These days, I don’t have a lot of time to write and this is by design. I have undertaken this new flow of getting work done which is still methodical but shorter form. My work this year has shifted from a long form visionary manifesto writer to someone forced to fit idea into PowerPoint. This isn’t a bad thing, I was always the student receive points off for being too long winded in essays…always going over the word count. Blogging played to this but it did not translate well to the work I’m doing today.
It was my end of year review today at a job I’ve held for eight and a half years. It’s the longest job I’ve ever had by 4 years. I’m 32 now. I’ve been here since I was 24. I’m no longer the youngest person at the company but I’m still one of the youngest people here. My colleagues and I have grown older together and I’m catching up to their ages when I first joined. I’m really grateful to have been able to work at this company for as long as I have. They continue to invest in me. I’m not too old to place into a silo and carry out my stale ideas for the next few decades. I’m still ‘up and coming’ which is a great feeling. It won’t last forever, that’s aging for you. I already don’t understand popular culture. I hope I have another two decades before not understanding work and technology cultures that pay my bills.
I wanted to summarize this year a bit. This is different from my birthday posts which are always philosophically reflective in nature, sort of a sit rep for where I am as a human, where I compare to my dad and where I fall short against where I believe I should be. That post always matters. I haven’t really summarized my life in a while. Unfortunately, I’m ignoring a task I need to do by the end year which is to summarize the accomplishments for my boss to take to company leadership as a year in review professionally for me and my team that relies on me to keep them employed, lead them and grow them at this company. I have until New Years Day to complete it. I really need to just sort of be long-form for the first time in a few months. I guess I need this more than you need to read it?
It’s not fair to talk about 2018 without dipping our toes back to 2017. I started nothing new in 2018 that wasn’t a seedling planted in 2017.
October 2017, I sat down with Christine and said, “if there’s any property management work in my area, I’d like to help you out.” I was clear with her that there’s no thought in my mind of leaving my day job. The work for her would never come before my love of technology and map-making but I wanted to make extra money and pick up a new skill, one that I could use to one day utilize in real estate investment. This is a 20 year plan for me. Christine was my landlord in my 3rd rental in New Hampshire. She was my buyers’ agent when I bought a home and now she was my mentor in property management and I one of her salespeople. She’s my broker as well. We have 2 properties together but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Also in October of 2017, my boss along with his boss sat me down and told me about what I should be doing in 2018. They identified me as someone who could do this. I was excited but I thought they were crazy. Their idea was to build out a research & development team within our group starting with 1-2 people and grow this over time. They said I should get some programming skills and management skills and grow very fast into the role because I had to grow. There was no grace period.
I knew this day would come eventually. I was hired to this company in 2010 to do this skunkworks initiative. Then, it never happened. Politics,r e-organizations and I went through 4 bosses all trying to fit me into a mold. I didn’t lose my entrepreneurial passion. I just became complacent in eating the meals served to me instead of rejecting them and making my own food from scratch. In addition to feeling stoked about this, I felt that my time had run out as a ‘fake project manager’ meaning I wasn’t PMP certified, I didn’t like sitting in meetings with people talking about far off plans that would never happen and I extreme planning was a drag. Let’s just go build something instead of talking about it all day. This is not a failure of my employer as an organization, this is a big company problem and I really wanted to be the change instead of just writing about it or talking about it.
In September of 2017, I bought my liquid cooled R1200GS. My first brand new motorcycle with aspirations of making modifications to it and documenting that. In early 2017, I stopped modifying my Golf R and my 2009 GS was done being modified. I had continued to gain new YouTube subscribers and blog readers from those 2 projects. With a new bike, I had an outlet to modify the new bike, create maintenance videos and share my passion with people. Like property management and running an R&D lab at a 6,000 person company, putting this blog and videos out on the Internet exposes you. For an introvert who doesn’t gravitate toward criticism or collaboration, I sure do find a way to put myself out there for the criticism and collaboration with others.
2018 started and I got to work. I used to think things happen rapidly. They do but in small bursts (or sprints to use my new vocabulary). You can’t just make a salad, there is the growing of vegetables, making cheese, sauces, croutons and harvesting,drying and cracking peppercorns. It’s a process and you will have a tough time going at this alone.
