What is holding you back?
It’s almost the new year, and in the spirit of self-reflection it’s time for new personal and professional goals! And, if you’re like most of us, those goals will be something we’re fully invested in, for a brief while anyway, and yet, we won’t reach them. Research has indicated that of those surveyed, only 8% of us fully complete our goals, although half of us do make some progress towards reaching them. So, what holds us back?
How are you approaching your goals?
Making change is never easy, and for some of us, our goals are ones that we’re not personally invested in, but they’re the ones in which we think we “ought” to be pursuing. Personal investment in change is a crucial component to our success in creating new patterns of behavior or working through to achieve accomplishments. If we really don’t care, even though we think that others feel we should, change isn’t going to last for long. For other goals though, it’s not because we don’t care passionately about them, but that they’re so lofty that knowing exactly how close we are to completing them becomes overwhelming and we get lost along the way. Our passion isn’t in question, but our approach is.
Trent Hamm, writing at The Simple Dollar, identified a way of achieving goals that worked for him in his approach to personal finance, and which can work for all of us in any area.
“I like to envision giant goals like this as squares on a piece of graph paper…I’d take a piece of graph paper…and I’d simply mark out one of those squares every time I did something that saved $10 and I put that $10 aside in an account somewhere,” Hamm wrote. “Whenever that account earned $10 in interest or dividends or growth, I’d add another square… Maybe your goal is even bigger…that’s okay. It’s still just made up of little steps and little squares.”
Little steps and little squares
When focusing on your goals, identify the steps that have to occur in order for that goal to be accomplished.
Start at the beginning in your thinking, and resist the temptation to label any step as too small.
For example, let’s say your goal is to go to graduate school to pursue an additional degree or certificate to expand your knowledge base. It may seem oversimplified, but an initial step might be as easy as talking to your significant partner or your family about your decision, or perhaps you need to start by making a phone call or sending an email to the registrar’s office to begin the application.
Just keep swimming
For some of us, in our minds, we’ve already moved past these initial steps, thinking about financial aid, the scheduling of courses, or the work-school-life balance changes that may be coming soon. We’d be right to think about these considerations, as they do play a part in us reaching our goal, but by focusing on the smallest of initial concrete steps, and doing them in a timely fashion, we get the sense of motion necessary to begin to feel accomplished.
By making a visualization of these small steps, we see our progress towards reaching the ultimate goal, and can find comfort when things don’t seem to be going well. We’ve been successful in the past, and although we might be having difficulty at the moment, we can expect to be successful again in the future; the important thing is not to stop trying to accomplish the goal.
An example of this is the work being done in goal setting with students in K-12 public and charter schools around the nation. Work is being done with students to help them understand the importance of goal setting for themselves, whether the goal is academic, behavioral, or social. Students identify goals that are important to them and which are aligned with them being successful in school, as they define success. Goals are broken down through the use of the SMART format; goals are specific and framed by times for completion of the overall goal (as well as individual action steps), and progress towards goals can be measured. Additionally, goals are both achievable and realistic.
Achievable and realistic
Some struggle with this last concept that goals must be achievable and realistic. Think of it this way: for a non-runner to say that they were going to set a goal to place in the top three in the Boston Marathon, there’d be a lot that would stand in their way as they moved towards that goal. It doesn’t mean that a penultimate goal might not be to run in the Boston Marathon and to place in the top three, but it means that a better goal would be set for a more immediate reward along the way and would help them transition from a non-runner to a marathon winner.
Students track their progress towards their goals visually and have regular goal-setting meetings with their teacher or counselor to review performance, identify barriers to progress and brainstorm solutions, and to celebrate wins as they happen. We can’t assume that students grow up knowing how to do this, just like we can’t assume that, as adults, we’re any more talented at it.
As we are all works in progress, let’s follow in the words of Whitman by celebrating ourselves and singing ourselves. Identify the goals that are important to you, down to their most discrete steps. Clearly provide yourself a timeline for completing them, and place a visual reminder of your success in that step in front of you to keep your progress going.
