Friday, July 31, 2015

Learning to Fail

I've failed often at small things - physical or personal challenges, exams, crossword puzzles (lots of these).

But I haven't failed to a point where I've let myself down...until now.

A business that I put my heart into, but in retrospect not enough time or passion to overcome my personal shortfalls, is closing. And I feel like I've failed myself.

I feel like I've let myself down, my wife down, my family and friends and clients down. It's absurd, I know! Everyone just wants the best for me, for me to be happy, and they all understand that the business must close for that to happen.

But I can't stop feeling this way.

So how do I overcome the emotions and look at the positives?

I know failing is good - you learn, you move on, you create better - but damn, it's hard!

As I look around, read articles, and see (even though I know it inside, I need reminded) that most successful individuals have failed numerous times, I do have faith that I'll overcome my emotions.

That reality will set in. That I'll move to bigger and better opportunities.

So until that happens, what's next for me?

I guess this is a time for exploration. Some self-reflection and relaxing. Being in the present and dreaming of the future.

It's a good place to be - only said as I'm coming to accept (and learn) that I'm in a good place and the future will be bright.

The options are wide-open again. I can find another passion (or re-envision the first).

But for now...I'll just be.

Yours in exploiting life!

Have you failed? How did you move on?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Whole30 Lifestyle

Challenge complete.

We successfully completed our second round of Whole30!

Thirty days without consuming sugar, dairy, legumes, grains, or alcohol and tobacco.

No cheat days. No exceptions. We made it 30 days! (We had a couple of cheat days in our first round starting about day 24.)

Intimidating to hear but it really wasn’t that bad.

Additional grocery and meal planning is required, as well as extra preparation time in the kitchen, but being able to eat meat (and eggs), vegetables, and fruit can be oddly filling.

I’m not saying all of our cravings were suppressed, though this is a goal we’d like to reach, and temptation was everywhere.  Our first week of Whole30 also included National Donut Day; it was not easy to walk around the office filled with glazed Krispy Kreme donuts!

We found great recipes, which we’ll continue to eat in the future regardless of the restrictions of Whole30. We mostly used Paleo websites and cookbooks, and found substitutes for the ingredients we’re avoiding.

Our go-to recipe is Salmon with Avocado Salsa (delicious!), which we bake instead of grill.

Another added plus to this round was reading the book “It Starts with Food” (see resources below) by the creators of the program. The wait list at the library was ridiculous – I put it on hold last time we did Whole30 – but it was a great reminder about why we wanted to participate. (Yes, I'm a library fanatic. Sometimes I have to wait for a hot book but I read a lot - and spend little to no money doing it.)

We feel great. We’ve been more active during the program than we have been in quite awhile – camping, hiking, lake swimming, city walks – and (other than prepping and packing meals) we haven’t been slowed down by our food.

This was a great challenge for us, and one of our longest (outside of 100 days of burpees).

At this point, we’ve decided to continue on past the 30 days and start living a more Whole30 life. We’ll slowly reintroduce a few foods, to see how our bodies react, but overall we'll keep ourselves pretty limited.

Here’s to a healthy body, so nothing holds you back from exploiting life. Cheers!

Resources for Whole30 -

Whole30 Program Website - Details about the program, shopping lists, meal lists, and tips.

It Starts with Food - Book written by the creators of Whole30. Looks of great details about why they recommend removing certain foods from your diet. Also includes meal plans and recipes.

Whole30 Cookbook - Lots of delicious recipes!

NomNom Paleo - Paleo recipes. Easy to modify for Whole30 compliance.

Are you focusing on health? Has your physical ability ever held you back from reaching your goals?

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Money Does Matter

Regardless of what you’ve heard, money does matter.

Our daily life (and our future life) requires a degree of financial commitment.

Bills, food, car payments, and retirement - the list goes on and on.

But! You do have direct control over your money, your financial decisions, and your actions.

There is a way, a sometimes difficult way, to use your finances to your advantage.

You can exploit your finances! Not only exploit your finances, but use them to exploit your life!

