Stories about the money mind
- I've started writing my paper "The Wealth of Experience" for the Open
Content conference http://www.openculture.org for the talk that I gave
in Como, Italy in June. It was due today. I'll need to keep writing
tomorrow and perhaps Tuesday. My draft is at
http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/cyfranogi/message/1692 and my
abstract is at http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/cyfranogi/message/1616
Earlier this year I thought through with John Rogers an online learning
environment for community currency design that was based on first hand
knowledge of the money mind. In particular, we expected personal
stories to play a key role. I had made for myself a list of my own
personal experiences with money. Today I wrote up more than 60 of these
vignettes and am sorting through them and analyzing them. I wanted to
see how the data compared to the theory.
These stories are little episodes in life that I recall and that I learn
from. It seems to me that each of them focuses on one of three
- Calm vs. Riled
- Positive vs. Negative
- Sensitive vs. Insensitive
Each episode seems to help distinguish between the opposites in some
way. Perhaps the more complicated episodes tune in to several opposites.
Some episodes help me tease out my positive and negative feelings. A
task may be hard to do, tiresome and even repulsive, like picking
caterpillars off tomato vines, but a reward can help me look forward to
it. Or something that I once enjoyed, looked forward to, like buying
and reading Mad magazine, may grow old and disappointing.
Other episodes help me go between riled and calm. I didn't know what to
do after I got my Ph.D. I realized that the university was a sheltered
environment that would not be helpful for my growth as a person and a
thinker. Gradually, I thought through that it would make sense to work
part-time and do what I wanted to do the rest of the time.
Other episodes distinguish between my being sensitive or insensitive.
Our parents would give us an allowance. But they made clear that it was
not for anything we did. We were expected to do chores at home, but
that had nothing to do with our allowance. We learned that, in their
mind, the two were not connected, and we should be sensitive to each
These episodes aren't models for how to live, they may not be "right" in
the big picture. But they are models for how I was able to find
resolution to what vexed my emotions. I think it's helpful if we all
collect them and can use them as a guide in thinking through "money
mind" issues, and specifically, community currency design.
I'm finding that in each of these episodes there is a troubling side to
emotion: we're insensitive, negative or riled. This means that we're
having trouble taking a stand (on principles), or following through (on
solutions), or reflecting (on interpretations). So we resolve it by
taking a step back and grounding ourselves, so that we're grounded again:
- If we're insensitive to principles, then we reflect back on
interpretations, until we can be sensitive to principles.
- If we're negative because there are no good solutions, then we step
back and get in touch with our principles, and through them ground
ourselves in a solution that feels positive.
- If we're riled because there are no attractive interpretations, then
we step back and recall our solutions, and through them ground ourselves
in an interpretation that makes sense, so that we are calm.
I think each of these episodes heightens the opposites along one of
these emotional dimensions. The troubled or "blocked" opposite
(insensitive, negative or riled) is stepped back from, we reground
ourselves and then we can bring in the untroubled "free" opposite
(sensitive, positive or calm) and know the difference. That's the moral
of the story.
The regrounding, as predicted, does seem to take place at one of four
- why we are learning (thinking through our goals and purposes)
- how we are learning (thinking through our thought experiments and
- what we are learning (thinking through various roles, points of view,
the experience of others)
- whether we are learning (thinking through our own first hand experience)
Which is to say, it makes a difference whether the episode is one that
we intuited in terms of our values, that we thought through in terms of
outcomes, that we considered through the experience of others, or that
we lived through by our own direct experience. I will try to sort
through all of the episodes in terms of these levels and see if I can
match them to the twelve topologies and even the community currency
design issues matrix as I had predicted.
I hope to push through this investigation further and set it up so that
we might all contribute our own stories of the money mind. (And
ultimately apply this to other areas.) Already we have "experiences":
as given by Jon Cousins, John Rogers, Terry Mace, Franz Nahrada, Kevin
Parcell and some great interviews by Samwel Kongere. By the way, if
you go to that page you'll see on the left the image that I've created
of the steps in our workflow process, where I've been influenced by John
Rogers to use the "visual language" approach pioneered by Robert E. Horn
in his book by that name.
I look forward to making more progress tomorrow!
