Obviously personal finance is a topic of intense interest for most of the population. So exciting it probably keeps you up at night, right? No? Me either, I’ve been sleeping like a baby. But with something so intertwined with our long-term success and personal wealth it is worth consideration. My recommendation is some light reading.
I don’t want to read about every option or derivative. I want to know step by step the best way to plan for the future and I don’t want to check all of my accounts every week. I don’t need the Ferrari of retirement plans; I need something that I will stick with. More like a Honda in terms of reliability, every day I walk outside and I know it will start and get me where I’m going.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich is a personal finance “how-to” written by finance guru Ramit Sethi. It is a 6 week program that helps you set up automated checking, savings and 401k contributions that will keep you out of debt and on the fast track to retirement or a new boat. This is the book to get if you want to set up a finance plan and revisit it maybe once a year. There are no strategic stock picks or complex budgets. The plan is to put your finances on autopilot and forget about it knowing that the plan will do the work for you.
No Guilt. No Excuses. No BS. Just a 6-week Program That Works.
Buy, Read and Prosper.
Something to consider from experience…
You can be the best writer, web designer, or coder in the world but if your client cannot articulate the end goal then what do you really have. Put Simply: a mess, a confusing and long-winded email chain, which really doesn’t do anyone any good. Frustrating.
A good final product starts with a client that knows what they want:
My most recent client sent me a list of websites the night before a scheduled call. I looked at each of them and studied their capabilities and their user experiences. The next day was possibly the most productive call I’ve ever been a part of. We discussed each website, what to emulate, what to leave out and ultimately ended with a plan. I submitted 3 potential proofs, one was chosen and it was completed and online within 10 days.
A complete client fairy tail in less than 100 words. It worked so seamlessly that anyone who approaches me with a project gets the same directions. It goes something like this.
Client: Hey Brian I need a website to bring me into this decade, my company handles home roofing.
Me: That sounds great and I can build you one. Let me ask you? Do you have competitors with websites in the area?
Client: Yes of course.
Me: Could you take a moment to look at their websites and report back with things you like and didn’t like so we can have a common starting point?
It’s that easy. Now before me and said client have a huge discussion accomplishing nothing we will have some examples and a starting point from which I can build a proposal. Apply this to any working relationship. This way, before I even have to consider a proposal I have examples of exactly the site they are looking for. Most websites are not innovative like Facebook or unique like Twitter. So for something like a roofing company or a pharmaceutical you’re creating a simple and efficient user experience. Easy to use, simple to navigate and with the right steps painless to go from idea to finished product.
Building a resume, reputation, or track record is the goal of any college education or summer internship. The idea that one great name on a resume is enough to propel yourself into the realm of high paid executives is a myth in this job climate. Even if the goal is just an entry position in a well-known firm, more is necessary.
When you are competing with downsized middle managers for starting positions it is the college grad with a story, not just a resume that will claim the day. This is not to say that the story must be an epic novel, each day filled with exciting adventure. More importantly each entry is unique, some way different than the other thousand applicants. Do you have a blog that you consistently contribute to? Does your online reputation reflect a positive light? What would your network say about you? All of these things an employer will likely find out if you generate enough interest.
In any position there is relevant experience. Do you have the same cookie cutter internships or did you go out and create your own with a company that “wasn’t hiring.” Do you paint yourself as a self-starter? Can you prove it? This is where the blog comes in, a constant commitment to blogging shows that you have determination and character; it also allows hassle free insight into your personality.
When working with potential clients I find that the biggest part of my reputation comes from my portfolio of work. Obvious you might say, but many people do not take the time to create a portfolio of work. Why would they? It is an unorthodox approach to many jobs but it proves that you have experience in the subject matter. The portfolio also provides a quick play-by-play of your recent projects, which make up your story!
Find ways to build out your resume, actual experiences that will make you more interesting.
1. Work for a non-profit, it’s actually pretty easy to achieve an impressive title for a college grad willing to volunteer.
2. Work for free? Anything to build that portfolio!
3. Blog your experiences.
Less of a blog post more of a personal admission, one to which I’m sure you’ll relate…
I may be in the minority but I love to read personal development books. So sometimes I wonder, “self, why am I not rich, famous, and (insert adjective here).” The inability to make moves. Lets be serious I can consume hundreds of pages of personal development books, blogs and interviews. I’m sure you can as well and if these reputable sources are actually providing quality content why haven’t all of their readers become part of the 3% of millionaires or the model of perfect fitness?
