Posted in Life lessons

The power of patience 

In my daily journey I tend to get things in bundles, whether food or inspiration or exercise or love or hate. It comes in bursts and bundles at a time. Today’s journey brought me to patience and small steps. It brought me to persistence and percervierance. I may have at one time or another discussed moon shots with a number of you in private. I just want to elaborate on that a bit and unravel the idea. The idea that moon shots are not some huge leap forward but rather tiny steps in a direction that lead to an amazing end state.  Our world gets faster and better by the minute but does our quality of life or our definition of success? As we set goals and try to achieve we seem to get lost in the minutea. So as of late I have opened up “Daily Rituals” a book by Mason Currey. This book curates about 160 great authors, composers, artists, scientists, leaders and countless others who have made their mark on humanity in one way or another. It talks about their habits and quirks. How they went about their lives sometimes following routines and sometimes haphazardly. It talks about their addictions as well as best and worst practices. It speaks to the human condition and if you read all the way through you discover patterns and commonalities.


This goes without saying that I re-discovered Simon Sinek and some other very amazing TedX alumni who discuss the human condition. It amazes me how our 50 billion year old species have survived and thrived to become today’s sapien. How we have overcome great obstacles and met challenges head on. But lest we forget that those same challenges and obstacles plague our everyday existence now. We still have the same drive and curiosity. The same fatigues and compulsions. The same caring and compassion. The same hatred and destructive tendencies. Trying to glean insight from those who have walked the toughest paths.  I see these subtle commonalities more and more. I ask myself how to overcome obstacle and challenges. How do I be a better person than I was yesterday? I come back to the same conclusions. It all comes back to the human condition. The soon to be forgotten art of human interaction. As I sit and write this from my balcony sipping a delicious glass of Malbec and listening to the critters of the night sing their melodies I am surrounded by no one. Nobody to discuss things with. No one there to laugh with or ask about their family. Yet I’m not completely alone. I do some of my deepest mental processes by myself. But I will not discount the value of having someone else around from time to time in order to make sense of what I’m thinking about or discovering. A mentor, a relative, a lover, a friend all of which I have in my life at the moments when I really need to talk. It’s this simple act of communication that builds the bond. This conversation that truly inspires at the end of the day. Being able to interact and feel that visceral meaningful human condition.

As of late I’m working on one of the scariest things I can imagine. Working on business plans and real estate deals. It’s all becoming very real after only discussing and dreaming for what seems like an eternity. Bouncing ideas and asking complicated questions to know I’m headed in the right direction. But the action is what really moves the aspiration forward. But it is a very slow process. Maybe it’s just me who is impatient. And that is how the world really works. A combination of true human interaction, which builds relationships, which drives the plot of life forward, which ultimately produces a desired (or in some cases a not so desired) outcome. It’s a long slow journey at times but the result is always the same. You head down a path. You start off in a direction. The road twists and turns. The seasons change. Summer to fall, winter to spring and then back to summer. Time passes but eventually if you face a direction and keep on that course you will reach your destination. Take the time to study the path you are on. Make meaningful connections with people along your path. Have patience and persistence. You will end up where you belong. It might be far from what you envisioned but that is the amazing thing about it. We end up where we are supposed to end up. As long as your compass is true the end game is guaranteed to be fruitful.

Posted in Life lessons

A moment of silence and retrospect… the shot heard around the world

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This is not one of the things I do well in life.  I am not trying to bridge some gap between what happened 15 years ago and how it relates to business or real estate or health.  I have an obligation as an American and as a Soldier to submit to a somber quiet moment in order to reflect on the past.  It is this day in particular that has reshaped the way our entire world operates.  Today is a day that, unlike many others, I am able to look back and re-trace my steps.  It is a vivid reminder that no matter what happens in life that our lives are very fragile and unpredictable.  It is this very day that reminds me to be awake, alert, and aware of my surroundings in any given situation.

