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April 8, 2014, 5:00 am

How I earned a second paycheque in my spare time

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business


This is a guest post from a blogger fella Robb Engen. After some discussion, I realized that he was running several online gigs on the side and his wife has even stopped working! He would definitely qualify for my post “Successful Double Income Stories That Don’t Lead to Quitting Your Job.” Enjoy!


One thing I’ve always admired about Mike is that he has managed to negotiate a four day work week so he could devote more time to his side business.  He’s struck the perfect balance between entrepreneurship and a steady paycheque.

I don’t have a four day work week but I left the job where I was working 60 hours a week in the busy hospitality industry and headed to the public sector where the hours are much more flexible and I’m home from work before 5:00pm every night.

Rather than spend my ample free time on the couch watching television or lurking on Facebook, I research and write about personal finance and investing on my blogs as well as for a national newspaper.

It all started the year my first child was born and – after she settled into a sleep routine – I found that I had nothing to do in the evenings after 7:00pm.  I started reading blogs like Million Dollar Journey and The Financial Blogger and realized that instead of consuming content all night long I could be creating my own.

Most personal finance blogs were all the same: 30-something guys trying to save and invest their way to financial independence.  I wanted something different to stand out from the pack so I talked to my mother, a former financial advisor with one of the big banks, about a tag-team approach to the blog.

The Boomer & Echo blog was launched a few months later.  We split the writing responsibilities and managed to publish five articles a week for two years.  Within eighteen months we had 100,000 page views per month and earned over $3,000 per month in advertising revenue.  The extra income allowed my wife to stay home full time to look after our two kids.

I’ve learned that you need to diversify in order to be successful online.  I went on a guest posting spree for a few months to promote my blog and got noticed by the personal finance editor at the Toronto Star.  Now I get paid to write a bi-weekly column for a major media outlet!

I also found a niche that I liked to write about – rewards cards and loyalty programs – so I started the Rewards Cards Canada blog.  The niche happened to be underserved at the time and had the potential to be highly profitable with the right affiliate partners.

Earlier this year my mom and I started a fee-only financial planning service where we help clients identify their financial goals and write a plan to achieve them.

The point is: I spread my risk from one online income source to many different ones, and even though my main blog has suffered from lower search traffic in the last year or so, my side income has continued to grow.

I expect to generate about $65,000 in revenue this year from advertising, referrals, freelance writing, and the new planning service.  The best part is that I can do all of this during the evenings and on weekends and still have plenty of spare time to play with my kids, go out with my wife, or stay home and watch Netflix.

Robb Engen is one-half of the Boomer & Echo blogging team.  He recently started a new blog called Earn Save Grow that features stories on how to earn more rather than spend less.


A Few Notes from TFB…


Last week, I discussed about four other guys doing what Robb is doing; use their free time to work harder for themselves instead of working harder for the boss. The result is always the same: more money in your pocket than you can even imagine.


I appreciate the insider view of the personal finance Boomer & Echo provides. I try to give a similar feel to this blog as I think people should know more about the banking and financial industry. This is definitely a great and unique angle to approach personal finance. But you can find your angle too, or find something completely different to talk about and still make money.


Turn off that darn TV, find something you are passionate about and start working on your website. I’ll make a bet with you: I bet you won’t quit your job with your new site but I bet you will beat your day job hourly wage!


If you have other stories to share like this, I definitely want to hear about them!

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April 1, 2014, 5:00 am

Successful Double Income Stories That Don’t Lead to Quitting Your Job

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Alternative Income,Business



We often read on the web about dotcom moguls who quit their job to live free and happily in the marvelous world of internet. For a while, I was skeptical about these crazy stories until I met a few of these bloggers personally. Still, I can totally understand why some of you are not too convinced it’s possible to literally live from your computer.


I recently dug into my network to find people who actually decided to increase their income and live a better life by creating a lucrative sideline. Through these five stories, I want to show you how it is possible to put your knowledge and talent to work and make more money than you are earning today. You can keep your job and make more income… it truly works!




I’m starting with Matt’s story because I believe it is the most accessible and incredible at the same time. I met this guy through my master mind group (read more about this story here) about year ago. He was like most readers on this blog: a guy with a job and a website trying to figure out how to make a few bucks from it. At the beginning, I remember he wasn’t making much. In fact, his first income report (July 2012) showed a net profit of $27.13. Trust me, you don’t want to convert this amount into an hourly wage! But 18 months later, he reported a net profit of $971.10 working about the same hours he used to when he started.


