Saturday, December 26, 2009
The book I read this week was The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch. What a wonderful book on results-based living. The 80/20 Principle is about inputs and outputs, an imbalance in the world. 80% of the results, outputs, or rewards come from 20% of activity, inputs, or effort. For instance, 80% of accidents on the road are caused by 20% of the drivers, 80% of wealth is held by 20% of people, and 20% of the work you do results in 80% rewards. This principle is used in business... many know it as the Pareto Law... The law of the trivial many and the vital few. The most important take-away is that there is an imbalance in the world... Things are not 50/50. I will help you apply this principle in 3 areas of your life: Business, Investing, and Happiness.
Many consultants will use this principle when working with a firm and it results in enormous lasting effects. Koch was a consultant for Boston Consulting Group early in his career and I am sure he used his 80/20 principles many times in the course of business. How does it effect business? Many ways, but my favorite is that 80% of sales come from 20% of a company's products or clients. This also means that 80% of a company's products or clients only result in a small 20% of sales. So... Focus on the 20% of your products that give you 80%... If you are working with clients, build those relationships up and build on them. Big time clients have relationships with other business' and people like them, so exploit this information and build your sales portfolio with similar clients. If you are in retail, find the 20% of your products that result in 80% of sales and make them more visible. Put them in front of the customer. Too often do I find myself in a store and see a "hot" item tucked away in the back. Why? Most likely a mistake. Use this information to your advantage. Talk to the managers and make your business better. This will surely get you noticed and put you on the fast track to success.
There are many applications within the business world to utilize the 80/20 Principle... just think about your inputs and outputs or effort and results and think about how you can implement a more successful way of doing things. Generally, it comes from simplifying an existing idea. Great examples of this come from Wal-mart, IKEA,and Gas Stations. They have taken an employee out of an operation and it has resulted in increased sales and a simpler operation. In what context? Wal-mart has made it so customers can check themselves out, IKEA lets people build their own furniture, and Gas Stations everywhere let people pump there own gas. This allows the respective business' to take the cost of an employee, the person that once did those services, out of their prices and gives them a huge competitive advantage. In what area could your business trim a service down to save some money? Be different and think simple... it works!
It should be clear to most people that there is an imbalance on Wall Street. Some investments go up while others go down and in dramatic ways. This is why many people encourage having balanced portfolios (like me), however, Koch disagrees with this logic with good reason. Because there is an imbalance you are much more likely to make huge returns if you are heavily invested in one investment, about 80% invested. My thoughts on this is that when you throw all your eggs in one investment you do have a chance at great rewards, but you are heavily increasing your risk. Koch's investment strategy could work for you if you have a lot of knowledge and information of the investment you are putting yourself into. For example, you could invest in the company you work for because you know about the operations and you know whether it is getting better or worse. I encourage everyone to find the investment strategy that fits their personality best and if this one is for you, go for it!
I am a huge advocate of always striving to increase levels of happiness in life. This book declares that 80% of our happiness comes from 20% of what we do. So we should simply analyze what falls within this 20% and do more of it and less of the 80% that only slightly increases our happiness levels. So if going on vacation with your family is in your 20% than arrange your life to do it more. And on the other side, if you have things in your life that you feel are pointless and result in low levels of happiness or unhappiness, then do them less or stop them all together. If its a social event or a meeting and you feel its pointless, you probably won't be missed if you stop attending and if its a chore, assign it to someone else. If this means getting a housekeeper, then do it. Happiness should take a very high priority in your life.
I also want to mention that the 80/20 Principle is not linear. Meaning that it does not have to add up to 100. 80% of a company's profits could be from 5% of products and on the same note 95% of your happiness could be a result of 30% of your activities. The idea behind the book is that there is an imbalance. Once you understand this concept you can start looking for it and use the information to become more efficient in every aspect of your life.
So there you have it. Applications for the 80/20 Principle. I have been asked by many people how I do everything I do: Read a book a week and write this, work on my career, analyze new investments and have a life. Well I guess I use some of the ideas outlined in this book and I didn't even know it. Additionally, I don't see anything I do in my life as "work": I love reading, I love writing this blog and teaching others how to be better, I love my career and the work I do, and I love learning about new investments and using that information to build my wealth. When I don't like doing something I find a way to do it differently so it's enjoyable or I ask someone else to take care of it for me. If you enjoy doing something there is a high probability that you are good at it. If you aren't good at something then giving that task to someone who is good at it, and following the same logic, that person will most likely enjoy it, this means it is the right decision. In fact, if you work on being smart about your delegation of tasks, you simultaneously turn yourself into a better leader.
There is a lot of great information in this book and I think anyone that reads it will improve their life greatly. I recommend it to everyone. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The book I read this week was The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read by Daniel R. Solin. I loved it. Fantastic ideas that follow my personal investing philosophies.
Solin's book has four sections although I feel like there were really two main ideas. One, that index funds are a more solid investment strategy than stocks or mutual funds because you cannot, nor any "professionals," beat the market. And Two, how to invest in the index funds (the fun part.) Solin provides solid research that shows results of many studys. All evidence points towards using index funds. "Financial Experts" and Wall Street have spent lots and lots of money on marketing themselves. They pitch themselves as having a financial expertise that helps them predict the market. This is false. Marketing dollars have also gone into telling the public that mutual funds will provide a great return because of the diversity and that they are being maintained by a "financial expert" that can beat the market with their expertise. This is also false.
The Truth: You can make just as much or more money than any "financial expert" and you can do this by avoiding mutual funds and investing in index funds.
There are just a couple differences between index funds and mutual funds, but the differences make a huge difference. A mutual fund is managed by a person, this person is supposed to be able to predict what stocks and bonds will rise and fall, so they buy and sell to appropriately position the fund to make high returns... you pay a premium expense to have this "luxury." An index fund is managed by a computer and the computer buys and sells stocks to position the fund in line with the right ratio of the market. This means the index fund will always earn the market average. Now for the great news and another difference.... Mutual funds earn less than the market average 95% of the time. So you have a 5% chance to have a mutual fund that does better than a index fund. Additionally, many mutual funds have an expense ratio of about 1.4% whereas an index fund has an average expense ratio of .3%. So if that mutual fund does beat the market by a whole percent, which is very unlikely to begin with (5%), you would make more money if you had invested in the index fund. Why would you pay a premium to lose money? Great question... You shouldn't.
