No matter what your goals are with the opposite sex, you
will probably have to play the numbers game. And since my divorce a few years
ago, I’ve done just that. Not long ago, I met a woman who seemed pretty
worthwhile at first. She was attractive and clearly intelligent. But my
assessment changed in an instantaneous and permanent manner when she said
something that absolutely appalled me. “I wouldn’t want to be with someone like
you because you clearly live a healthy lifestyle and I don’t want to feel
pressured to live that way too.”
One issue with dating women in their early to mid twenties is
that you can’t necessarily assess their lifestyle very easily. Sure, some of
them are already significantly overweight at that age and others are showing
signs of aging prematurely, both of which are indicative of consistently poor
choices in one or more areas. But many of them still look great thanks to
nothing but a combination of age and genetics. And that was clearly the case here.
She went on to describe her party girl lifestyle, which sounded like it mostly
involved staying out drinking at bars, clubs, etc until the wee hours of the
morning, rather proudly. This was clearly a woman who is well on her way to hitting
the wall head first and at full speed.
But it wasn’t even the fact that she’s squandering every resource she has – her health, her money, and the time her very life is made up of – that shocked me. I see women her age still living that way all the time. Consequently, the reason I tend to date women that age, as opposed to younger than that, is because the smarter ones tend to be starting to realize that they aren’t going to be young forever and adjusting their choices accordingly. The reason I usually avoid women thirty and above is that many of the ones who are single at that age have never made those all important adjustments, but now want kids regardless – with whoever is foolish or desperate enough to attach himself to that mess for a couple of decades at a minimum.
Anyway, don’t get me wrong. I’ve suspected plenty of women
of harboring this “I don’t want to be with someone who looks like he might have
even modest expectations” mentality. I’ve just never met one who was actually
willing to admit it before. She apparently wants to date a man with no more
drive or self discipline than she has. And the crazy part is that she went on
to talk forlornly about being single as the minutes, which started to seem like
hours, passed. Of course she is single! What kind of man would be attracted
enough to someone with an attitude like that to have anything beyond casual sex
with her? What are the odds that she herself would find a man like that
attractive? It’s amazing how self destructive people can be. But in this case,
she has an almost unbelievable combination of awareness of what she’s doing to
herself and insistence on continuing to do it.
The lesson here, of course, is to live exactly the opposite
way this woman is. Make the right choices, not the easiest ones. Surround
yourself with people who motivate you to be better in every area of your life.
Avoid people who are going to drag you down to their level with their mere presence.
I’m sure you have all heard the quote about being the average of the five
people you spend the most time with. While I don’t think it’s quite that
simple, I’m a big believer in the basic concept. Clearly the woman I met was,
too. She just had a very perplexing vision for what she wanted her “average” to
be. More power to her, I guess. But I strongly recommend you choose the best
life you can for yourself. Why would anyone want a crappy one?
Happy Tuesday, Folks! I took yesterday off since it was Columbus Day and I’ve decided to do more to make holidays special, even the more dubious ones. This post has been a long time in coming, since it happened about a month ago now, but after months of researching and deliberating, I bought my next car. As the picture shows, I replaced my 2014 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited with a 2015 Infiniti Q60S. This was pretty out of character for me since I ended up buying a totally different car than I had planned to and I committed some car buying sins I never would have previously considered in the process. But at least so far, I’m very happy with my decision. I’ve been buying cars for almost two decades now, and while some aspects stay the same, every purchase is also a little different. So here are the specifics from this time.
What stayed the same?
I did a ton of research before I even stepped foot on a
In this case, I found what I thought was the perfect car for
me – on paper. I was going to buy a 2015 Lexus ES 350. In addition to having
the usual bulletproof Toyota reliability, it has a venerable, naturally
aspirated engine, meaning none of the turbo related issues so many of the cars
being sold today are likely to suffer from somewhere down the line. The gas
mileage is a solid 21/31 and it doesn’t require premium gas like most luxury
cars do. It is a big, smooth, comfortable car, which is important for someone
who drives a lot as I do. The main compromise I felt I would have to make is
that like most cars today, it is not very pretty. But that’s not terribly
important and other than that, the car checked all the boxes.
Doing the research is crucial. You need to know everything
about the car you’re looking at – the fair market value, the long term
reliability, any specific problems the year/make/model is known for, the
features in different trim packages, etc. Most salesman suck at their jobs and
will not know a lot of these things, especially with used cars. This doesn’t
mean they won’t answer any questions you have; it just means you shouldn’t rely
on the answers they give you. Keep their motivation in mind and go in armed
with information from unbiased sources.
I also had financing lined up before I went to any
I decided to finance this car instead of paying cash because my credit score has suffered some since I paid off my last car years ago as a result of having no current installment debt on it and I want it back where it was. No, there isn’t much practical difference between the mid 800s and the low 800s. But this stuff is literally what I do and yes, there is also some ego element to it. Anyway, another reason I got a loan is that at today’s interest rates, a small one (just over $10k in this case) costs basically nothing. I had a sub 3% rate ready to go at a local credit union.
I walked away from
two potential cars because the deal I wanted wasn’t there.
This is extremely important. Car salesmen know how to toy
with your emotions and if you aren’t careful, they will have you feeling that
you MUST have THIS car. Or that they’re such nice people that you owe them something.