A thousand a month is certainly not enough to enable anybody to retire from their cubicle. But the point is exactly that: look at how this guy is putting his free time to work and earn $12,000 more in net income each year. This is better than any promotion you can get. What is really neat about his small business model is that it can be done by anybody! He didn’t do anything extraordinary, he just systematically applied what he learned month after month.


His main sources of income are split as follow:

#1 Keyword research service: Matt understood very clearly how to efficiently work with Long Tail Platinum Pro – keyword research software. Most people who want to build a niche site lack time to search for keywords or are very bad at finding the right ones. Matt’s keyword research service is a hassle free keyword research report delivered by email within seconds.

#2 Adsense: Using his own talent to find good keywords, Matt is building small niche sites and earns about $400-$500 per month from Adsense with these sites. Nothing fancy or complicated, just a good concept applied systematically.


#3 Affiliate Sales: He uses his blog to promote tools he uses to build his websites. This is the most common practice on the internet but it works!


By the way, on top of working full time and having this side gig, Matt is also a husband and father of two great kids.




Another guy from my Master Mind Group is an engineer who works lots of hours both at work and on his sites. Just to make sure he will burn out, Jon is also a father ;-). Yet, he finds enough time to build a relatively passive income business on the sideline.


Jon started to report his journey in October 2012 with a loss of $192.98. He recently posted record net income at $12,194 (shoot! This guy beat me with a blink of an eye!). He started with the idea of building another of those classic authority websites driven by affiliate sales.


He successfully built a resource for student debt consolidation. But instead of stopping his success at this point, he worked on this model and created a complete process to build niche website (remember, he is an engineer).


He actually uses his main talent at work to build a sustainable business. Through his efficient processes, he offers now two great search engine ranking systems. The first one finds expired domains and build links from it to your niche site. The second is a complete private blog network to build links and increase your ranking.


While his numbers are fairly impressive, Jon has no intention to quit his job at the moment. The thing is that he built a business that doesn’t require too much of his time and he can simply cash in from both work and his sideline. The beauty of his model is also the high price he can charge through both services. You don’t need many clients each month to reach 12K/month when you charge up to $599 for a full package!




The next two stories don’t include fabulous numbers and they are not reported. While I have a pretty good idea of how much they make since I’m in the same business as them, I won’t disclose my evaluation either.


Tom started 1 or 2 years after me in the Canadian personal finance blog universe. He quietly followed my path and started to build an online blog empire like mine. While I’ve always been pretty upfront with my empire, he remained quiet about it. All I can say is that he owns his share of the web and keeps making money from his financial websites.


I know he has a good job and kids. Yet, he finds time to make more money on the side through his blog. He uses multiple partnerships and hires writers to run his empire. He is now in a better position to enjoy life while raking in a few bucks every month.


I don’t know how he founded his first blog purchases but all I can say is that you can easily achieve a blog empire if you reinvest your profits for a while… or, like us, you borrow a few bucks to make your first purchase! I don’t know which method he used, but one thing is for sure, he owns a great portfolio of websites today and earns passive income better than any promotion he could have gotten at work. He preferred to work extra hours for himself instead of giving them to his boss – wise decision.




Kyle’s story is quite interesting too as he is a young and motivated teacher who thought financial education is sorely lacking in our society. Since his day job income potential is pretty limited (not that he is making a bad salary but he can’t really get promotions year after year), creating another source of income was the perfect plan for his situation. I bet it’s the case for many of you!


He even wrote a great book for students (I strongly suggest you buy this book for your kids!) called More Money for BEER and Textbooks. He explains how savvy students can get more for their money and keep partying over the weekend (we all know students don’t study over the weekend, been there, done that 😉 ).


Kyle is making money from a blog empire as well, while earning royalties from his book and now recently launched a pod cast. Guess who his latest interview was with…; Tom from Canadian Finance Blog!


He runs a similar business model as mine as he also partnered up with his best buddy; Justin (they even wrote the book together!). The two of them are doing remarkable work in bringing simple financial concepts to the community and helping them understand how to manage their finance. This is another great success story of a good side gig.


