The real criminals… resolved

On 06/23/18 I wrote a blog titled, The real criminals… that spoke about the abuses of service providers such as AT&T.  Although AT&T is big, I will not let them defeat me so easily by pushing bogus surcharges and fees on me.  I gave myself a full day to cool down and gather my thoughts.  I ended up contacting AT&T again explaining I do not want to pay more for the same service.  The AT&T representative I spoke to recommended me moving from an unlimited plan to a 10GB plan because on average I am only using 7GB per month.  This would save me $30 per month, which is $360 savings per year.  For me, this is a win and a good cost savings for the year.

If I did not call back and stay persistent, then I may not have found this solution.  I would have probably left AT&T eventually and went to another service provider.  I know in 12 to 18 months, I will be back on the phone with AT&T fighting them again. I do wish to celebrate these small victories when I am able to get them.  It is important to make sure we are constantly keeping our eyes open for better deals because cost savings do add up.  You never know when you need a few extra dollars to get you through a tough time in your life.  You are more likely not to be in difficult times when you are cost conscious all the time.

As advice to anyone who wants to take it, call your service providers at least once per year and ask for the best deals.  You may be surprised when you end up saving money just by taking a few minutes out of your day once per year.  For example, I am now saving $30/month with AT&T from my previous setup.  Imagine if I did this with two other service providers.  I would be saving $90/month or $1,080/year.  You could potentially use this money to be invested and if you received a 7% ROI, you are looking at an extra $75 gain at the end of the year.  Just some food for thought… as they say!

The real criminals…

As I further look into this topic, I become more enraged with service providers such as AT&T.  There is an excellent article titled,  Sneaky Charges Hiding on Your Cell Phone Bill by MEGAN LEONHARDT.  I would highly advise you to take a gander of Megan’s before, during, or after reading my post.  To help illustrate my point, I’ve taken a screen shot from my AT&T online bill to show Surcharges & fees and Government taxes & fees I am being charged.  Keep in mind, I am charged twice for these because I am paying for both my wife and myself.

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For starters, as time passes by I have come to realize AT&T is increasing these surcharges and fees.  In a short period of time, they’ve increased my monthly bill by $3/month or $36/year.  Over a longer period of time, they’ve increased my monthly bill by $5/month or $60/year.  AT&T is not the only one doing this, which is why it is so important for us to fight them whenever we can to stop the increasing charges.  This is direct conversation from the AT&T representative.

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I am not sure about you, but to me it is a lot of gibberish.  I do believe Megan’s article helps explain how these charges do not need to be passed to the customer.  It is just another way for AT&T and other service providers to bring extra cash to their billionaire pockets.  Lets stop this trend from continuing and start fighting it.

Importance of memory in success

I have been writing entries in my journal almost every single day since June 15, 2005.  This is a personal journal nobody else will read, which means I can freely write anything I want without fear of judgement.  The main objective of my journal from the start was to record my progress towards success.  After 6 to 12 months of hand-written journal entries, I go back and type them up into a word document.  There are two reasons for doing this.  The first is to make sure I have the writings saved somewhere else in case the original journals were damaged or lost.  Second, it forces me to go back and review 6 to 12 months of my past life.  The question I would like to answer is, am I where I said I would be or did I miss the target?  I do hold myself accountable because if I don’t, who will?

I cannot stress enough, it is your life and you need to be 100% truthful with yourself?  If you are messing up and not achieving your goals, then you need to come to that realization.  If you tell yourself otherwise, you are only hurting yourself.  By being honest with yourself, you are able to take action and modify your path to success.  As they say, you will know the truth and it will set you free.  Writing in a journal and reviewing it afterwards will help you understand where you are on your path to success, and will make you accountable.

