Time To Reflect

Time To Reflect Cover Image

John R York

May 14, 2023

A Girl and Her Dog

The picture for this month’s blog is of my wife, Paula, and our dog, Rayne. As I entered the room and saw them lying on the floor together, I was moved by the emotion of the scene and snapped this picture. Rayne is getting up there in years and I’ve been trying not to think about the time he’ll no longer be with us. It’s moments like these that give me cause to stop and reflect on life.

As Forest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” I’ve been very fortunate during my life. When I take time to reflect on the past, I usually begin with thoughts of my family, my career, so many wonderful friends, life with Paula, and the many adventures I’ve had. Of course, adventures aren’t always as glorious as they become when you tell stories about them years later.

As my mind begins to wander, my thoughts turn toward the sort of things about life that just strike me as strange.

Things That Make You Go

Did you know there are nearly twice as many open job positions in this country as there are unemployed people? I just heard that on the news this morning. I suppose there are all kinds of details in that statistic that one should take into consideration before drawing any conclusions, but… “hmm”.

In a recent effort to pull together a marketing plan for my next book, The Five Watches: An Accident of Time, I conducted a search for statistics about books, publishing, and readers. Some of the data surprised me.

More than half of adults in the United States haven’t read a full book in over a year, and 22 percent of adults haven’t read a book in over 3 years — and nearly 11 percent haven't read a book in more than 10 years! It dawned on me that at least 50 percent of the people I know personally apparently fit into one of these statistical categories. If everybody I knew bought my books, I would have sold a whole lot more of them. But I don’t take this personally. There are a lot of people who just don’t read these days. “Hmm”.

I also discovered that fewer young people are reading, and those who do are reading half the number of book of older generations. This statistic doesn’t really surprise me though. Did you know that 69 percent of children aged 2 to 5 can use a computer mouse, but a mere 11 percent of children in this same age group can tie their shoes?

Maybe you heard about the kid who recently saved a whole school bus load of children when he noticed the driver was having some kind of medical emergency. He saw that the bus was veering off the road and ran up to turn the wheel and step on the brake, yelling back to others on the bus, “Someone call 911.” He was the only kid on the bus not totally preoccupied with their cell phones. (He wasn’t allowed to have one yet.)

You see? That’s the problem. People are addicted to their electronic devices. It makes me wonder why authors are still writing and publishing so many books every year—around 4 million! Maybe this is part of the reason the average page count of “best seller” books has dropped from 437 to 386 in the last 10 years. “Hmm.”

Did you know that 99 percent of all the species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct? Yeah, and 43 percent of pilots have admitted to falling asleep while flying. “Hmm!” Less than 10 percent of Americans don’t wear seatbelts and they account for 51 percent of the car related fatalities. “Hmm?” On the bright side, people have a far greater chance of dying from a falling coconut than by a shark attack (the exact stats on this were not available at the time of this writing).

Here’s something to think about: if you made $295,000 every single day since the birth of Christ, you still wouldn’t be as wealthy as Elon Musk. I tried to figure out what that amount would be but my calculator doesn't hold that many numbers. That's amazing, but you have to take into account that, according to Google, 60 percent of people can’t get through a 10-minute conversation without lying, AND that 73.6 percent of all statistics are made up. (Actually, that statistic is made up as well.) As fellow novelist, Mark Twain, once said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

“Hmm.” You see what can happen when you start reflecting on life? It gets statistically very complicated.

Planning For Life

One of the things that got me reflecting on life was signing up with Coastal Bay Wealth Management here in New Port Richey. Our very good friends own the business, and I liked the sound of “wealth management”.  We were assured that one does not need to be as financially wealthy as Elon Musk in order to manage whatever wealth you might have. Part of this process requires you to define income, costs, goals, needs, wants, and a bunch of other stuff that takes forever to figure out.

As you go through all this organization and planning, you’re compelled to confront and consider some relatively stark statistics, including your estimated lifespan. “Hmm.” Knowing approximately when you’re going to die allows you to figure out how to spend all your money before you go. Of course, you must also plan for the contingency of needing to keep enough money to pay for “the home”.

These are things that I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about before we began the "wealth management" process. I’ve decided that I’ll be glad when we’re finished figuring everything out so I don’t have to think about it anymore. Economic statistics was never one of my strong suits, and I enjoy focusing on living each day as it comes—one day at a time.