The book also analyzes the differences between the Smart Investor and the Hyperactive Investor. The Hyperactive investor is the "financial expert"- They spend all day every day trying to beat the market. This is very unlikely, very few individuals have been able to beat the market for an extended period of time. One of these people is Warren Buffet and it is unlikely that he is your financial adviser. The Smart Investor understands that you can not beat the market and also understands that in the long-term, the market makes great returns (9-12%). So this Smart Investor puts his money into index fund which pay the market average. Being a Hyperactive Investor is a great way to spend a lot of time getting no where... I am not a fan.
Can you do it yourself? Yes!
I am confident saying that anyone investing less than one million dollars can do so themselves, with very little oversight (checking in every 6 months or so). Now onto the what, how, and where... I am going to spell it out for you so read carefully. There is a rule of thumb for the ratio someone should use when they are going to be investing. Take your age and subtract it from 100 and that is what you invest in stocks vs. bonds. So if you are 30 years old you will invest 70% in stocks and 30% in bonds. I will use a 30 year old for the example below and we will use what Solin considers the Medium to High risk investor.
Here is your how-to... Write it down if you have to...
First go to either Fidelity or Vanguard and create an account (www.Fidelity.com or www.Vanguard.com) Both companies handle taxable or tax-favored accounts (IRAs and Roths) and both offer funds that have as low as a $3,000 minimum investment. Once you have your account use your ratio and purchase accordingly into these funds
30 year old =
52% FSTMX <---(This is the fund that you will purchase)- This is a domestic stock fund
18% FSIIX- This is a international stock fund
30% FBIDX- This is a bond fund
52% VTSMX- This is a domestic stock fund
18% VGTSX- This is a international stock fund
30% VBMFX- This is a bond fund
The book also goes into investing in ETFs (Exchange Trade Funds) but I don't like ETFs. People invest in these if they want to own a portion in a commodity. If you are going to buy into a commodity, buy into gold and silver, hedging inflation, and don't buy the ETF. Buy the real thing off www.apmex.com.
Well I just gave you a very powerful road map to great fortunes... I highly recommend this book. It's a very easy read and has great advice.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
The book I read this week was Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People by Rich DeVos. Interesting book, written by the cofounder of Amway and Chairman for Orlando Magic. DeVos has ten simple chapters named by the phrase and then in each chapter he writes about the usage and importance. Although I think DeVos does a great job using examples from his own life, I think it may be slightly boring if I repeat these stories, especially if you intend to pick up this book. Instead, I will give you the phrases and I will give my explanation of importance. Let's get to it!
"I'm wrong"- It's important as a leader to be able to confess when you have done something wrong. If you don't know how to admit when you are wrong you come off as arrogant, and as a result, your team trusts and respects you less. If you admit when you are wrong, you come off as human, and have a great potential to build rapport.
"I'm sorry"- Again, no one is infallible. Once you admit you are wrong, it's alright to tell someone you are sorry. This is usually best served if, in the moment of your arrogance, you argued with somebody. If the two phrases are used effectively, they can stop a storm of a fight and hurt feelings. If you treated someone unfairly or did something "wrong" then it's okay to apologize. I promise you won't come off appearing weak.
"You can do it" and "I believe in you"- Encouragement... everyone wants it. It's a large reason that many people work as hard as they do. Someone encouraged them and they felt so excited that someone cared. It feels really good to have the support of those around you when you are going to pursue a difficult task. Many times when I lose faith in myself to do something BIG, my friends and family are there to give me a few words of encouragement and I gain the momentum to get whatever task done.
"I'm proud of you"- After somebody has done something BIG it's nice to give them this phrase. It's another reason people do great things. It starts when we are little, we get all A's and our parents say "I'm proud of you" and give you a big hug. Attention is very important and everyone craves it. After that child was given that attention they crave that feeling again so they shoot for all A's again. As a leader, it's important to manage people's behaviors by acknowledging that they did something great. If you do it right, the behavior will become a routine and you will have effectively led that person to greatness.
"Thank you"- I think this is a phrase that isn't said as much as it was in past generations. Telling someone thank you is a wonderful way to build that person up, create a stronger relationship, and differentiate yourself from every other person out there. My grandma has stressed the importance of writing thank yous to people. I have been better and better about writing them and now I have the top drawer of my desk filled with thank you cards, envelopes, and stamps. Writing a thank you card is one of my favorite ways to show appreciation, however, the words can be said at anytime, not just in a card. I have made it a habit to always thank people in the service industry. Your waitress, cashier, office staff... thank them all!
"I need you"- If you need something, ask for it. In my post on Never Eat Alone, I write about the importance of asking people for favors. If you tell someone you need them for something, it brings them closer to you and builds up that relationship. Depending on the task you needed help with it might be a good idea to send them a thank you card too.
"I trust you" and "I respect you"- Some people may have the impression that you trust or respect them by the responsibilities you give them. However, they don't know for sure unless you tell them. So, just say the words, it will make them feel great, and probably even make them smile!
"I love you"- Everyone has had these three little words said to them, even if by your parents. They amaze me so much. When someone says them to you, they have so much power. Every family should be built on love, and people close to you may feel that you love them, but they don't know until you say it. Don't hold back, say it...
"I am happy for you"- This one wasn't in the book, but I feel it is especially powerful. My grandpa introduced this one to me when I was young. I can't remember who he said it to or when it was, but it stuck with me. I remember I said it to someone on the phone one day when I was with him within the last couple years. He told me after I hung up the phone how powerful those words were... little did he know, I got it from him!