Bankruptcy doesn’t mean what it used to; no longer the end
(FINANCE NEWS) With the way the world works now, bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean game over.
When it’s over, it’s over. Perhaps you heard your best friend utter this phrase after a bad break-up. It’s true, most things that end, end for good. Except in this case, when it comes to the retail business.
We have seen a record number of retailers declare bankruptcy this year. Beloved teen retailers like Wet Seal have closed down their stores and malls have become ghost towns.
Reuters estimates that nineteen major retail chains have already shut down for good. While you may not miss the tight, neon dresses sold at Bebe, closures of all of these retailers result in a tremendous loss of jobs.
And it is not only job losses from the store in your hometown, often it is hundreds of locations across the nation.
For most of these retailers, bankruptcy was the definitive end to the business. After filing, most companies choose to close all locations and liquidate the assets. This is the most common path to take, until now.
Even with the surge of bankruptcy, those behind the business are finding alternative paths to keep the business alive.
Behind the scenes, there are three core groups invested in every business: the company’s creditors, vendors, and landlords. All of these groups have a vested interest in keeping the company alive even if they are in debt.
The most recent trend for bankrupt businesses has been to keep stores open and negotiate debt loans rather than shutting down everything. The truth is that a lot of these businesses still attract customers and have a large cash flow, even if they are technically bankrupt.
For instance, Toys ‘R’ Us manages to take in $800 million each year on average which makes it a viable business. Of course, they are $5 billion in debt, but with an extension and restructuring of their business, they could one day turn a profit. However, this will only happen if they are given the chance to keep their doors open.
There are other options to lending helping hands to bankrupt businesses. After the popular teen retailer Rue21 declared bankruptcy landlords agreed to reduce their rents 20% on average. Though these situations are not ideal, this mentality gives businesses a life beyond bankruptcy and save thousands of jobs in the process.
Everyone’s favorite online retailer is set to accept Bitcoin by October!!!
(FINANCE NEWS) One big name online retailer is about to hop on the cryptocurrency train and start accepting Bitcoin at check out as soon as October.
There’s no denying that cryptocurrency has taken off like wildfire, but will Amazon be jumping on the bitcoin bandwagon?
According to one top source, Amazon has already started flirting with the idea and could be ready to fully use bitcoin in October.
Kind of a big deal
The news broke via The James Altucher Report, which is run by the former hedge fund manager and venture capitalist James Altucher. Altucher uses his experience in the business realm, where he has cofounded over 20 companies, to offer realistic financial advice and insight.
He communicates via his popular newsletters, blog and podcast. According to Altucher, Amazon is geared up to change their payment options as early as October.
Already Testing the Waters
Last year, Amazon partnered up with Digital Currency Group, a major investor in Bitcoin, to act as an intermediary between them and their clients. Amazon’s role is to handle all transactions, many of which include the popular cryptocurrency.
Major companies like Google, Ebay and Paypal already accept bitcoin so it is just a matter of time until Amazon follows suit. Even Japan and Russia recognize it as legal currency.
Amazon + Bitcoin = AmaCoin?
Don’t think of bitcoin as Amazon’s only option. Some speculate that Amazon may one day create their own currency.
As a company that has already started testing drones as a future delivery method, custom currency does not seem so out of this world.
The blockchain option has been a refreshing alternative to using traditional banks, especially for those who do not have faith in the current banking practices.
There are questions
If Amazon jumps onboard and rolls out a plan to use bitcoin this year, Altucher anticipates a major surge in its value. Since they have yet to announce an official strategy, and because the option of them creating their own currency is still up in the air, it is unknown how Amazon will integrate it into their system.
Will Amazon find a different way to accept bitcoin? Perhaps a brand new way? If Amazon does start using bitcoin they will join many other tech companies that have already anticipated the growth in its value. Amazon isn’t the only company that has started transitioning over. Many other tech companies have already started to become intermediaries to manage digital transactions.
