Overhead: Your Yearly Costs

Overhead: Your Yearly Costs
 

2011  
by China brooks

 

Update: 

I wrote this article during my career as on-camera talent in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Although I talk about the overhead yearly costs to run an acting business, this can be applied to any industry, for example:


Exotic Dancing: 

In 2014 I did a 30 Day Exotic Dance Challenge in Vegas, which lasted 4.5 months. I have heard people say that exotic dancing isn't a real job. It is. In order to get set up to be able to work in a strip club I had to visit several places over the course of a week or so - Sheriff's Office, specialty shoe and costume stores, DMV, and numerous licensing agencies. It cost me a few grand before I stepped foot in a club for an paid shift. I took classes online and offline to learn pole dancing, sales techniques, and the art of eroticism. I was on my feet in high heels for 8 hours at a time and dancing on stage, which took quite a bit of energy and strength in my body. Dealing with customers took finesse. Any dancer who is good at what she does has to turn into a psychiatrist who is excellent at listening, people skills, sales, and marketing. It's actually not the easiest job I've ever had - and I've had many. 

There were overhead costs - body waxing, wardrobe, shoes, hair, nails, tips to bartenders, valet, the DJ, license upkeep, special foods (to keep my energy high), makeup, jewelry, continued education (classes), etc. 

- and - 

Holistic Business

I currently run a business online and offline doing Oracle Card ReadingsPicture Readings, and Transformational Programs

My costs rise as I thrive. Right now some of what I pay for monthly is:

Google email
Website hosting and upkeep
Document signing service (Adobesign) 
Program delivery service (Kajabi - love them!)
Business licensing fees
Lawyer(s)
Accountant
Financial organization software
Quarterly taxes
Coaching
Office supplies (including software)
Electronics and their upkeep / upgrades
Education, workshops, and travel (including books and programs)
Internet
Cell phone
Beauty and wardrobe maintenance (for public appearance)
Payment processing fees
Health supplements (to keep my energy up)
(I am sure there's more, however; you get the point) 

Some of this is tax deductible. Some of it is not. You have to know what is what so you don't red flag the IRS for audit.

Let's get on with the original article...
 


There Are Two Sides to Acting

Many actors only think of the creative side of acting. They focus only on developing their talents, which is all sorts of wrong. There are two sides to acting; the creative side and the business side. These two must be balanced or you will never make it long term. Look at many famous people you admire. Let’s choose JLo and Madonna. Notice how both are always coming out with different products to sell? Neither just do one thing. Both act and sing and have perfumes and all that. Madonna just opened gyms across the country. Why? Because it’s business. You have to handle the business side of acting as well as the creative side. 
 

Keep it Fresh and Keep in Touch 

Not only do you need to have confidence and courage in yourself and your acting skills, but you must know how to market. You will have to practice the skill of client retention, networking, and nourishing your relationships. In a sea of millions of hungry, desperate actors, people will forget you. That is, unless you keep in touch and keep it fresh and interesting. It’s like dating someone. After years of dating, you get tired of the same sexual positions over and over again, of eating at the same damn restaurants. You need variety. Surprise, this is no different. Get ready to shine and be brilliant. Otherwise, they just won’t care about you.

 

Your Yearly Costs

My acting career can easily cost me $6000 or more per year. Those who have hit big, trust that their overhead is exponentially larger than mine. They have to pay their PR (public relations) firm, their managers, agents, team of handlers. Keanu Reeves gets weekly facials. The bigger you get, the more your costs go up and you need to plan accordingly. This is part of the reason why big name actors get so much money. It’s because they have so many expenses. You must take your expenses into consideration or you will never really make any money.


Headshots

Headshots cost about $2000+ every other year. Sometimes I have been able to use headshots for three years in a row because my look never really changes, but you can’t always count on that. Can you skimp on headshots? No! When you go to a restaurant and you pay big money, do you want the best ingredients or the crap they sell to the USA school lunch programs? Your pictures are what gets you in the door. Your pictures and your reputation are what your agents have to work with to pitch you and sell you to casting directors so you can get auditions. If your pictures suck, so do your opportunities.

 

SAG Dues

When you become a member of SAG, you will have to pay their entry fee. It’s like $1600 or something like that. You will have to pay dues twice a year (May and November). Your dues are a percentage of your earnings. Here is what it says on the Screen Actors Guild website:
 

  • Dues are based on a sliding scale, with the amount determined by how much you earn under SAG contracts.
     

  • Each SAG member pays annual base dues of $116.00. In addition members pay 1.85% of all individual earnings under SAG contracts between $1 and $200,000; and 0.5% of earnings from $200,001 through $500,000; plus 0.25% of earnings from $500,001 to a maximum of $1,000,000.
     

  • Dues are calculated on an annual basis, and paid in two installments — the first on May 1, and the second on November 1. Dues are not prorated. Bills are mailed to the address on record before each due date. Members who do not receive bills are responsible for requesting duplicates.
     

  • Dues payments may be made by cash, check, money order, Visa or Mastercard, in person or by mail to Cashier, Screen Actors Guild, 5757 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036. Please put your member ID number on your check. You can also pay your dues online if you are a logged in member of sag.org

    I put a percentage of every check I get into a special “Sag Dues” savings account. When I have more money, I put in more than I need to. This way, I always have a surplus in that account (more than I need) and I never have to think about it. If you do not put money away for your dues, you can easily come up short when they are due, all because of poor planning.

 

AFTRA

AFTRA has an entry fee as well, but I forget what it is. It’s been so long since I joined AFTRA. They also have a dues structure. AFTRA is mostly for soap operas and radio. SAG covers mostly everything else. Equity is if you want to do serious stage / theater productions.



Gas Money

You are not going to book every single audition you go out on. If you do, email me so I can take you out to a really nice lunch or dinner, at a place of your choosing, and pick your brain. Regardless of how much you book, you will still have to drive yourself to each audition. During busy season you will be filling up at the gas tank quite often. If you don’t book, this can add up.

One time I lived in the Foothills of Tujunga, California. That added an extra 40 minutes for me to get to each audition. I live much closer now and I can even walk to some of the casting offices, which I love. Where you live has to be taken into consideration. If you are auditioning all the time, it’s in your best interest to live close by. The less traffic you have to deal with, the calmer you can be when you arrive at your destination. Also, you have much less chance of being late because of traffic, which is unacceptable in my book. If you aren’t on time, trust that some other hungry actor will be.

 

Holden Log or Tracking Software

You will need to keep track of your auditions. I wear the same clothes to the callback that I wore to the first audition. This is in case they remember me as the, “girl in the red shirt.” It happens.

Nowadays, auditions come through via LA Casting and I just store those notices in a separate email folder. But I like to use a Holden Log to track my auditions, callbacks, and bookings. This way I can write down any money spent on the parking meters, what I wore, who was in the room, what I did, who did casting, production, and ad agency, etc…


This is great as well when I book a job and I go to send thank you notes. I think the Holden Log is about $30. You need to keep track of who you work with in some kind of Outlook or mail program. You need to send thank yous to anyone who hires you. For years I sent thank yous to any casting director who called me in to audition. It made me stand out, since I am fantastic at decoupage (handmade cards and scrap booking). Now I just send thank yous to casting when I get booked on a project or I have something to debut/ promote. But for years I worked hard on creating and nourishing contacts. Because of this, I have created a lucrative income stream with my acting career. But treating it as a business was and is crucial for success.


Taxes

Welcome to more tax prep work than you ever wanted to do. You now have to keep track of all your business miles driven. This means miles accumulated driving to auditions, shoots, getting headshots, and going to the copy mart to print resumes, etc. Basically, anywhere you drive for your acting business, you need to keep track of that.

You also need to keep all (and I mean all) of your acting business receipts. Everything you spend on your acting career (everything in this blog and beyond), is tax deductible. Also, find yourself an Entertainment Accountant to do your taxes. They will know what you can deduct and what you can’t. For example, I would love to deduct getting my nails done, but unless it’s for a specific project, as in production requested you do it, you can’t deduct that. Usually production will reimburse you for that anyway. But the reason is that most women get their nails done as a regular expense. Anything that the general public would normally have to pay for, like haircuts, you can’t deduct for your business. You have to know what you can deduct and what you can’t.

I keep my tax records neatly organized in one of those multiple pocket folders. I track my mileage in a 9 column (or less) financial notebook. Both can be found in places like Office Depot and Staples, and yes, these things are tax deductible as office expenses.

 

Online Casting Services

Years ago, we all had to keep hard copy headshots on hand for each audition. That was costly. But now, the internet has made that obsolete and all you have to do is pay a site to upload your pictures and your agents can submit you from there. Rarely do I need hard copy headshots these days, although some casting facilities still ask for them, so I always carry some with me in my car and in my Holden Log.

Different casting offices use different online casting services. The main ones are LA Casting and Casting Frontier.
 

LA Casting

When you get new headshots they always have to be uploaded to LA Casting. This will run you about $100 each time you have new headshots, which I calculated into the $2000 I quoted you in the headshots section.

You can also submit yourself for projects on LA Casting and host your demo reel footage as well. Submitting costs $10 per month and demo reel hosting is about $5 per month. If you are submitting online, you may want additional, more character driven photos on your profile. That will cost as well. It’s $25 for the first picture and $15 for each additional picture.

 

Casting Frontier

Most casting offices use LA Casting as the industry standard. But a few use Casting Frontier. With Casting Frontier you have an individual bar-code you have to print out and take with you to your audition so casting can scan it. I have my bar-code taped to the back of my drivers license. I also have a copy in my Holden Log and in my wallet as well. Actors who don’t have theirs end up looking rather unprofessional in their unpreparedness. If you don’t have it when you arrive to the audition, there are computers available for you to print one up. But you have to remember your password and user-name and hope no one else is hogging up the computer when you need to use it. I just find it much better for my sanity, and to never waste castings time, to be extra prepared with three copies stashed away. Casting Frontier doesn’t cost anything, unless you buy a laminated bar-code card for $5 (I think). You can just print up your own.
 

