Mortality, Motorcycles and Life Lessons

by Michael Barrett on April 29, 2013

Do You Remember When The Exact Moment You First Decided You Were Not Invinceable?

Have you ever had the experience of realizing that the event that had just taken place almost killed you? You “get it” that you almost died a minute ago – or ten minutes ago – however long it took to realize how close you just came.

I have.

The first experience was on a 1967 Triumph 500 c.c. Daytona.

The Daytona was the twin carb version of the 500 and it had that deep throaty great sound that ’67 Triumphs made when you rolled on the throttle. An unmistakable sound that I can still hear in my head when I close my eyes and would recognize it from a block away – right now – if someone rode by on a vintage Triumph.

My ’67 was gloss black – hand painted by a friend of mine. Unlike the one in this picture, my fenders were chromed and the bike was immaculate six months after I got it.

There is something very special about your first motorcycle as a 16 year old. Sitting on that scooter as you screw on the gas, you are overtaken by a sense of invincibility coupled with the magic and freedom of a sense of flight.

You become one with the machine.

For me, this experience was magnified by the fact that the Daytona was truly a classic bike and provided an experience unique to its engineering and style. One of the reasons for such distinct sensations riding that bike was mechanical.

When I knew more about motorcycles, I realized that the long stroke of the crankshaft in that motor – coupled with the bearing configuration – created a specific vibration and sound that transferred up your arms from the handlebars and into your body – as the bike warmed up – the mechanical vibration and your body created a sort of harmonic resonance.

In 1977, I worked in a Suzuki shop. When I first got hired, I loved motorcycles but knew very little about them and even less about the motorcycle business. I used to drive the partner (who ran parts and service) nuts asking incessant questions as an enthusiastic and inquisitive new hire. He told me later that he almost fired me everyday the first six months for interrupting him so much, until he promoted me to become his parts department assistant. I was one of the few parts guys who became friends with the ornery head mechanic, Don.

Don was the kind of guy who chose his friends – you didn’t choose him – and if you got on his bad side, it was not a good situation. A burly, powerful barrel chested man with steel hands, he was a cross between the “troll under the bridge” and a bar fighter. And Don was one hell of a mechanic.

Don was very patient and could hold a long term grudge. He had a crazy, sardonic sense of humor and if you understood it, he was really funny. On the surface, Don could keep a straight face the whole time as the catastrophe he masterminded unfolded. Yet if you knew him well it was always fun watching him struggle to contain his imminent laughter. Don had a lot of authority in that shop, it was his kingdom. If Don told you to do something, or how to do something, he always had a reason. If you didn’t listen to his direction, he would always figure out a way to teach you a lesson you would never forget. If he liked you, the lesson would be some hilarious version of a practical joke. If you were on his shit list, it would hurt.

Anyway, back to the Triumph crankshaft. I learned a lot about Suzuki crankshafts as I pulled all the parts multiple times for service orders to rebuild those cranks.

Just look at the two crankshafts in the picture here. The Triumph crank is on the left and the Suzuki crank is on the right. There is significantly more bearing surface area on the Suzuki crank than the Daytona. The engineering design is superior in terms of torque load distribution and maintenance.

Almost every single part on the Suzuki crank is replaceable.  It is stronger. The parts are machined versus the cast components of the Triumph crank and the Suzuki crank is designed to be repaired easily by pressing it apart, replacing  the worn parts and bearings and pressing it back together.

Knowing what I know now, the bottom end of the Suzuki is an example of superior engineering. Although at the time, with the exception of the “cafe racer” crowd who made their own fiberglass tanks and seats (from scratch) in their garages, there was nothing glamorous about riding a “ring-ding” Japanese two cycle that sounded like it might shake itself to pieces at any minute.

Particularly compared to the beautiful sound of the Triumph…

About the same time 1970(?), a friend of mine had just gotten his Class C Professional Flat Tracking License and he had an X6 engine that Erv Kanemoto had tuned. I helped him a few times while he was fitting that 250 engine into a rigid frame made out of chrome moly tubing. I didn’t do much, mostly watched and handed him tools or helped him hold things in place to take measurements. I mention that motor because I think it was the quickest engine I had ever seen run in real life. My friend told me that his Kanemoto tuned X6 had held the track record for lap time at Ascot for 6 years.

In retrospect I know difference.

