How to Improve Your Life and Career by Learning Computer Skills

Computer skills are essential in today's job market in obtaining a financially rewarding career, and, insuring that you are a viable asset that will not easily lose a job with the economy being what it is today. The key is to learn skills that are important in the day to day world.  No matter what your computer learning needs are, you can achieve a higher level of skill and knowledge.

Learn how to use spreadsheets, databases, web design, word processing, HTML, financial management or simply the basics of how to use your computer. Learn how to buy and sell and make money on eBay. This can be achieved in a short amount of time.

How to Improve Your Life and Career by Learning Computer Skills

So what is the key? Video Professor. Founded by John W. Scherer, Video Professor has been the leader in comprehensive, self-paced computer software tutorials for almost 20 years. At the core of Video Professor's teaching initiative is providing home users as well as corporate professionals with valuable and user-friendly learning solutions for today's most common software titles. Video Professor has helped over 8 million people learn the computer skills they need to remain viable in today's computer-driven marketplace.

Mr. Scherer's dedication to teaching people in the fastest and easiest way possible has never wavered, and his unique teaching method has never been duplicated. Today Video Professor has approximately 80% penetration in the computer tutorial market and produces thousands of hours of computer instruction on nearly every major software title available. Video Professor continues to add new lessons every year!

The best place to start is with the basics. Why learn computer basics? When you learn computer basics, you will build the foundation of computer knowledge that you need to operate your computer. Once you have that foundation, you will be able to learn Word, Excel®, Access(TM), PowerPoint®, FrontPage®, Outlook, Publisher, and much more, in just a matter of hours. Whether you need basic computer skills to land a job or to keep an eye on your kids' Internet surfing habits, computer basics training lessons will get you on the fast-track to a better career.

Video Professor offers over 60 titles in a variety of categories, such as Microsoft Office, Financial Management,Web Design, Windows, eBay, Online Investing, and much, much more. There are so many choices that will help you to build your knowledge base and increase your confidence level with your computer skills.

So what are you waiting for? Get started today on a better career. To find out more about what Video Professor has to offer you, click here.
Get the Jobs You Want by Adding Computer Skills to Your Resume

You'd have to have been living under a rock for the past few years to not realize what a huge and highly essential part of our world computers have become - especially when it comes to the business world. As a result, computer skills are among some of the most important skills you can possess in order to get ahead and stay ahead in today's competitive job market.

If you're like most people, you most likely already have quite a few basic computer skills that you may have picked up by using your home computer on a regular basis. You may even have quite a bit of working knowledge of commonly used programs like Microsoft Word, Photoshop, or Microsoft Excel that you've picked up on the job.

However, it's important not to underestimate the importance of formalizing your education in regards to your computer skills if you have or are considering a career that revolves around computers in any capacity. While being self or experience-taught in regards to computer skills is great, it isn't definitive of what a person really does or does not know, and it doesn't measure up to any of the industry-recognized standards that factor in to a high degree when it comes to advancement possibilities in your career.

Get the Jobs You Want by Adding Computer Skills to Your Resume

In fact, without a degree or some sort of official credentials to include as part of your resume, you may find that you hit the wall eventually when it comes to upward movement, causing you quite a bit of frustration in the process. Formalized education and official credentials show employers that you're serious about acquiring and maintaining up-to-date and comprehensive computer skills and they show beyond the shadow of a doubt that you're knowledgeable when it comes to certain areas of expertise. Choosing to invest in your computer skills sooner rather than later with a course of formalized education will be a wise choice that you'll soon be glad you made.

What areas you'll want to focus on in regards to your training in computer skills really depends on what you do (or want to do) for a living. If you're an administrative assistant or hold a similar position, you might benefit most from brushing up on programs like Microsoft Word or Excel. Those with their sights set on web design or multi-media work might want to consider classes in Quark, Dreamweaver, or Photoshop. You may find that it's in your best interests to meet with a career counselor at some point to discuss your unique situation and figure out what course of action in regards to your computer skills will be best for you.

You may be worrying about how in the world you're going to fit further education into your already busy schedule. However, you needn't worry, because the world of education has evolved with the times right along with everything else. Most educational establishments offer some form of distance learning option to busy adults wanting to return to school in order to facilitate a career change or make themselves more valuable in regards to their current career. This option allows you to learn on your own time, at your own comfort level, and at your own pace making it a snap to fit computer skills training into your life. If you prefer sit-down schooling, most facilities offer flexible scheduling options and have counselors that can help you put your schedule together as well.