There is a friend of mine, who has always lied to everyone.  He had lied so much, he started believing these lies himself.  Some lies were believable to outsiders who did not know him very well.  Some lies were incredibly ridiculous.  I often think about these lies because the only person who did not know they were lies, was the person telling them.  He continued telling people he was making an outrageous amount of money in a career he did not have.  After several years, he still did not have this career and did not make the money he said he did.  What if he told the truth to himself?  He could come to the realization that he needed to change his life.  He could take the necessary steps to achieve the salary he wanted in the career he wanted.  Things could have been very different.

Again, I must emphasize for you to take control of your life by making yourself accountable.  A tool to realize where you are in your path to success is to keep a journal.  It is a book you can write all your successes and failures.  It would be a no judgement zone where you can write anything and everything you wanted to.  Reviewing 6 to 12 months after the entry is perfect for really realizing where you are.  Think about it… and try it out!

Importance of marketing

As mentioned prior, I published my book Down on the Pharm several weeks ago and I have had quite a few people read it.  On the Kindle Direct Publishing – KDP website, there is a tool to view how many people purchased your paperback/eBook.  As you can see from the chart below, the volume of units sold significantly dropped June 17.  I realize I stopped actively marketing the book around this time, which could explain the drop.  It is a true testimony to how important marketing really is.

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Importance of marketing

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of marketing, especially when there is so much competition out there.  If you don’t market your brand, nobody else will.  We need to get out there and really advertise our brand to make sure people are aware we exist.  Too many times, my own company suffered low sales due to lack of advertisement.  I’ve had customers say, “where have you been?  I never knew you existed before.”  It is great the customer eventually did find my company, but imagine how many more sales I could have gotten if they found us sooner.

Just a refresher to what marketing is, google.com defines it as the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.  It is pretty straight forward.  As a marketer, your purpose is to bring awareness to your brand and sell the shit out of your products.  As a key learning from my own experiences, never be afraid to put yourself out there and sell, sell, sell…  The great thing is, people want to buy stuff and you can be the person to sell it to them.

Short story from my younger years

As a 8 or 9 year old, I belonged to a bowling league.  All the kids in the league were asked to participate in a fund raiser, which can be burdensome depending on how you look at it.  We were asked to sell boxes of chocolate covered peanuts or almonds.  Every bowler in the league brought home two cases to sell.  The first night I walked around the neighborhood door to door selling.  Within twenty minutes I was sold out of my two cases.  My brother who was in the same bowling league did not sell any because he did not walk around door to door.  Instead I believe he eat a good portion of these chocolates himself.  My parents ended up buying a good portion of these chocolates from him.  I ended up bringing home a few more cases to sell.

The lesson here is, you cannot sell by staying home and using your own products.  You need to get yourself out there to show off your products and bring awareness to your brand.  If you are the type of person to get yourself out there because you are motivated to sell and you believe in your product, then your customers will probably buy from you.  Hearing the word ‘no’ is not always the most awful thing and when you figure out it’s not the worst thing in the world, you will not fear it as badly.

No matter what brand you are bringing awareness or what products you are selling, get out there and start your journey.  Make sure you bring as much awareness to your brand and products, so it becomes a household name.  We must also make sure our customer service is on point.  With so many review apps available today, one mess up can lead to a bad review and cost your countless future customers.  Every customer matters!  Every experience you give them matters!  Keep these things in mind.

High on happiness

Yesterday was Father’s Day and my wife made me chocolate chip pancakes with a side of strawberries.  While eating breakfast and opening a father’s day gift, I received an urgent call from a customer.  My father and I ended up having to go out to fix a piece of equipment for the customer that morning, which was not something I planned on doing for my first father’d day celebration.  I was not too upset because I was able to spend some more time with my dad, but was disappointed I did not get to spend as much time with my wife and son on Father’s day.  We ended up finishing up the job by 3pm and we were able to get back to our Father’s day celebration with the family.

