My Experience Rule 5: Invest in Others

Rule Five: Invest in Others

While they call it “Invest in Others”, this really feels like philanthropy. In their book, Happy Money, Elizabeth and Michael provide a lot of compelling arguments that some of the best return on happiness comes from donating to others. However, if your donations have these attributes, the donation delivers you the most happiness.

  1. Make it a choice
  2. Make a connection
  3. Make an impact

When you feel like it’s a choice, you feel empowered. As a friend of mine once joked, “Barney the Dinosaur is a socialist”

“How can you say that?” I asked

“Because if you want to share its philanthropy. If you have to give, it’s socialism.”

The point being, that a key ingredient in effectively investing in others is our own feelings of self-control and self-efficacy.

After you get to choose where your hard-earned dollars go, the next step in the ladder toward happy philanthropy is to make a connection with the people you are helping. Finally, what will help cement the good will is the feeling that you made a difference. Successful, happy philanthropists want to know that made an impact.

And as I look back, I would say one of the very best things I ever did that combined nearly all of these 5 ideas was my trip to Guatemala with my daughter Rebecca. We went with a Christian Faith based Non-Profit group called Outreach for World Hope.

In her book Tears Water the Seeds of Hope, Kim Tews writes about how she created an amazing ministry in Central America that helps the poorest of the poor.

I was intruded to Kim and her husband Randy through my friend Chris. It started out innocently enough. I went to a National Honor Society meeting at our local high school. Normally when I go to these things, my goal is to not fall asleep and embarrass my wife. I never expected to walk away with a life changing idea.

But that’s what happened. The incoming president of the class of 2016 NHS, gave a speech about Philanthropy and she said something like this (I paraphrase), “We have to trust that work we are doing actually helps someone.”

Looking back, she was directly commenting on the 3 core items revealed by Happy Money. Most of the charity events the kids worked on were not of their choosing, they were handed work. Secondly, they never met anyone they helped. Finally, there was no method of feedback. They could never see the impact of their efforts.

I left the room thinking about how my own charitable activities, both personally and through GameTruck had been sufficiently sanitized to the point that, while I have more control over who I donate to or support, I never make a connection and I couldn’t think of any meaningful impact.

I don’t feel like I wasted my time, but I started to feel extremely disconnected. Like all this Philanthropy had become extremely sterile. I shared these feelings with Chris at my weekly bible study group and he said, “Hey you want to go to Guatemala?”

My initial reaction was, “Lord no!” But before those words came out of my mouth, I realized that was exactly what I needed to do. I needed to get outside my comfort zone. And so, that’s what I did. And I can tell you that going to Guatemala was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, not only for me, but also for my daughter.

The trip itself is another story for another day, but looking back it touched on 4 of the 5 rules and hit all three of the rule five attributes.

  1. We bought an experience, not a thing.
  2. It was definitely a treat, something we looked forward to.
  3. We paid first, and consumed later
  4. We invested in others
    • We got to choose what we worked on
    • We made connections with the people we helped
    • We got to see the work help the people immediately

Looking back, I would say that single trip maximized nearly every attribute of the Happy Money principles and it was one that changed multiple lives including my own.

My Experience with Rule 4: Pay First, Consume Later

Rule Four: Pay First, Consume Later

I would say that the closest I have come to using this philosophy has been in 2 areas.

  1. Taking a cruise.
  2. Language learning.
  3. Our Mission Trip

With the cruise, we paid for everything, the tickets, the plane flight the whole thing four our family in advance. I didn’t realize it at the time but this was an example of Pay First, consumer later. Once we were on the cruise ship we felt like there was nothing else to spend money on. Of course, there was, but we enjoyed the food and entertainment to the max.

Looking back on it, the only thing that was off for me was the one time we went to the steak house for dinner. The ship had an upscale steak house and while it was nice, I don’t think we enjoyed it nearly as much as we did the free pizza on the back of the ship at midnight.

Along those lines, we also paid for all the excursions in advance, which made for a lot more fun because I wasn’t pulling my wallet out every hour (or every ten minutes) which has happened at some theme parks in the US.

For language learning, I knew I needed to get fluent and fast in Spanish. As a result, I bought 10 lessons and paid up front. I was able to take four lessons before I went to central America and it made a HUGE difference in my ability to communicate.

