprocate.

An episode in the TV program, “Big Bang Theory” resonated with me. Sheldon considers reciprocal gift giving an obligation to give something of equal value. That premise is perfect! When Penny states that she has a gift for him, he buys several gift baskets, with a plan is to open Penny's gift first, then bring out the appropriately valued basket (he’ll return the others later). Her gift turns out to be something Sheldon considers has huge value (Leonard Nimoy’s napkin). So, in an effort to reciprocate, he brings out all the gifts. (4)

Advertising Fuels Gift-giving

Advertising is ingrained in American culture and influences how people feel about themselves. Products are presented in the best light possible and images are often unrealistic and unattainable. This continues to maintain a dysfunctional society full of insecurities, paranoia, cynicism, jadedness and narcissism.  It develops false needs and fuels negative feelings like envy and jeolousy. It generates unhappiness. (5)

Immediately after Thanksgiving the hoopla and advertising for Christmas gift giving begins, stimulated by incessantly repeated advertising to fuel expectations and demand. It’s part of our business and our lives. It causes much unhappiness.

Gross National Happiness

Most countries measure growth with an economic indicator – gross domestic product (GDP).

Bhutan, a country in South Asia near the Himalayas, measures Gross National Happiness (GNH). This defines indicators to measure the quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms. They have a Gross National Happiness Commission charged with reviewing policy decisions and allocation of resources dedicated to the well being of people within Bhutan. (6)

According to the official Bhutanese website, “GNH is a holistic and sustainable approach to development which balances between material and non-material values with the conviction that humans want to search for happiness. The objective of GNH is to achieve a balanced development in all facets of life that is essential to our happiness.”

By contrast, progress in America and much of the world is measured only by Growth. If this is achieved, all the other indicators are expected to follow. But an increased disparity between rich and poor generates significantly decreased GNH. (7)

Happiness Defined & Measured

Defining happiness IS as elusive as achieving it. Can happiness really be defined, studied and measured? Psychology researchers study strengths, positive emotions, resilience, and happiness to learn new ways to prevent disorders, and even learn to become happier.

Psychologist Ed Diener, co-author of “Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealthdescribes what psychologists call “subjective well-being” as a combination of life satisfaction and having more positive emotions than negative emotions. (8) The book purports to use sophisticated methodology and three decades of research to challenge present thinking of the causes and consequences of happiness. 

Another book on this subject is, “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work”. (9) Author Shawn Anchor, spent over a decade living, researching, and lecturing at Harvard University. He draws on his own research – including one of the largest studies of happiness and potential at Harvard and at other companies. 

Happiness Formulas

After 40 years of research, psychologists attribute happiness to three major sources: genes, events and values. With a few simple rules, we can improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We can even construct a system that empowers everyone to pursue happiness.

Researchers from University College London came up with a formula that they published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The essence of the formula is this: Happiness spikes when we win and our expectations are low; but it gradually fades over time. (10)

Here’s the formula. Other than academics or math-geeks, who can comprehend?

 Here’s another simpler Happiness formula (11):

H = ((A + P) x R) + F

Happiness equals Attitude plus Presence, times Resilience, plus Faith.

Several years ago, I found a formula that has helped me to be happy:

H = R/E

H is happiness, R is Reality and E is expectations.

This applies to everyone – rich and poor alike. Whatever the Reality, if Expectations are low, then Happiness goes up.

Happiness is Not A Destination

Working towards Happiness does not help one to “arrive” there. Unless you are one of the few who won the genetic lottery and are naturally happy, happiness takes regular effort to maintain.

Most life events that make us happy in the short-term – like being promoted, falling in love, or getting married – fade over time as we adapt to them. Most established techniques for becoming happier – keeping a gratitude journal, for example – are habits, not one-shot events.  

Happiness is a combination of satisfaction with life and feeling good day by day. Life changes and mood fluctuations affect happiness. With consistent effort, bad changes can be offset. (12)

Happiness is a Frame of Mind

Think of it happiness you think about your weight: if you eat how you want to and are as active as you want to be, your body will settle at a certain weight. But if you eat less than you'd like or exercise more, your weight will adjust accordingly. If that new diet or exercise regimen becomes part of your everyday life, then you'll stay at this new weight. If you go back to eating and exercising the way you used to, your weight will return to where it started. This also applies to happiness.

