11 November 2017

Preface

As my first piece of writing since 2016, this post will be the last long-form piece I write. After today, the blog will be returning to its original design and purpose as something that provides a bi-monthly snapshot of life for me to reflect on in the years to come. I will also be splitting all future posts in two parts: the first, an overview of life, similar to past posts, while the second part will be a descriptive listing of the most impactful songs, podcasts, movies, and books that I have absorbed. This second part will be really important to me in the future because I often forget the titles or names of the creators/artists/authors.

For this post, part one is an overview of life from June 2016 to November 2017, while part two is a Veteran’s Day reflection on narratives that poignantly depict the horrors of war and the loss of man and generations.

Part ONE

A Rookie Mistake and a Reconnection

As of today, I have 13,603.11 in credit card debt and less than $1,000 cash on-hand. That’s the bad news. I know, you’re probably thinking, “What?? That’s as much as a small car!” The good news is that if today, I decided to not invest a single dollar more into inventory and I decided to just let everything sell off, by August 2018, I’d have $88,300 in cash on-hand minus taxes (so, probably like $61,000 after taxes and minimal expenses). So I’m not really stressed but I’m also not where I want to be and the reason I am where I am today is because of a decision I made on July 31, 2017.

Since 2012, I have had a healthy business relationship with SOCOM (aka Navy SEALS). They were my very first profitable order in October 2012 and that order was major motivation for me in the early days. So when I received a call on July 31, asking for a $3,300 order, I said, “Well, I have half of the products you want. I’m not planning to produce the other half of the products you want.” The logistics officer replied, “Well, all 8 SEAL teams are going to be placing orders for $3,300, so if you want our business, you should get the product. By the way, we need it delivered 6 weeks from today.”

“Shit” I thought, “it takes me 4.5 weeks to manufacture the product and another week to ship, so…. I need to start, like, yesterday!” And so I did. That afternoon, I sent the first payment to begin manufacturing $37,000 worth of product, enough to cover all 8 orders from SOCOM and included the product that I had not intended to ever manufacture again. It was nice. I played video games for 3 days in a row and assured myself that in 6 weeks, I would be debt-free and have enough money for a substantial down-payment on a car.

Three weeks later, I learned that the original logistics officer I spoke with was wrong: only four of the eight teams would be ordering. A blow, but not a huge deal, as I’d still have enough cash from those 4 sales to cover the other 50% of my manufacturing costs. Another week passed and production was nearing completion when I found out that of the four buyers, only one was actually ready to order. Uh oh. I had to somehow come up with $5,600 in less than 6 days. How fun.

Over the next six days, I worked my ass off. I upped AdWords expenses, I sent emails to frequent buyers with special coupon codes, I did everything I could to move as much inventory in 6 days as I possibly could. My mom offered a loan, but I declined; I’d make this work. After 6 days, I somehow managed to pull in $5,874 in an off-season month, just enough to cover my final payment to my manufacturer and to cover the wire transfer fees. The inventory arrived, I shipped the orders out, SOCOM was happy, I was exhausted. My bank account was at $301, my credit cards were maxed out, and winter was coming. I had $18,600 cash tied up in inventory that would not move for the next 8 months. “I need a job,” I told myself.

After being completely self-employed for 28 out of 34 months, my resume was outdated and ill-designed. I begged my girlfriend to redesign my resume (she is a graphic designer after all), but it was a tough ask to make of someone who was already working 45 hours a week in a corporate office while I got to stay home all day with Indy. She asked, “Why don’t you ever try reconnecting with your old mentor? You talk about him constantly and how much you wish you could work for him again. Just ask.” I think she just didn’t want to have to work on my resume, but she would never admit that.

I sent him a message on Facebook expressing my interest in working for him and I offered to pick up the tab for lunch. He agreed to meet in two weeks. How slowly those two weeks passed. When we met at Chipotle, he seemed genuinely happy to reconnect. I was nervous as hell, hoping the spazzing in my hands wouldn’t be noticeable as I took each bite. We talked about both of our businesses and he said that he didn’t have any need to hire anyone at the moment.

Realizing that my chances of landing a job might be off the table, I decided to just get some stuff off my chest. My whole life, I’ve rehearsed conversations in my long morning showers about what I’d say to someone if I had the chance, running through hundreds of scenarios with deceased loved ones, old friends, old enemies, people I’d been a dick to, etc. So I just gave the shower speech I’d already given dozens of times in my own head. I recounted all the things I messed up, how I regretted the way I had handled issues in time management and communication, and how I wished I had been more mature. His demeanor changed a bit and he said he had an idea and would get back to me in a few days.

That was two months ago, and today I’m working full-time researching and developing new products for the same business I started on 5 years ago as well as products for a newer business that was started after I left. It blows my mind how much has changed in the industry in only 3 years, but it also feels like I’ve gotten into a time machine and gone back a few years. I literally feel years younger every day that I go into the office.

This job gives me so many opportunities to learn and make up for my past mistakes. It also takes a lot of pressure off of the business I own. Now that this job can fully cover my cost of living, I can invest every dollar the business earns back into its growth instead of sucking it out to pay for my own salary. For these reasons, I plan to make myself useful in this job for the foreseeable future and learn for as long as I can.

Indy’s First Day at the Office

Goodbye, Hello, Hello again

Losing my beloved dog, Scrappy, was really hard. I first met Scrappy, a Shetland sheepdog mix, when I was six years old and she was six months old. She was such a puppy then. By age 15, she had lost her hearing, and her eyes – once deep pools of brown – looked more like glassy, frozen ponds. The last two years of her life, I really struggled with knowing that she would not die of natural causes and that it would be a decision that I, her trusted human, would have to make for her. Walking to my car on a day far too hot for November, I Googled local euthanasia clinics. It was the first time I’d considered it. I cried. I dropped my phone on the sidewalk. It didn’t break but I wouldn’t have cared if it had at that point. I couldn’t do it and my family knew it, but she wasn’t getting any better. Two weeks later, on the first day of my new job, I said good morning and goodbye to Scrappy and left the house. I didn’t know it would be the last time, but it was good that I didn’t know.

After a year, my girlfriend, who sent me daily screenshots of adoptable dogs from the Arizona Humane Society sent me a photo of Franklin, a 1 year old Anatolian Shepherd/Australian Shepherd rescue. I’d seen hundreds of screenshots by this time, but his tilted head and red bandana gave me pause. I agreed that after Ottilie returned from work, we could go visit Franklin together at the AZ Humane Society adoption store. We raced to the store but arrived to find that the hours listed on Google were wrong – the store had closed over an hour earlier. Through the darkened windows, we spotted Franklin sleeping in his pen. He looked even cuter in person and I told Ottilie that I’d return at 10am the next morning.