Property management is the 2018 item that really was the most foreign but I gained an interest in it after going to a new home buyer class in 2016 before I bought my home. It was interesting, all of the things realtors do so while property management is in my opinion a stepping stone, it sets me up with the relationships and knowledge to sell homes (and buy them as an investment) down the road. I began managing a condo association with almost 80 units. Even being a fake project manager for 7 years, I wasn’t bad at it. You have your stakeholders, requirements, maintenance, investment opportunities, capital and operating costs and you need to manage personalities, vendors, clients, suppliers and keep things running smoothly. If you’re doing your job, no one should know you’re doing anything at all except when you advertise it to the people who are paying your salary. The clients (condo owners) just need to know you’re doing your job because they never hear any complaints.
In August, we added a 2nd property, a 6 unit multi-family but it was a tax-sale and the new remotely based owner wanted to completely renovate the building. Thanks to my experience remodeling my entire house inside and out, I was able to play a huge role here. Now, the unit is done and I’m showing it to potential renters for next year. Managing a large condo association was my first gig was daunting. I feel I was able to adequately handle this. There were ups and downs and Christine did a great job of taking over when I was out of my element. I’ve worked with over 7,000 emails this year related to property management and I’m averaging 5 calls a day up from on average 1 a week before. It’s a huge amount of new communications with all kinds of personalities, issues, questions, thoughts and complaints. I really feel as if I managed things decently. I know I can do better but being hyper-connected and always on allows me to manage things pretty well. I only had about 12 weeks out of 52 where an emergency would come in that ha to be handled ASAP (frozen pipes as an example).
This job is such a minor source of income for me, there are times when I realize 40% of my free time this week was spent on a few hundred dollars. I know this is an investment in my future and very good for me. I’m starting at the very bottom and I am fully committed to continuing the work for a very long time. As I told Christine, I don’t need the money. I need the experience in order to develop an expertise so I can grow my wealth as I enter my 40s. I’m 32. I have plenty of time to figure this out and I’m so happy she’s giving me this opportunity. Technology and my day job come first. An effective $3.50 an hour for property management after taxes hurts but I’m happy because it’s all uphill from here. No one just gives you something. You have to earn it and work for it. I’m really stoked about the whole prospect of passive income in my 50s. That’s what I’m working toward.
I had to take a break and read my blog post about coming to work in New Hampshire. I remember that post being passed around the office before my arrival…famous before I even arrived “here’s this guy stoked to come work here!” Reading that post, I haven’t lost that enthusiasm but I’ve learned that this is just me toward everything. I’m alive, I’m healthy, I’m happy and I have a purpose! I can pay my bills on time, I have some hobbies (finally) and while I don’t have very many friends, none that I think I’ll still have in 5 years, relationships have never driven me. Accomplishing something is what drives me and I’ve continued to accomplish things at this job. I was behind on learning AWS and behind on adoption of machine learning and AI and I was late on utilizing the massive amount of data we have to work with and the missing link was that I never petitioned to get people in our organization capable of working with this without any of that big-company political baggage. I’m now running a program where we have 6 fresh faces come to our office for 3 months every quarter for the last 6 quarters and they build things. Unfortunately, there’s no way to share what we’re working on. It’s all awesome, trust me. 1 of our projects is now a production element, we have 3 more that I think are great candidates. We’re an innovation arm and we’re doing so many cool things. The benefit of a revolving door of junior engineering talent on a finite timeline in between their graduate programs is I get to build my soft management and technical leadership skills without a lot of fall out. Every quarter, i get to try something else. I’ve grown so much in 2018 in this role and we have real products that are so freaking cool. We’re taking this data and ideas and processes and we’re flipping everything on its head and no one has stopped us yet. Managing all of the interest toward what we’re building has been the hardest. I have no idea what I’m going to be doing a year from now but I hope it’s a variation of what I’m doing now. This cannot be underestimated though. This isn’t a startup but that’s how it feels. It feels as if I’m running a startup and I feel very confident that we are doing things that are going to be major players in how we do business in the future. My only real fear..well maybe two that I’m going to drown trying to do this because I plateau OR these are the golden years and in 5 years, I’m back in a silo carrying out tasks off an Excel document.
