Confidence in Our Selves

My new job has been difficult to say the least, but in the way I had looked and anticipated for. I’m back in an industry that I have not worked in for 12 years (oil and gas), along with that I have to adopt to new personalities from our clients. I’m spending weekends trying to catch up, and I’m writing this blog to take a break. For the last few weeks, I’ve been constantly on my toes at work, juggling multiple projects and worried that I will drop the ball on one.  But I would say that the biggest fear is not having a good grasp on this industry. My line of work as a Business Analyst is nothing new to me, but my strength in this line of work is proportional to my understanding of how this industry operates.

I’ve spent my weekends reading books, training guides, and catching up on specific work deliverables. It’s been a eye opener since I left my last job of 6 years and 4 months. I took a risk and left a job where I was a clear subject matter expert. Why I left is not the main purpose of this post, but just know that if you were in my shoes, you’d do the same.

I am also coming into this new job as an experienced analyst, whereas last time I started as an entry level recent college graduate. There are expectations that I will learn things faster and do things better than I did 6 years ago. The pressure is mounting up and I’m doing my best to meet the challenges. I do miss the times when I could analyze and think of solutions with a short time span. And during that time span, I never felt stressed because I knew a solution would come sooner or later. However, it took years to get to that point. My first 2 years were probably some of the toughest I had to deal with.

Despite starting a new company with green hands, I do have the advantage of drawing extensive experience from the past. In the past few days it’s become more clearer than ever that our career performance depends mainly on our state of mind, and not on our skill sets. But don’t get me wrong, our skill set plays a huge role in our state of mind, but knowing how to do something is not the same as having confidence in doing something. Confidence comes from within us, and it isn’t something we can just learn from a text book – we have to embrace life’s challenges to find confidence in our selves. From a day to day perspective, my definition of confidence is our mental capacity to handle the unexpected challenges and events that happen outside the bounds of our control on a daily basis. This alone does control a significant part of the quality of life we live on a daily basis. It’s not about solving a problem per say, but more so of how to deal with something when it happens, and not let it get the best of us, no matter how difficult it may appear to be. We need to be confident in our selves to think things through and make best of a situation based on the information we know and the factors that we have control over.

I sincerely believe this applies to everything we do and we can live a much more appreciative life if we constantly work towards this.

Good stuff as of 07-OCT-2012

I have noticed that lately I’ve focused more on the things that don’t go well in my life, and almost always ignore the things that do go well. So tonight I’ve made a commitment to call out the good things that happen. So from now on, I will do my best to find time to write about the good things two to three times a week, whether it be about work, family, friends, relationships, or anything that makes me feel proud.

Yesterday I had the honor of attending a friend and old coworker’s baby shower. He and his wife recently bought a house sitting on a 1 acre plot of land. Tons of family and friends attended their event to celebrate the start of a new family. I couldn’t be more happy for him. He’s a good guy that works hard for his money and also spends wisely. I’m not jealous at all – I am so happy and encouraged to see that he found a way to buy a great piece of property to start off his family on the right track. As a gift, I bought a him a Target gift card – I’ve known him long enough to know that he’s too practical. Money works better because he has more control. We were fed lots of food which included Indian and Vietnamese cuisines. Needless to say, I was enjoying myself with the food and great company. Sharing in someone’s happiness is a one of the best joys in life.

Until next time!

How I View My Investments

Investors are not evil. I know sometimes we get a bad rep on the media for being hungry vultures feeding on the less fortunate. For instance, it’s natural for a person to get mad at an investor that makes a low ball offer on a house they bought during a boom. I don’t blame them. If I bought a house for $500,000, but then could only get $250,000 from an investor, I’d be just as frustrated as anyone else.

But there’s another side that gives a better picture. As an investor, if I buy a house and rent it out, in the long run it does much more good than bad. The way I see it, our economy functions based on the flow of cash from one hand to multiple hands. If money doesn’t move, we’re in trouble, and that’s exactly what happened when Americans were strapped for cash starting in 2008.

