GoalCast #5 – Better Understanding of Accounting

Friday’s video was extremely brief as I was trying to get out of the office and get headed home on Friday evening, that said, I felt a strong sense of accomplishment by putting out a goalcast all five days this week.

My Goal for this week is to do 5 more updates and to find a way to host these that will be a perfect online journal for me and a place for other goal-setters to follow the progress and interact if wanted.

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Goalcast #4 – Quality Time with Friends

In today’s goalcast I discuss my goals related to building and investing in quality friendships.  It’s difficult to be intentional in an area like this because it involves other people, but I know that I can set a goal for myself and do my best to reach that goal in hopes that the right relationships will develop as a result.

Check out my approach to this area.  What do you think?

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Jake’s Best Year Ever #3

Today I introduced my fourth goal

4. Lose weight to get under 200# by April 1.  Stay under 200 pounds for the rest of the year.
a. Find a consistent and enjoyable workout plan By March 1.
b. Execute the Slow Carb Diet for the months of January, February, March.

I’m really excited about this goal because it is one of those areas of my life where I feel like I just keep failing and I’m really ready to make some serious progress and get healthy.  I think being on a consistent program of tracking and working toward goals is going to really help me to take this area of my life seriously.  I had the same goal last year, but not the structure.

Check out the video below, and let me know what health goals you have for this year.

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Jake’s Best Year Ever #2 – Growing the Email List


One of the big things with Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever program is that he encourages you to set goals in your personal, professional, spiritual, health and relational life.  I think this is great because I really need to set concrete goals in all of these areas and have a plan to make progress in all of them.

The goal I focus on today is my goal to increase our email list by 2500 names by the end of June.  With this being a benchmark set toward the middle of the year, I need to be making tracks on this right away.  We made some progress on that today at work and you can watch the video below to see specifically tactic we’re employing to increase the amount of visitors to our site that convert to email list subscribers.

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Jake’s Best Year Ever Post #1

Goal #11

Goal #11

I’m in the middle of Michael Hyatt’s course “The Best Year Ever.” The focus of the book is goal setting.  I’ve been thinking that I’d like to do a brief video blog 5 days a week highlighting one of the goals that I’ve set and how I’m making progress toward it.

I don’t know if anyone will be interested in this, but I’m going to give it a shot for the next 3 weeks.

Today’s focus is on goal #11 – Spend Refreshing Time Outdoors at least once every week.

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The One Thing by Gary Keller – A Book Review

Book:  The ONE Thing- By Gary Keller

Summarize in 1 paragraph: The One Thing builds a case that the most important thing people can do in all areas of life is to continually ask themselves the question: “what is the one thing I can do right now that will move me toward my goals?”  It’s written by Gary Keller, a man who is qualified to speak on this issue as he has built a successful real estate business, made a name for himself as an author and speaker, and has managed to not lose perspective on the things that are most important.

Did you Finish it or Abandon it?  I finished it (it took me a few months though.)

How did you feel about the book (Love, Like, indifferent, dislike, etc)? I loved it.

What was the impact of the book? (None, pure entertainment, good info, potentially life changing?) Potentially Life Changing

Who else do you think would benefit from this book? Anyone who is willing to think seriously about their life and get outside of just living day by day, drifting through life.  This would be a great book at the New Year for someone who wants to set some good goals, but has failed to keep resolutions in the past.

What did you get out of the book?

I found this book to be a really profound challenge to take my days seriously, especially at work, but also with all of my life.  The author really makes it clear that once we start knocking down the right dominoes in our lives (meeting milestones), there’s very little limit to the possibilities.  The only thing is that we have to be intentional daily about what goals and objectives we’re pursuing in our lives.

I can apply this to my work life in that if I want our company to still be around in 5 years, we need to diversify outside the DVD industry, but I can’t just decide tomorrow to start doing work on a new line of business, I have to give serious thought daily to how to move in that direction.  I have to sit down and decide daily what is the ONE THING I can do to work on that goal, and then block time to do just that.

In my personal life, I can say “I want to have amazing relationships with Rana and the kids” – but that’s not an action – when it’s a Saturday, I should be asking myself, “what’s the ONE THING we can do today that will deepen these three relationships and build into our kids lives while they’re ours to train? “

In my spiritual life, I can say, “I want to be a man of God who others look to as a spiritual mentor again.” But that’s just an airy goal – my “ONE THING” at the start of most days is most likely to start my day with prayer and Bible reading, when I’m out and about my “One Thing” may be to look for ways to share my experience of God with those I spend time with, even if I don’t currently feel like a spiritual giant.

