Friday, February 21, 2014

The Story Behind the Corvallis Pulse

The past 5 months, I've had the privilege of helping organize an amazing event in Corvallis. It's called the Corvallis Pulse and is happening Wednesday, February 26th from 8am - 2pm at LaSells Stewart Center Austin Auditorium. It's going to feature 8 Corvallis business leaders who will share their own perspective and insights on the state of the Corvallis market. Each talk will be concise and information packed – no more than 20 minutes each. You'll also have the opportunity to discuss, debate, and dive deeper with each speaker during breaks. The cost of the event is $25. Lunch will be served and the event is not-for-profit. All net proceeds and donations will be given to Benton Habitat for Humanity in Corvallis.

The event is going to be great! This is the story behind the Corvallis Pulse.

The Seed of an Idea
It started back in October when my realtor, Lee Eckroth, came to me with an idea. I had been making real estate reports for him for the last couple years and that report was now starting to be used by the entire Town & Country Realty office. In other words, it was incredibly useful.

So, at the end of a real estate investor club meeting, Lee comes to me with this idea, "What if I turned the report into a presentation and talked about it  for four hours." My response: "I love the idea, except for the part where you talk for four hours."

Ha ha. We all laugh at the awkwardness of my blunt statement.

But the seed of the idea is there.

We started talking about the importance of real estate. How it plays an essential role in our personal lives and in the economy. How residential real estate provides housing for families, and is an important source of wealth and savings. How commercial real estate creates spaces for jobs in retail, offices and manufacturing. How real estate income provides a source of revenue for many!

Lee's office manager, Jenny, did some research and found that when you buy or sell a home you have more of an impact than you probably ever thought, affecting a lot more people than you thought as well. A resale affects approximately 50 people's lives and incomes directly (i.e., real estate agent, broker manager, listing agent office, title company, loan officer, appraiser, home inspector, home warranty company, mortgage insurance agent, handyman, plumber, moving truck service, gas stations, hotel, etc.). According to the National Association of Realtors, when a home is sold in Oregon (Median Price $210,800):
  • Income generated from real estate related industries is $18,972.
  • Additional expenditure on consumer items such as on furniture and appliances is $5,647.
  • Expenditure on remodeling within 2 years of purchase is $4,451.
  • It also generates an economic multiplier impact with greater spending at restaurants, sports games, and charity events. The size of this "multiplier" effect is estimated to be $13,953.
Crazy, right? We started to hone in on this idea that real estate really is the pulse of the economy. Don't believe me? Look at what happened in 2007 when real estate crashed... The rest of the economy followed.

So we knew giving some kind of real estate update would be valuable to the community, but the idea of Lee giving a four hour talk still sounded horrible. Then inspiration hit... what if we did something similar to TED? We could have 8 speakers talk for 20 minutes each instead of 1 for 4 hours. They could each bring their own perspective of how the Corvallis market is doing.

We also knew this could be a great time to create discussions and so we wanted time for individuals to be able to meet with each speaker. The name of the event wrote itself: The Pulse of the Valley 2014: Corvallis Real Estate Forum.

Fun fact: Corvallis means "Heart of the Valley". Boom!

We started floating this idea to others and they loved it. Town & Country, Mortgage Express & the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce all instantly jumped on board to sponsor the event. We even had another company so inspired by the event that they're given an additional donation to Habitat. Now all we had to do was find speakers and put the event together.

IN Corvallis, ABOUT Corvallis, FOR Corvallis
We also quickly decided this had to be bigger than Lee. In following the Go-Giver model we wanted this event to be a gift to Corvallis. We intentionally decided to NOT make this a recruiting event. Sure, Town & Country is sponsoring the event and Lee is one of the eight speakers, but they are going out of their way to make it clear it's not about them. Plus, next year we want to have different sponsors and speakers which will really help drive the point home that it's bigger than all of us.

One person we're excited to have on board is Julie Manning, the Mayor of Corvallis. She'll be giving an introduction to the event. Again, because she recognizes that it's an event ABOUT Corvallis, FOR Corvallis.