September 11, 2001:

I was 5 years into my Army career in a place called Darmstadt, Germany.  Living the life that most would dream of.  I was overseas enjoying all the pleasures of Europe while being able to pay my bills and not have much to worry about.  It started out as a very normal day indeed.  I remember it was nice outside with a few clouds but the sun was shining.  We were getting close to the end of the day (Germany time) having already eaten lunch and doing the odds and ends we had to complete before going home.  Then a formation was called early.  Our First Sergeant called us all together to inform us that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and that we should get to a phone or to our email as soon as possible to try to contact our families who might be in NYC or elsewhere so they knew that we were safe and to see if they were ok.  I remember a pit in my stomach and that uneasy feeling of a surreal moment.  I knew none of my family were NYC or anywhere near New York so I went straight to my room and turned on the TV to see the live stream of what had transpired.  I remember putting a VHS tape in my VCR and pushing record.  I think the second plane had just hit the other tower when I started recording and they were replaying both back and forth on the screen.  The ticker at the bottom of the screen was rolling.  There was a sense of despair and uncertainty on the faces of the news anchors.  I let that tape run for the better part of 10 hours.  I still have the tape to this day.

Within the next 30 minutes another formation was called and the big question was who knows how to run guard duty.  I am no expert at it but I had done it in Bosnia and also in my Army training over the years.  My hand instinctively went up.  Looking around, and it may have been the pure shock of what was going on, I really didn’t see anyone else’s hand in the air.  The First Sergeant or my Platoon Sergeant (not sure at this point) said, “You’re it SGT McConnell, get a team of Soldiers together and get some supplies to build up guard shacks around the housing area (something to that effect)”.  Little did I know that I would be in charge of a lot more than a few Soldiers and guard shacks.  We gathered empty sandbags, wood, rope, radios, weapons, and ammunition and headed down to the housing area to start setting up.  The makeshift guard shacks that we set up would later transform into permanent inspection points for guards until the day they finally closed down the Army assets in Darmstadt.

Let me digress for just a moment to explain the openness of that base until that point.  The gates were open and anyone and everyone was able to casually walk through from one end to the other.  German school kids, Germans going to their gardens, normal pedestrians, civilians, and Military personnel walked freely through the post.  It was for the most part an open post.  Not to say there were not times when the gates were closed for security training or some kind of threat but for the most part it was open and everyone was able to move about freely.

So here we all were myself and a bunch of Soldiers from my unit, filling sandbags and piecing together some sort of check point.  We had to figure out rosters for the shifts, figure out the logistics for food and water and ammo.  We came up with the radio protocols and ROI (Rules of Engagement).  We were doing this all from scratch and from memory of doctrine that had not been changed in well over a couple decades if not longer.  That initial push of 30-40 hours straight without much rest and basically running off adrenaline and deep rooted fear was one of those moments in life where you have to step back a little in order to see the all encompassing meaning of everything going on around you.  One moment we are about to head home for the day, the next we are in our full gear with loaded weapons mindful of every single noise and movement.  We didn’t know if there was some broad scale attack on America or what was going on.  No one did.  Hyper-vigilance is the word I like to use to describe this type of situation.  Being completely awake, alert and aware of your surroundings.  This is something I tell my kids all the time so they understand that it doesn’t matter what you are doing or where you are at.  You don’t have to be paranoid but you do have to be cognizant of what is happening all around you.  That is how you stay safe in most all situations.  In the midst of all of the mixed emotions and lack of understanding a strange thing started to happen.  Germans from all around the city were coming to the gates and guard stands.  There was no threat from them but rather an immense solidarity and empathy.  They were in as much awe as we were.  They were saddened just as much as we were.  We had been a staple of their community since the end of Nazi Germany, well over 50 years at that point, and they came to show their condolences for our entire nation.  The brought candles and flowers and cards and tears to our barricades and laid them right in front of us.  They sobbed and sang songs and offered up every ounce of gratitude because we were there in case something like this happened on their soil and because of our recent losses.  This was one of those moments where you see true human compassion and comfort.  One of those moments where, as a Soldier with a loaded rifle pointed in their general direction, you just wanted to walk up to them and say thank you and hug them and cry with them.