Now, I look at the remaining six lessons as fun self-improvement time and I look forward to them.

I realize in retrospect our mission trip was a lot like the cruise. We paid all the costs up front – tickets, hotel, contribution to the program. That left us free to enjoy our time and focus on our mission (more about that later).

As I reflect on 2016, and look forward into 2017 I am going to try and do more Pay First, Consumer Later strategies.


My Experience With Rule 3: Buy Time

Rule Three: Buy Time

Buying time. It could be argued that rule one covers buying time, however I have about a month under my belt of learning about the power of delegation.

A really excellent service I have been trying out for the last month is (formally less doing). I have to say that this service has been fantastic for me. The whole idea behind get leverage is to offload time consuming tasks to someone else. In essence, you are buying time.

Here’s a few examples:

  • Find a restaurant in Seattle that can seat 40 people for our conference.
  • Find transportation for 40 people to and from hotel for the dinner.
  • Make travel arrangements.
  • Convert a screen shot of a table (why do people do this?) into a spreadsheet so we can actually work with it.
  • Update a website
  • Create a webpage
  • Find a driver to haul a trailer from one state to another.

There are more, but each of these tasks took time. I could have done each and every one of these myself, but by delegating these tasks I freed up nearly 20 hours in a month.

Not only that, I learned to:

  • be clear about the outcome I wanted before I started a task
  • gather all the necessary resources into one place so that the person I was paying to do the work could be more productive
  • set the context for a task so the person doing the work could improvise correctly if necessary.

So far I have been really happy with the service and it has expanded the capability of our organization without the need to add more staff, but more importantly it has freed me and some of my team members up – giving us to more high value tasks.

I am sure there are other ways to buy time, but for me this has been one of the most effective.


I Use This: Best Score Keeping Pen Ever

I recently came across an amazing multi-color pen that reinvigorated my enjoyment for keeping score at baseball games.  With Spring Training starting this week in Arizona, you might get a kick out of this as well.

The pen is called a FriXion 4 color from Pilot.  What makes the pen so great, is that it features the Frixion erasable ink from Pilot.  This means, you can keep score in ink and not worry about making mistakes.  

Personally I enjoy scoring plays in black, outs in red (as well as errors), and player changes in blue.  RBI’s, and outstanding plays earn green ‘!’s or ‘*’s.  The 0.5mm gel ball tip writes smooth, and for the most part the ink rarely binds or runs dry.  The fine tip makes it easy to make small annotations in score keeper boxes.

How does it work?

The ink is like a bit of science magic.  When you heat the paper – say with friction, over 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the pigment molecule switches places with a transparent molecule and voila!  It appears at though the ink has been erased.  However, in reality the “ink” is still on the paper.  In fact, if you freeze it, it will come back.  However, I put the 140 there for a reason.  In most parts of the world this is rarely a problem.  In Phoenix however… 140 is easily attained in the summer in a closed car.  So you could see all your hardwork quite literally vanish before your eyes.  So don’t put your pen or scorebook anywhere you wouldn’t put your dog. 

How do you get one?

I bought my Pilot Frixion 4 color from for about $11, but they now sell them on Amazon (with Prime) for less than $9

Good luck and happy score keeping!

My Experience with Rule 1: Buy Experiences Not Things

Rule One: Buy Experiences Not Things

Before I even heard of the book, my family and I put this into practice, not once but twice. First in 2013, instead of having another present laden Christmas, we took the money and bought tickets to Australia. Ryan, was invited to play in the Good Will Games, and the rest of us were able to go along.

It was one of the best Christmas ever. Now did we give up gifts entirely? No. Stacy, with her wonderful wisdom, bought small gifts for each of us. But it was the total experience, and the novelty of Australian Chocolate and treats that none of us will ever forget. I still remember the “cool” water bottle I got that Christmas morning in Adelaide.

Two years later, we did it again by taking a Cruise over Christmas and New Years to the Western Caribbean. The results were similar. I can tell you that I hardly remember any gift I got in 2015, but I still wear the watch I got on the cruise ship with fondness, and my memories of the selfie the three kids took on Roatan, Honduras is still the lock screen on my phone. It was one of the happiest memories of our lives.

