Tag Archives: development

It’s your ATTITUDE not your APTITUDE that determines your ALTITUDE

It’s your ATTITUDE not your APTITUDE that determines your ALTITUDE

May 01, 2013


To be successful in any area in life you need to have the right attitude, which means you have to approach any task or job with determination, tenacity and above all plenty of enthusiasm.

In business, when it comes to choosing the right individual for a certain post or promotion, I have always gone for people who have PMA – in other words Positive Mental Attitude.

Leadership and business management comes with its own set of challenges and pressures and it is a common mistake to let these problems and distractions become the major focus – that is why it is so important for senior managers to always look forward rather than backwards.

Of course, it is important for people to have skills, training and experience but I have always been a huge believer in putting attitude above aptitude. You can come fully equipped for a role but without real enthusiasm the best skill-set will count for very little. You can train somebody and give them the tools but you can’t give them the right attitude.

In my view there are two types of people in this world, and those who take the glass half empty approach are simply setting themselves up for failure no matter what targets they set themselves.

In any situation in life, people are looking for leaders to guide and direct them. That is particularly the case when you are going through a difficult or challenging period in the development of a company. Always remember there is only one person watching them and hundreds watching you.

I have always been a believer in leading by example and the nature or character of an organization is more often than not shaped by the person at the top – that is why it is so important for senior executives to set the right tone and atmosphere.

Staff can instinctively grasp when something is not right within a business and it is vital not to panic and send out the wrong message during those difficult times and tough trading conditions – in other words stay positive.

More importantly, having the right attitude can have a real impact on the business in terms of its performance. There are too many organizations which allow a blame culture to flourish without properly understanding the negative effect it can have on the business.

When I have a bad month in my organization, I get the senior management team together to discuss the reasons why performance isn’t the best. About 20 per cent of the meeting is normally taken up with looking at exactly what went wrong and the rest is spent discussing how to put the problem right.

Of course, it is really important to understand why something has not worked but it is even more important not to get caught up with the process of looking backwards. A firm which prefers to look to the past rather than to the future is always going to struggle in the long term.

The key to real success is an ability to adapt to change, and that will never happen if you approach every challenge with a negative attitude. People with the right mental attitude can always take something positive from a difficult situation and most important of all, will be constantly looking at ways of moving a business on to the next stage of its journey or development.

James Caan

I hope you enjoyed…

God Bless

Paul Sposite

Guided Insight Life Coach


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Life Coach; What is it

life-coaching2What Is Life Coaching?

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler."

–Henry David Thoreau  

Life Coaching is a profession that is profoundly different from consulting, mentoring, advice, therapy, or counseling. The coaching process addresses specific personal projects, business successes, general conditions and transitions in the client’s personal life, relationships or profession by examining what is going on right now, discovering what your obstacles or challenges might be, and choosing a course of action to make your life be what you want it to be.

How Does Life Coaching Work?

The Life Coaching Format:

  • Complimentary Coaching Consultation
  • 60 to 90 minute "Discovery" first session
  • One 30 to 90 minute phone call per week
  • Unlimited Email support
  • Occasional brief check-in calls

Life Coaching is a designed alliance between coach and client where the coaching relationship continually gives all the power back to you, the client. We believe that you know the answers to every question or challenge you may have in your life, even if those answers appear to be obscured, concealed or hidden inside.

Our skills are about knowing the right questions to ask and having the right tools and techniques to empower you to find those answers within yourself.

You, the client, are the only expert in your entire life who truly knows who you are and what you need. You are the only expert who can recognize what is absolutely best for you. We are simply experts in the coaching process. As your coach, we help you discover what your own personal "best" might be.

Every day we make choices to do or not do many things. These choices may range from profound to trivial and each one has an effect that makes our lives more fulfilling or less fulfilling, more balanced or less balanced, that make our process of living more effective or less effective. Life coaching helps you learn how to make choices that create an effective, balanced and fulfilling life.

We help you connect your head and your heart in a way that transforms your passion for your dreams into action for your life.

We are highly trained as generalists and can coach superbly on any aspect of life. However, we may choose to specialize in one or more of the following areas :

  • Relationships and Intimacy
  • Stress Management and Balance
  • Spirituality and Personal Growth
  • Entrepreneurial and Small Business Development
  • Career Planning and Development
  • Motivation and Time Management
  • Creativity for Artists, Writers, Musicians and Performers
  • Finances and Budgeting
  • Health, Aging, Lifestyle and Self-Care
  • Family and Parenting
  • And much more

    An interesting article on Coaching ( Top 10 professional life coaching myths)

    why it works

    Unlike other forms of self-help or therapy, life coaching offers a new look on basic human needs. Partnership, support and know-how are areas that distinguish life coaching from other therapies.


    Tiger Woods, at the top of his game, still works on improving his skills. For this, he relies on his coach to make sure he still has the edge. A similar bond exists between the life coach and the client.


    Individuals are better able to make big decisions when they have the support of friends, family, peers, or a life coach. With a life coach a client is more comfortable taking bigger strides to getting the job done and making the appropriate changes toward a better life.


    It’s always best to pick a coach that has walked a similar line in life as you have. The coach will know how to help the client achieve his goal — whether it is to make more money or simply to make better decisions.

    life coach vs. therapist

    Life coaching and therapy are both based on support, trust and complete confidentiality. They also make equal use of listening skills and non-judgmental attitudes toward the client.
    Some say that therapy deals with the past and handling emotional pain; whereas, coaching deals more with the near future and devising action plans toward a specific goal.
    You can’t move toward the future without turning the page on the past. Attaining a life coach is recommended after unresolved matters are settled. Coaching may not be what you need if you have unresolved issues of the past. On the same token, if you need coaching you don’t need to get therapy first.
    A therapist often seeks insight and understanding of a person’s psyche rather than focusing on strategies and life plans. Coaches are not perceived as experts — they are more or less a person with knowledge and skill, which they use to help clients achieve their goals. Coaches encourage and support the client while giving valuable advice to achieve specific life goals.
    The major difference between a life coach and a therapist is the relationship between the client and the coach. The synergy between the two goes beyond what standard therapy offers. The sessions are not confined to the usual meeting rooms — more and more people contact their coach by phone, e-mail or even meet for a quick drink.


    Need a life coach?

    Only you will know if you really need a life coach or not. The following list of questions may help you decide:

    • Do you often feel overwhelmed from the daily tasks at hand?
    • Do you feel like you’re living life unconsciously?
    • Do you suffer from low self-esteem?
    • Do you feel like everyone seems to have a master plan but you?
    • Is there a lack of support in your life?
    • Do you feel like the whole world is out to get you?
    • Are you going through difficult times in life and need a helping hand?
    • Do you have deadlines you just can’t deal with and don’t know how to cope?

    Answering yes to any of the above questions doesn’t necessarily mean you need therapy, but might suggest that you could benefit from some life coaching.


    Is coaching right for you?

    Before you frantically flip through the phone book for some help, step back and ask what exactly you wish to accomplish with a coach. Once you establish this, a life coach can strategize a winning plan to help you attain your goals.

    Life coaching may not be the best option for you if you have a hard time digesting constructive criticism or you just don’t think you can devote the time and energy to make a change for the better. Due to the partnership approach of coaching, it is vital that the client be open and willing to the experience.

    Read more:


    Interested in bettering your life, want to grow personally and professionally, but find it hard to get motivated? Then maybe a Life Coach is what you are looking for, a Life Coach can help you stay on track, define your goals and help you achieve your dreams. Why not make a call that can change your life, to find out more, visit and set up your free session.

    God Bless

    Paul Sposite

    Guided Insight Life Coach


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    Spring Cleaning: A Leadership skill

    Spring is a time for cleaning, you know, Spring Cleaning…

    - Yard work

    - All the closets in the house

    - The Garage

    - The Windows

    - The Walls

    Every surface and every corner gets a good deep cleaning, places you haven’t looked at all winter and now you are obligated to, for Spring Cleaning is a passage, a passage from the bleak dark days of winter in to the glory of spring and all she offers. The new growth, the smells and the sun. Yep, spring cleaning is as much apart of spring as Halloween is of autumn. And for the most part, we look forward to spring cleaning because we understand the importance of it. Not just the simple fact that we are clearing out the dust of the past 8 months, but there is more to it, it goes deeper than just that. There is something about it, something that seems to touch our deepest being.

    How do I know this, just look at that facts, a quick search on Amazon for books on spring cleaning and I get 2201 hits, and a Google search returns about 112,000,000 hits…. Now tell me that people don’t feel a deep need to clear out the dust and cobwebs once per year, starting off fresh and new.

    Now, I offer you Spring Cleaning: A Leadership Skill, a skill that every leader or want-to-be leader needs in their tool box. So what is it, what exactly is Spring Cleaning for Leaders? Well it’s not cleaning out the old corner office nor is it having all the workers clean up the work place. It’s not a fresh paint job, although all those things should be done from time to time. But that’s not leadership, that’s cleanliness.

    Spring Cleaning Leadership has more to do with the person than the possessions. It’s a time for a leader to stop and look deep into the corners of their minds, to scrub every surface of their hearts and to open up the windows of their souls and let the fresh air in, once again.

    Cleaning the deep corners of the mind

    This is a perfect time to look at your deeply held thoughts and beliefs, a time to reevaluate your long-standing positions and to seek out new ways to approach issues, people and life. Lets say that you have always held the position that your job, as a leader, has always been one of dictatorship, that you give orders and they follow. And lets say that it has worked for you, that over the years people have always said that you’re a dictator, but you always get the job done right and on time. Over all, not a bad record. The job is done and on time and as a bonus, it was done right the first times.

    So your thinking, great, this leader can skip the first step, they have no room for change or improvement. Why mess with what works… As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

    But lets look at it anyway, lets pretend…

    So what would the leader have to look at, what corner of the heart needs fixin’? Well, a lot of the depends on what the leader considers important in their life. Is the only goal to complete the task or do they see more? Do they see personal development of their people as important? Or is it just get the job done, do what you have always done, the same way you always have, we have a proven method that has worked for years and years and will continue to work for years to come. We are like a well oiled machine, no monkey wrenches needed.

    Sure, the job will get done, and sure it will be right the first time, but are we missing something that may have improved it, something that may have saves time, effort or money? Maybe that person you hired to do job “X” had a new idea that would have save time and effort for the person doing job “Z”… Or maybe the person doing job “X” would be better at job “Z”… the possibilities are endless, yet we will never know them if we hold true to our deepest convictions that this is the way its done, always has been and always will be…


    Even the best leaders can get caught in the trap of familiarity. So spring is a perfect time to re-examine your methods.. Are they really the best way or just the known way?


    Scrubbing every surface of the heart

    Leaders, true leaders are servants, and must have a servant’s heart. This is a fact, not just a nice saying. Someone can be the boss and call themselves a leader, but if they do not have a servant’s heart they are nothing more than a boss. And truth be told, anyone can be a boss, its really not to hard to “boss” people around. But a leader, a true leader, they are few and far between, leaders grow into true leadership, it is rare to find a natural servant leader, it is more often than not that the person worked long and hard scrubbing the surfaces of their heart before anyone would truly call them a servant leader. So what exactly is scrubbing of the heart, and how does one do so?