In other words, you have the ability to control how you feel. With consistent practice, you can form life-long habits for a more satisfying and fulfilling life. 

Here are the lyrics of a song you may remember. Play it with the Youtube link (13).

Don't worry be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy


1.     PBS – What is happiness?
2.     Roundtable –What is Happiness, Anyway?
3.     Christmas Vacation Bonus Check Scene:
4.     Big Bang Theory – Sheldon on Gift Giving:
5.     Advertising has bad effects on all of society:
6.     Bhutan – What is Gross National Happiness?
7.     Poverty & Wealth in America:
8.     Book – Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth:
9.     Book – The Happiness Advantage:
10.  NY Times – A Formula for Happiness:
11.  Happiness – Simple Equation for Creating Bliss:
12.  Why Happiness Is A State Of Mind:
13.  Bobby McFerrin – Don't worry Be happy:

Jim Pinto
11 December 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Poverty and Wealth in America

"My bills are all due and the baby needs shoes and I'm busted
Cotton is down to a quarter a pound, but I'm busted
I got a cow that went dry and a hen that won't lay
A big stack of bills that gets bigger each day
The county's gonna haul my belongings away cause I'm busted."
- Ray Charles song

Once a month I go with Rotary volunteers to serve breakfast at Brother Benno’s soup kitchen in Oceanside. The doors open at 6:30 am and the line stretches out the door; we serve about 250 people till 8:00 am. Many seem like regular folks, embarrassed to be in the line; they are there to eat something before they go to work because they can’t afford breakfast. Others are senior citizens and families with children. There’s no difference of color or race – they are all poor Americans.

I’ve seen poor in India and other countries. But, somehow this is different. These are people right here in my own backyard. As I help serve breakfast, I wonder how and why this is happening in the world’s wealthiest country. 

Poverty: America's blind spot

In November 2012 the US Census Bureau said more than 16% of the population in America (50 million people) live in poverty, including almost 20% of American children, the highest level since 1993.  (1) (2)  “The American Dream” is our country’s ethos – this is the American nightmare. (3)(4)

Most Americans don't know much about the poor. It's like a giant blind spot. In the big cities, we know about the homeless in the downtown area, but we usually avoid them. And we don't see the poor in rural areas. Among rich countries the US is exceptional in the tolerance of poverty, ranking second highest out of 35 developed countries. 23% of US children live in poverty. Only Romania ranks higher.

War on Poverty

In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed, “unconditional war on poverty in America.” This has failed completely. A significant portion of the population is now less capable of self-sufficiency than it was when the War on Poverty began. The latest results show the painful declines during the financial crisis and recession. (5)

Ratings show that TV dislikes poor people because their appearance is a “downer”; it causes viewers to switch channels. Powerful politicians aren't sympathetic because poor "folks" don't vote.

Meaning of  “poor”

Who are the poor?  About 8% of American whites are poor; with a total of about 70% whites, there are more poor whites than poor African-Americans or Hispanics. The jump in white poverty in nonurban areas accounts for most of the recent poverty increase. It’s a shamefully high number. For the poor, the idea of low-wage jobs' covering the basic expenses is a cruel joke. (6)

In America, 45 million live below the poverty line, which is more than the total population of Canada (35 million). Think on this: It's like a poor country with more people than all of Canada living inside America. If America's poor were a separate country, it would be the 35th largest country in the world.(7)

According to the Census Bureau, 104 million people – about 33% of the population – have annual incomes below the poverty line, less than $38,000 for a family of three. They struggle to make ends meet. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 50% of the jobs in America pay less than $34,000 a year. The poverty line for a family of four is less than $23,000 annually – 25% of the population earns less than that. Poverty among families with children exceeds 40 %.

Rich get richer

In recent years there’s been growth, but only at the top. A steadily rising stock market with record profits has helped only the wealthy. The poor have been left behind.

Most major US companies have recovered from the recession and accumulated record amounts of cash. Employers substitute increasingly cheap computers and automation for expensive labor. What remains are unskilled, low paying, manual and service jobs. The US has two million fewer jobs than before the downturn.