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Quite frequently, a monkey wrench will be thrown into your life and it is crucial that you do not get upset.  Initially, I was upset I had to go visit a customer on my first father’s day, but knew I needed to fix the machine for our customer.  It was a very large new customer for our business and I knew it would show commitment and good customer service.  This would help us gain more business in the near future.  I did need to take a step back after receiving the call and take a few breaths.  Although I was not super happy about going out, it was not the end of the world.  My wife appreciates my hard work and sacrifice for the family.  I am fortunate I have a supportive and understanding wife.

The other thing that kept me out of a region of rage or unhappiness was the fact that I was high on happiness.  Since the birth of my son, I have been jubilant and extremely happy.  I feel my son has brought me so much joy and things that used to be a big problem, are not a big problem now because I realize there is so much more to life than materialistic things.  As long as everyone is healthy and happy, there are really no big problems in my life.  Since I am high on happiness, I strive to keep this high going.  I want to spread the happiness to others and make sure everyone is living as well as I am.  If you are not feeling happy, try taking a step back and really figuring out what the root of your problem is.  Since life is so short and you only live once (or so I believe), you nee to make sure you enjoy this life.  Make sure you live our your dreams and take the risks that can lead you to rewards.  Chase your desires and drive yourself to be successful.

“Stay high on happiness”

Why I am against financial advisors

There are these people who exist called financial advisors who will help you determine what to do with your money.  Financial advisors are supposed to help you grow your money more quickly than if you just handled it without any help.  Obviously, financial advisors are not going to work for free, so you are going to need to pay them.  So, why am I against financial advisors?

Financial advisors are an additional expense

First of all, if I was a financial advisor, I would tell you not to use my services because you could better utilize that money elsewhere.  Many financial advisors take roughly 1% per year, which can end up being a lot.  For every $100,000, you are paying $1,000 per year.  In ten years, you would end up paying them $10,000 if your investment was around $100,000.  I would assume it would go up and your rate would also increase.  In my opinion, the cost is too high and the funds would be better invested elsewhere.

You should understand where your money is going

When it comes to your life, nobody should care more about it than you.  Similarly, you should better understand your money situation than anyone else.  It will require you to put effort into the various strategies you can take, but can easily be found on the internet.  For example, Investopedia is a very good website that has a lot of information to help better inform you on ‘everything you need to know about investing’.  The more you know, the better you will do or at least in theory this is true.

A financial advisor does not know your goals

One of the first questions a financial advisor will ask you is, what are your financial goals?  You would then need to tell them what your goals are.  They will then try to create a plan to get you to your goal.  If you are able to research the different strategies yourself as mentioned in my last point, then why would you need a financial advisor?  The key is, don’t be lazy and manage your own investments.  If your goal is to pay off all your debt and retire by 55, then you need to layout how you can do this.  You can find good advice from many resources available to you and use your money as best as you can.

These are just a few thoughts I have on financial advisors.  Sorry if you are a financial advisor, but if you are- I’d like to hear what your thoughts are.

Ease your troubles with money

The day to day grind can be challenging, especially when it feels like you are not reaching your goals.  You may ask yourself, are you actually getting anywhere by putting in hard work?  If you do not believe you are advancing towards your goals, then it does become extremely discouraging.  Since I like to measure things quantitatively, I can best relate this to my financial goals.  There are two key things we need to think about when it comes to staying motivated.

Create a smart-plan

Anyone can create a plan, but not everyone can create a smart-plan.  A regular plan does not take into account the many variables, which can impact your journey to success.  A smart-plan is well thought out and will take into account these variables.  One of the big challenges in getting ahead for the majority of people is at the start of your life as a young adult.  Typically, you are going to purchase a car, home, and possibly some other big investments.  Most people do not have the cash to purchase these things, so they go to a bank for a car loan or mortgage.  All of a sudden, you are paying some fees for paperwork and interest each year.  Of course, nobody is going to lend out money for free!  The interest alone will keep you in debt for a long time, which is why it is very difficult to get out of debt.  Additionally, you may even have student loans and those also carry more interest into your life.  So what can we do?

