Food Junkies Can Be Healthy Too! It Just Takes Some Work…

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Now that I’m a little bit older and wiser than I was in my twenties, I’m all too aware how easily I can become addicted to something. Luckily, I’ve never been addicted to anything dangerous, but food has always been a weakness of mine.

I don’t know if you guys have heard, but food is DELICIOUS. You should really try it sometime.

This has been a thing as far back as I can remember and though it’s gotten much better into my adulthood, I still have my struggles. It’s not so much the act of eating, but the experience of flavor. Salty, sweet, fatty, sour, rich FLAVOR.

Amirite?

That’s the messed up thing with taste as a sense: it usually involves ingestion. Seeing things doesn’t make you go blind (just don’t look directly at a solar eclipse). Smelling things doesn’t make you eventually… uh… uhhhhhhhh…

Anosmatic!

Google FTW.

Anyway, you know what I mean. Taste, you are an evil temptress.

A deliciously evil temptress.

Surprisingly if you don’t know me and unsurprisingly if you do recovering from a food addiction relapse is all about mental fortitude. Remember, this has been a thing since childhood for me so, yeah, old habits are hard to break and all that jazz. So because I’m in this mindset of attacking life 100% (I’m not into that whole more-than-100-percent thing that people sometimes use), I made up five, count’em, FIVE rules for myself to help make this a lifestyle.

  1. My primary beverages will be water and wine, not to be confused with turning water into wine. I don’t drink wine every day, but it’s something I do with my fiancé on our days together. I can throw tea in there as well, but anything outside of that will be relegated to once every couple of weeks. WWAD?
  2. Snack foods are a Friday only thing (for now). While my fiancé and I are apart, I’m keeping snacks to my favorite day that begins with an F.Yeah, not Father’s Day. Sorry, Dad, but it’s a close second. At least it’s not Frog Jumping Day. Only suckers celebrate that.It’ll probably be a different story once we’re living together, but for now, Fridays are our day so I don’t mind being a little reckless one day a week.
  3. I’m going to eat raw at least once a week. I’m not a big fan of eating raw because I love warm food, but this one shouldn’t be too tough.
  4. The only things I’ll buy that have more than three ingredients are bread, pasta, and my Friday snacks. Is there more to explain? No? Let’s move on.
  5. Meditation is key! At least it is for me. And although I don’t really meditate in the traditional sense as much as I used to, mindfulness will only help keep me on point.

You may have noticed I don’t have much of what many might call a “diet” on my list. That’s because diets are for chumps, y’all! I’m not trying to get über muscled up like I was some three or four years ago either. This is about health and balancing it with my infatuation with my mistress, flavor.

Sweet delicious flavor.

I firmly believe that body and mind are much like chaos and harmony in the sense that they are constantly in a state of flux. For many us, chaos and harmony appear to be at odds, but a high level view shows us they’re part of the same thing because you can’t have harmony without chaos and vice versa.

Side note: I hate when people say “vice-ah versa,” but apparently that’s some old school British English at work there so I don’t have a leg to stand on.

Er… on which to stand*

It’s tough for grammar junkies in these streets.

Anyway, I think mind and body are the same as well. Let’s call them our physical and non-physical selves, shall we? Some people have strong physical attributes such as good health, muscle mass, high metabolism, etc. Others have strong non-physical attributes like a sense of inner peace, determination, courageousness, etc. Tangible versus intangible.

Makes sense? Awesome!

Okay, the balance between harmony and chaos is somehow managed by our entire realities. The balance of body and mind is up to us as individuals.

Kind of. External factors come into play, but stick with me here.

If you have the means to properly take care of your mind and body, do it. Why not, right? I feel doing so is a large part of achieving personal balance. While I’m here on this earth, that’s the goal. I’m pretty sure I have the mental/non-physical side down; now it’s time to refocus on the body/physical.

What do you do to maintain or increase balance in your life? Let me know! Tips and insights are always welcome.

Let’s do this!

Peace out, party people.

The Curious Case of the Successful Underacheiver

Success-Kid

Okay, people. It’s time to get real again.

