Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Hey - it's the future! Is it what you expected?

In the second “Back to the Future” film, the three central characters played by Michael J. Fox (Marty McFly), Christopher Lloyd (Doctor Emmett Brown) and Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells) travel to October 21, 2015 in aflying car to save Marty’s kids from potential disaster.   Except for a few key oversights (the internet, mobile phones) and some rather ambitious future predictions, aspects of the world dreamed up by the writer Bob Gale are not far off reality.

OK - it is now October 21, 2015. It's the future - is it what you expected? What’s reality and what’s not? Check out this handy graphic for a taste - this is a great analysis, courtesy of Reed Elsevier's SciVal Trends Module:

Prosperity & Security: Growing Wealth & Protecting It

Financial independence is true independence. You work hard, but what does independence mean if all your wealth is tied to an office job or you have no flexibility to stop working? I've been thinking more and more about what happens "next" beyond a career, what kind of legacy building I want to strive for, and so on. There is no magic wand, but here are a few ideas that may help for growing your prosperity — and a few for holding on to it.


Wait, isn't retirement the opposite of building wealth? While it may seem counter-intuitive, a mini-retirement or sabbatical has the potential to increase productivity when you come back refreshed. Companies in many sectors encourage sabbaticals.

A potential financial benefit of taking a sabbatical is that stepping away from the daily rush of the job can help you focus in on your values and what you need to build toward retirement. Brian Stoffel at the Motley Fool describes how his mini-retirement reshaped his family's financial life--for the better.

The mini-retirement led him to realize that consumption was not the key to financial strength or personal happiness. At Financial Mentor, Todd Tresidder frames it this way: You must control your spending so that your lifestyle lags behind your income. This will create available capital for your investment activities.

Leveraging Currency Exchange Rates

The dollar is stronger now than it has been for years. While this can be great if you're about to take that European sabbatical, what does it mean for the risk-reward ratio in leveraging currency exchange rates? Overall, individuals always take big risks when entering the world of currency exchange, so caution is warranted. As attractive as this sounds, this is probably one of those "don't try this at home" areas for most of us.

Investing in Gold

Over the years, you've probably heard a lot about this, including debates about whether gold trades more like a currency or a commodity. Fads in investing come and go, and yes, sometimes the price of gold goes down. Forbes contributor Henry Lo recently advised that its current low makes now a great time to jump in to the gold market--especially if you're taking the long view.

Unlike many other commodities, gold's ultimate value is intrinsic. While our cultural image of gold is one of opulence and decoration, gold has many uses in electronics, medical technology, and industry. It has unique applications that mean it will never become worthless, so it can serve as a bulwark against the vagaries of the world economy.

There are good ways and bad ways of investing in gold, due to the way laws work in many countries. If you want to invest in gold, I suggest consulting with an experienced financial advisor.

Avoiding Identity Theft

Regardless of the path you take to build your wealth, keeping your identity secure goes hand-in-hand with financial security.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014. People in all demographics are affected, but among racial groups, the BJS found that white people experienced identity theft at higher rates than all others. The process of rehabilitating your credit score can take time, and out-of-pocket monetary loss is not uncommon.

  • In the analog world, you should have a paper shredder and never put financial documents in the trash. But now that so much of the world has gone digital, what’s the equivalent? Unfortunately, technology changes at such a fast pace that it’s hard to know what’s coming. Cybercriminals are constantly evolving new strategies that threaten your wealth.
  • Investing in a service like LifeLock to monitor your data is crucial to ensure maximum identity theft protection. Stay up-to-date on the latest cyber security news and tips by following the LifeLock on social media as well.
  • Don’t want to be a victim? Make sure your home computer has its firewall on, and always be sure to update your software — criminals love to exploit bugs in software that hasn't been updated.

Planning and Getting Help

If you don't know where to start, start with goals - what age do you want to retire, what kinds of things do you want to do after your career, etc. This approach will help you determine what your needs are, so you can determine what kind of nest egg you need to build.

When seeking help from professional advisors, I suggest using a "fee only" financial advisor - this is an advisor that doesn't sell products, doesn't get a commission from any of the things you invest in, etc. In other words, they are compensated by you which means their allegiance is to you, their customer. In the US, organizations like the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) can help you find fee-only financial advisors. Your Credit Union may also have a good, objective advisor on their staff.

The main point here is to steer away from free financial advisors - if you aren't paying, you're no longer the customer, you're the product.

What about you? Do you have any advice to share? Please leave a comment below.

Can't afford a standing desk? Build your own for under $22

Lately, I hear about standing desks all the time - from podcasts, random conversations, and so forth. Recently, I started using one at work (we have a bunch of the ones from Varidesk at our office), and I love having the ability to stand up while working, particularly on conference calls.

If a standing desk sounds interesting to you, but you don't want to break the bank, here is a great option: build it yourself!

I got a tip about this from another person located in Portland, who kindly sent me a link to this infographic. Enjoy! If you decide to do this, let us know how you like the results.

Tips When Volunteering Abroad

The adventure of a lifetime might be closer than you think. With volunteer opportunities available across the globe you can volunteer on orchards in New Zealand, guest houses in Iceland and farms in Patagonia. 

