Rabbit Hole – Part 2 – Or Why Beats?

When I last left you, I was still looking for headphones.  I made my decision, but before I get to the big reveal, let’s build up to it.  All suspenseful-like…starting with Beats.

I mentioned before that it seems everyone uses Beats headphones, but I didn’t expand on why I don’t.  I have had the HD solo headset, the Beats Studio cans, and a set of the Powerbeats.  Of the three, the solos and the studio both had the left ear go bad on me.  Warranty replaced them which was pretty…expected.  Once I got the replacements, though, I sold them because I was concerned about the quality.  I had hopes that the failure would be an isolated incident.  I picked up the Powerbeats because I wanted something light, and wireless.  They worked quite well, but I found myself not wanting to wear them as much because the bass-heavy design of the Beats brand was diluting some of the music I was listening to.  So I sold those.  I bought the Studios last, and I had hoped that with the bigger speakers I would have less bass-fatigue.  When the left went out on these I decided that Beats wasn’t for me.

As I mentioned before, my current headset is the LG Infinim headset.  It is bluetooth and gets wonderful ratings for sound quality as well as battery life.  I was looking at the Bluetooth options from Bose, but the price was a bit more than I would be ok with spending on headphones.  Then I looked at some of the options from Jaybird, specifically the X2, X3 and Freedom headsets.  Jaybird offers an amazing warranty that gives a free replacement even if you sweat-damage the headset.  A buddy of mine (shout out to Gypsy) told me to check out the waterproof Skullcandy in-ear’s, and I have to admit that SkullCandy has come a long way.  However, these headsets weren’t grabbing me, then I stumbled across a review of the Bowers & Wilkins C5 Series 2 in-ear headphones.  There were a few reviews by people saying that they were perfectly fine to work out with, and the sound was being recognized as audiophile-grade.  Pricing was steep at $150, but not scary-enough when compared to the Jaybirds.  The biggest problem, though, was the fact that they are wired.  Time for more research.

After reading about the wonders of sound quality and wanting to fancy myself a learning audio-fan I decided that if the cable was long enough then wired was the way to go for me.  Measured some string out and weighted the ends, and then did movements common in my workouts.  The cable was going to be long enough that I wouldn’t rip it out, but not so long that it snags or droops anywhere.

I did a quick search on the local platforms for selling and found a pair of them on eBay for almost half-price.  I’ll take refurbished any day.  Got the headphones in and I absolutely love them.  The little loop that holds them in your ear is still something I am getting used to.  However, during workout, the headphones didn’t go anywhere.  Big success in my book.

Now to just find one of those Astell&Kern DAPs for 90% off.


Down the music rabbit hole! – Part 1

So this week I needed to get some new headphones for the gym.  I thrive on music at the gym, as it really sets the tone for the workout.  My LG Infinims (old faithful-ish) are not sounding as good and the battery is not lasting as well.  On top of all that, the neckband keeps hitting my collarbone in what can only be described as the worst passive aggressive measure from headphones.  I looked around at the gym to see what other people are using, and it is overwhelmingly representative of the almighty Beats headphones.  Is it the name?  I have owned three different pairs from them, but all for short periods.  Why?  Because they really are not that great.  Now I am no audiophile, and I’m lucky that I even know what bitrate on audio files means.  When you switch from MP3’s to FLAC files or DSD, I get lost.  That’s a nice digital audio pun, right there for you.  (FLAC is a lossless format while MP3 is lossy.)  What do I do then when I have to admit that I don’t know everything?  RESEARCH TIME!!!

I scoured the web to find reviews on a multitude of headsets across different kinds of music. It taught me that spending $150-$200 on headphones is nothing compared to some of the stuff that is out there.  There were three different in-ear headphones that cost over $900!  While Beats headphones, both the cans and buds are considered to be expensive, they are by no means considered “high-end”.  Instead of looking at the same devices everyone else is using, I am looking at brands like Shure, Bowers & Wilkins, Sennheiser, and several others.  At this point, however, it becomes clear that a lot of these headphones are not meant for use in active settings.  Additionally, I sweat at the gym, and I don’t want these things shorting out ever, let alone while in my ears.

The struggle became very real when I started searching for articles on the best sound at the gym.  This led to discussions on safety (due to noise isolation) as well as environmental concerns when active outside.  Safety tip: If you run outside on the street or a bike path, please use open-back cans, or earphones.  This allows you to still hear the cars or bikes around you without compromising much sound.  The next surprising thing, though, came when I reached an article talking about music sources rather than headphones.  Did you know there is still a booming MP3 player industry?  Any audiophiles that may read that just cringed, and I’m sorry.  The correct term is a Digital Audio Player (DAP) because no one in their right mind would put paltry MP3’s on these devices.

