Marketing, Minneapolis, Music & More

Value Addition

Today I’ve been considering the need for small businesses to add value for their customers in different ways outside of simply fulfilling their orders.

Often, smaller businesses don’t have the scale economies to compete with larger organizations solely on price. The classic example of this situation is Walmart versus the mom and pop brick and mortar’s of yesteryear. The bottom line is that some folks will always gravitate toward the lower price, however a great deal of people do not.

The tough news is that you will simply never beat Walmart on price. The good news is that small businesses do not need to. Your market segment is likely not the customer looking for the absolute lowest price; if it is you won’t be in business for long.

Here are some areas to consider if you’re a small business in terms of adding value outside simply fulfilling an order:

Expertise: The holy grail of why people purchase from places outside big box retail.  EVERY small business needs to be an expert in their trade, they need to understand why different products and services exist and provide that perspective, free of charge, to customers.  My mother and wife both like cameras.  It seems like every year Teresa is finding a new reason to buy a camera, and she goes to National Camera Exchange for this reason. They know their equipment, they know what competitors can offer too, but they specialize well enough to add insight that a big box simply can’t.  You can argue that National Camera Exchange isn’t a small business, however they are fighting the same battles with big boxes. If you’re not already the most knowledgeable person in your community on your trade, there is real value for both you and your customers if you’re willing to put in the work.

Customer Service: Yes, customer service has become a trite aphorism.  ”The customer is always right” isn’t right all the time.   But customer service still means a lot to many people.  I’m one of them.  I’ll be happy to pay for great service.  Excellent staff who pay attention to you and take care of your issues quickly win repeat customers.  Bad customer service is almost CERTAIN to drive a business into the ground.  Good customer service pays for itself in spades due to word of mouth and retention.  If you haven’t done so, try calling into your business with an “issue” to be resolved.  Ask yourself a few questions:

1.  Do I feel good about the way this was addressed by the company?
2.  Would I recommend this company to a friend or relative?
3.  How can I improve this?

Now do the same thing for purchasing something new — you’ll likely have to have someone else that people in the business don’t know do it, but have a secret shopper walk through and report what they find.  Does anything stand out?

Personalization: There’s a reason everyone like’s Cheers.  When a small business remembers who you are and what you like, it means a lot.  My Father in law goes to Mexico Lindo in Cloquet, MN quite a bit.  Every time they bring him his favorite beer and a bowl of Chicken Tortilla soup.  He doesn’t even need to order.  THAT wins.  Small business owners may not be able to remember everyone, but they can make the experience of purchasing from them enjoyable enough to tell friends.  Learning about your customers will go a long way for them.  Consider ways to make working with you and your business a closer relationship than simply buyer and seller.

blue fishStand Out From The Crowd: I’ve written about this before, but the beautiful thing about running YOUR business is that YOU CHOOSE everything about it.  Do you want to give away champagne to every customer who walks in?  Cool.  Want to play trance music with a light show at the start of every other hour?  Check.  Want to run an ongoing loop of 80’s rock videos during happy hour?  Rockable.  It’s open season.

This is the most underestimated aspect of owning a business.  If you aren’t afraid to take chances and do things differently such that people are compelled to talk about it, you will get free advertising every day of your life.  Marketers and business owners need to embrace that.  Will you appeal to everyone?  NO!  Appealing to everyone is the kiss of death in business.  It’s not possible.  Instead, you dumb down the product enough that it’s no longer remarkable, no longer worth pointing out because it’s like everything else.  Please, appeal to one person.  Others, just like that person, will find you too.

Industry Advocacy and Caring. I struggle to explain this concept to people because you can’t just tell someone to care.  They either do or they don’t.  The absolute worst customer experiences come from businesses trying to squeeze every penny out of the P&L.  Businesses need profits, but they can’t come at the cost of experiences from customers.  You have to be able to build a model that allows for everyone to get value out of the process.

