Monday, June 10, 2024

I Completed a 7 Day Media Fast


 The rules are simple: no media for 7 days. This includes:

  • TV shows, movies, and short videos (YouTube, TikTok, etc)
  • Music, audiobooks, and podcasts
  • Social media
  • News, blog posts, articles, and books
  • Video games (physical games are fine)

Basically, it's anything that you consume. It doesn't matter if it's "good" or "bad" because the point is to take a break from it all. This also includes turning off any notifications related to it. On challenges like these, I tend to eschew exceptions (if I'm doing it, I do it all the way), and I'd encourage you to be uncomfortable.

Oh yeah, and only check/reply to email during two 30-minute chunks.

If you've never tried it, I recommend it. I did it 15 years ago and loved it. The difference this time is that I did it with a friend.


The 4-Hour Workweek

I first learned about the idea in Tim Ferriss's book The 4-Hour Workweek. The point is to help us identify how much information and distraction exist in our lives by doing a media equivalent of an elimination diet.

Like most things, distractions sneak up on us. On both occasions, I was surprised at how productive I was. Although I was mentally exhausted at the end of the day, I felt like I genuinely gave my 100% best, which, if I'm honest, isn't something I could say for a long time.

Then, once you're done, you can be intentional about what you allow (or not!) back into your life. For example, I turned off my email notifications during my fast 15 years ago, and they're still off.


My Observations

I found myself reflexively grabbing my iPad to "kill time" and remembering I wasn't supposed to do that. I was doing it a lot! That's something I want to continue now that I'm back to normal. I want to think of a few items I can put next to my iPad, so I grab one of them instead. Maybe a deck of cards?

It turns out that I don't miss the news. I was a little bummed that I didn't get to watch SpaceX's launch, but then my brother gave me the play-by-play afterward, and in some ways, I think it was better. Though, I plan to watch it because he made it sound pretty exciting. As for everything else, I don't know what I missed, and I'm OK with that.

Driving in silence is... OK. I think it's good to let my brain rest and process instead of instantly putting something on in my ears. Though, on a couple of occasions, I had a half-hour drive and found myself bored in the middle. But maybe I need to be bored more often? I might put a 5-minute rule in place: no listening to anything for at least 5 minutes when I get into the car.

Like 15 years ago, I completely caught up on my email and reached that mythical Inbox Zero. I want to get back to having regular, but limited, focused time for email. My 90-day summer goal is to have at most 20 emails after checking my email. I can do that without a problem if I keep a similar email discipline.

The evenings were the hardest. Because of some health issues, Jessi goes to bed pretty early (~9pm), and that's typically when I watch a movie or play video games. I'm not ready to sleep, but I'm also not in the mood to work on something. I never found anything worth doing. Perhaps my next 90-day goal should be to find a new evening pastime.

Doing it with a friend is fun! You can encourage and commiserate together. It also makes you seem less of a weirdo if people know someone else is doing it because it comes across as "I'm doing a challenge" instead of "I have a problem."

It really did shine a light on how much information and distractions are in my life. It's something that slowly crept up, and I'm glad I did this to reset. I'd encourage you to give it a try. I think it would be good for me to do it once a year.





Monday, May 06, 2024

Why Did TikTok Ban Me?

A strange thing happened to me recently.

My wife and I started a podcast about real estate at the beginning of the year. Like many podcasts, we began sharing short clips from the episode a little more than a month ago. Some are informative nuggets, and others are pure entertainment. I upload them to TikTok, YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook.

It's all perfectly normal, right?

 Well, one day, I tried logging into TikTok via the browser to upload a new set of podcast clips, but it wouldn't let me. Instead, a tiny banner told me my account "was currently suspended."

Strange.

I contacted customer service and received an auto-reply instructing me to check my in-app notifications and submit an appeal.