All the way real.

I am being honest when I say most of my life, I’ve found success giving maybe 50-60% effort. I’m serious and I know it may sound as if I’m full of myself.

I’m not.

But I also know I’m smart. I was a smart kid. It started off when my parents taught me math and English before I had to learn it in school. It wasn’t too hard. I was able to get it at a pretty early age. When I got to school and I was already ahead of everyone else, I learned a lesson that has been a running theme in my life: be smarter now so you can make more time to slack off.

Note that slacking off wasn’t necessarily about being lazy. It was more about doing things I loved doing. Y’know, reading, writing, drawing, being off in my own thoughts. Not homework.

Or… work in general.

So if I had a concentration in intelligence, it’d be the art of slacking off. I would keep myself smarter than most people, but I’d never actually really try to be number one. That was too much work. Top ten is a hell of a place to be in its own right, especially when you don’t actually care that much.

I know, I sound like I’m not a go-getter, but I totally am when I want to be. I’m just easily bored by traditional school and work. I guess that may be part of the ADD thing.

It wasn’t until I worked at my previous job when a fire was lit under my ass. At every job I had previously, I was always promoted quickly while giving only 60% effort. I was expecting the same thing here. Again, I know it sounds cocky, but I knew I was better than everyone on my team. I made sure of it because I wanted to be good enough to be asked to work on more interesting side projects. I set my goal to be smarter than the woman who trained me. The woman who couldn’t get the job I eventually did. You want to know how I got that job?

I gave 100%.

I gave 100% because I wasn’t promoted when I thought I should have been. Instead, my boss at the time put me on some BS two year plan to become a lead while he brought in some dude he knew to take the role.

Oh no he didn’t.

I was furious. That was the first time I experienced a situation where talent alone wasn’t enough to get by. After that I was on fire. I worked my ass off and eventually became the youngest Director at the time. Unfortunately, that was also the point when I began hating my job.

Er, disliking my job. I don’t want to be too hard on them. I found a lot of success there.

Now I’m back to my old ways, steadily finding success giving 60% and feeling far less stressed. Then a funny thing happened: I was checking my work email, eating chips because I was too lazy to buy actual groceries, thinking about what I’ve achieved so far this year compared to where I want to be once my fiancé and I are married.

Yeah… 60% ain’t cutting it.

So it’s time to use my brain and combine it with the drive to want to slack-off with my future wife. I’m putting this out there so I make sure there’s some level of accountability, even if no one else actually cares. I’m going at this 100%, especially since we’re not in the same country at the moment.

This also extends to how I’m treating my body and general health. I have to give myself props for how much effort I put into becoming mentally balanced. I owe it to myself to become physically balanced as well. Because a healthier me means a (hopefully) longer life with my fiancé, I’m going to go at that 100%.

Well, maybe 90%. I still like snacks and wine.

Anyway, I don’t think I’m special in any kind of way. I think there are many people out there who greater than the effort they put forth. Mostly because slacking off is awesome.

We both know it so let’s all stop pretending.

Still, there are moments in life where a person needs to have the discipline to go 100%. I’m in the midst of one of those moments now so it’s time to go hard. Not forever though. Sixty percent is my comfort zone long term.

Game time.

Peace out, party people.

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Tim Ferriss Clones and the BS of Capitalism

Photo Credit: Anne Helmond
Photo Credit: Anne Helmond

Last night I watched a movie called Nightcrawler. It was such a good movie I actually watched it twice in a row. I’m not going to spoil anything, but Jake Gyllenhaal plays a character that finds success with three tactics.

  1. Rigorous research and planning
  2. Persistence
  3. Taking calculated risks

Now, feel free to formulate your own opinions of his (brilliant) character, but I admire a few of his qualities, even if they were questionable. Sorry to tip toe around that one, but this movie is so easy to spoil. Go see it. Right now.

That movie also made me realize there are a ton of people I see like this online. If you’re a blogger and have ever searched for tips on how to grow your audience, you’re sure to have come across this type. Or maybe you just want to make money online. You know this guy.

