Archive for October, 2007|Monthly archive page

Are You Going to A Personal Development Spaminar?

Well, I’ve just attended one.

5 months ago, a friend had enthusiastically sent me a mobile text message that she was able to get a big discount off a major Personal Development annual convention and asked if I was interested. As I had never been to one before then (I’m more of an audio & books fan than a seminar lady), I gladly obliged and even asked my sister and her boyfriend along.

But you know what?

After that convention, I realized it wasn’t such an exciting idea after all.

What is a Spaminar?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating against going to a Personal Development seminar. In fact, I’m absolutely in favour of anyone aspiring to raise their self awareness through such conventions.

You’ll get so pumped up about your future that you can’t wait to take action immediately. You’ll probably be able to find some like minded comrades which may become your potential mastermind members or business contacts. But beware though, you may sometimes feel so confident the speaker on stage is the mentor you’ve been looking for that you’ll gladly surrender anything to secure your success.

Including your credit card.

Some of the speakers invited at the convention I went were such excellent salesmen that people literally “ran”, yes ran to the sales booth to purchase the next time-sensitive offers after their speech. I was such a sucker myself. Fell for an offer to get next year’s convention tickets so that I could get a “complimentary” pass to a 3-day workshop offered by one speaker.

Only when I found out months later that I had to pay material costs to attend the workshop after paying for the non refundable convention tickets, did I realize that I was scammed. My sister’s boyfriend wasn’t spared too. He bought a set of audios from another speaker only to find them dubbed by another person. Can you imagine buying an Anthony Robbin’s audio program to have the speech not delivered by him?

Caveat emptor.

A seminar can be a great trigger to learning some life changing skills but if it’s full of commercial spam, it may well be another spaminar for all you know. Here are some of the tell-tale signs of one :

(1) No Actionable Details

If you come out of a particular convention motivated and full of zest but with little idea as to what you should be doing, it’s a most obvious sign that it’s a spaminar. Such conventions are meant to be sales baits for you to have an idea of what the speakers are doing, often too vague to do anything unless you’re buying into their auxiliary products.

If motivation’s what you’re looking for, it’s probably much more effective and less expensive to buy a motivational audio from Nightingale. You can even play it over and over again! If you don’t want to spend a dime, just borrow the audios from the library.

(2) Too Much Upselling

As you sit through the talk, you feel as if you’re watching one commercial ad after another. You’ll hear such phrases mentioned A LOT of times in their speeches “In order to be ______, like what I’ve mentioned just now, you may want to consider enrolling into our coaching program. And as a special for attending today’s convention, I’m going to offer this never-seen-before promotion blah blah blah…”

I do understand that every speaker has a right to promote their products but if it’s too excessive, it spoils the audience’s experience. For example, as one foreign speaker was doing such promotions during the convention, I saw a lot of people walking out for lunch as he spoke. If there’s too much sales hype, people just know.

(3) Insulted for Not Taking Up the Offer

When that same speaker saw the people scampering away to take their lunch break while he was unraveling his “amazing” offer, the speaker suddenly paused and started backlashing at the people who walked away. Instead of focusing on those who stayed behind to listen to his promotional offer, he chose to redirect his energy at a wrong crowd. If you’re being insulted like that, it’s very likely that your personal development is not his main concern.

Your money is.

(4) The Objective is Profit, Not People

Looking at the huge crowd of people rushing to buy the products, I really saw for myself how personal development and self help can be a multi-million dollar business. And as a businessman, I’m sure the bottom line means a lot to the organizer. But if that becomes an obsession, not only does it show, he will lose sight of what his initial objective is.

People.

While parking their car, my sister and her boyfriend ran into a guy who attended that same convention every year. He said the convention used to be very good but it had became more and more commercialized as the years went. In my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before he decides to stop going to the convention. At all.

(5) Didn’t Lay Down the Terms Explicitly

Any additional charges or fees that requires you to pay later should be clearly mentioned upfront. Otherwise, it’s tantamount to cheating, isn’t it? Sadly, there’s no way of really assessing this unless it’s after the fact. But I’m sure there are legal avenues you can go to if you really want to pursue it further.

