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Archive for December, 2007

Be the Best at Something Instead of Average at a Lot of Things

Be the Best

It’s common knowledge that you should work on things you’re not so good at. If you’re a star baseball pitcher who can throw the ball faster than anyone else but can’t throw a curve ball to save your life then you should improve your curve ball. If you’re really good at math but can’t write worth anything then you should really try to improve your writing skills. You should try to improve your weaknesses so that you can do everything. Basically you should focus most of your energy on improving your weakest points.

I completely disagree! Spend most of your energy improving the things you exceed at, not your weaknesses.

If you’re a great baseball pitcher that can throw a ball faster than anyone else, being able a throw a curve ball becomes less and less important. Not only that, but if you don’t improve on your main skill (throwing an amazing fast ball) than you’ll just be like everyone else. A pitcher who can throw a decent fast ball but with a limited repertoire of pitches. Nobody will really care. But if you throw the fastest and meanest fastball people will care. You’re skill will be rewarded. You will get attention. You will succeed!

If you can do math like no one else people will pay attention. You will succeed. People will overlook the fact that you can’t write. They’ll care that you can do amazing mathematical feats. They’ll focus on that. You’ll be rewarded for that. Only few people can achieve the heights off any skill.

Another example is basketball. Look at Shaquille O’Neal. He’s a very famous basketball player but he continually struggles with free throws. Something that’s considered a standard skill in professional basketball and he can barely do it. The reality is that it doesn’t matter, he’s focused his time and energy on improving his greatest strengths rather than working on his biggest weaknesses. Do you think people would care if he could get a decent free throw percentage if he hadn’t built up his other basketball playing skill? I doubt it.

I’m not saying that you should ignore your weaknesses, what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t worry too much about it. Put some effort to improve them but instead focus the vast majority of your effort and energies on improving what you excel at. Focus on your strengths. If you’re beyond amazing at something success will follow. People will overlook your weaknesses.

I’d rather have a Shaq on my basketball team than an all around average player. I’d rather have a team of Shaq’s, each with a very different expertise than an all around team of average players.

As Joel Spolsky says:

“The mediocre talent just never hits the high notes that the top talent hits all the time. The number of divas who can hit the f6 in Mozart’s Queen of the Night is vanishingly small, and you just can’t perform The Queen of the Night without that famous f6.”






The Year 2007 in Retrospect

Seeing as the year 2007 is about to come to a close I thought now would be a great time to go back and reflect on everything I’ve accomplished throughout the year. Like I always like to say, reward your successes and learn from your failures.

Successes and Achivements

Successes

LandlordMax

FollowSteph

  • Traffic to FollowSteph has greatly increased!
  • RSS Feed subsribers is growing at a very good rate
  • Increase the direct revenues of FollowSteph by about 800% (from advertising, affiliate links, etc.)
  • I was interviewed on StartupSpark.com
  • Many articles have had very high search engine placements
  • Many articles have received high numbers of comments
  • Many articles rank very high in the search engines

Others

  • I started to write a book interviewing several of the most prominent bloggers online (for which I’m almost done compiling all the interviews and will be sending it off for editing very shortly). A lot of very prominent bloggers accepted to be part of this project which is great (I need to update the list). After reading all the interviews and compiling them, I can tell you this is definitely going to be an amazing book to read. There’s lots of great advice!
  • I’m in the process of creating a new website called FindYourWeddingDress.com. We’ve already hired one part-time person to assist us in this task. We’re hoping to fully launch it within the next few months.
  • We released the website WhichJar.com

Failures

  • We had an issue with our SSL certificate on the LandlordMax purchase page. We always maintained 100% security, it’s just that we somehow didn’t renew our certificate on time and therefore weren’t officially certified for a few days. This was quickly rectified. It won’t happen again!
  • Although we released the website WhichJar.com, there is currently not enough data in the database to really make it viable (we only have a few hundred open source projects stored so far). Therefore this project has been sidelined for now until I have the available resources and time or until I can find someone to partner up with. The failure is that I didn’t appreciate the data population effort that would be required
  • I started an Online Sales and Marketing book which I didn’t complete. The good news is that it successfully transitioned this effort to the blogging book, which is a great success! I’m hoping to return to it sometime in late 2008 if time permit but for now it’s on hold.
  • I had quite an experience with Telus with my cell phone service

This is what I can remember by just going through the blog. All in all a pretty busy year. For next year I expect to achieve even more.

