New Quotes I Live My Life By

Anybody who knows me knows that I am big on self-improvement. I pick up a lot from the lessons of Freemasonry. I also listen to a lot of Podcasts. Some of them are light podcasts on historical topics, but a lot of them are  self-improvement (Art of Manliness, Tim Ferris Show, Art of Charm) and real estate education (Get Rich Education, Real Estate Guys, Bigger Pockets) and I pull a lot of platitudes from them that seem to stick. I posted about a bunch of them 2 years ago So, here are some of my more recently adopted maxims.

“Do the math and the math will tell you what to do.” Russel Gray of The Real Estate Guys

This is one that I get from the Real Estate Guys and also my good friend and mentor, Charles, who dropped some knowledge on me recently. This applies to any negotiation or deal, but I apply it to a BRRR (Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance) real estate strategy. When examining a deal, you have to plug numbers into your Bigger Pockets calculator (or other calculation device) to see how much to pay for the property for based on how much it will cost to do the rehab and how much you can safely pull out of it once the rehab is done. And don’t pay a penny more.

If you have taken the time to work all of these numbers out and you get to the bargaining table and the price goes beyond that point, you should just walk away.

Of course it’s not always that easy because there’s a lot of emotion involved, there’s the myth of sunken costs of time invested, and a whole host of distractions.

A good example of this was given to me by Charlie via anecdote. He was in a meeting with his client who was trying to sell his business. The client had carefully examined the books and the business, and had formulated a valuation of how much he thought the company was worth. When negotiations started, he saw his client getting caught up in the moment and was edging toward taking less money than his valuation. Charlie pulled his client aside and said (I paraphrase) “What about your calculations have changed from before this meeting to now?”


His client was ignoring the math screaming out to him to walk and if not for Charlie’s wise counsel, would have walked away from the table feeling pretty bad about taking less than his company was worth.

“Overestimate your costs and underestimate your profit.” Charlie

I’m sure this concept was not coined by my mentor and Masonic Brother Charlie, but he put it  so succinctly that I felt I should use that phrasing. This is such a simple concept. Sometimes when analyzing a deal, it is so tempting to give your calculations slim enough margins to try to make the deal work on paper. “Oh, well, I can shave $4k off the budget if the roof ends up being fine for another couple of years,” or estimating that you will receive the high end of the rent range for that market. (I know, I’ve done this.)

Do not do that. Avoid this line of reasoning at all costs.

If you use conservative estimates for your deal and it’s still a good deal, then if the worst case scenario happens you are still profiting. And when the best case scenario happens, you are all the more in profit.

“Be Willing to Walk Away”

This one is hard for me. How do you just walk away from something that you really want? I’ve definitely made boneheaded concessions because I wanted something so bad. Then there’s the flip side. There’s something that you don’t want all that much, but are kind of interested in, so you make a super low, almost ludicrously low (but still somewhat reasonable) offer and when they push back you just walk away.

Then, as you’re walking away, they say either they’ll take your price or counter-back at what is still a screaming deal… for something that you could have lived without in the first place. So you got a great deal!

The point isn’t to offer on things you don’t want, but to go ahead and make the low ball offer on something that you only want at really low price even if you don’t think they’ll take it.

So, to apply this to something that you do want, you just have to convince yourself that you can do without it. That will give you leverage at the negotiating table.

“Don’t count on motivation; count on discipline.” – Jocko Willink

I was listening to the Tim Ferris podcast while hanging blinds in one of the rentals and the guest was a ex-Navy Seal Jocko Willink (who is a super-human, FYI). One of the people who wrote into the show with questions asked how he stays “motivated.” To which he responded:

“Don’t count of motivation, count on discipline.”

And this totally rocked my world because we always see things about getting motivated and staying motivated, but “not being motivated” is just an excuse to be lazy or put off something hard or that you don’t want to do, but need to. It needs to get done, so you need discipline to hunker down and do it.



How to Survive and Thrive at a Business Networking Event (A Guide for Awkward People)

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Networking is very important for success. This is pretty common knowledge. It’s not what you know as much as it is who you know. LinkedIn and other social networks are good up to a point, but nothing can replace planting your mug in front of folks.

Up until about 6 or so months ago I hated going to “networking” meetings. I was MORTIFIED at the thought of
  • Awkwardly making small talk with complete strangers
  • Ending up in awkward conversational pauses
  • Getting caught in conversations with people who aren’t that interesting
  • Not knowing what to talk about
  • Not knowing anybody
  • Possibly being the guy standing alone in the corner looking at and swirling their drink

It’s an entirely nerve wracking experience.

Through a lot of research and sucking it up and attending some of these things, I have learned a thing or two. I am now perfectly comfortable in these types of environments.

So, in an effort to reach out to those who need to do this in-person networking type stuff, but have all of the same fears that I did, I am making this guide to assuage those anxieties and give you some tools to function well at these type of things.

I am by no means a master networker/connector/anything like that, but I have been in the shoes of people who are terrified by the prospect of having to attend something like this and want to help.

I will put forth that I am working from a base line of general extroversion and thriving pretty well in small groups, even if it is strangers (events with 7 or more people still intimidated me to the point of not attending). I get that I was a little higher up on a comfort scale than many who will have to attend these things, but we all start from somewhere right?

1. Many of the people at these events feel the exact same way


The number one thing that I learned from looking up the abundance of articles on how to cope with these anxieties was that I’m obviously not the only one who has them. Most of the people at the event that you are attending aren’t social butterflies who can shake hands, slap backs, and work a room like a politician during election season.  A lot of them have the same anxieties about working a room full of strangers that you do.

Take solace in that. You are not alone.

2. Consistency in attendance. Don’t try to meet everyone in one night.

A popular misconception about these events is that you have to “make the sale” right then and there. You have to go there, pitch your product/service, and hand out business cards to everybody in that room before the nights done.

It’s not a one and done prospect.