How to Prevent Yourself From Embroiling into One?

On hindsight, I admit I should have done my due diligence before deciding to go for the convention. But I’m glad I went. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to share my experience with you!

Now, if you’ve been aspiring to go to a particular self help seminar and just want to make sure you aren’t landing on a spaminar, here’s what you can do:

1. Check out with People Who’ve Previously Gone For It. In my opinion, that’s the most effective way. Satisfied customers will have no qualms sharing with you their testimonials and disgruntled ones like me will hold nothing back. And if you’re having a tough time finding such people in your social circle, a good place to go to is personal development online forums such as Steve Pavlina’s Personal Development for Smart People Forums or my friend, Aaron’s Personal Development Partners forum. The forumers come from all over the world so I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone who’s able to provide the right feedback.
2. Decide based on Your Knowledge Level. Frankly speaking, some of these spaminars provide a good introduction to Personal Development. My sister who’s not really into such benefited enormously. Vice versa. So, if you’re someone who’s new to personal development and stuff, even such spaminars could well catalyze you to taking the first action.
3. Look at Who’s Speaking. Perhaps you’ve been impressed with their books and previous speeches to know that they’ll definitely provide value in their seminars. Such speakers are like guaranteed spaminar killers.
4. Find out if It’s A Preview. Some organizers are ethical enough to proclaim somewhere that the talk is a prelude to their premium courses. If you attend a preview and come out complaining that the speakers sell too much, well, you can’t really blame them isn’t it? A preview’s supposed to give you highlights to their program, so naturally they’ll tell you all the good things and the special offers.
5. Spot a Ticket Price Slash Trend. A lot of such spaminars’ main focus is not in selling their tickets. Their main business comes from upselling the profitable programs during the seminar itself. So, to attract more of such prospects, they’ll keep slashing their ticket price to make it really irresistible for you not to go. In my opinion, what matters is not really the price. It’s your time. Do you want to even pay $1 to watch commercials?
6. Search in eBay Auctions or Classifieds for Any Ticket Resales or Transfers. Are there a lot of people who’ve already bought tickets to the convention selling theirs off eBay or any classifieds sites? Especially at a loss? Unless it’s due to scheduling issues, there’s something fishy if that happens and it may make sense to reconsider your options.

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Creating Phenomenal Wealth Over Time

By: Roshawn Watson

One of the most outstanding observations about high net worth individuals is that they do financial planning from a generational perspective. They deliberately leave a financial legacy. Some believe that this is because they have more money to do the financial planning with. Let me assure you that much of the critical planning occurs BEFORE they actually get wealthy. Moreover, I would argue that it is the strategic financial planning that helped them get wealthy in the first place. Consider a study from Harvard business school showing that the 3% of their graduates with specific, written goals earned more on average than the other 97% combined (I describe the study in more detail HERE). Similarly, those who prospectively plan their finances will likely amass more wealth than those who do not. Although purely anecdotal, many people say that once they decided to pay off their debts, their income increased.

Simply stated, what you respect , you will attract . Thus, if you respect money, it will come (as in the case of those paying off their debts). Respect does not mean want, desire, or love. Plenty covet money but never keep much of it themselves. Respecting wealth deals with studying it and those who have it and following a practical plan to obtain it. To determine if you respect wealth, answer questions such as: What are the last three books you read on wealth? Is your budget up to date? The proof of respect is the investment of time.

Accordingly, this long-term view of wealth is not congruent with many of our current societies’ values (there are definitely notable exceptions). We live in a fast-food culture where everything must be instantaneous. This would explain the preponderance of get-rich quick programs. Although the quality of such programs varies tremendously, most are terrible. The very few with any merit usually require a lot of hard work (that you could do without spending money on the programs) and are not quick as promised.

Most programs are simply not worth it, but the reason we are drawn to such schemes is because we dismiss the Law of Process that states: you cannot always be what you are not, but you can become what you are not. It is unpopular to suggest that change is not always effected immediately, yet it is true. Meaningful change often necessitates a significant time-investment. Accordingly, don’t try to “be wealthy;” instead, “become wealthy.” By having an emergency fund, investing systematically , and avoiding consumer debt, building wealth is not too complicated, it is just not easy or quick.

