Saturday, November 28, 2009

How to Install a Water Back Flow Prevention Valve

Have you ever wondered how to install a water back flow prevention valve?

When my parents came to visit over Thanksgiving my dad helped Jessi and I install one. We were concerned that water was getting under the house from the storm drains and installing this valve will stop that from happening. This video chronicles the process and fun we had installing the system.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Garage Videos

Jessi and I are currently in the middle of our garage adventure, and believe me, it's an adventure. So far we've only had to buy one item because we couldn't find it - a can opener. We've created our own inside joke for anything else we can't find, "Oh, it must be with the can opener." Let me tell you, whatever container that can opener is in, is huge.

I created these two videos during our move, but haven't uploaded them until now because I didn't have my personal computer out. The first is me ruminating on our "stuff" and the second is a short clip of Jessi and I playing "I Spy".

Friday, November 20, 2009

All Fixed

For all of you worried sick about our Lego accident I thought I'd give a quick update. Tonight Jessi and I started a show on Fancast and worked to fix our tower. We slowly sorted all the pieces and started sticking it back together. Thankfully it's such a symmetrical structure it wasn't too tough.

So our Lego Eiffel Tower is once again complete and Jessi is all smiles again. It is a happy ending. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Broken Tower

This evening I was getting ready for a meeting with a tax consultant regarding our duplex. I was looking over documents and had asked Jessi to find some other paperwork since she always seems to know where they are. When the door to the garage opened (remember, we're still doing that whole thing) I heard gushing tears. I immediately jumped up assuming something had fallen on Jessi and that she was hurt.

Not exactly. While standing up with the paperwork, she bumped our Lego Eiffel Tower and sent it crashing to the cement floor. Jessi was in tears because she had accidentally broken a set of Legos. Now, I'll be honest. This kind of warmed my heart in a "guyish" type of way. I knew Jessi enjoyed building Legos with me, but I didn't realize she was THAT attached to it.

So this weekend I will get to play the role of super husband who figures out how to put our Eiffel Tower back together. At first glance I don't think it'll be too tough and I'm actually kind of excited to try and build it again. Then I'm going to store it in one of our obscure corners where we don't go... next to the Death Star which would probably make both of us cry if broken.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Leadership Definition

This last Saturday Jessi and I went to a Univera regional event. It's a ton of fun because we get to see many friends from across the country. It's also educational with great speakers all day. I thought I'd share one of the things I learned today: The definition of a leader (at least according to Univera, though I'll try to generalize)

Clearly Established Priorities & Values
First and foremost it's important for a leader to have balance in their life. Some areas to consider are spiritual, family (spouse, children), business, recreation, fitness & friends. If their life is in balance, they will find consistent success and not burn out.

Desire to be Free Financially
A leader has goals, both short-term and long-term. More importantly, they're willing to sacrifice to achieve those goals (yes, be willing to sacrifice TV). It's actually this desire, not just financial freedom, that drives people to be and do their best. Without desire you get one of two possibilities: 1) They give up when times get tough or 2) There's a flurry of activity with little actually being accomplished.

Coachable & Teachable
A leader will use a system that works, and improve the system when it doesn't work. They will study and strive to be the best they can be. Part of that involves reading daily and attending training courses.

Is a Team Player
A leader is willing to do the work themselves to become great (sometimes called "Leading from the front). Others are inspired others because of their leader's work ethic and compassion. Obviously, leaders work well with people. They are positive, energetic, empowering and engaged.

Invests in the Business
I'm talking both time and money here. A leader invests in people and themselves to help achieve their goals. With Univera, this involves buying products and going to team events. Maybe it requires buying a piece of equipment for a different business.

Has the Magic!
People are attracted to leaders - they are inspired and believe the vision set by the leader. Leaders are fun to be with. They laugh a lot and are always smiling. They also submit their ego, utilize personal power & credibility, are mentally tough and have a huge heart for people.

Draws out the Key Leaders In Their Group Everyday
A great leader figures out who else is a leader within their organization and helps them become even better.

