On having kids and social presence…

The (​social​) Story to this point…

My wife and I decided before we had our first son that we did not want pictures of him, or any of our kids floating around online.  We were determined to abstain from posting photos of newborn babies or any milestone moments on Facebook, Instagram , or wherever you view photos that are shared.  There wasn’t any kind of political stance, or any sort of bold statement.  We just didn’t want to do it.  Here we are, over three years later, and that still holds true.

​The only photos of my sons that the Internet has seen have been the backs of their heads.

​Yeah, but it is called social for a reason!

​Many people make use of social sites to keep distant family members “close”, and I will admit that I look to see what other people are up to from time to time.  However, my kids are 3 and 3 months.  Their activities don’t need to be put up there, right?  Well, in talking with some colleagues some time ago, they were in disbelief that we do not post anything with the boys.

​Someone even mentioned at one point that they didn’t realize we had two kids because we never posted anything.  That isn’t the only format we have for social news.  Granted, I am not walking up to people and asking if they had a child lately, but have we forgotten about what life was like before the days of facebook and myspace?  I’m not a very private person, I’ll share anything, with anyone.  However, it is different with social profiles.

​Is it really that bad, though?

I understand that the social media sites are as good, or as bad, as the people that use them.  My wife and I didn’t take this stance out of fear.  For me, a big part of it was because everyone else does it.  Those of you that know me, know that I prefer to go left when everyone else is going right.  I’m not a hipster…but I play one on tv.

​My wife, on the other hand, came to this decision out of very logical reasoning.  She saw something on the news about how people were using the location Metadata attached to the photos taken with phones to be able to identify specific locations and even map out the inside of someone’s house.  The story was meant to share how you can turn off those location services, and I recommend everyone do it unless you have a reason not to.  However, I will admit that every time I replace my phone, or wipe it to start over again, I forget to turn it off.

​Now, is there anyone perusing social sites to capture this data from my photos?  Maybe not, but what happens when I become super famous and I have to start worrying about stalkers?  Is it paranoid?  Perhaps, but these are simple steps that do not impact our lives in any way, so is it really that big of a deal?

​tl;dr I don’t post pictures of my kids online, but that’s ok.

Reorganizing and Re-purposing Old Spaces

Reorganizing the Basement…again!

So this past weekend I went on a spree of cleaning up and reorganizing the basement.  Some of you that have been around for a bit will remember that I did this only a couple months ago when the water heater fiasco happened.  The basement should have definitely stayed clean for some time.  However, I had been selling things from the pallet of product I purchased on a closeout.  So, despite my best efforts, things were quite a bit cluttered down there.

​The basement has an open floor plan, as many do, but there is a somewhat small closet in the corner of the room.  That closet, since we moved into the house, has been one of two locations for nearly anything computer related in the house.  Since my Fios box and Cox modem, it made sense to store my other stuff downstairs.  Naturally, when you use this as a dumping ground every time you take your computer apart, or find random cables around the house, it gets rather messy.  Though I took forever to get around to cleaning it, what better time than now?

​I had started cleaning it by removing the door, and the “frame” of said door and throwing them away.  Now I could see all of the shelves from end to end.  For your mental image, the shelves are only approximately 3.5-4 ft long.  I pulled everything out and separated it into things worth keeping, trash, and selling.  Some of you may have a harder time with this, but the biggest pile was trash.  I should have expected this as I don’t like to hold onto very many things, but clearly I wasn’t paying attention to that when I was putting this stuff away.

Reorganizing

Looking at this mess I made, I started bagging up the trash and realized that I didn’t even need all of the shelves that were in the former-closet.  After pulling out a couple of those, I thought about the idea of moving my printer up from the floor.  This made it easier to read the display, change toner, get print-outs, and so much more.  All these efficiencies.  Then I remember what prompted this whole need…

​Re-Purposing

Earlier in the day, I had one of my closest friends over.  We were talking about the layout downstairs and the conversation had drifted to firearms as we were trying to plan out a range day.  Those of you that know me, know that I enjoy killing some paper from time to time.  Then we started talking about storage, and I had this space I could use…

I want to build a gun vault.

I know this is such a polarizing topic.  Regardless of how you view firearms, we can all agree that safety is a chief responsibility of gun-ownership.  I have kids, and they won’t fear guns, rather they will respect them.  However, that will come when the time is right.  Until then, they don’t even need to see them.

