Updated on 04.15.11

Ten Pieces of Inspiration #15

Trent Hamm

Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well.

1. Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir
This is an awesome application of the internet. Composer Eric Whitacre collected a large number (in the thousands, at last count) of individual performances of choral pieces on YouTube and combined them into a single piece, utilizing the individual audio tracks as well as the videos of the people performing them. Here’s the most recent one, “Sleep.”

This is one where it’s worthwhile to just ignore the video, close your eyes, and listen. Here’s some more info about the virtual choir.

2. Emerson on persistence
The more you work at anything, the easier it becomes. Not because the task becomes easier, but because you get better at it.

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I think this is true for frugal behavior, for example. It’s hard to establish a new normal, but once you do it, it becomes easier and easier.

3. The Inflation Calculator
I’ve been using this little tool for years to put inflation in perspective. All you have to do is drop in a dollar amount, put in the two years you want to compare, and it’ll show you the comparison. For example, I wanted to compare what $7.00 looks like in 1970 dollars and 2010 dollars. “What cost $7.00 in 1970 would cost $38.86 in 2010. Also, if you were to buy exactly the same products in 2010 and 1970, they would cost you $7.00 and $1.21 respectively.”

Inflation is a harsh mistress.

4. Agesilaus on frugality and liberty
Frugality isn’t about restriction. It’s about freedom – freedom from want, freedom from reliance, freedom from being under the economic thumb of others.

“By sowing frugality we reap liberty, a golden harvest.” – Agesilaus of Sparta

I am frugal because I want freedom.

5. The Yellow House (The Street) (1888) by Vincent van Gogh
My three year old daughter’s favorite book is Vincent’s Colors, which depicts some of van Gogh’s paintings along with five or six word descriptions of the painting from van Gogh’s own pen.

Vincent van Gogh 1888 The yellow house ('The street') - detail

My daughter often stops and looks at this one for a long time. Lately, I have, too.

6. Jaques’ soliloquy from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It
What act are you in?

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Are you making the most of that act?

7. FDR on taxes
It’s easy to get very frustrated after paying taxes. FDR puts it in perspective.

“Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Taxes may be painful, but without them, we’d either be without roads or we’d be paying usage fees to use them. The same is true for police, hospitals, schools – the list goes on and on.

8. Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit
I get goosebumps every time I hear this.

9. Morels
It’s early spring in Iowa. Time to start hunting the woods for something wonderful.


Thanks to grongar for the wonderful pic.

10. Quote on love and games
My favorite opponent at games is my wife. Often, one of us loses and one of us wins. Not always.

Love is a game that two can play and both win. – Eva Gabor

It’s hard to really lose when you walk away from the table with your opponent’s hand in yours.

Loading Disqus Comments ...
Loading Facebook Comments ...
  1. Rachel says:

    I love that the first thing I see on your website is a well-deserved accolade to Eric Whitacre’s project. I performed several of his pieces in the premier choir at my college, and his music is some of the most creative choral composing I’ve come across in my many years of performing–it sounds like it’s from another planet, in a good way. So much of modern choral music is jarring and discordant, and while his doesn’t follow typical Bach-oriented music theory rules, it’s fascinating to see what stunning work someone can do when they break with convention. Excellent choice, Trent!

  2. NewReader says:

    Aww, this particular collection of inspiration paints a nice picture of the richness of your family life, especially 7 and 10.

  3. Kate says:

    love #7…so many people forget how much our tax dollars pay for. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Kathryn says:

    Well, inflation isn’t always a constant.

    In the late 70s i bought my first pair of contact lenses. $200

    In the summer of 2010 i had an eye exam and lens check. The exam was $200 and i didn’t need to replace the lenses right away. If i had, replacement would have been under $300.

    As my first pair for $200 included the exam, yes, this is more expensive. But not what the calculator says would now be $711.11.

    And, if i was able to do without the exam and went online to buy them, they would be less yet.

  5. NewReader says:

    Oops, I meant 5 and 10 (comment #2 above).

  6. almost there says:

    I don’t mind paying taxes. What I mind paying is for waste. Studies have shown that most money taken in by taxes are not spent for the common good and are wasted. Government is ever expanding with more power taken from the governed. Spend a week at lew rockwell dot com to get an idea governmant should work.

  7. Nicole says:

    Yes, it’s when they want to levy taxes AND charge fees (city I lived in tried to pull this one and, surprise, it was hugely unpopular!) for using the roads that I have a problem — aren’t the very basics supposed to be covered before anything else? What did they use the rest of the money on?