I met Franklin in a private room. From the furthest corner, he sat and stared at me, his head tilting from side to side. “The hoarder hit him,” the employee said. I had time, I replied. Over the next hour, Franklin inched closer. My phone’s hard drive was quickly running out of space from all the photos I was taking and my thumbs grew tired of texting every little development of the visit. After an hour, he let me pet him, and once I did that, he laid down under my chair and fell asleep. I texted Ottilie, “I think we should bring him home.” She agreed. “He’s a little explorer,” the employee said as I signed the papers, “he really likes sticking his nose in bushes.” It seemed fitting, considering that Ottilie and I had already decided in advance that any dog we adopted would be named after George Lucas’ dog, Indiana Bones.

I still miss Scrappy, but I am a firm believer in the idea that dogs pick up the traits of their owners, and in the eight months that have passed since we brought Indy home, I’ve experienced a lot of joy in seeing some of the same quirks and personality traits in him that I saw in Scrappy. He is the continuation of her spirit, I think. Though sometimes obstinate (he is an Anatolian, after all), he is the most well-behaved dog I’ve ever had. He love car rides, he never barks, he is great off-leash, and he enjoys going to dog parks and dog-friendly restaurants. Every morning, he wakes me at sunrise, and every night, he falls asleep at the foot of my bed, just like Scrappy did.

Indiana Bones

Big City, Small Town

When we first looked for apartments in January 2016, I had specifically wanted a third-story apartment and the one we ended up finding was really perfect. Being on the highest floor of the highest building in the complex and set on the side of a mountain, I could gaze for miles across all of North Scottsdale and as far north as Carefree. New Year’s Eve and 4th of July celebrations presented an entire valley of fireworks displays to watch from that wonderful perch.

However, after adopting Indy, the apartment life was less of a dream and more of a frustration. Each morning, afternoon, and evening required a 20 minute walk for Indy to do his business and, while fine in February and March, I knew it would not be sustainable in July and August – Indy needed a yard. So, the search for a rental house began. We spent weekdays on Trulia and weekends calling management companies. It was significantly more time-consuming and challenging than expected and we were nearly to re-sign our apartment lease for another year when we learned that Ottilie’s parents had purchased a fixer upper and would be renovating it over the next couple months with the goal of renting it and holding equity in the property. They offered to let us rent the property at reduced market cost (rentals in the neighborhood were ranging between $1800-2400/month and were well outside of our budget) if we agreed to help significantly with the renovations and maintain the property’s value. Seeing as I had a totally flexible schedule and ample time to help, we quickly agreed and soon I was spending most of my weekdays sanding drywall, putting together kitchen cabinets, and prepping floors for tiling, and my girlfriend and I were spending our weekends together painting walls and ceilings. From essentially bare studs, my girlfriend’s stepdad rebuilt the entire interior of the house with a level of expertise that left me standing in awe 99% of the time. In 5 months’ time, he turned a mess of a house into something truly incredible and beautiful.

In June 2017, we moved into the house and made it our home. Surprisingly, my favorite thing about our new home is the neighborhood. Though bordering Phoenix’s financial district, the neighborhood, which was built between 1951 and 1962, feels like a small town all by itself. On the west end of the neighborhood is a Catholic church whose bells ring every hour and in the mornings, when I close my eyes, I can imagine the bells sounding like those of a small village in the French campagne. On the east end is a public high school football field and every Friday night brings about a rush of activity and exuberance from the bleachers. The old oak trees of the street, having recently celebrated their 60th birthdays, tower 45 feet above the streets, casting massive shadows across the yards and sidewalks. Even the sidewalks bear markings of the original concrete contractors who poured them in 1962 and the hand-prints of children who struck their palms into a handful of freshly-poured repair slabs in 1986 and 1992. Having grown up most of my life in neighborhoods no older than I, the idea of walking on sidewalks older than my parents and that existed when JFK was president, when the Vietnam war was still a minor conflict, and when man had just entered space for the first time, is something that never fails to fascinate me on my morning walks. I really love this place and I’m really grateful for the opportunity we have been given to live here.

Home

Part TWO

Narratives for The Fallen

“But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony–Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”

Erich Maria Remarque, German soldier and author

2017 marks 100 years since American entry into the First World War, a war which cost the lives of 18 million people including 116,708 American service members. Today, nearly 100 years after the Armistice, Americans remember the dead of war on this 99th Veteran’s Day. However, it is hard to say how many Americans will reflect today on the horror of the wars that caused those deaths. These past few months, the idea of war and the option of war has been on the minds and lips of many politicians and pundits, and I feel that the long Pax Americana and the physical and mental distance from the realities of war have insulated us from the horrors of it. So, this Veteran’s Day, I want to reflect on the loss of man and the loss of generations as reflected in the words and songs of those who remain.

Green Fields of France

Written as a ballad to a fallen Scottish soldier, the narrator sits at the Scottish soldier’s gravestone and ponders how he died and how the world remembered him as the soldier rests in the ground, still in the No Man’s Land that is now a military cemetery mostly void of the living. This profoundly poignant song was written by Scottish songwriter, Eric Bogle, in Flanders in 1976, a time marking the twilight of the World War I generation.

The sun, now it shines o’er the green fields of France
There’s a warm summer breeze th’ makes the red poppies dance
And look how the sun shines from under the clouds
There’s no gas, no barbed wire, there’s no guns firing now
But here in this graveyard it’s still no man’s land
The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man
To a whole generation that were butchered and damned.

I recommend the cover by The High Kings, available to listen here on YouTube and also available on Spotify.

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Also written by Scottish songwriter, Eric Bogle, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda is narrated from the point of view of an Australian commonwealth soldier as he proudly boards a troop transport destined for the shores of Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire) while the band ashore plays the famous Australian patriotic song, Waltzing Matilda. After losing his legs and his comrades on the sands of Gallipoli, the Australian soldier returns home and is carried off the ship on a stretcher, only to see that the Australian people have turned their faces away from him and forgotten his sacrifices.

And those that were left, well we tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive
Though around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well I wished I was dead
Never knew there was worse things than dyin’

For I’ll go no more waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and free
To hump tent and pegs, a man needs both legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

Available to listen here on YouTube and also available on Spotify

The Soldier and the Oak

Set in the Civil War and years after, this recent story from American songwriter, Elliott Park, is narrated from the view of an oak tree, the final resting place of a mortally wounded soldier, recounting the arc of its own life and the impact of the soldier’s death upon it. Being told from the view of the oak tree, it does not really reflect the horror of death, but it is still a rather beautiful story and very different in that it is narrated by an inanimate but living entity.

