Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ender's Game

As friend of mine gave me Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" as an audiobook. I've never been a huge science fiction fan, but this book was great. Once I started it, I had trouble turning it off. This book has won many awards, and as far as I can tell it deserves them all.

The book follows a child, named Ender Wiggin, through his training at battle school. He is recognized as a tactile genius and quickly progresses through school at a very young age. All his training is focused on destroying an evil alien race known as the "buggers". As would be expected, there are sweet battle scenes and plenty of childhood bantering.

One interesting point is that at the end of the book Card gives a quick interview. He talks about the book and how it came about - kind of like a special feature on a DVD. He also says that he was originally a Broadway play writer and that when he writes, it's meant to be spoken out loud. Therefore, he concludes, listening to the audiobook is the best way to enjoy his story.

Being that this is an award winning best seller, I'm sure many people have already read it. However, if you have not, I highly recommend it. It's an easy listen and really entertaining.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Business School For People Who Like Helping People

Some friends of ours let Jessi borrow Robert Kiyosaki's book The Business School For People Who Like Helping People. She read it and loved it. Jessi then let my mom borrow it. She read it and loved it. My mom returned it to us to return to our friends (are you still following?) and that's when I saw it, read it and loved it. I think now we can return it.

As with all Kiyosaki books, this one is about starting your own business. Instead of it being a how-to book, Kiyosaki stays with his tried and true style of convincing you WHY you should do it and hopefully motivate you enough that you actually go and do something about it. It works for me, though others hate it.

As a side bar: A how-to style get rich book won't work. The fortune is in doing something creative - providing a good or service that hasn't been thought of yet. When you do that, you create value and people are willing to pay for it. Someone holding your hand, telling you exactly what to do, does not create value. Beside, unless you're the one writing the book, chances are enough other people have done it that even if there is value, it's small.

OK, on with the book review. In this book, Kiyosaki talks about the benefits of network marketing.
  1. There's true equal opportunity - everyone is qualified to try and all types of have been successful. The low start-up costs and included training make this possible.
  2. Life changing business education - this one is huge. You are taught how to run and operate your own business. More on the benefits of a business later.
  3. Friends who pull you up, not push you down - your business partners want you to be successful because that feeds their success. It truly creates an atmosphere of helping.
  4. The value of a network - the trick is not just to only sell yourself, but to train others to sell. When you do that, the results are exponential (Metcalf's Law).
  5. Develops your most important business skill: sales - in order to be successful in a business you MUST learn how to sell. Networking companies train you how to do that.
  6. Leadership - as you succeed, you get put into leadership roles. You also learn how to speak to large crowds and motivate people.
  7. Not working for money - if you choose a business that offers residual income, you are building wealth, not income. In other words, you no longer have a direct 1-to-1 trade off of trading time for money. Even the tax advantages alone make it worth it.
  8. Living your dreams - Networking companies encourage you to dream and reach those dreams. This goes right with #3 & #7. They also allow you to start part-time and build at a pace that is right for you.
  9. Marriage and business - Jessi and I know this to be true. Unlike working for company alone most of the day, Jessi and I get to run our business together. We lift each other up.
One of the concepts Kiyosaki keeps refreshing is the cash flow quadrant.

I've talked about this before, and the diagram is relatively self explanatory, so I'll get to the take-away. In Built To Last, Jim Collins talks about clock building. Some companies tell time. Other companies build clocks. Both have the same end result when asked what time it is, but building clocks allows people to continue to tell the time on their own... when you are gone. That's what being a true business owner is all about: You create an independent system that works for you. Network marketing is about creating a duplicate-able process, a system that self duplicates. This is what #4 talks about - the power of that leverage.

Like most of his books, this is a quick read that is definitely worth it. You'll enjoy it and definitely learn something new.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I was given Microtrends as an audiobook for easy listening. I especially enjoyed listening to it while running. It gave me something to think about while not completely distracting me.

Mark Penn describes a microtrend as something a group doing something makes up at least 1% of the population and is growing. He then goes on to describe 75 microtrends he has observed based on poll data and other research. Interestingly, this book was published in 2005 and it already showing signs of being old: He predicted the Zune was going to transform the way we share music.