Businesses that are run by people who advocate for the industry and lead their communities are going to prosper.  There are many ways to grow businesses, some of them are by taking business from competitors, others are by expanding the amount of people who actually use that type of product or service.  When you expand the pie through advocacy you have a much better chance of acquiring that business from customers as you are leading and therefore prominently seen within the community.  Tangible examples of this type of leadership is usually found in the form of community service, volunteering and organization of events.  It’s a lot of fun to do these things too, BTW.

Smaller businesses usually do not have the financial resources of big companies, but they do have the ability to be nimble and conduct business in ways the big guys are afraid to try.  The key is to engineer your business or product in a way that people will want to try because it’s different, worth while and come back to due to quality.

March Madness and March Sadness

Today I’ll be watching some college hoops with good friends in Uptown. This time of year is always a lot of fun for that reason, brackets bring excitement-even if only for bragging rights. The games are always fantastic. You see these young men out there chasing their dreams; for many it will be the pinnacle of their athletic lives and every moment matters. The fact that us old folks get to enjoy it with them makes it even better.

This year however, there is some sadness involved. Speaking of old folks, my grandfather is in the hospital with fluid in his lungs. This is not the first time that it’s happened, and in addition to a few other medical ailments in the last 18 months, I’m beginning to think his health is seriously deteriorating. :-(

My grandfather is the last living of my grandparents. I was blessed to have to grandfathers who served as heroes. I don’t know that I’ve written at length about either–but this particular man was a navy man. Tall, sturdy and of a thinner build. He was always looked up to, literally. He has always had a quiet demeanor, but quick to laugh. He knick named me “the preacher” as a child due to my affinity for speaking to people and occasionally no one at all in his back yard. We would take bike rides to the local Dairy Queen in Paynesville when I’d visit, and he’d let me play pool in his basement with the other kids. He is a man of God, a father of eight and is to be admired for quietly living a life he chose.

Today I’m going back to see him in the hospital, before coming back to watch the Madness.

Can’t help but feel reminiscent today. Hopefully we’ve all got quite a few games left.

Youth Culture and (Less Importantly) Marketing Implications

Youth Culture is considerably more important, perceptively, than that of the older generations in the United States. You see it everywhere. If you watch/listen to media, there is a huge disparity in the amount of attention payed to younger people. Television, movies, music and to a lesser extent writing do so continually.

Why? I’m uncertain entirely, but can say that there is a long term outlook where people understand the youth will ultimately control the fate of the world. The new generations will eventually take the reins on governance and control of resources in time. It’s a small amount of the populace that will have this responsibility, and it cannot be predicted accurately, but it will happen. Youth Culture is our future.

Everyone has a perspective on how the world “should work” and they know that the new generations will control it. So they are trying to understand what’s going to happen when they take over. People that have been alive for many generations see the differences between how they grew up and what is happening currently, to an extent. They can’t completely understand it or see the differences as they aren’t actually living it, but it’s there. So they look for patterns and try to understand what’s happening.

Youth Culture is incredibly important as a concept. In our country, youth are unrestrained by the expectations of having to work or contribute to society outside of education. They are not tied to an organization or cause that they are inherently biased toward. There are certainly people and things they may have ties to, notably their parents and potentially religious institutions or by proxy their parents’ employers. These DO make a difference in their worldview, but nothing comparatively speaking to the adults that have to make a living.

This relative freedom from larger institutions allows for a freedom of thought. Whereas adults’ biases are deep and dependent on the necessities of life, youth are free to see the world in an idealist view. Unburdened by reality. I do not mean that as a negative, philosophy should not be dependent on what’s happening now, but what’s possible.

Youth Culture, for this reason, is extremely interesting as a very large group of young people combine and slowly but surely rise to power. In rare instances, there is a movement that could cause significant change. The YC of the 60’s is probably the best recent showcase of a generation that truly felt they were going to alter the world order of things. Ultimately less change happened than what was anticipated by the youth, but there IS significant possibility.

In Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegone Days a small excerpt covers this thought process: a young person discusses how they all feel a familial belonging to their class which will go away as they become adults and take on real world life. They want to do something that’s their own before becoming like everyone else.

