Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Snowball- No Easy Road

As I’ve mentioned before I’m reading the Snowball, a book about the life of Warren Buffet. This is an 800 page behemoth of a book, but I find it very captivating. The first lesson I picked out of it was inner vs outer scorecard. The second lesson is that there is no easy road.

As I was sitting there watching Entourage on Monday (the only show I watch regularly now) a scene happened that made me think. Ari who is the main character’s agent, a very successful one, is talking to the main character’s driver (aka Turtle) about a business idea. Ari’s understudy Lloyd is trying to become an agent and the following interaction paraphrased happens.

Ari: “Lloyd get in here, I want the stack now” (pointing to a stack of approximately 20 scripts)

Lloyd: “This picture is about a country gentlemen caught up in the tangles of…”

Ari: “You see that Turtle he knows every single script in this stack. Why? Because he’s paying his dues. That's what you have to do to make it in this town.”

I used to not really subscribe to this ideology. I read the Dip by Seth Goden and agreed that it took drive to be the best and that the best was worth doing, but I thought if you were smart enough you could essentially smooth out the bumps in the road. Additionally, if you didn’t know what you wanted to be the best at then set your car to cruise and continue on down the road.

My opinion has changed. Through writing I have researched these little examples and read a few more. What I’ve come to realize is that I most often underestimate the level of work required for someone to achieve a high level of success. For example, hands down Warren Buffet is one of if not the best investing mind in the history of capitalist markets. He worked extremely hard for it too. The man gave up everything and studied stock pages, financial statements, and business periodicals for years and years. In fact, he still does it today. I’m not talking about an 8 hour shift either. Buffet usually went home and worked. He didn’t just pay his dues he went well above and beyond what most would consider excellent. Additionally, most experiences in life that required us to work hard will teach us something we can use later.

I’m not condoning Buffet's work ethic necessarily. He sacrificed a lot of things in regards to life experiences, family, and other activities. My point is that someone who is very naturally gifted still had to build and develop himself to become great. Buffet wasn’t born to make $96 billion dollars. He had to become that man. That is the ultimate secret of success. When no one believes in you, to keep pushing. To go above and beyond what is required or even deemed excellent. That is where the golden apple lies; in the realm where people push themselves beyond normal expectations.

I need to put more into my work. It’s one thing to know the answer and another to do it. In the back of my mind I always decided that success would come with a great idea and then properly executed I would sail to the top. That’s not the case. Goden touches on it, and Buffet epitomizes it. You have to work your way to the top. It’s not easy and you have to do more then what’s expected of you. It’s a lot harder than it looks.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Intro to Next Series- Dollars and Sense

Yesterday I was walking with a coworker and he made the comment, “I wish I would have gotten in the stock market about a month and a half ago.” If you are unaware the market has made a significant increase. I don’t think it’s fully recovered, but it brings up a good point. When is the right time to invest?

The answer is actually very simple. The right time to invest is now. Looking historically at the market if you engage in dollar cost averaging (putting in the same dollar amount each month) you will make on average a 10% return. The truth is that no one knows what the market is going to do. A lot of the time what ends up happening is we have paralysis analysis as we wait for the right time to drop our money in. I recognized this in myself. I was dragging my feet rather then investing. I finally just bit the bullet and dropped about ¾ of my net worth in the market. Regardless of if I am up or down in the short term over the long term I can expect my money to grow.

Don’t wait for the right time because you are in the right time now. Regardless of what happens next week or the week after you will be ok. In my next few posts I plan to answer some questions such as: Is the stock market risky? What should I invest in? We’ll also look at Warren Buffet and determine why he has made the money that he has. Stay Tuned.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Bad

Thursday is normally my update day. Unfortunately, I didn't adequately prepare. I have several roughs, but they aren't ready yet.

So let me instead post a link to my favorite blog article of all time:The Courage to Live Consciously

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Snowball- Inner Vs. Outer Scorecard

I’m currently reading a book about Warren Buffet. It’s extremely interesting to study someone that is very successful at what they do. You try and pick up personality traits or ideas that translate to success. Something that Buffet stresses is the idea of an inner scorecard vs an outer scorecard.

