March Update

I realized this week that it has been one year since starting this blog. A lot has happened in the last year that has resulted in me being a much different person than I was last March. Over the last year I have read 21 non-fiction books and written summaries about them. The summaries have been longer than I initially intended, but I also have a much different approach to reading than when I first started this. I am now actively taking notes, bookmarking key themes, quotes, insights as I read. Then I will go back and write up my summary of those key points. The basic result is I end up reading each book almost 2X and it has allowed me to retain a lot more than I would have otherwise.

I had several personal breakthroughs in the first half of last year, however if you look through the last year there was definitely a time period where I slowed down bit in mid-July. My best friend died in a car accident on July 15 of last year, which I have written about only privately until this point. The second half of the summer I was trying to hold it all together while still finishing up planning my wedding in September. Taylor’s death had a profound impact on my outlook on life – on how fleeting it is. This has both emboldened me and inspired me to break out of my current life. My life so far has been focused on risk aversion, I mentioned before that I started investing for retirement at 16 years old, I have always been relatively frugal, picked a ‘safe’ career where I can make it through to around 60 years old and retire… I wrote in my “Current State – May 2016” post about how I was starting to wander off the ‘safe’ path that was in front of me. When Taylor died, my risk-averse foundation took a serious hit. Taylor was driving to work when he got rear-ended: this is something that can happen to anyone at any moment. No matter how risk averse I am, life is something that should not actuarial. I have realized life is much too short to spend it doing something you are not passionate about.

This is the biggest challenge, finding something that I can get excited about doing every day. Over the last year I have tried to boil the essence of my ‘sweet spot’ down to a few key ingredients. So far in that recipe I have found a couple of themes, which I will expand upon as I learn more about myself:

  • Creation
    • I have found that I get into a state of flow when I am creating something; when I am building something; when I am using my imagination.
    • Computers are good at analyzing data, humans are good at creating something new and beautiful. My current job has too much analysis, however I do see a lot of creativity in my thinking – even if it comes out in a different form than other ‘creative’ people
  • Learning
    • I am always looking at myself and what I am working on and asking “am I learning anything from this process?” When I find myself getting stuck in a rut at work, it is typically because my growth has stagnated. When I am not learning anything, working is boring. This one also ties in a lot with ‘creation’ since by definition, creation has a prerequisite of a growth mindset.
  • Philanthropy
    • Helping people or causes I believe in. One thing I have learned is that giving your time and connecting with other people has a great impact on yourself and others.

One thing I noticed after writing these items is that all of them are in some form in Choose Yourself by James Altucher around ways of releasing oxytocin. I believe if I were to start a business of my own it would need to be at the intersection of these three themes.

Looking back, 2016 was probably the most significant year of my life to date. I started this journey of a self-directed MBA where I would force myself to my own accountability and learning program. My best friend died in a car accident, which shook the foundation I had built in the last 26 years of life. On the other end of the emotional continuum, I got married in September, which was incredible because I was able to marry my best friend in front of all my friends and family that mean the most to me. In retrospect, 2016 was a year of significant personal and emotional growth through the best and worst of times.

Looking forward, 2017 is showing itself to be a transition year right now. Where 2016 was a transformation year, 2017-2018 is my transition into the new life I want to create for myself. Right now I see the end of the tunnel for the SDMBA I have been doing. I only have 3 books left, which will be followed by Y-Combinator/Stanford collaboration “how to start a startup”. The idea here is that I will generate an idea through the startup process which would potentially be the basis for my startup company. Phase 3 of the SDMBA is to start a business. It can be a side business such as financial advice to small businesses or something much larger. The idea is to get SOMETHING started. Action leads to inspiration, which leads to motivation, which then leads right back to action and this positive feedback loop continues.

One last thing I wanted to give an update on was travel. This is one area that has popped up as a significant piece of my identity. In 2016 we barely traveled at all due to how busy we were with wedding planning (and I ran out of time off). Going into 2017 we committed to wanting to both travel more and be better friends by visiting the out-of-town friends we never see. Our travels in 2017 have/will include the following:

  • Mexico (honeymoon) in February
  • San Diego – visiting Erika’s Aunt
  • New York/Connecticut – visiting friends
  • South Africa – we just added this on. We have friends that live in South Africa. We are planning on volunteering through IVHQ for a week, then spending a few days with our friends.
  • North Carolina?  Not booked yet, but we have friends there that we would love to visit

We have a travel list and travel fund, which maybe I will write about a bit more in another post. I have found travel to be something that inspires me and forces me out of my comfort zone. Learning new places, putting yourself out there in a new environment is a great way to force yourself into vulnerability, force yourself to talk to people, and force yourself to grow.