Well, those are some thoughts on leadership I took away from this weekend. I know it's much more complicated, and in some ways simpler, but I thought this was a good way to think about leadership. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Couple Thoughts On Getting Out of The Rat Race

I recently had lunch with a new friend and the conversation quickly turned to one of my favorite topics: getting out of the rat race. I love talking about why people want to get out and then sharing ideas on how they're doing it. I've learned a lot from reading and talking with people and thought I'd share just a little bit.

The Why
Despite everyone having seemingly different reasons (travel more, sleep in, be with children, etc.), I've found that it always boils down to one thing: they're seeking some sort of control in their life. Once I realized this, it opened me up to even more possibilities. What I am looking to control? Can I achieve it without getting out of the rat race? For example, if all I wanted was to be able to sleep until 8am, I could simply change jobs and reach my goal.

The How-To
Just as much fun to talk about are ways to create passive income which frees up your time to do other things. Note: passive income does not mean you never have to touch it. You will have to check in and do stuff, it just doesn't require 40 hours every week. Now we all know of the classic businesses like real estate and laundry mats which take a significant amount of capital to get started. Instead, I wanted to share a couple smaller ideas I've heard.
  • Own and rent pinball machines to other businesses. This is exactly what Warren Buffet did when he was a kid.
  • Own and rent candy/soda machines to other businesses. Jessi knew some family friends who did this with each of their kids to teach them about passive income.
  • Raise animals for later sale. My friend bought some cows, is raising them, and will sell them in a couple years. His kids help him feed and take care of them. If you already have the land, this could work well.
  • Grow plants. Another friend grows hay. It's relatively low maintenance, you earn some money, and the tax advantages are nice.
  • Create a website selling drop-shipped items. You sell it, another company makes and delivers if for you. Being an amazon affiliate is another type of example.

There are tons of ideas out there. Each idea I just mentioned could potentially get you out of the rat race, plus they're great learning tools for kids. You start small and continue to reinvest to grow your business. Eventually, you reach a large enough scale that you can hire someone to help with the day-to-day operations (Raising 12 cows is do-able. A couple hundred requires help). For example, we own a duplex now which we manage. We will buy and manage more property in the future. Eventually we'll own enough that we can trade them in for a larger complex and hire a management company to run it for us. Remember: owning a business, not managing it, is what you want if you're looking to get out of the rat race.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fix Up Videos

Jessi and I were in high gear this weekend working on our new digs. It's a lot of work, but ultimately we're enjoying it. Here's one of my favorite videos which captures our realization that we still have a long ways to go on this painting project.

We have more short clips which you can watch on my YouTube channel.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The First of Firsts - A Slumber Party!

Since last night was the first night we owned our first property we decided to have a simple dinner and spend the night there.

Since I had jiu jistu practice last night we didn't arrive until 8:30pm - dark and wet. We set up our sleeping bags in the living room while our water boiled for Macaroni & Cheese. Then we did, what I imagine any new home owner does the first night: we walked into each room, doubled checked the lights, heaters, cabinets/closets and basically took a mental inventory of things to be improved in the future (oh yeah, we need to buy a shower curtain bar).

Of course, improving things on a rental property is much different that your dream house. Everything we decide to do will be measured against some sort of future ROI. So, as much as I think granite counter tops are cool, we will not be installing them.

Once we finished dinner we talked a little bit about Univera and our short-term plans to grow the business. You see, if Jessi moves one more rank up, she will be earning enough that she won't need to substitute teach if she doesn't want to. Since we woke up at 5am to get back to our apartment so Jessi could get ready for school, this is our next big priority after we do the initial improvements. :)

Speaking of improvements, here's our plan: On Friday we're going to deep clean the entire interior - I don't actually know what this means, but Jessi seems to know what she's talking about. Then, sometime on Saturday we'll prep the interior for painting. I imagine this will involve lots more scrubbing and minor touch-ups, we're not going to dive into any major improvements yet. Then Sunday through whenever, we'll be painting.

Then we'll focus on the exterior, while moving our stuff in at the same time, of course. One of the major issues with this property was water under the house. From crawling under it, it's clear that water was at one time at least 12" deep - not great. So, we've fixed all the damage under the house and now we'll be focusing on preventing water from getting under the house in the first place.