Don’t forget to get the book!



Well… I guess you already know about my story now ;-). Since 2008, I average about 100K in gross income from my online empire. I have a partner so you have to divide this number in two but still, 50K gross income per year is not bad.


I use my extra money to pay off my debts, travel and pay for utility bills. The other great thing is that I always get a premium computer or iPad since I need them to work with. It’s not always easy to work full time at a very demanding job, being the father of three and keeping my wife happy by cooking supper on Fridays and Saturdays ;-).


More seriously, I’ve slowed down with my business since our third child arrived but I can now see how to manage my schedule and get back full force with my online business. In the meantime, the money kept coming in and while it was tougher these past two years, it still a very generous sideline. I can’t imagine how I could earn this much by working more for someone else!


Because here’s the key: if you have a passion, take a few hours to work for yourself each week and you’ll start earning more than working for anybody else!

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March 3, 2014, 5:00 am

The Darn Question of Pricing

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business



Price it too low, and people think it’s cheap

Price it too high, and people think you are a nut job!


In marketing, the question of pricing is probably the hardest to answer. Unfortunately, this is a question we must face every time we want to sell something. You can’t start negotiating your price with each client and moving the price up and down all the time will not send the right message to clients and future customers. The early joiners will fell that they got ripped off if you drop your price from time to time and the late subscribers will simply wait forever until you put on a huge promotion before buying (who pays full price at Canadian Tire?).




Before I launched my membership website about Dividend Growth Portfolios, I was very uncertain about the right price. It is a high-end product when you consider the knowledge put in place and the possible return on your investment. On the other hand, this is also a very crowded and competitive industry where giants such as Morningstar and Motley Fool offer services for just a few bucks per month.


My partner and I weren’t able to find a sweet spot where we felt comfortable so we decided to ask around. Based on my own experience, looking for an external point of view won’t help… much. The first problem when you ask feedback about pricing is who do you ask. Asking internet marketing specialists, they will answer: shoot for the sky. Asking friends, they will answer: price it modestly. Ask potential buyers, they will answer to drop your price as low as possible (they are not fools!). Nonetheless, this is what I did; I asked an internet marketer, friends and potential buyers.




If you ask a potential buyer what price they would pay for your house, chances are they will shoot low since they think they can get a bargain. But if you ask 1,100 people about your house, now you have a chance to hit a few honest people. This is what I did with my new project.


I’ve built a list of 1,100 potential buyers and told them about my project. I’ve sent a series of 4 emails:

#1 I’ve explained what it was about along with its main features.

#2 The second email was about the main benefits offered and requested feedback

#3 The third email went out asking a simple question: How much is your time worth?


The purpose of my investing website is to simplify the investor’s investment process. I want investors to save time and still make money being a DIY investor. I gave my readers a choice between 3 options:

#1 paying between $9.95 and $14.95 monthly

#2 paying between $15.95 and $34.95 monthly

#3 paying between $35.95 and $49.95 monthly


I received about 400 answers from this email. It took me forever but I personally replied to each one of them. Without any surprises, most readers answered option #1. However, I got about 30 or so (so 7.50%) answers telling me they would be okay with option #2 or #3. This is without counting numerous longer emails explaining their reasoning. I received a lot of details about the current offers on the web along with pricing from other competitors.




We always have the best product as the design, the quality and everything else is better than our competitors. Now that I’ve accepted that, I had to look at my competitors with fresh eyes; with the customer’s eyes. The target price was definitely between $9.95 and $15 per month. Most of them were charging $9.95 which didn’t give me much room to play with. I was happy to notice that most of my competitors offered almost too much info. And this is something I wanted to solve with my site: I wanted to have something that cut the crap and gets directly to the point. One of my competitors offers 20-30 page reports on a bi-weekly basis. Who has the time to read, analyze and take action on over 60 pages of information monthly? I know something for a fact; I don’t! My competitive advantage was to offer high value-added features only if I was going to charge as much (or even higher) than my competitors.


The fact that I had two years of great investment records behind the belt was another factor. Ideally, I would have had to wait until I have five years, but that will happen in three and I will be able to crank my price if I keep beating my benchmarks!