Just wanted to get an update ‘in the books’ since I have been doing more personal stuff in a private journal than on here.

RG

Opinion Rant -Politics

The last few months have been interesting to say the least. I have witnessed the most divisive political landscape in my lifetime. There are a few things that I have learned, and the point of this post is not to talk about my own personal political views. It is more of an observation I have made while reading several of the books I have summarized. The 7 Habits really spelled it out for me and made me realize this.

Over the past several months of political campaigns and the impact of social media on how the world views politics, I made a couple of realizations:

  • We appear to be extremely divided in our political views. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and 100% sure of that opinion. It is difficult to even have a coherent conversation with someone that voted differently than you because…
  • According to my Facebook feed or the comment sections on any news article, there are two types of people in the world:
    • Bleeding heart liberals that are a bunch of entitled sore-loser crybabies
    • Corrupt monsters that want to take away human rights, deny science, destroy the environment. 
      • It is easy to reduce politics to such simplicity, however this dichotomy is probably further from the truth than you may think. There are also echo-chambers that people yell their political views into, blocking anyone that opposes their views.
  • Nobody is actually communicating. We do not know how to effectively communicate when there are differences in our beliefs. People jump straight to incendiary comments that piss the other side off and put them on the defensive. In order to bridge the gap, we need to start listening: understand the other side’s points, consider them thoughtfully, and help them understand your viewpoint. You do not have to agree with one another, but when you simplify people you tend to make unfounded assumptions. One observation is that people will quickly resort to name calling, demeaning, and personal attacks. Just as bad, people will just post some opinion piece from the internet and write something like “wow”
  • Most people are really not well educated on the issues at hand. Almost all news organizations have an angle, or bias. We also tend to parrot back what we hear in our echo-chambers. And this is typically with biased and/or incomplete information. I am guilty of this as well. While I try to look at issues objectively, it is easy to get caught up in a compelling argument even if it falls into some form of logical fallacy.
  • People are not typically well educated on the issues of their candidate.  You will often see political pundits of both sides interview people on issues in the street, or a college campus, or catching people before they go to vote. They will ask people about the merits of (for example) Obamacare vs. the Affordable Care Act – with people saying one is terrible, the other would be much better… How many of the people having heated arguments over their candidate have been on their candidate’s website and the opposing candidate’s website to even make an educated statement? If I had to guess it wouldn’t be most.
  • From the people I have talked to, the majority of people are not as far apart as they politically think they are. 

This is just an opinion post. The point is to step back and say “how can I understand the other side better?”; “why do I believe so strongly in what I believe”; “what are the merits of the other side? Do I agree with them? Do I at least understand the other side’s points?”. In the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion the author Cialdini discussed consistency as a major influence. As a defense mechanism, we are programmed to try and maintain consistency with decisions we have made in the past. This is why you see people double down when it might not always make logical sense. They are trying to stay consistent with prior actions.

So what are we to do? My suggestion is to try and understand the other side. Go in with an open mind and they will hopefully return the favor. Understanding the other party doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree. This is discussed in 7 Habits, Getting to Yes, and several other books on personal interactions.

This is an interesting political environment. Tension is extremely high. Especially with the internet, it is easy to stop treating people like human beings, but it goes both ways and someone needs to step up.

RG

10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 18

This is one of my ’10 idea lists’. I thought it was an interesting one and a lot of the realizations on this list have come throught he process of the SDMBA I am going through. I believe I will look at the last year as an inflection point in my life.

