Scribblings: Week 39 – Welcome to Boot Camp

Jul 26, 2015

Footprints_of_the_Buddha_2nd_century_Yale_University_Art_GalleryConsidering that I have been likened to an Obsessive on Uppers, my rather intense relationship with my Fitbit surprises no one. Yet for all ‘the Fitbitch’ has cracked her whip at me this past week, I have managed only about 20 to 50 steps a day, depending on bathroom runs. A bus outside my hotel deposits me at the front door of UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and there I remain, squat on my tush, for the next nine hours.

Welcome to Boot Camp…

“I need a book,” I announced a few months back to my financial advisor, Sam. “Something that’ll help me feel like less of an imbecile when it comes to investing.”

“Let me get back to you,” said Sam.

Sam did, and what he presented was a three-day “Financial Boot Camp for Women” sponsored by his firm. Instantly my heart leapt. Here was manna from Investment Valhalla – a series of talks, led by UCLA faculty and financial wizards who would wave magic wands of insight, and abracadabra! The hieroglyphics on a balance sheet or page of the Wall Street Journal would form themselves into something intelligible.

By Day 1, however, cold feet had replaced my elated heart – and not because the AC at UCLA was Antarctican. When a significant percentage of the curriculum covers topics like Philanthropic Giving and setting up trusts and family foundations, and you’re a soon-to-be divorcee whose settlement your classmates would assume had to be missing a zero (or two)…well, you begin to feel kind of like a poseur.

WTF am I doing here? I texted my Dear Friend in Dallas.

Stop sabotaging yourself, DF texted back.

Obviously DF did not quite grasp the situation…

Mid-screed, however, I stopped. Was I sabotaging myself?

According to motivational expert Bob Proctor, self-sabotage comes about when “negative powers…attack us from the outside and drain our life force from within.”

Hmmm…negative powers. The investment world does not like negatives. Even I knew that.

Plus nothing annoys me like negativity that beams as incessantly as a long red light when you’ve got somewhere to get – whether it’s from pals, politicians, pundits, or my mother…Yet what was I doing? Last I checked, WTF was not exactly a positive opening.

Instead, wasn’t it time to make like Bob Newhart and just “STOP IT?”



I was also proving the other Bob wrong. If ‘negative powers’ were attacking me, it sure wasn’t from the outside. Everyone ‘out there’ – instructors, classmates, organizers – was sympathetic, supportive, and so encouraging that I half expected to out-Buffett Buffett within the week.

The problem was ME, jb. I was the one wearing a big fat minus sign like a scarlet A. Odd, how I had never before noticed that ‘A’ works both within sentences and equations. Was this a Sign that I had grown too fat and happy in my ignorance? Were my ‘seams’ now bursting to expand?

Meanwhile motivational speaker Louise Hay was busting my chops. “You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked,” she pointed out. “Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”

APPROVE of myself?

I’ll start with STOPPING IT.

So, okay, my classmates knew more than I; so every woman in the room was zeros wealthier. Rather than be intimidated, I would ‘invest’ in them as role models and mentors.

“I am here to GET SMART,” I announced. And I was not talking merely about REITs or ETFs.

Of course, being nearly 60, I also thought of the television show Get Smart. Remember Maxwell Smart, secret agent 86? Whom did Max, agent 99, and The Chief work for? CONTROL.

And what “force of rottenness” did they fight? KAOS.

Wow! Who knew when I signed up for Boot Camp that I was actually in training to fight the forces of KAOS within me – the doubt, the insecurity, the fears, the fears, the fears? Who knew I would buff up my self-confidence and notch another win for CONTROL?




One of our drill sergeants was Iris Firstenberg, an Adjunct Associate Professor at UCLA whose bio informed us that she specializes in “strategies for creative problem solving and innovative thinking.” Now, how do you think outside of the box? According to Sergeant Iris – whose name, incidentally, means “rainbow,” which is a symbol for CREATIVITY – one route is to embrace the beauty of the word “AND.”

Like Tony with Maria, you fall in love…

And suddenly I’ve found
How wonderful a sound
Can be!
Say it loud and there’s music playing,
Say it soft and it’s almost like praying.

For me, Iris’s interpretation of the word “AND” was indeed the answer to a prayer. Sure, I am a poet who looks for metaphor in mud and insects as instinctively as most people blink. But take me out of my pretty little shire of words…throw me into a vast kingdom of numbers, charts and graphs…and, like Frodo in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, I’m trapped in darkness.