This is why YC is so important.

There is a focus on YC from a media perspective for multiple reasons. There is the obvious reasoning that people like to see good looking people and aesthetically we are evolved to appreciate youthful attractive people. Demographically speaking, companies want to appear attractive to young groups as they represent a longer term potential customer than other groups. However this group of people actually have smaller amounts of discretionary income, which is counterintuitive. Despite that, younger people are actually more likely to spend money on things that aren’t absolutely necessary due to their lack of financial responsibilities.

Youth are often more impressionable than older generations by different types of marketing. There are a few reasons for this: lack of being marketed to over time, being at an age where being part of a group/accepted by peers lends itself toward trying to purchase things that help them fit in, a lack of resources to make purchases makes the idea of actually purchasing things more attractive (when you CAN buy stuff, it’s less attractive then when you can’t.) All these statements are relative, their not true in an absolute sense case by case.

Strangely, despite being more easily influenced, YC is more difficult to actually reach via traditional methods. I’ve written a great deal about how traditional marketing is fragmenting more and more with the advent of the internet. Reaching younger target audiences is dependent on understanding their communication methods, which are fluctuating wildly with the exponential growth of online channels.

If you asked a group of marketers the best way to get ahold of a 19 year old today with a marketing message, what would they say? Traditional advertising, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, SMS, SERPs, PPC, something else? All completely dependent on the objective–today a campaign is faced with more potential avenues for reach than ever before. The job is getting harder.

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Marketing to YC is actually more about building something (I’m tempted to call it a brand) that is relatable and worth supporting. This is true for all generations, but especially for a YC that is extremely cognizant of organizations attempting to sell them. Be honest, be real about what it is that the organization does and why it’s valuable. That’s the best we can do.

Anti-Consumerism versus Parenthood: An Internal Debate

Tempo will be arriving in a little less than three months now.  Real preparation has begun.  We secured day care at a very close in home residence.  Teresa has read up on pregnancy and parenthood throughout the last six months and is far more prepared than us.

Yesterday we went and registered for some supplies.  We also purchased a crib and changing station which I’ll be putting together later today.

Marketers are very good at their jobs: they will show you what you need, or create a need where one didn’t necessarily exist.  Growing up the idea of buying new clothes, video games, a shiny new vehicle and everything else you could want sounded amazing.  When you don’t have a lot (we didn’t) purchasing new things is something you aspire to.  It wasn’t as though my life was preoccupied with getting nicer things, but if given the choice to upgrade, it would be no brainer.  Life was good–having fun with friends, wakeboarding, folfing, driving around in the 92′ Taurus I purchased from my parents after working a year at McDonald’s to save up.  Yet when you don’t have money, the idea of having money and buying new stuff sounded great.

It’s funny how life works though.  At this point, the idea of buying new stuff generally repulses me.  Clutter and useless things are one of my biggest pet peeves, which is hard because Teresa is a clutter bug (I’ve got my own vices which outweigh hers disproportionately–she is the better half).  When you have enough money to actually purchase those shiny things, it doesn’t seem nearly so attractive.

Part of this is due to a personality trait, minimalism.  I’d prefer to have my life streamlined.  Having fewer things to manage normally means increasing effectiveness on those things that are a focus.

However there is a counterintuitive nature to having a family and pets and a house where they naturally are more to manage.  The joy they provide offsets the responsibilities associated.  Yet I am always actively trying to streamline those responsibilities such that they are as efficient as possible.  Despite not having an engineering background, it seems that’s my mindset–always trying to get the most value out of every process.

The tangible output of optimizing that process is attempting to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of what to buy or not buy.   I’d prefer to only buy what is truly necessary.  But at this point, we actually don’t know what is needed and what isn’t.  Lots of friends and family are giving us tips, which helps.  Yesterday as we walked around Babies R Us and Target scanning things in, there was an incessant querying in my head: will we actually use this?  Is this necessary?

