Friday, December 21, 2007

Another Business Owner

So after what seemed like a drought of ability to find business owners, I've met yet another one. This guy is a friend of a coworker of mines and he owns and runs his own landscaping business. Again, while this isn't necessarily a business that I want to get into, it was nice to talk about the different things he does and how his business has evolved over time.

Apparently he employs some guys from Mexico who come over on 10 month VISAs and then they are away during the winter months when business is slow. This has allowed him to pick and choose the different stuff he wants to do when it comes to the actual work on someone's yard and frees him up to do more common business accounting and marketing tasks.

It's been very motivating to talk to a couple of people who own and run their own business. While my previous attempts have been unsuccessful (mainly because I keep giving up), it restores some optimism about building a business and a steady flow of income when you see how other people have been successful. The thing I seem to be lacking that these others have is the motivation that pushes you to keep going when things get tough. If these guys fail (at least two out of three), they don't eat or can't pay their bills. So they have to keep going, they can't pick and choose or switch to something else.

On a side note, today is the first day I really take a step in implementing the Little Book that Beats the Market's approach to value investing. I sold off two of my stocks a couple of days ago before the year mark since they had lost money. Today I sold off my winners that are now long term gains, and I purchased four stocks to replace them. I also took a gamble at some GE stock since they are favored well in the upcoming energy crisis and need to switch over to alternative power sources.

After a couple of weeks you get a good idea about how the stocks performance will range for the year, so I'm hoping that the picks I made from the screened list will be good ones. I tried to base it off of my knowledge of the state of different industries as well as how much upside potential a company has. So we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Business Owners

In the past couple of days I've run into a few business owners. What's ironic about this, is that just a few days before this I was complaining to someone that it's hard to find these elusive individuals. Apparently, I was wrong.

The first one I met at Toastmasters. The guy runs a heat pump/air conditioning repair company. While not the kind of business I would probably be good at, just talking to him about how he started his business and how it has evolved was inspiring and educating. Apparently, years back, he was out of work and running out of money with a wife and three kids to feed. So he had to do something and he had to do it fast. He told me that he didn't like fixing heat pumps for apartments and preferred individual residential houses, but when he started out he needed an income fast, so he did whatever work he could find. He always gives his clients a 10% discount of the cost of any work he does, and has built up a client el from word of mouth and the basic advertising he does on the truck he drives. While I didn't ask how much money he makes each year, he said that he has enough business now that he only does private homes and not apartment buildings anymore.

I guess the lesson to learn is that you just need to keep plugging away, working on doing a good job and building a reputation. With a good enough reputation, the word of mouth advertising, which is increasingly becoming the only form people trust, will grow your business. Also, you shouldn't be worried about competition, since by doing a good job and making a name for yourself, there will be enough people willing to pay for quality work to keep you happy.

The second one turned out to be a coworker of mine. Apparently he created a small software client, a web service that it sends messages to, and a website where people can sign up for the software and service. It all seems simply now that he has it in place, and there are lots of ways for him to expand his services. The wider benefit from it, other than the added income, is that putting in the time and effort to make the business has taught him new skills and kept him sharp in different areas. I'm not sure how much money it pulls in, but an automated, subscription based service seems like a perpetual money making machine after the upfront cost and effort.

I guess the lesson to learn is to keep practicing to keep your skills up, but find a way to do it that benefits you outside of just your job. With a little bit of foresight and the willingness to put the time and effort into learning new things and making something that could be useful, not only do you gain confidence but you can gain comfort as well.

I'm glad to meet more and more entrepreneurs because it challenges me to keep going. Also, they are very open and encouraging, willing to offer up advice about what they did or what to avoid doing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Toastmaster's Club

I attended my first Toastmaster's Club meeting yesterday. I had been on the fence of whether to go or not, and I even blew it off two weeks ago, but this week I decided to go. It's not too far from where I work, so I opted to just stay late and then head on over.

The club is built like almost all the clubs I've ever been to before. You basically have some people who have been there for a long time who are the club leaders, then you have tiers below that. Each person is assigned a mentor to help guide them to becoming better and better. If you join, you get a packet with information about the elements that make up a good speech, how to frame your speech, how to incorporate your body movements and make eye contact with the audience. Also, there are apparently different packet levels and types for specific skills or development paths.

The meeting itself is run by a member who is deemed the meeting leader for that session. They are in charge of keeping the meeting moving, introducing speakers, and doing all the transition work between the coordinated events. Also, they develop the schedule and coordinate who will speak. There are three main sections, the planned speeches, the table topics (improvisational speeches) and then evaluations. In between there is some club news and then it concludes with an evaluation of the meeting itself. As a person goes up to speek, they shake hands with the person already there in an effort to make sure that the focal point is never left empty.

For the planned speeches, there is a timer, an ah/uh counter and the vote collector. Each person there will rate the speaker compared to the other ones in that group and a winner is determined at the end of the meeting. The speeches are given by people at different levels who are primarily focused on specific parts of a presentation. The goal is to talk from 5-7 minutes, there is a stop light device that goes on when you hit the 5, 6 and 7 minute marks.

Anyone can volunteer for the Table Topics portion. The goal is to talk from 1-2 minutes, with the lights going on at the 1, 1.5 and 2 minute marks. Since I wanted to give it a shot, I volunteered for the first topic. I improvised on the spot and talked for a minute and sixteen seconds about the topic of what is something you do every year at this time that you can only do during the winter.

The final big section, evaluations, are focused on the planned speeches. The evaluators are actually giving speeches about the speeches they evaluated and what was good and bad about them. After they finish, the group votes on who was the best evaluator as well. I don't think there is a time limit for the evaluations. The idea of the evaluation is to talk about what the person did well and then a few areas that they could improve, but the group is mainly focused on positive support and encouragement, esp since it is entirely volunteer based. Each individual can write up a little evaluation of the people who spoke during the meeting and give it to them afterward.

In the end, they give out the ribbons for best planned speech, table topic and evaluator. I got the ribbon for best Table Topics for my speech, so that was encouraging.

Overall it seems like a great way to get some practice speaking in public. There is a quote that goes something like, "I'd rather die than speak in public", so clearly there is a lot of trepidation about it. Toastmasters seems like a great place, with a lot of good structure and foundation to move past any fears as well as learn a new skill that can be useful in your career. Worst case you become more comfortable organizing your thoughts and discussing a topic and you gain confidence from knowing you can do something that others may shy away from.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Enchanted (Review)

There was one critical thing I forgot after reading reviews and deciding to see this movie. It's a Disney movie. That of course means that there are going to be certain characteristics and predictable patterns as mandated by the brand. Mainly, there is going to be some predictable happily ever after ending that is usually slightly askew from the conclusion you are setup to expect at the beginning. This movie did not fail to disappoint in that respect.

The big draw for me to see this movie was that it took the normal fairy tale and slapped it into the real world. You have a girl in a big princess dress wandering around New York and her prince trying to find her, stabbing buses and singing in the middle of a park. The problem though, is that they kept the fairy tale events in the real world. At one point, the princess sings in the park and some perfectly choreographed dance breaks out and goes on for something like 10 minutes. These kind of things just don't happen, I don't care if you're some magical princess, you're not going to have influence over everyone in this manner. People who never sing or dance aren't going to break out into perfect rhythm and synchronous movements on a spur.

Another thing that just didn't make sense was that the princess would sew together a new dress for herself every day out of the drapes or the carpet or whatever was lying around. While somewhat amusing, where did she get all the equipment she would need to do this in the allotted 5 minutes it seems to take her? Also, at one point she and a few animal friends clean up this guy's apartment, aiding by a helpful working song. But the lyrics of the song include common household devices, like a toilet or a toaster, that the princess should have no knowledge of, since they don't exist in the fairytale world.

Alright, if I let all of that go, overall the movie was pretty entertaining and held my interest. At some points I actually laughed out loud in the theater. There was just something about the situations and the wordings chosen that were weaved together brilliantly. While the Disney brand mainly appeals to kids, they do have a lot of talent putting these films together.

If you have kids (esp a little girl), or you're looking for something to see on a date, you won't be disappointed. Just go in knowing what to expect.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Slack Effect ( Mass Effect Review )

So I beat Mass Effect on Wednesday. And then I beat it again on Thursday. There are two ending choices in the last 5 minutes of the game, so I figured I'd try them both out.

I imagine that's one of the main reasons I've been slacking recently. It's a very entertaining and engrossing game, so it seems to suck in your attention and hold it until you've completed it. I figure, since I spent so much time playing it, I might as well write out a review of my opinion of it.

I started out very slow. I think after Halo 3 and some other first person shooter games, the direction each stick moves you in seemed awkward or wrong from what I was familiar with. Once I got through that and started to be familiar with what each button does in each situation, things got a lot better and my progress really picked up.