Furthermore, our intent is to package up this event by creating guides and how-to's and give it away for others to put on in their cities. If a bank in Salem wants to put on the event, they can. Again, this event is bigger than just us and Corvallis.

Why $25?
We get asked this question a lot. Why charge $25? We already have sponsors and the money is going to Benton Habitat for Humanity. Good question. We started out with a desire for attendees to have skin in the game and for them to also be giving to Corvallis as they walked in the door.

Our first idea was to require 3 cans of food... but we quickly decided we didn't want to manage that. I'll be honest, I wanted to charge $50 to send the message that this is a premium event. The Pulse Team had a better idea: charge less and give the money away. For professionals, who are expensing it anyways, $25 is manageable.

Some courses charge hundreds of dollars for their material and I like they way they think about it. They'll say things like, "If you're in business, you know the value of what I'm sharing and the great price I'm offering it at. If not, it probably means you're not actually in business and so this course isn't for you." That's how I like to think of this event too. If you don't want to pay $25, you probably won't be inspired to take action on what you learn anyways. For a deeper understanding, read about 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly.

Adding The Magic Touch
My wife, Jessi, is the Director of Wow in Lee's office (another reason why I got roped in to helping). Her job is to add wow to everything. She doesn't think she does a good job of it, but everyone else knows better. I like to think of her as "Quality Control". Her expectations of "good enough" are so high that something has to be perfect, and awe-inspiring before she likes it. We joke all the time that I need to run everything I create (charts, videos, blog posts) by her before sharing broadly because she represents the normal person. That's partially true (I can be an odd duck), but it also because she catches ALL my little mistakes and forces me to make it better.

What was I talking about?

Oh yeah! Jessi and Jenny have been working super hard to make this event magical. We do that literally in one way by having Hart Keene act as our emcee. He's a magician who's been on America's Got Talent! and does "strolling mingle magic". We think it'll make the event really special. We also have food, gift bags, inspirational quotes, greeters and great music. In many ways, it's a mini-convention.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm really excited about this event. I've gotten to preview each of the speakers talks, and I guarantee you'll be empowered with knowledge and inspired to action. I know Jessi and I are already changing our plans based on what we've learned. If you can make it, I strongly encourage you to register and come.

I'm honestly not sure how we're going to top this next year.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's REALLY Hard to be Excellent at More Than One Thing

I've come to the conclusion that is REALLY hard to be excellent at more than one thing. Here's why.

Since we don't have a TV, I haven't been watching the Olympics, but I have been getting regular news updates. These updates often include who wins the gold medals, especially those who win multiple medals.

For example, today I read about American Ted Ligety who won the Alpine skiing giant slalom gold medal. From what I understand, he's pretty good at skiing. He's so good in fact that beside Ted Ligety, the only other American to win two Olympic golds in Alpine skiing was Andrea Mead Lawrence, who took both the women's slalom and giant slalom at the 1952 Oslo Games.

That's just crazy, right? There are only TWO Americans to win multiple golds in Alpine skiing. And this is just one example of a bunch of updates I've gotten. I'm catching a big lesson here:

It's REALLY hard to be excellent at more than one thing.

That should ring true if you read Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. If it takes 10,000 hours to become great at something, you inherently have to NOT spend your time doing other things. If you never focus, then you never reach your 10,000 hours.

Want proof? Just look at these athletes: It's rare to win gold at more than one event. The reason is because they picked one and focused on it. If they practiced multiple events, they probably wouldn't even be at the Olympics.

I'll be honest, this is a tough conclusion for me to come to. I want to be excellent... and multiple things... and I find myself getting frustrated that I'm only good at a bunch of things. I suppose that means I need to make a choice: either focus on one thing and become excellent, or come to terms with being good a a bunch of things. I've made a choice by default, but I'd like it to be more intentional.

I guess it all depends on what I want in life. I've noticed that most renown people... people who change the world (or win Olympics)... were singularly focused. Do I want to change the world? Does changing my local community require the same type of focus? What about just being excellent at my job? My intuition says yes, but my heart wants more...

