Category Archives: Motivation

I’m back.

I took the last three weeks off.  Well… from writing a tip of the week.  Just couldn’t find the time.

August is the busiest month of the year for me.   I spend most of my time getting ready for the upcoming courses, answering questions, registering students, and answering questions.  Lots and lots of questions.  Also, I spend a lot of time answering questions.

Then, in September, classes begin.  The craziness stops.  My site stats drop from thousands of hits a day to hundreds of hits a day.

Back to writing the “Tip of the Week”.

This one is more of a reminder, actually.

Lately, my 14-year-old daughter and I have been having conversations in German.  I did not teach her German.  To my own shame, I admit that I have not had the time.

She taught herself.  We have enrolled her in no classes.  We have never taken her to Germany.  And, there are no German foreign exchange students in our house.

So, how did she do it?


My 16-year-old daughter watches movies from time to time in French.  Same story.  She taught herself.  How?


Incidentally, neither of them are all that interested in Latin.  “I’ll show you, Dad.  I am going to teach myself a modern language!”  Rebellious teenagers.

I am teaching myself Italian and modern Greek.  I am using DuoLingo.  It’s working.

My students are used to hearing me talk about DuoLingo.

Parents aren’t.  Learning a foreign language just can’t be that simple.  There must be a course.  There must be a syllabus.   There must be a course description.  There must be high-school credit.  There must be grades.

Guess what?  Schools provide all of that.  Syllabi.  Course descriptions.  Credits.  Grades.  Schools provide it all.  Only one thing is missing.  The ability to speak the language.

I don’t speak French, so I really do not know how my 16-year-old daughter is doing in French.  But, my German-speaking daughter is doing well and she is getting better.  Conversations are becoming more and more fun.  No syllabus.  No course description.  No credits.  No grades.  Just the ability to switch into German with me when she doesn’t want other members of the family to understand.

DuoLingo is the most powerful language learning tool I have encountered in the last ten years.  It feels like a game.  It looks like you are playing on your smartphone.  It looks childish.

Don’t be fooled.

DuoLingo. is a serious language learning system.  Use it.

I even have a couple of classrooms I manage on DuoLingo.  You can join.



Have a Saturday, everyone!

P. S.  There is a big music festival going on in my town (Franklin, Tennessee) this weekend.  If you are coming, please behave yourself.  Don’t trash the place.  We like it here.  And, if you are from New England, don’t honk at all of us on the street.  We just don’t do that around here.  Thanks.


Every Saturday, I send out a tip of the week.  I also include announcements, upcoming classes, and so on.  If you would like to hear from me every weekend, sign up for my weekly updates here:


Last year, when I was grading my students’ work, I would get this response from time to time.

I don’t know.

Here is my standard reply:

IDK.  If ever you encounter questions you cannot answer, check the “Student Answers” section under the “Members” tab of my site….  -5
Other students have gone before you.  Others have also struggled.  I have held on to their answers and I have held on to my responses to their answers.
Do some research.  Check out the Members tab of my site.  Pick your course.  Look for “Student Answers”.  Compare your work to theirs.
If you are really stuck, seek help in the forums.  Interact with others.

Summary of the Millionaire Next Door

Years ago, I read the Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley.  I remember thinking… “Is this a commentary on the book of Proverbs?”

This morning, I ran across a summary of the book.

Investment writer Mark Skousen wrote this:


According to “The Millionaire Next Door” and the sequel, “The Millionaire Mind,” wealthy American millionaires are good people. Here are the results of his survey of more than 1,000 super-millionaires (people who earn $1,000,000 a year or more):