Even before any of that though, is the fun of the character creation menu. There are some restraints, like hair type, so you can't necessarily get a perfect representation of you. Also, when you are trying to determine if you have the cheek bones correct you have to move the view from side to side so that you can see how you look from those in between angles, and that can be somewhat of a hassle. Another problem is that if you go by just the head alone, nothing is going to seem correct. You have to either upscale or downscale the ratio of the size of your features to match the body below, or everything will just look off. In the end, I actually ended up making the character look more like a likeness of my brother instead of me. Turns out that was a good move because I don't think it would have been good to watch myself (or a very close look alike) do some of the things I did in the game. Which takes me to the fun part.

The game gives you an enormous amount of choice options. I had decided to be evil on my first play through. There is a difference between evil and jerk though. Jerk usually just means not doing a side quest or just giving some curt answer that makes you sound like a rogue. The only real evil choices are when you use intimidation to get what you want versus the standard option or the charm option. That was a little disappointing.

The only other evil situations are when you choose to kill someone instead of letting them go. The first time I did this was by accident. I thought I was going to tell the guy that he had to stick around and help me. What the option, "I can't let you go" really meant was that the guy would be on the floor in a bloody heap in about 3 seconds. In the long run it was no big loss.

The variety of choices leaves you thinking that you missed something every so often, esp in high pressure situations where you are just taking your best guess. While I didn't do each of these situations more than once, there are enough non-high pressure situations where you can repeat the dialog that it makes me think that either choice will pretty much end at the same or very similar conclusions. So just have fun with it and don't worry about your selections too much.

The game offers the whole galaxy to explore. Usually this boils down to going to a star cluster and then selecting one of the available solar systems. Then you survey the available planets, check for lose asteroids and survey them and then land on the one planet available to land on and explore it. The exploration is done in a warthog like machine, also similar to an all terrain tank, called a Mako in the game. The Mako gets old after a while, esp when you're going up mountain after mountain to survey some mineral just like you did on the previous planet. I discovered way too late how valuable the map was in these planet exploration pieces, so don't make the same mistake. It would have been much more helpful if they had added rockets to the back of the Mako to make it move faster, rather than the rockets that propel it off the ground. Regardless, it gets the job done and there aren't so many situations that it just gets tedious to do these parts. Each time you're doing a side quest, the purpose of the mission is at least entertaining enough to make it worthwhile.

The powers and equipment for the game took a little while to get the hang of, but worked well enough. Some of the powers I found to be pretty useless since usually the fighting segments broke down into a similar pattern. I usually used the barrier power and then went at the bad guys guns blazing, using the shield boost when I took too much damage, marksman to prevent my gun from overheating and adrenaline boost to make sure I could repeat the cycle if I needed to. That was pretty much all I ever needed with some med gel used in emergency situations. The warp and throw powers were pretty annoying to deal with when the enemy uses them on you, but I didn't care enough to make them useful for me. I did enjoy that there was no magic meter or limit on how many times you use your powers. There is a cool down period you have to wait out, but again, the adrenaline boost power usually takes care of that.

The final thing to note was the "romantic interest" side quest. I was going to pursue the blue girl (asari) at first, but once she said that there idea of reproduction was some kind of mind meld thing, I was turned off. In the end I just went after the human girl. She wasn't very exciting and seems to be a bigot in this new alien populated universe, but I was patient and fed here what she wanted to hear. I feel like I should have gotten evil points for saying some of the crap I did since it was so obviously just to get her to sleep with me. In the end, my charming wit won out. The game gives you more of a reward than I was expecting, but this is obviously just a game, so don't expect too much.

Overall, it was a great game and definitely worth playing. I'll probably give it a rest and watch some siblings play through it, but there are enough options for you to want to play through it multiple times. Like any video game, there are some tedious parts that seems to repeat over and over, but they usually only deal with side quests, so you're free to skip them or stop them when you grow tired of it. Definitely worth at least a rental, if not a buy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


So I'm gonna be honest. I've been really slacking with my business ever since I read that article talking about how all these people are doing it better then me. I probably would still be more enthusiastic about it now, but I haven't had any luck reaching my latest investor. The prospect of paying $20 a week in parking and trying to get up to a farther away county every Friday just to get 5-10 leads isn't very inviting either. At this point I think I just need to regroup and find a better approach.

The best idea for now would probably be to attend some REI meetings, not as a "Jobber" trying to find investors to work with, but just as someone who wants to learn more about the industry. I think just taking some time to do market research and learn about the purchasing process while I look for my own house would be extremely helpful. Not only would it save me money but after going through it, I'll have experience to look back on and compare with, rather than just playing with the ideas I've read in various books.

Also, I might be able to just volunteer to work with an investor on the weekends who is already doing these deals. That way I see what they do and get some advice, since usually having a mentor to learn from is a great shortcut and extremely valuable. I've noticed that at my day job, whenever I work with a more experienced member of the staff I pick up different tips and tricks that save me time in the future. Plus, by working with an investor, I can get a better idea of the information they want and where they would go to get it.

So for now I'll keep working on trying to find a car, building up my stock portfolio and putting money into my house fund. While I do that, I can start attending REI meetings and see how things go from there. Also, I'm planning on going to a Toastmaster's club meeting this Monday, so we'll see how that goes as well.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Update of Financial Plans

So I've finally reached the point where I've "primed the pipe" when it comes to my stock portfolio.

If you've read what I've written previously, you know that I'm following the advice of The Little Book that Beats the Market in how I screen my stocks and when I buy and sell. Basically, it screens on two filters, the overall price/earnings ratio of the stock and the ROA the company gets. Each month I've been buying a couple of stocks off of the report it creates and now a full year has gone by. This is significant because owning a stock for 1 year qualifies it as a long term investment so I will have to pay the lower long term capital gains rate on the profits instead of short term capital gains.

One thing I did not do correctly based off of the books suggestions, is that I bought stocks every month this year. Instead I should have determined the total amount I wanted to invest and then put a percentage of it in every couple of months for 3 years. Since the formula is suppose to average a >=20% ROI each year over the course of a three year period, unless I continue to add to my portfolio for the next two years, I will be very heavily front loaded. If this was the market highpoint of the three years, I will have bought less for more.

Regardless, I am excited to have finished building my portfolio base. While I will most likely continue to add to my portfolio, having set this future fund up, it gives me more security. I'm planning on doing some rebalancing of where I move my money, esp since I am planning some large purchases for the next year ( a car and a house). I will most likely stop funding my separate Roth IRA and move to my company's Roth 401k program.

Another reason I'm very encouraged by this, is that now that I have a security base, I can move into a little more concentrated and riskier investment. After consulting various sources for information over the last year and a half, I've determined one source that seems to have excellent stock filters and a very broad market view. I think I'm going to build up a risky investment fund and direct the resources towards their recommendations to test what kind of results they can produce. So that will be a side project for the year to come.

Also, I've been reading Having it All. The descriptions it has about how the mind and body work have been very interesting. Some of the ideas about each person's personal beliefs shaping their reality corresponds to what is discussed in The Greatest Salesman in the World and Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It seems the part of the book I'm at now is moving in the same direction as The Pathfinder right where I am on hold. They start discussing how to figure out what your dream life would be like and how to move towards it through goal setting, positive affirmations, and directing your subconscious through positive speak and such. While this is all good stuff, I've actually come to peace with where I am for the time being. While I plan on changing things in the next year, I have established the goals I want to reach and for now I'm trying to live in the present and enjoy the situation instead of ratcheting up more and more expectations on myself. So while the advice will be helpful in the future, I'm putting it on hold until I really want to focus on it.

Things have also picked up at work. I've moved away from doing testing and bug fixing (finally) and am back to doing some development work. This is actually the main part of the job that I enjoy, so I'm trying to learn from the people I'm working with and develop a real skill that I can rely on in the future. That way, no matter how things turn out I'll have the safety net of knowing I have a desirable skill that people will be willing to hire me for.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Courthouse Update

So I pulled myself out of bed early today and headed to the distant county to pick up some leads. I found a closer parking garage, but it turned out to be for a hospital next door, so the price ended up being higher than the $12 normal. I did manage to snag about 10 leads or so for the zip code my investor wanted me to look in. The housing may be below his normal price range, so we'll see how he responds. The other issue is that I couldn't find the court dates, only the dates the information was filed, so I don't know how happy he'll be about that.

I've been really frustrated recently. I feel like I've put a lot of time and effort into learning about business, stocks, real estate and various other fields. But then when I actually try to put my knowledge into practice I get nowhere. I can't tell if I'm just young and ignorant, if I'm not trying hard enough, if I'm working in the wrong direction or whatever else could be the problem.