The key…your relationship with money.

Are you in a healthy partnership with your money?

Or have you let your finances dominate your every decision?

Take control! Take back your life!

Use your finances to take advantage of your dreams.

Making your dreams a reality…

Exploit your finances, exploit your life!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

To Be Financially Fit - Purchase Modestly

The second trait of the financially fit is to purchase modestly.

Modest spending allows you to allocate more of your income toward goals and priorities, the areas making the most impact on your life.

Let’s look at why and how…

Why are you buying?

You’re shopping. You’re hitting the stores, Zillow, and Saturday markets. You’ve got money and you know what you’re looking for.

Or do you?

Have you really thought about the reason for your purchase?

Are you buying as a fashion statement (to impress your family and friends…or strangers)?

Or fulfilling a need (you need transportation to work, a means to call employers, or to meet a priority)?

Focusing on the reason and whether you’re meeting a need can help to ground you on your purchase.

Instead of just spending money - cost, brand name, and reason will be on your mind as you shop. This allows you to weigh your purchase price to what you could have instead – a weekend away or a down-payment.

Purchase equipment and toys as they’re needed.

Don’t go all out and purchase top-end equipment for a new tennis hobby – or any other hobby.

You may find you hate chasing the balls (which often go over the court fence) or you can never find a court open to practice. You’ve just wasted a lot of money on this lesson.

Instead, purchase as you go.

Buy a racket from Target (better yet, find someone to borrow a racket from or rent one), give the sport a chance. If you enjoy the activity, then slowly add pieces to your arsenal.

Shop around.

The exact frozen meals at WholeFoods can be purchased at other grocery chains for 25% less. Make (mental, paper, or electronic) notes the next time you’re shopping.

Can you find the same (or higher quality products) cheaper? Remember where and split your grocery list next time.

When talking to others, this one always surprises me. Many shoppers go to their favorite store and purchase everything.

Instead, my wife and I hit two or three stores (all near each other, so it’s not much more time) to complete our weekly shopping – finding organic produce, the same brands, and deals to save on food and home essentials.

Purchase a reasonably priced home.

Reasonably priced depends on your cash flow and priorities.

If your priority is to have your perfect house, where you plan to live for years and have your children grow up, then this may dictate spending a little more.

But if your priorities are financial independence, travel, charity, or retirement, then a high monthly mortgage payment decreases your resources available.

Challenge the standard “bigger is better” and “more expensive is superior” trends.

Why do you need those extra bedrooms and larger yard?

Do you have a large family at home or in-laws that visit frequently? Or is this space that will be unused most of the year, and be a chore to clean regularly?

Do you love gardening and a space to host outside parties every weekend? Or will you be spending your weekends weeding and mowing, instead of camping, traveling, and socializing?

The lifestyle creep.

Lifestyle inflation also falls into the purchase modestly category.

As our income increases, we feel like we need to own more expensive goods.

This is faulty logic!

When your income increases, you have more money for your priorities. This is where life is exploited!

Don’t live without.

Living and purchasing modestly does not mean living a deprived life.

You can enjoy a full life – even a more balanced life, in my opinion – without compromise.

If you focus on your needs, your reasons, and your priorities, then your life will feel be complete.

Remember, no matter how you decide to spend your money, you’ve made a choice. The (financial) power is in your control.

Do you purchase modestly? How so? What do you consider modest?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Be Different

Question the standard, the status quo, and the normal.

Live on half your income.

Fight the wave of consumers who are living on over their income and live on 50% of your income. It’s possible, blame your priorities and make adjustments.

Purchase assets to earn cash flow.

Don’t buy toys to keep up with your neighbors or a single-family house because…well, that’s just what families do. Purchase investments which appreciate over time and/or pay dividends. Purchase equities, bonds, or a duplex.

Increase your skills (or build new ones).

Move beyond average and become an expert in your field – take additional courses, study, apply your trade. Curious about something new, make sure you find the time to discover an unknown subject. (As a bonus, this may create new ideas for your current profession.)

Always look for opportunities.

