Apr 152011
 

I like to write about taxes now and then, especially on April 15th:

Taxes on rich hurt economy

Tax facts

Tax fairness

 

But today I’m not writing, I’m quoting. From the 2nd most influential book of all time (behind the Bible):

 

Public welfare’ is the welfare of those who do not earn it; those who do, are entitled to no welfare.

and

…through all the generations of political extortion, it was not the looting bureaucrats who had taken the blame, but the chained industrialists, not the men who peddled legal flavors, but the men who were forced to buy them; and through all those generations of crusades against corruption, the remedy had always been, not the liberating of the victims, but the granting of wider powers for extortion to the extortionists. The only guilt of the victims, he thought, had been that they accepted it as guilt.

and

…the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.

and

If enjoyment is a value, why is it moral when experienced by others, but immoral when experienced by you?… Why is it immoral for you to desire, but moral for others to do so? Why is it immoral to produce a value and keep it, but moral to give it away?”

 

Think about the last question, in regards to the rich being taxed and the government giving it away.

 

Happy tax day.

 

PS If today (or Monday this year) is just another normal day for you, thank a rich person.

Mar 282011
 

Here’s a quick guide to how you could have made $300k in 12 days.

Start with $1,000.

Bet on Virginia Commonwealth in the play-in game on March 16 to win. They were a 1.75 to 1 underdog.
They win, you have $2750.

Bet it all on VCU to beat Georgetown, 2.1 to 1 underdog.
They win, you have $8,525

Bet it all on VCU to win vs Purdue, 4 to 1 underdog.
They win, you have $42,625.

Bet it all on VCU to beat Flordia St, 1.7 to 1 underdog.
They win, you have $115,088.

Bet it all on VCU to beat Kansas, 7 to 1 underdog.
They win, you have $920,700.

 

PS They are 1.25 to 1 underdogs to Butler. If they win that, they’ll probably be 3 to 1 underdogs vs UK or UCONN. Ride em out and turn that 1k into $8.29 million. Go VCU Rams!

PS VCU is a case in point on why picking a perfect bracket is a 400billion to 1 shot.

Mar 212011
 

Brittany and I decided to wait until our child was born to discover its gender. In the hours leading up to the birth, I purposely put off thinking about ‘what if it’s a girl?’, and ‘what if it’s a boy?’.
I wanted to put these thoughts off until the moment I actually found out–to see what I would think at that moment. Call it a psychological experiment. Would hundreds of thoughts race through my mind instantly? Images of her in a pink dress, her first date? Teaching him how to throw a ball, or watching him play with a toy truck? I couldn’t wait.

Surprise, it didn’t work out how I planned. As I helplessly watched Brittany struggle with the pain I heard the doctor and nurses encouraging her, demanding more of her. I forgot completely about the gender. When the baby finally came out I was flat overwhelmed with emotion. I turned into laughing crying mess. I congratulated Brittany and told her she did a great job then unexpectedly heard “it’s a boy!”.

I had completely forgotten it could be a boy or a girl. My whole focus was on our child.

No barrage of images, just joy.

Now, the day after, as things have calmed, I find myself thinking about what Wyatt might do with his life. What goals will he have? Will he find happiness? I have to force myself to think about the things I thought would come natural–my life as it would be impacted by his. Instead I think of his life, and all that’s possible for him. He has a clean slate and a billion opportunities before him.

To an admittedly selfish person like me, this is coming as a pleasant surprise. Did my thought process just flip from me to him?

I had noticed this change with Brittany, and even with our dog Barren. But this is to a new degree. My concerns are secondary, at best.

I like it.

Mar 172011
 

Hoping for a perfect bracket this year?

With contests online giving away 1, 5, 9 even 100 million dollars on a perfect bracket, the odds MUST be slim, right?

Right.

I’m a proud math nerd, and my favorite aspect of math is probability. Let’s get started:

Assumptions:

  • You’re filling out a 64 team NCAA bracket (ignoring play-in games). FYI that means there are 63 games. In any single elimination tournament there is always 1 game less than the number of teams–since each game eliminates one team and all but one team (the winner) must be eliminated.
  • You’re a better than average handicapper:
    • For four games (1 vs 16) you have a 99% chance of being correct
    • For another four games (2 vs 15) you have a 90% chance of being correct
    • For 8 games you have a 75% chance
    • For all remaining games, you’re so good, you can pick it right 60% of the time.

