Email Anxiety

Inbox - Email
Breathe while reading your email!

I don’t know if email anxiety is a real thing, but I definitely have it, regardless.

When composing an email, sometimes it takes me one, two, … up to three hours or more. To write an email. Not a long email of a few thousand words (I don’t believe most emails should be that long). Just a simple, short introductory email.

“Hey, how are you? I’m Nathan. I see you’re doing [INSERT COOL THING HERE], I think that’s cool because [REASONS] and just wanted to connect with you. I’d love to help if you need it with [SOME THINGS I CAN HELP WITH].

Anyway, take care,
Nathan

<<--- this template took me 2 minutes to write. An email that looks just like this template, but with details filled in and written completely from scratch, can take me hours to write. My anxiety is that bad. Side note: I really should start using templates like this to make life easier.

I agonize over the process, how will this sound to him/her? What words should I use? What should I say? This is especially true with people that I respect and admire.

Replying to emails is the same way, sometimes even worse. Because someone’s taken the time to write me a message and respond, meaning they at least don’t hate me. They took time out of their day to write me something. So I’ve now got to step up and really deliver value.

I know it’s over-analyzing. It’s really a form of perfectionism. I don’t want to mess anything up, say something one way where it could have been said better, or more elegant, or more precise.

Analysis paralysis – the reason why I don’t get near as much accomplished as I’d like to. But I’m committed to being prolific, so I’ll have to just power through and as my friend and colleague Chiara told me, “I think you need to get out of your head, and get out there and talk to people… just talk to people, I think the biggest thing that’s holding you back is this perfectionism. You need to practice moving fast.”

I also have this internal rule where I always reply to emails unless I think it’s spam (like from a tech recruiter — those people really are the worst). So, if you’ve emailed me and I haven’t replied, and the email warrants a reply, then it really is on my TODO list, promise. It’s likely that I respect and admire you, and just haven’t had the time (read: hours) to sit down and craft a well-written, perfect response to you, because that’s what you deserve. I’m sorry, I do want to write back to you, and I will eventually.

So my challenge for today is to:

1. Get this post up & published, and:
2. Get to Inbox zero — reply to all emails where I’ve been putting off emailing them (which is why my Inbox isn’t at zero now).

Thanks for reading, thanks for understanding, and you’re awesome.

Illustration credit: Marie-Chantale Turgeon – Breathe while reading your email!

I get what they don’t have…

Typical Country Club Residence

My wife and I were invited over to a new mutual acquaintance’s house the other day. The house is in a nice subdivision… really nice. As in, 4 beds 4 baths 3518 sqft… $500k+ house. Just looked it up on Zillow.

Many of the houses are even bigger, with better views. Some of them are $1.5M+. There’s one that’s $4.8M, 8-bedroom and 15000 sqft.

That’s crazy. Anyway, that’s just to give a feel for where we were. As I drove through the subdivision, I got a little inspired. Motivated.

Then we got to the house and spent about 1.5 hours with our acquaintance. The entire time we were there, she was moving, running, hectic… so busy. She had other guests over too, and I got to observe her interactions with them.

It was crazy. For one, I noticed a definite scarcity mindset.

Like, as in,

“Sure, just pay me back whatever, I mean it cost around $100, a little over.”
“Oh, so I owe you $100, that’s all it cost you? Should I just pay you that then?”
“Well, I mean, it actually cost me about 140, 150, something like that. But you can just, ya know, pay me $100 and take me to lunch some time. We can call it even. Don’t worry about it.”

…but H *was* worried about it. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have made a big deal about it. Or she would have just gone with the $100 and been ok with it. The other guest was her friend, and H was obviously pretty well off. I mean, the cabinets were stocked, completely filled, with expensive ingredients, raw food ingredients especially, and exotic spices from Africa, all over the world. Yet she was worried about being reimbursed a few bucks here and there by a friend.

Another thing – probably the biggest – is how her sense of “fairness” came across.

We were there to juice carrots — the reason we got invited over. Ok, sure, it should be a fun afternoon, we’ll hang out, get to know each other and juice. We’re all into raw food and healthy living and eating. But it really felt like she definitely wanted to get her “money’s worth”, so to speak, for having us over.

Keep pushing us, “hey guys, let’s keep the juice rolling. Gotta get those carrots juiced.”

Almost like in her mind, our role was to juice the entire bag of carrots and in return she’d give us some juice and we’d be “good”. Even.

Really awkward time, seemed like an exchange-based relationship. But we had no idea going into it, that it would be that way. I mean, she was our yoga teacher, we were just chatting about health and raw foods after class, had some mutual friends and really thought that we could have a good time and maybe bounce some ideas off each other, share some knowledge, recipes, etc.

But, now that I know… I’ll obviously be avoiding such “exchanges” in the future.

I mean, she did used to be an attorney, and maybe that’s given her the kind of mindset that she has today. But it’s sad. Really sad that, with all her money, *I* have more freedom than she does.

Her husband’s tied to a job, and obviously their lifestyle requires it or he wouldn’t be working. Why would anyone? All that money and that big house. Lavish lifestyle. And she’s not free. And I don’t envy her. I’d much rather be carving my own path, making my own way now, than accustomed to a lavish lifestyle and reliant on an income that I don’t directly control.

And she seemed jealous. Maybe because she’s not free. Maybe because I get what she doesn’t have. Could I have a house like hers? Maybe. Eventually, if I took a $100k software job and saved up or started a successful business, of course I could. But I don’t get to have that right now, and that’s ok by me. I get something much more valuable. I get what they don’t have. My freedom.

Customer Service for Businesses and People Too

The first interactions with your company or organization really the the most important ones. It’s what makes your company in a person’s mind — be it good or bad. It’s the initial filter that everything else passes through. It’s also really really hard to turn around a negative first impression.

I’ve been in service-oriented positions before, and in positions where I didn’t have to offer great service, but chose to anyway. It’s really made a huge difference in both how customers perceived me, and in the way I felt afterwards. Like I was actually helping out vs. just “doing my duty”.

Good customer service isn’t hard.

I think it’s more of a mind-set, than anything, to want to offer good service to everyone, even if they’re not your customers per-se.

It’s about making their lives a little easier and less difficult. And it’s about not having the mind-set of “that’s not my job”. In fact, for those people who only do the bare minimum, and no more, only trying to get through the day, only “putting in your time” and “paying your dues”, this post isn’t for you. Just leave. Or die.

For those who do care about adding value to the world, I’ve put together a short list of things which can really boost your organzation’s customer service to the next level.

1. Smile. Always, no matter what. I mean, don’t give fake smiles, be genuine. Make people feel welcome. One way to cultivate this attitude is from the book “The Greatest Salesman in the World”, by Og Mandino. From The Scroll Marked II:

I will greet this day with love in my heart.

And how will I confront each whom I meet? In only one way. In silence and to myself I will address him and say I Love You. Though spoken in silence these words will shine in my eyes, unwrinkle my brow, bring a smile to my lips, and echo in my voice; and his heart will be opened. And who is there who will say nay to my goods when his heart feels my love?

— from The Scroll Marked II

2. Don’t expect the customer to know anything. I see employees get frustrated all the time when customers don’t know or aren’t aware of something. And then vent on the customer or rudely explain to them the “rules” of the establishment, or policies, or whatever. Look, customer’s don’t know the business inside and out — that’s the employee’s job. It’s also their job to make the customer feel like the most important person in the world, which brings me to my next point:

3. Treat your customers like gold. Like solid gold. Because, they’re your lifeblood. Each and every one of them. A customer isn’t a one-time thing. Know the lifetime value of a customer and then treat that customer as such. Do this for every single customer and you’ll be fine. Customers talk. They also listen and see. They can see when you or your staff treats another customer poorly, and they think “Well, what’s to stop them from treating me the same way?”. The answer is “nothing”, so just treat them like gold instead.

4. Take care of the customer. Even if it’s not your field of expertise. You don’t have to know everything, or be an expert. People don’t expect that. But they do expect to be treated well, to be taken care of.

Example: Let’s say your business is dry-cleaning, and a customer asks about the best method to wash… a car. Sure, it’s asinine. But people sometimes are. Regardless, compare these answers below:

“Umm… we don’t do that. We’re a dry-cleaners, for clothing.”

vs.

(smiling)

“Well sir, I’m not really an expert on car washing, but let’s see… there’s a car wash about 1/2 mile down on the right. I know that someone there will be able to help you better than I can. We’re actually a dry-cleaners, for clothes like suits and shirts and such. If you ever need any of those cleaned, be sure and come back and see us.”

Which one gives the customer That Warm Fuzzy Feeling?

5. Always be professional. Always be pleasant.

Sometimes customers get irrational. Sometimes they’re jerks. This does not give you the right to be a jerk back. Remember, other customers are watching. Remember the phrase “I’m very sorry” and use it in difficult situations.

“No sir, I’m very sorry, but the price is actually X, and you still owe us Y.”

“I’m very sorry for any inconvenience, but we just don’t have it in that color.”

“I apologize ma’am, but my manager’s simply not in right now. I’m very sorry.”

This might require training in keeping your calm, especially if you’re someone known to have a short fuse.

6. Never air dirty laundry. Don’t bicker or argue with an employee in front of any customer. If you must settle something with a co-worker, pull them aside or around back, out of sight of customers. This is especially true about arguing with customers. (But never do that, also see the above point.)

7. Always go above & beyond. Do more than is expected. “That’s not my job” should never, ever come out of your mouth, nor of your employees. Of course, your words originate in your mind. In truth, this shouldn’t even be in your thoughts. Rather, how can you take care of the customer? What needs to be done? Just do the thing.

Even if it’s not your job, if no one else is around to do something and that thing needs to be done, then just do it yourself. Don’t stand on principle, just do what needs to be done. Also, don’t complain about it, nor about having done it. In fact, just don’t complain at all, ever.

This is how you become valuable.

8. Remember the lifetime value of a customer.

A couple of months ago I was searching for an accountant for my new business. I called a local accountant that I found through Google and set up an appointment with John.

John was nice enough and answered all my questions. But I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disdain from him. Answering my questions unconcernedly, just trying to get me out of his office. Almost like I was a joke and he didn’t really take me seriously as a businessperson. This really discouraged me for a few days.

I almost thought about giving up on local accountants, then decided against it. Maybe it was just him, and a chat with a different accountant might be a completely different experience. Boy, am I glad I did.

My meeting with my current accountant started with a warm greeting, smile and handshake from Keith, then he ushered me into his office and answered all my questions. We chatted accounting. We talked about my business and deductions I could claim. About young, determined rookie IRS agents and how to deal with them. For an hour and a half, he answered every question I had about accounting and starting my new business. That was his own time, given to me for absolutely nothing.

Keith knows the lifetime value of a customer, and now I’m a paying client of his. All that to say, always keep the lifetime value of a customer in mind. In addition to building goodwill and adding value to the world, it will also be of value to your own bottom line.

On Being Prolific

Cut to the chase – I’ve decided to commit to being prolific. YOLO, and I’ve got so much stuff that I’ve worked 80% on, then just left it there. Articles that I’ve left it on my hard drive, never published. Ideas for amazing things, workshops, businesses, just left in my notebook.

A couple weeks ago, I had an idea for a non-profit. It just came to me in the shower, but it was so detailed, and the potential upside so big, that I had to write it out. It’s just sitting in Evernote now, but I’ll be publishing that publicly very soon.

(Note: Here it is. It’s tentatively called “Foundations”.)

