Archives For September 2011

Great news, I found the perfect way to deal with the pesky problem of having too much money – start day trading.  Why?  You’re almost guaranteed to lose money!  It’s hard to find an exact number, but most research suggests 80-90% of day traders end up with less money than they started with.  Don’t just believe those unconfirmed stats, believe my example!

I was a senior in high school, sitting in my Physics class and watching my road to millions pave before me.  My dad and I started a stock account with $3,000 and within four months took it up to $28,000.  This was too easy.

Luckily for my viewing pleasure, I had to spend a fair amount of time on the computer for class, so I could sneak a peek at the ticker throughout the day.  Our account went up $5,000 in one day!  Oh yes, I wouldn’t even need to go to college at this point; I was going to get rich day trading.

At the time, we didn’t know we were experiencing the peak of one of the most raging periods of a bull market ever.  The year was 2000.  Any stock that had ‘.com’ or bio tech in the name was skyrocketing to the moon.  The old traders said it couldn’t last, but this was a new market, and they didn’t understand how to make the quick money.

Day trading seems like quick money because of the possibility of turning hundreds into thousands and those same thousands into tens of thousands in a short period of time.  You could be one of the people you hear about on TV that gets rich from trading penny stocks!  Unfortunately, those ads only pull in suckers.

How do you day trade?  There are a variety of ways to do it.  You can trade on news, current events, cycles, and technical analysis.  You can attempt to identify a pattern, extrapolate it out into the future, and then make a bet based on that.  They are extremely short term bets and generally you don’t care about the outlook of the company.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve tried most of those strategies with day trading, and I’ve proved I’m unsuccessful at them!

Now, back at school where I was getting rich day trading.  In March of 2000, things started to take a turn towards the worse.  The market was in the beginning of a major correction that wouldn’t subside until 2003.

At that time we didn’t know that much, but we knew that our portfolio dropping $7,500 in one day wasn’t a good thing!

I still remember my mom asking why we weren’t taking any of our profits out.  The answer was easy… when you fire your workers; you can’t make any more money with your company!   So, we kept our workers (dollars) employed in the risky stocks, and soon our large profits were erased.

The beat down continued and before we knew it, we were below where we started.

It was a wild ride and the two best things that came out of it were my interest in the financial markets which pushed me to study Finance, and Mr. Market teaching me some tough lessons.  It taught me to stay in it for the long term when investing.

Now that I learned my lesson, there is no way I would ever day trade again.  You would think so at least!  When I started making money after college, I went back for another drink.  It is just too tempting!

This time, I was playing around in some penny stocks and oil futures.  Once again, I lost money.  It was finally then that I learned for good (hopefully) that I will always be part of the 90% of day traders who are unsuccessful.

It’s really not worth it.

Day trading adds stress to your life, and you’ll find yourself checking the markets many times a day (or hour) and focusing more on stocks than your day job.  There were times in my second day trading venture where I’d check the market multiple times within a minute.  It was addicting!

Even Andrew Carnegie discussed this addiction in the book, Andrew Carnegie and the Gospel of Wealth.   He said, “I found that when I opened my paper in the morning I was tempted to look first at the quotations of the stock market.  As I had determined to sell all my interest in every outside concern and concentrate my attention upon our manufacturing concerns in Pittsburgh, I further resolved not even to own any stock that was bought and sold upon any stock exchange.”

Carnegie was addicted to checking his stock prices, and he didn’t even have to deal with the instant access of the Internet!

Instead of day trading, my current strategy is to invest in low cost mutual funds (Vanguard) that attempt to match market returns (index funds).  The appeal of the quick buck is too risky, and it can hurt you long term.  There are many items working against a day trader that I’ll discuss in the future.  Click here to learn how to start investing.

Warren Buffet said day trading, like gambling, is a fools game.  His rules of investing are the following: “Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1.”

Yes, that sounds like common sense, but common sense hasn’t always influenced my actions!  Some people might have experienced success day trading, but most of the stories you hear are just to sell books or trading software.  Enter at your own risk!

Have you ever day traded?  What is your trading strategy?

