Tag: motivation

Does “he who dies with the most toys wins” still apply?

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By David Repka

I am a child raised in the “me” generation of the 1970s and “greed is good” generation of the 1980s. It is no surprise that I had a “He who dies with the most toys wins” poster on my wall through high school. The poster showed a Tudor-style Mansion (similar to the one in the photo taken in Greenwich, CT owned at one point by actor by Mel Gibson) with a 12 garage filled with great classic cars (Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Bugatti, Porsche, Bentley, Rolls Royce, etc.) motorcycles, sporting equipment, and even  a classic Chris-Craft wooden lake boat. This was the dream life every 12 year old boy in America aspired to… more and more toys!Tudor Mansion

As I make my push to 50 I realize how little the collection of material things matters. I’ve come to realize the truth in the phrase “do we own things? or do our things own us?”.

As a husband and father of three daughters I’ve learned that what matters to me most is collecting experiences, not things.  Opportunities to spend quality time with friends and family are what  get me going these days, not aspirations of having more stuff. I realize that my idea is not very unique and technology has enabled this new simplicity.

We see this in real estate with a generation of 20 and 30 somethings foregoing the “American Dream” of home ownership and instead choosing to live in upscale rental apartments. A rental apartment does not require a commitment for more than 7 to 12 months at a time as jobs, careers and relationships change.  For students that attended a university at a livable, walkable college campus it is hard to turn their back on that level of ease, convenience and shared amenities of the new high quality student housing. A rental apartment has become a lifestyle choice rather than a stepping stone to home ownership.

The Internet has enabled us to live in a world where “sharing” rather than owning is the new normal.  A web connection allows us to enjoy a multi-million dollar vacation home via 3rd Home or charter a yacht via The Moorings, Some have taken to ignoring the hassle of owning, maintaining and insuring a car because there is always a  ZipCar nearby or if they don’t feel like driving at all they can use their iPhone to hire a driver on Uber. The Internet has made my library of hard cover books, movies on DVD, and music on CDs completely irrelevant. Why own content when it can be streamed to my living room via AppleTV or if I am on the road to my iPad or my iPhone with Netflix, Hulu and Pandora ?

We are blessed to live in wonderful times where we can focus on collecting relationships and good times with friends and family rather than spending our time collecting and storing more and more stuff.

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Is a Duck Face Worth $3 Billion?

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By David Repka

The Duck Face photo sharing site known as Snapchat recently turned down an offer of $3 billion from Facebook. As a hard working 40-something entrepreneur that has worked nearly every day of his life since he was a teenager cutting lawns and washing cars… how does that make any sense to anyone over the age of 24?

Yes, it is pure genius that the 23-year old founder figured out how to make photo messages self destruct after someone sends you a Duck Face photo (unless of course you screen capture the photo to your iPhone like my teenage daughters have figured out how to do much to my chagrin as the keeper of the iPhoto library chock full of hundreds if not thousands of duck face, scary faces, ugly faces and sparrows). But saying no to $3 billion in real cash for a one dimensional app without any massive barriers to entry, intellectual property or economic moats to keep out marauding invaders? Seriously? How are you saying no to that?

$3 billion is serious money for a 2-year old start up company. Think you are leaving money on the table? In one of my favorite interview one-liners legendary entrepreneur Mark Cuban was asked if he felt “stupid” leaving money on the table when the Yahoo stock he sold went from $200 a share to $230 a share? Cuban’s remark: “It’s kinda hard to feel stupid when I’m flying around in my G-5”.

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The best entrepreneurs always know when to “capture the profit” and harvest their winnings.

 

Halloween Light Show – What Does the Fox Say?

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You have got to see this Halloween Light Show set to “What Does The Fox Say” by Ylvis.

Over 8,500 lights and roughly 1066 channels of computer animation. This is the homeowner’s personal hobby and not a business. Edwards Landing Lights is simply the name he gave to the holiday display at his house. Viewers tune in their car’s FM radio to “hear the lights”. No music is broadcast outside. Most of the lights used in the display are energy efficient LEDs. Homeowner estimates the electric bill for the display at $25-$35 to run the display for the Halloween season. Stunning!

 

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Warren Buffett’s Ten Rules to Success

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Warren-Buffett-150x150By David Repka

I recently walked in to a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop to get lunch and saw a plaque on the wall with Legendary Billionaire Warren Buffet’s Ten Rules. I thought that they were so good that I wanted to share them:

1. Reinvest Your Profits. This makes sense not only in the stock market, but in a small business as well. Entrepreneurs who bleed all the profits out of a business find that they may struggle to grow the business into something larger and more valuable.