Whichever option you choose, you'll be glad you decided to invest in your computer skills in this way when you see what a vast difference a formal education really makes in regards to your value in the profession of your choice. Look into your options today and experience the possibilities for yourself!
Diabetes 101 - How to Win at Life and Life Insurance

A recent article from the Hilton Head Health Institute stated, "The evidence is growing that diabetes - especially "late onset" type 2 diabetes - is becoming an epidemic. American's well-known attachment to the "couch potato" lifestyle - fatty, high calorie foods and an aversion to exercise - may be the contributing factor to the spread of the disease. On the opposite side of the coin, the healthy lifestyle is believed to contribute to diabetes prevention and management." A January 9, 2006 New York Times article declared, "that the Centers for Disease Control estimate that 21 million Americans are currently diabetic while 41 million more are suffering from pre-diabetic symptoms, and many aren't even aware of it yet. Over the past decade, the rate of diabetes has increased 80% in the US. Yet most health officials still emphasize the threat of communicable diseases, which are far less deadly than chronic conditions such as diabetes."

Any life insurance agent that has been around for very long will attest to the statements made in that article. Diabetics now make up a large percentage of our client base and the number of people diagnosed as diabetic or pre or borderline diabetic on life insurance exams has sky rocketed. While most diabetics are insurable at fair rates, it is alarming to see how many diabetics have truly stayed somewhat uneducated about their condition and do not fully comprehend or care about the fact that diabetes can have a compounding effect on other health issues and ultimately be at least the root cause of a health decline that leads to an early death.

Those diabetics who do take the situation seriously, educating themselves, monitoring their diabetes and taking control of other risk factors such as hypertension and obesity, can ultimately lead a long, healthy life. Not surprising that this group is also rewarded with life insurance rates that reflect their concern with their own longevity. It should be no secret that life insurance companies reward those who have an interest in their own mortality.

Those that do not take care of themselves are usually still insurable, but will pay a premium that reflects the end of the risk pool they have chosen to swim in. Not understanding the disease, not monitoring your glucose on a regular basis, not changing your lifestyle and not being compliant with your physician's suggestions will all contribute to higher rates that you really have to pay if your concern factor was a bit higher.

Good quiz for a diabetic: Do you know what your hbA1C, or A1C level is? Do you even know what it is referring to? The A1C, a test done by your physician every time you have a checkup is a measure of how well you are controlling your diabetes. Blood glucose binds to the hemoglobin through a process called glycosylation. The higher the blood sugar the more the glucose binds to the hemoglobin. A blood test can measure the amount of glycosylation that has occurred revealing the average blood glucose levels for the previous three to four months before the test.

Do you understand why this is important to you? With a healthy A1C level of say, 6.5 or less, you know that your glucose is staying in check over long periods. Do not fool yourself into believing that the glucose reading you took before breakfast this morning is indicative of where your glucose is all the time. For instance, let us say you take your glucose at an optimal time, before breakfast, and the reading is 110. Then let us assume that your A1C is 7.5.

That would indicate that your average glucose over the last 3 months is around 165. So, if the average is 165 and the low end is 110, that means that there are many times when your glucose is well over 200, not a healthy level. What are the complications of type 2 diabetes? What really worries life insurance underwriters? This list came from the American Diabetes Association website.

Heart Disease and Stroke 

People with diabetes have extra reason to be mindful of heart and blood vessel disease. Diabetes carries an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and complications related to poor circulation.

Kidney Disease 

Diabetes can damage the kidneys, which not only can cause them to fail, but can also make them lose their ability to filter out waste products.

Eye Complications 

Diabetes can cause eye problems and may lead to blindness. People with diabetes do have a higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes. Early detection and treatment of eye problems can save your sight.

Diabetic Neuropathy and Nerve Damage

One of the most common complications of diabetes is diabetic neuropathy. Neuropathy means damage to the nerves that run throughout the body, connecting the spinal cord to muscles, skin, blood vessels, and other organs.

Foot Complications

People with diabetes can develop many different foot problems. Foot problems most often happen when there is nerve damage in the feet or when blood flow is poor. Learn how to protect your feet by following some basic guidelines.

Skin Complications

 As many as one-third of people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in their lives. In fact, such problems are sometimes the first sign that a person has diabetes. Luckily, most skin conditions can be prevented or easily treated if caught early.

Gastroparesis and Diabetes

Gastroparesis is a disorder that affects people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.


Feeling down once in a while is normal. But some people feel a sadness that just won't go away. Life seems hopeless. Feeling this way most of the day for two weeks or more is a sign of serious depression.

Ultimately there is good news for type 2 diabetics working to acquire life insurance. With improvements in treatment and all of the available diabetic education, you can control your condition and to a great extent control your ability to get affordable life insurance. Type 1 diabetes Type 1 diabetes, often called juvenile diabetes, is different from type 2 diabetes but often has many of the same complications. While type 2 diabetes is occurs when a person has too little natural insulin or his or her body is not able to use the insulin `effectively, type 1 diabetes is the absence of insulin altogether. From we get this take on the cause of type 1 diabetes. "Diabetes is an autoimmune disease. That means the body's defense system attacks some of the body's own cells. In type 1 diabetes, the cells in the pancreas that make insulin are destroyed, and therefore they are no longer capable of making insulin.