  • They live far below their means and have little or no debt. Most pay off their credit cards every month; 40% have no home mortgage at all.
  • Millionaires are frugal — they prepare shopping lists, resole their shoes and save a lot of money — but they are not misers; they live balanced lives.
  • 97% are homeowners; they tend to live in fine homes in older neighborhoods. (Only 27% have ever built their “dream home.”)
  • 92% are married; only 2% are currently divorced. Millionaire couples have less than one-third the divorce rate of non-millionaire couples. The typical couple in the millionaire group has been married for 28 years and has three children. Nearly 50% of the wives of the super-rich do not work outside the home.
  • Most are first-generation millionaires who became wealthy as business owners or executives; most did not inherit their wealth.
  • Almost all are well educated; 90% are college graduates and 52% hold advanced degrees; however, few graduated at the top of their class — most were “B” students. They learned two lessons from college: discipline and tenacity.
  • Most live balanced lives; they are not workaholics. 93% listed socializing with family members as their #1 activity; 45% play golf. (Stanley didn’t survey whether they were avid book readers — too bad.)
  • 52% attend church at least once a month; 37% consider themselves very religious.
  • They share five basic ingredients to success: integrity, discipline, social skills, a supportive spouse and hard work.
  • They contribute heavily to charity, church and community activities (64%).
  • Their #1 worry: taxes! Their average annual federal tax bill: $300,000. The top one-tenth of 1% of U.S. income earners pays 14.7% of all income taxes collected!
  • “Not one millionaire had anything nice to say about gambling.” Okay, but his survey also showed that 33% played the lottery at least once during the year!

The full article is here:


Do this.

August is a crazy busy month of the year for me.

Last Saturday, I didn’t send a tip of the week.  This Saturday, I am too tired to spend much time typing.

A writer I follow once sent out a reminder that I have never forgotten.  I read this from time to time.  You may need this reminder, too.

“Sadly my favorite activity — spending time with my kids — is now denied me. Alex and Stephen are 24 and 21, busy with their own lives, and too old to hang out with mom and dad; Stephen is away at school in Pittsburgh. When they were young and the kids wanted to be with us was the happiest time of my life. If you are a parent, spend time with your kids now while they still want you. This is the most important piece of advice I can give you.”

– Bob Bly

He’s right.  We all know he is.  Do what he says.  Turn the distractions off for a bit.

Spend some time with your kids.


Have a Happy Sunday, everyone.

Every Saturday, I send out a tip of the week.  I also include announcements, upcoming classes, and so on.  If you would like to hear from me every weekend, sign up for my weekly updates here:


This is a repost.  I wrote this in January of 2017.  It still applies.  Especially since it looks like we will be heading back to Greece in May of 2018.


My family and I are very likely moving back to Greece in March.  If I can figure out visas, we will be there for five months, or so.

Several people have commented lately that I am lucky.

Maybe, I am.  Who’s to say?

My son is a photographer.  He travels quite a bit.  Several days ago, a friend of his commented on my son’s “luck”.  “I could never travel as much as you do,” he said.  “I couldn’t afford it.”

My son pointed to the Apple watch his friend was wearing.  “How much was that?”

“$300,” responded his friend.

“And the jacket you are wearing… How much was that?”

“Also $300,” responded his friend.

My son smiled.  “That’s enough to get you to most of the places I visit.”

I don’t consider myself that lucky.  I did grow up in Europe, and I suppose I was very lucky to be born in England and raised overseas.  However, I returned to the U.S. when I was 18.  I realized quickly that I did not want to stay here very long, and began working hard to return to Europe.

It took 26 years.  I left Europe after the Berlin Wall fell, and after Germany reunited in 1990.  I vowed to return as soon as I could.  26 years later, in 2016, I finally returned.

Now, I understand the Illiad and the Odyssey a bit more.  Twenty years away from home?  That’s absurd, Homer.

Now, get it.

In order to achieve my dream of moving my family to Europe, I knew that I would need a significant amount of money.  Living in Europe is fairly cheap.  For example, rent in Athens, Greece is 74% less than rent in Nashville, Tennessee.

Living in Europe is much cheaper that living in America.  Getting to Europe is expensive.

Unfortunately, early on in my life, I made a major financial mistake.

I became a teacher.

