People Or Profits

As a high level employee at a previous company I was involved with, I had a lot of responsibility to help facilitate the growth of the company and increase the bottom line. Eventually, we started to receive pressure from the top to begin outsourcing a lot of the work to India. This was my first experience being involved as a decision maker on whether or not to outsource American jobs to another country.

 

Now, I have nothing wrong with outsourcing work if it makes sense financially and we don’t need to lay off existing people, in order to do it. In our case, it didn’t make sense because it was less efficient, we were delivering (in my opinion) a lower quality of work to our customers, and we were phasing out loyal American workers.

 

Some of the people we’d be phasing out were directly under me. They were people who I had grown to trust and rely on. They had done great work. If anything, they deserved a pay raise. The change was never explicitly said. It started subtly and with different teams but I knew exactly what the endgame was. When it came to my team, I had their back right through the day I left that company. Because for me, people will always be more important than the bottom line.

 

The irony here is that our company had positioned itself in the market to be the more expensive but higher quality alternative to the companies who outsourced. I felt almost as if the new business model was just to have an American as the face to the customer and have the work done by people in a cube farm in India.

 

I made my opinion very clearly known to my colleagues and to the top brass that if we justify our rates based on the “you get what you pay for” concept, then we better make damn sure we continue to deliver higher quality results than our lower priced competition. Because the day we stop doing that, is the day we’re finished as a company.

 

I think what many companies don’t realize is that when they cut corners to save a few dollars, one of the corners that also gets cut is the human element.

Honor In The Office

Some years ago, I had the chance to get a promotion in the company where I was working at the time. All I had to do was point out my colleague’s mistake.

 

We were partnering on a special project together and we knew whoever did better on this was the one who would get promoted. A few weeks in, he made a huge mistake. There it was. I had won. I could get the promotion (and much needed pay raise). All I had to do was throw him under the bus by pointing out the mistake he had made.

 

But I didn’t do it.

 

Trust me, I really wanted that promotion but I didn’t want it that way. It’s just not me. It’s not my style and it’s not the way I was raised. I wanted to get a promotion because I was awesome, not just because my competition had failed.

 

In the end, it all worked out like it was supposed to. Life has a funny way of doing that. The moral of my story is don’t worry about beating your colleagues. Don’t lift yourself up by pushing others down and never sacrifice your integrity for temporary gains. Titles, positions, and salaries don’t last. Character and honor does.

 

I know we all get caught up in our own success and that can easily lead to a temporary lapse in our morals and character, in order to achieve it. Instead, focus on making yourself awesome. Success tastes sweeter when you’ve earned it honorably.

Being The Son Of A Veteran

My dad was a helicopter crew chief in the U.S. Navy. I grew up hearing phrases like “fire in the hole”, “taking liberty”, “shit on a shingle”, and “hit the head.” When I was a kid, he even used to say “prepare for take off” whenever we would get onto a freeway onramp. Many of the things I remember from my childhood are directly related to him being in the military. He use to even run through  a “preflight” checklist of our car anytime we’d take a roadtrip.

 

I grew up in Mountain View, California. Which is about an hour drive from San Francisco. If you were to make that drive, about half way through, you would pass the Golden Gate National Cemetery  on your right hand side.
This is a military cemetery that holds many medal of honor recipients.  Everytime we made this drive,  my dad would say to my sister and I sitting in the backseat: “eyes right!” and then he would salute the cemetery. My dad did this every time we drove to San Francisco, without fail. Now that I am grown and have children of my own, It’s funny those little things that I remember. There is no doubt that my patriotism was instilled in me by him.

When my dad was 18 years old, he was drafted into the military because of the Vietnam War. I’m sure like most 18 year olds he had other plans that did not include being drafted into the military in a time of war but he went with his head held high and served his country honorably. He didn’t talk very much about his time in the Navy but I do know that he was in four helicopter crashes and I do remember one story in particular.

He was a crew chief on a search & rescue helicopter. That crew had shift schedules just like any other job. My dad had a baby at home (my older brother) and was scheduled to fly one Christmas Eve. His coworker, who didn’t have kids, offered to trade shifts so my dad could be at home with his son on Christmas. So they traded.

That flight crashed and everyone on board died, including the man who took my dad’s place. That man’s name is on the Vietnam war memorial  wall instead of my dad’s name. I’m here and my kids are here because that man traded shifts with my dad.

Anytime I feel like I’m having a rough day at the office, I think of the people who have jobs like my dad’s – military, police, firefighters, first responders and it puts it all back into perspective.