Clearly I'm still wrestling with this reality.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Setting Intentional Goals to Reach Big Results

Here's quick update just to share that we paid off another student loan this month! Only 2 more to go! Yes, that's even after taking a vacation to Florida.

Since we're still living off the high of that trip, we decided to skip the fun month and go straight to the next loan. I'm definitely starting to smell the barn too. :)

The next loan is just over $10,000. Assuming we don't get anything back for a tax return it'll take us until July to pay off that loan. Last year's tax return was large enough to fund our down payment on our house (Tax benefits are one of the many perks of a side business), so I'm fairly certain we'll get something back which will bump up our payoff date by a month or two.

Then we'll just have the big one left, which is currently $26,500. That'll take us a full year to pay off if nothing changes. Of course, something always changes...

We set out to pay off all our loans in 5 years... and now we'll finish in 3.5 years. That's what happens when you become INTENTIONAL about something. You put in a LOT of FOCUSED work, but the results are FASTER, BIGGER and BETTER than you ever imagined. That's the Slight Edge principle.

If you have something you want to accomplish. Write it down as a goal, along with a plan on how to accomplish it. By becoming intentional about it, you'll make progress and the results will be better than you imagined. It might not feel like much at first, but it'll add up over time.

When we started, we could only afford $202 extra each month. 5 months later, we "found" an extra $85 to pile on. Then another $63, $3, $15, and $185. Then we drastically changed our living situation and added $477 to the pile! None of those sound huge, but they add up to $1,030 a month. We couldn't jump straight to that amount. When we got a pay raise at wok or earned money from a side gig, it went on the pile. When we saved on electricity by turning down the heat & wearing sweatshirts, it went on the pile. We did it by taking little steps and making little intentional decisions every month. You can do the same thing with your goal.

Again, I encourage you to write down your goal and start down the path of accomplishing it. Start with what you can reasonably give. Then watch over time as you find ways to do even more than you thought possible.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Homemade Lara Bars

I know, I know my blog posts are spotty at best. But alas, here I am.

I was inspired recently so I wanted to share a food discovery.

I love Lara bars. Yes, love is the right word to describe how I feel about this food. They are convenient, all natural, filling, granola-bar alternatives that are simple and delicious.

The only downside is that they are usually $1 per bar which if you're eating 1 per day (ok, let's be honest I've been known to have 2 or even 3 on the particularly busy day) that adds up! Everytime I had a bar I read the ingredients and loved that I recognized everything on the list...things like dates, peanuts, cashews, dried cranberries. And I often thought to myself...I could make that.

So, I tried it. We had some mixed nuts in the pantry as well as some sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, dried cranberries, banana chips, and walnuts. I picked up some dried dates from Winco and threw them all in the blender. After things were nicly chopped I pressed the mixture into a dish and put it in the fridge to harden. After a few hours I sliced them into bars wrapped them in baking paper and viola!

I decided to see if I would actually save money by making my own bars. Here is what I found out:

Let's break down the costs:

Lara Bars: $1 per bar

If on average I eat 7 bars a week (that's low balling it) that would come out to ~$28 per month.

To make my homemade fruit and nut bars (I by no means want to rip-off the Lara Bar name) I spent about $9.50 which made me 15 bars. So dividing $9.50/15 I get $.63. Wow! $.63 cents per bar! So, doing the monthly math if I have 7 bars a week that would come out to ~$18.

Homemade bars: $.63 per bar about ~$18 per month.

Thats over an additional weeks worth of bars at the $1 per bar price in savings!