 

I graduated college in 2004, and therefore am a member of this so called ‘Lost Generation’. Hope Yen with the Associated Press has taken it upon herself to dub me, my wife, my friends and anyone else in their 20s and 30s as the ‘Lost Generation’. While many of us are out of work, Yen says missed opportunities are causing us to move back home to suck off our parents. Well, Ms. Yen – I take offense to your assumption our generation is “lost“. As a matter of fact, I believe you should focus on your own generation when describing who is lost.

Our generation is not lost. Our generation is working overtime forging its own path; a path that must be hacked through the thick forest of economic failures and lost opportunities caused by a previous generation. We are simply finding our own way in this new jungle.

Richard Freeman, who is cited in Ms. Yen’s article, was right when he said, “Their careers would not be the same way if we had avoided this economic disaster.” Freeman is correct in his thinking, but I see it as a positive rather than a negative. In fact, I believe our careers will be more meaningful and more productive than they would have been without this economic hardship.

Our generation will emerge stronger and lead the US in a new direction. We aren’t sitting at home on our parents’ couches simply waiting for something to come along as Yen has insinuated. We are busy planning the next economic revolution.

We are turning inward to discover what is really important in our lives; not just selling out for the almighty dollar. In reality, the almighty dollar has been tainted with the stench of unearned expectations and pointless printing. We are working to find meaning in our lives. We aren’t looking for jobs; we’re looking for our purpose.

We are like Chris Fagan, Jenny Blake, Keith Winter, and Adam Baker. These four entrepreneurs are just several of the thousands bringing innovative, creative and positive ideas to the table and putting others to work. We have come to the realization that sucking off the teat of bureaucracies is both dangerous and debilitating; whether you meant to teach us or not. It has led us to believe we are all now consultants in this new economic world.

The lost generation is the one that embraced the concept of easy money; a generation that bathed in the cash flow spewing from the faucets of loose regulations and fortunate business cycles. Your generation is the true ‘Lost Generation’ – the one that had the incredible opportunities of wealth in its grasp throughout the 1990s, but has managed to squander the opportunities in favor of living beyond its means.

The truly ‘Lost Generation’ has brought us to where we are today.

But, a bit of advice: don’t turn your back on our generation. We are resilient, inventive, and intellectual. We will be tougher thanks to this economic hardship, and we will survive. Fear not, our generation will find the path.

 

Lucy at the levee

I threw the log into the water not thinking she would actually go after it, but she was determined to fetch it. She swam out into the deep water and struggled to get a good grip on it. She swam around it a few times, and she took some bites at it. My wife began to get worried as Lucy seemed to be getting tired.

My wife had reason to be worried as this wasn’t an ordinary body of water, it was the Mississippi River! That’s the best place in New Orleans for Lucy to get her swim time!

Lucy doesn’t have limitations in her head about what she can and can’t do. This explains why she still crawls under the bed during a thunderstorm even though she’s 80 pounds. The bad part is that we have to lift up the bed to get her out.

As humans, we’re conditioned to know our limitations and we rarely push against them. We’re much like the fleas in Zig Ziglar’s story on how to train fleas.

How do you train fleas? Stick them in a jar with a lid on it. At first, the fleas will continually jump and hit the lid. After a while, they become conditioned to the lid, and they jump just high enough so they don’t hit it. What happens when you take the lid off? They still won’t jump high enough to get out of the jar. You’ve trained the flea.

Have we become conditioned to only jump so high? Some causes of this conditioning are a lack of confidence, previous failures, or a lack of support. Most causes stem from our memories. Sometimes you need a breaking point before you realize how much you’re holding yourself back.

This brings us back to Lucy. After swimming a few laps around it and finally getting a good grip, she looked like a tug boat pulling a massive ship down the Mississippi River. She moved about an inch every ten dog paddles, but that didn’t stop her.

She already beat the odds by getting it moving, and she wasn’t going to stop now. She powered on and got it to shore. She still didn’t stop. She managed to drag it all of the way out of the water and pull it to my side.

The great philosopher and thinker Adam Smith put it this way, “Great dangers have their charms, because there is some glory to be got, even when we miscarry. But moderate dangers have nothing but what is horrible, because the loss of reputation always attends the want of success.”

