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I’m going to quit my job and start my life.

Jon Acuff wrote a fantastic book.  Quitter.  I highly recommend it if you are thinking about starting your own businesses.  The highlights of this quick read focus on settling on the fact that you are going to transition from your current job while progressively moving towards your “dream” job.  This is a method, a technique that ensures you won’t starve on your path ahead.  

You shouldn’t feel like this at your job.

This path is not for everyone and I’m here to tell you that it’s a challenging path.  I embarked on a two-year journey that started with an idea, slowly birthed over time and grew a day at a time, sometimes painfully slow.  Here I sit writing this to you as I am about to step fulltime into my new life.  During this time my wife and I had a baby, wrangled a total of fours kids and we endured businesses losses and business gains.  At this point the gains far outweighed any losses.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and my wife during this transition.  The biggest is that I’m a pretty lucky guy.  I often worked a 40 hour week and then an additional 10 to 20 hours on the business and she put up with that… while keeping me grounded.

The new business isn’t perfect and it has its liabilities but my two-year semi-paid internship in my new business has taught me a lot and I feel that moving forward I can keep it growing and thriving.

All this might sound exciting but it’s not all pageantry and successes.  While mentally enduring the thoughts of failure and self-doubt crept in a bit too often.  Even though I’d consider myself a planner, I can only account for so many unexpected occurrences.  I’ve had to resign myself to the fact that, I can’t out-plan the unplannable.  Life happens.  It’s just how we chose to deal with it.  With the help of my wife, we’re just going to deal with it. 

My wife has also been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and has not one but two ventures that are already starting to roll.  She’s making it look easy too!  Good for her. 

As you move forward in your life, are you doing what you want to do?  Who or what controls and owns your time?  Is this how you planned your life?  If not, you’re the only one who can change it.  If you are, you’re the one who can keep it right where you want it.

What is important to you?

May 1, 2012 1 comment

No room left for the big stone.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder, the saying goes.  The distance from my blog has made me very fond of it recently.  I need it.  The nearly hundred posts that I wrote a year ago are a great little insight into some topics that I am very passionate about, from personal responsibility, finance, business to being a husband and father.   

 

Since the last post, I’ve expanded and improved my business.  We now cover half of the state of Michigan.  I’ve hired some great new contractors and refined my business plan for the future.  The first full year of business met my goals, and year two has nearly surpassed that initial goal and we’re only just starting the second quarter.    

 

So why am I back, I’m back because the focus on the business has made me lose the focus on my life.  It’s over taken everything.  I’ve allowed it to become all-encompassing to the point where I’m not enjoying it.  I just toil in the daily tasks and that’s not where I want to be or where I started out going.  I want to be able to enjoy my family and my life to the fullest and only I can choose to change my current course. 

 

A leadership lesson I learned long ago was to imagine a jar.  Outside the jar you have one large rock that is just a bit smaller than the jar and a pile of pebbles.  The large rock signifies the one important “thing” in your life.  The pebbles are all the other little “to dos” that creep up.  I’ve filled my jar with pebbles and now cannot fit the rock.  I’ve got it backwards.

 

I’m here today to dump out the pebbles, add the rock and let those small pebbles fill in around the rock.  What’s in your jar, a bunch of pebbles or your rock?

The focus of busy

July 8, 2011 1 comment

What is busy?  Each of us have our own personal definition.  It could be getting up and rushing out the door to your job in the morning feels “busy”.  Or it could be the stay at home mother (or father) with a couple of children who has to juggle appointments, nap time, lunch, play dates and a myriad of other daily ventures is equally busy.  Whatever your flavor of busy might be, you’re busy because you’re doing something.  Try to be busy with something you love though.

Focused and busy

When I was deployed to Iraq, I was fairly busy.  I would wake up, run 3 to 6 miles, get cleaned up, eat and then walk around and visit a bunch of Soldiers or prep for a convoy mission.  I was always checking out something.  In the heat of the day after lunch I could probably relax for a little bit, to read a book or catch a nap.  Then I would check out the command center in the afternoon and evening, have a meeting or two, eat, catch a movie and then do it all over again for about 400+ straight days.  Those were long days, some longer than others.  The busyness of those days has taught me that I can handle “busy” and nothing is busier than a houseful of children I’ve come to find out.  Not even a wartime deployment could adequately prepare me for the energy of mutiple children under the age of five.  And that’s okay.

Being busy has the ability to focus you on what is important.  You have no choice but to utilize your limited amount of time and resources in a manner that not only supports the task at hand but your entire life.  Being busy is a good thing.  It gives you focus.  If your busyness is focused on a task that you love to do, you’ll probably feel time just melt away as you conduct your business.  Focus your energy and time on the things and people who you love and you won’t have to toil a day in your life.