From my own experience, I notice that when you play with additional options or different price ranges, you increase the level of confusion for your potential buyers. And if they are confused, they will likely not proceed with the purchase.


It happened to me yesterday again when I tried to book a couples massage at a spa (I know, I’m a good hubby 😉 ). The item “couple massage” was priced per person, so I added the two items in my “cart”. The next screen was to search for availability. I selected 2pm. The system found 4 massotherapists available for that time. But, the system didn’t allow me to select two massotherapists at the same time! I had to select one at 2pm and another at 3pm. It’s like I had to create another account for my wife and reserve another couple massage under her name to get both reservations at the same time. Do you think I completed the reservation? No way!


Back to my membership website; I offer 2 pricing options: basic with a monthly subscription and premium with a rebate of 2 months + a free book for an annual subscription. In my case, I think it was the right choice. The proof is that I have about 50% of my members choosing monthly and the other half annual.


But I created additional confusion when I did my official launch with a combined offer including another newsletter. For a limited time, I offer both my services along with another investing paid newsletter for a package price. I didn’t sell many subscriptions for that package and I think I know the reason: it gets confusing if you go see the newsletter, then my website and then go back to the original offer. There are simply too many places to find information before you make the purchasing decision.


I thought it would be a good idea since I had run a promotion for that investing newsletter in the past with great success. There wasn’t any big package; just a plain rebate on an investing newsletter.




After looking at how I’ve priced my service, I thought I would have done something slightly different. Instead of going for $14.95/month right up front, I would have started with $9.95 for the first 100 members. Then, I would have increased it to $14.95. It would have created a bigger buzz around the launch (especially if I had told the offer was sent to 1,100 investors!).


On the other hand, I wanted to price the site for what it’s worth and I think investors are getting a lot from it. In fact, feedback is very good to date so I’m pretty confident that people are happy about the pricing. I wanted to make sure I make my money back quickly and it was the case as I’ve come to profit only 6 weeks after launching my site.


I just think that I could have generated a bigger buzz and gotten more members on board at first. Now, I can’t offer a rebate as I would feel unfair to my first members to sign-up.


As you can see, it’s never easy to come up with the right pricing strategy!


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January 14, 2014, 5:00 am

I Hate Freeloaders + My Trick to Handle Them

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business,Make Money Online

The problems is that freeloaders are everywhere these days… they are hiding in the crowd and pretend to be someone else…

Today, I wanted to write about a phenomenon that is taking up more and more space in our population. Is it because everything costs more year after year? Or is it because people misinterpret movements like Occupy Wall Street? Or maybe it’s because the internet is providing this shield of invulnerability called anonymity. I’m not too sure about the reasons why there are so many more freeloaders around, but what I can tell you is that I hate them deeply.

 free loaders


The term freeloader does not come from proper English. In fact, it is derived from a financial term; “Free Rider”.  A free rider, in economics, refers to someone who benefits from resources, goods, or services without paying for the cost of the benefit (Source from Wikipedia). So a free RIDER is more of an opportunist, read lucky, individual who is at the right place at the right time. I have no problem with that. In fact, it’s always fun to free ride from time to time.

The freeloader is the dark side of the free rider. He is the individual who takes something with value at no cost and complains on top of it. The freeloader thinks everything should be offered at no cost and no effort. It’s almost like people owe it to him. And if the good or resource is not delivered according to his own terms, he whines about it (remember, this is all given to him for free).

We see a lot of freeloaders on the internet since the web has given the illusion that everything is free and available through a simple click.



Unfortunately, freeloaders are not only crawling the web, they are everywhere. A long time ago, I wrote a piece about rate shoppers, this is another kind of freeloader. Therefore, they also are clients who want a bigger slice of the pie without considering anything but the cost.

If you author a blog, you will definitely see freeloaders complain if you write an affiliate product reviews, offer your own products or simply run a contest asking your readers to share something.

If you own a company or work with clients, you will see clients act as freeloaders always asking for more. More freebies, more exceptions, more of everything. They something pretend to be “negotiators” or “frugal individuals” that are only looking for the best deal, the problem is that they don’t give a crap about what you offer. You can offer the best product, service or write the best blog in the world, they simply don’t care. They want to be fed and expect you to hold the spoon!