Even if Lucy didn’t get the log all of the way to shore, we still would be amazed that she took a great danger.

Often times, we don’t take on the risks that bring great danger for fear of failure. We’re also afraid to take the moderate risk because there isn’t a perceived valuable pay off, and what are we if we can’t even succeed at that?

Lucy reminds me to go for the great danger just like she did.

Good Lucy.

Have you ever been inspired by your pet? Let me know about it in the comments section below!

September 19, 2011

Challenging yourself is the key to growing. If you never test your limits, you’ll be destined for mediocrity.

Recently, I was experiencing writer’s block, and I couldn’t put together more than two coherent sentences simultaneously. I knew it was time to get away from the computer; I also hadn’t challenged myself physically in a while.

The answer to both of these problems was to get a good sweat going. New Orleans offered up a perfect occassion on this day since it was around 90 degrees with 90% humidity. When I walked out of the air conditioning, it felt like I stepped into an oven.

It was early summer, so my body hadn’t been exposed to major heat while running, and my previous runs were only around 2-3 miles each. I made a goal to run over 6.5 miles.

Things started out as usual, only notably hotter. The first half mile is more challenging then you would think because your mind and body aren’t quite into it yet. An initial burst of running probably tells our bodies we must be on a short run after prey or away from prey. It pumps some adrenaline, but the body probably doesn’t think it will last.

So you force yourself through it, feeling the predictable pains in the joints and tiredness in the legs. Quitting now would feel pretty good, but I must run through it and wait for the runner’s high to kick in.

My runner’s high happened just as I approached the park. It’s a beautiful park in New Orleans; I love to run through it so maybe that was the inspiration that brought the high. My body’s pains stopped and my heart and brain were on board.

Mile two started near the levee and I started to feel the heat. The levee has no trees or shade. It’s a desert of sun that holds back the largest movement of water in North America, the Mississippi River. I felt like I was running upstream, but I didn’t experience the welcome relief of water cooling me down.

Few people were even out at this point even though it was mid-afternoon. There were some bicyclists and a few runners. Most signs of life were driving by in the comfort of their air conditioned rides. Where would we be without air conditioning?!

Miles 3-4 continued on the levee. My mind was kept busy by the sites of the Mississippi, but my legs started to remind me that we should end soon. The tiredness I felt now was different than the tiredness felt initially. Initially, it was a fake tiredness attempting to give my brain a way to rationalize quitting. My current tiredness was more true as it was earned by the previous few miles.

I didn’t quit earlier, and I wouldn’t quit now. Eminem was encouraging me through my iPhone:

“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you want it, you better never let it go…”

My legs reluctantly continued.

Mile 5 brought relief from the levee. It was good timing as I felt that my body couldn’t have much left in the sweat tanks, and my decision not to wear sun block was negatively paying off.

The relief was from leaving the levee and heading back down St. Charles Ave where I found inspiration in the surrounding beauty of old mansions and massive oak trees. This didn’t inspire my legs though.

At this point, my brain joined in the revolt that my legs started, and it continued in the reinforcements that I should quit soon.

“There are way too many reasons not to be doing this. For God’s sake, you could give yourself a heart attack! Haven’t you ever seen Dateline when people in good shape die when they push themselves too hard?”

My brain and legs were against me; making continuing even harder. Alas, a shortcut! I could take it and be home pretty soon! Stop it brain, it wasn’t time yet. My legs, brain, and body were all against me now. My goal was to run over 6.5 miles, and I wasn’t there yet.

With my legs and brain wanting to quit, what kept pushing me? My soul.

Our souls are the stronger than our muscles and our mind. When all else has come to agreement and wants to quit, it’s your last hope.

Mile 6 found me checking my watch every few seconds. My brain was living with the fact that I wasn’t going to stop, but it wanted me to remind me that my goal was close.

My legs didn’t feel pain anymore. It gave me the sense of floating because they were nearly numb. Sweat was pouring as my body happily released the toxins that had been building for days.