This is not about money.  Kids are expensive, that is not an issue.  This isn’t even about sustainability and saving the planet (though I stand firmly on the side of a capitalistic society that puts planetary resource management first).  It’s about clutter.  And stuff.

The battle against stuff will continue.  The next decade is going to be a tough one in that regard.

7 Years at Redmarketer

It has been a full seven years since I began writing here on redmarketer.  At the time of inception, this blog was mostly oriented around marketing in the new age.  Digital presence for most companies was still relatively nascent.  I worked at a small company at that point but was readying myself for business school at the University of Minnesota.

At that time, the change that was happening in the world and business was crystal clear.  The proliferation of the internet as a source of information was bound to change everything for the better and it was exciting to be a part of it.

I had been doing direct marketing campaigns for my company of the time for roughly three years–quite a bit of direct mail, sales calls and presentations, but in addition we were starting to focus on email and digital marketing through search.  The business model was still primarily focused on outbound calls and in person meetings, but supplementing it with different marketing methodology was an eye opener for the company as it had strong results and could normally tie back an ROI as opposed to trade shows we frequented–which historically had been the go to for new business.

That job was amazing in and of itself as it was my first role outside of college.  My thirst for knowledge at that time was near insatiable and books like Permission Marketing, Tested Advertising Methods, Positioning, From Good to Great and In Search of Excellence were continually shaping my mind around what makes great companies.  Marketing itself is just a broad way to describe how a company differentiates itself to customers and creates and furthers relationships–but it’s imperative to think about it critically strategically and tactically.

Everyone at your company is a marketer, regardless of their function.  Companies thrive today by standing for something.  Apple is likely the most highly regarded organization in the world, or at least one of the most highly regarded.  They are seen this way because of the choices they make and how they represent themselves to their customers.  It starts with product and design.  It continues with packaging, distribution and customer service.  It raises the bar with brand management, advertising and challenging the status quo of what a company can be.  This sounds a bit on the fluffy side, but that’s why customers affiliate themselves with organizations.  They believe in their purpose and offerings.

There are many other organizations that do this same thing in many ways.  I work for an organization that continues to astound me, day in day out, with their commitment to customers and ability to innovate.  Companies like Nike, McDonald’s, Amazon, Starbucks, Zappos, Tesla, Brooks, Red Bull and many, many more continually show their understanding and connection with their customers.  That’s what businesses need to do in order to grow–they have to truly understand and connect with their customers, as well as potential customers, on their terms to provide them value.

It sounds simple.  It’s not.

Businesses are in a competitive environment and have organizational structures that desperately need the right human resources and talent pools to build value chains correctly.  Every decision matters.  Every customer interaction, or process leading up to one, is rife with opportunity to mess up that raison d’etre of the organization.  I marvel at the companies that have built management structures that allow them to continually outpace competitors and lead into new eras regardless of changes to tech or generational motivations.

Things have changed a lot in seven years.  But a lot has stayed the same.  I’m still fascinated with business and love being a part of it.  I love learning new things.  I don’t write as much about marketing per say, but in context it’s still primarily what drives my career.  The blog has become more personal.  My work eats up more of my time at home and thinking and writing about personal things seems more valuable to me in the long term, but I need to do a better job balancing it as I know many folks here come for business thoughts more so than personal.

Thank you for reading.

Wolf In White Van

wolfHaving completed Catch 22 a month ago, it was time to pick up a new book. I’d asked for a Wolf In White Van during Christmas. John Darnielle is one of my all time favorite writers, but only as a singer songwriter in the Mountain Goats.  His song writing is truly exceptional, taking on all kinds of subject matter and doing so in an eloquent and memorable manner continually.  They have an album coming out in a few months, which is a concept around the stories involved in professional writing.

John is always creating new challenges for himself.  So many of his albums are conceptual, with stories following folks of all kind.  If you haven’t listened to his music, I’d recommend All Hail West Texas for lower fidelity and The Sunset Tree for a more polished sound.  Half of the appeal for me comes from imperfection, but all of his albums are interesting.