Instead of being comfortable, recognize new opportunities for change, new opportunities to be challenged, new opportunities to invest in, and new opportunities to gain knowledge.

Don’t settle.

Don’t be content. Don’t be ordinary. Don’t settle for the path you’ve been on or a path meant for someone else. Always be searching, reaching for new dreams.

Explore your world.

Learn from your surroundings, and make sure those surroundings vary. Societies, environments, and nature teach us about ourselves and the sphere we live on. Travel, visit, and sight-see.

YOU should be different…be very, very different.

Do you live life differently? How so?

Monday, May 18, 2015

5 (Financial) Tips for a Silent Auction

This past weekend, my wife and I had the privilege to attend a fundraising gala for Sparks of Hope.

Sparks of Hope is an amazing charity (empowering abused children to thrive), and they put on a remarkable fundraiser (with hundreds of generous donors).

The event had guest speakers, festivities, dinner, a live auction, and…a silent auction.

Silent Auctions

Silent auctions are great for having fun and raising money, but they are not the best for our family’s budget.

Our personalities are ones where we hate to lose.

Whether it’s a game of ping-pong ball with best friends, playing Scrabble just the two of us, or an office team event, we both are
a bitcompetitive and like to win.

And winning isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as no one is hurt.

But in a silent auction you “win” by paying for your prizes, so winning a prize may hurt you financially.

We didn't end up being hurt this time but it was a good reminder about how quickly money can be spent. Before our next silent auction, we'll review the 5 (financial) tips for a silent auction below - and have no surprises.

5 (Financial) Tips for a Silent Auction:

  1. Go with a maximum budget/donation in mind. (You don’t have to spend the maximum, but if you decide you want to, you can always donate the remainder to the charity.)

  2. Take a full viewing (research) pass of the silent auction, before beginning your bids. (There may be something you like more down the line.)

  3. Only place bids (in total, all items your name/number is on) up to your maximum. (Not always fun, and requires you to keep track, but your wallet will thank you later in the evening. Remember, there's a chance no one will bid after you, and you may be stuck with everything you bid on.)

  4. As others outbid you, only bid again (in total) to your maximum. (This requires to you to start paring down your selections - as one item’s price goes up, you have less for any other items.)

  5. Take one last walk around the table before the event closes, but don’t hover or make any last-minute bids. (In the last second haste, you may be forgetting about another outstanding bid and go over your budget.)

Enjoy fundraisers.

Give gifts and donations to those in need.

Just make sure your budget, cash flow, and priorities do not suffer in the process.

Do you enjoy silent auctions? What rules do you hold yourself to?

Friday, May 15, 2015

No Good Reason to Wait - Financial Fitness Starts Now

Let's get started this week, there's absolutely no reason to wait!

Get Financially Fit!

Exploit Your Finances and Exploit Your Life!

Let's get started on identifying our goals and priorities.

What matters most to you? Where do you want to spend your life? How do you want to spend your life? What keeps you up at night? What would you do if you didn't have to worry about money? Are you happy? What would make you happy?

Let's get started on understanding our current situation.

How does your spending compare to your income? Do you have a budget? Do you have your finances under control? Do you have an emergency fund? Do you have credit card debt? What other debt do you have? Have you started saving for retirement? Do you rent or do you own? What stopped you from making financial gains in the past? Do you want to challenge the status quo?

Let's get started challenging ourselves to make improvements.

Can you make changes to your spending habits? Do you have priorities that you can blame to make lifestyle changes? Have you explored the path to your goals, and considered whether financial changes can help you succeed? Are you willing to be committed?

Let's get started living the life we've always dreamed of.

Have you taken advantage of your hard-work? Have you taken the leap you've always been afraid of? Have you identified, confronted, and conquered your fears? Did you take that family trip you promised? Did you take on the fun but challenging project? Did you seek adventure yet?

No Excuses

You have no excuses. You have no one to blame but yourself for where you're starting. So stop beating yourself up, move on, and begin your path to financial fitness.

Did you take financial action this week? Where is your path leading?