We don't know exactly why this happens, but we do know that some people are born with a tendency to develop diabetes. Then something "triggers" the onset of the disease. It may be a virus that triggers the onset, or it may be something in the environment. There is nothing a person can do to prevent this from happening."

That having been said, a person with type 1 diabetes is left with two options. They can control their diabetes by persistently monitoring their glucose levels and being very committed and dogmatic about administering insulin as prescribed. There is an often-misunderstood relationship between diet and diabetes. The Mayo Clinic's website at suggests the following: "Contrary to popular perception, there is no diabetes diet. Furthermore, having diabetes doesn't mean you have to eat only bland, boring foods. Instead, it means you'll eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains - foods that are high in nutrition and low in fat and calories - and fewer animal products and sweets. Actually, it's the same eating plan everyone should follow." So, a healthy diet and persistent monitoring and treatment are the key.

The other option I suggested would be the option of not taking your diabetes seriously. A type 1 diabetic who only occasionally checks their glucose, is not horribly committed to a healthy lifestyle, and may not take insulin as prescribed, but more when they think they need it, is a person who is looking for a long-term health problem. The long-term affects of mismanaged type 1 diabetes are at best damaging and at worst deadly. It should be no wonder that life insurance underwriters pay special attention to the type of compliance you keep with your doctor and dietician and the type of control you have achieved and maintained with your glucose levels.Again, you will not impress a life insurance underwriter, or for that matter, a life insurance agent who is knowledgeable about diabetes by telling them your most recent glucose reading was 98. That may be control, but it might also be a well-timed glucose check. The real story comes from your regular lab work and the test that reveals all secrets, the hbA1C. This test will take both your 98 and 230 into account; the reading you did not want to discuss or possibly did not even take because you knew it was bad timing for a good reading.

Your doctor and the life insurance underwriter are preaching from the same book, and the sermon is CONTROL! CONTROL! CONTROL!The Mayo Clinic sums up the repercussions of not following that advice. "Long term complications include - Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease - Nerve damage (neuropathy) - Kidney damage (nephropathy) - Eye damage (diabetic retinopathy) - Osteoporosis and several skin conditions." "Short term complications such as low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and a high level of ketones in your urine (diabetic ketoacidosis), require immediate care. 

If left untreated, these conditions can cause seizures and loss of consciousness (coma)." In summation it seems clear that whether type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the conditions are something that simply has to be taken seriously or the results can be disastrous and deadly. This fact is not lost on the people who decide what rate you are going to pay for life insurance. Diabetes does not preclude getting life insurance at competitive and good rates. Poorly controlled diabetes, for abundantly obvious reasons, may very well make life insurance expensive and even unattainable.

A Second Life For Educators

An interview with Berry Beattie, a lecturer in Leadership and Organizational Behaviour who is exploring the potential of Second Life as a medium for educators.

We are sitting in Berry's "office", which consists of some loungers on a tropical beach. The sound of lapping waves and the cry of seagulls can be heard in the background. Berry is relaxed, dressed in his swimming trunks. He is in his early forties with a tall and bronzed body.

Q: How long have you been in Second Life, Berry, and how would you describe the experience 

Berry: I first entered SL in late February of 2007. I happened to read about it twice in one day: in a computer magazine and then in the magazine of the Institute of Directors. This made me think that there was something here to be explored, so I downloaded the software, entered SL and have been here ever since. It's been a fascinating journey so far in terms of the psychological and sociological aspects, as well as the creativity which can be seen all around. It's incredibly absorbing to form part of the creation of a new society, a new way of developing relationships.

Q: How many people are using SL now?

Berry: Since 2001 when it was originally launched, SL had grown steadily but relatively slowly, reaching nearly 1.1 million 'residents' at the end of October 2006. Then it began to be noticed by the serious press and since November 2006, growth has been explosive with approximately one million people a month signing in. As of today, there are approximately eleven million people who have logged in to SL. This means that it has now reached a critical mass and it will certainly continue to grow and evolve. In terms of the steady SL population, we are talking about one million people who use SL regularly (five hours or more per week), so this is still a small figure in comparison to other social networking platforms such as MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube. However, there are a number of critical differences between a Virtual World such as SL and these other social networking sites.

Q: Such as?

Berry: Well, a virtual world by definition is three-dimensional, which allows for a far wider range of creativity, since people can create three-D objects. But it goes beyond that: it allows for easy multi-person synchronous communication, immediate connectivity to external web sites, and since there are few 'rules', it allows people to easily explore and innovate. To give an educational example: NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has a site devoted to demonstrating various meteorological phenomena in a way that is highly immersive, and goes much further than a web-based demonstration can go. Also, there is a real market economy between the residents, with more than two million USD changing hands every day.