I'd like to find a mentor of some kind to steer me in the right direction. I don't know anyone who is successful in all of those fields though, so it seems the only compass point I have is the information I read. The problem though, is that most of the stuff seems theoretical or introductory, so it doesn't help me to determine what I'm doing wrong in my specific situation, only more of an overall outlook or philosophy. I guess that's where the lack of experience comes in, I make mistakes because I don't know and haven't done things before, so I have no way of telling if what I'm doing is correct or not.

After reading Made to Stick, I feel like I run into a lot of situations where I want to get information or learn from someone, but the "curse of knowledge" stands in the way. They know what they're talking about but can't articulate it to me in ways that I can understand. So it seems all I can keep doing is plugging along.

The other thing I've been thinking about is at what point do I reach that big goal. It's like people say about making the first million is the hardest and once you've reached that point it's all downhill. I don't know if it's still the first million now or not, but if I just go by salary it's going to be a long way off before I reach that point. I'm hoping that all my efforts to move my money into less taxable but still profit making vehicles will start to pay large dividends in the future.

I guess I just put too many expectations on myself. A lot of people my age have much less than I do and very little goals or direction. I've only been working for almost two years and I basically started with zero. Most people my age probably have student loans and car payments that eat away at their earning potential, so I should be gratefully that I'm already in the position I'm in, instead of impatient at not being farther.

Regardless, I hope everyone has a good weekend as we slide into the final month of 2007.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Busy Busy

I haven't been posting much because things are shifting and picking up at work. Also, I'm trying to add some activities so I get more done, develop new skills and start working towards the future I want. Plus, I'd like to have more actual experience to write about because I feel it brings more value.

Currently, the biggest thing going on is that I'm coaching a basketball team. It's an all boy 5-6th grader team. It's a little unstructured but I enjoy coaching and seeing the changes in the players throughout the season. Our first game is coming up next Friday so I'm hoping that what we've done in the practices will make an impact on their play.

I started reading Having it All since I couldn't find anything at the bookstore and I happened upon it after reading a review of it on GeniusTypes (link). I'm not too far in yet, but I've seen a lot of the "big perspectives" promoted so far in other books. The most noticeable was the goal visualization, which is practically word for word from The Science of Getting Rich. The idea of the formless intelligence is also pretty much word for word. So we'll see if he comes up with anything original. Worst case scenario, he seems to include enough stores of his life that I might be able to learn from or get some better perspective.

On Monday I'm going to try and go to a meeting of the local Toastmaster's club. I don't really have a problem with public speaking, but I figure getting some practice might lead to more opportunities to use my skills, and being able to discuss your ideas in a large crowd is always a positive. The larger the crowd you can speak to, the more you are worth in the speaking world.

Before I picked up Having it All, I finished reading Made to Stick. I highly recommend this book. It helps to illustrate what really matters to another person when you are trying to get a message across. The idea they talk about that I really loved was "The Curse of Knowledge", essentially the idea that once you know something it's hard to imagine not knowing it, which makes it hard to teach someone else. The way they described it as moving from small, concrete examples to more abstract concepts, felt dead on to me.

I'm going to try to make a courthouse run tomorrow. Hopefully there will be some new listings in the right zip code and I'll have something to send out to my client. I want to get some feedback from him because that would help me get an idea of where I stand and if the information I'm obtaining and providing is valuable. So we'll see how that goes tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Black Friday Sales Attempt

I enjoyed this experience, so I figured I'd share it.

On Thanksgiving I came up with what I thought would be a brilliant idea. I had a bunch of energy drinks left over from my time spent in Quixtar, and I figured if there was ever going to be a time to sell them, it would be Black Friday. And the target, captive audience would be the holiday shoppers who are lined up waiting for stores to open. If anyone needs an energy drink, it's people getting up early to spend a day out shopping.

I got together some preparations on Thursday night, a bag of quarters to make change and all the boxes of drinks that I had. I convinced my brother to help me for a cut of the profits. Then I set my alarm for 4:15 and went to sleep.

When the alarm went off, I distinctly remember thinking that I had two choices. I could either just forget about this idea and go back to sleep, or force myself out of the warm bed and into the cold, dark night. After about five minutes of debate, I managed to convince myself that I'd have to wait a full year to get this opportunity again, and that it would be worth getting up. So I got myself up and dressed and then woke up my brother and we ducked out of the house.

On the way to the local Best Buy we saw lots of people forming lines at various other stores, so we figured we'd have a good shot. Cruising for a parking space, we saw that the line went all the way down the block and started around the end of the last building. A good sign for success. I had set the price at three dollars, since the cost was about two without including shipping.

The first few attempts started poorly. My brother led in with an unenthusiastic "Do you want this?" sales pitch. This of course led to solid rejections. We discussed the approach some and he started to adapt. I had thought of the phrase "shopping fuel" as a gimmick approach to getting people interested, but it didn't seem to create any stir. He started reading the label on the cans some, talking about the 0 sugar, 0 fat and only 8 calories. This peeked some curiosity, but still no one wanted to buy.

After facing rejection across the whole side of a building, we were pretty discouraged. So at this point we decided to just give it away instead of trying to charge for it. The sad thing was that, even without charging anything, people didn't want it.

After a few attempts, my brother kept pushing past the first few nos, and a girl in line was willing to give it a try. After a few sips, she admitted that it was pretty good, although sweet tasting. Then she asked if we had poisoned it. We didn't, and never had any intention to, but I thought it was funny that she asked after the point where she would probably have been dead if we had.

Once people started to see someone take it and drink it, they jumped on board. That first group took a box together, and with that our confidence in getting rid of the stuff started to grow. My brother had more success after that, he ignored the first few nos and kept pressing forward with the information he had read off the can. Eventually people were coming from different parts of the line to grab one, and we had almost gotten rid of all of the supply. When we were down to the last one, my brother picked out a guy in line and talked him into taking it, not taking no for an answer.

So while we didn't sell anything, we did learn a lot from the experience. First of all, people will pretty much say no to anything at first, so you have to keep going though their objections. Second, the people at the front of the line would have probably been the most receptive since they had been in out the longest and were probably the most dedicated. Third, you have to give the people something to identify with. If we had said something like, the kick of a red bull with the sweet taste of root beer - and it's good for you, people would have identified with it better and even been curious for more information. Fourth, if you don't have any confidence going in, people are going to react to your body language and reject whatever you're selling.

So in the future we'll now have this experience to draw from. It was worth the initial down payment as well as the struggle to convince myself to get out of bed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I was going to write an angry post about how some of this conventional financial wisdom on different sites is extremely lacking, but I decided against it. I guess it applies to some people, but I think the idea of having to lie to yourself in order to not spend all your money and go into debt is ridiculous.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a good holiday, and for everyone outside the US, I hope you have a good Thursday.

I'm going to spend the time off doing some reflecting about where I am in various areas of my life (my job, my living situation, my business, my current financial approach) and where I want to be. Then I'm going to brainstorm about how to get the different areas where I want them to be. I've been in a holding pattern with some things for about a year or so, but I will have reached a lot of goals starting 12/1, and therefore it'll be a good time to implement changes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Out Done

So I happened to stumble upon this today in my Reader queue:

Foreclose Market Picking Up

It seems people have caught on quick. While I'm not concerned with her class, I am concerned about her website. It seems to cover all of the US market down to each state's individual counties. When I check against my list from the courthouse, it doesn't seem to match up exactly. Upon further review, her list is extremely accurate, but I'm not sure why it does not seem to be as inclusive. The only thing I can think of is that she is filtering her list better than I am and only putting up ones that are definitely going to court. Regardless, this is trouble.

While there is always some market for the small guy that's local, this website seems to have seen the lack of information in the market place and dived right in to fill the hole. I'm extremely impressed and not really sure where to go from here. I do have an investor lined up at this point, so I can start working specifically on leads he will want starting Friday, but I'm not sure how this will effect future growth.

Along with this development, my stocks are now in the red as of today. In mid August, when there was a market correction, my stocks plummeted to the lows I'm seeing now and they temporarily bounced back afterwards. I'm not confident I'll see that happen again in the near term. While I'm going to stick with the value approach and continue to follow the instructions, it still leaves me a little disheartened.

I'm not sure if any failures get to me and I remember them more than successes, or if it's just that I haven't had many successes. Right now is definitely a low point one way or the other.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Knock Out

I lined up another investor to work with today. He was one of the numbers I found earlier in the week. It seems his company is pretty substantial because they can handle deals up to 3.5 million dollars and are even licensed mortgage brokers as well. They only work in one zip code primarily, but at this point anything is better than nothing. I'll have to keep calling a few more numbers and see if I can get more investors on board so that the other leads don't end up going to waste. It's good to have something to focus on and potential to generate some income again.