When I buy a house and before it is rented out, multiple people get paid before I make any cash:

  • Broker on the selling and buying side
  • Bank or seller that can get rid of the troubling asset if it is a foreclosure or short sale
  • Escrow company
  • Title company
  • Mortgage company and/or broker
  • Home Warranty company
  • General contractor
  • Cleaning crew
  • Painters
  • Property Inspector
  • County
  • Insurance
  • plus a few more I might have forgotten

Behind each of these bullet points is a person or multiple people. Some may have a family or kids. When I pay them money, they can in turn spend money or pay their employees, thus shifting the cash from their hands to another hand, and so forth and so on with the next person.

By the time it is rented out, these people get paid on a regular basis when I collect the rent check:

  • Property Manager
  • Any sort of maintenance person (when needed)
  • County
  • Bank
  • Homeowner Association (when applicable)
  • Home Warranty
  • Insurance

When you look at it this way, quite a bit happens just on one property purchase. Money moves from one hand to multiple hands on the initial purchase and at an on-going basis afterwards. If the investment purchase doesn’t happen, none of the bullet points above will happen.

When we have more people that think this way about their investments, my feeling is we can do a lot for the country to bring our economy back to prosperity. Keep it simple – it doesn’t take much except for a bit of courage and conviction to make a difference and also grow our assets. Granted not all investors are like this, but I am. I strongly believe that my actions, combined with others with the same mindset, will contribute to making our economy more competitive in this global environment.

Good Luck My Friend!

Last night a well respected friend left the states to return back to his hometown in China. Several of his classmates/friends and me, his former landlord, went to see him off at the airport. Tenant departures in the past have never been so dramatic, as generally I choose not to have a close relationship to those that I do business with, no matter how much money is involved, and likewise vice versa.

But inevitably it was difficult to do. During the 1.5 years that he lived with me, he never gave me any reason to keep a distance. Before I knew it, we had meaningful conversations at night – ones that truly reflect the way we live and view the importance of our lives. We spoke of relationships, business, jobs, friendships, romantic relationships (including introducing me to one), and whatever relevant topic made sense at the time. His background gave me a different perspective on how the wealthy perceived living life, yet he never lived a life that looked wealthy (from a materialistic point of view).

At first, I actually didn’t want to go to the airport. I knew that seeing his departure would make it difficult for me, but once he made his way through airport security, I was glad I went. Buddhist meditation teaches students not to cling on hard to anything, as it would create a craving which will bring us misery if it is not fulfilled. Avoiding it is not the solution – the solution is to embrace it knowing that it will come and go. During the time span between when it comes and goes, no matter how long, we are taught to live in the moment, enjoy what we are experiencing, and be grateful that it happened. Life is too short and precious to constantly cling onto the past, and worry too much about the future. Life is the here and now.

My thoughts from Vipassana

I been meaning to write some time ago since returning home from my 10 day meditation retreat. But things happened so fast. I needed a week to catch up with my life, and then I started working on my resume to find a new job – long story short, 3 weeks later I had an offer on the table and I am soon to start a new and exciting job!

Many that know me asked: Why? Where? How? What do you expect to get out of it?

Knowing why is OK. Where is simply logistical. How was still to be determined. But I realized, thinking about what to expect is not the way to do it. Meditation focuses on the depths of your own mind. Going in with expectations would prevent your mind from letting it naturally heal and grow during the meditation process. This explains why the teacher didn’t allow us to speak to anyone for 10 days. He wanted us to understand and absorb meditation as our own mind would understand.

So what happened with me? For 10 days, I became calm and managed to better disconnect my mind from emotions. During the meditation sessions, nothing “great” happened because I was only focused on mastering the technique. It was during those moments of breaks and personal silence outside of meditation that thoughts surfaced up.  My emotions were in check – I was purely in a state of mind that was emotionally disconnected, which allowed me to analyze and ponder in a very practical manner. Things that bothered me no longer seemed as bad. Problems all of a sudden became trivial But most importantly, I came out with the courage to make a change in my life.

If you are reading this and want to try this technique of meditation, don’t go into it thinking about what I wrote here. Go into it with a blank state of mind and let your mind wander by itself while it is being exercised with this technique. Use it as time to understand yourself.

If any readers have questions, feel free to leave comments and I’ll respond when I get a chance!

Stories and thoughts from the past

Being 30 is the new 20. Who the hell came up with that? I don’t know. What the hell does it mean? It can mean different things, but there’s no right answer and finding that single right answer isn’t the way to go about it. The way to do it is to know what this means to you.