Wolf In White Van is a 200 page book that should take a relatively short amount of time to read.  It’s the story of a young man who has had an accident, if you can call it that, where he has a disfigured visage.  He maintains financial buoyancy through a mail in game called Trace Italian.  Players are given the opportunity to make their way through a post apocalyptic  world for $5 per month and self addressed envelopes which transmit their choices in the game.  An ongoing correspondence continues their decision making throughout the world.

The book picks up where one set of players decide to live out their decision making in the real world and trouble stirs up.

Details of what actually happens in the plot and how it affects the protagonist are less important here than his thought process.  There are many philosophical questions at play that strike me as the main reason for the story.  There are multiple instances of searching for meaning, or reasons, for things that happen which simply aren’t there.  The book is interesting in that it made me think of reasons as a concept.  It’s an existential exposition which some would appreciate, and many would lament.

I don’t know that I’d recommend the book to a lot of people as I’m not sure they’d appreciate it.  I doubt I’ll read it again.  Darnielle’s ability to write is not in question though.  He is talented and puts words and sentences together beautifully–it’s always been difficult for me to describe the purity of some writers such as Hemingway or Hesse.  Darnielle has clarity to his writing which conveys truth, or a meaningful search of what truth means, extremely well.  If you’re a fan of his work already, I’d read it.  If you don’t know who he is, start with his music.

KUBB TOURNEY!

No big post today as I’ve got to get ready for our annual winter Kubb tournament on Lake Harriet.  If you aren’t familiar with Kubb, take a look here.  Wish me luck!  Below is a video of a my buddy Seguin winning it a few years ago.  Tons of fun and a great way to get out during winter.

Winter Wrap

This is the time of year that seasonal affective disorder usually takes hold, but we’ve had a very light winter and it hasn’t been completely crumby. The new snowblower we bought barely got used, we had a really nice December and January, with colder than typical November and February. But thus far it’d rate above average in terms of severity. Meanwhile the East Coast continues to get pummeled with huge snow storms continually.

Still this time of year is a bit dry as we’ve been cooped up quite a bit the last four months due to weather. I’ve had a sore throat since Friday so have stayed home, rested and worked on our big launch for April this weekend. The issue is the need to get out and do something different to break the monotony associated with day in, day out, capital T truth of adult life. In future years we will hopefully be travelling somewhere warmer at this point, but this year we’re keeping it close.

Living in Minnesota at this time of year always seems odd.  Keep it in mind as you strive toward Spring.  It’s just a part of life here.

At times like these I’m usually buying too much music on Amazon. Today resulted in five new albums. Music is a great way to switch things up, and now that I’ve installed a backup hard drive on my system there’s nothing to worry about if a crash happens. The only thing needed is a phone with more room to be able to store more music.  That will likely happen later this year with the new iPhone iteration.

I’m eager to get out on my bike and hit trails in the spring.  Or go on hikes with Teresa.  This year will be more difficult however as our third trimester is nearing and Tempo will be arriving in May.  At that point joint excursions will be out of the question for a short period, however we’ll get a good stroller and try to make moves in the sunlight when we can.  It will definitely be an adjustment.

What to do with the rest of the day?  I’m uncertain–but it’s probably best to get up and move away from the computer.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Da Kid is Back in Sota!

Growing up, I didn’t always have a lot to do.  We lived in the sticks of Alexandria, Minnesota.  Although a decent sized town — roughly 9k in my youth — where I lived only a few people had permanent residences.  The other homes were all lake cabins that people visited on weekends.  There just weren’t that many families in my area.

I was the youngest of three, a boy sibling to two older girls, which often made me the odd one out when it came to finding things to do.  We had a basketball hoop with a gravel turnaround.  Many hours were spent dribbling and shooting, pretending to be in the NBA.  The first time I played on an actual gym floor I felt like Superman, being able to dribble without rocks altering the bouncing movement of the ball made my control insanely better.  Basketball was an escape for me, a way to be something more than a slightly shorter than average skinny kid in rural Minnesota.