I have “opportunities” to deal with freeloaders both at work and with my online company. I find it easier to deal them at work though. I’ve found a trick that does it all the time. This is my secret weapon against freeloaders; I’ve defined myself and know what I offer. Therefore, I stand behind my principles and explain what I do for a living in a simple line.

No matter in which field you work, here’s how you can deal with freeloaders in a simple tag line:

“If you are looking for the cheapest price, you are not going to get it with me. I’m not a Walmart, I’m a Birks. I will provide you with the best service ever and the best assistance at a fair price. If you buy a home theatre at Walmart and you have questions or problems, don’t expect the 16yr old kid at the electronics department to help you out. You will pay the cheapest price, and this is all you will get. You will not run into this situation with me”.

If the potential client is a good negotiator or simply frugal, he will understand the true value of my offer. If he is a freeloader, he will simply walk away and I will not have to deal with him anymore. I’ve made the decision a long time ago to deal with people I really want to work with. Those who are looking for a delivery man pick someone other than me and that’s perfectly fine.

I’m having more difficulties to work it out on the web thought. The problem when you are dealing with someone online is that you are not face to face. This makes a huge difference as the freeloaders suddenly have a lot more power over you. For example, I recently launched a dividend investing book on Kindle (Amazon’s platform). I offered my book for free for 5 days as a promotion. For FREE, you can download the book, read it and do whatever you want. All you need to do is to open a free account with Amazon and download the book. I know because I’ve done it in the past.

I don’t get any money from it one way or another when someone benefits from this offer and downloads my book. But believe it or not, two freeloaders were dumb enough to not understand how to download a free book on Amazon and thought they had to pay for a Prime membership for $79/yr at Amazon to get access to the book. I can’t blame them for not being able to read properly, but the worst part is that they both gave a 1 star review on the book calling the whole thing a gimmick!

These people received an email with this offer because they are subscribers to my newsletter. If there was something they didn’t understand, they could have simply replied back to this email, asking me why they had to pay for a prime membership to download the book. I could have explained to them how to solve the problem and get the book for free. Since they don’t care, they simply decided to throw their venom in a review to downgrade my book. Wow… talk about an elementary school mentality…

How have I dealt with them? I simply commented politely on their review on Amazon… and I’ve manually unsubscribed them from my mailing list.  I don’t want these people around my blog. Since I can’t take their computer away, the best I could do was to cancel their access to my investing newsletter which has the most value anyway.



There is one thing I’ve learned from freeloaders is to never get into a fight with them. If you do, you are playing THEIR game and they simply love it. They can do more harm to you than anything you can do to them (it is especially true online). Plus, they seem to have an awful lot of time on their hands to fight back so it’s definitely not worth it.

Even though I wish I could tell them how much I hate them, I simply made it clear that we should not be in contact with each other as I don’t provide what they are looking for. This is how sometimes; it pays to show some maturity! Hahaha!


Readers, how do you deal with freeloaders on your blog or at work?

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January 8, 2014, 5:00 am

What Can You Do When Your Goal Achievement Plans Fall Apart?

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business,Career

Each year, I identify personal goals that Im going to work on throughout the year. Im back with my “2014 edition.


But first, let’s take a look at my 2013 goals and see how it went…



It’s the first time since I can remember that I didn’t do too well with my goals throughout the year. In fact, if I look at 2013, I feel somewhat like a big failure…


Surprise! Surprise! This didnt happen. I worked really hard on reducing my expenses but this wasn’t enough. Then, my wife opened her daycare at home to earn more money. Finally, I sold my RX-8 (which I surprisingly don’t miss that much right now!)

While I made great efforts to both increase income and reduce spending, other factors came into play. Google had hit our online business severely over the past two years and making money online is harder than ever before. We shifted our focus to pay our corporate debts and significantly reduced any dividend or revenues paid to shareholders. This is why the daycare only served to replace this income temporarily lost in my budget. The problem is that the daycare started only in September whereas we stopped our revenues back in May of the same year.

I’m still waiting for a few numbers to update assets and my current net worth and debt levels but I should finish in a better position compared to the beginning of the year. And the most important part: Ive definitely increased my income and reduced my spending budget for 2014.



The reason why I wanted to open a TFSA in 2013 was to start a fund to pay for private school. I have three young kids and I want all of them to go to private high school. I’ve already looked at the different options in our city and the best schools with the best sports/art/international programs are private.