To the class of 2011, Choose debt free! Part Two

June 8, 2011 2 comments

This is part two of the blog, To the class of 2011.  It picks up with my predictions for what the class of 2011 might expect now as they move forward with their lives over the next couple of years.

Here’s how the scenarios might look to a majority of you.

A.  You go away to college and have no idea how much it costs.  Tuition, room and board, gas, phones, utilities, rent, cable, internet etc.  No idea.  That’s okay!  You have a $500 scholarship and your FAFSA application.  You’re covered!  (Not really.)  Let’s continue; You are doing great at school and you are secretary of the student council, volunteer at the local animal shelter and have a fantastic 3.45 GPA in Political Science.  Once you take off that silly hat, you need a plan.

You are doing an amazing job and continue to do so for the next couple of years.

Fast forward to college graduation and now you are one of the lucky who made it all the way through unlike some of your roommates who just have thousand of dollars of debt and no degree.  You’re different because you have tens of thousands of dollars of debt WITH a degree.  You’re in great shape! (Not exactly.)  At 22 years old the world is yours for the taking.  If you’re going to work for your Uncle’s Firm and have a job all lined up you are in the minority.  Congratulations.  Most people don’t have a good job lined up.  Most people have to go out and look for a job.  The funny thing is, that after four/five years of college, you failed to learn how to write an effective resume and how to interview.  Uh oh.

So now you’re broke, don’t know how to interview and your resume consists of one line of education and work experience totaling assistant shift supervisor in the cafeteria.  With 9% unemployment nationwide (it’s still going to be rough in four years from now) what sort of rock star job to you think you’re going to get?  For a large number of people who aren’t engineers and computer science majors you’re probably going to revert back to what you know.  A job that you probably held BEFORE you left for school.  You’ve moved back in to your parents place because you can’t afford rent right now.  Good thing they kept your bedroom the same.  There is one big difference though, now you have fifty thousand dollars worth of student loans to pay off making $10-$15 an hour.  Ouch!

You see, the debt you incurred changes your mindset.  Instead of being able to do the unpaid internship across town, now you have to go and work in an unrelated field.  Instead of getting married to your college sweetheart you hold off because he is also living at his parents house because of his student debt.  You’re entire life changes because of that debt.  Keep that in mind when you sign on the dotted line.  Your choices have consequences.

This is not 10 years or even 15 years ago when my contemporaries were securing their first jobs outside of college.  It’s going to be much harder for you not just because of the job market but because of your debt load.  Student loan debt is one of the only debts that you can NEVER get rid of, not even through bankruptcy.

All this is yours forever (or what will seem like forever) if this is the path you take.  You’ll be hitting 40 years old and still paying the same tired old bill because your 18-year-old self signed up for it.  So, high school graduate, don’t you think it’s time to take another look at how you’re actually going to pay for your education?

Or you could consider this.

B. You work.  You work like you’ve never worked before.  It won’t kill you, trust me.  You’re 18 and healthy.  In this scenario you may work at a job or trade that requires you to work your way up and pay your dues, all the while they pay you while you earn valuable experience.  Great!  Keep doing that.  Just keep saving and paying with cash.

If you still want to go to college great!  You can do it.  Here’s what I propose.  Go to work.  Get two jobs.  Live at home.  You’re parents probably wouldn’t mind especially if you keep doing chores.  It’s a great deal you’ll soon find out.  Save for that first semester and go to the local community college.  Do that for two years.  You heard me TWO years.  During that time you’ll have done a couple of things.  You will have learned how to WORK and how to SAVE.  You’ve personally funded your first two years of school AND you’ve saved enough to move on to a four-year school to graduate.  You are putting yourself through college and you’re only making about $25k a year for the last two years.  Great job.  You also wont’ be afraid to pick up a part-time job while you are at your new university either.  Because at this point, just working one part-time job while taking fifteen credit hours is a breeze.   Now this route may have taken you more than four years.  That’s okay.  Maybe it took you six years and now you are twenty-four years old with a college degree and ZERO debt.  Not only that, you have YEARS of work experience under your belt in a myriad of different industries.  You had the freedom to switch jobs because you could!  You followed your passion one, $13 dollar an hour job at a time while you fit in class and studying.  You have a new appreciation for hard work and what your efforts are worth.

