The Sinking Boat

SinkingBoatWhen is a dream about a boat sinking a good thing? Well, it’s better that it was a dream rather than real but I still think the symbolism of this dream was positive.

I don’t often remember dreams but when I do there always seems to be a reason. Let me setup the situation with some background as to what was going on in my life.

The spa business my wife and I own has been doing well. The one problem we have is that we need to hire more people to keep up with the demand so that’s a good thing. One hire we needed was a manager and we had found a winner. Our new manager was excellent in every way and really put us at ease. Now we could concentrate on other issues and keep growing. Three weeks into her employment, however, she stopped showing up to work. We could not reach her in any way. She didn’t return phone calls, emails, or texts. We were at a loss.

That’s when I had this dream. In the dream every time I checked on my boat it had sunk but would rise up again. I’d leave and when I would return it had sunk again. But it would rise again. The patern continued, sink, rise, sink, rise. And that’s when I woke up.

So why do I think this is a positive thing? Because being an entrepreneur, owning a business, is like being on a boat that sinks but can rise again. Things go wrong, some things are beyond your control, but when things go wrong you have to rise up and deal with them, fix them, and keep moving. Our manager chose Valentine’s Weekend not to show up and my wife and I stepped in and worked. We did what we had to do and the business kept moving. We sank but were able to rise again. I’m sure something else will happen to make us feel as if we’re sinking but we do what it takes to stay afloat. Whatever the challenge, we keep focused on success.

Saturday could have been a disaster but we rose to the challenge and had a very good day.

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Dream Income

No I’m not going to show you how to have a dream income, instead I’m going to rail against those who make money doing nothing but selling you a dream.

SunsetDreamI don’t respect people who sell nothing but hope and dreams. These are the people who come up with inspirational quotes, who make you believe you can do anything, that all you need is the confidence and belief in yourself. They tout mystical and mythical things like The Secret and “laws” of attraction.

I’m thinking of people like Jim Rohn and Anthony (or is it Tony) Robbins, people whose product is inspiration and motivation. I know they have fans Anthony Robbinsand supporters but they don’t impress me. Jim Rohn was an “entrepreneur” who ran a direct sales organization (Nutri-Bio, whatever that is) that went out of business. (Don’t get me wrong – I couldn’t be successful at that but then again I’m glad that I can’t sell people useless things they don’t need.)

Instead I’m impressed by people like Gary Vaynerchuk who is not short on inspiration and motivation but who doesn’t make those things his only source of income. On the contrary they are a small portion of his success. His speaking and books are his side hustle not his industry.

Similarly I wrote a book and have my own quotes like the one above and this one: “inspiration without action is just a good intention.” But I don’t want to sell you the dream of success, I want you to be motivated by the realization of my dreams as I am by the realization of Gary Vaynerchuk’s.

Gary_1Gary has great quotes but it’s his business success that I derive energy from. Whether it’s building Wine Library from a bricks and mortar liquor store to a large online retailer, or being an important part of social media with Vayner Media, Gary has built tangible success.

Too many people eat up the inspiration of these salesmen and feel great about themselves while they continue sitting on the sofa safe with their dream of success.

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Progress Vs. Perfection

twit1There are a couple of trends I’ve noticed among those I follow on twitter recently. The first is a belief that passive income is the path to success. That one isn’t wrong but it isn’t as easy as it sounds either. The other trend is the choice (maybe a false choice) between progress and perfection.
The Truth
It is true that if you wait until everything is known, until there is no risk and everything is perfect, you’ll never get started. Paralysis by analysis as it’s called. But that doesn’t mean you should settle. Strive for perfection while moving forward.
The Reality
In What Next I talk about the ability (metaphorically speaking) to hike or travel two or more paths at the same time. This is working a day job while pursuing a business idea you have, for example. Well the same is true with progress and perfection. Keep moving forward and when you fall short of perfection ask why and modify your course.
Simple Sells
The reason progress or perfection is presented as a choice or passive income is presented as the solution to success is that they’re simple. These choices let you off the hook. You don’t have to work hard because you have passive income – well that’s bull. It’s ok not to strive for perfection because at least you’re moving forward – also bull.
It may not be the simple solution you want, but the truth is, success is hard. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this and other similar posts. Don’t let yourself off so easily, dedicate yourself to doing the hard work and find true success.

