Reflecting On the Importance of Friendship

I have a close friend that I have known for many years.  He is the closest in my social circle, and we have been through a lot together.  But being this close is not always sunshine and butterflies as all of you know.  We have gone through extended periods where we have had disagreements or misunderstandings.  Despite this, I’ve never felt a fear that our friendship was ruined.  Anytime this happens, we eventually realize that it was unimportant and move on.  Afterwards, we talk as if nothing had been different.  We get along so well for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that I can bounce ideas off of him without irrational judgment,  Additionally, he has no problem pointing out flaws in my dastardly plans.

This is important for multiple reasons.  First, the degree of forgiveness and acceptance that we have for each other is something that has come from years and years of friendship.  However, forgiveness and acceptance is not something reserved specifically for us.  I have had to actively work on that with many other relationships throughout my life.  There is good news, though, as it seems to have been working.

Second, Moving on from disagreements is one of many things, in life, that can help us all be better people.  Who needs the stress of continually reminding yourself of why you are angry with someone.  Personally, I cannot stand to hold grudges as I do believe it shortens our lives.  Stress, that is.

I wasn’t always of this mindset, however.  When I was younger, I was an angry kid.  I wasn’t a fighter, but the thoughts were never far from my mind.  As I got older, and started thinking in terms of optimism versus pessimism, I figured out that maybe holding onto all that negative energy was a bad idea.  I started a little bit at a time, and it does in fact get easier.  It requires attention from time to time, though, but so does friendship.

My friends keep me on my toes.  They continuously challenge me to think better, be better, and do better.  A friend had inspired me to finish my advanced degree.  It was friendship that led me to begin each of the businesses that I have done.  Also, it is friendship that is building another business.  Without the people that I have in my life, and the relationships we share I would not be a fraction of who I am today.

Of course, it goes without saying that nothing lasts forever.  Some friendships are not meant to be.  Toxic, caustic, destructive; we have many names for these kinds of relationships, and sometimes they are very hard to identify.  Sometimes it takes a good friend to help you see this.  Cherish your friends, after all you chose them and they chose you for a reason.  Those reasons may not be the same for both of you, but celebrate your diversity.

Onward and Upward!

Have you tested and identified your limit?

Paul Engemann performed that song “Push it to the Limit” on the soundtrack to the movie Scarface, and it is a very catchy song.  Filled with sounds that just scream 80’s, I cannot help but to listen when it comes on.  The lyrics always bring to mind someone driving in a fast car on a long and open road.

speed-limitThis song came to mind tonight for me as I took one of my businesses to the next level.  My FBA business has been successful in dealing with some retail and online arbitrage here and there, but today I dove headfirst into the world of wholesaling.  I could have stayed in the area I was operating in, but I like to test the limit.  To be clear, I am not operating at the same level as many, many other sellers.  We all have to start somewhere, though.  I feel pretty good about it, but there is always that nagging feeling that I may fail.  To that I say, “SO WHAT?”

“Yeah, but not everyone has your drive.”

Oh, I know.  However, what if I told you that you don’t need to have my drive?  After all, what works for me may not work for you.  There is a basic framework that applies no matter who you are, or what your circumstances are.  It is so basic that you already know it!

  1. Identify
  2. Plan
  3. Implement
  4. Evaluate
  5. Repeat

The first step is to identify your goals.  Are you writing them down and looking at them from time to time?  I keep mine on a paper in my wallet.  After all, low-tech/no-tech is the new thing. 

Next, you must plan your steps so you are working towards your goal.  For me, and many other people, it helps to work your way backwards from your goal.  This helps me to confirm that I have not missed anything.  For example, if my goal is to be the CIO at my job, then it would help to identify the roles that would put me in line to achieve it.  Looking from the ground up may be tough as there are so many different paths.  However, if I look at the CIO role and recognize that the company prefers someone that has an MBA, and serves on the board for a charity, then it gives me something to work towards.

The third step is to implement the plan you have crafted.  Depending on who you ask, this may be the step that is most fun.  At this point you get to put into practice the steps you had identified previously.  Worth noting, though, is the fact that this step will require a great deal of patience.  Many schools offer accelerated MBA programs, but 18 months is still 18 months.