Here are my goals for next year:

Goals and Objectives

Goals:

  • I expect the book to be available in bookstores such as Amazon.com by the Spring of 2008.
  • I expect to sell over 100,000 copies of the book by end of year 2008
  • I expect to more than quadruple LandlordMax sales revenues by the end of 2008
  • I expect to multiply my RSS feeds on FollowSteph by end of the 2008.
  • I expect to release a new major version of LandlordMax by spring/summer of 2008
  • I expect to release the Mac version before the end of 2008
  • I expect to release the networked/multi-user based version of LandlordMax by fall/winter of 2008.
  • I expect to release the browser based version of LandlordMax by end of year 2008 or early 2009
  • I expect FindYourWeddingDress.com to be fully functionning by spring/summer of 2008
  • I expect to appear several more times in the media (newspapers, tv, etc.) for LandlordMax by the spring of 2008
  • I expect to multiply the traffic of FollowSteph.com by at least five times before the end of 2008
  • I expect to break several LandlordMax sales records this year, and again receive more testimonials than all previous years combined.
  • I expect to fully complete the LandlordMax website redesign before the end of 2008
  • I expect to give FollowSteph.com a significant face lift before the end of 2008
  • I would like to release a cash flow analyzer software application as a complimentary product to LandlordMax before the end of 2008. We currently offer a free online cash flow calculator on the LandlordMax website, but I’d really like to expand this offering.

This is my list of successes/failures for 2007, and my goals for 2008. And because I publicly stated them here today, I’ll review them same time next year.

What about you? What are your big successes? What are your goals for next year? Did you know you increase your odds of achieving your goals if you publicly state them, especially if they include concrete terms and timelines.






Another Record for this Housing Market Crash

Many people thought the housing market crash wasn’t coming anytime soon, that prices would continue and continue to rise. I even heard people saying that they had to get in now otherwise they could never afford a house at the going rate. Like any other boom, people forgot to look at the fundamentals.

Well today the fundamentals are right in your face. There’s no escaping them. No Ponzi scheme can save you. CNN has just reported a 6.7% price drop in prices from last year. If you adjust for inflation, that’s closer to 10%! The largest drop recorded since the index began in 1987. It marked the 10th consecutive month of price depreciation and 23 months of decelerating returns. With no end in sight.

Housing Market Crash

I hate to soapbox, but as far back as 2004-2005 I was already suggesting that the market was overpriced. The numbers no longer made sense. It had to stop and prices had to come back down. I even wrote on ways to protect yourself. For example in December 2005 I wrote: The Simplest and Best Way to Protect Yourself from the Real Estate Crash. If you followed that advice you’d be significantly protected from the current housing market crash right now.

Knowing that there was a shakeup coming, I personally prepared. I followed my own advice, I ate my own dog food. For example I locked the mortgage on my personal home at 5.4% for 25 years! Yes that’s a fixed rate of 5.4% for 25 years. I had the option of 4.8% for 10 years, 4.3% for 5 years, or a variable for 3.9% if memory serves me right. Back then when I told people how excited I was to get 5.4% locked for 25 years I was continually shocked by their reaction. They couldn’t believe I was willing to pay that much interest. 4.3% was a lot better. And why not variable, interest rates were low and dropping.

This is when I tried to explain that interest rates can’t keep going down anymore, and definitely can’t stay at those rates. That we were just above inflation. It just can’t stay that way forever. Over time rates have been closer to 8-10%. They would climb back.

I also kept telling people how I didn’t want to be part of the upcoming mortgage refinancing storm. As rates increased people wouldn’t be able to refinance when their mortgages came up for re-financing. Basically the whole house of cards would come tumbling down. This is basically what’s happening now, and why we can expect to see a continuation of this housing crash for at least several more years. At least until the last of the 5 year fixed mortgages that can’t be refinanced dwindle away.

The good news is that unlike what the media portrays, there is an end in sight. It’s just a few years away.






Quick Links

Building a Fort: Lessons in Software Estimation
This is a great example that shows just how hard software estimation can be.