My assumptions are fairly ridiculous in that no handicapper is that good, but what the heck. It helps illustrate my point.

Your odds of having a perfect bracket are:

(0.99^4 * 0.90^4 * 0.75^8 * 0.60^47)

1 in 423,535,978,540

That is 1 in 423 BILLION. Remember, this assumes that you’re one heck of a handicapper. Change your odds to just 55% for the remaining games and it goes down to:

(0.99^4 * 0.90^4 * 0.75^8 * 0.55^47)

1 in 25,290,223,679,994

That is 1 in 25 TRILLION.

OK, let’s not get out of control. Let’s stick with the 60% number of 1 in 423 billion. Let me help you understand how impossible that is to achieve:

Here is your 1 in 423 billion challenge:

Find the right ping pong ball.  That’s it! (well, sorta…)

Somewhere there is a secret ping pong ball. Say its marked with an invisible ultraviolet marker.

You’re standing in the middle of the Indianapolis Colts football field. You are chest deep in a sea of  ping pong balls (5 feet deep), covering the entire playing field.  You need to pick the ONE ping pong ball that is secretly marked.

As you wade around you feel balls breaking under your feet. You wonder if that was the one. You move and a wave of balls moves with you, both away from you and filling in behind you. Which way to go? How deep to grab?

As you ponder the choices, you’re told that the ball could be at any NFL stadium in the country, or any college football stadium in the country, division I, II or III. There are also 50 balls on every seat in every stadium and 6,000 cars at each stadium–each car is also filled with ping pong balls. Pick your stadium, choose the parking lot, the field or the stands, and try to pick the one special ball, that looks like all the rest.

That’s 1 in 423 billion. And remember, you have to be a great handicapper to even get those odds.

Good luck!

—————-

(for you fellow math nerds, here’s how I calculated it)

A ping pong ball is 1.5748 inches wide, has a volume of apprx 2.05 cubic inches. (sphere volume = 4/3 * pie * radius^3)
So by volume, 845 ping pong balls could fit in a cubic foot (12^3 / 2.05). But there will be space between balls, since they are not cubes.
Maximum packing density for spheres is 74%, so about 625 balls could actually fit in a cubic foot (845 * 0.74).
A football field is 360 feet (100yds + two 10yd endzones) long and 53yds wide (159 ft), so it has 57,240 sq feet.
So on average, each 1 foot deep in ping pong balls the field is, there are 57240 * 625 balls. That’s 35,775,000 balls per foot deep.
There are 32 NFL stadiums, 244 division I stadiums, 157 D2 and 238 D3 stadiums. I generously averaged 30,000 seats per stadium, which is surely way too high (the real number is probably half that, so there could be twice as many balls per seat). The average large car has 120 cubic feet in it. So each car holds about 75,000 balls. All in all, each stadium has about 629,235,000 balls. With 671 stadiums total, we have about 423 billion balls to choose from.

stadiums (671) * [square feet on a field (57240) * balls per cubic foot (625) * depth of balls in feet (5) + average number of seats (30,000) * balls per seat (50) + number of cars at each stadium (6000) * balls per car (75000)]= apprx 423 billion

Dec 082010
 

Over the last few years I have slowly realized something. I have realized what separates the average person from entrepreneurs. On first glance, you might think it is intelligence, hard work, smart work, luck, money or any number of things. But really, there is one defining factor that every successful entrepreneur has and every unsuccessful entrepreneur / average Joe lacks:

The desire and ability to hurdle ignorance.