As I grow older, it’s clear that many things in life are like the comparison between the X-6 and the Daytona. Often we underestimate the little things that make a big difference. Working in that Suzuki shop taught me a great deal about how things work in the world and many of the lessons I learned there have become metaphors for living a better and more observant life.

My experience at the bike shop taught me that careful observation and attention to detail are important skill sets. It also taught me to watch and choose carefully and to listen to people who know what they are talking about – instead of talking about what they know.

I Am Michael Barrett

Link Sources for pictures in this article:
Here is where I got the picture of the X6 crank is here: Suzuki X6 Crankshaft.  It was so weird to me seeing his description of rebuilding that bike because we used to do those cranks regularly in the Suzuki shop – 3 or 4 a week was not uncommon in a busy shop. It seems like yesterday but that was actually 35 years ago. Reality check. But it’s a nice blog and a very personal story that he shared.


As Financial Reality Approaches…

by Michael Barrett on July 31, 2012

As Financial Realty Approaches…

There is both hope and immense opportunity.

The cold hard truth is that the backbone of the world’s most successful financial system is broken. This is not a gloom and doom statement.  Actually it is positive recognition that we can prepare and make it through the financial mess that is imminent.

This statement also acknowledges that we have to look out for ourselves – because Big Brother will not. It’s up to us individually.

The solution does not include sticking our head in the sand and hoping the storm will pass without affecting us – like Congress, the White House, the Fed and big banks are doing. This is the main event. There are many ways to prepare and in fact be positioned to become wealthy amid the inevitable coming financial correction.

Abundant Opportunity Ahead…

Now is actually the time to take advantage of the abundant opportunities that are available in today’s markets. You still have time to make adjustments that can benefit you significantly in the times ahead. Adhering to the status quo and complacency are not the answer.

In order to survive the growing financial storm successfully, it is essential to listen to advisers who have a solid track record of making profit during a recession – as opposed to listening to those who created the recession in the first place through poor leadership, fiscal policy or financial management. We have to make smart choices NOW no matter what the talking heads and financial experts in the mainstream media tell us.

Perpetuating and expanding your investments managed by failing investment companies and banking institutions is not the solution.

Just this morning I read an article about the post office defaulting on:

“With cash running perilously low, two legally required payments for future postal retirees’ health benefits — $5.5 billion due Wednesday, and another $5.6 billion due in September — will be left unpaid, the mail agency said Monday.”    Associated Press

$5.5  Billion Worth of postal retirees’ HEALTH BENEFITS!!!  And that’s only the part that is due and payable tomorrow. Wednesday the 1st of August.

Here is what Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, says about the situation:

He notes that the onerous health payment for future retirees — something not required of any other government agency or private business — is to blame for much of the post office’s red ink. He faults Congress for mandating the payments in 2006, saying they force the post office every year into a “panic mode that absorbs energy and resources” rather than focusing on longer-term innovation.

“The word ‘default’ sounds ominous, but in reality this is a default on the part of Congress,” Rolando said.

Read more here: Post Office Nears Historic Default on $5B Payment

Rolando blames the problem on Congress for making the post office pay for health benefits and Rolando is complaining saying no other Federal Agency has to. It’s as if he is saying the post office would be fine if Congress didn’t make us fund our debt obligation. Is Rolando’s implied solution to ignore the debt actually a viable alternative?

Who’s kidding whom?

uncle sam's debtThis whole subject – future Federal retiree health benefit payments –  is just the tip of the iceburg of unfunded liabilities hidden deep within the annals of “government bookkeeping practices”. There is no way to pay for this(these) disaster(s) unless Congress – or the Fed – creates the money out of thin air.

And how has that been working for YOU over the last 3.5 years?  It helped bankers, not the little guys. But who is paying for it?

The post office has been a financial disaster in the making for a long time. Were it a private enterprise they would have been out of business a long time ago.

The Post Office is only a minute fraction of the problem. It represents a growing magnitude of financial instability. It symbolizes the irrational behavior of burning up resources at an unprecedented rate – without the capacity – or a plan – to replace them. It reflects an obscene debt to equity ratio that goes far beyond the lack of common sense.

Financially this is not a flash flood that nobody expected. It is a tsunami that has been accurately identified and predicted by smart financial people for quite some time.