Q: There have been many articles describing Second Life and its potential for education and business. How do you see these aspects developing?

Berry: Over the next five years, I'm sure that we will see a major shift away from the Web 2.0 platforms towards what I call the Web 3D or Virtual Environment platforms. This will accelerate hugely as the technology is now open source and eventually, an avatar will be able to move from one virtual world to another seamlessly, just as we can now move from one web site to another. At another level, people's expectations will change too: I'm working with a group of senior university managers on the potential uses of SL, and we have discovered something quite interesting: there is a group of 15 to 25 year olds who are more than comfortable with the Web 2.0 technologies, and who appear to have little interest in avatar-based virtual worlds. 

They use a range of different platforms regularly and are happy to jump from one to another. However, there is a growing group of under-12s that is using virtual world technology such as Club Penguin, and this group will not only be familiar with virtual worlds, but will expect to access their information and develop their relationships through Web 3D. In effect, this means that there is a five to seven year 'window' where organisations have an opportunity to develop their Web 3D presence. Just as happened with the internet, what is now perceived as a 'game' will become an essential part of the technological infrastructure, and within ten years, any organisation that does not have a Web 3D presence will be losing market share rapidly. 

So, whether organisations like it or not, they will be expected to have a virtual world presence. Those that are entering the field now have an opportunity to explore and build with slightly more leisure. One of the greatest difficulties organisations face is in deciding what kind of presence to have and how to use the technology to maximum benefit. In a couple of years' time, the costs of development will have increased significantly, the time-frame will be much shorter, and I expect to see many organisations throwing money at the technology in an attempt to catch up. And a lot of this money will be wasted, since not enough time has been devoted to thinking through how best to use it.

Q: How can SL be used for business education?

Berry: Ah, there's an interesting question! There are over 200 educational institutions, mostly American universities, with a presence in SL. The Educators List serv now has over 3,000 members, and all of them are seeking how best to use the technology for educational purposes. What is interesting to me is that the primary educational groups are in Health, Technology, the Arts and Social Sciences. Apart from Babson, INSEAD and Boconni, I am not aware of any business school with an established presence that use SL regularly. 

And yet the potential to use SL for business and management education is really major: here we have a global society with an average age of around 38, a real economy to experiment with, a wealth of real social relationships to establish, a technology which allows a cohort of students from around the world to interact synchronously, and an environment which itself fosters innovation and creativity. In addition, it provides a really cost-effective way to provide tutor-student interaction. So, the potential is enormous. But how best to use it? Well, one thing I'm sure of: the worst thing to do is to try and recreate a classroom in SL, and bring in a specific group of students and give them a lecture (Berry laughs). 

At the moment, I see two areas where business education could maximize effectiveness: the first area relates to 'serious games' or 'roleplay' or 'case studies'. At the moment, many courses rely on case studies and ask students to comment on them, or role play their way through them. There are also many computer-based simulations out there. But all of these have a degree of falsehood about them - either they are historical, or based on conceptual models or expect the participants to undertake roles and even characteristics which are not 'natural'. 

Using SL, one could get a group of students to actually develop a business, make products, market and sell them, analyze the issues involved and report back on them based on totally real interactions with the rest of the population. In terms of leadership, one of the issues that multi-nationals face is how to develop motivated virtual teams operating across the globe. What better environment could there be than SL for the development of such skills? Indeed, a number of companies are using SL for that purpose already. So SL provides a platform for developing leadership and management skills in a real context. The second area is the provision of tutorial and mentoring support. 

The use of avatars for interaction seems to have an effect that is far stronger than mere e-mail or even chat communications. As students' expectations rise, educational institutions will have to find ways of providing a 'mass-customized' service, and virtual world technologies provide a cost-effective way of providing individualized support in a superior way to the current Web 2.0 platforms such as Blackboard or Moodle. These will not disappear, of course. There are groups working on how to meld them into SL right now. But virtual world technology is more effective and attractive for this kind of interaction. Beyond these two areas, there are I am sure, many other potential educational tools and techniques which are yet to be created.

Q: What other uses are there for Second Life?

Berry: Primarily, I see SL as being a portal, from which one can then explore all the other IT-based platforms. There are many things that SL is not yet good at, and the other kinds of platform will be around for a long time to come. But SL does provide an interesting and fun way to link into other platforms. Beyond that, there is the whole area of modeling future scenarios, which I believe would be almost impossible to do with other kinds of technology. For example, many colleges spend fortunes on the design and construction of buildings, and yet it seems to me that very little progress has been made in terms of educational space design over the past century. We still see lecture theaters and seminar rooms in most institutions. 

