Saturday, April 23, 2016

Is The Pursuit Of More Making You Unhappy? 6 Strategies To Keep Your Ambition Healthy

"We are making ourselves crazy!"  That is what I told my wife, Jessica, today during a serious conversation.  We were actually verbalizing to each other, after several weeks of difficult to understand actions and reactions between the both of us, what made us stressed and unhappy.  It was a relief to determine that our ambition was the root cause of our collective and individual stress.

You see, there is a fine line between being too ambitious in life and causing yourself extra stress.  We all have enough stress as it is, with work and kids, and whatever else triggers anxiety.  But people like you and me, ones who are constantly churning our thoughts around in our minds, looking for the perfect mix of success and wealth, have a hard time with balance.  If ambition for monetary rewards was on one end of a spectrum and complete idleness (meaning contentedness) on the other, you and me would lean more toward the former.  You wouldn't be reading this if you weren't like me, obsessed with exiting the rat race, obsessed with accumulating more assets, obsessed with creating some sort of legacy for your children. 

So where does a healthy case of ambition become an unhealthy one?  The zone is blurry to say the least.  Jessica and I are entrepreneurs, willing to spend money on new ventures.  We become absorbed in the work after work, meaning the work we impose on ourselves once we get home from our day jobs.  We say things like, "We're doing it for the kids," or "It'll be worth it in the end," to justify our robotic behavior.  More often than not we fail, because failure is more typical of an entrepreneur's journey.  When we realize our individual or collective failure, both Jessica and I react in the same way...we get depressed.  It's normal.  Who wouldn't, right?

Living a life knowing where you want to be, but not being able to get there is incredibly disappointing and frustrating.  It causes me, for example, to not appreciate all that I already have.  And I have so many things!  Does this happen to you?  Do you under value the things you already have, and judge yourself by what you want, but don't have yet?  To live with myself, i.e., to both appreciate what I have in my life and not become complacent as a defense mechanism from constant failures, I have devised this list of helpful tips that may be of use to you:

1.  Define exactly what you want.  Don't just say: "I want to make enough money to retire myself from my job."  Instead say: "I will find a way to make an extra $100 dollars a month."  The latter is not as abstract.

2.  Come to terms with the dead horse.  As the saying goes, "There is no sense in beating a dead horse."  Sometimes we overstay our efforts.  We see there is no momentum, no life, and no progress, yet we resolve to not give up to avoid the feeling of failure.  If only we felt no emotion when presented with negative outcomes.

3.  Recognize the signs of unhealthy stress.  Some stress is good.  The type that makes you loose sleep daily, snap at people, or depressed, is clearly not the good kind.

4.  Do Yoga or meditate.  To counter your over-active, stress-causing, ambition, you will need an activity that acts like a sponge and extracts the inner poison from your body, mind, and soul.

5.  Have a venting partner.  I only see my psychiatrist when I am mandated to do so, i.e., when my prescription runs out and I cannot get another one unless I stop by the hospital to chat it up with the Doc.  Having someone who would hear you out more frequently would be very therapeutic and balancing.

6.  Vege out at least once a week.  Have a day where you consciously adopt an, "I don't give a F!*% attitude."  Your kids could be in the backyard eating dirt for lunch and instead of yelling at them and over-reacting, sip some more on your margarita.  If they get dirty and you don't feel like bathing them...don't!  This is your, "Who cares?" day.

Working hard for a better tomorrow is to be commended.  In the pursuit for more, we often become our own worst enemy.  These six strategies should help keep you on track to push forward with your ventures without burning out.  Stay sane my friends!  Thanks!       

Friday, April 15, 2016

What 80's Kids Saved Their Pennies For Versus Today's Kids

The 1980s were great for kids and adolescents.  The technology available to us, Atari to Nintendo, was slowly changing our lives, but unlike today's technology, not smothering it.  It was the last great decade of free-range kid upbringing, and I think those who grew up in those times still have fond memories of being out all day with friends, doing whatever.  Coming home in time for dinner was our only rule, whether we biked to the mall, rode the bus across the city to the museum, or walked to a friend's house.

