Ryan Holiday and Noah Kagan

Definitely worth checking out.  Ryan Holiday is specifically talking about books, but I think greater lessons can be learned for any creators & entrepreneurs.  Here are some of the more interesting things covered:

  • What to create vs. what you love to do.
  • Marketing
  • Doing things that don’t scale
  • Stoicism & giving up control

Book Notes: Seth Godin “The Dip”

Figured I’d write some notes on this book.  This is my “cliff notes” version for anyone who is too lazy to read the book (or just wants a refresher).

This book hits home to me as I’m currently trying several entrepreneurial journeys (I’ve started two LLCs in the last month) and the idea of when a project should really be invested in or quit is often non-obvious.

Anyway, here are my notes:


A large portion of the pie goes to the #1.  It pays to focus all of your effort in one thing (to be #1).  Superstars generates 10-100x.

3 curves:

  1. the dip
  2. the cul-de-sac
  3. the cliff

“The Dip” is the hard part before becoming successful.  It’s what separates those who merely want something from those who actually do it.  It’s the long-slog to mastery.

Example: snowboarders – the first several days are hell.  Another example: organic chemistry which sits in between pre-med and being a doctor

The dip actually creates scarcity, otherwise everyone would want to do it.

Trite phrases around not quitting are not true.  (“Quitters never win, winners never quit”).

Some things are worth quitting.  Others you should persist in.

Other things that are worth quitting:

  1. cul-de-sac – dead end job/etc.  not going anywhere
  2. the cliff – smoking.  marketers dream.  keeps getting harder to quit (more painful) and more pleasurable until the end, in which it is very painful (cancer, emphysema, etc).

Successful people lean into the dip instead of just going through it.  People are in a few camps:

  1. brave: best in the world
  2. informed/mature: save resources for something you are really passionate about
  3. stupid: start something, but quit in the middle of the dip

It’s ok to do #1 or #2, but not #3.

Jack Welch GE – killing dead ends.  Stopped a bunch of parts of GE that were profitable but weren’t #1 or #2 in their markets.  They were distractions to the business.

Good news: if it were easy, everyone would do it

Embrace the dip.  Lots of organizations + people actually diversify to ignore the dip.  Ex: record labels.

Real success goes to those who obsess.  It’s easier to be mediocre than to quit.

Workouts: You gain muscle when you are exhausted.  Quitting when you hit the dip is a bad idea.

Serial quitter: start lots of things, but have very little to show for it.

If you can’t make it through the dip, don’t start.

You need a dip that you can conquer. You should quit all the cal-de-sac’s that your are currently in.  You need to be the best, not at 98%, to succeed in this world of one click access.

Reasons you might fail:

  1. run out of time
  2. run out of $
  3. get scared
  4. not serious
  5. lose interest
  6. you focus on short term instead of long term when short term becomes too hard
  7. you pick the wrong thing because you don’t have the talent

you can plan for these – you can know before you start

dips are related to pyramids/schemes.  examples:

  1. health clubs.  if everyone who joined came, there wouldn’t be enough space
  2. netflix: if everyone watched every movie as quickly as possible, they wouldn’t be in business
  3. airlines: overselling flights
  4. etc.

quitting => scarcity => value

8 systems dependent on dips:

  1. manufacturing dip.  easy to start in garage, difficult & expensive for real manufacturing. guts to take work to next level
  2. sales dip. start selling an idea to stores, etc. dip = need to upgrade to a professional sales force
  3. education dip. re-invent yourself.  1 year of education (say for a doctor) reaps years of benefits
  4. risk dip – bootstrappers realize they can’t pay for everything.  investing to get through the dip = smart move
  5. relationship dip. difficult but not urgent
  6. conceptual dip.  dip = bigger set of assumptions than those you were previously operating in
  7. ego dip = giving up control, leaning into the organization
  8. distribution dip.  web, local retailers = easy, walmart = hard.  scarcity.  everyone is in the web, walmart is hard

Nothing wrong with optimism, but foresee the dip and don’t quit.

Goal of a company is to create such a dip that no other company could do it.  ex: word, quicken, etc.