Essentially the idea is that if you follow an inner scorecard you measure yourself against your best. An outer scorecard would be measuring yourself against everyone else. There are several problem with the outer scorecard mentality. It limits you to what everyone else in your realm is doing. This can hamper your success. If you compare yourself to someone else you ultimately limit yourself to being just slightly better. In work you just have to perform better then someone else at your level to not be fired. You just need to run slightly faster or do one more rep to get the starting job. What about when you leave your realm. Are you as well prepared as you should be or could be? Everyone is blessed with different talents and skill sets. We can’t nor should we want to be better than someone in all aspects. Utilizing an outer scorecard can often hamper us from our goals when we see someone extremely skilled and feel inadequate. When you study great people who truly dominated their field Michael Jordan, Warren Buffet, John Wooden; they broke the mold of what we thought success and dominance were. If you asked society if there would ever be someone that reached their pinnacle of success. The answer would be: "No, no one does that". All great individuals pushed themselves to perform at their best and never let society measure their success. Coincidentally, they achieved levels of success that no one thought possible.

The competitor to be feared the most is the one who never worries about others at all and goes on making himself better all the time.
-Blake Griffin

This sums up what having an inner scorecard is all about. If you don’t know who Blake Griffin is he was the first round pick in the NBA draft. This guy is going to be fantastic because although he is already the best rookie in the league he isn’t satisfied. He sees ways to get better. Most rookies who are guaranteed a high draft pick take the summer before their summer league season lightly. Heck they just got several million dollars time to party it up. Here’s how Griffin spent his summer . He took part in a workout regiment that roughly 30% of people stick with for more than 2 days. The man has millions and is already the best rookie in the NBA, and he’s not satisfied.

If you follow an inner scorecard then you measure yourself against your best. Are you working as hard as you can? Are you pushing yourself to your limit? This really hit home for me because I’ve grown up on an outer scorecard. If I needed to get the bare minimum done to reach my goal, then that’s the extent of the effort I would put forth. The person who ultimately suffers is me. No one is going to make me successful. I often find myself doing what’s required rather then doing my very best. I’ve had written on my goal board for a little over a week to “pursue excellence”. I must admit I’m not perfect. I can’t say that the change is dramatic, but everyday I read that phrase and try and practice it. It’s a process to change my mentality and it won’t happen overnight. Slowly I’m becoming aware of what doing my best requires of me. What mindset I need to maintain to achieve a high level of productivity and success. Are there areas of your life where you do the bare minimum?

I am planning on teaching junior high guys this fall at church and I read the book Do Hard Things in preparation. One of the blessings of teaching is that very often you tend to grow as much or more than your students. And even in my preparation I have found this to be true. The premise of the book is that teenagers are expected to underperform and underdeliver by our society. Teenagers aren’t required to do much of anything. So that’s what they do. The book encourages teenagers to break their mold and Do Hard Things. Take Zac for example who left at age 16 to travel around the world at 6 knots (about 7mph). The authors of the book interned at the Alabama Supreme Court as highschool students. A job normally reserved for law grads. George Washington became the chief surveyor of Virginia at age 17. The book is filled with countless examples.

Is the message not the same though? If teenagers use an outer scorecard to measure themselves society doesn’t expect much. Going home and playing video games, doing a few chores is the status quo. Heck you pull down a decent GPA in college and highschool and you’re ahead of the curve. To be great you have to push yourself beyond your limits. Easier said then done. I’m not there yet, but I slowly get closer to my goal; I see the prize. Pursue Excellence

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Quick Thoughts

Will you do something great or watch something great? I asked myself that question today. It’s a good question. Doing something great takes sacrifice, takes time, takes skill. That’s why people admire it. It’s not easy, but it’s fulfilling, it’s admirable. There are days when you want to quit, want to stop, want to retreat. Will you make the sacrifice necessary to do something great, or will you sit on the sidelines and watch someone else?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Break Up

Many are the plans of a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.
-Proverbs 19:21

As I write this I am covered in sweat still from the run I took no more than 2 hours ago. I write now because it just happened. We just broke up. Heck as I type this it hasn’t even hit facebook yet.

I wanted to write now because I wanted to share the raw emotion. It’s been less than half an hour. A relationship is two ropes slowly intertwining together as you grow closer. When it’s over the ropes are violently ripped apart with no care for the time it took to get there. That’s how it must be. There is always a little burn there because instantly it's different now.