Or any number of other psychological tricks that they might play depending on
what you respond to. Any time you start feeling yourself having an emotional
response to anything involving money, it is a good practice to walk away until
it has passed. And when buying a car, if you sense that you’re at the
salesman’s limit and the numbers aren’t where you want them, that is the
perfect time to walk away anyway. If he lets you leave, you know it really was
the best he had to offer. And don’t believe any bullshit he gives you about this
being “a one time, today only offer!” I promise he’s lying. And even if he’s
not, if he was willing to give it to you, someone else will be too. If you
remember nothing else, remember this: you will never lose money by not spending
it. Think about it.
Like many of my previous car purchases, I bought a late model used car and saved a ton.
My Sonata was actually the one new car I’ve bought so far. I only bought that one because it was a demo model (6000 miles or less on it but still legally a new car) and it was selling for about an $8k discount off of its retail price of $31k. But even though I got a deal that good on that “new” car, and even though this latest car was significantly more expensive when it was new, I still paid less for this one. With options, the Infiniti retailed at just shy of $50k. But five years old and with only about 30k miles on it, I got it for $21k. I wasn’t concerned about the year/mileage imbalance affecting my resale value since I put on a ton of miles and will quickly reverse it anyway. Considering this car has a long proven, naturally aspirated engine and the Hyundai had a turbo, you could make the argument that this car’s powertrain probably has as many trouble free miles in it as the Hyundai’s did when I bought it – but this powertrain is in a considerably nicer car. And in case you think this particular model depreciates unusually quickly, there were plenty of available ES 350 options at right around $20k for that same vintage as well. Keep in mind that the secret has been out on Lexus for some time so they depreciate slower than almost anything on the road. But even there, the late model used discount is alive and well.
What was different about this purchase?
I bought my car from a “no haggle” dealership.
Most people know that Carmax is a fantastic ripoff by now. If you still don’t, compare any car on their lot with other comparable options in your area. Even without factoring in that most dealers will negotiate some on their advertised pricing, thus making it even lower, Carmax is going to be at least 10% higher than the best available options on nearly anything. They make it simple for you…to pay them an enormous premium for a car. This time around, I found a lot of dealers that appeared to be copying that business model. However, upon further inspection, I noticed something surprising. Many of their prices are actually pretty competitive and some are even exceptional. The dealership I wound up going with happened to have the exact car I wanted at the lowest price available for hundreds of miles. Could I have found a similar car for a thousand or two less somewhere else? Possibly. But it probably wouldn’t have been worth the time and effort. I only buy black cars with black leather interiors and the Q60S is a fairly rare car to begin with. This is a preference that always costs me money but one that makes me happy and thus, that I’m willing to pay a little for.
Anyway, I ended up getting a pretty decent deal on the car without the fun of negotiating, which normal people don’t seem to enjoy anyway. So don’t ignore all the “no haggle” dealerships; not all of them are ripoffs. I will, however, note that this was not one of those “delivered to your door” dealerships. I would NEVER buy a car I couldn’t inspect in person first, whether new or used, although it is significantly more important with a used one. And yes, I know they offer return policies, albeit for very short time/mileage windows. Do you want to try returning a car? I can’t imagine any scenario where that would go smoothly. For example, there will already be a loan in your name. That will have to be zeroed out or paid off. I can’t imagine that will report cleanly on your credit report. The titling process will already have been started. Do you think they refund that money? Do you think you won’t also be paying to title the second vehicle? Those are just a couple of issues off the top of my head. If you can’t inspect a car in person, don’t buy it. These aren’t tv sets; no two are alike.
I actually wound up financing through the dealer.
This particular dealer only dealt with a selected group of finance companies. Ever the cynic, I figured this meant they were going to add one or more points into my deal, which is a very common practice at dealerships and one of the main reasons to line up financing before you go. Had they tried to do that, I would have simply bought the car with cash or walked away. However, they wound up getting me a loan within a quarter point of the one I had already lined up. And with a loan as small as the one I took, I will pay basically nothing in interest anyway and a rate difference that small means nothing. Why did I take such a small loan?
I actually wound up trading my car in.
I have always sold my own cars in the past and have been very successful with it. In my experience, I’ve gotten anywhere from 20 to a whopping 50% more than dealerships were offering by doing things this way. But in this case, the dealership actually made me a pretty fair offer. I know because I did my research in advance. If I had sold the car myself, I would most likely have gotten $1-3k more for it. However, that would have involved spending time I simply don’t have and dealing with at least some people I absolutely don’t want to deal with. When you’re dealing with the public, you’re usually going to meet some assholes, some weirdos, etc. But the bigger issue was the time factor. For me, at this stage of my life, I decided it wasn’t worth squeezing every last dollar out of my car. Plus, the $10k I got for it by trading reduced my sales tax by $625 (you are only taxed on the sale price that’s in excess of your trade and the rate is 6.25% here), further reducing my motivation to sell the car on my own.
I threw my research in the trash and started over.
Like I said above, the 2015 Lexus ES 350 would have been a
nearly perfect car in my situation. So why didn’t I buy one? Because I test
drove one. I can honestly say I have never been so disappointed with a car in
my life. The car was, in fact, nearly perfect – except for one little problem.
It was the most sterile driving experience I’ve ever had. Although the stats
were pretty similar to my existing car, the performance didn’t feel like it was.
And even if it had been, it wouldn’t have mattered. I could have been in a car
as fast as the heavily modified Supra I had back in the day (you know, when they
weren’t just BMWs marketed as Supras), but so what? I couldn’t feel anything.