Thank you for feedback and ideas!
+370 (699) 30003
+370 (5) 264 5950
Calm Vs. Riled -- Interpretations Or Not - ground them in solutions
When I was finishing my Ph.D., I wondered how I would make a living, if
I was to devote myself to what I wanted to do. I thought that a
university was a sheltered environment and so I would not learn about
life. Also, if I made money from my philosophical pursuits, then I would
corrupt myself and my thinking. I decided that I should work part-time
and be free to spend the rest of my time on my own projects.
When I completed my graduate courses, it was time to write a Ph.D.
thesis. However, it wasn't my goal to be a mathematician, I had simply
wanted to get an education. So I didn't know for what reason to
continue, although it felt a bit awkward to stop. My mother supplied the
reason, she said that I wanted to be a person who finishes things, and I
wouldn't have to explain for the rest of my life why I hadn't finished.
That was the reason I continued.
When I was in high school, some of my classmates started getting part
time jobs. I wondered whether I should get one, whether that would help
me be a more balanced person. Or perhaps my brother wanted to get one.
But my father said that he had worked in his youth because he had had
to. And we would be working all our lives. So he did not want us to work
until we had to. He wanted us to make the most of the opportunity that
we had not having to work. I felt encouraged by his view because it was
his first hand account, having had worked, and I accepted it, and I felt
I did not need to relive it. It's interesting that in my life I have
never had a full time job.
When I was in college, I used to work in the summer, but would save my
money so that I wouldn't have to work during the year. I wanted to study
and learn as much as I possibly could, and I was glad that my parents
I was very much in love with a young lady from Lithuania, a wonderful
person. She finally agreed to visit me in the United States after years
of hesitation. I didn't have much savings but I decided that I would
borrow everything that I might need from credit cards so that I could
take care of her during her stay and she would have a good time.
Ultimately, she married another man who she had loved for many years,
but I was very glad that I did not think twice about doing all I could
for her and to be with her and that money was not an issue.
One year, after I and my brother and sister had all finished our
schooling, our parents gave us each a substantial sum of money. I used
part to clear my loans, and then I decided that I should not save the
rest, but give it away, taking JesusChrist seriously. I told my parents
I didn't need it and could give it back, but they said no. So I gave
more than half to my cousin, who had worked for a year to help his step
father at his body shop without hardly any renumeration. I thought it
would make clear that I cared. My parents were shocked and hurt and
angry. They said that if they wanted to give charity (which they do)
then they would give it themselves. My cousin was delighted and decided
to spend it on three things that he had always wanted: back taxes on his
land which his father had left him, a BMW motorcycle, and the
Encyclopedia Britannica. All of which seemed a bit vain, but it was his
choice, except I was not happy that he had spent thousands of dollars on
the encyclopedia and I argued that it didn't make any sense given how
much he would read it and how technology was evolving and that he should
ask for his money back while he still had the chance. I felt relieved
that he did indeed back out of the encyclopedia. So I learned that it
was all right to give it all away, but it was good to care what happened
to it. I didn't grow super close with my cousin except that I think we
feel good about each other and I imagine that the money did have a good
impact on his spirits because his life course seemed to pick up around then.
My parents have a principle never to give me a loan, even a short term
loan that might be very helpful. However, they are very steadfast in
giving me gifts if I need help, even if they are unhappy about it.
My godson in Lithuania became quite interested in alternative music. I
was very glad that he could educate me because I always felt doubtful
about my own tastes and was glad to have somebody thoughtful to discuss
music with. He would buy pirated music as it was the only way to get
much of the music, and later, the only way to afford it. I would gladly
listen to him play, but I could never make a copy for myself as that
seemed a boundary I felt I shouldn't cross. Once in a while I would
borrow his disks but I was repulsed by the idea of having pirated music.
At the Atzalynas club I have had one or more computers which I have let
the leaders use. But I have never allowed them to add pirated software.
This would frustrate the leader of the computer club. The club got a few
computers, too. I agreed that they have pirated programs on the club's
computers, but not on mine.