On my property, my goal is to have our home be an oasis where people love to gather and experience the great outdoors, a permaculture food forest that stands as an example of what can be accomplished when we work together with nature to produce our own food.  Well, that won’t happen overnight either, I need to decide “what is the ONE THING I’ll do this winter to move our property in that direction.”  The answer to that question is that I need to plan for building a new deck and budget for buying a first wave of fruit and nut trees.

As you can see, this book as infected my mindset with a powerful method for deconstructing big goals and making measurable progress.  I can’t say that this book is “life changing” yet – but I will say that it’s potentially life changing, because if I follow the cues I got from this book, I will be capable of extraordinary results in all areas of life.  I’d encourage anyone to check out The ONE Thing- By Gary Keller.

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How to Win Friends and Influence People – By Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends & Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegiea
This book by Dale Carnegie was recommended by an old friend Josh Tryon and has been a welcomed dose of wisdom for me and Rana.  We’re both reading the book and have nearly completed it.  While the title sounds like something very manipulative, it is far from that.  How To Win Friends and Influence People provides a pattern for communication that focuses on the other person almost to an extreme.

To summarize what I’ve learned from this book is that honoring others in our communication is by far the best way to win their admiration.  It should go without saying that people are drawn to those who are interested in them much more than to people who constantly try to show how great they are.

The basic communication skills are to draw the other person out by showing interest in them and the things that interest them.  To listen much more than you speak and to honor others’ points of view by listening intently, and to listen much more than engaging in argument.

A summary of the communication points could be: “Be an interesting person by primarily being interested in the person you are speaking to.”

I am still confused about what this looks like in a setting where the person you’re hanging out with is all too willing to spend the entire night doing all of the talking.  I think we’ve all experienced people like that.  I’ve been that guy at times too. I guess the character trait to develop is to genuinely be interested in the other person even if you don’t ever get to share anything of your own.  In this case you know that person will walk away thinking highly of you, even if you walk away feeling that they are a bit selfish.  I guess the alternative is to have compassion on them for the fact that they don’t have anyone in their lives who truly listens and be happy to play that role in their lives for a conversation.

One of the interesting points to consider is that most people are deeply offended when one disagrees with them, so it is of paramount importance to find common ground when discussing an issue with clear disagreement.  The goal is not to obscure that which is true, but to have a conversation where all parties stay engaged.  This precludes one from putting the other party on the defensive and breaking down communication.

I used to be very abrasive in my disagreements with people and I still struggle with how to have good conversations on areas of disagreement without it turning into a competitive back and forth or just shutting down when I don’t want to get into a debate.  I’m trying to internalize the lessons of this book so that I can put them to work for me and to become a person who is genuinely interested in hearing the other side of issues.

While I’ve loved the whole book, the first chapter was perhaps the most salient for my time in Turkey.  The principle of the first chapter is “Don’t Condemn, Criticize or Complain.”  Combined with the Bible verse “Do everything without grumbling or complaining,” this has been a powerful lesson to try to internalize.

I’ve been hyper-aware of how much complaining goes on in Turkish conversation.  It’s really sad – especially during a wonderful summer holiday to see so many people drawn to such negative communication.  The challenge has been to not be drawn to complain and not to condemn those who do.  I’ve had some challenges to deal with – a car accident, loss of a new work computer and increased unexpected costs on a project going on at our home.

The challenge has been to refuse to engage in complaining about these issues and enjoy our getaway to Turkey despite these externals.   It’s been GREAT!  I haven’t been perfect in this area, but I’ve seen real victory.

The tie-in with this book has been that in my reflections on Good To Great, it seems that a person who is able to communicate and honor others in a style consistent with this book would be a level-five leader as described in Good to Great.   In that way it gives me great practical advice in my journey to becoming “level five.”

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  There’s so much wisdom in it.

What do you think? Does it sound manipulative to you?

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The Resilient Farm and Homestead – A Review

The Resilient Farm and Homestead

The Resilient Farm and Homestead - Ben Falk
The Resilient Farm and Homestead is a book that I’ve wanted to read for a long time.  I’ve been very interested in Permaculture for years now.  The interest developed while listening to The Survival Podcast and living in Turkey.  The host of the podcast, Jack Spirko is a huge practitioner of Permaculture and has sold me on it’s merits.  For about two years where my work afforded me the ability to listen to dense content for 1-2 hours a day, I was really into The Survival Podcast – and during that time, the show was taken over by Jack’s passion for permaculture.  I was happy by that because food production interests me much more than storing food or collecting guns and ammo.

Jack’s interviews with Ben Falk were always of the most interest to me because Ben Falk is a homesteader and permaculture instructor in Vermont.  His findings and experience seem much more relevant to me than most permaculture material out there because he is working in a cold climate like ours.  For that reason, I’ve really wanted to read his book for a long time.