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Building up

This is what I want:


And this is what I have:


And this is where I started:

Jetski 750SX

You don’t start at the top and work your way down. You don’t start with a yacht and end up with a Jestski. You start at the bottom – but the bottom for me is different than the bottom for you.

Richard Branson grew up wealthy so for him starting at the bottom was founding a magazine. John Paul DeJoria, founder of Paul Mitchell hair care and Patron tequila (love the coffee Patron), once lived in a car, bottom for him was really low.

It is incremental steps that build success and wealth, but like starting at the bottom the increments are larger or smaller depending on the person.

Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, grew that business incrementally. Begun in 1971 Schultz bought the company in 1987 and expanded outside the Seattle area for the first time that same year. The company didn’t go public until 1992 when it had just 140 locations compared to over 16,000 today. The incremental growth was slow in the beginning and picked up speed as time went on. Incremental growth speeds up with momentum. None of the successful people you know have coasted to the heights they’ve achieved. Success is an uphill climb and coasting doesn’t work up hill.

But what do the boats have to do with growing a business? Nothing really, but they are the end result of that success. I mean really, why work if it can’t buy fun? The boats represent how growing your business is tied to growing your own success. We grow our businesses, our savings, our net worth so that we can enjoy it. When I got my first job out of college I bought that Jetski and thought I had hit the big time. Over the years I upgraded and bought a boat and then another Jetski. I traded up for a bigger boat and now I’ve traded up once again for the boat you see in the middle.

I’ve taken small steps over the years which is how I’ve been able to grow in other areas such as net worth and investment portfolio. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the yacht in the first picture but I know I won’t get it by obsessing over it. I’ll get that boat by continuing to work hard, by growing my various What Next businesses, and by keeping focused on success. It’s the people who focus on the results of success rather than the work of success who end up with less than they started.

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Gamblers Who Don’t Gamble

Entrepreneurs are gamblers who don’t gamble and risk takers who aren’t risky.

Sparked by curiosity, entrepreneurs explore farther and wider than most people but they aren’t reckless (at least not the successful ones).

RouletteNothing happens without ideas, and curiosity is what leads to the best ideas. You have to go through a lot of ideas before you find that magical one that both excites you and works. That search can sometimes take a lifetime and the search is what many people don’t understand about entrepreneurs. In my interview with Gary Vaynerchuk he said he has ideas “24/7.” But he doesn’t blindly follow all of them or most of them or even some of them. He said that if the idea sticks around for a while, just won’t leave his mind, then he’ll follow it.

Which takes me to the idea of risk. Acting on any new idea has risk associated with it but there is a difference between being risky and taking a risk. Being risky is just doing it without much thought or planning. Taking a risk is researching, learning as much as you can, turning the unknown into the known so that surprises are minimal, and then going for it. One approach is dangerous the other is smart.

A lot of people confuse this penchant for risk as gambling but gambling is a loser’s game, gambling is a game of chance and successful entrepreneurs work hard to reduce chance. You can’t eliminate chance but there comes a tipping point when risk has been reduced to the point that action makes sense. This is why I put the following quote in my book: “I have always found that if I move with seventy five per cent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.” That was Lee Iococca, the former CEO of Chrysler and that is the difference between someone who sees entrepreneurship as risky, as gambling, and someone who understands risk and works to make it less risky.

The person who has to wait until all risk is eliminated will never be an entrepreneur, and the person who rushes in without thought or preparation won’t be successful, but the balance between these two extremes puts the odds in your favor. It’s why I ask What Next and why I work hard to answer that with facts.

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Finish Strong

finish-lineI don’t want to cross the finish line feeling half dead, I want to cross that line feeling victorious no matter what place I’m in.

