Thursday, September 27, 2007

Weekly Update

The courthouse was pretty disappointing today. Only 2 new listings for this week. I'll probably drop by again tomorrow since I'm taking the day off just to see if more pop up. I'm also going to try to visit another county's courthouse since I'll have the free time. If it goes well and I get a good feel for the lay of the land then I'll try to find a way to fit it into my weekly routine.

It's interesting to read about the various companies making plays in the market. Berkshire Hathaway just purchased 12-15% of two of these major railroad companies and are also rumored to be purchasing some of a hedge fund that took a huge hit from the sub prime market collapse. They're moving millions of dollars around like its a drop in the bucket. I suppose it is for them since their net worth is in the billions, but its just a hard concept to wrap your head around. When you compare conversations you have with people who would be happy for the rest of their lives with 3 million dollars, versus people who throws hundreds of millions around, its just a monumental context change. If you've got hundreds of millions of dollars then $10 for lunch really isn't a big deal anymore.

I finished the fight yesterday, which is why I'm having trouble writing and focusing today. Staying up a little late and waking up early to go to the courthouse is a dangerous combination. Luckily I'm done for the week after today so I'll have some time to recover.

I've been doing some work to try and make this blog more popular. I'm not sure what people want to read though, so if there are any topics or ideas someone reading this would like to hear my opion on or discuss, please feel free to email me or leave some comments.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Finishing the Fight

I have a whole bunch of things to talk about today. I'm trying to keep them all in mind so that I don't miss any.

First off, Halo 3 is awesome. The beauty of Halo is that they've always allowed you to be the guy who does the crazy, amazingly fun stuff that everyone wants to do but doesn't have the opportunity to do in their real life. You are literally the guy who is single handedly making stuff happen to help your cause and succeed.

The other thing I find amazing about the Halo series is the spectacular timing of the great music. Usually a mission starts out with some big task that you're setting out to do. You head in, break through some initial defenses and then you're getting into the mix where the fan is warming up for stuff to start hitting it. That's when this music starts. At first its small, but then builds along with your excitement until you're moving in with this euphoria the size of the skill and determination you possess and are going to use to crush anything in your way.

Everything about the game just makes you feel good inside. That's what sells a game to people.

Alright, so I started reading "The Pathfinder" today. Different reviews said that this is THE book to read when you want to determine what to do with the rest of your life. This is what to use to build the career you want from the bottom up and stop just passing through life instead of living.

So far it's pretty interesting. It asks you the basic questions that all these books ask. Essentially they boil down to, are you happy and is what you are doing adding to your happiness in every aspect of your day from start to finish. If not, then you are not doing what you should be doing.

At this point in my intellectual pursuit of happiness and life purpose, I think I've read all this stuff before. All these people who don't have an idea what they want probably benefit from it. I know what I want, I want to start my own business with a team of people around me who I care about and trust. I want to put my core values into the business because I believe the system that I've setup that is my life is one that everyone can benefit from and make their own. I guess that should be my mission statement.

I have a long way to go before I'm finished the book and it seems like there will be a lot of good exercises in it. I'm not writing it off yet because I feel like I'll be able to take some value from it, but I do get this sense of I've read all this before. At this point I'm already taking action, it just takes time to get what you want to do to the point that it can replace what you're already doing and give you freedom from the routine without a loss of everything you've built so far and are building towards. You shouldn't have to gamble everything in order to be happy, you just have to build something and stick with it until it grows large enough.

I guess what I should do is start planning land marks. Start figuring out when I will have reached a level of success that I'm comfortable enough to start pulling other people in. That way I won't feel like they are losing what they are working towards because I siren song them into my vision. I feel like I could sell my ideas and passions to people but I also want to believe it is the best thing for them before they dive in. My brother always says he's watching my stock and he'll buy in when he's confident enough. I feel like his approach really makes a lot of sense, since I'd feel like a scam artist if I didn't actually bring value and improvement to the people I get involved.

I've made some observations recently. I read a lot of blogs and various feeds at work since I have plenty of time and nothing to fill the void. It seems like the news for the day slowly moves from one source to all the others. Each blogger will comment on it with their take, or reference it in how it plays into what their blog is focused on. I'm not really complaining about it really, I just think it's funny how that happens, but it's also kinda dull that people are all just bouncing off the same things.