You never know unless you try!
As I’ve always said, action is the key to success. You can’t succeed unless you try.

Financial Models for Underachievers: Two Years of the Real Numbers of a Startup
Not only do you get numbers, it also includes some lessons learned on top of it.

The Monkey Experiment, (or) “Why Do We Do That?”
Sometimes it’s good to questions “because it’s always been done that way.”

Software is Hard
It’s a longer article, but it’s also very good. If you really want to understand why software is sometimes hard to build, read this article.

document.f.q.focus(); The Billion Dollar Line of JavaScript
How simple little things can have such large impacts!

The F5 Key Is Not a Build Process
Unfortunately this is all too common in the software industry…

Why Does Software Spoil?
Another great article by Jeff. He gives a great argument as to why some great software applications sometimes spoil over time.

10 types of programmers you’ll encounter in the field
A little humor to end today’s list. And there is a lot of truth to this list.






2 Very Simple Ways to Significantly Increase Your Productivity

Productivity

There are many thing you can do to improve your productivity and today we’ll cover two of the easiest possible productivity tips that will give you biggest bang for the buck!

1. Check your email at most 3 times a day.

Very simple. Don’t check your email throughout the day. Don’t automatically check your email every 5-15 minutes. Not even once an hour. No more than a total of 3 times in any single day. If it’s very important, then the person will find another means of contacting you directly (maybe through messenger, that old thing we call a phone, or even coming to see you in person).

The 3 times I personally check my emails are:

  1. First thing in the morning for obvious reasons.
  2. After I come back from lunch. It’s nice because it’s a lighter transition to get back in the groove of things.
  3. Near the end of the day. When you’re getting tired and your productivity is already low. It’s a nice change of pace. As well it’s a good way to prepare for tomorrow.

Anything else is simply too much. I can’t tell you how many people I see reading and writing emails all day. It’s too much. It’s overload. And as I’ve mentioned before, if it’s really that important they’ll contact you by another means. It’s as simple as that.

2. Learn the hotkeys of your most common tasks for your software applications.

For those of you who aren’t computer literate, this means learning the keyboard shortcuts to the most common commands of the software applications you use on your computer.

For example, if you’re in Microsoft Word and you want to save your document what do most people do? They move the mouse over the File menu, then to the Save item in the menu, and so on. This can easily take as much as 2-5 seconds for a simple save that’s done many many times a day. As an alternative you can just type in alt-f-s. That’s less than 1 second! You’ve easily increased your productivity by 5 times!

Other common hotkeys for computer newbies is the copy/paste commands. Rather than use your mouse to highlight the text, click on copy, paste, etc. you can just learn how to highlight text with the keyboard (there are some simple shortcuts here). Then use ctl-c to copy and clt-v to paste. Less than a second! Another very significant increase in productivity.

How about switching applications? Do you navigate your taskbar on the bottom of the screen until you find the right application? Try alt-tab instead. It’s much quicker.

The list goes on. And as you get better and better and learn more and more hotkeys, you get to do more advanced tasks with increasing efficiency. Instead of 5-10 second gains you start getting 15-30 second gains. These few seconds may not seem like much, but the more you use them the more they save you. Over a day it can add up to hours. I can honestly say I sometimes shock people by how fast I can manipulate my computer while they stare at my screen. It’s not that I’m an amazing computer whiz (that’s another debate), it’s just that I’ve just slowly built up my library of hotkeys.

Quick Tip: You’ll also find that most software applications standardize on the same common hotkeys. Copy/Paste is always the same. Same with File Save. Suddenly you’re no longer more efficient in just your key programs, but in all programs on all computers!






Christmas Book Gift Ideas – General

Today’s list of Christmas books ideas was suppose to continue the series and contain all those that didn’t really fit in one of the previous categories. Those I still appreciated and learned something from for my business LandlordMax.

However I’m finding that the books I was going to suggests are too wide spread in topics to really be interesting. So rather than force the subject, I’ll finish the series here and ask you the readers what other non-fiction books you suggest which will help us improve our entrepreneurial knowledge and skills. Please comment below, I’d love to hear what books you recommend. I’m sure I’ll pick up a few to read myself! I’ve already added one to my list from someone’s comments in one of the previous posts of this series.