Actors Access

If you have an agent, they are going to make you put your pictures on Actors Access. Most serious actors, unless you have passed the fame threshold, have an Actors Access profile. Each picture costs $10 to upload. I submit myself on Actors Access projects which costs $68 per year via ShowFax or you can pay $2 per submission, which adds up fast if you submit daily.
 

IMDB Resume and IMDB Pro

Unless you are well known, you will have to pay to have your picture and resume on IMDB. It’s $54 per year to host your resume and pictures on IMDB. There is also IMDB pro which I subscribe to as well. IMDB only has so much information on projects, producers, studio heads, etc. IMDB pro has all of that information. You will need IMDB pro in order to know how to find some of the people you are contacting for your marketing plan. Say it has been your dream to work with a certain director or film maker. You need to keep abreast of what projects he/ she has in pre-production, production and post production. You will also need to know how to find him/ her. All of this info is (usually) available on IMDB pro.
 

Personal Hygiene

How many actors have you seen with super white teeth, buff bodies, and gorgeous hair, etc.? For the most part, I make sure my game is on point. I keep my nails done, my hair nice, my skin clear, and my teeth white. This means regular trips to the dentist (once every six months), facials if and when I need them, manicures and pedicures, etc. There are times when they ask to see your hands on camera. Sometimes you will have to hold the product and they want to see how your hands and nails look. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen. I realize that from the moment I walk in, I am selling a product, which is me. They will pick me apart, from my nose to my nails, to the way I walk; sometimes nothing is left untouched. I want to make sure I am put together. The more comfortable and confident I am with myself, the more likely they are to pick up on that vibe and hire me.
 

Wardrobe

You will need nice clothes and you will need to take care of them. I never walk into an audition room with wrinkled, dirty clothes on unless the breakdown specifically asks for it (that has never happened). I have a separate wardrobe just for auditions and I take really good care of it, and I rarely wear it out anywhere else. I’m not going to tell you exactly what I spent on this wardrobe. Let’s just say you need to think about this. There are certain things you will need. Watch commercials and see how they dress. Sometimes you will need to look like middle America. I like nice thermals, nice sweaters, turtlenecks, nice shoes, slacks, business suits (pant and and skirt options), etc. I have several nice dresses as well. I might try and post some of my audition wardrobe at some point. No promises though. Here are some of the categories I go out for. Each category needs its own wardrobe:

Mom Wife Host/hostess at restaurant Waitress at restaurant Upscale casual Upscale Evening wear Night on the town Art Gallery attendee Nice casual Business casual Business, quirky, unique Business Hip, casual

The list goes on and on. Yes, you are fully expected to come up with the right wardrobe for each audition. It’s your job.


Classes

Like most of us, you may need to take acting classes. Now mind you, scene study is 100% different than taking an audition technique class. Scene study is great, it will help you get connected, but the problem with those classes is they never teach about the business side of acting. Honestly, that pisses me off because those teachers actually do actors a huge disservice. Remember, there are two sides to an acting career, business and creative. In the beginning, you will work more on your marketing and networking than actually getting to act. Deal with it.

Knowing how to audition is a completely separate skill set from knowing how to act. It’s like knowing how to DJ and being actually able to play for different crowds of people, on different equipment, and in different venues. It’s two different monsters. You will need to be great at both.

I have taken classes for scene study, auditioning, and commercials. I have spent God only knows on acting classes, so be ready to break out your check book. The last commercial class I took, which was a few weeks ago, was $80 for a private session. The last theatrical class I took , which was last week, was $250 a month for the master class (by invite only). You can also take the regular class for $150 a month (4 classes).

I have purchased hundreds of dollars worth of tapes, CDs, and books in my time. Dialect and accent CDs can be $24 a piece. Book can be about the same, unless you get them on the cheap via Amazon or Alibris. You can always hit up your local library, which is smart, but I like to highlight the shit out of my books. I like to carry them with me, like they are a part of my body. I enjoy books. Sometimes preparing for a role will cost you money when you go to do your research. Samuel French is the go-to place for all things actor.

 

Actors Network
 

If you don’t know about THE Actors’ Network, you better ask somebody! Quick! The Actors’ Network is your go-to place to understand and tackle the business side of your acting career. I learned a lot of what I know from them. What they have taught me has saved me time, money, and has been the most useful information in the advancement of my career.

They are about $600 per year. After three years you become a lifetime member and your dues go down to $200 a year, which for them, is a steal. I spent an entire summer (literally) every day there, taking every single topic they offered and studying their intense library collection. Stars like Amir Talai have been made there. I remember him years ago, before he got the work he has now, roaming the halls of The Actors’ Network. I love The Actors’ Network!

I can’t even begin to explain what they have there because there is so much wonderful stuff for you to explore. They have power groups, which are exactly what they sound like. It’s a group that meets monthly and holds you accountable for taking serious steps towards marketing your career. The squib book is my favorite. If you have a meeting with an agent you have never heard of, and you can’t find good info on them online, you will probably find them in the squib book. This book is gold. Other TAN members write in it and you can find out so much information on an agent, manager, and/ or company before you take a meeting with them. You can even find out things like what kind of pets they have, the names of their pets, birthdays, kids, likes and dislikes, etc. There are some perv agents out there as well, which can be listed in the squib book. It’s always great to be prepared. The working actor stays prepared.
 

Mailings, Resumes, and Printing Stuff Up

You will will have to pay for postage, resume copies, and nice cards to mail to your networking target list. Your target list consists of shows you want to be on, directors you want to work with, people you have already worked with, and those who support you, etc. Remember I told you, you will need to keep in touch and keep it fresh. Keep letting your list know you are alive with odd-sized mailers. I bet you want to know what an odd-sized mailer is, don’t you? Well, you can sign up for The Actors’ Network and take their class on odd-sized mailers. I am not going to give away ALL my best secrets to the competition. ;)

 

I'm Sure There's More

I am sure there are more costs involved than what I have listed here. This is just what I can remember now. I just want you to understand that this is a business. It’s not some artsy-fartsy dream. I’m all for dreams - you know I am - but there is a balance between dreaming and taking concrete, consistent action. Slow and steady wins the race. It’s the person who keeps going, year after year, even and especially when it looks like nothing is happening, who wins in the end. Most people see no results and they give up. But not you, right?!!

Your Relationship With Money Needs Time, Energy, and Focus

Your Relationship With Money Needs Time, Energy, and Focus
 

2011
by China Brooks

 

You have family and friends, right?

Have you noticed the more dedicated and attentive you are to a friend, the more dedicated and attentive they are to you? The same is true with your money. Money is another relationship in your life that needs care and cultivation in order for it to grow. Money is your friend; if you ignore your money, your money will ignore you. The way to keep something in your life is to give it attention. Your plants must be watered, your friends must be loved, and your money must be cultivated.
 

How Do You Think, Speak, and Feel About Money?

“Change the conversation, change your life.” -Camille Stemmons

The way you speak, think, and feel about money affects how much money you have. How do you talk about money, what do you say to yourself and others? Do you use the words 'poor' or 'broke'? Do you ever say things like, “I can't afford it”, “I only have enough money for...”, “I don't want to blow my wad”, or “I'm in the hole”? If you say any of these statements, or anything similar, you're killing yourself financially. I have seen people call themselves poor, (make poor decisions/blow their money on unimportant things) and then they aren't able to pay their rent that month (cause or effect?). The words 'poor and 'broke' don't exist in my vocabulary. Get rid of these words, and while you're at it, remove the word 'try', because either you are or you aren't.

Your belief in a thing makes it real and true. -China Brooks

Change your conversation about money. There are only two options in this life; lack consciousness and abundance consciousness. Watching what you say about money will help you notice how slanted towards the lack side of things you have been. You experience life according to your beliefs about yourself. If you believe you are only worth a certain amount of money, that's where you'll remain stuck until you change your dominant beliefs about yourself.

“Change your thinking, change your life.” -OC Smith

Watch people who are abundant; they are careful with what they say regarding money. They speak of having money and how grateful they are for that money and how nice it is to have money. They praise money and they believe they have a healthy relationship with it, so they do. Those who have an unhealthy relationship with money - their problems would not change if they were handed a million dollars; this is why most lottery winners end up bankrupt or unhappier. Your homework is to watch Born Rich and The One Percent by Jamie Johnson (Johnson and Johnson heir). Pay attention to how the wealthy in these documentaries talk about money.
 

It's Not How Much Money You Have, It's What You Do With It That Counts

Trust me, you could have a billion dollars, but if you don't know what to do with that billion (how to handle it), it won't be around for long. There are countless stories of people having tons of money and losing it. 80% of lottery winners are broke within two years. Why? Because they didn't know how to handle the money. I had a similar experience; in February and March of 2007 I made $100,000, by November 2007, that money was gone. I knew I had to get used to handling even $5.00, and that if I couldn't handle $5.00, how could I possibly handle 5 million dollars? There are other responsibilities which come with having a lot of money but financial organization is the absolute basic.

Most wealthy people have yearly family meetings with financial advisers. They make their kids take seminars and meet with advisers before letting them get their hands on their inheritance. Emma Watson's parents (of Harry Potter fame) made her meet with the financial advisers to the Queen of England before they let her touch her own millions on her 18th birthday. Born Rich states that if a family doesn't teach kids how to manage money, all of the inheritance will be squandered by the third generation, no matter how gigantic it is. There are companies who specialize in helping rich families keep their money strong past the third generation, and into the fifth and beyond.

Financial organization is the key to knowing what to do with the money you do have and how to keep it around so it multiplies. Organization just takes a few conscious changes, which are actually very easy and well worth the effort. A solid financial foundation can keep you out of debt and give you a safety net should you lose your job or get sick. Let's make a commitment right now to organize our finances!
 