So there you go... You are armed with a very powerful arsenal of phrases. I want to take this moment to explain the importance of tone. A widely repeated statistic on communication indicates that communication is 7% words, 38% body language, and 55% tone. Woah! 55%! If you are going through the checkout lane in your local grocery store and the cashier is disengaged, looking down the whole time, and monotonically says "how are you today?"... you don't even feel obligated to respond... it's because they are not communicating! Use your body language and your tone of voice to appropriately communicate your message. Make the recipient of your message feel engaged and obligated to respond to you! Communication is the most important skill to master in the business world. After you can effectively communicate, it's all downhill towards wealth and happiness.
This book was good, but I spelled out a lot of the transferable information on this post. If you are interested in DeVos' life, which is pretty fascinating, I recommend you give this book a shot. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
The book of the week was Peaks and Valleys by Spencer Johnson, M.D. Another great book by the same author of Who Moved My Cheese? and The One Minute Manager. This particular book is about making the good time last longer and learning from the bad times quicker.
Johnson likes to tell parables to make a point and so far none of these stories have disappointed me. This particular story was about a boy that lives in a valley (bad times) that looks up and sees a peak (good times) and dreams of being there. One day he takes the walk up and meets a old man. That old man gives him sage advice on how to manage his peaks and valleys. The boy uses this advice and after a couple visits changes his life dramatically.
It is important to know that everyone goes through peaks and valleys in their life. The factor that determines how long we stay in one or the other is how we use our time. For example if you are in a valley, you can use your time to analyze what got you into that valley and do the opposite to get you back towards a peak. If you are on a peak, and brag to all your friends and family about the good in your life and could potentially push them away and land yourself down in a valley again. The peaks and valleys are important in our life because they help us learn and they give us something to strive for. The book offers 5 lessons to effectively use peaks and valleys at work and in your personal life.
1. Make Reality Your Friend- Look for the truth in the situation... Find out why you are in your peak or valley. When you know what is keeping you there, you can manage behaviors to get you where you really want or keep you where you are.
2. Find and Use the Good Hidden in a Bad Time- In every bad time you should be able to learn. If you learn what you are supposed to, you won't find yourself in that same situation again. Additionally, the sooner you learn what you need to, the sooner you will be able to get out of your valley.
3. Appreciate and Manage Your Good Times Wisely- Be humble and grateful. Find out what got you to your Peak and do more of it. And while you are on top, save resources for your upcoming valleys.
4. Follow Your Sensible Vision- This is goal setting. Imagine yourself, with incredible detail, where you want to be. The exact situation... Sipping Margaritas on your 52' yaht on the coast of Florida. Imagine what the air smells like, the heat of the suns rays. If you do this regularly, you will soon be doing that. Read my blog on The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, once you see yourself doing something, your mind will make subconscious steps toward getting your there. But you must truly believe you can do it!
5. Share it With Others- Very important! Share your knowledge, use every lesson you have learned and teach others so they don't fall in to that particular valley or teach someone how to stay on a certain peak longer so they can feel great longer. Knowledge is a very valuable tool that everyone should share regularly.
Peaks and Valleys are a whole lot mental and if what we are feeling is in our mind, it is very controllable. Johnson says we all have those bad times that we say to ourselves, "in a couple months, I am going to look back on this and laugh." Well, why wait. You can look at that "bad" situation and laugh in the moment. Don't let it get you down, don't let it put you in a valley. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has bad days. But not everyone lets those moments control them. Enjoy every day, no matter what you are doing with a humble, servant attitude.
These ideas can also get you ahead in your career too. Imagine you are interviewing candidates for a new position. In this economy, with a 10% unemployment rate in some areas, you have a lot of people that are in valleys. Would you be more likely to give the job to a person that has their head held high, that is positive, and enthusiastic about what the future is going to bring them? Or would you give the position to the person that is really feeling their valley, that complains to people around them about how they don't have this or that? Additionally, this attitude stems into our home life. If someone is optimistic and knows their valley will soon be a peak, they can show strength in front of their family and spread that optimism and happiness throughout their friends and family. The same spread can work with pessimism and anger. If you have the ability to choose your moods, why not choose to be happy?
Pick up this book, it makes a lot of sense. I had some great take aways and will continue to manage my peaks and valleys to progress through life with as many peaks as possible. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
The book of the week was Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. I can't remember the last time a book has motivated to change my lifestyle so much. This book was recommended by a friend of mine and has given me a new appreciation for the relationships in my life.
The main idea of the book is to develop as many lifelong relationship as possible. Getting away from the casual acquaintance and start real solid relationships with depth and value. Additionally, each relationship you create should involve love, reciprocity, and knowledge. You need to love for the person you are in a relationship with (this is not a romantic love, but a genuine care of well-being for the other person.) You need to show reciprocity because you will only get as much as you give. And quite frankly, the moment you stop worrying about what you will get in return and start caring about how you can truly give, you will have everything you desire and more (you can still ask friends for what you want, you just shouldn't base your relationship off what you will ultimately get). Lastly, you need to share knowledge in each relationship. This will be the foundation of many great relationships in your life. You know something stuff they don't know, and they know some stuff you don't know so share your knowledge with each other and advance each other's lives.
One idea I found incredibly useful in this book was that there are two parts to utilizing relationships to reach your goals. The first part is giving, like I said earlier, you need to give everything you have to people in your relationships. This will take a lot of time and energy, but it will be well worth it. It may include getting a friend an internship, or mentoring someone, or being a regular listener. Can you imagine what you would do for the person that got you your dream job, or introduced you to your "hero"? You would probably go to the ends of the Earth to give that person whatever they asked of you. And that brings me to the second part... Asking people in your relationships for what you need. If you want something and you know someone that can give it to you then you need to ask them for it. If one of you relationships has connections to you hero, ask them to introduce you. Too often people just don't want to ask, they feel embarrassed or they feel like they don't want to "owe someone." Well that's non-sense, if you have effectively created a solid relationship then you shouldn't have any problem asking someone for a favor. And so what if you "owe someone?" Personally, I love to help people... anything a friend of mine needs I will do my best to get it to them. In fact, this whole blog is dedicated to helping people. I have a sincere desire to help people get more money and be more successful. I am sharing my knowledge with the world and I am available to any of my readers for questions they might have.