I learned of this when I clicked on an article for best portable music players, and found that all but one of the devices were DAPs.  One of them was the iphone, which I admit has been my MP3 player for a while.  I thought it was a typo when I came across this brand name Astell&Kern.  Seriously, check out that link.  It’ll take you to an amazon page.  After you buy one of those bad boys, make sure you pick up some sweet headphones, too.

Seriously, I just wanted new headphones for the gym.  Thankfully, there aren’t any places around me that allow you to try such high-end niche electronics.  At least, not that I am aware of.  The closest here is the Magnolia section at Best Buy.  At least the headphones there allow you to hook up your own source so you can get a good feel for the headphones.  Biggest ticket headphones I’ve seen there, though, was around $400.  I’m not in that budget range, but I don’t feel guilty listening on those because I don’t think I’ll hear some magic and get spoiled.

The search continues…

The Special Bank Account – Just a Story

The Story

The other day I came across this wonderful story.  It spoke of a special bank account that deposits $86,400 every day.  At the end of the day, anything left in the account is wiped out.  Additionally, no one can withdraw more than the day’s amount, or borrow against it.  What would you do, if this were your bank account?  Personally, I would drain the account every single day in order to maximize my potential earnings.

Now, what if I told you that you already have this bank account?  Every day, we are given 86,400 seconds with which we can do anything.  When I wake up tomorrow, I don’t have any time left over from today.  Additionally, I cannot borrow time from others, or even other days to come.

So what?

As an entrepreneur, it is typical for me to try and squeeze as much out of my time as possible.  In addition to this, I have relationships to maintain and foster.  At the end of the day, I am wiped.  However, I frequently ask myself if I used as much of my time as effectively as I could have?  Some days I can answer that with a definitive “YES!”  Other days, I am not so sure.

What can I do to improve this, though?  How can I be sure that I am not just losing potential from my special bank account?

Today, I am starting to better identify my goals.  Though they may be lofty, none will be unattainable.  By writing them down, I can begin to backwards from them to identify steps.  These steps should provide me a clear direction to achieving the things that matter most to me.  Also, writing them down provides a reminder of what I want to achieve and why.  It may sound ridiculous to think that a goal would need a reminder, but items will always be forgotten on any sizable list.

For 2017, I am going to take my businesses to new heights.  I will work with new people, and continue to expand my team.  In addition to this, I will continue to work on starting my third business.  We have hit some snags on that, but I met my goal for 2016 of having two businesses.  These are macro-level goals for myself.  Each of them have their own micro-level goals as well.  This is why I need to start writing them down and tracking them.

Looking ahead, I am excited because the year promises such great potential for me.  My businesses may be in for incredible growth, and energy.  However, as with everything in life, I refuse to just wait for my turn.  I’m charging out there and taking whatever actions I can to continue this upward trend.

Fortune favors the bold!

The Muddy Road – Parable

There is a parable I read online called “The Muddy Road” that goes like this:

Two monks, Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.
Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.
“Come on, girl,” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.
Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself.
“We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”
“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

Sometimes, one of the hardest things for us to do is to let go.  Tanzan was had a stronger desire to help someone in need.  Ekido, on the other hand, felt it was best to adhere to the rules the monks lived by.  Both are right in choosing their actions, of course, as it would be an individual’s decision.  However, Tanzan’s point was very interesting as it showed that Ekido was still fighting internally with Tanzan’s decision long after the decision was made.  During this time of internal conflict, how much had Ekido missed of the world around him?  Additionally, was Ekido facing his own muddy road inside his mind?

I, like all of you, have found myself as both Tanzan and Ekido.  We have all dealt with situations that we struggle to move on from, and others that are just a minor blip on the radar.  In any given day, I will experience issues of both kinds, but I am working on handling it better.  I currently have an Ekido situation that has been going on for some time.  With the help of my friends, I’m improving.  As with everything, improvement takes time and repetition.

I believe that it is very important to have a partner that you can bounce ideas or concerns off of.  Mentors, teachers, pastors, coaches; these are all the usual titles that come to mind when we need guidance.  However, it can be anyone that you respect, authority figure or not.  I have a friend that is like a brother to me, and I know that I can go to him with anything for an open-minded discussion.  For that reason, I count him as a member of my team.  If you have not sat down to think about your team, I strongly encourage you to do so.  Like a list of references for a job search, this group needs to be a living, breathing entity.  Modifications will need to be done, new people added, some people removed, but it will require some attention.

You will find yourself much more comfortable with decisions, and it may even help if you are prone to bouts of anxiety.  I recommend taking a few minutes to identify people in your life that you can count on to further your success.

Update on the tank! Maybe it isn’t as bad as it felt?