Normally, this would be a deal killer for most people. It almost was for us. Thankfully, my dad was able to come up and check the property out and provide his insights. He's an underground contractor, so dealing with water, especially underground, is something he's excellent at.

First, the drain under the house shares the same main outlet as the other rain gutters on the property. We believe this is causing back pressure on the drain under the house. So, not only is the drain under the house not working (ie not draining), water is actually flowing back into the crawl space. Therefore, we'll be installing a back flow prevention valve to at least stop water from flowing the wrong direction. Could this cause an issue with the other rain gutters? We'll see, and we have a plan if it does.

Finally, we need to re-grade the front and backyard. Currently, the backyard's slope is relatively flat. It's not bad, but it also means that water isn't running away from the property. We're going to add a little more slope in the backyard to get the water a little further away. The front yard has a similar situation so we'll be re-shaping that as well. All the roof's gutters have already been fixed, so that'll help too.

Then we'll just sit back and watch. If we need to, there's more we can do, with each solution getting more and more creative. Installing a sump pump is actually 3 or 4 on the list of "try this next".

Clearly we have lots to do in the short-term. Personally, I'm excited for all the new toys... err... tools we get to buy for our projects.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Property

Jessi and I are officially investment property owners! We purchased a duplex in Albany Oregon and it is sweet. We will be living in one side with the other side rented out. This is fantastic! We're excited on so many different levels. We're excited to start making improvements on the property. We're excited to actually have a front and back yard. We're excited to be one step closer to getting out of the rat race.

We've been kind of hush about it because the process is so uncertain. With the credit crunch, everything has become so stringent that seemingly little things have been killing deals. This one was particularly interesting because we kept finding little surprises at every turn. Thankfully, the people selling the property were remarkable because they were very professional dealing with issues as they occurred. With everyone's perseverance this deal came together perfectly in the end.

Now the real fun begins. Our first step is to paint the inside of our unit and start moving in. Then we'll begin working on some preventative maintenance to make sure it gets through the winter just fine.

So, this is the first of what I'm sure will be many posts. We just wanted to share that we've got our first property and it is awesome!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Media Fast

This last week, you may [not] have noticed little - actually, zero - online activity from me. That's because I've been on a media fast.

What is a media fast? Well, it when you don't consume any form of media. This is typically when legalistic friends would start to clarify what counts as "media". Basically, I took a break of news (Google Reader), videos (Youtube), social media (Facebook, Twitter & Friendfeed), talk radio, TV, video games, movies and books. If it was entertainment related, I ignored it. The only thing I allowed myself to have was music since it was mostly just background filler only.

I got the idea from a book I was listening to: "The 4-Hour Work Week" by Timothy Ferris. In the book he talks about eliminating distractions and batching activities (and sooo much more. I HIGHLY recommend this book). In one part he challenges readers to go on a media fast for a week. It sounded like a fun challenge and I took it.

Here are a few things I observed:

The first day was REALLY boring because I didn't have anything to fill the time. At one point I was sitting on the couch staring off into space. Jessi walked by and ask if I'm OK. I replied feebly, "Yeah, I'm on a media fast for a week. This about all I can think to do right now. I don't know how I'm going to make it."

When work started on Monday I actually really started to enjoy zero distractions. I don't know about you, but my main mode of operation is to have open Gmail, Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter and Friendfeed in addition to whatever I'm working on which might be 1-3 things at once. Throughout the day I jump between all of these. With only one project open at a time, I found I got more work done - shocker! Seriously, the surprise came on Tuesday when I was working at my desk and a co-worker came over to ask about something. Normally this is not a big deal, I'm half doing everything anyways. However, is was exceptionally weird this time because it really disrupted my flow. It was at that point that I noticed how "hard" I was actually working.

Speaking of work. I got more done last week than I normally accomplish. The really impressive part is that I put in less time than normal from a time-sheet standpoint. In terms of actual work, I actually put in more time and the quality of that work was better. So, I accomplished more in less time. Media fast = good.