I’m no coach or professional trainer but, as I work my way up to 13.1 miles in preparation for my first half marathon, I have a specific method to my treadmill workouts (it’s cold outside).

I always start slow (my current starting pace is 5 mph) and increase my speed as the run continues. When I reach a comfortable speed (currently 5.5 mph) I stay there for most of the run. On longer runs I will drop back to 5 mph and then build up to 5.5 or higher to finish.

The point is that I want to finish better than I started, and the important takeaway is that it’s a gradual but building process. The same is true in life and business. A business doesn’t go from $100,000 in revenue to a million overnight, they build up to it over time.

Sometimes it’s necessary to pull back, to intentionally slow down, so you can be fresh and have the energy needed to see the goal to the end. How many people and businesses keep the pedal to the floor but run out of stamina?

As I was increasing my speed on the treadmill I thought about what incremental changes I could make in my life, what could I do more of to get ahead. As I was dropping back to my starting speed I thought about what I could let up on so I could focus on more important things.

This gave me a whole new perspective and I wanted to get off the treadmill right then and get to work (ok, I just wanted the workout to be over). So I finished strong and turned my attention to other ways I’ll be sure to finish strong.

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Slow Motion Lottery

powerballI didn’t win the Powerball (I also didn’t play but my wife did) and to make matters worse, my net worth has taken a big hit so far this year as the stock market has cratered. If I were close to retirement I’d  be worried.StockDecline

People, so called experts (you know my feelings on experts), are saying stupid things like sell everything, or sell into any rally. Don’t listen.

On the contrary, buy and keep buying. Don’t take every last penny and invest that’s just as stupid, but if you buy regularly as the market falls, you’ll have a lot more shares when things turn around. It’s a proven concept called dollar cost averaging. These “experts” make it sound like dollar cost averaging is only a good idea when markets rise but it’s just the opposite. It works best the further the market falls.

The spring is tightening, coiling up for those of us smart and confident enough to stick with a plan, and bold enough to adjust the plan to take advantage of panic.

The lottery is real it’s just not a sudden and unexpected thing. It’s predictable (over long periods of time) and involves some faith but mostly discipline. The slow motion lottery of investing and working hard isn’t found in a convenience store, it’s found in your character.

So what should you do?

Make a plan. Investing blindly is no different than paying money for random numbers you hope will match some other random numbers.

It’s a new year and if you didn’t max out your 401k last year, this is the year to do it. I have calculated the amount I need to invest each paycheck so that I’ll hit the max on my last paycheck. Here’s how you can do the same: Take 18,000 (2016 max) and divide by your salary. This is the percentage you should invest. Take that percentage and multiply by your gross paycheck. For example: if your income is $80,000/year then the percentage you need to save is: 22.5%. Your weekly gross is $1,540 and you should put $347 each paycheck into your 401k.

That alone is good but it’s not lottery worthy. Save more now than you ever have and invest in accounts other than your 401k.

Discipline is hard. Saving when you really want to spend is hard but it’s a winning lottery ticket you just have to have the guts to buy it.

PS: if you read this far I’m impressed but I know you’re probably thinking there is no way you could save and invest that much. You’re wrong. Check out how much I save and stop making excuses.

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OPM = Opium

Do you know what OPM stands for?

Other People’s Money and it’s what get rich quick schemers tell you to use to do everything from buying real estate to…well really I’m just talking about buying real estate.

House for SaleI was on vacation at my house/rental property in California and I kept hearing ads on the radio about a real estate investment seminar where the star of a house flipping show will teach me, the listener, how to invest in real estate using other people’s money. “The Palm Springs area is an ideal place” to use these techniques, the voice said.

The funny thing is that when I got back home to my primary residence, I heard the exact same voice of the exact same television star saying that Edison was an ideal place for these techniques.

What this person was really saying is that there are plenty of suckers in Palm Springs and plenty of suckers in Edison. This house flipping is easy and can be taught to anyone drug is the opium being pushed on innocent people who lack some common sense and want an easy way to success.

Real estate can be a great investment, I’ve invested in real estate and now own three properties, but it’s not easy, it’s not short term, and no one is giving you money without a proven track record.

