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.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Recently I've been debating my concept of what work is or what constitutes work. Has the model of work shifted from a previous viewpoint to a new one with the changes in technology?

The Old Ways

When the Industrial Revolution hit, there was a strong need for labor. People started to give up working on their parent's farms and moved into the city to work in large factories. Thanks to the assembly line style, each person did a specific task in the advancement of the creation of a product. The amount of work done was a direct effect of the worker's efforts, how quickly and correctly they could accomplish their given task.

In this system, a job works similar to the concept of bartering. You, the worker, are using your time, effort and energy in producing a product for your employer in exchange for payment.

The New Ways

In the Information Age, the age of higher education and computers, this system seems to have broken down.

Now computers are doing the mundane, repetitive tasks that the workers were doing before. The workers now are in charge of directing the computers. So instead of doing the work, the workers now seem to just be in charge of making sure that the computer functions and completes the job on time. It seems that the goal of companies is to collect more and more people that can manage these computers and maintain a certain quota of people who have the skills needed to fix problems that could come along, as well as find ways to make the computers work faster or more efficiently.

In this system, instead of the worker trading their time, effort and energy, it's more just about time. You are "on call" or in a place where the employer can call on you to do something if necessary and in exchange you are paid.

Why has this happened?

At one point I was eating lunch with some contractors who were working on a project with the core group of testers. One of the guys was relating some experiences he had at previous companies where the business was poorly run, but the government still fed it more and more money. The other guy then broke down his explanation of the situation like this:

The government is seen as responsible for everyone. If you don't have a job, the government is believe to be suppose to step in and give you the welfare to keep going. The problem is that this is a large job and the government can't do it all and prefers not to have to do it. So what the government does is it just keeps pushing out the money it collects from taxes back into the economy. It'll keep funding poorly run companies just because they keep people employed no matter the quality of the work produced. If people are employed, then they are no longer the government's problem. So in effect, the government doesn't care what you do with the money as long as you are keeping people employed that it would have to deal with itself if not for you.

Is this true?

When I heard this I didn't really believe it. But now that I'm pretty much living in that situation, I can't deny it anymore. It seems that companies are more concerned with maintaining a certain amount of "resources" or skilled laborers, that are available for projects than actually completing a certain amount of work. This is why movies like Office Space are made. We have a surplus of available labor that is not really being used, but is just available for use.

What do you think? Do you think this is really how it is? How do you categorize a successful, productive day at work? How do you justify your eight hours of work each day?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Top 5 Most Useful Blogs

Today I present my top 5 most useful blogs (that I've found).

5. Cool Tools (

Cool Tools updates almost daily. It's basically an advertisement for different things that you can buy that you wouldn't normally stumble upon, but have a great value for their price. I think the coolest one I've seen so far is an attachment for shovels that changes the angle you would normally be pulling at, greatly lowering the strain on your back.

4. I Will Teach You to Be Rich (

This guy is and writes like a Stanford graduate. He clearly has a large knowledge base about finance and managing a budget as well as getting strong returns on your money. He updates rarely, but usually when he does it is a well written and informative entry.

3. Get Rich Slowly (

An interesting saga about a man's quest to pull himself out of debt. Usually contains some useful advice on how to save money, various book reviews, guest posts from a wide range of perspectives and information about what is going on in his local area. While sometimes I find it hard to relate to, I find this inspirational.

2. Life hacker (

Being a geek like I am, I enjoy the tips and tricks as well as the downloads that these guys dig up daily. Usually they have at least one article worth reading a day that contains some tool or tip that makes my life a lot easier.

1. Genius Types (

Genius Types is my personal favorite blog. It hits on all my favorite topics: relevant news, passive income, business statistics, personal experience advice. I've learned a lot from reading this and this was one of the first blogs I added to my Google Reader list. Definitely worth checking out and some of the archived blogs contain important advice for anyone who wants to move from the realm of working for money to having their money work for them.

I hope you add these blogs to your feeder and enjoy them as much as I do.

Wasted Money

I just wanted to write a quick post about this article.

I'm really glad to see the stats on these things posted. I had computed the average cost of alcohol for a moderate drinker at one point based off of averages from a friend of mine. It was something like $6,000 a year. This, by the way, is after tax money. Now try throwing in coffee each day, which some people will get 2 or 3 cups. And then after all that, you add the health costs for the illnesses that you will get from dehydration. That's a large amount of money thrown away each day. If you smoke, it's even worse.

Let's take a low estimate of $8,000 a year. Say you do this for 5 years. There is a BMW you could have bought. Say you invested the money instead of spending it on a BMW. Even if you get a 5% ROI per year, that's still a potential gain of $6,415.30 (before tax) that you've thrown away. And what do you have to show for it? Most of the time people go out drinking to have fun they end up not remembering what they did. So in order to compensate for that they convince themselves they had a good time. That leads to the pattern of reliance on drinking to have a good time, which is a bad cycle. In the end you've spent your money, don't remember what you did, but at least you've convinced yourself that you enjoyed it... that is until you wake up and realize that you're 35 with a beer gut, potentially a few more kids than you expected to have, and stuck in a job you hate.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't ever spend money. The question is the value gained vs the potential value lost. Sometimes it's worth sitting down and thinking about what you're spending your money on and if it's worth it to you or not. What you're really losing in the end, is your time. When you put your money to work for you, you buy back your future.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Michael Clayton

It's been a long time since I've seen a movie that was this good.