A few years ago I wrote an article entitled “What Does a Billion Dollars Mean?” That year the federal spending was $2931.2 Billion for 2008.

Guess what?

Look at the way Congress  spent money in 2011…

Let’s look at the “deteriorating fundamentals” using the research of Antony Davies, Ph.D., a Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and associate professor at Duquesne University.

Dr. Davies has presented his research to many venerable associations and institutions like the Econometric Society, the American Economic Association, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Congress, among others.

According to Dr. Davies’ calculations, the Federal Government received $2.2 trillion from ALL revenue sources in 2011. But, the government spent $3.8 trillion. This resulted in a deficit of $1.6 trillion for the year. In essence, the annual inflow did not equal the annual outflow — and there was still a whole lot more “year” left over … after ALL the money was spent.


On the left is a screen shot of an analysis of what it means for the government to spend $3.8 trillion dollars in one year. Frankly I have no conceptual grasp of what $1 Trillion dollars  ($1,000,000,000,000)  or (1000 Billion dollars) means.

Try counting to a trillion…

But I can understand what spending $434 Million dollars an hour means – about half of which is borrowed.

That translates into 10,416 $ Millions (10,416 x $1,000,000) every 24 hours.

Try to get your head around the magnitude of what we’re talking about here.

See yourself sitting down at your desk with your checkbook and you are writing the checks.

If you take the number of $Millions per day being spent every 24 hours, it means you will have to write 434 (four hundred thirty four) $1Million dollar checks every hour.

That means you have to write approximately  7.23 (434 /60 = ~7.23) $1 Million dollar checks every minute, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Since there are 525,600 minutes in a year (60 min/hr x 24 hr/day x 365 days/yr).  That means you would have to write approximately 3,800,088 (7.23 x 525,600) $1  Million dollar checks  every year.

Talk about writers cramp…

Not only that, imagine that for every 10,416 $Million (10,416 x $1,000,000) dollars of checks YOU WRITE EVERY TWENTY FOUR HOURS, you only have about 5,000 $Million (5000 x$1,000,000) Dollars in your checking account.

Imagine yourself doing this 365 days in a row, having to borrow about $ 1,825,000 Million  ($5000 Million x 365) to do this. Imagine also how much interest payable is accumulating just on the $1,825,000 MILLION DOLLARS YOU BORROWED THAT YEAR ALONE…


” How long would YOUR BANK or THE GOVERNMENT let you keep that up if it were your account?”

Technically the govt runs out of money on July 31 every year, but they don’t quit spending – and worse than the numbers never go down, they always go up. So the rate of change of increase in the deficit is continually increasing. This has been going on for years and it is no longer sustainable.

There are 8760 hours in 365 days.

(notice the RED ink?)


In all sincerity, this “govt spending” vehicle is in free fall like a large truck that has lost it’s brakes with a full load going down a mountain pass. At a certain point brakes don’t really matter. It’s just physics. In this case, however, the driver of the truck still has his foot on the accelerator.

The question is are you  going to stay the course and hope that somehow the truck can avoid a massive collision – like many would like you to believe?

I am creating a plan for myself and my family and I am getting prepared. You still have time to protect yourself, but that time window is shrinking. I highly recommend you do your homework and take action. Personally I am subscribing to this financial information newsletter this week.  (BTW: This is not an affiliate link.)

Anybody who is advising you to continue with the old banking and investing model – that is essentially bankrupt – is either being dishonest with you, has a vested interest in selling you something or is uninformed financially.

Get prepared today. You are responsible for your own financial intelligence.

While it is true we face a massive financial problem as a nation, this is also an excellent time create wealth through taking advantage of opportunities that lie ahead.

Be careful who you listen to. See you on the other side.

I AM Michael Barrett and I AM Preparing for Financial Growth Not Failure…

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Future Wealth | Peter Diamandis | Abundance is our future

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Ever notice how some people never seem to be negative very often and how they can shift from negative to positive very quickly – in the midst of a difficult situation – and how others can’t? We are always on the lookout for methods that work. Learning to control – or shift – emotional responses [...]

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Healthy Wealthy Boomer: The Government Can…

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In this election year, we could all use a little humor in the face of Politics because if everybody took it seriously, it would make life miserable. Here is a tongue in cheek look at how the “government can”. This is a piece from comedian Tim Hawkins. What is a healthy wealthy boomer without a [...]

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