Money can be made flipping houses, I don’t doubt that, as a matter of fact, my nephew has been quite successful doing it, but it’s his full time job and it was something he grew into building from a different but related business. Flipping houses is not something that can be done on weekends or in your spare time.

I know (if anyone actually reads this) that there will be some who say, “but I’ve done it, I flip houses on the weekends, in my spare time and it works.”

My response is if it works so well, why don’t you do it full time? If it’s so lucrative why not quit your 9-5 and get serious about it? The reason is that it probably doesn’t pay as much as you think and when you really do the numbers you’ll see that.

Don’t get sucked up in the it’s easy to make money (especially if you use other people’s money) game. It’s a losers game.

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Dumb Quotes 2

I admit that I’m probably the most inconsistent blogger out there. When the mood strikes (or when I have time which is even more difficult) I’ll write something.

The mood struck when I saw this article: Study Finds People Who Fall For Nonsense Inspirational Quotes Are Less Intelligent. It reminded me of my “series” on dumb motivational quotes of which I’ve only written one post. Well today is post number two!

TallTreeToday’s dumb motivational quote is: “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.” I have no idea who said that which is good because I won’t feel bad saying that is really really stupid.

First of all how well does this person really know trees? I mean, are they on a first name basis? Is there a tree this person would want to have a beer with? But beyond really “knowing” a tree what exactly do trees teach about patience?

I get that they wait, they stand still, that trees aren’t in a hurry, but that’s mainly because they’re inanimate. Patience is one thing but I don’t think there’s anyone out there whose goal is to be inanimate. Trees live a long time and that too takes patience but a tree isn’t going to teach anyone to live hundreds and even thousands of years. At the end of patience is an outcome but for a tree there is no outcome just more of being a tree.

Patience is a good thing and not enough people practice it (I know I struggle with it). We get angry first and ask questions later, we listen just long enough to jump in and add our thoughts or comments, we want things now rather than later. Instead we should seek to understand first and give the benefit of the doubt before anger begins to form, we should listen, really listen, and try to understand. It’s ok to wait because not everything happens on your schedule.

Patience however shouldn’t lead to inaction. Sometimes you have to push things along. A healthy balance between patience and agitation keeps momentum going.

What dumb motivational quotes do you recommend I feature in future articles? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Buy, Save, Hold, and Buy

I tweeted this Friday as the stock market was poised to fall:

While it’s true, it’s also a little too simple as tweets often are.
My real strategy is a buy continuously, but buy more when prices fall, and save (and hold) as prices rise.

Buy Continuously
This is your automatic savings and investing such as your 401k, Roth IRA, or 403b. Start young and do your best to max this out. Take full advantage of any matching funds and never, ever, take a loan out against these accounts. The money coming out of your paycheck on a regular basis is dollar cost averaging and captures both the ups and downs of the market and smooths out wild swings like the downside rout we’re having now.

Buy More as Prices Fall
When the market drops, that’s the time to buy. As Warren Buffet said, “be greedy when others are scared, be scared when others are greedy.” Don’t try to wait for the bottom, just dollar cost average more aggressively. Friday I invested less than 5% of the money I’ve been saving over the past year. As prices continue to fall I’ll buy more again.

Save as Prices Rise
Over the past year or so I haven’t been buying stocks (I buy stocks only in low cost index funds) and instead have been saving more aggressively. Now I have more capital to invest and since prices are lower I hope to get better returns. Too many people don’t have the discipline to save like this but if you can then you’ll be prepared like I am.

It Paid Off Before

Do you remember how far the market fell in 2008? In 18 months the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 50%. Many people sold, panicked really, but not me. I continued buying throughout 2008 but still I lost a huge amount of money, with my net worth diving 16.44% (check the chart below). In 2009, however, my plan and my discipline paid off. My net worth rebounded by 24.93%, more than recouping the losses of the previous year.

My net worth percentage change chart








So what’s your plan in this tumultuous time for the market? Panic and sell at the worst time or stick with your plan and take advantage of low prices?

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