Wednesday, October 18, 2023

I'm 40. Here Are 40 Lessons & Quotes I Try To Live By

James and Samson at our the Oregon State football game
For my birthday, we went to our first Oregon State football game

I'm 40 and feeling reflective. So, here are 40 lessons and quotes I try to live by. I want my kids to know these as they grow up.

  1. The Bible is true and is the final authority on faith and life, so I study it.
  2. We were all created in the image of God, but I sin, and because of God's perfect justice, I deserve a physical and spiritual death.
  3. But God is also merciful, so he sent Jesus, who is both God and man, to take on my punishment by dying on the cross. I think of it as someone paying off a loan I don't deserve to have paid off.
  4. Because Jesus is fully God, it's a perfect payment for my sins. Through the spirit's prompting, I recognized that I'm a sinner and accepted Jesus's payment.
  5. I still commit sins and will experience a physical death as a natural consequence of my sins, but I will not die spiritually and will spend an eternity in Heaven. This is excellent news!
  6. When you sin, are wrong, or make a mistake, admit it without excuse. Verbalizing it is powerful.
  7. A little structure and routine allow for creativity and spontaneity. Having a plan reduces your mental load in the moment, so you're free to think creatively within that space. Your subconscious also goes to work because it knows you already prioritized the thing. And, every once in a while, break the plan to shake things up and explore. Discipline = freedom.
  8. Action breeds clarity. So, what's a small step I can take to learn? Reading and learning are good, but they don't count.
  9. Drink 1 cup of water after waking up.
  10. Try to do 30 minutes of something active every day. My favorite: walking around the block while talking on the phone.
  11. If I'm too tired to do anything but watch TV, I should go to bed (from Ramit Sethi).
  12. Related, if I wouldn't wake up early to do something, I probably shouldn't stay up late to do it (*cough* YouTube *cough*).
  13. On Sundays, I look ahead at my week and make a plan. In general, I have more items on my list than time. I would rather have the heartache choosing what to do on Sunday than in the moment during the week. Without a plan, I tend to prefer the urgent things, not necessarily the important ones.
  14. Ask Gary Keller's question on prioritization: "What's the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?"
  15. When deciding to take a risk, Tim Ferriss asks, "What are the worst things that could happen? Could I get back here?" I find this incredibly helpful because it's usually not as bad as I initially think.
  16. "Not all time in life is equal. Life serves up some moments that count much more than other moments" - Jim Collins in Great By Choice. Learn to recognize those moments and do things to elevate them more or create insights. Read The Power of Moments to learn how to do it.
  17. I agree with Jocko Willink about embracing hard things. Focus on the good from setbacks, failures, delays, defeats, and disasters. Focus on what you'll learn and new opportunities. If you must, play the Everything is AWESOME!!! song.
  18. A few years ago, I started photo/regular journaling (using Day One) every day. It's great for getting my struggles out of my head, and I love seeing pictures from previous years.
  19. George E. P. Box, who has the same birthday, said, "All models are wrong, but some are useful." So, look for the usefulness. Here comes some controversy: All the climate change models are wrong, but some are useful for guiding our decisions.
  20. Dishes are lame, but they gotta get done.
  21. Spend less than you earn. Experts suggest 50% on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% towards saving/investing (50/30/20). I recommend flipping the allocation: 50% towards saving/investing, 30% on needs, and 20% towards wants (30/20/50 if written the "expert" way). I've done this, and even though cutting spending is hard, watching your account rapidly grow is fun.
  22. When deciding to purchase something, try asking Mr. Money Mustache's question: what negativity does this remove? I find it can reveal cheaper alternatives.
