Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Useful Links

In regard to my previous post about preparing for emergencies and not "Sweating the Big Stuff," I have some useful links that you might enjoy.

The first is about 10 small business ideas that could help provide supplemental income or employment if the need or want should ever arise. These are all free or very low cost business ideas that could give you a great little extra boost to the monthly bottom line. Hopefully you find these useful.

Also, on a positive note, the unemployment rate has fallen below 10% in many metro areas around the country. This is good news and with the stock market rising, we're seeing a recovery in the economy. We're not completely out of the dark yet, but it's coming!

Some Thoughts on Good Neighbors

Happy Wednesday everyone (otherwise known as hump day)! I hope everyone is well today.

Having great neighbors has it's many myriad of benefits, not the least being kindness and help in times of need. Our neighbors are no exception, and in the 2 years that we've lived in our house, we've had the good fortune of getting to know all of our neighbors. We are lucky, I just want to preface with that.

We have a neighbor across the road that, should anything drastic happen or fail in the house, he's always been available to help. There really is no price for that and the amount of thanks never seems adequate. He enjoys it the same way I like to help people and I've come to accept that. Our neighbor right next door has become a pretty good friend and when he's in town (lately he's been traveling to Miami for work) we often will grill out and share dinners, etc. Occasionally I'll hop the fence and have a couple beers talking as well. Our other neighbors are all kind and we'll occasionally get an invite for dinner or to come over and have a beer. Some have even brought plants over for Evelyn because they know of her love of gardening and want to help her out.

In the past, I have been friends with my neighbors and even to the point of dog sitting for each other when we went on vacation or just out of town for the weekend, but we seem to have hit the jackpot with great neighbors this time around. One of the main reasons that we love our house so much is because of all of them. It makes living here that much better and you never have to worry about what you're neighbors are going to do, or think, or say. In fact, not once have I worried about this.

We're also not a "keep up with the Jones's" kind of neighborhood, which is also quite refreshing. I have no desire to keep with others' appearances, possessions, or whatever it may be, so this works out well for me. We enjoy a life of friends, family, and enjoyment in each other, so this all is great. Modesty is a quality that I never knew I enjoyed so much until we were surrounded by it. Good stuff.

Have a great rest of your week and happy October tomorrow!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Don't Sweat the Big Stuff

"The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not on our circumstances" ~ Martha Washington

Easier said than done, I know! But, what if we could all just let the big stuff roll off of us like the small stuff (or try to any way)? That would make our lives much less stressful right. Well, setting ourselves up to deal with the big stuff makes that a lot easier. If we all prepare (again, easier said that done) then we can potentially deal with the big stuff much easier.

For instance, a big ticket problem could be a car breaking down. If we set up an adequate savings for emergencies, we don't sweat this car breakdown nearly as much. It still stings to have to spend the money to fix a car, but it's not as bad when we can actually pay for it. This can be as easy as taking $50 per month and just stashing it in a savings account where you don't look at it.

Another example would be losing a job. Again, having adequate savings could relieve us of this big problem, but also having other skill sets (going back to school, taking certification classes, apprenticing, freelancing, starting your own company, etc.) can help offset this major problem that could rear it's ugly head. Having a source of secondary income is also a good way to offset this, but that's not always practical for every person or family. Right now is a fantastic time to start a company with the economy in the shape it's in. It doesn't cost nearly as much to be a competitive player in the economy today. Competition may be stiff, but you'll never know until you try. Trying is the hardest part.

The dreaded "big stuff" that can't be so easily dealt with is tragedy within your circle of family or friends. This is where other relationships and your faith (whatever it may be) can get you through. Have a solid foundation with your family, friends, etc. and they'll be the rock that you lean on.

As I hold myself more accountable as a result of this blog, I learn more and apply more all the time. I've got the savings in place now, I have a secondary source of residual income in case I lose my job, and I'm trying to lean more on others for support. Life is good and hopefully the big stuff (and the small stuff) won't affect me like it has in times past.

Here's to overcoming the big stuff!


Monday, September 28, 2009

Lonely Planet Cycling Guides

If you love to travel and love to take your bicycle along, check this out: Lonely Planet Cycling Guides for Britain, France, and Italy are out now. Pretty cool and what a fantastic way to see these countries!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Social Networking

Hey all! Happy Sunday to everyone.

I am a big user of Facebook and Twitter because they allow me to stay apprised of the happenings with the people I care about. This includes people outside of my circle of friends and family with the intended purpose of learning more and having links to other items of interest. I really truly feel like I learn a lot from the networks that I'm in as my peers (and non peers as well for that matter) let me know or will just post bulletins of items that may interest me. This usually leads me to read or discover something I wouldn't have otherwise explored. Pretty cool.

