My trip to Europe ended being halted prematurely. I’m working on being less winded, so I’ll relay the short version: On a train north of Geneva, everything I had with me got jacked. If it weren’t for the incredible generosity of a local Swiss family, I would have been sleeping under a bridge for the weekend (I owe them a very deep debt of gratitude!).
An emergency Western Union transfer, trip to the US Embassy in Bern, and an overpriced flight from Zurich, got me back to the U.S. Since Japan doesn’t grant entry permission on a passport valid for less than 6 months, and an emergency replacement passport is only valid for 4 months, I was forced to cut this trip short and come back to the States.
This experience has taught me several valuable lessons about a number of different topics, so I’ll just list them all out here.
- There are still genuinely good people left in the world. People that will go out of their way to help another human being. I was starting to lose hope, but that hope has been restored by the Chappuis family.
- Even if you think you’re in an incredibly safe place, watch your stuff. Carabiner your bag to the luggage rack if you’re going to use it, and keep your credit cards, phone, and ID physically on you, just in case.
- My dream of working from Internet cafes is probably bunk. With my iPhone 4S stolen, I tried working from the public pay Internet stations which are common in Switzerland. Unfortunately, they are limited to web access only, and the machines were slow and used outdated browsers. I kept wishing I had my own laptop with me.
- I thought I had taken a minimal amount of stuff, but having everything stolen made me realize that I need even LESS. I spent an entire week without a bag, a change of clothes, or anything else. I have a whole new travel packing philosophy as a result.
- Nothing is irreplaceable. The stuff we consider vital is all completely replaceable. Clothing, passports, credits cards, sanity, all are replaceable. Lacking your stuff is merely an inconvenience in the vast majority of situations.
- Meeting new people, having fun, and exploring cultures and languages are what matter most when you travel abroad, and you can still do this regardless of the circumstances.
Part of the challenge with working and being a permanent traveler at the same time is how to do everything you normally do, but do it in a compressed time frame. To enjoy your life abroad, you have to compress your work into tighter period, otherwise you’ll spend endless hours on your computer just like you do at home, and miss out on the perks of being abroad in the first place. I fell into this trip during my 2 month experiment in Japan last year.
First of all, let’s do a quick tech rundown. The following are the services that I consider essential for being able to cloud surf:
- VirtualPostMail.com or EarthClassMail.com for converting postal mail into digital format
- RingCentral.com, Nextiva.com, or HelloFax.com, as the IRS will not communicate by email, but willingly fax stuff
- Web-based email service
- Cloud storage service – I use DropBox, Amazon Cloud Drive, Apple iCloud, and Google Drive all to some extent
- Google Docs, plus a web-based PDF editor (there are several, just search for one)
- Google Voice and Skype, for voice communications.
- Click2Mail.com, the web platform contractor for the US Postal Service, allows me to send outgoing correspondence and direct mail marketing.
My current incarnation of cloud surfing bypasses possession of a laptop — I’m not taking this machine with me in two days when I leave for Europe. Theoretically I will only ever need a computer during tax season, as my tax software only runs on a full machine. Many people are discovering that an iPad or other tablet works well for them, others not. Personally, I’m opting for just using the iPhone 4S (it’s basically a tablet, in my mind) over wi-fi and Internet cafes when I need to.
So what about the time management stuff? Here are some of the things I’ve already started doing and will continue to do as I travel:
- Cater to a more specific clientele in both my tax practice and my marketing and practice management consulting business. I no longer accept any or all cases that come my way, and I have structured my client intake flow to better fit my lifestyle design objectives (require client financials before starting work, retainer paid before filing Power of Attorney, etc.).
- I no longer accept live calls. All calls go straight to voicemail, no matter who it’s from. I simply can’t take phone calls from clients, prospects, even IRS agents while I’m out hiking the Alps.
- Batch process everything. One or two days per week, make all phone calls I need to make, and do it within a set time block. Do all my IRS paperwork for the entire week in one sitting. Do all my blog writing in one sitting (and keep in mind, I write for 5 blogs each week and write two paid newsletters).
- Use webinars as a key prospecting tool.