  23. Keep an emergency fund. Even $1,000 is helpful, but ideally, it's 3-6 months of spending.
  24. Invest in assets. I use Robert Kiyosaki's definition: an asset is something that puts money in your pocket. Stocks, bonds, real estate, and businesses count. Your personal car and house don't (if you don't believe me, look at your bank statement and see if your home is earning or costing you money).
  25. Jeff Bezos also has investing advice: "Invest in things that don't change." People will always want things to be free, perfect, and now. So, invest in things that help get them closer to that ideal.
  26. Investing in yourself is probably one of the highest ROIs you can achieve. Plus, the internet makes continued learning highly accessible. Take at least one online course a year and read at least one book a quarter. You don't need to invest 10,000 hours to become a master. You can get "good enough," in less than 20 hours, in 30 days or less.
  27. Automate saving/investing and tracking. However, with tracking, you must review it at least once a month (automation lets you do less data wrangling or more analysis).
  28. Experience is more important than money.
  29. Cal Newport & Tim Ferriss recommend eliminating distractions because producing at a peak level requires working for extended periods with full concentration on a single task. To help, I only use one monitor, turn off most of my notifications, and only check email a couple of times a day.
  30. Be a person of value. Rather than asking, "what's in it for me?" Ask, "what's in it for them?" - Dan Sullivan
  31. Jim Rohn suggested you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. This is 100% true. So, I review who I hang out with once a year. Authors and shows count. Another way to think about this is: "What you choose to pay attention to is the stuff your life and work will be made of."
  32. Read the book Grit by Angela Duckworth (especially if you're a parent). Here's a quote that changed how I parent: "...abide by the Hard Thing Rule and, in addition, the Fun Thing Rule. Ask your kids to do something that will teach them, through experience, deliberate practice and resilience. But also make sure they're doing things that they find interesting and enjoyable, even if it doesn't seem that they could ever lead to anything more serious."
  33. I'm not a great small talker, but Debra Fine gave some great advice that I regularly use: "One of the easiest ways to start or keep a conversation going is to compliment another person."
  34. When coaching/leading, don't try to solve the problem. Instead, ask questions to help them solve the problem. Here are questions I use, and here's a coaching book.
  35. When reviewing a project/product/event, I use a three-question framework called keep-stop-start: 1) What should we keep doing? 2) What should we stop doing? 3) What should we start doing? (from my strategy professor, Rob Wiltbank)
  36. If you have a business idea, think small at first. Seth Godin recommends asking, "What's the minimum number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort?" Daniel Priestly reminds me that my job isn't to please everyone. My job is to find people who can't live without me.
  37. Practice tactical empathy - which is hearing and understanding what someone is saying. I do it by mirroring: I repeat the last three words, and then I'm silent. It encourages people to open up and share deeper.
  38. People have a significant life change every six months (job, housing, school schedule, family, etc). So, if someone said no to you, wait six months and check in.
  39. Alex Hormizi finished his book with a quote: "Neil Strauss once said "Success comes down to doing the obvious thing for an uncommonly long period of time without convincing yourself you're smarter than you are." The right action in the wrong amount still fails. Most people, myself included, stop too soon. We don't do enough."
  40. Give credit to others when it's due (like my quotes above). It's the right thing to do, and people respect you for your integrity.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Announcing: Thumbtack Home Repair Estimates