    We all have dark places with in our heart, places where we hold deep grudges or prejudices. Places within our hearts where the light of servanthood cannot and does not shine. Places that even we fear to go. It is exactly those places that we must scrub. But how? How does one scrub the deep dark places of the heart…

    Work, lots and lots of work… Prayer and humility are the best places to begin.

    Lets look at the example from above, the same leader who got the job done on time and right every time. Once again, not a bad thing, and lets say that over all they are open-minded to new and different approaches… So, so far a good leader, they allow people of offer new ways of doing things, and allow people to try new and different jobs, if time allows for it and the circumstances are appropriate.

    That’s a good over all rule, one would not want to risk messing up on a major project, sometimes the old ways are the best ways. But if the job is less risky and time permits, it makes sense to allow a little experimentation to take place.

    But now lets say that such a job was taking place, a job that allows for this. Perfect… So worker “A” wants to try their hand at something new, they ask for the opportunity and its granted… Perfect… so far… worker “B” also asks to try their hand at something new, but this time is denied. Now lets say that both workers have the same level of experience and time on the job, that both workers are qualified to do the tasks at hand, but for some unknown reason, worker “B” is denied.

    The leader gave a reason, something along the line of, we just can’t afford to put you on that job, you are needed here. Sounds good, in fact it sounds like a complement. Sounds like you are so valuable to the task at hand tat we can not afford to risk losing you to the other job.

    Here is where the leader must stop and look deep within… Is that the real reason or is there a deeper darker reason. Is it because the person is no the same-sex, age, race or religion as they are? Is it because once, many moons ago they did or said something that you found hurtful or offensive, or maybe once, in the distance past, they messed up a job, and you had to take the blame for it… There can be millions of reasons why… But none are valid.

    It is time to scrub the heart, to remove the old hurts and hate and to replace it with understanding and forgiveness. You may not like that person very much, on a personal basis, but that should have no bearing on the job at hand. If they can do the work and do it to the standards that everyone else on the team must meet, than they should be given the opportunity, to succeed or fail, the same as anyone else.

    But change does  not happen over night, it is a long and hard process, one that needs to be worked on little by little… The first step is for the leader to recognize that there heart needs a good spring cleaning, the second step, list the dirty spots down, know what needs to be scrubbed away. And the lest step, start cleaning, pick one dirty spot, clean it and then move on to the next. Just like cleaning the walls of your house, you don’t move around randomly from wall to wall, spot to spot… You pick one wall to start on and clean it before moving on to the next.

    Open up the windows of the soul to let the fresh air in

    Leadership, authentic leadership, is a relationship with yourself and others, the group and individual. Leadership is never in a void or vacuüm, it is always in the eye of the storm, and this is where we will discover the soul of any great leader.

    The image  of the eye of the storm is a strong image, one that invokes many other images, such as power and calmness, force and anti-force. Any great leader will tell you that is with in the storm that leaders are often times born. The forces that play upon the soul of such a person do not destroy them, but rather they ignites within them the sleeping giant that waits to be awaken.

    We have all witnessed such leadership, think of times in your life when just the right person steps forward to take control, think of times of tragedy or strife, times of chaos and confusion.

    Leaders seem to always emerge from such things. It is the soul that moves them into action. It was the winds of change and chaos that propelled them into the eye of the storm. They opened up the windows within their souls and allowed the wind to blow thru and into their soul. Leaders not by choice but by baptism, baptism of fire.

    I could go back to the example I used above, but to  me, it seems it would cheapen the soul to do so. This spring cleaning project stands on its own…

    Not every great leader was born of the eye of the storm, but every great leader must walk into that very same eye, and the only way to do so is to open your windows…

    So what are the windows of the soul? and how does one open them…?

    The eyes are said to be the windows of our souls, and I, for one believe this to be. How often have I heard the phrase, look me in the eyes when you are talking to me… and how often I have said the same… But why… Why is it so important to look into the eyes…

    Because we all seem to see something more than just the eyes, we all seem to see deeper…

    Leaders need to work with open eyes, nit just eyes that see the task at hand, but eyes the seem to see the underlying current of their team, eyes that can see the slight difference in a persons face or eyes that notice the off color of a persons personality. Eyes that are open to see the colors of the world, even in the darkness of it.

    Leaders do not need to be told what is going on, they should be able to perceive it from not what there eyes see but rather from what there eyes tell them. Leaders learn to listen to there eyes (souls) rather then to see with them. The windows of the soul are the eyes that are open, that see the path that leads in the storm, if that is necessary, and out of the storm, if that is required. Leaders think not of the safe exit of themselves, but of the team whom they lead. And the soul, if allowed to do so, will lead them into the storm or around the storm, but it will never avoid the storm.

    So how do we open our windows, and allow the fresh air in? We allow the eyes to do the souls bidding, we allow the winds to guide us. But to do this we need to first learn how to open the windows… How to feel the wind upon our soul and how to freely go wear the wind directs.

    We have to practice observation, we need to learn to see the tree with in the forest and the breeze upon the leaf. In the office this means seeing everyone as a person, not just a worker, at home this means seeing family members as individuals and not a collective and in the community at large it means seeing each member of the community as a individual being.

    For example, how many times have you ever been compared to others, such as, When so-and-so did this job, they did it this way… In the eyes of that person, you are not an individual, but rather part of the collective, many of the one, rather than one of the many. In larger companies this seems to be, more often than not, the case. How often people say, I feel just like a number to them, not a person”. The eyes of the corporation are closed and has no soul. But leaders to, if there eyes are open.

    Experiment, learn to see things differently, try to notice one new thing in your office/home/school/community each day, teach your eyes to see deeper and allow your soul to take you… Pray and be still, be open to hear the soul and allow the moment to take you… Like any other skill, this takes practice…

    And in the End…

    Like anything in life, hard work and dedication to the task at hand is paramount in completing the task, the same can be said for leadership and change. The opportunity to do a little “Spring Cleaning” is an opportunity to start fresh… no examine your life, your leadership and to make changes for the better,

    God Bless

    Paul Sposite

    Guided Insight Life Coach


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    Writing Your Life Resume

    We all have created resumes in our life, it includes our education and work experience and sometimes we include the clubs and organizations we belong to. It is a must to get a new job. Our résumé is our foot in the door, it opens up the opportunities to a better job for ourselves. It is our work life history. But is it our history, does it truly represent us?

    Leonardo’s résumé


    Leonardo sent the following letter to Ludovico Sforza, the ruler of Milan, in 1482:

    Most Illustrious Lord: Having now sufficiently seen and considered the proofs of all those who count themselves masters and inventors in the instruments of war, and finding that their invention and use does not differ in any respect from those in common practice, I am emboldened… to put myself in communication with your Excellency, in order to acquaint you with my secrets. I can construct bridges which are very light and strong and very portable with which to pursue and defeat an enemy… I can also make a kind of cannon, which is light and easy of transport, with which to hurl small stones like hail… I can noiselessly construct to any prescribed point subterranean passages — either straight or winding — passing if necessary under trenches or a river… I can make armored wagons carrying artillery, which can break through the most serried ranks of the enemy. In time of peace, I believe I can give you as complete satisfaction as anyone else in the construction of buildings, both public and private, and in conducting water from one place to another. I can execute sculpture in bronze, marble or clay. Also, in painting, I can do as much as anyone, whoever he may be. If any of the aforesaid things should seem impossible or impractical to anyone, I offer myself as ready to make a trial of them in your park or in whatever place shall please your Excellency, to whom I commend myself with all possible humility.


    Our resumes tell our potential employer all about our work life, who we are, what we have accomplished, normally resumes are short, one to two pages and direct, to the point, leaving out the fluff. How often do you update your résumé, this exercise is in valuable, something that we should do yearly. refresh it, refine it and redefine our work life.

    We should be doing the same with our personal life as well, create a Life Resume, listing our accomplishments and our goals, defining ourselves in short and concise statements, leaving out all the fluff.  What would your personal Life Resume look like? Would it include lots of personal development or social activities or would it be more traditional education and institutional? Would your Life resume include diverse hobbies or more mundane tasks?

    Our life is an ever-changing series of events, we are not the same person today as we were yesterday, our life experiences shape us, change us and help us to grow. By sitting down and creating a Life resume, we will see the changes, see the growth, by organizing our life in to sections, categories, we will learn how we define ourselves.

    Life Resume Outline:


    This heading would include your description of yourself, weight, sex, age, birth date and other vital statistics. Use this section as a starting point, include the current date.

    Professional Experience:

    In this section include all your work experiences, from paperboy to CEO. List your accomplishments and responsibilities. Include your starting age and ending age.

    Life Experience:

    In this section include life events, Baptism, Conformation Graduation from High School, Wedding, birth of Children etc.… Any milestone event in your life.


    This section should include only formal education, completed or not completed. Indicate your age at time of completion or age when you took courses

    Personal Development:

    This section would include seminars, Continuing education courses or just for the fun of it courses offered at your local community centers. Indicate your age at the time of taking


    Include all hobbies from past to present, indicate your age of start and end From stamp collecting to master crafts maker.


    This section should include all your goals, from a young person up till now. Indicate your age at the time of the goal. Include everything from wanting to be a cowboy to taking over the world.


    This section should list all your life achievements, from winning the spelling bee to closing that major deal. Include your age at the time of the achievement.

    Completion of the Life resume may take you some time, and in truth, you are never finished with your Life Resume, it is a living breathing document. But the first “draft” should include as much past history as possible. Why include events that have already gone by, to show you how much you have already accomplished. We have done more than we often times give ourselves credit for, Why include your age, to show a progression of thoughts and growth. For example, if I stated that in 1976 I wanted to be a cowboy, I would have to do the math to figure out how old I was and in truth, it seems to far in the past, but stating that when I was 10 I wanted to be a cowboy, the year does not matter, but the age places my goal in the right context. I can clearly see a growth for Cowboy at 10 to owning my own company at 20. Simple is better, the less math I have to do, the better.

    Creating and maintaining your Life Resume will help you bring clarity to your life, showing you how you have grown and evolved, and were you may be stuck. You will start to see patterns develop in your life and you will learn to appreciate and celebrate the little life achievements as much as you do the big life achievements.

    Make a point to review your Life resume at least once a month, and when you edit it, include the date of edit, create a history of your Life Resume. Never remove information, only add, if information was incorrect, correct it, but leave the incorrect information intact, use Microsoft editing tools, to use the cross-out tool to remove the unwanted information, (example)

    Goal: I want to be a cowboy Spy, age 10

    Why keep the old or incorrect information, to show your progression, your thought process. As we continue to edit our Life Resume, we will begin to remember facts. As we begin to remember Life facts, we will start to gain a more clear picture of our past, as our past becomes more clear, we may need to correct our facts. And understanding our past, gaining a clearer picture of our past will help us define our future.