Hi there, Thanks for contacting TikTok! We have received your request about a Content Violation or Ban. If you believe your content was incorrectly removed, please let us know by submitting an appeal in app. Your feedback helps us improve the way we keep our community safe. To submit an appeal: 1. Locate the notification in your TikTok inbox. 2. Tap the notification. 3. Tap Submit an appeal. 4. Follow the instructions provided. Or Go to the video. 2. Tap Community Guidelines violation: See details. 3. Tap Submit an appeal. 4. Follow the instructions provided. For more information on our moderation process, please visit: https://support.tiktok.com/en/safety-hc/account-and-user-safety/content-violations-and-bans#support Please feel free to reach back out if you weren't able to resolve your issue with the steps above. Thank you, The TikTok Team

OK... but I can't log in. I reply to the message saying so. At this point, my thought is that this is only a log-in issue. I sign in with Apple, and perhaps that's the issue?

Nope! Twelve minutes later, they reply with shocking news:

Hi there,

Thanks for contacting TikTok.

We understand how important your account is to you. After further review, your account will remain permanently banned due to a violation of our Integrity and Authenticity policy.

Please note that our Community Guidelines apply to both public and private content, as well as hashtags and links to third party websites. For further information on your account violation, please reference our Community Guidelines: https://www.tiktok.com/community-guidelines?lang=en

Best,

The TikTok Team

Wait. What?

According to their Integrity and Authenticity policy, there are six ways to get in trouble:

  1. Misinformation: Inaccurate, misleading, or false content that may cause significant harm to individuals or society, regardless of intent.
  2. Civic and Election Integrity: Paid political promotion, political advertising, or fundraising by politicians and political parties (for themselves or others). Or, misinformation about civic and electoral processes, regardless of intent.
  3. Synthetic and Manipulated Media: Synthetic or manipulated media that shows realistic scenes must be clearly disclosed. Synthetic media that contains the likeness of any real private figure. Synthetic media of public figures if the content is used for endorsements or violates any other policy.
  4. Fake Engagement: The trade of services that attempt to artificially increase engagement or deceive TikTok's recommendation system.
  5. Unoriginal Content and QR Codes: Content that violates someone else's intellectual property rights.
  6. Spam and Deceptive Account Behaviors: Account behaviors that may spam or mislead our community.

I gave what felt like a reasonable reply:

Thank you for your prompt response. I appreciate your efforts in maintaining the community guidelines. I'm more than willing to make any necessary adjustments to my content to ensure it aligns with the policies.

Also, I must admit, I'm confused. I read the Community Guidelines, and I don't understand how I violated the Integrity and Authenticity policy. I post short clips of my podcast, which doesn't seem to violate the policy—it's my wife and I talking about investing in real estate.

Is there a particular video/topic that's causing a problem?

James

But, alas, I didn't receive a response.

I'm honestly unsure where I ran afoul and am genuinely curious about why TikTok banned me.

On one hand, my views were low, and the probability of reaching a potential investor is low, so it's not a huge business loss. And I only occasionally watched videos, so that's a small loss, too.

But on the other hand, come on! This feels unfair. Banning someone seems like a big deal, but I only received canned responses. I get that I'm a speck of a fish in their sea and that automated systems are valuable despite not being perfect. I'd feel a little better if they gave me the impression that an actual human spent 5 minutes verifying the situation and told me why I was banned.

Or, perhaps I need to Judo the situation and use the ban to my advantage rather than oppose it directly.

  • "So controversial that TikTok banned it!"
  • "Results so amazing that TikTok thought it was fake."
  • "I'm focusing on distribution channels where my ideal investors hang out."
  • "I believe in investing in America."

My Judo is a work in progress.

Until then, you can enjoy our controversial podcast clips featuring our amazing results by investing in America on the platforms where the best investors hang out: YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook. They're so good that TikTok didn't feel worthy to show them.



Monday, April 15, 2024

How To Get The Most Out Of An Online Course


I invest a lot in taking online courses. Some are a few hundred dollars, and some are a few thousand dollars! I love them because it's an opportunity to learn from an expert—with YEARS of experience—who took the time to analyze their craft, organize it in a digestible way, and then methodically teach it.