It was like someone set out to create a car that felt like you were floating in
it rather than driving. The car is extremely good at what it does and I thought
I would like it. But I absolutely didn’t.
By the by, this is also a strong selling point for the Hyundai. I wanted to get out of that car for two reasons – the mediocre build quality (don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a Chrysler product or anything, but it was starting to creak and groan way too much for a car its age) and the turbo engine that would inevitably start costing me money well before I wanted to get rid of the car. I drove a car that is significantly more expensive and objectively better in almost every way and yet, it didn’t feel like much of an upgrade at all. For anyone looking for a lower priced car that still offers an awful lot, you could do a lot worse than a Hyundai. And if you get a maxed out one like mine was, you might have a harder time noticing the differences between it and a luxury car than you would expect.
Anyway, after that colossal disappointment, I decided I’m at the point in life where I can compromise a little more between financial optimization and enjoyment. I do have to drive this thing after all. The car I bought is significantly faster, sportier, and more fun in every way than the Lexus. It will not be quite as reliable over time, although it should still hold up decently, especially for being a sports car. And while the gas mileage will rarely be north of 30, again, it’s not terrible for a car this fun to drive at 19/27. And like with most cars, I’ve already been finding that it does a little better than its EPA rating in real life since I don’t beat on it. So far I’m averaging a little north of 27 with probably 75% highway driving.
And I actually love the car. It is a few years “behind the
times” in terms of technology, but I think that’s great since I want a car, not
a computer. The reason I was looking at a 2015 Lexus in the first place instead
of a 2016 or newer is that after 2015, they started adding more and more of the
self driving features I have zero interest in, at least until further notice.
In the case of the Infiniti, 2015 was also my year because Nissan caved to the
turbo trend in the next model year. It’s no race car, but it’s a sporty, fun
little car with a very nice interior and everything I want in it. I’ll do
another post on the cost of ownership between the three cars (the Hyundai, the
Lexus, and this one) but for now, suffice it to say, while this one is the most
expensive of the three, I still consider it a reasonable compromise compared to
something very sporty like a Corvette. It is certainly well within my means and
as long as you stay there, at the end of the day, I think it’s ok to enjoy
yourself a little every now and again.
Happy Friday! Here is the conclusion to Wednesday’s post.
I’ve discussed how I got here plenty over the life of this nearly year old blog so I won’t revisit that here. This would be a good post to check out if you’re interested in the cliff notes version. Over the last few years, I’ve met all sorts of people and seen all sorts of things – a whole world I never would have experienced if my old life hadn’t ended so catastrophically that I decided to start over nearly from scratch. And one thing I’ve learned is that you aren’t defined by your current circumstances. You can be anything you want to be. If you don’t like your current circumstances, change them. It will probably require making some changes to yourself, but that is possible as well.
In fact, beyond being just possible, it’s inevitable. Remember those “cool kids” from high school? The quarterback and the hottest girl, who were always at the center of everything? Well, they changed too. They got married and had kids. Now he’s fat, bald, and trapped in a crappy job he hates while she’s fat and bitter and sits at home watching daytime tv all day. Obviously, that isn’t what always happens, although I do think peaking too early in life can be disastrous. But every person on this planet will change and so will their circumstances. Winners today are definitely not guaranteed to be winners tomorrow. And blessed are the “late bloomers” among us. We had to fight through significant challenges before the sun would shine in our worlds and as a result, today it’s shining brighter than we could ever have imagined it would.
So who do you want to be and what do you want your life to look like? You do have a say in these matters. Look around you. Do you see the people you DON’T want to be? Those people had a choice too. Chances are, their attitude was that they didn’t. Life just “happened” to them. And look at them now. They didn’t decide what they wanted and force it to come into their lives, so they got the leftovers no one else wanted. Not making a choice is still a choice. I strongly suggest that if you’re a pessimist, you make changing that your first priority. I’ve recommended some great books on the subject in the past, but anything by Martin Seligman is probably the best recommendation I can possibly make.
From there, think about what you want your life to be.
Envision it. If you were who you wanted to be, and you lived exactly the life
you wanted, what would that look like? Now don’t just let it fade away like another
daydream. Write it down. Next, figure out what steps you need to take in order
to make your reality look like the one you just imagined. This may require some
research. Finally, break the necessary changes down into small, actionable
items and start doing them. Don’t get caught in the traps of perfectionism or “analysis
paralysis.” Starting imperfectly is much better than never starting at all.
That’s it. You should start to notice changes in both your
life and yourself almost immediately. Taking action is very powerful. It’s one of
the main differences between people who life “happens to” and people who mold
their lives into what they want them to be. I know someone who bought his first
rental house five years ago and now has over seventy of them and a seven figure
net worth to boot. I know someone else who has gone from a beginner sales rep
to one of the best and most successful in our company in about that same
timeframe. You really can transform your life, and in a lot less time than you
would probably guess. But it won’t happen unless you decide to make it.
The other day, I heard a song that reminded me of a very different time in my life. My then fiancé and I were both working what felt like dead end jobs with few prospects for anything better. We lived in Wisconsin, suffering through the standard six months of hellish weather on an annual basis. Everything I did in life, including staying in Wisconsin, was dedicated to her – something I now know was a terrible mistake and would have been whether or not our eventual marriage had only lasted two years. But how could I know that? I hadn’t been with many women before her, so like most men in that situation, I held on for dear life and smothered any chance of her remaining interested in me out of existence. Anyway, we lived in a decent, but modest apartment, and we each drove a 10+ year old vehicle. We had some fun, but mostly it amounted to hanging out with family and friends. Every spare dollar went to paying down our student loans. From an objective perspective, our life together wasn’t much to look at. However, I was naively happy and didn’t expect any of the fundamental parts of it to change too dramatically from there. There’s a powerful sense of security in that, albeit a false one in many cases.