Financial Organization Is Key

Good money habits can be attained by organizing, researching, and self discipline/ applying your knowledge through practice. I have learned from experience, which I’ll share with you later. There are lots of things you can do to improve your relationship with money.
 

Sacrifice Pays Off

What are you willing to relinquish to achieve your dreams?

Focus.

It was hard for actor Vin Diesel to save $50,000 to help his career flourish because he couldn't go out with friends and spend money. Www.nndb.com says, “...success did not find him, and he moved back to New York a year later. He fell into depression, wallowing in his failure until his mother bought him a book called Feature Films at Used Car Prices, by Rick Schmidt, which empowered him to make his own movies. His 20-minute short, Multi-Facial, was written and directed by Diesel, starring himself a struggling actor. Multi-Facial was screened at the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan, and later accepted at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. He returned to New York and took a second job as a telemarketer. It took him two years to save up the $50,000 he'd need to make a feature-length film.”

What are you willing to forgo to improve your life?

 

Credit Cards and Loans

Credit Cards and Loans

2011
by China Brooks

 

If you have to ask how much something costs, you can’t afford it.  –J.P. Morgan 

 

Get Rid of Credit Card Debt

If you haven't already, break the cycle of using credit card debt. If you can't use a credit card without paying it off in full every month, you shouldn't be using one at all. Once I maxed out a credit card to buy a car, ending in me paying so much interest that I could have bought two cars. That's just plain stupid, and as my friend Marcus says, “Stupid should hurt,” which believe me, it did. Now, I would just save up the money and then buy the car.

If you are late with a payment, your interest rate shoots up to 20% or more, and you are hit with tons of fees. That pair of jeans or bag of groceries you put on your credit card will end up costing you three times the original amount you bought them for; is that worth it to you? Overdraft fees and credit cards (late fees and raised interest rates) are how banks make money. Stop giving them power and paying them like a slave (wage slave - hamster in a wheel). Break the cycle, I did and you can do it too, it's liberating. Years ago I got in the habit of paying my credit card balance in full every month and now, I'm so fed up with the banking system that I don't use credit cards at all (I use my Visa/ATM card). If I want to buy something and I don't have the money in the bank then I have no business buying it with a credit card. Sometimes people use credit cards to get airline or UPS points, etc.. which is a great idea if you are in the habit of paying it off on time. Credit cards can improve your credit if you pay them off on time every month. And yes, they are great for travel and in case of emergency. However, a savings account is your best bet for covering unexpected expenses. 
 

Loans and Debt are the Devil

If you are in debt then your first priority should be the get the hell (literally) out of it. Yes, I am talking about paying off your car, having zero balances on your credit cards, and owning your house free and clear. I'm not a big fan of debt. People complain about the economy (control of big banking) and then go out and borrow money from the banks, putting all the financial power in their hands. If you take a loan, keep in mind that you now work for the bank, period (modern slavery). The United States Federal Reserve is a privately owned corporation (owned by bankers) that currently do not have our best interest at heart - they want us in debt.

I would rather have three jobs than ever take another loan again (knock on wood) - unless I am certain I can pay it off immediately.  I would still use credit for good debt (investing in a business, education, and/or high ROI coaching). For the most part, I think loans are for lazy people, and I speak from personal experience. Instead of working my ass off and making a plan of action to get what I wanted, I used to take loans. If you get a mortgage, you will end up paying the bank two or three times the original loan amount. Please do not ever use your house as an ATM! Don't take the equity out of your house for cash, or get an auto loan on a car that's already paid for.

Know the truth about loans before you sign your life away. Steer clear of interest only loans and never take a loan that you don't really have the money to pay back (again, unless you have a kick ass business coach on your side showing you how to turn a serious profit). If a bank approves a loan for you on 'stated income', run (don't walk) away. Stated income loans usually mean you never had the money to make the monthly payments to begin with, otherwise the loan never would have been issued via 'stated income'. Lenders should be shot for ever offering the public loans on stated income.

Here's the thing, if you can't pay your loan one month (for any reason), you default. They start calling your work, your home, your neighbors (and family members), and they will take your home or car or whatever assets you own, they don't care about you and they're not your friend. Lenders have a saying, “You're only as good as your last payment.” Now a days, paying on time doesn't guarantee that creditors won't call your house. I have paid early for 5 years and I still started to receive 'reminder' phone calls. 

Since the banks loaned money to people who didn't have any money to begin with (probably on stated income), people are defaulting left and right, leaving the banks desperate. Some banks have started to harass their current borrowers (people who pay on time, all the time) with 'reminder' calls well before the payment due date. They have pissed me off so much that I am beyond excited for the day I pay my loan off (my mortgage) and I will never take a loan from a big bank as long as I live! Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. If I sound angry it's because I want to keep you from making the same mistakes I did, which will save you time, money, energy, and mental health.

Pay cash for everything - save your money. If you don't have the money for something simply don't buy it, you will thank me later. Also, be careful not to listen to every single piece of financial advice you hear, there are sharks (like the bankers) out there waiting to take your money from you.

For example, everyone seems to be a huge fan of the stock market but I was taught differently by my family. My Mom does not believe in the stock market because her friend's family (and my Grandma) remained abundant throughout the depression since they didn't put any money into the stock market. This stock market crash is not the first one the bankers have orchestrated and it won't be the last. The sharks will continue to try to part you from your money for generations to come - get used to it. They just did it again, in a effort to squeeze out the middle class which is why I am a huge fan of financial education especially for children. Our children will be will targeted and fall into the same traps that most of us did if we don't take a stand and educate ourselves. What changes can you start making in your life today that you can pass on to any children you know?
 

Is Good Credit Really That Important?

You get good credit by paying your bills on time. Having good credit can be useful; it can get you access to things that people with bad credit don't get. I am always the first one to get an apartment (they drool when they see my ass coming) because I have great credit. Right now, most people can't get a loan but I can; I can go out and buy a car, a TV, or a home on credit, all based on my fantastic credit score. The funny thing is, I would never do that, because I would rather pay cash.

A good credit score is a Catch 22. While it can help you, the messed up thing about credit is that the more money you owe (more credit lines you have open), the better your credit score will be. You can still be in debt up to your eyeballs and have good credit if you pay your bills on time. If I close my credit cards and pay off my loans, my credit score goes down because I don't have any credit lines open.

 

 

Before You Buy Your First Home or Condo, Read This!

Before You Buy Your First Home or Condo, Read This!

2011
by China Brooks

 

The True Costs of Owning a Condo or a Home

I am a fan of renting a small space until you save up for a house (unless you are running a business out of your home - doing workshops, retreats, and events). If you must take a loan do intense research. Never take a loan with an adjustable ARM, and always buy low, never high. With condos, if you take a mortgage, your monthly payment consists of your loan amount, your HOA dues (Homeowners Association), property taxes, and home insurance costs. Add those together and you have your true monthly cost. Remember that broke people ask how much the monthly payment will be while rich people ask about the overall cost. If you take a loan for a house, keep in mind that in 15 or 30 years you will have paid three times the amount of the actual loan. Are you sure you want to do that?

If you have never owned property and you want to buy a condo you must be aware of the HOA. Some HOA's are great; some are run via a management company, and others are run via the homeowners themselves. There are legally binding rules, Bylaws, and CC and R's that your real estate agents must give you. If your real estate agent says nothing about these documents, fire them immediately. You need to read these completely before you purchase anything. I would ask questions such as; how much money is in the reserve, do homeowners in this building usually pay their dues on time, how many special assessments have you had in the last ten years, and who runs the HOA? If the HOA is run by a management company, ask for their information and meet them for a Q and A. Some HOA's are very informal while others are strict with their policies and how they want the building run. Ask the HOA to see their financial records (open up the books) for the last few years. If they are iffy on this, I would think twice. 

The HOA of my Studio City property hasn't always been financially organized. The HOA is allowed to levy a once a year special assessment on the homeowners (with 30 days notice). I purchased my property in 2005, and every single year the HOA has asked for a special assessment. They say, “Hey, we don't have enough money for the insurance bill so we need each homeowner to cough up $700 right now.” It got to the point where I had to get smart and set up a special HOA savings account. You need to know what you are getting yourself into before you purchase property.


Research/Do Your Homework Before You Make Purchases

Research and do your homework before you make purchases, especially large ones such as cars, homes, and electronics. Usually I find that most things can be bought for less money. If you have the money and you really want an item, go for it but most technology is old within six months and will drastically drop in price. There have been times when I wanted a pair of shoes, only to buy them and find them on sale somewhere else. I bought some editing software which went on sale for half price a month later. I'm just sayin', shopping around can be a wise thing to do. Remember how in 2007 home prices were completely inflated? Studio City properties went for $355,000 for a one bedroom and today can be purchased for $165,000 to $190,000. Never buy high, always buy low. Know what you are getting yourself into.
 

Why I Prefer Owning Over Renting

While renting has advantages such as lower costs, I love owning property. Walking into your own home every day is the most amazing and empowering feeling. No one can tell you what to do and you feel completely comfortable in your home. You don't have to deal with landlords or rental drama. You're not paying the mortgage for someone else every month. As an owner, you are free to make all the gorgeous upgrades your heart desires. When you rented, if you made upgrades, you may or may not be reimbursed, and if you move, you are out that money. Some landlords are cheap, and not very nice. With owning, you don't have to deal with that.

Renting has been great for me though because it has made me an excellent landlord to my tenants. I do my best to go above and beyond when it comes to customer service because I realize that a person's living space is so important in their life and it's crucial that my tenants have a wonderful positive experience. I wish all landlords felt this way, but they do not, which is exactly why I own my home.

