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?”

Boom.

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.

 

 

Misadventures in DIY: Closet Organization/Conversion

(Disclaimer: I’m no handy man. I hope I can inspire other people who are complete DIY novices to try, even if it’s not perfect. That’s why I always mention my terrible errors and sloppiness.)

One of the things about humble beginnings is making them more livable: case in point, our duplex. One of the other complaints that Melanie and I have lobbed is the super crowded closet. Our bedroom closet is 64″ wide with a 30″ opening and it’s only 22″ deep. Melanie couldn’t even reach all the way inside the closet to grab some of her clothes because one of the sides of the closet went back so deep. The crowded, cramped clothes jutted out of the entrance, making it hard to close the closet door. It had this terrible Lowes metal wire shelving that was poorly installed. I understand why the previous Owner did this, because it was a rental unit, and we usually don’t spend too much time making those super nice.

But when Melanie casually mentions that something is inconvenient, I, of course, go to work on a plan that is way more than is necessary to cure the ill by hacking and screwing wood that would make most home improvement professionals cringe.

Onward!

Forgot to take a true before pic, so this one after I got the first part up. FYI: I know these photos suck… I may need some photography classes if I’m gong to keep doing these blog posts.

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I Googled solutions and I came upon an idea to make 2 levels of perpendicular clothing racks and went to work designing it. The plan was to use 1x4s to make strips around the perimeter of the closet to attached the clothing bars to. This would also give me a way to put wood shelving in the top of the closet for storage.

Step 1: I took measurements and drew up a plan

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Materials:

  • 32′ of yellow pine 1×4 (2 at 16′ lengths)
  • 8′ of round closet rod
  • 1 4’x8′ A/C Plywood
  • 5 Wood closet rod holders (I like the look of wood more)
  • 2-1/2″ Square drive screws
  • 1-1/2″ nails
  • 5 #20 Joiner Biscuits
  • Wood glue
  • Scrap 2×4

All of my lumber was purchased from Siewers Lumber & Millworks, my employer’s supplier here in Richmond, VA. Siewers is a local, family-owned business since 1888 and their lumber is infinitely better than the crap you have to dig through to find only slightly less crappy lumber at Lowes.

Also, I only needed 4 closet rod holders, but I messed one up when I split it in half trying to hammer a nail on it to hold the rod on. Thus, I had to buy another.

Tools:

  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil
  • Speed Square
  • Level
  • Circular-saw
  • Electric drill/driver
  • Hammer
  • Chop saw
  • Table saw
  • “F” Clamps
  • Saw horses
  • Plate joiner
  • Headlamp

I had access to my employer’s workshop and thus nicer tools than most novices, but a skil-saw can do what any of these saws that I used can do, it just takes longer because of all the steps to make sure you don’t mess up.

Step 2: Cut the 1×4 support band

I cut the 1x4s to the appropriate lengths. To do this, I used the chop saw at the shop.  (I took pictures after the fact, so yes, that is not a 1×4, that is a piece of plywood.)

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Step 3: Installing the band around the perimeter.

First, I used my trusty stud detector and found the studs around the closet.

Once that was done, the first problem that came up is that (like it is all over the house) the walls and floor were uneven, the floor was not level, and the doorway was crooked. None of it uniformly so. With Melanie’s help (and patience) I did the best I could to give a sense of balance and symmetry to the thing.

IMG_20151213_104132[1]So, with sort of a weird un-level, but straight base line using the doorway and floor as a guide, I began screwing (with 2-1/2″ square drive screws) the upper and lower bands around the closet. I had to toe-screw some of these 1×4’s in place to be able to reach the stud. I’m not sure if that’s suppose to be done or not, but I did it anyway because it seemed right!

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I used that shelf to try to make the bands even and contiguous for when I put the top closet shelf in.

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A skilled carpenter would have mitered the corners, or made some other joint to lock the 1×4’s together, but skilled carpenter doesn’t describe me, and the project needed to get done without spending 10 hours and 30 extra linear ft. of 1×4 to finagle a half-decent joint of some kind.