But as I waited for the fancy coffee machine in the
clubhouse of the luxury apartment complex I live in to finish brewing the
amazing coffee I enjoy every morning I’m in town, I marveled at how vastly
different my life is today. While it can certainly be stressful, and is particularly
so lately given the current state of the industry, my job pays about three
times what I made back in the time I was referring to in the last paragraph. My
side business adds almost as much as I was making back then with very little
time commitment required on my part, bringing my total income to about four
times what it was. I still have friends and family, but now instead of a long
term relationship, I tend towards enjoying being with someone while it’s mutually
enjoyable, then moving on when that passes. I appreciate every experience and I
look forward to the next. I have no trouble finding women who want to spend
time with me, so there isn’t any over-committing on my part and as a result, my
relationships tend to be much better while they last. I fly planes and write
for this blog in my spare time, and enjoy both activities immensely. Oh yeah.
And I’m enjoying all of this stuff from the comfort of my favorite state, over
a thousand miles from bitter Wisconsin, and I get to spend regular time in four
of its biggest and best cities – Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin. Why
choose just one?
Problems that used to seriously worry me aren’t even problems at all now. I was having some trouble with my computer the other day. And while I was able to get it fixed with the help of my teacher turned IT professional mother, it occurred to me that if I had needed to replace my year and a half old computer, I could do so and I would barely have noticed the difference in cashflow that month. I’m considering going on a nice vacation early next year and it has already occurred to me that once again, I can pay for it out of monthly cashflow and not really think twice. Oh. And I just bought myself a luxury sports car – although I did stay true to my principles in the way that I did it. I’ll get into that next week; I promise this time! The point of this isn’t to brag. The point is that there is a night and day difference between these two periods in my life. I’m going to guess what you may be thinking here. There must have been a decade or more of hard work separating these two almost polar opposite chapters of my life, right? Wrong. Try six years. And if you’re going from the demise of my ill fated marriage until today, when things still weren’t dramatically different from the first paragraph above, you can make that three and a half. I have wasted much of my life so far as a pessimist. I still struggle with it. But it is much easier to challenge that way of thinking now that I’ve seen the seemingly miraculous changes that are possible in life.
Happy Monday, Everyone! Here are some assorted thoughts and
experiences I’ve had lately. I hope you find them amusing or enlightening in some
Clean your fucking house if you’re single!
Seriously, I was just eating dinner the other night, just
like any of the other thousands of times I’ve done it, when suddenly, I found
myself choking. Total freak thing. Somehow, something went down the wrong tube.
Thankfully, I was able to cough it all back out. But if I hadn’t been able to, it
could very easily have been lights out. And I’m a very healthy man in his thirties.
Aside from having an extremely stressful job, I’m nowhere near being part of an
“at risk” population. But fate doesn’t care about probability. And if I hadn’t
coughed that stuff up, someone would have been walking into a mess since I’ve
been on the road so much lately that I haven’t had time to keep up with things
like I should. Food for thought.
Everyone knows JD Power awards are bullshit…right?
With football season upon us again, I’m watching some tv
again. And with watching tv comes seeing those heinous Chevy ads with that guy
I find incredibly irritating. Don’t get me wrong; he looks like a very nice,
mild mannered, incredibly beta guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly because he doesn’t
have the balls. But there is something about that man that makes me sincerely
wish he would die painfully. And soon. A grossly excessive response? Probably.
But at least for now, I’m still free to think what I want. Anyway, the ads
always feature said annoying man preaching to “real people” about how Chevy
wins basically every JD Power award on the planet.
First of all, if you haven’t found it already, head over to Youtube and search for Zebra Corner for a little therapy. The channel has tons of videos where a guy hero named “Mahk” sits in on these commercials and singlehandedly takes them from painful to hilarious. The only thing funnier than his absurd accent is his relentless criticism of Chevy and the situation he’s found himself in. There should probably be a law requiring that Mahk’s work be played on tv in place of the original commercials because it would make the world a better place. Just saying.
Second, JD Power awards are 100% bullshit. They’re based on
survey results and those surveys are about “initial quality.” That’s the first
90 days of car ownership. Call me when you’re talking to people about their
cars five or ten years down the road and we can talk. But 90 days? I’d be
shocked if even a Chrysler product had any issues that quickly. So basically, JD
Power verifies that people still like the cars they chose to buy…90 days ago.
If you know much about psychology, you know how pointless that exercise is. Also,
there is absolutely a financial incentive involved. Chevy, and any other car
company that wants to use the “awards” in their marketing, pays to do so. Plus,
the proof is in the pudding. Chevy builds mostly crappy cars and would have
gone bankrupt a decade ago if it hadn’t been bailed out. If the company is
winning awards, those awards obviously have no credibility on those grounds
If you want to find out which cars are good, talk to a mechanic you trust. Or do your research online from a variety of reputable sources (keeping in mind that reviewers may not be paid directly by manufacturers, but if they give out a bad review, they’re not going to be reviewing that particular manufacturer’s cars for very long) and then draw your own conclusions. Ignore all advertising. I cannot stress that enough. Marketing people are clever little bastards who know how to manipulate your mind, even if you’re on the intelligent end of the spectrum. Ignore everything they say. Not a word of it is credible.