A quote from the book that particularly hit me was this: "Love, Reciprocity, and Knowledge are not like bank accounts that grow smaller as you use them. Creativity begets creativity, money begets more money, knowledge begets more knowledge.... And most importantly, giving begets giving"
I am going to attempt to kindle as many of my acquaintances into solid relationships as possible. I know that when I start doing this a lot of people will shy away and many won't respond, but the few that will may turn into very successful relationships. The more people I have strong relationships with, the more people I will be able to help in a personal way. I challenge you to start building your own lifelong community of colleagues, contacts, friends and mentors. Pick up this book, everyone can take away great tips and ideas to incorporate in their own lives. It has very powerful ideas that will change the way you look at the relationships you have. The results will fill your life with everlasting success and happiness.Ferrazzi has an amazing story and you will most definitely another one of his books here in the not to distant future! If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The book of the week was QBQ! by John G. Miller. Fascinating little read... QBQ Stands for question behind the question. It focuses on what questions are really important and gets away from questions that issue blame or help you put off what should be done. Something I found quite interesting about this book was it was just over a hundred pages yet it had nearly 40 chapters. Each chapter in the book was a small story that showed what happens when the right questions are asked.
Miller really knows how to tell a story. The book in incredibly easy to read and hard to put down. Some examples of "bad" questions are:
-"Why don't customers follow instructions?"
-"Who made the mistake?"
-"Why doesn't anyone else do as much work as me?"
-"Why don't I get paid more?"
Some better questions to ask yourself would be:
-"How can I serve the customer better?"
-"What can I do today to be more effective?"
-"How can I be a more effective coach?"
-"What can I do to be more productive?"
Notice anything about the second set of questions? They start with How and What instead of Why or Who or When. They focus on "I" instead of them, they, or someone else. And most importantly they focus on action. To get ahead in this world there is only one person that can be changed, and that's YOU. If you focus on asking questions dedicated toward making yourself better you will be much better off than someone that is asking questions about procrastination or complaining.
Some of the stories in this book were very entertaining. One story that really incorporated the skills I try to push into people's lives through this blog goes like this: A man stopped at Rock Bottom restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. The place was packed and a boy holding a bunch of plates noticed the man hadn't been helped yet, so he took it upon himself to help the man. He asked what the man wanted and the man said he just wanted a salad and a couple of rolls. The boy said it would be right out. And then the man asked if he could get a Diet Coke as well. The boy said they didn't serve Diet Coke, just Pepsi products. The man was fine with this and carried about his lunch. After a little bit of time the man was greeted with an ice cold Diet Coke. The man said "I thought you didn't carry Diet Coke." The boy said "We don't, but they have it at the convenience store across the street". The man asked who went and got it because the boy was way too busy and boy replied "My Manager."
There are so many great things about this story. Most people would have said "Why should I have to get a Diet Coke when we have Pepsi?" or "Why should I serve that man, he isn't sitting in my area?" or "Why are we so short staffed?" The boy didn't say any of those things, he just acted. He did what it took to make the customer happy, true customer service. Aside from the outstanding customer service from the boy, I also want to mention the manager. The manager is a true leader. He let his employees make the decision and then he acted. This is a fantastic sign of a successful organization.
I really think this book is great for anyone. I think everybody could use a few lessons in personal accountability. Once someone learns to stop blaming everyone else, they really start acting and things start getting done. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Friday, November 13, 2009
The book this week was The Money Marathon by Ed Douglas, suggested to me by Jim Wiederholt. It was a good personal finance book written by a retired bank CEO from Chillicothe, Missouri. The book is very concise and straight forward. It is very easy to sit down and read in an afternoon. Douglas relates personal finance to running marathons. Therefore, most anecdotes in the book are running related. I am not a runner, but it's not rocket-science, so most of the comparisons are very easy to understand.
The book is subtitled 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom, so each of the chapters correspond to a step. These steps are:
1. Raise one's income
2. Control Expenses
3. Save Regularly
4. Invest for the Future
5. Stay Out of Debt
6. Adequate Protection (Insurance)
7. Make Your Money Work for You (If the previous steps are followed money will grow for you)
I agree with the basic idea of this book, however, personally, I like to be a bit more aggressive toward my accumulation of wealth. Douglas repeatedly shows how $2000 can turn into $1 Million in 50 years. I think 50 years is a bit too long. Getting rich slowly has it's place and it is perfect for many of you. The faster you want to get rich the more risk you will be taking on. If you use Douglas' 7 steps outlined in this book you can be certain you will reach your goals.
I found the author's running stories at the beginning of each chapter very entertaining. The book was relatively short, so I don't want to dive into it too much. I know I have quite the readership in Missouri, so I suggest you support a local author and check out this book. If you are a runner, I am sure you will really enjoy the stories Douglas uses. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
The book for this week was Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This book is phenomenal.... From the writing to the ideas, the book is pure genius. It is easy to walk away from this book and know that you can affect your financial status just by using the power of your mind.
The book is broken into 13 steps toward riches, however, I am going to smash them all together within this review. The thirteen steps are really all based around the idea of desire and persistence to get your mind to do what you want it to. The mind is an amazing thing! If you truly focus and imagine an outcome, your mind will work subconsciously to make that outcome happen. If you see yourself making $250,000 a year by the time your are 30 years old by working in real estate renting out multifamily homes, you write it down, think about it all the time and even imagine yourself with that income, you will achieve it. You mind will work for you. You have to give it a very specific goal though. You cannot say you will be making $250,000 a year, and nothing else. Your mind won't know how to make that happen for you. It can't make a money tree grow in your front yard. You need to make SMART goals for yourself Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Fold them all together and you have yourself a perfect goal. When this is done your mind will help you adapt to the certain circumstances you find yourself in, so everything you do results in a baby step toward your greater goal.