- Have a strict “no fires” policy. Most business owners spend most of their time putting out “fires”, rather than working on their business. The reality is that, in business, there is no such thing as an emergency. Unless something is on fire or somebody is getting shot or mauled, it’s not an emergency. In my situation, even a bank account levy by the IRS is NOT an emergency — it can wait a few days to address (the money doesn’t go anywhere for 3 weeks).
My properly utilizing technology tools, batching tasks, and ensuring that everybody that works with you does so on your terms and by your schedule, you can successfully cloud surf and still keep your business intact.
When I was in the United States Navy, “integrity” was a word that was thrown around pretty much on on a daily basis. There was an expectation of integrity in your run of the mill, daily actions.
Quick example: On my ship, we once had a guy remove a monitoring instrument from a pipe as part of routine maintenance. These instruments were swapped out every couple months for maintenance and calibration. Apparently in a hurry to get his work done and go home, he simply pulled the instrument out, replaced it, and took the old one out down to our division office to drop off for somebody to pick up to take to the calibration lab. He didn’t bother properly bagging the instrument, just carried it by hand down to the office.
Normally, not a big deal. Except this instrument was dripping wet with radioactively contaminated water. To quote one of my skating coaches, this would be “no bueno”.
Routine radiation monitoring of the ship the next day revealed a path of radiological contamination from the pipe system in engineering, straight to our division office. There was, of course, an incident report. Then an investigation. Then several people lying about certain aspects of it. Then a Captain’s Mast (Article 15 non-court martial proceeding) and some punishment handed down.
If the individual in question had exercised integrity from the get go, it never would have happened. If he had exercised integrity after his initial mistakes were uncovered, he would have gotten a slap on the wrist. Instead, his career was essentially destroyed.
In short, what happened here was a failure of his integrity.
What does this have to do with Personal Prosperity? Pretty simple, actually: Customer service has gone down the toilet. When a business, a co-worker, and many times even our friends, actually KEEP a promise to do something, we’re now in awe that they did it. It’s such a rare thing for people to actually follow through on the things they say they will do.
One of the biggest “aha” moments for me lately has been the realization that I don’t need to have the big, grandiose plans that I think I needed to. Recently, James officially gave me “permission” to not think so big. Why was this important to me, and why was it holding me back? Because I felt like I have to strive for huge achievements, but the stress of not being able to follow through on everything was holding me back, and locking me into “analysis paralysis”. In short, I was violating my own integrity by thinking big, because there was simply no way that I would actually follow through on everything.
In the tax resolution industry, failures of integrity are the number one complaint. Sales people outright lie to prospective clients, practitioners fail to maintain open lines of communication with their clients (I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past!). When I work with a client and don’t maintain proper communication, I can feel the frustration coming from my client, and I’m quickly reminded that this one thing (which has always been a challenge for me, no matter what I do) is probably the biggest key to my success in my profession.
The old saying of “underpromise, overdeliver” is just as true today as it was 100 years ago. With everybody these days automatically suspicious of big businesses and any conversation about getting ahead or creating an “unfair advantage” for yourself, it’s important to be able to follow through on what you promise.
When I look at Jame’s business, he has an obligation to clients. James has a business model that is different from any other real estate agent you will ever meet: He charges his a client’s a $2,000 up front retainer in order to work with him. This is credited against commissions at closing when that client buys a house, but by accepting that up front retainer, James takes on a huge commitment to his clients, all of whom are real estate investors. James has to deliver on his promise represented by that $2,000 retainer: To find investment opportunities suitable to that investors buying criteria. It is entirely a matter of integrity for him to deliver on this promise. In order to do so, James has built an incredibly complex system of property analysis, created numerous checklists to keep him on track towards his customer’s objectives every day, and works a well defined system to ensure he can deliver on that promise.
I came across this article in Fast Company about the concept of overpromise, underdelivering that exists in our world today, and it contains several examples that are worth reading: Under-Promise. Over-Deliver. And Your Brand’s Fans Will Talk.
How does this apply to your Personal Prosperity Plan™? Your personalized plan contains numerous promises to yourself and your family. If your plan contains a business element, which it most likely does, then you are creating promises to customers. In order to succeed in your Plan, you must have integrity. There is an awful lot of follow through you’re going to need to do, and integrity is required along every step of the path.