Surely there are ways in which we could improve educational spaces? And how can one include the various stakeholders involved in the design of interior spaces? SL provides a way in which potential designs can be trialled and tested, with stakeholder groups invited to comment on and critically assess various options. The designs can be adapted virtually overnight to see what impact they might have on how the building will function once it is built. Not only would this save an enormous amount of time and money, but it would also help people to prepare for the changes to their work and life style, thus minimizing resistance to change. Another area is the ability to link in directly with live feeds from RL. So, a conference, a speech, an exhibition, a fashion show, a meeting - all of these can either have a direct live link or else be replicated within SL, thus allowing audiences to be far larger than they currently are, and allowing for a high degree of interaction between people in RL and avatars in SL. This is a major growth area within SL at the moment. And a third area where I believe virtual worlds out-perform other platforms is the whole issue of relationship-building. 

In SL, it is easy, quick and cheap to establish relationships. What has been fascinating for me is how quickly one becomes accustomed to making and breaking relationships on the basis of limited interactions. Although one is dealing superficially with an avatar, there is a real person behind it, and especially with the use of voice technology, the relationship-building within SL is absolutely critical. One's behaviour is judged quickly and quite harshly, but as long as you act appropriately, people within SL are extremely helpful and supportive. It has astounded me how much time and effort people are willing to invest in assisting others for no extrinsic reward. This means that one can meet people very easily and develop very strong ties with them across geographic and functional boundaries. In turn, this can lead to professional and educational opportunities which would otherwise never occur. Serendipity counts for a lot, and unlike blogs and wikis which tend to be group-specific, one never knows who one might come across within SL.

Q: What are the drawbacks and issues relating to SL?

Berry: There are still a number of these... firstly, there are the technological requirements. You have to have a computer that can cope with the graphics. Generally speaking any computer bought within the past 18 months can cope. In fact, I've used SL on a three-year old portable on a telephone connection. But there are still many institutions that have older hardware, and naturally, there is an investment cost there. And then there's the load on the ADSL lines, since it is highly demanding in terms of bandwidth. Interestingly, there's no real issue relating to firewalls, although many IT people are wary of that. Another aspect is the fact that SL is still liable to crashes and bugs. It has been developed 'on-the-fly' at a relatively low cost of approximately 20 million dollars. And the fact that there is surging demand, coupled with ever-increasing expectations tends to mean that the platform is more 'delicate' than other Web platforms. So I would not recommend it for any mission-critical task.

A second area that gives cause for concern is the fact that it is an open society with very few restrictions. Gambling has been banned, but the sex industry is thriving, and many newbies get sucked into this almost by default: when you enter SL, as it is natural to go to 'popular places', and most of us have ended up on nudist beaches with avatars seeking and providing sex services. In fact, it is actually rather problematic finding 'the real people' with serious interests. The best way is to be introduced by someone you already know who can show you how to join groups of mutual interest.

Q: What are the costs involved?

Berry: at the entry level, anyone can enter and stay in SL absolutely free. I have met a couple of business school people who are exploring SL, and this has no cost attached at all. To build a site you need to buy virtual land and develop it. Here the costs can be relatively low, in the region of 100 to 200 Euros, with a monthly rental of 30 euros. At the top end of the scale, a full island (in SL, it's called a 'sim') will cost around 1,500 Euros to buy with 120 Euros per month ongoing charge. The island then needs to be landscaped and developed, with buildings and facilities. A customized island build will cost anything between 5 and 20 thousand euros initial investment. This is still pretty cheap, about the same price a s developing a good website, and I expect the prices to rise over the coming years as more and more companies turn to virtual environments in an effort to reduce their overhead costs.

Q: What is your personal vision regarding Second Life?

Berry: I am lucky to now have a core group of high-quality contacts with a range of expertise within SL, and I am encouraging institutions to explore this world to see how best they can use it to maximise their learning processes. So I act sometimes act as an agent, providing advice and putting 'explorers' in touch with the best developers within SL, so as to minimize the costs and maximize the effectiveness of their presence. It saddens me to see how some institutions are literally throwing their money away without really knowing what it is they want to achieve. As with any good website, there are implications that go beyond the design such as how to present the organisational culture, how best to lead clients and students through the informational search process, how best to leverage the strengths of SL and so on.

Personally, I see virtual worlds as being the next generation technological tool, and whether people like it or not (and many are highly resistant to it at the moment), we will all have to become familiar with it if we want to remain abreast of developments. My own vision? A number of inter-connected virtual worlds, with avatars moving from one to another depending on what the person wants or needs to do. Each world will have its own rules, constraints and benefits, but there will be consistency in terms of the underlying infrastructure and scripting tools.

Let's go on a tour of some of the best sites here in SL, and I'll show you some of the creativity and potential that exists in this new world.

Berry changes into his professional outfit and disappears from sight. A couple of seconds later, a message appears on my screen: 'Join me in Scholar'. I click on the button and am teleported to a totally new location where Berry is waiting. And for the next hour, we visit different sims, flying above them, walking around buildings, exploring forests and mountains, taking rides in helicopters and airplanes, meeting residents as we proceed. Finally, we bid each other goodbye and quit SL. But I'll be back...
The Best Way To Make Money Out Of The Prince William And Kate Middleton Commemorative Coins

Is buying the Prince William and Kate Middleton commemorative coins a good investment? This is a questions many people will be asking. Do you just buy them and hand them down to the next generation the way that commemorative mugs were passed on, or is there more to it?