This is a story that began long, long ago
I was a young oak tree in dark Missouri soil
And like all other saplings I had dreams of growing
Strong and tall

But one day a rebel with a bullet in his chest
Hung his rifle on my limbs and laid to rest
And there beside me as the blood soaked to my roots
The soldier sang
A song of grace

The heavy rifle bowed me over to the ground
Two years I stayed this way until the rifle fell
And in this manner for a hundred years I grew
All my dreams
Not meant to be…

Check out the rest of the song on YouTube or Spotify

 

 

 

 

Thus Far: A Review of This Year and The Past Five

As the sole purpose for this site is to collect my current thoughts about business and life and write them for reflection by my future self, I do not know whether to be impressed or disappointed in the fact that this post comes exactly one year after my previous post. I have been meaning to write something for the past two months, but my impediment has been finding a whole day in which I can focus and capture my state of mind, and since I had set a rule for myself in the beginning that I would never go more than a year without writing, today is my deadline.

It is rather coincidental that as I am writing this post, I am preparing for an out-of-state wedding, which is exactly what I was preparing for at this same time last year. Another year, another June wedding. But of all the months in the year, June has often been the most pivotal, and June 2011 may have been the most pivotal month of my life thus far.

Five years ago today, I landed in Prague for the start of a one-month class on the Holocaust. Five years ago tomorrow, I sat in an overcrowded cafe at a table with a man I did not know and in front of whom, I unintentionally ate a small stick of pure butter.

“Did you just eat butter?”

Yes, I did.

What kind of idiot confuses frozen butter for a possible European appetizer? A very hungry one. Nonetheless, this mishap did not dissuade the man from introducing himself to me, and this man, apart from my parents, would be the single greatest living influence on my life when he became my mentor and employer for the next three years.

While it is truly difficult to concede that a half-decade has passed since that blissful Czech summer, it is equally incredible to reflect on how much has changed since. This past November, my best friend married the girl he had just begun dating when he and I made that adventurous trip to Vancouver four years ago. Also in November, my oldest friend, my dog, Scrappy, passed away at age 18. Another goodbye came as I watched my beloved Passat of four years and sixty-thousand miles worth of memories being towed away to my local NPR station. Some narratives of the storyline have ended and some are only beginning.

In July 2014, I met a girl while volunteering together at The Welcome to America Project. After planning a spontaneous trip to Thailand together in the chaos of the 2014 Ebola outbreak and surviving said trip, we began dating. Being in a relationship has had a major effect in reconstituting my ideas about thoughtfulness, honesty, and acceptance of who I am. Considering its effect in almost every non-business aspect of my life, I would say that it is the most positive life event of the last decade of my life. We began considering the idea of moving in together in August and completed this transition in April. Living with one’s best friend has to be one of the most enjoyable parts of life.

In April, my company turned four years old. When I wrote about the state of the company last year, I wrote about how much I loved being completely self-employed and the challenges that came with it. While I did and still do love being self-employed, I found that in the latter months of 2015, I was lacking something. That something is that I have a persistent and unending need to be valued for my work by someone in a position of authority and that I need to be valued as one of the best in said work. The more challenging the work, the more motivated I am to prove to that authority that I am better than most. I do not know where it comes from, but I would think that it comes from my early schooling and it has been a constant thread throughout my life. Being homeschooled, most years of school were not of significant importance to me because I was being judged only by my mom, who I did respect, but did not consider an independent authority. Conversely, fourth grade and sophomore year of high school were paramount to me because I felt judged to be superior to my classmates in my respective classes and was being judged by teachers I respected and felt were above their own peers. The fact that I was a nerd and most likely also an ass did not matter to me at all.

So due to my superiority complex and need to be judged, I got a part-time job at The Home Depot in November. My reasons for choosing The Home Depot in particular were that I could be paid to learn about residential wiring and plumbing (things I felt were important to know if living on my own), flexibility (I have taken six one-week vacations in the past six months), and relatively good pay compared to other retail stores. I do enjoy working as an employee, as it allows me to live with my complexes and lets me provide value and knowledge to strangers and customers face-to-face, which is something that only happens extremely rarely in my self-employment. I will likely leave The Home Depot soon due to safety reasons and will seek employment at Hobby Lobby, Marriott, or Half Price Books, the companies at the top of my list.

Despite being employed, my company has not been neglected this year at all. In fact, my time investment in it has only grown. Last year, I spent most of my summer playing Skyrim and the Total War series. Between January 2014 and August 2015, I would be surprised if the sum total of hours playing video games did not exceed 2,000 hours. I still long to play video games, but sometimes it is better to give up what entertains me for what is more important and will make me happier in the long-run. Unfortunately, gaming provides no value except momentary thrills and a sense of escapism. Since October 2015, the number of hours I have spent on single-player gaming is 0. This shift in time management has shown in the revenue numbers for my business.

Here are the revenues for the past five years from May 3 to June 3 of each year:
May 3 to June 3, 2012: $0 (business was less than 2 months old)
May 3 to June 3, 2013: $217
May 3 to June 3, 2014: $1285
May 3 to June 3, 2015: $2954
May 3 to June 3, 2016: $7595

In addition, I revamped my satellite sites (WordPress websites which are only 1 to 5 pages, only utilize Paypal, and are designed to target specific keywords without any ads). The sites were relaunched in September and have a combined yearly operating cost of $162. Since October 2015, they have had a combined revenue of $681. I literally do nothing with the sites except update their WordPress platforms every couple months.

My plans for the next six months are to expand my primary product offering (one type of product brings in 85% of my revenue) and increase my value per customer. Most of my sales do not come from leads, but I get about 15 leads per week in the form of customers requesting free product samples. In the past, I invested about $0.59 per lead and am now investing about $1.94 per lead. This has increased my sales conversion rate ten fold and my total sales by about 15%. I would also really like to expand to Amazon. I had planned to be on Amazon by the end of March, but delayed this move due to moving out. I am planning to make this jump by the end of this month.

Perhaps my biggest milestone of this year is that I finally went on a vacation in which I made more money during the vacation than I spent while on the vacation. I paid $840 for a 2-person 4-day cruise to Mexico last month and in that 4-day period, profited $1020. It may sound small, but this was a dream of mine which I wrote about in a post in 2012.

Apart from business, my primary goal now is to reconnect with my newly-married best friend. The four of us met for Thai food this past week and may meet again this weekend. Discussions of international travel together were had, so new adventures may be in store for this old friendship!

State of the Company

I am leaving for a flight to Oregon in nine hours. The final hours before a flight always leave me in a state of mild anxiety, so now is as good of a time as any to write about how the past six months have progressed.

I have been self-employed now for six months and two weeks. It has been quite the experience, I must say! When I quit, I had twenty thousand dollars, but after a trip to Thailand and a nine-grand tax bill in April, my accounts going into the summer months totaled about seven-thousand. This is just to give some background on where things started from.