Things you should quit:

  1. cul-de-sacs
  2. stuff you don’t care about
  3. stuff you aren’t good at

why?  it gives you the ability to focus on the dips that are important

better to quit before you start and give up in the dip.  average is for losers.  average feels safe, but it’s really just quitting.

he noticed that there are 3 common check out strategies at the supermarket:

  1. pick shortest line and get in it, stick with it no matter what
  2. pick shortest line and get in it, but switch at most once if the first line gets held up
  3. keep switching lines for shortest line

#3 – quick fix, but you keep on “restarting”.  “wantrepreneur” who never gets anywhere.

typical sales person = gives up at 5th time, but 7 times is the number of times most people need to be in contact to make the sale.

We’re seduced by the easy, quick fix.  The problem is a short attention span.

Most people, though, only buy when things are already accepted in the market – the things that have already matured + passed the dip.  Ex: Microsoft windows (1 & 2 were failures), first 4 versions of word were failures.

You MUST quit a product, feature, or design that doesn’t work.  But don’t quit a market, strategy, or niche.

The opposite of quitting is doubling down.  You set yourself up as someone with nothing to lose.  This allows you to try new & innovative things.

Most people quit when it gets hard.  Persistent people learn to picture the final result.

At the same time, if it’s ultimately going no where, you should quit sooner.  Every day you don’t quit you’re just avoiding the pain of quitting.  You could be doing something else which has longer term gain.  Better to take the pain now instead of having a lot of pain later.

If you aren’t going to get to #1, you should quit now.  If the dip isn’t worth it, don’t do it.

If you job is a cul-de-sac, you have to quit.

Coping = waste time.  it doesn’t lead to exceptional work.

Never quit is a terrible piece of advice.   You just shouldn’t quit something when the stress/hardship seems hard.

Quitting is worth your focus and consideration to becoming the best in the world.  Next step – ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. Am I panicking?  Decide in advance when you want to quit.  (Ex: before you run the marathon, you should decide when you want to quit).  Never make a critical decision in the moment.
  2. Who am I trying to influence?  You’re frustrated because of your boss who won’t let up, or you’re a salesman and can’t sell that prospect. But a market is different than a person.  One person will make up his mind, and you’ll have to change it, which is difficult.  But markets are different.  Some people have rejected you, but most people have never heard of you. (Story about google: they were getting better every day, knew everyone would see it eventually.  so if you saw it tomorrow it would be better than seeing it today).  With individuals: it’s like scaling a wall, and each contact makes it harder.  But with a market, it becomes easier because people talk to each other about your product.
  3. What measurable progress am I making?  Often you feel like quitting because it doesn’t seem like you are making any progress.

Tactics vs. Big goals are different.  Quitting a job is different than quitting from earning income.  Quitting a marketing campaign that isn’t paying or a feature that people don’t want in your products is different than going after a totally different business / customer segment. It’s cheaper and easier to continue focusing in one area.

Assignment: write down under what circumstances you are willing to quit, and then stick with it.

Don’t spread too thin. To get through that dip, you’ll need to quit everything else.

There’s no way to over-invest in becoming the best in the world.

Reading One Book Per Week

It seems as though the wealthiest read at least one book per week. Why?

  1. They have an insatiable curiosity and look to books to solve their problems
  2. They have structured their time so that they can have leisure to read.  Warren Buffet, for instance, spends most of his day reading.

With this in mind, I’m planning to read 50+ books this year – roughly one per week.

How I’m reducing my budget by $1k this month.

Are you spending wayyyy to much money and not sure where it is going?

That’s the situation I found myself in this last month.

I have a monthly plan to review my credit card statements, but after the end of last month I had the question: “Where did it all go?”

What Doesn’t Work (for me)

I’ve looked at things like mint.com to track expenses, but so far I haven’t found anything I like.  mint.com does a horrible job of classifying expenses (side note: I have high hopes for UGHMoney).  How should I know what to cut and what to keep?

How I’ve Cut Expenses in the Past

My method in the past was pretty simple:

  1. Review my bank and credit card statements
  2. Identify recurring expenses
  3. Cut these recurring ones out

I decided up front to save money, but not be a cheap skate. I only wanted to cut out those things that added marginal value for me.  Some things (like spotify) I plan to keep as a) they don’t cost much and b) they provide plenty of enjoyment.  For others, I decided to substitute cheaper alternatives.  Ting, for example, was a much cheaper carrier than verizon.