I never liked to haggle and I felt that it was the best policy to pay
full price, partly because I believed that everybody should pay the same
price, and that haggling was an inefficient system. And when I moved to
Lithuania I felt that I was even so part of a different economic system
and shouldn't pretend otherwise. But when I started traveling to attend
conferences and how expensive they were, it was suggested that I ask for
a discount because I am from Lithuania. And then I decided that I needed
the help and if I could get it that way then I would take it.
When we first got allowance, it was five cents a week. Then we realized
that we couldn't buy anything for that! So we let our parents know and
it went up to ten cents per week.
I used to think that I should be generous to the government with my
money and pay it willingly and err on the side of paying more taxes. I
wouldn't take the standard meal deductions because they seemed
unrealistically large. But after having such a hard time with my
business and realizing that there is nobody to care for me, I started to
take them. I figured that this was the system's way of supporting me.
I was working to promote an import export standard through the Infrared
Data Association. After a difficult start there was a meeting where we
had a good chance of making it happen. However, as RobLockhart explained
to me afterwards, I oversold, I tried too hard, I was too vocal and
aggresive, and members backed away, and then afterwards the chance was
gone for the whole endeavor. So that is where I learned what it means to
oversell. Yet in my mind I felt that if that's what it all amounted to,
then it was not a very important matter, and I would not fret that.
I had a close friend who I stayed with in the United States when he
invited me for his wedding. I was just starting my business and I stayed
at his home with his parents when he left for his honeymoon. And they
started to wonder what I was doing there. And then I realized that
although I believed in giving and receiving and my friend had been quite
supportive but that was not normal and it was possible to quickly run up
against limits. I was anxious and I told God I was too anxious to work
part-time on my philosophy and on the business too at that point in my
life. I offered a deal with him to let me focus on the business and I
would make the business model work for him, too. Then I felt more at ease.
I traveled with my friend to his home in China. He arranged for me to
stay there for an additional six weeks with his family. There was no way
for me to directly pay his family for food or anything as that would be
inappropriate. However, he took care of that for me. The one thing that
he set straight was that I would do my own laundry by hand because
otherwise his mother would have to do it. So we agreed on that and it
seemed to work out well.
In the town in China where I was staying I wanted to buy a bicycle.
However, the family was very anxious for my safety and refused to let
me. It was as if I was a small child. But as my Chinese improved I was
able to ask in ways that gave them confidence in me. So they arranged
that I could buy a bicycle.
As a graduate student I arranged to spend a year at the University of
Vilnius in Soviet-occupied Lithuania. However, I didn't hear back from
them. The vicepresident of the Academy of Sciences was a friend of a
family friend and he offered to take care of the matter. It didn't seem
right to have to go through such a private channel. But it made all the
difference. I received my invitation as planned. It was very strange to
see the system in action and the amount of authority required to handle
such a small matter.
I let my brother borrow money on my credit cards. It was my suggestion,
as he was out of school and trying to establish himself as a commerical
artist and our parents weren't especially supportive. Overall, it worked
out for him, and he found work. Although he suffered from the loans but
he paid me back. I think that due to him I got quite a credit limit
which I drew on later when I started my business.
I won about thirty trophies in my chess playing days. And when I
finished high school I made sure to give them all away to our high
school chess club where they all ended up getting recycled. It was nice
to clear that all away.
It never seemed right to make a living in a way that was special
regarding me, but rather to find a way that anybody could make a living.
Because making a living is a big problem in life and what good is it if
I find a solution that only works for me?
Positive Vs. Negative -- Solutions Or Not -- ground them in principles
When we were children, our father decided that he would supplement our
allowance by giving us one penny for each page of Lithuanian books that
we read for our own enjoyment. He wouldn't pay for English books, only
Lithuanian. It was a really great support because the Lithuanian books
were extra effort but I really wanted to get good at reading them. It
made it extra rewarding.