Your best bet is to choose 1 or 2 groups/organizations, show up to all of the events, talk to a few people at each event until either the event is over or the conversation dies (more on striking up conversation later), leave.

If you hit it off, or have something further to talk about with those folks, then follow up after the meeting and set something up (more on that later). If you don’t have any interest in a relationship with them, then don’t follow up. Say hi to them at the next event. You should try to remember people’s names (I am not known for being good at this), but if you don’t, it’s fine. They probably didn’t remember your either. And if they do, it means you were memorable and interesting.

Hopefully the event has name tags that you can try to subtly check out.

At the next event, do the same exact thing. Have good conversations with a few people. Follow up or don’t.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Over time you’ll have met several people at these events and a lot of people will know you.

The important thing is to not spread yourself too thin over several random groups. I already sort of have issues with this because I have real estate investor groups as well as history-based groups that I try to balance, but they can be somewhat related since I work for a General Contractor.



3. How the f*** do I get into a group of people to talk with them?

This is always one that made me feel the most awkward. A couple of people or a group of people is standing around having a conversation and you don’t want to just stand there and be weird.
Here’s a simple guideline

1) If the group is a closed circle or two people are facing each other square, then they’re really deep into a conversation, do not go in.

2) If there is an open space in a group, or two people are standing and talking in sort of like a V with their bodies angled out into the space in an open sort of posture, then they are INVITING somebody else to join.

Just stand in that spot and start listening. It’s not awkward, that’s just how you insert yourself into these conversations. Eventually somebody will introduce themselves to you which is your invitation to meet the group, shake hands, exchange names, and make with the chit-chat (more on what to chit-chat about later). If no one introduces themselves to you (odds are slim that they won’t) wait until a conversational lull, throw out a hand and make an introduction.

It definitely feels weird at first, but when you try it once and see that it works you’ll be like “Oh…. that was easy.”

You just have to get over yourself.

Personally, I prefer groups of 3 or more. The conversation is less likely to die down when there are more people.

One thing that I always try to do as a former Networking-ophobic is to always make space for someone who even kind of looks like they are alone and trying to join the conversation circle. Even going so far as to invite them in.

It’s actually a really interesting dynamic. The group will expand into a circle, and as it reaches critical mass to where there’s like 8 people in a giant circle, side conversations begin and the circles divide like a single celled organism splitting itself.

If you see a person standing by themselves they are fair game. Go and strike up a conversation about whatever. If anything, they may be that awkward person who isn’t sure how to approach people and you have made the event much better for them. And they might have a lot to offer and be an interesting person.

4. What do I talk about? NOT yourself.

What am I suppose to talk about with these people? Well, you aren’t suppose to talk. People don’t really care about what you have to say, but they LOVE talking about themselves. Just ask them questions about them. Always ask open-ended questions

Here’s some questions:

  • What brings you here today/tonight? This is pretty obvious. The one thing that you and this other person have in common is that you are both there for some reason. This can lead to all sorts of off-shoots of topics.
  • What do you do? : Basic questions. It’s a baseline. Sometimes they can give you enough with this where you can riff of of with questions for a while. For example “I’m an architect” can be followed up by “What sort of buildings to you design?” “What got you into that?” “Where did you study” and you can just go on asking questions.
  • Where are you from?: You could share something you know about it and ask them about that, talk about a place that’s somewhat close and ask if they’ve been, you can ask why they left, where they went to college, etc.

The important thing to remember is to have a genuine interest in the person’s story. Personally, I love knowing people’s stories and all about them. You can ask a ton of questions and go pretty deep without touching on sensitive subject matter. If they mention that their parents passed away, I wouldn’t ask “how?” Or something along those lines.

This is a basic tenet of the seminal self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s a classic and everybody should have read this at least once.

Also, if the person really has nothing interesting you can probe about… see the section on ending conversations.

Of note, unless it’s a political event, or a religious event, don’t talk politics, religion, or anything that could possibly put you at odds with someone there on a personal level.

5. Conversation Enders

A lot of time you get caught up in a situation where you guys have nothing left to talk about. You can both tell that the conversation is ending, but not quite sure how to separate.

You look around to try to bring somebody else in to freshen up the conversation…nobody.

This simple phrase works wonders:

“Well, it was great talking to you!” And move on.

Yes, it’s that simple. You are both looking for a way to end the conversation and move on to something else, it just takes someone with the balls to acknowledge that the conversation is dead and rip the band-aid off.

You will be relieved, they will be relieved.

If you want to be non-confrontational about it, or this seems too sudden then the following solutions are available to you. (These also work if it’s someone who is just yammering about bullsh*** or is uninteresting).

1) “It was nice talking, I have to get with so-and-so to follow up about (X)” And go join another group or person. Even if you don’t know them or have anything to talk about, just start a new conversation. It’s much better if it’s somebody you’ve met before though, so you can catch up.

2) “I have to run to the restroom.” Go to the restroom. If you don’t have to go, just look in the mirror and make sure your tie’s straight. Also, maybe wash your hands since you’ve probably just shaken a bunch of hands.

You can only go to the well with this one so many times before people have seen you run to the bathroom 4 times in an hour.

3) “I’m out, I need to go grab a drink” Keep a small amount of drink in your glass, finish it, and use the old bar excuse. Get caught up in a conversation with someone else at the bar.

Once again, I emphasize, everybody is at these things to network, so most people will be on the same page with you of trying to talk to more than one person, or ending a conversation that’s going nowhere.

6. How to Follow Up 

Okay, so you’ve made a connection.You and the other person either get along great, or can potentially do business.

This is probably the most important part.

Admittedly, since I’m new to the whole networking event thing, I have substantially less experience with follow up. This is also an area that I need to work on getting better at. Thus, I present to you this Forbes article that I have found to be accurate based on experience and podcasts such as the Art of Charm that I have listened to.

7. Be a Connector

If you have met someone earlier in the event, or during a different event for the group and meet someone who they might have a common interest with, introduce them! Even if you don’t connect with these folks automatically, they will remember that you are the one who introduced them. Even if they don’t associate their acquaintance with you, you have helped some people out and have built up some good karma.