On Sundays NBC would play professional basketball games, which I’d be glued to the TV for as we didn’t have cable.  Around 1991 I started watching the Timberwolves on the local Fox affiliate that ran a game roughly six times a season.    I started watching and got excited about Isaiah Rider, when he did the East Bay Funk Dunk to win the dunk contest in 94, well, it was something out of this world.

The Timberwolves were never a team that grabbed me for a specific reason.  They were always losing, but at my age it didn’t  matter to me–it was just about cheering them on and loving basketball.  They were my team because they were the team on television a few times a year.  I kept rooting for them–hoping they’d get to draft Shaq or Zo, but getting Christian Laettner instead.  He had a decent NBA career but it makes you wonder what would have happened otherwise.  The team has historically bad luck in drafts and mediocre results in trades.kevin_garnett_rookie_display_image

Draft picks were always the most exciting time of the year as a Twolves fan.  We were never near the playoffs, so drafts were the best chance we had at a turnaround.  They represented hope and  excitement for the future.  In 1995 we drafted a very skinny, tall young man who absolutely tore up his high school league at Farrugut Academy in Chicago: he averaged 25.2 points on 66.8% shooting, 17.9 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 6.5 blocks.  His name was Kevin Garnett and he was knicknamed Da Kid because he was only 19 years old–the youngest ever in NBA history.

Da Kid was a string bean of energy, running, dunking and playing D with enthusiasm.  He’d slam his forehead with the ball after missing free throws.  He’d goof around a lot. He was too skinny, getting handled well by older stronger forwards in the league.  There was a moment against the Lakers where Cedric Ceballos dunked on him in an isolation, he ran back to D saying “Not ready, not ready” while shaking his head.  He may have been right, but Flip Saunders (the new coach at the time) was bent on getting him minutes and he joined the starting lineup in the second half of the season.

In his second year, with the help of Tom Gugliotta and newly acquired Stephon Marbury, the Timberwolves made their first ever playoffs.  They were swept by the Rockets who had a bevy of older, but still very good veterans.  As seasons went on, Da Kid became the Big Ticket, shouldering the expectations of being a star in the league.  He signed one of the largest contracts of all time, $126M, and was anointed as the cornerstone of the team.  This actually alienated Marbury, who ended up getting traded afterward.

KG continued to progress.  In the early 2000’s he was clearly one of the best overall players in the NBA.  In 2004 he won the NBA MVP–averaging 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.5 steals a game.  The year before this he’d registered similar numbers, but the MVP was given to Tim Duncan, who had very good numbers as well but a better team overall.  It’s tough to really describe how much he did on the floor.  He could guard anyone in the league other than Shaq.  He actually guarded point guards.  I remember him clapping loudly in Steve Nash’s face at the top of the key, arms spread wide eating up all his space.  He always guarded the best players in crunch time.  He passed the ball unselfishly and, though he wasn’t an offensive force, he kept the team playing the right way.  KG carried the team to the Western Conference Championship with the help of Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell.  They ended up losing to the Lakers when Sam Cassel was hurt.kevin_garnett_04_nba_mvp_trophy_photofile Had he not been hurt, there’s a good chance they go to the NBA Finals to play a very good Detroit Pistons team.

Things kind of fell apart for the Timberwolves after that.  Sprewell stated he needed to feed his children and spurned a three year $21M contract extension.  Sam stayed for a little while but management foolishly traded him AND a first round pick for Marko Jaric (don’t ask.)  To add salt to the wound, the Wolves hadn’t really been stocking up on young talent to that point due to an under the table deal with Joe Smith (drafted number one the same year as KG) which was found out by the league and penalized heavily in the form of draft picks.  In this day and age, draft picks represent a huge amount of the value that a franchise has to offer in trades and restocking their roster.  Most NBA cities are not destinations for players, LA, New York, Chicago and Miami being exceptions.  Minnesota still struggles to attract free agents to this day.

All this combined into a situation where KG was carrying more and more of the load while results on the floor continued to deteriorate.  He was not happy.