The savings are amazing and here's another upside. I can choose exactly what flavors I want and can mix in healthy add-ins like flax meal and wheat bran. Here are some of the recipes I came up with:

Carribean Island Getaway
1 C dried dates
1/2 C island dried fruit mix (pineapple, cranberries, mango, bananas)
1/2 C dried coconut flakes (no sugar added)
1 T pumpkin seeds
1 T flax meal
1 T wheat bran
Gone Nutty
1 C dried dates
1 T each: peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds
1 T flax meal
1 T wheat bran

Peanut Butter Cookie
1 C dried dates
3/4 C peanuts
2 T flax meal
2 T wheat bran

For each recipe... Chop finely in a blender or food processor. Press into a dish or pan. Let chill for 2 hours. Slice into bars and enjoy!

Hopefully you are also inspired to try this healthy, on-the-go snack!


P.S. If you google homemade Lara Bar recipes you get a ton more recipes...I am going to try some of these out next time!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

9 Marks of a Healthy Church #BookReview

For a really long time, I refused to "read" anything unless there was an audio option. When it comes to story types of books, fiction and non-fiction, that's still true. Audiobooks are awesome for many reasons, and still my preference.

However, there are some books that just make sense to read, re-read, take notes, and reference later. In that situation, audiobooks don't work - trust me, I tried. I listened to The 4-Hour Work Week while riding a bike behind Jessi while she trained for the Portland Marathon. When we finished I would hop online to find some resources I could copy notes from. I did the same thing with Made To Stick - a fantastic book and one I've almost bought a hardcopy of multiple times. My review was my way of creating notes from what I heard.

Anyways, I've learned that how-to types of books are best read with my eyes. My preference are Kindle books because I can take notes and reference it later. Plus, they don't take up any additional room, are always with me, and often cheaper than the paper version. That's how I read 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever.

The title explains what the book is about pretty well. Dever first delivered the 9 marks in a 9-part message series and eventually turned it into a book. The intent was not to cover every single aspect of a church (you'll notice he doesn't mention prayer, but it's still important), but instead talk about those marks that distinguished healthy churches. What are the 9 marks? Glad you asked. What follows is a lot of quoting because in a lot of ways the whole book is a summary of what the Bible is teaching us. Plus, each of these are meaty topics, so I felt the need to include a lot to do it justice. Here we go!

Mark 1: Expositional Preaching
This is the most important mark. Our faith is based on Scripture, and we need to spend time trying to understand what Scripture is telling us. "Expositional preaching is not simply producing a verbal commentary on some passage of Scripture. Rather, expositional preaching is preaching that takes for the point of the sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture." So instead of choosing a topic and finding Scripture to support that topic. You first choose a passage and let God reveal it's truth to you. In a healthy church, the majority of messages will be taught expositionally.

Mark 2: Biblical Theology
The first mark is how we should be taught. The second mark is what we should be taught. The messages should fall in line with what the Word of God actually teaches, especially when talking about the nature and character of God. "Five words summarize what the Bible teaches us about God: he is creating, he is holy, he is faithful, he is loving, and he is sovereign." As for Jesus, "He came as the One by whom you and I can have a restored relationship with God. He is the One from whom God's people had long been waiting. Where Adam and Israel had failed and been unfaithful, Jesus survived temptations without sin... Jesus Christ is the faithful fulfillment of God's promises." Of course, the only real way to know if what you're being taught is true, is to also be studying Scripture yourself and praying "for leaders in the church to have a biblical grasp of and an experiential trust in the sovereignty of God."

Mark 3: The Gospel
The good news should be proclaimed. The good news is not simply that we are OK. "The Bible utterly rejects the idea that we are okay, that the human condition is just fine, that everyone is really in need of simply accepting their current condition, their finitude, their limitedness, and their imperfections, or that we simply need to look on the bright side of things." It is also not simply that God is love or that all Jesus wants is to be our friend. Here's the good news:
"The good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself, and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ's sacrifice and that God's wrath against us had been exhausted. He ascended and presented his completed work to his heavenly Father. He now sends out his Spirit to call us through this message to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God."

