I’m off to grow a giant pumpkin!

I love my job, but my job doesn't pay so well. For a while I attempted to cope with this problem by means of personal finance. However, while thinking and writing about personal finance, I have realized (for a while now) that I need to make more money. And while personal finance is more of a subset of home economics, earning more is all about business and entrepreneurship, so I am officially changing my areas of study.

"The Pumpkin Plan"

I've been reading the work of Mike Michalowicz for some time now. Not long ago I wrote about "The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur" (TPE), a hilarious and useful primer for launching (or relaunching) a business. Now it's time to (finally!) write about "The Pumpkin Plan,"which I have been promising since, uh… last October, I think? (Hi, Rya!)

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More about...Books, Career, Food, Side Hustles

Building a life we value

The reason why I think "earn more" is better than "spend less" is not simply because more money gives us more options to amass a positive net worth, or because I don't like to spent my time transporting my garbage to somebody else's trash dump. I think this way mainly because I cherish human work and creativity, and I see wealth as the accumulated expression of this work.

This deep appreciation of human activity is also the reason why I look at early retirement with suspicion (not condemnation, just suspicion): I feel that when we remove ourselves from the productive matrix, we diminish everybody's life a little. In mystical Judaism there is the concept of the Tzadikim Nistarim, 36 righteous people unknown to all, who nevertheless justify the existence of humanity in the eyes of God. Without them, the story goes, our world would cease to exist.

I'm not much of a mystic, but to me, it's good people doing their best work who carry out the miracle of sustaining our world, especially if they aren't famous or recognized or well remunerated. The mechanic that fixed your car right; the electrician that didn't botch the wiring of your home; the pharmacist who dispensed your prescription correctly; the air traffic controller who shepherded your airplane home; the teacher who imparted not just knowledge, but a love of knowledge; the nurse who took the extra time to comfort a patient; the insurance agent to knew the answer to your every question; the plumber who saved your house from flooding -- these and other millions of people allow our world to continue its existence every day.

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Throwing away an old rule

Fellow peasants, unite! The time has come to overthrow the old order! GRS rule #3 says, "Spend less than you earn." But why should we continue to do that always? Because of tradition? Because of authority? Because that's what everyone else claims they are doing? To the guillotine with the old rules, I say. It's time for revolution!

It's time to turn the old laws upside down. It's time to say something better. It's time to declare a new rule #3:

"Earn more than you spend!"

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More about...Career, Psychology

Mike Michalowicz, ex-Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

I've been meaning to write about Mike Michalowicz for a while now. Last October, in a comment to an article about generalization vs. specialization, I sided with specialists and promised reader Rya that I'd soon be discussing GIANT PUMPKINS! Why? Because at the time, I was reading Mike's newest book, "The Pumpkin Plan."

However, life is full of detours, so I am finally writing about it months later… except that I won't be writing about giant pumpkins just yet, because while reading the pumpkin book, I came to learn about Mike's first book -- "The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur" (or TPE, for short).

Many of Mike's core concepts from "The Pumpkin Plan" were, in fact, developed in his TPE era. As you might recall, I like complexities, chronologies and connections, so I was happy to search for the source of it all. And while reading the first book, I fell in love with the TPE approach, so much so, that I'm applying it to relaunch my business this year. Continue reading...

More about...Books, Side Hustles

In defense of passion (with the help of reason)

"Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion."

Last week, GRS published an article by April Dykman that presented some ideas by Ramit Sethi and Cal Newport about how "follow your passion" is bad career advice and what to do about it.

Sure, I guess. "Follow your passion" is bad advice. For one thing, it's terribly simplistic. It also assumes that everyone has a passion or even knows what that is. The fact that this is bad advice, however, doesn't imply that following your passion (and I mean a real passion, not an invented one) has to be a bad thing. Difficult maybe, irrational for sure, bad -- it all depends on how you conduct yourself.

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More about...Career, Psychology

This year, switch and get things done

Friends: this is only an arbitrary calendar, but still, it's a nice mental paradigm to start counting again from day one. Don't forget to write the correct year when you write your next check! (That is, if you still write checks.)

Speaking of checks, and balances, I don't have a crystal ball, so at the time of writing this I don't yet know if by the time of publication we'll have gone over the "fiscal cliff," or if our politicians will have managed to cobble some sort of compromise. Whatever it was and whatever happens, it's going to be big news, but I don't want to speculate right now -- I just want to wish a good and prosperous year to all.

And with those caveats -- Happy New Year! Today is the day when people customarily talk about their resolutions for the next 365 days. We proclaim things like "I'll never drink again" or "I'm going to lose all the weight I put on during the holidays" or "I swear an oath to file my taxes by February."

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More about...Planning

Stuff: How to protect it

How much is your property worth to you?

For all the discussion of emergency funds and disaster preparedness that goes on in the personal finance blogosphere, I rarely, if ever, read anything about protecting yourself from property crime. Perhaps because it's an unpleasant subject, perhaps because many people have never experienced it, but I don't hear a big conversation about the subject in PF discussions.

And yet, for many of us, a sizable portion of our accumulated wealth is in our property -- from family heirlooms to everyday items to tools of the trade, our possessions are assets in our personal balance sheets. We work hard, save up, shop smart, and we get stuff we use, enjoy and value.

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More about...Home & Garden, Insurance

Lessons from a master, Jiro Ono

I have been re-watching the documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" for the past couple of months. I've seen it at least 10 times, probably more, while writing drafts for this article. I've watched it alone, with my wife, with friends, and I don't tire of it; I've recommended it to everyone I know, and now I'm wholeheartedly recommending it to you.

This little gem of a documentary by David Gelb takes a look at the work and life of Jiro Ono, a Michelin three-star sushi chef who, at 85 years of age, continues to work on his craft every day at his tiny restaurant in a Tokyo office building basement opposite a subway station entrance. His colleagues, his country, and at least one very knowledgeable food writer recognize him as perhaps the greatest sushi chef alive.

I have watched this film in fascination, trying to extract lessons from this master. What have I learned from him? And what questions do these lessons open up for me?

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More about...Psychology, Career

Why I hate consumer contracts

A problematic prepay

I was going over my old files the other day and found a bill for "Sunrocket," a long-defunct Internet phone company that charged me $244 for a year's worth of service and proceeded to close shop a couple of weeks later. They just disconnected service and stopped answering the phones. No message, no warning, nothing. I was literally robbed, but luckily I had paid with a bank card, so I initiated a dispute and my bank account was refunded some months later.

Done in by the Internet

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In Search of a Financial Theory of Everything

First things first (and I try to be organized that way): I think my first "official" post for GRS should be a sort of statement of purpose, an outline of what I'll be trying to accomplish here, as a kind of introduction of things to come.

It makes sense as part of the job interview process that I should answer such classic questions as: "What can you bring to our organization?" Or, "Where do you see yourself five years from now?" I really believe that GRS readers got me this job, and I feel I owe you those explanations, even after having been hired. Please don't be afraid, I'm not going to ramble about myself until your phone suddenly wakes you up a half-hour later. I'm actually trying to write something useful.

Let's start by making something clear: I'm not here to dance for the money. I'm here on a mission! Almost like the Blues Brothers. The way I see it, I'm getting paid to research and to learn about something that interests me. And as I discover and learn new things, I will do my best to share these things with you.

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