8 Not So Free Ways to Change Your Money Habits

8 Not So Free Ways to Change Your Money Habits

2011
by China Brooks
 


1. Read books and magazines

Some titles are not offered at the library for free and this is where sending some money comes into play. Alibris always has great prices, Amazon is good, and I always support my local independently owned bookstore. I recently spoke with a successful retired broker who told me that The Economist is a good magazine. Do you know of any fantastic financial periodicals that are worth spending money on? Please let me know!
 

2. Seminars

There are countless financial seminars you can take. I'm sure they will try to up sell you while you're there though, so be careful of that. But if you know what you're getting yourself into, you could get some fantastic information.
 

3. Classes and Workshops

Take classes at a local college or university. If you need help taking action, a class or workshop can work wonders for you. You can also ask your tax preparer of any learning opportunities they are aware of. The IRS offers classes as well, just check their website.
 

4. Dave Ramsey and Robert Kiosaki

There is free information on their website (YouTube as well) but if you want most of the really good stuff, you have to pay for it. I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's book The Total Money Makeover which I believe is well worth the money. If you aren't familiar with the Rich Dad Poor Dad series (Robert Kiosaki), please make that happen. I own about nine the books from that series. In 2004 Kiosaki predicted everything that is going on right now. I wish I had discovered his books years before I actually did.
 

5. Column Note Books and Money Tracking Software

Buy some column note books from an office supply store. I use them to keep track of everything from taxes (I have to log my mileage and expenses), keep my checking account balanced, and keep track of my savings accounts/ fund accounts. I like to know exactly how much money (down to the penny) I have in my checking account, which keeps me from ever over-drafting and shows me where my money is going.

Digital software such as XERO and QUICKBOOKS can help you keep your finances organized. 
 

6. Cushion That Checking Account!

If you always keep extra money in your checking account (a cushion of $300 and up), you will never overdraft.
 

7. Overdraft Protection

We all overdraft sometimes, it happens. I have even over-drafted when I had tons of money in my savings, simply because I was lazy and didn't transfer any money to my checking. Overdraft fees are ridiculous though and be to avoided all together with planning. If you have access to a credit union, I highly recommend you bank with them. My credit union (SAG) has an overdraft protection program. Bank of the West (regular banking) has a program where you can pay $10 a year and receive overdraft protection. You have to qualify for these things which is why keeping your money organized is essential. If you are organized and pay your bills on time, your credit will be good and you will gain access to privileges that some citizens don't get.
 

8. Pay Your Bills In Full

If you pay certain bills (like car insurance) all at once, you can save money over the course of six months to a year. Instead of paying month by month, see if paying six months to a year in advance will score you a discount.

 

 

Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading

2011
by China Brooks

 

 

Spirituality & Self Help

The Perfect Power Within You

Emergence: Seven Steps for Radical Life Change

Healing Mudras: Yoga for Your Hands

Mudras: Yoga in Your Hands

Autobiography of a Yogi (Reprint of the Philosophical library 1946 First Edition)

The Law of Success: Using the Power of Spirit to Create Health, Prosperity, and Happiness

Maximum Self-Esteem: The Handbook for Reclaiming Your Sense of Self-Worth

Testimony of Light: An Extraordinary Message of Life After Death

Spiritual Diary: An Inspirational Thought for Each Day of the Year

Conversations With God : An Uncommon Dialogue, Book 1

Conversations With God: An Uncommon Dialogue, Book 3

The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

Mutant Message from Down Under : A Novel of Aboriginal Wisdom

The Magic of Thinking Big

The Power of Your Subconscious Mind

Gene Keys: Unlocking the Higher Purpose Hidden in Your DNA

Astrology for the Soul
 

 

Dream Interpretation

20,000 Dreams
 

 

Art


The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study by Nicolaides
 

 

Health and Nutrition

The Five Tibetans: Five Dynamic Exercises for Health, Energy, and Personal Power

Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika

The Detox Sourcebook: The Ultimate Healing System

The Complete System of Self-Healing: Internal Exercises by Dr. Stephen Chang(The Deer Exercise in particular)
 

 

Productivity & Organization

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance

Chic Living With Feng Shui: Stylish Designs for Harmonious Living

 

Abundance and Money
 

Creating Money by Duane Packer & Sanaya Roman

Spiritual Economics: The Principles and Process of True Prosperity

The Trick to Money Is Having Some

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Unbalanced Accounts: Why women are still afraid of money

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

Jeffrey Gitomer's Little Red Book of Selling



Business

The Zen of Social Media Marketing: An Easier Way to Build Credibility, Generate Buzz, and Increase Revenue

Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML

The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well

Master Your Workday Now!: Proven Strategies to Control Chaos, Create Outcomes, & Connect Your Work to Who You Really Are

Viral Explosions!: Proven Techniques to Expand, Explode, or Ignite Your Business or Brand Online

101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions

101 Smart Questions to Ask on Your Interview

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Cancel Out The Noise

Cancel Out the Noise

2012
by China Brooks

 

The World Is Noisy

Right now, the world is filled with noise. I don’t mean literal noise like cars and airplanes. I’m talking about people constantly telling us how to live.

Noise.

Everyone has an opinion. Every one thinks they know what’s best. Sometimes they mean well. But it's still confusing and it can throw us off.

The truth is, nobody is going to know how to live your life better than you.

The noise comes from society; television, magazines, the internet, and strangers. It can come from acquaintances and even from friends and family. The noise also comes from within, from our own inner doubts and fears. Sometimes when people give their opinions they don’t even see that they are coming from a place of fear. People will think they are helping and giving advice. But what really happens is they distract you from your purpose. When we take action based on someone else’s opinion/belief we can end up living an inauthentic life.

 

Stop Living Someone Else’s Life

Canceling out the noise is vital to creating our ideal lives.

Until we do this, we are living for someone else. We are like a controlled puppet, living out the opinions, fears, and projections of others.

It takes courage to cancel out the noise. It’s intense to go deep within yourself, align with your highest purpose, and take action from there. People might not understand why you are doing what you are doing. Or why you might be waiting to take action on something.

No one else can really understand your process. 

As we cancel out the noise we are free to ignore other people’s fear. In fact, we even become free to ignore our own. We can relax and take time to get in tune with the potential that lies within us. We can focus on what is important. In order for us to be who we came here to be, we have to cancel out the noise.

 

Ignore The Opinions of Others

I recently watched the Lady Gaga / Oprah interview. I watched this video and the JK Rolling (of Harry Potter fame) / Oprah interview. I originally watched these videos because I wanted to see how they think. I had been meaning to read biographies of successful people. This was right in line with that intention.

Both interviews were eye opening.

Lady Gaga said something that blew my mind and confirmed everything I have been feeling lately. It’s the main reason why I didn’t have internet in my home for 4 months (as an experiment, which I loved and sometimes miss). It’s the main reason why I haven’t had a Facebook in over 2 years. I didn’t have a Twitter for at least year either.

Lady Gaga said is this...

Oprah: Is there something you can do to help the creative process - the doors open more readily? Is there something you can do?

Lady Gaga: I have a couple things that I do. The newest thing that I do, I don’t read a damn thing. No press. No television. No. If my mom calls ands and says, “Did you hear about?” Click. I don’t want to know nothing about anything that is going on in relation to music. Obviously I want to know about the world. I shut it all off. Other than this interview Oprah I do not intend to speak to anyone for a very long time. This is my moment for me to experience a rebirth with my own music. I have to shut it all out; the noise. You know the noise. The noise, it’s loud. You have to cancel out the noise. I remember that it’s your thoughts that matter.

Oprah: You’re so smart. You are very wise. That’s how you do it. That is how you do it.

 

Use Your Imagination

Part of what I feel to be noise, is lack of imagination. JK Rolling talks about this. "I’m very frustrated by fear of imagination. I don’t think that’s healthy. In magic, man has to rely on himself. We ourselves have power and we can shape our world. Sometimes I know what I believe because of what I have written. If you’d ask me before I wrote it, what I believe, I maybe couldn’t have told you." - JK Rowling

"So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was. And I began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. I was set free. Because my greatest fear had been realized. And I was still alive. And I still had a daughter whom I adored. And I had an old type writer and a big idea. Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. It is impossible to live without failing at something. Unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all." -JK Rowling

I invite the power and clarity that stillness provides.

There’s much fear and lack of imagination in the world. One must stay grounded in their own truth to refrain from becoming infected by it. 

I love knowing that in my ideal life I vibrantly use my imagination. I align with my true purpose. I cultivate faith, courage, and trust in that which created me and beats my heart.

"I let go of other people's opinions & embrace my own. The power within me is stronger than all the opinions of the world!" – The Daily Love

"Unless someone can look into the core of your heart and see the degree of your passion, or look into the depths of your soul and see the extent of your will, then they have no business telling you what you can or cannot achieve. Because while they may know the odds, they do not know You. Nor do they know the power of your angels." - Sandra King 

 

Cancel Out The Noise

Focus on what you want, use your imagination, and fucking ignore everything else.

From sun-up to sun-down you can have people, places, and things in your life that bring you JOY. You can FEEL GOOD. Be clear and be brave. There are only 24 hours in a day. Life is short. You can only have so many people, places, and things in your immediate life and friend circle. Choose that which energizes, inspires, and uplifts you. Choose that which makes you know you can be, have, and do anything. Use your power and energy to reciprocate joy to those who freely bring out joy in you. If they do not, simply remove your focus. If anyone or anything tries to tell you any differently, it’s NOISE.

CANCEL OUT THE NOISE.

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Appreciate What You Have - Part 2

Appreciate What You Have

2011
by China Brooks 

 

When you express appreciation for something, the Universe gives you more of it.  This is why people who think about, talk about and appreciate what they already have experience more abundance.  It works both ways; those who focus on and complain about not having enough experience lack.  Many focus on what they think they do not have, then wonder why their lives are void of what they want (more money, loyal friends, etc...).
 

