Rizwan - Pretty

A common theme...

"Why can't I make money doing (X), doing what I want, and what makes me happy?"

I've hard this umpteen times this year; from folks ranging from 21 to 45; and it breaks my heart to hear the pain. I've heard it four times this week.

I never had this particular concern. Not in that way. I'm still feeling out the reason why; if it's a function of upbringing and culture; or my disconnection with my own passions vs my intellect/ego - or an ability to make myself happy (enough) with what I'm doing.

I wonder if this is a recent artifact; with the idea of following ones passion and being satisfied in ones own work being more prevalent than they were in my father's generation.

There's one other thought. There's a series of patterns and skills connected with work successes that have come over the years; regardless of whether the work is inspring - and I sometimes see how the absence of those skills/patterns works against those who are feeling lost, unsatisfied.

A series of disconnected observations without a conclusion. Life, I suppose.
Warning - Self Improving Software

Well that's funny.

So; I've been angling for a new set of responsibilities and things to learn professionally; and it's starting to come to fruition. And I may be asked to do it more; not as a side project, but as part of my responsibilities.

And; what feeling springs from my gut? RUN! Go back to the safe stuff; where you know you can deliver; and you're unlikely to fail! Go back to code and widgets and hide from actually making money.

Wow; fear of the unknown plays funny tricks on us. *scolds said fear*

All I can say -- Allons-y!
don't blend in

Trust in that which is difficult.

Prime recently summoned a number of us to give a speech at Maxicon; in a TED-style salon we call TedXMaxicon. His topic was Alternatives; and this was my speech. I am super proud of it, and thrilled as punch by it's reception. 
[It was proof read for presentation, not for reading. Some additional text is blatantly stolen from Lorre. There's a lot more in the way of supporting quotes that were removed for the presentation; I'll share them later.]

It's a six page read; please make some quiet time to read it if you're truly interested.

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I've been pondering moving to Europe or Asia for 6 months before Hollee's in law school.

I've been pondering moving to Europe or Asia for 6 months before Hollee's in law school.

London's lovely, but spendy and "too easy" - the point is to acclimate to a new culture (and market) - UK's too easy. UK is the king of telecom, though.

Paris was (and is) a temptation. French is quite learnable.

Stockholm was the clear winner a year ago, but not knowing Swedish (or being willing to learn) stands in the way - and I think Hollee would break up with me before she'd spend a winter in Sweden. (well, not really. )

Prague - but I've never been.

Dublin - lovely, but same issues as UK.

I'm sorely tempted to consider Barcelona. Thanks to networking, I've got some folks I know here already - great mix of expats and locals, a debaucherous city (woo!), distinct culture. I could get my Spanish to be "good enough" in a month. And really; the rest of Europe is a train or plane ride away. And it's a pretty cosmopolitan city - and Nafessa loved it b

Hong Kong or Singapore are the other temptations - but I've got biz contacts in the UK and it'd be somewhat helpful to be local. (if we grow our Aussie biz as planned, then HK makes more sense again.)

Since I'll be paying rent (or a mortgage) in the US; staying in a super expensive place isn't really tenable.

This only really makes financial sense if we launch another great product; but it's important enough to me to do, even if it dips into savings a bit.


I feel surrounded by an aura of considered introspection, increasing confidence, limitless potential, loving kindness, overwhelming inspiration, respectability, self-affirming courage, gleeful generosity, intentional vulnerability, compassionate acceptance, overwhelming gratitude, a growing reservoir of peace and sight of vast new horizons. (and a realization that I have to find my own way now rather than asking to be taught - it's the path; not the destination that counts.)

If this is a hallmark of what my thirties can be; BRING IT ON.
Dr Who - Tardis Addict

The trip

As I keep traveling to more dangerous parts of the world; I'm finding that social media's a good way of letting folks know - 'hey, I'm still alive!.' [Being in Lahore when Bhutto was shot, for instance.]

It's also a way of getting over the first week jitters of reading FB and Twitter and missing my friends and loved ones dearly.

Anyhow, Hollee's on point for this trip - she'll have the best way to get a hold of me, followed by Graydon.