SoFi still rocks.
A while back, I recommended the SoFi checking account. While I did provide my referral link, I would only do something like that for a product I myself use and feel comfortable recommending, regardless of financial incentive. Recently, I was using the bill pay feature and I thought of a couple suggestions that I felt would improve it. Ever since I first got the account, I’ve been meaning to try out the “Email the CEO” link at the top of the page. I figured this was as good a time as any, so I emailed him my suggestions. The very next day, which was a Saturday by the way, I got a phone call from someone in his office. She told me that Anthony occasionally answers the emails himself, but that whether by him or a member of his executive team, every single email is answered. As a man with thousands upon thousands of unread emails in my various inboxes without being the CEO of a large corporation, this impresses me. She discussed my suggestions with me a little, thanked me for both them and my being a member, and told me to watch my account because they may be implemented. I’m excited to see if anything has changed the next time I pay my monthly bills.
But whatever happens, it means a lot to me that I can get a
response that quickly. And I think it says a lot about the way the company is
run. I am reiterating my recommendation of the SoFi checking account and if
anyone is interested, here is my referral link. https://www.sofi.com/share/money/2015744
Speaking of customer service, Marriott is on notice with
Lest you think I’m some shill who only gives glowing reviews, I had a very disappointing experience at a Marriott recently. At roughly 9:30AM, someone put a key in my hotel room door and proceeded to open it. If the safety lock hadn’t been there, he would have been in my room looking me dead in the eyes as I toweled off in the bathroom, having just stepped out of the shower. As it was, he had the door open a few inches. There had been no warning of any kind – no knock, nothing verbal, etc. I quickly stepped out of the bathroom, slammed the door back shut, and advised the gentleman in no uncertain terms that the room was occupied and a second attempt to enter it would not be met with as kind a response as the first had been. His response, which was not apologetic in the slightest by the way, was to tell me that management had told him all the rooms on my floor were empty. Admittedly, I was angrier than I otherwise would have been since I was literally standing there naked. However, this guy was in the wrong, and by a wide margin. If it had been a naked woman in the room, there is a good chance he would have been leaving in handcuffs. He may well have been anyway if I had chosen to call the police. So I was a little surprised he couldn’t muster even a half hearted “I’m sorry.”
When I told the hotel manager what had happened, her
response was even worse. She told me that a notice had been given to me that
they would be cleaning the carpets in the rooms that morning (it was not – I even
went back and checked my email to see if maybe it had been sent out that way –
and if I had received such a notice, I would certainly have made a reservation
at a different hotel) and that I needed to let them in. The fact that there had
been two and a half hours until check out when this unauthorized entrance
attempt occurred was deemed irrelevant. And there wasn’t even a hint of an
apology in anything she said. Needless to say, I told her to cancel the second
night of my reservation, which to her credit, she did. However, upon further
review, it appears that the rate on my bill was increased by $20.
For a little context, I stay in a lot of hotels – probably about a hundred nights a year on average over the last few years. So I know how things work. The “do not disturb” sign goes on the door before I even set my luggage down upon checking in. But occasionally, a member of the housekeeping staff, no doubt in a hurry to get the job done, does try to walk in before check out time anyway. I’ve even had the safety lock disengaged once and had someone succeed in walking in before realizing her mistake. However, she was immediately apologetic in that case, as was the hotel manager when I informed her what had happened. She refused to charge me a penny for the night and assured me that they would be retraining immediately. I wasn’t necessarily expecting that caliber of response, because it was exceptional, but in this case, the manager’s response to the situation was utterly unacceptable.
I called Marriott’s customer service number immediately after
that. The woman who answered was very professional and kind and took down all
the pertinent information. She was very sympathetic and ultimately told me I
would be receiving a response in 3-5 business days. That’s a little
disappointing given that my complaint was in regards to a safety issue, and an
egregious one at that. Had this man made it into my hotel room, the outcome
would have been one or both of us leaving in an ambulance and a lawsuit being
leveled at anyone in any way involved by the most vicious attorney available. It
seems to me a much more immediate response by customer service should have been
in order. But I will give them until the middle of next week to respond and
report back when they do. If the response is less than satisfactory, I will not
be staying at a Marriott property again, which would be a sad outcome given
that by and large, my experiences with them have been good. I will also be researching
which government agency (or agencies) is responsible for overseeing hotels and
making a complaint to them. Stay tuned, folks.
Good morning everyone! Today’s post is the conclusion to my post from last Monday. Whereas that one exhibited more of an “old testament” tone, today’s is more in the “gospel” direction. It felt good to write it and I hope it feels equally good to read it.
But just like with anything else, too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. I’m on track to be a millionaire by forty if I continue to work that long and I still spend sleepless nights envisioning what might happen if I lose my job. I get worked up over relatively small setbacks that pose almost zero threat to my long term success in any area of life. Through hard work on my mindset and rapidly improving actual circumstances, I have gotten better about this. But my desires are still way too close to the security end of the spectrum. As far as I can tell, there are at least two antidotes to this problem.