I have 3 of my 6 current interns who want full time jobs at our company. That’s part of what we’re doing here. Finding talent that we’d pass over for software engineering jobs because they lack the experience and have them prove themselves. I told all 3 of them since I don’t have full time roles in my team and they don’t meet qualifications for other hiring managers that these engineers need to be the change they want to be. If they want to be doing something at this company (QA, Documentation, White-boarding, planning, PM work, security hardening) whatever it is they want to do, they need to just start doing it. That’s how I made this team come back to reality. In 2015, I just hired a part time high school student. I started innovating and we organically grew this seed into a small seedling and now it’s a real program. If something isn’t being done and you want to do that job, make that job. invent it out of thin air and if you’re good, someone in this organization is going to notice it and give you the job you were already doing but finally with the pay that matches the role and now you’re working your dream job. While you’re here part time as an intern, be that change, be that job, be that role and you might be surprised where you are in a few years.
YouTube is going to pay me $5,000 in 2018 (pre-tax). Combined with $1500 in affiliate revenue. This is now a legitimate ‘hobby’. I’m still not investing the time it would take to double the revenue. I’m making amateur videos of installing thing on my motorcycle, change oil, detail my car, do maintenance and go on trips. I’m documenting and throwing them together and I’ve funneled all of the earnings into hardware that supports this hobby. A $3,800 MacBook Pro, DJI Magic Air for $1000 and a GoPro Hero 7 along with Final Cut Pro X, Lightroom and memory cards. These are things I would have bought anyway :) but it’s good to have a 1 hour a day hobby that makes money. I spent 4 hours a week talking to companies, planning and thinking about the hobby (or just riding my motorcycle / driving my car) and then I buy products, work on them and make money on the videos or affiliate revenue. I want to devote more than a paragraph to this but it’s hard to. It’s a hobby I make money on and if the revenue rate remains unchanged, I’ll be happy.
…I should add though (yeah, 2nd paragraph!) that in 2018, I went from having my Golf R and a R1200GS to having a Golf R, Ford Escape, a new R1200GS (2018 instead of 2017), a Beta 500 RR-S dirt bike and now a BMW K75RT from 1995 as a new project bike. I will unfortunately probably add another bike in 2019…something more sporty to match my practical bikes. All of these motorized vehicles open up opportunities to make videos. The more motors, the more videos. There’s only so much you can do to a car or bike within reason and without ruining the resale value. It’s going to be a great 2019. I’m actually on a bus now to fly down to Virginia to ride the K75 home and when it gets home, I’m tearing it apart down to the frame to completely refurbish all of the hoses, gaskets, bolts in need of new thread-locker and wiring harness. I’m going to keep it completely stock with OEM parts so the next owner can have a pristine bike and of course, make a bit of YouTube money along the way.
That’s really it on the professional front. This year, well this October, it’s Heather and I’s 2nd year of owning the house. Well, I own it but we 50/50 split everything associated with it (writing this down for the courts if I ever die). 2 years in the house means we have paid off all of the appliances we acquired in 2016, the 24 month same as cash furniture, washer, dryer, oven and such. We’re finally saving money at a faster pace, enough to finally tackle home projects left undone by our contractor because he went way over budget (29K over budget on a 63K usd project and telling us about this the last week of construction). We have yet to finish the basement, build a garage, re-siding the house, build in more parking, pave our driveway, build a front deck facing the lake or insulate the 2nd bedroom (yeah, it’s cold in there). We’ll start some of these projects next year. I’m guessing we’ll need another $30,000 USD total to get all of these projects done. I’ll tell the contractor story at some point in the next 2 years. I need more time to pass for that wound to heal.
Heather and I tomorrow the 22nd will be celebrating our 5th year of our first ‘date’ if that’s what you want to call it. We just met up for a drink. I really can’t believe it’s been 5 years since we’ve met. We’ve been living together for 3.5 years I think..maybe just 3. She’s almost the longest girlfriend I’ve had. One more year, Heather. We’re both still young in our dreams, careers and life. She’s been a great partner. We split everything 50/50. We support each other. While I have a pretty good idea what I’ll be doing in 20 years, I don’t really know where she’ll be. I think she’ll have that figured out in a couple of years.
Porter will be 3 years old very soon. he came to us March of 2016 at 12 weeks old. He’s still a scared little mutt hound dog. He has really come into his personality and despite his beagle bark, he’s a good dog. I’m very slow with forming close relationships. It took about 2.5 years to feel like he’s my dog. I still think he’s heather’s by default. I am really slow at that whole relationship thing with people and animals. So if you’ve known me every day for 2.5 years, I’m finally feeling like we have a good chance of being friends. Porter should live a lot longer I hope he’s around when I’m 40.