Sometimes I find it's hard to really describe what makes a movie better than others and really worth seeing. Last year when I saw Crash I had that same feeling. I think what it makes it so good is what I like to call, the "Stick Factor".

The Stick Factor

When you leave a movie you are always a little disoriented at first. Maybe it's the blood moving through your body again after you just spend a few hours sitting in a chair. Maybe it's the bunker effect, seeing different environments or situations that are different than your current one and then being disoriented when you re-enter your surroundings. Either way, you almost feel like you're lost in the realm of the movie. The Stick Factor is when you feel that way even long after the movie has ended.

Multiple times I've caught myself revisiting portions of the movie. Rethinking the events that occurred, the ideas in question, the feel of the characters. Like any job, there are variations of skill level and acting is no exception. George Clooney, as much as you love or hate him, has the skill level to be in that upper tier in his profession. Somehow you forget everything you know about him as a person and he becomes the character. Everything about his actions in this movie felt real.

The movie is about a janitor. No, his profession is not a janitor, but he's the guy who cleans up the messes. When you are in a bind, this is the man you want. But like many other people, just because you can clean up someone else's mess, doesn't mean you can clean up your own. So Clayton is in a bad situation and he's trying to dig himself out of it right at the worst time. The law firm he works for has reached a critical point with a prominent client that will make or break their future but they need him to make sure that it goes the right way.

At the same time, a prominent partner and friend of Michael's has been struck with a pang of conscience. He is the one who opens Michael's eyes to the fact that they are janitors, and maybe all that they are really doing is spreading the mess they thought they were cleaning around more and more. They are defending those people who are willing to sacrifice anything or anyone else for personal gain, and its wrong.

The way the pieces of this movie tie themselves together is like an intricate spider's web. Each strand is strong and valuable on it's own, but as more and more are woven, the patterns that are displayed become a work of art. It happens so perfectly that you don't realize how deep you are until its all over.

I recommend you see this movie.

Friday, October 12, 2007


I took off work today and headed to the courthouse. The one I normally go to had 9 new leads for today, which is below average but still beat last week. Then I headed to a nearby county to see if it would be a good idea to expand my route. Turns out that there were 40 leads in that county. I had to pay $17 for parking and it's a little out there, so it'll be a challenge to add it to my weekly routine without taking a day off each week. But it seems that figuring out some way of doing it will be worth the effort.

So I wrote up the leads and sent them to my investor. With 49 or so leads per week, I'm looking at what should average 2 purchases per month. That's a lot better statistic than previously. I imagine that it'll take a while for a pipeline to be built up with a good amount of purchases coming in each month, but this definitely makes things seem more promising.

The rest of the day was pretty productive as well. I had time to watch my brother's soccer game as well as hit the gym. I've been sick for the past 2-3 weeks with an annoying post nasal drip so I had been ditching the gym in hopes of helping recovery. I figured I'd go anyway today, and thinking about it now, it might help me push through this. Regardless, it felt good to get in a work out.

I also updated the breakdown of my finances. Interestingly enough, my savings are still 60% of my net worth, my liquid amount is up to 12% and my investment percentage is up a percent to 28%. My net worth went up a good chunk in the last two weeks overall, so while the balance isn't exactly how I'd like it to be, it's still an improvement.

Alright, that's all I've got for today.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I find it amusing that probably 95% of the conversation I've had at the office since 9/25 revolves around having the insert from Halo 3 sitting on display on my desk. It's amazing how many people play it, as well as the demographics of the people.

So today I want to rant a little bit about sales. My entire life I've been told about how education is important, mainly because without education you end up doing some "low level" job, usually involving sales. Well, while education is important, the ability to sell is extremely important as well, and there is no avoiding it. Everywhere you go, every conversation you have, when you are expressing your ideas or your thoughts, you are selling.

One of my greatest disappointments was the realization I had after a few months of my first real job. Before that I had done all these various ridiculous jobs that were more task oriented than time oriented. At one point I had a job where I sat in the back room and stamped numbers onto cards for 8 hours a day. Yes, this actually happened. By the end of the time I was working there, my right arm had grown significantly compared to my left from the stamping. I think it was something like 8,738 cards that I stamped. Looking back, a computerized device could have and should have done this.

Anyway, the disappointment was the fact that when your raise or performance grade is determined, it's not based off of your performance or some kind of tangibly measured statistics that are very concretely in your control. Instead, it is largely based off of how much your manager likes you, how much he or she thinks you do, and how much easier you make their job. (Some of this may have been correlated with my previous boss who, if you follow any Jung personality models is an ESFP) I was disappointed by this because I've always had a problem with being what I consider "phony".