Oh yeah! I forgot to mention perhaps the hardest part of this weekly challenge. I only checked my email twice a day for at most an hour each time. As an email addict, this was particularly tough. Ferris suggested that we never get email that is so critical that we need to check it once every 10 minutes. I can say, after a week of only checking work and personal email twice a day (I even missed some check-ins on my personal email) - I get absolutely zero critical emails. If I did get something critical, like from my real estate agent for the property we're trying to buy, it was followed up by a call or text.

The most surprising part was my in box. When I started, I had about 40 emails in my inbox. By Monday, it was empty. Now there have been many times I've had an empty inbox, but this is the first time I easily maintained it an entire week. Here's the secret: I allocated an hour to read and respond to each email. Previously, I would check my email when I had somewhere between 30 seconds and 10 minutes of dead time. That wasn't enough to respond to longer requests and so they would just get piled up. Since I had a dedicated hour to respond, I easily got through all of them.

So, my week of fasting is over. As I re-integrate back to normal here are a couple of things I hope to improve:

I'm going through my Google Reader and applying the 80/20 rule. I'm going to find the top 20% of news sources that give me 80% of the news I care about. I'll depend on David Parry and my brother for the rest.

I'm also going to be more purposeful about email. I probably won't be able to stick with twice a day, but it might turn into three 40-minute chunks. I still need to experiment more to find the right balance. I might also batch all my Internet communications together. So, in that 40-minute time frame, check email, Facebook, Twitter and the news. That way I get my "fix" and can maintain relationships while keeping it separate from when I'm working.

Feel free to ask more about it. I even suggest giving it a try. I realize for some of you this won't be a big deal at all, but for others I think it'll be a great learning experience.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Celebrating Summer Successes

On Saturday Jessi and I headed over to Newport to hang out on the beach. We set personal goals for each other at the beginning of summer and the reward, if we met our goals, would be a trip to the beach. We try to follow the SMART method when setting goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely - though I think A & R are the same...) and it worked this summer. One goal for Jessi, for example, was to set up and hold a woman's health night once a month during summer. She did that, and it was a blast (so I hear).

As you can tell, I'm a firm believer in goal setting, visualizing and rewarding. I felt this was going to be especially helpful for Jessi this summer because without work (teaching)... summer... can... quickly... slip... away and... you wonder... what...happened... to... all those... plans. I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about.

So, we headed out to Newport after doing our weekly team Univera call. I tend to try and fit as many activities as possible into a day so here's what we did:

  • We started out with a picnic on the beach. The weather was still cool and the waves were crashing hard. I kind of (kind of!) wished I had brought my swimming suit.
  • We tried flying Jessi's kite. The experience was OK. The wind was blowing, but not really hard enough to just stand there and let the kite do it's thing. As a result, I did a lot of running...
  • Afterward we took a break. I half napped while Jessi read out loud. She's currently reading "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. I must say, it's an entertaining book and packed with a lots of great information about trends in the nutrition industry.
  • With enough sand in our pants we headed over to Newport's Bay to hunt for Salt Water Taffy. We found a great shop called Doodle Bugs that supplied us with more than enough candy for the night.
  • We then watched the sea lions and did some superficial window shopping. My favorite part was guessing how much this one tiny house for sale was selling for. If you can cobble together $495,000, this tiny house that almost has a view could be yours.
  • Next, we walked around the piers and checked out all the fishing boats. Since it was a Saturday evening by now 90% of the ships were docked. We spend time guessing how they worked and what type of fish they caught. I decided it would be fun to work on a fishing boat for a week or so, but realized it might be a while before I realize that dream.
  • We finished up the night eating at a restaurant called Pier 839. It's a relatively new place and definitely worth checking out. We ate in the place called the living room. We literally sat on a couch near a fireplace with a view of the bay. I know. For the first half of dinner we had the place all to ourselves - very romantic. :) I was determined to get some seafood and they came through on that promise. The best part was that their prices were great. While walking around earlier I had downloaded Yelp's iPhone app and that's how we found this place. This experience has certainly made me a Yelp believer.
So that was our day of celebrating summer successes. We took 15,700 steps and each one was a total blast.

Looking forward, our next checkpoint will be the end of the year. So far I have mixed results on my yearly goals, but there's still time. ha ha. I highly encourage everyone to set, accomplish and reward a couple goals in these next three and a half months.