The Tim Ferriss clone.

These are a bunch of people with (seemingly) heaps of knowledge on how to earn money, drive traffic, or whatever else you want. They give you a bit of (seemingly) useful knowledge to show you they’re smart, but it’s never enough for you to gain some real insight. Not for free anyway. It’s odd. It’s almost like paying to learn how you were tricked to pay for information so you can do the same to others.

Capitalism is a mother f**ker.

Now mind you, this isn’t ALWAYS the tactic, but as someone who is searching for a means of earning money independently, I see a ton of these guys around. They’re sharks patiently swimming in the water, waiting for SEO to bring you within striking range. These guys all have strong, direct speech and come off a the guy who is care free and wants to share his secrets.

Remember Lost? That show was selling secrets too. We all know how that one ended.

I bought the 4 Hour Workweek a while ago and it’s insane to see how many people have adopted this methodology and are trying make knowledge a commodity. Truth be told, I’m writing this out of frustration because I’m a struggling blogger whose money is going toward starting a new life with my fiancé. I can’t bother with your class, even if it’s worth more than the $199 you’re pitching.

Great. Now we have knowledge poverty. If you read my blog (hopefully you do), you know I’m anti-establishment. I see a system taking shape right before our eyes. I’ll break it down like this:

  1. Everything starts with statistics and research. This separates success from failure. Do you think successful poker players just win by luck? That’d be silly. They know statistics. It gives them an edge in staying ahead of competition. People who take this seriously are (theoretically) always observing data. Even data gathered from the people paying to get their information.
  2. Most people suck at gathering valid statistics. I certainly do. A lot of people have ideas, but knowing key statistics makes you a valuable resource because most people just want to be told how they can win the game. But you can never “win” the game, because the game never ends. You can only increase your odds of not being a loser.
  3. Selling knowledge means you are selling people the opportunity to increase their odds. But the people doing the selling will never sell everything. They’ll sell enough and become experts in their fields because data is always changing and they are likely better at gathering stats that will keep them successful. There will always be an audience that just wants to know and some of them become repeat customers. Knowledge is power after all.

I kid you not, Nightcrawler made me think about this in an entirely different way. Now I may be wrong here, but it seems to me anyone can achieve the same if you’re smart enough. But I’m not smart enough and this market of selling knowledge is quickly becoming flooded anyway. Especially for kinda-sorta vague specialties like marketing experts.

My problem is if you never learn how to truly gather and analyze stats, you’ll never stay ahead of the curve. This holds true for EVERYTHING in business. Stats are huge. Stats are just as important to your blog growth as it is to corporations starting a new line of products. But for us common folk, we either have to learn it, pay/partner with someone who can gather stats for you. You can get services, but you still need context for numbers. How does this relate to your business? How does it relate to emerging markets? You can do so much, which is why I’m stayed up all night studying web analytics and stat interpretation. It’s amazing how incorrectly I’ve been looking at this whole thing. Now I get why data is so important and why everyone and their advertising mama wants access to it. They want that advantage. This totally relates to capitalism as a whole.

Capitalism thrives on advantages and these things run deep. Wealth, race, gender, sexuality, and nationality all have different advantages and disadvantages depending on where you fall. The internet isn’t perfect, but it definitely helps to negate some of those categories as factors. I mean, the thought of a random Jamaican from Paterson, NJ becoming a freelance writer in the 1960’s is ridiculous.

But stats and numbers are powerful. We have the world we have today partially because we have companies that study us and market toward the things to which we gravitate. That’s why we have trends. But if you never understand the science behind why things become trends and jumping on markets before it becomes flooded. Essentially, most of us don’t understand our own data. We have pictures and posts and all manner of information out there and few of us truly realize how powerful that is. Powerful enough for me to study. I hate studying, but I want to learn this, but not for the reasons you may think.

I want to figure out a way to make stat interpretation easy. Or maybe a way to give people a way of seeing how their data is relevant to companies and the world at large. There’s got to be a cool way to spread awareness on this.