Mark 4: A Biblical Understanding of Conversion
Conversion means to change. In this case, it's converting
"from worshiping ourselves to worshiping God, from being truly guilty in ourselves before God to being forgiven in Christ... It's all about realizing that we can never go to church enough, we can never teach enough Sunday school classes, we can never give enough money, we can never be kind enough or beautiful enough, or happy and contented with our religious lives enough to merit God's good will towards us... Our only hope comes in understanding that God has taken on flesh in Christ, that Christ lived a perfect life and died on the cross in the place of all those who would ever turn and trust in him, and that he rose in victory over our sins and now offers to pour out this Holy Spirit into our hearts. Beginning to have this reliance, this trust in God alone, is the nature of the great change that takes place in conversion. We must repent of our sins and trust in Christ."
This conversion comes from the preaching and listening to the Word of God, the Good News. If you haven't noticed yet, each mark builds upon the others.

Mark 5: A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
What is Evangelism? "First, you must understand that the things you believe in as a Christian are facts. They are not mere beliefs or opinions. Second, these facts are not yours in the sense that they uniquely pertain to you or your perspective or experience, or in the sense that you made them up on your own. When you evangelize, you are presenting God’s truth. Finally, in biblical evangelism we don’t impose anything. We can’t. According to the Bible, evangelism is simply telling the good news; it does not include making sure that the other person responds to it correctly."

Evangelism is "the positive act of telling the good news about Jesus Christ and the way of salvation through him." That's it. It's not the results. It's not our job to convert people; that part is left to God. Dever also includes many resources to help people evangelize since we're all commanded by Jesus to do it, but the basic idea is to share the Good News, use the Bible, and let God change their heart.

Mark 6: A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership
What is a church?
"A church is a local collection of people committed to Christ, to regularly assemble and have his Word preached and obeyed, including Christ's commands to baptize and to celebrate the Lord's Supper... The responsibilities and duties of members of a Christian church are simply the responsibilities and duties of Christians. Church members, like Christians, are to be baptized and to regularly attend the Lord's Table. We are to hear God's Word and to obey it. We are to regularly fellowship together for mutual edification. We are to love God, one another, and those outside our fellowship, and we are to evidence the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 22– 23). We are to worship God in all the activities of our home, work, community, and life... We must view membership less as a loose affiliation useful only on occasion and more as a regular responsibility, becoming involved in one another's lives for the purposes of the gospel."
As members we are called to attend services regularly, take communion together, pray regularly, and give regularly of our time and possessions.

Mark 7: Biblical Church Discipline
Often times we're told not to judge people, but that isn't completely Biblical. Instead, "we are told to judge ourselves (1 Cor. 11: 28; 2 Cor. 13: 5; Heb. 4; 2 Pet. 1: 5– 10). We are also specifically told to judge one another within the church (though not in the final way that God judges)... After all, if we cannot say how a Christian should not live, how can we say how a Christian should live?" To be clear, this is NOT a holier-than-thou type of judging. Instead, it's trying to help each of us measure up to God's holiness. Furthermore, discipline is not about revenge or getting back at someone. Instead, "we should discipline with humility and in love for God and for the person disciplined." When I discipline our dog, Vinnie, I imagine him sometimes coming to me asking if I still love him even though I put him in timeout. And my mental response (OK... I do talk to him out loud...) is that I disciplined him because I love him. Church discipline must be the same way.

Mark 8: A Concern for Discipleship and Growth
Growth is Biblical. God repeatedly commands people to be fruitful and multiply. "Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth' (Gen. 9:1)."
"The New Testament idea of growth involves not just more people, but people who are growing up, maturing, and deepening in the faith. We read in Ephesians 4: 5-16: "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." How does such growth happen? Ultimately, it happens by God's work. We grow as the body of Christ as God causes growth. According to Colossians 2: 19, Christ is "the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow." It is not the preacher who causes a church to grow."
Growth comes from God. A church can let God grow the church by following the previous 7 marks and by asking the following questions regularly of it's members:
  • In what particular ways have you grown in your understanding of the Christian life?
  • How have you grown in your practice of the Christian life?
  • In what particular areas do you feel that you need instruction?
  • Are you disappointed in your own pursuit of holiness? If so, explain.
  • How, specifically, can I pray for you?
Now that's accountability that'll lead to growth!