We came back from running and I was tired. I ate some food and drank some water and just wanted to sit down. Brandy asked if we could sit on the porch out back. Sure it’s a nice porch we have spent several nights other just talking. Though tonight I think its hot and I just want a shower. I almost decline. As we head downstairs the birds have pooped on the cushion and I go with the classic flip the cushion over maneuver and grab a seat. She sits next to me; though with her knee in between us. I notice the body language almost immediately. As we sit I feel her holding back something and so I wait in silence. She wants to share. When this happens she makes this face that’s very cute. She almost rolls the words around in her mind thinking of how to say the thing she is going to say. She gives up and settles on the best alternative she can come up with; though she is never completely satisfied. She starts her sentence with, “I know this may come out of left field, but…”. It’s one of those sentences where you know what is going to come next. It was interesting because as I wrote the women in the red dress 2 post the other day I thought about what I would write if we broke up. What would I say? Well this is it.

I’ve had the privilege of dating several great women that have all taught me extraordinary things both about myself and about the opposite sex. One thing I have never mastered is either side of the break up talk. When you are the one breaking up you can never really convey where it went wrong or why. And when you are broken up with you know this is your last chance to speak so either you say too much or you say too little. My strategy is always just to say too much which I feel hurts you if you are looking to get back together, but lowers the chance of having that thing you wish you would have said the next day. (Though in my experience there always is that one thing you wish you would have said regardless of how long you ramble) So I did that I said my peace. It wasn’t mean, or angry, or even hurt. It was thankfulness.

I’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks/months realizing how lucky I am. I am truly blessed beyond measure and don’t deserve really much of anything that I have. Through my 10 things experiment I learned this. To really recognize all the great things in my life. I realized that I have so much undeserved blessing that I should never be without joy for the rest of my days. Brandy was no different, she is far better than I deserve. I’ve spent a lot of time sharing how I have improved the various aspects of my life on this blog (physical, mental, and spiritual). My exiting words to her would be similar.

I’ve been doing crossfit for the better part of six months. I was in fairly good shape. When Brandy and I started dating. I was on a weight gain cycle taking in about 130g of protein a day and up to 160 pounds. We met rock climbing which is something I’ve been doing since late February and man she whooped me. I wanted to get better. So I started running at night with her and climbing on my own to cut weight and get in better shape. When we ran she killed me in endurance and this frustrated me to no end. In fact, I’ve been running 4-5 days a week since we started dating with the goal of beating her. While this has killed my weight gain it has significantly cut body fat. When I pick back up crossfit after my busy season I’ll do it 11 pounds lighter than when I stopped in June. I haven’t been this light since maybe junior high.

I’ve never dated a girl that I could have such deep conversations with. Frankly, other girls just weren’t interested in listening. I’m admittedly a nerdy thinker at heart. I constantly twist around random ideas in my mind. Hoping to find the next great business idea, developing a great theory that proves the existence of God, or challenging a social convention. Brandy always gave me awesome feedback that challenged my ideas and refined them. She listened and contributed. She shared great books and great ideas with me. I must admit though twice we disagreed and bet on the outcome. I won both = D

This may be the biggest area where we connected. I think it was the first or second date where Brandy asked me about my relationship with Christ as a Christian. Honestly, it knocked me off guard because it’s not something I expect to talk about early in the relationship. It’s not something that just flows either. How can you describe such a thing? Through meditation and an increased quiet time I had been searching and asking for spiritual depth, and through our relationship I got just that. We challenged eachother with ideas and discussed spiritual developments and revelations. We encouraged, cultivated and edified eachother. It was awesome.

Inevitably after a break up you can’t help but ask yourself what you would have done differently. Brandy hadn’t dated a lot of people and I was genuine with her. I just let it flow. I was always in the moment and open about how I felt. I treated her in a way that I felt would best serve her. I was unselfish. Honestly, it’s different then I’ve been in the past. When you are unselfish there are no games, it just is; it’s pure and potent. It has the ability to draw close instantly or push away just as quickly. It’s risky. I treated her as I would want to treat someone dating my future wife. I honored her. How can I regret anything that I did?

I know how abundant the world is with great people. I’ll find someone better and she’ll do the same. I want that for both of us.