Watch Where You Focus

Do you suffer from the “only” syndrome?  When you look at the money in your pocket, wallet, or bank account, do you say to yourself or others, “I only have...”  Suppose you have one dollar and you say, “I only have this dollar.”  You are taking that dollar for granted, putting it down and saying that it's not enough.  Then you wonder why dollars don't just magically fall into your lap.  Taking anything for granted puts you on the fast track to that thing disappearing from your life completely.

I have a friend who had a birthday party.  Instead of being grateful for the many friends who did show up, she complained about those who did not.  I thought the party had a great turn-out.  To show their support, some people came early and stayed late.  A few brought food, gifts and a birthday cake.  All around her I saw friends who were clearly expressing their loyalty.  But she didn't see that, she choseto focus on the disappointment of those who said they would come and did not.

Another friend of mine couldn't imagine sitting still and quieting the mind (meditating) for 2 minutes. But now she is up to 20 minutes in only a few months time.  Do you have a facebook page?  Do you ever post something and then get disheartened when “only” a few people respond to your post?  These are all examples of the “only” syndrome, which luckily, is a curable affliction.


Practicing Appreciation

You must appreciate what you have now before the Universe will give you anymore of it, this is Universal Law. Prosperity, abundance, and having are states of mind.  Is it true that anything you are good at now took practice?  It's the same with training the mind, which is merely a tool for you to use.  Most people don't use their mind as a tool, and so their mind uses them.  But you are the boss of your mind and just as your mind has been trained to focus on lack, with practice, you can re-train it to focus on abundance.  You do this by appreciating what you have right now.

All it takes is a shift in your perspective.  When you have that dollar, you can say, “Look, I have money flowing.  This dollar is wonderful and I appreciate what it represents in my life.”  Do that often and you will be given more dollars.  Whether it's a penny or a million dollars, it's evidence of the flow of abundance.

What about your facebook page?  If you begin to say to yourself, “Only a few people commented,” can you focus on appreciating the people who did take time to comment?  Perhaps you can you go a step further and express your appreciation to them?  Remember, that which you give away you keep.  Give appreciation and you will receive appreciation.

 

Appreciating the Small Steps

This applies to goal setting as well.  Instead of thinking that your goal has not yet happened, consciously shift your focus to look for any evidence that your goal is coming to fruition.  The more evidence you focus on (appreciate), the more (and greater) evidence will appear (manifest).  Those who have true prosperity habitually focus on (look for) evidence of their abundance.

Doesn't it make you feel good to think about what is going right in your life and to think about the abundance you have now?  How does it make you feel about those who do love and cherish you?   Express appreciation for what you have right now.  Only then will your flow of abundance truly increase.

That which you appreciate you draw nearer to you. What do you love about yourself and the life you live right now?  What is good now?

 

Appreciate What You Have - Part 1

Appreciate What You Have - Part 1

2011
by China Brooks 

 

Abundance, prosperity and having more are big themes for us all.


Many Countries Experience Great Lack

The other day I was watching a Hindi film called Swades.  In the movie, a NASA employee decides to live in India and help villages secure electricity and running water.  If towns have no electricity and running water, they can’t do things such as irrigate their crops and run businesses, which causes lack and starvation.

Watching this reminded me of an episode of 30 Days (Morgan Spurlock of Super Size me fame), titled Immigration.  Over the course of several months (almost a year), the immigrant mother saved up $40 to be able to give her children a Christmas.  How long would it take you to earn $40?  Before the family came to the States, they lived in a structure with no roof, dirt floors, and no running water.  There was no work so it was very hard to make money (i.e., feed the family).  This is the case in many countries.

In some places homes do not have window coverings, screens or doors with locks.  The people can’t afford these kinds of things, so they live with bug and rodent infestations.


America’s Abundance

In America most of us are looking at what we don’t have.  We complain about our cell phone coverage, internet speed, not being able to afford drinks at the nightclub, or that we had to downgrade to an apartment.  When you turn on your faucet, does water come rushing out?  Be grateful.  When you flip the switch, do the lights come on in your home?  Be appreciative.  Notice that today you ate and that just for today, you have everything you need.  I wish all Americans would travel to other places and get a grip on how incredibly blessed we are.


Practicing Abundance

In the Cook Islands, if you visit someone’s home, they give you the very best of what they have to eat.  For them, it’s an honor.  The village found out we like lettuce, so we ended up with five bags of it when I arrived.  How many of us do that in the United States?  Not many, and what’s our excuse?  We have much more abundance than most countries (including the Cook Islands), yet we hoard the best for ourselves in fear that we will not have enough.  Then we wonder why we’re stuck in lack consciousness instead of reaching new heights of abundance and having.


What You Give Away, You Keep

Universal Law says that which you give away, you keep.  If you give something away to another, you are telling the Universe that you have so much of the thing, you can afford to give it away.  The Universe then says, “Yes, you do have so much,” and gives you more of it.  The only way to have more is to appreciate what you have right now and to share it with others (i.e., your mirror image).

Appreciate what you have right now.  Look around and you will see in this very moment that you have everything you need.  Do you have health, eyesight, can you walk, or smile?  Do you have food in your fridge?  Do you have money in your pocket?  Do you have friends and family who love you?  Count your blessings for you will see they are many.  Then, as you count them consistently (daily), you will notice more and more begin to appear.

 

40 Things To Appreciate

40 Things to Appreciate

2011
by China Brooks

 

1. Art – Being inspired by beautiful art.

2. Rain – The peaceful feeling of lying in bed while listening to heavy rain hitting your roof. The smell of fresh, crisp, clean air right after it has rained. Putting your face in the rain and sticking out your tongue to catch rain droplets. Not having to water your plants after it has rained.

3. Dancing – The blissful feeling of surrendering your body to the music and becoming one with it.

4. Music - The excitement of finding really good music that you have never heard before. Or, listening to your current favorite song on repeat - heavy rotation. 

5. Sleep - Getting into bed with clean sheets, right after you’ve taken a long shower or bath.

6. Food - Fantastic, fresh, and well prepared food things. 

7. Conversation - The exhilaration of deep and truthful conversation.

8. Friends - When a friend sends a text or calls just when you need it.

9. Mail - Getting something awesome and/or handmade in the mail. Getting unexpected money in the mail.

10. Laughter – When you hear something so funny that you can’t stop laughing and weeks later you are still laughing about it. The freedom and joy you feel when acting silly with friends and/or children.

11. Ocean – Breathing in crisp, salty, fresh ocean air. Feeling the sand on your bare feet and toes. Laying in the sand and soaking up the sun (sunbathing). 

12. Wind – When the wind and breeze hits your skin, especially when it’s hot outside or after it has just rained.

13. Wind Chimes – When the wind chimes give you a beautiful, calming, angelic concert.

14. Nature – The grounding rejuvenation of being out in nature. Seeing how vibrantly green everything is right after it has rained. The peace, calm, and love you feel when the entire sky is pink, purple, and/or orange during a sunset or sunrise. Driving home while watching a sunset or sunrise and listening to loud music with your windows rolled down.

15. Views - Taking in a beautiful panoramic view of nature or city lights.

16. Meditation - The calm relief of letting go during and after meditation.

17. Water - The comfort of warm water on your skin. The calming and clearing effect of being around clean, pristine water. The refreshing feeling of drinking water when you’re really thirsty.

18. Going to the Bathroom - Finding relief after needing to go and holding it in for a while. The warm comforting feeling of peeing in the shower.

19. Learning - The satisfaction of accomplishment after learning something new. The joy of seeing the physical, tangible fruits of your labor.

20. Animals - When you talk to animals and they answer you back. When you hold a warm, friendly kitten or puppy and you rub your face against theirs.

21. Babies –Holding a baby as she trustingly curls up on your chest.

22. Cool Neighbors - Awesome, friendly neighbors who help you out.

23. Cool People - People who are happy for your success and want to see you do well. People who appreciate life and infect you with their passion for living.

24. Courage - The inner strength you feel from taking courageous action.

25. Your Home - The comfort you feel from fixing up, and organizing your home and your surroundings.

26. Feeling Good - When how you look and how you feel are in harmonious sync. When you are in such a good mood that you infect everyone around you with your cheerfulness and zest for life.

27. Books – The satisfaction of finishing a good book. Reading a book that changes your life perspective for the better.

28. Getting Stuff Done – When you complete a task, especially something that passionately energizes you. 

29. Loving Yourself – When you finally let go and learn to love and accept yourself no matter what.

30. Senses – Realizing how blessed you are to have your eyesight, hearing, and other senses.

31. Travel – The joy of expanding your mind while experiencing new cultures and seeing new things. The relaxation, freedom, and excitement experienced during travel.

32. Deep Breathing – When you feel clean, pure, crisp air rushing through your lungs and into your entire body; filling and rejuvenating every cell. The calm relaxation of deep breathing.

33. Weather – When the weather changes right after a really hot or cold spell. When your favorite weather lasts for weeks at a time. Curling up by a fire with a fuzzy blanket and hot chocolate during cold weather. Going swimming on a really hot day. Laying out in the sun on your own tropical island.

34. Driving – Driving with all the windows down, music blaring, and sun-roof open. Driving with the windows rolled down and the heat on.

35. Exercise – Sweat pouring, toxins releasing, and energy increasing as you exercise to your favorite music. Visualizing and imagining while you exercise - programming in a new life for yourself. 

36. Smiling – When you smile at another person and it makes them light up. When someone smiles at you right when you need it most.

37. Making a Difference – When you know you have made things better for another person or for a group of people. When the quality of living has increased for someone else because of you.

38. Receiving – When someone makes you something or gives you a thoughtful gift; and it makes you feel loved, wanted, and appreciated. When someone gives you something very valuable because you’re worth it and you deserve the best. When someone sincerely and genuinely compliments you.

39. Giving – The joy you feel when you give someone something and it deeply touches them. Listening to someone with your entire being and really taking them in without thinking about what you are going to say next.