Monday, August 17, 2009

First Parry-Furlo Camping Trip

For the first time in recorded history and Parry and Furlo clan headed over to Oregon's coast for a good ol' fashioned camp out. For the most part it was pretty sweet. It was the first time the Parrys had been as an entire family which meant it was hilarious watching their kids experience the greater outdoors for an extended period of time. I would say both Grace and Ethan handled it very well - especially the nearby sand pit. It was also no surprise that Ethan loved smorse.

The only semi-weird part of the whole experience were the neighbors. You went to a camp ground called Sandbeach. We thought, "Oh cool, sand and a beach. Perfect." We quickly realized that the rest of the world recognized this as a perfect spot to go ATVing. Thankfully there were quiet hours from midnight through 6am, so we at least got a couple hours of quiet. Still, after the first evening we acclimated to the constant drone of engines and not-quite-all-burned exhaust. We did go out and see what all the fuss was about, and I must admit that does look pretty fun. We decided that next time we'll try a different location or buy ATVs so we can join in the fun.

I'm not sure when Kelli is going to talk about it, but you can check to read more about the fun.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Review of "Growing A Business" by Paul Hawken

I just finished the book "Growing A Business" by Paul Hawken. I actually started it a year ago, but between audio books and online news articles, reading "real" books slowed down.

Anyways (do you really care about my reading habits?), since I've finished the book, I thought I'd share a little bit about it.

This book is designed for people who want to start, or have just started a business. I would also say it's for any owner that is looking for ways to improve their existing business.

In some ways it's a classic business book, but with a non-acumen bias. All the examples are simple and easy to understand. He starts from the beginning - do something you love - and goes through hiring and retaining people to help you grow beyond the start-up stages. Through the book he shares good examples and gives concrete ideas and tries really hard to keep the book generalized and timeless.

One of my favorite things about this book is his view of patience. His business was bootstrapped (not that he used that word, it's too buzzy) and therefore gives advice on how to grow smart and slow. He talks about setting up structures so your business doesn't get too big and you lose control.

His tips are practical and I felt like I could implement them right away. For example, he talks about getting permission from the market place to sell to it, and how to go about it. This is something I can work on right away with Univera.

Amazon also has some good reviews as well. I recommend it.

Oh yeah! At the end of the book it made me want to start up a bagel shop in Corvallis. Of course, I think there's also a huge opportunity for something fast and convenient off of 99. Maybe a gas station that doubles as a bagel shop would be promising. I'll have to noodle on it. :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Puzzles and Plants

I love puzzles and I love plants...

I just scored three new Springbok puzzles today for only $4! Springbok are the best because the pieces are actually substantial and fit together better than most jigsaws. I used to do puzzles when I was little and it always seemed like I had a puzzle out on the puzzle table being worked in between trumpet lessons, track practice and dinner. I got reunited with my love of puzzles when I found out that one of my best friends, Carly Kenagy, and her mom loved puzzling too! I do miss puzzling with them...we did many a good puzzle over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks through college.

I recently finished the hardest puzzle I have ever done. It is a black and white photomosaic picture of James Dean compiled of several smaller pictures of him and or other movie stars from his films. It took me about 4 years to complete...I would start and then put it away and then start again. I finally buckled down and said it's never going back in the box. I had to create a whole new system of puzzling to get it done looking at the bottom left of each piece and sorting them by shape. It was very fulfilling to finish that one! I framed it and it actually looks quite nice.

I am excited about these new puzzles. As you can see there is a picture of Oreo's and milk, runners galore and a nice garden. I think I will start with the runner one since I am in Marathon mode right now. I am sure they will all be fun. I hope there are no missing pieces since I picked them up at a second hand store...but there is only one way to find out!

I also have a love of plants. I have quite a few potted plants and am looking forward to having a huge garden and yard someday that I can tend to and get lost in. For now my little beauties keep me company. In my collection are ivies, coleus, spider plants, french lavender, oregano, dalias, gerbera daisy's, sweet potato vines(to the left) and one jalapeno plant(below right). They keep me entertained and I love adding oxygen and life to our little apartment. I can't wait until some little peppers start growing on the jalapeno plant! I see the little buds starting!