Actually, that sounds like an awesome idea. Anyone want to help me build that? I can’t pay anything, but there’s no profit in this idea anyway. I’m willing to partner with whoever actually cares about this idea. I’m not smart enough to know all the ins and outs of what I want, but I’m a quick learner when motivated and there’s a fire brewing in my belly.

In the short term, I’m totally going to put this theory to test to see if stats and data analysis is the real game changer I think it is when it comes to earning money. That’s more so I have a steady flow of income while I’m over in Thailand with my beautiful future wife. Other than that, I want to partner with some people who can make this happen. Or hell, steal this idea if you want. Just do it for the right reasons. We have enough people trying to profit from us.

Hit me up in the comments if you have ideas to contribute. I’m going to talk to a couple smart people I know and return with more thoughts later, but I urge you all to learn more about data analysis and statistics. I know I will be.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 2)

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 2)

Photo Credit: Chris Potter
Photo Credit: Chris Potter

Putting a budget together sucks. Quite a way to begin a blog post,eh?

If you read part one of this piece, you know my current goal is to save $15000 (US) by July. This is a tall order for a guy who currently works part-time. I’ll go back to fulltime work if a worthwhile gig comes along. But in the meantime, I need to focus on the minimum amount of income I need in order to achieve this goal. Last time, I came up with the following numbers:

Per Month Income Goal: $4150
Per Day Income Goal: $135.50 ($150 in Feb, $140 for 30-day months)

Remember, this takes saving and bills into account. Honestly, I feel like this could be much worse. It’s by no means simple (I’m essentially starting my life over from scratch), but I’m confident I can swing this if I keep my head in the game.

Right now I make about $47 a day in part-time work. While I’ve applied this over the course of seven days, I’m actually only working about 20 hours a week. Also, I tend to make more because I log out late some days, but I don’t want to rely on that. I need to know what I’m guaranteed. I don’t know what works for you, but if some amount of money isn’t a sure thing (or a close approximation), I see no good reason to track it. It’s simply a bonus.

Like when you randomly find a 20 dollar bill in your coat pocket.

So I’m a bit more of 1/3 of the way there (depending on the month).

Awesome.

Sort of.

This puts me in a bit of a quandary. Either I need to get that fulltime job I’ve been avoiding or I need to simply earn more money. Truth be told, I became a bit spoiled over the last few months as time is a much better motivation for me than money. Earning more is awesome, but if I go that route, I want to ensure it’s an ideal situation for me. I’m not trying to be stressed out of my mind all day then take my work home so I can continue that feeling all night.

Been there, done that.

So I need to make up the rest of it with freelance work unless anything changes. This is where things get tricky.

I make my side moola freelance writing or editing. Recently I landed a somewhat steady editing gig, but I’m not getting any more than $55 a week from them. In this case, steady definitely doesn’t mean a lot of hours.Either way, let’s just reduce this to $30 a week because that $55 isn’t guaranteed. Per day, that’s about $4.29. Not much but it gets me over $50 a day.

Side note: I realize this is going to be a ballgame with a ton of singles and doubles. So be it. I should have been better at this months ago, but life (or in my case, love) became a higher priority than making money.

Yes, it’s actually true.

But with my fiancé stuck in Sweden until we have that K1 visa, I don’t mind putting forth some extra effort to reach this goal.

Anyway, if we’re talking about February, I need to make about $98 more per day to hit my goal. Actually, let’s just go with $150 per day as a nice, round goal. I realize this is totally stream of conscious and I should probably just update what I wrote before, but I’m lazy as all sin right now. Deal with it.

Most content writing gigs offer crap for pay and, quite frankly, are not worth my time. Some of them are decent if I need money in a pinch, but most of them demand a lot of effort with marginal returns. Next week I’ll dive into freelance writing more and what I’m doing to increase my odds of landing better paying gigs. But for now, let’s finish up the rest of this budget.

While income is a significant part of tracking finances, I would argue spending is far more crucial. That’s because any money that is earned will ALWAYS help. Spending, on the other hand, hinders monetary growth unless its an investment in something else that will generate revenue.

