Thursday, January 27, 2011

LinkedIn InMaps Visual Of Network

LinkedIn launched and pretty cool experimental feature showing the power of the data they collect called InMaps. The above picture is what my network looks like. Here's a key:

Orange = MBA classmates
Blue = Everyone else from my MBA program (Professors, students from other years, etc)
Yellow = Family
Pink = HP colleagues
Green = Everyone else

Overall, this is a sweet visual. I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see most of my connections are from the MBA program. Where else do you get to know 50-100 people really well (church?... maybe) and who are actively interested in networking?

My activity on LinkedIn tends to ebb and wane. Most of the time I wait for people to connect with me, but every once in a while I get in the mood to connect and send out 15 invites within a couple days. I also tend to not ask for recommendations, but instead surprise people by freely giving them a recommendation.

What I need to improve upon is not just accepting those connection requests, but taking the time to follow up with a personal message asking how they're doing and offering to help in any way that I can (and giving a couple examples - write a recommendation, make an introduction, answer a question, etc.) That'll add more value to the connection by setting the precedent that this is more than a list of people I know. I do this for some connections, but I'm simply not consistent enough.

So with that, feel free to connect to me on Linkedin.
Or, make your own InMap.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jiu Jitsu Tournament

This weekend Jessi and I watched a jiu jitsu tournament with some friends (David & his kids, and Pat) at the Oregon State Fairground's Pavilion in Salem, OR. This was my first time going and it was really fun. It started out with mens-beginners, with different weight classes spread across the mats. Then it transitioned to mens-intermediate, mens-advanced, women... and children!

Watching mens-beginners was fun because we are currently training for our blue belt with one of the competitors. He ended up winning his weight class which was really exciting. Watching the women was also fun because one of the competitors is helping David and I prepare for our blue belt test (btw, she also won in the advanced group). It encouraging to know that we're training with a solid group of athletes.

I would have to say though, that watching the children compete was the most fascinating. I don't know if you can see it clearly in the picture, but they had 4 & 5 year olds competing. Furthermore, they weren't just rolling around haphazardly, they actually knew their fundamentals extremely well! I was very impressed. There's just something funny about watching kids do "adult" activities - and do them well.

Overall, it was a fun event. I'm glad we decided to go and am looking forward to going again. I don't think I'll be competing any time soon, but watching would be fun.

Monday, January 17, 2011

RunKeeper Pro [iPhone App Review]

As I've talked about, Jessi and I have a goal of running a half-marathon this year. It'll be a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. Being the analyst that I am (see my post analyzing the number of steps I take), it would be nice to be able to keep track of my progress. One possible solution was Nike+, but sadly my iPhone is one generation too old to use their little pedometer thingy.

Other apps also existed, but they either cost money or didn't really strike me as too useful. Then came along RunKeeper Pro (iTunes link). Normally $10, right now it's free in the app store through the end of January (UPDATE: It's now free for all time). So naturally, I downloaded it. After using it a few times, I can safely say I would happily spend the $10 to buy it.

Here's what it does:

You start up the app and select the type of activity you want to do. You can also select a playlist from your iPod to start playing (I don't - I just start up my audiobook). Then you start your activity. With the aid of GPS, it's able to track your location, distance, mile splits, elevation, total time and approximate calories burned, and more. Here's what a 3 mile run looks like:

There are also a bunch of settings. You can have the app tell you your time, distance, pace, etc. It can do it every mile, every 5 minutes or on-demand. You can also manually enter in runs for when you're on a treadmill. When you're done, you get a nice summary of your results.

Then you head over to the website. There you can see all your activities with a beautiful dashboard displaying how your run went. It's interactive too - giving you more detail as you hover over different parts of the display.

Finally, you can link to Facebook and see your friend's workouts (for example, I can see what Jessi's been running). You can also link to Foursquare and pick-up a 5K badge once you run that far.

If you run, and own an iPhone, I highly recommend picking up this app, especially since it's free for the rest of the month. I enjoy looking at the data and tracking my progress. I'm sure this will get even better as I start running longer distances. Being able to listen to audiobooks while running was huge for me, and this will make running even more enjoyable.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

2011 Goals

Here we are in 2011. For us, 2010 was very busy and full of a lot of excitement. Just purchasing a property probably contributed to that feeling of possibilities. Interestingly, I feel like 2011 will be a year of hard work. I mean, we're still pursuing fun activities, but it's going to take substantial effort to accomplish our goals.