That was money well spent.

Of all the rules, I would say this is one of the ones that I have never regretted.

Note: There is a corollary to this rule I have been playing with. Derek Sivers, the author of Anything You Want, and a frequent hero of Tim Ferris, said in the book Tools of Titans that he would put the following billboard outside every Mall in the world.

It Won’t Make You Happy.

I took that to mean exactly what Rule One is about. Things won’t make you happy.   Lately I have been thinking about that more and more, as I troll Amazon looking for things I don’t have.  “It won’t make you happy”, keeps running through my head.

I have found it a powerful tool to focus my attention on the expenditures that have a better chance of making me happy… like buying experiences I will never forget.

My Experience with Happy Money – Part 1

Happy Money

I recently read the book Happy Money by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. The book is clever and as the authors like to point out, there are 17,000 books on Amazon to tell you how to get more money. They wanted to write a book to tell you how to get more happiness from the money you have.

Their book delivers 5 guiding principles.

  1. Buy experiences not things: We humans acclimate fast and the novelty of new wears offquickly, experiences however can create positive memories that last a life time.
  2. Make purchases a treat: Along the line of 1, about ability to adjust fast can make something that was once special, ordinary and boring. Making it a treat helps sustain the emotional payoff.
  3. Buy Time: We often lose sight of the fact that we don’t have time to enjoy the things we buy. Buying time can allow us to enjoy items 1 and 2 more.
  4. Pay First, Consume Later: Turns out, paying first builds anticipation, and there’s no dread after consumption. So, you get more “happy” for the same money.
  5. Invest in Others: Turns out, spending money on others delivers some of the biggest happiness returns science has measured.

In my personal experience, I can vouch that I have tested all 5 of these principles to some degree and I have found at least some validity in them.

Over the next few weeks, I will share personal experiences for each of the rules and my findings. Starting next week with, Rule One, buy experiences not things.


Novis Weekly Read: The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist

What I am “Reading” This Week

This week I have been listening to the excellent book “The Soul of Money,” By Lynne Twist. A friend of mine recently circulated an article that appeared on business insider. where the author has yet to meet a “rich person”. Everyone he met, no matter how wealthy in appearance, always had a tale of frustration and woe. No one it seems, feels rich.

Mrs. Twists book goes right at that concept and it dove tails nicely with Daring Greatly. It turns out in a culture driven by a Scarcity Mentality, few Dare to live greatly because there is never “enough”. I love books that challenge the status quo and make us reconsider the unquestioned answer.

Peter Thiel of PayPal fame and author of Zero to One, is noted for asking, “What one truth do you believe that very few other people believe?” This book is one of those truth. I first learned about it from Verne Harnish but it keeps popping up over and over again.

It’s worth a read.

My Pen This Week

These week I was fond of my Delta Skeleton Stub. This pen is a piston filler with an impossibly smooth nib. It is bold and writes great with Iroshizuku Ku-jaku Ink. You want to be careful because it does lay down a LOT of ink, but that’s partly what makes it fun. They pen is hefty with a steel exoskeleton over the signature orange celluloid. I picked up in New York at the Fountain Pen Hospital and it has been one of my favorites ever since.

The piston filler has a novel ratchet mechanism which keeps you from over tightening the screw. All in all it is a great pen, but not a cheap one. It took me a long time to pony up for Delta and my only regret is that I did not do it sooner.

Novis Weekly Read: Daring Greatly By Brené Brown

What I am “Reading” This Week

When I walk the dogs, I use the Audible App to listen to audio books. A few years ago, I read Tim Ferriss book the 4 Hour Work Week, and in it he challenged me to stop listening to the news. His premise is that you will get better information if it is filtered and cultivated by your smart friends. It also makes you more interesting to talk to because you really want to listen to what they have to say. Neat trick. but… if I don’t listen to the news what should I listen to?

I used to listen to a lot of talk radio. And when you don’t listen to talk radio or the news, you start to notice something. Many, if not most radio personalities are very skilled at cultivating rage. They want to get you worked up. If you are worked up you will listen to them. My life as a husband, father, and entrepreneur is challenging enough without driving around and picking up artificially induced outrage.

