Monday, January 13, 2020

2020 Goal: Relax

For many years I've been at a constant hustle. I don't work every night, but I do on a lot of nights. And I don't work every weekend, but perhaps 7 out of 8 weekends, for at least 4 hours.

It makes sense, when you have a day job, the only time to handle property maintenance is on nights & weekends. And bookkeeping, tenant tours, and... Majordomo development.

If I had to have a meeting during the day, I would extend my day job's work time to make up for it. As Majordomo started going, it meant my workday often end at 6. And many times I finished something at 8:30 once the kids went to bed.

The idea of a work-life balance was a joke. Though to be honest, I liked what I was doing, so I never felt the need to find a balance. Hiring an assistant last year helped tremendously, but I was still pretty busy.

Again, to be clear, I loved everything I was doing and wouldn't go back and change it. It was a conscious choice, and I never felt burned out.

2020: Conscious Times of Relaxing

But I have an opportunity by freeing up 40 hours a week. There’s the risk that my remaining responsibilities expand to fill the available time, but what if I actively fought that and took purposeful, meaningful breaks?

Also, at the end of the year, I listened to a fantastic podcast series by the Bible Project on the 7th day. They talked about the idea behind a Sabbath: to take a break and enjoy the fruit of God's labor. It doesn't mean "do nothing," but to enjoy God's creation the same way you might enjoy picking food in a garden. In fact, God is so serious about it, it's one of the 10 commandments:
'"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. ' Exodus 20:8-11
Not only was the podcast compelling, but in November, my church challenged each of us to practice the Sabbath.

I must confess that for the past 12 years I have not fully trusted God with one of my days. That was especially true last year with a growing rental portfolio and Majordomo development work. I have a lot of pride in keeping a tight schedule and fitting in more activities than normal.

I'd like to change that. My desire is to experience the joy found in a 7th-day rest. To trust that God will provide everything I, and my family, needs in 6 days.

So, my goal in 2020 is to consciously, purposefully, find time to relax. To pick a day of the week when I put my phone down and shut off my computer.

I don’t want to get legalistic, but I do want to set some boundaries. I want to learn how to slow down, play with my kids and simply be in the moment.

Saturday will likely become my Sabbath day. I definitely intend to turn off my laptop. And I’d like to turn off my phone too, but the chance of a tenant call is something I need to prepare for. So, more than likely I'll leave my phone in the office and use my watch's notifications to triage urgent items.

I know Sundays are often candidates for a Sabbath, but we're often serving in some capacity, which makes it harder to actually feel like we're taking a break and enjoying God's creation.

During the remaining 6 days. I intend to work hard on the rentals and Majordomo. Just in the last week, I've been able to contribute more to Majordomo than ever before, which is exciting! But as fun and exciting as it is, I really want to be conscious this year to not solely (if at all?) depend on my own level of effort for success.

I've already failed miserably the last two weekends, which is why this is something I want to learn how to do this year. I clearly won't be able to go all-in right away, so my plan is to gradually phase it in and build my week around it.

So there you go. That’s my goal: relax. Observe a regular Sabbath and unplug. And when I’m working, work hard, so that I can relax guilt-free.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

25 Days a Month Bible Reading Plan

Jim Rohn once said, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." I completely agree with this sentiment and will add that it extends beyond in-person interactions to also include media. You are the average of the people, and their content, you spend the most time with.

So, it's not so much, "you are what you eat," but more "you are what you consume."

What do you give attention to? Do you spend time on Facebook? Netflix? News sites? Blogs for XYZ? Whether you realize it for not, each of these influence your thoughts and perceptions of the world. None of those are good or bad, but you want to be purposeful with what you choose.

One "person" I choose to spend time with is God. I want Him influencing my thoughts and perceptions. There are many ways to interact with God, but as the quote implies the important part isn't what you do, but the amount of time invested.

One way of spending time with God is by reading the Bible. You can do occasional power sessions where you read entire books, but lasting change comes from the regular habit of spending time with God each day.

You can pick up a Bible and start reading. Even 10 minutes a day is great, but I find it helpful to have a reading plan.

One problem I have with most "read the entire Bible in a year" plans is that they don't give you a margin for missed days. For example, the plan I followed last year required reading every single day. What do you do if you miss a day? One option is to treat reading like exercise: you just pick it back up the next day (either skipping the previous day or taking longer than a year). The other option is to double up the next day, but what if you get 2 (or 3!) days behind?! Suddenly the discipline feels daunting.

What if you had a plan with built-in days off? That way you could catch up if needed. It turns out there is a plan called the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan which does exactly that by splitting the plan into 25 days a month.

But, to be honest, I don't love the way it splits the Old Testament reading. It groups all the wisdom books together, and as a result, feels like you're flying through Psalms and Proverbs. My plan last year broke these out so you read a little bit of each every day, and I really liked it!

So... I made my own which combines the two.

It's 25 days a month of reading, giving you time to catch up if needed, or opportunities to dive deeper on days off.

Every day you read a Psalm, a Proverb, and the Gospel. Plus, a section of the remaining parts of the Old and New Testaments. I used the Discipleship Journal for the New Testament sections. And the DAB for the Proverbs (which I modified to fit 300 days of reading). For the Old Testament and Psalms, I found a website that gives each book's verse count and used that to spread out the reading evenly while maintaining natural breaks.

I then made the text small so it fits on the front and back of a regular sheet of paper.

If you're a Christian, I highly recommend a daily practice of spending time with God. Make Him one of the five people you spend the most time with. If you get discouraged by every day reading plans, check this one out. If this one isn't a fit, there are hundreds of others to choose from.