The investment market has changed, but so too have the second hand market. Thanks to the concept on online auction, we can now sell without leaving out home, and we can watch others sell and see what they get.

There used to be a bit of a mystery about the value of limited edition items, we used to head to an expert and see what they would give us. Now we look on line and see what people are paying for things.

So to make your sale look better you have to have something better. The Royal Mint are aware of this, and it is probably why they have also made the coin in solid gold; for those of you who want something which is truly limited edition.

Since a solid gold coin is beyond most of our budgets, what should the man on the Clapham omnibus do? My advice is to make it commemorate more than just a wedding. Perhaps buy all the news paper first edition on the same day that you buy the coin. Or think of something, which in years to come will add to the value of your coin.

Assuming that you have a limited budget, then this is definitely a situation which needs imagination. You need to supplement your Prince William and Kate Middleton coin with something. One its own it will have a value, but it will not be exceptional.

So the overall advice is that you should be investing in the future king and queen of England, their actions will affect your life. Prince William and Kate Middleton are potentially as important a part of history as any other previous king or queen; don't underestimate the power of the modern monarchy.
Plato, Aristotle, and Me on the Contemplative Life and Retirement

c As I approach my seventieth birthday, I look back in wonderment at my careers, defined in the broadest sense, as a student (to age 33!), then a physician and consultant, as well as a real estate developer, and more recently, as an author, publisher, and keynote speaker. Today in my "early retirement", I have been as busy as ever, jousting with challenges and opportunities, instead of simply lying on the beach, enjoying a life of leisure.

The key question may be: What is the ideal retirement life? How does one go about making wise choices as to how to spend one's time, energy, emotions, and money in the golden years? As a life long student of the sciences, religion, and philosophy, I decided to address and answer these Socratic questions by returning to some other ancient Greek philosophers for wisdom and advice.

Plato, the Greek philosopher (424 BC-348 BC) wrote in The Republic that the best life of all is the life of philosophy, of rational thinking and reasoning. The life he defined was one of contemplation and leisure, in Greek eudiamonia, best translated to modern English not just as happiness, but as flourishing. He did note that you did need to have assets (money) and a safe place in which to live to enjoy such a life.

Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC), a student of Plato for 20 years, agreed with his teacher as regards the basic concepts of the contemplative life, of seeking excellence and virtue (arĂȘte), in ones  life. However, he felt that it should not be a life of leisure, but one of action, of activity (ergon or function) in one's world. His position, clearly defined and supported in his Nicomachean Ethics, also indicated that in many other avenues of life beyond just philosophy, one can enjoy eudiamonia, translated literally as "good demons."

When I reached the age of 57, in 1995, I took early retirement because of some health concerns that might shorten my life. I had enjoyed decades as a student, with college degrees in Chemistry and Bible, an M.D. from Cornell University, pathology residency at the University of Vermont, and a stint as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the CDC in Atlanta. Perhaps due to some clerical error, at the tender age of 33, I was selected as Chief of Pathology at a medical center in Maine and co-founded Dahl-Chase Pathology Associates. I survived, even thrived and succeeded "in-the-trenches" of group medical practice for 25 years, as well as in consulting, lecturing and a side career in commercial and industrial real estate. In this process I gained insights and even some expertise in the world of leadership and the most important leadership skill, strategic thinking and planning.

As I entered retirement, I soon realized that I had carried with me the baggage of too much education, too many interests, too many opportunities, and too much money to simply live a peaceful and blissful contemplative life ala Plato. The greater problem was the process of selecting which specific projects would take my time, energy, emotions, and money (my favorite acronym TEEM). But then again I was an accomplished strategic planner, so this project should be very easy, both short and long term, since I may live longer than I expected.

I easily jettisoned the practice of medicine completely, by giving up my medical license. Yes, I had spent a great deal of time and money gaining those skills, but I had been consumed by it for 25 years. I had never been sued for malpractice, so why press my luck? It was easy to leave the practice, which carried my name, for I had designed the enterprise as a flattened hierarchy, maximizing synergy, the equal sharing with all the associates in the group. I did, however, maintain my contacts with key medical societies, where I networked and shared my wisdom and folly with younger physicians. It was time to give back, to be a mentor to repay my debt as a mentee. That has been most enjoyable and satisfying.

With the medical career gone, my commercial/industrial real estate career surfaced, as did my ownership in a small construction company and the Overhead Door Co. distributorship for half of Maine. As with the medical group, I shared ownership with the key managers, so again, I could easily work my way out of these ventures. It was euphemistically sort of a slow "garage sale" to get rid of real estate.