    Good luck with this project, and I will post mine on this site and on the Guided Insight Life Coach website soon. You may want to consider using a Life Coach to help you create and define your Life Resume, they can help you add clarity to your visions and goals.

    God Bless

    Paul Sposite

    Guided Insight Life Coach

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    McDonalds' sign in Harlem.

    McDonalds’ sign in Harlem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    What is Leadership? What makes a leader? How does one become a leader. Theses are questions that many people ask, and for everyone person who asks, there are dozens of books, seminars and blog sites like this one with answers. But how do you know who is right. What method will work for you, and can you even become a leader? Is everyone born to be a leader? Can anyone study and become a leader, or is it in our DNA, are we just born like that?

    Leadership, personal development and self-improvement is a multi-billion dollar industry, and like any industry there are the McDonald’s and the fancy shirt and tie eateries of Leadership development companies and individuals. Some offering the “fast food” of leadership and others offering you the 7 course meal, both serve a purpose, but like food, there is quality differences. Like a good fast food restaurant, McLeadership fills a purpose, but also like a fast food joint, to much of it can cause health issues. So what is McLeadership?

    The McLeadership

    McLeadership is, simple stated, the consumption of Leadership values, ideas and material in a fast, successive fashion that ignores the need for digestion of said material. We all know the feeling we get after we scarf down a value meal on our way to the next meeting or appointment. The bloated over stuffed sluggish feeling that leaves us with an upset stomach and an on satisfied hunger. We didn’t bother to take the time to sit back and relax and enjoy the meal, but rather we stuffed in our mouths, washed it down with a pop and followed it with a few fries. Doing this once or twice wont have to much of an effect on our over all health. But turning this bad habit into a  lifetime of eating will. Well the same can be said for our Leadership and Change couping skills.

    The market is flooded with books, CD’s, DVD’s and Seminars we can attend, and I am sure most of them are well produced and worthy of our attention. However, like the food we ingest affects our body, the information we ingest affects our mind. The habit of reading, as anyone who reads my blog will know, is a habit I strongly support. I recommend 15 minuets daily, at the very least. But, I also recommend journaling, reflecting and digesting the input. I strongly recommend that when you read, you find a quiet place, a relaxing place, and read in peace. This allows your body and mind to work together on digesting the input.

    The fast food mentality that we are raised in as permeated our daily lives, it has infected our Faith, Family, Work and Being. We are programmed to think in sound bites and to deliver messages in Tweets and Status Updates. We are encouraged to abbreviate everything. We are living in the information age, more information is available to us than ever before, yet we seem to truly know less. We have the ability to truly connect with each other in ways never imagined, yet we don’t.

    McLeadership is the result of reading, attending and listening to principles on Leadership, yet never putting in to practice the principles we have learned. Our thirty-second retention of information along with our forced acceptance of multi-tasking has created a generation that expects instantaneous results for no or little effort on their part.

    True Leadership

    True Leadership is a leadership of value, a leadership of effort and time. Like a good meal, one that you take time to enjoy and savor, a meal that is prepared with love and kindness. A true meal, a good meal, is one that we sit down at the table together, we pray and give thanks for what we are about to partake, and we enjoy the food, atmosphere and company. The meal itself, be it meatloaf or the finest cut of beef, is almost secondary to the time spent, digesting the whole experience.

    Over the years I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel, and in doing so have made friends all over the world. One set of friends reside in Germany. They have become like family to me, we have spent many a nights together eating and drinking and conversing. He is a home gourmet cook. His food is simple but very pleasing to both the eye and the taste buds, and I have had the pleasure of many a meal with him and his wife. Each meal is a pleasure, but some of the most memorable meals where the less fancy, the more traditional family meals. Meals where he was not occupied with preparations, but was able to sit and enjoy the conversation, glass of wine and the simple family meal with us. He was able to digest in a relaxed fashion.

    True Leadership is achieved in much the same way, we cannot be to concerned with the preparations, to hung up with the presentation that we miss the main point. I have learned many-a-thing about Leadership in moments of confusion and dysfunction, the moments of lack of planning and miss planning. But I have learned more, not in the McLeadership moments, but in the fine dinning moments. The moments were I can sit back, relax and slowly discover the truth hidden in the moment.


    Leadership is not reserved for the few, it is something we all must archive, in once fashion or another. But we must learn to slow down, to chew on it for a while and to savor its flavors. We must decide what Leadership looks like, taste like and is for us. My Leadership is not your Leadership, each of us have our own taste, our own cravings and each of us must discover our own style.

    Fast food is fine, every-now-and-than, but as a steady diet, not so much, the same can be said for Learning and growing your Leadership skills. A quick read with no processing is fine, every-now-and-than, but as a daily diet, not to healthy for your mind.

    I would recommend a steady diet of relaxed learning and reading, at least 15 minutes per day, in a quiet place, be it the bath tub or your car pared in a Church parking lot. I would also recommend that you journal about what you just read or learned. Your reading does not have to be only Leadership books, I am a strong believer in mixing it up, reading in general is a positive action, and reading different types and styles of books. I feel you can learn from anything and everything, so be it a Stephen King book or the latest guru in the self-help section, you can learn from it.

    What I don’t recommend is that you substitute books with audio-books to often. Audio-books would be the fast food of reading, nothing replaces the written word. It is ok to enjoy a good audio-book on your long drive to and from work, I love to listen to talks on CD, but I always make it a point to follow it up with more reading on what ever topic truly captivated me. Same holds true for DVD’s or TED videos. Great sources for information and entertainment, but do not make a steady diet of it. The act of reading works your mind in ways a CD or DVD can not even come close to, and it is the working of the mind that causes active learning to take place.

    God Bless

    Paul Sposite

    Guided Insight Life Coach

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    Leonardo, where are you?

    I just finished “How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day” by Michael J. Gelb.This is a fantastic book, one that all should read. The information is useful no matter who or what you are. Leonardo’s life lessons are timeless and learning about how he looked at life how he saw life was fascinating. I will be looking up more books concerning his life. Managers, Teachers, Parents and everyone else needs to read this book, we need to return to being renaissance men and woman once again.

    So what is a renaissance man? And why do we need them again?

    As to the first question, what is it:

    The common term Renaissance man is used to describe a person who is well educated or who excels in a wide variety of subjects or fields.[3] The concept emerged from the numerous great thinkers of that era who excelled in multiple fields of the arts and science, including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Copernicus and Francis Bacon; the emergence of these thinkers was likewise attributed to the then rising notion in Renaissance Italy expressed by one of its most accomplished representatives, Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472): that “a man can do all things if he will.” It embodied the basic tenets of Renaissance humanism, which considered humans empowered, limitless in their capacities for development, and led to the notion that people should embrace all knowledge and develop their capacities as fully as possible. Thus the gifted people of the Renaissance sought to develop skills in all areas of knowledge, in physical development, in social accomplishments, and in the arts. The term has since expanded from original usage and has been applied to other great thinkers before and after the Renaissance such as Aristotle, Johann Goethe, and Isaac Newton. (source)

    Basically, it is a person well versed on many fields of study, what we would call today, a well rounded education. But really it is more than that. It is more than just getting your Liberal Arts degree.Well at least how we in modern times view it:

    457px-Septem-artes-liberales_Herrad-von-Landsberg_Hortus-deliciarum_1180The phrase liberal arts (Latin: artes liberales) refers to those subjects which in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free citizen to study. Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic were the core liberal arts. In medieval times these subjects (called the Trivium) were extended to include mathematics, geometry, music and astronomy (which included the study of astrology). This extended curriculum was called the Quadrivium. Together the Trivium and Quadrivium constituted the seven liberal arts of the medieval university curriculum.

    In modern times liberal arts is a term which can be interpreted in different ways. It can refer to certain areas of literature, languages, philosophy, history, mathematics, psychology, and science.[1] It can also refer to studies on a liberal arts degree program. For example, Harvard University offers a degree of Master of Liberal Arts, which covers biological and social sciences as well as the humanities.[2] For both interpretations, the term generally refers to matters not relating to the professional, vocational, or technical curricula. (source)

    The classical Liberal Arts is the definition of a Renaissance man, it is the study of Leonardo and many others. It is the study we need to return to, it is the study the will teach us to think. Modern-day Liberal Arts, modern-day education is not setup to teach thinking, it is set up to teach remembering. Students are not encouraged to think freely, but rather to retain what was told to them. The modern-day education system is one based on indoctrination not liberation. Leonardo’s education was geared towards discovery, experimentation and liberation. His disciplines ran across many areas of study, but he, as many renaissance men, had the ability to see the connections. The lines between art and science are blurred as are the lines between religion and science. The cross training and encouragement to push the envelope was the hallmark of renaissance training.

    So why do we need a Renaissance man today? We have people who specialize in areas of study, so why should a rocket scientist care about the science of art? Why should an artist care about religion? Why would someone need to know about logic and rhetoric when they push a broom for a living?

    Because life is connected, because the betterment of all starts with the betterment of one. Because life is more than what you do, it is who you are. And who you are is shaped by what you know. One of the main principles of Leonardo is connectedness, Leonardo saw the connections between seemingly non-connected objects. For example do you see the connection between a frog and the internet? Think about it… There is a connection. The frog has webbed feet and the internet is also called the World Wide Web. So both frog and internet have some sort of web. It is this connection, relationship that Leonardo saw, and it is this connectedness that we are missing in our lives.

    p17Leonard saw the world not separate from humanity, but just a part of it. He saw the flow of the rivers to be the same as the flow of blood, the grass as the skin and the rock as the bones, he was a oneness between humanity and nature. Leonardo understood the connectedness of the clouds to the rain to the oceans, he saw the dependence of one upon the other. Leonardo is considered a great artiste, the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper among the greatest art works in all of humanity. Yet he was much more than that, he was a scientist and inventor, a caterer and party planner. Leonardo used his talents to enlighten and entertain, he was known for a beautiful singing voice and accomplished musician. He understood that a holistic lifestyle was a healthy life style. Leonardo understood the body and mind connectedness, he was physically and mentally fit, because Leonardo knew that one could not be truly whole if a part of him was left to waste.

    The Renaissance man of antiquity needs to be restored. We need to nurture and grow our children with a desire and fascination for learning. To question and explore their surroundings and to see the world, the universe with the eyes of openness and wonder.

    We need more Leonardo’s’ in todays world, we need men and woman who are willing to expand their horizons, to cross over disciplines and to not fear failure, for through failure comes discovery. We need to foster the exploration of connectedness, we need to discover the universe anew.

    Leonardo, where are you? Where have you gone. When did we decide that men such as Leonard are obsolete? Why did we decide they are of no use? the enlighten of man has many casualties, and this is one. But all is not lost, we can return, we can learn to think like Leonardo, we can create a new Renaissance, we just have to try.

    God Bless

    Paul Sposite


    Guided Insight Life Coach

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    Truly Happy? Can I do it…


    Can I truly be happy? This is a question most of us ask ourselves at one point or another in our lives. The answer, yes, you can truly be happy, if you do a few simple things.