8. Don’t Drink Too Much

Enjoying a cocktail or two is fine, but don’t be that guy/girl who gets drunk to deal with the fact that they can’t handle social situations. It’s a social lubricant up to a point…. break up your drinks with water to hydrate.

That’s about the gist of it. The most important thing to remember is that anything that you’re feeling as far as anxiety, awkwardness, whatever.. you’re not the only one.

And once you are comfortable moving about a room at a networking event, be sure to make room for or talk to the person standing by themselves awkwardly staring down at their drink and introduce them to some other folks.

Podcast/Book Recommendations: Overcoming Being Overwhelmed and Over Worked.

Feeling Overwhelmed: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (And It’s All Small Stuff)” by Richard Carlson

Right now is a big time of transition for my girlfriend and I. We are about to close on our first Duplex (we are so super stoked); The Richmond Tour Guys is experimenting with charging for tours (this coming weekend is the first of that); and my girlfriend started a new job this week. Between all of this, making time for each other, and my full time gig; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

For a week or so after we got back from our trip to the West Coast trip, I started really stressing and panicking. There was so much to do. Will paid tours be successful? What if I fail? What if I don’t make the flyers in time? What if I don’t have the tour script memorized? What if the Duplex which seems like an awesome deal from my due diligence, turns out not to be? What if I am not a good landlord? What if I’m neglecting my girlfriend? What if I’m losing connection with my friends and family? What if, what if, what if!?!

Well, I decided after suffering these pangs of anxiety that I needed to stop worrying so much; but needed some tips on how to do (other than Buzzfeed posts). I was listening to an episode of Entrepreneur on Fire (Sorry JLD, I can’t remember which one) and one of the guests recommended “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and it’s all small stuff)” by Richard Carlson. I bought the AudioBook and listened to it for the next few days repeating certain chapters that resonated with me. The book helped me put all this anxiety into perspective. I mean, I was overwhelming myself so much about what wasn’t getting done, that I paralyzed myself into inaction which created tons of inertia.

The book said a some stuff that I already knew (being present, realizing that things aren’t that big of a deal, etc.), but it’s sometimes necessary to have it hammered in again. Repetition is invaluable.

I suppose the point of this is if you feel constantly overwhelmed, anxious, angry, etc: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is a must-read. It’s a good healthy dose of perspective.

Overworked “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiosaki

I finally read (well, listened to) Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I totally see why so many people refer this book. It is really mind blowing. As someone who’d always looked with interest upon getting passive income, this book greatly helps expand as to how to make that possible and reminds me of why I want to produce enough passive income to where dictate my lifestyle rather than trading my time for dollars.

The biggest take away for me was to constantly be learning. I already do that, but the book made me realize that almost everything even if it’s not obviously an educational experience, is an opportunity to learn something; be it my day job, giving tours, or writing a blog post.

After having my girlfriend listen, we decided to take our futures into our own hands and we are purchasing our first duplex.

This book has changed the lives of a lot of people and it’s easy to see why.

New Podcast Recommendation: Get Rich Education with Kieth Weinhold

In continually learning; Podcasts help me a lot with this. Via Entrepreneur on fire, which I recommended a couple of months ago, I found a new Podcast that has shot to the top of my list of Podcasts that I regularly listen to:

Get Rich Education With Kieth Weinhold: He is a successful real estate investor who pretty much gives away incredible information for free every week on his Podcast. Listening to it from the beginning is almost like an education series in that he builds off of earlier topics. He starts general with mindset and principles of ways to think about things, then gets into very specific details about tools and strategies. My mind has been expanded a lot since listening to his Podcast. As someone with a fledgling real estate portfolio, having someone give me this information weekly in digestible form is priceless.

I’m still kind of waiting to see what the catch is. One thing is that he invests in Turn-Key real estate in Memphis, and gets $1,000 referral reward if people he refer use their services. Although, the company gives anybody who refers someone $1,000 so it’s not like they are a sponsor of the Podcast (that I know of).

I am currently doing my own due diligence on this Turnkey Real Estate service.

Website/Podcast Recommendation: Bigger Pockets

The other things I’ve discovered since my last post is a social network for real estate investors called Bigger Pockets. It’s completely free (although some extra features require membership; but it’s reasonably priced and totally worth it). It’s a way to connect with other real estate investors, both local and nationally. It also has a blog, a podcast, forums, calculators for flips and buy and holds, and a lot more.

For the last month, my girlfriend and I have been in contract for a duplex and I posted questions on this forum and got answers. There is no way I’d be able to get these answers otherwise. People help you analyze deals, tell you about the market, help with land lording strategies, tax strategies, asset protection and even give advice on specific situations.You can also search the forum and the blogs and find a lot of your answers.

The Buy and Hold calculator alone was worth paying for the Plus membership. I highly encourage anyone even remotely invested in real estate to sign up and get involved in this website; listening to the podcasts; and reading the blogs. I can’t stress how invaluable this resource has been for me over the past 2 months.

The Ups and Downs of Business and the Path to Success

One moment your on top of the world and then the next, life hands you a heaping helping of humble pie.

What Success Really Looks Like

What Success Really Looks Like

Maybe it’s just me and I’m inclined to have big emotional upswings and downswings, but life is a just a crazy roller coaster. Success is less like climbing a mountain and is more like climbing a series of hills that turn into a mountain range, with more hills in-between. Some of these hills and mountains will then have groups of trolls at the top trying to throw you back down the other side and make you start from the beginning, or to the bottom of a mountain that you’ve already climbed.

I will give you an example of this based on events happening solely this past week:

That trolley tour that I was suppose to guide got cancelled. I was very disappointed. The disappointment didn’t stem so much from not getting paid for it (although I’d be lying if I said that didn’t play a part), but stemmed more from the work that I put into mapping that tour route, memorizing the script, and practicing it once per day for 2 weeks all being for naught. True, it helped me write my Church Hill Tour script, and gave me something that I might be able to use if we do this sort of thing down the road; but that’s a tiny consolation.

