Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Goal #26 – Read 20 Books

Posted: May 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

I’ve been making goal lists for the last five years and on every one of them I’ve had a reading goal. Goal #26 this year was to read 20 books, which I accomplished in April. Of those 20 books, I’d recommend these seven:

  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
  7. The Five Love Languages

Compared to previous years, I disliked a large number of the books I read. I believe this is a result of reading similar types of books so the information is getting repetitive. Also, after reading over 100 books the last 5 years, my standards for quality have increased.

Another issue I’ve found is that I do a poor job of remembering what I’ve read. I doubt I could give you more than a one paragraph summary of any of those seven books I’ve listed. It’d be great if I could review the things I deemed important or interesting without re-reading the entire book.

Next year, I’ll start taking notes on what I’ve read. Maybe something like what Derek Sivers does, or maybe doing video book reviews on YouTube.

It’s Taboo To Talk About Money

Which is unfortunate, because so much time and effort is spent earning it. If there’s a better way to do things, I’d like to know about it. Post college, despite having a good paying engineering job, I lived paycheck to paycheck. No matter how much money I earned, it would be gone at the end of the month. I made money to spend it.  I would have been in a tough spot if a financial emergency happened.

Started Reading The Mr. Money Mustache Blog

I find blogs to be useful because they offer unique personal experiences about new ideas and ways of living. If that person can do it, then so can I, the thinking goes. A fantastic blog is that of Mr. Money Mustache (MMM). His premise is that if you save a large percentage of your income, then you can retire early in life. This is a concept I had never heard before, but is backed by his own story plus a little math. I’ve read all the MMM archive, which details how he and his wife saved > 50% of their income to retire around the age of 30. This was a profound idea. No longer did I need to work until I was 60. If I could save 25 times my yearly expenses, then I could live of the investment income for the rest of my life.

Slowly Implemented

We have not reduced our spending to the levels proselytized by Mr. Money Mustache but have adopted some of his methods. This includes buying (with cash) a used car,  purchasing a home in the lower range of our budget, and living well within our means. This change in lifestyle has removed a huge stressor. I no longer have to worry if there is going to be money in the bank every month. There just is.

The Large Overarching Goal Is To Reach Financial Independence

Which would be defined as having enough wealth to live on without working, having enough assets that generate passive income to fund lifestyle. Goal #27 on my 29 Before 29 list was to increase our net worth to $100k from a previous amount of $60k, a small step along that path to financial independence. We accomplished this goal surprisingly quickly, through a combination of increased income and decreased spending. However, there is still large room for improvement in both of those categories.

There Should Be A Large Asterisk Next To This Goal

My net worth calculation does not include Alexis’ student loan debt, an amount that could buy a very nice home. This may seem like some Enron type accounting, but the reason for this is simple. We don’t plan on paying that money back. The federal government offers a program called Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) where if you work at a non-profit for 10 years making income based repayments then the federal government will cancel out your remaining debt. With surgical residency lasting at least five years and 60% of hospitals registered as non-profits, this seemed like a perfect option. We file taxes separately to minimize the income based repayments and invest whatever else we would be spending on loan payments.

How We Currently Invest Our Money

Neither Alexis nor I have access to any work sponsored 401(k) plans, but we do max out our IRAs and also invest in taxable accounts. For our investments, we utilize a company called Betterment, which is a Robo-Advisor that invests in low cost ETFs and offers automatic tax lost harvesting and rebalancing. It’s extremely simple to use which makes it more likely that we will invest. Betterment has lower fees (0.25%) than actively managed funds (1%) but achieves similar results.

 

 

Future Goals

I’m happy with the financial track that we are on. In the following year, I would like to cut out some of our more wasteful spending in order to increase our savings rate and also setup a SIMPLE IRA through my business.

Goal #28: Track Goals Daily

Posted: April 22, 2018 in Uncategorized

Goal #28 on my 29 Before 29 list was to track my goals daily for 200 days. This is a goal that assists in accomplishing the other goals. My method of tracking involves filling out a spreadsheet every night before I go to bed. Each of my goals has it’s own sheet: Running, Cycling, Fruits, Vegetables, Water, Stretching, Net Worth, Meditating, Books, Lethal Engineering, MIT Opencourseware, Blog Posts… I even have a column for whether or not I tracked my goals for that day.

Each goal is then broken down with some sort of relevant tracking metric. On my ‘running’ sheet, for instance , I count my daily miles, total for the year, how much I’m behind/ahead, and how many miles I need to run each day and week to reach the goal.