One interesting trend Penn points out is the coming difference in age between the US and Europe. Currently, US birth rates are keeping up with death rates. However, Europeans are having far fewer children then deaths. Right now the average age in US/Europe is 25/26. However, in 15 years it will be closer to 26/50. There will literally be a generational gap in addition to an ocean. This could have huge implications. If Europeans this we're brash and stupid now, just wait.

So, if you're looking for a fun read to fill you with a bunch of facts you probably won't remember, then I recommend this book. However, I would probably go with something more timeless in the future that talks about principles. Still, it's fun to review the last 10-15 years and talk about explicit trends and discuss why they're happening.

In an effort to stay more up-to-date, Penn does have a website which features more current trends. That's at least worth checking out.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Spend Less Than You Earn

This week's financial class was one that seemed pretty basic on the surface, but when you start digging into it, you find it's really not that easy. We learned four principles:

  1. Spend less than you earn
  2. Avoid the use of debt
  3. Build and emergency fund
  4. Set long-term goals

Clearly, all of these are inter-related: If you can't spend less than you make, it makes it hard to avoid debt and build an emergency fund. When looking for practical advice, I recommend the book The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason. It's half a how-to book and half a story book. There's a bunch of short stories, and each one has a clear, practical tip. Though, in all honestly, I think it's more a mindset than a lack of ideas. Once you decide to get out of debt, you will figure out ways to do it on your own.

So, I would follow Stephen Covey's advice. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of Covey's habits is to "Begin with the end in mind". I like doing this because it helps to focus on what's important. So, I recommend setting long-term goals first. Give yourself a purpose to get out of debt. Once you have that - and truly want to achieve that goal - you will begin spending less and saving more.

Your goals will obviously depend on where you are in life and what your priorities are. So, think of the following suggestion as a primer for some possible goals.
  • Pay off your house.
  • Save enough money to send your kinds to college.
  • Contribute $5,000 to a mission organization over the next 10 years.
  • Pay off all credit cards.
  • Contribute $4,000 each year towards retirement.
  • Save $20,000 for a down payment on a rental property.
Think broadly and pick things you really want. My mom wanted to be able to take the whole family on a nice vacation every 5 years. She would save around $100 each month which generally would pay for all 5 of us. Two years before it was time, she would start to ask us where we wanted to go. A year before it was time she would start actually making plans. By the time we went we had most of, if not all of, it paid for. Now, that is a savings plan anyone could get excited out.

As a final thought, I'll leave it to SNL. Then next time you're thinking about spending money you don't have, picture this: (

Monday, February 01, 2010

Dedicating Our Finances

As promised, we've learned more about managing our personal finances and I'd like to share. Here's what we learned this week.

The first step in managing your finances for God is to dedicate it all to Him. I realize this is much harder to do than what I just wrote.

The first step is realizing you own nothing. "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." (Psalm 24:1). This means your wealth is not actually yours. Instead, you are simply a steward. A steward of your house, car, family, and money. Everything. Take a minute and wrap your head around that one. This is the exact same relationship I have with HP. They gave me a computer to use and take care of. When I'm done at HP, I will give the computer back. Everything I do on the computer should be to help HP. Now image you worked for God and he gave you everything in your life. Are you using all of it for the good of Him? I realize it's a high standard - I'm not even perfect with HP.

Of course, there are some benefits to this situation too. Since I'm just a steward (or manager, whatever), I do not need to be wrapped up in all "my" things, because they're not mine. If I lose or gain something, it shouldn't matter because it wasn't mine to begin with. Hopefully you also understand that, like when borrowing something, it's still your responsibility to take care of it and try not to break or lose it. It's a subtle shift in thinking, but a powerful one.

It was strange waking up this morning because when I looked at Jessi, I realized she's been temporarily entrusted to me. I need to take care of her, but not for my own pleasure, but for God's pleasure. In some ways, that implies a whole lot more responsibility.