The plans :

Depart Dec 12, LAX to MUC to JNB to CPT.
Capetown - Dec 14-17
Mombasa - Dec 17-20
Arusha - Dec 20
Serengeti & Ngorogoro - Dec 21-25
Zanzibar - Dec 25-29
Dar-Es-Salaam - Dec 29-Jan 2
Johannesburg - Jan 2
Okavango Delta, Botswana - Jan 3-5
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe - Jan 5-7
Chobe National Park, Botswana - Jan 7-10
Depart Jan 10, BBK to JNB to LHR to LAX. Home at 1:40pm on the 11th.

I'm in town until Sunday; then have to leave on a work trip.

I'm making an effort to try to see all the people I really care about; but I'm failing miserably at that. Hugs to all of you; here's to a Happy New Year for us all, my family and I not killing each other on this trip, and many happy returns for all of us from our various holiday plans.
Dr Who - Curiouser

The past 18 months…

I recieved an email from someone on the asterisk-biz list who reacted to my current quotes in my sig.

“I think you learn more from disappointment. But I think that success loses its sheen after a while and you begin to see that there’s no such thing as absolute success, that there’s always failure and there’s always disappointment and there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums. They’ll be filled up. And if you try to fill them up with ego or a kind of immediate gratification, you’re going to short-shrift yourself and you’re going to lose the opportunity to find out what happens when you give the loss space to fill itself and let life kind of come in and fill the cracks. ” — Michael J. Fox

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” — Thomas Edison

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love” — Rumi

He checked out this site and asked if I had made any progress on the workflow posts I had made.
My reply to him was lengthy; and ended up becoming as much of a state of the Rizwan as I’ve written recently. It’s incomplete, missing important details, entire parts of philosophy, citations, and editing. Certain people aren’t credited nearly as much as they should be.
It would take me days to properly write this — and it’s a worthy task, but not today. I’d spend too much time over the specific word choice, and how it would be interpreted, and how it might affect other’s thoughts of me. Today’s writing was flow, and heartful — and is included below.
I’m working on more of a focus, spiritual workflow right now than a strict task workflow; if only that until I establish a better workflow, no combination of GTD and Omnifocus will help. There’s a little bit more written at my Livejournal blog; but most of it is similar to below; such as http://rizwank.livejournal.com/2010/08/27/
I’ll take an opportunity to riff for a moment as I wait for this DNS server to reboot. (Going to probably repurpose this for the blog anyhow – thanks for prompting it. =) )
Reading GTD introduced me to the concept of ‘mind like water.’ Responding with the appropriate amount of energy and focus.
Inquiries into Inbox Zero led me to reading Merlin Mann. At one point, he notes that if you’re struggles to organize tons of X, the problem may not be your organizational system but that fact that you have tons of X. (And that you have to keep expending energy trying to find new organizational systems.)
The idea of “doing less” is patently fearsome to me. I’m 29; and I can still quote Breakfast Club – “When you grow up, your heart dies.” The idea of not accepting every invite, being everyone’s friend, and taking every buisness opportunity caused chills.
And then I read “Better”. http://www.merlinmann.com/better – my take away : Do less, better. I’m an engineer, photographer, gamer, entrepreneur, costumer, mild non-conformist, and a born philomath – but the thing that enables all the other parts of me was my engineering; and I could do better for myself by being better at a few core things, (and a jack of some trades) rather than being a jack of all trades. This is also the change I feared most about getting older; assuming it was made out of fear, inadequacy, or apathy – rather than a considered decision of a human being realizing that days are finite.
Add in Seth Godin’s ‘Dip’, (Or Merlin Mann’s ‘Creative Suck’, or the ‘Resistance’ in the Artist’s Way, perspectives from ‘The War of Art.’) – and the idea that there are spectacular returns for actually being focused; diminishing returns happen at the middle of the time series; it takes off again on the far end.
Add in a practice of meditation, particularly Mindfulness Meditation – integration of mind and body; an acknowledgement of their innate interconnection; and the fabulous benefits of forcing the mind to not think… even for just a moment. From that comes more Eastern writings – Rumi in particular. (Muhammed and the Huge Eater, as an example); and realizing the beauty in metaphor and the wisdom from past centuries that I’ve simple ignored — and the value of feeling alongside of thinking. My psychiatrist introduced me to the ideas, and it’s been hugely influential.
The Michael J Fox interview on NPR that led to that quote came at just the right moment, when I’d been spending lots of time thinking about expectations and it reinforced my attitude that adversity is best treated as a source of learning – not even just to avoid it in the future, but to know myself better.
Watching ‘Dharma and Greg’ with my girlfriend led me to observe Chuck Lorre’s Buddhist transformation (http://www.chucklorre.com/index.php?p=2), and led to a lot of reflection on my behavior; and an appreciation of Zen. New thoughts on awareness, suffering, judgement.
Scads of articles on focus and scientific studies on multi-tasking remind me that we’re just bad at it – even myself; who once prided myself as being a very efficient multi tasker. The best resource (beyond all the above mentioned) is http://zenhabits.net/archives/ – particularly focus.
So where have I ended up – not having executed on these growing ideals as well as I would have liked; but compassionate with myself for the attempt. I struggle to learn to learn to say ‘No,’ to stop seeking the approval of others, to stop letting a trained rational and logical sense from keeping me from listening to what I actually feel rather than what I think, to take time for myself; not for entertainment, but for quiet and peace, and allow the intuitive mind space to breathe. My RSS Reeder still is overwhelmed with flagged entries and unread entries; but I’m learning to slowly let go and just delete feeds. My email is still a nightmare. My task list is still a nightmare. My Instapaper account is filled with articles about focus that I simply have to make the time for; but I haven’t learned how to do that yet.
But I write occasionally, take notes after appointments, and skim my musings to myself to remind me of what’s truly important and who I *want* to be.
I’m building a list. The things that are important. The people that are important. And learning to say no to the rest. Until then – obligations and projects that make me feel alive will continue to get pushed aside by petty wastes of time; and the people that truly enrich me will continue to get crowded out by everyone else. I’m going to try to be stingy; not with my wealth, but with my focus and attention. And to take a Sabbath day.
So; I haven’t come to any conclusions as to a workflow; but have realized that the system has to change before a workflow can be erected.