In January, I had a handful of sales due to a Google AdWords campaign. It was my first campaign with a limit of ten dollars per day. It brought in a number of off-season sales I probably would not have gotten and was good practice in campaign management. When I returned from Thailand at the end of January, I had a post-travel depression and business got pushed to the back burner. Not really a good thing when it is your only source of income.

By mid-February, I was beginning to realize just how much my tax liability would be, at an effective rate of twenty-six percent, so I finally got into gear and started prepping for summer.

In March, I began preparing to order about eight thousand dollars worth of inventory. The first three-quarters of this inventory has arrived and the last shipment should arrive in the next few weeks. This inventory should get me through summer and maybe over the winter months.

By April, my revenues were one-thousand one-hundred percent greater for the year so far as compared to the prior year. Pretty incredible improvement, and I saw it as a good sign for the rest of this year, considering that in that time last year, I had by then only received seven percent of my total orders for the year.

It is now June and from January 1 of this year, I have had nearly six times the revenue and three times the orders as compared to this time last year. Good progress.

With all this good news, I must admit that running a business without secondary income is quite challenging! With every dollar that comes in, I can choose to reinvest it into the business and eventually get two or three dollars back or I can pull it out and use it for myself. That is a very difficult choice to make right now.

Additionally, I am beginning to encounter a paradox of sorts that I had not expected. While the business is doing well and revenues are high, I am not actually making a lot of money in income because I must continually grow my inventory to keep up with expected increases in sales. So in the future, with inventory totaling fifty thousand dollars, I could expect to make one hundred thousand per year, but now, all of my income is tied up in growing inventory and I only have thirty thousand dollars in inventory. The more sales I have, the more money I get, the more inventory I need for future sales. I see no point at which this will plateau in the near future because there is no plateau for potential sales.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the beast that is moving a company. I am now twenty-three years old. I live in my parents’ house. I enjoy living here, it is true, but I must set off on my own in the near future. How easy my life would be if I had no company. If not for this business, I could move into a four-hundred dollars per month room and live off about twelve-hundred dollars per month with relative ease. But alas, that is not the case!

Moving a business seems to be like moving yourself out twice. You must have a home and your business must have a home. How I wish I could move this business into a warehouse and live in said warehouse. Curse you, zoning laws! I must have internet in my home and I must have internet in my warehouse. I must have insurance in my home and I must have insurance in my warehouse. Nearly every cost that is incurred in moving out is seemingly doubled again in moving a business. Potentially, I could move into a relatively large house and use the house as a warehouse, but it is not particularly ideal, since houses are not designed to function as large-scale warehouses. More ideally, again, I would prefer to live in a warehouse.

While I may be able to move out or move my company, it does not seem like I am in a position to do both, so that is difficult to work around. Nonetheless, my goal is still to move out before my twenty-fourth birthday. Perhaps I will have to rent out rooms, I am not sure, but I aim to make it work.

When I return from Oregon, I will be arranging an appointment with zoning officers of the various valley cities to determine if there are any areas where I could live in my ideal situation. Nevertheless, it is certain that the next six months will be as interesting as the last six months!

Currently Self-Employed

Six hours ago, my life as an employee came to an end. Nonetheless, the reality of it has not completely set in yet. From this point forward, I will no longer be answering emails, returning missed calls, or receiving paychecks. Even though I have had this point in the forefront of my mind for six months, it still feels rather unreal.

In August 2011, I began working for my mentor and employer. My first real day on the job began at a Paradise Bakery on Scottsdale Rd and Mayo Blvd. The week before, I had interviewed for a job at Office Max, and that morning, they had called me to offer a job. If everything had occurred three weeks earlier, I would have accepted the job, and it is interesting to think now about where my life might be today had that happened.
From that first day on, my mentor taught me about business and instilled in me a sense of confidence upon which no price can be set. He motivated me to start my first business in November 2011 and reminded me of my goals when I sold it in March 2012. That first taste of business imparted a hunger for entrepreneurship, and I started my current company in April of 2012.

In time, both my confidence and my company grew. In a manner that has been rather bittersweet, the business grew to the point where it became difficult for me to prioritize my work for my mentor over my business. Obviously, this state of strained focus could not last forever, as it created a good deal of friction between my mentor and I, and I began seriously entertaining the thought that I would need to leave by the end of this year for the sake of us both about six months ago.

It has always been a very tough decision for me. If not for my mentor, I really have no idea where I would be right now. Honestly, I am so excited for my future that I really do not think I could be in a better place. If not for his generosity, I would have never had the opportunity to climb the highest mountain in Africa. If not for his knowledge, I would have never known where to start in creating a business. How can one repay something like that? I think the best way would be for me to go forward, succeed, and provide as much value to someone else as he has provided to me over the years.

So today has been a rather bittersweet day. Out of seemingly complete circumstance, my employment ended in the same place it began – the Paradise Bakery at Scottsdale Rd. and Mayo Blvd. How fitting! The reality that I am now my sole source of income is both exhilarating and slightly terrifying. The journey for which I have been planning for two years is finally happening! Over the past year, I have amassed enough capital to make the transition and I know where I am going and how I am going to get there. The journey has begun and it will be exciting, of that I am certain!

A Boy’s View of Life

About a month ago, I was on a red-eye flight from Phoenix to New York. On my left, a 20-something-year-old art student from New York whose only goal on that flight was to sleep from the time we left the gate until the wheels touched down on the tarmac at JFK. In front of me sat dozens of passengers in various stages of dozing off. And behind me, in the last row on the plane, a young boy, maybe 4 or 5 years of age, sitting alone (though rarely wanting to actually sit) and heading to meet his aunt from The City.

Throughout the flight, the young boy’s eyelids did not even droop a bit. Though he quietly observed the blackness from his window seat for the majority of the flight, every now and then he would let out a loud cry of excitement. “Oh, wow! I can see the clouds! We are in a cloud right now!” The exasperated middle-aged couple to my right eyed the flight attendant with indignation. “Excuse me, young boy, please try to be quiet. The other passengers are trying to sleep, ok?” the flight attendant pleaded. The boy replied in a loud whisper, “I know, but we’re flying!”

I could not help but feel a sense of envy for the way in which this boy saw the world. In his eyes, the state of flying in a plane in the sky was one of the most exciting things to have yet happened to him, an event generally considered mundane and a waste of time by the majority of regular passengers. I imagined that most things the world considers boring, he probably found to be exhilarating and I felt a bit jealous of that.