Luckily, getting laid off curtailed my loosey-goosey spending habits big time. All I need is food, honestly. I’m basically in stasis until my fiancé and I are back together. It sounds horrible, but I’m fine with limiting my outings, only spending when I end up exceeding my daily goal consistently. One or two days aren’t a green light to loosen up those purse strings.

January will end up being a proof of concept month. I will be tracking ALL of my spending. This way I’ll have a concrete idea of where money is going and where I can cut corners sans any negative repercussions. Here’s what I can estimate at the very least:

  • $25 a week on groceries (very doable living alone and being a vegetarian)
  • $5 a week on public transportation (I’m still debating selling my car. Right now it’s not on the road so I don’t have to pay for insurance)
  • $50 every two weeks miscellaneous spending

This is a strict budget. As you can see, I’m keeping it pretty minimal as I’m not factoring in much. This is because I don’t need much. This savings goal is more important than stuff I want to buy so I may as well act like it.

Okay, folks; that’s it for now. Join me next week when I start talking about things you can do to help snag more writing gigs (this should be appropriate for other types of freelance work too). I hope your journey is as exciting as mine and, as always, hit me up in the comments if you have any tip or feedback of your own!

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 1)

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Finally Creating a Financial Plan (Part 1)

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver
Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver

I spent a lot of days hiding out and carb-loading ever since my girlfriend’s visa expired. It’s been a week now so I figured it’s time to emerge from my one-man pity party and start working toward my and my fiance’s dream. I’ll talk a little bit about that dream next, but the weekly tracking of making this happen will be in a series I’m starting called The Dream Chaser Project (every Wednesday at 11am).

So without further ado…

The Mission: Save $15K by July
Problems: School loans, various bills
Temporary Problems: Current rent,

There have been times in my life when I started something without a goal in mind. For example, I could just say I want to start saving money, but I’m not actually working toward anything. Here, I’ve set a goal, albeit a challenging one given I’m currently only working part-time

Whatever. I’m up for the challenge.

First things first, I’m moving in with family starting in February. That means I won’t have to worry about regular rent after January. Outside of that, my biggest expense is my school loans. So let’s break this down a bit. If I were to start on my goal in February, this is where I stand:

Goal: $15000
Loans and Other Bills (Per Month): $1500
Other Monthly Expenses: $150

Alright, so let’s figure out how much I need to earn per day and month:

Per Month Income Goal: $4150 (Let’s just round that up to $4200)
Per Day Income Goal: $135.50 ($150 in Feb, $140 for 30-day months)

I can totally do this with a regular full-time job, but I’m only going that route if I have to. Otherwise, I’m shooting for this with part-time, freelance, or remote work. Additionally, my fiance and I want to either travel while working or simply live outside of the US for a while. Because of this, I can also sell a bunch of belongings because, you know, stuff just weighs people down. I’m trying to keep it lightweight.

Lastly, there are two general rules I’m going to follow (more will be added as I follow this):

  1. I will not adjust my daily/monthly goals regardless if I exceed them or if I come up short. I need this data so I can adjust how I move forward in the future.
  2. ALL spending will be tracked. My other monthly expenses are just an estimate. I have no clue what they will be once I move home. I know that I’ll be going out much less only because my focus is to save.

So this is just the beginning. I’ll be giving more details as to my plan and different suggestions from various sources. I know this is “Lessons from a New Self-Earner,” so here’s the lesson I learned:

I’ve made it through life never planning anything when it comes to money. Some may see that as bad to admit, but it is what it is. I’m not here for anyone’s approval. Now, however, I know the life I want. Saving this money is a priority, but to be honest, this is a study on how I can earn money remotely with as little stress as possible. I have no idea if I’ll be able to do this without some sacrifices, but I’m more than down to try.

Let the games begin.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Admitting When You Need a Helping Hand

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Admitting When You Need a Helping Hand

marsellus wallace

Man oh man, my life is in a big transitional phase, folks. My girlfriend and I did a lot of talking last week and we decided a couple things:

  1. We’re applying for a fiance visa so we can get married next year.
  2. We’re moving the eff out of the US as soon as possible.