    The secret to being happy is not secret at all, never has been, never will be. All we have to do is listen to ourselves, our body, our heart and our souls. The rhythm of life pulsates through us, and speaks to us in the sorrows and joys of our life. The tears of happiness and sadness tell us much about ourselves and our passions define us. When we learn to read the subtle nuances of or body, the shift in our stance or the tapping of our change in our breathing, we will learn to hear our body speaking to us.

    We, as a whole, often times ignore the body and what it is trying to tell us, we over eat, even when our body is saying STOP!, we push ourselves to the limit, when the limit is often times to far. We need to learn to listen to our body, learn to recognize its voice and to understand its complaints.

    The are of happiness is not lost to us, it has just been covered with layer upon layer of life, or what we think is life. We have dismissed it as useless information and replaced it with the latest fad in self improvement. Think about this, self-improvement books, DVD’s and seminars are a recent creation. The gurus and sages of today are pale facsimiles of the true gurus and sages of antiquity. They have discovered that with marketing and fancy plans they can make a buck off of your suffering and desires. They have developed programs the lead you to endless searching and wanting and created an industry worth billions:

    Personal development – also commonly called self-improvement – is a booming industry! And Internet-based personal development – also commonly called e-learning – is now becoming increasingly popular.

    According to market research and statistics, it is a 64 billion dollar industry worldwide. In the US alone, an estimated 9.6 billion dollars is invested in personal development in 2005 in the form of:

    - books

    - motivational speakers

    - personal coaching

    - weight loss programs

    - audio tapes

    - stress management programs

    It is also projected that this industry will grow at the rate of 11.4 percent yearly and reach 13.9 billion dollars in 2010.

    Article Source:

    Granted, this blog, my Life Coaching and public speaking is all part of this industry, but… (There is always a but) I am not a firm believer in the quick easy results nor the new age trends. I believe in a holistic approach to self improvement, and I believe that each and everyone of us has the answer to happiness inside of us. I believe that a life coach, guru, sage, whatever you want to call them, job is to help you discover you. Not to teach you the latest new age process to achieve some utopia that truly does not exist. My job, as a life coach, is to listen, reflect and guide you to you, to help you see you. It is a task that requires much more from the coached than the coach themselves. I, as the coach, am to show you, teach you and guide you to hear your own body, heart and soul. To understand the language of you and not of others, To lead you to that special place that exist only inside of you, that one place that is uniquely all your own, that place were you and God commune as only you and God can.

    That special place is not mine or your parents or spouses, it is yours and only yours.

    This is the place of true happiness, and at one point we all have seen it, experienced it, even if for only a moment. The moment when life seemed fresh and bright, when colors were vivid and sounds of nature overwhelmed the senses. The moment when time seemed to stop and eternity was here. That is happiness, that is human potential and our heaven on earth. It is achievable, it is realistic and it is not hidden from us. It is with in our grasps, if only we learn to grasp it.

    Life was created for happiness, happiness even in a world of sorrows. Our ability to overcome heartache and devastation is proof that we were created for happiness. So how come we are not happy? Why is it that others seem to be able to shoulder the burdens of life and we cannot? The difference, they, the ones that are happy and fulfilled have learned to listen to the body, hear the heart and feel the soul, they are one with themselves and have learned to be content within there own personal “special place” the place that they commune with God. The truly happy are far and few between, but it does not have to be that way, we all can achieve it, if we desire.

    God Bless & A blessed Holy Week

    Paul Sposite

    Guided Insight Life Coach 



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    Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Faith, Improvement, Life, Religon, Self, selfhelp


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    So, tell me about yourself (How I hate that)

    Charlie Brown

    Charlie Brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Have you ever sat down and plotted out a course of action for your current work position? I am sure many of you have and think nothing of it. But for me its one of the hardest things to do. There are two things I hate, one is having to write or talk about myself. In every ministry class or self-improvement class I have ever taken, that is almost always one of the first tasks. Call it what you like “selling yourself” “listing your gifts” or just bragging, what ever you want to call it, to me its hard and to tell the truth, some what silly. But, I know of many people who thrive on that, create the list even when they don’t have to, drop it into what ever they are saying or writing. Any chance to shine and they will.

    I remember once, when I was part owner of a store, the three partners all happen to be at the store at the same time, and a salesman walked it. He was, as expected, extremely friendly and knew how to sell. He didn’t start off with”would you like to buy this” but rather with “So tell me a little about yourselves”. Very smart move, great way to open up a sales pitch. So I started with the basics, I was a youth minister and part owner of the store, partner number two, same thing, partner number three, had to mention every church they worked at, every school they even considered going to and every degree they might have even given a thought to. Her introduction, 10 min, mine and the other partner, maybe 2 minutes max.  The salesman, he really didn’t care, he was just hoping for an opening, and he found it, in partner number 3.

    Why partner number 3, because he know that she would also be open to flattery. And with the power of flattery, her ego would be stroked and with her ego stroked, all reason and defenses would be out the window. Our only saving grace, I was the person in charger of purchasing all gift items, partner number 3 was in charge of the money and partner number 3, book. So we were safe, ego stroked or no stroke.

    What does that have to do with stating your gifts or talents or what ever. To me its all about ego, and for anyone who has read my blogs over the years knows what I think about the ego, I have no use for it. Ego is Edging God Out, and is the root of all evil. I find no value in stroking your own ego, nor in having others stroke it for you. This has caused me many issues in the past, I have a hard time “selling’ myself, because I find it hard to talk about what I am capable to do, were my strengths lies, I am much more at ease talking about my deficits and what I lack.

    My action plan for work is similar to this, I am being asked to define what I want, were I want to be and how I need to get there. This is a hard task for me. The issue is, I love what I do, but I am extremely unhappy in how it is done.

    I am a technical instructor for a major PLM software, I write and deliver the course. I have been doing this for over 15 years, and must say I have gotten very good at it. Am I the best, depends on who you ask, am I the worst, same thing, depends on who you ask. I know I am good at what I do, and I also know I love what I do. But… Doing the same thing over and over and over can get to you. Fighting the same battles day in and day out gets old and feeling that you have no control over it, well that, to me, is the kicker. So this current task my company is asking for, my development plan, is suppose to help me achieve my goals. But what are my goals, were do I want to be in 6 month, one year or five years from now? Hard to say.

    My interest is not software, I am not a programing nerd, I am a teacher that happens to teach software. I was lucky to walk into this job, allowing me to use what ever skills I may happen to have as a teacher, to teach software. I love the creative process of teaching and developing the courseware. But I would be just as happy teaching paper folding  as I am teaching software. In truth, I love to teach, plane and simple. So were do I go from here.

    Do I decide its time to change gears, quit and find a new job teaching, giving up 15 years with the company, leaving my many friends and the comfort of what I know? Or do I find ways to make this work, stick it out and hope for the best? This is the dilemma, and this is why I hate having to do this.

    The frustration is with myself and work, but more with myself. I understand and know, internally, that I have the power within me to fix it. I can accept it or not. If I accept it, than I have to stop the bitching about it, move on and keep on keeping on. If I decide to not accept it, than I have to fix it or leave. Either way accept or not, I have to get over it and move on.  And that is what this document represents to me, I have to decide what I want and articulate it in this document. And I don’t want to face it, I don’t want to think about it, but I am being forced to.


    In away, I am feeling like Charlie Brown, I know I am unhappy, but I just don’t know why. I need my Linus,

    Sometimes questions . “So, tell me about yourself”, “where do you see yourself in five years”, are questions you need to hear, even when we don’t like them. I know that this task set before me is driving me nuts, but I also know it is something that I have to face, sooner rather than later.

    God Bless and Happy Lent

    Paul Sposite

    Guided Insight Life Coach

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    Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Ego, Life, work


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    How Do You Teach People Values When They Are Raised in a Secular World?

    Hate him or love him, this is a great discussion… This is a conversation we, as a community, as a nation, as adults, need to have more often. This should be our number 1 concern. Want to know what tomorrow will be like, look at our youth…

    I hope you enjoy…


    Beck Asks Panel: How Do You Teach People Values When They Are Raised in a Secular World?

    Glenn Beck Asks GBTV Panel How People Raised in a Secular World Can Be Taught Values

    It is a question that many of us have likely asked: How do you instill values in people — especially young people — when they are raised in an ever-increasingly secular world?

    David Horowitz, Pastor Geronimo Aguilar and other faith-leaders joined Glenn Beck on Wednesday evening to discuss this very topic.

    Citing the “domino effect” that has arisen since faith has come under fire, the panel delved into issues such as single-parent homes, the contributions of faith-keepers versus secularists, and the somewhat recent creation of the “underclass.”

    Horowitz explained that “accountability” and “responsibility” — as core tenets of faith — gives one the power to change their lives for the better, thus reversing self-destructive behaviors. He also explained that the underclass is only a recent development dating back to the 1960′s and the Great Society, reminding that before those days there was the “working poor” who were able to advance themselves gradually throughout life.

    “Now people are addicted to dependency,” Horowitz said.

    Glenn led the engaging panel through a discussion of statistics, with one panelist adding that a few short decades ago, “75 percent of black children were born to two parents” and that one study suggested “90 percent” of all violent crimes were perpetrated by adults or teens who came from a one-parent home. Glenn reminded that splitting up families is a common tactic of those who seek to oppress.

    Watch this fascinating discussion and weigh in below with your thoughts:


    God Bless

    Paul Sposite

    Guided Insight Life Coach

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    Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?


    heritagePublished on July 18, 2011 by Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield Backgrounder #2575

    Abstract: For decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that over 30 million Americans were living in “poverty,” but the bureau’s definition of poverty differs widely from that held by most Americans. In fact, other government surveys show that most of the persons whom the government defines as “in poverty” are not poor in any ordinary sense of the term. The overwhelming majority of the poor have air conditioning, cable TV, and a host of other modern amenities. They are well housed, have an adequate and reasonably steady supply of food, and have met their other basic needs, including medical care. Some poor Americans do experience significant hardships, including temporary food shortages or inadequate housing, but these individuals are a minority within the overall poverty population. Poverty remains an issue of serious social concern, but accurate information about that problem is essential in crafting wise public policy. Exaggeration and misinformation about poverty obscure the nature, extent, and causes of real material deprivation, thereby hampering the development of well-targeted, effective programs to reduce the problem.

    Each year for the past two decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that over 30 million Americans were living in “poverty.” In recent years, the Census has reported that one in seven Americans are poor. But what does it mean to be “poor” in America? How poor are America’s poor?

    For most Americans, the word “poverty” suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. For example, the Poverty Pulse poll taken by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development asked the general public: “How would you describe being poor in the U.S.?” The overwhelming majority of responses focused on homelessness, hunger or not being able to eat properly, and not being able to meet basic needs.[1] That perception is bolstered by news stories about poverty that routinely feature homelessness and hunger.