I was not in the United States when 9/11 happened but I did get to witness the recoil of a shot truly heard around the world.  I got to witness raw human compassion.  That day I got to truly understand and embrace what being a human being is about.  In my humble opinion it is about being kind to people.  Its about understanding that life is short and things happen in a moment.  Its about understanding that up to that moment when life ends there is time to make decisions that will better yourself, your friends and family, the world around you.  Its about seeing life go on despite hardship and grief.  Its not about blame or justice.  Mother nature doesn’t blame anyone when she destroys life.  Mother nature is not just in her actions.  She is however indiscriminate.  Its about rebuilding… not being afraid…not being sad…mourning but not spiraling into self pity.  Being human is about living the most productive and fulfilling life you can because tomorrow… everything could change.

Posted in Life lessons

Gratitude and the art of paying it forward.

It’s been more than a little while since I’ve last posted. This time I actually want to give a little back to one or more people who have really influenced change in my life. I would say changed my life but that wouldn’t be entirely true. The change comes from within and the influence comes from everywhere else.

To go through life blindly and not seek knowledge is nowhere in my agenda. I have however spent more than a few years in the dark ages. Maybe not the most productive years of my life in my own opinion. Now I make it my daily mission to learn something new and interesting every day. I also strive to disconnect myself more and more from mainstream media. It’s a black hole that will always have an enormous gravitational pull and it does shape the lives of many people I come in contact with. I know the cliff notes of what is happening in the world but I definitely do not know up to the minute reports from CNN or Fox. I try to stay away from the media like it is some sort of disease (in a sense it really is a disease).

There have been multiple people I have come across in my live (real, fiction, alive and dead) who have truly made an enormous impact on me. To say that I’m a total fanboy of Tim Ferris would be an understatement and for this not to come across as a sales pitch for him is probably not beyond realistic expectations. I’m just a normal person who has a man crush on a truly inspiring and influential person. Let me explain…

As some of you know I started on a journey which took me off on a few tangents. It was a death in the family that sparked a divorce and eventually another love life that didn’t end up how I planned it. This journey took me to a couple places  and moved me across the country more than a few times. It persuaded me to open a book that would ultimately be a catalyst to reading and absorbing knowledge. Daniel Goleman – Emotional Intelligence. A very dense book about EQ and human psychology. This book led me to a guy on the Internet in a garage with a Lamborghini and a Ferrari – Tai Lopez. The 67 steps that opened up my mind to what is really more important: health, wealth, love, and happiness. Happiness being probably the most important. 12 ish months and 100+ books later I discovered BiggerPockets.com, Brandon Turner, Josh Dorkin and a ton of other real estate smart people. A community that not only talked about real estate but some of the values and beliefs I was starting to adopt as important.

Enter #timtimtalktalk. I can’t really remember the first podcast but I remember vividly hearing everyone complain about this 4 hour guy and what a bunch of bullshit this book has to be. Nobody can have a 4 hour workweek. Obviously hearing everyone talk shit about it is what attracted me to it. I need to know for myself that everyone else is crazy. I’ve heard the stories too many times about too many things… The rumors and the myths. Investigate and disprove the bullshit (one of Tim’s and my core principles). So I read the damn book. It was a complete eye opening experience. It’s not about working 4 hours a week, it’s about condensing and optimizing your time so that you can compress 40 hours of nonsense into a few hours of hyper-productivity. It’s about doing the few right things that matter. It’s not about doing busy work for the sake of being or looking busy.

So naturally I had to see what else this guy was about. The myth was busted but is he just a one hit wonder self help guru?

The Tim Ferriss Show to date has been the most optimally enhanced information I have ever ingested. Period. It has completely raised the bar for everything I spend my time listening to or reading or watching. Every single episode I learn something completely new and sometimes very dense in nature. It leads me to places and people I never would have met in the course of my regular day. It begs me to ask the hard questions, the right questions in order to get to the important overarching answers.

So as I walk through Barnes and Noble and I pass by Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Machiavelli, Ryan Holiday, BJ Novack, Glen Beck, Kevin Kelly, Josh Waitzkin, Jocko Willink, Amanda Palmer, Rolf Potts… The list could go on forever. Amazing and interesting people that I am able to connect with on a whole other level through one mans tenacity to interview people on a human level. To extract all of the great conversations and stories that come from a very personal interaction. I will say it’s probably one of the most inspiring parts of my life right now to be able to ingest so much knowledge and information on an enormous scale. So this is my official, long winded, thanks to Tim and many other mentioned here.