The Troubled Waters Of Poverty

Some kids grow up and their life is a calm stream. Others, like me, had rough and tumultuous waters with opposing currents. I grew up most of my life allowing those waters to take me where they wanted me to go. I thought that was life. Growing up this way taught me to see life not as a beautiful thing full of happiness and potential, but instead as something to be wary and fearful of.

 

It’s hard for a child to have big ideas about the future when the extent of my horizon held questions like will my parents have rent money this month? Or how is my brother doing in jail right now?  This type of childhood lead to my teen years being angry at the world. I felt there was as system in place to keep the poor working class families like mine, in a cycle of poverty.

 

These families work hard but end up just spinning their wheels and never moving forward. Stuck in low paying jobs. Dependent on alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Getting themselves into debt, not because they wanted to buy something expensive but because  they might have been sick and missed a few days of work. These types of jobs don’t pay you if you don’t show up and clock in. Financially, missing a few days of work can be life changing for people like this.

 

My parents were good people, why did we have this kind of life? They were allowing the current to push them through life. A current that wasn’t designed by them. It was designed by something else. Some other system entirely. To keep the poor working class right where they belong. Downstream.

 

For my dad, downstream was working a blue collar job for 40 years, unable to save anything for retirement, and barely living paycheck to paycheck most of my life. For my brother, it was never graduating high school and spending more than 50% of his adult life in prison. For most in my family, it was an addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and in the case of my brother, drugs.

 

For me, when I was 21 years old, I was an overweight smoker, depressed, and working as a janitor for $6 an hour. With $10,000 in debt and a baby on the way. I had solidified my place downstream and had firmly positioned myself to pass the cycle of poverty on to my children. Eventually, these waters would pull me under and drown me. Until the day I taught myself to swim. To guide my own life and destiny.  

 

I learned that no person or system can take me out of that cycle other than myself. Because when you pull yourself out on your own, there is a mental growth that happens during that process. A change to your psyche. The purge of your previous mindset and beliefs. A change that only people like me, who did it on their own can understand.

 

If you really want to change your life, you can’t be a victim. You have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make the change for yourself. Learn to swim. No matter what hand you were dealt in life, you can always change it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it or you aren’t good enough. Your childhood does not need to define your adult life.

 

Family In A Time Of War

I have a family history book that goes back to the 1400’s. It’s very detailed. It describes every person in my family, who they married, the names of their children, their occupation, and other relevant details including notable stories, handwritten letters, legal documents, and even photos. There is roughly 600 years worth of information in this book. It’s incredible.

 

As I was going through this book, one of the stories really stood out to me as something special and I want to share that story with you.

 

My Great (X4) Grandfather named Job Bowers was born in Virginia in 1755. He died in the revolutionary war in 1779 when he was just 24 years old. When America’s war for independence  began, he was living in Georgia and joined his local militia to fight against the British.

 

In early October, he received word that his wife was going into labor with their first child. When he heard the news, he asked his commanding officer to grant him a weekend furlough which would allow him to return home for the weekend to be there for the birth of his son William. His request was approved and he rushed home to see his wife and newborn son.

 

Job, a soldier in time of war, made the trip back home by himself. Traveling through hostile territory alone while evading official British soldiers as well as Tories – also known as Loyalists because they remained loyal to the British and fought against the colonists in the war.

 

It was on the night of his arrival home when his wife went into active labor. Job was in the house as she was giving birth. During this time, a group of Tories came to Job’s house.

 

Whether this was simply a random band of Tories roaming from house to house or if they had heard news that a Patriot soldier had returned home by himself, without his fellow countrymen to protect him, remains unknown. However the outcome remained the same.

 

As his wife was giving birth to their first and only child, the Tories dragged Job out of his house and hanged him in the tree in his front yard. Job died on that cold October night in Georgia, in the front yard of his own house while his son was being born inside.

 

I thought this was such a powerful story. The sacrifices that Job made and the risks he took just to be able to be home with his family, were courageous and heroic. He ended up paying the ultimate price and sacrificing his life, just for the chance to have one moment with his wife and newborn son.

 

Had that little boy not been born that night, my bloodline would have died right then and there in that tree. That little boy named William would be the one to carry on the Bowers bloodline that is still growing strong even after nearly 250 years.

 

My family was awarded land for our service in the war. William would go on to build an entire town with that land and today that town is known as Bowersville, Georgia. 

New Year’s Resolutions

This is a very important time of year. It not only means starting a new year but also a new chapter in life. As I reflect on 2017 and look forward to 2018, I’m evaluating what went well and what didn’t go well for me in 2017. I’m reflecting on the mistakes that I made, what I learned from those mistakes, and what I can do differently in the future to avoid making those mistakes again.