RUNNING TRACKING

After filling out this spreadsheet over 275 times, I can confidently say that I’ve developed a habit of tracking my goals. I’ve had similar spreadsheets the last three years, but this is the first time I’ve used it consistently. That’s a result of filling out the spreadsheet the same time everyday, right before I got to bed, creating a ‘trigger’ for this habit. The spreadsheet is saved to Google Drive and syncs across my desktop, laptop, and phone, allowing access from anywhere.

A spreadsheet is a great way to stay organized. Using MS Excel, I can customize each sheet for its specific goal. By filling it out everyday, I’m not only tracking my goals, but reminded of them (with 29 goals, it’s easy to forget some of them). This is a habit I’ll continue next year.

 

 

Mid Year Review

Posted: January 1, 2018 in Uncategorized

My half birthday falls on Christmas which also marks the mid-way point for my 29 Before 29 list. Below is a progress report for each of my goals

Health

1. Four Servings Vegetables: 104/200 days
2. 10 Cups of Water: 83/200 days
3. Four Servings Fruit: 102/200 days
4. Meditate: 91/200 days

I’ve eaten far more fruit and vegetables in the past 182 days than in any other stretch of my life. I used to go days without eating a serving of vegetables. For the second half of the year, I’d like to work on increasing the variety of vegetables consumed and also drinking water throughout the day, rather than binging at night to meet the quota.

Exercise

5. Cycling: 1,992/5,000 miles, 623 miles behind
6. Running: 338/1,000 miles, 185 miles behind
7. Swimming: 208,184/500,000 yards, 53,459 yards behind
8. Weight Training: 10/50 times, 16 times behind

I’ve been inconsistent with these fitness goals. I’ve dislocated my shoulder twice which has hampered exercise for several weeks each time. I will have shoulder surgery at the beginning of February which will again sideline me. Ultimately, though, it’s an excuse. If you held a gun to my head I would have been able to stay on track, finding alternative ways to get the exercise accomplished.

Lethal Engineering / Lethal Tri

11. Ultimate Computer Setup Video: Done

12. Solar Death Ray Video: Partially Completed, waiting for warmer weather
13. Halloween Video: Complete, upsetting my wife who specifically told me NOT to make napalm

15. Blog Posts: 10/20, if you count this one
17. Basement Workshop: Fully functional!

Creating Lethal Engineering videos is a true passion of mine. Each project and resulting video takes 30-40 hours to complete, but that time flies by. I’m working on several other projects outside the ones listed in my goals.

Business

18. 129/250 ‘units’ of work complete
19. Pursued 1 out of 2 railroad for additional business
20. 15 out of 30 hours of studying to increase railroad knowledge
21. Train one other person for checking responsibilities: going well!

Our employees have done a great job. We’ve had a little more focus on training and it has paid huge dividends.

Adventure

24. See a rocket launch in person: I’d like to see the maiden flight of the Falcon Heavy, which looks to be coming up this month. That shoulder surgery might get in the way though.

Other

26. Read 10 out of 20 books, I would only recommend four of them though.
27. Net worth: $89,000/$100,000
28. Track goals: 171/200 days
29. Review goals: 52/200 days

Not much to say on these ones. Good progress across the board.

No Progress

9. Flexibility: Be able to touch toes
10. Learn to do all bike maintenance
14. Quadcopter build video
16. One LethalTri video
22. Bike the entire Cowboy Trail
23. Learn song on piano and play in public
25. One MIT OpenCourseware course

Working on these goals was planned for the second part of the year.

Thoughts

I’ve made far more progress on my goals this time around than in any previous year, completing 3 out of the 29 goals so far and making good progress on the long term goals. That’s a result of my commitment contract. The threat of having to pay large sums of money motivates me to action and holds me accountable. I procrastinated severely on four of my goals that had intermediate deadlines of January 1st and have been working my ass of the last four days to complete them. The one benefit of that procrastination, however, is that it has shown me how quickly I can accomplish these goals with complete focus. With consistent effort, I believe that I’ll accomplish all 29 of my goals by June 25th, 2018.

I Want To Become Smarter

Posted: January 1, 2018 in Uncategorized

Growing Up I Always Assumed Intelligence Was A Fixed Trait

I did well in high school, but didn’t attribute it to hard work. Rather, I assumed I did well just because I was smart. My motivation wasn’t to learn, but rather to get good grades, proving to others that I was in fact ‘smart’. The thought was that good grades would lead to a high class rank allowing me to get into a good college and ultimately get a great job. I cared more about some artificial measure of intelligence rather than the actual knowledge itself

That Mentality Continued Into College

Except the difficulty level increased substantially. The idea that I was smart because I got good grades evaporated when I failed some tests. I didn’t care about learning and ended up cheating more than I care to admit to get by with decent grades.