  1. A college education is overrated. Traditional education is not really that useful and they don’t teach you how to have a serious impact
  2. Money is only as useful as your freedom to utilize it
  3. You do not have to be rich to travel the world
  4. The secret to a fulfilling life is finding and following your passion.
  5. The deferred life plan doesn’t make any sense 
  6. Read The 4 Hour Workweek, Choose Yourself, and Think and Grow Rich to develop a desire for sense of purpose
  7. There is such a thing as a ‘sweet spot’ where your talents, passion, and value meet- find that spot
  8. Everything is temporary, so don’t take anything for granted- time, friends, health, money, possessions
  9. Time is your most precious resource, and it is also most often taken for granted
  10. You don’t have to follow a prescribed life. The easiest, ‘least scary’, path is to go to college and get good grades and there is nothing wrong with that. The point is that it is the easy way to go. You will not REALLY learn anything in college that you would need to do whatever you want (unless you want to be a doctor, lawyer, or other profession that needs some letters after your name). The point here is it is easy to look at college as this big gateway you need to pass through to get a ‘good job’ in the 21st century. In reality you could say it is much more of a purgatory where you make major life decisions on your career path that will change your life forever. College teaches you some of the knowledge you will need in your career, but it does a terrible job of helping you find what makes you tick. You need to find it on your own. In college people make life decisions because “yeah I liked my finance class, i think i will major in finance and have a 40 year career in finance”. I hear the first half of this sentence in almost every interview I conduct. These decisions have major life consequences.

RG

The Power of 10 Ideas

I haven’t yet written a summary on it, but I recently read the book “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher. One thing he talks about in the books is writing 10 ideas per day and committing yourself to writing them daily. The vast majority of them will never be acted upon, but there are a couple of huge benefits to this daily practice:

  1. You get to ‘flex’ your idea muscle. You are forcing yourself to be creative. To THINK. It is like brainstorming, you do not want to create one great idea that is the best idea ever thought- you want to think of 100 ideas and hope there are a couple of gems in there. If you focus too much on creating the ‘perfect’ idea, you will paralyze yourself and the group if you are working as a team. There are all kinds of resources on how to have brainstorming sessions, but most of them revolve around rapid idea generation. Look for quantity vs. quality. Altucher says if you can’t think of 10 you need to up it to 20 ideas- you are holding yourself back too much. Below is a link to a classic story about how even seemingly crazy or stupid ideas can manifest into great solutions http://www.insulators.info/articles/ppl.htm – Back to the concept of ‘flexing’ your idea muscle, coming up with ideas is something that takes practice. Napoleon Hill called it the “infinite intelligence” of the subconcious. By flexing this muscle, you will gain the skill of being an idea generator- which is where you will provide the most value.
  2. Idea sex. This is an Altucher term that means to take two average ideas and combine them to make a great idea. The resulting ‘idea baby’ can prove to be the most exciting idea on the list. One example of this from the first month of this I have done is what I call ‘blind in a bucket’ which is the combination of a popup ground blind that they make for hunting that is packaged in a bucket that doubles as a seat. I have had quite a few of these ideas or even just improvements on current products.
  3. Thousands of ideas! If you really commit to this as a daily practice, you will come to realize how quickly you accumulate ideas. I am currently doing this 5X per week (before work every day). That means with around 21 working days per month I will generate 210 ideas per month, and over 2,500 per year! If you go up to 7 days per week that would be 3,650 ideas per year! Even if you only have a great idea 1 out of every 1,000 ideas, you are generating multiple actionable ideas per year.
  4. Free Therapy- Many of my 10 idea lists have been introspective (see the list below). I have found the idea lists as a way to take a step back and analyze myself, my personality, what makes me tick, what gets me most excited, where I need to grow, and what my biggest fears are. You will be surprised how much you can uncover through this process, but the trick is to confront it. I think this is a method to drive some true introspection, a bit like journaling can be.

More Resources

James Altucher is this inspiration for this post. He has an excellent write-up on the topic and more specifics than what I went into. I also suggest his book Choose Yourself for additional reading. I will write a book summary in the next few weeks. http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2014/05/the-ultimate-guide-for-becoming-an-idea-machine/

Effective Group Brainstorming-https://www.fastcompany.com/3033567/agendas/brainstorming-doesnt-work-try-this-technique-instead

G.R.O.U.P Brainstorming and Power Line Story– http://singaporeteambuilding.com/teambuilding/brainstorming-in-a-team.htm

Starter Idea Lists– My first idea list was “10 idea lists I can write” and I included it below as a resource. Also, I see this as a living document that I add to whenever I get inspired by another idea list. Notice there are things on this list for introspection, for inspiration, and then just ideas. Enjoy!