Let me illustrate my point:

If there are 100 people across America with what they believe to be a good business idea right now:
All 100 will think how great their new invention/idea is
All 100 will also think about how much money they could make if it took off
(20 will stop there)
Remaining 80 will consider the initial requirements to actually doing the business
They will also discover that they don’t know something critical in the process
(40 will quit)
Remaining 40 will do some research to find out how to overcome that first hurdle
They will also realize that the first hurdle is pretty tough
(30 will quit, riddled with excuses)
Remaining 10 will use spare time, spare money and hard work to overcome that hurdle
They will also come to the second hurdle, one that is massively larger and more intimidating than the first
(8 will quit, already tired from the first hurdle, unwilling to try a more difficult one)
2 will pass the 2nd hurdle of ignorance
Both of these two entrepreneurs will take their idea as far as it takes. One will discover his idea isn’t that good and will hang it up. The other will find his idea is a winner and will win. In my book, both are entrepreneurs. I’d back them both in their next venture (given that I like the idea).

Out of 100 people, 1 is successful but another is capable. So 2 are able to hurdle ignorance.

Overcoming ignorance really isn’t that difficult. I’m often very surprised by how easily the unknown triumps over what appears to be a valiant entrepreneurial contender. It really breaks down into simple mindset:

In business, heck–in life, we often come to barriers. We want to do something but we don’t know exactly how. Or we know the steps, but we don’t know how to do each step. I call those hurdles of ignorance. Most people shy away and admit defeat. They don’t know how to do it, and that’s that. Some people accept that they don’t know it all and they sit down and figure out how to do it. That person will be succesful.

When I was 20 and starting our first business with my brother. I had no idea how to make a website. It was a giant hurdle. But I was motivated, so I learned. I’m by no means a coding expert now, but I ended up writing the front and back end of a multi-million dollar website. I decided to learn how.

Andy didn’t know anything about online marketing or getting good rankings on yahoo and google, but in a few years he was mastering SEO and had our site at the top of the natural (free) results of yahoo and google for keywords that cost others $5 a click to buy. He didn’t know how to do it, but he learned. He decided to learn how.

When we were struggling and needed sales, I decided I had better get some phone sales going. I had NO idea how to sell on the phone, but I learned how. I read books, I practiced and I did it. Our sales doubled in a month, then doubled again. I decided to learn how.

In 2005 Andy didn’t know anything about venture capital and selling businesses. He knew it was important for us so he educated himself. He learned all he could. He was the reason we sold our first business, got funding for our second and sold our second. He decided to learn how.

My friend Pat had a sucky job managing paper delivery guys. He wanted to be a professional poker player. He didn’t know how to be one, but he learned. He read books, practiced and diligently gathered stats and self-evaluated. Now he lives in Vegas and makes a hell of a living playing poker as his ‘job’. He decided to learn how.

Deciding to learn how is what makes an entrepreneur. When it is something you are very interested in, it is easy. The challenge comes when it is not easy, not fun and there are many excuses for not learning it. THAT is the moment that defines an entrepreneur–when you either decide to sprint full speed and hurdle the ignorance or get distracted, use excuses and revert to average.

Next time you have an idea that seems just a little too big, start simple. Write down all the steps you think there are to going from start to finish. Which do you not know? If its all of them, that’s fine.

On day one, find out what it takes to learn how to do step 1. Day two, step two, etc.

Before you expect (probably a few hours into day one when you realize this isn’t that difficult) you will suddenly see all the steps in a new light. They aren’t huge obstacles, they are just the next thing you have to learn to do.

Decide to learn how.
Do it.
Win.

Aug 162010
 

Saturday some friends and I went to Barren River Lake. We rented a pontoon and a cabin and made a day out of it. It was 100 degrees with a 118 heat index. We drank a lot, had fun and made a few good stories. Here’s one:

We parked the pontoon for most of the day. About 2 hours in, we spotted a mangy dog walking along the shore. He was all black and looked like a lab or maybe a retriever. He was checking us out, as we were just a 9iron away. We whistled and called for him and he continued to look us over. Soon though he lost interest and continued walking down the shore.

Ignoring the G.I. Joe public service announcement about stray dogs that I’d seen 20 times as a kid, I grabbed a piece of ham and hopped on one of my friend’s jetskis. I slowly rode over to him. Once I reached shore I could see him much better. He was still 20 feet away and very unsure of me. He was extremely thin and unkempt looking. He cautiously looked at me, unwilling to come over despite my best dog calls.