I think this problem with being a phony goes back to this conditioning against sales. I have this ingrained feeling like when I'm doing something with the sole intent of trying to get someone to like me or just purely sucking up, it's dishonest and morally dishonorable. I also have a problem with taking other people's money because I get this feeling like what I'm doing is wrong. But in reality, being able to sell and incite good feelings in people is important and will make a large difference in your career and workplace environment.

In regard to this, I don't really have any advice. I've read "The Greatest Salesman in the World" and even did the nightly routine they suggest, slowly working my way through each scroll for 9 months. Do I really feel like I'm better at sales because of this? No, I don't. I think the problem is that to be truly good at sales, you actually have to get to the point where you aren't selling at all.

What I mean by this, is that you aren't really looking for the what the result of convincing someone of something will get you anymore. It's more just about you having a passion for something that is so great that you can't contain it. It just explodes forth from you and other people can see how important it is, so it becomes important to them as well, or they feel like they should learn more. Instead of trying to get people to like you, you become so legitimately interested in the other person that you really, truly care, and the person sees these and cares for you as well because of it.

In cases when I've gotten to a point like that, I haven't had problems with that feeling like I'm doing something wrong. I think it's because nothing about that is phony, so why would I feel like it is?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Engineering Business

I had a revelation a few days back about business. I believe one of the main reasons a business will fail is because the person running the business treats it more like a hobby than a business. What I mean by this, is that in order to succeed there has to be metrics to track where you've been, where you are and where you are going. If you only focus on doing what you've always done, or just whatever task is at hand and leave out this perspective you lose your propensity towards growth and it becomes more of a job than a business.

I read somewhere recently about this kid in a third world country. He spends his day begging on the side of a popular road. What's special about him is that he varies what he says, how he says it, his body position and various other factors for each situation. He then keeps statistics of the results in order to determine what combinations work best for what types of tourists or other people that pass by. Now that is using an engineering approach to business.

My current favorite TV show is House. The reason I love it is because, unlike how I envision most doctors, he takes an engineering approach to diagnostics. He creates a list of symptoms, determines treatment and proceeds. If the output does not match what he expects, he now has another symptom to use to analyze the problem and determine a new diagnosis. The beauty of this is that he is able to remove all the clutter of potential traps towards figuring out what is wrong with the patient, including emotional attachment.

Now, keeping this in mind, I've been analyzing my own business.

Since starting going to get leads, the weekly numbers have been as follows:

8/24 - 15 leads
8/31 - 21 leads
9/14 - 19 leads
9/21 - 10 leads
9/28 - 6 leads
10/5 - 8 leads
* 9/14's results are slightly skewed since they include 9/7's results as well.

So I'm averaging a little over 11 leads per week. Since usually you will get positive results from 1 out of every 100 leads, this means that every 10 weeks I should get 1 commission. So, maybe between $500-$3000 ever 2.5 months, or an average of $200-1200 a month, with a start delay of 3 months.

Based on this, I think my conclusion to start going to other counties in order to pull in a larger amount of leads is a good idea. Also, I need to start determining other potential sources for leads, such as houses with tax liens or code violations as well as just the foreclosures. Once I've developed a healthier flow of leads, hopefully in the range of at least 25 per week, then I can do some analysis of my investor to see how good or bad he is versus the average 1 connection for every 100 leads.

Clearly though, these statistics point out how great a need I have to increase the number of leads I find and move my pursuits forward to the next step.

The other important thing in business that ties in well with statistics, is goal setting. My current goal is to expand my operation this week by visiting courthouses in other counties. This will give me some familiarity with their locations, best routes to get there, amount of time it will take to visit them, as well as how much potential they have for leads. Then with this information, I can start finding ways to incorporate visits in my weekly routine. The goal being to hopefully double or triple my flow of leads. I'd like to get my average up from 11 to at least 25 by the end of the month by incorporating these new methods.

Now with some stats and goals, I'm hoping to move this business to the next level and actually start seeing some strong results. Then I'll be able to keep pushing for more growth by doing more statistical analysis and setting new goals.

Short Follow Up

I'm feeling better today. I busted out my books this morning and did some review of the formula that I use for investing. The point of the formula is that it prides itself on its simplicity. The goal isn't to try to figure out all the trends and predict how specific occurrences in the market will effect certain stocks, but rather to make the process as easy as possible while still producing gains that beat the market average. The idea is based off of a combined approach of Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffet. You figure out the value of a company by taking the amount of assets and debt to determine it's actual per share value. Then, based off of last year's return on assets, you determine how good of a job it is doing with it's money. Each validation is used to give the stock a numerical rating out of the total subset that is measured. The stocks that have the lowest ratings based on the combination of the two scores are the better stocks to invest in. Another thing is that over a three year period you'll get a return that averages 30% or so, but 2 out of the 3 years could be terrible and then the following year be great.