A month later, eager to return home from Tanzania, I boarded KLM flight 571 at Kilimanjaro Intl. Airport. I located my seat, 35G, an aisle seat on the far right of the center row. In 35F sat an older woman in her mid-60s, I would suppose. “I cannot believe this! These are not our seats!” the woman proclaimed. “We selected aisle and window seats on the website in May and now we have center seats!” The woman asked if I would be willing to switch seats with her husband who had been assigned seat 35E. I replied that it would be no problem. I generally do not particularly care where I sit as long as I am on the plane and my duffel bag is as well.

When I finally got situated and the plane left the ground, the older woman continued to demand of the flight attendants an answer as to why her seats had been changed. The flight attendants obviously had no power in the situation and I could not help but feel sympathy for them as she was wont to making their lives miserable.

When she finally tired of making her demands, she sat in her seat and asked, “Why do we have to go to Dar es Salaam anyways? We are going to Amsterdam and this stop is in the completely wrong direction.” I replied to her that it was because the flight from Kilimanjaro was not usually a full-enough flight and it would be inefficient for KLM to have two separate flights for Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam. Why not kill two birds with one stone?

I turned to the woman on my left with whom I had been conversing and told her that I was happy to be going in the wrong direction because every mile south we flew towards Dar es Salaam would be the furthest south I had ever traveled in my life, even if it would be by plane. I was also excited because Dar es Salaam is on the East coast of Africa and even though the plane would be enveloped by the black of night and I would have no window to look out of, the thought of being that close to the Indian Ocean, a body of water I had not seen with my own eyes, would be quite cool.

On the flight home, much of the time I spent either not reading Twain’s The Innocents Abroad or watching Good Will Hunting, I spent staring at the map of the flight path, showing our exact location in the sky above the Earth. At one point, I marveled at the fact that we were directly above the city of Alexandria, about to cross over the Mediterranean Sea. Flying over Europe, I wondered what cities and villages, ancient battle sites, and intimidating mountains we were passing over. And then it hit me. I realized that I was basically the little boy on the first flight from home. Here I was, thrilled about things that had probably not crossed the minds of most of the passengers on that flight, but that would have certainly also thrilled that young boy. And I could not have been happier than to have known that.

I hope that I live the rest of my life as the young boy. I imagine that the older woman probably once had the attitude of that young boy, like I think all young children do, but she let life change her attitude. I am determined to not let that happen.

Mieux en Mieux

Dear Future Self,

It has been quite some time since I last wrote, but I have not felt a burning desire to write. Not a lot has changed since November, but the keyword for the past five months would simply be, “progress.” To give a little overview, I will go through the changes that have occurred in the areas that I wrote about in my last post.

French.
The French lessons are going very well. A week ago, I managed to awkwardly, but effectively, work my way through a twenty minute conversation about my first time dancing. It could have probably been a five minute conversation if the vocabulary vault in the nether regions of my mind were more accessible, but believe me when I say that it was twenty minutes of 100% focus. I have been burning out a bit on some of the tenses, so I am reviewing them all very heavily this week and I hope to thoroughly impress my teacher, come next Wednesday. On a side note, I will be going to Europe in May and will probably be passing through France along the way from Italy to Ireland, so now is the time for the last straightaway sprint in preparation for that trip.

Refugees
In the past few months, I have felt very at-home with The Welcome to America Project. I cannot think of an organization that I would rather be involved with and being engaged with them has been both a blast and a very humbling experience. I have not felt as truly useful in a very long time. I only wish that I did not live so far from the east side, which is where most of the organization and its members are located. It may very well influence my decision on where to move to once I move out (which I will talk about more later in this post). In the meantime, I am currently in training as a delivery lead and am contemplating getting involved with a couple of committees, so hopefully I can expand my usefulness to the organization.,

Dancing
In my last post, I mentioned that I was going into dancing almost full force, but I actually delayed that goal a bit. The time and distance to drive to Tempe every weekend was just too much for both my schedule and my wallet. However, in January, I began taking a Latin dance class at Paradise Valley Community College. I am not saying that I have the hips of Shakira, but I will say that it is pretty incredible what a few hours of works and a great teacher can do. Rumba is my favorite style of dance by far, but salsa and cha-cha are not far behind. I will have to figure out what my plan is for the summer, as I still think I am at the stage where I could lose most of my progress if I drop out of the scene for too long.

Soccer
This has actually been the most fun goal. Just a couple weeks ago, I started playing with a group of guys (mostly) in the east valley and getting back into the sport has been the best decision I have made in a long time. I will admit, my first week was terrible. I did not warm up and I was literally heaving, but I survived. My mind knew how to control the touches, but my feet were just not doing what my brain was telling them to do. The group of guys, who are from all over the world (mostly Iraqi and Libyan, it seems, but also a few English, Colombian, etc.), were understanding, however, and invited me back for the next week. While a lot of my skill is still gone, I have been playing decently. It is so exhilarating to be back out on the pitch.

New Goals

Fitness
Prior to starting soccer, I decided that getting into shape would be my most important goal, so I signed up at the closest gym the first week of December. After a couple days of limping around after workouts, I decided to look into getting a trainer. It was an expensive decision, but in my mind, the cost of an injury from incorrectly working out would be far greater than the cost of the trainer and the accountability and mere presence of a trainer is very beneficial. I am nowhere near Schwarzenegger status, but I am gaining muscle mass very quickly and even my uncle noticed the size of my arms the other day. If you knew my uncle, you would know that is a big deal. More importantly, all of the ailments that I had pre-December are completely gone. I feel a million times better. The looks are just a bonus, although I would be lying if I said that I don’t stand in front of the mirror, wondering what I will look like in another three months or another six months.

Piano
After three weeks of having not played the piano, I sat down at the bench two weeks ago and discovered to my horror that my right pinky would not function correctly. I literally could not play any song correctly and I could not will it into doing anything properly. After putting so much time and effort into this skill over the past ten years, this terrified me. How could I lose so much in just three weeks? In an effort to recover what I had lost, I spent two hours each day from that day forward and have since gotten back to normal, but I know I cannot let that happen again. To motivate myself, I have set a goal of learning six new Yann Tiersen songs in the next month or two to expand my repertoire to a total of twelve Tiersen pieces.

Business
In January, I started working from home for Peak Planet and it has been excellent. I can work twenty-four hours a day if I want and I can deal with clients a lot more effectively. This month has been a bit slow, which isn’t unusual for March, but January and February were excellent months. As this month has been slower, I have been able to spend a lot of time on my mosquito netting business. The new site is fully operational as of this morning, I am currently working in a dropshipping capacity for a store in Australia, and I am preparing to wire four grand to a manufacturer in China for a huge supply of mosquito netting. This will be the biggest investment yet, so I will have to make sure it pays off. I am excited to see the direction that the business is going in though.