I remember as a child we had to weed our garden every so often. It
wasn't especially fun. And we weren't rewarded for it. It was just
something that we were supposed to do. But there was something nice
about doing that work conscientiously and feeling like part of the team,
I remember as a child our mother would give us 5 cents for every
caterpillar that we would remove from the tomato vines. The caterpillars
were large, light green, gross to pick up, and scary because their alien
body ended in what looked like a stinger. It didn't seem worth it. But
then my mother said that it wasn't really about the money, she needed my
help. So her need got me to do it, and the reward encouraged me to work
When I was six years old my parents opened a bank account for my
birthday and deposited 10 dollars. And the next year they deposited 10
dollars, too. When my father would go to the bank he would take my book
with him and they would stamp the amount of money that I had which
reflected the interest I had earned, a few cents and yet it excited me
that my money could grow exponentially. However, as I grew older there
was inflation, but even more significantly, I realized that the older I
grew as a child, the greater amounts of money I dealt with, and so it
was completely absurd to save money. Finally, my parents let me take out
the money and spent it. I bought an electronics kit that I had wanted.
But I realized that 10 dollars had much less significance to a 12 year
old than to a 6 year old. That experience made me very skeptical about
the value of saving. I felt negative and so I changed my principles.
When I was in junior high school I used to spend my allowance on Mad
magazine. It seemed at first like very intelligent, fresh, stimulating
humor and I very much looked forward to it. But over time the formula
became apparent. And after a few years I became disappointed and finally
lost interested and stopped buying it. I went through the same cycle
with Newsweek and other publications, where what originally seemed fresh
turned out to be an editorial formula that grew stale with familiarity.
After my freshman year my father arranged that I work the summer as an
intern for his employer, Hughes Aircraft. There wasn't much for me to do
there where I was assigned so I took the chance to teach myself
programming, namely, Fortran. My supervisor wanted me to create a
graphing program for him but I didn't have any real guidance and so I
ended up focusing on what I thought was the coolest thing I could do,
which was making a program for graphing derivatives of trigonometric
functions, which was absolutely useless practically. So I made sure to
gain from the experience, but it was a waste for my supervisor and they
didn't have me back.
My father taught me and my brother how to play chess. He would not play
easy but rather he would handicap himself by removing several of his
pieces from the board, enough to even out our chances. As we got better
and would beat him, he would reduce the handicap. First it was a queen
and two rooks, later a queen, then a rook, then a bishop, then a knight,
until one day we could beat him. Because you can't learn from somebody
who is not playing to win! I was always impressed by how smart and kind
he was as a teacher.
When I was at the end of my resources in 2000, I asked, who would be the
best person for me to work for, for my personal growth. So I turned to
CassMcNutt who was active at our lab, interested in tools for thinking,
and experienced as an entrepreneur. I was especially impressed by his
visceral love of God. Working for him was trickier than we both had
thought. I'm glad I had the chance and that I was able to turn to him
and he was able to take me.
I used to collect postage stamps. I kept a very large and orderly
collection with thousands stamps from my father and uncle and
grandfather and quite a few that I had purchased at a shop. I used the
catalogues to organize my collection and was aware of how much the
various stamps were worth. It was worth hundreds of dollars, the albums
alone! When I was leaving high school for college I was quite happy to
give my collection away, and saddened to realize that there wasn't any
person, any child to give it away to. I sent it to a nun who was
collecting stamps and selling them in bulk for pennies to raise money,
earning perhaps less than the shipping costs. It was sad, but even
sadder that throughout my life I never met a child who collected stamps
and would care about all the complicated world history and geography
that they represented. This even though I worked as a tutor with dozens
of disadvantaged children.
I have a godson in Lithuania and I would give him coins I collected in
my travels, but his father would take them away and say that he would
keep them until he got older, so he wouldn't lose them. In time I caught
on that he was to keen on the coins himself to ever give them to his son
so I resigned myself, but I always bring him some from my travels. I
always knew that the main aim of the collection was to educate myself,
but it was a bit sad that this education was not relevant to anybody
else, at least not directly.
In graduate school I started collect record albums because I worked as a
teaching assistant and grading math exams was numbingly mindless. I also
wanted to expand my horizons. I ultimately collected about two hundred
classics of rock music but it was getting difficult to buy albums and
CDs were very pricey. So I gave away my collection, mostly to some rock
musicians from Lithuania. It was nice that they appreciated the albums.