A smart-plan will include your priorities.  For example, purchase car, house, and pay off your student loans.  Understand your income, your debt, and how quickly you can pay them off.  Write down your plan to pay off these debts and be reasonable.  It is very unlikely you are going to pay off $300k in debt in one year, unless you are making a significant amount of money.  If your plan is 10 years, 20 years, or 30 years, make sure you are writing in your plan for each year, how much you want to pay off.  Make sure you look at your plan and record your progress throughout the years.  After a year or two, you will surely see significant progress being made.  This is motivation in itself, which takes me to my next point.

Stay motivated

By recording, reviewing, and tracking your goals, you are creating motivation because you are going to be fully aware of your progress.  When we do not record our progress, we do not see how far we have come.  This is what leads us to feeling down and worthless.  Sometimes motivation can come in other forms too, such as watching motivational youtube videos or just simply talking to positive people who influence us in good ways.

It is true that we can ease our troubles with money, but this does not typically happen until much later on in life.  I am fully aware of this, but still do have a smart-plan I’ve made to make sure I can get there faster.  It would not be very smart to think things are just going to fall into place.  We need to make sure we are doing everything possible to reach our goals.  Create a smart-plan and stay motivated.

Not enough time in a day

I was talking to someone on my team about the things we need to get done and he said, “there’s not enough time in a day.”  I took a step back and thought to myself, why is there not enough time in a day?  Why are some people able to accomplish everything they need to in a day and others cannot?  There are a few things that immediately come to mind, which are time management, priorities, effectiveness,and simply having the skills to succeed.  Let’s go down this list one by one to better understand how these tools can help us free up more time.

Time management

This is an obvious one for most, but not all.  Essentially, are we best utilizing our time and are there things we are spending too much time on?  Years ago, I found myself struggling with getting everything done I needed to to complete a task.  No matter how hard I tried, I simply was not meeting my deadlines.  A mentor of mine took a look at everything I was doing and quickly found that I was doing too much.  I was not doing too much in a sense where I had too much on my plate, but I was spending a good amount of my time on meaningless tasks.  Are you spending time on meaningless tasks that are not essential to completing the project?  If so, you should remove it from your to-do list and just complete what is essential to complete the project.  There is also an order of operations that you need to be aware of.  At each stage of the project, you should understand what is necessary to complete that stage.  Lets say at the beginning of your project you just need to understand if something is feasible.  I would recommend doing a quick paper exercise and not get too deep into the weeds.  If you do find the project to be feasible and authorized by the key stakeholders on your team, then you may dig deeper into the project.

Priorities

It is crucial to understand your priorities and be able to explain them to others when asked.  A lot of times leadership asks me, “what are you working on?”  They do not care about the ‘in-the-weeds’ work.  They are looking for big projects that will impact the entire organization, which should be our priorities.  Similar to being able to manage your time well, you need to manage your priorities and make sure nothing comes in the way between you and them.  These priorities are the projects that will get you noticed because they are important to the business.

Effectiveness

Know what you need to do and execute to gain results in a timely manner.  You do not want to have projects or tasks lingering too long because this is a sign of you not being effective or being a procrastinator.  When a priority comes across your desk, you should plan appropriately and take action without delay.  Procrastination kills effectiveness and your ability to succeed.

Simply having the skills to succeed

First of all, you should be qualified to have the role you are in, or someone made a big mistake in hiring you.  Additionally, if you are the owner of a business, then you should be 100% capable of running your business.  If you do not have the right skills to do your job, then you are going to need training.  At most corporations, you are able to take trainings provided by the company, which need to be taken advantage of.  Additionally, any sort of school reimbursement programs should also be looked at to get ahead.  It is not always all about having a degree, but being able to use the knowledge you gained from that degree.  Certifications can also be valuable to you and should also be looked at.