I found out about this on Monday. On Tuesday, I get a call to give a private tour (which pays pretty well) that evening and execute it almost perfectly.

Success! Up the mountain.

Saturday comes and it’s time for the morning tour and I get one guy who doesn’t tip me anything for the awesome 2.5 hour tour I just gave him.

Well that’s a kick in the pants down the hill.

Granted, I didn’t expect a big turn out because of all of the cool stuff going on for the 150th anniversary of the fall of Richmond at the end of the American Civil War; but seriously; one guy?

Down we go.

So, the inaugural Church Hill tour was that evening as given by one of my new guides, JJ. I didn’t hold high hopes for turn out because of all of the Civil War living history and reenactment stuff going on at the State Capitol. It’s a tough competition, but Lo and behold…..

Inaugural Church Hill Tour

Inaugural Church Hill Tour

19 people show up for the tour!

Back up the mountain.

It’s not easy, but it sure is an exhilarating climb.

Tour Company Stuff, New Podcast Recommendations, WM 31, Star Trek, Musings

I haven’t written anything in a couple of months now, which is hurting my mission of this blog being the first thing that comes up when you Google my very unique name. I’ve still got to chase Spokeo and Quirky off of the first page of results, but that will come. I will take this opportunity to update y’all on happenings with the tour business (why I’ve been so busy), My Wrestlemania 31 predictions, some cool new Podcasts that I’ve been getting into, and pretty much just muse about stuff that I’ve been thinking about.

DSC01521Big Things For the Tour Guys

Big things going on for me with the Richmond Tour Guys. First off, tour season has restarted! I finally get to give tours again. I’ve even brought on 2 guides so I can have some weekends off occasionally. One of them is a recent VCU Grad with a degree in History and the other is long time Church Hill (the oldest neighborhood in Richmond) resident who will be doing 2 tours of Church Hill per month.

That reminds me, I have added a tour of Church Hill which will take place on Saturdays at 3:30 PM and Thursday evenings at 5:00 PM. I’m very excited for these as Church Hill has so much rich history share and the tour ends around a pub, so I may be able to have a pint or two with some of the more interesting tour attendees.

I was also contacted by Taylor’s Classic Travels that has a trolley that they rent out for private events, wine tours, brewery tours, and weddings. They have been hired by The Brownstone and Butler’s Unique Catering to do a tour of Church Hill and are using me to guide the tours. I’m very excited to make this connection and work with Terra and Joe.

If you want to buy tickets to this all-you-can-eat brunch, ride a trolley, and witness me blow your mind with my awesome tour guiding, the link is here.

After I get back from visiting family and friends on the West Coast in June, I’m going to start charging for tours and see if this has legs as a full-fledged business. So if you want to come on the free tour, get it while it lasts!

I’ve also had a ton of other opportunities come my way as well that I’m working on, but can’t mention yet on such a public forum…..

New Podcasts

Entrepreneur On Fire: Since the tour business has been going so well, I have decided that I need to update my business IQ. Since I have no formal business training and I am too busy to read any non-history related books since I’m writing and developing two new tours; I get it in during my morning cleansing ritual (shower, shave, getting dressed, etc.) and driving time (which I have much of) via Podcasts.

Entrepreneur On Fire has given me some, as the host John Lee Dumas would put it, “mind blowing insights” into my business. Basically, he spends a half-hour interviewing various entrepreneurs about their business, how they built it, and finding out their habits. I have gained more insight into how to run, market, and view my business than I could possibly have otherwise.

Ironically enough, the first one that I listened to was an interview with a guy who started Museum Hack which gives entertaining tours of museums in New York.

I was hooked.

Now I listen to the almost every podcast Lee puts out. If you are an entrepreneur, side-preneur (me!), or want-repreneur, this is a great Podcast to check out. It has quickly risen to the top of my podcast Queue.

What the Speak!: This Podcast is all about Public Speaking. Bryan Kelly interviews public speakers of all sorts and learns about their journey, which teaches me all sorts of tips and tricks.  Being a Tour Guide, a lot of what I do is performance based speaking. Since I have no formal education in public speaking (other than a one semester Speech class Freshman year of college where my final project was an epic speech on the word F***) I decided to look for a podcast on the topic.

One Google search later, lo and behold, What the Speak comes up. It really put what I do into perspective. Even without being able to see myself giving tours, I can already see things that I need to work on and improve.

The Thomas Jefferson Hour – Switching gears, this podcast is all about the most famous of Virginians… Thomas Jefferson. Clay Jenkins, award winning Humanities Scholar and Thomas Jefferson researcher, gives in-character interviews as Thomas Jefferson to give his view. It sounds really hokey, but it is one of the most incredible podcasts that I listen to. Jenkins has studied Thomas Jefferson so in depth, that he flawlessly answers questions off the cuff, citing primary sources for reference.

Actually, learning about Thomas Jefferson and all that he accomplished in field literally ranging from A to Z (he even knew how to tie arteries!) will really make one feel intellectually inferior.

Wrestlemania 31 Predictions

Wrestlemania 31 is coming up  and I’m not super thrilled about the card.

The match I’m most looking forward to is Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker. Now that the Undertaker has had his streak broken (last year by Brock Lesnar) it’s fair game as to whether he can win or lose. There’s no assumption that the streak will continue because it’s been broken. They could have Taker lose, and have that be the nail in his coffin as he passes the torch to the self-titled “New Face of Fear” Bray Wyatt, or he could win and redeem himself. I hope he loses and rides out into the sunset…. although by the looks of it he may have trouble getting on the horse. It’s a tossup, but I’ll say Wyatt wins which will fit into the narrative on next year’s Wrestlemania where Undertaker will hang up the boots if he loses and his opponent is some heel who just wants to “put him out of his misery.”