​​From [Basement] Chaos Comes Order

I will argue that in order to properly re-purpose any space it is absolutely necessary to take stock of your current position.  This endeavor of mine isn’t too lofty, but it did present a great opportunity for me to just clean up and clean out.

I think I am going to start looking for more opportunities to do this in other parts of the house.

The Danger of Negative Thoughts and Feelings

What is the Danger of Negative Thoughts and Feelings?

In the past I have covered the power of our words and the power in positive thinking.  However, today I would like to talk about the opposite end of the spectrum.  Negativity is something we can find everywhere we look.  The news, the media, and the gossip in our social environments.  It really is everywhere.  With that in mind, it is so challenging to rise above all of this and look for the good.  Perhaps that is why my post on positive thought resonated so well with readers.  Negativity, though, can have some profound effects on us as individuals.  Then by extension it can have an unfortunate impact on our family, friends, and co-workers.

Negative Thoughts and a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

The phrase “self-fulfilling prophecy” is a term used in psychology and sociology.  It refers to a condition that is ​false​ but the beliefs or perceptions of an individual make them ​true​.  In other words, someone that walks around all day saying “my life sucks,” will focus on the results that will make this an accurate statement.

Some of the downsides to Negativity:

  • You are just not a fun person to be around. (-Social)
  • Lack of focus (-Productivity)
  • Lack of faith in your own ability (-Productivity)
  • Fighting with friends and family (-Social)

Those are clearly just my opinion, right?

The truth is, there is some science behind it.  Dr. Jacobson points out that we are our own worst enemy when it comes to this.  We, as a race are pre-programmed to have an infatuation with the negative.  It is not uncommon for us to refer to situations similar to a car accident, in the sense that we cannot seem to look away from it.  Negative thoughts have a habit of inspiring more negative thought.  Another issue is that we are so used to our negative thinking that we don’t even notice when we are doing it.

​​Why are we programmed this way?

Well, I cannot say for sure, but he seems to think that it is a defense mechanism.  You may already know this, but when things don’t go the way we anticipated and we must accept failure, it bums us out.  By assuming up-front that we are probably not going to be successful, we soften the blow to our self-esteem.

But what can be done about it?
The good doctor states that we must work to become more in tune with the thoughts and language we use in our minds and even in our daily life.  Only through recognizing the messages that they carry, can we hope to change.  He further states it so perfectly when he mentions “We are the masters of our fate, whether we allow our fear or our optimism to propel us forward.”

​Life’s Hard SometimesKeep your negative thoughts in check, and you’ll find yourself better equipped to handle things as they come.

The Funny Thing about the Pareto Principle

I was reading a post on Quora this morning that I found interesting.  The overall subject was smart ways in which lazy people behave.  I think we have all heard the quote attributed to Bill Gates: “I’ll always choose the laziest person to do the hardest work because they will find the easiest  way to dit.  The downside, of course, is if you work for Bill Gates and he comes to you with a “special project” is it really a compliment?  Back on track, though, was the fact that the particular post I linked to mentions the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule.  Many people have come up with any number of translations of this to fit any number of topics.  For instance, in business you may hear things such as:

  • 80% of our revenue comes from 20% of our workforce
  • 80% of our budget is attributed to 20% of our effort this year

Let’s go through a quick learning moment.  The Pareto Principle is named for economist Vilfredo Pareto, and states an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs.  It simply states that 20% of your invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained.  Put another way, 80% of what you get comes from 20% of what you give.  Now, understanding this principle is key because it reminds us of the inequalities associated with input and output.  Pareto used this rule to explain income inequality in Italy.  It can, however, be transferred to many cases throughout our personal and professional lives.

Obviously we use up 100% of our time everyday, but is the time being spent most appropriately for us?  The principle cannot be improved by definition.  There are times where the percentages may be slightly off, but the overall idea remains intact.  A large part of the output will always come from a small part of the input.  What can be improved, however, is the actions we take throughout the day that become part of the input.  Improving our quality of life is directly related to the activities we take part in.  We don’t get to choose what 20% will be chosen to dictate our lives.  By spending more time on improving the quality of his work, this individual has less time to spend in other areas.

What I am trying to convey is the Pareto Principle works on a wonderfully macro- level.  However when you begin to look into the individual areas with which we are able to spend time throughout our day, it is enough to drive someone crazy.  How could we feasibly be “on our game” 100% of the time in order to experience success across all areas in our lives?  If you find the answer to this, please share it.  However, I find it more likely that we need to accept that we are never going to be #WINNING in all areas.  Focus your efforts where you want to see the most success, and be much better than you are today.  Want a better family life?  Invest more time there.  Vying for that promotion at work?  Spend extra time on improving your skills and showing you are capable of handling it.