I am due a rather large refund in Lithuania for value added tax which I
have paid as a business, for my income comes from outside of the
country, but I have accumulated expenses within the country. I had to
request permission for a refund. Then they informed me that they would
need to do a complete audit of all of the books for my business. Which
is to say, not just the documents relevant to the value added tax, but
absolutely everything. I told them that it would take me hundreds of
hours to prepare. They said that they would give me plenty of time, six
weeks. At their suggestion, I agreed to cancel my request, which I did,
but then they said they would still have to audit me. I said that it
would destroy me and that I would have to consider instead devoting that
time to publicly make my case. My priorities are to make sure that the
government has my money, to turn in my declarations, to keep a record of
my receipts, and only then to go through the artifice of keeping formal
books. I said also that my income comes primarily from the United States
and since I had to abide by both systems I gave priority to the United
States. We talked a long time about the difference between the two
systems, that the IRS gives priority to the facts at hand rather than
the documents, that they give people refunds based on what the people
say they are due (they could not believe this), and that people are
auditing typically once in their lifetime. I was running a social
enterprise, I support a community center, I didn't owe the government
any money, but it was going to destroy me through this paperwork.
Finally, the inspector said, but what could she possibly do, she had to
keep to the law. I said, simply do whatever you can within the bounds of
your powers. So she spoke to her supervisor and he spoke to his and they
made an exception for me and I finally escaped. I walked to the river
and I stumbled across a statue of the Japanese consul who had written
6,000 visas by hand to Jews so they could escape the country and the
Nazi threat. I sat down and cried. I thought there should be a national
exam that all the bureaucrats should be required to pass regarding their
ability and responsibility to be creative and proactive to do the right
thing to the extent that they can.
When I was a child, I got just enough allowance each week to buy a
chocolate bar. I liked chocolate very much and I would buy a Nestle's
crunch bar because I had figured out that it was thin and so I could
spend the longest time eating it. I think I timed myself once and I
spent a whole half hour nibbling through one bar. That was like heaven,
but a bit ridiculous.
When I came to study in Lithuania the university administration placed
me in the dormitory for foreigners. This was in the Soviet days and that
dormitory was practically empty and isolated from the local students. I
told the housing authority that they give me a place in the regular
dormitory or I would find somebody to trade places with me. That shook
them up and so grudgingly they found a room for me in the regular
dormitory with a student of Soviet history.
I once wanted a telescope for Christmas and my parents hesitated but I
was surprised to find that they gave me one. I found it early in the
morning and tried to put it together but apparently I broke it. And to
my sadness that was the end of the telescope, my parents did not replace it.
When I entered graduate school at UCSD I was able to live in student
housing for two years as a primary tenant. The housing was quite
affordable. But as the two years were ending, I forget the details, but
I tried to get on the list for housing afterwards, and it was morally
frustrating because I think I tried to get around the regulations somehow.
At one point our leader Algis Razminas of the Folk Creativity Club
Atzalynas won enough projects to make a living, but they were cancelled
by the government when the minister changed and the budget was redone.
We took in a lady I knew from the streets, helped her quit drinking, and
took her in for two years and she worked as a cleaning lady. But then I
drove her out because I thought that she should move on, as she was not
active in the club's activity with the youth, but just wanted them to
stay away so the club would stay clean, and didn't want to do anything
more with her life.
I have always hoped to attract programmers who could help for free on
our projects, but that never worked that way. Instead I had to learn how
to program. And I have helped self educate some programmers, but they
have proved not quite reliable. And yet every so often I am positively
surprised, they help in significant ways.
When I was seven years old my parents gave me seventy five cents and I
decided to spend it to go up the Space Needle. It was something I really
wanted to do. But then I cried and they asked why, wasn't I happy. And I
said, yes, it was good but it wasn't worth seventy five cents. I had
thought that it would be a life time experience and then felt
disappointed that it wasn't and it was over and I could have gotten some
army soldiers instead.
When I was fifteen I visited Lithuania for a summer and I would go to
the dollar store and the lady there would exchange my US money for coins
from all sorts of countries, I was very excited about that. I even
brought her a flower. Later it seemed kind of ridiculous how I had cared
so much about those coins.
After the war in Soviet-occupied Lithuania our grandparents had very
little money yet they still sent packages to their relatives back home
including old suits and shoes and cloth. This made a big difference to
the families' well being. Years later when my grandmother was sick in
bed her nieces were very happy to take turns to come out and take care
of her. So on the one hand they were illegal workers but on the other
hand it was a beautiful reciprocity.