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

There’s an excellent book by Carol Dweck called Mindset. In it, she discusses how people with a fixed mindset consider intelligence or any other talent to be an inherent trait, where as a person with a growth mindset consider talents to be a result of hard work, good strategies, and feedback from others. I recognized the fixed mindset in myself and have been working since then to cultivate the growth mindset.

I Read A Biography About Elon Musk

This one. It’s a fascinating read. I learned that Musk had a strong physics background, but no formal engineering or computer science training. Despite that, he went on to found Paypal, SpaceX, and Tesla. How you might ask? He’s self taught. When he founded SpaceX, he read a bunch books to learn the principles of rockets.

I’d Like To Reach That Level of Intelligence

That’s a conceited statement, akin to watching Lebron James and declaring that I’d like to get to that level of athleticism. A more realistic goal is to increase my knowledge base and become a self taught person, specifically in the subjects of Physics, Engineering, Business, and Computer Science. The end goal is to create cooler and more complex projects. I look at a company like Boston Dynamics building robots that can do back flips and think ‘how do I learn how to do that’?

The Game Plan

Fortunately, you no longer have to get into an elite college into order obtain that knowledge. Colleges like MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley offer all that information for free on the internet. These are fantastic resources, and I’d like to devote a more significant amount of my time to utilizing them. Goal #25 on my list is to complete one of these courses which will hopefully serve as a catalyst toward a lifetime of learning.

 

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts On Weight Loss

Posted: December 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

Disclaimer

This is my completely unprofessional opinion on weight loss. My dad recently mentioned he was interested in losing weight and I would like to help him. I put together this post to gather my thoughts on the subject and emailed it to him. Should you listen to me? Probably not. I’ve always been skinny and never had to lose weight. My ectomorph body style means I can get away with a large consumption of fast food without paying the fat accumulating price. That said, health and weight loss are subjects that interest me and I’d like to learn more about. Please feel to correct any inaccuracies in my logic below.

The Physics of Weight Loss

The weight loss equation is simple. Burn more calories than you consume. A calorie is a unit of energy and if you make use of more stored energy (fat) than you eat (food), then you will lose weight. Food is the only source of energy for your body, so this equation is absolute.

That said, the weight loss problem is more biology than physics. The equation I mentioned above is like saying a person is broke because they spend more money than they earn. That part is obvious, but we need to focus on the underlying issues in order to solve the problem. The body’s usage of it’s stored energy is dependent on numerous environmental and biological factors.

Fat Can Be Helpful

Fat used to be a survival mechanism . Thousands of years ago, food was less readily available, and our ancestors needed to go days with eating. The only way to survive was to rely on stored fat reserves during these extended fasts. Think of a hibernating bear, subsisting on excess fat for the winter months. Today, caloric dense food is cheaper and more easily obtained than anytime before. The fat storage mechanism that was a means of survival for ancient man is now killing a large percentage of Americans.

The Ketogenic Diet: A Counterintuitive Solution

The body’s preferred source of fuel is carbohydrates, but it can only store a small amount. Any unused carbohydrates, above the volume of the body’s ‘tank’, is converted into fat. When the body’s carbohydrate stores are depleted, it will start converting fat into a usable state. Ideally for weight loss, you would remain in the fat utilizing state, shedding the excess pounds. This can be accomplished by starving the body of carbs, consuming a high-fat, low-carb diet. They call this the ketogenic diet, since your body produces ‘ketones’ when it starts to rely on fat for fuel. The ketogenic diet has come into vogue the last couple of years and seems to me to be the most effective solution for weight loss. It purportedly allows for a consistent stream of energy as your body has a large fuel tank of fat to burn rather than a tiny amount of carbohydrates that need to be constantly replenished. Let’s talk about some other facets of weight-loss.

Eat Lots of Vegetables

There’s a reason you don’t see a lot of fat vegetarians. Vegetables are extremely low in calories and extremely high in micro-nutrients, making them great for weight loss and health in general

Exercise Is Overrated

The calories that are quickly consumed in a dessert or soda can take upwards of an hour of exercise to burn off, which requires a lot of will power. Exercise should be thought of as a minor weight loss accelerator with the major focus on diet. That said, there are numerous health and wellness benefits that are associated with exercise. You’ll increase your energy levels, be more mentally alert, and generally feel better throughout the day. Exercise just shouldn’t be the main focus for weight loss.