Step 4: Closet Rods

Next was the closet rods. I opted for wood ones, because I feel that they look nicer. I cut the rods to length (and re-cut when I screwed up twice) and then installed the brackets.

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In order to make sure the closet rod didn’t come out when clothes were pulled off it, I hammered a small nail into the bracket to hold it in.

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Step 5. Melanie’s lower closet bar leaving room for longer articles of clothing to hang

The other issue that I had to find a solution for was mounting the clothing rod for the lower level of of the closet while leaving some space for the longer articles of clothing (dresses) to hang down freely from the top bar. The solution was a (shoddily) homemade bracket using a piece of the plywood for the shelving and a 2×4 ripped in half to be a 1×1.

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That 90 degree line right there was to notch it so that it fit around the 1×4 band.

I didn’t have a jig saw, or any fine woodworking tools really, so I just had to make due with my circular saw and coping saw leftover from trimming out my water heater closet…..which is why it looks so sloppy. (1st photo)

I split a 2×4 into two then, once again, use a circular saw to cut a notch for the band. (2nd Photo)

Then I hammered a nail through both sides to attach the 1×1 flanges to the plywood. Ignore my messy nightstand. (3rd Photo)

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It’s bulky, ugly, and, yes, I didn’t make the plywood wide enough and had to add another, wider piece of ply to make the clothing rod mounting bracket line up with the other one, but I didn’t have to spend money on any extra materials; which I consider a minor victory.

Yes, the rod is slightly tilted. It’s an…um…err….  aesthetic choice….

For the other side, I actually found a better method for making the bracket.

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I added a shelf in case we need it for whatever reason. I used 1-1/2″ trim nails to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere.

I actually should have done the upper closet shelves before we put Melanie’s clothes in the closet, but I didn’t want her to have to leave her clothes in the living room closet and on the couch while I waited until the next week to finish the closet.

Step 6. Closet Shelves

The next order of business (before installing my clothing racks) was getting a shelf in the top of the closet. this was made immensely difficult by uneven walls, and studs making drywall subtly bulge out.

The thought was that I could use the 1×4 band as support for the shelves. The only problem was that I had to make the shelves in 3 parts to make a “C” shape and one corner would be unsupported.

So I used the table saw in the shop to cut 3 boards (one all the way across, and 2 smaller panels to go in the sides of the closet):

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Now, how to join the 3 boards? Our cabinetry subcontractor (Joshua Cooley Fine Carpentry) and I were talking about this one day during work and he showed me how to use biscuits, a plate joiner, and wood glue to make it into one unit. (These illustrative photos are actually of two scrap boards because I had already joined my shelving and was waiting for the glue to dry.) Descriptions are in creepy Silence of the Lambs speak for my own entertainment.

Photo 1: It lines up the two boards that it wants to join and draws a line (hopefully more straight than mine).

Photo 2: It clamps the board to its work bench/surface/precariously placed saw horses, lines up the plate joiner and makes the hole on both boards.

Photo 3: The hole

Photo 4: The #20 biscuit

Photo 5 & 6: It puts wood glue in the hole and then puts the biscuit in the hole on both boards. It also glues the surfaces of the boards that will be touching.

Photo 7: It uses “F” clamps to hold the boards to the table and flat, and also to hold the boards together.

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Then I put the boards in the closet, and hacked, cut, and maimed the sides so they fit into the uneven closet. Because I’m a jack-leg I used a hammer to tap the corners down to get the shelves flush.

That dividing line in the side and the main shelf is because I didn’t glue them well and the joint started to come out, but I had no glue at the house, so I just said screw it and left it. The biscuits will hold it together enough to hold towels and pillows and stuff that will be up there. The other side stayed together perfectly.

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Step 7: My lower rod (get your mind out of the gutter)

The final piece of the puzzle was to make a lower bar for me using a panel, rather than a bracket (you know, to hide old shoes and stuff behind) as well as to leave room for longer articles of clothing.

First, I notched the board to accommodate the 1×4 band and the trim at the bottom. I also had to cut the bottom side at an angle to account for the slope of the floor.

Next, I made a new and improved bracket by nailing a piece of 1×4 to the plywood panel and then nailing that to the band. It looks much better than the 1×1 flange type thing that I used on the other side. I did the same at the bottom.