I still need to learn the terminology better as well as learn how to do the financial analysis myself instead of relying completely on a computer's output. That way I'll start to understand the flow of money in a business. When you can read a financial statement it's a big confidence boost and you have a much better idea of what is going on inside a company.


A special late night post.

I'm posting mainly because I can't stop thinking about what I'm going to write. I can't sleep because of it, so I'm hoping writing about it will free my mind.

So Tuesdays I go out to dinner with a bunch of my friends from college. I like it because I can talk about some ideas, share stuff I've learned and get different perspectives from people my age rather than the usual that I'm use to. A couple of the guys are business savvy and I really enjoy conversing with them because they bring a lot of new information to the table. Tonight was the first time a discussion of stocks came up with this one guy there who is a finance major.

He broke down his portfolio, the stats so far for the year as well as the reasoning behind each stock choice. It was impressive. He accurately made plays based off of expectations of interest rates going down, the weakness of the dollar and different product releases across various sectors. He knew all the right words and put them in the correct order.

Then he asked me about my investments.

I went through my investments in a previous blog as well as the source of my picks being mainly the formula from "The Little Book that beats the Market". Trying to explain this and the reasoning behind it to someone who actually does financial analysis on their own, a lot tougher task.

At this point I don't even remember a lot of what I said. But I basically stumbled through an explanation and must have sounded like a dumb ass to this guy who actually knows how to do research. I felt like a total fraud.

There are very few moments in my life so far where I've felt like I did tonight. The most recent was when I applied for my current job. My now boss asked me about relational databases and how you would design a database to incorporate a person who can have multiple addresses. I told him about this idea I had when I put together a database for my previous company, which of course turned out to be a terrible way to do it and completely wrong. Some how I got the job anyway, but I felt like I knew nothing.

So anyway, from his facial expression I could tell that his mind must have gone into "this guy knows nothing" mode. He was really nice about it considering, and gave me some pointers about maybe using a more involved brokerage that has tools that will help me learn more. It was basically a nice way of saying, nice try buddy, maybe if you have someone hold your hand for a while you'll learn something and then I can discuss this intelligently with you.

Now I feel like crap at this point. It's one of those situations where your self esteem plummets and you lose all confidence in everything you say and do at all related to the subject. Your credibility is gone and essentially you forfeit any standing you once had to the new champion. All that pride you built up to the point where you think that you have a grasp over different subjects has now been shaken and now I'm left with a feeling of being lost.

I'll pick myself up, dust myself off and start hammering away at learning more in the near future I'm sure. Right now though I feel like a total jackass. It just makes me think, how long do you have to study to get to the point where you actually know something? When do you get to the point where what you know is actually valuable and considered a skill? What is a credible source to learn from?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ranting and Raving

I'm going off topic today since I don't have anything new to report on my business front.

So, watching Heroes last night I noticed a few things. First, a TV show is a lot more fun to watch without the commercials. I originally got into Heroes late and therefore was watching the episodes online with very limited commercial interruption. Also, I watched them in bulk. I was working night shifts at that point and old TV episodes were my only solace, so I'd plow through as many as I could fit in an eight hour session. I got through the first half of season 1 of Heroes before I caught up, and I plowed through most of season 1 of Friday Night Lights.

Anyway, I believe commercial advertising is dead. I cannot recall a time I've ever ended up buying a product because I saw a commercial for it on TV. The closest thing is maybe a movie or a TV show I watched, which does not completely fit even since I was going to see it anyway, regardless of the commercial. In some cases, I've actually changed my mind and not seen something because I hated the commercial. So it seems to actually be a net negative. The only value commercial breaks hold anymore is allowing the viewer to get up and get something to eat or go to the bathroom. Soon, when I have a little more control over my living situation, I will only watch TV shows after recording them so I don't have to watch commercials. I may even just record whole seasons and then just watch them in binge fashion to save time. This also applies to listening to the radio as well. Soon everyone will just listen to CDs or HD radio without commercials.

The second observation was that Heroes is becoming the OC. They're adding relationship drama to what was once a show focused on the next stage of evolution for humanity. It's like watching a "boy" comic become a "girl" comic. Do more women watch TV then men? Is that why there seems to be a need to add this element into every show? Maybe the writers have all been offered better jobs on other shows, but it's just disappointing and annoying.

So my second off topic rant for today is the Dallas/Buffalo game last night. I started watching it late, but the entire time I couldn't shake this feeling like Dallas was going to win. I wasn't sure how, but I just knew it was going to happen. The entire Buffalo organization needs to be fired and replaced for the absolutely pathetic management display. The plays they called and decisions they made, they might as well have put out a Welcome mat at the goal line. How does someone throw 5 picks and still end up winning the game? Esp when you have 2 defensive and 1 special teams touchdown. Just pathetic. The best part of the whole thing was this commercial with this really dumb looking cowboy to which my brother said, "What is this? Tony Homo's boyfriend?" Priceless.