I do believe having good time management skills, priority management skills, effectiveness,and simply having the skills to succeed will help you free up time.  If you truly do have too much on your plate, it is important to slow down a little bit.  As mentioned in my blog titled, Burnout is real, I talk about how people can get burned out and it is never fun.  I am an offender when it comes to taking on too much and it is harder for me to say no, then try to be a hero.  Eventually this does catch up with you and ends up badly (usually).  Let me know your thoughts on this and if there are any I missed?

Guidance on the go for the interested

A few days ago I went to my local Super Wawa to fill up my Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara.  I said, “fill up regular, please” to the gas attendant and provided him with my credit card.

The gas attendant took my card, took a glimpse at it, and asked, “do you get a lot of Best Buy points by using this card?”

My credit card has the Best Buy logo because it is tied to my Best Buy account.  I replied, “Yes, I do get Best Buy points every time I use this card, no matter where I use it.”  After some brief conversation about the benefits of credit cards, I continued by saying, “never spend additional money on your credit card just to get extra points.”  I think too often, people are too focused on rewards, which can be costly and they do not even realize it.

After this conversation with the gas attendant who was roughly 18 or 19 years old, I drove off feeling good about myself.  I really felt I gave him some useful advice, which took me a few years to figure out.  This kid pumping gas did seem genuine and truly interested in my advice.  It always feels good when people listen to you.  It got me thinking that I would like to get more involved in mentoring because I truly do believe I have a lot to teach.  I also believe I am not that far removed where my communication would be useless.

I ask myself, what do I get out of mentoring others?  I can clearly see when I even provide bits of advice on-the-go, I feel good about myself.  I also believe unsolicited guidance can help those that are interested advance quicker.  Every bit counts!  I believe it is almost the same feeling as paying it forward or any other type of movement.  What are your thoughts on this?

First copies of my book

I am happy to say, I received the first couple of books from Amazon for review and they look great.  Although the book is only 90 pages or so long, it still does provide the full breath  of the story.  I am proud of this work and the message it conveys.  I can only hope it helps others in similar circumstances.  You do not need to feel alone and need to speak out against poor work conditions.  Everyone has the right to happiness and I believe Adam Grant, an American psychologist says it best.

“The culture of a workplace – an organization’s values, norms and practices – has a huge impact on our happiness and success.” – Adam Grant

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Every time I think back to the challenges I was facing in my earlier career, as mentioned in my book Down on the Pharm, I often fantasize about going back in time to change my actions.  It is always easier to know what to do after the event has taken place and you see the outcome.  I am passionate about this book and have decided to provide it for free this week if you visit Amazon.  The free format is the eBook for Kindle on Amazon.  I want to grow awareness of my book at this stage.  I am not doing this to achieve any sort of monetary value.

With this blog being called Civil Accomplishment and the main focus being to gain personal successes, whatever those may be for you, I need to talk about how this book relates to my own personal goals.  As I work through my major priorities for the next couple of years, there are key events that have happened to me in the past that I need to tie up loose ends first.  Without closing these open loops, I will not feel complete and will spend extra time thinking about them.  The biggest was to write this book and reveal the challenges I’ve had in my earlier years straight out of school.  Now that I have completed this task, I feel I have one less thing dwindling in my brain, subconsciously holding me down.  I am more free to move on to bigger and better things.  A second part of this, is to try and get readers to read my book.  I want as many people as possible to read it and provide feedback if possible.

If you have anything dwindling in the back of your mind, I would recommend dealing with it sooner rather than later.  It is not very fun to have a constant reminder with you all the time of something you don’t want to be reminded of.  It is also not very fun to have too many things lingering in your brain causing cloudy thinking.  Writing Down on the Pharm has been a very big relief for me.  I can already feel weight lifted from me, as if it were a burden of some sort.