One is to assess your position and worst case scenario from
a rational viewpoint. Think about things as if an average, unbiased observer
was watching your life on tv. In my case, if I lost my job, I could live on
cash for at least six months without that income and if I needed to go further,
I could liquidate enough in other assets to extend that by years. It is pretty
difficult to imagine a scenario where I wouldn’t have another job by the time
all my assets were exhausted and it wouldn’t even have to be a remotely
comparable job to my existing one since my living expenses are less than $30k a
year and I could cut them by half and still have everything I technically
needed. But if none of that worked out, I have friends and family. I’m not the
easiest guy on earth to get along with, as you may have guessed by reading my
blog, but there is almost a zero percent chance that no one would take me in
while I worked to get back on my feet. Even if no one would, there are
organizations and programs dedicated to people in such dire circumstances. And
even if none of that helped me, I see homeless people on the streets every day;
they are surviving somehow. Almost the entirety of this analysis is absurd
because I’m relatively unlikely to take the very first step down the path I’ve
just described. I’m well educated and intelligent, I have a good work ethic,
there is a (generally) high demand for people with my skillset, and thus far,
my income has increased rapidly and consistently.
Another approach is to look at things from the opposite
point of view. Since graduating from college, my income has risen over 20% on
an annualized basis and while obviously not infinitely sustainable, the rate
has only increased as the years have gone on. While I’m on a strongly upward
trend in my current job, it is fairly common knowledge within my industry that
my employer offers more of an experience building opportunity than a wealth
building one and as such, the pay is on the low end of the market. I
occasionally get calls from recruiters throwing out numbers $50-100k higher
than my current total compensation in an effort to get me to interview for
positions I’m getting more qualified for every day. Those calls are getting
more frequent over time and in the next year or two, it’s likely that the right
one will come. I have a profitable side business that I will likely be able to
scale up as large as I would ever want to. My investment account balances grow
pretty rapidly since I’m adding a huge portion of my income to them on an
ongoing basis. I have a great network of past and current coworkers, many of
whom I count as friends. And I have talents besides the ones I’m currently
using to bring in money that I have only barely begun to explore. A strong
argument could be made that I am likely to have substantially more resources
for the foreseeable future – not less, and certainly not none.
All in all, I’m an extremely fortunate guy and a hell of a
lot would have to go wrong in this world before I’d be on the street. Your
situation may be better or worse than mine but working through the analysis
would likely make you feel better if you’re a chronic worrier like me. If it
doesn’t make you feel better, then figure out what would and start setting some
goals that will help you move in that direction. But the bottom line is this:
time spent worrying irrationally is time that could have been spent enjoying
the buffet of happy experiences and growth opportunities life offers every day.
I’ve reached a critical point. The stress of my situation has increased to such a degree that I need to address it in a very purposeful way in order to keep it from destroying me. It has literally begun to manifest itself in physical symptoms – terrible headaches that refuse to go away, shortness of breath at times, my heart rate speeding up for no apparent reason, etc. Obviously, I need to first acknowledge that I’m creating the symptoms by handling things the way I am on a psychological level. Then I need to figure out exactly what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and what changes I need to make. I have the entire day (I’m writing this on Sunday) to dedicate to doing just that while I also work on the usual chores everyone has to do to keep life moving along smoothly. As part of that, I decided to write a post about the situation. I’m hoping that it will both help me to see things in a different way and inspire someone else to work through something of their own.
The heat is up about as hot as it can go. My employer’s
firings have continued and while we’re being reassured that anyone left is safe,
that, of course, means nothing beyond that the company has an interest in
tamping down the panic among its remaining employees as much as possible. Already
a couple they didn’t intend to lose, including our perennial number one rep,
have escaped and the consequences to the bottom line will be severe. They’ve
done it to themselves with their panicked reaction to the circumstances – and it
goes way beyond simply firing a large percentage of the sales force. I’m very
happy for him because it sounds like he is in a genuinely better situation with
enormous potential. But guys like that will always have employers lining up to
pay them basically whatever they want. For me and most of the other reps who have
neither been fired, nor found the door on our own, better options aren’t
necessarily available, especially at a time like this.
Every last one of us is looking, of course. But it’s not so
simple. Over the last year or so, our broader industry has been absolutely devastated
by a massive oversupply problem that has crushed revenue, putting hundreds of
small, medium, and even large businesses under and thousands of people out of work.
If one of us were to find a job at another company within the industry, we
would very likely be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. You never
know the reality of a job until you’re actually doing it and under the current
circumstances, that reality is very unlikely to be a good one – no matter where
you go and no matter how much a biased recruiter gushes about how great the
opportunity is. Every company is dealing with its own version of the same
problem right now.
So how about getting a similar job in a different industry?
No dice there either. First off, most of us are finding that there is very
little interest in our services in other industries because even though our skillsets
are extremely valuable in the right circumstances, we are not exempt from the fact
that most employers these days want someone who is already doing exactly the
same job they are applying for. While this is obviously a short-sighted attitude
that has made hiring quality people more and more difficult and caused significant
structural problems in our workforce, it’s still reality. Besides, even if I
could get into a different industry, it probably wouldn’t solve my problem for
Why not? I’m in a barometer industry. When things get ugly,
we tend to get hit first. When things improve, we also tend to see that first. So
if I leave now after fighting a year of industry wide recession, I will
probably find myself in rapidly worsening conditions as the recession spreads
to my new industry. And to make matters worse, my current industry will likely
be in recovery mode by then. But having just changed jobs, I would be taking a
huge career risk at that point by doing so a second time in a short timeframe. It
is best to be in that 3-5 year tenure range before you make a switch if at all
possible. Anything less is likely to produce a suboptimal outcome in a variety
So what should I do? I believe my best option is to continue
to stand and fight. I’ve made it this far and besides, bailing out doesn’t appear
likely to be possible, or even profitable. Going back to the beginning of this
post, since I can’t adjust the outside circumstances, I need to look inward to
improve the situation. I’ve already made the disappointing decision to stop
taking flying lessons. I was really enjoying them, but I simply can’t afford
the time the overall process was taking up anymore and it’s not something that
can be “half-assed.” I’ve also cut back on writing for this blog, although I did
so a little more than intended, dropping from three posts a week to one. I
intend to get that back up to two as I had planned.