10 idea lists I can write:

  1. 10 business ideas
  2. 10 ways to make the earth more sustainable
  3. 10 things I want to learn more about
  4. 10 crowdsourcing ideas
  5. 10 ways I can feed my family protein on hunting only
  6. 10 things I can start doing today to be healthier
  7. 10 things I need to start doing daily
  8. 10 things I need to stop doing daily
  9. 10 things I need to keep doing daily
  10. 10 projects to do in my backyard
  11. 10 projects to do in my house
  12. 10 modifications to hunting camp
  13. 10 drop shipping products that might work
  14. 10 products in the $50-100 range that I would buy online
  15. 10 things that make me unique
  16. 10 things that I consider myself world class at
  17. 10 new hobbies I would like to dabble in
  18. 10 ways I can change the world
  19. 10 ways I can get smarter every day
  20. 10 ideas for reducing my household energy consumption by 50%
  21. 10 business ideas around sustainability
  22. 10 uses for duct tape (copper wire, hydro turf, plastic bottles, etc????)
  23. 10 ways to make $5k per month profit
  24. 10 areas I want to grow (knowledge, skills, abilities)
  25. 10 improvements you could make on a currently solid product (something like trophy bag cooler)
  26. 10 impulse buys i have made in the last 12 months (go on Amazon prime) and why. Look for themes
  27. 10 ways to cut expenses and live on ½ my current salary
  28. 10 people I would admire as mentors
  29. 10 phone apps for common problems
  30. 10 things you could recycle
  31. Pick 5 products, name 3 dimensions of each product that customers value the most (example: Phone, interface, screen size, internet speed) – 15 dimensions total (Porter on differentiation)
  32. 10 specific goals I have. Highlight the most important one?
  33. 10 reasons not to start a company (what are your fears)
  34. 10 reasons to leave my job
  35. 10 things at Innotec would incorporate into my own business
  36. 10 products that could be 3D printed
  37. 10 things/situations that make me uncomfortable
  38. 10 ‘world problems’ you are really passionate baout and can start solving https://markmanson.net/life-purpose
  39. 10 activities that get me to a ‘flow state’ where time flies

 

I am exactly one month into this idea generation practice. I would suggest incorporating it into your daily routine- especially in the morning to kick start your day and make you sharp for whatever comes your way!

RG

Weekly Review

8/19 Weekly Review

I feel like I am getting back on track with my goals after the last month of whirlwind. Picked up reading again, made a clear list of actions I wanted to get done and accomplished them. I think that is one of the biggest keys to success: defining what success even means for that week/month/year/ etc. That is not to say that I was horribly unproductive the last month, but there was a lot more treading water. I have found my biggest hurdle to success is when I do not have a clear path, I feel like I am in some kind of productivity limbo because I do not have something I need to do. Part of that is on me, but it is also partly the nature of my current job, it ebbs and flows with the cadence of a month so it is really easy to get on a more conservative action list. Another thing is passion level, it hit an all time low a few weeks back, and while climbing it is still not where it needs to be in order to be really successful. I feel like I am holding myself back and restraining myself because I know the amount of risk that there would be going into business of my own.

This week I did some good things, and some areas that need improving.

the good:

  1. Action list complete!
  2. Got back on my learning path!
  3. cleaned up my desk : mental and emotional cleanse
  4. Watched a video on procrastinators – good takeaways- ask these questions every night:
    1. Have you made your existence richer somehow?
    2. Have you continued a path of development?
    3. Are you doing something or loving someone b/c you want to or because it feels easier or less risky than changing directions? – work????
    4. Have you lived today?

The bad:

  1. Too much unproductive time
  2. I need to get away from the desk more
  3. Passion level
  4. Need to do a better job with coaching my intern. The problem is I do not trust him much. Next week I will give him his evaluation, which while isn’t negative, based on how he has received feedback in the past I do not see him taking it well.

Goals for next week

  1. my main goal it to go through the GTD cleanse again: get current, set all my actions, start using my tickler list, etc.
  2. Coster lite – 3 approvals, 3 tests
  3. Figure out ESOP next steps (define actions)

Current State -May 2016

I have been thinking a lot. About a lot. For a bit of a timeline January 1 2015 I committed to doing Yoga every single day. There were tons of reasons to do it, but honestly when I think about the biggest things that drove me to do it was that I could. I wanted to prove it to myself that I could, any ‘reason’ I can come up with to say I couldn’t was just part of the script of bullshit that is just running in the back of my mind. I eat every day, brush my teeth every day, I sleep every day, if I am saying something is important to me why wouldn’t I commit to a daily practice. 2015 came and went staying true to the commitment I made. I made a significant 2-week trip to Chile after which I came back engaged. While on the trip we met several people from around the world that were traveling for extended periods: 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, etc. all of it seemed crazy to me. “who can afford this?” “how did they just leave everything behind” “will they have a job when they get back?”. My whole life I have been extremely risk-averse. I have always wanted predictability, stability, etc. I started investing for retirement at 16 years old if that gives you any sense of how my mind works. I had a coworker take a year off of work to sail about the world- this was also fascinating to me. 2015 came to a close, one of my friends went on a trip around the world basically for a year (they are still on the trip right now). All of my other friends and myself included could not believe it. Asked ourselves all of the questions above about the people we met in Chile. I found out a few weeks ago that the inspiration behind the trip was partly due to Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week.