Jessi put together three words as our theme this year: Consistency, Persistence & Completion. I think this captures well how we feel. So, with that as context, here are my goals for 2011. I tried to focus on new things, while keeping older ones in mind (like for example, continuing to read my Bible regularly).

1) Connect with HS dudes
I realize this goal seems nebulous, and it's purposeful. Some background: Jessi and I started helping out with the high school group at our church. We've even been given small groups - I got the freshman boys. Due to sports and other activities, it's been difficult to create really meaningful relationships with them so far. So this year's goal is to do that. I'll measure it as a success if 3 things happen: First, we find a regular time to meet as a small group. Second, we all know each other and say "hi" when we see each other. Third, I have a level 4 conversation with at least 2 dudes.

2) Manage 1 other property
After managing our property for a year, we have a genuine desire to manager other people's property. We love knowing we're helping provide homes for other people. So, we started taking a property management class (because you're required to be licensed in Oregon to manage 3rd party properties), and will be taking the license test later this year. Then we'll officially register our business and start promoting. We're also talking about our potential competitive advantages and will be creating some semblance of a business plan. We're actually required to have an operating manual, so that'll help crystalize how we run our business.

3) Run a half-marathon
Jessi and I set this goal together and then immediately signed up for Corvallis' first annual half-marathon in April. So this goal should also be accomplished relatively easily. Now I just need to get in shape and avoid injury. I don't think it'll be too difficult, but 13 miles is a long distance no matter how you slice it.

4) Earn blue belt in jiu jitsu
This will happen in February if all goes well. My friend and I have been training hard for this. You have to attend at least 120 classes and be able to demonstrate a basic competency in jiu jitsu. This month is our big push to make sure we know and perform everything fluidly.

5) Fly in a Fighter Jet (I don't know why, but I feel the need to capitalize Fighter Jet)
This is definitely the most exciting and most difficult goal I have. I'm not even 100% sure how I'm going to accomplish this goal, and I even contemplated leaving it off. Then I figured at the very least I'd have some fun stories to tell. So, my plan of action is to start asking if people know someone (who knows someone?) that might be able to do something in the way of riding in a Fighter Jet. I also need to decide how much money I'm willing to spend to accomplish this goal.

6) Find 3 customers
Like I shared earlier, I didn't accomplish this goal last year. We really struggled with the transition from being "friends" to "being friends who also sell a fantastic product". Logically, I get it: We love Univera's products, and would recommend them to everyone; therefore, why not earn some income off of those recommendations. The problem is that the foundation of the relationship is not based on either health or the products. However, there are two situations in which this seems to work: First, you have a very old relationship (like 7+ years) where the transition doesn't overshadow the existing foundation. Second, in a brand new relationship where the foundation is not set. My plan is to focus on those new relationships - meeting people BECAUSE of health or product needs. This fundamentally changes the nature of the relationship. The trick is creating those situations and I'll share my plans at a later date.

So yeah. It's going to be a busy year with a lot of hard work. Here's what we're looking at for just the first half of the year:
- Train for blue belt test during Jan for a test beginning in Feb.
- Finish real estate class and study for license exam in Feb & Mar.
- Train for marathon/2 in Feb & Mar for race in Apr.
- Drive to Mexico in Mar with our church.
- Fly to Ohio in May for a friend's wedding
- Continue working.

I'm pretty sure all of these are attainable. At the very least, it'll be a wild ride!

Monday, January 10, 2011

2010 Goal Review

2010 was a busy year for us. We had just purchased our duplex, fixed up one side and rented it out. I managed to listen to a ton of books while mowing the lawn, driving, and washing dishes. I also took a couple business trips and both of us travelled a lot during the summer. We also managed to re-grade our yard and really plug in with our church's high school group. I also trained hard in jiu jjitsu with a friend.

Back in January of 2010 I also set forth some goals. So how did I do? Let's take a look.

1) Read Bible 3x/week
I downloaded the Bible app for iPhone made by YouVersion which has a ton of daily reading plans. I went with the Life Journal since that's what our church is promoting. It made it easy to track where I was and gave me the satisfaction of checking a box saying I read it. As a result, I did really well on this goal. I don't have exact stats, but most weeks I either met or exceeded my goal. The most important thing is that I spent some quality time reading the Bible and having great discussions with Jessi. I'm looking forward to keeping this going in 2011.