We needed money for our all day escapades (summer months).  Most of us earned our money doing chores, helping our parents at work, or by doing odd jobs for the neighbors.  Trends dictated what we spent that money on, other than fast food of course.  Below is a list of things sure to make you nostalgic, because unless you had a rich parent, you worked hard and saved your pennies to buy these items.

1.  Tony Hawk skateboard.  Everyone wanted one!  Doing an ollie on a cheap skateboard made you a poser.

2.  Comic books.  Taking a trip to the comic book store with your buddies to get the latest Uncanny X-Men was totally rad, and you got bonus points if your dad was equally into comics like you and your friends.

3.  Baseball cards.  Remember the conventions?  You would save for months whenever you got wind of a baseball card show or convention coming to your area.  Oh how I coveted a Mickey Mantle rookie card.

4.  Cabbage Patch dolls. many of these did you own?

5.  A Haro or GT Performer.  With pegs of course!  What a sweet bike this was.  Jumping ramps and doing a 360 bunny hop was every boy's dream.   

6.  Casettes (Music).  Did you purchase MC Hammer, NWA, Run DMC, Guns N Roses, Metallica, or Beastie Boys tapes as a kid in the eighties?  I did!

7.  The arcade.  Even though Nintendo was out, there was still the need to socialize and compete with other players.  $20 kept you fed and entertained for hours at the arcade with friends.  

8.  A Starter Jacket.  The guy in the picture above is wearing an Oakland Raiders version.  You weren't cool at school without one.

9.  Nike Air Jordan tennis shoes.  I saved for months to get myself low-top Jordan's.  Cost me about $110 back then.  They looked like this:

10.  Concert tickets.  Going to a concert was like a rite of passage.  It didn't matter who you went to see...okay, maybe it did (New Kids On The Block lamest band ever!)...but you had major news to share at school if you got tickets to see a popular group.  The Monday after the event you made all of the kids at their hallway locker look up at you by wearing a brand new concert sold t-shirt.
11. Nintendo games.  I couldn't leave this one out.  I had a small collection of games...nothing too impressive.  I stopped spending money on video games with the advent of Super Nintendo, seeing that new consoles were to be introduced every two-three years.

There were certainly a lot more things kids in the 1980s spent their money on, but I can tell you for sure that one of those things we did not save for  That's right.  College was not as in demand back then as it is today.  Colleges weren't actively recruiting kids out of middle school like they do today, and so the thought of needing to save for higher education was not in our young minds.  Our parents equally did not worry as much about affording college as parents of today do.  No one imagined the cost of a college education skyrocketing.

Today's kids may spend some of their allowance (or earned money) on toys, superior gaming technology, apps, and even expensive tennis shoes.  But I can assure you that with college being so unaffordable these days, they may be being pressured by their folks to put money aside in a college fund.  It was a luxury for us in the eighties to have freedom to do whatever we wanted with our earned money.  Sometimes we even helped our parents out.  Today's kids have our national debt (over 19 trillion), the biggest wealth-inequality gap ever, and a college education tab that keeps expanding, to deal with.  So not fair.

Thanks for reading.     

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Simple Product Profits Update: Using

I wanted to update everyone on the progress that my wife, Jessica, and I have made thus far using Austin Hilton's Simple Product Profits system.  If you missed how I felt about the system from a first impressions perspective, go to my last post: SPP First Impressions.   We (my wife and I) have made considerable progress in a very short time.  It took us around six days to complete viewing and internalizing every module.  This meant having to go back at times to the videos and ensure that we fully understood what we were looking at (and for) on

Image result for Alibaba

Austin's system, if anything, is a way at looking at Amazon product listings with a critical lens for opportunities in strong performing niches that are vulnerable.  By vulnerable, I mean that the competition has left the door open for additional players with their sloppy presentation.  The SPP system teaches you what to look for, e.g., a product headline that provides no information on the benefit to the consumer, and is just a brand name with the product description: Cutsharp Stainless Steel Bread Knife.  Pretty lame, right?  Compare with: "Premium BlackLine(TM) Forged 8" Chef Knife, Stays Sharp Longer with 57% More Carbon, with Artistic Black Blade Coating." Better, right? 