  8. deRuiter says:

    Yes, agree with #6, our precious tax dollars are hemoraghed to welfare queens who are paid more each time they crank out another illegitimate child by a different father who will spend a lifetime feeding at the public trough or be incarcerated, for benefits for illegal aliens who are here because they broke the law, and then compound it by stealing American identities, by General Electric, a big pal Of Obama’s, which paid NO FEDERAL INCOME TAXES LAST YEAR even though its profits are in the billions. The workers in the middle are cheated out of their earnings by a rapacious government which intends to “spread the wealth” to those who do not produce. It is maddening. At the end of 99 weeks of unemployment, most people are no longer capable of getting another job in their field, their skills are rusty, new skills were invented while they were on the dole, and it is much easier to get a job when you have a job, you look like a worker instead of a couch potato.

  9. 8sml says:

    @ #6 almost there:

    “Studies have shown that most money taken in by taxes are not spent for the common good and are wasted”

    Please provide an example of such a study.

  10. Doug says:

    I suppose it would be impolite to point out that private roads (i.e. toll roads) are in far better shape than the public roads which were paid for with tax dollars.

    Similarly, the taxes which fund hospitals don’t seem to produce hospitals I would voluntarily enter. The taxes that fund police don’t seem to help very much when a burglar breaks into my house, and so I purchase a private company’s security products. And while I enjoy the company of firefighters, I still have portable fire extinguishers around the house. I suppose then that the public transportation I fund through my tax contribution is a good thing, except that the buses don’t travel to the destinations I need to go. Certainly one shouldn’t point out that GM is receiving a huge subsidy to manufacture a vehicle that will cost approximately the same as the average American family’s annual wage and travel an entire thirty miles without using gasoline (the electricity which was used likely comes from coal).

    Perhaps inspiration should not be looked for in an administrative bureaucracy.

    “Unlike the cruel Leonidas, who demanded that you stand, I require only that you kneel.” I think I’ll continue standing, thanks.

  11. Michael says:

    Just remember, of the two certainties in life, only with taxes can you get an automatic extension.

    With regards to government and taxes, would humbly suggest those who believe we need less government spend a week or so in Somolia and see how much they enjoy the experience. My understanding is both the tax rate is low and the government very non-intrusive.

  12. almost there says:

    Taxes are beneficial up to a point, they have crossed the line. All the big government advocates would do well to visit the site I mentioned or go the the NTU and see the statistics on taxes. I find that the people that pay no federal income tax, after filing their taxes, are advocates for increased taxation as they have no skin in the game.

  13. Johanna says:

    @almost there: “I find that the people that pay no federal income tax, after filing their taxes, are advocates for increased taxation as they have no skin in the game.”

    I’m curious as to how you know so much about what other people are paying in federal income taxes.

    I, for one, do have skin in the game (to the tune of about $7000 for 2010), and I’m an advocate for increased taxation. Taxes have gone down, not up, in recent years, and all those tax cuts (passed under Bush *and* Obama) were irresponsible and unsustainable. If we want the kind of society we’re used to having, we need to pay more in taxes. Just going back to the tax rates we had in 2000 would be a big help.

    (And don’t anyone think of saying “Well, if you want to pay more taxes yourself, go right ahead.” That’s not a serious argument, and I refuse to engage it.)

  14. Lauren says:

    Denmark has the highest taxes of all, but they are also a very happy country. And remember, entitlements like social security and Medicare, along with defense spending, are responsible for the vast majority of government spending. “welfare queens” are not to blame.

  15. almost there says:

    #13, Johanna, I am suprised at your latest comment which is out of the norm for you because you provide such well thought out comments. Go to any of the government websites that deal with taxation and you can see for yourself what percentage of people pay any federal income tax. Statisically 47% of the people do not pay any. The party that supports increased taxation and spending as opposed to the party that supports decreased taxes and spending caters to the people that have no skin in the game and pay no tax. You are one person and do not fit the norm statistically. I argue that it is not taxation but spending that is causing our problems as a country. The federal government is out of control and cannot be stopped. Yes, the tax cuts hurt but perhaps we should bo back to the rates that were over 50% for the high earners vs the year 2000 rates. No, that won’t help. Even taking 100% of high earners taxes won’t solve the problem. Government spending has increased at such a rate to be unpayable without draconian steps to stop it. I never said or argued that if you want to pay more pay it yourself. We are a war economy and that is the problem. Please go to Lou rockwell dot com and read a weeks worth of columns to see my point. As for #14 ‘s comment about entitlements: The Johnson administration absorbed the excess Soc Sec payments into the federal budget while counting them against the spending even though they were absorbed and spent. If they had instead invested the surplus payments into foreign central bank investments we would be rolling in trillions of dollars of surplus. That’s what foreign banks do, invest their funds with the US because so far we have been good for it.

  16. tim says:

    I don’t know that inflation is really a harsh mistress – inflation is mainly driven by increasing wages anyway, so it’s basically a wash as long as inflation is stable.

    Wow, your mention of taxes really brought the bile-spewing right wingers out. The right wing in the US is pretty irresponsible in promoting the idea that some huge proportion of tax money is wasted and it’s a win-win situation just to cut things with a meat axe… if you look where most federal money goes, it’s essential function of a national government, the elderly, the military and science.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *