How I Saved A Life For $5,000

Posted: August 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

The title of this post is a little misleading. I sat at my computer one morning, and with a couple of clicks, donated $5,000 to a charity based in Cambridge, England. Statistically, however, that $5,000 will save someone’s life.

Let’s Start From The Beginning…

I was peer pressured into charitable giving my friend Matt Brand. He and his wife have donated over $100,000 to charity, aiming to donate 10% of their income each year. He told me about an anonymous poll he took of his former computer science classmates (a lucrative field) and found that very few were making charitable donations, despite a majority working for big tech companies with high salaries.

I was embarrassed. I too had a good job, living in a low cost city, with no dependents, and was donating almost nothing to charity. What was my excuse? Naturally, I did nothing to ease this guilt until…

Goal #25: Donate $5,000 To Charity

These lists of goals are a great way to do things I know I should do, but don’t want to. I chose an amount that felt significant but would not induce so much financial stress that I’d be permanently turned off from donating again. Baby steps.

But Which Charity To Donate To?

I stumbled upon an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast where he interviewed Will MacAskill, a pioneer in the field of Effective Altruism. MacAskill approaches donating to charities like investing in a business. Which one has the best return on investment?

The best known charity ranking website is Charity Navigator, which compiles its ratings based largely on what percentage of donations are spent on fundraising/salaries/operations. MacAskill argues this is a poor way to rate charities. A much better way would be to see how effective the charity is with each dollar donated, rather than how efficient the charity is. We should care about the results a charity produces rather than how much they spend on executive pay and fundraising. MacAskill points out that the most effective charities are hundreds or even thousands of times more effective than merely ‘good’ charities.

Why I Chose The Against Malaria Foundation

The Against Malaria Foundation is the highest rated charity by Give Well, an organization that rates charities based on their effectiveness. On average, the Against Malaria Foundation saves a life for $3,500 by providing long lasting insecticide treated bed nets across the world. Deaths from malaria numbered over 400,000 last year, largely children under the age of 5. The analogy used is two 747 airplanes fully loaded with children crashing everyday. Tragic, right?

Against Malaria Foundation

The Most Tax Efficient Method To Donate

This $5,000 donation runs counter to my net worth goals. It’s well known that donating to charity is tax deductible. That will save us approximately $1,500 this year in taxes, reducing the actual cost of my donation to $3,500. But wait there’s more…

I donated $5,000 worth of appreciated stocks from my taxable investments through my investment company Betterment. When you donate stocks that have increased in value, you don’t pay capital gains tax, and the charity doesn’t pay capital gains tax either. Seems like a loophole, but it saved us an additional $200. Betterment makes this process extremely simple and has a great explanation of the whole process.

Donated Shares

I Clicked Submit, and Felt…Nothing

Logically, I know this is a significant impact, but it didn’t seem like it. I felt a sense of accomplishment since I finished one my goals, but little else.

I asked my buddy Matt Brand about this, and he said he feels the same way, but that he believes it’s his responsibility to donate. That’s a good way of looking at it.

I live in a country with tremendous prosperity, and with a couple of clicks on my computer, can significantly impact the life of someone halfway around the world. No heroics needed. What an extraordinary opportunity, right?

Goal #5 on my 30 Before 30 list was to complete an ultra endurance event. ‘Ultra endurance’ was loosely defined in my head as something taking longer than 8 hours. I added this goal since it had been over two years since I completed an event of that magnitude.

I stumbled upon the Washington Island Ultra, a ‘choose your own adventure’ of any combination of (8, 12, 24, 36 hour)  and (solo or team) and (triathlon, duathlon, or cycling). I thought it was an interesting event, as well as cheap and nearby, so I registered for the 24 Hour Solo Triathlon.

Course

0.25 Miles swim loop in Lake Michigan, 10 mile bike loop around Washington Island. and 2 mile run loop out and back from the campsite. Complete as many loops as you could, in whatever order you want.

Race reports are boring to write and exhausting to read, even if you’re into this kind of stuff. So instead, I”ll give you a brief overview of the thoughts going through my head throughout the event.

Swim #1 – 2.5 Miles

It’s a 24 hour race so I should take it really easy to start. But I should catch that guy ahead of me first! I am going to destroy this race. I’m the juggernaut!

Run #1 – 10 Miles

If I run more miles in a day than I have in any week in the last year, does that guarantee an injury? Is it socially awkward to cheer on other runners if you just saw them 5 minutes ago, and will see them again in 10 minutes (it was a two mile looped course)? How many permutations of good/great/excellent and job/work/form are there?

Bike #1 – 50 Miles

First 30 miles: When Alexis is making boo koo bucks, we should definitely get a house out here. These rolling hills are far better than my basement trainer. 12 hours on the bike is going to be no problem.

Last 20 miles: If I’m four hours into the race and ready for it to be over, how am I going to feel 20 hours in?

Run #2 – 12 Miles

What happened to the speed of the first run? Is it still considered running if I walk/hobble along for 12 miles? Why doesn’t anyone cheer you on when you’re walking? Why is there a guy in a bear suit doing the floss on the side of the road? It’s too early to be hallucinating…

Bike #2 – 50 Miles

Fuck running! I’m superman on this bike, but why is everyone passing me? They must be on relay teams…

Run #3 – 12 Miles

[SUNSET]

Just jog to that tree, then you can walk again. Your reward for finishing the next loop will be using the restroom.

Mmmm….Skittles! Changing the green Skittle from lime to apple was one of the greatest achievements of the last decade. If only they could fix yellow and orange.

Bike #3 – 70 Miles

Deer…Deer…Deer. Where were all you guys hiding during the daylight? I’m going to invent a sport where you ride a bike and shoot at deer. We’ll call it biathlon. I’m moving slow, but a 15 MPH collision with a 150 pound deer might kill me.

[SUNRISE]

These Pop-Tarts are delicious. Why didn’t I buy more Pop-Tarts!

Swim #2 – 1.75 Miles

I’m just going to pee here in my wetsuit. Why did I think an hour of swimming would be a ‘victory lap’? Just don’t drown, that would be embarrassing. Nobody can see you cry when you’re swimming.

Wrap It Up!

Overall, I swam 4.25 miles, biked 170 miles, ran (maybe traveled by foot would be a better description) 34 miles, and slept 0 hours. I got smoked by the first place guy. He did 240 miles!

I was pleased with how this race went. I wasn’t in great shape, but finished without any injuries, and suffered for the good part of 16 hours. The post race beer from the guys in the tent next to me hit the spot.

Next Year

Running, biking, and swimming for 24 hours sucks, but the race itself was fantastic. It had a super relaxed, ultra-marathon type vibe, with a majority of competitors camping on site. I plan on doing it again next year, aiming for a longer distance. A double Ironman (4.8 mile swim, 224 mile bike, 52.4 mile run) would be possible if I was in good shape and an Ultraman (6.2 mile swim, 261.4 mile bike, 52.4 mile run) would be feasible if I was in elite level shape.

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30 Before I Turn 30

Posted: July 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

This is my sixth year making one of these goal lists. It’s my favorite part of the process, imagining the finish line one year from now with an unrealistically low idea of how much work each goal will entail. I’ve tried to set goals that make me nervous. Putting it on this list (and sharing it with other people) is a commitment that I’m afraid to fail at.  After accomplishing 16 of my goals last year, I’ve increased the difficulty for this year’s list.

Health

1. 200 Days of No Added Sugar
2. 500 Home Cooked Meals
3. No Fast Food for 200 Days
4. Eat Four Servings of Vegetables For 200 Days

Fitness

5. One Ultra-Endurance Event
6. Qualify For Ironman World Championships (70.3 or 140.6)
7. Wabash Trace Fastest Know Time
8. Qualify For Boston Marathon
9. Build Buff Dudes DIY Power Rack
10. Build Ultimate Trainer Setup

Lethal Engineering / Lethal Tri

11. Join Milwaukee Makerspace
12. 20 Lethal Engineering Videos
13. 10 Lethal Tri Videos (about my goals)
14. 25 Blog Posts

Business/Productivity

15. Obtain Direct Contract With A Class I Railroad
16. Daily Planning For 200 Days
17. Setup SIMPLE IRA For Business
18. Increase Net Worth to $250k

Adventure

19. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
20. Build > 1,000 Piece LEGO Set
21. See Falcon Heavy Launch
22. Bike Katy Trail
23. Go To Packers Game At Lambeau Field
24. SCUBA (PADI) Certified

Other

25. Donate $5,000
26. Volunteer 100 Hours
27. Wakeup before 4:30 a.m. For A Month Straight
28. Clean House (Vacuum 50 Times, Organize 50 Times, Wipe Surfaces 50 times, Bathe Dog 20 Times)
29. No News/Social Media/YouTube/Netflix for a Month
30. Track Time By The Minute and Happiness Every Couple of Hours For A Month

I’ll create a commitment contract again since it worked so well last year. A blog post for that coming next week. If you’d like to help with any of these goals, please let me know!

29 Before 29 – Results

Posted: July 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

I celebrated my birthday two weeks ago marking the end of my 29 Before 29 list. I accidentally gained 20 pounds at one point this year, signaling increasing age and the death of my fast metabolism. I didn’t believe Alexis when she would pat me on the stomach and tell me I was getting a belly, but the scale doesn’t lie!

Below is a list of the goals I completed, some with a hyperlink to a more in-depth post.

Health

#1 Eat Fours Serving of Vegetables for 200 Days

508 servings of spring mix, 163 servings of kale, 116 serving of carrots, and 47 servings of broccoli made up the 956 servings of vegetables for the year. That’s most vegetables I’ve eaten in a year BY FAR, four times more than last year. I learned that just because I eat a lot of healthy food doesn’t mean I can get away with eating a lot of junk food. There is no volume of vegetable consumption that can counteract daily trips to Taco Bell and Chick-Fil-A. I plan to rectify that problem with my next list.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-11,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

#2 Drink 10 Cups of Water for 200 Days

This was a bad goal. I would procrastinate til the end of the day, drink 10 cups of water before bed, and then get up three times in the middle of the night to use the restroom. A better goal would be to eliminate soda or to drink a glass of water every morning upon waking. For futures lists, I’ll include an option of replacing goals if the original goal is not fulfilling the intended purpose.

#3 Eat Four Servings of Fruit for 200 Days

218 servings of blueberries, 202 servings of Naked Juice, 174 servings of apples, and 140 servings of bananas made up a large chunk of the 917 servings of fruit for the year, four times more than last year.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-11,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

#4 Meditate For 200 Days

I meditated for 5 minutes for 201 days. You’d think I’d get better at meditating the more I did it, but my mind continues to drift. It was still effective, though. Feels like a calming mental reset, increasing the distance between emotions and reactions.

Triathlon

#5 Bike 5,000 miles

I biked exactly 5,000 miles, putting in 176 miles on the trainer the final day, and 1,274 miles the final month to reach this goal. I’ve had mileage goals the past four years and this is the first time I’ve reached one. I did not accomplish my running and swimming goals, but here’s a look at my updated distance totals for each of the last four years:

Goal #5 Bike 5,000 Miles – 5,000.08 Miles (28B28: 1941.46 Miles, 27B27: 1935.53 Miles, 26B26: 2042.82 Miles)
Goal #6 Run 1,000 Miles – 437.79 Miles (28B28: 732.71 Miles, 27B27: 589.57 Miles, 26B26: 654.60 Miles)
Goal #7 Swim 500,000 Yards – 209,663 Yards (28B28: 162,913 Yards, 27B27: 69,311 Yards, 26B26: 154,868 yards

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-11,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

#10 Learn To Do All Bike Maintenance

By watching YouTube videos, and lots of trial and error (including ruining a brand new shift lever) , I learned how to replace brake cables, shift cables, shifters, front and rear derailleur, chain, and cassette. The benefit of learning bike maintenance includes lower cost parts (buying online vs the bike shop), no labor costs, instant bike maintenance  (rather than waiting on the bike shop), and a better understanding of how my bike works. There’s a learning curve to bike maintenance, but the volume of miles I’ve put in has made it worthwhile.

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Lethal Engineering / Lethal Tri

#14 Ultimate Computer Setup Video

#13 Halloween Video

#17 Finish Basement Workshop

I get immense satisfaction from making things and my workshop is now fully equipped to support that.

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Business

#19 Pursue Two Railroads For Additional Business

This was a half-hearted effort. I only filled out supplier applications for two of the Class I railroads. I didn’t place any cold calls, send any emails, or attend any conferences. In order to continue to grow our business, I need to be more proactive.

#20 Train One Other Person for Checking Responsibilities

We’ve got a fantastic group of employees and focusing on training them has been a great investment.

Adventure/Other

#22 Bike The Entire Cowboy Trail

My first multi-day self-supported bike trip. Cycling 175 miles across the sandhills region of Nebraska was exhausting at times, but the views in a couple spots made up for it.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-11,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

#26 Read 20 Books

My favorite of those 20 books were:

  1. Superhuman by Habit
  2. How to Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big
  3. Dune
  4. Why Buddhism Is True
  5. A Mind For Numbers
  6. The Wright Brothers

#27 Net Worth > $100,000

You’re not supposed to talk about money, but discussing earnings/savings/investing with my friends who are good at it as well as reading the Mr. Money Mustache blog has shifted my perspective from living paycheck to paycheck to saving as much as possible. Our net worth increased by ~$60k this year to $121,872.

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#28 Track Goals for 200 Days

I’ve got an excel spreadsheet that I fill out daily, with a sheet for each goal.  I filled out this spreadsheet 316 times, staying on top of all my goals.

RUNNING TRACKING

#29 Review Goals for 200 Days

With 29 goals, it’s easy to forget some of them. By filling out my spreadsheet daily, I was reminded of all my goals.

Overall, I Completed 16 of My 29 Goals

Sixteen completed goals is far more than the previous four years I’ve made these lists (25B25: 3, 26B26: 7, 27B27: 3, 28B28: 5). This is a result of my commitment contract. The threat of having to pay money to my friend Matt Brand was enough motivation to consistently pursue my goals. I didn’t stick to my contract completely, giving up sometime in April and not paying Matt for the failures. However, I sent him over $750 in fines before then. He spent the money by buying me subscriptions to the great literary magazines of ‘Girls and Corpses’ and ‘Portable Restroom Operator’. What a great friend!

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I’m Turning 30 Next Year

A monumental birthday deserves some large goals. 30 Before 30 List coming next week.

Biking The Cowboy Trail

Posted: July 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

Goal #22 on my 29 Before 29 list was to bike the Cowboy Trail. I had heard about the trail from a former railroad coworker. The Cowboy Trail used to be a rail line for the Chicago Northwestern and was converted to a bike trail in 1996. It’s 195 mile of crushed gravel and extends from Norfolk, NE to Valentine, NE. This was my first multi-day, unsupported bike ride.

My Schedule

I started in Tilden, about 20 miles into the the trail, since I could leave my car with friends who live there. On Day 1, I rode from Tilden to O’neil (57 miles). Day 2, O’neil to Long Pine (61 miles). Day 3, Long Pine to Valentine (55 miles).

DAY 1

DAY 2

DAY 3

Trail Quality

I thought the trail was in great shape! I had read reports on the forum that said otherwise but only experienced a couple rough sections. I didn’t come across any sand burs that were mentioned in a lot of other posts. The trail was slow moving overall, a result of the gravel  being either wet or deep. It felt like riding through sand. Not a whole lot of packed down sections.

TRAIL.jpg

If the trail was slow moving, or if I wanted to just go faster, I would hop onto the highway. Highway 20 parallels the trail the entire way and has a large shoulder with rumble strips. Drivers were very courteous, even switching to the far lane when passing

HIGHWAY.JPG

There’s a bridge out over the Elkhorn River between Neligh and Clearwater. The detour is to hop on the highway just east of Clearwater and get back on the trail in town.

CLEARWATER DETOUR

Weather / Environment

The weather was good, no rain while I was riding, but the trail was was wet two mornings from the previous night’s rain. It was hot though, getting up to 85 degrees all three days, and leaving nice sunburns despite my use of sunscreen. I’d definitely recommend getting an early start to take advantage of the cooler temps.

EARLY MORNING

Bugs were nonexistent when I went, but I could see how they would get bad. There’s lots of standing water along the trail, which looked like flooding, but I was told it’s just a result of a high water table in the region.

STANDING WATER

My Bike

I rode a Dawes Lightning which was the perfect bike for the job. It’s the cheapest cross bike you can find on bikesdirect.com and has knobby 700×28 tires. I wouldn’t recommend a road bike, as there are parts where I encountered deep gravel as well as country road crossings with tire ruts. I only got one flat, and only realized it after filling up on the third day and finding a tire completely flat three days after finishing. My bike had a rear rack with some cheap panniers from Amazon which worked great. I also had a backpack, which I was initially wearing, but quickly caused back pain. I fixed that problem by rigging it to my seatpost and rear rack.

BIKE SETUP

Food and Lodging

There are small towns every 10 miles along the trail. Most towns have gas stations with snacks or a bar with some real food. As you’d expect, the larger cities (O’Neil, Ainsworth, and Valentine) have much more dining options. The bikecowboytrail.com website was a great resource. You should plan ahead at every town. I ran out of water twice not planning ahead.

MILEAGE CHART

For lodging, I stayed in O’Neil at Elms Motel ($45/night) and in Long Pine at the Bunk House ($35/night). I’d recommend both of them, assuming you prefer low prices over five star amenities.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-11,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

People

Fantastic! As a 6’6″ guy walking around small town Nebraska in his cycling spandex, I’m sure I stood out, but everyone was very friendly. I ate dinner with the city council president in Long Pine and had breakfast with some retired folks in Ainsworth.

Transportation

I utilized the Panda Shuttle to get back from Valentine to Tilden. Price was like $1.50 per mile, so about $245 for my return trip. Scheduling was the most difficult part, making plans late lead to not being sure if I had a ride back until I arrived in Valentine. You can reach the Panda Shuttle at (402) 376-6614. If you get the voicemail for Heart City Heating and Plumbing then you’ve called the right number.

My Experience

I had the trail all to myself the three days I was out there, only coming across one other cyclist and one guy who appeared to be hiking the trail. The remote sections where the trail diverged from the highway were very scenic, but when the trail paralleled the highway I was tempted to just hop on the highway.

REMOTE`

The bridges were probably the coolest part of the whole trail. Between Oakdale and Neligh over the Elkhorn River, West of Long Pine, and East of Valentine would be the top three. I was amazed that this massive structures were constructed in the early 1900s.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-11,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-11,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

I was destroyed after first day, overestimating the distance I could ride and enduring back pain from my backpack. Day 2 was great. I got up early and got done early. The trail was much more enjoyable when I was well fed and hydrated. By day 3, I was just ready to be done.

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Would I Do It Again?

Only if I could find a little more patience and maybe someone to go along with me. My enjoyment seemed to reflect my attitude. The second day was very enjoyable, but I was miserable for sections on the first and third days. Planning on moving slow would make the ride more enjoyable.

Maybe next year I’ll bike the Katy Trail

 

I’ve never consistently eaten healthy in my entire life. That surprises people, since I invest so much time in fitness. I’ve had diet goals the last couple years: eating vegetarian for a month, giving up fast food for a year, and giving up sugar for a year, but nothing has stuck.

Goal #1 on my 29 Before 29 list was to eat four servings of vegetables for 200 days. Goal #3 on my list was identical, but just with fruit. I had similar goals the  previous year, but didn’t come close to accomplishing them. Last year, I found that I was going weeks without eating a single vegetable. I’m proud to say that this year I finally accomplished these goals, consuming at least four serving of fruits and vegetables for 200 days.

How to Increase Vegetable Consumption

These ideas may be obvious to you, but were revelations to me. Vegetables do not taste good on their own. Anyone who says otherwise has had their palate deprived of junk food for far too long. A simple way to make vegetables taste better is to roast them. Take kale for instance. Add some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees and you get some superfood vegetables that vaguely taste like potato chips. I’ve found roasting to also work with asparagus, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-11,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

How To Increase Fruit Consumption

Simple: smoothies. I add 1 cup of each of blueberries, strawberries, and pineapple with some water to get four servings of fruit for a day. Another thing I found is that apples last considerably longer (like several weeks!) and taste better when refrigerated.

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-10-11,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

I Still Need To Improve My Diet

The idea with these goals was that as long as I ate the good stuff, getting all the vitamins and nutrients, that I could also eat the bad stuff, since I exercise enough that I can utilize the extra calories. I’ve come to realize that’s not the case. I need to find a diet that allows me to have consistent energy throughout the day. No lulls, no periods where I feel I need a nap. I’ve got an idea of what that diet includes, but have been reluctant to implement it because the junk food tastes so good!

Next year, I’d like to increase not only the quantity, but variety of fruits and vegetables I consume. Also, I will cut out sugar and processed foods through cooking at home more frequently, which should save us money on fast food as well as increasing the quality of my diet.