I also put a shelf there which I forgot to take a picture of.

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And voia-la! An ugly bit of closet customization that is nonetheless effective at making it so we can access all of our clothing, as well as reduce crowding of clothing. I only put a pic of my side, since I don’t know if Melanie would be too thrilled with me displaying her wardrobe on the internet.

Also, the answer is yes, that is my red suit with gold trim and buttons, custom made in Hoi An, Vietnam.
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There’s a bunch of empty space in the middle of the closet now, so we’re thinking we can put some hooks to hang stuff from, and maybe some sort of shoe cubby.

My workstation set up on the front porch when I do these projects along with the most important tools of the trade: measuring tape, square, and pencil. Along with my cheap, plastic saw horses that have served me well over 3 projects.

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and my Skil-saw (that is actually Skil brand).

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Thinking that my next project (aside from covering squirrel holes around the roof line) will be a rail for this front porch.

I hope you enjoyed fuddling my way through this project!

 

Why I Watch Pro-Wrestling, How To Appreciate It, and Brief Primer

Wrestlemania 29 in NY Giants Stadium

Wrestlemania 29 in NY Giants Stadium

When it comes up in conversation that I watch Pro-Wrestling, the first thing people say is “isn’t that fake?” or “like UFC?” And I just shake my head. People just don’t get it. So I thought I might explain it.

You see, I watch a lot of WWE Network, and WWE TV programming and would like to post some musings on it from time-to-time. Although, I’m sure nobody reads this, if they do, then I would like a reference point to point people to go back to when I do review a WWE PPV or muse about the sport.  So this post will be all about why and how I appreciate Pro Wrestling; and a bit about the business.

Now, there are some people who may have watched it back in the day (either 80s/90s, or late 90s/early 00’s) and will have no idea what’s going on, so I will also give a brief summary to catch those folks up in separate post that I will link later.

The “Fake Issue” and How to Appreciate Pro-Wrestling

This whole “isn’t it fake?” question is probably the most annoying thing people say, because they know it’s staged, and are pejoratively implying that I think it’s real or that I don’t get it. 

I’m not stupid.

So we begin by letting you know that it is scripted and staged, not fake. It is a show. If someone says to you “I’m going to go see Grease on stage,” would you respond by saying “but isn’t that fake?” No, you would not. 

Two wrestlers having a match are performing a piece of art with their movement and often words. One has to appreciate professional wrestling as its own distinct art form. 

Think of Pro-Wrestling more as athletic theater simulating fighting. Vince McMahon, WWE CEO refers to it as “sports-entertainment,” (though most hardcore wrestling fans will tell you that’s BS) but that is the category that Pro-Wrestling would fall under. It’s not like wrestling promotions try to pass it off as purely competitive anymore.

In summary: Pro-Wrestling is its own, unique art form. 

So now that we’ve dealt with the whole “isn’t that fake?” thing I’ll get into the two ends of the fan spectrum.

I am what is known as a “smart fan” (Smark). A smark is a member of the “Internet Wrestling Community” (IWC). This is mostly males under 50 who have been watching it since they were young and haven’t stopped once it was no longer cool. We follow backstage news on “insider” web-sites such as Pro-Wrestling Torch and spend time Youtubing obscure matches and events, then discussing them. We also listen to several Pro-Wrestling Podcasts that talk about the business from an insider’s perspective. We talk about the business using “insider” terms. A lot of this news consists of keeping up with politics and real-life beefs between wrestlers behind the scenes. We tend to analyze (over-analyze, more like it) the product and judge the living hell out of it if we don’t like what was going on. We still watch it almost no matter what.

Think of it like Sci-fi fans loving Starwars, but spending time judging George Lucas’ decision to put Jar-Jar Binks in a movie and make Anakin a whiny little ______ while hanging onto and speculating about every bit of news that comes out about Episode 7 hoping that it will be better.