The scholar had always been was given full access to workshops, mostly on writing, and courses on cassettes and CDs. After retirement I became an even more ardent workshop junkie and a steeped myself in philosophy, psychology, and religion, as a student and teacher. Having been banished to my parent's native land of Norway for the summer when I was 12-years old (to get me away from the "bad influence" of my friends), I have always had a Viking-style lust for travel, but without the classic raping and pillaging, of course. As a result, I merged my new world of scholarship and foreign travel, and added my life long pursuit of high-altitude mountaineering, sort of mountain madness with an element of class.

My life took an odd detour on October 23, 1999, when I just completed giving a workshop on Optimize Your Life! The One-page Strategic Planner in Portland, Maine and went up Mt. Washington, New Hampshire for a weekend to hike and enjoy the late fall foliage. Unfortunately, on Saturday morning there was a light rain and clouds hung oppressively in the valley and up over the mountains. My hiking buddies declined the joys of a day of hiking in the rain, so I went up to Tuckerman's Ravine solo and then up Lion Head Trail towards the Alpine Garden Trail on my way planned hike to the Auto Road and home.

As I climbed, the light rain turned into giant snowflakes. A veritable winter wonderland had replaced a dreary fall day. I was lured into a bright winter hike, and continued on for over an hour in spite of a marked increase in the wind. Then, "whiteout" conditions forced me to stop next to a huge cairn (a pile of rocks marking the trail) to wait out the storm. I climbed into my aluminized material bivvy sack and realized that I had my cell phone with me. I made a series of increasingly frustrating 911 calls, which left me wondering if my rescuers would come, let alone find my location.

As snow accumulated on my bivvy sack, I became concerned that my rescuers would not see me, so I slowly inched my up onto the surface of the snow and opened the end of my bivvy sack to evaluate my changing world. Unfortunately, gusts of wind filled my sack and, in spite of my efforts, tore it from my body. Now it me in a fall hiking outfit in an area known as "the home of the worst weather in the world" (April 12, 1934 wind speed: 231 miles per hour).

During that long night, with wind speeds up to 98 miles per hour, as I waited for rescue I had time to contemplate by past life. I made six promises that I would keep if I was rescued: to be insensitive criticism about my misadventure, to get rid of real estate, to make amends with my first wife and son, to get rid of excessive things, "stuff" in my life, to network with people from my past, and, above all, to simply my life. What would you be thinking, perhaps promising, as you faced imminent death?

Eventually, I gave up hope and simply waited for death. However, around midnight, my rescuers found me, took me off the mountain to a regional hospital for treatment of frost injuries, severe hypothermia, and rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown of muscle tissue due to voluntary and involuntary muscle flexing in an attempt to prevent/treat hypothermia).

Soon after my discharge from the hospital, Husson College in Maine invited me to share my experience and what I had learned the hard way. My presentation was entitled:

"Lessons for Living from a Mt. Washington Misadventure" offered three admonitions, pieces of advice from near death:

1) Be prepared to die!

2) Have a plan to live!

3) Do it now!

This presentation was recorded and broadcast on National Public Radio in New England, and I was invited to share my story in a range of speaking venues. About a year later, The Learning Channel coaxed me into a reenactment on Mt. Washington, and as a result of worldwide broadcasts, my new speaking career skyrocketed, featuring the Lessons keynote. With support from Mark Victor Hansen of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, I am writing the accompanying "misadventure book" and have completed Optimize Your Life! a book that merges personal and organizational strategic planning. This book has become an international best-seller with a worldwide Spanish translation by Random House, the world's largest publisher.

One simple, but deadly hike had lured me into the dynamic world of keynote speaking, as well as publishing, both well outside the confines of my historic world of medicine in which I had so much formal education and experienece. This world of deadlines, promises, and challenges became as hectic and demanding as the practice medicine. What had become of my peaceful contemplative retirement?

As I work on all my six promises, I focus on the toughest, to simplify my life, I remember my days in Benares (Varanasi), India, on the Ganges, when I saw hundreds of older Indian men in that phase of life, so well defined in Hinduism, of an ascetic, the sadhu or the sannyasin. There is a rejection of ordinary life and all that it means, in exchange for a search to attain moksha, the release from the cycle of samsara, re-incarnation.  While a person may enter into this stage of life at any time, it is usually an older man that has raised his family, completed his business activities, and was fully retired. It may take an extreme form of the total rejection of household duties and responsibilities of the former stages of life. It may include the rejection of the religious beliefs, wherein ones even burns religious texts.

The sannyasins become wandering hermits, living life without any shelter or possessions. They eat when they can acquire food, but never enter into any work to acquire it; it must be given or found. They become holy men, seeking spiritual enlightenment and power, striving to achieve the true wisdom of the cosmos.  Wow! That is easy to define, but a bit extreme. However, all my other five promises would be simply eliminated.