Some of the things I’ve worked hours on. Some things, probably 20 – 40 hours at least. And yet, they’re just not good enough yet. I still don’t feel great about the end result, it’s not polished enough or whatever. So I let it sit for later. I intend to finish, but then never get around to it. Something else catches my attention, maybe a newer, better project. So the old one, it stagnates. Even though I’m 70% done.

Many of that will never see the light of day. Some of it could have helped a person or two. Instead it sits on some cloud server where it’ll eventually get deleted or the physical disk will crash (most likely disk hardware/firmware, but that’s being pedantic).

We’re all gonna die some day. It’s scary to think about, but it’s true. A lot of us, myself included, live like we have all the time in the world. The truth is that none of us know when it’s our time to leave this world, and we only get one shot at this thing called life.

This is your life. You get one of them.
— Sebastian Marshall

I haven’t been publishing much lately. That’s not to say that I’m not creating. I’m doing lots of things every day. Proactive, positive, productive things. Strategies. Ideas for things. Building good will, trying to help people out.

Developing a personal system of policies and ethics. Reading the Credo. Reading a lot of really good books. Learning to type using Colemak.

I’ve been scattered, but trying to consolidate.

I have lots of disparate interests. Trying to bring all those under one umbrella, into one place and have it all make sense, is hard. But I’m starting now, and I’m committed to getting things done, even if they’re not 100% perfect. That’s one of my problems – most of my life I’ve been a detail person. Now I’ve had to learn to be a “big-picture” thinker instead. I still sometimes fall back to being detail-oriented. At times I catch myself trying to fit into that role, instead of realizing that I’m growing beyond that, and can’t have everything. I can’t do everything. I used to think that I could. Over the past year I’ve been realizing that I can’t. So, in an effort to just “ship” as they say, I’ll be putting things out that may not be 100%. Some details might be overlooked. That’s ok. They can be changed later. Details can be corrected/fixed/added/subtracted. But something that’s not shipped can’t be used by anyone.

This also means that I’ll be more vulnerable, which I don’t like to show. A lot of people like me don’t like to show that side of themselves online.

If you’re reading this now, then I’ve already created & scheduled quite a few things to be produced, published, or otherwise released to the world. This might mean code, books, articles, plans/strategies, ideas, businesses. Most of it will probably be at my blog, but I’m branching out from there. That’s the entire point.

In fact, I almost just tabled this to be finished “later”. I have somewhere to go, a few little errands to start on now, and then… then I realized that I was doing it again. So, I apologize if this seems unfinished. If the closing paragraph isn’t as polished as I’d like. (It almost certainly isn’t.) But I have to get this out to the world, as well as many other things.

In closing, watch these spaces for changes and general awesomeness:

nathanmarley.com
ngmarley.com
blackcarrot.be

(This list will be updated as things happen/unfold/are created.)

Thanks for reading. Oh, and please get in touch if you have any inclination to do so.

Foundations

Foundations – Name of a non-profit organization to work with young people and teach them to make good decisions.

The basic idea is that the decisions we make, big and small, are the very reason that we’re exactly who & where we are at this moment in life. So, for people to affect their future in a positive way, they’ve to have a solid base of decisions. The non-profit would organize a workshop for juveniles (both delinquents and school children) to not only demonstrate the power of decisions, but give very specific tactics for pragmatic implementation of making good decisions. Teaches basic entrepreneurship and community involvement.

Example: a workshop on how consumer credit works, brief overview of credit scores, how the bureaus determine scores, examples of bad credit and consequences, and how to start building good credit when young, before it’s needed.

Another example: a gardening workshop which teaches community gardening (local business or person can donate space to a comm. garden), organic methods, how to grow produce, pH levels of soil/medium, companion planting, in-season planting, etc. Even rooftop gardening to maximize use of space.

All these workshops would be integrated into a weekend programme. The organization would work with judiciaries and officials to offer this program to young offenders in exchange for community service time, or some kind of reduced sentence.