2016 started up really smooth and predictable. My daily/weekly routines were well defined, when I was not doing something specific I was watching TV. A side not about me is that I hate TV. I had this seed in my mind that there was something more, I wanted to expand myself. WTF does that mean? I didn’t properly define it, but I saw where I was: 26 years old, I have a good job making good money, getting married to my best friend in the fall, but I realized I have become extremely comfortable. I could easily have steady incremental personal growth, retire at 58 years old a millionaire several times over (because I have been saving since 16), blah blah blah… What really solidified this need to change was a discussion I had with a friend that lives in North Carolina. He talked about selling his truck to help fund his business, the opportunities he is going after, talked about The Tim Ferriss Show and 4HWW. This is what got me hooked on the TF Show podcast- I started listening to it the next week and found the interviews to be fascinating. Then in one of them he mentioned setting up a “self directed MBA” this phrase stuck with me and immediately started googling different SDMBA guides that already exist out there. I found the Thumotic one, which I think is a good one for everything I am looking at doing.

There was one final event that really made me question everything I am currently doing. My friends started their Yoga studio. I have helped them along the way to develop a financial plan and business plan for their studio. In the process it made me realize how achievable starting a business is, and the most important ingredient is passion. A lot of other things go into it, but any kind of success is driven by passion.

Something interesting has happened in the last two months that I didn’t expect.

I have been doing a ton of reading, listening, and digesting everything which has led me to discover some underlying themes I have been missing.

The Good Life-Most of the books so far have talked about “the good life” in some form. None of these books were necessarily driving that premise, they were about productivity, maximizing your abilities, learning, how to act, etc. What I have found is that there is a consistent thread between all of these books and podcasts is the search for this “good life” and understanding of what it even is. I can honestly say that i have never defined what success is- in the past I would say something like “achieving your goals”. But it needs to go deeper than that what are your goals and why do they matter to you? It sounds obvious, but if your goals do not contribute positively to your life, they don’t really matter that much. If your vision of “success” is defined by achieving your goals, you presume the underlying assumption that your goals matter.

Serendipity-My safe lifestyle has become too predictable, not enough serendipity, if I think about it, what am I doing with my life?? I read this quote once: “Your comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there”. I was at a point where I didn’t see myself growing, I didn’t have an inspiring 3 year personal vision, I was going to wake up one day and realize I was 60 years old and haven’t lived. In more than one of the books I have read the Ben Franklin quote: “most people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75”

Success-Success isn’t correlated with $$$. I have always heard this and understood it from a certain level. But it wasn’t until today actually that I truly understood it. The concept of time wealth and experiences making a full life are what makes a person successful. Also, not only that, but adversity is where you grow the most. I need to read some of the Stoics, but I think they are on to something by seeing negative experiences. A quote from Marcus Aurelius: “the universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make of it”

Meditation-Meditation is extremely important. Almost all of the TF Show interviews have mentioned something about meditation habits. I started daily meditation about 45 days ago today.

Passion-Passion is an important driver in having a full life. My new rule is that if you are not passionate about what you are doing, make a plan for that to change significantly in the next 6-12 months.

Growth-I have heard this and read this over and over again: “if you are not growing, your dying”

Dreams-In the manga/anime Berserk Griffith’s speech about dreams is great. This is a rough quote from the anime “Dreams can vary- they can breathe life into men, and can cage them in suffering. Men live and die by their dreams, but long after they have been abandoned they still smolder in their hearts. Never rely on another’s dream. Have your own reason for living and put your heart and sole into that dream.”

Anyways, now I am on this journey. I feel like a caterpillar that crawled into its cocoon for a transformation with no clue of the beauty that lay ahead. If this is the shift in perspective I have had after 4.5 books and 40 podcasts, I cannot wait to see what is to come.

RG