When I was thinking what I would type if today came it would be thank you. Thank you for the joy, for the laughs, for the growth, and for the experience. I hope you had at least half as much fun as I did because I had a blast. In my prayers I very often don’t pray for outcomes because I believe that God may have other plans. I prayed for one thing though, I prayed that if Brandy and I were meant to be that we continue to grow our relationship and if not then it abruptly end. Prayer answered. I know that there are better things out there for her and better things out there for me. At the end of the day all I can say is that I’m blessed. And Thanks

Just Ask

As my brother, Horn, and I walked down Austin’s South Congress Avenue we stumbled over to the Home Slice Pizzeria. The Margherita pizza at Home Slice is delicious, extremely large, and the ingredients are fresh. After consuming our slices we now craved dessert in the heat and after scoping out our options decided to go for yogurt.

I got tart yogurt with fruity pebbles and I believe Horn got green tea yogurt with blueberries. Both were exceptionally delicious. After we were done I threw away my cup wishing I had gotten a larger size. Horn said, “Man that was good, I want some more.” Assuming he was going to buy some more Horn walked up and the following interaction took place:

“Can I have some more yogurt?”

“Ya for $3.50”

“Ooooo I wanted some more for free”

“Tell you what, I’ll give you a refill for a $1.50”

“But I only have large bills and don’t want to break them.”

She then proceeded to fill up his entire cup with more yogurt and toppings, AND they had a great conversation about her business (she ended up being a co-owner). She left the interaction feeling good, wished us well, and urged us to come back. As we walked away I had an interesting conversation with Horn. He mentioned that he does this with a very high success rate whenever he wants some more of something. I was perplexed. It’s not what I would consider culturally normal and I frankly never considered doing it, but I mean why not.

I then relayed the story to Nick later that night at Mother’s and he talked briefly about course on negotiation he participated in. Essentially people are usually willing to give you something rather than not because it makes them feel good. The individual feels as if they have done a good deed. People inherently want to say yes. Nick then told us how his dad saved him $600 on moving expenses by continually calling and asking for a price reduction. While this is more haggling then just asking the savings were $600 on a $1500 quote. Apparently the negotiation was over a 2 week period where he called every couple of days. Is it worth 40% off? Heck yes. After our discussions I decided that given the next opportunity I would just ask and see what happens.

This Sunday right before church Brandy and I split what is becoming one of our classic meals fish tacos with chips and guac from mission burrito. We poured through the guacamole and wanted more. Do I dare try? Why not what did I have to lose? I walked up to the guy and asked him if I could have some more. He then proceeded to refill my entire container. He said, “only this once” as he finished and smirked. Either way it worked, I was amazed. I just assumed most people would say no, but now I believe the opposite is true.

What I find interesting is that the people who give the free stuff feel better about themselves because they are “helping you out”. They feel as if they have done a good deed. So essentially it’s a win-win. When we challenge societal norms often times the outcomes will completely surprise us. It makes me think about what else I have unknowingly been programmed to believe is in fact not true?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Keys To Happiness #3 Build Momentum

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

-Alice in Wonderland

We’ve talked about finding your passion and investing in others as two keys to happiness. Let’s explore the next key which is having a road map. I have never been one to write down goals growing up. In fact organization has always been a personal weakness. Hence the goal board 30 day experiment. I recently re-implemented the goal board as having my goals in writing holds me accountable and serves to keep me on task.

Now that you have identified a passion how do you plan on achieving it? What steps can you take today to move towards your goal? Let’s take an example. Suppose your goal is to open your own bakery. Wow that’s a big goal and it’s not happening tomorrow. Jim Collins would call this your BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal; something that will take time and lots of effort. How do you even begin to tackle a project of this magnitude? Let’s make a list of things that need to happen prior to the bakery doors opening.

• Go to Culinary School
• Obtain Financing
• Choose Location
• Open Bakery

These are four very large macro goals that are most likely necessary to opening up a bakery. So let’s tackle the first one on the list: Go to culinary school. Are you going to quit your job right now and start going to school today? Obviously not, so let’s ask ourselves what we can do today. Something that is very manageable to do right now would be to look up 6 culinary schools and request additional information on their programs. Obtaining the materials will probably take 3-5 days. In that time perhaps you do a little further research, and you start a blog on baking documenting your baking endeavors. Then once the materials come in the mail maybe you set up a goal of eliminating 3 schools within 48 hours and then perhaps make a phone call on a Friday to ask questions of the remaining schools. Continue down this path of elimination until you have selected a school.