40. Hugs – When someone hugs you, connects their heart to yours, and only lets go when you are ready.

 

Failure Is Good

Failure Is Good

2011
by China Brooks

 

Failure Is Good

NASA once said, "Failure is not an option," to which James Cameron responded in a TED talk, "Failure has to be an option in art and exploration because it's a leap of faith.  No important endeavor that required innovation is done without risk.  You have to be willing to take those risks."

For some, it's hard to begin a project.  For others, finishing the work is difficult.  Then there are those who, due to perfectionism and fear of criticism, find publicly releasing a project to be the most excruciating part of the process.  Once your work goes live, you are open and vulnerable to the scrutiny of your peers.  

I know first hand about this when I created a website that took much longer than I had anticipated.  Some people criticized me for the site taking so long.  Some said it was never going to happen.  I became afraid that I would go live with my project and it would not be good enough.  That fear alone set me back additional months.
 

Push Past Fear

Then I ceased caring what other people thought.  I saw the value of my own opinion.  I began to realize that I am good enough just the way I am.  That was not the first website design I had ever had, and it certainly won't be the last.  I knew I could do a million edits and that none of them would ever be good enough if I was stuck in perfectionism due to fear of criticism.  I decided to let it all go and be happy with everything just as it was.

Tackling that fear helped me to dissolve fear in other areas of my life as well.  How many times have you allowed fear to get the better of you and you ended up procrastinating?  How many times have you not put out any work at all due to fear?  When will you allow yourself to know you are enough and that what you have to offer right now is enough? 
 

You Are Enough

Release - and talk about - your projects now whether or not you think they are the best of the best.  Even if they are not, they will get better with time and practice.  The only way you will improve is to keep doing it.  Part of that process is to keep putting it out there.  Sometimes constructive criticism is useful so you know what you need to work on and what you can do better.

You are enough.  Your work as it stands is enough.  The most important opinion in the world is your own.  Do things because they bring you joy, not because you think it would please your peers.  Don't worry about the herd.

 

Take Criticism With A Grain of Salt

"Don't put limitations on yourself.  Other people will do that for you.  Don't do it to yourself.  Don't bet against yourself."  -James Cameron (TED talk)

"I trust myself enough to let the voice within me to be stronger than any voice outside."  -The Daily Love

In the 1980's Cabbage Patch Dolls came out.  Before they became a huge hit, my Mother and I went to check them out.  We thought they were the ugliest dolls we had ever seen.  And then they turned into a huge craze.  Before I knew it, if a person didn't have a Cabbage Patch Doll, they were not considered hip and with it.  Eventually, my Mom and I both gave into the fad.  But we never forgot our first reaction.  This is how the hive mind is, and it can take over individual thought.  Refrain from looking for praise or evidence of your self worth from outside of you.  Your self-esteem and self-love must be generated from within.

When Bob Dylan switched to the electric guitar, fans went crazy, booing and calling him the devil.  Later, of course, they all came around.  But you see my point.  How do you feel about you?
 

Criticism Quotes

"Don't pay attention to the critics - don't even ignore them."  - Samuel Goldwyn 

"Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway.  You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't."  -Eleanor Roosevelt 

"A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her."  -David Brinkley 

"Part of not taking things personally is being able to filter other people's opinions.  It's true that it's easier to criticize something than to create it.  So don't worry too much about what other people say about you, it has nothing to do with what you're capable of doing. But your critics can be your best friends if you see their point of view as helpful advice rather than attack or blame.  Choose to hear what helps you and discount the rest as noise!"  -Mastin Kipp 

5 Rules to Live By

5 Rules to Live By

2011
by China Brooks
 

 

1.    Give Advice/Opinion Only When Asked

When we give others our advice and opinion without being asked, it can cause resentment. Unfortunately, that’s usually the opposite effect of what we intended. We can come across looking judgmental, authoritative, and controlling.

Sometimes we offer advice because we believe we have the other person’s best interest at heart. But how do we know what is best for them? We are not walking in their shoes. We don’t see the world from their perspective. Who made us God and the world police? When did we get the authority to tell others how to live and to change? Would we like it if others told us how to live?

We can however; be open for healthy, constructive criticism. I don’t get defensive when someone tells me I need to change. Depending on who it is, of course, I welcome honest feedback. I pay attention, listen, and I see if they are in fact correct. If there is any truth to what they are saying to me, I go to work to change.

There are a couple of reasons why we offer unsolicited advice and opinion:

  • We want the other person to change. It's easier to ask someone else to change than it is to take responsibility and change from within. Perhaps we feel that our lives would be better if they would change. This is untrue. Change is an inside job. If we are unwilling to change ourselves, we have no right to ask another to change. Change has to start with us. This is exactly what Gandhi meant when we said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."
     
  • We think we are right. We believe that we are correct and that we have the right answers for what everyone should do. Instead of being wise, we simply have a limited view.
     
  • We think we will feel better if they change. "Home-girl would be so much better to be around if she would only stop..." I used to think that if those around me would stop gossiping and doing a ton of drugs that it would make my life better. But what really needed to happen was for me to stop gossiping and for me to stop doing drugs. When I changed on the inside, my environment changed. But even so, I had no right to tell others to change when they never asked me for advice. I can only change myself and I can only live by example. It's like Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." That sure isn't me. 

 

2.    Pay Attention to the Feelings of Others

“When you hear someone criticizing you, pay attention because it says something about them.” –Julie Brooks

A lot of times we make fun of others because it takes the attention off of our own deficiencies and low self esteem. I had a friend, when someone would confide in him about a problem or lack in his or her life, he would immediately make fun of it. He would also make fun of himself, calling himself “fatty.”

When someone pours out his or her innermost secrets to us in a private, personal way, it’s offensive to turn around and make fun of it. It ruins trust, hurts feelings, and makes people defensive. Have you ever known someone who would use your secrets against you when they were mad at you? It’s the same sort of thing - abusive.

I know that some people live by sarcasm. Some even claim to be a part of the International Society of Sarcasm. I’m not telling anyone not to be sarcastic. Sometimes it’s funny. What I’m talking about is when it crosses a line and hurts the feelings of another person.

Now granted, we are not responsible for the emotions of other people. When someone else gets butt hurt, sometimes they just need to grow up and stop blaming everyone else for their lack of self-esteem. However, we can learn to be more aware of when we are making fun of others in a way that hurts their feelings. Instead of tearing people down by making fun of them, let’s build people up.

 

3.    Give/Offer Help Only When Asked

There are times when offering help without being asked is a good thing. Helping children and the elderly are examples of this. But when someone who is fully able to fend for himself needs help, we have to look at the reasons why.

  • Sometimes helping can do more harm than good. People need to learn from their mistakes. If we are always rescuing them from the consequences of their actions, they never learn. They never grow up to be a person who can deal with their own problems. They look to others to fix everything in their lives. People have to learn to find solutions within themselves. They must learn how and why it’s best to rely on themselves. This is part of them knowing that they are powerful. When we fix everything for another person we actually leave them powerless. It’s just as the parable says, we can teach others how to fish instead of fishing for them.
  • Sometimes helping is co-dependent savior mentality.

    We all want to feel wanted and appreciated; it makes us feel good. But approval is best when it’s generated from within. We need to approve of ourselves first. The more we approve of ourselves from within, the less we need external validation. Relying on external approval is dangerous. When others are happy and pleased with us, we feel good. When others are displeased with us, we feel bad. This way, we are susceptible to the emotional whims of everyone around us. Usually, the approval of others is contingent upon whether or not we give them what they want and act in the way they want us to act. The moment we stop doing what they want, they might withdraw their approval. If we depend on external approval for our self-esteem and self worth, we’re in trouble. Often times when we find ourselves in savior mentality, it’s because we want everyone to like us. The reality is, we need to ‘save’ ourselves. Meaning, we can only give to others that which we have given to ourselves first. Savior mentality is scary because it sets us up as this holier than thou wise authority who knows what is right for everyone. Savior complex usually means that the person has deep issues themselves that they don’t want to deal with. It’s draining and co-dependent, keeping the ‘savior’ distracted so they don’t have to face their own inner turmoil. Instead of saving others, which we don’t need to do, we can set an example in our own lives by the way we live. This way we empower others to know they have the power within themselves to handle anything in their lives. We can show them, via our own lives, that they are more powerful than any circumstance and situation. If we keep rescuing them, no one wins. It’s dis-empowering all the way around.When people keep creating problems in their lives, they are in a toxic living pattern. Diving in and helping pulls this toxic energy into our own lives. Some people love drama; they are entertained by it and they feed off of it. Just say no.

 

4.    Work Only to Change Ourselves

Do we want others to try and change us? Most of us do not want other people telling us how to live. When others try to change us, it’s annoying. Sometimes the other person comes across as if they are claiming to be smarter and more successful at life. When we try to change others, we come across the same way.

Granted, sometimes we want the advice of another person who is more successful than we are. We want to hear what they have to say and we are ready, willing and able to change. In this case, the person giving the advice truly leads by example.

But most of the time the advice we are given was not asked for. It’s unwanted and given by people who are less successful than we are. Most of the time people want us to change because it’s easier than them having to change themselves. They believe that their lives would be better if we changed. When in reality they are the ones who need to change.

 

5.    Correct Others Only When Asked

I have an agreement with my friend who is an English teacher. I want her to correct me if have improper spelling and grammar. But that is an agreement we have previously made between the two of us. In life, this is not always the case. When we correct others without having been asked, we can come across as presumptuous. It can seem as if we are saying, “I’m smarter than you and I know more.” It can make the other person feel stupid, especially when they are corrected in front of a group of people.

Usually we correct others because we genuinely believe we are right. But sometimes we open our mouths without having done enough research. We aren’t entirely clear on what the other person is saying, why they are saying it and what they really mean.