2. Be Willing to be Different. Buffet didn’t make his fortune by following the crowd. Instead, he invested when everyone else was panicked, and sold off when everyone else was buying. That strategy always beats the market. Doing what everybody else is doing – the same way they are doing it – is the recipe for becoming average. Nobody pays extra for “average”.

3. Never Suck Your Thumb. After you gather the information you need, make a decision. To Buffet, any time wasted to get to a decision is just “thumb sucking”. Success comes from immediately grabbing every opportunity that you can recognize.

4. Spell out the Deal In Advance. Your bargaining position is never stronger than before you are committed. So, advantage of that opportunity to spell out the details and specifics of any deal before you start. This is especially true when working with friends or family.

5. Watch Small Expenses. In the investment world, this translates into watching not just the returns offered by investment funds, but also the fees charged by the fund managers. This is so true in every aspect of small business and personal finance, as well.

6. Limit What You Borrow. Buffet claims to never have borrowed a significant amount of money. His advice is to remain debt-free, and then save and invest money. This is a very counter-cultural (see #2) contrast to those who preach getting rich using Other People’s Money.

7. Be Persistent. This is an advantage that the small entrepreneur has over larger, more established competitors. Persistence and ingenuity can, and often does win against large odds. If you’ve done your research, taken care of the details, watched your expenses and stayed out of debt, your success through persistence may only be a matter of time.

8. Know When to Quit. Don’t throw good money after bad. Resist the temptation to salvage a bad deal with a last-minute home run.

9. Assess the Risk. Buffet recommends thinking through both the best-case and the worst-case scenarios. This helps clarify the risks and rewards for any venture, which is critical to the decision making process.

10. Know What Success Means. Buffet doesn’t measure success in terms of dollars. As he says, “When you get to my age, you’ll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.” Here is wisdom.

Please drop me a line and let me know your favorite Buffettism. For more inspiration and ideas on the mindset of Self-Made Billionaires please follow DesignerBuffalo.

Why Can’t We Create More Jobs in America? Too Much Dam Regulation!

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The true story below shows our government in action and crystalizes why there has not been more job creation in our country… Yes, this story has been verified in Snopes. First read the letter from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) – then read the awesome reply from the property owner.

SUBJECT: DEQ File No.09-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec 20; Lansing, Michigan

Dear Mr. DeVries:

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:

Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity.. A review of the Department’s files shows that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations.. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2010.

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff. Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

David L. Price District Representative and Water Management Division

=====

Here is the actual response sent back by Mr. DeVries:

Re: DEQ File

SUBJECT: DEQ File No.09-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec 20; Lansing, Michigan

Dear Mr. Price,

Your certified letter dated 11/17/09 has been handed to me. I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget Lane, Trout Run, Lansing, Michigan.

A couple of beavers are in the process of constructing and maintaining two wood ‘debris’ dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful use of natures building materials ‘debris.’

I would like to challenge your department WebdesignsSanAntonio to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

These are the beavers/contractors you are seeking:

As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.

My first dam question to you is:

(1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers, or

(2) do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request?

If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued. (Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Pennsylvania Compiled Laws, annotated.)

I have several dam concerns. My first dam concern is, aren’t the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation — so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer.

The Department’s dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event, causing flooding, is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect. In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling them dam names.

If you want the damed stream ‘restored’ to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers — but if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter, they being unable to read English.

In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond. If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers’ Dams).

So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now. Why wait until 1/31/2010? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice by then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them.

In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality, health, problem in the area. It is the bears! Bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your dam step! The bears are not careful where they dump!

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.

THANK YOU,

RYAN DEVRIES & THE DAM BEAVERS

An open letter from the founder of the small business that employs you…

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To All My Valued Employees,

There have been some rumblings around the office about the future of this company, and more specifically, your job. As you know, the economy has changed for the worse and presents many challenges.

However, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is the changing political landscape in this country.

However, let me tell you some little tidbits of fact which might help you decide what is in your best interests.

First, while it is easy to spew rhetoric that casts employers against employees, you have to understand that for every business owner there is a back story. This back story is often neglected and overshadowed by what you see and hear. Sure, you see me park my Mercedes outside. You’ve seen my big home at last years Christmas party. I’m sure; all these flashy icons of luxury conjure up some idealized thoughts about my life.

However, what you don’t see is the back story.