I know that I could search online for answers or learn through the school of hard knocks, but beyond the time investment, it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. I like having an expert tell me what's essential and in an order that builds on itself. Plus, most free resources don't go as deep—they don't provide the exact samples, scripts, models, etc.


Taking online courses is one of the highest ROIs I know.


I've taken courses on writingplaying bass guitarmaking videossyndicationsdelegating, and land flipping - to list a few.


But you can't just watch them like a TV show. After taking many courses, I've devised a method that works well for me. If I spend time and money on a course, I must get the most out of it.


I'll get to my exact steps, but first, let's talk about video games.



Mastering Video Games

Growing up, I mastered video games by following a specific method:

  • I'd play the game, experiment, and eventually figure out the controls. My brother and I were usually evenly matched, and often, he picked up skills faster than me.
  • Then I'd read the game manual cover to cover. Because I had the context of the game, the instructions would stick, and I'd learn the advanced skills of the game.
  • I'd leapfrog my brother. If it were a fighting or sports game, I'd demolish him.
  • Eventually, I'd teach him what I learned, he'd improve, and we'd become competitive again.


It's a bit of a ready-fire-aim strategy: try something (and flail), then learn how to do it properly, try again with much better results, and then teach someone else to cement the concepts. Then, keep practicing while re-reading the instructions to learn specific parts as needed.


So, when I'm considering an online course, it's because I've been trying something and feel like I'm flailing. Or it's because I have knowledge gaps that searching online doesn't fill, and I want an expert to fill those in for me.


Let's get into my process.



Step 0: Read The Book

Before I buy a course, I'll read the creator's work. If they have a book, I'll read it. If not, I'll download their "free tool/report" and subscribe to their emails. I want to sample their teaching style and expertise. Ideally, it's something paid that took effort to create (like a book) because they're not trying to sell me anymore; they're in teaching mode.


It has several benefits: 1) It's a cheap way to sample the course beyond their sales pitch. 2) I can try implementing what I learn to see how effective it is, setting me up for the lessons to sink in deeper. And 3) It often gives me a solid overview of the scope of the course.


If I don't have time (or interest) to read the book, tool, or report, I shouldn't take the course.



Step 1: Binge Watch Everything

I start a course with many questions and find it difficult to focus on the current lesson until I know my specific questions will be answered. So, my solution is to binge-watch everything. I don't take any notes or try to remember anything. Instead, I let the entire thing wash over me.


I aim to get the lay of the land and answer my burning questions. My experience is that there can sometimes be a lot of filler or things I already know, and binging helps me figure out where to dive deep in step 2.


But despite speed running through it, I still have TONS of ah-ha moments because I already have specific questions.



Step 2: Do The Exercises and Rewatch Lessons

Once I finish the course, I start over. But this time, I do the exercises and then rewatch the lessons on subjects I want to sink in. I'll also take notes and apply what I've learned. Doing the exercises before rewatching helps me identify gaps and know where to pay attention when I rewatch the lesson.


I usually find that I spend half as much time on this step as on the bring-watching. Part of the reason is that I don't rewatch everything (like intro videos)—I'm only diving deep into my knowledge gaps.


Doing the exercises is critical because I learn best when I try it. I even do those that seem trivial because A) I start with the assumption that the expert added it for a reason, and B) I often pick up a couple of knowledge bits from doing it.


For example, one exercise involved identifying good investment markets. I already knew how to do it, but forcing myself to do it revealed some areas for improvement.



Step 3: Refresher

I don't always do this, but sometimes I'll go back 6-12 months later and rewatch parts of a course. This is especially true for newer skills because I know there were nuggets of knowledge I wasn't ready to receive.


For example, when I learned to play bass guitar, I got proficient enough to play in my church's worship band but still had gaps. So, after playing for a few months, I rewatched some of the lessons and picked up skills I missed the first time.