The other main idea that will help you achieve your wealth is... persistence. Hill uses several Great's anecdotes to guide the reader through this book. One person's stories I found especially helpful were Thomas Edison. Both amazing men and they both used the power of their mind to get their riches. Edison knew what he wanted and he didn't let any hiccup slow him down. He visualized his goals and he eventually achieved them. In fact, Edison is said to have failed 10,000 times. He called them temporary defeats. Just because something doesn't turn out the way we intend does not mean we are not meant to do it. If Edison had this mindset we wouldn't have the light bulb or his massive empire- GE. Once you set your goal, visualize them and never ever ever let you hold yourself back. Use the power of your mind to get what you want.
Another great idea Hill had in this awesome book was taking inventory in yourself. I am going to list the 28 questions Napoleon Hill uses in his book. This year, instead of doing phony New Year's Resolutions, take inventory in yourself. See where you are in every aspect of your life, write down your goals, your wants, answer all these questions and then post them up where you can see them everyday. Make you goals REALLY BIG and read them everyday! Here are your self inventory questions:
- "Have I attained the goal that I established as my objective for the year?
- Have I delivered service of the best possible quality of which I was capable, or could I have improved this service?
- Have I delivered service in the greatest possible quantity of which I was capable?
- Has the spirit of my conduct been harmonious and cooperative at all times?
- Have I permitted the habit of procrastination to decrease my efficiency, and if so, to what extent?
- Have I improved my personality? And if so, in what ways?
- Have I been persistent in following my plans to completion?
- Have I reached decisions promptly and definitively on all occasions?
- Have I permitted any one or more of the 6 basic fears to decrease my efficiency? (Fears of Poverty, Criticism, Ill Health, Loss of Someone's Love, Old Age, and Death).
- Have I been over-cautious or undercautious?
- Has my relationships with my colleagues at work been pleasant or unpleasant? If unpleasant, has the fault been partially or fully mine?
- Have I dissipated any of my energy due to lack of concentration or effort?
- Have I been open minded and tolerant in connection with all subjects?
- In what way have I improved my ability to provide service?
- Have I been intemperate (overindulgent) in any habits?
- Have I expressed, openly or secretly, any form of egotism?
- Has my conduct toward my colleagues been such that it has induced them to respect me?
- Have any opinions and decisions been based on guesswork, or accuracy of analysis and thought?
- Have I followed the habit of budgeting my time, my expenses and my income, and have I been conservative in these budgets?
- How much time have I devoted to unprofitable efforts which I might have used to better advantage?
- How might I re-budget my time and change my habits so I will become more efficient during the coming year?
- Have I been guilty of any conduct that was not approved by my conscience?
- In what ways have I provided more service and better service than I was paid for?
- Have I been unfair to anyone, if so, in what way?
- If I had been the purchaser of my services for the past year, would I have been satisfied?
- Have the actual purchasers been satisfied?
- Am I in the right vocation? Why/Why not?
- What is my present rating on the fundamental principles of success?"
"I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store.
"For Life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.
"I worked for a menial's hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid."
Ask Life for what you want and you will surely receive it. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Friday, October 30, 2009
The book of the week was Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. This book was a recommendation of Amazon and I didn't know what to expect when I bought it. However, Amazon's recommendations have led me to great books in the past and I wasn't disappointed by this one either. That being said, the book's format definitely threw me. There is only about 50 pages worth of reading because the main point of this book revolves around an online test. You read about 50 pages about the importance of your strengths and identifying them and then you log into the strengths finder website, using a one-time code in the back of the book and take your strengths finder test. The results will bring up your top 5 character themes out of 34 different types. The point of identification is to help you improve on your best traits. The book helps you do this by giving you a summary of your 5 different themes, showing quotes from people with the different themes and creating a personal action plan to get your specific themes even stronger. Like a muscle... a great personality theme only gets stronger when it is worked out.
I want to stress upon you the importance of identifying your strengths. So often people focus only on their weaknesses and tirelessly try and improve on the things that they are not good at. The problem with this mindset is that you will work yourself into the ground and will most likely never be as good as the best. A physical example would be basketball, if you are 5' 2", 130lbs and practice for hours everyday to be the next Shaq, you will eventually be on the court with a person 2 feet taller and 200 lbs heavier than you and they will have the advantage.. resulting in years of time that could have been utilized more effectively. Now I am not saying that you shouldn't focus on your weaknesses... you should be aware of all your weaknesses and try to improve those skill-sets, but it should not be the most important thing you are working on. If that same, 5' 2" 130 lbs person, was naturally great at writing, and worked tirelessly on improving their writing skills. It would come naturally and expediently... and they may become the next Mark Twain. In Strengths Finder 2.0 Tom Rath tells a story famously described by Mark Twain in fact. Story goes, a man was at the Pearly Gates and asked Saint Peter a question... "Who was the greatest general of all time?" Saint Peter responded, "Oh that's simple, It's that man right over there." The Gentleman said "You must be mistaken, I knew that man and he was just a simple laborer." Saint Peter said "That's right, He WOULD have been the greatest general of all time, if he had been a general."
It is very important to analyze yourself and find out what your real talents are... To put this in terms of getting rich: If you find that you are great at marketing, but don't have the ability to negotiate, hire, speak publicly, budget etc... you build yourself a team. If each person in your team is as expert in their given field as you are at marketing, you'll have a cash-cow team! Whatever product or service you decide to dive into will be a winner. Additionally, it is important to know what your natural talents are when making the transition from school to the "real world." When you find your natural talents, you can represent yourself accurately and impressively to potential employers and really land yourself a great career path.
My 5 character themes after taking the Strengths Finder 2.0 was Achiever, Competition, Maximizer, Futurist, and Learner. I think it is very accurate and I will use my newly acquired action plan to strengthen my skills in those areas. I also know I need to keep a look out for the additional 29 character themes within people to make my professional network a complete powerhouse! One of the most important things I have learned is: You can't be the best at everything by yourself, so surround yourself with people that compensate for your shortcomings.
