January 31, 2013, 6:00 am

How Are You Investing in Yourself?

by: MD    Category: Alternative Income

I always sing the praises of investing in yourself. I will promote this idea until I no longer have an outlet to do so. Then I’ll try to create a new outlet. Whenever a buddy asks me how they should spend a few hundreds dollars or a few thousand, I suggest that they invest it in themselves, to increase their value and income in the long run.

I wanted to write about this publicly so that you guys hold me accountable. I need to hold myself accountable for investing in myself. It’s easy to write about it. It’s also just as easy to get forgetful and not actually invest in myself.

How do I plan on investing in myself in 2013?

It’s easy to get on your soap box and preach to others about what they should be doing. We all know that we should be building our savings and increasing our incomes. Nobody goes out of their way to be a failure or to maintain a stagnant income. We all want better. It’s just a matter of taking steps in the right direction.

How will I be investing in myself in 2013?

More courses to increase income/knowledge.

I won’t be obtaining any more formal education through an expensive institution, but I will still be taking courses to increase my knowledge. For example, next month I’m taking a kettlebell instructor certification course. It’s going to be $400 for the whole weekend and I’m going to come out with the ability to be a trainer in this field (hopefully). More exciting than the potential income is the idea of learning the proper technique so that I could pass this knowledge on to my friends and anyone that asks me for help.

I plan on taking other courses as well. Perhaps an online course. Nothing is for sure yet aside from the aforementioned course.

Meet as many interesting folks as possible.

I love going for coffee or drinks with someone that has done something cool. It’s an exciting opportunity to open your mind up and see what others have been able to accomplish. Too often are we timid about meeting new folks. We shouldn’t be. You never know how that new friend can be helpful. And vice versa. You might be able to assist others with something that they have been working on. You won’t know until you give it a try.

What did I do in 2012?

I attended a bunch of conferences and events. I went out of my way to attend conferences related to myself because these are an excellent chance to pick brains and boost your development to the next level. Why wait? Progress doesn’t have to be a slow process. You can learn a ton of information from the brilliant minds out there by just showing up in person. If you spend thousands of dollars on college, you shouldn’t be afraid of spending a little more to meet cool folks.

I didn’t pursue any formal education in 2012 and 2013 looks to be the same. I finished my studies at the end of 2010 and have been enjoying life post-college. I’ve been reading tons, meeting new folks, and learning through experience. I might be done with formal education for now, unless I find a program that really entices me.

How can you take some risks with your money?

Have you been thinking about where to put your money? Let’s look at a few quick and easy tips.

  • Buy a book you’ve been dying to read. I hate when friends complain about the price tag of a book. The $20 investment comes with life lessons from someone that has done what you’re dying to do. All you have to do is spend a few bucks to pick up those experiences. I can’t even recall how many times a book changed my life or how I see things.
  • Take a successful buddy out for lunch. We all need to eat. We all love talking about ourselves. Why not take a successful person out for lunch to see what you can pick up from them?

I want to see you guys invest in yourselves. What’s your plan? Please share it with us.

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January 30, 2013, 6:08 am

Get Your Things Done 100% of the Time

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Productivity

 

I dont know what happened, I just got busy and didnt do it

 

How many times have you heard that one? How many times have you said this to a co-worker, your boss, friends or spouse? If I was to ask you today if you have goals in your life, you will probably answer that you have a dozen. The funny things is that if I give you 12 months before asking the very same question, your answer will probably the same: I have a dozen. If I ask you to list them, chances are that you will pull out the same list that you did a year ago, 2 years ago even 5 years ago. Why? The simple answer is: “because you were too busy”. I know, I feel the same way.

 

Your job is demanding.

You got sick.

You had a rough year.

You have kids (how many things do we put on their backs? Its the best excuse ever!).

You forgot.

You got stuck in your routine.

You were too tired.

Blah blah blah

 

We have as many excuses as we have goals. The point is to get that the most interesting goals, never get achieved because you have the most interesting excuses. And it goes around. Very few people have the ability to create new goals year after year because they achieved the previous ones. Most of the time, I’m part of this group. Today, I’ll tell you how I make it happen. Mind you, I have the same excuse list as you do (the demanding job, kids, fatigue and the routine!).

 

Sniper Shot Your Goals

 

The first thing to do is to drop your goals list. A dozen goals in a year are too much to take care of. Technically, it’s impossible to achieve 1 goal per month. But everybody does the same thing over and over again. In January, people want to eat healthy, go to the gym, run a marathon, travel, have a kid, get a better job, finish school, and on and on and on.