After all of this work, it is time to evaluate your current standing.  At this point, one of two things should happen: Adjust or Replace.  If you have not reached your goal then you have opportunities to continue leaning in that direction, so you adjust.  Perhaps you have accomplished your goal and it is time to set your sights on something else (replace).  Notice that maintain is not an option?  This is simply due to stagnation being the result of maintaining.

At this point, you are ready to begin the process anew.  Whether you have new or adjusted goals, it is time to begin planning how you will achieve them.

That was easy, wasn’t it?  Having served in the military, I have come to recognize that the only limit we have is ourselves.  If you are determined to accomplish something, then you will find a way to do it.

Idle Hands, or how I am slowly building JARVIS

I am now back at work after taking some time off.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the “down-time,” my wife pointed out to me that I just cannot be idle.  Always looking for projects to work on, this time it was starting to get a little out of hand.  I added more sensors to my home automation, including a pair of Amazon Echo Dot devices.  Next, I also rewired a couple of light switches in the bathroom so the light and exhaust fan were on separate controls.  Since I was working on them, why not put them on smart switches, too?  Soon after, it was apparent that something was up with my home automation controller.  So I swapped that over to a Samsung Smartthings controller.

These projects just keep rolling into one another.  I have convinced myself that it is purpose-driven innovation, not laziness.  After all, it is a safety concern to walk downstairs with laundry and no ability to turn on the lights.  So let’s make them automatic!  But the same thing happens with the front door on Grocery day.  This one has not been solved yet, but I’m getting there.

I know many people see this as senseless, but how cool would it be to walk around the house and not touch light switches?   Make the lights automatically turn on, and then off again when I leave the room?  Or how about the exhaust fan in the bathroom, humidity is up after the shower is done running?  The fan will come on automatically to get rid of the moisture.  Strangest thing to come from these changes is the fact that my “future-thinking” of mounting an ipad in the wall is no longer necessary.  So it looks like I am going to have to prepare to patch that one soon.

End result is my home electronics are voice controlled now.  With a simple “Alexa…” followed by a command, lights and fans are turned on and off.  This is extremely useful when I am changing my son’s diaper.  But, how simple is it?  My 3 year-old is now using Alexa to turn on the bathroom light so he can brush his teeth or use the bathroom.  He is also learning he can ask Alexa to play songs like “The Wheels On the Bus!”  I just need to find a way to block Alexa from purchasing things on my Amazon account.

Anyway, enough electronics talk.  It is a funny story simply because my wife reminded me that I went through something similar when my first son was born.  When we had first brought Lukas home, I went around the house working on projects since I could not handle being idle.  We were still in the process of finishing our lower living room.  It started with a desire to replace wood paneling with drywall.  Then, since some of the carpet was ripped, I figured I’d replace carpeting with tile.  Then the ceiling tiles broke so I figured drywall that, too.  But wait, the ceiling is opened up so install that floor heating system.  Currently, the lower living room still does not have a completed ceiling.  Also, the door I built going into the basement needs to be replaced with an actual framed solution.

The reason I bring this up, however, is simply to think about the idea that I cannot be the only person that struggles with the whole “idle” part of life.  When I was in the Army, it was a very real joke that the motto should just be changed to “Hurry up and wait!”  It seemed that no matter what the event was, you hustle to get there then wait for things to happen.  Maybe I just can’t give myself time to do nothing, or maybe it is me compensating for all the work that my wife does with our children.  I don’t quite know, but having started two businesses, working a day job, and still trying to make my own little J.A.R.V.I.S. (from Iron Man) it seems that any time I have 2 minutes of free time I try to fill it with 10 minutes of work.

New things mixed in with some old! Reflections

So this weekend I was in the hospital with my lovely wife.  We had our second child, another boy.  I do feel much better equipped, since I already have one.  However, as John Lennon said, “life is what happens when you are making plans.”  I know there will be some new challenges.  However, that newness lends itself to the “fun” factor.

I try to approach many things in life with this mindset.  I feel that it helps me appreciate things that come my way.  As an entrepreneur, I feel that I expend so much energy on looking for opportunities.  This could bestarting-new anything from ideas for a new business, products for an existing business, or even increasing exposure to clients for my existing businesses.  It gets to be very tiring, and sometimes I need a breather.  Enter the wife.

