Category Archives: Daily Living

Are you really saving money?

Are you really saving moneyLiving through the recent global recession has shifted the way many of us think about the value of services and products we pay for.  In fact, value-consciousness is a rising force in the marketplace. It’s not simply that because of the recession, we’re more inclined to bargain down prices and offer less in order to feel more confident in the value of the products and services we buy.

Easy access to information online is also helping to support a more value-conscious approach from consumers.  People feel that with a list of vendors and options being so easy to find, getting someone to accept a low price offer is something everyone should do.

The result? Consumers feel compelled to bargain hunt, or make willingness to meet a low-price offer a requirement for doing business.  Often this can work against their best interests.  Just because you find someone to accept your low offer, you don’t ensure you’re getting a good deal.  In fact, the deal may be detrimental to you over time, rather than to your advantage.

It’s true that people lost financial wealth and confidence with recent crises in capital and residential lending markets.   But work life and home life continues.  Business owners still need to renovate or move into new spaces.  Homeowners need to update rooms and furniture as things wear out and needs change.  We all respond to evolving values and lifestyles.

People still look to professionals like interior designers, architects, landscape designers, and contractors to make the changes they’re looking for.

Here’s the difficulty: the cost of running professional services has not really moved down.  While income has been going down, expectations and demands from clients have been going up.

These two ingredients are like a recipe for unhappy relationships between design professionals and clients.  The professional design community needs to keep to a high standard of creativity, originality, and current familiarity with materials, techniques and styles.  Otherwise, clients won’t get the satisfaction and results they’re looking for.  And clients who want the latest, best, professionally recommended solutions expect to pay for expert design and implementation; it’s supposed to be a win/win.

But with too much stress on cost-cutting, design firms and contractors feel forced to slash margins deeply, often by letting go of more experienced higher paid professionals, and asking less-experienced staff to put in longer hours.  There’s nothing wrong with cost savings, but in the long run, what happens for the consumer?  What happens to the professional community?

In the end, the cost of excessive price pressure on professional services is paid by the client.  It raises the risk of job dissatisfaction on both sides, in the form of less design creativity, more mistakes from inexperience and lack of oversight, and ultimately in projects that  are not as responsive as they could be, because no one wanted to invest in the time and expertise needed to create the best solution.  The difference between good design and great design is that the latter needs time, nurture, and support.

Of course, despite the economy and temptation towards bare-bones pricing, there are firms today who keep busy without compromising their fees or creative edge.  This is where, I believe, you’ll find the healthiest of relationships between client and design firm.  The client regards professional fees with respect, and the designer works to satisfy – not someone who just “keeps the lights on” — but a valued and preferred client.

Are You Really Saving Money is cross-posted on iMatchDesigners; A longer version of this article was published in The Epoch Times, in a series of regular columns by Lloyd Princeton.

Please, Excuse Me and Thank You

New York City StreetAs I finished reading Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni, I thought back on the lessons in good manners my parents taught me as a child. Looking at modern life today, I’m convinced it’s the little everyday habits that really can make our world a better place to live. And how easy they are to forget.

My own modern life is an example – one that has me living in New York or Los Angeles in any given week, pursuing a demanding career. I admit, I’ve forgotten about using manners that were once very familiar.

Learning to say please, thank you and excuse me early on does not ensure we’ll keep saying them.

We live in a society that encourages material gain, ambition, and dog-eat-dog individualism. We celebrate and admire people who are aggressive and abrasive if they’re good at making money. It’s tempting to believe that getting the right things, having outward beauty and keeping toned at the gym is the road to happiness. There’s nothing wrong with ambition and single-minded focus on reaching goals in life. But what is the cost – if we simply become self-absorbed and forget about the needs of others in the world and in the places around us?

Why have we forgotten about good manners?

Lately, when I’ve gone to the gym, I’ve been doing a little informal behavior study. When opening the door for someone, I’ve counted how many times I hear “thank you.” About 20% of the time, there’s no sign at all that the person has even noticed the courtesy. No word of thanks, no gesture or acknowledgment of any kind. It’s like they didn’t see that another person did anything for them at all.

As I’m walking in New York or taking the subway, it seems most people are okay about pushing past someone they’ve jostled or bumped into. They’re in a rush; it’s fine to just keep going on your way. Once they’ve got the earpieces plugged into a phone or PDA, it’s like they’re in their own personal world. It’s a space without concern or mindfulness of other people.

Try a different approach to daily living.

I want to offer a different way to approach modern life. Starting right now, think about each person around you as a person like you or me – with good days, bad days, hopes, wants, and dreams. Try to show somehow that you see this other person exists. This isn’t about intruding or starting unwanted conversation. It’s about doing something that signals: “I see you.” Stop and hold a door; offer a smile; let someone else go ahead of you in traffic.

It’s a little sign that can make another a person feel special, if only for a moment, and spark the urge to do the same for someone else.

Let’s spread good will.

Forni’s book has me rethinking and practicing more basic courtesies. I do feel more encouraged and happier. I’m feeling the rewards of “think globally – act locally.” Try it for yourself – let’s make today better by sharing a please, excuse me or thank you to make the world a friendlier place.

This appeared first on as: Please, Excuse Me, and Thank You

Don’t Miss Out On Life

Take time to tune into the world around you“Do you want Beethoven to be the last thing you hear?” This is the question in an ad promoting public safety in San Francisco. This city has seen an alarming rise in the number of accidents involving transit vehicles and people. Texas has started a similar campaign. The National Safety council reports that cell phone use contributed to 1.6 million accidents in 2011.

The point is, tuning into an endless stream of personal distractions and tuning out the world around you can have dire consequences. This isn’t so much a public safety message. It’s more of a wake up message to urge you to become more aware of missed opportunities.

How much do you tune into the world around you?

When at the gym recently, I couldn’t help but notice the number of people intent on their small screens, on messages, on music, or on a phone conversation. What about working out? They were not even tuning in to others around them, including people waiting for a certain piece of equipment.

This isn’t a rant about manners either. I want to go deeper.

Are your best life opportunities going unnoticed?

Letting yourself take in and respond to the world around you, even for a minute, can change your life forever. Let’s say you’re single and looking of someone special, and the most perfect, wonderfully available person stops by. And you never look up from your phone. This is the kind of missed opportunity I’m talking about. Or let’s say you’re texting your friend that you’re running late, which slows down your trip to the subway, and you miss your train – now you’re late for sure. More time away from where you want to be.

Still not convinced that your world is ready for you to open up for richer experiences, even life-changing ideas?

Quiet time allows us to think about problems, situations, the future, the past, and to just listen to what the universe has to say to us in response to our thinking. Giving yourself time for mental peace and quiet can bring about amazing results in your own health and well being. It’s not magic; it’s just common sense.

What happens when you allow yourself to talk to someone new, or take a moment for reflection? Take some time to stop multi tasking – it’s not as efficient as most people think, and it definitely raises your stress. Open to what the universe has to say in response to just being aware of the world around you.

It’s common sense. But it bears repeating. What if we could tune in more willingly to our world and each other? I’m thinking about the young man I heard about recently who went walking on some train tracks, headphones on, music loud enough to drown out the sound of the oncoming train. It’s tragic that he will never know what life had in store for him or for other people.

This also appeared on iMatchDesigners as Don’t Miss Out On Life