Triple H vs. Sting will be good. They are both incredible in-ring storytellers. Seeing Sting in action in front of 80,000 people again will be nuts. He’s been in small arena’s with TNA for the last 12 years. It’s hard to say who’s going to win, but my money is on Sting to fit with the Wrestlemania hero’s win narrative. The match will be very good.

John Cena vs. Rusev is a feud that I have really been enjoying. There’s just something so old school and nostalgic about a Russian talking smack about the US and the hero standing up and fighting for the country he loves. (Rusev’s actually Bulgarian, but WWE doesn’t have much regard for the geographic knowledge of their audience). They had a really good match at Fastlane and I think this one will be good as well. Cena goes over for the feel good moment.

Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar…. eh.. the build up to this has been atrocious. I mean it’s basically Paul Heyman giving awesome promos and Roman Reigns fighting off the Authority. I like Roman Reigns, but I don’t buy him as a Wrestlemania main eventer. Not yet at least. Lesnar has officially re-signed with WWE, so I think he wins since Reigns is proving to be a non-starter for much of the WWE Universe. I still think Rollins is going to cash in Money in the Bank at WM 31.

By the way, that crowd is going to be very ruthless to Roman Reigns.

The Intercontinental Title Ladder Match is going to be a fun match, but there are better ways to use the guys who are going to be in it. Daniel Bryan was main-eventing Wrestlemania last year and now he’s been jammed into a match with 6 other guys who have nothing else to do on that Sunday night. The build up has been somewhat amusing, mostly thanks to R Truth’s antics, but overall it’s a real non-starter. I say Bryan captures the title in order to bring some prestige back to it.

The Bellas vs. AJ and Paige is also a real non-starter, mostly because I do not like the Bella Twins. Nikki is so sloppy and unbelievable as a credible threat. Paige and AJ can wrestle circles around them. Either way, it’ a Divas match, so the WWe will probably either give them 3 minutes or just bump them when Sting/Triple H goes too long. Because that’s what WWE does to Divas at Wrestlemanias. Paige and AJ for the victory.

Andre The Giant Battle Royal: Who knows? After Cesaro won last year and was summarily buried, it doesn’t feel like this Battle Royal matters as much as it did last year when it was new and could potentially be a stepping stone to greater things. I don’t rightly know who will win; or care for that matter. So…uh… let’s jut say that…uh…. Curtis Axel wins and gets pushed to the stars! Axelmania!

Star Trek

A few months ago, I decided to watch Star Trek, the original series on Netflix. I had never watched it before and had a much different idea of what it was in my mind prior to watching it…..

Zounds! What an incredible show! I mean the production value isn’t incredible, but the messages and morals are mind blowing. Spock’s insights into humanity from a purely logical perspective and his verbal exchanges with Captain Kirk are highly entertaining. The show really makes one think about humanity and society’s faults as well as our greater qualities such as a soul and free will. Things that we take for granted are put on display in different species that lack these things.

I’m almost ashamed I hadn’t given it a chance before. I’m smack dab in the middle of season 2 right now.

Other Thoughts

  • I was at Sweetfrog by the theater the other day waiting for my beautiful girlfriend to meet me and ventured over to see what was playing and realized I had never heard of any of the movies that were playing. You see, Melanie and I cut our cable cord a year or so ago and have not looked back since. Between the internet, Netflix, and Hulu, we don’t miss anything AND we get to save money and not watch all of the commercials. The commercials we see are not the same as they are on actual TV so we never see movie previews. I’m pretty sure they’re all going to be terrible anyway. Anything that’s grandiose enough to win awards is not worth paying to see in theaters anyway when it will be out on VOD and DVD in 2 months.
  • Light beer is disgusting. I use to drink it if it was present at a gathering. I liked it okay. I accidentally bought Yuengling Light the other day and was severely disappointed to taste that flavorless beer when I was expecting delicious Yuengling.
  • Yuengling, for my West Coast compatriots who haven’t heard of it, is a great East Coast beer. It’s like a step above Bud/Coors/Miller in terms of taste and maybe $1 more expensive for a 6-pack, but not quite as expensive or heavy as craft brews. I had never actually heard of Yuengling until I moved to the East Coast, because apparently it isn’t distributed West of the Mississippi. It is the oldest brewery in the country, by the way.
  • I want to have a Podcast in the worst way…. soon…..

Remember everybody, Matthew Maggy says “zip it up and zip it out!”


Sayings That Guide My Life

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was writing in my journal today and noticed at the front where I write some timely quotes that apply to my current situation. I decided just to post them up. I have most of these quotes memorized because I’ve heard Leonard Nimoy say them a million times playing Civilization IV (and have been since 2005).

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Junior Year English teacher, Mr. Harris, hammered this quote into our heads. He made us write it verbatim in order to pass a test. And you know what? I’m glad he did. You shouldn’t do the same things over and over again simply because you always have, if you have forgotten the reason. It’s sheer madness! You can take two directions with this: either rediscover why you did it in the first place so that it has meaning again, or simply stop doing it.

This Emerson quote is one of my two life mottoes. It inspired me to travel around the world. It roused me to get out of the consumer sales profession which I hated. It made me realize that graduate school was not the way to go in life. In fact, it was even my quote at the bottom of my email for a long time! Until it was replaced by:

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius



This is a Civilization IV quote. I always said this, but never really adopted it as a mantra until I got back from traveling. Whether it’s weight loss, muscle gain, a career, notoriety, or politics; you have to be patient. This doesn’t mean simply waiting for it to happen. This means that once you know what you want, you have to move. Don’t be discouraged because you have not achieved the goal. Keep plugging away with a few steps toward the goal every day. Take some time to celebrate what you accomplish along the way, then keep making steps.

While the first listed quote guided my life for a long time, this Confucius quote has taken it’s place. I was very impatient with myself for a long time. I felt that I had accomplished nothing. It also didn’t help that I didn’t know what I wanted or what my passion was. I was impatient with myself, which led to frustration, which led to me simply standing still.

