September 24, 2016

Greatness Starts with Awkward

It looks easy when someone does it. The painting is perfect. The music sounds great. The picture is perfect. The article is flawless.

Little do you know how awkward or clumsy it was the first time the painter tried that technique. The musician struggled with simple scales to learn finger techniques. The photographer took shots out of focus and cut off the heads of his friends.

I write and know how hard it is to organize your thoughts. My first drafts were hard to read and understand. The sentences were not complete. Thoughts dropped off without explanation. New ideas popped up off topic. Too much was stuffed into the first article and the pages kept growing.

In short it was awful.

But I kept working on it. Edit, put it down, and much later read it again and edit some more. Then the article got circulated to other writers and my editor for feedback. More ideas for changes and edits. Realized my story was too complex and broke it into several stories that stood on their own, and the readers could understand the point. More re-reading and editing the same article over weeks.

The articles that were published looked polished and still read well today. Got high praise and people thanking me for writing down my ideas.

Guess what. My writing skills came from giving myself permission to write ugly. It is how we all learn. “Trial and error and error and error.” Pick ourselves up and try to do it better next time.

Go out today and see what you can learn. After some hard work you will be the artist.

September 17, 2016

Beginning Investing

7 hard earned lessons to use

There are all sorts of people who want to give you investment advice, aka sell you something. Why? So they can earn a commission or profit from you investing with them.

Experienced in life and a former business owner/appraiser. Have nothing to sell you and not giving hot stock tips. Frankly happy to be a full time employee now, but would like to start a second business.

Do Not consider myself a great investor, definitely am Not a day trader and my predictions are average. Have learned from hard knocks.

These are good advice and rules I have learned over the years:

1) Spend Much Less than You Make
Wealthy people often lived for free or on 10% of earnings to save enough to start a business. They did this for years to get started. The wealthiest people I know often drive old cars and wear clothes too long. They only owe on their business assets, and their home may even be paid off.

2) Have a Rainy Day Fund
You don’t know when you or family will be ill, have a major repair to your home or car, be laid off, fired or the business shuts down. Have paid 6 months of bills from savings to get through. Have enough for 1 year’s worth of bills outside my retirement accounts.

3) Start Investing Small
Put money in the company 401K, especially if offered matching funds. I started at 8% on my current job and increased the percentage with every raise. If had more income would save more.
Second don’t buy one investment with all your money. Only invest some on each idea. Often start with a third and see if it is working.

4) Learn Value before You Buy
My best investment has been my house. Being a real estate professional identified good neighborhoods first, then found houses to look at. Originally wanted a 2 - 4 family house to live in, but prices were much higher than the cash flow justified.  Was cheaper to buy a single family house.
Bought at the bottom of the real estate market when few would consider buying, and bought a working short sale 10% under market value. Yes it took 6 months to close. But bought for 2/3 of original owner’s price.
My house is worth 60% more 4 years later.

5) Diversify Investments
Have good savings in cash at bank. Much more in 401K, and equity in my home. Have paid off 30% of the mortgage in 4 years. Goal is to pay off mortgage before retirement.
Am not adverse to holding cash. Especially when stocks, bonds and real estate seem over priced. Can be patient until a new opportunity shows up.
Cash is a safe refuge when the market is going down for an extended period. There will always be recessions in normal economies.
Am willing to sell and sit out the drop until the market starts rising again. Just don’t stay out forever. Look for the opportunity to get back in.

6) Do Not Pile in Late to a Trend
There have been good ideas I have missed. However did not compound the problem by buying at a high prices hoping some fool comes along to pay more. Would wait for a pullback and buy at a better price. Or would just wait for the next opportunity.
The secret to successful investing is buying at the right price. Not necessarily when everyone else thinks it is a good idea.
Beware the phases “This time it is different” (it is not) and “_____ always goes up” (no, they drop too). One investment made by my advisor is a non-dividend stock that is actually losing money. The commodity is way under trend and the company is doing a good job improving productivity. The market is too busy overpaying for dividend stocks to see the value. My advisor wants to be positioned for the future recovery and is looking for the opposite of the late trend.