Make sure you are eating

As mentioned in my previous blog Value Grocery Shopping, I have talked about shopping at Aldi to save money.  Yesterday, the plan was to go food shopping after watching my nephew’s baseball game.  Unfortunately, the game ended much later than we expected and we were not going to make it to Aldi in time before they closed at 9pm.  Since we desperately needed groceries, my wife and I went to a local Shop Rite.  My wife and I quickly filled our shopping cart and ended up spending nearly $200 on groceries that will last us at most 2 weeks.  Keep in mind, that my wife and I were purchasing mainly sale items and making sure we were not purchasing unnecessary items.

If there is one thing certain, food is very expensive.  I can imagine the same foods from Aldi would be much less expensive, but would the quality be as good?  I will say Aldi does have good quality products, except for the meats.  My wife and I always purchase meat from Shop Rite, Sams Club, BJ’s or somewhere other than Aldi.  We have never really had good meat (i.e., beef, chicken, pork) from Aldi.

This morning at 5am after feeding my 12 week year old son, I was excited to get into the refrigerator and make myself a hearty sandwich (shown in picture below).  It is very important to eat food to have energy to work and reach success.

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There is really no way around the cost of food.  It is expensive and we can only try to save money where we can and when we can.  By this I mean, using coupons, finding sales, and not wasting food.  For example, if you are purchasing fresh produce, you may want to keep in mind shelf-life.  If you buy too much and do not use it quickly enough, you may run into spoilage problems.  Any sort of wasted food directly correlates to money losses.  Additionally, eating out as mentioned in my blog Eating out versus eating in can be very expensive.  I do enjoy eating out very much, especially when we are going out with friends and family.  If you are trying to save, eating out is one of those luxurious that may need to be removed or reduced.

My last thoughts on food revolve around effectiveness.  I always make sure I am buying the foods I want, which will be most effective in helping me achieve the goals I want to achieve.  When we are spending top dollar for a product, we want to make sure we are getting something meeting our standards.  For example, when buying produce- we typically inspect the produce to make sure it doesn’t have any major bruises, dents, scratches, blemishes, and so on.  This should apply to anything else we purchase in our lives.  It should also apply to any service we receive.  We need to make sure we are upholding standards and not allowing ourselves to take subpar products or services.

These are just a few thoughts I had this morning.  Do you have any thoughts on this?

When should you start planning your goals?

It is half-way through 2018 and I have already accomplished so much this year.  For starters, I have written and listed my book Down on the Pharm on Amazon.  I was blessed with my first child in March.  I had a new roof put on my house, which was not super cheap.  I will be moving into a new role in July at my job.  I was able to sell my 2017 Yamaha WR250R earlier this year.  I am working to get a new building put up by August for my personal business and we will move in by September.  With all these accomplishments, I still have many more on my list to complete.  I am also looking at my objectives for 2019 and feel there are not enough listed for me to do.

The question is, when should you start planning your goals?  In my opinion, it is never too early to start planning your goals.  It is best to plan as far in advance as you can, but we know that can be near impossible with all the moving parts.  This can be compared to the weather, where the meteorologist does his/her best to predict the weather and even with all the technology available today, they still have trouble.  We can never be sure of what unexpected events are going to come into our lives.  We can only do our best to prepare ourselves the best we can in case an unexpected event does try and interfere with our goals.

As I look at my chart of goals between 2014 and 2017, there seemed to be so many goals listed out.  It almost feels as if I was much more motivated to succeed between those years than I am now and I cannot help wonder if it is because I am in a much better position today.  Does this newly found success alter my drive to continue to succeed and push myself further along?  Does age have anything to do with it?  I am sure these things have something to do with it, but I do not want to just give up.  I need to make sure my goals are written in my chart and I constantly reminding myself of these goals.  I have such a long way to go to get to where I want to be and I need to keep reminding myself of this.

As a quick recap:

  • It is never too soon to start planning your goals in advance
  • You should be preparing and planning for your goals well in advance
  • Do not lose motivation once you start achieving your goals and become satisfied
  • We all have a long way to go, so we need to keep pushing ourselves to get there
  • Constantly remind ourselves of the goals we want to achieve