While traveling, I found my real passion: history. More specifically, sharing history with people via guided tours. I decided I wanted to do that, so I started The Richmond Tour Guys in March. First, I bought several books and mapped a route. I filed for an LLC, bought a web domain and name, got a logo, and started the blog. The process took 2.5 months. Each day, I did something to move me toward the goal of starting this tour. Finally, on May 31st, I ran my first tour with 5 people, including my girlfriend. The next Sunday I had no people. I kept showing up, giving tours, and building a reputation (check out Trip Advisor!) until one weekend in July, I had a group of 25 people on my tour. My original goal was 20.

I didn’t fret or whine when I had nobody show up for that second week. I didn’t get frustrated and stand still. I just kept moving those small stones and reached my goal. (Where to go after that is the real question!)

“Give a man fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” – Japanese Proverb

This is a Civ truism. I use this one all the time. Basically, I’d rather somebody show me how to do something rather than do it for me, so I can then do it for myself. I also would rather teach somebody how to do something, so I don’t keep having to do it for them!

Anybody who has an older relative with a computer knows what I’m talking about.

“There is no wealth like knowledge, no poverty like ignorance.”- Ali ibn Abi-Talib

Ben Franklin had a similar saying “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Knowledge is something that you can always take with you. It is also important to realize that today we have a problem of too much information and too little knowledge. Don’t get ’em confused.

“The frog in the well knows not the ocean.” – Japanese proverb

I got this from my favorite Economics professor in college, Prof. Syler. This is the quote that inspired me to travel. It inspired me to get out of my comfort zone living in Reno and move to random town in rural Virginia with a population of 12,000 people. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Reno, but it’s very confining. If you are confined in the same box all of the time, your mind can never expand beyond that box.

“You cannot change the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” – Ancient Japanese Proverb

There seems to be a lot of Japanese proverbs here, but I guess they had some pretty smart dudes back in the day! This basically just means that you can’t change what you can’t change; you just have to adapt. The biggest example of this in my life is when my mother and then 3 months later my father passed away. It was very unexpected. I was caught off-guard and my world was rocked. But what could I do? I just had to suck it up deal with my new circumstances. It’s pretty similar to my post on Kurtis Blow’s immortal perspective on life.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” – Sun-Tzu

This is a saying that I need to meditate on a bit. It’s similar to my high school football coach’s oft-repeated piece of advice that “Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.” You got to have a plan to be successful, but don’t fall victim to….

“Paralyses by analyses”

A recent addition to my quote lexicon. The best laid plans go to waste. So just do your homework, have a rough outline, and fill in the rest as you go.

“The wisest men follow their own direction.” – Euripides

Another Civ quote. This basically says that you gotta be true to yourself and follow your gut; no matter what people are telling you. You should definitely seek advice and take it into consideration, but if your third mind tells you to go for it, do it. All you can do is make the best decision you can with the information that you have. Deal with the consequences later.

“If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.” – Native American saying

If you are chasing two things, then you never truly have your full focus on any one thing. In this case, rabbits. Ancient Native Americans didn’t need scientific studies to tell them that multitasking is not very efficient and sometimes you just have to prioritize.

“One doesn’t discover new lands without losing sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

Another Civ 4 adage that applies to me wanting to travel. Similar to the frog in the well mentioned above. I think it applies not just to travel though. It applies to expanding your mind in all sort of ways. For example, it would have been easy for me stick with sales. I was good at it and the money was good. It was also my first career and I had no basis for comparison. So how did I know that was what I should do with my life? It was scary moving away from what was comfortable, but I did, and am much happier for it.

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” – Benjamin Franklin

It’s a timely platitude, but I don’t get into politics on this blog.

I have some more that I use quite often. Many of them have similar meanings, but these are my most oft-used axioms.

The Breaks: Life Lessons from Kurtis Blow

There is a lesson to be learned in these lyrics from the 1980s break dancing hit “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow.

The man himself… Mr. Kurtis Blow

“If your woman steps out with another man
(That’s the breaks that’s the breaks)
And she runs off with him to Japan
And the IRS says they want to chat
And you can’t explain why you claimed your cat
And Ma Bell sends you a whopping bill
With eighteen phone calls to Brazil

And you borrowed money from the mob
And yesterday you lost your job
Well, these are the breaks
Break it up, break it up, break it up”

I was watching a break dance video that popped into my news feed on Facebook and the back beat to the song was the “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow.  This song was HUGE in the 1980s and, to this day, is used in some form or another at every Break Dancing Competition that is held. It has stood the test of time.

Anyway, after being reminded of this pioneer’s song, I looked up the video on Youtube to jam to it for a while this morning and while listening to the lyrics I had an epiphany.

Kurtis Blow is sending us all a message about putting life into perspective:

Some times in life… bad things happen, but those are the breaks.

Deal with it.

Simple, straight forward, and seemingly easy to simply gloss over, but by accepting what has happened and not dwelling on the past, you can do what you need to do now to make it better.

When I was in Cambodia, my debit card got stolen. I was in Sihanoukville, a random beach town hundreds of miles from any main city. I was stranded with no money, no access to cash, and an infection in my leg. Yes, I panicked at first, but then I realized: those are the breaks. Through a loan from the owners of the hostel that I worked at and a wire from my sister, I survived until my debit card reached Sihanoukville only 2 weeks later.

My parents passed away when I was 21. It was terrible. It shattered my world and completely changed the course that my life was going in. Nobody should have to go through that, but that’s life. And as such: that’s the breaks, that’s the breaks. I couldn’t dwell on it. I just had to live my life.

So, when life knocks your ice cream cone into the dirt, remember what the immortal Kurtis Blow wants you to know:

These are the breaks.

What Are Freemasons? and Why I Am One

mason logoI am a Freemason.

When people find out that I’m a Freemason, I mostly get the question “What is that?” Although sometimes I get jokes about world domination and a couple times, fear. There are a lot of misconceptions about Freemasonry, so before I get into why I’m a Freemason, let me define it a little and talk a bit about what Freemasonry is.