For a while I turned to TED Talks. They are awesome. There is something inspiring about hearing really smart people, share their passion to change the world. The trouble is, that many of these are very visual and I can’t watch a video and walk the dogs. That’s what lead me to Audible. I discovered that most of the books on my reading list have excellent narrations available. Even better, some of my favorite books are narrated by their authors. What’s great about that, is I feel like I am hanging out with this super smart person who is sharing something smart they learned. It’s as good if not better than a ted talk.

By subscribing to Audible, I get a new book each month. What’s more, if I buy the kindle edition, I can usually buy the audible version for a few dollars more. So I usually do that.

While I love it, most of my friends don’t have time for that nonsense, but they do seem interested in what I am reading. The real trick is to try and take at least one thing from what I read and apply it.

So with that in mind, I wanted to start to share what I am listening to, and what I think I can apply from it.

Daring Greatly By Brené Brown

This is an amazing book, and is part of the reading material for her course in Courage Works. Professor Brown is famous for her Tedx Houston talk that went viral about vulnerability. For me, I found the idea of vulnerability hard to wrap my head around, but it’s a lot easier to grapple with her core research: shame. Understanding and becoming shame resilient is a skill I would love to develop. There is a side benefit however. If you understand people’s shame triggers, it makes it easier to understand what can motivate certain responses to certain triggers. In short, I think her work can help me avoid certain emotional landmines and be a better communicator. I am still trying to wrap my head around being vulnerable in order to become wholehearted. It’s a very interesting read.

Pen of the week

While I take my notes, I have been favoring my Pelikan Souverän M800 limited edition burnt orange fountain pen. This has a custom grind provided by John Mottishaw from The grind is a medium stub which makes the line thicker on the down stroke and thinner on the cross stroke. The pen is exceptionally smooth with character. I enjoy using this pen with Aurora black ink.


Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 Review

Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 Review

For nearly a decade now I have been squarely in the Mac camp. Everyone in my family except my middlest uses a Mac. At work, we have converted everyone over to Mac’s. Why? Because they work and they keep working. Friday in preparation for our annual conference my operations manager grabbed two Windows notebooks to try and bring them to the conference for the hospitality suite. She wasted two hours trying to get them to update and install. They are the same vintage as at least 4 other computers by timeline. Her conclusion? “These are worthless!” While a windows laptop usually costs half of what a Mac laptop costs, in my experience they tend to work 4 times as long.

A Windows 8.1 Machine

Having said that, I needed a laptop, and after looking at a MacBook Air, I realized I wanted something between an iPad. I can’t develop on an iPad. While there are some cool apps that now support development, I needed a “real” computer. Having said that, it bothers me that the MacBook’s still do not have a touch screen. So after the Super Bowl and Microsoft’s incredible product placement (players and coaches were practically tripping over Surface Pro 3’s), I decided to get a surface. However, before I did, I checked with my local Techie: Matt.

“What should I get?”
Matt quickly did some research. The Surface Pro 3 is powerful at a good price compared to the MBA, however there is one complaint. You can’t really use it in your lap. The keyboard and stand are meant for a hard surface. I had heard good things about the Lenovo Yoga, but for some inexplicable reason Lenovo decided to completely handicap the promising Ultrabook with an M-Core processor. This to me was an example of the marketing department investing heavily in a pretty hinge and the price was utility and performance.

What I have learned about Windows machines is that they don’t run fast the day you buy them, they will not run faster in the future. Windows machines do not get better with time. So I headed down to best buy, fully intent on buying a Surface when I saw that Lenovo had created a pretty large presence at the store and low and behold they had someone there who knew something about their computers. It turned out, the Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 had what I was looking for, for $200 less than the Surface Pro 3. I was able to get the 256MB solid state drive, the i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a real keyboard with backlighting! And yes, it has a touch screen.

I was sold.

Hi-Rez Panel Problems

The one drawback I found with the Lenovo, and I suspect this haunts all the Windows 8.1 devices – is that a shocking number of applications are not compatible with the 260dpi screen. They assume a 72dpi screen and so you get these unreadably small windows. Launchy, Scrivner, MarkDown Plus. Over and over again, I find these strange behaviors where applications either are 1/4 the screen size they should be, or the fonts are readable but the window is too small, or the window is okay, but the fonts are impossibly small or the icons are mere specs.