The book itself is a beautiful propaganda piece for leaving the modern world and living in a self-created oasis of nature, beauty, high-density food production and community.  As I read the book, I find myself very jealous of the lifestyle afforded to someone who lives off the land and makes his living consulting others with his successes and failures turning his land into a food-producing machine.

That said, the book is not highly practical to me.  I find that the practices in the book seem so hard to implement unless someone is going to throw themselves completely into creating a permaculture paradise, or is wealthy enough to employ others to set up and operate the systems laid out in the book.

I would love to transform my backyard into a world of its own with swales, ponds, fruit trees, perennial herbs, mushrooms, an amazing garden and small animals.  Alas this book discouraged me more than anything as it presents a lifestyle where permaculture is everything.  I kept thinking, this would be possible for someone who is independently wealthy, or doesn’t have kids, but it’s hard to envision making any of the systems in the book work unless one is a full time permaculturist (i.e. operator of a site where people take a course on permaculture and at the same time consults as a permaculture designer.)  The one thing I had hoped to get from the book is the specifics of the seed mix that they use to put down after disturbing soil.  Alas it was not included in the book.

I find this to be a book to be great inspiration to see all that’s possible with permaculture.  I just wish it were more practical for the homeowner who wants to dabble in permaculture.  I’m pretty sure that’s not the audience for the book.

All that said, Ben Falk remains one of my heroes and the book is an inspiration.  This book will be a great point of reference as we try to transform our back yard into a place that provides resources rather than consumes them.

If you’re wondering “What Is Permaculture,” check out the definition at my friend John’s website TCPermaculture.com.

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Summer Reading – Part 2

The books I listened to this summer have been diverse as well.  I’ve renewed my Audible.com membership and am really enjoying listening to good content while I take walks, sit with the kids while they fall asleep and obviously, in the restroom.

The Real Book of Real Estate Investing – Robert Kiyosaki

I listened to a book called “The Real Book of Real Estate.”  I started it on the plane.  It’s compiled by a guy named Robert Kiyosaki and apparently his teachings are focused on the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which I haven’t read.  I understand his teachings are valuable, but a little sketchy.  I found that to be true with The Real Book of Real Estate.

Enis pointed out to me that the first chapter, although very interesting is written by a man who is currently in jail for running Ponzi Schemes.  That led me to take the teaching of the book with a grain of salt.  The other thing I didn’t like about the book is that it was very materialistic in it’s approach – full of phrases like “He has helped me close a lot of deals and make A LOT of money.”  It was clear that the goal of this author is to get rich, for his own sake.

This is a sharp contrast with Dave Ramsey, who also strongly encourages wealth building, but for the sake of one day living like no one else (having “financial peace”) and giving like no one else.

That said, listening to over 20 hours of content about real estate investing really helped me to get inside the mind of real estate, and to start thinking about a field where we’d like to be operating as a family in a couple years when our home is paid off.

I bought this book because it was $.99 on Audible.com a long time ago, and I finally listened to it.  I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it, but I wouldn’t recommend it, while at the same time – I’m just sure there are better books out there on the subject.  That said, I’m sure I’ll read Rich Dad, Poor Dad some day.  The book tickled my interest just enough.

Good To Great – Jim Collins

One book that is regularly praised by two of my heroes, Dave Ramsey and Michael Hyatt is Good to Great by Jim Collins.  I’ve shied away from this book because I know it’s about large organizations, but I finally gave in and purchased it on Audible.com.  I wasn’t disappointed, and listened to it through twice.

Good to Great focuses on a handful of companies that went from being a good company to being a great company, defined as a company that greatly outperformed the stock market for a streak of 15 years or something like that after years of fair to good returns.

The focus was on the question, “what caused these companies to make such a drastic leap, and how can those findings be duplicated?”

The big things he observed were that these companies were led by what was called “Level Five Leaders.” These leaders were highly competent while being selfless and humble, unmotivated by the perks of leading a Fortune 500 company and focused on hard work and exemplary character.

The two other things I took away were the concepts of “First Who, Then What” and “The Hedgehog Concept.”

“First Who, Then What” is the idea that these leaders and their boards focused huge effort on finding the right people.  More effort was focused on getting the right people than on deciding what direction to take the company.  They spoke of first getting the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus, and THEN deciding where to take the bus.  A large focus was on finding the type of people who don’t need to “be motivated” but are motivated by a level of character that demands quality work of one self. Once those types of people are assembled, the team can accomplish anything it sets its mind to.

“The Hedgehog Concept” is the idea that these great companies found areas to focus on where they could be the best in the world at it, they could be passionate about it and there was a viable market for it.  Once these areas of focus were determined, they approached these specific areas with extreme discipline focused, on being the best at these areas.