School will also cost money. So you set yourself a daily goal of saving $17 dollars a day or $500 dollars a month so you can help pay for school up front. Just thinking of a paycheck with $500 less a month is intense. Yet, accomplishing our dreams takes sacrifice. As Seth Godin would say, this is your dip, the crux that will make you or break you. The valley before the mountain of success. The tough and painful drag yourself to the other side moment. Often times we push this part off as long as possible. It’s usually the most unrewarding (in the short term) and challenging part of the process. It’s also usually right in the beginning.

Everyone knows about the Beatles, the most successful band of all time. What they don’t know is that they spent almost a decade playing show after show (often multiple shows a night) in Liverpool honing their skills. The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith went through similar experiences. They made next to nothing. Richard Branson sold records out of his car (which also served as his home) for many years. Adam Sandler spent years doing comedy show after show before he hit it big. Kevin Durant after being selected in the draft was interviewed and the sportscaster commented on his physical attributes. Durant didn’t attribute that to his skill instead he credited the 10 hour a day work outs he had maintained since he was 11. The funny thing is when you watch interviews with these guys; the part they enjoy the most upon reflection is the dip, because that’s when they were running off pure passion. That’s when they separated themselves from the pack and became great. Before there was any money attached to the result, it was all for the love of the game. You become great in the trenches.

If you don’t start now then you will never start. The hardest turn of any engine is the first, because it’s before you’ve built any momentum. By breaking up your dreams into manageable pieces you can start today.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen “Up” but it gives a great illustration of always putting off your dream. You put off and put off until eventually you’ve passed your life away never pursuing your passion. The time is never going to be perfect to start. So start today. Always ask yourself what you are doing today to build yourself the best life tomorrow. By putting it to paper and holding yourself accountable you will take the journey the only way you really can. One step at a time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Woman in the Red Dress Part 2

I wanted to share with you a story on accountability and how it can change your life for the better. I am sure that most of you don’t remember the post I entitled the woman in the red dress. To sum it up shortly I mentioned that occasionally I would see a girl that I felt compelled to talk to, and not talk to them. I made a commitment in the post to not let that happen again.

After writing that post I missed one opportunity shortly afterward and chickened out. I remember going over that post in my head and how guilty I felt not sticking to my commitment. I couldn’t pass up the next moment, it wasn’t worth the loss of pride. So after one failure I recommitted that I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity again. Fast forward to April:

I found myself at our rock climbing gym and I noticed a girl walk in with her friend. There was something that I was instantly captivated by. I don’t know if it was in the way she smiled or the way she giggled, but I knew that I had to meet her. She just had this glow about her. If I didn’t talk to her I would regret it. I remembered my post. I remembered my commitment.

Her and her friend were set up four or five ropes down from where I was climbing and I chat them up for a few minutes before it is my turn to climb. By the time I am back down from the wall they have moved on to another part of the gym. I obviously wanted to keep talking to this girl so I tell Adam to climb the route next to theirs.

Me: “Hey you’re going to climb this wall.”

Adam: “What the hell. Dude I can’t climb that it’s 5.10 and higher.”

Me: “I don’t care rainbow it, do whatever. I’m going to talk to this girl.”

As Adam more or less sits halfway up the wall I chat her up some more. She smiles, though she’s not sold yet. We talk for about another 10 minutes and Adam comes off his perch. On my turn I climb a 5.10 which was the hardest route I had done to date. I go find the girl and hoping to impress her tell her that she should give it a try. She smiles and then destroys it in about 2 min. I had taken 20 minutes and several breaks. I laughed, she smiled, and I got her name so I could facebook her later.

Fast forward 2 months and we’re together. We have so much fun and always find new and exciting adventures to get buried in. I’m having the time of my life. And what’s the alternative? I’m sitting with my hands in my pockets thinking about the time I saw a girl and didn’t go talk to her because I didn’t want to risk 2 minutes of possible embarrassment. Really? Take my advice it’s worth it. Risk the 2 minutes for the 2 months.