So an update to my last post, we were able to get the tank replaced which is cool, but I no longer have faith in the manufacturer.  This leads me to constantly check on the tank in the basement.  The manufacturer claims that they have worked out the issue.  However, based on recent reviews online, nothing has changed.  This leads me to believe that I will experience another tank failure.  I learned since my last article that an indirect fired water heater should last longer than your typical water heater which added further fuel to the fire.

One positive that came from this was the fact that I was finally “motivated” to clean out the basement.  Water damage on your stuff is a fairly good motivator.  Thankfully, we did not lose anything important, and I was able to reorganize the gym area.  I also found that I had a whole bunch of tools that I was not using.  This allowed me some time to reorganize my tools and to even find some things to sell online.  I also had some time to add some more lights in the basement.  So now I have a ultra-convenient light over the breaker panel.  Also, there is a nice one over the media closet down there too.

I also finished building walls for the landing and doorway going into the basement.  I’m pretty happy with how it all came out, and luckily so does the wife.  A point that just happens to be a larger factor.

Though I still don’t like Triangle Tube, nor am I happy with their products, nothing is worth hanging onto for too long.  There is silver lining in everything bad that we experience.  Sometimes it is harder to see than others, but it is up to each of us to take the time to see it.

While I didn’t enjoy cleaning up the basement or the garage afterwards, it had to be done.  What better time than now, right?  Now it is just a matter of finding a place for the remaining items.  I am also hoping to find all of my missing screwdrivers, since I have the worst luck with keeping my in-house tools organized.  My garage tools stay just fine, though.  I do need to finish a couple of other items before the snow becomes a regular thing, though.  I need to hang the firring strips for what will soon be a ceiling in the garage.  Apparently it isn’t code to have an exposed ceiling in a garage that is below living space, or something.

Sometimes bad things happen.  However, don’t get dragged down by it.  Find a way to look past it and recognize that things do get better.  But above all else do not blame the world for the misfortunes you are experiencing.  To do that releases any power you have over your life.  Take charge and find something good.  Look past the bad and move on.  You’ll be better for it.

J.A.R.V.I.S. snag, and why is there water on my floor!

So JARVIS was not there for me this week.  Or rather, I wasn’t there for it.  On Monday, my water heater let go, and started leaking.  While I certainly did not enjoy this, it gets even better.  I called up the plumber that installed my boiler and water heater only to find out that he is on vacation.  Perfect, he left an emergency contact.  I went right to voicemail.  Anger is building at this point because I know how much we paid for everything, and I expected a different level of service.  Now at this point, I did have to recognize that I got lucky because I was downstairs when the leak really hit its stride.  However, JARVIS needs his leak detector sensors because he should have been able to let me know.  This is my fault, as I delayed ordering them.

So the next day I did hear from the plumber and he came right out that morning to look at the tank which was excellent.  However, after being there for about 15 minutes he established that the tank did need to be replaced.  Ok, that is why we bought a tank with a lifetime warranty, right?  Then the bomb was dropped; they were having trouble getting the manufacturer, Triangle Tube, to honor the warranty.

There are a couple of issues here, first being that the tank lasted almost 5 years exactly.  Now, this is an problem because a typical water heater can be expected to last 7-10 years.  There are even some longer-term anomalies for those of you that conduct annual maintenance on them.  The next issue is the fact that Triangle Tube was supposedly a reputable and reliable company.  If that is true, then why is Triangle Tube fighting “LIFETIME WARRANTIES”.  I don’t care what the cause is, if someone has a problem on a lifetime warranty, just replace it.  You are going to be replacing it at some point anyway.

Building off of all of this we hit another snag, There is a chance that the manufacturer is not going to warranty the tank at which point I have to purchase and install a new tank at my expense.  After reading through reviews online, however, I am not so sure that I want the replacement tank from them.  It isn’t like I will get a warranty on the new tank anyway.  Also, it seems to be a fairly common problem to have these Smart 40 tanks die in some cases as early as 2 years after they are installed.

So for those of you keeping score, I may go through two tanks in the span of an average water heater life-cycle.  On top of that it will be as if I never bought a warranty to begin with.  Some of you will say but you did get a free tank out of the warranty anyway so it served its purpose.  To this I say, you are incorrect.  When we bought the tank, the expectation was that in a worst-case scenario we would get 14 years out of the deal.  This is assuming we only got 7 years on each tank, of course.  So to get 2 tanks in a potential 7 year period, I would tell you that I significantly overpaid.

The moral of the story, don’t screw over your customers.  Also, get JARVIS his water sensors.  Oh, and home ownership is the best thing ever.

Triangle Tube Smart 40 Indirect Fired Water Heater=FAIL

Triangle Tube as a company=FAIL

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!

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!

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?