    Yet if poverty means lacking nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, relatively few of the more than 30 million people identified as being “in poverty” by the Census Bureau could be characterized as poor.[2] While material hardship definitely exists in the United States, it is restricted in scope and severity. The average poor person, as defined by the government, has a living standard far higher than the public imagines.

    As scholar James Q. Wilson has stated, “The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.”[3] In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation.[4] In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

    The home of the typical poor family was not overcrowded and was in good repair. In fact, the typical poor American had more living space than the average European. The typical poor American family was also able to obtain medical care when needed. By its own report, the typical family was not hungry and had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.

    Poor families certainly struggle to make ends meet, but in most cases, they are struggling to pay for air conditioning and the cable TV bill as well as to put food on the table. Their living standards are far different from the images of dire deprivation promoted by activists and the mainstream media.

    Regrettably, annual Census reports not only exaggerate current poverty, but also suggest that the number of poor persons[5] and their living conditions have remained virtually unchanged for four decades or more. In reality, the living conditions of poor Americans have shown significant improvement over time.

    Consumer items that were luxuries or significant purchases for the middle class a few decades ago have become commonplace in poor households. In part, this is caused by a normal downward trend in price following the introduction of a new product. Initially, new products tend to be expensive and available only to the affluent. Over time, prices fall sharply, and the product saturates the entire population, including poor households.

    As a rule of thumb, poor households tend to obtain modern conveniences about a dozen years after the middle class. Today, most poor families have conveniences that were unaffordable to the middle class not too long ago.

    Poverty: A Range of Living Conditions

    However, there is a range of living conditions within the poverty population. The average poor family does not represent every poor family. Although most poor families are well housed, a small minority are homeless.

    Fortunately, the number of homeless Americans has not increased during the current recession.[6] Although most poor families are well fed and have a fairly stable food supply, a sizeable minority experiences temporary restraints in food supply at various times during the year. The number of families experiencing such temporary food shortages has increased somewhat during the current economic downturn.

    Of course, to the families experiencing these problems, their comparative infrequency is irrelevant. To a family that has lost its home and is living in a homeless shelter, the fact that only 0.5 percent of families shared this experience in 2009 is no comfort. The distress and fear for the future that the family experiences are real and devastating. Public policy must deal with that distress. However, accurate information about the extent and severity of social problems is imperative for the development of effective public policy.

    In discussions about poverty, however, misunderstanding and exaggeration are commonplace. Over the long term, exaggeration has the potential to promote a substantial misallocation of limited resources for a government that is facing massive future deficits. In addition, exaggeration and misinformation obscure the nature, extent, and causes of real material deprivation, thereby hampering the development of well-targeted, effective programs to reduce the problem. Poverty is an issue of serious social concern, and accurate information about that problem is always essential in crafting public policy.

    Living Conditions of the Poor

    Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau releases its annual report on income and poverty.[7] This report, though widely publicized by the press, provides only a bare count of the number of Americans who are allegedly poor. It provides no data on or description of their actual living conditions.

    This does not mean that such information is not available. The federal government conducts several other surveys that provide detailed information on the living conditions of the poor. These surveys provide a very different sense of American poverty.[8] They reveal that the actual standard of living among America’s poor is far higher than the public imagines and that, in fact, most of the persons whom the government defines as “in poverty” are not poor in any ordinary sense of the term. Regrettably, these detailed surveys are almost never reported in the mainstream press.

    One of the most interesting surveys that measures actual living conditions is the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS),[9] which the Department of Energy has conducted regularly since 1980.[10] The RECS survey measures energy consumption and ownership of various conveniences by U.S. households. It also provides information on households at different income levels, including poor households.

    The first half of this paper uses RECS data to analyze and describe one aspect of the living standards of the poor: ownership and availability of household amenities.[11] The second half provides a broader description of the living standards of America’s poor.

    Availability of Amenities in Poor Households

    This section uses RECS data from 2005, the most recent year for which data are available, to analyze the amenities typically found in poor households.[12] The 2005 RECS data represent the living conditions of the poor before the current recession. Conditions are likely quite similar today.

    Because the current recession has increased the number of poor persons in the U.S. since 2005, it might seem likely that poor households would have fewer amenities and conveniences today than in 2005. However, the increase in poverty during the recession is, to a considerable degree, the result of working-class families losing employment. One would not expect these families to dispose of their normal household conveniences in those circumstances. Thus, paradoxically, the increase in the number of working- and middle-class families who have become temporarily poor is likely to increase slightly the share of poor households that own various items. When the present recession ends, the living conditions of the poor are likely to continue to improve as they have in the past.

    Chart 1 shows the percentage of all U.S. households that owned or had available various household amenities and conveniences in 2005. For example, it shows that 84 percent of all U.S. households had air conditioning, 79 percent had cable or satellite television, and 68 percent had a personal computer.[13]

    Chart 2 shows the same information for 2005 for poor U.S. households (those with cash incomes below the official poverty thresholds). While poor households were slightly less likely to have conveniences than the general population, most poor households had a wide range of amenities. As Chart 2 shows, 78 percent of poor households had air conditioning, 64 percent had cable or satellite TV, and 38 percent had a personal computer.[14]

    Percentage of All U.S. Households Which Have Various Amenities

    Percentage of Poor U.S. Households Which Have Various Amenities

    The Household Amenity Scale. Living conditions can be analyzed by creating a household amenity scale based on the 30 items listed in Chart 1. The RECS database reports which households have each specific amenity. For each affirmative response that a household has a particular amenity, we gave the household one point. All the affirmative responses of the household were then summed to produce an overall amenity score for the household.

    Thus, a household’s amenity score can range from 0 to 30. A household that responded negatively to all 30 items would have an amenity score of zero, a household that responded affirmatively to half the items would have an amenity score of 15, and a household that answered affirmatively to all 30 items would have a score of 30. The amenity score of a household is roughly equal to the number of amenities present in the household.[15]

    Chart 3 provides the cumulative distribution of amenity scores for all U.S. households in 2005, showing the percentage of all households with an amenity score at or below each specified level. The median amenity score for all households is 19. This means that half of all households had a score at or below 19 and half of households had a score at or above 19.[16]

    Having determined the median amenity score, we then examined every household with that score to determine which amenities appeared most frequently within the median group.

    • The analysis showed that households with the median amenity score most frequently had the following 19 items: air conditioning, a personal computer, Internet access, a computer printer, a ceiling fan, a cell phone or phones, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.
    • For entertainment, these households had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR.
    • In the kitchen, the households had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, an automatic dishwasher, and a microwave.
    • In the laundry, they had a washing machine and dryer.

    These amenities may then be considered representative of the living standards of the median or typical U.S. household in 2005.

    Distribution of Households by Amenities Score

    Amenities in the Median Poor Household. We then examined poor households, meaning households with a reported income below the official government poverty income thresholds in 2005. Analysis revealed that poor households had a median household amenity score of 14. This means that half of all poor households had a score at or below 14 and half of households had score at or above 14.

    Having determined that the amenity score of the median poor household was 14, we then examined all poor households with that score to determine which amenities appeared most frequently within the median poor group.

    • The analysis showed that median poor households most frequently had the following 14 items: air conditioning, a clothes washer, a clothes dryer, ceiling fans, and a cordless phone.
    • For entertainment, these households had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR.
    • In the kitchen, these poor households had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, a microwave, and a coffee maker.

    These items may then be considered representative of the living standards of the median or typical poor U.S. household in 2005.

    The median poor household had five fewer amenities than the median household in the general population. Specifically, the typical poor household lacked the following items that were in the typical middle-income household: a personal computer, Internet access, a computer printer, a dishwasher, and a cell phone.

    Amenities in Poor Families with Children. Poor families with children have more conveniences and amenities than other poor families. In 2005, the median amenity score for poor families with children was 16. We examined all poor families with children with an amenity score of 16 to determine which items appeared most frequently in these homes.

    • These homes typically had both air conditioning and a personal computer.
    • For entertainment, they typically had cable or satellite TV, three color televisions, a DVD player, a VCR, and a video game system, such as an Xbox or Play Station.
    • In the kitchen, they had a refrigerator, a stove and oven, a microwave, and an automatic coffee maker.
    • Other amenities included a cell phone, a cordless phone, and a clothes washer.[17]

    These conveniences may be considered representative of the living standards of the median or typical poor family with children in 2005.

    Amenities in Typical Households

    Improvement in Poor Households over Time. Because the RECS has reported on the living conditions of the poor for several decades, it is a useful tool for charting the improvement in living conditions among the poor over time. For example, Chart 4 shows the percentage of all households and the percentage of poor households that had any type of air conditioning between 1970 and 2005.[18] Although poor households were less likely to have air conditioning in any given year, the share of households with air conditioning increased steadily for both groups over the 25-year period. By 2005, the two rates converged as air conditioning became nearly universal in U.S. society.

    Chart 5 shows the percentage of all households and the percentage of poor households that had central air conditioning between 1970 and 2005. Because central air conditioning is more expensive than window units, it is less common in U.S. society. Nonetheless, the share of the general population and the share of poor households with central air conditioning have increased at a similar pace for the past 25 years.

    Finally, Chart 6 shows the share of all households and the share of poor households that had a personal computer from 1990 to 2005. Personal computers were rare in 1990 but spread widely through society over the next 15 years. Computer ownership among the poor increased substantially during the period. In 1990, only 5 percent of poor households had a computer. By 2005, the number had risen to almost 40 percent.

    Households with Air Conditioning

    Households with Central Air Conditioning

    Households Owning A Computer

    Charts 4, 5, and 6 show a common pattern. The share of poor households that have a given amenity tends to equal the share of all U.S. households that had the same amenity 10 to 15 years earlier. There seems to be a general lag effect in which poor households acquire a given amenity roughly a dozen years after the general population acquires it.

    Housing and Poverty

    Of course, the typical poor family could have a host of modern conveniences and still live in dilapidated, overcrowded housing. However, data from other government surveys show that this is not the case.[19] Poor Americans are well housed and rarely overcrowded.[20] In fact, the houses and apartments of America’s poor are quite spacious by international standards. The typical poor American has considerably more living space than does the average European.[21]

    Forty-three percent of all poor households own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.[22]

    Nearly all of the houses and apartments of the poor are in good condition. According to the government’s data, only one in 10 has moderate physical problems. Only 2 percent of poor domiciles have “severe” physical problems, the most common of which is sharing a bathroom with another household living in the building.[23]

    Food Shortages, Nutrition, and Poverty

    It is possible that most poor households could be well housed and have many modern conveniences but still face chronic food shortages and undernutrition. Poor families might have microwaves but a limited and sporadic supply of food to put in the microwave. Government surveys show that this is not the case for the overwhelming majority of poor families.

    On average, the poor are well nourished. The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children. In most cases, it is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than higher-income children consume, and their protein intake averages 100 percent above recommended levels. In fact, most poor children are super-nourished and grow up to be, on average, one inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.[24]

    However, even though the poor, in general, have an ample food supply, some do suffer from temporary food shortages. For example, a poor household with an adequate long-term food supply might need temporarily to cut back meals, eat cheap food, or go without if cash and food stamps run out at the end of the month.