I'm thrilled to share that Majordomo's Domoreport is becoming 
Thumbtack Home Repair Estimates.

Six years ago, my co-founder and I set out to help homeowners take better care of their homes (hence the name "Majordomo," which is the chief steward of a large household). We road the typical start-up roller coaster with big wins, tough trials, plenty of pivots, and now, handing off this project to new owners.

The Path To Providing Repair Estimates

Our first product evaluated the condition of a home. The idea was to help you create a maintenance and project plan. It had two problems: 1) creating the report is labor intensive, and 2) it left a "now what" feeling because it didn't include the next steps. Furthermore, people who already cared about the home's condition didn't learn anything. And people who didn't care about their home's condition... didn't care about this report.

So, we focused on the one time when everyone cared about the condition: when buying a home. And great news! Someone else - the inspector - already did the hard work of evaluating the condition of the major and minor systems. Plus, to help answer the "now what" question, we included ZIP Code specific repair estimates.

We had a product that people found valuable. Yes!

Implementing AI

The first time a customer uploaded an inspection, it took us 6 hours(!) to create the report (we promised a 24-hour turnaround). We created tools that got it down to just under an hour on average. It was good, but it still wasn't scalable. The haunting question was, "If we experienced an avalanche of success tomorrow, could we handle it?" If we received 1,000 inspections, we'd be in trouble.

So, we created an AI to read the reports, identify defects, and recommend repairs. People still reviewed the results, but the processing time dropped dramatically. And, this is cool, as new inspections were processed, we kept retraining the AI to get smarter and smarter, requiring fewer and fewer corrections. It's kind of amazing to watch an AI learn from the very beginning.

The Remaining Question... But Who Can Help?

People loved their repair estimates, but it naturally led to the next question: who can help me do these repairs? This is kind of tricky to answer because, typically, when you receive your estimates (24 hours after getting the inspection report), you don't own the house yet. So, if you want repairs done, the seller does them. We created a slick tool to help buyers generate a repair addendum in minutes, it was helpful, but people still wanted contractors after closing.

Enter Thumbtack, which helps you find local professionals for any home project. I used them multiple times for a painting project, a new fence, a roof repair, and electrical work. It's fun to post a job and get multiple quotes.

We started talking with them about integrating with their API, which would allow us to suggest contractors within the report. And through those conversations, we got to know their team and our shared vision.

So, instead of only doing the integration, they bought our technology and hired our people to do a much deeper integration in the future.

Plus, because of their business model, they can offer repair estimates for free!

So now, you can upload your inspection at for free, get prioritized repair estimates, and find locally-based professionals. How cool is that?!

As I said, we're thrilled about taking this product to the next level with Thumbtack because we believe it'll help even more homeowners care for their homes.

My Next Adventure

I'm continuing to focus on multifamily syndications. Given the economic volatility, the lack of housing supply with increasing demand, and technological improvements in automation, there will be some incredible multifamily deals in the next couple of years.

Furthermore, I believe multifamilies are the best investment on the planet because of their consistent above-average returns (10%+), extraordinary tax benefits, inflation hedge, and creative financing. And it's providing something that everyone needs: housing.

My focus is two-fold:

  1. Analyze multifamily properties in the $2M -$10M range that needs some TLC.
  2. Invite people to invest passively with us who want to diversify from the stock market but don't have the time or knowledge to do so.

Thank You

I want to say thank you to everyone who helped us with Majordomo: Lee, Matthew, Isaac, Graham, Zach, Lance, Daniel, Scott, Linda, Noah, Ken, Anthony, Ben, Josh P, Jenny, Kevin, Mike, Moshe, Josh A, Tony, Dan, and Corey. I learned a lot, had a ton of fun, and am excited to see where Thumbtack takes it.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Riding Motorcycles Through the Himalayas in Northern India

Type 1 fun applies to activities you enjoy in the moment, such as eating a delicious meal or walking on the beach. Type 2 fun pursuits are challenging and may not be pleasant in the moment, but they become gratifying when you look back on them (like taking challenging classes or bouldering). Type 3 fun endeavors are unpleasant during and after the fact, but they can become a good story for some people (like an injury or accident).

Our 15th wedding anniversary vacation hit all three types of fun.

A little over a year ago, we learned how to ride motorcycles so we could ride motorcycles through the Himalayas in Northern India. We spent a day in New Delhi before heading north to Leh, Ladakh.

Our guide, Trevor, lived in Corvallis before moving to India, and my friend, Greg, with whom I hang out weekly, joined us.

New Delhi & Leh Ladakh

We spent the day in a part of the city called Old Delhi, which was hot and humid.

And then we flew to Leh in Ladakh, which is at 11,500 ft. I instantly felt the high elevation when the plane doors opened, but Jessi felt totally normal. You must relax for a day to let your blood oxygen levels catch up, so we did. Here's what it looked like from the plane:

Breathing is a little like when you have a semi-stuffed nose which restricts your breathing, so every 4th or 5th breath, you have to open your mouth to "catch up." It was like that almost the entire time.

I was fine when sitting still, but I felt sluggish with ANY movement, including walking up the three floors to our hotel room. My watch tracks my heart rate, which jumped up 20% at high altitude!