The challenge for me is how to use these concepts in the very small company that I lead.  I believe the challenge of being a level five leader to my team and being disciplined in hiring only people who are self-motivated and ambitious learners is very salient, although I question how much this applies when hiring for an entry-level position like “warehouse guy.” I intend to give much thought to this in the fall.

The Hedgehog Concept is more difficult to apply because I don’t know what we could be the best in the world at.  Perhaps this is a concept best applied to future ventures – what are areas that I can be passionate about, that have a viable market and about which I can be highly proficient at?  That’s the question for my career long term.

This is already quite long, so I’ll have to write about The Obstacle is the Way, The Resilient Farm and Homestead and How to Win Friends and Influence People in a future post.


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Books of the Summer (Part 1)

One of the best things about my summer in Turkey has been the amount of reading and audible book listening I’ve been able to do. Much more than I ever get to do at home. I really am happy to be getting back into reading.

birds wout wingsI read Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres on my Kindle. It’s a book about a Turkish village near the Aegean Sea. The village is filled with people from some of the key ethnic groups represented in Turkey at the turn of the century – Sunni Muslims, Orthodox Greeks and Armenians. The book takes place around the time of the first World War while Turkey is going from being the dysfunctional Ottoman Empire to becoming the Republic of Turkey.

One great thing about the book is that it also follows the life of Ataturk – the founder of modern Turkey. His life story is told throughout the book and interestingly parts of the book were censored in it’s Turkish translation.

One of the tragic parts of this transition from intercultural empire to nationalist republic is the fact that communities who had previously lived side by side with one another in relative peace were driven to the point of killing one another. This is a piece of Turkish history that I have always hated to think of because my wife’s family is a Christian minority here and it’s so easy to think of them in the place of the Greeks who were displaced from here.

Birds Without Wings displays the brutalities of war in a beautiful novel that in many ways points out the pointlessness of the struggles that people have between themselves while showing the beauty of humanity nonetheless. I had started the book before the trip and was prompted by my friend Magnus to get back into the book because I’d grown bored in the first third of the book. This book was heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. I’m so glad I persevered. I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in World War I or Turkey.

crazy loveAfter Birds Without Wings on the Kindle, II started Crazy Love by Francis Chan which was recommended by my friend Don Bursel on facebook. I’m saddened to say that I had to set it aside. This book is so moving and so hard to wrestle with. It’s very convicting and makes me feel like a very lukewarm Christian. I hate that feeling, it’s a strong desire of knowing that God is not first in my life and not knowing what steps to take to move toward Him in a meaningful way, and at the same time feeling ashamed that I do know the steps and I’m not taking them.

As I write this, I know that I’ll get back into the book and that moving toward God is what I truly want in life, but for some reason I’m scared of that. That’s very honest, but it’s true. I hate saying it.

After calling a spade a spade, I started reading a new book on my Kindle. It’s called The Haj (Arabic for “The Pilgrimage.) This was also recommended on Facebook by my friend  and our Farmer Jim Morrison. He recommended that I read it to get a better understanding of the Middle East conflict between Israel and Palestine.

This is also a historical novel. I have not looked into the credibility of the Author, Leon Uris but the story is very compelling but also very dark in it’s portrayal of the Wahhabi tribes living in Palestine at the time of the Jewish migration to Israel.

I’m loving the book, but as with Birds Without Wings, some parts are just so hard to read as they’re extremely descriptive about the hardship people have lived with for most of world history in many parts of the world.

The Haj - Leon UrisThe way that relations toward women in Arab culture are portrayed is just so raw and so hard to stomach, but I hear stories here in Turkey about how some traditional families live that can only confirm that this type of practice has taken place and continues in places like the Arab world that are so much worse than Turkey in terms of women’s rights.

Just last night I read a passage where a young bride (second wife) from a Bedouin tribe describes to the daughter of the first wife – a preteen – the reality that she will be taken away some night to have her genitals mutilated so that she won’t desire boys. The chapter is written from the perspective of this poor girl’s younger brother, who describes how his sister was unable to sleep from then on out of fear that she’ll be taken in the night. I couldn’t help but think about this throughout the day, and to read on Wikipedia that this is still practiced in so many places in the Arab and African worlds, and that there are anthropologists who believe the practice should not be discouraged because it’s judgmental or whatever. It’s just heart wrenching.

Anyways, The Haj continues to be a challenging and moving book. I’m totally into it, and thankful for the perspective it’s giving me, especially as an Islamic Caliphate with full Sharia Law is spreading just 6 hours or less to the East of where I sit as I write this.

I’ll write up a review of the paper books I’ve read and audible books I’ve listened to this summer in my next post.

What books have YOU read this summer? Let us know in the comments!


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