The other great benefit to these social networking sites is that you become regularly engaged with a lot of people who are employed or have connections in fields of interest. Right now that's especially important as our nations unemployment levels rise and many are finding themselves without jobs. It's all about who you know out there and being able to notify friends, family members, and business peers immediately on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter gives you a unique advantage that is a larger scope that we probably realize. Your friend could tell others and the circle of separation could grow to include important people that you may have never even had a chance to meet otherwise. Pretty cool technology that we have out there now!

I was very resistant to Twitter initially because I thought, "why would I want to follow the ongoings of so many people?" Well, as it turns out, you can pretty much find a wide scope of people that share the same interests as you and people post links to articles, blogs, videos, music, ideas, sites, etc. The potential is huge. Since I've started this blog, I've met so many people through Twitter and this that I wouldn't have otherwise crossed paths with. That's cool because I'm an admitted "life learner" and love to read and absorb new information.

Check these sites out if you haven't already and start building your network of people. You'll be surprised what you discover and really, you don't have to spend a lot of time on either to get your money's worth (which is no cost of course). In fact, I spend little time on twitter and see big rewards with it and I'm also finding some cool links that inspire me in many facets of my life. Have fun!

Have a great week!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Just Run

Hey all! Happy Thursday to you. I hope this day finds you well in mind and spirit.

As a runner, I have a mantra that I use while in my "zone." I tell myself that the pain of running for 30 minutes is only a small portion of my day (when the pain gets bad anyway, otherwise I just think about my day and what's going to happen) and it will be worth it after I'm done. This "mantra" can be applied other places in life as well though. When having to go to meetings that waste your time, or going to activities that you don't really want to do, just think: it's only 30 minutes of my day and it will pass on just like the previous 30 minutes. Running is something that I enjoy quite a bit (weird, I know) because it's my meditation time and my reflection time. I get my blood flowing, my brain thinking, and my body in motion to get through the day. It's good for me in my body and mind. Cycling is similar as well. I connect with that sport nearly the same way as running, but the aspect that I like best about running is that it's simple and pure. You only need your running clothes (for whatever season or place) and your running shoes. There are things that you can add (like an mp3 player, or sweat bands) but their not necessary to running. This simplicity goes right in line with my philosophy of un-complicating life.

An awesome tool that I find handy when running is here at WalkJogRun. You can map out your routes and figure out how far you are running anywhere. Pretty awesome.

Just like all the successful people in this world tell us, anything worth attaining is worth working hard for. I've definitely found this to be true, of course, but I think you really get it the older you get. The closer I get to 30 (next month), I understand that life's got some serious challenges and speed bumps but nothing is really too difficult if you surround yourself with the right people and the right attitude. Would you agree?

Do you have an activity that you do that puts you in your mantra? What challenges you and inspires you?

Have a great rest of your week!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Life of Dogs

Hello and happy Wednesday (otherwise known as hump day)!

"If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience."
~Woodrow Wilson

Dogs have it made! They lay around all day, doing not much of anything and have us, their care-takers to make sure their lives are good. Walks when they want them, go outside and chase squirrels when the moment calls, eat their food when they please, etc.

My thought regarding this, other than my own jealousy at not being brought in to the world as a dog ( Ha... :-) ), is that we could learn a thing or two from our "man's best friend." First, they love unconditionally and I know that all of us could benefit from some unconditional love from time to time. Who wouldn't. Secondly, the live their lives in the moment. If something happens, they get excited. If something doesn't happen, it's not like they get in a huge uproar about it. Point being, complications aren't really an issue with dogs because they don't really have them. My whole idea with creating this blog was to find simplicity and peace in my life through streamlining it. Finding the basic needs and obligations and sticking to them. It seems that a dogs life is all about this.

This is not mentioning the fact that dogs get about 14-16 hours of sleep a day. We could all use more sleep. Maybe not that much, but definitely more.

Oh to be a dog. :-)


Monday, September 21, 2009

Networking in the 21st Century

Happy Monday everyone! I hope everyone had a great weekend and the beginning of this week is finding you well.

I had a great little weekend getaway in Nashville, TN and had a fantastic time playing music, visiting friends, visiting my brother, and just generally taking it easy. I love the music scene down there (not just country) and always have a blast, coming back more inspired than the time before.