I had a conversation with her tonight about her being so filled with love for our family.  She feels that she truly understands when people say that their heart “beats outside of their chest.”  I feel a degree of envy, mixed with awe, for her.  I don’t know that I have anything in my life that I was so fiery and passionate about, and I love her and our family to pieces.  Thinking about it now, a couple hours later, I feel some of what she is talking about.

The things she describes are no different than the feelings one gets as an entrepreneur.  You create things, build them, help them grow, and the whole time you worry that someone, somewhere, wishes to take them, or do them harm.  So you continue to build them up, keep training them; and making them stronger.  I’ve never created a business and actually had it physically come from my body, though.

For a moment, I understood what she meant.

Now I would never go so far as to say that creating a business is exactly the same as giving birth, because that’s not a fair statement.  This little reflection does, however, serve as a great reinforcement.  A reinforcement that everything we come across in life can act as a high-level transfer to a completely unrelated subject.

Always Forward!

Bulletproof Coffee: best, worst-sounding thing in my life

coffee-beansIn a quest to drop weight, or rather body fat, I adopted several different cycles of diet changes.  These changes have included eating incredibly bland foods.  Foods that my wife loved to point out as boring, while she enjoyed many different flavors.  However, since switching to a ketogenic diet I have gone back to eating regular food.  Courtesy of recipes found on Ruled.me, I get to eat things that don’t seem to be healthy on any diet.  Foods like Bacon-wrapped, cheese-stuffed hotdogs, and other delightful sounding dishes.  Previous to this diet, though, I was not a coffee drinker.  In fact, I was frequently buying coffee for my wife and wondering how anyone can enjoy it.  Then I met the bulletproof coffee recipe.

Now, first off, don’t get this mixed up with Bulletproof Coffee, the brand.  This is different.  On a keto diet, your macronutrients heavily favor fat at the expense of carbs.  My typical daily intake is approximately 80% fat, 17% protein, and 3% carbs.

For the recipe, you only need a couple of ingredients:

  • 8oz. coffee (of your choice)
  • 2tbsp coconut oil
  • 2tbsp butter
  • 1tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 1tsp vanilla extract (optional)

For kitchen tools, you need something to brew the coffee whether it be from beans, grinds or k-cups, and an immersion blender.

The coconut oil and butter will melt in the hot coffee, but without a blender, immersion or otherwise, the oil will not mix too well.  While it does not sound too great, the butter and oil seem to mix with the cream leaving a smooth, still-liquid drink.

So after doing this for a little while I decided to experiment and added a scoop of vanilla protein powder to the mixture.  It created a drink that tasted like a vanilla latte.

I drink this stuff nearly every morning, and I love it.  I won’t be so bold as to claim that it is the best thing ever, but give it a shot and see what you think.

Believe me, your mornings could be much better!

good-morningsSome mornings I struggle to drag myself out of bed.  I know there are many people that suffer from this same problem, and I wish I had the solution to this issue.  I find myself using music to wake myself up most mornings and that seems to help.  Then I got the bright idea to try some music I don’t enjoy.  The idea being that I’ll want to get up and going, but I found myself waking up in a less than positive mood.  Some mornings, getting myself into the bathroom and splashing cold water on my face works.  While other mornings, setting my alarm early enough to get up on my own terms works best.

The awesome people over at DailyBurn have a great article on this, and how to trick yourself into becoming a “morning person”.  In this case, the term refers to someone that can bound out of bed and run right into the day.  However, the parts that I find most difficult are getting 8 hours of sleep, and powering down.  I pride myself on being a new entrepreneur, but just like the rest, I never seem to have time.  With my 8-5 job and a desire to spend time with my beautiful wife and child, when can I do “my stuff”?  So I take from my sleep time.

Whether at the start or end of the sleep cycle, I am stealing the time from myself, right?  However, one thing I would like to try is just waking up earlier.  One of the keys in the article I linked to was to give yourself a reason to wake up.  What better reason than some valuable “me” time to work on my projects?

Though I do like to call myself a “morning person”, I still have some work to do.  Maybe I need to just go all in and try out The Rock Clock

Thinking on your feet…

When I was younger, first grade to be exact, I remember walking into class one day and seeing a friend of mine sitting in the back row of the classroom with a pretty bouquet of flowers on his desk.  Walking up to him, I asked what they were for, but he simply responded with “…it’s a surprise.”

