Category Archives: Random Ramblings

Don’t be Afraid to Underinvest

In an MBA program, you always hear a lot about over/under investing from the perspective of an asset manager. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how this can be applied to life as well.

Are there friends, family members, and things you do that don’t lead to your ultimate objective? Maybe someone, something needs to get cut out from your life, or at least spend less time on it. Sounds kind of harsh but once you get into an MBA program, you will see how much time you have left between your military friends, pre-MBA civilian friends, MBA block/group classmates, extended family, and if you have a wife and kid – good luck. Did I also mention time for yourself?

So it all really boils down to what you want to do and where you want to go. That’s hard to really know and I know I spent the bulk of my first semester trying to do everything. The benefit was that I learned a little about every industry, the negative was that I wasn’t deep enough to convince anyone that mattered.

Same thing with relationships. I recommend spending time cultivating a few, solid relationships rather than be a social butterfly and “kind of know” everyone. Because “kind of know” isn’t good enough when I need a business partner. I need to do my due diligence long enough.

Bottom line, this fall, as you decide which industries to target. I would say start with 3-4 in September, but by October, focus on a maximum of 2. Attend networking and social events but with a purpose. Do you want to meet someone specific? Do you want to learn about a specific topic? Have a game plan, don’t just go for the free booze.

The Acquisition and Use of Power (Updated)

Update: Robert Caro’s fourth book about Lyndon Johnson is finally out, I just received an Amazon saying that my pre-ordered book has shipped. You know it’s got to be a badass book when a former President of the United States of America writes a book review about it, like President Bill Clinton just did for the New York Times. In case that wasn’t enough to convince you, here is another review. I’m tempted to pause reading the second book of the three book triology of Theodore Roosevelt to read about LBJ instead. The first three books established how LBJ acquired and used power, but this fourth book will demonstrate the ultimate use of power when he becomes the most powerful man in the world. Robert Caro, “The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4).”

 

Previous Post:

It has taken me almost a year, but I have finished Robert Caro’s four remarkable books: The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New YorkThe Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1)Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 2), and Master Of The Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 3). Mr. Caro has said that he will publish a fourth and fifth volume about Lyndon Johnson and I’ve pre-ordered the fourth volume which is coming out soon: The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 4).

 

I’ve noticed remarkable similarities about how Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson acquired and used power. They are both masters of manipulation that had a loyal band of followers who were tied to their “boss” financially and psychologically. Both men were very complex individuals who were practical in achieving power and once they had it, on balance, used that power to achieve good. One often hears the phrase, “Power corrupts,” but Mr. Caro states that a more accurate phrase is, “Power reveals.” There are also differences between the two: Moses did not acquire power through being elected, yet he molded New York City and New York State to his will. On the other hand, Johnson has been acquiring power through his elected positions when he was elected as a U.S. Congressman from Texas, when he was only 28 years old. I’m not erudite enough to provide a glowing review on these books, thousands have already been written, I encourage you to check out reviews on Amazon or elsewhere if you aren’t convinced yet.

 

My Fling with Tumblr…

Tumblr is like a hot new co-worker you secretly have a crush on and she actually asks you out for coffee. She’s young, she’s sleek, she’s artsy. You’re married to WordPress, which is supposedly clunkier and less cool. However, after having some innocent or maybe not-so-innocent coffee dates with Tumblr, you quickly realize that your true love is still your wife – WordPress. WordPress may not be fancy, but at least it lets you paste tables inside. The decision not to allow you to paste tables in Tumblr cannot be for technical reasons, its too damned easy. It must be some Steve Jobesque reason why you can’t. Then you start to realize that all women are fickle creatures anyways and you are in way over your head. And wtf, Tumblr orders lobster during the second date?? So now I’m back with WordPress. It looks less glamorous, but hey, it works for me.

 

Things I’ve Learned:

  • The best way to get your posts from wordpress to tumblr is to import them into blogger, and then use this tool to import that to tumblr. Here is a good post that explains it more in detail.
  • HTML has gotten way more complex since the days when bluesnews was all the rage. That’s a pretty obvious fact but it is just interesting to see the evolution from 1995 when I first played with HTML and how it is integrated into everything now. Speaking of 1995 – damn I’m old.
  • Tumblr hates tables. Seriously, who writes tables from scratch anymore? Even though I tried, it still didn’t come out correctly.
  • Changing blogs changes all of your permanent links, which screws up google searches, if you care about that kind of stuff.

Everything is Academic Until You Do It…

April 4th. 2 months until the GMAT and CFA Level 1. 3 months until I start business school. You can read a thousand blogs but everything is merely academic until you actually do it; All of my posts about student loans and the GI Bill don’t mean much until you actually try to use it. You quickly realize that time is not on your side (if you haven’t started yet). For public schools, even though the GI Bill will cover your tuition and you will receive a monthly stipend, you will still probably need to borrow some funds to cover other expenses.