Upon coming back to Indy, I had a 5 hour drive by and got to thinking about how networking has been a wonderful part of my friendships and business world. While in Nashville, I ran in to friends that I met through other friends, which in essence is my personal network. I had a blast with those particular people and that might not have happened had I not known those friends that introduced me to these people. In my business world, right now I'm finding that I've gotten pretty good at keeping my customers and also growing my business through networking and simply asking for referrals. It's as easy as telling my customer, "hey, if you have friends or cohorts that you think could benefit from the offer that I gave you, let them know and I'll give them the same deal." This has been very successful. I have to give credit where credit is due as well and mention that you have to have a great management structure in place as well and I do. My regional manager is incredible at giving us the opportunity to attract business if we manage the profits in a reasonable manner. Lehman's terms: we can discount costs and pricing as long as it makes sense and we're making money. Great stuff.

What I've learned: As a result of some great referral sources lately, I've found that treating each as an equal is a great idea when the people you are dealing with have referred friends and they will more than likely compare their deal. Be careful about this because it can bite you in the rear if you don't treat them the same. I find this pretty easy as I have a set offer that I give them and have little wiggle room from there. If you offer the best deal you have up front and tell them that you're a no-nonsense sales person, they respect that and understand when you're pricing is much better than the competition.

At any rate, I am really enjoying the fact that I'm meeting tons of new people and finding great new ways of creating business. This is the stuff that makes me excited about my job and keeps me going strong.

I hope you all find that networking will help you and let me know if you have something to add.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mini Vacations

Happy weekend everyone!

I don't know about you guys, but I love having weekend getaways where I just drive about 3-5 hours and get out of town for a little bit of time. That's what I'm doing this weekend and I'm already feeling much better. Sometimes just looking at the same scenery and doing the same routines can wear on me and make me a bit frustrated. So, I took charge of my situation and did a mini vacation. When I'm feeling this rut I usually will drive down to Nashville, Tennessee and see my brother and his friends. Sometimes I'll venture up to Michigan or go to Kentucky camping, but the lure of the music scene in Nashville is too tempting sometimes for me to pass it up.

The great aspects of Nashville are too vast to mention in this little blog post, but my key components that keep pulling me back here are: the music (and not just country. There's everything from Indy rock, singer/songwriter, rock, folk, etc.), the Yazoo brewery, the cool trails and parks that are all over Nashville, the restaurants, the music instrument stores (there are some incredible instruments in this city).

The great thing about mini vacations is that patterns of behavior are interrupted. Taking a step out of the monotony that is life is a great way to keep happy and healthy in my mind.

I hope all of you can enjoy a mini vacation, even if it's just around the corner. Get out of that rut!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Invest in Your Community

Hey all! Happy Hump Day. I hope everyone is happy and healthy today.

In my readings today, I found a great article about investing in businesses in your own community. The article can be found here. This is a wonderful thing that has happened as a result of the economic crisis and the resulting tightening of guidelines among banks. If there's something that's great that has come out of this downturn in the economic culture of America, it's the togetherness that has been created and the "lets turn to our community" attitude that has come about.

Necessity is the mother of invention. That's the truth and when businesses and people need the resources, why not turn to your community and friends to help you? I think that's awesome! Banks today have tightened guidelines for credit cards, home equity loans, personal loans, mortgages, etc. I work for a major bank and can attest that this is true to the nth degree. It's tough to get a loan now. It requires more money, more financial resources, more patience, and more energy.

This is not so different from the new trends in lending that exist on line now. Sites such as offer borrowers and also investors great opportunities to help peers that need financial assistance/ are looking for good returns from their peer group. Another great site that I've read a lot about and have seen others have good success with is the Lending Club. It's great to see that people are banding together to create solutions to economic problems that exist. If you can't tell, I'm excited about where things are going with all this bonding and community gathering. This may not last forever, but I'll bask in the energy for now.

With that being said, have a great end of your week and help out in your community where you can.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Happy Place in Your Life

Hey All! I hope your week is off to a good start. The weather here in central Indiana has been beautiful and I'm just soaking it up before winter gets here.

Gratitude is something of which none of us can give too much. For on the smiles, the thanks we give, our little gestures of appreciation, our neighbors build their philosophy of life.
-- A. J. Cronin

Sometimes we all forget to be thankful for all that we have. I know I do. It takes despair, loss, or a major tragedy a lot of times to kick us in the rear to realize the greatness that we are surrounded by. We all work very hard to get ahead and in the process forget to look around and see what we already have. Life is good and we should all be grateful for the luxuries that we have here in the United States.

I watched an interesting documentary about Afghanistan this past week and it made me really see that there are places that are still out there where people live hand to mouth. Check out the documentary if you have a moment (it's free on and I linked it above). It's very awakening and makes me appreciate our immediate safety here in our country and within our government (even with all their questionable decisions that we all question from time to time).