I gave up on hand feeding him and threw the ham in his direction. He checked it out immediately and scarfed it down just as fast. His demeanor did a 180 and he walked right to me, as if to ask for more. Again, ignoring the GI Joe PSA, I called for him to hop on the jetski. I was as close to the shore as possible. The jetski was resting on the ground but there was still some water between us. He wanted to hop on very badly but was afraid of the 3 foot jump he’d have to make.

What the hell.

I grabbed his front legs and gently pulled him into the 6 inch deep water. Once he understood he could stand he climbed on the jetski with me. My first reaction was ‘wow this is kinda dumb, but fun, and OMG this dog stinks’. Stink isn’t the word for it. Rotten. Filth.

Judging by his extreme slender build, his cautious nature and his putrid smell, I determined he’d been living on his own in the woods for at least a few weeks, if not his whole life.

I took him back to the pontoon (of course) and we all loved on him and fed him more ham. He was shy, cautious and extremely gentle. He never once growled or barked, bit or snipped. He was just scared and hungry. He also never smiled or played. He was tired and laid around a lot, always under a seat in a small tight spot. He had burs in his fur all over. He also had at least one tick and seemed infested with fleas. He was a mangy mutt.

Once it was time to return the pontoon, I either had to take him back to shore and drop him off or take him back to the cabin. For me that was a no-brainer. If he was aggressive or mean, I’d have to have returned him. But come on. This dog needed some love. I cut as many burs out of his fur as I could find and carried him to my truck.

He stunk up my truck and once we got to the cabin I gave him a bath. He didn’t like being wet but once I held him firmly he allowed it. Again, he never got aggressive. After the bath I was able to remove the flea on his eyelid. He smelled good and looked almost like a normal dog.

We kept him in the cabin that night while we had our fun. He behaved well and kept to his gentle, unsure and timid nature. I did the only two tests I know for a dog to be a good pet. I pushed the inside middle of his paw–he didn’t flinch. I put him on his back and put my hand on his neck–he submitted and waited for me to remove it. This guy was a keeper. And keep him I did.

The next day we drove home and I told Brittany about the dog we saw on the shore. “You put him back, right?”

I lied.

I knew once she had a few minutes with him she’d fall in love.

Once I showed him to her and explained how he is as passive as a dog can be, never bit barked or growled and passed both ‘good pet’ tests, she was on board. We hopped on the internet to find a vet that was open on Sundays. We kept him outside while we searched, since he was a walking flea hotel.

Once we found one, we loaded him back in the car. The vet gave him all the tests and to our surprise he was good to go. No heart worm, no Lyme disease and he also tested negative for some other test they give animals who’ve lived in the woods–forget the name. He weighed in at 36lbs and she estimated by his tooth growth that he was 7 to 8 months old. She gave him all his vaccinations. Even during the blood draw and vaccinations, he didn’t have an ounce of aggression in him. In my opinion, anything beat the 100 degree woods. She gave us a spread of medication to kill the fleas and ticks and to get him going to be a healthy dog.

Back in the truck and to the pet store. We got all the basics including a cage for him to sleep in.

As we loaded back into the truck I remember thinking “This guy has no home. He has no normal. He was on the shore, then the jetski, then the pontoon for 5 hours. A short truck ride led him to the cabin for a night. Then a long truck ride put him in my yard. Back in the truck to the vets. Truck. Pet Store (ya he went in). Truck, and now my house again. Finally he’s going to the same place twice. Finally he can have a home. Poor fella.

I am sending a fax to the marina at Barren Lake to put up a “Found” sign. I will be shocked if anyone calls, since he just doesn’t behave like he’s been owned before. He is clueless how to walk on a leash, always going between your legs and tripping you up, and he doesn’t equate outside with potty. Outside was home. That being said, if he is someone’s dog I will return him. But I’m hoping he’s just some stray who got lucky and I’m hoping he’s my pet for the rest of his life.

He did great last night and for the first time, played like a dog is supposed to. It took about 24 hours for him to truly smile. He is slowly shedding his 100% survival mode mentality and starting to become a playful happy puppy.

Oh, I almost forgot. After playing around with names, the guys and I decided the best name was Barren.