Also, once a month, I'll pick one or two lessons from a course and rewatch them. I'll pick ones that feel relevant to whatever I'm working on. I'm not trying to learn anything specific - I'm simply trying to re-steep myself in the concept. And often, I have an "oh yeah… I remember that now" moment.




So that's my process. Online courses are one of the best investments you can make. For $200 - $2,000, you can learn from an expert in an organized, comprehensive course at your own pace. It's incredible.



Monday, March 18, 2024

Safety Third

I heard the line “safety third” on a podcast a few years ago, and I wholeheartedly embraced it. This might be a little pedantic, but I think it’s worth the distinction for my mindset.

Saying you believe in “safety first” is false. Nobody actually practices it. If a sea captain said they believed in safety first, they’d never leave the dock because that’s the safest thing to do - but if they did that, they wouldn’t be a real ship captain.

The first priority is achieving the goal.

To be clear, it’s not the only priority - it just comes first. If a goal didn’t exist, there would be no action and, therefore, no reason to declare any priorities.

And if you don’t achieve a goal for safety reasons, it feels like a tie. You’ll take it, but it wasn’t really the desired outcome.

Why Not Safety Second?

I prefer innovation as my second priority. How might I achieve the goal better? Is there a new innovative way to achieve it faster, cheaper, better, safer, etc.? It’s a priority of creativity and discernment that’s important to take before jumping into action.

This is how you get better.

What are the implications of a safety third mantra?

First, it promotes contextual awareness and assessing risk based on the situation. You don’t default to the least risky option. Instead, you evaluate your skills and the goal to make an informed decision.

Some questions that I ask to help me evaluate the risk include:

  • What are the worst things that could happen?
  • Could I get back here?
  • Is this favorable on a risk-adjusted basis?
  • Can I live with the worst-case scenario?

As someone who tends to be unreasonably optimistic, I sometimes have to enlist Jessi to help thoroughly evaluate the downside possibilities of doing something.

In this way, safety becomes more meaningful and not a meaningless platitude. Plus, if I know someone else has a safety third mindset, and they bring up a safety issue, I’m less dismissive.

Finally, you have to admit that some unwanted things will happen. But that’s OK! When they occur, focus on the good. What did you learn? What new opportunities does this create? There is ALWAYS something good that comes from bad things.

May you achieve your goals in an innovative way and be safe along your journey.



Saturday, February 24, 2024

How I'm Using AI In My Real Estate Business


Like many people, I'm playing around with different generative AI tools - investing time and money - to see how they can help my business. At the moment, it's helping around the edges, saving pockets of time, but it hasn't structurally changed how I do things yet. Here are some of the tools I'm using:


Otter.ai

Otter.ai promises that you don't have to take meeting notes. It generates transcripts, meeting summaries, and action items. I wanted to try it for two reasons. First, I wanted it for myself so I wouldn't have to take as many notes. Second, I wanted to offer it as an added value to the people I coach - they would have a record of our conversations for later reference.


It's OK... I find that I don't have to keep as copious of notes - just the highlights - which is excellent. I like having it recorded, and searching for specific parts of the meeting is easy. The summaries are OK, but the action items are useless.


I also found it helpful for group meetings when someone can't make it. I can send them the meeting notes, which include the summary and transcript. One feature that seems cool, but I have yet to really try, is using the built-in chatbot to ask questions about the meeting. It's like a fancy search engine, which seems like it could be helpful.


Descript

The idea behind Descript is that you can edit a video or podcast (*cough* Furlo Capital Real Estate Podcast *cough*) as if it were a Word document. So, you add your raw video, it transcribes it, and then, as you edit the transcript, it edits the video.


The editing is cool, but I still prefer doing it in Final Cut Pro. I have a hunch that getting better at multi-track editing in Descript would be faster than FCP, but the learning curve is a little steep.