These rules are a fast track to inner peace, serenity, and compassion. They help us to live in the world and not be so disappointed by others that it paralyzes us. We are freed from the suffering that unrealistic expectation causes. When we cease trying to change others, we focus on being the change we wish to see, and we become active examples (like MLK and Gandhi) of those who take responsibility for the Divine Birthright and Inheritance of man as God in expression.

40 Ways to Energize Yourself

40 Ways to Energize Yourself

2011
by China Brooks
 

1.  Music

Create a “uplift your vibration” playlist that you can listen to anytime. Are you able to listen to ‘I Feel Good’ by James Brown without feeling at least a little better? Listen to music with positive lyrics. Personally, I prefer music that talks about enjoying life, being powerful, and feeling good. ‘Golden’ by Jill Scott, is one example.

Use music to balance your brainwaves by listening at 432hz and/or 528hz instead of 440hz. From what I understand, BT used some kind of vibration-raising machine for his song ‘Simply Being Loved’. I don’t know if he used it for the entire song, but I heard he used it for the opening riff.

2.  Meditation

Use meditation to balance your brainwaves. Meditation(silent stillness) creates more theta state by connecting you with your soul. Theta is that state between being awake and being asleep where your subconscious mind is. It enhances creativity and imagination.

Meditation bypasses the lower selves, including your animal nature; which is preoccupied with the survival instinct. Meditation gets right to the core of you; that which is eternal and connected to all of life. This is the real reason why it reduces stress, calms the mind, and kills the mental chatter.

3.  Eat Healthy

The saying is true; you are what you eat. Foods are in three categories; they act like a medicine, they are neutral, or they act like a poison. You want to eat foods that act like a medicine to your body. Pay attention to how your body feels when you eat something. Food should not give you gas. If a certain food gives you gas, your body doesn’t want it. After you eat, you should feel good and energetic, not tired and lethargic. When you eat a giant healthy salad and drink tons of water, your body feels better. Healthy, living foods will give you energy. Processed crap will deplete you and lower your vibration. You might eat some junk and feel better momentarily but eventually you will feel worse, heavy, and gassy. Processed food messes with the chemicals in your brain as well. It disrupts metabolism, concentration, focus, and healthy body function. Ask my friends, if you put some fresh beet and apple juice in my face, I’m a happy girl!

4.  Limit Recreational Drug / Alcohol Use

Drugs are fun but they mess with the brain’s natural chemical factory. The brain has its own pleasure and reward system, which releases chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. Recreational drugs cause excessive release of these chemicals. The brain starts to rely on the drug(s) to experience pleasure. Drugs start doing the brain’s job and then the brain stops functioning normally. That’s why withdrawal sucks. Even quitting something minor like weed can be tough because the brain becomes chemically reliant on it.

Prolonged use makes it harder for a person to experience heightened pleasure without drugs and alcohol. Neural pathways in the brain that send out dopamine and serotonin have to be healed and rejuvenated. Sometimes drug use permanently kills some of these neural pathways (brain cells). Have you ever known someone who was happy and full of personality while on drugs and without drugs they were depressed and sad? This is why.

5.  Take a Bath

Add herbs, Epsom, or sea salt to your bath. You can also add grapefruit peels (or grapefruit itself) for a grounding and detoxifying bath. Visit a steam room / sauna. A really hot bath and/or a sauna will remove toxins from your body. Removing toxins always makes a person feel lighter and clearer headed. Make sure you drink plenty of water to rehydrate yourself.

6.  Burn Incense and Sage

Light some sage and pass it over your entire body. Sage is cleansing and it removes negative energies. You can also sage your room and home.

7.  Spiritual Tools / Spiritual Practice

Everyone should have a spiritual practice. Meditation, yoga, chanting (mantras, words, and sounds), and mudras (yoga for your hands), etc., are all useful, mood lifting exercises. The 10 Golden Minutes, 3 Things Exercise, and Gratitude Journal are some of my favorite spiritual tools that I use in my spiritual practice.

8.  Scream Into a Pillow

It’s good to have an outlet for pent-up emotions. Sometimes while I am doing yoga and emotions come to the surface to be released, I scream into a pillow.

9.  Write

Write in a gratitude journal. Write morning pages. Write a book. Write a blog article. Writing is cathartic, healing and releasing. It’s a great tool for getting things out, getting answers and for setting goals.

10. Talk To Someone

We all need to talk with someone. Human relationships are crucial in this world. There are many people you can talk to:  a friend you love and trust, a family member, a therapist, or a spiritual counselor. 

11. Reading

Certain books can raise your vibration; spiritual books always do it for me. If a certain kind of book makes you feel better, then by all means, get to reading!

12. Play More

Take your self on a date. Play more often in your life. Take yourself to the park, museum, Arboretum, or Huntington Gardens. Go to the beach. Spend a day with yourself, by yourself, in ways that you highly enjoy.

13. Nature

Get out into nature and just sit there for as long as you need. Take your shoes off and stand on the ground for 90 seconds. Doing that resets your energetic field.

14. Dance / Go Dancing

Dance in your living room. Go to a party and dance your ass off to your favorite DJ. Sweat and have a great time; dance, dance, DANCE!!!

15. Aromatherapy

Scrunch rosemary between you fingers; it smells amazing and it’s therapeutic. You can put rosemary into a hot bath, make eye pillows with it, or use it for cooking. Lavender works the same way, as do many healing herbs.

16. Smell the Roses

When you go on a walk, stop and smell the roses. I always smell the roses and it makes me feel better immediately. Some of them smell like fragrant perfume.

17. Hang Out By the Ocean

This falls under nature, but the ocean deserves individual attention. Apparently, the ocean activates Alpha brainwaves, which are highly calming and therapeutic.

18. Spend Time With Animals

We all know how awesome animals are. They are always in the now and they are simply themselves. They are fun, calming, silly, and playful. If you have a pet, spend time with your pet. Walk your dog, pet your cat, and sing with your bird.

19. Exercise

Go and take a 10 minute walk around the block. Any kind of exercise is always good. There are many, many ways for you to get exercise. But just walking for a few minutes is enough to increase your energy.

20. Drive

When you do a rote task like driving, it requires only a small amount of focus, providing a much-needed break for your overworked brain. This creates release, relief, and healing.

21. Sing

Sing in the house. Sing in the car. Sing at the top of your lungs. Sing with friends. Sing in the shower. If you make music, work on your tracks. Singing takes a lot of strength and breath control, which is very grounding, balancingand powerful.

22. Hang Out With Friends

Make your friends some cards. Call or text them to tell them you love them. If you want love, give it away first. Companionship makes you feel connected and understood which uplift your vibration.

23. Shop

Hit up a thrift store or two. Go shopping in your own closet. I bet you have stuff in your closet that you forgot is even there. Go through your closet and create some new outfits to wear and then wear them.

24. Clear Our Clutter

Clean out a drawer, your closet, or your paperwork. If an item is not useful, beautiful, and hasn’t been used in 6 months, get rid of it. Clearing clutter is liberating. Also, in order for new (and better) stuff to come into your life, you have to make room for it. This is true in every area of your life, if you don’t love it, get rid of it.

25. Sex

Have great sex with yourself or with a partner. Sex releases happy, relaxing hormones and is a great form of exercise when done with a partner. This can also mean to abstain from having sex with partners we don't love. This will preserve our sacred, creative sexual energy. When we value ourselves enough to respect our body as a living temple of God, it uplifts our self-esteem.

26. Watch T.V.

Watch movies that inspire you to a better feeling place. There’s tons of positive stuff to watch on Netflix. Young At Heart is one of my favorites.

27. Work On A Creative Project

Write poetry, paint, make candy, and shoot a video. Working on a creative project calms the mind and fills you full of purpose; which makes you happy.

28. Garden

Water your plants. Start a garden or admire the garden you already have. Send your plants positive, loving energy. Anytime you can get your hands and/or feet in the soil, do so!

29. Clean

Cleaning causes you to be in the moment. When you do a rote task like cleaning, it requires only a small amount of focus, providing a much-needed break for your overworked brain. This creates release, relief, and healing.

30. Watch the Sunset and Sunrise

Watching an amazing sunset or sunrise immediately connects you to the good in life. It grounds your soul and makes you stop, breathe, and listen. I read that pink stands for the love of God.

31. Change Your Habits

The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Start eating healthier, take a 10 minute walk three times a week, or do a  30 day no-complaining challenge. Change.

32. Do What Makes YOU Feel Better

Dress yourself up, paint your nails, or fix up your man cave. Do what makes you feel good.

33. Hang Out With Kids

Being around children puts you in the moment. It makes you feel good by taking your attention off of yourself and onto pure joy. Go be silly and playful and fun!

34. Travel

Travel locally, go and see museums you haven’t seen before. Travel out the state; take a cross-country road trip. Leave the country and see the world. Traveling uplifts your vibration because it helps you gain a new perspective on life. You get to know different cultures and you develop a greater tolerance and appreciation for people. Plus, travel is relaxing and stimulating.

35. Gratitude Journal

You can write in your gratitude journal for 7 minutes in the morning and/or evening. It uplifts your vibration and starts your day on an empowered note.

36. Learn Something New

Teach yourself how to do something you have always wanted to learn. Take a class, read a book, watch tutorials on YouTube. Learning increases your intelligence.

37. Be In The Moment

Right now, everything is okay. Things only seem less than okay when you are focused on the past or worried about the future. Stay in the now. One way to do that is to ask yourself, “What are my hands doing right now? Feet? Fingers?” You can also look around you and notice what is good NOW.

38. Positive Aspects

Positive aspects are a process where you look for and focus on the good in any person, place, thing, or situation. There is always something good in everything; you just have to look for it.

39. Breathe

Deep breathing calms your entire body and mind. Check out these videos: How to Breathe Correctly and 7 Grounding Breaths Exercise.

40. Laugh

Check out your favorite comedians online. Look at websites that make you laugh. Some of my favorites are comedians Ellen, Louis CK, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Margaret Cho, and Katt Williams. 