Mirrored from The Second Order Effect.

There may be additional comments there.
Dr Who - 10th red/blue glasses "Who?"

Doing less, better.

I've got milage tickets to DC for the Rally to Restore Sanity this weekend. Hotels have not yet been arranged.

I'm thinking about not going.

There's enough going on in my life right now (home shopping, finances, server moves) that things are above the usual stress level.

Could I manage the Rally, the late night flight on Friday, and the four days in chilly DC? Absolutely. I know from past experience that this level of stress can be managed and that I can somehow have my cake and eat it too.

But I won't enjoy the taste of it.

The idea of saying no to the rally, "because I need to take some time at home to relax, focus on my work, and start saying no to things" is a terrifying one. It feels like it's a step on the path to mediocrity. I stop pushing myself and the wonderful things in my life will go away.

All sorts of reasons to want to go; political interest/support; not wanting to miss a unique experience; and there's less bullet-point worthy ones to stay (or to go to a hotel room with my laptop and plow through my stressors.)

To steal from Merlin Mann - All I know right now is that I want to do all of it better. Everything better. Better, better. I don't think I'm giving most of the things in my life the attention they deserve; and the only way I can think to manage it is to do less things.

When confronted with a decision; I try to identify which one scares me - and then do that. It's curious that *not* going is the one that scares me.
Warning - Self Improving Software

A punch in the gut - the Home Search

Started thinking about looking for a home : Oct 3
Located property : Oct 5

Property is unique for it's size and location and it's ability to cash flow out the door. Parents are general contractors and could help bring it back up to a good state. Part of town I want to live in. REO and definitely underpriced for the neighborhood. Separable into two renting units.

First tour : Oct 6
Contacted realtor friends, RE investors for advice and feedback : Oct 7-13
Keep scrubbing for other properties; go over my own internal compass and doing due diligence: Oct 7-13
Realized that the home was right next to a rail line and started researching the market effects : Oct 8
Oct 13 : Bite the bullet and ask parents to come down and look at it.
Oct 16 : Parents drove down to see it and agreed with my impression. Decide to start the process and make an offer.
Oct 16 : Bought Buying A Home, the Missing Manual and started reading.
Oct 18 : Reached out to friends who recommended their realtor. Reached out to one of my clients; a real estate law firm, and asked for their recommendation.
Oct 19 : Followed up with recommendations, contacted realtors.
Oct 20 : Law Firm replied with recommendation - emailed realtor; email back in 15m; and hour phone conference later that night.
Oct 21 : Pre-Qual almost done; met Realtor at property to do inspection and discuss next steps to make on offer on Oct 22.