I just planted the sweet potato shoots a week or so ago. I had a sweet potatoe that got pushed to the back of the pile and started sprouting so I decided to take a couple of the sprouts and see if they would grow. Sure enough they did! They are really beautiful vines and add a nice mix to one of the pots I keep in the house.

So there you have it puzzles and plants. Two of the great hobbies that keep me smiling.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Potluck in the Park

Yesterday I had the opportunity to volunteer with some other Univera associates in Portland. I spent three hours helping with the Potluck in the Park program. I was a little nervous because I went up by myself (James stayed back to play a double header for softball) and I didn't really know where I was going or what exactly I'd be doing.

I found O'bryant Square and the huge crowd had already gathered. I saw my Univera team in the distance and I was so relieved that I was in the right place. It was like seeing members of my family and knowing that I had made it. There was already a huge crowd gathered and waiting to get fed.

I stood next to Tommy at the caserole table and scooped heaping spoonfuls of interesting mixtures of ground beef, potatoes and vegetables onto over 500 plates of food. The line monitor kept reminding us to be conservative because there were still a lot of people in line and only give one scoop. I found it hard to meet this request when hungry eyed men and women asked for just one more scoop of food. I had no idea when the last time was that they had eaten who knows it they remembered either. I continued to genereously scoop caserole onto plates and as the food started to dwindle I looked up and saw that the line of people was still out into the street.

I just scooped and scooped however much people wanted and then we got to the last pan of food. There were still people coming through the line and each time I scooped out of the pan it made my heart ache. There were about two scoops left in the pan and I heard the line monitor shout out, "That's it...they've all been through!" I couldn't believe we had enough food for all of those people. I was reminded of when Jesus fed the 5,000 with fish and bread and there were leftovers.

There were people there for many different reasons and many of them for reasons I will never know. Even now as I sit at my computer in my appartment with my husband close by I feel the extreme gap between my position in this world and the position of the people I fed yesterday. I know conceptually that I did make a difference in helping and I continue to help people who need in many ways...but I can't stop thinking..."is it enough?"

If you ever have the opportunity to volunteer for Potluck in the Park I highly recommend it. The potluck happens every Sunday at 2:15 and goes until 5:30 with clean up. There is contact information at their website (link is above) and all groups/people are welcome to help.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Writer's Block

So... I've wanted to write something for a while. I've actually tried on multiple occasions and for some reason I get stuck. I actually have three blog posts that are partially written, but for some reason I can't think of a good way to finish them. Lame. I know.

So instead of actually finishing those, because I don't think I can, I'll share what I was GOING to write about and call that a blog post. Lame. I know. But that's all I've got right now.

Best Friends.... Forever
In this one I talk about social networks and how it's both good and bad. It's good because we get to connect with people we know and might have lost contact with previously. It's bad because it takes bandwidth away from people you're currently hanging out with. As a result, our circle of friends is always growing, and never really shrinks. Personally, I see a potential problem with this, but maybe some sort of filtering system would fix it, but until then all future relationships will suffer.

Proverbs 16
I was reading through Proverbs and wanted to share some of the things I learned. This post started off really strong by talking about being positive and about making plans while letting God determine your steps. Then it started to taper off...

Spring Cleaning in The Summer
Basically Jessi started cleaning our storage room. She loves it and I'm coping because I'm a pack rat (thanks Mom and Dad). I started out talking about our philosophies about order. Jessi loves order no matter what the cost. I do a mental cost-benefit analysis and therefore leave some things messy (like the storage room). It started out funny, but I quickly lost steam. Then I tried to pull out something deep and insightful and it just didn't work when in conjunction with the funny part.

So there you go. Three semi-posts in one. Next time I'll try not to wimp out. Lame. I know.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Marathon Training

I am about 6 weeks into my marathon training schedule for the Portland Marathon on Oct. 4th and it is such a blast! I am one of those weird runners who doesn't like to run with music...I guess I just like the rhythm and peace that my footsteps and breathing create. I initially wanted to run 11 minute miles for the marathon but am finding that through training I have been able to maintain a 10 minute mile pace (about 6mph) for more than 10 miles. I may not be able to maintain that for the whole marathon...but that is my new goal.