Time for another one of my infamous 30-day challenges. It’s rare for me to actually finish one of these things, but for this one, I really have no excuses, because it’s actually pretty simple: 30 days of person reflection and a little bit of writing about one of Dan Kennedy’s wealth magnets.
Who is Dan Kennedy? And what exactly is a wealth magnet? Well, Dan Kennedy is the “millionaire maker”. He’s one of the single greatest contributing minds to the field of modern marketing that is still alive. He’s written probably two dozen books I’d imagine, has spoken on thousands of stages, and is the man-behind-the-man in numerous fields. If you come from outside the marketing world, you may have never heard of him, but within the marketing world, he’s basically treated like an idol. He is the marketing genius behind the success of many TV infomercial products, the most commonly famous of which is probably Proactiv acne treatments.
Dan Kennedy defines a “wealth magnet” as a habit or personality trait that helps a person to naturally attract opportunities to them. Described in full detail in his excellent book, No B.S. Wealth Attraction in the New Economy, available on Amazon, Kennedy discusses 28 different traits that, when combined, make a person a nearly unstoppable force for success, no matter what their chosen endeavor (not just business — the principles apply in athletics, spirituality, the non-profit world, politics, etc.).
I highly suggest reading the book, and making a personal study of it yourself. Ben Franklin had a list of 13 traits he wished to embody, and spent 1 week working on each of them in turn, and repeated the 13 week cycle for most of his life. Kennedy’s 28 traits would make for a 6 month cycle at one week each, and is probably worthwhile. However, it also fits nicely into a monthly cycle, and my mentor James Orr and I have discussed doing this several times, and repeating the cycle monthly as an exercise.
The past few days, I have been privately communicating some thoughts to James about the wealth magnet that corresponds to the day of the month, but he agreed that these would make great blog posts, so for the next 30 days, they will.
Each day, I will briefly explain my own viewpoints on the Kennedy Wealth Magnet, and how it applies to the overall concept of Personal Prosperity (I’m not going to replicate Kennedy’s thoughts — seriously, buy the book, it’s worth the $11). Then, I will briefly discuss how it applies to my life right now, and also how it applies to James’ real estate business. In all reality, these latter segments are really to better myself and for James to see my perspective on his business. While the particulars of how it applies to my business or James’ business may not be of immediate interest to you, the reader, hopefully seeing a day to day application of the principles to real businesses will help you see how you can readily apply the concepts to YOUR life, your business, your goals, your Personal Prosperity Plan™.
I hope you enjoy reading these over the course of the next month, and that doing so contributes to your own Personal Prosperity.
There is a massive stigma about bankruptcy in our society. Most people are embarrassed by the very prospect of being on the brink of bankruptcy, and rarely discuss it even within their own families.
Personally, I consider bankruptcy to be one of the single most intelligent financial decisions I’ve ever made.
Yes, I’ve been through bankruptcy, and I’m happy I did it.
In the summer of 2007, I was flat broke. I was unable to pay my bills, including the mortgage. This was the beginning of the real estate bust, and definitely the end of my career as a real estate broker. By January 2008, I had swallowed my pride and accepted an entry-level administrative job at a tax firm in Denver (an hour commute each way). By April 2008, my home was foreclosed on, and I filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection the next day.
For a divorced guy that eschewed material possessions, I had an enormous amount of debt. In my bankruptcy, I flushed a high six-figure amount of debt that I had amassed over the course of my adult life.
In August 2008, when my bankruptcy was discharged, I was floating on a cloud. Why? Because the burden of being massively in debt was suddenly lifted off my shoulders.
Also, by this time, I had made myself significantly more valuable at the tax firm I worked at, and was well on my way to obtaining my Enrolled Agent license from the IRS.
In other words, being broke and having to do what I had to do in order to stay afloat directly lead me to where I am today. In other words, going belly up directly set the stage for finally finding a career I truly love, and living a lifestyle that I wanted to live.
The single biggest benefit to filing bankruptcy is that the stress of dealing with bill collectors suddenly goes out the window, because they can’t call you anymore. Reduction in stress lets you focus on other things, and work towards being successful in other words.
If bankruptcy is something that’s crossed your mind, sit down with an attorney and discuss your options. It may be a discussion that you wish you’d had much sooner.