Being successful with the SPP system involves finding a niche product that has strong sales volume AND is also one that you can sell for 3 or 4 (even better) times your cost.  Makes total sense conceptually, of course, but the in the detail.  I'd love to give you the inside scoop on the criteria used to qualify a strong potential product to sell (THAT IS ALREADY SELLING WELL!), but then I'd be in the wrong with Austin (and Jeremy) who worked extremely hard in identifying what works and what doesn't.

Many people, including Steve Chou at Mywifequitherjob, think that piggybacking...taking someone else's idea and selling the same product not right.   

"Up until this point, I thought that getting piggybacked or hijacked on Amazon was the worst that could happen." ---Steve's first line from an email he sent to his subscribers on April 5th.
I understand his sentiment.  But I don't agree with it (on being piggybacked), obviously.  Being hijacked and/or having your listing stolen is completely unethical and Je vous maudi if you are doing this!  After all, selling something that someone else is selling (piggybacking), but doing it better, and entering a niche, and then outcompeting those within that niche (gaining market share) is the hallmark of capitalism.  
Jessica and I have found a product we would like to list on Amazon.  We did extensive research on Amazon using the SPP system criteria, and a free 7-day trial of the online site,, recommended (by Austin and Jeremy) to put the final nail in the coffin and make sure you have a winner.  We then went to and searched for the product hoping we would find a Chinese company wholesaler selling it at a low price for a minimum order quantify (MOQ) of less than 1,000 units.  We don't want to deplete all of our cash on our first product, thus the need for a minimum order quantity of 100 preferably.
We found the product with the buying criteria from above.  It was time to contact the company.  We quickly learned that the Chinese go in to work at around 5:30 p.m. PST.  Now, we would've called the company, but our cell phone plans do not have international calling.  We were forced to contact them via email the first time out.  This is not the way to do it!  It is best to invite them to Skype or live chat.  We got the sales rep on live chat the following day and engaged in our first inquiry conversation.  The SPP system (Austin and Jeremy, really) tell you what to ask during your conversations with potential vendors.  We noted each question to ask while viewing one of the modules and went to work checking off one at a time, asking the Chinese gal (named Elaine...apparently Elaine is a popular Chinese name for sales reps) if they could provide such things as UPC codes, a product sample, and the opportunity for private labeling.
We spent over an hour chatting with "Elaine."  Remember, it takes time for them to get your inquiries and respond so be patient.  The outcome was favorable.  We negotiated a reasonable price so that with all costs (shipping, Amazon's cut, and per item cost) we will stand to make around $15 per sale.  It represents a 38% profit!  This is right in line with what Jeremy and Austin tell you to shoot for.  We had to pay for a sample product at retail cost ($60), unfortunately.  But you just can't move forward without testing the product at home so prepare for this necessary expense. 
You can't obviously rely on one quote.  So the following day, Jessica went back to work on Alibaba.  She found a second vendor and contacted them.  She felt comfortable and confident doing this without me.  In fact...I think she's better at negotiating than I am!  A second sample product (cost $50) is on its way to our home.  This way we can compare both company's products and see which one is best.  The last thing we want to do is offer a crappy, unreliable product to our customers.  Negative reviews kill your business!  The SPP system advises you get up to three quotes, so we are one away from doing our due diligence on everything.
Well...I thank you for being here.  I'll share some more of our experience becoming FBA e-commerce entrepreneurs real soon.  Until next time!