I recommend this book to absolutely everyone. The book will take about 45 minutes to read and the quiz should take about 30 minutes. The results will really help you identify your talents. It is very difficult to self-identify all your strengths so use this book as a resource. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Additional FREE Resource to Identify Strengths:
Myer's Briggs Typology (Strengths Finder 2.0 is much more helpful)
Saturday, October 24, 2009
It has been a challenging week, but I managed to get my book done, The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. This classic is a favorite of many of my preferred authors, so I thought I would add it to my repertoire. Clason is a fascinating man, born in Louisiana, Missouri in 1874 and started his Babylonian-based writing in 1926. This book has very solid messages and it's no wonder why this book has become a finance classic.
Clason uses parables set in Babylon to make his points throughout the book. One chapter does a really great job of encompassing several financial points, The Five Laws of Gold. Each of the five laws are very simple and if used can work wonders in building your wealth.
2: Gold labours diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds it profitable employment.
3: Gold clings to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling.
4: Gold slips away from the man who invests it in businesses that he is not familiar or is not approved by those skilled in its keep.
5: Gold flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings or who follows the advice of tricksters or schemers or who trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.
I feel Law 1 is the most useful thing anyone can use when starting to accumulate wealth. I have touched on this in a couple blog posts, but I want to really drive it home. The best way for you to really start making a large sum of money is Paying Yourself First. YOU is the most important investment your have. YOU should have the mentality that YOU are your most vicious creditor you have. You owe YOURSELF before you pay anyone else.... Figure it into your budget. When you get your paycheck have a set number each month that you owe YOURSELF, I like no less than 10%. Never budge on paying yourself and always do it first. In my last blog about I Will Teach You To Be Rich, I showed you how to automate your finances. This makes it very easy to pay yourself. If you have $500 a month coming out of your checking account, and into your ING Direct or Emigrant Direct Savings Account, the day after you get your paycheck, you won't even consider that spending money. ING and Emigrant Savings Account pay 1.3% interest right now and it takes a day or two to get money when you do a transfer. I definitely recommend either of these accounts. I challenge you to start paying yourself first... trust me, you are worth every single penny. PAY YOURSELF FIRST!
More on ING and Emigrant Direct Accounts.... I just changed from Emigrant to ING because ING allows you to have several sub-accounts under the same over arching account. You can create nicknames for each of your accounts and each can have automatic savings plans for each separate account. Let's play pretend... You have and ING Account with sub accounts named Wedding, New House, and Vacation (I will discuss retirement accounts in a separate blog down the road... saving accounts should be used for short-term expenses: 3-6 years). You want to Pay Yourself First so you have get paid on the 1st each month and on 2nd you have ING pull $500 from your checking account. This $500 will be split among your accounts $150 to Wedding, $250 to New House, and $100 to Vacation.... In 5 Years we will have... drum-roll... $9,294 for your Wedding, $15,490 for your New Home, and $6,196 for your dream vacation... Total Savings = $30,980. Determine what you want you pay to be and work your budget so you pay yourself before anyone else... be vicious... get creative and figure out a way to pay yourself what you want. I want to make a point that much more money can be accumulated than this for the long-term... More on that later.
-Link for ING Direct's Homepage (If you intend to start an account with $250, I can send you a referal from my account that will get you an automatic $25 more.. email if your interested TrevorJFlannigan@gmail.com)
-Link for Emigrant Direct's Homepage
The Richest Man in Babylon is a great book with lots of great parables. It's not a long read just some different language usage. I think it would be a good read for anyone that has a little extra time... probably a vacation read... in 5 years you'll have plenty saved up for that! If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
The book of the week was The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. Both authors are Ph.D.s and stumbled across some fascinating research which they based this book around. The two surveyed and interviewed thousands of millionaires to figure out what the living habits of the average millionaire really are.
Some Shocking Statistics about these Millionaires:
-The average taxable income for them is $131,000
-They live on less than 7 percent of their wealth
-Many of their occupations could be classified as dull-normal such as: welding contractor, auctioneer, mobile-home owner, paving contractor, coin and stamp dealer
-They invest on average nearly 20% of their household income
-Most of them are homeowners (97 percent) and their average home value is $320,000
-80% of millionaires today are first generation millionaires
That last statistic was shocking to me. There is a huge misconception in society about the wealthy. The media portrays the wealthy as a legacy of the rich, one generation just passes it on to the next and the idea of getting there is represented as just a pipe-dream. The fact that 80% of the millionaires surveyed were first generation millionaires should really open someone's eyes to the possibility of being a millionaire an accessible dream. The other thing the media skews about the wealthy is the living habits. They show millionaires spending money like it's going out of style. They have great big mansions, fancy cars, and more toys than any adult really needs. Real millionaires don't spend like this. The media loves to cover the abnormal... that is why they cover crime, lottery winners, celebrities and so on and so forth. This book does a great job of laying out what a T.V. show about the average millionaire would look like. Just think of it... a man with a slightly above average career, diligently focuses on his finance and investing habits, living below his means, and double checking his budgets before he spends even a $500 on a new television. Not the most interesting T.V. show, however, that is what that average millionaire does.
No matter how much money you make there is one golden rule to accumulating wealth... ready for it?... Live below you means! If you have $5000 coming in each month after taxes then do your best to live on $4000 and then invest the rest. This is the only sure fire "get rich quick scheme"... and it really works. Throughout this blog I give tips on what may make a good investment and why, but you will surely fail investing and accumulating wealth if you do not have the first step completed... live below you means. The average millionaire spends over twice as much time budgeting and analyzing their own spending habits than the average non-millionaire. So focus on not only what money is coming in, but also pay just as close attention, if not more, on the money going out.
Being frugal pays big... A lot of these millionaires are just your average blue-collar entrepreneurial Americans and the way they made it to financial freedom is through frugality. They spend much less on their cars than non-millionaires... in fact the average millionaire buys 3 year old cars. At that point they have a lot of the first 30k miles bugs worked out and they still ride like a new car, but at 75% off the original price. There is no reason to finance out your life... Getting over your head in debt just amounts to unneeded stress and a bunch of "in-the-moment" toys. You can only keep up with the Jones' so long before you realize you are 50 years old with no retirement and just lots of cars, toys, and a big house with no equity. I don't mean to be too brash, but I want everyone to understand the importance of living below/within your means. The alternative is living well off with equity in several properties, a couple reliable cars, travel the world retire early, have the ability to teach financial discipline to your children and live without a lot of unneeded stress!
