Costa Mesa Homeless: My Time With Dave (Part 2)


Starbucks: Our agreed upon meeting place

I arrived at Starbucks at 8:20, 10 minutes earlier than agreed upon.  I parked and started pacing.

At 8:30, it occurred to me to check inside Starbucks, but not finding Dave, I left and continued searching the parking lot.  As the minutes rolled by, I wondered if Dave had a change of heart.

Then, out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone rounding the outside of the building.

It was Dave, waving a newspaper and smiling.  “Sorry, my alarm clock didn’t go off,” he said, quickening his pace.  “No problem, glad you could make it!” I replied, making our way to the car.

It never occurred to me that homeless people wake up to an alarm clock. Read more of this post

What Happens In Vegas …

I’ve been in Las Vegas the past few days, attending the PODi conference.  Focused on print and marketing, the conference is an intimate gathering of a few hundred industry members.

I flew in Monday morning, and except for accidentally shaving (the second time this has happened on the road — the razor’s piece that keeps my 5 o’clock shadow trimmed fell off during the flight, and I neglected to make sure it was on the razor before diving in — oops), everything has been smooth.

View from my hotel window

Vegas from my hotel window

We’ve had some great speaking opportunities.  On Monday, Joe and one of our Clients spoke at a 3-hour session about marketing automation and our Client’s real-life examples; it was well received.  Yesterday, I participated on a panel centered on the evolution of marketing automation; with me were a few industry friends from XMPIE and Pageflex.

Throughout the show, I’ve had some amazing conversations, many of which are blog-worthy material to share in future posts.

For example, I had an interesting conversation with the CEO of a company who shared a model to understand a person’s “time horizon”, and how the concept can help you better lead and manage your team.

In a nutshell, the idea is simple: everyone is different in how they think, and one such area is the time range they tend to think in.

For example, at a construction site, the carpenter thinks about today’s work, whereas his supervisor is thinking about today’s work in the context of the entire job site and other sites s/he is managing.

The carpenter’s time horizon is in days or weeks; the supervisor’s is 1-3 months.

The theory argues that once you understand your own time horizon and those of the people on your team, it becomes simpler to arrange your people in a way that maximizes their ability.

Any ways, more on that later.

This past weekend I spent some time with Dave on both Saturday and Sunday.  I’m eager to share more of his story and keep you involved with how this is unfolding.  I’m in the midst of writing about our time together and will share that soon.

On that topic: it is interesting to see how many people at the show know about Dave and J.  I see lots of pageviews for these posts (about Daveabout J), but it is difficult to discern who is reading.  However, I’ve met many people who have been touched by the stories.  It is encouraging.

I can’t wait to share that with my homeless friends.


MLK Day Photo Dump

Monday of this week was a holiday here in the United States, honoring Martin Luther King.  I actually forgot about the holiday until the previous Friday, so it was a nice surprise to get an extra day with the family.

We started the day by making our to-do list. My wife and I are fairly task-oriented, so on days we want to get crap done, we make a list.

Our list included updating our finances (we recently started using to automate our finances, which you can read about here), writing a post about my time with Dave (homeless), who I met in a Target parking lot, and doing some work.  On weekends or holidays, I love the feeling of being in the flow while I work, especially if I’ve gone for a run, had a nice shower, and eaten a good breakfast.

Another item on our list was to finish a home improvement project: we decided to add some stepping-stones to our front lawn, which meant making a trip to Home Depot (which also meant planning around Abby’s nap schedule).

Abby loves driving her cart!

Abby loves driving her cart! This outfit killed me — so cute!

Abby loved being in the cart, and squealed with happiness as we rolled her around.  Read more of this post

Elizabeth: Homeless, But Not Voiceless

Elizabeth: This is me outside of Mary's Kitchen in Orange.

Elizabeth: This is me outside of Mary’s Kitchen in Orange.

My earlier posts about spending time with Dave, 41, who lives under a bridge in Santa Ana, and J (who lives under the same bridge), have generated a lot of feedback.

I’m overwhelmed by your response, and see that many of you have a heart for the homeless.

Their stories seem to reach you in a tender spot.