This is where the true value of this human being shines through.  Kevin Garnett never asked to be traded.  He never complained since he was a younger wolf.  When he first entered the league and performed well but the team struggled, he had been vocal in the locker room.  Sam Mitchell, a veteran small forward at the time push back HARD on him vocally, paraphrased “YOU are the one with the big contract, YOU have to take responsibility.”   After that, he just worked more and more.  As a Minnesota fan, to have someone as good as him on our team carrying us every year for 12 seasons when he could have easily bowed out meant a huge deal.  He was the consummate teammate and leader and put us on the map as a franchise.  He will always be my favorite player and I imagine there are hundreds of thousands of other people that feel the same.

Ultimately KG was traded to the Celtics in a rebuild move which, though sad at the time, was necessary.   I was actually very happy for him and watched the Celtics games that year.  He went on to win a championship with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce in Boston.  After winning, he was crying and screamed “ANYTHING IS POOOOSSIBLE!!!!” on national television.  No one in Minnesota was surprised.  He called out our state immediately, saying this one was for us, this one was for everyone in Chicago, for his mother.  Top of the world.

The unfortunate part of this story is that the Celtics could have easily one three championships if it weren’t for injuries.  They were extremely good.  But they were also aging vets, a few years ago they broke up the group–Ray Allen had left to play on the Heat with Lebron James.  The Celtics traded KG and Pierce to the Nets where they mired in mediocrity.

After winning a championship Garnett became more aggressive and did some silly things on the court.  He’s not without flaws and winning made him more abrasive to many fans.  But despite all those things, he’s still a hero of mine.

KG is 38 years old.  He’s played almost twenty years in the league.  He’s averaging 7 and 7.  He doesn’t have much left in the tank.   We traded a younger player, Thaddeus Young, who would undoubtedly have more production on the court to get Da Kid back in Minnesota.  His first game is Wednesday and I’m thrilled to go hear his name announced.  He’s going to retire here and regardless of wins and losses, that means a lot to me.  We don’t get a lot of heroes in Minnesota sports.

Welcome home KG!  Minnesota loves you.

Long Term Goals Continued

A few posts back I brought up the idea of long term goals juxtaposed against short term annual goals.  I’ve thought a little more about this and have bucketed out some of the different things Teresa and I are working toward.

The big goal is to lead a happy, enlightened existence filled with family and friendships.  I’d like to spend most of my time learning new things and enjoying the relationships currently in place, as well as those that will develop in the future.  But how does one go about that?

Generally speaking, you can figure out how to do all the things you want to do and delineate the resources necessary to do so.  The most finite resource is time–everyone has a ticking clock here.  Finances are another big resource need.  It’s really unfortunate that so much of adult life is spent thinking about finances–as a youth you do not spend that time thinking about it because it’s not really your responsibility.  But as an adult you have to consider the costs of everything–what a drag!  :-)  Money will not make you happy though.  Seeking out money with a ravenous appetite will leave you shallow and lifeless.  It’s not really what’s important.

Here are a few of the bigger goals for the future:

1.  Education for our kids. Tempo is on the way and when s/he arrives we’re going to have to learn a lot of new things.  I value education incredibly.  That may sound a bit trite as most folks wouldn’t say the opposite, but I don’t necessarily mean education in the traditional sense of purely getting degrees.  Degrees are all fine and good, but the ability to disseminate knowledge and learn on your own is more imperative than anything.  Not all children are taught that they are capable of anything they choose to do and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy of limitations.

It was in undergrad where this all came to fruition.  There was an epiphany moment where I realized that anything on this planet could be learned and that made anything possible.  I wish I’d thought this way at a younger age, my  path may have been different.  Teaching self reliance and empowerment to my kids is more important to me than anything else.  If they know they are capable of anything, they will achieve greatness.  Greatness does NOT mean being a Ph.D or being the worlds preeminent authority on a subject.  Greatness can be quietly living a life you choose outside of public view.  But understanding that YOU choose is imperative–you can do anything, but you do not have to.  If you want to be a doctor, a psychologist, a rocket scientist, an author, an artist, an army officer, a teacher, a business person…it’s all well within reach.