It surprises me how much our bodies can adjust to exercise or repair themselves so quickly when they have the proper nutrition and consistent training. I never really listened to my body when I was training in high school and college...I would just do what the coaches said. Now that I am my own coach I really do have to figure out what is best for me. I usually do one long run each week followed by three shorter runs to work on speed. I am up to 11 miles followed by 4-5 mile runs. Each week I add about 4-5 miles overall. It seems to be a good incline so far.

It has been really exciting to watch the improvement in my times and the feeling of running further and faster than I ever have in my life! I am continually thinking of my favorite verse on my long runs..."Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will rise up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be weary; they will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31. I also think of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians, "I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, so that I myself will not be disqualified."

I just wanted to share a bit of what I have been up to lately.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Real Estate Thoughts

We've been learning a lot about trying to buy an investment property and I thought I'd share some of the things we've been learning. We still haven't purchased anything yet, but boy are we ready when we find the right deal. Even though I'm going to focus on real estate, I think these four principles can hold true for any venture.

First off, here's were we're at: we've looked at a lot of property. Our goal was to evaluate 100 different places before we purchased. I don't think we've seen 100, but we've had at least 60 properties put in front of us, ran numbers on at least 40 (probably more), visited over 20 and made one serious offer. We've limited ourselves to duplexes, tri-plexes and 4-plexes, so it's been hard simply finding enough properties. Still, a couple pop up on our radar each week so it's a continual process. Just today I ran the numbers on a duplex in Philomath. It's 4-2 house that's been converted into a 2-1 duplex. The numbers are reasonable and depending on how some of my assumptions actually pan out, this could be a profitable property. Still, even if this one doesn't work out there will definitely be more along the way. This bring us to what Jessi and I have learned during this process.

Patience is needed. Clearly, looking at a 100 properties takes time. There were a couple properties early on that I thought could be good investments, but we weren't ready because we didn't have a confident picture of the market. This reminds me of Excel (What?! Stay with me). I often get people asking me how I became skilled at using Excel. My answer is, "Hours and hours of practice. What I just showed you in 2 seconds took me 2 hours of playing 3 years ago to figure out." Finding good investments works the same way. You need to take the time to learn, experiment ask questions. Sure, we've passed up on some good deals, but now we're ready to jump confidently on an investment when it comes available.

The deal of the lifetime comes once a week. I read this line in a book by Dolf de Roos and it really resounded with me. So far I watched two really good deals go by. Seriously, sometimes I'm in disbelief at how little some people are willing to let their property go for. Of course, that's when I kick myself for not making a stupid low offer. Then I remember that I've already seen two and there's at least two more deals of a lifetime waiting for us.

Fall in love with the deal, not the property. Being that we're looking for investment property it's all about the numbers. It doesn't matter how cute it is. It doesn't matter that isn't in the best neighborhood. In the end it's about the profit, just like any other business. Forgetting this will cause all sorts of pain. Jessi and I have gotten into the habit of filling out a cash flow form before physically looking at any property to decide if it's something we're even interested in. When we view the property, we're looking for ways to add value and save money to make the property even more profitable. Sometimes I'll say to Jessi, "Oh there's a good looking one." To which she dutiful replies, "I don't care. What's it's cash flow." How awesome is that?!

Mentors and cheerleaders are required. With all the ups and downs of finding an investment you really need help. Mentors are great because they can help with advice and knowledge. We currently have a few. Each mentor has an area of expertise that we pull from. Some help us with the knowledge of the local market. Others help us with our negotiating and posture. And finally some will help us with our philosophy in life. Each of our mentors have been where we want to be and are wonderful for seeking advice. This definitely helps avoid common pitfalls.
Just as important are cheerleaders. These are people who root us on and get us excited about what we're doing. We share our trials and triumphs and they are a blast to celebrate with.

We're still looking for our first investment property, so I'm sure more lessons are to follow. Still we think these are valuable and worth sharing now.