The book is very interesting and is well written especially taking in account it was written around research. Sometimes research-based books have the tendency to be boring. The Millionaire Next Door has it all right... great data and great case studies to reinforce the main points. Pick it up... I'm sure you'll discover a few helpful tidbits to increase your net-worth and put you on the track to being a millionaire. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Amazon Link to Buy The Millionaire Next Door
Friday, October 2, 2009
I read another classic book among fortune 500 companies, The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. I was happy with this book. It is exactly what is says it is.... a book that focuses on skills of a great manager and more specifically centered around the idea that the skills can be done in one minute.
The book is written in a fictional story format, however, the principles can also explained in a list format which is what I will focus on for this week's blog. The three key tools used by the manager in this book were The One Minute Goal Setting, The One Minute Praising, and The One Minute Reprimand.
The One Minute Goal Setting- Each employee writes down their goals on about half a page. Something that can be read in 1 minute if needed. I think having goals is the best way to make big things happen. You will have a hard time getting someone from point A to point B if they don't know what or where either one of those points are... so help your team set goals.
The One Minute Praising- You need to praise your people... The one thing humans crave more than anything on Earth is attention. When you give people attention for doing good things, they want to do more good things. Praising is one of the most affective and simple ways to get a person to do something. Take, for example, a baby, when they are getting ready to take their first steps. At first they may get up and stumble the first time and hit the ground, but parents are around to cheer them on and give them big hugs for their attempt. Then the next day the baby liked that treatment, so they try again... after a few times the baby actually takes their first full steps and is given more praise than ever before! Then the parents use the same "management strategy" to encourage the first words out of a baby, then good grammar, great driving habits, and before you know it you have a full grown kid living in Minneapolis, working 60 hours a week, starting a real estate business and writing a book blog in his little free time.
The One Minute Reprimand- This book's One Minute Manager uses the technique of watching for his employees to do the "right thing." However, when he saw something that was below their ability they would get a reprimand because he wanted to reinforce that they could do better. This is one of the most difficult skill sets to master as a management professional. It is difficult because you need to reprimand a behavior and not the person.
The book gave a clever story of a couple trying to train their dog to do it's business outside. When the dog made an accident on the rug the couple would take the dog and shove it's face in it and then throw him out the window in the kitchen into the backyard. The couple asked if this was a good technique and they were told they were just training their dog to jump out the window after it had an accident on the rug. People, like animals, need to know the ultimate goal before they can try to replicate it. Humans are easier to train than animals because we speak the same language. Once the person knows what the goal is they will try to make it happen for their craved praising. And if you know they have the ability to reach that goal and they intentionally fall short it may be time for a reprimand.
Leading people is a very important skill set! I can't stress how much it can make your life and the lives of those around you more successful. To lead people you just need to leave the bread crumbs... just like the child we were training in the analogy earlier... once the baby was able to walk you don't jump up and down every time they walk for the rest of their lives. You go on to the next skill you would like to train them on... after they have all the skills you are able to train them on they will go on to be as good or better than you... and that is what we want of those around us right? To live great big successful lives? And doing this will make your life easier.... if you train someone to do everything you know how to do, you have an easier load because you have employees that are capable of handling all the responsibilities that at one time were all on your shoulders. Great managers have much more available time than poor managers...
This book has a great story that can really impact a management professional or anyone that wants a little help with leading people. It's a very quick read and written by the same author of the book Who Moved My Cheese which was a great hit on this blog. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Amazon Link to Buy The One Minute Manager
Friday, September 25, 2009
It's no secret, to those close to me, that I am a huge fan of real estate investing. The book of the week was The Wall Street Journal Complete Real-Estate Investing Guidebook by David Crook. I liked this book because it was very informative on a very "real" level. It didn't boast unreal expectations like many real estate books. The methods outlined within this book can take someone with somewhat little knowledge in the field and help them really start making money with investment properties.
There was one particularly helpful chart within this book that I would like to tell you about. The chart outlined how to prepare for your starter property. It is broken into 4 categories: 1-3 months, 4-6 months, 7-9 months and 10-12 months. Each time period has tasks to be completed within it... let me show you.
1-3 months- Educate yourself (read up on real estate investing), Network, Clean up personal finances (pay off your debts and correct credit reports)
4-6 months- Get the business going (interview banks, work on getting a corporate entity established), Walk the streets (know the areas where you will be doing your search), Check out properties (get a feel for the market and crunch numbers)
7-9 months- Get liquid (make funds available for when you need them), Go shopping (make some lowball offers and get a feeling for negotiating), Get preapproved from your bank or financial source
10-12 months- Go for it, do your due diligence, get your money
I think laying out a plan is especially helpful for anyone just getting off the ground. I love to make plans. I actually have plans for myself that range from month to month and even 10 years in the future. It really helps a person get things in perspective... "what do I have to do here to get there?"
Crook also does a great job of directing a portion of his book to novice investors. In his 6th chapter, There's No Place Like Home: Smaller Residential Investment Properties, he explains how to get your cashflow generated with smaller properties. I am a big fan of starting off with a nice duplex. It helps you get a feel for the management environment on a smaller level. I feel that if you are going to have expectations of a property management company, you should understand the field. Additionally, with a duplex you can get a cheap rent (a lot of people think you'll live for free if you have the other side rented, however, when you take in to account the taxes, maintenance, utilities, and insurance you will probably just end up with a much cheaper version of rent.) You will most likely start having a positive cashflow on the second property and then from there... the sky is the limit!