Where Descript has been SUPER helpful is on the text side. I'll edit a video and then import it to Descript. Once it's transcribed, I have it help me with a few items:

  1. Output subtitles and a transcript. I used to use Rev for this.
  2. For shorts, subtitles can be added to the video. I used to do this by hand, and it was miserable.
  3. Write podcast and video descriptions. They're always written in 3rd person, and I haven't found a prompt that works to make it first-person (without ruining the overall description).
  4. Identify chapter markers. This is borderline perfect, though it usually gives more than I want, but it's easy to remove them.
  5. Suggest titles. I'll use these to make my own before analyzing it with a headline analyzer.



ChatGPT

There are some big chat-style generative AIs to play with: Anthrop\c's Claude, Google's Gemini, and Microsoft's Copilot, to name a few. But something about the Wild West feel of OpenAI's ChatGPT attracts me. Sure, I want my AI to be careful and respectful, but I don't want it to be too cautious (I'm a "safety third" type of person).


The free version is OK, but if you're going to integrate it into your life/business, the Plus version is noticeably better. I'm finding it useful for three general tasks:


  1. Summaries: I can feed it a document, like a transcript, and ask for the key points. I haven't had to do this yet, but I could probably upload a rental agreement and ask questions about it (though, in general, I prefer to read the actual text).
  2. Idea generation: I've done the classic "Give me 10 fears that [target market, like data scientists] have about [doing something, like investing in real estate]," and it's excellent for that. I also like to give it a podcast transcript and a prompt like "What questions might someone have after listening/reading this?
  3. Transposing: I'm still new at this, but I've been playing around with creating podcast images from text prompts.



Arc Search

This iPhone app is a new tool for me. Instead of searching and getting links, I can get multi-media summaries and answers. If I don't like the result, I can easily do an old-school search (Just think, someday, Google may call it Google Classic Search). I'm unsure if it's "better" or faster yet - because it takes time to learn a new workflow - but it's cool.



Where's the line of too much AI?

Part of this play is helping me discover the best uses. Sure, I can ask it to write this article. It would be bland (plus, I like writing because it helps me think), so it's not a real option. But someday, it'll be able to write in my voice after I give it an unorganized blob of ideas. Then what? Do I get credit for writing it?


I use Grammarly for editing, and that seems to be OK. I take credit for doing data analysis, even though I use tools like Excel and R and not slide rulers. If I were a web developer, I'd use GitHub Copilot to help write code. Is that OK? It's just a smarter version of autocomplete, right? Does anyone care as long as the output is high quality?


To me, the line seems fuzzy. As a business owner, I'm not super concerned about how it's done, as long as it's done well. Would I care if I had a theoretical employee who used these tools to do their work in half the time but still charged the full time? I'd care about having a lazy (dishonest?) employee, but I'm paying for results, not time spent. The issue is the person's character, not the tool's use. I pay MORE for contractors to go faster, so it's not always about saving money.


Again, does anyone care if I use a WYSIWYG editor like Squarespace on a website instead of hand-coding it? No. Does anyone care if I use a pivot table in Excel to make a chart? Nope, it's considered an advanced skill. Does it matter if I wrote a helpful article using chatGPT for the first draft with some light editing? Well... No?


In each of these examples, I devised the idea and validated the final result. What if I hired someone to do all the work for me? Doesn't anyone really care as long as it's helpful? This is what businesses do, right? CEOs of mid-to-large companies can't do everything.


Perhaps the rub is that it's an implied expectation that humans do certain things (like write and edit videos), and somehow, we feel lied to when we find out a human didn't do it. Or, maybe it's because we're in the uncanny valley of AI quality. If that's the case, this will be less and less of an issue as society changes its expectations and the output improves. Does anyone else miss DVD special features? I do, but streaming is so convenient!



What's My Core Value?

A more helpful framework has been thinking about my core value. What do I bring to my business that's hard to replicate?


Let's use my podcast as an example. My core value is my experience, knowledge, and how I explain them. So, AI can help me think of topics, but I should be the one to choose the topic and talk about it. Then afterward, creating subtitles, descriptions, and chapter markers are all low-value tasks. So, I'm OK delegating those to AI (with my final approval).