Sensitive Vs. Insensitive -- Principles Or Not -- ground them in
I remember as a child our grandmother came from Chicago to visit. She
went outside to broom. I think that we said that we could broom. But she
made a point that we didn't know how to broom. Then she taught us how to
broom. By the way, in California we did not use brooms, we would clear
the pavement by driving everything away with water from the hose.
I remember as a child that our parents used to give us allowance. They
made it very clear that the allowance was not for any work that we did.
The purpose of the allowance was for us to learn how to spend
thoughtfully and manage our money. We also had to help with some basic
chores. And we were to do them because we had to, it was independent of
our allowance. I took from them that our responsibility to do our work
and our need to be thoughtful about money were two separate issues.
In high school there was a student who worked long hours in the
cafeteria. His work was often his explanation for what he was doing with
his time. When he got paid he would ask for his wage to be given to him
in rolls of quarters. Then he would throw his quarters down the sidewalk
with the hope, it seemed, that people would run after them. I concluded
that work could very well be a spiritual dead end.
Working for CassMcNutt I learned about visibility. I had always been
inclined to work from foundations. But I observed from him that it was
the client relationship that was most important. Therefore it was key
that the client continuously feel real progress and benefit, even if it
was in simple things. And that these benefits were actually quite real
and significant, whereas deeply pursued software initiatives might very
often not bear any fruit at all and be completely counterproductive.
I had believed that it was a bad idea to work for a friend or relative
as it could destroy our relationship which is much more precious than
any work. But then I had the chance to work for my friend JohnHarland.
And indeed there were times of stress but it really deepened our
friendship and I learned that much more what a wonderful person he is.
In high school there was a student, quite bright, who worked after
school. He said it was so that he could have a car and have insurance
for it. And the reason that he needed a car was so that he could drive
to work. That seemed to me the most absurd circle of logic that I was
all the more careful to avoid any desires for which I would have to work.
Our parents taught us to pick up money from the ground if we found it,
even if it was just a penny. That it was a matter of respect for money.
It didn't matter if it was worth picking up or not. It was important to
treat money with respect.
I went to school in Chicago in part to be closer to my relatives, all of
whom lived in the area. Some of them would say how family was much more
important than friends because in the end you always counted on family.
But that never bore out. Partly, my mother didn't want me to ever have
or discuss any money issues with anybody in our extended family. And
simply in practice, whenever I discussed my business needs or for loans
or leads or mentors, there was no help. Whereas I have good friends who
backed me up with significant long term or short term loans. In general,
different people helped or not in different ways, as they were able and
When I started up a business in Lithuania I was very careful to
understand and fulfill all of the rules to the letter. But at a certain
point it became clear that for me to do the kind of business that I
wanted to do it would be practically impossible. In particular, in
Lithuania I am expected, as a sole proprietor, to have a full set of
books for my business, including a cash book. And there were many other
laws, such as having to write letters to myself before each trip as to
my business purpose, and so on. Whereas in the United States it would be
enough to have a shoebox of receipts. Basically, the expectation in
Lithuania is that I hire an accountant at least half-time, which I feel
is counterproductive but also immoral as it is contrived work that
simply justifies the system. And given that I need to pay taxes in both
Lithuania and the United States I think that I should do all the
paperwork myself because I need to be on top of it myself and there is
nobody here who knows both systems anyways. So my thinking is that I do
as much as I can of the paperwork and keep attentive to it even though
it's not possible for me to do absolutely all of what is required, so
that I at least am making a good faith effort. Also, it's my position
that laws are in flux and they may well change in my favor as I get to them.
I once had a summer job where I was supposed to prepare students for the
SAT exam. The business owner was very happy to hire me because of my own
excellent scores and put my picture in the ethnic newspaper. But after a
few lessons he let me go. I felt that students should learn from first
principles and also that they should do homework as projects that they
themselves wanted to do. Parents were unhappy that students weren't
getting any homework and that they weren't being forced to do it.
Somehow it didn't even click in me that I could ever teach students in
such a mindless way or that I had actually been fired.