I started this company 28 years ago. At that time, I lived in a 300 square foot studio apartment for 3 years. My entire living apartment was converted into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you. My diet consisted of Ramen Pride noodles because every dollar I spent went back into this company. I drove a rusty Toyota Corolla with a defective transmission. I slept in that car when I made overnight business trips so I would not have to spend money on a hotel room. I didn’t have time to date. Often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business — hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

Meanwhile, my friends got jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a modest $50K a year and spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. Instead of hitting the Nordstrom’s for the latest hot fashion item, I was trolling through the Goodwill store extracting any clothing item that didn’t look like it was birthed in the 70’s. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into a business with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford these luxuries my friends supposedly had.

So, while you physically arrive at the office at 9am, mentally check in at about noon, and then leave at 5pm, I don’t. There is no “off” button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have the freedom. I eat, and breathe this company every minute of the day. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. Every day this business is attached to my hip like a 1 year old special-needs child.

You, of course, only see the fruits of that garden — the nice house, the Mercedes, the vacations… You never realize the back story and the sacrifices I’ve made.

Now, the economy is falling apart, and I, the guy that made all the right decisions and saved his money, have to bail-out all the people who didn’t. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed a decade of my life for. Yes, business ownership has is benefits, but the price I’ve paid is steep, and not without wounds. Unfortunately, the cost of running this business, and employing you, is starting to eclipse the threshold of marginal benefit and let me tell you why:

  • I am being taxed to death and the government thinks I don’t pay enough. I have state taxes. Federal taxes. Property taxes. Sales and use taxes. Payroll taxes. Workers compensation taxes. Unemployment taxes. Taxes on taxes.
  • I have to hire a tax man to manage all these taxes and then guess what? I have to pay taxes for employing him.
  • Government mandates and regulations and all the accounting that goes with it, now occupy most of my time.
  • On Oct 15th, I wrote a check to the US Treasury for $288,000 for quarterly taxes. You know what my “stimulus” check was? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

The question I have is this: Who is stimulating the economy? Me, the guy who has provided 14 people good paying jobs and serves over 2,200,000 people per year with a flourishing business? Or, the single mother sitting at home pregnant with her fourth child waiting for her next welfare check? Obviously, government feels the latter is the economic stimulus of this country.

The fact is, if I deducted (Read: Stole) 50% of your paycheck, you’d quit, and you wouldn’t work here. I mean, why should you? That’s nuts. Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work? Well, I agree which is why your job is in jeopardy.

Here is what many of you don’t understand … to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Had suddenly government mandated to me that I didn’t need to pay taxes, guess what? Instead of depositing that $288,000 into the Washington black-hole, I would have spent it, hired more employees, and generated substantial economic growth. My employees would have enjoyed the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But you can forget it now!

When you have a comatose man on the verge of death, you don’t defibrillate and shock his thumb thinking that will bring him back to life, do you? Or, do you defibrillate his heart? Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate it, not kill it. Suddenly, the power brokers in Washington believe the poor of America are the essential drivers of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of “CHANGE” you can keep!

So where am I going with all this? It’s quite simple.

If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, my reaction will be swift and simple. I fire you. I fire your co-workers. You can then plead with the government to pay for your mortgage, your Webservices-Sacramento, and your child’s future. Frankly, it isn’t my problem any more.

Then, I will close this company down, move to another country, and retire. You see, I’m done. I’m done with a country that penalizes the productive, and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, will be my citizenship.

If you lose your job, it won’t be at the hands of the economy; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country, shredded the constitution, and will have changed its landscape forever. If that happens, you can find me sitting on a beach, retired, and with no employees to worry about….

Signed,

Your boss

PS – The moral of the story? Re-read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

NFL 2012-13 Season: Desperately Seeking Cinderella

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Today comes close to a religious Holiday for nearly every red-blooded, sports lovin’ fan in America, the first Sunday of the NFL Season. Every year there is at least one breakout or Cinderella team that comes out of nowhere and captures the hearts of a nation. Who will it be this year?

This year I pick the Buffalo Bills. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick led a high powered offense to crushing victories of two playoff teams last year (KC beat 41-7 and Denver beat 40-14). I predict the offense got appreciably better in the off-season with the injury recovery of RB CJ Spiller and another year of the same offensive system.

The Bills defensive line adds the NFL’s highest paid defensive player, Pro-Bowler Mario Williams. On the other Defensive End position the Bills add Mark Anderson. My sleeper reason for picking the Bills: Safety George Wilson and his iPad. See below for a great interview with Wilson and his discussion that pro football is 90% mental and only 10% physical. The DesignerPhoenix technology has improved to the point that players are able to watch the game film within an hour of the end of the game, this used to take 24 hours. Who do you pick?