One final rant for today. I'd like to get some feedback from the audience about the Employee/Employer and Employer/Employee relationship and obligations. To what extent is an employee indebted to an employer for that paycheck? If the employer has nothing for an employee to do, why is the employee still indebted 8 hours of time to be spent at the office just to receive their salary? If they employee has other things they can do that will add more value to themselves, which means they are increasing company assets, shouldn't the employee be sanctioned to do them? Where is the moral obligation line for the 40 hour work week in regards to time spent at the office? Let's hear what you think.

Monday, October 8, 2007


I opted not to take the holiday today and instead go in for work. I'm planning to take it Thursday or Friday instead in order to execute the plan I mentioned last week.

I've been reading through Forbe's 400 wealthiest Americans recently. I'm trying to figure out what is the difference between the successful and the immensely successful. It seems that with most of the people on the list the commonality is that they started their own business or financed someone else starting a business. Also, there is a large number of people who made their money in real estate or oil. The other large chunk seems to be the people who run investment firms.

The most important thing to take from this is that all of these people work in areas where you can cut out a large amount of taxes. Real estate can have some phantom costs that counter balance the income. Investments are taxed at a lower rate when held for the long term and dividends are taxed at a lower rate as well. And when you start your own business, you are basically a partner with the government, employing people that they would otherwise have to look out for, so they are willing to cut you some slack on different expenses that would normally be paid for with after tax money.

For the past year or two I've been trying to move my money over to these types of asset classes. I recently discussed my portfolio breakdown. I keep a certain amount in liquid reserve for emergencies and other things that I'm planning on buying. The rest I'm moving into areas where it will generate money and then be taxed less.

I've been starting to feel like I should section off some money to invest in my business so I can step up the growth a notch. While it's nice and easy at this pace, it's also going to take a long time to start moving in a direction that will create exponential growth. I'm not sure exactly how and where to put some injected capital yet, but I'll be working through options.

Also, over the weekend I had a discussion with one of my advisers. She thinks it would be a bad idea to bail on this job after 6 months. Since I just left a job after about a year and a half, any prospective companies would start to think of me like I will only be there for 6 months. While my business pursuits are still small I'm going to need a full time job to keep me afloat, so breaking down that option, while motivating, could lead to potential ruin. So I think I'm just going to focus on making what I do at work more inline with my goals by trying to get more involved with other areas. I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to do that yet, but I'll be working on that as well.

For all those who did take the holiday off today, congrats and I hope it was restful and relaxing.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Courthouse Sum Up

Courthouse results for this week were only slightly better than last week. Eight new listings for the county. In doing some checking, it seems that Monday will be a holiday for the courthouses and they will be closed. What I might do, is go to work on Monday and then take the holiday on Wednesday or Thursday since it's an optional holiday that I can move around. I'll have to see how I'm feeling on Monday.

Recently, the subject of retirement and investing has come up a lot in what I read and conversations I've had. A friend of mine said that his Financial advisor told him that with some smart planning he would be able to retire by the age of 50. This shocked me because the guy is an engineer, is already buying his own house and is putting money away towards retirement. You'd think he would be farther ahead than just 5 years. Apparently justification for only 5 years is based on theoretical expenses for children and some emergency funds in case something else comes up. I still think he should be much farther ahead than that.

Personally, I have three accounts setup for retirement saving. First is my 401k through my company. I have this balanced pretty well in some mutual funds that will avoid a lot of current USA domestic problems caused by the credit crunch going forward. My rate of return for the year is only 3% in this account, mainly because I set it up at the start of June and it got whacked pretty hard by the dip in the market before I did some more research and setup a better selection. Ever since I rebalanced I've been charging back and I plan on leaving this alone and letting it grow for the remainder of the year. The combination of not having to pay tax on what is put in and my employer matching really helps this grow.

I also have another 401k from a previous company that is averaging about 9% return so far this year. If last year is any view of how the last quarter will turn out, I should end up with about a 15% return for this year.

My second account is a Roth IRA that I setup last year. It's focused on some foreign markets that are mainly revolved around gold mining. It's been averaging 11% growth per year, so it seems fine to leave alone. I'm not sure how high the management fees are, but it's more of a bonus fund so I'm not tinkering with it much. I realize I can't touch this money till I'm 65, but not having to pay taxes on earnings is worth it since it's a solid long term setup.

My third account is my individually selected stocks. I'm taking the value investing approach and following the system of Joel Greenblatt, the investment stud who has averaged insane returns over the last 25 years. This is my pride and joy account that I've been priming for almost a year now. I've heard a lot of people talk about their failures in picking individual stocks, but I believe in value investing and I'm dedicated to sticking this out, esp since it's already produced 10% gains even during the dry period of the market and should really excel during the upcoming months.

The combination of those three accounts are the backbone of my retirement savings plan. My current goal is to prime them and let them compound over the next 20-30 years. The result should easily leave me in a comfortable position to decide if I really want to keep working long before the retirement age.