Heather and I didn’t take any vacations this year. I chose to spend 3 weeks of my earned time off in North Carolina (BMW Quebec Group Trip), Labrador Canada (Trans-lab Motorcycle Ride) and various motorcycle events and rallies. I owe her a trip to Belgium in 2019. We’re trying to narrow down a date.
I hope she gets more comfortable with riding on my bike. I want to go back to Newfoundland. She wants to take a car. I don’t. Maybe she’ll never be into touring on a bike? I hope that changes one day. I know it’s not for everyone. I just love it
Speaking of that, I auditioned for and was voted in as a board member of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of Vermont. I’ve also put my name in the hat to represent the Northeast at the national level for the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America. Both require I attend specific meetings regionally and nationally. I’ve met so many great people through BMW motorcycle clubs and it’s one of my social outlets. I love the bikes and so long as I can afford it, I think getting more involved is a good thing. I’m probably too young to be involved at the national level of BMWMOA. One can hope!
Am I running out of things to say? Well, I did gain some weight this year. I was down to 240 last year. Now at the end of 2018, I’m back up to 260. I need to get to 220 and stay there. Riding helps but I didn’t do a lot of endurance riding this year. Lots of touring. After my 4,000 mile TransLabrador trip, I was tired of riding for a few weeks. Then I got back on the bike and crashed it in Vermont. Did I write about that on this blog? I can’t remember. Just did a quick search. I guess I didn’t. Well, I’ll make a note to copy it to this blog. It is worth sharing.
Back to sort of professional development, I don’t think I need any new income sources in 2019. Let’s see where things go with YouTube & Property management, focus on making those great (and having fun) and if those increase, I’ll be happy.
Oh, maybe something to close on which I was pretty excited by which was the quick re-connection session I had with my sister. I really do not ever talk about this kind of stuff on this blog…a blog where seemingly nothing is off-limits
I received an email from my half-sister..well they’re all half siblings. I think I have 7 or more siblings. I don’t know the count. There are 2 which I grew up with. M&C are my two sisters as in I know them the most. I still moved away when they were 12 & 8 years old to California then I came home to visit them every 2 years after that. I left their life pretty early on. My 3 half siblings from my Father I left them when they were just babies. I think they were 4-5 years old at most. I stopped visiting my Father, I tried to stay in touch but it just didn’t work so he and I both gave up. I have a few more siblings when mom and dad remarried but these are in-laws or step? I don’t know the official names but they’re not blood related. Anyway, I have 5 then half-siblings and 3 of them I haven’t spoken to in over 20 years. One of them, now in her 3rd year of college emailed me. That was a rough back and forth. It wasn’t hard on either of us, it wasn’t forced. We just shared things and talked a few times. She didnt’ reply to my last email. I’m sure I’ll hear from her again in the future. I asked her not to tell her Dad that we had reconnected. I just don’t want to bother him with it. He has his own family and life. I last spoke to him in 2008..10 years ago. I don’t know how we’d reconnect or what the point of it would be. I don’t hate him, I just don’t know him. I don’t even share his last name.
It was good to hear from my sister who I last saw when she was maybe 4 years old. She sounds really smart, incredible mature, just like someone who can truly accomplish great things in her life. I dont’ see myself in her but more of she’s going to be alright. You do want to know your family is out there doing okay even if you don’t speak to them often or at all. I speak to my Dad every month, my mom every couple of months, my half-sisters once a year. So my Father every 10 years and other half-sister once every 5 years, that’s a pretty good schedule. I told my sister I loved her. I don’t know why I felt compelled to say that. It’s not that I don’t love her, I just didn’t really want to leave that unsaid. I love everyone in my family, even the people I don’t talk to anymore. Family is forever.
The only 2018 regret, that I spent way too much money on Apple products this year. There was a separate post on this but I’m still incredibly annoyed at how much I’m paying for Apple products these days. It’s not right. $1300 on an iPad, $1150 on an iPhone, $3800 on a MacBook and my next iMac will be around the same. Sigh. I love Apple. They’re mis-treating their customer base. Most people can’t afford to be Apple customers. This means that most people can’t afford to have their privacy safe from evil corporations, they can’t have the best design, the best apps, the best operating systems, the best computing experiences. Most people can’t afford it and I’d like Apple to change course. The next recession (there’s always another recession on the horizon) will do very bad things to Apple if they keep this up. I want them to be more affordable to everyone.
That’s gotta wrap it up, right? Long Post. I’m sorry! Thank you all for reading. Happy New Year.