 

As you plan your goals and make your new year’s resolutions, there are two main things to remember that will make your goals easier to achieve. The first is to remember the reason why you are setting the goal in the first place. Know your motivation for setting that goal and don’t forget it. It will help you stay motivated throughout the year. Many people set goals and after a few weeks into the new year, they lose sight of what it was that made them want to set that goal in the first place.

 

The second thing to remember is to make sure you are setting realistic goals and breaking them down into bite size pieces. Don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself. Set reasonable goals and develop your game plan to achieve those goals. Take your main goal and break it down into bite sized pieces. This will give you small accomplishments and confidence boosts along the way which will help keep you motivated to crush your main goal!

 

If you want some tips on how to set and crush big goals, check out the blog I wrote on how to achieve any goal you set for yourself. These are the tips and methods that I used to achieve my goals of losing 85 pounds, quitting smoking, and getting myself financially healthy: factors for success.

Why Baseball Is More Than A Game

I played the game of baseball for 15 years. In fact, I grew up on a baseball field. My dad was the varsity coach of the local high school in the town where I grew up. So everyday after school I would go over to the baseball field, sit in the dugout, and watch them play. I was a fly on the wall in a dugout full of high school players and my dad was their coach.

 

I didn’t realize it at the time but what I learned on the baseball field after school would serve me more in life than anything I had ever learned in school. I witnessed and learned group dynamics in action, I saw what discipline looked like, and I saw the respect that the players showed to each other, their coach, and to the game itself.

 

Most importantly, I was able to feel that baseball was so much more than just a game. I was just too young to fully understand why. When I was a kid, maybe around 10 years old, I used to have a t-shirt that said “Baseball is life” on the front. As time went on and I got older, I slowly learned how true that really was.

 

You can spot anyone who has a love of the game because of how they talk about baseball. There’s always a touch of of reverence and romanticism. It is a game that will make young kids play until it’s too dark to see the ball anymore. It will make those same kids sleep in their uniforms the night before a big game, and it also has the power to make grown men cry.

 

I always remember my dad telling me he preferred to watch little league games instead of MLB games because “those kids have more heart” he said. “No one is paying them to be there”.

 

The reason I think baseball is so special is because it teaches you about life, through emotions. I’ll never forget the way I felt the first time I let my team down. I got a routine ground ball and all I had to do was throw it to second base to get the runner out. The second baseman was on the base with his glove out, ready and waiting for me to throw it to him.

 

This should have been an easy out but I made an error. I threw the ball in the dirt and the runner was safe. I felt embarrassed and I felt ashamed. It made me wish I had focused more and tried harder during practice that week. One seemingly simple baseball play taught me what it felt like to let people down when they were depending on me.

 

Once when I was in little league, I was playing third base and the batter hit a hard line drive straight at my hand. It jammed all of my fingers on my throwing hand. I managed to throw the ball to first base through the tears welling up in my eyes, to get the runner out before my hand swelled up with pain.

 

Just like in life, the game wouldn’t stop just because I wanted it to. This play taught me to complete the job at all costs because my team was relying on me. There’s no time to complain. Just get it done. I also remember the feeling when I hit my first home run and how good it felt to succeed when others were counting on me. 

 

Baseball also taught me to be able to trust and rely on my teammates and know the feeling of being let down by them if they failed as well as the feeling of security that came from them pulling through when we relied on them.

 

Baseball teaches preparedness. Knowing how many outs there are, where the runners are, and where you plan to throw the ball if everyone does what you expect. As well as the ability to adapt and run plan B executions in your head, if they don’t do what you expect. 

 

In any good baseball player, there are a dozen action/outcome scenarios that go through their mind all within the span of 10 seconds, the amount of time it takes to field the ball and make the play.

 

Baseball not only taught me what it feels like to win and what it feels like to lose but also that losing is inevitable. I learned to use those losses to my advantage. After a loss, I would evaluate why we lost and what we could do differently next time. I would make the changes that I needed to make in order to improve myself.

 

This game gave me the opportunity to learn important life lessons through emotions, all by the time I was 11 or 12 years old. I think the reason many ex ball players get emotional when reminiscing about baseball is because baseball taught them the highs and lows of life, through emotions. So it’s hard to separate the two. Baseball and emotions will forever be synonymous in the heart of a baseball player. When a child is learning to play baseball, they are learning life.

 

In baseball, the key to victory is in the seemingly unimportant, incremental steps. Baseball is a game where there is always more going on than meets the eye. The excitement is in the things that you don’t easily see. It’s not in the hard hits, the knockout punches, or the the slam dunks. The excitement is in the situation itself.