Like I stated previously, I'm trying to move away from saving now that I've setup the backbone. The greatest and worst thing that stocks have going for them is that they are so passive. While I don't have to do any work to see change, I also have no control over that change after the initial buy decision. I'd like to shift my money flow into priming other things that I have control over into a larger state of growth. The best example is the Jobber business I'm building. Eventually I would like to significantly increase operations by purchasing a laptop to use to collect lead information as well as start using some paid sources to acquire leads. At that point I will increase the number of investors I work with as well as pay to join some local REI clubs. But again, this growth hinges on some capital investment. But the nice part is that I have direct control over the results.

The final thing I want to mention is the use of mutual funds. My guess is that a large number of "investors" throw their money into a mutual fund and then go on with the assumption that someone's active management of that fund will lead to their profit. I'm warning that this is not the case.

Mutual fund management is a job like any other, and with any job there is always a range of how good or bad the person doing it actually performs. Just because they hold that position does not mean that they are really more educated about the market than you are. They most likely are just following a corporate system that does not take into account any of the real factors that determines how a business will perform. Warren Buffett follows the value investing approach of determining the actual value of a company and its shares. He takes it a step further than just that, though. He looks at the management and decision making and sees if they are intelligently directing the business.

I read the book Good to Great a year or so back. This book was a brilliant analysis of what are the differences between a company destined for success and one that will walk the average line. They are real, they are true and they are greatly overlooked. Never forget that what you are investing in is not just a name, it is a business. A business is only as strong and capable as the people who do the work.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Tomorrow will be my weekly trip to the courthouse. I'm looking forward to it because it will be a welcome break from my current work monotony. Based off of the real estate numbers from articles I've read this week, there should be a good number of foreclosures.

To date I've compiled a list of 71 foreclosures over the last month or so. Unfortunately none of this has led to any actual purchases or cash flow to this point. It is understandable why though, since I've only been sending leads to my investor for 3 weeks. The first round of leads contained some that were weeks old and potentially had gone bad. The last round I sent had a total of 6 leads, so there wasn't much help there.

Based on what I read in the Jobber information, you should expect something like 1 in 100 leads will produce a sale. Right now I haven't reached 100 and if you don't count the first few weeks that had turned stale, then I still have a ways to go. This serves as reinforcement to my idea that I should be going out to other counties to pick up my lead quotas. Currently, I'm still sticking with the plan of exploring during the holiday on Monday, but if the courthouse is closed then I'll have to make other arrangements.

One of my brothers is actually currently employed and I've played with the idea of recruiting him. I've tried to involve him on some ventures in the past with poor result, so it makes me hesitant to even offer up the suggestion now. Also, when you don't even have a flow of income it's hard to figure out how you would split it up. What I might do is offer him a flat rate for every lead that ends in a purchase, and then hopefully the deal I have setup with my investor will provide me some solid income over that. It's hard to say what to do though, since I don't have any precedent to use for measurement.

For now, my current plans remain at a trip to the courthouse tomorrow and one planned but unconfirmed for Monday.

In concert with the books I've been reading, I developed a few new goals yesterday. My first is to get a new job doing something more inline with my goals by January 1, 2008. This is a bit of a surprise since I just changed jobs at the end of May, but the daily grind at my current job has reached an unbearable point. It's not that I don't like the job, but the work is unfulfilling and boring. It's nice to have a certain amount of free time at work, but I don't have that feeling of freedom to spend the time towards something constructive. The environment of my cubicle has become mentally taxing to the point that I find it hard to accomplish anything, even just simple tasks because I'm so use to the lackluster stream of intellectually stimulating work.

The second goal is to build contacts, systems and ideas to the point that in 3 years I will be able to break off from any job I'm involved with and start my own business. I don't have a 100% game plan of how to do all these things yet, but the idea will be to find a mentor as well as start implementing ideas from the books I read, rather than them just remaining abstract ideas. I'm not sure if I'll take the route of going to get an MBA or just trying to find a job that will teach me how to run a business, but based off of goal 1's result, that should be easy to determine.

The third goal is to be a CEO of a successful business in 5 years. Either through the business I start reaching a profitable and successful level, or through the skills learned from the business opening up offers from other businesses for me to step in at the CEO position. This is a lofty goal, but I feel like completing the first two goals will put me within grasp of achieving this.

Now the problem I have is finding a path to reach each goal. For the first one, I've already started updating my resume, I'm going through the Pathfinder, and I've started looking into companies that seem to implement the business systems I would like to learn. The hard part is breaking out of this mental rut I'm stuck in and pushing myself to focus and make progress. I'm hoping that establishing these goals here will help me to do just that.