This documentary just reassures my belief that when people are given the basic necessities and nurtured in a family-centric environment that great things can happen. People have a greater appreciation for life and the "little" things when living in this basic environment. I saw it in Honduras when I travelled there earlier this year in February. People are just people at the simple basic level and they need food, water, shelter, and love.

Have a great rest of your week!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Keeping True in Your Career

Happy weekend all. I hope your weekend has been enjoyable and relaxing!

I was riding my bike the other day, taking advantage of the thinking time that I get when doing so and another blog topic came to mind. I thought about how careers can change us and define who we are. I think some people get caught up in letting their career define them as a person and as a status level. I know that I've been guilty of letting my career mold me in the past. Now, it's a different story.

Something that I've learned through 8 years in the mortgage finance business: there is a corporate culture that is in place to define a certain way of business for it's employees in the 8+ hours that you're at your work place. This eventually becomes part of you. I have found that I can separate this culture now (wasn't always this way) when home and away from the work place. This becomes so important when you are in a relationship and have a family, friends, etc. It's easy to get caught up in our work and let it affect our moods and behaviors. This is one of those "delicate balances" that is something that we continue to learn about as we grow and age.

So, while riding my bike I made a personal goal for myself. To not let my career define me as a person and continue to be passionate about my hobbies and goals. I want to gain a positive balance in my work/home life and how my career(s) affect me as a person. Continuing to learn, read, play music, paint, travel, explore, and grow will continue to drive me on a personal level and I'll strive to keep at it.

Here's to your hobbies and goals and how you "balance" them. Have a great Sunday!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Buying Your First Home in Today's Market

Hey everyone,

Hope all is well on this almost end of the week day.

So, I work in the mortgage banking industry and get to see this stuff every day, but none-the-less, I would like to indulge myself in this topic.

Most finance websites and finance "gurus" are saying that right now is the time to buy your first home because of the $8000 tax credit and because of the interest rates that are available right now in the mortgage market. I totally agree and would support the cause 100%, if not for 1 little thing: Most people that are buying right now are extending themselves to the same extent that got us in to this little housing mess in the first place! This blog is my soap box, so excuse my blatant opinion and bias considering the fact that my career is deeply entrenched in this topic, but I can't help myself in speaking up. I was reading the other day on www.cnnmoney (which I happen to respect and get a great deal of news from) and found an article about some first time home buyers that have stretched their budget to buy their first home. While I feel that home buying is a great investment (if I didn't I wouldn't own the amount of real estate that I do), it shouldn't be done without some seriously calculated risk and some seriously financially wise moves. For instance, home buyers don't take in to consideration the cost of repairing the big stuff in a home. If you have to replace a roof, the average cost in doing so is about $6000, and that's if your house is 1000-1500 square feet. Beyond that and you're looking at tacking on thousands of dollars. Or, lets consider a big plumbing issue like a sewer line failing and the replacement cost of digging it up and re-running a new line to the city sewer: a cost of about $5000. Those are major expenses that can put someone deeply in debt if they aren't prepared. These are the issues that I refer to when I talk about first time home buyers being ill-prepared.

With that being said, I don't want to scare away everyone that may be financially and intellectually capable and responsible for buying a home for themselves. This is a calculated move that should be done at some point in ones career/life. Building equity in a home is far more valuable that building a nest egg for your landlord (no bias here even though I am a landlord). Just make sure that when you're preparing for this major leap that you take the calculated risk and have the savings to ensure that no emergency is too far beyond your reach. Taking on a new debt load should not be your goal along with owning a new home. That just extends you further in your financial outcome and makes little sense in the long run.

Final message: The real estate market has never seen the lows that we're seeing right now in regards to present day values. There are bargains out there that are far more reaching than we can even imagine. With that being said, shop wisely and be financially astute. Don't be short sighted and use your better judgement when picking your next home. Take advantage of these low rates (low 5% range by the way) and the $8000 tax credit to get a home that fits you perfectly. Most importantly, find a house that can become your home. That's far more valuable than any financial gain that can be had.

Have a great rest of your week. Salud!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Entertainment Values on the Internet

Hey all,

I hope your week is going well after the Labor Day weekend. I know I was off to a slow start, but eventually found my speed again and got back in to the groove.