Sugar is Poison

All diets seem to be in agreement on this one. Avoid sugar and its cousin high fructose corn syrup. Sugar is high in calories, extremely addictive, and triggers chemical reactions that make it easy to store fat and hard to burn fat.

Eliminate Stress

Stress triggers a flight or fight response, releasing adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol increases appetite and drives cravings for junk food.

Sleep Should Be A High Priority

Most people do not get enough sleep, Aim for 7 to 9 hours. You should wake up well rested and not need to ‘catch up’ on sleep over the weekend. The easy solution? Go to bed earlier and shut off all electronic devices an hour before bed. This article does a great job explaining how sleep and diet are related.

Further Reading

Checkout out Peter Attia’s website. He’s got an engineering background, was a general surgery resident at Johns Hopkins, and lost 40 pounds following the ketogenic diet mentioned above. His website is chock-full of information. He also had two great interviews on the Tim Ferriss podcast.

There Are No Shortcuts

The fat gained over a decade will not be removed in a month.  You must adopt a series of healthy habits over the course of several months to the point that they become permanent. Start slow, adding one new habit every two weeks. Maybe start by eliminating sugar, then add vegetables, followed by increasing sleep. Aim for 100% compliance, with the realization that sometimes unexpected life events will get in the way. I aim for maintaining each of my daily habits for six out of seven days of the week, with a penalty if I mess up more than that. There must be a penalty for messing up. How valuable is accomplishing this goal to you? What sized penalty will force you to stay accountable? I’ve found $50 for each of my daily habits to be an effective stick that prods me into action.

You Must Start Now (Addressed to My Father)

Imagine I held a gun to your head and threatened to pull the trigger if you didn’t fully commit to this. That’s an accurate analogy when it comes to excessive weight and heart disease. The path that you’re on does not end well. I’m fearful every time Mom calls because of the growing chance of horrible news regarding your health. I say these things out of love. I care about your well being and want you to grow old enough to know my children and grandchildren. If you need someone to hold you accountable, I’d be more than willing to help. I too could adopt some of the habits outlined above.

The Warehouse

Posted: December 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

I Wanted To Buy A Firehouse

A couple of years ago, when I worked in downtown Omaha, I would ride my bike over lunch with a group of other cyclists. Riding a bike, you notice things that are otherwise passed over when driving a car. On one ride through North Omaha, we passed this decrepit firehouse.

FIREHOUSE.png

FIREHOUSE 2

I Instantly Fell In Love

What a building! The unique architecture and history would be worth the labor required to make the structure habitable. There was a banner hanging from the fence listing the firehouse for sale. I thought the city’s assessed value of $60,000 meant it would be within my budget. I called the number listed on the sign and found they wanted far more than I could afford. The firehouse eventually went to auction and sold for a price of $346,500. I’m glad to see the new owner plans to renovate the firehouse to it’s original glory.

Why I Want To Own A Warehouse

When I imagine my dream house, I think of a space that can serve not only as a home but also a massive workshop. The home will have exposed brick and an open floor plan, perfect for hosting friends and family. The workshop will be where I make mechanical and electronic contraptions, creating things that are challenging and interesting. There will be a business attached to these custom creations that hopefully supplants the salary of my current business while still providing the freedom and flexibility that I have now.

The workshop will have tall ceilings and large glass garage doors. There will be a  40 foot T-Rex skeleton which I’ll park sports cars below. The T-rex won’t be won’t be an actually T-rex skeleton, but rather a replica I make from Styrofoam and fiberglass. The sports cars won’t be purchased from a dealer, but rather kit cars that I’ve sourced and assembled. The result will be a cross of Tony Stark’s workshop and The Museum of Natural History

T-REX

SL-C

There’s more. Ever since seeing a Chihuly exhibit as a child, I’ve been enamored with blown glass. I’d love to own one of Chihuly’s glass chandeliers. Those are expensive, so I’ll need to take up glass blowing and make a knockoff.

CHIHULY

I Realize This Is All Very Ambitious

However, it’s my dream and thoughts of creating this warehouse fill me with excitement. My wife isn’t on board yet, but I think by the time we have enough money saved I’ll be able to persuade her. Hopefully our next house will be the warehouse.