One final note, I've been doing some reading about how to build up traffic to your blog. Some of the stuff is really gimmicky and I really don't want to do. Like I could start putting together lists of things, but it seems to trivial and pointless. But I would like to keep increasing traffic. If anyone reading has some ideas or suggestions, or things they would like to read, leave some ideas in the comments.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Never Eat Alone

So right off the bat, my blog has reached the 100 page view mark since Adsense started tracking page views for me. I know, not as impressive as those guys who get 50,000 or 100,000 hits a day, but I'm happy. Thank you to all my visitors. By the way, feel free to comment or raise questions.

I read this guy's blog "I will teach you to be rich" ( every so often and today he had an interesting concept. The idea of doing statistical analysis of your daily life to see where your time and money goes. That way you can have a better understanding of what is actually going on, rather than what you think is going on. It also allows you to reflect back on what you could have done better and make some improvements.

Currently I have a few systems like that setup. The first one is my 'Engineering Log' for work. The idea is that each day I keep tracking of what I worked on, and various important information that comes up. That way I know what I did and when I did it, as well as having some CYA in case something happens down the road. It's probably the best idea that came out of my Software Engineering course that I took in college. My sister told me at one point that a colleague of hers did something similar, but kept track of the time she did things as well as how long it took her to do them. That way if there was ever a question about her time card she knew how to resolve it. Also, my brother told me that a colleague of his would make power point slides for each step of a project he worked on. That way he was able to sum up the main points, have something to remember what he did and why he did it by, and he could present on what he was working on at any time. Both additional tactics seem to be very valuable, but I don't have a busy enough or engaged enough work routine currently to implement them. In the near future I should be switched to a different project, so that may be the time to start incorporating those ideas.

The second system I have is used to track my finances. I made up what I call a "Financial map" which is basically a spreadsheet of the balance of my checking account over time. I have scheduled in different deposits and withdrawals that occur at certain fixed intervals. I then update it with recent transactions in a way that I can see what I'm spending my money on. Most financial software does this same thing and for a while I was using Quicken to manage my finances, but their auto-update feature did not work with some of my accounts so I went back to my old way of doing things. I've heard that Quick Books is better software and there is also Open Source software called "Mint" that will do a better job, but I haven't found the need to upgrade yet. What I also do about monthly is update a financial summary. This is just a list of the balance of all of my accounts so I get a big picture idea of what percentages I hold in different areas. For example, about 60% of my wealth is currently in savings accounts, 30% is in investments and about 10% is in very liquid accounts. My goal is to shift the balance so that my investing and savings are about equal percentage.

I do not have a system to track where my time goes. I feel like this would be very useful since I seem to waste a lot of my time. I'm ok with this to a point currently since in my long term goals this is more of a limbo period. Once I change my living situation I will no longer be ok with this and will make a push to start drastically changing how I monitor my time.

The other problem I run into is determining my goals. I'm re-reading Never Eat Alone since it's such a quality book and my brother thought it would be a good idea to review some of the concepts. It also emphasizes how important goals are, since you can't get somewhere if you don't know where it is. I've also been reading the Pathfinder intermittently in order to come up with goals, so I'm hoping that will help in that area.

Currently, my main goals are to finish my financial priming in December so I can shift my money flow into other investments. Once I have that base that I can build on, I'll be able to focus on life improvements, like putting together a website to use as a central brand building point and changing my living arrangement so that I can start having meetings. Also, I'll be able to setup work spaces like I mentioned in a previous blog so that I can focus better on different projects. Along with those goals is my continuing process of building the Real Estate Jobber business and this blog that I use to track it.

So again, thank you to my readers. This is the first milestone of hopefully many to come and I hope that my perspectives are adding value to you as well.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Special Bonus Post/Rant

I just read this article that discusses how people who hang out together usually have the same spending habits. Oh really? How about, DUH!

I'm sorry, but to think that this isn't obvious information really baffles me. Maybe I read too much or at least more than other people, but the idea that people living together or spending a lot of time together do the same things seems pretty much like common sense. You see articles that discuss how people who have been married for 25 years even start to look like each other because their natural biorhythms cause them to use the same facial expressions as each other, which over times causes the same wrinkles.

They end the article discussing how kids whose parents own stock are more likely to own stock themselves. This is another duh. The same goes for other behavior like drinking and smoking and the person's overall temperament. Also, the value system of the parents is usually reflected in their children as well. Why wouldn't it be?

The bottom line is that we are all animals. We learn from the other people around us. If someone does something a certain way and we don't have another way to do it or their method seems more effective, we will adopt their method. It's natural. That's why if your parents have poor spending habits, so will you unless you break free from them.

This is also why their are tiers of schools. The better schools have better methodologies for doing things. Maybe they are more complex or harder to do and only brighter people are able to execute them, but they still produce more effective results. The better schools are the ones innovating even better methods all the time because they are pulling in the money to do the research. The lower schools just copy their methods as they trickle down. I know this first hand as my teachers would steal lectures and projects from Carnegie Mellon.