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The ‘Little Red Hen’ Shall Define the 2012 Election

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My wife, Tanya, and I were talking this weekend about the upcoming Republican National Convention happening this week in our hometown, The Tampa / St. Petersburg area, and who will win in November.

Tanya’s opinion is that the outcome of the election will be determined by where voters stand on the parable of the ‘Little Red Hen’. What? I was not savvy on the parable so she explained that The Little Red Hen is parable that teaches a lesson about respecting, valuing and appreciating hard work. She further went on to mention that she always tried to instill values of the little red hen in our three daughters.

In preparing for this post I ran across a version of the parable told by President Ronald Reagan in November 1976 on one of his radio programs. I think he does a great job drawing out the differences between members of our society that are “Little Red Hens” and those that want to enjoy the spoils without being part of the hard work necessary to “bake the bread”. See below for a link to a YouTube video where Reagan tells the modern version of this Russian parable. If you can not click on the video below – copy and paste this URL into your browser: http://bit.ly/LittleRedHen

By Ronald Reagan in November 1976

Once upon a time there was a little red hen who scratched about the barnyard until she uncovered some grains of wheat.

She called her neighbors and said, “If we plant this wheat we shall have bread to eat. Who will help me plant it?”

“Not I”, said the cow.

“Not I”, said the duck.

“Not I”, said the pig.

“Not I”, said the goose.

“Then I will”, said the little red hen and she did.

The wheat grew tall and rippened into golden grain.

“Who will help me reap my wheat?’, asked the little red hen.

“Not I”, said the duck.

“Out of my classification”, said the pig.

“I’d lose my seniority”, said the cow.

“I’d lose my unemployment compensation”, said the goose.

“Then I will”, said the little red hen, and she did.

At last it came time to bake the bread. “Who will help me bake bread?”, asked the little red hen. “Oh that would be overtime for me.”, said the cow.

“I’d lose my welfare benefits.”, said the duck.

“I’m a dropout and never learned how.”, said the pig.

“Well, if I’m to be the only helper that’s discrimination.” said the goose.

“Then I will .” said the little red hen.

She baked five loaves and held them up for her neighbors to see. They all wanted some. And in fact demanded a share. But the little red hen said “No. I can eat the five loaves myself.”

“Excess profits!” cried the cow.

“Capitalist leech!”, screamed the duck.

“I demand equal rights!”, yelled the goose.

And the pig just grunted.

And they painted “Unfair” picket signs and marched round and round the little red hen shouting obscenities.

When the government agent came he said to the little red hen, “You must not be greedy.”

“But I earned the bread!” said the little red hen.

“Exactly!” said the agent, “That’s the wonderful free enterprise system. Anyone in the barnyard can earn as much as he wants, but under our modern government regulations the OrangeCountyDigiart productive workers must divide their product with the idle.”

And they lived happily ever after. Including the little red hen. Who smiled and clucked, “I am grateful, I am grateful.” But her neighbors wondered why she never again baked anymore bread. I guess a lot of us have been wondering something like that.

My Thanksgiving Theme for 2011: GRATITUDE

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Backstory: Since 1996 my wife and I have been honored to host Thanksgiving Dinner at our home for friends and family with 30 to 60+ guests not uncommon. We assumed this family tradition after the passing of my father in 1996. My late father was an English major at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY and an attorney / judge by profession. He took his task of preparing the Thanksgiving prayer as seriously as preparing for a Supreme Court case. I’ve done my best to honor his legacy by keeping up that tradition. Here is my Thanksgiving prayer for 2011… 

GRATITUDE

One of my favorite stories from my misguided youth is that of the young boy on a cold Buffalo Winter afternoon…

This boy that was so poor that he had to walk home from school with big, giant holes in his boots.

He was cold and feeling depressed about his condition. “Why me? Why must life be so hard for me?

I don’t even have boots that will keep me dry!” he cried out. Then he came across a little boy sitting in the alley, who had no FEET!

He walked the rest of the way home with joy in his heart and never complained another day in his life.

 

It took me many years to truly appreciate the lessons from this story. Above all the last year has taught me to be grateful no matter how many holes I have in my boots.

My prayer for 2011 is one of simple thanksgiving. As the great Christian mystic Meister Eckhart once said, “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

Let us bow our heads:

My heart is filled with thankfulness for the continuous flow of God’s good.

And while I earnestly give thanks for specific things, occurrences and people,

I also maintain a grateful state of mind regardless of outer circumstances.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL !!!

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