The other observation I've had was in the common phrasing people use. In different public speaking training things they talk about listening to what you say. You count the number of times you use "like" or "uh" while you're going through what you want to say as a way of measuring your comfort with the concept as well as how rehearsed you are. Recently I've noticed almost everywhere I go that people use the phrase "You know" constantly when trying to convince someone to agree with them. Sometimes they use it in a rapid fire manner until the person shows some kind of gesture or speaks in a way to show acknowledgment and agreement. I just point it out so that other people will be aware of it as well.

So I haven't actually done anything towards my business in the past few days. I'm planning on doing my weekly courthouse trip tomorrow morning rather than Friday since I'm going out of town for the weekend. I talked some business with my friends last night and the possibility of moving to CA next August came up. I may jump on that when the time comes since I do want to change my environment to be surrounded by people with the entrepreneurial mindset. I guess we'll just have to see how things progress till then. Right now I want to keep my weekly courthouse visits going, potentially start adding other counties into the loop. Eventually I'll attend an REI meeting and start collecting more investors cards. Once I get my first monetary input I'll setup a website and then create a service where I supply new foreclosures to investors on a weekly basis for a subscription fee.

I might start writing out a business plan with my new mission statement. Then potentially drum up some investor capital for a laptop and website fees and even potentially a business car and office space. Then I could start pulling in some other people. It's just an idea for now but that's how everything starts anyway.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Halo Day

Halo 3 comes out today and my copy is currently sitting on my desk. Does this make me a geek? Probably. But the truth of it is, this is the kind of thing we work for. Sure you want a house, something to drive, food to eat and all that good stuff, but in the end we make money to have fun. Halo represents that for me.

A few years back when Halo 2 came out I would play online a lot with friends and siblings. While it was frustrating at times, the sense of comradery and fun of sharing an experience with those around you is what it was all about. Just that feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself, with set goals and missions and the ability to track your progress, use your skills, help others and reach success or failure based on your combined efforts.

In a lot of ways it parallels business. A business, at heart, is the people. Every day they are performing, making incremental steps towards a common goal. In this day of mercenary tactics, a lot of businesses have lost that perspective that the people make it what it is, trying to instead make everyone as interchangeable as possible. You negotiate a salary, get a title and a work flow and are set loose. Sometimes they give you some mentoring, but for the most part you are on your own. If you fail to perform, you get replaced. If you perform well, they give you more work for as little compensation as they can. All in all, the person is more of an anonymous face than really an individual.

I actually hope to be different. My 3 year goal is to start my own business. I want to change the culture some. Sure a majority of the system will remain the same because you need a lot of those elements. But I hope to provide better incentives for my employees to be a part of the company. I want to focus on health and growth rather than focusing on a certain number of hours of being at a location. Here are some of the ideas I've come up with:

- Option of spending an hour during each day exercising that will count towards work time.
- Discounts on health supplies like vitamins as well as other health tools
- Flexible schedule based on performance more than time at the office. Features like being able to work at home or out of the office as long as production level is maintained or increased.
- Programs to discount meals for people who eat with their coworkers.
- Reimbursement for cost of taking community college classes as well as degree programs.
- Support of extra curricular activities that will boost work performance or expand abilities by extra time off or financial backing.

I've always believed the saying "healthy body, healthy mind" is correct. I think programs like these would help to promote a culture of health. Usually when people feel good they are productive, amiable and more willing to compromise. Also, there is no law governing how fast or slow someone can develop. Why not help people keep growing in their knowledge and experiences instead of expecting them to sit at a position doing the same tasks repeatedly. In the computer age, mindless repetitive tasks can be done by machines, let people use their ideas and originality.

So while I'll be finishing the fight with the Chief in Halo 3, my fight to see my vision come true will battle on.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Weekend Digest

I got a call from the investor I'm working with over the weekend. He had some questions about the leads I sent him. I think it was too late for some of the ones that I had gathered a few weeks before sending out. I told him the ones for this week were all relatively new and should not have gone to court yet. So, hopefully he'll have better luck with this attempt.

His call restored some of my confidence in him. Although, him actually being able to lock in a deal would really make me confident. I'm still pretty early on in this business at this point so I'm not trying to get my expectations up. I would like to expand some and start checking some other nearby county courthouses for leads. I'd also like to purchase a laptop to use for recording the leads and managing business documents. The biggest problem is that the courthouses are all open from 8:30-4:30pm, so I can't really get to them during the work week unless I get up early and get into work late.