Possible Future Goals

Painting
I have recently been feeling an urge to get back into painting, but I will have to see whether it is something I want to seriously get back into. Maybe it will be my summer past time, depending on what I do with Latin dancing.

THE BIG GOAL
Although I have been making quite a bit of progress in all of these areas, I still feel like I am stagnating a bit in one area of my life, and that is responsibility. I do not feel like an adult yet, even though I just reached the “milestone” of 21 years. I also feel little motivation to make anymore money than what I am making right now as I am able to do just about everything I want to do with straining my wallet. I think this means that it is time for me to start planning on moving out. This will be my goal for 2013. I think this is the only way that I can force myself to become a responsible adult and put myself in that sink-or-swim position. Of course, I do want to be responsible in buying a house, so in the meantime, I will be building up as much of a nest egg as possible, and hopefully this will give me enough motivation to really go full force and challenge myself financially.

Living Uncomfortably

In my last post, I wrote about how I was constricting and downsizing my belongings, but I did not write so much about how I was constricting and opening my time. I want to cover that and how I am in the process of restructuring my life and overcoming my main fears at the same time.

For the past 4 or 5 years of my life, I have lived from day to day very comfortably. Although I have stepped outside of my comfort zone and attempted small challenges on occasion, I can honestly say that besides working really hard to get on the soccer team at the local high school in my junior year, I really have not made any effort to move toward the life that I have always wanted.

Every day, I have looked in the mirror and wished I was muscular, but I have not made an effort to work out simply because it has been more comfortable not to. Every day, I have looked at pictures of Croatia, but have not done any of the things necessary to get me there because it has simply been easier to sit in a chair and stare at a screen. Every day, I have watched my friends live exciting lives, but I have chosen to waste my time playing stupid computer games from my childhood instead because my childhood was where I was most comfortable. However, regardless of my comfort, this was not the life I wanted to live, nor the life I ever wanted to live. So upon my return from Vancouver, I decided that things had to change at the risk of never living my life.

Now, very, very few people know this, but I had what I considered an addiction to video games. Although I did not buy a single video game for almost five years, I still played the games from my childhood, such as Age of Empires 2 and Axis & Allies RTS. It is almost shameful for me to admit this in a public realm, even when video games are a very common pastime for young American males, but it was a reality in my life. At times, I spent 4-5 hours a day, and 15+ hours a week playing games, which for all practical purposes, were completely pointless and got me no closer to my ideal life.
Therefore, my first decision was that the video games had to go. Because I was too attached to the games to break the discs, I actually threw them behind a heavy bookcase that I knew I would not move for quite some time but where they would not be heavily damaged. In retrospect, I should have just broken them, but oh well. For now, they are gone.

This was probably the most dramatic and quickest change, but I also removed other parts of my schedule throughout the months of August and September until it actually got to the point that my parents asked me whether I was ever going to leave the house. Little did they know, I was just preparing for a bit of restructuring.

As my life was almost completely devoid of any sort of social schedule, I began filling it with new “programs” in the same way that a network television executive fills time slots. These new programs were to be long-term goals that I would start on at two month intervals until my schedule was full once again.

My first goal was to begin learning a new foreign language, which I began doing in September. In the past eleven weeks, I have increased my vocabulary from maybe a dozen French words to almost 850 words (not including conjugations) and can read, write, and speak in five tenses. Not bad for only eleven weeks, but I would have to say that 95% of this is due to the patience and excellence of my tutor. If it were not for her, I do not think that I would have made it even half as far as I have.

My second goal was to get involved in a refugee program again. Since I feel that working with refugees could be considered my life’s calling, I got connected with The Welcome to America Project here in Phoenix and have been helping them out as often as they need me. It has been a very uplifting and humbling experience and it consistently reminds me of how fortunate I am.

My third goal was to learn how to dance. To be honest, I have always wanted to learn how to dance. Every time I have ever watched a couple dancing in perfect unison, I have been filled with admiration and envy. But I have never shown my interest in dancing because I have always been fearful of appearing less masculine than I already perceive myself to be or of being an inept dancer. In the past two months, I have decided that these are completely irrational fears and could be easily overcome if I just made an effort and tried to learn. Last weekend, I began my first dance class and it was exceptionally fun. I have a feeling that the next few months will only get increasingly more fun.

My fourth and final goal for the near future is to get back into the beautiful game. For almost four years, soccer was my passion and I devoted nearly every waking moment to it. In the past three years, I let that passion go, and every time I see a soccer match, I regret having ever walked off the pitch. Last night, I rode my bicycle to the store and bought a soccer ball. My goal is to be back in top shape by January with plans to join a Peoria or Glendale adult league in the spring season.

While talking with my best friend last week, we were discussing the topic of procrastination, and she reminded me of the idea that I had heard many times that procrastination is simply the result of being too afraid of success or too afraid of failure. In a semi-epiphany, I realized that this is exactly what has been stopping me from moving towards my ideal life. My comfort bubble is the result of being afraid. Fortunately, I no longer feel that I have anything to be afraid of and I feel that I can begin my new life, which is well underway.

Equinox

Seeing as the main point of this blog is to document my thoughts and be able to reflect on how my ideas and ways of life have changed over time, it is probably not a good thing that I haven’t written anything in three months. Since a lot has changed since then, I will write this post in a series of topics instead of in one long, flowing piece.

INTRO

Journey North

On July 31, I sat in a seat in the sky, headed to Vancouver, British Columbia for a 9-day retreat from everything. I had left behind my laptop, my phone, my Facebook, my business, and most of my friends. It was just myself, a good friend, and a backpack’s worth of clothes, travel documents, and books in the bin overhead. Over the next 9 days, I rediscovered a little bit of myself that I think I had lost sight of during my normal daily rush: the simple me. And I liked it.

I realized how freeing it is to be more disconnected and alone. I realized that I didn’t need a lot of stuff or a ridiculously full schedule packed with a lot of unfulfilling experiences, and this has been kind of the overriding theme of my life for the past 6 weeks.

STUFF

Constricting

Probably the most important conscious decision I have made in the past month or so has been to stop buying crap. Even before I made this decision, I was pretty restrictive about what I bought, but this decision has simply made me more restrictive. Do I really need more clothes? No, I have a closet full of perfectly good clothes. Do I need to eat out today? No, I’m fully capable of making my own healthy food and I have plenty of it. Do I need to go see the new Batman movie? No, I’ll survive if I don’t and I’m sure I’ll see it someday. Besides, I have a lot of books that are calling my name!

