Archive for December 31, 2012

Teaser: Don’t Gamble With Your Finances in 2013, Improve Them

IMAG0706 - Ivan,Scratches,SandMy wife, Wendi, and I each have three degrees. We both have associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Even though we have had good jobs and have made pretty good money, the truth is for most of our married lives we lived paycheck to paycheck.

In January 2009, we did something that changed our lives. In the throes of what is being called the Great Recession and amid frozen wages, we were able to withstand the economic downturn and do quite well for ourselves.

Somewhere along the way, it suddenly dawned on Wendi that we were no longer living paycheck to paycheck. We had a financial freedom unknown to us before.

Would you like to put your money woes behind you? It is possible. Would like to have enough money in the bank and not worry about where the cash will come from to pay next month’s bills? The truth is you are probably closer than you think, but you will have to make some changes.

What are those changes and what was the thing Wendi and I did in January 2009? Well, I am going to tell you in January 2013. At the stroke of midnight tonight, when we say out with the old and in with the new, there will be a new post at this blog.

If you don’t want to miss the entry, then sign up to receive this

When You Get Into the Word, What’s Your Jumping Off Point?

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For years, I have wanted to write a number of books related to the Christian life. I have wanted to write materials that could be used in adult Sunday School classes, something to help people recognize the Christian faith is a reasonable faith, another book to help new believers understand some of the basic teachings of the Bible and an exploration of baptism.

Up until now, I have been somewhat reluctant to move forward, wondering whether I had something to add to the discussion. But, there has been another issue: Where to jump in.

The age-old adage is to begin a story at the beginning. The opening of the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, starts something like this in English translations: In the beginning, God created ….

Simon Sinek has advice for leaders and companies that want to be great: They should start with the “why,” not the “how” or the “what.” (Check out his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.)

I know the “why;” it is to move people toward faith or a deeper faith.

I just don’t know the “where.” But, I am looking for it, and when I find it, I am jumping in. I have a feeling the “where” is going to be unconventional.

Is there something you have wanted to start, but have been delayed? Please share your thoughts by replying in the comments section.

Do This One Thing to Generate Better Lists

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Are you familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? It is an assessment to determine a person’s psychological preferences. It measures four pairs of preferences. How do you process information, are you more extroverted or introverted? Are you more apt to gather information through your senses or through intuition? Are you more thinking or feeling? More judging or perceiving?

I happen to be perceiving, meaning I cannot get enough information. I need to read one more thing, ask one more question, make one last call and check one other thing … then I will be ready to act or decide.

This is why I chuckle inside at every blog post, book chapter or sermon outline that instructs me to do these four things, take these five steps, make these six changes or … you get the point.

The “P” (perceiving nature) in me wants to respond, “This list is inadequate because I can think of two more things that need to be on it without even thinking very hard.”

I am always amazed at those preachers who feel they must use every last ounce of alliteration to come up with a sermon or use acrostics. Sometimes these are very helpful, informative and catchy. However, most of the time they are forced.

The late Dr. Lewis Foster, one of my professors at Cincinnati Bible Seminary, who worked as a translator on the New International Version (1984) and the New King James Version, felt most alliteration was forced and preachers should avoid it unless it absolutely made sense and flowed smoothly.

I think most lists are arbitrary anyway. They make things tight and neat and allow closure for those who need things wrapped up nicely before moving on. For me, they just kind of get in the way because lists are not absolute unless we are talking about a user’s manual or a baking recipe (where the ratios of ingredients are very important).

So, what one thing can you do to generate better lists?

1. Think about if a list is really necessary, what the essential elements are and write them down, or

2. Forget about the list. I already have.

To Facebook or Not to Facebook: Do You Even Need to Ask

KloutI am reading a book about getting your message out, and while I have not actually read the part where the author talks about not liking Facebook, I have seen others write about his position in reviews posted about the book.

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I think think it can be too intrusive, and I think the company has not always been too concerned about privacy among its users.

However, I have been on Twitter longer than Facebook, and I just don\’t have the reach with my tweets as I do with my status updates. Like it or not, my Facebook interaction is the driver of my Klout score.