The youth learn valuable skills and also have to spend less time doing work that’s… less rewarding (e.g. the standard community service).

Community volunteers teach the courses/workshops for the weekend, and the local area children are more educated. More educated, and hopefully less likely to fall back into a life of bad decisions.

The juvenile detention centers are less full (always a good thing), and the community is overall a better place. Future value of the local community increases tremendously as a result, because the young today are our future businessmen, entrepreneurs and politicians.

This is obviously still in idea stage. I’d like to implement something like this one day, if for no other reason, just to give back to my community and try and create the world I’d like to live in. Anyone who wants to take this and run with it, feel free. Also please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to collaborate on anything like this or just bounce ideas around.

Be Ruthless with your Email

Email is sacred ground. It’s where you get important notes from friends and family, as well as the businesses and organizations that you care about.

But for a lot of people it’s become a wasteland, a junkyard to be traversed, only every once in a while finding a gem here or there.

Me? I’m ruthless with my email. If any company, organization, or marketer sends me something that I don’t want to receive even once, they’re gone. Done. Unsubscribed. I don’t care how much they might have improved my life or condition. By giving over my primary email address, for any reason, I’ve given you my trust, and that doesn’t come lightly.

Once you violate that trust, even one time, you’re done. Gone.

I signed up for Medium.com the other day, just so that I could get set up for publishing some articles there in the future. And less than 24 hours later, got an email with “stuff I might like”, or some such nonsense. Bam! Gone. If I want to waste my time going through “stuff I might like”, I’ll search for it myself and on my own time.

Email is sacred. It’s my own place to receive asynchronous communication when I feel like it and when I’m ready to do so. Not somewhere you can get more eyeballs on your content on a regular basis. I trusted you, and you let me down. You don’t get a second chance. I’m through with you.

I use Gmail, and they have a nice “Spam” button. It’s real nice when you’ve committed to being ruthless with your email purges.

Nowadays, my primary inbox is pretty clean. It’s only used for communications that I want in there. If I do want to collect marketing or autoresponder emails for future use, I use another “fake” email address. Not an actual fake one, but another one that I’ve set up that’s not my primary one.

My primary email is sacred. I try and treat it well, to keep it spotless, and in return I have a lot more mental clarity and less clutter when checking my email. I can visit my inbox, do what I came to do, and then leave. Less distraction, more productivity.

Feeling of Significance, and Early Access to Pumpkin Spice Latte

Autumn 2015
Oh, hello autumn. I see you there, peeking around the corner. Come on out, it’s ok. Stay a while.

“You’ll just have to wait until next week.”
YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME!! NARRGGGGHHHOOOOOOO!!!!

Wait. Let’s back up.

So I walked into a Starbucks today to get some work done – a usual location for me, and at this point I can probably be described as a “regular” for this location.

The nicest man greeted me at the register. About 50-60 years old, graying hair/beard. We’ll call him ‘Jim’, because… well, because his name is Jim. We had a great exchange, Jim and I. Just chit-chat about which drink I wanted, how I made a good choice, which syrups/mylks I could add, just small talk. But really cool guy, very pleasant.

As I was finalizing my decision, he noticed that I pulled my gold card out of my wallet to pay, and informed me that I could get Pumpkin Spice syrup (a week) early this year since I had a gold card. Nice! A perk that I didn’t know existed.

Then another barista (we’ll call her Starbucks Nazi) just had to step into our conversation and speak up.

SbuxNazi: “Do you have a code? Because you can only get it if you have a special code, you would have gotten an email from Starbucks.”

me: “Well, sometimes I get special codes when I login to the website, so maybe. I could check.”

SbuxNazi: “It’s a specific code for Pumpkin Spice. You’d know if you had it. We have to see the code. You’ll just have to wait until next week.”

NARRGGGGHHHOOOOOOO! … No, not really. Ok. Not a big deal, I really don’t think it’s vegan at any rate.