Cirith Ungol is a stronghold of bad guys called Orcs.

The commandant of my closed mind, said Sarge Iris, is the word “OR.”

Orcs/Or – coincidence? I don’t think so.

Look how limiting, imprisoning, and flat out frightening “OR” can be. I can only be a wordsmith OR a mathematician. I can only love Dallas, where I now live, OR Pasadena, where I lived until last autumn. I can only be a winner OR a loser.

No doubt you have your own examples as well…and all of them – yours and mine – need rephrasing. For example, I can be a wordsmith AND a mathematician. I can love both Dallas AND Pasadena. I can be a winner AND a loser.

There are ‘bottom lines’ in a poem, there are bottom lines in a balance sheet, AND there sure as hell are bottom lines in Life.

Sometimes embracing “AND” takes grit. No painting better illustrates this than Norman Rockwell’s “Boy on High Dive.”




See how the boy is peeking over, scared to death? Does he muster the courage to jump?

I hope he does. As Investopedia reminds us, “Opportunity costs add up…”

Say you are like the boy – not a dive-into-the-deep-end-of-the-pool kind of person, whether you don a bathing suit or a business suit. Similarly, when it comes to the business of life, you are much more inclined to stow your ‘cash’ under a ‘mattress’ rather than risk ‘investing’ elsewhere.

You may want to risk rethinking this…

As MarketWatch revealed in 2012, “Here’s the math. A $1000 investment in 1930 grew to $2.4 million at 9.7%. Or to $13.6 million at 12%.”

$1000 vs $2.4/$13.6 million.

Granted, that beanstalk took 85 years to grow sky high. Yet what if Fat Cat Jack had never planted it, never confronted the prospect of an uncomfortable face to face with a giant? Bye bye, golden eggs.

As for the golden book deal I so devoutly crave…let’s just say that the giants warding off success are no fairy tale. Yet on my deathbed do I want to be kicking myself? “Oh, if only I’d tried! If only I’d mustered the courage to invest in MYSELF!”

Besides, said Nelson Mandela, “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”

I am going to hold Nelson’s shade to that.




Maybe, when I jump, I’ll get it all wrong. I’ll go splat. I’ll belly flop. It will hurt like hell and I will feel shattered into pieces, but so what? It is from my failures that I learn most. Sorry about that, Chief. Missed it by that much! As Max realized, there’s always another episode.

Confucius had a similar outlook. “Our greatest glory is not in never falling,” he counseled, “but in rising every time we fall.”




Also, although I was always chosen last on the playground, I am not going to let this stop me from playing ball with Babe Ruth. “Every strike,” said The Babe, “brings me closer to the next home run.”

My little plot in my apartment complex’s community garden flourishes. Yet once upon a time I knew as little about gardening as I now know about puts and calls.

Good thinking, 99. Now get out there and grow. Grow your portfolio. Grow your book. Grow and intertwine your two lives as a Texan AND a Californian.

Grow your belief in yourself and in tomorrow.

Then, oh, how proud my ‘Fitbitch’ will be. Baby, just look at all the steps we’ve taken!




Copyright © “Scribblings: Week 39 – Welcome to Boot Camp” (2015) by Jenine Baines.



“Scribblings: Week 39 – Welcome to Boot Camp” is the second in a series of monthly nonfiction musings that Jenine Baines will be sharing with HP readers.

Enjoy more of her work in “Write Here”:
Welcome to Pasadena, Where Everything Is Perfect
Scribblings: Week 25
Scribblings: Week 15
Scribblings: Week 14
Scribblings: Week 13
The Rabbit in the Moon
Sorrow Tree
The Deflowering of Silence
The Morning the Egg ExplodedToo Beautiful
May I Have This Last Dance, Mr. Banana Nose?
Into the Bay Forever
No Two Blades of Grass
How Long Is Never?
Golf Course
Too Beautiful
Oh, to Sing



Photo, top right, footprints of the Buddha; a sculpture from ancient Gandhara, South Asia, 2nd century, Yale University Art Gallery. By Unknown [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo, Don Adams as Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99 in Get Smart (TV series, 1965-70).

Image, Boy on High Dive by Norman Rockwell. Source:

Photo, Nelson Mandela, by South Africa The Good News / [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Illustration, Chinese symbol for water, the “source of life,” and is often used as the symbol for Confucianism (

Photo, bottom, footprints in sand, beaches of Fuerteventura, Spain (2012), by Hansueli Krapf. This file was uploaded with Commonist. [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.



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