The courthouse trip this morning only produced six leads, but that's all in other zip codes anyway. Next week I'll have to make the trip up to county number two again, and then see how much information I can put together to ship out to them. I imagine the first set of leads is the most important because it starts to establish the flow of how the relationship is going to go. You don't want to put in a poor performance and then lose potential business.

I'm also planning on going back to the car dealership tonight. I called the guy up and the car is still there. I asked him about the selling price and he gave me some line about how "their computers are down" and he can't check it, but to check the website. I think he's just stalling giving me some hard numbers before I'm actually on site. This is probably going to be a hard buy to get the price I want. My plan is to start at a low offer of 5K and then make a big concession up to 5.3K. After that I'm going to be as rigid as I can and only let him work me up to 5.5K. I want that to be the off the lot price, none of this before all the extra fees stuff. If he gives me a hard time about it I'm just going to walk away and forget about him. It's been a week and a half since I test drove the car and I doubt anyone else has come to look at it, so they might be itching to unload it. This is what these guys do though, so I'm gonna have to be firm and not be afraid to walk away.

Things are getting back on track now, just gotta keep this good momentum up.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bogged Down

So things have picked up at work as of late. My manager dropped by a few days back and almost apologized for not having anything for me to do for so long. Now it seems she is trying to make up for it by dumping everything she can on me for the upcoming release. I've plowed through a couple of the issues so far, but I still have a lot of stuff to do that I'm not sure how to do. Usually the hardest part is figuring out what exactly they want me to do and where it actually takes place in the code. The actual writing of the code to fix the problem and doing some preliminary testing goes quick.

On the business front very little progress has been made. I found a couple of potential investor numbers in the paper a few days back but haven't had the chance to call them yet. They may or may not pan out, but it's good to have any kind of hope that tomorrow's leads could actually be used towards something instead of just going to waste like the last few weeks.

I'm coming to the end of my car hunt. I've pretty much determined that I'm going to get a Chevy Malibu and probably get this '02 model that I test drove. The '08 has a new design and I think the '04 introduced a design that's different as well, but I feel like the '02 model actual looks and feels the best of the three. The newer designs feel cheap and rigid, while the older design is a little rounder and better proportioned. Plus the older model has pretty low mileage and seems to be a steal for the price it's being offered at.

The stock market has been very choppy recently. The US economy seems to be slowing down with company growth into foreign markets propping it up some. I think everything is just going to have to take the dip and then slowly start to rebound as we start to rebalance. Sadly, that means my stocks will take a big hit for a while, but I'm looking long term anyway so things should pan out. Once I purchase a car, my next objective will be a house anyway, so I'll focus on that and try and jump on some purchases when I see large dips in the market.

I've been working on essays for grad school applications as well. There are only three of them and they are two pages, one page and one page. It's difficult to write towards an unknown audience, so I'm just trying to focus on points that make me look like a better candidate for admission. Sometimes it amazes me how, with the right wording, the stuff I've done since I graduated can actually seem worthwhile and productive. I guess when you're cramming two years worth of information into two or one page it shouldn't be hard to make it look good.

Well, tomorrow kicks off with another courthouse visit and then I'll go from there.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Long Weekend

So the long weekend has come to an end. I knocked off a number of things on my "To Do" list including participating in the Buy One get One program for One Laptop Per Child. Also, I was able to test drive a few cars and focus in on what exactly I'm looking for in the one I end up buying. To top it off, the updated x-rays from the chiropractor looked good so I only need to go in every two weeks for maintenance. So, just like that a lot of my weekly routine is suddenly gone.

Disappointingly, I did not manage to get to the Real Estate Investor meeting I wanted to attend yesterday. I ended up with some schedule conflicts and difficulty finding the location the event was held. Next time I'm going to have to bring my A game and make sure to get everything inline before the date, potentially even making a dry run to the location.

I recently started reading Made to Stick, which is starting to feel like the next Never Eat Alone. It contains some solid advice about clarifying your message and saying something with meaning. I'm still early on in the book, but I like everything I've read so far. It seems to build off of part of The Tipping Point, where the idea of stickiness is introduced as part of process of viral marketing. I still have a few other books in my queue like The Art of the Start and True Professionalism, but currently they are checked out at my local library so they are pending.

The stock market has been choppy at best recently. I've taken huge hits the last three market days with a small rebound today. This market dip is actually a good thing, since a lot of stocks are dropping to under priced values. I wish I had planned to have more money outside of the market right now to move in, but since I'm still building a base I haven't reached that point yet. If I do come up with some extra funds, I'll probably jump in near the end of November when another big dip should hit, and then hang on as some resurgence comes from December sales.

I'm going to go through some local newspapers again today in an attempt to find new investors. I'm staying away from the major local paper since that seems to have little returns. Hopefully I'll have some prospects to send this weeks leads out to.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Weekend Plans

Another trip to the courthouse today. Rounded up 10 leads for my basic location. That's about average, and from what I've read the foreclosure rate is only going to continue to go up. The greater problem of nothing actually being done with the leads still exists, but hopefully I will make some new contacts on Monday that I can funnel the leads out to.

I've been rereading The E-Myth Revisited, and I hope that once I get a steady amount of investors who are producing sales, then I can really put a system around my business. The training that I read for how to be a Jobber was essentially all the system I need, but I hope to automate the process more and eventually move myself to more of a supervisor role. Eventually I should be able to get jobbers underneath me to go to the courthouse or be doing driving trips to find leads. Also, I plan to setup a website. Then I could have jobbers log in and input the data online, only to have the system then send emails out to the investors based on some rules that I setup. But that's all in the future for now.

Stocks are having a terrible day for the second or third day in a row. It just reemphasizes how important getting my business to a productive level is. With the business I actually have some control over what happens rather than playing the role of the middle man, hoping that the unruly mob that is the market continues to push up in my favor. Stocks are a great and extremely passive source of income, but when you're trying to get to a substantial amount of wealth, they are very slow and unhelpful. Getting a strong business cash flow is really the best fuel for filling up your asset portfolio.

The car hunt is continuing this weekend. I may just settle and buy the car I test drove on Wednesday. It seems the most powerful tools available for negotiating the purchase of a used car are the ability to walk away and the ability to buy the car outright on the spot. I'm hoping to use them to knock $500-1000 off the price tag. I figure if I can get the car for about $5K, then it's really a steal. So we'll see how it works out.

I've begun filling out some business school applications. The essay seems to be the hardest part because it's hard to write to a target audience that you know nothing about. Write now I have some basic framework for the content and a mild attempt to string it together, but nothing that would amount to a full first draft. If I don't finish the applications before the spring semester deadline then I'm not really going to worry about it. Usually bigger classes start in the fall which might play better into my favor.

Don't forget - One Laptop Per Child starts their Buy 1 get 1 program starting 11/12. So enjoy your 11/11 holiday and help some kids on 11/12!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

One Laptop Per Child

First, a quick update:

I test drove the car I'm thinking about buying yesterday. It seemed alright but had a weird smell along with the ugly outside color. Superficial things yes, but still annoying. I do like the idea that I can write a check and own a car that seems good enough that I'd be happy with it for years to come without any additional payments. I'm not 100% sold yet and I'm looking at some other cars on Autotrader as well as this site I heard about yesterday called AutoNation, where apparently you can buy a car directly from the site. I'll probably take another trip up to the lot on Saturday for round two of negotiations, so we'll see how it pans out. In case you are in a similar situation where you are looking to buy a car, I suggest checking out sites like this:

I'm going to blow off the REI meeting tonight and go to a different one on Monday when I have the day off for Veteran's day. From what I've read, most of the mingling is done in the half hour or so before the meeting begins, so trying to fight through rush hour traffic to show up late seems like a poor decision. Instead, I'll take my time on Monday and go prepared. Also, I checked the classifieds today for investors and found the same ad again as yesterday and the day before. No call back yet, but I figure if I am going to get a call it'll most likely be over the weekend.

Ok, the main thing I want to mention today is the One Laptop Per Child program.

Last year I took a "Rich Dad Coaching" course for a substantial sum. While I'm not ready to endorse the program since I have yet to make my money back from the investment, one habit they recommended has stuck firmly with me since. It is the idea of "The Three Piggy Banks".

The Three Piggy Banks

Essentially, each day you are suppose to put a certain amount of money of your choosing into three separate banks. The banks can be of any form from a small paper cup to different bank accounts you have setup. The first one is for saving, the second is for investing and the third is for charity.