And for those of you who just found this series today, the categories of books I’ve been sharing this week include:






Christmas Book Gift Ideas – Personal Success

What is personal success? It’s how to improve yourself. How to become successful. There are lots of books on this subject. Too many to be honest. Most that I’ve read has been focused on increasing your personal securities, conquering your fears, etc. Today’s list is not about this. It’s about how to improve your own personal productivity. How to better understand other people, what their goals are, and so on. How to improve see past the BS, such as with the book How to Lie With Statistics.

For example I could have included this book in the marketing and sales section, but then I would have been advocating using it for evil versus good. I’m suggesting it here so that you can better understand what people are trying to tell you (sometimes wrongly but to their best interest). How they might be stretching the truth to convince you.

Others are as straight forward such as Get Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got. It’s to help you maximize your efficiencies.

One book that’s odd is the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant. I appreciated this one because of this perspective on life. The book has some really great life lessons. For example, early on in his career he realized his opponents were just as afraid of him as he was of them. This realization was crucial for most of his success. But it goes beyond that. There is lots to learn from this great man.

For those of you who just found this page today, the categories of books I’ve been sharing this week include:

Personal Success Christmas book ideas:

How to Lie With StatisticsThe Personal Memoirs of U. S. GrantThe 4-Hour work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New RichHow to Win Friends & Influence PeopleInfluence: The Psychology of PersuasionOn Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing NonfictionFooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see remaining Christmas book ideas, the ones that didn’t really fit into one of these categories. You can also subscribe to my RSS feed so that you don’t forget. If you don’t know what an RSS feed is, don’t worry you can also subscribe to receive the articles by email here.






Christmas Book Gift Ideas – Investing

Today’s list is probably the largest of the series. I’ve included all kinds of investing books, from stocks, real estate, to you name it. As you’ll probably notice, the focus is mainly on value investing, no matter what the vehicle (stocks, real estate, etc.).

For those of you just found this page today, the category of books I’m sharing this week include:

Investing Christmas book ideas:

Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial CrisesManias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial CrisesThe Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical CounselThe Millionaire MindWhen Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital ManagementThe Essays of Warren Buffett : Lessons for Corporate America Buffett: The Making of an American CapitalistReminiscences of a Stock OperatorFortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall StreetThe Millionaire Next DoorTake On the Street: What Wall Street and Corporate America Don't Want You to KnowSecurity Analysis: The Classic 1940 EditionThe Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New WorldReal Estate Riches: How to Become Rich Using Your Banker's MoneyRich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money--That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!Wall Street: A HistoryMillionaire : The Philanderer, Gambler, and Duelist Who Invented Modern Finance

 

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my list of investing books for Christmas ideas (probably the biggest list of all the categories). You can also subscribe to my RSS feed so that you don’t forget. If you don’t know what an RSS feed is, don’t worry you can also subscribe to receive the articles by email here.






Christmas Book Gift Ideas – Technology

Continuing with my series of great Christmas book ideas, today’s list will be focusing technology in general. Mainly ranging from the history of the computer industry (those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, therefore I prefer learn from it) to just some interesting books related to technology that I really appreciated.

For those of you just found this page now, the category of books I plan to share this week include:

Here’s today’s list:

And since I know there are a lot of you who read this blog are also software developers, I’ve decided to add a few extras to today’s list to also include some science, math, and related books:

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my list of investing books for Christmas ideas (probably the biggest list of all the categories). You can also subscribe to my RSS feed so that you don’t forget. If you don’t know what an RSS feed is, don’t worry you can also subscribe to receive the articles by email here.






Christmas Book Gift Ideas – Marketing and Sales

Today I continue again the list of great Christmas book ideas, focusing on marketing and sales books. For those of you just found this page now, the category of books I plan to share this week include:

For many business owners, especially software based, this is an area that is often too neglected. Marketing and sales are important for your business, you just can’t ignore them.

The Definitive Guide to Google AdWordsSEO Book

And don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my list of technology books for Christmas ideas. You can also subscribe to my RSS feed so that you don’t forget. If you don’t know what an RSS feed is, don’t worry you can also subscribe to receive the articles by email here.






 
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