I have been contemplating the real values that can be found and had on the Internet. Lately, I have spent a lot of time browsing and finding some great shows, documentaries, and movies that are all free and "on demand." The reason I enjoy this more than usual is due to the recent decision that Evelyn and I made to cut our cable television all together and we haven't been happier about a decision in the recent past. This is not due to a financial strain or a need to cut bills, but more of a decision that we made based on our lifestyle. We want to save our money for more adventurous endeavors such as traveling, great food, and just saving. Being thrifty doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing at all. We have found that we now go to the library and read more, watch more shows or documentaries that are of interest and just convenience, which in turn feeds your mind even more. I've discovered that I'm a lifelong learner and I constantly yearn to learn something new. I really enjoy that I can go to and find these options.

Other great options for value on the Internet can be found at as well, which I'm sure everyone is familiar with. For minimal cost per month you can rent DVDs that are mailed directly to your house and you can also watch films online immediately on your computer as well. We set up my Macbook on a TV tray and enjoy whatever tickles our fancy within the realm of Netflix. Pretty cool.

I've spoke about the site that is as well. Another great site for free music that is determined by the artist, song, or style that you choose is LastFm. I alternate between these two sites and find that I'm rarely listening to my Itunes, except for the occasional desires to hear some obscure or random artist that I'm wanting to hear. There isn't much that I can't find on these two sites though, along with the great opportunities to hear other artists that I may have never heard of before as well. That's worth it's weight in gold right there. I love hearing new artists and these sites do a good job of throwing some variety (more so with LastFm than Pandora) so you can find new artists and new songs that you might also enjoy as well.

Feel free to share your discoveries with me and others as well. I love finding new sites that have great stuff that I might have missed.

Have a great week!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Human Element

Hey Everyone!

Hope you're having a wonderful Friday and you're ready for a 3 day Holiday weekend. I know I am. I've been battling a sinus infection that last week and am finally on the back end of it. You don't realize how much you appreciate being healthy until you aren't.

Which brings to my topic for today that I've been contemplating for a few days now. The importance of social interaction.

I like being independent and having the flexibility to work from anywhere, however, when I'm sick and can't really leave the house much, I tend to get lonely and crave human interaction. It makes me miss the office and the interaction that I have with other people when there. There are many ways that human interaction and friendships in general can be beneficial, but some of them include: keeping you challenged mentally and intellectually, challenging your vocabulary, inspiration for creative thinking, correcting and normalizing your thought patterns, creating a more positive mood (this can be negative also given the wrong group of people). This is a good article that talks about the benefits of human interaction as well and how it has many health benefits.

So, with this Labor Day weekend upon us, have fun interacting with the important human beings in your life. I hope your weekend is extremely enjoyable.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Self Employment: Rewards and Challenges

Good morning everyone!

Tuesday is already here this week (it feels like Monday flew by me), and I'm already in to the work day, planning it out. The awesome thing about being self employed and in a nearly self employed sales position is that I get to essentially manage my own day. That is rewarding in itself, but there are other rewards as well. I'm not going to glorify the work that I do or the approach that I've taken, but I wanted to share some of the ways that I find fulfillment in my work and give others insight in to how to "be your own boss" in ways that fit the bill.

The opportunities that exist today with the technology that we have available to us are really vast. There are people making money doing nearly everything online and they're paying the bills with it! Whether it's blogging full time, doing online marketing for other businesses, building web sites, designing web sites, consulting, or just selling goods on EBay, it's happening. Which leads me to my next point: there is something for everyone.

I chose a career in mortgage banking and real estate, both of which don't necessarily require my physical presence to do the job. This doesn't mean that I don't have to show up to work or be present intellectually to do the job. I do! In some capacity or another I'm working throughout most of my day. The difference for me though is that it doesn't feel like work. I have surrounded myself with people that are my friends and I share work space with them or I subcontract them. This makes "work" not so work-like.

With the management of rental properties, I have a very dependable contracting crew that I can call at pretty much any time of the day or night to fix whatever problem may arise. This makes my life much easier and it was through trial and error that this network became what it is today. With the mortgage banking side of my life, I have a great network of Realtors and business referral partners that I have had the pleasure of working with and along side for the duration of my 8 years in the business. These people have also become my friends and make "work" seem a lot less like a burden.

So... what am I getting at? Surround yourself with the people and challenges that will make you better at what you do! Make your life what you want it to be by bringing those aspects in to your life.

Why am I posting about this? I have been reading many blogs for quite a while now and I feel the knowledge and information that is lacking with a lot of them is how they got to where they are now, and what really set them apart. Many of the "bloggers" that I follow make a living doing what they do. They talk about getting advertisers, freelance gigs, etc. but don't really talk much about the relationships that they have cultivated through the years to further their careers organically. I think this may be the most important part of a career. It is with mine!

So, with that in mind, I hope you take your dreams seriously and follow every passion you have. There are ways that you can make a living from it in today's market. Don't let the economy stifle you and your creativity. Push on!