The idea behind the saving bank is that this is money that you are going to hold onto. You aren't going to put this money under any kind of substantial risk. Your best bet would be to put this into a money market account or a savings account and let it accumulate 5% interest or so. This is your base, your security fund. Regardless of what else happens you will have this money to rely on for your future.


This is your gambling money. Say you come across a stock you think is going to take off. You pull money out of here and put it in your stock choice. If the stock bottoms out and you lose it all, no big deal because you still have your savings. Regardless, this money gets you thinking about what could get you good returns as well as gives you incentive to learn about different investing vehicles that exist. Eventually, as your knowledge and experience grows, this money will start working for you and getting you bigger and bigger returns, which should lead you to the comfortable level of wealth.


This money you give away. The idea is that you are giving back to the community. Maybe you pick your favorite charity or your church or whatever you like and you give the money away to it. Similar to the idea of tithing, by giving you are getting the feeling of making a difference in the world and actually having the ability to help others. For all the karma believers, this is what will help you to see how much you have, help you to be thankful for what you have and ultimately help you reach more and more people.

My Three Banks

Overtime, you are suppose to keep increasing the amount you put into the banks. I started out very low, at a penny per bank each day. I'm only up to a quarter a day right now, but I also setup my income stream from my job to be split somewhat along the same ratios. I say somewhat because currently I'm at about 60% saving, and 35% investing with very little left for charity. But now I've found a charity that I really support, so that is going to change.

One Laptop Per Child (

This program was setup to help provide a means for those who have none to gain access to education and information that has the potential to make a substantial difference in their lives and the lives of those around them. By giving a child the chance to link into the internet and the human network, you open up the world to them, allowing them to see perspectives of people outside of their family, outside of their country, perspectives of people around the world. I personally believe that this will be a big step towards ending a large amount of conflicts we have in the world today as well as allowing people to break free from the cycle of poverty that has trapped so many throughout the world.

On November 12, the One Laptop Per Child program is going to start up a program where they reward you for rewarding others. By paying $400, you will be paying for a laptop to be supplied to an underprivileged child as well as receiving a laptop for yourself or your child. This is a unique opportunity to really help change someone's life and even directly get something in return. Also, by having one of these laptops you will help to spread the word about what is happening and be a trend setter for change.

So I encourage everyone who can to put forth the money to make a difference. Even if it's just the $200 for a laptop to be sent to a child in need, do it. This isn't like those commercials where they say "for 37 cents a day" or anything like that, this is a one time payment that will make a lifetime difference.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Unfortunately, the only add in the classifieds today was the same one as yesterday. I can't be sure that the guy won't call me back, so we'll see if anything happens after a week or so.

There is an REI meeting this Thursday at 6:30. I don't think I'll be able to get there right on time, but I may try to make it to it just to get the experience of going to one. At this point I think my normal plans are going to fall through, so I should have the chance to go. I'll see how things stand tomorrow.

The hard drive crash I had over the weekend has pretty much tied up my desktop computer currently. I have to reinstall Office or at least OpenOffice to really get back in the flow with my documents and spread sheets. I'm still holding onto the hope of being able to get to my data, there are a few more things I might be able to try.

I'm planning on going to a dealership in the area tonight after work to test drive a car that I found on Right now I'm looking at getting a 2002 Chevy Malibu LS. It's pretty cheap and the insurance will be between $250-$580 for 6 months based on how much coverage I elect to get. Although very superficial, the main problem I have with the car from what I've seen online is the exterior color. It's some tan derivative that I think is pretty ugly. I guess it doesn't matter since I'll be in the car and not outside looking at it, but it still annoys me. My friend pointed out yesterday that at this point I'm just getting something to get by with, it's not a dream car or anything anyway. It's a good point, and I'm not 100% sold on the car yet anyway. Even if I love it tonight, I'm still going to try and negotiate an even better deal and will most likely not make a purchase for at least another week.

Right now the car is my main focus. Buying a car will be the largest purchase I've ever made. Outside of my stock portfolio and investment accounts, it will be my largest investment. Sadly, it'll only depreciate in value but since I'm buying an older, used car, most of the value loss has already occurred. My hope is that it'll last me 5-10 years, which would be great since the price I'll get it for is probably going to be between $5-6K. That means that it's cost is about $500-1,000 per year, outside of maintenance, gas and insurance, which I would have to pay for any other car anyway.

If anyone has any stories about buying their first car or tips for negotiating with dealers, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I'm making some small steps now. Today I was able to locate an investor's add in the local paper. I gave them a call at lunch but got the answering machine. I left a message with a brief description of my services and my number, so we'll see if I get a call back. Worst case scenario I don't hear anything from them and move on to looking for another investor's add tomorrow.

Also, I found a car that might be worth buying. I'm going to head directly to the lot to test drive it on Wednesday after work. I almost headed over there yesterday, but the lot closes at 8 and that's when I would have had the chance to get there by, so it didn't work out.

I finished some small things I was working on at work, but the results seem to point to bigger changes being made. I'm not sure exactly how those changes will be made and I can't get a hold of anyone who would have ideas. So right now I'm pending.

I read Orbiting the Giant Hairball over the past couple of days. It's basically a "look outside the box" book. It points the reader into these ideas that all corporations are the same rigid systems and only the author has the right path. This of course is a quiet rebellion, where due to his intervention all this "wonderful creative innovation" occurs and shakes up the business system. I have a feeling that if someone else wrote about his experiences from a perspective outside of his, there would be a completely different flavor to the book.

The problem with books like that are that they try to bring up a lot of questions but don't have any answers. It's nice to think outside of the box, but unless you have some kind of plan before going off the deep end, you're going to end up jaded against the idea of starting your own business or trying to do something different. The reason for this is because you're likely to fail. The statistic "9 out of 10 business fail" is correct. Either you have to be willing to start at least 10 businesses, or you have to have a plan of action going in where you take on the risk in increments that you can handle.

That's all I've got for today.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Stand Still

So I blew off the meeting on Saturday. My plans didn't work out as expected on Friday and I had my first basketball practice for the team I'm coaching on Saturday. So instead of getting up early and passing out poorly made business cards, I staid home and slept in.

Disappointed? Yeah, me too.

I'm not making any real strides in my business or in my hunt for a car or a house. I feel like I'm in a rut right now and have been for a while. Part of my thinks it all stems out of my dissatisfaction with my job, but it may be other things as well. This is usually the hardest time of the year for me since I fight against my SAD. Also, my computer crashed over the weekend, corrupting key files for the operating system to boot so I may have lost everything I've done since I upgraded my computer in February. Luckily, I copied my financial information over to my new (old) laptop, so that has remained intact.

I'm hoping that the reason my hard drive isn't being recognized is that the RAID drivers were corrupted and maybe if I reinstall them things will be ok. I've had a lot of problems in the past that ended poorly, so my hopes aren't very high at this point. At least I have a backup hard drive and I was able to access all the data from before February without any problems.

Normally when I run into a rut like I'm currently in, I put together some plan of action and try to push to make some changes. After that I'll get a few things done from the list and nothing big will change. So I guess I"m going to do it again. Here is my current situation:

I need a car.

I have a budget of about $8K setup to buy a new/used car. I'm looking for something mid sized that will get pretty good gas millage, has less than 60K miles and will last me for 5+ years. Right now, the make and model I'm targeting is a Chevy Malibu. I found a few online and I'm going to setup test drives for later in the week.

I need a new job.

While software development was fun to learn, I hate the environment and I don't like the subject matter enough to put outside time into learning more. Instead, I'd be happy to take a job with less pay in the finance field. I'm looking for a place that will pay for me to get an MBA and will give me an opportunity to actual use my skills. I think I'd like to work in a larger company rather than a smaller one.

I need a new place to live.

I have a down payment built up to about $10K, which is not that much. It will only be me living there, so I don't need a very large place, just something that I can exist in and potentially setup a small business operation.

So now I have to find a way to make this stuff happen.

American Gangster

First off, another great movie. After seeing Michael Clayton not too long ago, this has been a good time to see movies as of late.

The most beautiful part about this movie is that Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington, never shows his hand. When his mentor dies in the beginning, when he's out in the middle of the jungle in Vietnam, when his car is shot up in a drive-by, and even on his wedding day, never does he seem to break down and show any signs of fear or uncertainty that could be going through his head. Instead, he is always the picture of cool, calm, calculating and collected. My man.

Two main points stuck with me after the movie ended. First is the subtle but beautifully done foreshadowing. At one point he pulls his cousin aside to tell him that his suit makes him look like an idiot. He lays out the advice that the loudest person in the room is usually the most guilty. But like many figures in history, eventually his own advice is forgotten or ignored.