Some may ask what I mean by systematic investing. Peter Lynch (Fidelity), Warren Buffett (Berkshire), and even Dave Ramsey recommend a conservative and simple approach for the typical investor: rather than trying to outsmart the markets, use benchmarks to track the markets instead. For example, the Vanguard Index 500 fund has outperformed two-thirds of all mutual funds on a rather consistent basis (Cash Flow Quadrant, 1999). Usually over 10 years, these types of index funds yield a return exceeding 80-90% of returns of the “professional” mutual fund money managers (Motley Fool, 2007). Interestingly, the average millionaire is this type of investor (The Millionaire Next Door, 1996). Although there is no 100% guarantee, this method does dramatically decrease the risk over time and provides respectable returns. Provided that one starts early enough (i.e. before mid-forties), consistent investing over time can be the key to achieving a great deal of wealth.

In summation, don’t fall for the schemes or simply try to “look” rich. You can obtain tangible wealth, but it usually requires work, a respect of money, and time. That is what most millionaires do; need I say more.

Are These 10 Common Money Mistakes Keeping You Poor?

October 22nd, 2007 by Tejvan Pettinger

Money down the drainAs creatures of habit, who like to repeat the same behavior, our personal finance habits have an enormous impact on our financial well being. Unfortunately, all too many people fall victim to the same common money mistakes.

Recognizing and eliminating these mistakes is the first step to financial independence. Here are the money mistakes that you need to avoid. How many are you guilty of?

Impulsive Spending

The source of most personal debt is spending more than you need. Don’t go shopping when you’re bored, you’ll buy things you’ll rarely use. If you are prone to impulsive shopping, try to make a clear plan for what you need to buy, and what you need to avoid. If you really want something, you can come back the next day — be patient when shopping.

Being Swayed by Sales Techniques

Big companies try many tricks to get us to buy goods we don’t really need. For example, don’t be swayed by 50% sales promotions; just because it is on sale doesn’t mean it’s good value or that you need to buy it. Don’t get excited over every 3 for the price of 2; otherwise you will just start to accumulate things you are never going to use. If you feel pressured by salesman, walk out — if you really want the product you can always come back.

Never Checking for Cheaper Deals

For many items such as mortgages, electricity and gas suppliers, our existing company takes advantage of our customer loyalty by charging higher prices. This reluctance to move is called customer inertia; for example, people think it is too much hassle to move their mortgage, so they stick with their existing company. However, if they looked around and re-mortgaged they may be able to save considerable amounts of money. For the time involved it’s a great value. Think of it like this, if you went into a shop would you buy a good which is exactly the same, but 20% more expensive?

The ‘Poor Me’ Attitude

If you have an attitude of poverty and feel sorry for yourself, it’s difficult to do anything about it. If you feel that the world is conspiring to make you poor, it’s likely to come true. This doesn’t mean I advocate a blind belief that repeating a few money mantras will solve all your financial problems. But you need to avoid a negative attitude and look at how you can constructively move forward and improve your financial situation.

Not Having a Savings Plan

It is true that in your 20’s, it can be difficult to save because you have student loans to pay off e.t.c. Saving will hopefully become easier later in life. However, if you put it off to long, you’ll eventually find yourself in your 50’s with no savings or contingency plan. The earlier you start saving the more productive it becomes. If you can get into a regular savings habit, it’s easier to increase the monthly deposits as your financial situation improves.

Making Wealth Accumulation the Purpose of Life

My boss is a multimillionaire, but, he is never satisfied. He always wants more; it really pains him to spend any money. Money and wealth are not a bad thing; but, they can be if we love them to the exclusion of all else. Life isn’t all about saving money for retirement. You need to maintain a sense of balance between money and the rest of life.

Letting Money Spoil Friendships

It’s a mistake to rely on friends to bale us out of money problems. Occasionally it may be necessary, and we should not let our pride prevent us accept help when in dire straits. But, at the same time we should try to avoid making it a habit. Nor should we feel responsible to deal with our friends financial problems.