Real Estate is a great investment for several reasons, but I want to clear up a misconception that a lot of people have about real estate investing. A lot of people see their personal home as a investment... however it's not. Several of my authors have explained this concept and Crook does and especially great job of making the point clear with an illustration of a the same house on two pages, one being used as a home and one being rented out. The house being used as a home has expenses just like one being rented out, however, when you use the house as your home your expenses (taxes, utilities, interest paid on mortgage, maintenance, upgrades etc.) in the long run outweigh your financial benefits from the sale down the road. People don't include the expenses of running a home into the "investment" of their home. The myth of having a home as an investment has been passed along for years, but when you see the reality you have an opportunity to change that mind set. Put more of your savings into solid investments and riches will be awaiting you.
I think this book is a really great read for anyone thinking about getting into their first few real estate deals. The Wall Street Journal books are always very well written and they come with little side modules with helpful little tidbits, which I think is a nice way to break up the book and make it more interesting. I think this book is a great, easy read for anybody, but would be especially helpful for anyone that is or aspires to manage people. I particularly love talking about real estate, so don't hesitate to ask me questions if you have any! I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Amazon Link to buy Complete Real-Estate Investing Guidebook
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The book of the week was Fish! by Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul, and John Christensen. It was brought to my attention by my Mom and I'm glad she told me about it. The book was a inspirational story with 4 very simple ideas that make worlds of a difference in the workplace!
The book is based around the story of a lady named Mary Jane. Mary Jane and her husband move to Seattle together with their two kids. Some time after moving to Seattle her husband passes away unexpectedly. This puts a lot of pressure on her personal life, as she is now a single mother and all financial burdens have been placed on her. She works at a First Guarantee and had developed the reputation as the "can-do" supervisor. Mary Jane was offered a promotion, but she was hesitant to take it because it was to supervise the third floor. The third floor of First Guarantee was a "toxic energy dump"- meaning that everyone there was a drain on moral, enthusiasm, and overall energy. Mary Jane took the position even with her hesitance because ultimately she needed the money to support her family now. Mary Jane struggled for a little while at this new position, she knew she needed to change the mentality of this department, but didn't know how. One day she took a different route on her lunch break and ended up at Pike's Fish Market. She couldn't believe how much energy was created at this fish market and how everyone seemed happy about what they were doing. She needed to create an atmosphere like that on the third floor at First Guarantee. She was noticed by one of the employees at Pike's named Lonnie. Lonnie helped talk her through her problem department and gave several suggestions on how to improve it. After field trips and many meetings the department was changed with these four ideas:
"Choose Your Attitude"- Everyone should realize that they can choose their mood every second of every day. When you go into work in the morning you can choose to be mad, sad, and upset, or you can choose to be happy, excited, and enthusiastic. When you choose one of the latter emotions, you become contagious and those emotions spread about the office or where ever you are like wild fire.
"Play"- Don't think about work being "work." Everything is what you make it and along with choosing your attitude, you can choose to be playful at work. Just have fun with what you are doing. Think of it as a playful challenge, you can create a challenge for yourself... become faster, more efficient, all around better. And don't think that you can't be playful and also be professional. Whoever said the two are mutually exclusive is completely wrong.
"Make Their Day"- This is a very important one! This is about making your customer's day. This is what will drive your customers to the next level and create an epidemic of a company. Compliment them, include them in jokes, and remember their names if you can. All of these things are what make people come back for more and also tell their friends. Several companies have created an empire by focusing on customer service... see what you can do!
"Be Present"- This means not just showing up, but really being there. If you are present then you are there to play with the customers, scan what is going on around you, and really interact with everyone around you. What happens too often is day-dreaming, boredom, just keeping the status quo. Being present is what gets you noticed... by recruiters, your boss, your professors... whatever the case might be... be present and get ahead!
The four tips in this book are relatively simple all you have to do is be conscious of them. It is very important not to let any environment you work in to become a "toxic energy dump." If you lead the people around you and make the changes outlined in this book, you'll make a name for yourself and really make people's lives better! I think this book is a great, easy read for anybody, but would be especially helpful for anyone that is or aspires to manage people. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.
Amazon link to buy Fish!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The blog post can be found at the following link: How to read 300% faster in 20 minutes
If you have any questions on this subject I would be more than happy to help.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
The book of the week was another from the Rich Dad Series, Own Your Own Corporation by Garrett Sutton. This book has a simple purpose, to inform the reader the differences between the most popular forms of corporations and how to get them off the ground. If you read my blog about the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, you would understand the benefits of starting your own corporation. I suggest you read it if you haven’t already.
Sutton makes it very clear not to start a sole proprietorship and general partnership. These two entities offer no personal protection. The good types of corporations are C corporations, S corporations, Limited Liability Companies, and Limited Partnerships. Each of the "good types" offer great asset protection, which means, if your company gets sued your personal assets are safe. You will only be risking the assets that are in the corporation’s name.
The book also shows the benefits of starting a corporation in Nevada. In Nevada, you will save money on taxes, maintain privacy, and maximize asset protection strategies. Sutton does a great job of sorting through the details of each portion of the book. From the start-up process to coming up with money, he does a great job of explaining the ins and outs. However, he does make it very clear that this book is not to be a substitution for legal advice and that if you are to go through the process you need to get a lawyer. He even suggests interviewing a few lawyers and picking the one that seems to have you and your company’s best interests in mind. This lawyer is going to be on your “team” and as Robert Kiyosaki says “Business and Investing are team sports.”
I think this book was really good for someone that has intentions of starting up a company. If you don’t have this goal in mind, I wouldn’t worry about picking it up. Read Rich Dad, Poor Dad first, and see if starting your own corporation is really for you. This gives you the jump start you need if you want to live like the "rich" do i.e. not pay taxes and having self sustaining cash machines in your life. I think that having this in your life is the best way to retire truly wealthy.
Sutton’s book is very detailed and it’s a lot of information to take it, which is good if you are going to keep up with all the legalese your lawyer may throw at you. I am a big advocate of having background information on any subject I might need help with. Whether it is law or accounting, you’ll spend a lot less money on your advisers if you go strapped with knowledge. If you have any questions on the book don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.