Earlier today, Elizabeth contacted me via Facebook.

I’ve never met her, but she sent me a message that I found powerful and moving (included with her permission in its entirety below).

At present, she’s homeless — but certainly not without a voice.  

In her own words … Read more of this post

Costa Mesa Homeless: My Time With Dave

I faced a choice: an older gentleman with a Santa-like beard, or a younger guy standing in the same place I met J a few weeks back (click here to read about that).  I decided on the younger guy.

Harbor Boulevard

Costa Mesa’s Harbor Boulevard, where I’ve met many new friends.

Aware that I might seem threatening, I took off my sunglasses, pulled my hands out of my pockets, and walked over.

He looked in my direction when I stepped off the curb.  This is always the point where my insecurities start flying.

He probably doesn’t want to talk to you” or “Just leave him alone, you don’t have anything to offer.” Read more of this post

Confession: I’m Ashamed of This

We’ve had an unresolved bug floating around for the past few months.  Last week, an affected Client asked me to intervene.

At least half a dozen smart people have tried to nail it down, and while we’ve made some progress, it’s certainly not closed from the Client’s perspective (nor mine).  It continues to hang around.

It irks me that we haven’t been able to put the sucker to rest.

Yesterday, I’ve asked one of our team members to own the problem.  As we sat down to discuss next steps, I felt compelled to share the following:

  1. I begin endeavors with the belief that if there’s a will, there’s a way.  I shared this because I wanted to make sure he believed it was possible to solve the problem.   (If you think something is impossible, it most likely will be…)
  2. I am driven towards taking on challenges others have failed to solve.  If someone tells me a task is impossible, something ignites inside me, and I go berserk as I set my mind to the problem.  In the case of this bug, I could feel my switch turning on.

I’m OK with #1.

What I think is unhealthy about #2 is why I feel compelled to take on the challenge: I do it not only to address the issue, but to show the other person that I can (and implicitly, that they couldn’t).

I confess that solving a challenge others have failed at feeds my ego.

Don’t get me wrong: at times, this trait has come in handy (when it is channeled in a productive way).  But I’m worried that this feeling reflects something darker about my personality … something icky I’m not proud of.

Question: Is this behavior unhealthy? Why or why not?  Why do we sometimes feel the need to show our superiority over others?  Leave me your thoughts in the comments.

Engineer Fired For Outsourcing Himself To China

The 4-Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek: Inspiration for an engineer outsourcing himself to China?

If you’ve read the 4-Hour Work Week, you know that one of the key concepts is outsourcing routine or repetitive work to Virtual Assistants. Timothy Ferriss calls it “geoarbitrage”, which is a fancy way of saying that you can benefit from the fact that what costs $60 dollars an hour in the US is $12 elsewhere.

In the book, Tim suggests that geoarbitrage is a great way to build a lifestyle business — one that can eventually free you from your day job.

Well, here’s a brilliant guy who has taken this idea to the next level. His name is Bob (not his real name), but get this: Bob is believed to have outsourced his own full-time job to a Chinese sub-contractor.

With his free time, he surfed the web and took it easy.

According to this article on The Register, Bob caught got because his company noticed that he was regularly logging in from Shenyang, China.

They probably thought, WTF?  (I’m thinking WTF — is this story true!?)

Allegedly, Bob is said to have FedExed his two-factor authentication token to a Chinese programmer, and was paying 1/5 of his 6-figure salary — freeing Bob up to spend the rest of his time taking it easy.

Believe it or not, here’s Bob’s typical schedule:

  • 9:00 AM: Get to work, surf Reddit for a few hours, and watch cat videos
  • 11:30 AM: Eat lunch
  • 1:00 PM: Spend time on eBay
  • 2:00 PM: Do some Facebook updates, visit LinkedIn
  • 4:30 PM: Send an end-of-day update via email to management
  • 5:00 PM: Leave the office

Apparently, this was working out pretty well. Bob’s performance reviews showed him as a top engineer for many quarters.

It gets better.  It turns out that Bob had also taken jobs with other companies, and had outsourced that work as well. Allegedly, he was netting hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit.

Wait, Does This Really Work?