I also think video editing is lower-value (for me), but AI isn't great at it yet, and my budget doesn't allow me to delegate it to someone every time. Basically, I'm OK with delegating everything (to humans or AI) around making the podcast, except for the on-screen part, because that's the highest value I bring.



Future Uses?

I do other lower-value tasks, and it's fun imagining a time when tools, AI or otherwise, can help with them.

  1. Bookkeeping takes a while. I've started delegating that to a property manager. Hopefully, someday, she can use AI to help her go faster. For example, Quickbooks will suggest categories, and that'll get smarter over time.
  2. I don't write a lot of commercial rental contracts, but I could see it helping with that. Or reading a contact and advising me on things to look out for.
  3. So... email... I want an AI to analyze my previous emails to match my writing style for a one-click auto-responder. And not just a one-liner auto-responder, but a complete message. I've read about some pretty extreme solutions, but they're more hostile to senders than "solutions." (The best -and most expensive - option is hiring a virtual assistant to reply on your behalf.)
  4. I have an odd plumbing problem. I can't find a suitable solution on Google or ChatGPT. I'd rather not pay a plumber, but it's increasingly looking like I don't have a choice.
  5. Imagine this: I see a property listing. I call the seller to learn more and I take a tour. I want to feed the listing, the call transcript, and the tour photos into a system that analyzes the property. It'll output a P&L, repair estimates, and project KPIs into a spreadsheet. I can then take over from there. I think? We're flirting with my biggest value-add now.
  6. Or, I give it a current property in my portfolio and its P&L over time. The tool looks at the market and can suggest sell/hold and rent rates. I haven't tried this yet, but I bet it can already help make rental listings (though, I have a template that's easy to use). Or, auto-general some good-looking reports?


All of these are still helping me to do what I'm already doing more efficiently. None of them fundamentally change how I'm already doing business. What would an AI-first real estate investor do?


I suppose I'd want a tool that analyzes every property in the US for me and generates offers I can submit. It would auto-generate rental contracts and do the follow-up on rent payments and notices. It would listen to every conversation and suggest the next steps.


Or, maybe I never directly interact with people! Instead of writing emails, I write/speak my thoughts, and it writes and sends them. I never directly analyze a property, but I write/speak/send the stats, and it analyzes it for me. If I'm working with a potential seller, I might tell the AI to keep following up until I get a yes or a no. The AI knows the analysis and my criteria and can automatically do a back-and-forth with the seller, searching for a mutually acceptable deal by tweaking the price and terms based on the seller's response.


Maybe? That seems far off, and at least for now, it's a part of my core value in my business. Perhaps a reasonable next step is to get better at telling the AI my raw, unstructured thoughts and letting it draft a response.



Wednesday, January 03, 2024

2024 Annual Letter - Life Is Good


I'm sitting on my living room couch while Jessi finishes 
Marie Kondo-ing our shelves (I'm not allowed to help put things away), my kids are loudly doodling on random paper together, and my dog is quietly snoring while sound asleep beside me.


Life is good.


Though... it's not exactly the best writing environment, but that's OK. :)


The Lord has blessed our family so much that sharing everything He is doing is impossible. So, in this annual letter, I'll highlight my business progress, some personal things, and our travels.




Real Estate Syndications

I started the year pursuing a new-ish endeavor: syndicating multifamily real estate. I say "new-ish" because it's continuing what we've been doing for 14 years, but now people can passively invest alongside us. Pooling funds together for larger deals is a win-win business model: it allows us to grow and invest in larger properties (which often have better economics vs single-family rentals), and folks who may not have the time or expertise can contribute funds and enjoy real estate's benefits.


Pursuing syndications involves two primary activities:

  1. Underwriting deals for syndication, and
  2. Attracting new passive investors.
  3. Oh yeah, and managing my existing portfolio.