This, however, is a double-edged sword. Look at how Dan Zarrella described the two audiences:

If you are looking to sell something, then how likely are you to entice people you know to make a decision? Jesus said no prophet is accepted in his hometown. Do your friends view you as someone who has something to say or who is trustworthy? Regrettably, sometimes it is easier to close a deal with strangers.

As for me, I will continue to remain active on Facebook. As you can see by my Klout score, it garners a lot of attention and responses. I am building a platform to last, and I am not trying to complete it today.

Casual Productivity and the Kindle Fire HD 7

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I have written a lot about the Kindle Fire HD 7 device in the past couple of weeks, and for good reason, it really has me being more productive, something I call a “casual productivity.”

I am late to the tablet party, and I am sure those who have been using the iPad, Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy series or any other tablet have discovered how useful they can be. I am surprised at just how much more I am able to do with my Kindle Fire HD.

Because the 7-inch model is nice and compact, it is easy to hold like any book (this is even more the case with the cover I have for it). As such, when my wife and I are relaxing at home, I can get comfortable on the couch and perform a variety of tasks.

If I am not particularly interested in the show on the television, I can read one of my Kindle books. I can work on a draft of a blog entry. If I have the kernel of an idea, I can jot something down in Catch and come to it later. I can catch up with the news using Flipboard, and I can play Words with Friends.

So, this tablet, which some might view as a time waster, is leading me down the road to increased productivity, casually, of course.

New “Wow” App Idea Sprouting Up

2012-06-02_1338649808My life’s goal has been a simple one: I wanted to get paid to write. I have realized this dream on several fronts since my first job at a newspaper in 1988.

Over the past several years,I have watched others start blogs,get on Twitter after me and become social media “experts” and build a national following. I have keenly watched what Michael Hyatt has been able to do with his blog, started reading his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World
and have followed much of his advice.

As I mentioned previously, several factors converged and led to the formation of this blog. In reading Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content,
the author infuses me with confidence,making me feel I can accomplish anything, and probably quicker than I imagine. In reading a Steve Scott ebook about writing a nonfiction book, How to Write a Nonfiction eBook in 21 Days – That Readers LOVE!, I have a blueprint for structuring the book and a timeline to get it done. In reading Hyatt’ s book, I am learning about coming up with a “wow” product, and his blog teaches you how to accomplish almost anything.

As I am digesting all of this information on my Kindle Fire HD 7, it dawned on me I could use an app to help me with what is swirling around in my mind. I jump over to the Amazon App Store to search for something, and I don’t find anything.

Could it be I have stumbled on a useful idea for an app? I might have done just that. However, I realized I needed to research this more because there might already be an app with the functionality I am looking for, but it is characterized differently than expressed through my searches.

I began writing this post on Christmas, reclining in a seat while others watched the L.A. Lakers game on TV. After doing more research earlier today, I discovered Google Play has something similar, and there seems to be a better version in the iTunes store, which is closer to what I was thinking. However, there is additional functionality I would like to see on the iTunes version.

At this juncture, who knows whether this idea will become an actual app. The fact there are only two products can mean one of two things: The concept in general is not needed, or the concept needs an idea like mine. Time will tell.

Take Note, You Have a Unique Gift to Offer Others

IMAG0576 - Tom,Morning,PergaI have an entrepreneurial streak running through me, but I never had an abundance of capital to pursue all of my dreams. I did, however, start a publication and related desktop publishing business once, but I did not do any market research. The week I began my business, a free weekly newspaper debuted in the area. My publication was a free newsletter geared toward families and supported by advertising. The town could not support all of the newspapers, shoppers and newsletters.

I calculated that my endeavor cost me (and my wife) about $16,000 in equipment, supplies, expenses and wages lost from the job I left. It took us years to pay off the debt. I have been blessed with a wonderful wife, and she has never complained about me doing what I did. In fact, she told me she was glad I had the opportunity to try. What a woman.

Even though I tried and failed, I have not been able to shake that entrepreneurial spirit. In my job as a journalist, I love talking to entrepreneurs, small business owners and others who have taken risks to pursue their passions and dreams. I like being around those kind of people.

