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Becoming More Valuable – Weekly Goal Update

It’s important to remember that we are all flawed creatures. We all have thoughts that are often wrong and feelings that are often misleading. We can fall off the wagon and get lost in our limited perspective.

I am working on improving my effectiveness in work and life, which can be stressful. By that I mean it is stressful. Very, very stressful. I typically have several very effective stress management systems in place, but will power can be strained, and mechanisms overwhelmed. Especially in my case, when the situation has to do with family.

sigh…real mature

This is (was) my primary working computer. Several months of imaging, configuration, customization made it just right for my day to day tasks. Now it’s just an ugly external hard drive. Why? Simply put, I made a bad decision; one I’m not proud of. I essentially got stressed and threw a tantrum right through the screen. I’m not proud at all, mind you. However, toward the realization of my goal I thought it would be valuable to share some of this information.

First thing of note is the obvious: mistakes are costly. The estimated total cost between time lost, hardware repairs, opportunity costs, and the inefficiency of erecting a replacement system was about $6,000. That’s over an entire month of my goal. The real (measurable) cost was $500 which means I need to hustle to get back to my baseline. This doesn’t include potential damage to my relationships.

All in all what failed in stress management was made up for in risk mitigation. My data was backed up, I had warranties in place, replacement machines (just in case) and all contractors and partners were empowered to do their work while I was putting pieces together. That’s not the point, though. The point is that the screw up can’t be excused by a fast recovery, especially when you have ambitious goals or any sort.

First word of advice, stay cool under pressure. It’s much easier if you take care of yourself. Rest, eat well, work out, etc. All that stuff makes the stress easier to handle. If you feel you’re losing your grip on yourself, step away for a moment. Nap. Drink some water. Just look the other way for a moment.

Second word of advice, don’t invest large hopes in small portfolios. This is a bit close to the heart so let’s dive in a skooch. I lost myself because I put a lot of emotion into a single important person. This is a beautiful, admirable, and unfair thing to do to anyone, including to yourself. Make sure you have enough room in any relationship to disappoint and be disappointed, because as we’ve already established, we are flawed creatures.

I have more updates to make and I’m still totaling up the opportunities I need to make up by my actions (I was supposed to attend a seminar and train for a 5k instead of fixing my RSA key associations) so bear with me as I tidy myself up a bit. Thank you.

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What Gets Measured Get Changed, Getting the Most out of Yourself

I’d like to challenge you to make a weekly self assessment to make to see if you’re getting the most out of your day and your actions.
1) Create a goal
2) Record everything you do that week
3) Determine if it helped or harmed your goal
4) Add up each lost opportunity to get closer to your goal
5) Be honest!

Looking at it on paper will give perspective to how you actually use your time. Making small adjustments based on this will put you on track to making your time more valuable.

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Increasing Personal Value – Oct 28 2015

My goal is to bring in $1,000 more than expected this month as an experiment to test the limit of the value I can capture from myself and to gauge unused potential as measured by monetary value. The initial formula for this was to replace a diminishing habit with a beneficial one, do more high paying tasks by outsourcing my low paying ones, getting rid of one thing I am paying for, and get paid for one thing I already have or do.

Over the past couple of days I have been auditing myself and my life for “value thieves,” any thing I allow or invite to diminish my personal value. The list I identified includes

  • An extra car we don’t need or use
  • Unproductive conversations
  • Distracting emails
  • Poor Spending
  • Bank Fees

This was the list of the ones that were easiest to collect. I feel fairly sure that these are not uncommon, so hopefully this forms a template for an actionable public audit. Cumulatively these have cost me about $800 this month, which is an huge obstacle to my personal value experiment.

Alternatively I also created a list of methods I had available to me to (legally) increase my value this week.

  • Meaningful blogging and journalism
  • Empty labor pipeline early
  • Sell extra car
  • Nap daily

Note that my measurement of value is not limited to finance but also to the number of people I can impact in a amount of time. I aim to research and write prolifically to become a source of educational and actionable information. As a technological consultant, it’s essentially providing my financial model to my social life to provide similar benefits.