I feel like the 12-15 leads I average per week is good enough for one investor. I would like to expand to more than one investor and get another lead source going in order to pick up the pace. I was thinking about recruiting my brother but, I reconsidered due to results of past business ventures I've attempted with him. Some of the advice I've read also says it may not be a good idea to work with family members, and in this case I think they are right. It's harder to establish a chain of command with family, esp if they are older than you.

If I get a laptop, I also might be able to start doing some work from home. I don't really need to laptop in order to do it, but I feel like it would help me keep everything separate. If I work from home the commute time I would normally spend going to work can be exchanged to a trip to the courthouse and then I can still work the same amount of time. So I'll be mulling over ways to work that out.

I was doing some reading last week of this book that discusses how to write winning business plans. The key focus they discussed in the section I read was defining your "Mission Statement". My first instinct, to make money, they didn't seem to like. Apparently you need a stronger reason than making money in order for a business to survive. How about, to not have to work for someone else? How about, to retire young? How about, because I hate my current job? I'm not sure if any of them work either.

I think the biggest problem I'm running into is the same problem I've had all along. I can not seem to convert my business pursuits into something that pulls in money. Each one I've tried has yet to actually generate any money. The closest I came to was the Quixtar business, but all I got was this $10 check that I ended up not even putting into my account. I felt like it would be stupid to, since I ended up being given the money under shady circumstances (part of the reason I bailed on the Quixtar business). I need to find a way to take my talents and efforts and convert them into a measurable and sustainable source of income. I was hoping this blog would start generating something, but so far my total from Google Adsense is 8 cents. I don't think they send you the money until it gets above the cost of a stamp at least. Again, it's still early though.

Well, this is a short week at least because I'm planning on heading out to IL for the weekend. So at this point I'm close to 25% of the way through to the weekend.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Another Round

So, I did another weekly courthouse trip today. At this point I've found a total of 65 foreclosure leads for my county. Last week I sent my previously collected ones to my investor but nothing seems to have come of any of it yet. Of course I had mentioned that I've lost some faith in him already, but I still haven't found any new adds or made any calls in attempt to find someone better.

This week has been a little different. At my job they've given me this choice between two possible career options. I have this feeling in the back of my mind like this is the decision point in "The Road Less Traveled", where once I make this my life will be dramatically affected.

The choice is between staying where I am and going from bug fixes to development work, and moving to the other side of the company and working as a developer for a product called Remedy. I had been trying to drum up a compromise situation, but it seems that it has to be one way or the other. While working with Remedy I would do a lot of traveling and work primarily on customer sites. If I stay and do development work, I don't have the boredom of doing bug fixes, but I don't get the excitement of travel.

I've been weighing the options positives and negatives for the past few days. While I would enjoy the excitement of doing the travel, I think at this point I'm set on the development work. I've started all these different things in my life towards my three year goal of starting a business. I feel like taking this Remedy job would cut them off and I would end up losing any chance at reaching my goal. I just took the GMATs in hopes of starting an MBA program in January, so why throw that away just for a "grass is greener" chance. Plus, if I end up hating the on site work, it would be much harder to quit that and move to something else than it would be from a developer job.

Another idea I've been playing with is being more public about this blog. I'd like to get some feedback from people about my ideas and progress. I feel like that would generate more of a drive for me to work harder towards accomplishing my goals if other people were invested. So I'm going to try to tag it on some social networking sites. I guess we'll see how it goes.

In the mean time, my goals for next week are to find and call up some more investors. I may even attend an REI meeting to see if I can find more people to work with. I might talk to my brother on Saturday about potentially getting him to go to other county courthouses and jotting down foreclosures for me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Goings On

So, I'm starting to lose a little confidence in the one investor I've found so far. I realize it's pretty dumb to put all my eggs in one basket and expect him to be some miracle worker. But just the interactions I've had with him also make me feel that he's uneducated and may not really know what he's doing. For now I'm going to keep sending him leads, since he is the only person I've found to work with and I don't have that many leads anyway, but for the future I need to keep looking for other investors.