She informed me that there was an offer accepted by the bank earlier that day. There was nothing I could do at that point but wait and see what happens.

This was a punch in the gut.

(By the way, I'm totally aware of the scope of the issue and the size of the relative suck - things could be far worse and I have a lot to be thankful for. Believe me, I'm aware of it.)

[Caveat - an offer accepted doesn't mean a home done - it means that after an inspection period, the buyers have to either move forward or let go of their offer. Even if they go on, there's still escrow, and plenty of other things.]

First; any more rapid movement from me may have resulted in a very different result. It's one thing when things just 'happen that way', but there's a feeling of personal culpability that's in the pit of my stomach.

Second; this was special in some very special ways - I can still keep an eye out for similar properties, but this really was a black swan -- this one would/could become a compound - 5br; 4br; two kitchens -- room for artistic space; plenty of friends to share; and entertaining space. Amazing location for public transit.

Third; I had a sense of clarity on this one. I was ready to move forward; and most of the constant insecurity/wishywashy nature had been put aside. It made sense; and I had solicited all the advice that I could - the rest was up to me making a informed gut decision. Any mistake made was recoverable; and, as Hollee put in a way that gave me lots of peace -- "It'll be an adventure."

Fourth; *stomps on the floor* I saw it first!

I've made a lot of personal progress this past few years; and I know the source of my emotions better now - and the choices I made. I also know that I've got tools to deal with the cricket-bat-of-disappointment; but there's a (childish) want to indulge them.

So I am. For 90 minutes. And then ...

So I dont burden myself too much with others' expectations - or even my own expectations. I think your happiness grows in direct proportion to your acceptance, and in inverse proportion to your expectations. It's just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other - or doing the next right thing, so to speak. - M. Fox (I adored this interview)

Hollee and my parents offered a lot of advice that; depending upon your philosophy, were either platitudes; or gifts. (Since they were statements that I truly do believe, but forget in a less than skillful moment - I see these as gifts. )

There's no point in being upset about it now.
Just bad luck.
Wait and see what happens.
There are other places out there; and they might not be as amazing as this one, but that's okay.

And the one I want to write about :
Things happen for a reason.

I'm not ascribing this to a large cosmic reason; or even anything supernatural; but most of the excellent things in my life have directly stemmed from adversity or arrived accidentally at my doorstep. The single best thing, Hollee, was a relationship that neither of us took seriously until far later; an accident. Finding Enigma was a coping mechanism for having moved back to UCLA and being totally disconnected with my classmates; they're like family to me now. My current gig at Hometown was preceded by uWink falling flat on it's own face- and my current gig has changed my life.

The reason is muddled; and it might even be Synthetic Happiness; but if I learn something useful from this; something good comes of this.

So, what have I learned?

  • Timeliness in Real Estate is more of a factor that I had expected.

  • I (and to a lesser extent, those around me) spent too much time building a future home in our heads and getting excited - building expectations and hopes. It's human, and natural, but it leads to attachment - I'm feeling upset now because I'm hurt at losing something (and the idea that it was my fault) - the truth is that I never had anything, just a bunch of wishes. I started naming the place; and imagining a color scheme.

  • Attachment can lead to dumb decisions. I was already starting to consider what I could do to outbid the current buyers (even though the bank isn't taking multiple offers) --- and blowing my financial budget out of the water. Unwise choice.

  • Uncertainty sucks. If they had a closed sale offer right now, it'd be done, and I could mourn, and eventually move on. I have to wait --- and there's very little I can do. Except wait. And wait I shall - the excersize will be to move on with everything else in my life rather than obsessing over this.

  • I'm better at accepting that something just happened [out of my control] than dealing with something that was in my control that I made a mistake at. This isn't a skillful behavior - beating myself up for mistakes is the best way to keep from taking chances in the future. (this is assuming that I'm in control of as much as I think, which is categorically wrong.)

There's more; but those are the ones I can put into words right now.