Basically, this decision has come from an experiment that I do on almost every trip, including my most recent trip to Vancouver. When I first arrive in a new place, I tend to withdraw a lot of money and I spend it very quickly. I can easily go through $200 in the first three days just on food, transportation, museum passes, etc. However, towards the last couple days of a trip, I tend to be very comfortable in my new locale and almost always, short on money. Now, I could always go to the nearest ATM and get more money. It’s not like my bank account is dry. However, I prefer to conduct an experiment, which is basically to see how long I can make the smallest amount of money last.

In Vancouver, this was the two days before I left. I had twenty-seven Canadian dollars left and I was determined to make it last until I got on the train to Washington. I walked a few miles instead of taking the bus, I went to the Chinese supermarket and bought enough food to last me an entire day for $3.63, instead of eating out, and I hiked the the Grouse Grind, the 2 mile, ridiculously steep hike to the top of the 4,500′ foot mountain that overlooks all of Vancouver instead of paying for the lift. All of it was rewarding and I managed to make the money last until I got to the train station, where I converted the last dollar and four cents to American currency for the bus ride from the Amtrak station to the airport in Bellingham, Washington. I wondered if this was something I could do when I returned home, and so far, it’s working.

In the past six weeks, I have bought one shirt, one bicycle, one pair of shoes (to replace the pair that I literally ripped apart in Vancouver), and a bunch of BPA-free reusable bottles. I have also gone out to eat three times since the trip. Other than that, my spending has been almost nil. This streak will probably end this coming month, October, but it is still cool to know that it is entirely possible to live happily without buying crap.

Downsizing

To complement my spending philosophy, I have also decided to reduce the amount of crap that I have. I donated a garbage bag full of clothes, I got rid of shoes that I no longer wear, I organized all of my paperwork and got rid of school work and paperwork I no longer need, and I even went so far as to get rid of the paintings I made in 2009-2010 by giving them away to friends who asked for them. My room is becoming more bare and easier to keep organized every day and I love it! I still have a ways to go though and will probably continue downsizing.

Thoughts on Cars

It’s funny to me that there was a point in my life where I thought that cars were a big deal and that they could be considered a good investment. It makes me wonder what things I consider a big deal at this point in my life that I will look back on in a year or a decade and shake my head about, amused that I once thought those things to be a big deal.

Anyways, getting back to the whole cars thing, I think it is interesting how radically my views on cars have changed. For almost a year, I worked at a dealership, and as one learns when working at a dealership, cars are everything. The only thing that seemed to matter when I was there was what car you drove, what cars you liked, and what car you would eventually be able to drive. Working there for almost a year, and having worked at a car restoration shop for half a year before that, this view became engrained in my psyche. No longer was I happy with driving my beat up, bumper-less Subaru station wagon. I felt that I needed something that I could look at with pride and that other people would envy me for.

So between this view, a rather emotional April (the month in which my classic-car-restoring grandfather had died three years earlier), and a juvenile need to prove that old cars were a better investment than new cars (I had a jealousy issue about the fact that my girlfriend’s parents had bought her a nice, brand-new VW), I went on Craigslist and bought a 1974 VW Super Beetle without doing any substantial due diligence. Over the next year and a half, I poured over seven grand and countless hours into this car only to be laden with loads of stress and an unreliable car.I also failed to do or prove anything I set out to do in the first place. I am not basking in my car’s glory, I didn’t honor my grandfather by restoring it, and I wasn’t able to prove that classic cars are a worthwhile investment.

Of course, I no longer feel the need to prove or do any of these things. I no longer believe that cars define people and I do not want to be a “car guy,” I have since reconciled myself with my grandfather’s death and no longer feel the need to restore a car to honor him, and I no longer have envious feelings about my best friend or her car. In short, I have simply fixed all of the heart issues that caused this problem in the first place and no longer need cars.
Today, I will be calling local VW guys in an effort to sell the VW by next week. Regardless of the outcome or the price I sell it for, I cannot express how happy I will be to be rid of that car. It will be a huge burden lifted off of my shoulders and I am thankful for the very costly lessons that dealing with this car has taught me.

Next week, I will begin my search for a new car, but it will not be for anything special. If I lived in a world where I didn’t need a car, I would be so happy, but that is not the case – yet. Therefore, I will be looking for something that gets me from reliably from here to there without a care in the world about its looks or features. None of that matters to me anymore. It’s just stuff.

TIME

The Tyler Durden Creed

When I first saw the film, Fight Club, it made absolutely no sense to me. I thought it was the worst, most nihilistic movie I had ever watched with no meaning. Like most critics who panned it when it opened at the box office, I viewed it as an excessively violent film where a bunch of guys beat each other up for no apparent reason and caused mayhem at the expense of everyone else. Only now, six years later, does it make any sense. In fact, it makes perfect sense and it always has, I was just blind to its meaning. The whole point of the film was to be a figurative punch in the gut followed by a swift kick to the face in an effort to make us, the viewers, re-examine the ways in which we live our lives. Every word that Tyler Durden says to the narrator, Jack, is actually intended for the audience.

I recently watched the film again and one line in particular has really stuck with me. In a long monologue, Tyler Durden says, “This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time.” I realized how true this line really is. Our lives are finite and are like an hourglass. Each grain of sand shifts from one side to the other until there are no more grains of sand left. Therefore I have to be conscious of that and make an effort to truly fill each “unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.”

The Tim Ferris Experiment

In an effort to increase my freedom of time, I began an experiment based off of Tim Ferriss’ experiences. In his books, he writes about making himself unavailable by only responding to emails for predetermined amounts of time and by only being available by phone between set times. Therefore, I have set 6:00AM, 11:30PM, and 4:30PM as times to check my emails and I allow myself no more than 15 minutes each time. This also creates an environment where people don’t expect me to get back to them instantaneously. So far, it has made a really big difference.

Education

Along with the time allocation experiment, I have also begun using Wunderkit, a task management app, and a RescueTime, an analytics app that shows you how you spend your time on computers to help me better focus my time. With all of these efforts, I have managed to free up almost 3 hours a day. Along with exercising and getting into a regular sleep pattern, I have decided to dedicate this time to more formal education.

In Vancouver, I met many European travelers who spoke two, three, or even four different languages. One guy I talked to said that he was the worst student in his English classes and yet, even he spoke almost perfect English. Being surrounded by bi-lingual or tri-lingual people is a pretty humbling experience, and few things make me feel dumber than knowing that I am confined to one language and cannot comprehend what people around me are saying while they can comprehend everything that I say. Therefore, I decided that when I got home from Vancouver, the first thing I would do would be to pick a new language to learn. While I had been learning Arabic, I found that the thousands of different Arabic dialects were going to be a major challenge and that with the Arab Spring, the chances of me visiting the Arab World anytime soon would be pretty slim, so I decided that I would pick a more conventional language that I might actually be able to use. I went to the library, picked up a Mandarin book, a French book, and a German book, and settled on French through a rigorous process of eni mini miny mo.