A less dramatic approach might be that described by psychologist Abraham Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs, which describes a person's motivation and resultant behavior as being determined by ones' needs. I could focus on the highest level, self-actualization and go beyond the basics of life and simply find a single "calling" and heed it.

But what single calling? I have decided that I would get rid of real estate in an orderly manner and complete succession planning for my business ventures. However, I would maintain a family life and continue my writing, speaking, and traveling on a more limited basis. High-altitude mountaineering might be over, after all, I am approaching 70 years of age, far beyond the ideal age of such risk-taking.

As the author of a monthly newsletter, I included in my January 2008 New Year's edition a list of the "10 Things I Want to Do Before I Die" and realized that I had drifted far from Plato's ideal life of contemplation and leisure. I think I will cruise through this year enjoying an Aristotelian life of active contemplation, being fully aware of Buddha's advice against striving, but in favor of living in the moment.

As I close this essay, I am forced to remember and share several paradoxes, ironies, even absurdities:

At the end of his Nicomacean Ethics (Book 10, Chapters 6 through 8) Aristotle seems to reverse himself and support Plato completely, noting that the contemplative philosophical life of leisure is the best.

The Buddha, when addressing one's life before death, gave us a poem that suggests the value, the appropriateness, of striving in one's life:

Every day a birdie on my shoulder asks:

Is today the day?

Are you doing all the things you should be doing?

Are you being the person who you should be?

Plato stated that the purpose of philosophy is to prepare one for death.
Proficiency and Education - Looking at Our Roles With the Goal in Mind - As the old expression goes, "Plan your work and work your plan." This is true for education and life skills as well in the arena of business. We must actively be involved in educating our children for both academic and personal proficiency or we fail as parents. There is just too much that will be missed if we defer this responsibility to someone else, or squander the time we have with our children by focusing only on sports and playtime. While these things have their place, I suggest a bigger picture approach to education that begins by keeping the end in sight and letting that determine the choices that you make for your children while they are young.

If you think back on the adjustment you had to make from high school to college, there were probably several things for which you wish you had been better prepared. Some of them were academic skills and tools that you may have needed, and some of them may have been personal skills. Either way, you faced the passing from youth to young adult with fears and challenges if you were like the average American school child of today. This is largely a result of the expectations that we have that "someone else has that covered" when it comes to teaching adaptation skills, or instilling learning tools that will transfer to college level work. 

In reality, this is not an effective way to parent or educate our children. If we assume that someone else has covered this topic with our children, then we assume too much and set our children up for difficulties and perhaps even failure. Take into consideration the fact that the 4-year degree that you obtained is now taking an average of 5-6 years to achieve for today's "young adults." However, by taking steps in their youth, particularly in the areas of learning methods and life skills, we can prepare them for academic and personal excellence; we can give our children systems for success and learning that they have readily at their disposal even if encountering new and varied situations. If our children know how to access these tools and how to plan for their own futures, they will be far more likely to succeed at any task they undertake, academic or otherwise.

I challenge you to think about child-rearing in reverse. We often start when our children are babies and we think about this need or that need as the situation arises. We allow the immediate skills to "drive" our training. While much of that is necessary when teaching simple survival skills and hygiene, for instance, that cannot be the habit that we fall into as our children develop. Early into a child's formative years, we must move the "driver" of their training and education from immediate tools to long-range tools. The best question I have encountered that helps to move this focus is this one: 

"Who do you want walking out the door at age 18?" While the age may or may not be exact, the question is valid. If we think about the character and skills that our children need to have to function as adults, but we think about those skills while they are still youths, then we can spend the time necessary to both academically and personally prepare them to function as adults in an adult world when they enter it, rather than just as "old children." If your child struggles in math, then they will have difficulty managing their finances, and that will wreak havoc for their future. Likewise, if your child cannot comprehend his reading well, it is likely that the fine print on applications or important documents will be glossed over. It is critical that your child's basic learning foundation be strong on all core subject areas, but also that his or her learning systems include tools to apply what they read and study. Without the ability to apply their learning, there is little more than interesting trivia being presented to them.

Likewise, if you desire that your child be able to contribute to the community around them as adults, then they should be contributing to the family environment at home. Doing chores, having a job (as teenagers), contributing to the family discussions regarding insurance or tithing, etc. are all important parts of growing up. Far too often we allow our children to remain children for far too long and then we are surprised when they make poor adult decisions after they leave home. 

With no training in adult matters while at home, how could we expect anything less than that when we release them to the world at large? Whether you send your child to a public school, private school, or homeschool, there is much training to be done as a parent, and we cannot displace this role to someone else. The school years should be treated as an opportunity to uniquely gift our children with skill sets that will prepare them for adulthood. Any school program that is just about preparing a high-school graduate, rather than a young adult, is lacking in its overall goals.