Anyway, to end this on a positive, it just goes to show you that if you want your life to change, you have to change your environment. Sometimes this means ditching friends or family members to hang out with other people who have the habits you want to develop. This will prevent you from lapsing into what you are trying to avoid. This is also the reason why they should never put a reformed criminal back into the same neighborhood they got arrested in. It's too easy for old habits to come back when one person is trying to push out their changes on a larger group. The group just has too much momentum in a majority of cases and the individual can't win. So be aware of your friends and your surroundings.

Weekend Escapade

So I managed to go to the courthouse again on Friday. It was a good thing I did since there were four more leads, which was double the previous total for the week. Six isn't really that much since before I was getting around 15, but according to articles I've been reading about foreclosures, the stream should be picking up for a while to come. I didn't get a chance to go into another county this week since I had to spend time packing, but I'll try to work something out for next week. Monday is Columbus day, so I'll see if the courthouses are closed or not and then plan a trip based on my findings.

My weekend trip went well. It wasn't a business trip, but rather more of a vacation so it was successful in giving me some time off to relax. I went out to visit my brother so I got to see his setup and meet some of his friends. He's got a good core group and a nice place. It's a good thing because the senior year of college is something you should really enjoy. I don't mean by drinking it all away or by blowing off class and work, but more just having a good group of people to spend time with as well as getting a real taste for living on your own before 40 hour work week grind sets in. The communal setting of living in an apartment is a lot nicer than living in the middle of the burbs miles away from your friends. Just the fact that you can pop in and out of people's places and just hang out for a little while or even for hours, kinda feels right. Either that or I watch too much Seinfeld.

I did make some interesting observations over the weekend.

Your environment is a simple, but accurate gauge of how productive you are. I don't mean that everything has to be spotless, but organization is key. That's why libraries are successful places to study. Information is accessible and all around you. You feel like anything that comes up you'll be able to find a resource for and it's motivating. If an idea comes to you, or you have a project to work on, being surrounded by multitudes of unfinished tasks is just going to overwhelm you. If you have a clear space to work and the tools you need to work on the problem you'll jump right in. As they say, action is the cure for procrastination. If it takes you 15-30 minutes to clear off a space and get together everything you need, the task it going to feel even more overwhelming.

I run into this problem a lot with my current living space. All of my stuff is crammed into spaces that are not large enough. Therefore, when I sit down and want to work on something, I almost feel like I'm trapped in too small a space. So I end up blowing it off. The ideal setting would be a place where I could partition off my different projects. If I want to work on my Jobber business, I sit down where all my files are and plug away. If I want to read some information about setting up vending machine locations, this should be somewhere else, and so on. Unfortunately, that is not a current option, but now that I know what would work and have a picture in mind, I can start working towards making it so.

Goal setting is very valuable. Almost every "Self Improvement" book I've ever read talks about goal setting. The best example I've seen was in The Science of Getting Rich, which discusses getting a clear vision of what you want and then focusing on it. By keeping that vision, your conscious and subconscious thoughts will start seeing ways for you to make it so. When you are that focused, you start to use your brain's natural pattern matching ability to filter out things that would distract you or become stumbling blocks and focus only on things that will lead to what you want.

Another observation I made is that illness always settles in when you relax. I've read things that discuss this before in a variety of places. I imagine it's because your body is always toggling between fight or flight mode and passive mode. Once you remove the daily stress and switch to passive, things jump up on you while you are trying to recover with your defenses down. Luckily I have some illness fighting tools. I usually take a multivitamin each day, and I have a neti pot that I use every other day as well as days when I start feeling pretty bad. Here is more information on what a neti pot is and how it works for those who are interested:

Finally, I was reading Genius Types ( a great blog about passive income as well as a good perspective ). The author mentions blogging as "Your Brand" which I completely agree with. I'm curious if he's read Never Eat Alone, but what he is saying is very much inline with what Keith Ferrazzi wrote about. In The World is Flat, they discuss how times have moved from corporations being able to do what only countries could before to the individual being able to do what corporations can do. So now each person is their own brand, has their own image and their own skills that they have to market to a global world. By having a blog you are able to do this. It takes a while to develop your ideas and methodologies, as well as how you are going to express them, but it is a more accurate depiction of the individual.

I had a conversation a few months back with my brother where I was telling him that perhaps he should divide his resume up by skills rather than by work experience. Focus on things like leadership, organization, persistence, and then list the jobs and activities at those jobs that developed those skills or showcased his use of them. It was a more human approach to a resume, rather than just a list of technical jargon to set off keyword searches. While it probably isn't the best approach for applying for a job, since so many companies focus on keyword searches, I feel like that is what blogging is becoming. It's a living document that shows the deeper aspects of the person rather than a list of time sensitive buzz words that show little about who you are or what value you will bring. I imagine in the future social networking profiles and resumes will merge to be a larger, more accurate viewpoint of an individual. I know employers already look at people's profiles before making hiring decisions, so I doubt this merge will be too far off. I'm not a member of linked-in, but since it's suppose to be social networking for professionals, this may have already happened.

Overall, it was a relaxing and thought provoking weekend. I hope to repeat it sometime in the near future.