I do not know how to spark this type of thought process yet.  Thoreau and Emerson that opened my eyes–but I do not know how to do so for others, it’s likely to be a pool we wade into slowly.

2.  Own a nice place to live. We “own” our house now–if you consider having hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt owning.  I don’t.  So paying off the mortgage is one thing.  But there’s a lot more to it than paying it off.  There are multiple projects we’d like to take on.  The first is hardwood flooring upstairs.  We need to rebuild the deck outside, making it bigger and using premium materials that don’t need repeated staining.  Our basement needs to redo the flooring, rebuild the bathrooms and paint.  The chimney needs to be patched up a bit.  Insulation in the roof needs to be redone.  Fireplaces need to be automated.  Shelving needs to be built upstairs.  The other bathrooms need to be renovated.

This stuff costs a good amount, but it’s well worth the cost.  It’s not just about having an asset that’s worth more when you pass it on to your kids or sell if you want to retire somewhere warmer.  It’s the fact that you live in a place you enjoy getting up in every day.  And you take pride in building it and maintaining it as your own.  This is a long term goal as there’s simply not enough resources to do all these projects right away–I’d imagine it will take us a good 10 years to get everything the way we want it.

Paying off the mortgage will take at least that long and probably more.  I really need to take a hard look at that and build a plan.  We have an FHA loan and after five years we can take the mortgage insurance off of it if we own 20%, which shouldn’t be an issue.  The house as appreciated about 8% alone since we bought it.  Our loan is at an amazing rate, so paying it off quickly is not a huge priority, however it is the largest expense we have.  Eliminating it is the biggest step to financial independence we could take.  Remember, financial independence is about having the choice to do what you want, it doesn’t mean you’d change your current lifestyle or work, but it’s an option.

3.  Retire comfortably. I dislike the vagueness of this statement as it could mean many things to many folks.  To me this is probably more of a financial exercise than anything else.  There aren’t that many things that you need in retirement.  My parents are retired and live simply–enjoying their lives at the lake.  Teresa’s father is retired and her mother still works three or four days a week doing something she enjoys.  They’re both doing well without a big need for money.  We will very likely go down the same path.

4.  Travel extensively. Earth, space, physical nature and the like are riveting subject matter.  I want to see as much of it as possible.  It’s going to be harder to do so with Tempo, but people who say you cannot travel with children are fooling themselves, it’s not true.   Travel costs a lot, but when the only stuff you spend money on is your house and saving for retirement, it’s well within reach.  I’ve travelled to the following places in order:

Puerta Vallarta, Mexico
New Zealand (Wellington, the West Coast of the South Island)
Seoul, South Korea
Los Cabos, Mexico
Costa Rica (Guanacaste and the Southwest Coasts)
Belize (San Ignacio, Hopkins and Caye Caulker)
Banff, Canada

Teresa has gone to Africa and China without me, but many of the above places are shared.  We want to keep travelling and will.

5.  Live healthy. Physical, mental and emotional health all fall here.  Everyone has different ways of doing these things.  For me it’s mostly physical exercise, writing and reading, being honest and working through issues with people when they exist.  It’s actually harder than it sounds, humans are all imperfect.  We have flaws.  Keep it in mind.

6.  Help others. I’d like us to lead a life where we help as many people along as possible.  That means being active in our community and being generous with our resources where we can.  I’ve been so fortunate to get help from people throughout my life and want to give back.  I think there’s a lot more to think about on this one.  What are the best ways to give back?  This goes far beyond simply giving a charity money; that’s the easy way out.  Working with organizations to improve others’ lives by giving your time and knowledge where it’s applicable is much more rewarding.  I’d really like to teach in 15-20 years as that can really scale to help younger folks.  Teresa is already helping young people every day.  She’s a great teacher.  She’s going to be a great mom.  I feel very lucky to have her in my life.

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