OK, so I’m a nerd, but stay with me for a moment: let’s put aside the legality of what Bob did, and just take a quick look at the business model:

  1. Let’s imagine Bob’s salary is $120,00 p/year, or $57 p/hour. Let’s assume that’s $40 after taxes.
  2. Let’s imagine the Chinese programmer’s hourly rate is $12 p/hour.
  3. This yields a p/hour (after tax) profit of $28 p/hour — a 70% profit margin.
  4. In a year, Bob takes home $83,200, and out of that, pays $24,960 to the Chinese contractor so that he can spend time surfing the internet. He’s left with $58,240 to compensate him for his ingenuity.

And finally: Let’s imagine that Bob somehow figures out how to get hired at one other company (oh wait, Bob did do that) for the same yearly salary of $120,000, and puts the same process in place.

Assuming all other things are equal, he nets $58,240 from this gig as well, bringing his total yearly take-home to $116,480.

I must say I’m dubious of this story, as I cannot substantiate that our friend Bob actually did this.  But what if it’s true?

Question: Legal issues aside, what do you think of Bob’s scheme? Is it stupid — or brilliant? 

Why I Will Be Posting Less

Since launching this blog late last year, I’ve posted every day (even Christmas!). Many of you have provided feedback (both online and offline), and there are two common themes woven throughout:

#1: “How do you manage to write each day!?” (Answer: Use a template, be disciplined, love what you do …)

#2: “Posting once a day might be too much.”

Regarding #2: Traffic has gone up rather consistently since the start, but since I am a big believer in experimentation, I’m going to create fewer posts per week — and see what happens.

I am reminded of an idea in The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss. It’s called the “minimum effective dose,” or MED. He explains it as:

…the smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome. Any thing beyond the MED is wasteful. To boil water, the MED is 212°F (100°C) at standard air pressure. Boiled is boiled. Higher temperatures will not make it ‘more boiled.’ Higher temperatures just consume more resources that could be used for something more productive.

So, what if I can get the same traffic — but with half the posts? This means gaining several hours per week that can be invested in other activities, like:

  • Finding great material to share with you, and writing higher quality posts (as Google’s Larry Page puts it: “More wood behind fewer arrows.”)
  • Writing an e-book or creating educational material
  • Seeking guest blogging opportunities

I still believe posting often is one of the best ways for new bloggers to build traffic.  But let’s challenge the status quo and see what happens.

Lastly: since some of you have asked for clarification around what this is blog is about, I’ve updated the “About” page to give you a clearer idea what you can expect as a reader.  Take a look.

Let me know what you think!

Jerry Seinfeld on How to Write a Joke

One area this blog examines is how successful people do their work, asking “What do they do differently than the rest of us?“.

Watch someone skilled do their thing, and it probably looks pretty easy. But don’t be fooled: greatness takes a buttload of work.

In this short video, Jerry describes his work process, and how it took him two years to create “The Pop Tart Joke”.  

On stage, Jerry takes one minute and 34 seconds to tell the joke — so that’s 16 months of work per minute of performance.  Imagine how much time it takes to prepare for a full routine!

Case Study: Building a Blog That Generates $500,000 Yearly

Have you ever wondered how bloggers generate income?

John Chow, blogger

John Chow: A blogger who generates $500,000 p/year.  Looks like a nice guy.

Previously, we looked at Tim Ferriss and methods he used to build a high traffic blog, and today we’ll examine a blogger named John Chow, who claims to generate on the order of $500,000 per year with his blog.

John has an interesting story: read more about John here, and take a look at his smiling face on the right of this page.

He seems like a regular, down-to-earth guy, who has put in hard work to intelligently build his blogging business.  While some of his stuff seems a little salesy, his methods are worth a look.

At the bottom of this post is a video [56 minutes] where he describes the techniques I’m about to summarize.

Most often, people think that selling advertising on a blog is the only way to make money. John’s model certainly incorporates advertising, but he claims that only 1/3 of his revenue comes from the model where you get paid based on the number of pageviews.

The majority of his revenue comes from what’s called the “back end”: a well-planned system for generating income behind the scenes, even while he sleeps.

Here’s how John does it. Read more of this post

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