Now, while I am a huge fan of autodidacticism, I do believe that there are subjects that are better learned through teachers and tutors, such as music and languages. I went on Craiglist and found a French teacher who would work with me for twenty-five dollars an hour. At first I thought that this was a rather high amount to have to pay, but then I realized that she probably just values her time as much as I value mine and that investing a larger amount would force me to be more productive.

The Power of Focus

A few months ago, I began teaching piano to my best friend for free. In the past, I taught piano but found it discouraging because students would not focus and each lesson, I had to reteach them the things I had taught them the previous lesson. I quit teaching. This student, however, was different. She focused very sharply and would not give up until she had gotten it perfect. We moved through scales and chords very quickly, and it has nothing to do with my teaching. In fact, I would say that I have been the worst piano teacher ever. Because I had thought that this would be a casual thing, I was not prepared for her to move through my initial plans so quickly. And this was simply because she was focused and practicing on a daily basis.

Using this same thinking, I have begun to tackle the French language and am now learning more quickly than I could have ever imagined. Within the past three weeks, through intense focus and an hour of study each day, I have managed to learn how to read, write, and speak over 350 nouns and adjectives and am already starting to get a handle on the verbs. Just yesterday, I was transcribing entire paragraphs from English to French.

It’s really quite astounding to me. When I first read about Tim Ferriss’ claim that it’s possible to learn 95% of a language in three months, I thought he was crazy, but now I think it is entirely possible. It just has to do with focus.

Raising the Stakes

Five hours from now, I will be at my poker table, playing Texas Hold ‘Em with a group of friends, and trying my luck for a few bucks. I’m really not a very good poker player, but somehow, after two months of playing poker on a weekly basis, I still have a positive balance. I play very conservatively and I usually know when to stay in a hand and when to fold. I know how to play just well enough to survive, and I can play out until I have a hand that I know can undoubtedly win, at which point I force my competitors further into a pot that already has my name on it.

Well life for me over the past month has felt very much like a poker game. I have played very conservatively, and while it is paying off here and there, I haven’t won a huge pot yet. This, however, may change.

After talking with a manufacturer and crunching some numbers, I feel like I have been dealt pocket aces. Almost all of the table has been knocked out already, and the only thing holding me back is the bet. At this point, I am still the underdog. I don’t have enough chips on the table to be able to knock my opponent out, but with a good hand and a smart move, I could easily win enough to knock him out in the next hand. The problem is that I haven’t seen the flop yet. While it seems in my head that I have a good chance of winning, I still have to bet over half of my chips to see the flop.
I do not think that I will get a better hand anytime soon, so it makes sense to just go for it and hope that it plays out how I want it.

Who knows, maybe this will be the hand that allows me to cash out big time.

You Are Now Free to Move About the Cabin

The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different. – Peter Drucker

This is essentially how I feel right now. In the month since I last wrote down my thoughts, everything has been going really well. Too well, though. Life is lacking turbulence right now and it is a very strange feeling. I am just waiting for an aileron to jam or for an engine to go out.

My Business

Before I left on my trip in May, I spent about fifty dollars on SEO packages for my new site, which had been launched on April 24th. They had no real effect on my main site, but proved to be detrimental to my satellite sites. Initially, I had planned on spending about fifty dollars a week on SEO packages, but after seeing the results, the idea that outsourced SEO was both a waste of time and money became firmly cemented in my mind. I made a decision to no longer use outsourced SEO and to only use unconventional tactics for driving traffic to my store. When I returned, I spent a few hours a day working on various aspects of my site, as there was really nothing on it except a basic store template when I left. I also spent about three hours a week writing for my satellite sites.

Last week, I put analytics on some of my satellite sites, mainly just for kicks. The satellite sites I had created for GlowStickJunkie were essentially failures. Almost every good exact match domain (EDM) had been bought for the keywords I wanted, and even the ones I could find .nets for were nowhere near page 1. I did not enjoy writing for these sites and my efforts were futile. Fortunately, according to the analytics, the opposite is true for my new store.

Unlike GlowStickJunkie’s satellite sites, I did not focus on the design of the new store’s tier one sites. I pretty much standardized the look of the sites and designed them to only be one page, simple sites. The one site I put analytics on reported 3 to 4 views a day with a bounce rate of only 48% and an on-site time of 2 minutes, 21 seconds. This was after only 2 blog posts with a combined word total of 400 on a very simple site targeting a keyword with 260 exact matches per month on page 1, position 6. This blew me away. This dopey little site was actually doing exactly what I wanted it to do!
Now I needed to get the traffic from my satellite sites directed to my main store, so I bought a gig on Fiverr to have some .gif “ads” created specifically for my tier one sites. They turned out very well, and we will see how much traffic they bring to my site.

Enough about satellite sites, however. On the wholesale front, I have yet to set up a single wholesale account. This might sound strange to anyone familiar with eCommerce. However, when I started GSJ, I immediately set up wholesale accounts, but I did not have a sale for over four months. Especially with smaller wholesalers, telling them, “Nope, no sales yet.” every two weeks can be both irritating and awkward, so this time I have decided to wait until I have enough traffic and enough orders to necessitate wholesale accounts.

Last week, I stumbled upon a manufacturer in the New England area that manufactures a category of products that I have been trying to find for months now. So far, all of the manufacturers I have encountered have been from overseas, with almost no contact information (see: not trustworthy), and with products that would not meet my quality standards. I contacted the U.S.-based manufacturer about selling their products, as they have almost no online presence, but I have not received a reply yet. I really hope that something will work out, because I am already getting a lot of interest for these products, but I have nothing to sell to my potential customers. This is definitely not a problem I have had before!

My Life

As for life in general, everything is going pretty well. I did end up going out with the girl I wrote about in my previous log. I think it went really well, but I’m not sure where it will go from here. I am not in a rush since I have no other interest in relationships right now, so it won’t really matter how it turns out, but we will see! Either way, I would consider myself successful in what I initially set out to do, which was to overcome my fear of rejection.

Yesterday, I finally got my Volkswagen Super Beetle back, which presents a whole new set of challenges for me, but I am excited because it is something other than business stuff to work on. Don’t get me wrong, I love working on stuff for my store, but sometimes I do feel the need to do something with my hands and give my mind a break for a bit!

Today, I booked flights to Vancouver, which is also very exciting! I have just over a month to get as much stuff done as possible before I leave with my friend, Jerry. I plan to almost completely unplug, and this will be my first truly “minimalist” vacation. I was debating about whether to even take a carry-on! I am sure that it will be an entirely new experience for me and I am very excited about what could come of this trip.
Anyways, as one can see, everything is going well. We will just have to see how everything turns out over the next few weeks!