2) Share the Gospel with 1 person
I remember back in August I was reviewing my goals and this was one goal I didn't feel like I had "fully" accomplished. I had talked to a couple people about my faith, but something was missing. Then God opened an opportunity literally later that day. Someone I knew was thinking about going back to church, but wasn't sure about being accepted because of past behavior. I was able to share about God's love and how he forgives us. It was a fantastic conversation.

3) Hug more people
Oh boy did I definitely hug more people. It was sweet. The best part is that sometimes someone would ask permission to hug me and I'd get to tell them it was part of my 2010 goals to hug more people. This always resulted in a long bear hug.

4) Communicate my excitement!!
I had to check with Jessi on this one, and she says I definitely have. Of course, last year was pretty exciting so that made it easy.

5) Achieve ZERO short-term debt
Done. We actually accomplished this goal during the summer time. It felt really good. I also put all my credit cards in my drawer since we have enough cash for spending. Now we get to have fun conversations like, "Should we pay off one of our student loans, or can we find an investment that has a higher return than the interest we're paying on that loan?" But first, I need to decided what I'm going to do about Chase's changes to their checking account products.

6) Find 3 business builders
Unfortunately, I did not reach this goal. Jessi and I both had a tough time with this. We really struggled with the transition from relationship building to seeking business partners. I'm not really sure what we did "wrong" but after some negative feedback we decided to back off completely. I'm not sure what the future looks like here. I know we genuinely love Univera's products and will continue to take them ourselves through the foreseeable future. We'll see.

7) Level 4 conversation 4x/week
Do you know how hard it is to reach this goal when you work from home, alone, 4 days a week? I should have said something closer to 1 or 2 times a week. Oh well. Here's what I did do: I made it a point to really get to know guys in jiu jitsu. During breaks I got to ask them questions and learn more about who they are. I found that most guys either go to OSU or are somehow involved with the police department. I also had some great conversations with people from our church and a couple people from work.

8) Find 3 customers
Part of backing off with business builders means you also back off with finding customers. I think the problem, again, is that transition from being a friend to selling something. Some people are excellent at it, and we really struggle with it. I do have a plan for this though and therefore you'll see it pop back up on next year's goals. So stay tuned.

I also had an unofficial goal of writing, on average, one post a week (or 52 posts). As you'll see on the Archive section to the left I accomplished this goal too with 54 posts. I was happy with this and thinks it's a sustainable pace. Hopefully you too find my weekly posts valuable.

So that's how I did. Overall, I'm pleased with the results. In a couple days I'll share what my 2011 goals are.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Outliers: The Story Of Success [Book Review]

I am a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell. The first book of his I read was The Tipping Point and it was fantastic. I really like the way he tells stories to help explain a concept. So I was really excited when I got Outliers as an audiobook. Gladwell didn't disappoint either.

He starts off talking about Canadian hockey players and what it takes to become a pro player. Surprisingly, the most consistent factor has very little to do with actual talent. Instead, it has to do with something smilingly irrelevant: what month they're born in.

Because of when hockey league age cut-off dates occur (January), kids born in the beginning of the year tend to be a little bigger, strong, faster and smarter because they've had more time to develop. As a result, they seem like better players. It has very little to do with their actual talent. This sets them on a path of being on more competitive teams, which practice more often, and play longer seasons. By the time they become adults, due to all this extra practice, they are genuinely better players. If you were to look at the Canadian pro hockey player's birth dates, you would notice and most of them are born in January and February.

Gladwell then continues on to talk about the importance of practice and being at the right place at the right time. The big take-away is that hard work does matter, but you also need to be given the opportunity to shine. If you're given the right opportunity, and are willing to work hard, talent isn't nearly as important.

I don't want to give too much away because part of the fun of reading his books is slowly discovering each of his points. I will say this: I think it works as a business book, but I think it's even better suited as a parenting book. I know it'll definitely affect the way I raise my future children. It provides excellent general guidelines and principles to have as a parent.

I highly recommend this book. It's easy to read with all the stories and is very entertaining. If you do read it, make sure you have someone to talk to because you'll want to share the ideas with someone.