 

It’s in the circumstances and the intensity that comes from being fully aware that if the ball is one inch too far to the right or left, it will change the course and outcome of the entire game. As in life, baseball is a game of perfection. It requires precision and mastery.

 

Baseball teaches you discipline because the only way to master that precision and perfection is through practice and dedication. Baseball teaches you that heart and attitude count just as much as speed or strength. In baseball, just showing up won’t cut it.

 

Baseball in my opinion, is the only sport that teaches integrity. There is no such thing as a tie in baseball. There is no clock to run down. There is no running out of bounds or taking a knee. You must face your opponent until the very end.

 

Each team gets their 27 outs. No matter how much of a lead you have, you must give the other team their rightful chance to defeat you. This ensures that you never win by luck or chance but only because on that day, you were the better team and you deserve your victory.  In baseball, just like in life, it’s never over until it’s over. 

Weight Loss During The Holidays

One day I woke up and said to myself  “That’s it. I’ve had enough. I am going to lose 100 pounds.” Around 6 months after that day, I had lost a total of 85 pounds. I lost 37% of my body weight. My decision to lose those 85 pounds was just that. A decision.

 

Weight loss needs to start with a choice. Perhaps you have finally had enough of the way you feel about your body. Perhaps you’ve had enough of feeling tired and sick all the time. Or maybe you want to lose weight for your children, like I did. Whatever it is that finally motivates you to lose weight, don’t forget that feeling. Remember what it is that’s making you want to lose weight in the first place.

 

For me, it was my son. I was 230 pounds and becoming a father is what finally motivated me to lose all of that weight.  One of the most important parts of  my weight loss journey was remembering why I was doing it in the first place.

 

Losing weight is hard enough as it is and it’s even more difficult during the holiday season. Trust me, I’ve been there. The office Christmas party, the endless cakes and cookies in the break room. I had to wake up every single day and remind myself why I want to lose weight and keep that reason in the forefront of my mind throughout the day.

 

Something I learned along the way is that people tend to over indulge in something if they have been depriving themselves of it. Maybe it’s an instinctual survival tactic, who knows. But because of that, I knew I shouldn’t deprive myself. For example, Instead of having zero dessert at a holiday party, I would have just a taste. One or two bites to satisfy my craving. The key thing is don’t put a full piece of cake on your plate and expect to take only one or two bites. I would only put one or two bites on my plate, period.

 

Of course I was tempted to go back for more but these are the exact moments when I needed to remember why I wanted to lose weight in the first place. There is no perfect time to start. You just need to start right now. Don’t want for a new week, don’t wait for a new month. As soon as you make the decision to lose weight. Start right then and there with the very next piece of food that you put (or don’t put) in your mouth.

 

I once heard somewhere that you can’t gain what you dont put in your mouth. This sentence repeated like a mantra in my head when I was on my weightloss journey and it really helped to keep me on track.

 

In the end, here’s what I discovered on my journey: The pleasure of achieving your goal will always taste better and last longer than the pleasure of eating something unhealthy.

The Imposters Hiding Inside Your Company

Do you have any imposters in your company?

 

These imposters are people that get to a “high” level within their company. They have titles like manager, director, or VP and they think that the self proclaimed power they hold within the walls of their company somehow extends beyond its own doors. You can recognize these imposters because they will often:

 

Give their opinion when nobody asked for it.

Criticize others.

Talk down to people who have a lower title than them.

Blame others when they make a mistake.

Talk rudely to or about inferiors, vendors, contractors, and service providers.

Think their title validates and justifies what they say and how they behave, both inside and outside of the office.

Feel that their title validates their opinions and actions.

 

These types of people slowly destroy company culture. Some people simply call them bullies or arrogant jerks but it’s more than that. If you come across these people, don’t get angry.

 

Early in my career, I learned that their behavior is just a manifestation of their insecurities about not feeling qualified for their role and/or having no real power or authority in their real life. They project that desire to feel powerful and authoritative into their behavior.

 

I’ve come across this type of person a lot in the Silicon Valley. As someone who spent 10 years working my way up from the bottom, I see people’s true character and I have zero tolerance for this type of person. I am always humble and treat everyone as an equal, no matter what their title is.

 

Don’t worry if you have been put down, bullied, or criticized by these people. Don’t take it personally. They act this way because they are insecure. The upside is that they won’t last long outside of their current company. The tech industry is wizening up and becoming less and less likely to tolerate these people.

 

Hopefully maybe one day they will realize that humility is more valuable than their self proclaimed value to the world.