The biggest thing I need to work on is to focus on
optimizing everything I can control and not letting the things I can’t stress
me out the way they have been. That means doing all those things that I know are
crucial to my continued success to the best of my ability every day. It also
means shutting out the noise. Or, as one of my more senior colleagues told me,
in times like this, you just have to keep your head down and work. This is one
of Stephen Covey’s seven laws and if you haven’t read his book, I strongly
recommend that you do.
I have to be as mentally strong as I possibly can right now.
The pendulum is going to swing back the other way for us. It always does. For
all I know, it could happen as soon as a few months from now. Even if it doesn’t,
it is almost certain that we’ve seen the worst of things. It would be a tragedy
to fight so hard for so long and then fall apart so close to the finish line –
the equivalent of being among the last soldiers killed in a battle that has
already been materially won. I’m not going to let that happen to me. And on the
other side of the finish line? A scenario where the market is improving again
and anyone who survived the purge is well positioned to take advantage. Every
hardship I’ve ever faced has made me a better man in some way. This one isn’t
going to be any different.
By the way, it appears this is my 100th post on this
blog. Thank you to everyone who has been along on this journey with me and I
hope you all have a great day!
Happy Friday! You may have noticed I didn’t post on Wednesday this week as I had planned to. That’s because I haven’t had as much time available as usual, which isn’t much anyway (more on that in a minute), because I spent a few days of this week test driving cars and ultimately buying one. With that fiasco behind me, I will return to regular posting again next week. And I will post about that experience and some new things I learned about car buying in the coming weeks.
That said, going forward, I’m going to be posting twice a week instead of three times. My plan is to do it on Monday every week and then again one other day. I may try out different ones over time and choose a particular one to stick to if I notice it working better than the other possibilities. I am enjoying what I’m doing with this blog and I’m certainly going to follow through on my commitment to see it through for at least one full year. However, my life has gotten significantly busier over the last several months. Please note that I’m not complaining; I choose how I spend my time according to my goals and desires. But I’ve been struggling to keep up lately and finally I’ve had to accept that it’s because of simple math.
My job has evolved and now involves significantly more time and travel than it had earlier this year. I figure I’m putting in 60-70 hours a week now – roughly 10-12 hours per weekday and about that many total over a typical weekend. I’m doing my best to dedicate adequate time to my new hobby of learning to fly, which involves attending ground school once a week, reading every day, watching videos, and of course the flying lessons themselves. That’s about another 10 hours a week. My 10 hours a week in the gym (including time spent in the sauna after some of my workouts) are non-negotiable and I feel that’s the bare minimum I’d like to spend there. I spend about twenty minutes a day working on learning Spanish and at least maintaining my current level in German, which adds roughly 2 hours a week. For those keeping score at home, that’s 82-92 hours per week that are already accounted for on what I consider to be essential activities. Given that it takes me about 9 hours to attain my goal of 7.5 hours of sleep on a good night and that sleep is crucial to health so also non-negotiable, that leaves me with 13 to 23 hours per week to do literally anything I haven’t already mentioned – social activities, writing for this blog, you name it.
Simply put, I’m scraping the upper limits of what is possible for me without making sacrifices I believe would hurt me in the long run. I’m passionate about everything I’m doing and I don’t want to give any of it up. But that only leaves me with two options. One, I can find ways to be more efficient. That pursuit is already a regular part of my life and unfortunately, while I’m obviously not 100% efficient, I don’t think there is a lot to be gained in that area either. Two, I can make some cuts. There are occasionally opportunities to ease back on the work time, although that’s already accounted for in the range I used. Aside from that, any savings has to come from much smaller sources and thus, in much smaller amounts. And to add up to a meaningful difference, there need to be several of those small amounts which means nothing non-essential can be held sacred. Each post I write for this blog takes roughly an hour. And while I’m enjoying doing it, I’ve decided to re-purpose one of those three hours. I will give it a try and see how it goes for a while and adjust as necessary from there.
Is this a lengthy explanation? Sure. But in addition to wanting to explain why I’m doing what I’m doing, I thought tallying up my weekly hours was an interesting exercise that might inspire someone to try something similar and figure out something imporant. Have a great Friday and weekend, Everyone!
Happy Monday, ya’ll! I decided to take a break from my Annual Expenses series of posts as the concept was feeling a little stale. I’ll probably pick it back up next week. But for today, I want to tell you about a recent purchase, give you a general update, and do one other thing I had said I would but forgot about until now. Let’s get to it!