Pirate Bay is mining cryptos using their users’ CPU… those scallywags
(FINANCE NEWS) Cryptocurrency and mining and pirates. It all sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but trust us, it’s 100% real.
Who pirates the pirates?
Well, pirates, naturally. Piracy is a fractal. There is nothing so small that someone won’t strap on an eyepatch, grab a parrot and snag themselves an unlawful piece.
Such is the swashbuckling tale recently broken on Reddit about Pirate Bay, which is borrowing visitors’ CPU cycles to mine cryptocurrency.
To translate that from Internet to English, “mining” cryptocurrency means volunteering your computer to verify blockchain transactions. We’ve covered blockchain in depth before, but the short version is it’s a particular security protocol that encrypts tokens representing money.
When you join a cryptocurrency exchange, you use that exchange’s blockchain to encrypt your stuff.
Some members of an exchange volunteer their computers to verify that transactions have taken place. Then they’re encrypted, never to be futzed with again. Those members get paid for their trouble with fractions of coins from the exchange.
The volunteers don’t actually do anything. The verification and encryption are automatic. That’s the point of cryptocurrency: no flighty or nefarious humans are involved in the bookkeeping. It’s all about the robots. That said, somebody owns the robots, and robot time is worth money. Therefore, miners.
SIXTEEN COINS – WHAT DO YOU GET?
“Miners,” in common currency dork parlance, are folks who invest in verifying transactions on a large scale, turning those fractions of coins into meaningful profit. It’s a smart way to make consistent money.
One big caveat: you need serious computing power to do it enough to matter.
Lifewire estimates an upfront cost of $3000 to $5000 to get real money out of the process. That said, their estimate also says 50 dollars a day in profit, which means over the course of a year you’re talking 3 to 5 times the money you put in. Ain’t chump change.
Which brings us to Pirate Bay. Pirate Bay is, as I’m sure the pure and innocent readers of American Genius would have no reason to know, a torrent site where various forms of media may be secured for free by nefarious means.
You’re shocked, I’m sure. Not everybody is, it turns out: as of this article, it’s the 88th most popular website on Earth. 25th in Canada! Canadians, man. They’re tricksy.
So, unsurprisingly, is Pirate Bay.
To state the obvious, swiping media and giving it away is not a working business strategy. Robin Hood did not have a positive P&L ratio. Typically – I’m told, I of course would have no way of knowing this myself – torrent sites support themselves through ad revenue. That wasn’t cutting it for Pirate Bay, plus they just wanted to get rid of the ads for an improved user experience, so they experimented.
Their first scheme was borrowing users’ CPUs while they were on the website, using unused processor cycles to mine cryptocurrency.
BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A CRYPTODIME?
The rollout was flawed. In fact the rollout was nonexistent: the only reason anybody even knew it was happening was somebody effed up the miner script and it started taking 100 percent of users’ CPU cycles as long as they were on the page. Oops.
But fair dues, Pirate Bay did exactly what tech folks should do when caught with their digital drawers down.
More to the point, if the cryptocurrency mining plan goes forward, Pirate Bay will be providing a service to consumers in exchange for compensation at stated rates. The fact that it all comes in a novel form – the service is peer-to-peer, based on a model of free sharing; the compensation is provided voluntarily by people who aren’t receiving the services; the rates are measured in CPU cycles rather than money – doesn’t change the fact that fundamentally, “service to consumer for compensation” equals “business plan.”
For another time
Whether it’s a workable business plan or not is a question for Future Matt. Present Matt just has a question: if it does work, if Pirate Bay becomes a self-supporting enterprise trading encrypted, peer-to-peer money for an encrypted, peer-to-peer service, what then? At what point does it become more reasonable, and for that matter more ethical, to accept peer-to-peer transaction as a real thing and regulate it accordingly, as opposed to banning it outright?
Ask Piet Heyn. Better yet, order a mojito and run it past Captain Morgan. (It’s better because you get a mojito.) Back in the days of real pirates, when you wanted to rein them in, you just legalized them. If Pirate Bay establishes a legitimate revenue stream, that may well be the smart next step.
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