With the big half a percentage point drop in interest rates yesterday, the real estate market is sitting in an interesting position. Now would be a great time to start looking for real steals and then really buy up some property. The question is if I'm ready or not. My income at this point is dedicated to all these different funds for retirement, with other funds setup for long term growth, purchase of a car and my down payment fund. Which means I have prepared pretty poorly for what I've been predicting for a year and a half or so at this point. I should have been stockpiling some cash to use for mulitple downpayments for houses that I could then rent out for profit. This is why I need to start getting some team members together and some investor capital. The problem is the lack of experience in that as well.

I think a good plan going forward would to continue to work with investors and produce leads, but also to start gathering support and figuring out how to put together a business plan based on renting out housing and property management. Then I need to find some ways to get investor capital, produce the legal documents to form a solid LLC, and figure out the management infrastructure. This as well as find other people to get involved. My parents and family members are not very supportive of these things and would most likely prefer to do their own thing rather than listen to me or be involved to any significant degree. So that means I need to start looking for outsider help.

The other issue is time management. Can I do these things as well as a work a 40 hour work week, or would I have to quit my job. Quitting my job would throw off what I've been building towards in other avenues, as well as cut off my health insurance. Plus, qualifying for a house loan on a property with under 2 million in assessed value is based on personal credit rather than the value of the asset itself.

So I guess the bottom line comes down to where I put my faith. Do I stick to what I'm doing, with the slow value approach to wealth building that involves a large amount of sweat equity and a lot of butt kissing on the slow march up the corporate ladder, or do I take a leap and a chance and try to accelerate things. You really have to take charge to succeed when you're exposed instead of being behind someone else's corporate umbrella.

I want to take the chance. That's been my goal and my drive all this time anyway. I just need to actually put some effort into figuring out what approach to take that would be best and then start working towards it. I don't think I need to really take a big dramatic leap right away, but rather actually start making my goals a priority and make them happen instead of just playing with the ideas whenever I get bored.

Well, the next step is to do some homework.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Back in Action

So, I've been out at a training class for a week so I haven't been updating at all. A lot has happened since my last post on many fronts.

First off, I managed to do my weekly trip to the courthouse last Friday. Picked up a pretty substantial amount of leads since it had been two weeks since my last visit. This was great since I took the big plunge earlier in the week. I got over my qualms and made some calls to my potential investors. Some of them were duds, more real estate agents that weren't actually investors, but I found one who acts as a wholesaler. He is willing to split any sales profits with me 50/50, which was an unexpected but positive happenstance. So after I gathered my leads on Friday I emailed my collection to him. I didn't do the extra research this time since I'm not sure what information he wants. It seems the approach he takes is to send out letters to people and then work with whomever contacts him. I'm not sure if anything will come of this yet, but it's a nice feeling to think that there is a potential out there for my efforts to come to a profitable conclusion.

I ran into an older guy named Jim at the courthouse while I was there on Friday. He was looking at the foreclosures as well and does his own wholesaling thing. Apparently he normally goes to the courthouse near where he lives in Annapolis and every so often will make the trip out to Howard county. He gave me some advice about joining an REI and to hang in there and stick with it. I should have asked him more questions, but running into him caught me off guard. Maybe I'll run into him again, so we'll see.

I had not given any thought to going to other courthouses. The investor I talked to said that he use to go to the one in Baltimore and would get hundreds of hits each time. I'm not sure the frequency he went, but the idea sounds pretty good.

My current plan is to procure a laptop, which will greatly increase the speed I can copy down lead information, and then maybe try to find ways to hit up the other courthouses. It's hard to fit in time to do it around work, since they are open during normal business hours only, which is the same time I'm required to be at work.

I'd like to start working at home more, since that would eliminate commute time and give me some more flexibility. There seems to be some snags and grumbling about my training from last week and what budget to charge it to, so I'm currently keeping a low profile until whatever details are causing problems get ironed out. I'm hoping after a few solid work days back at the office things will be closer to back to normal. I guess I'll just wait and see.

At this point I'm happy with my current progress. I'd like to contact some more investors, solidify the information for my leads and then start adding other lead sources for the future goals. I'd also like to expand my operation to more than just me. I realize having investors that provide the capital and finish the purchase process counts as more than just me, but since I don't have an opportunity to do much during normal business hours, I need to find someone who can.

I'm also done with the GMAT. My scores weren't as high as I wanted but I am proud of my writing score of 5.5/6. I need to being the process of putting together all the information I need to actually apply to the schools. Plus there is still the matter of how to pay for it. Now that I'm back at the grind I guess I have more time to look into that.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Slippery Start

So today started poorly. As they say, what begins poorly can not end well.