    Still, government data show that most poor households do not suffer even from temporary food shortages. As Chart 7 shows, 92.5 percent of poor households assert that they always had “enough food to eat” during the previous four months, although 26 percent of these did not always have the foods that they would have preferred. Some 6 percent of poor households state that they “sometimes” did not have enough food, and 1.5 percent say they “often” did not have enough food.[25]

    The bottom line is that, although a small portion of poor households report temporary food shortages, the overwhelming majority of poor households report that they consistently have enough food to eat.

    Enough Food to Eat over the Past Four Months

    Temporary food shortages have increased during the current recession but still remain atypical among poor households. During 2009, less than one poor household in five experienced even a single instance of “reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns” due to a lack of financial resources.[26] Strikingly, only 4 percent of poor children experienced even a single instance of “reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns” due to a lack of financial resources.[27]

    Food Banks and Soup Kitchens

    TV news stories that inform audiences that one in seven Americans are poor routinely depict “the poor” collecting free groceries at a food pantry or eating meals at a free food kitchen.[28] The audience is led to conclude that gathering free food from a charity pantry or eating free meals at a soup kitchen is the norm for those in poverty.

    In fact, while the use of food pantries and emergency kitchens has increased during the current recession,[29] poor families generally did not use charity food pantries or soup kitchens. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that only one poor family in five took food from a food pantry even once during all of 2009. Far fewer ate at a food kitchen.

    In the whole U.S. population, 5.6 million households (4.8 percent of all households) used a food pantry at any point during 2009. Far fewer ate meals at a soup kitchen. Only 625,000 of all U.S. households (0.5 percent) had a member who ate a meal in a free-food kitchen at any time in 2009.[30]

    Poverty and Homelessness

    The mainstream press and activist groups also frequently conflate poverty with homelessness. News stories about poverty often feature homeless families living “on the street.”[31] This depiction is seriously misleading because only a small portion of persons “living in poverty” will become homeless over the course of a year. The overwhelming majority of the poor reside throughout the year in non-crowded housing that is in good repair.

    The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that on a given night in 2009, some 643,000 persons in the U.S. were homeless (without permanent domicile).[32] This means that at any given time, one out of 470 persons in the general population or one out of 70 persons with incomes below the poverty level was homeless.[33]

    Moreover, two-thirds of these 643,000 homeless persons were residing in emergency shelters or transitional housing. Only 240,000 were without shelter. These “unsheltered” individuals were “on the street,” meaning that they were living in cars, abandoned buildings, alleyways, or parks. At any point in 2009, roughly one person out of 1,250 in the general population or one out of 180 poor persons was homeless in the literal sense of being on the street and without shelter.

    Odds of Being Homeless on a Single Night in 2009

    Homelessness is usually a transitional condition. Individuals typically lose housing, reside in an emergency shelter for a few weeks or months, and then reenter permanent housing. The transitional nature of homelessness means that many more people become temporarily homeless over the course of a year than are homeless at any single point in time.

    Thus, HUD reports that 1.56 million persons resided in an emergency shelter or transitional housing at least one night during 2009.[34] The year-round total of individuals who ever stayed in a shelter or transitional housing was nearly four times larger than the 403,000 who resided in such facilities on an average night.[35]

    Based on the year-round data on shelter use, roughly one person in 195 in the general population resided in emergency shelter or transitional housing for at least one night during a full 12-month period. Roughly one in 25 poor persons (4 percent of all poor persons) resided in an emergency shelter or transitional housing for at least one night during the full year.[36]

    Despite news stories that assert that the current recession has caused a great increase in homelessness, homeless shelter use, in general, has not increased during the current economic downturn.[37] In addition, shelters are not overcrowded. On a typical night, shelters have an average vacancy rate of 10 percent.[38]

    Odds of Residing in a Homeless Shelter or Transitional Housing for at Least One Night During Full Year: 2009

    While the overall number of homeless has not increased during the current recession, there has been a small increase in the number of families with children who use homeless shelters. Some 168,000 families with children resided in a homeless shelter for at least one night during all of 2010.[39] This figure was up from 130,000 in 2007. The increase of 38,000 families represents only one family out every 1,000 families with children. While the misfortune is real for the families involved, these numbers scarcely show a tidal wave of increased homelessness.

    Although news stories often suggest that poverty and homelessness are similar, this is inaccurate. In reality, the gap between the living conditions of a homeless person and the typical poor household is proportionately as great as the gap between the poor household and a middle-class family in the suburbs.

    Essential Needs

    Although the public equates poverty with physical deprivation, the overwhelming majority of poor households do not experience any form of physical deprivation. Some 70 percent of poor households report that during the course of the past year, they were able to meet “all essential expenses,” including mortgage, rent, utility bills, and important medical care.

    It is widely supposed that the poor are unable to obtain medical care, but in reality, only 13 percent of poor households report that a family member needed to go to a doctor or hospital at some point in the prior year but was unable because the family could not afford the cost.[40]

    Public Understanding of Poverty

    In 2005, the typical poor household, as defined by the government, had air conditioning and a car.[41] For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. In the kitchen, it had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker. The family was able to obtain medical care when needed. Their home was not overcrowded and was in good repair. By its own report, the family was not hungry and had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.

    The overwhelming majority of the public do not regard a family living in these conditions as poor. For example, a poll conducted in June 2009 asked a nationally representative sample of the public whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “A family in the U.S. that has a decent, un-crowded house or apartment to live in, ample food to eat, access to medical care, a car, cable television, air conditioning and a microwave at home should not be considered poor.”[42]

    A full 80 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Democrats agreed that a family living in those living conditions should not be considered poor.

    Census Poverty Reports Are Misleading and Inaccurate

    Nonetheless, each year, the U.S. Census Bureau issues a report claiming that over 35 million Americans live in poverty. The annual Census poverty report is flawed in two respects.

    First, the report provides no information on the actual living conditions of the persons identified as poor. It simply states that a specified number of persons are poor without giving any information on what poverty means in the real world. A detailed description of the living conditions of the poor would greatly enhance public understanding. In fact, without a detailed description of living conditions, public discussions of poverty are meaningless.

    Second, the Census report massively undercounts the economic resources provided to poor people. The Census asserts that a household is poor if its “money income” falls below a specified threshold. In 2009, the poverty income threshold for a family of four was $21,756. However, in counting the money income of households, the Census ignores virtually the entire welfare state. For example, there are over 70 means-tested welfare programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and low-income persons. Major means-tested welfare programs include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Supplemental Security Income; the Earned Income Tax Credit; food stamps; the Women, Infants, and Children food program; public housing; and Medicaid. (Social Security and Medicare are not means-tested welfare programs.)

    In 2008, federal and state governments spent $714 billion on means-tested welfare programs, but the Census counted only about 4 percent of this as “money income” for purposes of determining whether a household was poor. The bottom line is that the economic resources available to poor persons are vastly greater than the Census claims.

    In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor finds that the lowest-income one-fifth of households appear to spend $1.87 for every $1.00 of income that the Census says these households have. If the free medical care and public housing subsidies given to these households were counted, then the gap between expenditure and income would be even greater.[43]

    Misrepresenting Poverty in America

    As noted, for the average American, the word “poverty” implies significant material hardship and deprivation. Politicians, activists, and the mainstream media reinforce this image, asserting that each year, over 35 million Americans live in chronic material deprivation, unable to obtain “the basic material necessities of life.”

    For example, former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards made poverty the centerpiece of his repeated campaigns for the presidency. Edwards proclaimed that 37 million Americans “struggle with incredible poverty.”[44] He explicitly equated poverty as defined by the Census Bureau with dramatic unfulfilled material need. According to Edwards, America’s poor, who number “one in eight of us…do not have enough money for the food, shelter, and clothing they need.” The poor, he said, were forced to live in “terrible” circumstances.[45]

    In Edwards’s stump speeches, the “plague of poverty”[46] in America was typified by a 10-year-old girl who lacked food and clothing. Edwards proclaimed, “Tonight, a 10-year-old little girl will go to bed hungry, hoping and praying that tomorrow will not be as cold as today because she doesn’t have the coat to keep her warm.”[47] Confronted by skeptics, Edwards’s staff ultimately admitted that the girl was “metaphorical,”[48] but Edwards continued to feature her in speech after speech.

    Liberal advocacy groups routinely echo Edwards’s claims. For example, the Children’s Defense Fund equates government-defined poverty with daily hardship and suffering. CDF President Marian Wright Edelman states, “It is a moral outrage that in the wealthiest nation on earth there are still 12.8 million children living in poverty” and “inexcusable that 12.8 million children are forced to suffer through hardship every day.”[49]

    In a campaign to promote higher welfare spending, Catholic Charities USA tells the public that the government-defined poor lack the basic material necessities of life:

    We speak of [the United States] being the land of plenty: a country with living standards so high that others wish to emulate our success. But for nearly 37 million Americans there is another story. What is life like in this other America? How can it be that millions of us lack the basic material necessities of life?[50]

    Advocacy groups often equate official poverty with hunger, malnutrition, and homelessness. When asked what it means for children to live in official U.S. poverty, Marion Wright Edelman informed TV audiences that official child poverty means “hopelessness for too many, it means homelessness; it means being hungry.”[51] The activist Web site Spotlight on Poverty asserts, “An increasing number of Americans face poverty and, as a result, hunger.… In all, 15 percent of American households…did not have the resources to obtain adequate nutrition and lead a healthy lifestyle.”[52]

    Confusing Poverty and Deprivation

    Protestations by anti-poverty activists almost always involve two incompatible ideas: that poverty in America is widespread, affecting as many as one in seven Americans, and that being poor in this country means serious material deprivation. The fusion of these two notions leads to a profound misrepresentation of the actual living conditions in the nation.

    For example, confusion of this sort can be found in Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America by evangelical Ronald J. Sider.[53] Sider begins his book with a chapter entitled “What Does Poverty Look Like?” in which he informs his readers, “In 2005, in the United States, 37 million people lived in poverty in the richest society in human history.” He asks, “Who are the poor? Where do they live?”[54] and proceeds to answer these questions with a lengthy description of the home of Mrs. Onita Skyles, a 68-year-old widow:

    The foundation was collapsing. Sections of the floor had rotted. The walls and ceiling were cracked. The tub and toilet had sunk below the floor level and were unusable, and there was no running water. Mrs. Styles cooked with a hot plate and carried water in gallon jugs from a neighbor’s house.[55]

    He then describes the shack where the Perez family lives: “The walls are old doors, tar paper, chicken wire, and rotting boards. The ground provides a dirt floor. There is no bathroom, no running water, no electricity, no heat. Their toilet is a reeking outhouse across the street.”[56]

    The descriptions of these two individual households are indeed appalling, but Sider is seriously misleading when he implies that such living conditions are representative of 37 million poor people.[57] In fact, the situations he presents are not at all representative of the poor in America. The described conditions are very unusual and probably found in no more than one in 500 households.[58]

    Confronted with this fact, activists usually respond that the exact numbers are irrelevant because no American should live in such deplorable conditions. This may be true, but when formulating effective public policy, it matters a great deal whether one in seven households or one in 500 households live in such conditions.