A bunch of these took several months to phase out.  I decided to keep a spreadsheet of these expenses:

Some of these things were providing zero value to me.  Others (like smoking) were actually hurting me.  And others I enjoyed, but just weren’t worth the money.

Overall, I’m saving $600 per month – over $7k per year!  And that’s just from recurring expenses that I don’t care that much about.

How I Continue to Cut Expenses Each Month

After reviewing my credit card statements a few times, I realized the easiest way is (gasp) paper!

I’ve switched back to paper billing for my credit card statements.  I get the statements once a month and circle any charges that I’m unsure about (or anything I want to cut out).  It only takes a few minutes and keeps me conscious of what I’m spending.

My New Method of Cutting Expenses

But as mentioned before, I had cut out all of those pesky recurring items without having a good sense of where is my money was going.  My biggest issue was that I had a ton of little expenses.

Yes – I could classify them.  It turned out a large percentage were going to food (eating out / drinking out) and personal development books and courses.

I wanted a way to set some limits on each of these categories and “bucket” them (or confine/categorize them) to a certain dollar amount each month or each week.

After some googling, I discovered “Envelope Budgeting.”

Envelope Budgeting is basically this: when you receive your paycheck, you create a series of envelopes.  You put a fixed amount of money into each envelope at the start of every month.  (For instance: $1000 into the rent envelope, $500 into the food envelope, etc).  Any time you spend money, you just take it out of the corresponding envelope.

Using Cash?  No way!

This technique of bucketing your money and only spending what you’ve allocated through cash envelopes is of course really old school.

I don’t carry around cash ever. I pay for everything with credit cards. (I don’t have debt on credit cards.  I actually use them as cash back debit cards).

Luckily, there’s an answer for millennials: an app!

I’m currently using “GoodBudget” on the iPhone.

How it works: basically, you create a series of “envelopes” (buckets or categories) and allocate money to each of them.  Every time you make a purchase, you manually set the category, who you paid, and the amount.

Turns out that manually entering this stuff makes you very conscious of what you are spending.

Here’s a screenshot from my actual budget:

When that green bar goes down to empty, I’m out of money in the envelope.

And that little black horizontal bar shows where I should be to be on pace.

If I go over, I can visually see that.  And I can tell how long I should cut out spending in that category:

I already know this is going to help tremendously.

What’s your best budgeting tip?  What are you doing to reduce expenses?

Income/Financial Freedom Report – April 2017

Big changes this month:

I’ve moved $10k more into my trading account.  Since my trades have been going swimmingly, I’ve decided to double down on credit spreads.  I’m trading a very, very simple strategy which I’ll have to tell you about in a later blog post.  What’s amazing is the capital invested in this is: a) less than my 4 unit, b) so far has produced higher returns and c) is liquid.

The other big thing to notice: my expenses went way up.  The main cause: I had to pay estimated taxes: over $2k!  I didn’t get all of my documents to my accountant to time, so he filed an extension on my behalf.  I corresponded with him and it turns out he didn’t add depreciation, etc, when he calculated my estimated taxes…so, we’ll see if I get some of that money refunded.

With that said, I’m looking (today!) into making some radical cuts in my day to day budget.  I’m trying to create a business and bootstrapping it, so every dollar saved is another day of runway for getting my business off the ground.

(N.B: So – it turns out I haven’t been adding property management in the last couple months to my 4 unit rental property.  This means in the last few months I’ve only been at 33% and 29%, respectively).

 

INCOME/FINANCIAL FREEDOM REPORT – MARCH 2017

Roughly the same as last month.  I’m still quite happy with this.  Of course, I’m ultimately aiming at getting to 100%.

My job has now wound down, so mostly I’m looking at ways to make an active income, but not as an employee.  Rather, I’m starting my own business (doing FBA – more to come later) and doing a bootstrapped startup.

I’ll blog more about those things later.  For now:

Vertical Credit Spreads

This is based on Net Liquidation Value.  I’m now about 70% invested, and as I write this, I’m actually transferring another 10k into my trading account.  I know the tide will change eventually; the nice thing about credit spreads is that you can invest in whichever way the market goes.  I’ll blog about how I’m doing this eventually, but for now, it seems to be working, so why not double down?