Common sense, but consolidated, takeaway:  Focus on the areas in your life that you want to improve, and as they get better so does your life.  If 80% of your enjoyment comes from 20% of your input, then make sure it is some quality input.

 

The Importance of Virtual Assistants

When you think of the work that you do, personally or professionally, do you ever place a value on it?  I know this sounds rather trivial to anyone that runs their own business.  However, what if you have a typical 9-5 and no interest in anything entrepreneurial?  Do you ever think about the cost associated with your time?  Or how about the importance of that time?  This topic has actually been on my mind quite a bit recently as I have had conversations with my mentor.  We have spoken about the very limited amount of time we as individuals have, and how to overcome that obstacle.

This isn’t always the easiest exercise as I don’t place the same value on every hour.  Additionally, outside variables may increase or decrease the opportunity cost “dollars”.  Opportunity cost refers to the potential gain of various available activities that is lost when an alternative is chosen.  For instance, if I dedicate an hour of my day to reading a book.  If that hour was the only free time I had available, then I cannot use the hour to also play a game, watch TV, or draw a picture.  I decide how I want to spend a particular resource, and then accept that it is spent and cannot be re-used for something else.  It is up to me to choose the importance placed on each task.

I have, at any given time, multiple projects going on that take up a lot of time.  Also, I have the same limited number of hours, each day, to accomplish as much as I can.  Currently, I am working on identifying key areas that I could potentially offload to someone else.  Now my businesses have not grown to be able to support employees yet, but there is an alternative.  Virtual Assistants may be the answer for me.  Working with them, I can have my VA pursue items that I either don’t want to do, or may be lesser in importance.

There are multiple sites that you could get this service from, so it is a good idea to do some research.  I am still early in that process myself, but the good news is there are so many reviews from people like you and I.  Treating it like any other service is the best way to handle it.  If you don’t feel the value is there, then try someone else.  The biggest part of it though, is having things for your VA to work on.  If you don’t identify items beforehand then you will be wasting money.  This system works by providing them with things to do.  It is the only way you’ll be successful at increasing your productivity without the constraints of only 24 hours in a work day.

I know that this is very important for me to be able to focus on my projects.  I just need to finish the list of the tasks I will be offloading.  Regular and repeatable, that’s my criteria.  I know I will have to teach them what I hope to see, so that is the next step.  Do any of you have experience with anything like this?

Reliability is a thing…for me

One of my projects that I work on deals with arbitrage, either through retail (online and brick-and-mortar) or through wholesaling.  This involves selling product through many different channels.  These may include Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, OfferUp or any number of other local channels.  However, the biggest problem with the “meetup” style channels is a lack of reliability on the buyer side.  This is extremely frustrating when considering that I took time to leave my home to go wait somewhere for someone to meet me.

Some of the more fun happenings have included some sort of craziness like selling a $5 item only to be told “$2 is all [they] brought with them.”  Or the time I had some guy tell me to meet him at the empty baseball field where he and his buddies were playing baseball.  I got there and he was just standing on the pitcher’s mound.  Some of the people, however, have been great.  They want the products, and then to go home and use it.

My concerns with reliability either come down to punctuality or the trolls.  Punctuality is self-explanatory.  If we agree on a time and location, please be there.  Not 30 minutes late.  With the trolling, however, it just seems to be a game to some people.  They go through the motions to make you show up somewhere.  Then they either go completely dark (non-responsive), or have some excuse why they are not going to be able to make it.  I, like many others, value my time.  Time is the only resource I cannot get refunded or exchanged.  So when someone does not take it seriously, that bothers me a little.

This long-winded almost whine session is just meant to make you think about the times you have not been the most reliable.  I was thinking about this while I was in the car at the police station (one of my “go-to’s” for Craigslist.)  There have been times where I may not have been able to follow through on some things I had agreed upon.  Though it was never for any malicious, or “trolling” reasons, the result is still the same.  It disrespects the person I made the agreement with regardless of my intentions.

So after my little introspection tonight, I have decided that I am going to make a conscious effort to be more aware of wasting time.  Whether my own, or someone else’s.  I think that in the grand scheme of it all, I’ll feel much better for it.  Additionally, it should do quite nicely for my relationships with the wonderful people in my life.  Reliability should be a thing for everyone, no excuses.

