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Increase your pay while taking the commuter rail

Posted by Jamie Downey  October 6, 2009 10:53 AM

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Last week I had to take the commuter rail to Boston. I have a love hate relationship with taking the train. I despise that it is perpetually late. While tardiness is definitely a problem, I can over come this with its ease of getting me into the city and the fact that I use the train time to be productive and prepare for my day.

As I was on the train last week a very well dressed young lady sat down next to me. She pulled out her Blackberry and I assumed was going to send an email or two. To my surprise she started playing a video game on her phone and she played it for the entire train ride. The game was a 21st century version of Pong. (It is good to know the creative forces in the gaming industry are not much more creative than those in Hollywood.) We all need our escapes, but this kind of activity just boggles my mind. Here was a half hour (or maybe one hour on MBTA time) of free time to prepare for her workday, hone her skills or other mental improvement activities, and it was spent playing Pong. The easiest way to become wealthy is to make more money. To make more money in a knowledge society, we need to have sharper mental skills. A train ride is the perfect time to invest in our mind for a half hour. Here are a few ways I think one can use the train productively, exercise one’s mind, and in the long run, increase your pay:

Reading – I don’t mean trashy novels. Spend time reading as many books as you can on your industry, your trade, industry journals etc. Within a few years you can cover a lot of literature and be exposed to many new ideas. You will certainly be an industry expert and will be head and shoulders above your peers. Thus, at promotion time your name will be called. I recommend buying your books, highlighting them, writing notes in them and keeping them as reference material. We spend insane amounts of money on dubious college education, and people are unwilling to shell out as little $20 for a book that can pay significantly better returns than a university diploma.

Creative thinking – I am willing to bet at least 99 percent of society spends no time during their day in creative thought. Creative thinking is not a natural ability, but is practice and hard work like other skills. Spend time thinking of ways to increase your productivity, increase sales, help your boss and solve other office problems will make you indispensable compared to your peers. Jot your ideas down on paper. For example, think of 20 ways to increase your productivity. Many of these ideas might not be very good, but one or two will be worth implementing. The more time spent on creative thinking, the better you will get.

Writing – Colleges and universities require their professors to complete research and publish articles every year. The reason is this forces professors to master their subject matter. Since most of us are knowledge workers, we can follow their lead and research and write articles on our craft.

Spiritual thought and devotion – Time devoted to God does not have to solely occur in the church / temple / mosque or at bedside in prayer. The Infinite Provider is always near and this half hour of time is ideal for devotion. A few years ago, I was taking the commuter rail every day into Boston. In about eight months I read the entire Bible with my half hour of morning commute. It was a learning experience and was certainly more productive than playing Pong.

To paraphrase Jim Rohn, “the purpose of life is to act, not to relax”. The worst part is that Pong is not even a good form of relaxation.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Local finance professionals share insights and advice on issues such as budgeting, managing debt, and retirement planning.

About the contributors

D. Abraham Ringer is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner and a Financial Adviser with Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management in Boston. He is registered in MA, NH, NY and several other states to which his articles are directed. For more information please visit
Financial Planning Association™ of Massachusetts has 900 members who specialize in the financial planning process. Many of its members engage in philanthropic pro bono work in their communities, recommend legislation, elevate public awareness, promote financial literacy, and advocate for sound economic and tax policies.
Odysseas Papadimitriou is the founder of, a credit card and gift card marketplace, and, a personal finance site. He has more than 13 years of experience in the personal finance industry, and previously served as senior director at Capital One.

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