    However, if the goal is greater income redistribution—rather than policies that precisely and effectively target those truly in need—then big numbers matter a lot. Liberal activists continue to insist that very large numbers of Americans live in severe deprivation.

    This is no accident. The interlocking assertions that poverty is widespread, affecting one in seven Americans, and that the poor live in desperate conditions are both ideologically necessary for the Left. Together, they provide justification for policies to greatly expand the welfare state and further “spread the wealth.” But if one or both assertions proves to be untrue, the impetus for expanding the welfare state is greatly undermined.

    Depictions of Poverty in the News Media

    Mainstream news media also present poverty in America as severe material hardship. For example:

    • A CBS News story on the “faces of poverty” features a mother living with five small children in a “27 square foot camper” beside the railroad tracks.[59]
    • An NBC News story on “poverty in America” depicts the poor as homeless or feeding themselves from food pantries.[60]
    • An ABC News story represents poverty as families who are homeless or living with empty refrigerators.[61]
    • A moving ABC News story on poverty in Appalachia focuses on a 12-year-old girl whose single mother is a drug-addicted high school dropout. The girl lives in a tiny house with 11 other people, with no car and limited food.[62]
    • Another network news story features an unemployed couple living in a tent in Reno, Nevada.[63]

    The families in these stories are real. Their suffering is real and a cause for serious concern. But such families are clearly atypical of America’s poor. To the extent that the networks suggest that the living standards of these families are representative of the living conditions of 35 million poor people across the nation, they are profoundly misleading viewers.

    The ongoing use of examples of severe hardship in TV news should not be surprising. TV news thrives on drama, and reporters naturally seek out the starkest and most sympathetic examples of poverty to build the most compelling stories. By contrast, a realistic portrayal of the living conditions of the typical poor family in America would not make compelling viewing. In fact, the audience would be unlikely to regard such a family as seriously deprived.

    While substantial hardship does occur in U.S society, it is limited in scope. At any given time, only a small portion of the more than 35 million “poor” Americans will experience the sort of dramatic deprivation presented in the above newscasts. Moreover, when dramatic hardship does occur, it is generally temporary or caused by multiple behavioral problems in the home.

    Ironically, suggesting that tens of millions of poor Americans suffer from chronic substantial deprivation actually makes solving social problems more difficult. Such misrepresentation leads to a misallocation of resources and, by obscuring the causes of deprivation, impedes the development of effective countermeasures.

    Official Government Poverty Numbers Misrepresent U.S. Around the Globe

    One of the most regrettable aspects of official U.S. government poverty statistics is the misleading negative image that they project around the world. U.S. government poverty numbers are like a Potemkin village in reverse, suggesting to the rest of the globe that living conditions in the U.S. are much worse than they actually are.

    For example, Al Jazeera uses U.S. government poverty numbers to tell the world what a terrible place the U.S. is. Al Jazeera tells a global audience: “37 million people—that is one in eight Americans—live below the official poverty line. That means these people are often homeless, hungry, and have no health insurance.”[64] Al Jazeera shows a representative poor American family: six people living in a one-bedroom apartment.[65] Other stories go farther. An Al Jazeera special report on “poverty in America” shows America’s poor as homeless or living in rat-infested, crumbling shacks while suffering from life-threatening malnutrition.[66]

    Al Jazeera is not alone. The Teheran Times informs its readers:

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an astonishing 47 million Americans out of a population of about 310 million live in poverty in the Unites [sic] States, a number equivalent to one out of every seven people…. [O]ne in five children in the United States live in poverty, with almost half of them living in extreme poverty. [67]

    Similarly, the Chinese government uses the U.S. Census Bureau’s misleading poverty reports to condemn the U.S. government for human rights violations. In its official report on The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010, the Chinese government asserts:

    The United States is the world’s richest country, but Americans’ economic, social and cultural rights protection is going from bad to worse….The U.S. Census Bureau reported on September 16, 2010 that a total of 44 million Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, four million more than that of 2008.[68]

    Beijing fumes that, in America, the number of “[p]eople in hunger increased sharply…. About 50 million Americans experienced food shortage [in 2009]” and that “nearly one in four children struggles with hunger.”[69]

    Russia Today (RT) is a multilingual television news network funded by the Russian government. RT broadcasts news in English, Spanish, and Arabic to over 100 nations around the globe. Like Al Jazeera, Russia Today has a fascination for U.S. government poverty figures, which it uses to project a horrifying picture of the U.S. around the globe. Using official Census figures, RT informs audiences that “one in seven Americans [are] living in poverty.” It then gives “a perfect example of the face of poverty in the United States”: a tent village for homeless people in the woods in New Jersey that is run by a church group. According to RT, the homeless living there apparently work without ceasing for less than the minimum wage.[70] RT leads viewers to believe that one in seven Americans crowd into charity soup kitchens each day to fend off starvation.[71] The network gleefully tells viewers that widespread poverty in America is “like a third world nightmare.”[72]

    Al Jazeera and the governments of Iran, China, and Russia have their own ideological and geopolitical goals. Their depictions of the U.S. as a failed, nightmare society are no surprise. However, it is ironic that the U.S. government’s own misleading poverty report has become a major prop in anti-American propaganda around the world. Poverty in America is far from the nightmare of extreme material deprivation that it is portrayed to be, but the U.S. government has yet to explain that fact to the rest of the world or even to the American public.

    Increasing the Misinformation: Obama’s New “Poverty” Measure

    There is a vast gap between poverty as understood by the American public and poverty as currently measured by the government. Sadly, President Barack Obama plans to make this situation worse by creating a new “poverty” measure that deliberately severs all connection between “poverty” and actual deprivation. This new measure will serve as a propaganda tool in Obama’s endless quest to “spread the wealth” and will eventually displace the current poverty measure.

    Under the new measure, a family will be judged poor if its income falls below certain specified income thresholds or standards. There is nothing new in this, but unlike the current poverty income standards, the new income thresholds will have a built-in escalator clause. They will rise automatically in direct proportion to any rise in the living standards of the average American.

    The current poverty measure counts (albeit inaccurately) absolute purchasing power (how much meat and potatoes a person can buy). The new measure will count comparative purchasing power (how much meat and potatoes a person can buy relative to other people). As the nation becomes wealthier, the poverty standards will increase in proportion. In other words, Obama will employ a statistical trick to give a new meaning to the saying that “the poor will always be with you.”

    The new poverty measure will produce very odd results. For example, if the real income of every single American were to triple magically overnight, the new poverty measure would show no drop in poverty because the poverty income standards would also triple. Under the Obama system, poverty can be reduced only if the incomes of the “poor” are rising faster than the incomes of everyone else. Another paradox of the new poverty measure is that countries such as Bangladesh and Albania will have lower poverty rates than the U.S.—even though the actual living conditions in those countries are extremely low—simply because they have narrower distribution of incomes, albeit very low incomes.

    According to Obama’s measure, economic growth has no impact on poverty. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the incomes of nearly all Americans have increased sevenfold after adjusting for inflation. However, from Obama’s perspective, this increase in real incomes had no effect on poverty because the incomes of those at the bottom of the income distribution did not rise faster than the incomes of those in the middle.

    In plain English, Obama’s new poverty-measure system will measure income “inequality,” not “poverty.” But he cannot call it an inequality index because the American voter is unwilling to support massive welfare increases, soaring deficits, and tax increases just to equalize incomes. However, if the goal of income leveling is camouflaged as a desperate struggle against poverty, malnutrition, hunger, and dire deprivation, then the political prospects improve.

    The new measure is a public relations Trojan horse, smuggling in a “spread-the-wealth” agenda under the ruse of fighting significant material deprivation—a condition that is already rare in American society.

    Poverty as traditionally defined by the Census Bureau has little connection with poverty as understood by the average American. The new Obama poverty measure will stretch this semantic gap, artificially swelling the number of poor Americans and severing any link between the government’s concept of poverty and even modest deprivation. It will make grappling with the real deprivation that does exist even more difficult.

    Conclusion: What is Poverty?

    In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau declared that one in seven Americans lived “in poverty.” Catholic Charities has declared, “The existence of such widespread poverty amidst such enormous wealth is a moral and social wound in the soul of the country.”[73]

    To the average American, the word “poverty” implies significant material deprivation, an inability to provide a family with adequate nutritious food, reasonable shelter, and clothing. Activists reinforce this view, declaring that being poor in the U.S. means being “unable to obtain the basic material necessities of life.”[74] The news media amplify this idea: Most news stories on poverty feature homeless families, people living in crumbling shacks, or lines of the downtrodden eating in soup kitchens.

    The actual living conditions of America’s poor are far different from these images. In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, a clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

    The home of the typical poor family was not overcrowded and was in good repair. The family was able to obtain medical care when needed. By its own report, the family was not hungry and had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.

    Poor families clearly struggle to make ends meet, but in most cases, they are struggling to pay for air conditioning and cable TV while putting food on the table. The current recession has increased the number of Americans who are poor, but it does not appear to have greatly reduced the living standards of the average poor family.

    True, the average poor family does not represent every poor family. There is a range of living conditions among the poor. Some poor households fare better than the average household described above. Others are worse off. Although the overwhelming majority of the poor are well housed, at any single point in time during the recession in 2009, around one in 70 poor persons was homeless. Although the majority of poor families have an adequate and reasonably steady supply of food, many worry about keeping food on the table, and one in five experienced temporary food shortages at various times in 2009.

    Those who are without food or homeless will find no comfort in the fact that their condition is relatively infrequent. Their distress is real and a serious concern.

    Nonetheless, wise public policy cannot be based on misinformation or misunderstanding. Anti-poverty policy must be based on an accurate assessment of actual living conditions and the causes of deprivation. In the long term, grossly exaggerating the extent and severity of material deprivation in the U.S. will benefit neither the poor, the economy, nor society as a whole.

    Robert Rector is Senior Research Fellow in the Domestic Policy Studies Department, and Rachel Sheffield is a Research Assistant in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, at The Heritage Foundation.


    Amenities of All Poor Households

    Amenities of Poor Households with Children


    References in this report

    [1]See Catholic Campaign for Human Development, “Poverty Pulse: Wave IV,” January 2004, at (June 21, 2011). Interestingly, only about 1 percent of those surveyed defined poverty as the government defines it: as having an income below a specified level.

    [2]The Census Bureau defines an individual as poor if his or her family income falls below certain specified income thresholds, which vary by family size. In 2006, a family of four was deemed poor if its annual income fell below $20,615, and a family of three was deemed poor if annual income was below $16,079. In 2009, the thresholds were $21,954 for a family of four and $17,098 for a family of three. U.S. Census Bureau, Poverty Thresholds by Size of Family and Number of Children, at (June 23, 2011).

    [3]James Q. Wilson, The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), p. 1.