The second point, the impact and effects of the drug trade, was more of a background in the movie. Every so often you see the effects of heroin use throughout Harlem. When you're making a million dollars a day selling drugs, that money is coming from people throughout society who are beating eaten away by addiction. At one point a scene focuses on a baby crying as the assumed parent lies next to them, dead or at least stoned out of their mind from the drug use. The presumed "good guy" in the movie, Richie Roberts, played by Russel Crowe, at one point tells us that at least 100,000 people are employed by the drug trade.

Similar to Catch Me if you Can, this movie is like a cat and mouse game. The bad guys seem to be living large while the good guys suffer with only their feelings of moral superiority to carry them through the day and towards their obsessive end goal. Sadly, you end up rooting for the bad guy beacuse they act out those dark feelings that you never could, but then you ease your guilt with support of the good guy, who seems to exist only to convince you that in the end bad deeds will be punished. Even though this was adapted from a true story, the question still remains of whether this result is the standard or the exception.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Written Off

For some reason, before I even got up this morning, I had written today off. I worked late on Wednesday anticipating going to county two today, but when it came time to make it happen, it didn't. Again I figured not having an investor to send the leads to made it not worth the time and parking money to go. I did go to courthouse one and picked up 15 leads. Pretty solid numbers for that area, but again, no investor to send them to at this point. Plans are still set to go out to a REI meeting tomorrow morning, so I'm hoping that will be productive.

I was talking to my sister last night, who has an MBA in Finance, about her job. The stuff she does and the people she works with seems so much more interesting than what I do. Plus, with a background in Computer Science and software development, I feel like I could really make some big strides in moving the Finance department of a company to the modern era. Most of the time they use plain Excel spreadsheets to do their calculations. There is very poor UI for what each field is expecting and what it means to the project as a whole. My sister showed me this cool tool she made to replace it, so I'm glad to see that someone is pushing forward and making things happen.

When I talked to her about her job it just reinforced how little I like my own. I want to blame my company because they hired me with false promises, but even so, if I wanted to I could change things. I just feel no desire to do so. I feel like I don't want to do this stuff for the rest of my life and I have no interest in it outside of doing enough to get paid. But the money is only worth so much because once I meet my financial objectives, I won't need a high salary anymore. At that point I could quit and take a lower paying job somewhere else just to get into something that I love doing. If you're doing what you love you end up getting promoted faster and it's worth more than the money. In the long run you end up ahead.

Back at my old job, when I first started working there, we were building up a new department. I spent a large amount of my days in the finance and contracts departments. I learned a lot there and was really into it. I even built a pretty elaborate Quote system that is still in use today. But then I got pulled back to doing testing and customer service and I lost a lot of my motivation. I want to do project management, working with customers, doing analysis of how a project is going and the risks it faces. That kind of thing seems exciting to me.

I do feel like this job could be tolerable if I moved back into development instead of just bug fixing. When I started here and was learning new things I was excited. I designed a security program and a few cool tools. But then I had to be placed somewhere that was billable and the guy who was mentoring me threw me to the sharks. I don't think he's even talked to me in about 2 months. So I go from actually doing and learning something to sitting on the back burner. One of the VPs told me that it was like a right of passage to do bug fixing for 6 months before you really get into anything else. That seems stupid to me though, since I'd learn a lot more if I was developing something worthwhile and interacting with multiple parts of the system. I chalk it up to poor management and bad distribution of resources.

That's enough whining from me for now. I encourage all of you out there in a position like me to not settle either. Find your passion, or make a career out of what you do with your free time. Put the time and effort into making it happen. Otherwise your financial commitments will grow around you, pinning you in. Do it now while you can because it'll only get harder. Good luck and best wishes.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


So this is more of a personal revelation rather than any advice or status update.

Today I was reading the Wikipedia entry for finance ( when I realized, this is what I care about. While writing code has had an appeal to me in some elements, like taking a problem and slowly figuring out how to create the elements of a solution, it does not have the mass appeal that lures me to want to do it in my free time. Finance does. In some ways I'm almost obsessed with money. I keep track of where my money goes, how much I have, how my investments are doing almost fanatically. It's like it is what I was born to do.

At one point, in World without End, one of the characters is looking at the other as he is creating a blue print for something he is planning on building. She analyzes the look on his face of completely being engrossed in visualizing what he wants to build and comes to the conclusion that it's the look a person has when they are doing what they were born to do. I imagine when I'm updating my finances and analyzing numbers I have the same look.

The problem I have is that I lack the formal training to do even more in depth analysis and understanding. I feel like I'm right on the cusp currently, so close to bridging the gap between the reality of everyday monotony and breaking free to the world of wealth and abundance that I know exists. It's like the difference between looking across a landscape from a tall building versus looking down from a plane window. I have a general perspective but I need something to get me to that higher level of abstraction so that I can see the trends before they happen and jump in and ride the wave up. Right now I'm getting there a little too late but luckily, not at the same time as the people who jump in only to hit the downward spiral.

In reading The Pathfinder, it talks about how you should have a job that you truly love. Jobs like that do exist and you can get one. It's just a matter of determining what it is that you are really excited about, what you are already doing in your free time and you just don't know it yet. I always think of the Seinfeld episode where George has quit working as a Realtor and he's talking to Jerry about what he could do next. He lists different things he's interested in and Jerry gives him a little perspective as to why they might not work out (

So now that I feel like I know what I want to do, the question is how to get there. I guess I should start trying to figure out where I could get an entry level position that will pay for me to get an MBA and then start applying or finding connections that can help me. Maybe I was right about my gut feeling that November would bring about some kind of inspirational change.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stalled Progress

Sadly, I haven't made any progress this week. I keep forgetting to look through the classified section of the newspaper for new investors. On the upside, I looked at some directions to get to the meeting on Saturday and it shouldn't be a problem. I have to work late today so that I'll have time to head into the other county on Friday. With my new (old) laptop, the lead collection time should be significantly less so I won't stay too late.

My stocks have been slowly inching up the last few days. Earnings reports for the most recent quarter are trickling in each day, and for the most part, they've been good enough to boost my overall performance. The trend for the US economy is down though, which could mean problems in the future. The Fed could lower interest rates today, which would boost stocks in the short run but probably hinder the economy in the long run. I'm shifting, not in the approach I take to screening stocks, but more in the approach of what markets my stocks target. I'm trying to pick up stocks that will benefit from foreign market growth rather than relying on the US economy. Everything seems to be pointing to this being a lean shopping year in the US during the Christmas season.

Today is Halloween and I'll be working most of it. So I open it up to the readers. Leave some comments about your favorite Halloween story or a great costume idea. Let's see if you guys can come up with something scarier than working late at the office.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More Questions than Answers

I'm really starting to dislike the "blogosphere".

At first I loved it. The almost constant flow of new information, pearls of wisdom on various subjects, advice advice and more advice! You start to think that if you read whatever people post each day, after a few months you'll be the best and most intelligent person you can be. But that's wrong, so so wrong.

First of all, most of the people writing blogs have no real idea what they're talking about. They've read a book or two (if you're lucky) on a subject and are just regurgitating what they read. Usually very little critical thinking has been applied and only some of the main points the original authors researched and tested are whittled away by the blog author's opinion.

Second, when you read something online that is written coherently and in a certain structure, your mind starts to trick itself into thinking that this is factual, indisputable information. I'm very doubtful that this is correct. The formats almost lull you into a state where your brain's natural pattern matching kicks in, separating key ideas from useless fluff based on pre-existing patterns that it's been trained to hunt out. Then the main ideas are digested, even if the whole thing was actually fluff.

Third, a large amount of blogs broken down into lists are just throwing extra points in to make the content look stronger. The first few points are well thought out and sometimes backed by actual statistical evidence, but the last few points are after thoughts, thrown down in a stream of conscious write out.

Fourth, once you've read enough blogs filled with advice on different subjects, not only does it all start to blend, but eventually it'll start to contradict other information. No longer will you end up on a default path to self improvement and greatness, but rather just confusion amongst mixed messages and opinions.

I'm going to take a moment here to point out the obvious irony. Yes, I know I do the same thing. Yes, I've been slowly trying to adapt these same formats. Yes, I'm trying to break my way into the blogosphere to collect a loyal following of readers. I have no defense for this. I'm doing exactly what a large number of other bloggers are doing. The main focus of my blog though, is a journal of my actual experiences as I try to build a Real Estate Investment business from nothing. So, anything along that thread is actual experience, not just my take on different ideas. I hope to gain credibility as my business takes root and grows, I don't demand it now or expect everything I write to be taken as gospel truth. I live with myself knowing that at least I'm making the effort to walk the walk that I talk.

On that note, here is a status update.

I sent out the leads from one courthouse to my investor on Friday. I included a note asking him to contact me so I knew he was still receiving them as well as letting me know what progress he's made. I received no reply.