I've done several short-term volunteer projects, such as helping out at schools and non-profits in developing countries, and they are very rewarding. Lately, though, I've been taking to a number of people who are looking at longer-term projects - that sounds pretty intriguing.

If you're considering volunteering abroad, here are some tips on how you can make sure you are prepared for whatever may come your way while helping others in a distant land.

Tip 1: Be Aware of All the Costs of Your Program

There are many “free” volunteer opportunities, but what this typically means is that it doesn't cost you an enrollment fee in order to volunteer. While some “free” opportunities will provide room, and some go as far as board, don't be surprised if you are required to pay for your own accommodations, food, and even transportation.

Work exchanges are similar to volunteer work, but you typically work for a company and are rewarded room and board for your work. This is the model of the popular WWOOF program which operates all over the globe. Remember, the amount you work in exchange for room and board depends on the host you set yourself up with.

Tip 2: Use Trusted Resources to Find Opportunities

Sites like,, and are all wonderful resources for you to find your international volunteer opportunity. lets you brows the globe for all the wwoofing opportunities in the world. have free webinars which you can watch on a variety of subjects which concern the process of volunteering abroad, as well as live sessions. has volunteer grants and scholarships you can apply for, as well as tips on crowd funding campaign. Help Exchange has many work exchange opportunities in places where WWOOF hasn't taken hold.

Tip 3: Invest in the Right Tech to Stay Connected to Loved Ones

When you volunteer abroad you might find yourself in a city, small town, or extremely remote area. Even if you get a cellphone in the country you visit, you might not have service in the town or village you find yourself in. You might consider a satellite phone. Satellite phones work anywhere in the world so you can always call for help, or get in touch with loved ones back home.

A laptop or tablet can make communications easier with loved ones as well. Even if you're in a remote area without internet, a computer or tablet can be helpful in your work with spread sheets, design tools, educational uses, and even for personal use when you're not working.

Tip 4: Make an Effort to Be a Good Ambassador

Remember, as a volunteer, you're still a representative of an organization or company. That's why you should take nice clothes. If you want the respect of the people you work for, work with, and represent, nice clothes can make you look official and in control of your situation.

If you plan to volunteer in a country you don't speak the language in, a phrasebook might come in handy. A smartphone can serve as such, but at times you may be in situations you rather not flash such an expensive item around. A phrasebook can help you get around and isn't a great loss if it gets damaged.

How Tracking Your Health and Fitness Improves Your Life

Over the years, I've gotten into the 'quantified self' world through fitness trackers. I used to go overboard with this stuff, but have settled into a zone where I use it to help motivate me, but don't obsess over it. I find that wearables and tracking help me to stay in better shape, but also help when it comes to focus at work. Seems like I'm not alone.

Over 75 percent of wearable technology users have seen improved business performance, according to a study by Salesforce. Additionally, a survey by the weight loss app Lose It! found that 60 percent of people on a weight loss program lose more weight if they pair their efforts with activity trackers.

Tracking what you do can boost your happiness and productivity by monitoring your actions. Becoming aware of your daily habits and how you do things gives you the opportunity to come up with new solutions to streamline and improve your life. Fortunately, wearable technology and monitoring apps can help the process. Here are some ways you can get started:

Hold Yourself Accountable

Regular physical activity helps release endorphins that interact with receptors in your brain to reduce pain. Endorphins are also responsible for flooding your brain with a positive feeling that's similar to morphine. However, the Center for Disease Control reports that only 49.2 percent of adults meet the physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity.

Hold yourself accountable by keeping track of your daily weight loss, health regimen and exercise routine with wearable technology and apps. Choose an option like the Moto 360 Black, so you can sync it to your smartphone and monitor your heart rate and how many steps you take each day. In addition to keeping track of your health stats, the Moto 360 offers coaching advice with spontaneous notifications throughout the day to keep you motivated to reach your fitness goals.

If you’re surprised by how little you move on a daily basis, work in a long walk on your lunch break or get up a half hour earlier for a morning jog. Next, turn your digital monitoring into an active goal to complete 10,000 steps a day and 30-minutes of active, heart-pumping exercise.

Stay Connected

Connect with your friends and family by creating a friendly competition that keeps you all on track for your health, happiness and productivity goals. Create weekly challenges to get moving with a prize in mind. PBS reports that belonging to a community gives people a sense of identity and connection to others. For your competition, set a goal to walk 12,000 steps or complete four hours of physical activity over the weekend. Use a fitness tracker like a Fitbit to see who reaches the goal first. Then, take the winner out for a healthy lunch.

Improve Performance

Wearable technology has already proven to increase productivity in the workforce. For example, Tesco grocery stores found the number of full-time employees needed to run a 40,000 square foot store dropped by 18 percent after introducing wearables. Workers could unload products and fulfill orders that were tracked and documented with a wearable device instead of relying on papers and clipboards. Wearables can help you be more productive both at work and at home. By getting your work done more efficiently, the need for you to work overtime decreases, giving you more time to be at home or to do the things you love.

Lately, my gadget habit has crept into cycling - I've got a couple of posts coming on some gear I've found to be very useful for cyclists. Stay tuned.