    [4]U.S. Department of Energy, Residential Energy Expenditure Survey, 2005, at (June 23, 2011).

    [5]According to the census, 14.3 percent of the population was poor in 2009, almost the same percentage as in 1966 when the War on Poverty was just starting.

    [6]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Community Planning and Development, The 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, at (June 29, 2011).

    [7]Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Jessica C. Smith, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States,” U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-238, September 2010, at (June 21, 2011).

    [8]These surveys include the Residential Energy Consumption Survey, What We Eat in America, Food Security, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the American Housing Survey, and the Survey of Income and Program Participation. See U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, at (June 22, 2011); U.S. Department of Agriculture, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2007–2008, at (June 22, 2011); U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Security, at (June 22, 2011); U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, at (June 27, 2011); U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, American Housing Survey, at (June 27, 2011); and U.S. Census Bureau, Survey of Income and Program Participation, 2001 Panel, Wave 8 Topical Module, 2003, at (June 27, 2011).

    [9]U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, 2005 RECS Public Use Microdata Files, at (June 22, 2011).

    [10]See U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 1980–2001, at (June 22, 2011).

    [11]In households that rent a dwelling, large fixed amenities such as air conditioning, refrigerators, washers, and dryers usually belong to the property owner rather than the renter. In this situation, the amenity will be available to but not owned by the renter.

    [12]Although the Department of Energy has produced some tables from the 2009 RECS survey, the microdata files used in this report were not available for 2009. See U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, RECS Survey Data Tables, 2009, at (June 22, 2011).

    [13]Statistics on the reliability of the estimates in Table 1 are presented in Appendix Table 1.

    [14]Statistics on the reliability of the estimates in Table 2 are presented in Appendix Table 2.

    [15]The amenity score varies slightly from the number of amenities in the home because a wide-screen television receives a score of two points: one as a television and one as a wide-screen unit.

    [16]Chart 1 shows that 21 different amenities are present in over 50 percent of U.S. households. By contrast, the median amenity score is only 19. The median amenity score is less than 21 because, while those 21 amenities are widely available in U.S. households, a single household at the middle of the distribution will not have all 21 amenities simultaneously in its home.

    [17]Other items that appeared frequently in poor households with children and with a median amenity score were a non-portable stereo system, a clothes dryer, and ceiling fans. These items frequently replaced the third television, computer, and coffee maker in poor households.

    [18]Pre-1980 data were taken from the American Housing Survey. Data for 1980 and later years were taken from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey. See earlier reports at U.S. Census Bureau, “American Housing Survey (AHS),” at (June 27, 2011).

    [19]U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, American Housing Survey, (June 22, 2011).

    [20]The current recession caused a slight increase in crowding among poor households. In 2009, 6.1 percent of poor households were overcrowded with more than one person per room. There was no increase in overcrowding in the general population in 2009. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Commerce, American Housing Survey for the United States: 2009, March 2011, p. 15, Table 2.3, at (June 22, 2011).

    [21]This comparison is to the average person in European countries, not to poor Europeans. Robert Rector, “How Poor Are America’s Poor? Examining the ‘Plague’ of Poverty in America,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2064, August 27, 2007, at

    [22] Ibid.

    [23] Ibid.

    [24] Ibid.

    [25] Ibid.

    [26]According to the USDA food security report, 18.5 percent of poor households experienced “very low food security” during 2009. The report defines “very low food security” as a condition in which “the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food.” Mark Nord, Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson, “Household Food Security in the United States, 2009,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service Report No. 108, November 2010, pp. i and 10, at (June 22, 2011).

    [27] Ibid., p. 12. Only 3.9 percent of poor children experienced “very low food security” during 2009. Ibid., p. i.

    [28]See CBS News, “Poverty Increasing in the U.S.,” YouTube, September 13, 2010, at (June 22, 2011).

    [29]The number of households that used food pantries at any point during the year increased by 1.7 million between 2007 and 2009. In 2007, 3.9 million (3.4 percent of all households) used food pantries at some point in the year. By 2009, the number had risen to 5.6 million (4.8 percent of all households). The number of families that used emergency kitchens at any time during the year increased from 535,000 in 2007 to 625,000 in 2009. Mark Nord, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson, “Household Food Security in the United States, 2007,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service Report No. 66, November 2008, p. 33, and Nord et al., “Household Food Security in the United States, 2009,” p. 34.

    [30]Nord et al., “Household Food Security in the United States, 2009,” p. 34. In contrast to the USDA numbers, Feeding America estimated that 10.3 million households used food pantries in 2009, but this estimate is not scientific and is not based on a representative sample of the U.S. population. The report uses complex and subjective estimation techniques, which include arbitrarily adjusting some results upward. Feeding America, Hunger in America 2010: National Report Prepared for Feeding America, January 2010, esp. p. 38.

    [31]For example, a 60 Minutes story equated child poverty with homelessness. CBS News, “Hard Times Generation,” 60 Minutes, at (June 22, 2011).

    [32]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Community Planning and Development, The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, June 2010, p. 8, at (June 22, 2011).

    [33]The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report estimates that 633,000 individuals were homeless on a given night in 2009. The Current Population Survey states that the U.S population in 2009 was 303.6 million. Thus, the single-night homeless were 0.2 percent of the population, or one in 500 persons. The Current Population Survey states that 43.6 million persons were poor in 2009, which means that the single-night homeless were 1.48 percent of the poor population, or one in every 68 poor persons. (This calculation assumes that all of the homeless would have an annual income below the poverty level.) Technically, persons who are homeless at the point of survey would not be included in the census count of persons or poor persons. To be precise, the homeless should be added to the denominator in both calculations, but this would affect the results only marginally.

    [34]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, p. 18.

    [35]The number of evictions has increased substantially during the current recession. Nonetheless, in the American Housing Survey of 2009, only 191,000 households (0.2 percent of all households) reported being evicted during the previous year. This figure does not include persons who at the time of the survey were in homeless shelters or were doubled up with relatives. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Commerce, American Housing Survey for the United States: 2009.

    [36]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, p. 26, Exhibit 3-2.

    [37]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

    [38]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, p. 43, Exhibit 4-12, and p. 68, Exhibit 5-6.

    [39]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, p. 10.

    [40]Rector, “How Poor Are America’s Poor?”

    [41]Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car, and 31 percent own two or more cars. See Rector, “How Poor Are America’s Poor?”

    [42]This survey question was asked of a nationally representative sample of 10,000 adults in June 2009. The poll was conducted by a national polling firm on behalf of The Heritage Foundation.

    [43]For average household income by quintile, see U.S. Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009,” September 2010, p. 40, at (June 22, 2011). For consumer expenditures per quintile, see U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey: Quintiles of Income Before Taxes, 2009, at (June 22, 2011).

    [44]John Edwards, letter to President George W. Bush, July 19, 2007, at (August 21, 2007; unavailable June 22, 2011).

    [45]John Edwards, “Conclusion: Ending Poverty in America,” in John Edwards, Marion Crain, and Arne L. Kalleberg, eds., Ending Poverty in America: How to Restore the American Dream (New York: The New Press, 2007), pp. 256 and 257.

    [46] Ibid., p. 256.

    [47]Mark Steyn, “The Tearjerker,” The Telegraph (London), July 11, 2004, at (June 22, 2011). See also John Edwards, speech at 2004 Democratic Convention, Boston, at (June 22, 2011).

    [48]John Tierney, “Nader Searches for His Roots” The New York Times, February 15, 2004, at (June 22, 2011).

    [49]Children’s Defense Fund, “CDF Calls 12.8 Million Children in Poverty in American Inexcusable,” August 29, 2007, at (June 22, 2011).

    [50]Catholic Charities USA, “Campaign to Reduce Poverty,” YouTube, November 10, 2008, at (June 22, 2011).

    [51]CBS, “The Talk—Marian Wright Edelman on Children Poverty in America,” YouTube, March 21, 2011, at (June 22, 2011).

    [52]Jonathon Bloom, “Waste Not, Want Not: Hunger and Food Waste in America,” Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, May 9, 2011, at 22, 2011).

    [53]Ronald J. Sider, Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2007).

    [54] Ibid., p. 31.

    [55] Ibid., pp. 32. Ironically, Mrs. Skyles’s circumstances were due, at least in part, to the fact that she had paid a nonprofit group to repair her house, but the work was never performed.

    [56] Ibid., p. 36.

    [57]On the other hand, many of the anti-poverty policies advocated by Ron Sider are quite reasonable.

    [58]Estimate based on data from U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, American Housing Survey.

    [59]CBS News, “Poverty at 11-Year High—and Still Rising” September 10, 2009, at (June 22, 2011).

    [60]NBC News, “Poverty in America,” September 15, 2010, at (June 22, 2011).

    [61]Lyneka Little, “On the Brink,” ABC News, September 21, 2010, at (June 22, 2011).

    [62]ABC News, “Children of the Mountains’ Simple Dreams,” February 13, 2009, at (June 22, 2011). This news piece is actually quite informative. It makes no suggestion that it is portraying a widespread national condition, and it clearly identifies the behavioral and cultural roots of the poverty that it is presenting.

    [63]CBS News, “The Other America,” YouTube, October 1, 2008, at (June 22, 2011).

    [64]Al Jazeera English, “We the People—Poverty: No Way Out,” YouTube, October 20, 2008, at (June 22, 2011).

    [65]Al Jazeera, “US Poverty Rate ‘Hits 15-Year High,’” Al Jazeera English, September 16, 2010, at (June 22, 2011).

    [66]Al Jazeera English, “Poverty USA—Healthcare,” YouTube, November 15, 2007, at (June 22, 2011).

    [67]Press TV, “Poverty Spikes to Record Highs in U.S.,” Tehran Times, May 8, 2011, at (June 22, 2011).

    [68]People’s Republic of China, State Council Information Office, “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010,” Xinhua News Agency, April 10, 2011, at (June 22, 2011).

    [69] Ibid. The Chinese reference to 50 million persons in hunger is taken from the USDA’s annual food security report. Nord et al., “Household Food Security in the United States, 2009.” Those who read this report will find that it explicitly does not measure hunger. Moreover, the report asserts that most of the 50 million persons referred to do not experience food shortages. Regrettably, like the Census poverty report, the press consistently misreports the annual USDA food security study abroad and in the U.S. as showing there is widespread hunger in the U.S.

    [70]Russia Today America, “The Poor and Impoverished Turn to the Forest,” YouTube, September 16, 2010, at (June 22, 2011).

    [71]Russia Today, “From Bad to Worse? US Face of Poverty,” YouTube, September 17, 2010, at (June 22, 2011).

    [72]Alyona Minkovski, “1 in 7 Americans Poor: How Did This Happen?” The Alyona Show, Russia Today America, September 13, 2010, at (June 22, 2011).

    [73]Catholic Charities USA, “Poverty in America: A Threat to the Common Good,” 2006, p. 1, at (June 22, 2011).

    [74]Catholic Charities USA, “Campaign to Reduce Poverty.”

    About the Author

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