I could tell it kinda irritated Jim, just slightly. I mean, she didn’t really add any value to me, or to Jim. Or for that matter, to Starbucks as a company, because I could easily look up the code (which I did, see below).

Sure, it’s the by-the-book, official corporate policy. But she didn’t add value to anyone else.

What she did was add value to herself. That encounter massaged her sense of importance. A sense of significance, which is one of Tony Robbins’ described six basic human needs. But couldn’t she have gotten that a different way? How much good could Ms. SbuxNazi do if she would have started her shift asking “How can I provide the most value to my company, my co-workers and my customers today?”

I think that’s a question that everyone could ask themselves.

“How can I provide the most value to my company, my co-workers (collaborators) and my customers (clients) today?”

Note that the question’s not asking how you can improve your own self, but everyone else. By providing value to others (the world), you make the world a better place and implicitly add value to yourself in the process. You become valuable.

Let’s re-work the conversation to what it could have been, something more pleasant:

SbuxNazi: “Hey, you know, we actually have a code for getting it early. The gold card thing doesn’t automatically give PSL, but you can search online and get the code for it. Then you get early access! Pretty sweet, huh?”

me: “Oh, ok, thanks, that’s very helpful of you.”

Jim: “Yeah, thanks SbuxNazi, that is very helpful. Now I’ve also been enlightened for future customer encounters.”

The crazy thing is, Starbucks Nazi knows me. We’ve chatted in the past, and generally gotten on well. We’ve been acquaintances for like 5 years.

The other crazy thing? Just after that exchange, it took me a whole 2 minutes to Google it and find a code. Anyone can get a custom Pumpkin Spice Latte code for early access. So now I have one! Thanks, Starbucks Nazi. I have the option to use the code for the entire week now, and before that exchange I wouldn’t have even really used it or cared. I don’t even think it’s vegan — I’ll probably just get one for my sister-in-law.

Oh yeah, the link for early access to PSL (autumn 2015).

How to Get Your Passport (for US citizens)

US Passport
US Passport

Note: I wrote this back in 2010. I think the fees might have increased, and I’m not sure if the links are all working now. Get the book, not the card. The card is useless. Oh yeah, now you have the option to get the 26-page or the 52-page version. I don’t think there’s a price difference, so just get the 52-page version. Trust me on this one.

I’ve been accused of writing too much before {by James}. If this page is too long, skip to the good stuff.

Ever wished you could just pack up and take a nice week or two in Europe, the Caribbean or even somewhere more exotic, like say… Tahiti? The good news is you can, because you live in a “free” country, in a modern society, and although you may not describe yourself this way, you truly are wealthy compared to most of the rest of the world. All you have to do is schedule your vacation, book a flight and you’re off!

Oh, no, wait, you can’t. You can’t leave the borders of this wonderful country because you’re too damn lazy to take a few extra steps and get a small document which allows access to virtually any place on earth.

Get your passport.

How to get a US passport for US citizens living in the US. Originally written for my friends in Northwest Arkansas.

Here’s the official web page that has all the details. I have meticulously combed through the details & pulled out the important stuff.
http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/first/first_830.html

  • 2 passport photos
  • 1 copy, front & back, of Arkansas Driver’s license on standard 8-1/2 x 11 paper
  • Form DS-11, printed & filled out but DO NOT SIGN IT
  • certified birth certificate {with raised seal}

You can go to Walgreen’s to get your passport photos. Just walk in, say you need passport photos, and they will know what you’re talking about. They cost like 5 bucks or something.

You can get your driver’s license copied at Office Depot. There’s one by the Atlanta Bread in Rogers.
{You will also need to bring your driver’s license to the post office later.}

Oh yeah, print & fill out form DS-11 but DO NOT SIGN IT. you must sign it in front of the person at the post office that accepts your form. This is very important.

Oh, BTW, when filling out this form DO NOT SIGN IT YET. Just wanted to state that another time to make sure it got through.