 

Take a look around, do you have any imposters hiding inside of your company? Or maybe you were even an imposter at one time or another and hadn’t even realized it? It’s never too late to make the change into becoming humble. Humility goes a long way. It will not only make you a better leader but also a better person.

 

Risk vs. Reward: Next Level Wealth

In my previous blogs, I’ve written about how I used to be dirt poor but managed to get myself out of debt and rebuild my credit score. I’ve written about how I sold insurance and flipped cars to start saving some money and build wealth. I also wrote about how I went from earning $6 per hour as a janitor to a 6 figure salary in the tech industry in just 5 years. All of these things were very helpful in building a successful life for myself but it’s not what catapulted my wealth to the next level.

 

Before I get into how my net worth went into the millions, I want to share my greatest investment regret. Back in 2003 when I was 18 years old, my friend Anthony told me to buy stock in a new company that he thought was a great idea. “I think they’re going to be big and their stock price is only a few dollars per share.” He said. I politely declined and told him that the company wasn’t going anywhere. That company’s name? Netflix

 

Now, how did I build my wealth? Yes, I made money on stocks, I was lucky enough to buy Amazon when it was $195 per share and sell it when it was over $1,000 per share. I also held thousands of shares of stock in my Silicon Valley startup company that was acquired. I also still hold dividend paying stocks in my portfolio today, which I reinvest each time a dividend is paid out. All of these things helped to put and keep money in the bank.

 

But what really took it to the next level? Real estate. Now keep in mind, I don’t consider myself a hardcore real estate investor. I don’t go to auctions and buy short sale houses, I’m not a slumlord, and I’ve never attended one of those awful get rich in real estate seminars. Those things are just aren’t me.

 

Yes, I’ve remodeled and sold some homes. But for me what it’s really about is doing the research to buy the best possible property at the best possible time and holding onto it for the equity.

 

Back in 2011 during the recession, the real estate market was down. Regular folks were scared to buy anything. The markets were uncertain and no one knew where the bottom was. It was a scary time to invest in real estate anywhere in the country.  

 

This is when I was buying. I had a choice to make. I could buy multiple properties in California but outside of the Silicon Valley, live in one and rent out the rest, or I could invest everything I had into one property right in the heart of Silicon Valley.

 

Let’s stop for a minute and think about it. Every market in the world was down. Stocks, bonds, real estate, you name it. Nobody knew where the bottom was. The market could rebound tomorrow or it could keep going down for another 10 years. Now imagine how you would feel at the thought of putting all of your money, everything you had, into one piece of property.

 

I had to ultimately choose what I thought would be the best long term investment for me and my family. My research and my gut told me to not only invest everything I had into one Silicon Valley property, but to also get a loan to be able to do it. That’s exactly what I did. I was terrified but I had to trust my research and my gut.

 

That was 7 years ago. I took a huge risk and it paid off. Currently, I own several million dollars in Silicon Valley real estate. It wasn’t luck. It was about research and timing. And as the old saying goes:  “location, location, location!” That adage is true but what exactly is it about the location that makes it so good? I can’t speak for other states or cities outside of the Silicon Valley but here, what defines the location is the school district.

 

You can certainly buy a nice house in a safe neighborhood in a mediocre school district and see some equity appreciation but it will never appreciate as quickly as that same house in a good school district.

 

My real estate is in the area near Apple’s new campus. Simple supply and demand dictate and houses in this neighborhood usually sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars over the asking price, with multiple bidders. Many of whom are all cash buyers. Money from all over the world flows into the Silicon Valley real estate market.

 

Buying a house is an emotional decision. When people buy a house they expect to live in it forever and never sell it. So because of that, most people buy the house that is best for them personally. Not what is best for the majority potential buyers who are looking in that neighborhood.  

 

Especially things like soft characteristics that some buyers are willing to pay more for. Things like the number on the address, the fengshui of the house, the direction that the front door faces, or even having all bedrooms on the ground floor. For some buyers, all of those things will increase the value even higher above the hard numbered comps.

 

I think one of the things I’ve learned along the way from when I used to flip cars is that anytime I’m considering buying something, in that very same thought, I am already considering how to sell it. The same goes for real estate.

 

When I bought my house in San Jose, I considered the things that other people shopping in this neighborhood want. How many of those boxes does this house check? Is there anything about this house that will make it difficult for me to sell? I am always considering these factors for everything I buy. Whether it’s a car, a watch, or a house.

 

Don’t be scared to take risks in life. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. They key is to make sure they are calculated risks. You have to do your research, time it right, and most importantly, trust your gut.