Thanks for checking it out. I'd love any and all feedback since I just made it and will be using it for the first time this year.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

2019 Goal Review: Business Quadrant

Last year I focused on ONE Thing, a problem to solve. And I really enjoyed the simplicity and focus. My goal, my problem to solve, was to make Furlo Family Homes a true business, one that I could leave for a year or more and return to find it running better than when I left it.

I didn't anticipate fully making the transition, but I wanted to have a plan for doing it. This involved a lot of learning, experimenting, and ultimately buying a couple more properties.

I read eight fantastic business books this year in addition to Rich Dad's Cashflow Quadrant. If you like reading, these are all worth checking out. If not... skip ahead.

SPRINT: Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas In Just Five Days
My biggest lesson was to start with the "surface of an idea". Like in a movie, create something that looks like it and works just enough to fake it. Get feedback, then if people like it, build the real thing. For example, if you're making an app, create pictures and link them together in PowerPoint. Give people a guided tour. We did this with Majordomo, quickly refined it based on feedback, and now have something brokers love.

Raising Private Capital: Building Your Real Estate Empire Using Other People's Money
My path was boring: work, save, buy a rental every other year. If I wanted to grow faster, I would need to raise private capital. It turned out I had enough of my own money to complete both purchases this year, but this book gave me the confidence to start conversations with private investors. I do not anticipate purchasing another investment this year... but for the right deal, I now know how I could get additional funding.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
I love this book. It's a perfect blend of psychology and practical tips. One thing I learned, of many, is that you have to do deliberate practice to improve. Improvement comes from resistance. This is true of your muscles, your mind, and your emotions. You need to view problems and setbacks as challenges and opportunities to improve. But you don't have to do that for everything, find the thing(s) your passionate about, and be unapologetic about trying, failing, and pursuing mastery.

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
I love this book too! Not only was it entertaining, but I used what I learned right away to buy my second deal. Normally I would have given in more on the price and terms, but I used what I learned to negotiate more confidently and it worked! I think this is required reading for investors, along with a landlord and deal analysis book. In fact, I recommend this book to everyone because the tools he teaches work in all situations, including with kids!

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life
I listened to this one while painting a rental. Like a lot of people, I can go down rabbit holes on Youtube and get sucked into other non-productive behaviors. One lesson was to commit to fighting the distraction for 10 minutes, set a timer if you want. If I still wanted to do that thing (watch Youtube) after 10 minutes, fine, do it. What you should find is that after 10 minutes, the initial trigger that queued the desire dissipates, and you can get back to what you should be doing. And it's a virtuous circle: the trigger now has a little bit less control and will be slightly less strong next time.

Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters
I'm finding I enjoy managing projects. I think it's partly because I like organizing things. But I found myself struggling with a bigger team. This book was great in giving practical tips for leading a team. Perhaps the biggest change I've made is focusing on unknowns instead of timelines. I no longer ask, "how long will it take you to do that?" I now ask, "What do you still have to figure out how to do?" Only after all the unknows are figured out, can anyone make a reasonable estimate of time. Meetings are more meaningful and it feels less "me vs the timeline vs them", and more collaborative because you're allowed to learn and don't have to "know everything" right away.

Chop Wood Carry Water: How To Fall In Love With the Process of Becoming Great
Another audiobook, which is a collection of sayings and one-liners, pulled into a single narrative. It's short but memorable. My guess is that you've already heard a quarter of the book from other sources, but the reminders are good. My favorite quote, which the book quotes, comes from Will Smith: "The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams, who want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft." I love the visual of beating on your craft.

Extreme Ownership: How US Navy Seals Lead and Win
I tried something different on this book: I listened to the audiobook while following along on the Kindle while running on a treadmill. What a great experience! There are a lot of great leadership principles, but one I use all the time: look to myself first when something doesn't go as planned. How could I have been clearer? How could I have followed up? I will now say, and mean it, "It's my fault, I didn't do XYZ". And the reactions I get now are much healthier. It's not defensive, but more collaborative and willing to move forward.

I didn't intend for it to be a year of reading, but I'm glad it was. I had to do a lot of growing to feel confident to take the next step.

Make Furlo Family Homes a true business, one that I could leave for a year or more and return to find it running better than when I left it.

I'll be honest, I could not leave for a year, but I could easily leave for a month, and I could probably get away with 2 months.

And I identified two options to make it a true business:

Option #1: Hire a full-time property management company. That would remove me from the day-to-day operations.

Option #2: Expand the responsibilities of my assistant to include tenant screening and hiring contractors to do maintenance. Services like Home Advisor, Thumbtack and Porch have made it easier to find contractors. Plus, I'd need to hire someone local to handle local activities, such as tenant showings, handing off keys, letting contractors in, and taking pictures/documenting. Ideally, this person would be handy themselves so they could tackle small issues.

I'm currently headed down option #2, with myself as that local person. Given that I was able to quit my job, I don't have a problem handling most of the maintenance for now. But eventually, I can see myself buying one or two more rentals so I can switch to option #1 and be fully hands-off. And since I won't be able to get a loan for a while, being able to raise private capital will become important.

I also made some progress down the path:
  1. I've gotten better about thinking of FFH as a separate entity.
  2. I did a better job of outlining, standardizing tasks that need to be done. Another change was to use Notion for the repository of all tasks, templates, and reference data.
  3. FFH grew! This summer FFH purchased a 5-plex in Sweet Home and a 70-unit storage facility, with one house in Lebanon. FFH also now has a sub-brand: J & J Mini-Storage.

I would definitely call this year a success. I took steps to turn FFH into a business and identified all the unknowns to finish the transition. I've also come to terms with hiring a property management company, but don't expect that transition to happen for a while (unless Majordomo takes off, then who knows?!)

I also liked having a focused year on a single problem. It helped give clarity each day.