The view from our hotel.

Every time we had a break, we ate food and drank chai tea. We drank so much chai tea... up to 5 cups a day. It was so much tea!

Let's Ride

We got our motorcycles and headed for our first destination. Jessi decided it would be best for her to ride on the back of the bike or in the support vehicle instead of riding her own bike. It turned out to be a wise decision when we hit bad weather, and it allowed her to enjoy all the fantastic views.

Here we are, all clean and ready.

And we found a cool bridge.

The hotel was right on a river and super fancy.

A Proper Adventure

We headed over two tall passes (15K & 17K feet). Along the way, we saw some epic views.

And then the weather turned... It started raining, which turned to snow as we approached 17K feet. My helmet's mask totally froze over as we hit the top of the pass.

Eventually, I entered mild (stage 1) hypothermia and took a break from riding. I captured the moment after I got some feeling back in my hands:

That night we huddled around the stove at a family's home during the few hours they had electricity. The heat felt great, and there were only a few water leaks. We drank butter tea (it's tea with... butter) and ate warm soup. 

The next day we geared up to keep going. In our attempts to stay dry, we put bags over our hands. We looked goofy, and the host family wanted a picture of our ridiculousness.

But shortly after we left, we encountered a block in the road - rocks falling from the storm. When that happens, we need to clear it. But while doing that, we saw a small (but life-threatening) rock slide.

And so we decided it was too dangerous to continue. We headed back to the family's house to wait out the storm. But it gave me a chance during a moment of sunshine to get a drone shot of the village.

And we tried to chase down a group of yaks. Those guys can move! Here's as close as we got.

The next day, we headed back out, but this time came across a considerable road problem:

And since that's the only road into the next village - with a repair timeline of 3 to 7 days - we decided to re-tackle the two previous passes and ride in the opposite direction. It was still snowy, but at least we were dry.

Here's what riding in slushy snow looks like.

And there were sections of big mud puddles.

It was unbelievably tiring keeping the bike upright in the snow, on dirt, doing tight switchbacks, and at high altitudes. Classic type-2 fun. Also, the views were amazing.

And we saw more yaks.

Here was the whole crew.

I dropped the bike multiple times while riding and was grateful for everyone's support. I ended the trip sore, but I should be able to recover from all my injuries.

Buddhist Monasteries

We also visited multiple Buddhist monasteries. One allowed us to take pictures, so here's what they look like inside.

We had some good spiritual conversations, and I learned much more about - and experienced - the spiritual climate there.

And back in New Delhi, we experienced a hood-to-coast-like experience. But in this case, relay teams carry water ~150 miles as part of a spiritual ritual. And when they weren't running, they chilled on a big truck blasting music. There were hundreds of trucks! It was quite the sight!

The City of Leh

We ended in Leh and explored the city. Not only was the market fun, but the views were amazing.

We met up with Trevor's family on the final night in New Delhi for dinner. Watching a family reconnect after a couple of weeks of adventuring was so encouraging.

Thanks for letting me share our proper adventure.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

A 172-Mile Motorcycle Ride Mid-Week Date

Jessi had a mid-week day off, the kids were in school, and the weather was perfect. So, Jessi and I enjoyed a 172-mile motorcycle ride date.

It was as epic as you'd want it to be.

Map of our motorcycle ride

  • We started off taking a bunch of curvy roads Southwest out to the cost.
  • We then saw a Farmers market in Waldorf and visited all the vendors.
  • Riding along the coast and seeing waves break is blast!
  • Around halfway along the coast, in Newport, we stopped for clam chowder and salt water taffy. Delicious! We ate with a view of bay and watched the seals swim.
  • After the coast, we made our way back on another remote curvy road. 229 between Kernville and Siletz is spectacular. I highly recommend it.
  • 411 from Siltez to Blodgett is also pretty, plus there's a mile section of dirt road - a pleasant surprise.

Overall, it was a great adventure. I'm thankful for days like that when we can unplug and have fun together.