Over the last year or so, I’ve noticed a trend where “deals”
pop up when I’m looking at my online accounts with different banks. Usually,
it’s in the form of “spend x dollars at a particular store, get a y dollar
reward.” I haven’t messed with them until now because I’ve been busy, the
offers usually didn’t apply to anything I particularly wanted to buy, and the
dollar amounts didn’t entice me to do things differently. But recently, I saw
one with American Express that changed all that: spend $25 at an office supply
store, get a $5 reward. Toner cartridges for my printer cost way more than that
and I have to replace them every pretty routinely, so I went to the local
Office Depot. The cartridge I needed seemed a little pricier than usual at $90,
so I checked online. The first option I saw was $60 – and interestingly enough,
it was at Officedepot.com! I asked one of the clerks if they would price match
their website, it turned out they would, and just like that, I had saved $30.
Tack on the $5 from the good people at American Express and the cartridge was
The lessons here are pretty obvious, but bear repeating as a
reminder. First, keep your eyes open for easy opportunities. It took me less
than thirty seconds to read over the Amex offer, come up with a plan to take
advantage of it, and click it. Second, a price is not set in stone. It was a
little shocking in this case that Office Depot’s brick and mortar location was
substantially more expensive than its website (and no, the online price did not
say it was a “sale price”), but even when it’s someone else’s website, a lot of
stores will price match now since if they don’t, they will probably fall victim
to “showrooming.” Third, regardless of the situation, it never hurts to ask and
you can’t get what you don’t ask for. ‘Nuff said.
My current career situation could be described as “frustrated
and angry, but opportunistic.” In the throes of panic mode, my employer is
making life incredibly difficult for those of us out in the field with a
seemingly impossible double standard. Their words say “we want tons and tons of
business.” Their actions say “we’re not going to let you do any business unless
we absolutely have to.” And some other actions have already made it clear that
“if you don’t do tons and tons of business, you’re fired.” It seems
infuriatingly disingenuous, particularly when you consider that numerous
firings have already happened and not one of the people left employed appears
to be safe. But then you remember that these management guys are likely facing
similarly impossible double standards that have been set by the guys above them
and the whole thing just kind of becomes a shared nightmare for all.
The only thing that’s certain is that it’s time to put up or
shut up. As a result, I’ve been busting ass like never before and thankfully,
succeeding like never before in spite of terrible market conditions. In fact,
not only have I become one of the higher performers in the entire country, but
of the handful of people who have been hired in my division over the last five
years or so, I’m literally the only one left standing. I’m damn proud of that,
even as I feel for those who didn’t make it. There are two ways to look at this
situation. Sure, it’s difficult and in many cases unfair. But life hasn’t been
fair since the kid in preschool took the toy from you without asking, you
pushed him, and the teacher only saw the second part. Or even before that when
one kid was born into almost unimaginable wealth and opportunity in the US by
world standards, while another was born into almost guaranteed poverty.
Bottom line, there is opportunity in everything, even when
things look extremely bleak. I do my share of bitching, no doubt. I need to
work on not letting things phase me as much. But at the end of the day, I’m the
guy who’s out there in all out attack mode when many others are retreating. I
may go down swinging anyway, but that’s virtually guaranteed if I don’t try. In
the mean time, I’m making more money than ever and building on what had already
been a pretty promising career. This terrible period could be the one that
takes me from pretty successful to extremely successful. Someone has to come
out on top, right? As many people who have gone on to give the best
performances of their lives have said, why not me, why not now?
Like it or not, few entities have more data on us and our finances than the credit bureaus. We can either waste our time being angry about that, which will change nothing, or we can use the opportunity to indulge our inner data geeks and glean some valuable insights. Recently, someone from Experian emailed me about a post on their blog. It is a comparison of mortgage debt held by different generations and since typing the word “millennial” is basically page view gold, it of course approaches the topic from that perspective. I think the data is presented in some pretty interesting ways. Of course, if you go to their blog, they’re hoping you will click on something else and buy something. But the post is free. And full disclosure, I’m not getting anything from linking to it other than to help a fellow blogger out. Check it out here.
That’s all for today, folks. Have a great Monday and an even
Howdy folks! This week, we saw something a little different.
My employer’s latest round of firings caught just about everyone by surprise
when it was done on – gasp – a Tuesday. Not even the last day of the month. Now
I think they’re just toying with us. But in any case, nearly half of our
division, by far the most productive in the country, is now gone – and that
includes several people I truly love and care about. Yours truly survived again
thanks to two very good months followed by a July so stellar it literally eclipsed
any previous QUARTER I’ve had by itself. Can I keep it up? Only time will tell.
The industry is in absolute shambles, with widespread attrition happening. That’s
why I haven’t been able to simply leave. Very few viable companies are hiring
and even if they were, I’d likely be jumping out of the frying pan and into the
fire. But this latest round has opened up an opportunity for me that I believe will
result in a lot of new business. So stand and fight, while diversifying by
growing my side business as much as possible, seems to remain my best available
course of action for now.
Do you like to play chess? I loved it as a young lad. And lately, I’ve found a fairly convenient way to get back into it a little bit. It wasn’t exactly difficult. I play on www.chess.com. You can play with a computer at various levels or with human players from around the world who you are matched with based on both of your ratings. It works pretty seamlessly. There are lots of different game settings, different types of tournaments you can participate in, analysis, lessons, different ways to practice, basically, it seems to have everything you could want. I’ve only been playing the free version and while it offers plenty of functionality for a casual player like me, there are also very reasonably priced paid versions for more serious players. I highly recommend the site if you enjoy playing chess. And if you give it a try, who knows? You may find yourself facing off with me – although you likely won’t know it.
That’s all for today. Have an awesome Friday and an even