Not Tracking Your Finances

Many people have no idea how much they spend or how much debt they have. As things worsen it becomes less attractive to find out our true financial state. Unfortunately, ignoring your problem will never make it go away. Being aware of your circumstances is essential to moving forward.

Gaining an Adverse Credit Rating

Missing credit card or loan payments might cost you penalties and interest payments, but the main problem is that it adversely affects your credit rating. This makes it more difficult and expensive to get credit in the future. Adverse credit payments can often be avoided by setting up direct debits, and speaking to your bank when difficulties arise. It is also possible to appeal against one off late payments — offering an excuse such as getting delayed in the mail.

Borrowing at High Interest Rates

If you do create unavoidable debt, make sure you move it to the lowest possible interest loan. This might be a 0% introductory period on a credit card, or perhaps putting debt onto your mortgage. Avoid at all costs borrowing at interest rates of 17% – 25%, which you see on some credit cards.

Tejvan Pettinger works as an Economics Teacher in Oxford. He writes frequently on economics and issues of personal finance. He also updates a site on personal finance and mortgage advice. This includes recent articles such as 10 Effective ways to Reduce Debt.

Why It’s Better to Cut Your Losses Early

You may have heard the expression “cut your losses early” before. This is probably the most profound wisdom for stock investors. The table below will illustrate the reason behind this insight.

Cut Your Losses Early

The table shows that it is exponentially harder to recover from the decline in stock value. For example:

  • If a stock loses 10% of its value, it only takes a gain of 11% to make up the loss.
  • If a stock loses 20% of its value, it takes more effort at a gain of 25% to make up the loss.
  • If a stock loses 50% of its value, it takes improbable gain of 100% to make up the loss.
  • If a stock loses 90% of its value, it takes impossible gain of 900% to make up the loss.

This is why stop-loss order of 10-20% below the price at which you bought is recommended. It takes enormous effort to recover from anything greater than that.


Free Programming Tips are Worth Every Penny.

Sometimes people say to me, “Hey, Wil, you’ve been programming since dinosaurs roamed the earth… do you have any advice for young whippersnappers like us?”

And I always respond, “Hey, you kids, GET THE HECK OUT OF MY YARD!”

No, no, I usually demur with, “Oh, gosh, I don’t know,” as I look down shyly and shuffle my feet.

But, I’ve thought about it a lot recently, after writing so much solo code for Delicious Library (for the first time in many years), and then taking on a new programmer and trying to impart my style on him. And what I’ve come up with is a style I call:

* The Way of the Code Samurai *

Now, I don’t actually know much about real samurai, but the basic thing I’ve heard is they stand and stare at each other for hours, and then suddenly BAM strike once and the other guy is down.

That’s how you should code.

– Think first. Think some more. Think about the whole problem. Think about a little part of the problem you’re going to start with. Think about the whole thing again, in relation to your idea on the starting point.

Don’t write code until you know what you’re doing. Now, you may not be able to “know what you are doing” just from thinking, in which case you should start a TEST project and write a bunch of ugly code to make sure your ideas are correct.

Then, start again, in a new directory. We had seven or so different test project directories during the making of Delicious Library — one for the video barcode reader, one for the store, one for amazon XML parsing, one for talking to Bluetooth scanners, etc. We learned how to do what we were going to do BEFORE we uglied up the main project with a bunch of code.

Then we copied the good parts out of the test project, and left the cruft. This let us observe rule #2…

– Write all your code “clean,” the first time you write it. Make classes for everything. Use enumerated types. Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t have any part of the code where you say, “Oh, yah, I just glossed over that for now.” You are NOT going to go back and fix it. Seriously, how often do you say to yourself, “I think I’ll dive into this messy code today and try to make it nice and pretty without adding any functionality?” Nobody is going to pay you for that. In fact, I got called on the carpet for cleaning code during a major update to a piece of software at a previous job — “What are you doing spending time modifying code that already works? Just add your new features and be done.” Never mind that I couldn’t understand the code, or that clean code is stable, maintainable, extensible code.

Don’t gloss over anything. Write every line to be bulletproof. Write every method as if every other method was out to get your code and try to make it crash, and your job was to make sure it wasn’t going to happen in YOUR code. Assume the user is going to hit keys randomly. Assume the network is going to get disconnected. Assume the hardware will fail.