As far as I see it, If I doubled down on my credit spreads, I could potentially up my passive income total to $2600, which would put me at closer to 50%.

Udemy + Skillshare

Skillshare actually, to my surprise, came through with a few dollars.

OTOH, I also decided to let Udemy go (just let it do it’s thing without investing any time / resources / money) into promoting the course.

I slipped to the second page of search results and only made one sale.  I was also playing with price – raising it to $45 from $20 where it was previously.  All of my sales happen when Udemy is running it’s discounts and they are discounting everything to $10 or $20, so I figured – what the heck?

136 N 10th

The apartment complex is still the biggest winner by far.  Also the largest investment. Luckily everyone seems to be paying (more or less) on time.  Also, got hit with roughly $400 in fees that need to get paid to the city for running a business.  I knew they were coming, but didn’t know that I’d be paying fees when I purchased the house.

 

New domain – richwithnojob.com!

Just migrated from wordpress.com to wordpress.org, as I finally bought the domain – richwithnojob.com.

(For those who don’t know – wordpress.org is the blogging software that the company gives away, wordpress.com is their hosted version – which is free, until you want a custom domain, or show ads, etc).

WordPress is famous for it’s “15 minute install”. This certainly didn’t take 15 minutes, but then again I was web developer in my past life (and still do a bunch of it) – so I decided to do it all manually.

This led to lots of struggling with apache configs, php 7 upgrades, etc.  What else should I have expected?

The good news: I got it running, and this blog is live at richwithnojob.com.  And eventually this will be a passive income source. 🙂

INCOME/FINANCIAL FREEDOM REPORT – February 2017

Oh yeah!

Screenshot 2017-03-04 15.43.35.png

This month was a huge win for me.  Notice that I started tracking expenses and calculating what my financial freedom % is.  Obviously at 100%, I’m financially free!

Some new things:

Vertical Credit Spreads

I’ve been long SPX/RUT, which has paid off.  Really, I’m just going with the trend.  Will it reverse soon?  Maybe, but I don’t think anyone really knows.  I’d much prefer to be in line with the trend then an angry contrarian for many months or years.

136 N. 10th – 4 Unit

Good cash flow this month.  No major repairs.  One tenant accidentally sent his rent to the wrong property management company (as they have two branches).  I had to ask them what was going on to find out this story.

Apparently the money takes a few days to be given back to him.  He left a good faith $200 with the right property manager, and he’s always paid on time, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and expect to collect the difference next month.

Udemy

Came through in a big way. I spent a bunch of money on promotions.  I’ll give a full breakdown at some other time, but here’s what didn’t work: 1. posting on reddit, 2. adwords.  here’s what did work: fiverr.

What’s nice now is that some organic and affiliate sales have just started to happen towards the end of the month.  And that’s where the real passive income is.

Bonds

I extracted my money from treasury direct.  It was paying less than 1% a month.  I can do better elsewhere in a money market account.

Skillshare

Haven’t received anything from them yet.  They only pay out if students have watched 30+ premium minutes.  As far as I can tell, I’m at 33, so I expect to get paid something. Settlement date is only on the 16th, so if I get anything, I’ll count it next month.

OnClick Academy

They contacted me out of the blue. I’m literally uploading my courses to their site right now.  Let’s see if it can be another passive income stream.

 

Interesting Startups in Real Estate

There are some interesting startups in the real estate world:

https://better.com/ – No mortgage commissions.  I might just use them for my next purchase.

https://www.lendinghome.com/ – hard money lending at 90% LTC, 80% LTV

https://www.opendoor.com/how-it-works – skipping real estate agents.

https://www.redfin.com/ – real estate agents with half the fee.

I think the real estate industry is ripe for disruption.

Mark Cuban on The Future of Jobs and Trump.

Starts out by talking about Trump.  It’s absolutely crazy that Trump doesn’t use Google.

But more interesting is how the nature of jobs will change.  Cuban thinks that even most programmers will be gone in the next 5-10 years. And that liberal arts majors will be the real winners in the next 10-20 years.