I would lend money to my friends and have they pay off my own loans,
thus hurting my credit rating. I felt that I was helping by letting them
make good use of my credit. And that I shouldn't have to be after them
as they should be on top of things. But none of them were perfect as to
that. I suppose it's important to keep on top of the use of credit if
you're going to share it, you have to manage that.
I sold my car. It was a practical car, well kept and I tried to get the
blue book price. Somebody wanted to buy it but they were hoping I would
go down and I refused to. I thought those prices were accurate. So
instead I ultimately sold it for quite a bit lower than that, to a friend.
I worked as a tutor onsite for a business person who was idealistic yet
calculating and even crass as to his business practices. He would
encourage us not to take lunch breaks saying that students often didn't
show, but in reality a nine hour day of tutoring is completely draining
and in the long run unhealthy and an hour break every day is essential.
He would hire graduate students as independent contractors but not
inform them that they needed to set aside on their own 15% of their
income for social security. He would say nothing to parents when they
missed a class or two but only after they had fallen behind four or five
of them would he remind them that they needed to pay for the missed
classes, thus often trapping them into maintaining the relationship. He
would have the tutors close and leave with the collected money in a
dangerous neighborhood and hold them accountable for it if it was lost
or stolen. He would pay tutors less than one third of what he was
charging and have them deliver to the parent's great expectations.
During the independence movement, the dollar was worth a lot and I could
hire an organizer. I paid him for one or two months but then he needed
his labor book to be signed by somebody official. So I suggested that we
go the reform movement's office, that they could do that formality, and
I was surprised that they refused.
Algis Razminas, the leader of the Atzalynas Club, tried to make a living
from it by winning money from projects. But when we analyzed the
projects, the money was tied to particular expenses, with lots of money
for consumables, some for wages, but none for essentials like heating or
When I started my business I wanted my colleagues in Lithuania to earn
the same as me. But then I realized that I am the one investing,
sticking my neck out, running the risk. And they themselves stated that
first I need to make money, and then they can.
In junior high school and high school I and my brother played actively
in adult tournaments. The stronger tournaments were for money. The money
seemed to suggest a very different way of playing that was foreign to me
and so I put it out of my mind. It seemed to interfere with the idea of
trying to go up against the best players rather than win a prize amongst
the weaker players.
When I was in Lithuania, during the independence movement, I saw that
the newly forming youth organizations could work together and be
stronger. I thought that they could share things like video equipment.
But it turned out that nobody ever wanted to share, each deeply
preferred to have their own.
In high school we used to raise money for our swim team by having a
swimathon. We would go door to door and ask for a penny or more per lap
that we swam. We ended up swimming 200 laps. It was good practice asking
peole for support and quite surprising how supportive people were.
I worked a summer for a Lithuanian organization on a special project
making cassettes for the blind. One weekend they wanted me to come in to
help stuff envelopes. I refused because I said it wasn't part of my job
description. They were unhappy. But I let them down.
We had a fund raiser for our travel to the national chess championships.
We went around to different businesses to ask for donations. I thought
that the money should go to the kids who needed it the most. But our
teacher said that the kids should all share it equally but especially
because we had made such an extra effort to collect it.
When I was a student I went to Soviet-occupied Lithuania and so my
grandfather gave me some money to buy items for some old anti-communist
guerilla fighters at the dollar store. And he said be sure to bring back
the receipts. So I met the people and I bought what they wanted but they
wanted to keep the receipts and not thinking I let them. I didn't
understand why they were so important, so long as the money was spent.
And my grandfather was very unhappy because he said that he will not
have receipts to give to the emigre organization and they won't be
giving any more money because they can't account for it.
When I go traveling and staying with people it is good to have some kind
of present to express my appreciation. So I try to think through and
carry gifts that would be special but for people who I might not even
know yet. So in Lithuania I sometimes buy small pieces of art or blank
leather bound books.
When my parents used to travel in Soviet-occupied Lithuania they would
carry two suitcases full of presents, household items such as
calculators and bottles of aspirin. We had hundreds of relatives because
our grandparents were active in keeping in touch with their brothers and
sisters and cousins. A lot of care went into thinking what people might
need, and once there, deciding who to give what.
After the war in Soviet-occupied Lithuania there was not much food and
our relatives ate from one bowl and they say the children who ate slower
ended up smaller.