Freemasonry is the world’s oldest Fraternity. Wikipedia sums it up pretty well:

Freemasonry is a Beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. The symbolism of freemasonry is found throughout the Masonic Lodge, and contains many of the working tools of a medieval or renaissance stonemason. The whole system is transmitted to initiates through the medium of Masonic ritual, which consists of lectures and allegorical plays.”

The ritual, despite what some may believe, is nothing evil or scandalous, and does not involve any sacrifices or goats.

How to become one? Simply ask. If you know a Mason, or even just happen to meet somebody who is one, ask him to become a Mason. You then fill out an application. The one you ask can probably describe the process to you.

What are the requirements? Be over 18 (a man), belief in a higher power (there is no specific higher power that you have to believe in), be recommended by two Master Masons (have a coffee with a couple of them and get to know them), and be a good person.


Masonry is a worldwide brotherhood. If two Masons meet each other, there is an automatic connection. You are both in the same club and have a lot to talk about. Sometimes people who are already your friends join and sometimes you make new friends. You can chat and hang out before, during, and after the meetings. All Masons are considered equals. In the 19th Century, English Princes (including a few future kings) sat side-by-side in Lodge with every day Joes. John farmer from down the street might have been sitting in lodge with George Washington or John Marshall.


A part of this brotherhood is trust. I would trust doing business with a fellow Mason before a non-Mason. For example: I had a Realtor try to rush me into purchasing a duplex that would have been a terrible investment. She didn’t care about that, as long as she got her commission. Luckily I ended up not buying. Then I joined a Lodge and met JJ Ballard of  Ballard Company, my current Realtor whose company also manages the property for me. You know what? No pressure and honest opinions on properties and viability as an investment. This wasn’t simply because I am his brother, it is because men can’t become Masons if they are of ill repute. I know I can trust a fellow Mason because if he is not trustworthy, he wouldn’t be a Mason.


The brotherhood of Freemasonry is also a rich source of mentors. Freemasons are of all ages. From men in their twilight years to men in college. One of the things that anybody who has had success will tell you is that they have had mentors. (Check out this Art of Manliness Article on the topic).

A part of the process of becoming a Master Mason is memorization of a ritual that is passed down by word of mouth. You learn this ritual from an older more experienced Mason. Its not just the ritual that is discussed, however. You also get to know your mentors and become good friends. The amount of knowledge from a life of experiences is invaluable. I had two different teachers for my 3 degrees and both had different lives. You can get a perspective on things that you might not otherwise get from simply hanging out with your peers. This is especially true for me as I lost my father when I was 21 as I was just getting old enough to appreciate the wisdom that he could provide.

Moving To A New Place

In the summer of 2012, on a whim, I took a position as an Americorps VISTA in Amelia County, Virginia. Amelia is about 2600 miles from my then home Reno, NV. I knew nobody. I had no friends. Making friends in a new place is one of the hardest things to do. I found the local Lodge and started going to meetings there (you can be a member of multiple lodges, or simply switch affiliations). Between monthly pancake breakfast fundraisers, selling food out of our truck at community events, family days, ladies nights (where Masons and their significant others get together), visits to other Lodges, work days on the Lodge, meetings, and degree work; I had a group of people to hang out with. Until I met my current girlfriend, Masonry was my primary, if not only form of social interaction at the time. And all I had to do was show up.

Now, in my new home of Henrico, I’ve joined a new lodge, Westhampton 302.

Traveling As A Mason

The other aspect of the brotherhood of Freemasonry that I have enjoyed is that of travel.

My first experience of this was visiting a Lodge in St. Louis, MO. I arrived and upon proving that I was a Mason (and even before) I was readily accepted in the group. I ate dinner with them, sat in Lodge, and then got a couple of drinks afterwards. These guys had never met me before but we ended up hanging out like we had been friends for years.

The next instance of this occurred in Memphis. On my move to Virginia, I made a nice road trip out of it. I arrived in the city and hopped on the rail to go to Beal Street (yeah its stereotypical, but there’s a reason its popular). I was asking people on the train how to get there and a random gentleman offered to show me and walked me there. We ended up talking and it turns out that he was a Freemason. After exchanging the words and grips of Masons, there was an automatic comfort level. We ended up hanging out most of the time I was there as he showed me around the city. We were two different people and, odds are, would have never otherwise hung out.

Then there is international travel. Freemasons are in most countries. I was in the small town of Tamazula, Jalisco, Mexico for my friend’s wedding in 2012. I came in from the pool to buy a beer at the bar and the bartender recognized the square and compass (the main symbol of Freemasonry) that is tattooed on my arm (tattoo’s aren’t a requirement, by the way) and we started talking. My Spanish wasn’t so great at the time, so it was very superficial, but it was great experiencing that connection..

In Granada, Spain, I ended up attending a lodge there. It was completely different and I couldn’t really understand what was going on, but it was fun hanging out and joking around with this random group of guys who I had never met before in my life. I learned all about Spanish Freemasonry.

I also visited the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of England. Both had impressive buildings, cool museums, and I got a tours of the lodges. Lodges there don’t meet in July or August, so I sadly did not get to attend lodge. I did end up having lunch with two of the Scottish Masons who were visiting on that particular day as well.

Personal Development

Moral and Psychological

The other aspect of Freemasonry is personal development. I mentioned earlier that Freemasonry is a system of morals (mostly based on Christian morality). Most of it’s pretty straightforward stuff. Help out a brother in need. Be charitable. Be an upright man in society. Don’t screw over other people, especially a fellow Mason. Have fun, but don’t overindulge in things such as alcohol (Ie: You can drink, but don’t get p*** drunk). Don’t be consumed by riches and greed. Continue to improve yourself by reading and learning new information and skills. This is all stuff that most people know, but by committing them to memory and making an obligation to hold true to these teachings, there is a constant reminder to act in such a way. Every meeting is a reminder to live this way, as these tenets are often repeated.