A New 15-Bedroom Rental

In February, we bought a 15-bedroom co-living house. I wanted to syndicate it, but the financing didn't require it. Here's a video of it. It was also our first place to be managed by a property manager because hiring managers will allow our business to scale. We also transferred the storage facility to a property manager and plan to transition the rest of our portfolio in the next year or two.


I almost syndicated a property in Astoria, Oregon at the end of the year, but the deal fell through. I'll eventually do a whole write-up for my investors (join the club ), but here's the initial analysis video.



Going into 2024, I'll continue to underwrite deals and syndicate at least one. For intriguing deals, I'll create property analysis videos.



Attracting Investors

Speaking of videos, I started making them. My channel is small, but I've enjoyed sharing my knowledge and experience. My thinking is to make videos that people find educational (and entertaining) to build trust and credibility. Some of those people will choose to join my investor club email list, and some of those people will decide to invest in a future deal.


I'm new enough that I don't know my funnel ratios yet (It might be, for example, 10,000 views -> 10 email subscribers -> 1 investor). Research by Google in 2012 suggests that reliably building trust requires people engaging with me for 7 hours, across 11 touch points, in 4 locations (like YouTube, email, Instagram, webinars, podcasts, phone calls, etc.). So, I'm making it easier for people to spend 7 hours with me in many different places by creating content (I only have 26 videos that last 4.2 hours, so I have a ways to go).


Some of my most popular videos are property analyses, which is nice because they accomplish my two goals simultaneously: underwriting deals & attracting investors.



DJI Drone - My Favorite Purchase of 2023

Early in the year, I purchased a drone. I didn't have an exact use for it, but it seemed like 4-8 times every year, there would be a situation where having a drone would be great.


So, I bought one, and it's easily been my favorite purchase of the year.


Not only did I get pictures of each property, but I used it on multiple trips. What I like about it is that it lets me get otherwise-impossible photos. Though, I've noticed that videos are incredibly dull on their own. The videos work as b-roll, but when you're showing them to friends on your phone, it's boring. I also prefer looking at the photos on my big monitor because it lets me zoom in on all the little details. That is incredibly fun!


My primary use for videos has been for roof inspections. I can fly around to capture all the parts of the roof, and then view it on my large monitor at home while taking notes and annotated screenshots.






In Personal News...


I Turned 40

In some ways, it's just another candle on the cake, but in other ways, I feel older. For example, it takes longer to recover from a workout, and text is blurry first thing in the morning. But, along the way, the Lord has taught me a few things, so I wrote a post about 40 lessons and quotes I try to live by.



I Can Solve a Rubik's Cube

YouTube is fantastic for learning things. I found many videos showing the exact steps to solve a Rubik's cube. So, I learned it fairly quickly and practiced it for the rest of the year. My moment of heroism came while in India: we found a Rubik's cube on the side of the street in a random jungle village; I picked it up, solved it, and put it back. We went by that spot later, and it was gone. I like to think there's some kid whose mind was blown when they saw it.


This continues my quest to get semi-decent at mostly-useless skills to impress my kids, which also includes juggling and solving Sudoku puzzles. I think the next logical skill is to learn some card tricks.



My Favorite Books From Last Year

I don't think I'm an entrepreneur who thinks I'll succeed because I read a bunch of books. I believe that success comes from taking action and deliberate practice. Instead, my hobby, or favorite pastime, is reading. So, I read about topics I'm interested in: business, self-improvement, and faith. So last year, I read a bunch (here's my quick review of each one), and here are my favorites:



Deep Work by Cal Newport

High-quality work is a function of time spent with distraction-free focus on the work. Newport gives strategies for setting up your schedule and work environment to allow for significant blocks of distraction-free time. The advice is actionable and reasonable. I've implemented his idea and enjoy my times of deep focus.



James For You by Sam Allberry

I love the "Bible For You" series because they go deeper than a sermon, but aren't as forensic as a commentary. The book of James is a sweet companion to the Sermon on the Mount. But James moves quickly, and it can feel scattered. Allberry explains how all the thoughts tie together and tackles passages that seem, on the surface, to contradict Paul's teaching. It's terrific.