10 Ways to Live in the New Paradigm

10 Ways to Live in the New Paradigm 

2011
by China Brooks

 

1. Practice Radical Honesty - Be honest even when it's uncomfortable and others don't like you.

2. Stop Explaining - You don't need to defend or explain yourself to anyone, ever.

3. Have Integrity - Live with your thoughts, words, and deeds in alignment. Be your authentic self and live an authentic life.

4. Practice Positive Living - Positive thinking only goes so far and is useless without positive action. If you want change, be that change. Stop talking and start living.

5. Stop Managing Pain - Stop managing other people's pain. Stop trying to fix everything for everyone. You aren't responsible for the emotions and pain of another person. Stop numbing yourself out and drugging yourself up.

6. Surrender - Surrender everything you thought you knew. You are not your house or your car. You are not your social titles or your popularity. You are not even your body.

7. Follow Your Own Advice - Stop seeking and needing everyone else's advice and approval. It's tainted with their perception, desires, and opinions. The best advice you can follow is the advice you obtain within the quiet stillness of your own being.

8. Follow Your Intuition - Your intuition is the best GPS system you will ever have. In order to hear your intuition loud and clear you need to...

9. Slow Down - Breathe. Stop keeping up with the fast pace of the world around you. Meditate, breathe deeply, take walks, and enjoy nature. Slow down.

10. Focus On Being - Stop doing and start being. It's no longer do to get; it's be to receive (Eloheim Channel). From that place of being you will feel inspired to take Divine Right Action.

 

Five Things That Will Change Your Financial Life Forever

Five Things That Will Change Your Financial Life Forever


2011
by China Brooks

 

1. Emergency Fund

An Emergency Fund is the brain child of Dave Ramsey (Financial Peace Boot Camp). It's a savings account containing a minimum of $1,000, acting as a cushion in case an unexpected cost arises. Have you ever needed emergency car repairs that you couldn't afford? Has your pet ever needed a visit to the vet that you didn't have money for? Have you ever been in a car accident and had trouble paying the car insurance deductible? Having an emergency fund saves you all this trouble and keeps you from going into debt (using a credit card).

In 2009, I was in 3 car accidents; two were not my fault, the third one was. The first time, my car was parked and someone hit it at night, leaving no note. $500 deductible. The second time, a young kid busted a u-turn right into me. $500 deductible. The third time I scraped this old man's car. $500 deductible. That's $1,500 in one year. Back in the day I would have freaked out. I might have taken out a loan and gone into debt, but instead I had my emergency fund. I was okay. (p.s. It's now 2017 and I haven't been in an accident or had a ticket since - knock on giant redwood forests). 
 

2. Living Expense Fund

This fund is six months to one year of your living expenses saved up. I always save enough money to have a comfortable six months. I especially need this because I do not have a typical nine-to-five job. Basically, I play Russian Roulette with my income sources, which I like because it keeps me from getting bored. It also puts more pressure on me to be financially organized and plan ahead. A living expense fund will save your ass if you get fired, need to quit, get sick, have a family emergency, want to travel, etc.
 

3. Periodic Expense Fund

The Periodic Expense Fund is for things such as car registration, a once a year AAA bill, dentist visits, passport renewal (every ten years), etc. I pay my car insurance bill from this fund (six months to a year in advance), which saves money. Sit down and ask yourself, “How much money do I really need to live for a year?” A fully-funded periodic expense fund is ideal, but the emergency fund and the living expense funds are the most important corner stones.
 

4. Setting Up Savings Accounts

Set up a minimum of three savings accounts for your emergency fund, your living expense fund, and your periodic expense account. Set up additional savings accounts for large periodic expenses such as travel, property taxes, rental income money, union dues, etc. One year I could not pay my property taxes ($4,800), or my SAG dues (1.25% of my yearly earnings). That was the same year I made $100,000 in two months, which doesn't make any sense, right? I haven't had that issue since I organized my finances. It's not the amount of money you make, it's what you do with it. 
 

5. Pay Off Your Debt

Pay off your debt and live debt free - paying off debts with highest interest first. Attack credit cards, car loans, student loans, and then the mortgage ('mort' means death in French, by the way). The great thing about debt is that once it's paid off, you never have to get into it again! Trust me that you will feel so much better without that monkey on your back!

These five steps guarantee that you don't ever have to go into debt to pay any of your bills, and it gives you peace of mind. In 2008, I saved enough money for seven months of living expenses (I lived by myself), which included moving twice and those three unexpected car accidents. I also paid off my car, and I paid for my new business (no business loan). I paid my SAG dues, property taxes, and car insurance bills in full. 

How To Interpret Your Dreams

April 24, 2011
by China Brooks

 

How To Interpret Your Dreams

 

Pay attention to your dreams, they are free therapy, here to help you.  Dreams are your subconscious mind's way of sending you a message and telling you something.  Through your dreams you can see where you are in your life, your strengths, and what you need to work on.

You may wake up only remembering certain parts of your dream.  Some details will stand out vividly while others you won't remember at all.  By you remembering only certain things, your subconscious mind is trying to bring your attention to those things.  The details you remember are the most important ones.  If you didn't remember it, it's not important.

Sometimes a dream can be psychic.  I have had dreams that actually came true in waking life.  One time I had a dream that an acquaintance was on a farm having a spiritual experience.  Months later I saw him and he told me that he had been on a farm and it was one of the most enlightening experiences he ever had.

Some dreams are just for release.  I have had dreams that were simply for the purpose of letting go or getting something off of my chest so I could feel better.  Your subconscious helps let go of toxic people, places, things, habits, and lifestyles.  It lets you know that it's not only okay to let go, but that you need to let go.  Through release you are more able to embrace new chapters of your life.  Release dreams can signify huge life changes you are going through at the moment.

 

1.  What Time Did You Have Your Dream?

Dreams that occur in the beginning of your sleep cycle reveal the present.  Middle of the night dreams are predictive.  Early morning dreams (right before you wake) are for release.

2.  Everything In Your Dream Means Something

Look at everything in your dream (write it down if it helps).  Anything in your dream can have meaning; the colors of the walls, the way you felt, where you were, what the place looked like, what time it was, what the weather was like, who you were with, and what color and fabric you and your companions were wearing.  Everything means something.

3.  Always Pay Attention To Colors, Textures and The Elements

Always pay attention to the colorsof things.  White stands for purity and gray stands for uncertainty.  If you dream of gray concrete it means you need to gain clarity over an uncertain (gray area) issue in your life.  Once you begin to get better at interpreting your dreams, many things (such as colors) become common sense.  For example, water...

4.  Water Stands For Consciousness

Water stands for consciousness.  The condition of the water always says something.  Is the water clear?  Muddy?  Dirty?  Clean?  Is it calm, choppy, or downright stormy?  What color is the water?  Is it deep or shallow?  Were you scared of the water or was it inviting?

5.  What People Mean In Your Dream

When you dream of a certain person or a group of people, you always have to take into account how you feel about them in your waking life, which will tell you a lot.  What do these people represent to you, what kind of behaviors were they expressing in the dream and how were they making you feel?

Here is a question from a friend whose dream I interpreted:  Do you feel that when another person is in our dream that they are actually “in it” or “connected”?  v. the “everyone in our dream is us” philosophy?  I personally think it can be both.  Depends on the dream or/ situation.

Answer:  I agree, it depends on the dream/ situation.  However, my dreams are usually intuitive, psychic, and prolific.  In dreams, people come to me for a number of reasons.  Either they need spiritual support or they are supporting me, or both.  People also come to me in dreams to give me an update on how they are doing, especially if I have not seen them in a while.  They also show up just to hang out, but this is rare.  People can also represent something for the dreamer, such as an old lifestyle coming to an end. When I dream of someone, I can tell by the dream exactly how they are doing in life and what deep issues and desires they are working on.

6.  Flying

Flying is always good and points to a high degree of awareness.  If you have been flying a lot in your dreams lately, that should tell you something.  How high did you fly?  Did you feel free or scared when you flew?  If you were scared, did you fly any way?  What is your flying style?  My friend flies like Superman.  When I was younger, I used to fly like a frog.  Now I just shoot up in to the air, but I can still gain an extra boost of power by doing a quick frog hop (like when you are swimming).

According to Medicine Cards by Sams and Carson, Frog symbolizes healing.  “An ability of frog medicine people is to give support where it is needed.  A Frog medicine person can clean negativity from any environment.  Call to Frog to find peace in the joy of taking time to give to yourself.  A part of this giving is cleansing yourself from any person, place, or thing that does not contribute to your new state of serenity and replenishment.”  Needless to say, the way you fly in your dreams says a lot about you.

7.  Death

People seem to think that death is a bad thing.  I could not disagree more.  20,000 Dreams says, “Death stands for termination; finality.  May not specifically point to a physical death.  Dead means an absolute conclusion; a final closing.”  I know that death signifies the end of an era or time your life.  It can be the end of a relationship, a way of life, or a way of thinking; the possibilities are endless.

8.  Do You Have Trouble Remembering Your Dreams?

If you normally can't remember your dreams, I suggest you take a look at your daily lifestyle. Do you drink a lot of coffee or smoke a lot of weed?  Those things will make you fuzzy and you will not remember you dream life.  I had a friend who could never remember his dreams.  Then he quit smoking pot and cigarettes for a while and his dreams became very vivid.  The healthier I am, the clearer I become and the more intense my dream life becomes.  I think this is general rule for life.  The healthier you are, the better quality of your life.  It's the same with dreams.

9.  Dream Books I Use and Recommend

Zolar's Encyclopedia; Dictionary of Dreams

The Dreamer's Dictionary Stearn Robinson; Tom Corbett (This one is sometimes very similar to Zolar's)

20,000 Dreams Mary Summer Rain (My current favorite)