How much will it cost?

There will be 2 fees:

  1. The first fee is the “application fee”, and is for your passport itself, and any check/money order should be made payable to “U.S. Department of State”.
  2. The second is the “execution fee”, it is for the acceptance facility, e.g. the post office.

Application Fee for adults: $110
Execution Fee: $25

These must be paid with 2 separate forms of payment. They don’t allow you to write one check for both fees.

I believe a money order will work as payment for both of these, you can go to the bank & purchase a money order for $110 and a separate one for $25.

It really shouldn’t take more than an afternoon or 2 to get all this stuff together & get to the post office. The hardest part would be getting the official birth certificate (with raised seal) if you don’t have one at home somewhere.

The Easy, Step-by-Step Version

  1. Find an official certified copy of your birth certificate with raised seal. Ask your parents if you don’t have one or don’t know.
  2. Go to Walgreen’s and get 2 passport photos.
  3. Go to Office Depot and get a front and back copy made of your Arkansas driver’s license {important that it is Arkansas}.
  4. Print and fill out this form, but DO NOT SIGN IT
  5. Purchase two money orders from your local bank. One should be for $110, and the other should be for $25.
  6. Take all these documents along with your Arkansas drivers license and money orders to the Bentonville post office. Rogers is just ghetto. Talk to the person at the front, tell them you want to apply for a passport, show them all your documents.

That’s it. You’re awesome.


Photo by bryansblog

Finally, some solid goals.

Sunset on a Highway in Alabama
Sunset on a Highway in Alabama

Feel like I’ve had a breakthrough tonight. Maybe it’s a combination of being alone for a few hours (INTJ – I charge up on being alone), or maybe it’s the slight lift that I got from the cup o’ tea that I had a little bit ago, but it’s starting to click.

For years, I’ve wanted to “travel the world” and be mobile, yet make an income at the same time. But it was so hard to envision without getting a time-consuming and draining customer support job.

Re-reading that last paragraph, makes it look like I haven’t traveled much. I’ve been to Europe 3 times, Asia twice, New Zealand twice, Canada 3x (spent a month in Quebec), Central/South America for 3 months… I’ve traveled a bit. But my bank account always goes down, and I’m not able to spend the time I want traveling, for as long as I’d like.

Since my eyestrain has gotten progressively worse over the past year, I’ve wanted less and less to spend any time in the computer, much less try my hand at getting a remote software development job. And reading over those job postings makes me want to vomit. Every time.

“Consulting” was the holy grail… the one thing I could do while traveling the world, keeping my eyesight and staying free. (Freedom is my highest value.)

I always wondered how they do it — I have a mentor who’s been traveling the world and consulting for near 10 years now — he can easily make $5-$10k in a month, no problem. Much more these days I’m sure.

Tonight I was reading over some of his old writing today, some articles from 5-6 years ago… then it clicked.

He talked about wanting to have a 10x return for his work… e.g. if he charged $75 per hour, then within a year, he wants that client to receive $750 worth of value for every hour they’ve paid him.

That’s it. That’s the secret to consulting — leaving people better off than if they’d never hired you to begin with. In his case, much better off. Another thing he mentioned — as he was calculating what he needed to meet his goals.

First, he calculated that he wanted to bring in $6000 per month. So he did some brief calculations:

$20 / hr for 300 hours. 75 hours per week. Too many hours.
$40 / hr for 150 hours. 37.5 hours per week. Still a lot of hours, esp. for consulting
$75 / hr for 80 hours… that’s 20 hours per week. That was plenty of time for him to work on other projects as well as meet his income goals.

That’s when it hit me – I don’t have to try and throw myself into building a business 100% of the time every single day. That’s why I’ve been burning out for a year. That’s also why I haven’t been able to stick with a goal. Jumping around, different goals, choosing what seems easiest at the time vs doing what I’m passionate about.