What do you want, exactly? From life?

Today, I went for a test drive in an Audi.  Those of you that know me, know that my Jetta is getting to a point where I am feeling less confident in its reliability.  This has led me to a point where I want…no…need to create a plan.  If I drive it until it dies then I am in a desperate situation to find a replacement.  Now for some of you that isn’t much of an issue because a car is just a tool to get you from Point A to Point B.  For me, however, I am pickier about my cars than I am about my watches.  That’s pretty picky.

So the Audi was…Incredible.  I loved it.  However, it was sitting 15% higher than my maximum price point.  I would love to be able to say that isn’t a big deal.  For me, today, it was a big deal.  With some minor uncertainty on one of my sales channels currently, it would be a very bad decision to move in this direction.  So I wait.  Begrudgingly, I wait.

On the ride home from the dealership, it got me to thinking.  There is no reason why I could not find a way to make that Audi work for me.  It was an A4, and it had every tech feature I was looking for.  That is going to be my goal.  I want to be able to buy it.  However, before that can happen, I need to continue to grow my businesses and figure out new ways to make them work.  I cannot justify taking on more debt, needlessly, if I can find a way to make my assets grow enough to buy the car.

But that is such a small and unimportant part of what I want.  I have a list of many things I want to accomplish.  Do you have one of these?  Goals, drivers, inspiration, whatever you call the items on this list, do you have one?  What are you doing to make those happen, and how often do you think/focus on these things?  Is it daily? Weekly? Monthly? Yearly?

I pride myself on helping people reach their goals or at least get on the path to doing so.  I always ask for the same thing from them: PATIENCE.  Yet in practice, I am the absolute worst at following my own advice.  I cannot wait, and let things happen.  My personality is one that runs out and goes after…well, everything.  So what can I do?  Well, I continue my hustle for sure.  I have projects in the works, and projects I am still working on.  Eventually it will get to be too much, but until then I don’t have time to stop.

I want to build something Great.  You do, too.  Let me help you make that happen.  If you want to chat about it, get in touch with me.  I read all of the comments, and all of the emails as well.

Always protect your interests…Always!

Recently I started looking into some private-labeled products to expand my horizons.  It also serves to mitigate risk in the event that I run into issues in one of my sales channels.  Additionally, this is my first foray into supply chain management, or mismanagement as I figure this whole thing out.  However, while I build this out, I am also trying to put protection in place.  I believe the earlier I accomplish this, the better off I will be.

Some of the products may come from overseas, and that carries with itself a degree of difficulty.  Shipping delays, costs, communications barriers, time zones…these are all challenges I expect going into it.  However, one thing I had just read about was protecting your brand.  Depending on how you access your manufacturers, you may not have any protection from them stealing your product and selling it themselves.  Though this is rare, it does happen.  Much more common, however, is the potential for your money to be stolen.

To combat this, I resort to anything I can use.  For instance, I absolutely will not use Western Union as there isn’t any recourse since I have no idea who actually cashes it.  I prefer Paypal, but in some of the countries, this is not an option.  Pakistan is one of the countries I have found with this issue.  They don’t even accept credit cards, so at this point my options are limited to wire transfer.  I’m not feeling too comfortable about this, so I will probably be walking away from it.

Now I found these vendors through Alibaba, and I highly recommend the marketplace for anyone looking to deal internationally.  However, it is not perfect and you really should view it in the same vein as ebay.  Pay attention to the badges associated with the sellers, in particular, the number of years they have been selling.  Different people have different standards, but for me personally, anything with 2yrs or longer is good to me.  I also prefer to buy from sellers that use paypal.

Another option if you are interested in getting into this, is Aliexpress.  It is for importing of goods with a much lower Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ).  For instance, you may find a water bottle that you are considering on Alibaba, but the MOQ is 1000 units.  If you go on Aliexpress you may be able to find the same one with an MOQ of only 10 or 15.  However, the prices will reflect the difference, so don’t go on there expecting to get your water bottle for $1.

Up to this point we have discussed the need for protection from overseas threats.  However, not everyone is friendly in the US either.  It behooves everyone to consider getting trademarks and copyrights where appropriate.  You can read up on trademarks: here and copyrights here.  Additionally, seek out a lawyer that specializes in trademark and copyright law.  You may be able to consult with them at little or no cost.

As you expand your team, you will be building up defenses for your empire.  It is a good idea to choose people that understand what you are doing.  Additionally, you could also look for people to fill these roles that are also entrepreneurs.