 

I prefer the sniper approach. Each year, I identify a few goals (3 or 4) and focus solely on them. The key to achieving a goal is focus. If you are not 100% working on your goals, how can you achieve them? I never achieve a goal by applying part time effort!

 

You can also aim at goals that will results in several benefits. For example, this year I wanted to lose weight. I went easy on my workouts in 2012 because I have good excuses (a new demanding job, a newborn that doesn’t sleep and fatigue). I got the perfect package to not wake up in the morning and gain 20 pounds.

 

This year, I told myself that I was done with excuses and that I would lose at least 20 pounds. On January 1st, I weighted 196lbs. On December 31st 2013, I want to weight 175 lbs. But focusing on losing weight is the wrong goal. This is a result; a benefit. I have to focus on the ways I can achieve my goals ‘cause getting on the scale each Monday morning won’t do much to my big belly!

 

Instead, I will focus on running. I’ve set a very simple and yet specific goal: I will run 500 miles in 2013. 500 miles is quite easy to do over 52 weeks. That’s only 10 miles per week + 2 weeks of buffer. So technically, if I focus on running 12 miles average per week, I can take my 4 weeks of vacation and not even run a mile while I’m off. On the other hand, if I do 4 runs of 3 miles per week, I’ll definitely lose weight as I’ll be running my 500 miles during the year. 3 miles takes less than 30 minutes to do so there are no excuses that I can’t find half an hour per day to run.

 

The run will easily burn my extra calories and I won’t have to go through shakes or any other draconian diet. Anyways, diets can’t work over the long haul. I would rather enjoy healthy life habits!

 

Make Yourself Accountable

 

Even if my goal of running 500 miles is totally easy to achieve and realistic to lose 20 pounds, I won’t achieve it if I don’t keep track of my results. A good example is that I left for almost 2 weeks for Disney at the beginning of the year. It was impossible for me to run for those 2 weeks. So I almost burned my 2 week buffer before I jumped on my treadmill for the first time of the year!

 

But before I left for that trip, I did something very simple but that will make the whole difference: I told my best friend and wife that I will run 500 miles this year. I’ve made myself accountable for my effort and my results. The second thing I did was to create a spreadsheet on Excel to track my runs. After four weeks, I’ve ran 28 miles on an objective of 40. That totally makes sense since I was off the first two weeks! Here’s what my chart looks like:

 

Week Runs (Miles) Total (week) Total (YTD) Objective

1

5

5

5

10

2

0

0

5

20

3

4.2 + 4.2 +1.6

9

14

30

4

4.2 + 4.2 + 4.2+ 1.6 14.2 28.2

40

 

As you can see, I’ve made an extra effort on the 4th week after getting back from my vacation and took “an easy week” with 9 miles. When I ran last week, I felt that I could easily maintain an average of 14-15 miles per week until I get my 2 week buffer back (‘cause I will have summer vacations!).

 

By telling my wife and my best friend, I make sure that people will ask me how my running experience is going . By tracking my results, I make sure that I ask myself where I’m at each Monday morning ;-). Since I hate to be ashamed of myself, I tend to achieve goals that I share with others.

 

After 4 weeks, I went from 196lbs to 188lbs. So both my running and weight loss goals are on track for 2013. If I continue my plan, I might even end-up at 170lbs!

 

Request Help – Get Into a Group

 

We are all proud of ourselves and we sometimes think that we can do everything alone. Well, I’m part of that group anyways! So I rarely request help and tend to avoid any group thing. I sometimes feel that a group will slow me down and the time required for small talk and “making friends” is dragging me away from my goals.

 

But Im wrong. The most powerful tool to succeed in your goals is to request help and support from a group. You already know that I have specific blogging goals. Each quarter, my partner and I establish our goals, focus on them and report what went well and what went wrong. At the beginning of the month, I was approached to be part of a new Mastermind group for bloggers. I wasn’t too sure about the idea but I thought it wouldn’t hurt too much to try. Worst case scenario, I would tell the group that “I’m too busy with kids” to make it happen and that I have to leave the group (I told you that kids are convenient when you are looking for excuses 😉 hahaha!).

 

It’s been only three weeks but I can tell you that it will be a game changer for 2013. The group is bringing 2 awesome things to me so far:

 

#1 Outside the box ideas to help me pursue my goals

#2 A Constant kick in the butt to make something happen each week

 

Since we meet online weekly, I have no other choice but to set specific goals for the next 7 days and report what I have done during that week. No more excuses, no more lagging, no more to do’s on a shelf for a few days. Things need to get done or else, I will look like a loser on Monday night. Nobody wants to be the loser who didn’t do anything this week!