Mark 9: Biblical Church Leadership
The church is a monarchy, with Christ as the king, and the church exists only as the people in it continue to participate in its activities. Those actives include attending, praying, giving, and getting to know the church family. The church should also have leaders, called elders. "All churches have had individuals who performed the functions of elders even if they haven't used that word for them. The two most common New Testament names for this office are episcopos (overseer) and presbuteros (elder)." There is also a main preacher, or senior pastor, who is also an elder. These should be men of good character, of good reputation, able to handle the Word, and have demonstrated fruit of the Spirit. They are also to be focused on others, irreproachable, not violent, not greedy, and not a recent convert. Finally, a church leader is someone who understands and strives to carry out the 9 marks of a healthy church.

Wow - now that's review! I still recommend you read the book because Dever goes into much more detail and does a fantastic job of back up everything he says with Scripture.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Disney World 10K Winter Vacation

In January, Jessi & I had an opportunity to be "those people" on Facebook. Yep, we got to enjoy an awesome vacation in Florida during winter.

How did that happen?

At the end of last summer two friends from church moved to Florida. Jessi used to run with the wife regularly. In October Jessi was chatting on the phone with her about a 10K race in January and lamenting that they couldn't run it together. Jessi got off the phone and mentioned it to me.

Now, I track our student loan payments pretty closely and I knew that we were going to pay off another one in December. That meant that January was going to be our fun month. I also knew that my sister was going to be starting her Disney World internship around the same time we were there. I also knew their apartment was fairly close to Disney World, and even though it was going to be a long weekend, it still was off-season. Plus, it would be in January and who wouldn't want an excuse to leave Oregon in the dead of winter?!

We did a little more research on the costs: Since it was off-season, the plane tickets were reasonable and my sister was currently doing a Disneyland internship and we were able to get discounted park tickets. Finally, we were able to stay at their apartment and save there too. All in all, we could afford to do this whole trip with our fun money.

So we made the decision to go for it.

Now, there are generally 2 types of vacations we take: The first is a relaxing one where we don't set alarms and mostly stay inside puzzling, reading and watching movies. Jessi loves these types of vacations. Usually by the end of one I'm physically trembling from not doing anything.

The other type, the type I like, is where we try to do as much as we can with the time we have. It's the type of vacation that you need another vacation to recover from. This is what we did. Yes!

Here are some pictures of everything we did:

The first day we went to the Animal kingdom. It's like a huge zoo with rides. It was very well done.

Just short of 6 feet. That's me.

This tiger was incredible! What I should have done was take a picture of the huge crowd behind us.

We saw a bird show that was amazing! Every bird was extremely well trained and almost all of them did some sort of trick. It made me feel pathetic when I think about how little we've done to train Vinnie.

Yes! The original reason for coming to Florida! We completed the St. Pete Beach 10K Classic. Our times were pretty good too.

This is what the weather was like the entire time. Pretty. Nice.

We also went house/investment shopping with our friends. The price-to-rent ratios are actually pretty good. I don't think we'll end of up buying one of them, but we did find some interesting ones. At the very least, this was a great leaning opportunity and got us thinking about investing outside our area.

Then Lisa arrived and we went to the Magic Kingdom. How about this for crazy: in order to get from the parking lot to the entrance, you either have to take the monorail or ride a boat across the lake.

Yes, I'm an adult, surround by little kids, enjoying myself just as much as them.

Jessi picked up some pretty cute Mickey ears. They go well with her red hair.

To the gallows!

I came really close to buying this shirt for my brother.

On our last day, we went to Epcot. I think we were all pictured out because we only have a couple. We did go inside the ball, which is fun, and we went a couple futuristic rides.

We also spent time in each little region. Here we are in Paris. We honestly could have spent the entire week at the World Showcase and never be bored. What an incredible place! They even make it a point to hire people from that city so it's truly run as authentic as possible.

That was our trip. It was a lot of fun and we'd like to go back again. Maybe we should buy a place so we have an excuse to go back regularly.