Case study: Myself
I have read books like Four Hour Workweek, The Millionaire Next Door, and Rich Dad Poor Dad cover to cover. All renowned for their valuable contribution to our society, as well as the proper steps necessary to become a wealthy in whatever form that means to you. Personally, wealth is a representation of freedom; a lot of happiness can be gained when the stress of financial worry is removed from your unique equation. Now that I’ve defined a goal, financial freedom, what are the barriers? There is only one, one that I have encountered on many occasions.
Inaction: The astounding ability to create a reality to which your only goal becomes a metaphorical mountain of adversity. Where each step forward is excruciating, each hour of potential practical productivity is wasted on our favorite social network or marginally beneficial task. Each of these books listed are concise and accurate. The one I a currently reading, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, gives you a list of “actions” for a week to week improvement of your personal finances. I received the book yesterday and I’m already one quarter through. I can tell that it is pumped full of gold, almost literally in terms of sound financial advice. The question remains will I take its advice or continue to create excuses, paralyzing my finances and my goals.
Stop Reading, Start Doing
As I’ve discovered the majority of the population including myself, define an argument as a loud and rowdy disagreement, less eloquently a yelling match. Great rhetoricians of old more accurately describe an argument as a debate. They do not “argue” based on emotion or feelings. They attempt to make a point using research and a sound base of knowledge. They assert that in most cases there is something to be achieved with every argument. Even resumes and cover letters present an opportunity for debate. Although widely considered a one-way dialog. These items evoke feeling and emotions in the recipient. The goal being to guide these reactions to your benefit, in this case an interview and subsequently a job offer.
Each entry on a resume is a platform to make your case, the case that you are the best for the job. Not merely stating that you have experience but what that experience will bring to the available position. The same opportunity is presented in the cover letter. Although it is considered a formality, creating a custom cover letter for each application allows the job seeker to present a tailored argument to each recipient. Each paragraph about experience or achievement allows the reader insight to your capabilities. Just as a lawyer makes her case you can appeal to the rational, ethical and emotional sides of your reader.
The main forms of argument use appeals of rationality, ethics, and emotion. Although most rhetoricians do not argue or debate from emotion, making appeals to the emotions of others is a powerful way to guild your “opponent.” It is impossible to know where a decision comes from without asking outright but it is rational to believe that is formed from the combination of rational, emotional and ethical reactions. The goal of debating is to find the correct combination to sway the argument to your point of view.
Using the resume or cover letter example is useful because it is easily relatable. In the position of the job seeker, it is assumed that you feel that you are the correct person to fill the available job. Your recipient will be your opponent. The idea is to use the opportunity to have a dialog with the emotions of the person reading your cover letter/resume. You want to focus on your ability to fill their need. Just remembering that instead of a formality each cover letter and resume is an opportunity to state your case will put you at the top of the list and hopefully present an occasion to build your case in an interview.
This brief reminder is based off of reading Getting Your Way Every Day by Alan Axelrod.
Building vs. Burning Bridges
The ability to open the right door can be the determination between success and failure. Making sure you leave a pleasant impression is often all you need to be remembered. Each time you pick up the phone or shake a new hand you are representing your brand or company. It is important to remember that your personality and attitude determine much of your success. Many companies get right to the point of a relationship, Products and Sales. One way to differentiate your for-profit company is to begin with a charitable approach.
Using my company as an example we have created a business model that will create a great revenue stream, but instead of going right for the sales we have built a reputation around our business in its home town of Salem, MA delivering for local charities. This is an underrated way to build powerful relationships within your home city. Using our charity events “Witchtoberfest” and “TieDressFest” we have built relationships with many companies and political offices because of the legal requirements set by the city. Instead of going right in with our business plan we open by explaining the charitable event we are having which inevitably leads to a discussion about our main revenue stream.
- Build relationships with local businesses
- Build relationships with charity networks
- Meet all of the important political offices
Now that we have a reputation with the city it is easy to bring events to fruition. “Jumping the line” is just what it sounds like. Instead of waiting for employees to tell managers and managers to tell owners, we just call the owners. It is easy to appreciate how much time that saves. When we push to build our main revenue stream these contacts will be invaluable and the reputation we have with these businesses almost sells our product for us.
Using technology terms, “initial adopters” are very important, right? If you have contacts with business owners that would love to support you, this group forms itself. They will champion your business and your company will become the talk of the chamber of commerce.
In terms of strategy this is easy enough to implement but maybe hosting charity events is not your cup of tea. Maybe you could get involved with local charity events. You wouldn’t be putting in all the effort but you still become part of the network and your reputation will still grow.