And as journeys go usually you are on a journey when a new one begins right in the middle of the old one. I look up from my blogging banter and see a familiar author on the table – Jonathan Haidt. And at that very moment I have to ask and find out who is reading this amazing book. Turns into a couple hour conversation and me, doing what a lot of amazing people do, gifting a copy of one of the best short reads and a gateway drug into reading and embracing knowledge… Discovering the “good life” and just general life lessons. Seneca – on the shortness of life. It all seems to come full circle.

I guess that is the end state in all of this. Life is short, depending on how you spend your time. Getting information and knowledge is one thing. If you never pass any of that knowledge on to anyone else you have just wasted your time and everyone else’s in the process. So give back 10x the value you get in. That’s what Tim does every day and that’s what I strive to do as well.

So in my most non-creepy and humble voice. Tim Ferris – Thank you…for cotinuing to bring enormous value to this world and introducing me to an amazing bunch of people….raising my expectations and aspiration…

Posted in Finance, Life lessons

Managing your money and the 10000 year old hunter gatherer

hello everyone! Just spent a turbulent week going over a lot of things in my head and making some progress forward with important things in my life. As an aspiring real estate investor I have come to realize one major thing in my life. You can’t manage real estate or investments unless you can manage yourself. I have spent an enormous amount of time doing this over the last year and I will continue in the next 12 months to push forward managing myself and optimizing my life. I have made leaps and bounds just in the last 12 months and started off 2016 with the same vigor in my future. As someone turning 40 this year I am slowly realizing things that I was never taught or never learned in school. But I am completely focused on making major changes in my life at a rapid fire pace in order to right some of the wrongs. So what exactly am I talking about?
Over the last 12 months I have re-discovered myself and re-discovered things that make me move forward as well as things that hold me back. I am doing daily tasks that will compound over months and years and bring me a huge return in my investment. Yes I could be talking specifically about money but money isn’t everything. Wait, didn’t you just say sometime last year that a millio… I know. Just listen for a min. Money is what you need to survive in the modern world but our perspective of it and how it works is sometimes skewed. Money creates opportunities. Money pays bills. But money also gives us choices and for some of us choices are bad. Too many of them at least. I have spent a somewhat comfortable life until about a year ago when I decided that most everything I learned was wrong. My focus was in the wrong place. My money was in the wrong place. I have always been able to pay my bills but I like everyone else thought that earning was the key to success. It’s not. Let me just say you have to earn in order to save but not only that you have to save in order to earn. So what can I do right now to make that mentality a reality?
Cut your spending. Increase your saving. Use your saving for investing. Leverage your investing for more saving and investing. I am a podcast junkie. There, I said it. I am also a book junkie. They kind of go hand in hand. I am listening and reading Tony Robins book on money as well as his book on Awakening the Giant (which I discovered from the Tim Ferriss podcast). The money book is my main focus however. He studies and breaks down the 7 steps in creating a financial future for yourself and your family. The thing about all of these self help books and ideas is that not all of them work the same for every person. We are all at different points in life and all moving in different directions. You have to read all of it. Find the patterns. Tease out what works for you. NOT be so stuck in your ways to not see a better way. So save, earn, invest, rinse and repeat is the basic premise. The main point I would glean from all of it is cut your spending! What are you spending money on? Is that spending in line with your goals? Are you tracking any of this at all or are you too busy tracking your fantasy football team? Priorities and goals have to line up. I can see this is Turing out long so let me get to my last point(s).
Podcasts…BiggerPockets.com/show157. If you are a good friend of mine you probably have that link sitting in a message from me. So this show is normally about real estate investing but this particular week hit a major nerve for me in a good way. I have been studying the greats throughout history and looking for the patterns that made them great. Hal Elrod is on the show talking about his book “Miracle Mornings” and his 6 steps of overall happiness and productivity. Funny enough I find myself at this point in time already doing 4/6. Here they are in order:
S ilence: meditation
A ffirmation: what do you want to do? Why do you want to do it? What are the obstacles? What do you do to overcome them? When do you do it?