The difference between these two scenarios in easily quantifiable.  It’s a debt load equivalent to a starter home or a brand new 5 series BMW.  It’s massive, ugly and will be a part of every decision you make until you are at least forty years old.  That debt isn’t going to go away when you get married or have kids or try to buy a house or a new car.  All the time the debt load will be there for the person in Scenario A.  The people in Scenario A followed the masses and didn’t realize it was leading them down a path chained to a massive bill that they can never get rid of.  Education at any cost is silly.  Do it smart, don’t learn the hard way and pile on the debt.  The group in Scenario B worked hard, saved and paid for cash at the tender age of 24, they are debt free.  They are free to follow their hearts and dreams without the burden of an extra, interest bearing bill every single month for the next fifteen or more years.

You decide which one makes more sense.  You’re an adult now.  You can do what you want.

To the class of 2011, Three helpful tips Part One

June 7, 2011 1 comment

To the class of 2011,

Congratulations! You just graduated from high school. Just a few weeks ago you were the King/Queen of the castle. You were at the top of your game and today amid all of the fanfare and pageantry you’ve flipped your tassel and guess what, now you’re one of us.

Welcome to adulthood. More or less…

Most of you will fit into two very general scenarios.

You can't afford premium coffee anymore

Scenario A; Go away to College

Scenario B; Don’t go away to college and/or work a skill or trade

I’m not here debate the merits of either path. I’m here to offer some advice on how to go down your own path as safely as possible.

You need to learn about money, quick. You spent twelve years in school and probably never really learned how to balance your check book or write a personal budget. Go the library, get on the internet or ask someone you trust to show you how. It’s better to learn this lesson before you start dealing with real money otherwise life is going to give you a big fat F in personal finance. Here are a few tips in no particular order.

  1. Pay with cash. That means if you don’t have the cash you can’t afford it. If you put it on a credit card you get an automatic F for this lesson. It might feel good to be able to buy something but the interest will kill you in the long run with this sort of thinking. Repeat credit card use over the years will not lead to wealth.
  1. Start saving and start saving now because life isn’t fair. Gas was about $1 a gallon when I graduated from high school. It was $4.04 this morning. Life isn’t fair. Life also doesn’t care if you drive over a nail and get a flat tire. Get the term “fair” right out of your head. Nothing is fair. It’s just life.
  1. Have a plan. Plan for what you say? A plan for your life. If you don’t have one life will just happen to you. Need a car? Have a plan to pay cash. Need an apartment? Have a plan to pay for it and utilities. Need an oil change? Have a plan. Need to pay for next semester plus books? Have a plan that doesn’t include a loan.

I have a crystal ball. I really do. Here’s the difference between a well thought out life and one where life just happens when you make the second largest purchase of your life at the age of 18. That purchase being; a four/five year college degree. The costs are massive.

Tomorrow I’ll use my crystal ball to tell you what happens in Scenario A and B.

Keeping your confidence

May 27, 2011 2 comments

“I have the best idea in the world”.   We’ve all heard that from a close friend before. 

“This idea is going to change everything!”  Maybe you discuss the way ahead over drinks and after a few cocktails you both are worked up into a frenzy because you just know that this is going to be bigger that Apple.  The future is limitless, until you wake up the next morning with a headache. 

You can do anything!

Businesses have the potential to be a little bit like that.  You have an idea and some plans.  You chart your course and start to move forward with some saved capital (or heavens forbid, some borrowed capital) and the future is bright.  So bright in fact that you’ve convinced yourself that everything is going to be rosy.  It can’t fail.  

Then one day, three, six or eighteen months later you realize that this process is a slow grind.  Instant mega-success has eluded you.  So now what?   You keep plugging along but now the path ahead in a muddy path, not a gilded one.  Most people get stuck in the mud.   They are no longer looking forward because their eyes are fixed on their feet, all muddied.  Confidence has began to wane. 

Confidence is a funny thing.  Either you have it, or you don’t.  There isn’t much, if any, in-between.  So where did your confidence go?  At one point your idea had a lot of promise and you met that promise with unlimited energy and vigor.  As you moved ahead the big gains or massive break through didn’t materialize the way you thought it would. 

And you know what, that’s okay.  Take time to really assess your situation.  Are you stagnate or are you going backwards?  They are not the same thing.  Are you stuck working IN your business or are you working ON your business?  There is a big difference between the two.  You need to figure out which one you’re doing.

If your initial premise was sound and you’re still moving ahead, even if it is at a slow pace, keep going.  If it was going to be easy, everyone would be doing it.  They aren’t, but you are.  Good luck on your journey.

Who or what controls your time?

It's slipping away

One thousand four hundred and forty minutes.  That’s all you get today and that’s all you get tomorrow.  That’s your day. In that time you need to do a lot.  Here are some of the basics that most of us do; sleep, eat, hygiene, travel, work, interact with friends/family. 

  Read more…

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