Just after having blood drawn for tests:

Getting some much needed rest in the air conditioning

Aug 052010
 

I read so many posts on these here internets about taxes. The rich don’t pay their fair share. Taxes are too high on the middle class. Taxes aren’t fair. Everytime it sucks me in and I get furiously involved in the ‘debate’.

Here’s what I think:

It is wrong that one group of people pay a different income tax rate (or any other tax rate) than another group. Above the poverty line, we should all pay the same. Right now, even with the Bush cuts, the highest earners pay a income tax percentage 2-3 times that of the average American.

So if Joe makes 10x what Bill makes, instead of paying 10x in taxes, he pays 20-30x in income taxes.

In a land where equality if the goal, I fail to see how this is fair or justified.

I also don’t understand how it is constitutional, given section 8:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

“but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”

(fyi “impost” is an old-time word for tax)
The tax laws are so complex that some can point out how one group pays less than another in one category and that group can point out how they pay too much in a different category. As long as congress can take advantage of the populus’ ignorance and turn us against each other and allow the people to vote for [candidates who promise] tax cuts for themselves and tax raises for what they believe to be the bad guys, we’ll continue this illogical debate indefinitely…”

Jun 242010
 

Time and time again I’ve learned this lesson, so I thought I’d share it.

In my 10 years working with my brother Andy, I’ve taken on many many projects myself. Usually I work in solitude, hammering away with extreme vigor in insane spurts of 10, 15 even 20 hour shifts. This goes on for days or weeks and when I’m finished, I believe 100% that I have created the absolute best masterpeice of entrepreneurial magic ever. Ever.

Then I proudly unveil it to Andy, who is very impressed at first. After a few minutes of use it happens. Every time.

“What if here we did this instead?”
“Why doesn’t this have a call to action?”
“This part may be confusing to 1st time users, needs some usability tweaks.”
“Ooooo! I’ve got it, let’s add a do-hickey here to _______.”

  • At first I’m offended, insulted. How could he attack my masterpiece?
  • Then as I begin to step back, I see SOME merit in his silly ideas.
  • Then after a day or so and a little sleep I realize that dammit, he’s right on all accounts.

And so I begin to make the adjustments and I’ll be damned if the masterpiece was slowly becoming a MASTERPIECE.

And once again, I learn the lesson. I rock, ya. Hell, I’m brilliant. But by myself, I sorta suck. I need someone to look at my work from the outside, with fresh eyes and give honest intelligent criticism. I’m lucky that my go-to guy for that job is Andy Swan, who is no internet entrepreneur slouch himself.

Maybe you’re not lucky enough to have team Swan in your corner. But you need to find someone, the best person(s) you can, to critique your work. Don’t pick your mother. Make sure you select someone who can honestly tell you when you suck. Cause I have bad news for you–without outside eyes looking in giving that honest constructive criticism, you do suck. With it, you can dominate.

Jun 072010
 

6 weeks ago I entered a pushup contest with Nick Fenton, Brandon Powers and Liz Horrall. The test was to see who could do the most in a row after 6 weeks. If anyone did 100 they won. Some used the hundred pushups phone app, some just worked out a lot, I used hundredpushups.com.(+bjj)

I’m happy to report that I was able to do the most, but we are extending the contest 6 more weeks to see if someone can reach 100. Here are the results:

Me: 56 (up from 25 at begining for +124%)
Brandon: 42 (up from 30 for +38%)
Nick: 39 (up from 12 for +225%)
Liz: 32 (up from 6 for +433%)

Although I ‘won’, we all did really. Everyone lost 5-10lbs and gained muscle. Nick has had 4 back surgeries and is regaining strength at an incredible rate. Brandon has been working out like a mad man for weeks now and has really cut up, and Liz increased her strength by 5x! Liz can do more now than the boys could 6 weeks ago!

I love contests like these. Liz and I are still in the middle of one that has been going on since October09. Whoever doesn’t work out 5 days per week loses. Pride is a good motivator. I suggest you find a friend or three to start a contest. Most pushups after 6 weeks, fastest mile time, no fried food, 5 days a week workout, must do 8min abs everyday–whatever. Don’t go it alone.