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Creative Tension

Jim Wasserman

Jim is a former business litigation attorney who taught economics and humanities for 20 years. He's the author of a three-book series on how to teach elementary, middle and high school students about behavioral economics and media literacy. He has authored several educational children's books. Jim’s newest book is “Enough Stuff,” a story about appreciating family and friends—rather than gifts—during the holidays. Jim lives in Texas with his wife and fellow HumbleDollar contributor, Jiab.

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Creative Tension

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 29, 2021

PAUL MCCARTNEY SAYS he originally wrote lyrics to a song that began, “She was just seventeen. Never been a beauty queen.” When he showed it to John Lennon, his writing partner, Lennon roared with laughter and said, “You’re joking.”
Lennon, who was a bit cheekier, then had McCartney change the second line to “you know what I mean” to add a wink-wink-nudge-nudge element. The eventual song, I Saw Her Standing There,

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Rainy Days

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 23, 2021

ONE FALL DAY, my father and I were watching the rain ruin our outdoor plans. “The one thing about rain,” he said to me, “is that there’s nothing you can do about it.”
My father was a go-getter. In 1941, he volunteered for the Army Air Corps right out of high school. He flew 35 missions in a B-17 Flying Fortress. After the war, he took over a local curtain manufacturing company operating in the red.

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Paths to Success

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 18, 2021

MY FRIEND HAFIZ has a common midlife problem. He’s built a successful career over 20 years. But now he wants a change—a new direction to focus his energy and talents. Over coffee, we kicked around the different paths he might take.
Some were offshoots of his current job, such as becoming an industry consultant. Others were wholly new, like becoming a writer.
“The problem,” Hafiz sighed, “is that whatever I do, it’s gotta pay for the country club.”
Hafiz explained that,

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Enough Stuff

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 8, 2021

IT’S HARD TO IMAGINE writing about gifts when the perfect essay on the topic already exists. I can’t improve on Emerson’s sentiment that expensive but impersonal presents are not gifts but “apologies for gifts” or that the true gift is “a portion of thyself.”
Still, I’m dismayed by the reaction to news that supply chain woes may negatively affect gift availability this holiday season. Naturally, retailers are worried. Some media outlets are reporting the lack of toys and other gifts in apocalyptic fashion,

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YouTube, You Save

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 4, 2021

GOT SOMETHING THAT needs repairing? Faced with the increasing specialization of people’s knowledge, ever-growing technical complexity and our perennial lack of time, it’s often tempting to just call in an expert or even buy a replacement.
But repairs can be costly, which is why we’re told to get multiple bids. One of the “bid” options I always check out: fixing it myself with the guidance of that repository of collective step-by-step knowhow, YouTube. Perhaps not since the Great Library of Alexandria has so much expertise been collected in one spot—along,

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Getting Nudged

Jim Wasserman  |  Oct 18, 2021

INFLUENCERS ARE people who use their popularity and social media presence to nudge our decision-making, especially our spending choices. They’re a powerful force in today’s marketing world, particularly with younger consumers looking for cues as to what’s hot.
In one survey, 60% of those ages 16 to 24 credited influencers with purchases they’d made in the past six months, more than any other age group. Combined with the bandwagon effect and FOMO, or fear of missing out,

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Haste Makes Waste

Jim Wasserman  |  Oct 4, 2021

IN SPAIN, “CHAPUZA” means something botched because of inattention or sloppy work. We learned the word when repairmen rewired the buzzers in our apartment building. They finished the work quickly so they’d be done in a single day. At 2 a.m. that night, we discovered the job was chapuza when our neighbor kept buzzing our apartment—because the buzzer had been mislabeled.
Chapuza can be found everywhere. Back in the U.S., we hired a highly recommended electrician to do major work on our home.

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Share What You Know

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 27, 2021

MOST EVERYONE AGREES financial literacy should be taught to some degree in schools. Even the basics, like how to set up a bank or credit card account, or how to make a budget and avoid debt, should be explained to those soon to enter the workforce.
Another group of newcomers to the U.S. financial system who could use guidance are immigrants, particularly refugees. Jiab and I have been volunteering for a number of years to help refugees get acclimated to American life.

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A Nice Complement

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 12, 2021

THE RIGHT PARTNER is not one whose outlook is the same as yours, but rather one whose outlook complements you. For me and my wife Jiab, we agree on shopping decisions most of the time. When we disagree, however, it’s due to each of our “leans.” I lean toward spending a bit more money to save time. To be finished with shopping, I’ll say at some point that what we’ve found is good enough.

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Shared Spaces

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 10, 2021

WHEN YOU’RE STUCK in traffic, have you ever idly wished for another lane to ease the congestion?
Not long ago, I listened to a podcast about the eternal problem of highway congestion in Texas, especially in the Dallas-Houston-San Antonio triangle. The expert said that our fundamental problem is that planners think of traffic as a liquid, so their answer to flow problems is always to “build a bigger pipeline”—meaning more highways.
Traffic, however, behaves less like a liquid and more like a gas.

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No Point Shouting

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 5, 2021

TEACHERS SHARE space with people who aren’t as knowledgeable or understanding of a subject as they are. Sometimes, students will display incredible depths of ignorance. Most students try, but there are some who are unwilling to meet a teacher even halfway. Worst of all are the insolent ones. Proud of their ignorance, they dismiss the subject—and the teacher—with not-so-veiled disrespect.
You know what a good teacher does in the face of all this? She takes a moment,

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Let’s Be Honest

Jim Wasserman  |  Sep 3, 2021

THE GREEN KNIGHT is a new, Arthurian-age fantasy film that was released at the end of July. The crux of the story: The Green Knight offers a challenge at King Arthur’s court. He will allow any knight to take a swing at him with his great axe, as long as that knight agrees to receive a blow a year and a day later. Sir Gawain, one of the youngest of the Round Table,

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YouTube, Your Child

Jim Wasserman  |  Aug 28, 2021

I’VE HEARD SOME parents say that, while they don’t like their kids watching online videos, at least they aren’t being exposed to the ads that inundate kids on regular TV.
Nope. Advertising is at least as pervasive, and definitely more insidious, on the web. Kids have shifted from network television to web-viewing, and advertisers have trailed right behind them with Willie Sutton logic—because that’s where the money is.
YouTube is the most popular video streaming site in the world.

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Catastrophic Care

Jim Wasserman  |  Aug 17, 2021

YOUR PETS CAN’T TELL you when they don’t feel well, and yet somehow they do.
One of our cats, Sangria, seemed to have no energy for several days. Part Siamese, she’s usually a loud crier. But lately she’d taken to quietly hiding in a closet. My wife Jiab—the cat attendant responsible for intake—reported her eating as normal. I, in charge of the litter box, noticed that outflow was a bit irregular. We thought it would pass.

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Fear Some

Jim Wasserman  |  Aug 14, 2021

FEAR GETS A BAD RAP. From the old No Fear apparel line to mantras such as “only bad decisions come from fear,” our society seems to say that fear is always the creator of regrettable decisions.
I disagree. I think we need to distinguish between irrational and rational fear. Irrational fear is worrying that all strangers are a threat or believing that stepping out of your comfort zone is too fraught with peril to make it worthwhile.

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