For the applications that do support the full resolution – such as Microsoft Office – they look gorgeous. However too many of my go to Mac applications, that work great on a Retina display – or their windows alternatives – simply are unreadable on this high rez panel.

It will be interesting to see how well this device works in the long run, and I may be forced to go back to a Mac just for productivity, but for now I am going to give this a whirl.

How To Form a New Habit

When I attended a seminar on the One Thing by author Jay Papasan, he passed out a neat little cheat sheet. The topic? How to Form a new habit. They reported that someone did a study and found that that it takes much longer than most people think to form a habit. The popular misconception is that it takes as 30 days, and in some instances as little as 3 weeks to form a habit. For some people this is true. For most people however, this is far from true.

It turns out that someone did a study (I have no idea who – citation needed), and discovered that low and behold humans are all different! Well, different enough that one number does not describe our behavior. And if you think about it how could one number – one length of days – determine how everyone forms a new habit?

What the study revealed is that there is a range of days it takes people to form new habits. For a few it happened in as little as 17 days. For an equally small group it took 234 days! The average? 66

How to Form a New Habit: It Takes 66 days

For most of us, that is the sad truth. For most of us it takes 66 days to make a habit. So Mr. Papasan and his co-author Gary Keller kindly put a pdf file on their website called The one thing 66 Day Challenge. It combines the very famous Jerry Seinfeld “chain idea” with a set of 66 boxes.

If you want to form a new habit, then you need to do it for 66 days. Why the challenge? Because what they want you to do is to start checking off boxes. As you cross off each square, you start to form a chain. The trick is to start focusing on the chain. Encourage yourself not to break the chain.

The chain provides internal motivation, and it takes advantage of another principle. Kaizan, or the idea that small changes over time can lead to big results. As humans we are hard wired to love the home run, especially the grand slam. LOTS of wins in one big play. In real life however, (and I have seen this in baseball) you can often cause more damage by getting walks and singles. Small achievements consistently applied over time add up to big things.

This is the core idea behind the chain.

How to Form a New Habit: Our Brains Want Habits

It turns out, habit forming is natural. We mostly think of habits as unhealthy. But in the book “Smart Thinking” by Art Markman, Phd he shares that the human brain is built to save energy by forming habits. Thinking is hard work. Habits save time and energy. However, consciously building habits – that takes some effort.

How to Form a New Habit: My own Experience

My own experience with forming new habits is that I get about 16 to 18 days in then I run out of steam. I miss for a few days, then come back in a smaller burst, then miss a few more days, then a smaller burst, until finally there are a few scattered ‘X’ marks on my challenge sheet and 66 days have gone by.

A few habits have stuck with me – such as walking the dogs daily. I journal daily (with pen and paper). And my fitbit has been surprisingly effective in getting me to pack in 10,000 steps every day. When I did not have it, I cut corners. As soon as I got it back, the feedback motivated me to put in the time to hit my daily goal.

So in the grand scheme of things, and perhaps this is the true potential of the iWatch and other wearable tech – if we can get just the right kind of help to motivate us to create new habits that are healthy for us. My fitbit has motivated me to walk regularly and improve my health. But it can’t motivate me to put my keys and wallet in their home by the front entrance (Thank you Andrew Mellen). I am still barely 31 days into that new habit forming, and for the first – yep you guessed it – 17 or so days, I was diligent about putting my keys and wallet in their “home”. Now I find my keys and wallet in all sorts of places around the house and I dutifully walk them back to their home as soon as I catch them out of place, but I feel like I am losing focus on creating the new habit. I am not giving up, just working it.

How to Form a New Habit: Keep plugging

The real key here I believe is to keep after it. Despite the fact that our brains want to form new habits, they often have to reprogram old habits to vest the new behavior. And that will take some time and effort. Sustaining effort over long periods of time is easier if you have effective feedback systems. And as good as my fitbit is, the real motivator are my two dogs, Cookie and Addy. No electronimagical device can compare to the guilt they will lay on me if I don’t walk them in the morning. In fact, even as I write this they are coming up under my arm and flicking my hand with their nose to get me away from the computer.


I have been walking them every morning (at least 6 days a week) for nearly 3 years now.

Habit formed.