Explain your routines aloud. Do you find yourself saying, “Well, this isn’t totally correct, but it works because I know that at this point…” STOP. Redo it. Write it the correct way.

And, if you’re in code anyways to extend it or fix a bug, CLEAN IT. Clean as you go, always. Don’t consider code to be static. Turn those constants into an enumerated type like you always meant. Take those hard-coded strings and make class variables for them. Replace english phrases with NSLocalized versions. Clean, clean, clean as you go.

– Less source code is better. This is almost always true. The exceptions to this are so rare that every time you think you’ve found one you should REALLY doubt yourself. Less lines of source code almost always means less code that new programmers have to understand when they come on the project. It means less stuff for you to remember next year when you are in the middle of another version. It means fewer places for you to have mistyped something. It means fewer instructions to execute. It means fewer things to change when you re-architect.

There are some interesting corollaries here. For instance, if you’re writing a class to display some text in red (for some reason), don’t add a bunch of methods “for the future” that allow you to draw the text in blue or green or purple. Because that’s more code than you need right now, and “less code is better.”

But, if you suddenly realize you want to draw purple text, you could write the red code again, except put in the color purple. But, “less code is better,” so you really need to abstract out the text-drawing code and make it take a color parameter, so you can re-use the same code.

The lesson I’m getting at is, don’t try to make code general until you actually need it in more than one place. The worst libraries in the world are the ones people write without actually writing any code that uses them to do actual work for actual users.

And don’t write longer, more obtuse code because you think it’s faster. Remember, hardware gets faster. MUCH faster, every year. But code has to be maintained by programmers, and there’s a shortage of good programmers out there. So, if I write a program that’s incredibly maintainable and extensible and it’s a bit too slow, next year I’m going have a huge hit on my hands. And the year after that, and the year after that.

If you write code with more code that’s fast now, you’re going to have a hit on your hands. And next year, you’re going to have a giant mess to maintain, and it’s going to slow you down adding features and fixing bugs, and someone’s going to come along and eat your lunch.

I’m not saying slow code is good. There’s a time and a place for optimizations…

– The time and place are AFTER YOU ARE DONE. Optimize methods ONLY after they work and are bulletproof AND you’ve done testing in Shark and discovered the method is critical.

Don’t optimize as you write. Why not? Because, in all probability, you’re wasting your time. The VAST majority of the code programmers optimize is executed so rarely that its total speedup to the program can be measured only in nanoseconds. Also, you’re probably not very good at it. No insult, but machines and libraries are complex systems, and your guesses as to what’s slow are probably pretty bad. You need to run testing tools to find out what is ACTUALLY slow. The results are often surprising. (For instance, in the Mac OS 10.3, having lots of tooltips in a view that you remove and add back to a window a lot is EXTREMELY slow. This is not something you can possibly know to optimize without doing testing in Shark.)

The next time you go to make something a little harder to read but a little faster, ask yourself, “How often will this REALLY get called?” Is the answer less than a hundred times a second? Because processors can now process several BILLION operations a second.

Now, Delicious Library isn’t the zippiest program in the world on all hardware, but, actually, it’s a LOT faster than it was initially. Those huge, beautiful covers really suck down memory. When we first wrote Library, if you loaded more than about 400 items, the cover images would suck up all your main memory and the program would just crawl. (It was like iPhoto 1.)

I re-architected the entire cover caching and compositing system, and got it so that we could comfortably handle several thousand items, and, if you use the table mode, possibly tens of thousands (I’ve never had that many items). This took several weeks to do. Now, I’m not as zippy as iPhoto 4, but I’m actually pretty close to the performance of iPhoto 2, and considering I’m just one guy and this was Delicious Library 1, I’m pretty proud of that.

What’s the point? The point is, if I’d spent a bunch of time optimizing other parts of the program as I wrote it, I would not have had those weeks at the end to fix the imaging path, which was the slowest part. I would have had to have shipped with a program that could only handle a couple hundred items, and then I would have immediately had to patch it when people started scanning in thousands.