So far my additional net income has gotten halfway to breaking even by having maintenance tasks replaced by high value work and being able to serve my clients well, but providing this labor is no way to become financially or socially wealthy. That being said, it’s a more certain and controllable way to reach my $1,000 goal than speculating the sale of my car, especially in conjunction with removing my value thieves.

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5 Reasons We Don’t Take Action

I recently had a conversation with a young man who was referred to me as a career mentee. He is in college for computer science, with skills in programming embedded devices and an impressive passion for his projects. Despite the energy he had for the field, he expressed hesitation starting a career in it. I was a bit shocked. My first instinct was to question why. My second instinct was to lecture him about experience, opportunity, and whatnot. However, I began to reflect on his statement and realized this reluctance to commit is something I, and possibly many other entrepreneurs, still experience.

So what can keep someone from pursuing an opportunity in a career they are truly passionate and skilled in – arguably the “dream life”? A number of things can get in the way of us taking advantage of something we truly want or believe can launch us to where we want to go. Arbitrarily, I will name 5 that I identified while reflecting.

1) Believing you have to make the right choice first.

While speaking with this young man, he mentioned not knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his career, which is a normal condition in college. That uncertainty, however, should be no reason not to take action in some direction. This is commonly called “paralysis by analysis.” It would be like staring over a beach with a shovel, afraid to dig because you don’t know exactly where a piece of treasure might be. Meanwhile, that same time could be spent combing the sand over with a metal detector. By favoring a bias towards action, you increase your odds of stumbling upon your treasure – in this case, a career path – from zero percent to a fairly strong maybe.

2) Fear of getting stuck in a dead end.

This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous one except, rather than an uncertainty of where to start, it involves an uncertainty of where you’ll finish. Let me preface this by saying that one of the greatest career mistakes you can make is getting a whole lot of experience in the wrong thing. However, give a position some time, and if it doesn’t work out for you, it’s fairly easy to quit and take the industry experience with you to find a better fit. Don’t fall for the sunk cost fallacy that you need to stay somewhere to get back the investment you’ve already put in. Telling an employer, “I left after 6 months because it didn’t fulfill my career goals,” sounds a lot better than, “I did nothing for 2 years because I was paralyzed with fear.”

3) Doubt in one’s own skills.

Oftentimes, particularly in technology, an individual entering the career field might feel overwhelmed with what might be expected of them. The wake-up call I have for you is this: you will never grow unless you are a little bit underqualified for your position. Never stop looking for skills and education in your field, and I encourage taking a chance at getting paid to learn versus paying for the same. So long as your abilities aren’t exceptionally below your pay rate, you are probably looking at the best chance you have at refining the skills you want. Remember, while a realistic view of one’s skills is great, don’t let that become an unrealistic assessment of your potential.

4) Losing passion once money’s in the equation.

This is a hard one to address. A lot of people may have a chance to enter a career in something they are earnestly skilled and passionate about, but don’t want to risk losing that love once it becomes “work.” If this is the situation you’re in, you may be looking at the wrong career. It’s rare to find that one position that lets you live out your dream career scenario, so holding out for that offer is playing a lottery with bad odds. If you feel that this may be the case, it’s probably better to find it out sooner than later.

5) Excuses, excuses.

By definition, a job involves work, and getting ahead in a career will almost always involve working hard or working smart, and usually a bit of both. It always seems great to imagine yourself in your fantasy position earning a perfect salary with your retirement plan nested away…until you factor in the effort it takes to get there. Being face to face with the opportunity, it’s not uncommon to have second thoughts about committing to the work it takes to succeed. My answer to this is to just jump headlong into the cold water. From there you can choose to swim to deeper water or back to shore, but either way you’re forced to work. The hardest part is always getting started, so make that first commitment so there’s no room for excuses or laziness.