The other side of the coin is what fans like me refer to as a “casual” fan. This is someone who enjoys the show as a show, not over-analyzing and criticizing every little thing that happens (or doesn’t happen). These are the fans that will just stop watching if the show isn’t keeping their interest like any other show on television. A lot of these fans are children who some of the more outrageous aspects of the characters appeal to. Many are people who have watched it off and on since they were kids, but aren’t necessarily fanatic about following every aspect of it. They may not watch every week, but will often go to live shows.

Where as a “smark” would refer to a bad guy as a “heel” and a good guy as a “baby-face” and so-on with other industry insider lingo, a casual fan would just say “bad guy” or “good guy.” They wouldn’t judge the show through an analytical lens like I would.

Neither is better than the other. In fact, a lot of smarks really want more casual fans to watch. If there are more casual fans spending money, it will keep the industry going. Smark’s opinions often differ with WWe management on how to make this happen.

To clarify: I am a “smark.”

I enjoy, above all, the athletic entertainment aspect of wrestling. A great wrestling match is a combination of timing, chemistry, athleticism, and cool looking moves that are chained together and create a flow. The latter is known as “chain wrestling” and would look a bit more like amateur wrestling. There is brawling, which is a lot of punches, kicks, and throwing moves. There may be a lot of high flying acrobatic moves. The purpose of this is to tell a story.  

A good match such as Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins from Raw in 2014 may not have all of the characteristics, but enough to make it entertaining. A great match, such as CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan from Money In The Bank 2010 combines most of the characteristics. A legendary match such as Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker from Wrestlemania 25 contains all of them.

The other aspect of the show is the “promo” or “mic-work.” This is the smack-talking that goes on to hype these matches and fuel the story-lines. A great interview may be funny, it may be intense, it may poetic, it may be dark, or it may be a straight-forward smack talk. Which direction the promo takes depends on the character. The Rock used humor and smack-talk. Mick Foley (Mankind) used humor and intensity. The Undertaker used a lot of darkness in his interviews.

One of the major complaints of modern wrestling is that the promo segments are often too long and are more prevalent than actual wrestling matches. Another complaint now a-days is that all of the promos in WWE are scripted by a writing staff and can come off as very unnatural and forced which takes away from the telling of the story. 

As mentioned above, story-telling is what pro-wrestling is all about. Some people have called Pro-Wrestling a “male soap opera.” I suppose that’s an apt description though I’ve never been much of a fan of that term because it involved soap-opera. The combination of traits that make a match as mentioned above is the conduit for which the story is told. Whether it be the young up-and-comer trying to knock the veteran off of their perch, two power-houses trying to prove who is the bigger bad-ass, or an intensely personal feud between two-people. The promo aspect works to move the story forward and sometimes can be the major conduit for which the story is told leading up to a match. This is especially true if the match is between two older-wrestlers who can’t handle the physical toll of nightly action. A good example of this is Undertaker vs. Triple H from Wrestlemania 27 and 28.

The best part of Rasslin’ is live events. Pro-Wrestling made it’s reputation on live events. There is nothing quite like seeing Pro-Wrestling, especially WWE Live. I have been to a few live shows. some are televised such as Raw, some are House Shows which are not televised and often don’t do anything to further story-lines, and some are “PPVs” which are monthly big events that culminate and begin new story-lines. I went to Wrestlemania 29 in New York, NY in 2013. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. 80,000 screaming fans from all over the world coming together to enjoy “the show of shows.”

That is probably the thing that I love about wrestling, the camaraderie between the fans of the sport. I think anybody can be converted into a wrestling fan on some level by experiencing being apart of a great wrestling crowd.

Now adays, with social media, Podcasts, and “shoot” (legitimate, out of character) interviews, fans can connect like never before with Pro-Wrestlers. Having Chris Jericho re-tweet something you write is pretty darn cool. Social media also gives fans a lot of power to influence the events of WWE by making their voices heard.

In summary: I watch Pro-Wrestling as a show. The physicality makes for telling a great story. Being a wrestling fan is an interactive experience… especially at live events and with social media. Yeah, it’s extremely cheesy sometimes and sometimes moves look really fake. Sometimes there are the stupidest characters. When there are just awful segments, you just kind of wade through the BS, suspend your disbelief in some instances, and enjoy the good stuff.

And if your a Smark, complain a little.