At this point, I need a new investor. It would probably be best to collect a large number of investors and then see what ones actually pan out to some results. Last week I had found a potential ad in the paper but never called the person. This week I'm going to have to go hunting again and actually make calls towards whomever I find, if any at all. Also, I have setup plans to go to a REI meeting on Saturday, so I should be able to get some new investors from that.

I'm also working on putting together a template business cards. I'd also like to setup a couple of websites, one as my personal resume to track my work experience and developed skills, the other to start establishing more of a professional presence in the Real Estate industry. That will be my focus this week.

I hope that the people who read this get something out of it. My main goal from my writing is not just to entertain or spout off conjectured advice, but rather to inspire those who are in situations like my own to break free and do what they want. To focus their time outside of the job that they do to keep their standard quo and start building the future they want. Hopefully that idea will stick.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Weak Week


So I bailed on the second county today. I know, it's lame and I should have found a way to go. But I'm going to make some excuses instead.

I stayed up later than normal again last night. World Without End just has this power of sucking me in so that I keep reading, chapter after chapter, until it's late. I can't say I regret it because I'm too fascinated about what will happen next to care a lot about what's going on in my own life right now. Probably also because there isn't much going on in my actual life.

The courthouse I normally visit had about 10 leads today. I brought my new (old) laptop and used it. It was struggling because the battery doesn't hold charge very long, so I had to hunt around for an outlet. Also, the processor is pretty weak so Open Office did not open. I ended up typing the leads in notepad and then moving them to my Master Lead Log later.

I figure, since I'm not supremely confident in my investor right now and I don't have any others lined up, getting a lower amount of leads this week is not that big of a deal. Also, if he does get my emails, maybe he'll notice the lower amount and contact me back. That would be nice, since then I would know he's actually doing something still. I'm planning on going to the REI meeting I mentioned previously next Saturday regardless of his status. At this point I need to really focus on actually creating something out of this.


For some reason I'm really looking forward to the beginning of November. I can't put my finger on why, but I almost feel like something is going to change. It might end up being as little as me flipping the page in my calendar, but any change would be nice at this point.

I go to a chiropractor 3 days a week. My medical insurance covers the whole bill and back in July I figured, why not? I had been having some back pain and people had recommended it. The pain is gone at this point, but this process called "traction" that I do to correct the angle of my spine leaves me aching. I think that's part of the reason why I'm so tired. In November we'll be done the second stage of the treatment process and maybe I won't have to go as frequently. Going three times a week forces me into a pretty tight routine, esp with when I get to and leave work.

I'm thinking about getting season tickets for my local NBA team this year. It's $600 per seat for the season, which isn't bad considering the high part of the range is $32,000 a seat. My thinking is that when you have something other people don't, it can be used as an asset. If I get two seats, I can always try to sell the second one or both if I don't want to go to the game. If I do want to go, I can call up a friend and ask them if they want to go, so it's a way to reconnect. The final benefit is that I can give the second seat ticket away as a gift for different occasions, like birthdays or graduations. My brother-in-law has the local NFL team's season tickets and he does essentially that. Every year he seems to get his money worth, so I think it'll be worth it. I've built up all the money I need to purchase a car outright, so I feel like this is a good way to reward myself and make my life a little more enjoyable.

That's all I've got for today.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Phase 2

I picked up the laptop last night from the guy who I setup a deal with on Craig's List. It was a long drive out to the exchange location and back, but it was worth it since a laptop will be extremely valuable for storing leads. The only problems are that it doesn't have a wireless card or spreadsheet software and it smells like either coffee or some kind of tobacco or smoke. I can always pick up a wireless card at some point so that's not that big of a deal. I'm going to install Open Office on it tonight, so that'll fix the spreadsheet problem. I'm hoping over time the smell will start to fade and then disappear.

Tomorrow I'm going to do my new routine of going to another county courthouse as well as the one for the county I live in. From the articles I've been reading about housing prices and foreclosure rates, I'm guessing the average I've had for the last two weeks should remain consistent if not go up. Having a laptop will be greatly helpful when writing up 90 or so leads.

I still haven't solved the greater problem. Clearly my investor is not working out very well. I need to find more than one, as well as target ones that work specifically on foreclosure cases. Even if the agreed rate drops and I only get $500-1000 per sale, it still beats not getting anything. I plan on going to an REI meeting, like I mentioned previously, but the next one is going to be a week from Saturday. I'll have to scour the paper today and tomorrow and see if I come up with any ads that could lead me to investors.

Aside from that, I've been exhausted this week. I'm reading World Without End, the most recent Ken Follett book and sequel to Pillars of the Earth. It's an excellent read, but it entices me into reading for long stretches and staying up later than I normally would. I recommend it for anyone who is looking for a leisure activity. It's about 1,000 pages long, so based on how fast you read it could be a source of entertainment for a long time. Normally I read pretty quickly, I finished the last Harry Potter book in under 24 hours, but this book makes you think because there are a lot of intricate plot lines and you really get drawn into the environment and care for the characters.

Reader Feedback

A call out to the readers, if you know any ways of advertising a blog, finding investors, or just have interesting or helpful books that you suggest, please feel free to comment and let me know.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Laptop Pursuit

So after a few days of scanning Craig's List (more like a week at this point), finally a seller not only contacted me back with answers to my questions, but actually showed enough interest in selling the item listed that I've arranged a time for the sale. Unfortunately, it's like 40 miles from my house so it's going to be a long drive up and back. It'll be worth it to have a laptop to use for this week. I've found that the transfer time from written out to the computer is much faster than from the source at the courthouse to where I write it out. I imagine by bypassing the writing stage completely, the time I have to spend at the courthouse will be greatly decreased. I'm sure over the upcoming months, the time saved will greatly surpass the time spent driving up and back tonight.

The only other problem is that I've lost confidence in my current investor. Not responding to me for 2-3 weeks does that kind of thing. But currently I do not have any other investors lined up. I will most likely continue sending leads to him for now, but I found another potential investor's number in the paper yesterday, so I just have to call and hope that they are what I'm looking for. If not, there is a REI club meeting a week from this Saturday that I will go to. If you can't find an investor at a REI club meeting, something is terribly wrong.

If the flow keeps up at 90 or so, or even 75, that's still way too many leads for one investor to take on anyway. I need to start branching out, finding people who work specifically with foreclosure cases and actually start getting some sales done. Right now I have the flow coming in where I need it, but nothing is coming from it. The laptop will make that process even easier but it still adds up to zero without it leading to sales.


I did some calculating of my stock performance today. I'll post all the numbers if people are interested. Currently I stand at an annualized ROI of 12%. It's an ok start, esp since I haven't actually fully primed the pipe with one year's worth of investment, but I'm a little disappointed. The advice in The Little Book that Beats the Market says to put about 1/3 of the amount you are going to put into your portfolio in the first year because over 3 year periods the average ROI should be between 20-30%. I haven't figured out what my plan is for after December when I reach the 1 year mark, but I might juggle some of my other investment amounts and keep the amount I'm putting into individual stocks steady.

I've come to realize that the mutual funds that I'm invested in through my 401ks, Roth and house fund are not performing up to the standard I'd like. I have a lot more faith in my individual stocks since I know exactly what they are invested in, I can focus on lowering the amount of tax by making sure they are taxed as long term capital gains, and there are no management fees and small trading fees. I realize that 401ks and Roths are tax free accounts, but the performance is still controlled by the company managing the fund, so they probably spread their costs equally across their accounts. Also, in my breakdown I count the 401ks and Roth as savings accounts and I'd like to get the percentages to favor investments over savings.

Quick Rant

First off, I really like Facebook but this just needs to be said.

I read this great article on Codding Horror: the Daily WTF recently that talks about Why Does Software Spoil. It's mainly because rather than focusing on performance and fixing bugs, new iterations always add more and more features. These features are great sometimes, but over a long period of time you get to the point where the core functionality that you use something for is eclipsed and ruined by a gross amount of unwanted features.

Welcome to today's Facebook.

What I use to love about Facebook was that it wasn't MySpace. It was exclusive to college aged or near college aged people. It was centered around finding people in your classes or that you meet on campus. Once you did, then you had all their contact information or at least a method of reaching them as well as a basic profile about them.

Nowadays, Facebook is filled with crap. This whole "Ninja vs Pirate", "Vampire", "Werewolf", "Zombie", "Write on someone's wall in paint" and various other plug-in stuff is crap. Not only does it make everything load slower, but it clutters up the page real estate. The last straw is coming soon because Facebook is going to become International. I can picture it now, everyday you'll see a new friend request from Viagra or Cialis written out in a mixture of characters and numbers or in Russian.