I hit 6.6 miles right as I got home. My legs and brain rejoiced in the accomplishment as I quickly came inside the cool house. My soul wasn’t surprised; it knew I could hit my goal the whole time. Once inside, I sat down and wrote this post; my writer’s block subsided.

It doesn’t matter what obstacles are in the way; the heat, tiredness, doubts, or danger. When we find our passion, our soul knows. It will guide you there and then keep you going, ignoring the warnings from your brain that it’s impossible, or the warnings from your body that it’s just too much work.

Giving up is the easy way out. If you take the easy way out, even once with a minor activity such as meeting your running goal, it will be easier to give up on something else later. You can’t quit.

These are the same feelings I went through when I had my breaking point, and I fought my way out of $50,000 in debt. It would have been easier to go back to my familiar way of living; spending like I had no worries and not saving any money. However, if I gave up then, I’d be in a deeper hole and bigger mess today.

Have you pushed yourself pass your limits lately? Let me know about it in the comments.

 

I sat down with Chris Fagan, CEO and Co-Founder of Mobestream Media and creator of the Key Ring App. We discussed how he started Mobestream Media and Key Ring, and he gives you tips to show you how to start your own business.

Interview key points:

1. You went from employee to entrepreneur – what got you that point? (:53)

  • It wasn’t an exact three step process; it happened over an evolution of several years.

2. How did you start? (1:26)

  • There isn’t an easy path; there are no short cuts. You may have seen successes of an entrepreneur, but you haven’t seen the failures that lead to those successes
  • (1:57) Most important thing is to be prepared; I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur
  • (2:07) I did things in life to prepare me, lived a very frugal lifestyle, put a lot of money into savings; when I was ready to make that commitment, I had a back up plan. You have to go into it with the expectation that you’re not going to have any revenue for 12-18 months

3. I’ve had tons of great business ideas, but none of them have come to life (2:42)

  • Biggest misconception about entrepreneurship is it takes a great idea to build a great company. It doesn’t. What it takes is a good idea and phenomenal execution. If you have an idea, just start working on it. You can do it on your nights and weekends while you have a full time job.
  • (3:30) When you’ve done enough research, you’ll be able to see if this is a big enough opportunity to make money on, or if you shouldn’t pursue it.

4. What’s the magic formula for being and entrepreneur (3:34)

  • I don’t think there’s a magic formula, but I think there are certain characteristics you can draw from certain people that lead to entrepreneurship.
  • (4:05) From the time I was big enough to work and have someone to pay me for it, I would do it. I started paying taxes when I was 11 years old.
  • (5:06) All of those (jobs) have given me perspective in life, and I always approach it with an ambitious spirit and want to learn about with those things; and with all of those experiences I can use it to help in my business today. All of these things are needed as an entrepreneur
  • (5:45) I would recommend to any young person to go out there and put themselves out there; go and do these jobs, because you’re going to build the skill sets necessary to run a business

5. What are some other tips to help me be successful? (5:53)

  • (6:23) I did a ton of research. I went to the library and checked out every book on entrepreneurship and starting a business.
  • Chris’ recommendations: (1,000 Dollars & An Idea, How come that Idiot’s Rich and I’m not?, The Tipping Point)

6. Can you talk a little bit about the challenges of starting your business? (6:45)

  • (7:23) If someone says they can help you, always do it but you have to build up an “entrepreneur BS filter” to quickly assess the situation and figure out if they can help you or not; and if you can help them.

7. What steps can we take today to become an entrepreneur? (7:52)

  • (8:05) The first step I would take is to get out. Go out and start interaction with your community; participate in forums/networks with areas you’re interested in.

8. You’ve had a lot of challenges, what keeps you going? (8:50)

  • I think it’s worth it. Even if you go and put everything into this and it’s not financially successful, you as a person have grown exponentially. You know more about yourself, and a specific subject area.

9. You’ve gone from employee to entrepreneur, if you had a chance to do it all again, would you? (9:30)

  • I will continue to do businesses like this because it’s the way I operate; it’s fun and exciting, and I could never see myself going into a big bureaucratic company and try to climb my way up.

10. Chris has built something great, but he still has big plans for Mobestream Media (9:52)