Well, as a kid, that is just music to theflowers-roses-bouquet ears.  After all who doesn’t like a surprise.  But the surprise wasn’t for me, I didn’t even like flowers.  Still, I found myself wondering what kind of surprise would involve a boy and flowers.  Obviously he intended them for a girl, but in first grade girls had “cooties”.  So I sat there for what seemed like an eternity, though it was probably more like 10 minutes.  By then, the teacher had come in and gotten herself settled, and began looking around the classroom while preparing for attendance.

She began calling names and it was almost like in a movie.  “The” girl walked in, and you could see the boy’s eyes light up.  She sat in front of him, so it was only a matter of her walking 25 feet to the desk.  But the teacher was only 12 feet away, and walking in the same direction.  The boy didn’t even notice the teacher walking in his direction, as he was clearly focused on the girl.  He snapped out of his daze when the teacher called his name while in front of his desk.  He looked up and said, “here!”  The teacher looked down and saw him holding the flowers in his hand, and took them from him.  She had mistaken his “here” of attendance as a “here” of presenting a gift.

Now we were all around six years old and, for the most part, didn’t like to act in any way that would “rock the boat.”  Thinking quickly and seeing what was happening, he shifted gears to try and be smooth, or at least as smooth as any 6 year old can be.  He told the teacher that he had picked them out for her.

It made the teacher’s day, and though he felt crushed that his gift was given away to the wrong person, it was handled quite well.

Of course fear, or respect for authority is what made him behave the way he did.  Everyone has been in a similar situation, though, where our intentions were misconstrued.  Some people are better at handling these situations than others.  I have found that making more of an effort to be “in the moment” has helped me greatly with handling these events.  I’ll continue to work on this since it seems to be the recipe for success and one of the keys to happiness.

Onward and Upward!

What makes you so Great?

The other day, I was talking to my sister and she mentioned that her husband had just finished the Spartan Beast, and she sent me over his time.  His rankings were great!  I looked at those numbers with envy because I am not a runner.  It just does not appeal to me to chase after, or be chased by, some imaginary object.  I will admit that I have run a Spartan before, but it was the Sprint, (so much shorter.)  My time was garbage, in my eyes, but many good things came from it.

First, I was not last to cross the finish line that day so someone, somewhere thought my time was incredible.  Second, I had an opportunity to run with some top-caliber people.  People that I continue to look to for guidance in my unending quest for greatness.  They push me, consciously or not, to be better than I already am.  Lastly, I learned that my body is capable of some truly powerful stuff.  Sure, I may not need to scale a wall 60% taller than I am, but I could.

Most importantly, I did it.  Looking back, there were things that could have gone a lot better, but that is how life is.  Why would we ever do things multiple times if there was no way of improving over last time?  The Spartan Races are a lifestyle for some, a hobby for even more, and an enigma for others.  This last group says things like, “yeah but why would you even do that?”

Made up of doubters, this last group is found in nearly any activity you can choose to do with your life.  I started an athletic apparel company in February of 2016, Aggro Clothing, and plenty of people asked me why?  My answer is still the same now as it was back then, because I read an article on A Better Lemonade Stand that said I could do it.  Turns out, I could.  The knowledge I have gained through playing with Aggro and my other two ventures, (an arbitrage company and a supplements brand that I’m currently working on) has been invaluable.

Is it always sunny, absolutely not, but without those rainy days, the sunny ones start to get boring.  I don’t know if people are born entrepreneurs, but it was not until I was 30 that I started my first company.  Not all of us are like Robert Kiyosaki, allegedly melting down metal in our driveway as a kid trying to “make” money, (this was from Rich Dad, Poor Dad.)  It seems most of the big names in entrepreneurial spirit started as kids, or they have all these stories to show how they were born into this.  I say to you, right now, if you have an idea then explore it.  I don’t care if you are 8 or 80.

What makes me so great?  I think it is my attitude that the opinions of others belong to them.  I am going to try something simply because I felt like it, and if it pans out then I’ll help others.  If it doesn’t work out for me, I’ll share my mistakes.

What Makes You So Great?