It wasn’t long before I realized my mistake.  By the time I realized what I had done, there were children on the way.  I couldn’t afford to leave education in order to hunt for another job.  Education is a little like the Hotel California.  You can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.

To fulfill my dream of returning to Europe, and to fulfill my dream of taking my wife and children to the land of my youth, I would have to make deep sacrifices here in America.  Given my teacher’s salary, I had to take a completely different approach.

For 20 years, as a teacher, I earned about $25,000 a year.  That would be just fine in parts of Europe.  In America, $25,000 ensures that you barely make it.

For the last 10 to 15 years, I have been getting out of bed at 3:30, or 4 in the morning.  Originally, I did it in order to study Latin.  These days I do it to study Italian and Greek.  I built a business on these languages.

Does that sound like luck, or does that sound like sacrifice?

(By the way, I am not recommending that you do the same.   I wrecked a car once because I fell asleep.  If you don’t listen to me, perhaps you will listen to Mark Twain.  Rise early. It is the early bird that catches the worm. Don’t be fooled by this absurd law; I once knew a man who tried it. He got up at sunrise and a horse bit him.”)

For seven years, my family of seven lived in a two-bedroom 950 square foot apartment/condo.  We put the kids in the only two rooms.  My wife and I pulled a mattress out every night so that we could sleep on the living room floor.

Does that sound like luck, or does that sound like sacrifice?

For years, I delivered pizzas at night to bring in extra cash.  While driving around Franklin, I would listen to language training cassettes or business building cassettes.  I still listen.  I refuse to listen to the radio, the news, or pop music.

Does that sound like luck, or does that sound like sacrifice?

For years, I drove very old cars.  In fact, I still drive very old cars.  Not long ago, one of my daughters spotted our van quickly in a crowded parking lot.  I asked her how she did it.  “It was easy, dad,” she said.  “I just looked for the rough among the diamonds.”  Heh.  When I threaten my kids, it is almost always the same threat.  “If you keep that up, I am going to leave my truck to you when I die”  Their response is always the same.  “No, dad!  Anything but that!”

Does that sound like luck, or does that sound like sacrifice?

I could go on, but here is the point.  We are constantly bombarded by materialism in America.  “Buy this!  Buy that!”  Here’s the dirty little secret no one tells you.  You don’t need it.  If fact, if you buy it, you are making a choice.  You are choosing between your dream and the dream of advertisers.

Mother Teresa once said, “The more you have, the more occupied you are.  The less you have, the more free you are.”

My family is frugal.  Extremely frugal.  Sacrificially frugal.  This is the secret to our “luck”.

The average cost of a house in Franklin, Tennessee is $269,000.   Actually, I live here.  I am not sure where those houses are.  Seems to me the average cost is higher.  These days, I don’t see houses listed for less than $350,000.  Instead of a house, we bought a condo for $90,000.

These days, the average cost of a new car is around $33,000.  For cars, my family usually pays about $4000.  We buy ten-year old cars and drive them into the dirt.  I buy a “new” car every 6, or 7 years when one of my clunkers finally falls apart.

In general, our clothes come from the Goodwill, the Thrift store, or Yard Sales.

My son had a photo-shoot not long ago.  A model paid him to take pictures of his shoes.  Upon inquiry, he discovered that the model had paid $15,000 for shoes over the course of several years.   Did you catch that?  $15,000 for shoes!  My son currently wears a brand new pair of designer shoes.   He found them at the Goodwill for $3.00.  I am currently wearing a brand new pair of shoes that my wife found at the Thrift Store.  They cost $12.00.

We still live in a condo.  It’s bigger, but it is still very small compared to the houses of our friends.

The point of all of this is simple.  We are not lucky.  We are frugal.  It turns out when you don’t buy a new car every 4, or 5 years, and when you don’t spend $300,000 on a house, there may actually be enough money left over to fund your dreams.

If frugal is lucky, then, it’s true.  I am very lucky.