Hidden Potential by Adam Grant

This isn't a book on habits, ambition, or hard work. It's about unlocking... your potential. You do that by cultivating skills that maximize learning and setting up support systems to overcome roadblocks. The advice in the book is refreshing and highly actionable.



I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I was surprised by how different the book is from the movie. The book explores the differences between "machine logic" and "human logic" through a collection of short stories. In the book, robots act so similarly to humans that humans treat them as... human, which is OK 98% of the time.


But sometimes, robots do something seemingly illogical. And they call a robot psychologist to help determine the robot's logic. It's a bit of a mystery novel in that regard.


The movie, I think (?), takes place many years after the events in the book and explores what it looks like if robots are fully accepted by society (they aren't allowed on Earth in the book), but their machine logic is still slightly off, leading to... problems.


Honorable mention goes to:

  • Best In Class by Kyle Mitchell and Gary Lipsky - How to manage a property manager and the asset.
  • Show Your Work! by Justin Kleon - Ideas for sharing creative work publicly.
  • $100M Offers by Alex Hormozi - How to structure offers people want to buy.
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - The original story, which is genuinely remarkable.



We Bought an Above-Ground Pool

The kids kept asking to go swimming, and after pricing a pool pass, we decided to get a small pool for our backyard. We wanted it big enough that they could swim around, but not so big that we feared them drowning. It was a huge success and the kids' favorite activity in the summer. Plus, it attracted a few kids in the neighborhood.


One of my favorite things was to run (as best I could in water) around the side and create a whirlpool for the kids to float in. And, the kids are much more confident in water, which is fantastic.




Lots of Travel


Real Estate Conference in Louisville, Kentucky

I started the year by attending a conference on raising capital for buying real estate. The speakers were great, and I made some excellent connections. I regularly referenced my notes throughout the year, so it was time and money well spent.




Sledding In The Snow

I saw a report that snow levels were crazy high at my grandmother's cabin, so we took an impromptu trip (~10-hour drive) to the snow. The snow was still taller than the kids, and they loved it. I also got to take some fantastic drone photos.




San Francisco For My Dad's 70th

My dad turned 70, and we celebrated in The City. It's always great seeing family. Plus, we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge!





India Motorcycle Trip

In July, Jessi and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary by riding motorcycles through the Himalayas in Northern India. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I wrote about it and shared lots of photos here.






Yurt Camping (Without a Yurt)

In August, we went camping. I THOUGHT I had reserved a site with a yurt, but once we arrived, it became clear we didn't (we researched multiple campgrounds, and I got them mixed up). So... it was 8:30pm, and not only did we NOT have a tent, but we didn't have sleeping pads either. Here's a funny video of everyone's reaction the next morning.




West India Trip

In October, we headed back to India with some friends. We visited other friends who live there and hiked in the Himalayas. And we got to see Everest! The entire range is magnificent, and Everest blends in with the rest of them. So Everest isn't independently imposing, but it's still impressive. We also went through the jungles on which The Jungle Book is based and saw some fantastic jungle animals.





Looking to 2024

In many ways, 2024 seems like a natural continuation of 2023.


For example, my two business focuses are the same. I'll continue the same activities, though potentially doing more of them. And there's an 85% chance that Jessi and I start a real estate-focused podcast together.


We'll keep traveling, but we're not planning anything international. So far, we only have two plans: Elinor and I are going to a wedding in Louisiana and camping in California with my family. We want to visit Jessi's family, and I'd like to take the family on a backpacking trip, but they're not official plans yet.


Jessi will continue working at our church, and I'll continue serving at Love INC, the kids' school, and our church.


Part of the reason why 2024 feels like a continuation is that we both genuinely feel that we're living in God's will. It's not always easy, but it's good. So we'll keep on going! Thank you to all our friends for their support and the fun times in 2023.