 

I was also surprised by the support I got from the group. Each week, one member is in the “hot seat” and shares a situation with the group. You explain what you are working on and ask for help to get better. I got my “hot seat” moment and I was stunned by the amount of feedback I received. Even better, now that I got this feedback, I would look kind of foolish if I don’t do anything with it, right? Another point for accountability techniques!

 

3 Easy Steps to Achieve Everything

 

If there is something I want you to remember from this article it is the 3 easy steps to achieve your goals:

 

#1 Focus on a few goals

#2 Make yourself accountable

#3 Get in a group

 

If you follow these 3 rules, I believe you can achieve pretty much anything you want, what do you think?

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January 28, 2013, 3:00 am

Our Nightmare Experience With Hostgator And A Lesson Learned

by: Silent Partner    Category: Blogging

As I had mentioned, I wrote the 2 posts about moving our websites and the actual wordpress transfers a couple of months ago but had been a bit slow to publish them. Today though, I am writing this post with what is still a very sour taste. Let me start off by saying, we had been dealing with Hostgator for some time now with a shared hosting account and had great service, reliable hosting and were happy to recommend it. Mike and I know of many very happy HostGator customers. I’m pretty sure that every hosting company has had some bad experiences, it’s the nature of the business right?

A Long (Very Long) Story Summary

I could write for a few days about our experience with Hostgator but I’ll try to give you a brief summary as well as an important lesson that we learned. As I had written, we had decided to move our sites to 3 different VPS hosting accounts (Hostgator, Servint and Liquidweb), which would give us a lot of diversification when things went wrong, and manage the load. On Hostgator, we moved both TheFinancialBlogger and our highest traffic site (which gets over 10K uniques per day) as well as several smaller sites.

For the first few weeks, everything went very well, support was good, sites were coming up fast, etc.

Then One Day…

At some point, I woke up to an email from my partner Mike, saying that TheFinancialBlogger was down. Ah, I checked, and all sites on our Hostgator account were down. No big deal, it happens. I emailed Hostgator (or went into the chat) and they simply rebooted the server. In a matter of 15-20 minutes, everything was back to normal. I wasn’t happy to see sites down but the reaction had been great.

It Was Only The Start

From that day on, 3 or 4 times a week, I would wake up to sites being down. I had no idea what was going on. I started exchanging emails with Hostgator support and both Mike and I were getting rather impatient. The worst is not having the sites go down. It’s having to check every hour to make sure everything is ok. For some reason, sites would tend to go down in the middle of the night (great in a way because traffic is lower but I do usually sleep at night so monitoring isn’t ideal.

After 2-3 weeks of this, Hostgator finally came up with the problem.. or so we thought. They told we were being targeted by DNS attacks. Great… So they suggested buying a firewall (not so expensive, it was under $100) which we did. It got a bit better after that but the problem persisted. Mike and I would be stuck always monitoring the website then asking Hostgator to reboot the server (or doing it myself when I was home). It was truly a nightmare.

Had To Try Something

We tried to understand why our other high traffic website was the target of these attacks. Seriously? Because it had great rankings in Google? WTF! It’s a very under the radar website too so we didn’t have enemies or anything like that.

LiquidWeb

We had been getting great support and excellent service on our Liquidweb accounts, it was truly the best hosting we’ve had so I asked them about it. They told me to just give it a try. So I did, I once again went through the transfer process and moved that website. The downtime stopped!!:) But they continued happening on TheFinancialBlogger!! Had we gotten it wrong? Was one of our visitors trying to create chaos? 🙂 Surely that wouldn’t be you right? So anyway, we decided to also move TFB to Liquidweb and to our surprise, all downtime stopped…!!! Do you know what’s even more shocking though? Even after all of our domains had been moved (even the tiny ones), I continued getting over 100 emails/day about DNS attacks that were happening. So yes, clearly, the problem was on Hostgator’s end, not on my own.

Hostgator Failed Big Time

I understand that downtime happens and I had a good conversation after closing my account. What I can’t accept though is:

Unwillingness to try something else (they could have tried moving us to different servers on their end after weeks of this going on)
Not being proactive about it (if a customer is seeing major downtime for days or weeks, I’d think they could have reached out
No Monitoring: This is a CRITICAL one. They do offer this for shared hosting but not for higher paying VPS accounts. I have no idea why. At Liquidweb, we get an email once in a while (very infrequent) saying the website was down and what they did to get it back. It’s critical for any hosting company to do this. At this point, we have been using Liquidweb for most of our bigger sites and have been incredibly happy so I’d be happy to recommend it and answer any questions about our experience with them.