Wage Dichotomy

Average CEO compensation rose more than 7 times (726%) between the years of 1978 and 2011- more than double the percentage increase in the S&P stock index. Meanwhile, pay for the average private-sector non-supervisory worker increased by a meager 5.7%. 

America has more millionaires and billionaires than any country in the world. But still, there is strong opposition to raising the minimum wage to $ 10.10, claiming that it will destroy 500,000 jobs.

Ultra Wealth

A 2014 World Ultra Wealth report by UBS shows that the world’s ultra high net worth population grew 6% to 211,275 individuals and wealth increased 7% to nearly US$30 trillion. Although these ultra wealthy individuals account for only 0.004% of the world’s adult population, they control almost 13% of the world’s total wealth.(8)

In 1980, the top 1% controlled about 8% of U.S. national income, the bottom 50% shared about 18%. Today the top 1% share about 20%; the bottom 50%, only 12%. How long can this continue?

The Pitchforks are coming

In a TED speech, Nick Hanauer, a Seattle-based entrepreneur and himself a proclaimed plutocrat, says, " The problem isn't that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society."

Nick Hanauer warns his fellow filthy-rich: “You’re living in a dream world. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality.” (9)(10)

Wrong Measurements

Gross domestic product (GDP) has emerged as the dominant concept in our time, the measure of progress.  This has become perverted – measured only in terms of money flow. It tracks the conversion of nature into cash, commons into commodities.

Capitalism is the engine that has advanced mankind in many ways, over past centuries. Socialism and Communism have not contributed comparably. But the current model of capitalism practiced today is premised upon perpetual economic growth. If this continues to be followed blindly, it may ultimately invade all accessible habitats and consume all available resources.

Someone said, “Capitalism is like a bicycle – if one stops pedaling, it falls over.”  Continuous-growth capitalism must eventually breakdown. It is in fact collapsing for the simple reason that finite resources cannot sustain infinite growth. (11)

  • Nature’s amazing cycles of renewal of water and nutrients are defined as “non-production". A living forest does not contribute to growth – but when trees are cut down and sold as timber, that generates growth. 
  • Healthy societies and communities do not contribute to growth; but illness and disease creates growth through expansion of treatment centers and sales of proprietary medications at higher prices. 
  • Water, shared freely and protected, does not create growth. But, when Coca-Cola and Pepsi develop factories to fill plastic bottles with sweet water, it creates growth. 
  • The commercialization of water, electricity, health and education generates growth and profits. But it also generates poverty by forcing people to spend large amounts of money on what should be commonly available. When every aspect of life is commercialized, living becomes more costly and more people become poorer. 
  • The demands of the current economic model are leading to resource wars: oil wars, water wars, and food wars.

For advanced countries, economic success should not be based on continuous economic growth. Adequate responses should be generated to combat increasing environmental, social, economic, and financial pressures. 

There must be organized maintenance and acceleration of many already observable environmental trends – example, “green” initiatives. In addition, there must be planned reversal of abrupt, damaging, discontinuous disruptions – no more booms and busts. (12) 

Twenty years from now, America will have either successfully transitioned from our current economic growth paradigm to a new model of sustainable capitalism. If not, we will be inevitably be suffering the calamitous consequences of our failure to do so.

During discussions after this blog was published, the solutions I proposed here were considered theoretical and minimal. See the more specific and practical ideas in my follow-on post dated 24 November 2014 (below). Please add your own solutions and ideas via blog comments.


  1. Poverty in the United States:
  2. Hunger and Poverty Fact Sheet:
  3. Pinto editorial - Poverty: America's blind-spot:
  4. The American Dream Is Leaving America:
  5. The War on Poverty After 50 Years:
  6. Your Assumptions About Welfare Recipients Are Wrong:
  7. Poverty in America: Why Can’t We End It?
  8. World's 85 richest people own nearly half of global wealth:
  9. The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats:
  10. Youtube: Beware, the pitchforks are coming:
  11. How economic growth has become anti-life:
  12. Successful Economy without Continuous Growth:

Jim Pinto
24 November 2014