I’m happy to check this item off my list as my TFSA is not only opened but my account shows almost $900 at the end of the year. At this pace, I will have the first year completely covered once my oldest kid reaches high school. My goal is to increase my contribution each year so I have over $10,000 in this fund in four years. This would give me more than 2 years in advance (assuming the cost is about $4,000 per year). Over the next four years, I need to increase my bi-monthly contribution from $50 to $150 to be able to generate $4,000 each year to pay for this expense. The fund (the $10,000 or so) will cover for the years where two of my kids will be at private school at the same time. So far, the plan seems to be on the right track.



With my sites not generating any income I can withdraw, you probably figured that I failed to earn over 150K. My bonus wasn’t as high as expected for my second year at my new job but I’m still happy overall. I almost reached my objective as I made around $130K this year. I guess the good news with this story is that my personal income didn’t move, but my wife is now generating additional income for our household.

Next year, our household income will definitely break the 150K as I expect to make 150K myself. Therefore, our family revenues will probably be around 175K. Now we are talking about making some serious money!

And due to my most recent online projects, I will be able to withdraw some dividends out of it!



I don’t know if I can say this but I achieved this goal and then failed later on. I dropped from 193lbs to 182lbs during the summer. Then, for an unknown reason, I completely slacked on my training program and went back to… 198lbs as at December 31st!

Part of my plan to lose weight included running 500 miles over the year. The reason why I picked 500 miles was because I can track them on my treadmill ;-). Running on average 10 miles per week and giving 2 weeks of buffer seemed like a challenge but feasible at the same time. I did run 501 miles in my year and I’m quite proud of it. But I noticed that this wasn’t enough to maintain the key point in losing weight: being consistent. The goal was “too easy” and this is why I was 30 miles in advance in September and slacked off.


2013 was frustrating and a year of adjustments. I didn’t feel like I accomplished much and sometimes it felt like I was losing an entire year to turn round and around like a dog running after its tail. But life is like a big ship; sometimes it takes time to make it turn 180 degrees.

I now feel that I’ve set the table for a great year in 2014. But the main difference between 2013 and 2014 will have to be consistency. If I work on a continuous basis instead of raising peaks here and there, I will be able to accomplish all of my goals.


On January 1st, 2015, I want to be able to declare that I’ve completely paid off my credit cards, personal and pool loans. This represents about 15K in debt. Once these are paid off, I will have over $400/month in free cash flow. This should be enough to accomplish my second goal.



If I want to fund my children’s education correctly, I need to increase my savings ability to $150 bi-weekly. In 2013, I started my journey with $50 bi-weekly. I want to double this amount towards the end of 2014. I will probably use my next salary increase in June to make it happen.



Hey! It’s the beginning of the year! So why not push ourselves out of the comfort zone??? By the end of 2014, I want to weigh under 180 lbs. The first thing I will do is to increase my running challenge from 500 miles to 550 miles. This will leave me no room for breaks as I will need to run 3 times a week consistently to make it happen.

If I can keep up with this pace over the year, I should be ready to run my first half marathon towards the end of the year; most likely in September or October. The most I ran in 2013 was 16.5km, a half marathon is 21km.



My oldest kid is a very good soccer player. This year, I hope he will make the competitive team in his first try. I’m also applying for the “coach position”. I’m not a soccer player, but I just love coaching kids while watching how they can progress and learn over a short period of time. The tryouts start in January for both my son and I. The goal is for both of us to make the team and have a wonderful summer!



This is more like a qualitative goal and it is very hard to determine what it truly means. I just noticed that I’ve been comfortably installed in my comfort zone for the past two years. Since I had my third child, I’ve put pretty much everything in my life on cruise control. I can say the results weren’t self-fulfilling and that I want and expect a lot more from life. Getting out of my comfort zone means acquiring clients in non-conventional ways (e.g. not through references, but becoming the king of cold calls and networking), becoming fit (the goal being not only to lose weight but being able to take my shirt off during the summer ;-)), doing things I have never done before (like running a half marathon, coaching a competitive sport), etc. The idea here is to burst my bubble and do something that matters. I want to feel the fire burning inside of me…again.


Life is nothing if its not burning inside you.




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