Not that I dislike America, but if we can have a life more suitable for us in another country, why not?

The thing with a fiance visa is it can take five to eight months for approval.

Ugh.

Then my girlfriend (and parents) made an excellent point. If our ultimate plan is to move elsewhere and start a life together, why are we going to spend money on separate apartments while we wait up to eight months (if all goes well) for a piece of paper that says we can get married. Wouldn’t it be smarter to save money in the meantime? I’m taking the opportunity to do just that.

In February, I’m going to do something I thought I’d never do in a million years (or however long I’ll be alive): I’m moving back in with my parents.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

As I’ve said before, being a self-earner can be rough. It also didn’t help that I slacked off SIGNIFICANTLY over the last three months while my girlfriend has been here (not that I minded at all). But now it’s time to refocus.

My goal in making money is NOT to be rich. I don’t give a damn about wealth. I care more about living a worry-free life. That’s wealth to me. Is it possible? Yo no se (or ‘I don’t know’ for los Americanos out there). Here’s the thing: for the last three months, I discovered what I want the rest of my life to be. I’m not trying to kill myself and waste life by giving my time to other people/things. I know what my priorities are and they don’t involve fancy cars and designer shoes.

So I’m moving back home and I’ll be moving out as soon as my girl gets her visa. In the meantime, you better believe I’ll be saving money like a madman and using our time apart to earn as much money as possible.

I know this isn’t really a tip or suggestion, but still, it’s a lesson I had to learn. I had to learn to be alright with accepting help from my family to attain a more significant goal. I have a lot of pride and I am more than willing to struggle in order to achieve something on my own merits. That’s stupid and inefficient. My school loans are expensive as hell and paying rent and utilities doesn’t help matters. Sure, I can do it, but it doesn’t get me to my goal any more quickly. It just makes the journey unnecessarily harder.

So let’s be zen about this and take the path of least resistance. My pride is nowhere near as important as my future with my girlfriend/fiance. I don’t know if you can take anything from this post, but if you do, just know that you aren’t the only one who has that pride. Let it go. And once you get that help from someone, do your damnedest to make the most out of the opportunity.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 2)

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 2)

Photo Credit: Jeremy Lim
Photo Credit: Jeremy Lim

When I first started writing part one of this post, I really had freelance writing in mind. Very limited, right? Especially when writing isn’t where the money is. Not in comparison to other types of freelance gigs anyway. If you’re like me, you probably go for freelance writing gigs because they’re either what you love or what you do best. Maybe both. But it never hurts to have options.

According to Business Insider, these are the top ten highest paying freelance jobs on Elance and oDesk (by hourly rate):

  1. Patent Law ($112.20)
  2. Voice Acting ($72.70)
  3. Ruby Programming ($61.00)
  4. Startup Consulting ($54.00)
  5. Google Website Optimizer ($53.80)
  6. Investment Research ($53.20)
  7. Network Administration ($51.10)
  8. Statistical Analysis ($49.60)
  9. Amazon Web Services ($49.40)
  10. Legal Writing ($49.20)

Glad to see some form of writing made it into the top ten. Some other interesting ones are Database Development ($47.60), User Experience Design ($43.68), and Mobile App Testing ($32.90). I’m personally shooting for some mobile app testing and Ruby programming gigs, though I have to learn more for the latter.

So where do the writers out there stand? Craigslist, Elance, and the glut of content farm organizations would have you believe writing doesn’t pay squat. That’s true for those who are unwilling to dig deeper. That’s what we’ll explore next week. For now, explore other options! I believe everyone should follow their passion if at all possible, but if your goal is to make money, you have multiple paths as a freelancer. For example, my girlfriend’s visa expires in two weeks. I haven’t been on top of my game in terms of generating income while she’s been here so you better believe I’ll be busting my hump to earn as much as I can while I eagerly await her return.

Wish me luck.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 1)