It\’s been more than a decade since I tried my hand at a business, and I still am hungry for the action. One of the reasons I love my job, I am a reporter for The Daily Record in Wooster, Ohio, is because the news editor and managing editor allow me to work my beat as I see fit. They give me great autonomy. Now, they have to reel me in at times and hold me accountable, but I get to live the life of a freelance writer while at the same time enjoying a steady paycheck. So, it has been the best of both worlds for me. One might say, it is a win-win situation (though don\’t tell that to @OhioCapitalBlog).

I have talked to a lot of business owners, managers, venture capitalists, high-tech start-up guys, artists and dreamers, and I still have a yearning to make my own mark. This is why I enjoy this blog; it provides an outlet for me to express myself in ways I cannot as a journalist.

While I am not likely to start a business any time soon, I still read up on starting businesses, growing businesses, product development and idea generation. Lately, I have been reading about how to publish on Kindle, how to create a platform and how to start a business.

In the books I am reading, I have been paying attention to the reviews. A common theme I am running into is that those who give a book a low rating do so because they believe the author has not provided anything new. In their opinion, the information is out there and available for free, so why did we have to pay the author $2.99, $5.99 or more for access to the information.

I can relate to this. It is frustrating to read an article or book promising something is the latest and greatest and best, only to discover it is a rehash of some basic principles packaged in a new way and hyped to the hilt. Compelling ad copy leads to increased sales.

For this reason, I was very excited to read in Chris Guillebeau\’s The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future these words: \”You already have the skills you need — you just have to know where to look.\”

I believe all of us have potential to shine and succeed because we are all different with different skill sets with different experiences and different backgrounds that make us uniquely qualified to do something unique that no one else can do. The Bible talks about each of us having different gifts (consider them talents or abilities, not miraculous powers), and I believe it is this way because we have something to offer our church, our family, our community.

The tough part is discovering that gift and putting it to use. We figure this out, and we just might unlock the mystery to life. What gift do you have that is waiting to be unleashed on the world to make it a better place?

Life is a (Information Super) Highway

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For Christmas, my wife gave me an Amazon.com gift card for the primary purpose of purchasing Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

As a regular reader of Hyatt’s blog, I am learning what it takes to build a platform. I am hoping his book will help condense the learning curve as The Z Section seeks a global audience.

This blog’s first entry was posted on Dec. 19, 2012. In the first week, it went international with visitors from the United States, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Nepal and the Philippines. On Christmas Eve, the blog had the most traffic ever, more than doubling the number of visitors and views in a single day.

Chris Brogan has a primer on blogging on his site (you can check it out here), and his basic message is to write and write often.

I enjoy checking out my site stats (probably a little too much), and I get excited when international guests check out The Z Section.

If you have a penchant for writing and want to start a blog, check out the company I use to host my site, BlueHost.com. It was quick, easy and painless to set up a self-hosted WordPress blog.

I look forward to seeing you on the Information Superhighway.

While you are here, why not check out my video I shot while in the Amish Heartland in Holmes County, Ohio, to Tom Cochrane’s song, “Life is a Highway.”

You Need an Online Presence Yesterday

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Find more amazing infographics on NerdGraph Infographics

As this infographic shows, more people are migrating their Christmas and holiday shopping online. There are good reasons to shop local, more money stays in town and is not exported to the global headquarters somewhere else, and local shop owners tend to give back to the community, whether sponsoring a youth baseball team or donating to a school event.

However, for busy people, shopping online shopping can be convenient. There is no need to dress up and leave the house. It can be done on a smartphone or a tablet while waiting somewhere.

What the infographic demonstrates to me is that any barriers to shopping on the Word Wide Web have been removed. As a result, there will continually be opportunities to add online revenue streams. What those streams are for you specifically is up to you. For me, it is selling electronic publications via the Amazon Kindle Store. One day, it might be selling ads on this site.

If you are interested in a self-hosted blog, you should check out the service I use, BlueHost. I have been quite pleased with the reliability and service. Check out their offer here.

Merry Christmas

And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart’s content.

“As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.

Perhaps one of the most poignant scenes from Charles Dickens’s classic, “A Christmas Carol,” though I do not think it is included in my favorite version of the movie, “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” which my wife and I watch every year.

Remember the reason for the season, and have a blessed Christmas.