Aside from the moral improvement aspect, there is an intellectual improvement to be attained from Freemasonry. Freemasonry was founded in a age when knowledge was both precious and feared by the people in power. Freemasonry encouraged free thought and its lessons were very much a product of Enlightenment ideas. Men like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington were influenced by these enlightened principles. We still study these today and there are often philosophical discussions among Freemasons regarding Masonic tradition and the ideas that we were founded upon.

Practical Skills

A more practical aspect is that the consistent memorization of rituals exercises the mind and keeps it sharp. There are 90 year old men who can remember word-for-word every aspect of every ritual in Freemasonry. It’s darned impressive.

Masons also learn rhetoric and public speaking. When you hold position in the lodge and you have a certain part of the ritual to recite. This is also the case when you are proving your degrees (proving is reciting from memory the process of initiation that one went through before officially being moved to the next higher degree). It is important to be able to have at least some speaking acumen in front of a crowd and this ritual work helps a lot with that.

Masons know how to work as a team. Because a Lodge is also a functioning entity, it requires teamwork to perform the ritual, run the lodge finances, organize events, and raise money for various charitable causes. I organized an event for the first time as a part of my lodge. Surely enough, that task fell to me at a job that I had some time later.

It’s Darn Cool

Honestly, the main reason that I initially joined the Freemasons was because so many important men in history that I admired were Freemason’s. These include: Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, John Marshall,  and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among countless others. The links to the American Revolution intrigued me.  The rights of Initiation, Passing, and Raising that I went through were almost exactly the same experience that people like Ben Franklin, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson went through.

Now that’s good company to be in!

How Journaling Saves My Sanity (and How You Can Start)

A Page form my Journal... Sorry.. nothing scandalous here

A Page from my Journal. Sorry… nothing scandalous here.

Some times, I feel like I will go (figuratively) insane.

With the tour business, a nine-to-five job, driving for Uber, developing tours for Stray Boots, Freemasonry, Wolf PAC, the Rand Paul Club, a working family history book, managing my finances, and maintaining my personal relationships on top of all that (or rather as a base for all that, because that’s what is most important) I sometimes can’t keep the thoughts in my head straight.

The solution?…….Journaling.

Now, I’ve always had various notebooks for writing raps when I was younger, taking notes on things, and a bit of strategizing and planning; but never a sort of narrative to collect the thoughts in my head.

I first started journaling in July of 2013 when I left for my round the world trip. I felt like it would be a great way to keep track of where I’ve been, things that have happened, and people I met. I thought that I would use it to formulate blog posts to monetize and pay for my travels.

My journal ended up being a way to keep sane by writing down all of these crazy things. All sorts of things happen when your traveling solo with a backpack in a foreign land. Some are fun, but some are just downright weird, confusing, and possibly stressful. Maybe writing would help me figure out what my next destination will be if I’m having trouble deciding. Sometimes you get lonely or miss home. You make lots of friends on the road, but it’s generally fleeting and occasionally you find yourself missing the permanent relationship that you have back home. My journal acted almost as my confidant in celebrating, theorizing, and complaining about what happened. My last entry is a week after I get back.

Never got around to putting any of it on that blog, by the way. I’ll share some stories on here.

But I have found out that it’s a useful tool all around. I have so many different things pulling my attention, that putting them down on paper and laying them out in front of me helps me keep it all together.

Not only that, it’s very theraputic. Every time I get this clutter in my head out in a narrative or list format I tend to feel better.

Great men through history have had journals. What do you think historians use for research? People I admire such as Dwight Eisenhower, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt,  and countless others have kept journals. It’s not because they think that they are so important that people will want to read them later, it is so that they can gather their thoughts.

Getting Started Journaling

Just write. Write anything you have been thinking. If you met somebody interesting today, write that down. If you had a mundane day at work, write that down. If you saw a shiny car that you liked: you guessed it, write that down.

Admittedly, it feels a little akward and “Dear Diary-ish” at first, but you get use to it. And after the first 2 or 3 entries, it feels natural. The words tend to flow more easilly. Even if those words suck. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s only for you. Unless you are lax with storage, or you show people, nobody will read it until after you’re gone.

At that point, you won’t care what they think about your back and forth with yourself when you were 23 about whether or not growing a handlebar mustache is a great idea.

It’s funny, when I started journaling on the road, I thought I would be writing down some sort of mind-blowing insights of cool things I had seen.

Nope, it was basically complaining about how it’s 2 AM and still sunny during my layover in Iceland and how I had had my carefully packed backpack searched 2 times on this trip, and had a 7 hour layover overnight in airport with bright lights.

Eventually, the insights came as I got more use to writing.

One of my favorite things to do is a “Mind Dump.” I read about this method on Art of Manliness (AOM) that President Dwight Eisenhower would use. You basically write down everything that’s stressing you out in a bullet point list. Everything. From a tough situation at work, with your girlfriend, all the way down to that that pimple on your forehead and the fact that you forgot to shave today and you’re worried that you’ll forget tomorrow. It is quite possibly the most relieving thing you could do.

Another AOM suggestion that I use is the letter to a loved one. I lost both of my parents within three months of each other when I was 21 ( I am 28 as of this writing) and I often find myself thinking about things that I would be saying to or doing with them and feeling a bit down. Well, all I need to do is open my journal and write them a letter. It feels good to get stuff off my chest even if they aren’t really hearing it.

You also don’t have to write every day. I have been known to go a week or two without writing (which I do not like to do). Every 2 or 4 days is what I try to stick to. I don’t always have time, but I tend to make some time on nights when Melanie is at fencing practice.

I recommended journaling to my girlfriend who is a CPS worker and she started doing it and it helps her collect her thoughts of some of the messed up stuff she has to deal with.

There are a slew of other ways to kick-start journaling. I highly recommend two articles from the Art of Manliness (they are useful to either gender):

How to Jump-Start Your Journaling – a 31 Day Challenge

30 Days to A Better Man – Day 9 – Start a Journal