P.S: Yes those links are affiliate links but Hostgator ones are not.. I’d only recommend it if I truly believe it’s a great service

Our Big Lesson

I don’t think we ever knew how important monitoring our websites was. Having our host do it is critical but it’s not enough. For the past few months (since the Hostgator problems), we’ve been using SiteUpTime, which I also highly recommend. For $10/month, it checks every 5-20 minutes (I set the time) to see if our sites are working well. If the site goes down for some reason, Mike and I get an email advising me (it can also send text messages). Also, at the end of each month, we get an email telling us how much % of the time our sites were up.. thankfully, after 2 months of 80% or so (yes it was that bad), we’re now well over 99.5%:)

I just checked and SiteUpTime even has a free option if you’re checking for one website, I’d really give it a try. If you’re like us, you’re not always able to see what’s happening on your website so getting some robot to do it for you is ideal.

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January 27, 2013, 6:00 am

Epicness Time

by: MD    Category: Financial Rambling

What was worth checking out from the last week? Since it was beyond freezing cold the last few days, I got lots of reading done. I still managed to have some fun, but Mother Nature really challenges us here in Canada. Luckily, I plan on taking off for the beach next month. Are you guys staying warm?

Let’s check out the piece that caught my eye:

Why Aren’t You Investing in The Most Important Thing? @ The College Investor.

The funny thing is that I wrote an article on the same topic already for next week. It’s something that I really believe in. The aforementioned article digs into this topic and looks at how young folks can start making more money right now.

I was really impressed with this section:

I used to find that really strange…why would these people who say they want to start their own business let the days pass “wishing” that they could start a business, when there’s already so many amazing resources and piles of information available that they could use to get started today?

I see this all of the time. Why wait to try something new out?

Carnival of Financial Planning @ Well Kept Wallet.

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January 24, 2013, 6:00 am

Advice About Blogging That I Would Share With High School Students

by: MD    Category: Career

I had the honour of speaking at my old high school recently. I was asked to speak about blogging and how you can use the Internet to your advantage.

My brother is a co-op student. He’s learning how to cut hair by working at a popular barbershop. His co-op teacher often goes in for haircuts. During one haircut, the teacher became interested in my blogging and asked if I would attend. I naturally accepted because one of my goals is to improve my public speaking abilities.

I went in without much prepared because I was told that there would be questions asked. I figured that I would be as entertaining as possible, something I always try to do.

I started off by showing the kids the Perez Hilton blog about gossip. I joked around about how I thought blogging was all about gossip until I actually started a personal finance blog of my own. Then I showed them some popular blogs and got right into the topic. I was amused by how many questions came from the teachers and the students.

What advice about blogging would I like to share with all high school students?

Figure out what you like.

High school is a very confusing time. You’re insecure, always horny, often confused, and lost about your next moves. You’re not sure of what you like. You often tend to like what your friends like. My suggestion is that you take the time to discover what you actually care about and not just what your friends care about.

This is easy for some and difficult for others. The challenge is to remain true to yourself.

Then you can move on to the next step…

Start a site right now.

What’s that classic saying? The best time to plant a tree is thirty years ago. The second best time is right now. I would say that you should start a site, any site, right now. Why wait? I’m sure that you could hit up your parents, find a part-time job, or cut back on the pizza to fork over the $6/month needed for domain hosting.

Get your site launched and out to the world. See what happens next.

Stay consistent.

Consistency is key. We all learn this with our personal fitness. We eat well for two days and then we cave. We’re left surprised as to why we don’t look like Arnold. Well, consistency is key. This applies to education and blogging. Many bloggers crashed and failed far too early. I say that you stick with it. It doesn’t matter if you have 1 reader or 100 readers. You need to stay focused.

Have fun with everything you do.

Speaking from experience, it’s easy to get bored. When you’re bored you don’t feel like doing anything. You come up with any excuse possible. When I was in high school, I exploited every possible excuse to miss class. I didn’t want to be there. It was boring.

While you can’t control your teachers, you can control what you do in your spare time. This is why I want you to have fun with your blogging so that you don’t get bored and fade away.

Use the web to your advantage.

It’s easy to get lost on the Internet. The process is simple:

  • You go on Facebook to see what’s new.
  • Your buddy posts a YouTube video on your wall.
  • You end up watching other videos for a few days.
  • Your day is done!

Don’t let this happen to you. Try to take advantage of the positives that the web has to offer.

Explore all of your options.

You can literally do anything that you want to do when you’re 15 years old. My little brother eats like junk and comes to the gym with me. Since his metabolism is working at is peak, he’s been able to put on massive size all in muscle.

This is why it makes sense to explore every single option. See what this amazing world has to offer. Don’t get involved in conspiracy theories or celebrity gossip. Those won’t get you anywhere.

What piece of wisdom would you drop on a high school student? What do you wish you knew about blogging in high school?

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