Unfortunately, I don't have a solution. I'm just sad that another great tool is starting to grow mold.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Habitually Automatic

First off, congrats to everyone who owns Apple stock. I wish I had more shares because today was a big day. I imagine it is only the first of many to come, so if you don't have any, look for dips and jump on in.

In some reading I did today, Get Rich Slowly did a review of The Automatic Millionaire ( link for the review). The review was excellent and the book seems to have a lot of good concepts. I think there are a few factors that are also important in the quest to becoming wealthy that were not mentioned though, so I'd like to build further.

What really matters? Four Points that really matter towards building wealth:

Point 1 - Your Net

First of all, it seems The Automatic Millionaire hits dead on with spending habits. What you do with your after tax money is extremely important. Of course you need to spend it to survive, but how and what you spend it on will determine, very clearly, your future. I like to think of it like every dollar you make, net (or after tax), is your employee. If you don't manage your employees well, the business that is your financial future will not continue to grow and may even go bankrupt. So setting up automatic deposits and planning for your retirement should be the first step. As they say, spend less than you earn, save up and start building wealth.

Point 2 - ROI

In line with this, the next point is what return on investment you are getting. Basically, measuring how well your employees are performing for you. If you read The Little Book that Beats the Market, it discusses how to determine a base line for your ROI. Basically, you can get a 6% ROI with little to no risk if you buy US Treasury Bills that are backed by the stability of the US government, or something to that effect. So if you aren't getting at least 6%, then you should change what you are doing.

The stock market indexes average about 11-12% over the course of their history, so with a little knowledge and a little risk, along with a long enough investment horizon, you can easilly get a better return than a lot of high fee mutual funds or leaving your money in a Money Market account will get you. But you should be able to get an even better return than that.

Point 3 - Your Time

The best and worst part of the stock market, is that you are not in control of your return once you've bought your stocks. For most people, this is good enough and they are content with leaving their future in the hands of other people that they believe are more competent than themselves. The rest of us are hungry to get even better returns. That's how point three comes in.

What better can you invest in than yourself? How you spend your free time will also determine your future. If you read my blog, you can see that I'm trying to build a business in my spare time. That's because I know that eventually I will start to create revenue with the skills and knowledge base, as well as connections, that I am building. Everyone who went through college and got a degree has already seen this process work. Putting the time in to study and learn is what got you the job that pays your bills and gives you the foundations for wealth already. Why stop there? Why not keep educating yourself towards the goal of being the guy at the top of a company directed towards your own interests? The only difference between the employee and the boss is the amount of time they've put into something and their persistence towards continuing to learn.

So just like your money being your employee and working for you, if you make your time work for you now, it will pay off in abundance later. I've said it before, but the one main commonality between the richest Americans is that they all started a business or own a business. The potential is there for everyone, it's just a matter of taking action. Your time can have exponential gains for you just like your money.

Point 4 - Multiple Streams of Income

The final point is the end result of all the previous. By making your money work for you, you start to develop a stream of income that is not reliant on your efforts but only your direction. As this grows, so do good habits and your knowledge and ability. As time is going by anyway, if you use your time and energy to build a business, eventually you will get to the point where you can hire people and promote yourself up the ladder. Eventually, you will promote yourself all the way up to a primary stock holder and not have to be actively involved in operations anymore. That frees you up to start again, setting up more and more streams of income. As you do it, it gets easier and easier and your have more and more time and freedom. This is why you hear the phrase, "the rich get richer", because as wealth grows it becomes easier for it to continue to grow. At the end, you're doing very little work but making more money than just your time and labor would ever be able to make alone.

Habitual Millionaire

If you're young enough, it's likely that changing a few spending habits and removing temptation by automating where your money goes will eventually make you a millionaire. In doing only this though, you are giving up your time. If you follow the rest of the points, both your time and your money will grow exponentially and you will reach your goals much faster. So while I definitely agree with taking the first step, I also suggest not making it the only one you take. The first step is always the hardest, so if you're going to take it, be aware that you're already well on your way.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A New Week

Last week's expeditions went very well. I was able to collect 93 leads for the week and send them off to my investor. Sadly, I still haven't heard anything back from him, which, along with a total lack of production, has made me lose all the faith I had in him. So I think I'm going to go back to the drawing boards and try to collect a bunch of new investors. Specifically, I'm going to target ones that deal exclusively or mainly in foreclosures, since they should be up to date with all the laws and capable of actually making deals happen. I figure, if I'm going to have the production like I had last week, I need to actually start capitalizing.

Today has been pretty depressing outside of potential business success. The stock market is taking a beating and there seems to be large amounts of talk about a recession. I've built my portfolio around some international stocks or at least ones that should benefit from international markets, but it seems that when the US isn't doing well, there is almost a gloom around the whole market.

The other thing I'm frustrated about is the lack of returns on my money. At this point I've built up a pretty solid stockpile of capital, but it's growing so slowly that it might as well be sitting forgotten in the bank. This, along with this book I'm reading, has me thinking about the "class system" that exists even today.

The Class System

Way back, there was a clear separation between nobility, middle class, and poor. The nobility were the lords of the land, who didn't do any of the work but rather played on people's fear of God and lack of education to get them to follow them without question, working their land and paying taxes to them for the privilege. The middle class would work through apprenticeships for years, slowly learning and practicing a skill, until they became a master themselves with their own business. Then, based on the type of work they did, their trade pretty much determining their income level and social standing. The poor, with little or no education, did the manual labor that was needed to supply the goods and food for society. I think that, while slightly different in form, the system still exists today.

The poor nowadays are those who are right at or around the poverty line. Maybe they don't have a college degree or maybe they just don't care about the quality of their work, but they sit at minimum wage or so, barely able to get by. The middle class are educated, usually with degrees, but end up working for companies, doing skilled labor but not having any real holdings in the assets that they are building. Content with their paycheck, they live through there days keeping up with the status quo and being entertained by sports and TV.

Todays nobility are the business owners. Those who, through whatever means, own the company they work at, or a large apartment or office building that generates revenue for them with little actual work needing to be done. They employ the poor and the middle class and keep them content with benefits and slow pay raises. Meanwhile, they're paying less tax and pulling in money just because they are willing to go outside the main society lines and do things differently.

Great, so now what?

So, the real question in all of this is, how do you cross the lines up the class system? I've struggled with this one for a while. I have I read numerous books, learned about many investment tools and had many conversations with various people of different social standing. There is only one way to do it.

People are a product of their habits and their environment. If you want to change where you are and who you are, you have to change who you spend your time with, what habits you foster and what thinking process you support. The three classes just think and do fundamentally different things. If you are always around people who think like you, you will continue to do things the way you do. If you have problems, you'll ask your close friends for help and they'll give you the solutions that will keep you where you started. The only way to break free is to change all of that.

It's not an easy path. Hard work and persistence are the habits of the rich and powerful. By the time they've reached a certain status that you are aware of who they are, they have already done the hardest parts. You see the end result, the wealth, the freedom, but all the extra effort and behind the scenes work that it took to get there is gone from view.

So don't be fooled. If you want to change, do it, be bold. Step outside the box, find those who want to help you and see you succeed, help them as they help you. For the rest, leave them behind and move on. You can't help them by lagging behind and trying to hold their hand. Be a beacon of success for them by being a success yourself.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Preparation for Weekly Trip

So I worked late yesterday in order to accommodate extra time to travel outside the normal county courthouse trip. After last week's results of 49 leads, well over the average of 11, it seems that any small sacrifices will be very worth while in order to keep the average up. I only bought myself a few hours, so I'm hoping to get up early and do the long part of the commute in the time saved there. The normal trip is actually on the way back from additional county, so I'm hoping to end up with extra time even.

I didn't get any word from my investor after last week. I thought that was pretty surprising since the number of leads jumped up so much. I figure if I get a good total this week and I still don't hear from him, then I'm going to have to start branching out more. I keep thinking about going to a local REI club meeting and trying to pick up some more investors (as well as some advice) but I continue to delay going.

This week I'm also thinking about adding some extra details to the normal amount of information I collect. I have some places to look for potentially helpful information, but I hadn't been doing the extra work because my investor didn't seem to care. If I do do the extra work, I might start considering some of these places as potential for me to buy if the prices look favorable and I like the location. I'll reserve judgment till the time comes though.

I need to get my goals setup for expansion, but I'd really like to start seeing some profits come in to get funding for beneficial enhancements. I've been browsing Craig's List for a cheap laptop all week. While I've found a good number of potential matches, the sellers haven't been very good at supplying the information as well as continuing contact. Hopefully this will lead to a good purchase at some point in the future if the flow of leads remains near this new level. It would really save some time and provide for better record keeping.

I guess we'll have to see how tomorrow goes to get a better gauge.