7) Educate Yourself
Best investment is good books and classes. Pay to take classes out of my pocket to further my career and knowledge. Does not have to be for a degree either.
Find people or groups who invest in what you are interested in. You can learn a lot from like minded people.

These tips are not all you need to know. In fact am still learning, and hope you can teach me something too. However they will make the rough seas of investing smoother if you are humble enough to apply them.

September 10, 2016

The Future is Here (Almost)

This video shows a paralyzed patient using his hands and beginning to get more and more sensation and movement in his body. This is the result of USC Stem Cell research.

This video is 9 minutes long and awesome. Have little to add but a question. If we can do this, what else can we do?

Credit: Patrick Cox from Mauldin Economics for sharing the video from BioTime’s Announcement of First Stem Cell Spinal Cord Therapy Results.

September 3, 2016

Secret to a Good Life

CBS News closing story Wednesday was about Florida State University’s Travis Rudolph visiting a school with his teammates. Instead of joining a busy table he saw a young boy by himself and sat with him. They had a wonderful talk, and Bo’s mom shared the story of him sitting with her autistic son.

Travis Rudolph is a good young man with a kind heart. He also knows the secret to a good life. This will follow him throughout his life, his time in football, his parenting, and his career. He demonstrated it with a simple act of kindness.

Get out of your own worries and needs. It is not about you. Help someone else.

Travis did not like bullying and made sure to sit with someone who needed him. Asked about the story by a reporter, Travis stated what great kid Bo was and offered his cell number to Bo’s mom if she wanted it.

Today every kid wanted to sit with Bo at lunch.

This is the second story today heard where you don’t know who you are influencing today. A 23-year-old airman headed home for his father’s wedding. He got stuck with his step mom’s 12-year-old nephew. The last thing a 23 year old wanted to do for a day. He took the boy to the air base, show him around airplanes, and talked about setting goals and working toward them.

5 years later received a videotape of the boy graduating as valedictorian, talking about achieving goals and becoming a pilot.

6 years after that he has graduated the Naval Academy and is a pilot.

Now the picture I saw today wish I could share, but it is not mine. After 17 more years the pilot is commanding officer of the Blue Angels, and he is standing in front of a blue & gold Hornet with the former airman’s two sons (the youngest is 12). You have never seen a happier, prouder smile on anyone than the Lt Ryan Bernacchi returning the favor of influencing the next generation.

Never underestimate the effect of doing the right thing, talking with someone, doing something nice, or just doing your job right. You never know who is watching and learning from you. You may never know the effect, it probably won’t be in the news, but your life will be wonderful.

August 27, 2016

Think for Yourself

There are always gurus, elites, experts and false prophets who want to tell you what to think. Follow us and all you have to do is … Invest in Penny Stocks and make a fortune. The future is plastics. Real estate will go up forever.

History is full of Horrors - Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Hitler’s Nazi concentration camps, Leopold II of Belgium in Congo, Jozef Stalin Russian Gulags & Purges, Hideki Tojo Japan civilian deaths in WW2, Ismail Enver Ottoman cleansings, Pot Pol Cambodia and Kim Il Sung North Korea purges & concentration camps. These leaders each killed between 1.5 million to 20+ million people during their reigns.

Plenty of people will run your life if you let them. Even though am religious, history has churches, temples and mosques that advocated conquering neighbors.

The secret is to listen to everyone, then make up your own mind. Disagree with what makes you uncomfortable. Be nice, but make them defend their ideas. Try to improve their thinking as well as your own.

I read people who I disagree with. Paul Krugman comes to mind. It is not that he is not smart nor doesn’t make good points. There are many times I agree with Paul. It is my worldview does not believe central planning can control something as complicated as an economy. If anything excessive government regulations have reduced the US economy by 1 - 2% over the last two decades. Unlimited stimulus by the Fed has produced less and less economic improvements. But by reading Paul I find I have to think about my assumptions and ideas to see if they are correct.

The problem we all have Blind Spots and Confirmation Bias. We look for information that confirms what we believe, and ignore evidence we may be missing the mark.

My saving grace is if someone else has a better idea, or better combination of ideas, I give them credit and advocate the better ideas. Am smart, but we can always build better plans with small motivated groups. We can learn from everyone.

By the way you have permission to disagree with me, and tell me about it.

Good Thinking Everyone.