Yes, I am turning 30 this year. As my birthday approaches, I’ve been spending a lot of time evaluating what I’ve done the last 10 years, starting from my last years in college, to the career path I have chosen, the relationships I have formed, the places I’ve traveled, and the stories I have heard and remember today.

One particular thing I am especially grateful for is the opportunity I had to travel around the world in my early twenties. I traveled a bit for school, a lot for fun, and some more for work.

My travels allowed me to hear stories from people of different backgrounds and experiences outside of America. Lately, I have been trying to figure out some difficult decisions I need to make in my life around my career. Throughout this process, a story I remember hearing from the past sprouted up. The actual details are simplified, but the essence of the story is still here.

My friend told me of a story about his uncle when he lived in Vietnam. The uncle was poor and had very little cash to try and start any kind of reasonable business. His lack of capital made it hard to improve his family’s economic situation. One day, he found a rice factory that sold bags of rice on consignment for 30 days. Each bag sold for $30, but in the retail market the rice could only sell for $25 max because of stiff competition (the consignment option may have had something to do with this), but nonetheless it is easy to sell because rice is a common staple among the Vietnamese. He decides to pick up 100 bags, which gives him a debt of $3000.

As expected, he sold all 100 bags in one week at $25 a bag. He now has $2500 in cash but $3000 in debt. However, he decides to buy dry fish that sells for $10 a piece from the distributor, but can retail for $15. This distributor does not offer a consignment option. Dry fish is a popular item to eat with rice as well as for a snack. He takes all $2500 and buys fish at $10/piece. Within two weeks he sells all the fish for $15/piece. Now he has  $3750 in cash, and still one week to spare before he has to pay back the debt on the rice he bought at the beginning of the consignment period. He pays back the $3000 and now has $750 in cash, debt-free. He now takes that $750 to buy other wholesale items that he knows will retail for more on the market.

This story is simple, but yet very powerful. There are many themes to take from this story. The beauty of it is that this story has many key elements that serve as good lessons in life. Some elements that stood out to me are:

  1. The power of knowledge
  2. The power of time
  3. The power of cash flow management

Now, for me, the elements most useful are #2 and #3 (although all three work together hand in hand). These two elements are helping me solve a problem that I am currently struggling with in my life. But as I took these elements into careful consideration, the answer started to jump out at me. The reason is because this story made me change the way I think. I remember school taught me to stay conservative and not take big risks like the uncle did in this story. But what one must think of is, what does a person stand to lose if he or she doesn’t take the same kind of action that this uncle did with the rice?

It’s something to think about and really spend time pondering. Remember, these types of stories don’t need to make sense now – in some shape or form it will make much more sense in the future.

Being 30 is the 20 – to me, this means that life is still and always will be an adventure. It doesn’t end when we finish college and start our career. Life can still have much meaning and satisfaction if we make decisions that gravitate towards that.

Looking forward to the New Year

It’s only January 2nd and I cannot help but think through the planned major events for this year. My family and I are expecting lots to change this year, and all for the better. There’s enormous pressure to execute successfully, but the best part is there is no real sense of doubt inside us. 2011 went by remarkably fast. I remember it like yesterday when I was trying to run again during physical therapy. Shortly after my heart was broken once again. The memories are so vivid but so much time has already passed. Because of the quick passage of time, I am much more inclined to be proactive in pushing for my goals and my family’s goals.

Based on the past few months before 2011 ended, two things dawned on me. It could be a new years resolution per say, but the items are not so concrete:

  1. Don’t stress over the things I have no control over
  2. Let go and embrace the past, but do not forget

At times I can be somewhat of a worry wort, and it’s no surprise since my character is very much like a caretaker. I want things to go smoothly and not have others worry. I grew up in somewhat of a chaotic life (probably due to being poor), and thus I’ve naturally forced myself to constantly push for peace. Deep down I want to be a hero. But unfortunately in the process I’m constantly worrying that something will go wrong, and I want to have the solution ready before it happens. This can be a variation of a premonition, but it’s useless if I start losing control and surrender to it – there needs to be a balance. If anything, I should be able to find comfort in my past – I’ve always managed to come up with a way to deal with any problem that comes my way.

I never forget my past, but sometimes I have trouble letting go. It’s important not to forget because our past is the source of our present character, but more importantly it is the source of our wisdom. Hence embrace the past, but let go and come to terms with what has happened.