V isualization: visualize the end results. Feel the emotions involved with those results. What do you have to do today to get to those results?

E xercise: stretching and mild cardio (5-10min) along with any other workout plan you already have.

R eading: (books/podcasts/blogs/documentaries)

S cribing: journaling

SAVERS. If you want to know the details, listen to the podcast and then go read the book. These are the common things that all successful people do. Most successful people only do one or two of these things. Why not do all of them 10 min each, first thing in the morning, everyday. It will change your life forever! I promise! Although it may seem all over the place I want to just emphasize that you have to manage yourself. They even have a book on it by Peter Drucker called “Managing Oneself”. Sit down today for 5- 10 min and dump everything from your brain on paper. That is a great place to start! From there open your mind to the tools that are sitting in front of you and take control of your life. If not for your own sake for those you love and care about! Be blessed and be humble! Until next time.

Posted in Uncategorized

Taking a month off from email.

Sounds like the dream state. In a way it is. When you dream minutes feel like hours. That’s what taking a month off from email is like. Not to be completely disconnected but just enough to figure out that the majority of emails are really consequential. We spend hours a day checking emails. Those hours compound into days and those days to months and years over time. By filtering and not checking emails constantly we liberate ourselves from the humdrum noise that surrounds us everyday. This allows for more focused thinking on what is really important. Not everyone can do cold turkey well but we can all cut back a little at a time.
One approach to cutting back on background noise is to simply turn it off like I did. I really had to do a lot of extra work just to check email. I said to myself if it is going to require so much extra work then I am just not going to go through the trouble of checking it at all. It worked for me. Another small detail is that for months prior I had already conditioned my email contacts to understand that even when I am checking my email I only do it officially 2 times a day. I sat down a few months ago and set up an out of office reminder for the remainder of my time left in the military that I would only be checking email at 10 am and 4 pm everyday. All other times would be at my leisure. For those people who really have the need to contact me they have my cell phone and can contact me directly. This has set the stage for me to disconnect without the guilt of thinking people are waiting patiently for me to reply. It takes a lot of burden off of everyone’s shoulders.

If cold turkey is not your thing you could start with filter so that you only see emails from known senders. Of course you will still have some emails that are not important show up in your inbox but the majority of junk mail will end up in its proper place. The junk mail folder. Setting up the out of office reminder is a prerequisite to getting things to work properly. Once this out of office is set you have now established parameters for yourself as well as everyone else. Total freedom only works when you set boundaries. Without boundaries we become lethargic in our ways. Set boundaries and set limits to keep your day more productive and to keep your sanity. (This didn’t just apply to email, it applies to many other aspects of life)

Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. If anything sit down and write out a small post it of the one most important thing you need to do and then focus on that one thing. Taken from a blog I recently read, try the 1-3-5 method. The one single most important thing on top. Below that 3 other things that might be important to accomplish once you knock out the one big thing or in tandem once the one big thing is started. Then 5 other things you can do if all of the above are completed. The blog written by Nicolas Burka talks about this process and his app the One Big Thing he created specifically for this purpose.

Again the main thing I want to stress is not to stress. Don’t let email run your life, business, or otherwise. If you are getting that much email and it really is detrimental to your business then find a systematic way to process it all and then hand that system off to someone else (virtual assistant) to process for you. You don’t have to be in complete control of email. You can offline most of it. This approach may not work for everyone but I think the fundamental idea is a great idea for anyone wanting to win back some hours out of their day. We are all tied to digital leaches that ding and whistle at us. The easiest way to escape or at least minimize their existence is the turn them off… Sometimes literally. 

Want to take it one step further? Pick a Saturday or Sunday and block off a few hours or even the whole day to turn off your devices. All of them. When you wake up the next day you will come to find with a 99% accuracy rate that no one has died and your job still exsists.

Any ideas for other ways you can win back your time and redirect it to more productive things in your life? Comment below. As always thanks for reading!