It was odd saying that -- 90 minutes to indulge -- but it's somehow easier to feel bad than it is to use the tools I've got to make myself feel better - not to deny those emotions; but to see that they're unskillful and not who I actually am. Maybe it's like breaking the diet one day to have a large piece of chocolate cake -- except that the chocolate cake is super-high in calories and doesn't even taste good. It's just ... familiar.

As far as the house, realtor's all over it; she'll keep checking with the bank until the inspection period has cleared and see if they back out. There's enough scary stuff that may come out of the inspection that might work to give me another shot. She's going to keep looking at comps in the area. I'm going to finish my pre-qual tomorrow AM so that we can have a followup or backup offer waiting in the wings.

I need to find some fliers about the rail line and make sure that they're visible to the inspectors at the property to make sure the current bidders are aware of this liability.

And then, I stop thinking about it.

Well, I've got 15 minutes left to indulge, but I've written a lot now; and I'm feeling better. Probably time to figure out the next best thing to do with my day.

Comments welcome.
SN - Dan This Just In

Casa Kassim - Is it time?

Graydon and I used to have lunch together on a weekly basis; and I'd often stop in at the Bank of America by my apartment mid-afternoon; and we'd glance at the Bank of America list of mortgage rates; and muse about what type of home we'd buy eventually.

For a 30 year fixed loan, there was an easy number to work off of - the monthly cost of borrowing a thousand dollars at that rate. We'd tack on two zeros, and tried to see how cheap of a home we'd have to get to offset the absurdly low rents we had in West LA.

I see to recall those values being in the $6-7 range; even if we trebled our monthly rent, we'd have about $300,000 to work with - which meant that we were living far out in the Valley.

It was below $4.90 today.

For a $400k home; then, 6.25% loan meant a monthly payment of $1980. At 4.3% now, it's $1584. That's a straight out 20% discount on the cost of purchasing home.


I made a plan about two years ago. I was going to save like mad, and purchase a few homes in the Inland Empire - prices fell massively (upwards of 50%), so those homes could be had at a major discount. I was connected with folks deeply embedded in the Inland Empire RE scene, and I saw the raw data - homes could be purchased that could be rented at FMV and cover their own mortgage. Go further out (Victorville), and they could cover themselves with even a 15% vacancy rate.

I was 27, no real need to settle down and no urge to have a permanent home. The idea of living with, or even marrying Hollee was a far off possibility that didn't factor into my plans. Homes in the parts of LA that I was interested in living in hadn't decreased in cost by much - 15%; while home cost out in the IE fell by 40%+. The cash flow for the investing approach was tempting. I'd use that cash flow to purchase a home later.

I think I'm changing my mind.

A few factors weigh in here. I was told a story of a friend who purchased their first home a decade and a half ago - and I started looking at historical rates. There's a benefit to jumping in now - a discount factor to actually getting the money cheaper that I hadn't considered as much. My idea of purchasing a rental home or two and using those to help pay for a home in Los Angeles had some merit; but rates make purchasing the home in Los Angeles possible now.

I also realized that while the discount on homes in the IE and High Desert was significant; those were discounts off of irrational prices during the boom - and having been on the front lines of the Foreclosure Trust Deed Auction Market; I realize how many homes there are available out there - and the rental market (I'm told) is softening up. (It's not great out here in West LA either.)

Finally; it's starting to feel like time. I remember when some Enigma friends purchased their new home in Encino --- I think it was 2.5 years ago; and I asked then why they did it at that time in the market; and the answer came back - "It was time." I didn't understand it then. With Hollee and I likely to move in together once she starts law school; with the success of Hometown Telecom; and with my outlook starting to change (I am almost 30 ;p), it's starting to feel like time.

I've got direct MLS access (less valuable in the post-Redfin, Zillow days), but it means I can get into homes to look at them without a realtor following me around. I've saved enough to pay 20% on any home I'm likely to be interested in; and a pristine credit score. I've spent two years getting ready for some special moment to pounce into action -- and I've just realized that I'm not going to get a text message from the power that be that say "GO! NOW!" - it's up to me.

This is a daunting idea, by the way.


I know it's an odd open prompt but ... any thoughts? I'm thinking aloud here.

... and for that matter; anyone have any thoughts on particular neighborhoods? I'm actually still liking West LA - and prices have softened here significantly... although there are parts of Hollywood and Culver City/Adams that appeal to me.

And finally ... anyone have a realtor they love?