In conclusion, don’t hesitate to get started in your career. When in doubt, stay biased towards taking action and keeping momentum moving forward, rather than hesitantly staying still. While many questions arise along each given career path, train yourself to take action at opportunities, and almost any doubts or concerns you have will be figured out or dispelled early on.

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All out of Bubble Gum

Imagine that you’re a child with a new piece of gum. How do you go about blowing the biggest bubble you can?

About a year ago I almost sank my primary business in an attempt to make it grow. I had just trained a new crew, increased my clients, and spent several thousands on software, hardware, reports, and leads – all to position myself to an accelerated growth spurt. In the end I had to let go of some contractors, sell some equipment, and even refund a couple of clients. Like the kid with fresh gum, though, I tossed the gum in my mouth, chewed a couple of times and my ambitious bubble popped before it was even ping-pong ball sized. And just like that kid, I was left cleaning a mess of gum, and egg, off of my face.

A year later I’m still in business and better than ever, but what did I do wrong? Well, let’s go back to imagining that child. He knows not to just blow furiously into fresh gum. He’ll lose his bubble and his breath trying to stretch tough pink goo too thin. Instead, he chews it for a while to soften it, blows a small, modest bubble, then goes back to chewing – possibly adding more gum along the way. This process of chewing, blowing, testing, and chewing goes on until in one steady breath you create a bubble large enough to envelop your sister’s favorite doll.

Like the gum, a business (at least my business) needs to be chewed up a bit. Also like the gum, it’s a bit tough at first, but that’s also when it’s the most enjoyable. After a bit of abuse, you try to grow, steadily and just before popping. Then continuing long after it continues to be sweet or novel, increasing your stretch and size over iterations, sometimes adding more as you go. Continue until suitably impressive.

As a digital and technology specialist, I have been involved in the growth of many businesses and the conception of several start-ups. This has given me the chance to witness this bubblegum effect in action. Even still, I managed to get bitten by the ambition bug. Next time you are looking forward to growing or expanding your business, think about a child and his gum while you blow that bubble to help keep you out of a sticky situation.

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My Personal Vision

Philosophers and martial artists were my favorite type of people growing up. There was something mesmerizing about their stories, reclusing from society and spending years in a cave in passionate search to master…something. I glorified the monk and the sage, the mystic and the guru, who were willing to devote their lives to a type of personal discipline that seemed unreal if not impossible. It goes by different names: enlightenment, mastery, actualization. By any handle, I had become obsessed with understanding what it really meant and how to get there.

While a child growing up in NYC I only had so much autonomy to exercise and I used to find different disciplinary systems to entrench myself into. Cub scouts, karate, Catholic school, ROTC, and so on. I found each of these comfortable and each helped an otherwise hyperactive and awkward kid stay a bit more focused but I can’t say that I found any of them “actualized” me. My mistake was expecting anything could self actualize me besides, obviously, myself. A point that would really get driven home in college.

On that note, I was driven home from college in my freshmen year after what was essentially a nervous and emotional breakdown. Between full-time classes, three jobs, two clubs, one girlfriend, and way too many activities I learned that my disciplined childhood didn’t translate well into my first time being truly on my own and fully self-monitored. Before that happened I changed my major from comp-sci to religious studies and spent just enough time there to reassess my life decision academically. The hiatus afterward gave me more time to meditate on it.

Many years of diverging paths, self-discoveries, whopping mistakes, and profound joys bring us to today. I’m a tech entrepreneur running a couple of startups, a habitual martial artist, responsible for a family, and like everyone else a complete mess of a person. I’m still on a quest to understand how to find realization in this world, and I’m holding myself accountable for recording and publishing my efforts. My vision is to become self-actualized, to then become self-realized, and finally to make it easier for everyone to do the same thing. I would love this to be my life’s work, my living performance art, and eventually my personal legacy. Thank you for joining me here at this, yet another turning point in the string of experiences I call my life.