 

Effective July 1, 2012, Federal Direct Subsidized Stafford Loans will no longer be offered to graduate students. The semester loan limit of $10,250 will remain, but will only include Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans. The Unsubsidized Stafford loan has a fixed interest rate of 6.8%. I believe it was only 3.4% last year…quite the jump. The origination fee on the Unsubsidized Stafford loan will rise from 0.5% to 1% beginning July 1, 2012. If you need more than the $10,250 semester loan limit, you could look into a Graduate Plus loan, which has a fixed interest rate of 7.9%. The origination fee on the Graduate Plus loan will rise from 2.5% to 4% beginning July 1, 2012.

 

Unless you obtained some other financial aid, you probably need to at least request the loans and then adjust accordingly as other financial aid options / fellowships succeed or fall through. For my own personal situation, I’m still waiting for my GI Bill to convert from the MGIB to the Post 9/11 version. You can check out my GI Bill page for more info. Once that is done, I need to send a Certificate of Eligibility to the school I will attend.

 

I also visited a Tricare Service Center today and upgraded my eBenefits account to Premium. Took about 20 minutes. I also got my CAC card confiscated and it was replaced with some other card that looks pretty similar to the ID cards that was provided to your dependents when you were on active duty. Apparently, you don’t get a CAC card while in the IRR. I have seen conflicting guidance so I’ll get to the bottom of this eventually and post the results here.

 

Finally, I purchased some put options for Groupon, partly based on the accounting revisions as well as my own family’s experiences with them. My family owns small businesses and it seems using Groupon is like a Pyrrhic victory. We’ll see how that goes. Besides my retirement portfolios, I’m going to go purely with options for the next two years.

9/11 Memorial and Why Veterans Should be Mentors

 

I went to the 9/11 memorial last Friday with my mentee (from the NYC Mentoring Program) and it was great for two reasons:

 

1) 9/11 was one of the main reasons why I joined the military in the first place, like many of you. I felt a sense of closure as I visited the memorial because that day has decidedly shaped the last 10 years of my life. If I hadn’t joined the Army, I wouldn’t have been stationed in Korea, if I hadn’t been stationed in Korea, I wouldn’t have met my wife, if I hadn’t met my wife, we wouldn’t have had a beautiful daughter together, and without having a loving wife and daughter to fight for, my deployment to Afghanistan would have had less meaning. The memorial itself is very dignified and serene. It just feels right. You want to find some meaning for your deployment? Just look at the thousands of names carved into this memorial and you’ll find your meaning. So if you are a veteran living in the NYC area or visiting NYC during leave, I would certainly recommend visiting this memorial.

 

 

2) Three weeks ago, I went to an event celebrating the 2012 Mentor and Mentee of the Year. It was great to hear the speeches from the runner up as well as the winners because high school kids are so mature these days. My mentee is involved in so many activities, he makes me look like a slacker in high school (and I probably was). Since I’ve been through the MBA application process, I recognize how tough the competition is for college graduates. It looks like everyone has a 770 GMAT, had experience in the Peace Corp in Africa, cured cancer, and looked good doing it.

 

What I didn’t really understand before becoming a mentor was how hard it is just to get into college these days as well. I’m not even sure if it is sustainable. The explosive growth of MBA programs, people taking the CFA, and people from all over the world trying to get into American undergraduate institutions, the stakes seem insanely, ridiculously, high. I don’t have a specific solution to this problem, but I need to start figuring something out, because sooner or later, my own daughter will be starting this ridiculous process.

 

My digression aside, I think veterans should get involved in mentoring. It seems that my mentee’s major weakness is discipline and my other mentor peers feel the same way about their mentees. Discipline is one of the staples of being in the military and just teaching these kids to show up on time is a huge accomplishment. Most veterans didn’t have an opportunity to actively volunteer during their military service because of deployments, frequent PCSs, and all the other things that happen while you are in service. Once you transition to the business world, you are expected to do more than just work. Therefore, I encourage you to do something in the educational sector and mentoring seems like the best fit for transitioning vets.

Father Forgets

Many military men become fathers at an early age and it adds another dimension to the challenges that they already face. I deployed when my daughter was only 6 months old and when I came back, she seemed all grown up as an 18-month old girl!  At first, everything she did seemed cute and funny. But the small things do wear your patience at times, like cleaning up their mess, refusing to sleep, refusing to eat, whining, etc. Kids will be kids. I actually found this essay or poem online and it always calms me down after reading it. I have implemented a policy in my house where if my kid pisses me off for whatever reason, my wife hands me a printed copy of this essay. Since I know it by heart now, I basically chuckle at whatever was making me ticked off just a second ago. Maybe it will provide you with some perspective as well. Love your children!

 

Father Forgets

by W. Livingston Larned

Listen, son; I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a twoel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came Up the road, I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before you boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive – and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, form a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding – this was my reward to your for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too muchof youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in yourcharacter. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself overthe wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you alugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing buy a boy – a little boy!”

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.