Building a business (which means I can leave and still get income) vs starting a service which requires me to work for continual income (consulting, coaching).

I can do both.

Finally, feel like I’m developing some solid goals… steps for reaching exactly what I want. Discovering that I can achieve what I want, because I’m finally starting to realize what that is.

At this point in my life, I want to be spending about 20 hours / week consulting, coaching, for income. Improving the lives of others and making sure that all my clients get at least a 2-4x return for their investment, if not much more. I’m shooting low now, as far as return goes. I will be satisfied if my current clients are getting 4x return, even a 2x. Because I know that as I improve, so will those results. A 10x return within a few months’ time isn’t out of the question — as long as I stay on a tight feedback loop with lots of iterations. And getting $150 in value for $75 is still a bargain.

I also want to be able to put another 10 – 15 hours per week into building a business, systems which run even without me there, or initially with minimal input from myself. I realize that it will take 100% input at first and that number will gradually decrease as the business improves.

I also want to invest time per week (another 10-15 hours) into developing myself. Learning languages, reading about history, business, negotiations, building skills.

This seems like a lot of time, but 2 hours a day is 14 hours per week. Between reading, learning language and cultural interaction, that would be a minimum number for me, for self-development.

So, official 1-year goals, to have achieved within 12 months from today:

* ~20 hours per week consulting
* 10-15 hours per week building a business
* 10-15 hours per week in self-development (includes language, skills, etc)
* $50k in the bank
* mobility (freedom to go wherever)
* started my business and have all business banking/credit set up

Nice-to-haves:

* Credit score above 780
* Semi-fluent in another language (which depends on where I’m at)
* Lamborghini parked in front of my mansion (well it would be nice to have)

Official Last Request(s)

A few days ago I was driving home from my usual after-midnight grocery shopping. (Side note: I wrote this 5 years ago.) After the stock CD player in my auto went out, I was forced to resort to my iPod and one of those tape-deck converters. I usually play my iPod on shuffle just to mix things up. Anyway, one of the awesomest songs ever came on, and as I was singing along at the top of my lungs, I realized I wanted this song to be played at my funeral. The song? Tarzan Boy by Baltimora.

And why not? Why do funerals have to be all sad & stuff, always playing those songs which make people cry as they remember the person’s life & how they’re in heaven or whatever. Screw that. Not at my funeral. My funeral had better be as crazy-go-nuts as my life. When people remember me, I want them to chuckle, shake their heads slightly and think “man, that was one crazy hardcore awesome motherfucker”. (Or something like that.)

It’s really just a cultural thing anyway. Some cultures really do have parties when people die. Real celebrations, not funerals where people say “we’re celebrating this person’s life”, but you know that’s kind of a lie, because if it really were a celebration everyone wouldn’t be wearing black and acting all sad & shit. Oh, which leads me to another rule: no black at my funeral. I’m serious.

I don’t know why an official-looking piece of paper with some signatures makes something more official than, say, a blog post. So this is my official request for songs to be played at my funeral. Here’s the list:

  1. Tarzan Boy by Baltimora
  2. Dragostea Din Tea by O-Zone
  3. Gummi Bears Theme Song – the one from the TV show “Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears”
  4. Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey – please not the Glee version (Steve Perry and/or Arnel Pineda will be fine)
  5. Deep Folk Song – Deep Forest
  6. Noonday Sun – Deep Forest
  7. Deep Blue Sea – Deep Forest
  8. Enya’s “A Day Without Rain” album – the whole album

As for song #1, please play the extended edition. It’s 6 minutes 8 seconds long and can be found on my Macbook (whichever Macbook I’m currently using at time of death). Yes, it will be a Macbook.

Given that I’ve spent most of my life in the United States, I will understand if the funeral is held there, but I consider it a slap in the face if it’s held in Oklahoma or Idaho. Also, if you regularly drink Budweiser of any type, have truck balls or a Browning buck sticker, or fancy the confederate flag, then you’re not invited.