As the business cogs start to turn for Million Dollar Box Truck, my business partner and I have been the participants in many rounds of the waiting game. It has become obvious to me that we went about our new venture a little bit backwards. Reasonably we thought that we should wait until it was the center of our focus, the one thing on our minds. Wrong…
Boring = Forgotten
I think that the problem with our approach was the lack of experience between the both of us. Of course we have had the training of a fine institution and lots of “case” experience. What they fail to mention is the paperwork… I would liken it to trying to run, on ice, with no skates. You’re not necessarily going backwards, but that doesn’t mean you’re moving forwards either. There are a number of filings that stand guard to a full-fledged corporation. Each filing takes a unique amount of time.
Start now or pay the price!
Although we are not always sure of our ideas, if you are at all considering a company with a little certainty be sure to start the paperwork immediately.
We are always wrapped up in “brainstorming” or the exciting parts of a potential company but someone needs to be mindful of the paperwork which is necessary to keeping the company going. It doesn’t matter how amazing your business is if it is illegal. The IRS is not a government agency I ever want to see on my doorstep.
Find a way to master the paperwork
Although it is boring, it is a requirement. Therefore decide who will be master of the paperwork and make sure that that person has their head on straight. Some tax agencies as a value statement to clients have produced a how to manual for their respective states. If it is possible find that document and read it multiple times. If they are up to date they outline the steps necessary to avoid penalties and make the most of your time.
A common theme with globalization is the outsourcing of labor. Well if it’s so obvious why do people refuse to train in professions that are outsource proof? I find it most frustrating when people know what the problem is but refuse to change the way they operate. Just as corporations will become obsolete if they do not outsource, you as a resource will become obsolete if you train in a profession that will possibly be available for outsourcing.
Because there are brilliant minds all over the world it is easy to find talent that is cheaper than that of the United States. With different levels of standard of living you may be paying relatively low prices for your service but to the foreign worker you are paying top dollar.
Many people didn’t realize their jobs were outsourceable until they were obsolete. Potentially the most important part of your job might be just staying ahead of the curve. If you can reveal the movement of your job from the US to overseas you have a powerful position that allows you to train yourself in another discipline.
It would be spectacular if everyone would have the ability to pursue the trade that makes him or her most happy but it seems that with the market we are facing currently that is not a possibility. The world is becoming smaller and smaller. Everything is more convenient, faster, or more efficient. We forget about all of the people who are made obsolete from our constant evolution. We have to remember our fate is in our hands; no one will look out for your future.
The force that keeps us in place on earth has a similar effect in psychology. I find that whenever I contemplate the plans of others one of two things can happen. The positive side is that I am inspired by the ambitions and plans of my colleagues. We are pulled, like gravity toward those shining stars whose ambitions and goals drive us upward to new heights. The negative is in respect to the forces or people around us who do not have lofty goals. They may not have any ill will towards you but by their sheer apathy or laziness they subconsciously make it acceptable for you to slow your progress. You can compare yourself to these two types of people, which is more likely? The one with lofty goals is hard to follow while the one with lax ambitions is much easier.
We have a whole range of people who surround us; there are those who want more and those who are willing to work for more. Obviously we all have friends who complain about their situation and there are those who take those complaints and use them to fuel their progression.
As we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Worrying about the haters in life is a waste of time, it is just jealousy. They just want what you have, which means that you must be doing something right. Although this does not equate to happiness, hopefully your success is propelling you to your ultimate goal. My advice would be to not only get drawn to the shining stars but to be a shining star.
When we prioritize others ahead of our own interests what does it show? Are we being stupid or caring? Putting others first is a very human trait, we see it all around us. The true test is what we do when our own schedules are impossibly busy. Do you find time for others or defer them. We may hypothesize that we prioritize them first as an excuse to procrastinate and push our own obligations down the road. True character in friendship is finding that unique and driven person who finds time within their busy schedule to fit in the tasks you ask of them. We don’t need to repay the favor or pay them for services rendered; they are always there to help.
Finding friends with true character is obviously not an easy task but they are easy to recognize. They are always driven, surrounded by others, and man, are they busy. But ask them for help, for a minute or an hour of their time and they’re there. Whether it is the editor of your blog posts (Patrick Sargent) who always has time for a quick read or idea no matter the deadline, or your best friend or classmate ready to commiserate with you over an upcoming assignment. Those people who have built a wealth of knowledge but are still willing to share. They are down to earth and genuinely want to see you succeed. They are rare but they do exist.
Why not surround yourself with people like this? For one thing it’s hard! I’ve found one sure fire way to attract these people. Be one yourself! Find time for others and you will attract these unique souls who are so willing to participate in your success. Develop your own true character; stand out as the person who has time for others and you will become the one with true character.