My Two Happiest Days

 
I’m a boat owner and you know what they say about us; “The two happiest days for a boat owner are the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it.” I can certainly relate but for me, it’s not a boat, but a business, that provided me with the two happiest days of my life.

Always looking for What Next I convinced my wife, Julie, that 2012 was the right time to start a business. There had been many false starts in the past

First time opening the door on what would be our new spa.

but I was determined that this one was going to succeed. In June of 2012, full of optimism and excitement, we signed the franchise agreement for a spa. Fast forward nearly five years and we walked out of the spa for the last time also filled with optimism and excitement.

The intervening five years were often difficult, sometimes enjoyable and were marked with missed goals, slower than expected but not slow, growth,

Our final exit from the spa!

but also with profits, and progress. In the end we had built a business that provided additional income and had enough value that we could sell for a profit.

As I put the key in the door for the first time in October of 2012, I was thrilled to start a new adventure. After we had decided to sell and we took that last selfie as we walked to the car, we were just as thrilled to start another new adventure. That’s what asking What Next is all about, continued growth and reinvention. If you ask What Next, the end is never the conclusion.

The path leading away from that front door is just as overgrown and full of obstacles as the path through the front door was in 2012. I’m better prepared for some obstacles but there will be others that are unexpected and prove challenging. Success doesn’t make things any easier, as a matter of fact, success makes things harder; there is more to hold onto to, more to juggle and keep track of.

Of all the memories and experience I gained from that business it’s those two days that I look back on most fondly.

 


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Walking on Escalators = Success

I don’t know why this question came to me, but as I was preparing to interview Gary Vaynerchuk several years ago this question came to mind: Do you stand or walk on escalators?

As a daily train commuter to NY City I see lots of escalators and types of riders: the stand in the middle and block everyone behind you rider (hate them), the move to the right so others can pass rider (love them), the stand next to each other and block everyone so they can talk riders (truly inconsiderate), or the move to the right in front of your friend so others can still pass rider (other than the walker, this is the best type of escalator rider out there).

I was wondering if someone as driven as Vaynerchuk valued motion over stillness in aspects other than business. As I suspected, he walks on escalators but with an interesting quirk (see the post from our interview for what that is). In my mind, walking on escalators is leverage, you leverage the already moving stairs to reach your destination even faster. What I see, however, is that most people will stand in a line and wait for the escalator rather than take the empty stairs that are right next to, or just a little farther than, the escalator. Once on the escalator, those same people will just stand. These are not self-starters, they are not people who are driven to succeed.

People who walk on escalators are leveraging the motion of the stairs combined with their effort to get where they’re going faster. In my mind and the minds of other escalator walkers, motion leads to progress. These people will find leverage in other aspects of their lives, in business, in relationships, to have a better, more successful life.

It’s the same with traffic. If I knew I’d get to my destination at the same time, I’d rather drive miles out of my way than sit in traffic. It’s not that I’m getting there any faster, it’s just that I’m moving, I have a sense of progress (and sometimes I do arrive sooner).

The truth is that success is a choice and you’re either moving or you’re standing still. I’d rather keep moving than become stagnant. Escalator walkers of the world, Unite!


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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, being a dream, it would rise up again. I’d leave and when I would return it had sunk again. But it would rise again. The pattern 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 a sinking boat that 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:

home48

And this is what I have:

NewBoat

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 doing something 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 or money?

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 my town in NJ 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 NJ. 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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