Normally I go by the courthouse on Fridays and pick up leads for the week from the foreclosures. This week I ended up sleeping in later instead. I was going to get up early but then had some trouble falling asleep. When I finally did, I then ended up waking up at 5:30 in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep for an hour or so. That's when I made the executive decision to sleep as late as my body felt like sleeping rather than getting up early, since then I wouldn't be mentally exhausted all day, making work feel even longer than it is. Now I have to work till 6 to make up for it though. Which in a way, makes work seem longer anyway.

I feel like I've been taking a mental beating recently. Maybe it's more just the combination of taking on too many things at once. I've been doing background studying for the GMATs for three weeks now. I'll be glad to finally take the exam tomorrow and then be done with it. Also, I'm doing Remedy Admin training at work, which isn't difficult but just takes a lot of energy to stay focused and move through all the material. Ontop of that I'm doing miscellanious work items for both software groups so I have to keep jumping back and forth in focus. Beyond that, I have the jobber stuff that I need to make some process with. And ontop of all of that, I've been playing through the Phantasy Star series, watching US Open tennis and trying to keep up with Fantasy football.

This of course all points to me doing exactly what I said I need to not do in my last post. Spreading myself too thin.

So my plan going forward is to start chopping things off the list. First thing is the GMATs tomorrow, which will remove a big strain. Second, I can somewhat put on hold work stuff next week while I'm at Remedy Admin Training Part II, but I will most likely have to duck into the office in the after hours to keep up with what is happening. It'll be nice to be free of having to think of stuff to keep my mind occupied during work hours though, since that'll be taken care of by the class.

I guess I really need to focus on my sleep habits. A few hours here and a few there have really eaten away at me and made me lose focus. I need to whip that into shape while I take this class or I won't pick up on all the information I'll need to know.

Alright, I'm done for now. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Long Short Week

Despite having Monday off for the holiday and it being only Thursday, this has been a long week. I did not reach my goals for last week again. I keep hesitating on calling investors and trying to actually setup a pipeline of moving leads. I don't know why I hesitate, maybe it's just a wall I have to break through, maybe it's my own laziness.

Things are picking up and running wild at work. I went from not having enough to do to having too much to do. I'm balancing between multiple projects with multiple assignments. Plus, neither set of managers seems to know that I'm taking some online training and then going onsite for training next week to become a Remedy Administrator. I thought I had rapped up all these tasks I needed to finish so that I could focus, but other people have other ideas.

Also, this is the final week before I take the GMATs on Saturday. I feel relatively prepared but I wanted to run through practice exams each day this week. This has not happened at all. Usually when I get home I'm so worn out that I end up playing video games and watching tv and then my whole evening is shot. With two nights left, I need to make some big mental pushes to stay on task and really focus.

I stopped by my old job location on Monday and chatted with a friend of mine that still works there. He had mentioned to me a while back about how I have a tendency to get pulled into too many projects at once, and then lose focus and ending up spread too thin to make any progress. I've noticed this trend as well. Usually when I am spread that thin, the lack of progress frustrates me and I give up on everything. I've found that if I have too little to do I get bored and just put off doing anything. So it's very hard to maintain that certain perfect balance.

Yesterday at work this guy was blaming me for a lot of problems that were occurring with this one task. That guy was the one who wrote all the code that created the problem, plus never provided any clear requirements for what he wanted. Situations like that, where you are setup for failure or blamed for something you aren't responsible for, really bother me. This guy I use to work with did that all the time. He would say, "I don't micro-manage", but in reality he just had no idea what he was doing and would just give vague directions without much substance. Then when everything inevitably went wrong, he dumped all the responsibility on you. If things did go well, due to your personal heroic efforts, then it was good job but he got the credit. Which made it a lose situation to work with him at all. Eventually I just stopped talking to him and helping him at all until I left the company.

Theoretically, I will be spending the next two weeks at these training sessions to become a Remedy Administrator. Then I'll start being sent on travel to do installations and setups. If that does happen, this will be the first time I've ever really been sent to training for a task before doing it and might actually feel adequately prepared. Although, since you're actually suppose to have 1-2 years of Administrator experience before doing the third level training, it will probably be tough to absorb all the information and then be able to act on it. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

I shouldn't have stayed up so late last night watching the Fed/Arod match. It was worth it to see the dominance, but I am going to be tired all day now.