Surround yourself with people that challenge you to grow

I don’t enjoy getting old. I don’t wake up with the same energy as I used to when I was young and my knees remind me every day that I pushed them too hard in my 20’s.

However, with age comes experience and an opportunity to reflect on decisions made. I don’t live with regret but all the same, there are choices that I made that would have influenced my life in better ways.

One such decision was the choice of friends that I made. If you have read any of my posts, you may see that I have not always been the most confident of people and have resorted to alcohol on many occasions to manage.

A logical choice of friends would be around people that positively influence my perceived ‘need’ to drink and to enjoy life while being sober. However, rather than do that, I chose friends that only supported and encouraged the self-destructive behaviour.

I won’t rehash my post The evolution of my Friday’s that details my drinking but just say that I did escape my desperate need to drink by actually leaving the city I lived in. Now, I rarely drink and if I do, it’s for enjoyment of the taste.

Another aspect of choosing a friend when I was younger was to have people around me that didn’t challenge me. By this I mean that they displayed behaviour that wouldn’t influence me to be a better person. My friends were not ambitious in terms of career, relationships or financially. Any success they achieved was managed through longevity in a business, not through developing networks, education or taking risks. My two closest previous friends have clocked up 30 and 20 years of continuous service in the one agency.

This is not to disrespect their choices but for me, I wanted to achieve more but failed to have the right friends that would influence me to greater success. Again, my friends did not take financial risks and to date, do not have investment properties or share portfolios. Any discussion on the subject would be met with the possibility of losing money rather than the chance to make money.

When discussion came to my longer-term goals, often times I would be given advice that I should stick with my current job and save money for retirement. There was no encouragement and debate about ways that I could start working towards achieving my goals only ways that it would not be possible.

The problem is not necessarily my friends. They are who they are and that’s fine. They have a number of good qualities other than those that will make me grow. The problem is more so that I was not strong enough to take challenges on myself and didn’t chose another network of friends that lived at another level to what I lived at.

To be honest, I was scared to hang around people that were better educated, had higher-level jobs and were successful. I thought they would consider me beneath them. With experience and exposure to some very successful business people, I have found the opposite. Many of these people are not only willing to share their knowledge but are also very down to earth and treat me as an equal.

I guess my point is that I shouldn’t have limited who I let into my inner circle just because of my own insecurities. I should have encouraged other relationships with people of all walks of life to learn from them and improve myself. A good person is a good person. If they have success qualities that I can learn from, that is to my benefit.

It actually sounds quote parasitic but I consider I have values of my own that I can share and add value to their lives. Unfortunately, I did not consider that the case when I was younger and I was good only as the party clown. My better qualities were normally diminished once I started to drink.

If you have goals that do not align with those around you, open yourself to opportunities to meet and befriend those that have big goals and have achieved in life. Don’t dismiss your current friends but don’t limit yourself. You might find also that finding people that share the same values and goals that you do will give you greater peace of mind and happiness.

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Always be investing

I’m often asked on financial documents whether I own any investment properties. I hesitate slightly as I always want to include my own home.

When purchasing a home, my first concern is buying something that I like but secondly the potential for growth or value improvement or both. I don’t go in with the intention of selling after a certain period of time but I do consider any equity I accrue as money that I can use for my retirement or for other investments.

I apply a different perspective when buying a car but still with the view of not wasting my money. Other than specialised vehicles, cars depreciate as soon as you buy them. Additionally, the running costs, registration and insurance really add up every year. They really are a poor investment. I would prefer to have a car that is affordable and reliable rather than a status seeking item. There have been periods where I have not had a car at all when I had public transport on my doorstep.

Investment is not limited to financially matters but also for personal development. As I blogged previously in Motivational and inspirational podcasts, I prefer to utilise my driving time to listen to financial and business podcasts that add value to my day. Sadly,,,pathetically maybe…the only music I enjoy is dancy pop music. For a guy in his early 50’s, pulling up at the lights blasting the latest Bieber is a little awkward.

I love TV but rarely get into serial shows or sitcoms. I enjoyed the first season of Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead but I quickly got bored. However, I could watch countless reality programs on real estate, home improvement, DIY and cooking. To me, while still being entertaining, they are educational and an investment in my knowledge. I might learn something that I can used to make money or a new hobby. Watching endless hours of sports and standard TV programming takes up time and is fun but not particularly beneficial.

Admittedly, my investment mindset is only a recent thing. Over the years, I have no doubt thrown away tens of thousands of dollars through poor purchases and excessive entertainment (i.e. partying). For sure, I have accumulated some great memories but there is no question that had I started to invest in value adding purchases and personal development from an early age, I would be in a very desirable position now. I could still have had some awesome nights out and travelled but I could reduce them easy by 50% and still be doing well.

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While reality TV programming and podcasts and relatively new, I could have spent a lot more time reading. Though I prefer non-fiction business and self-development books, even fiction has value as an investment in your education. My English language was (is still?) appalling when I left school. I didn’t enjoy formal education and I still have little understanding of nouns, pronouns, verbs and punctuation. However, through reading I have developed a fair appreciation of sentence structure and how to write. I will note that other than forced reading at school, I didn’t read a book until I was in my 30’s. Over a decade that I could have utilised to invest in learning.

Another aspect of investment is in your health. I was fortunate to find a love of working IMG_3754out and eating healthy at an early age. Unfortunately, I also found a love for drinking. I’m thankful I found the first as it balanced the drinking to a degree. In saying that, I have some health issues now that perhaps I could have avoided with a healthier lifestyle. Others have overindulged their whole life. Like financial investment, it’s a lot harder to start at a later age and get results. Start early with a healthy lifestyle for immediate and longer-term benefits.

My first property purchase wasn’t until the age of 40. Again, a very late starter. I have probably paid off a full mortgage in rental payments. If I had some foresight and put a little money into buying even a small unit or block of land and continued to invest money made, I would be on easy street now rather than fighting to find a way to an early retirement.

The point of my blog is not to illustrate my appalling earlier life choices but rather to show that there are opportunities to invest all around. I wish I could have realised it earlier in my life but there is no point looking back with regret. As my favourite saying goes ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now’. Whatever your age and whatever your situation, it’s always the right time to start investing.

Buying property – Thank you messy tenants!

I’ve been off-line for a few days as I have been spending the majority of my spare time looking at investment properties.

I’m currently looking at the lower-end of the market with positive returns on investment. Associated with the areas I’m looking, the demographic of renters are not high income earners. Though I’m stereotyping, this can often mean that the tenants can be untidy and have poor quality furnishings.

I’ve bought and sold a fair bit of property during my life. Both personally and during my time as a real estate agent. A common factor has been that the clean and nicely presented property will sell more quickly and for more money. The unkempt property will stay on the market for ages and generally will get weak offers. Vendors start to get desperate and a bad return.

To me, I love it when I walk in and see that the tenant is a grub. I look past the mess and work out the potential of the place and what money I need to put into it.

  • Dirty carpets. Do they need a clean or full replacement. Steam clean doesn’t cost much but replacement does. Adjust your offer accordingly but always double the value of your investment.
  • Messy kitchen. Look past the stale pizza and masses of plates. Are the cabinets in good order. Are the bench tops stained or chipped. The worse it looks without actual damage, the better. Even if damaged, have an idea of what the repairs will cost and calculate into your offer.
  • Bathroom. Dirty grout, filthy toilet. Awesome! My offer continues to drop $1000’s but in reality, it might only be a couple of hundred bucks to clean it up.
  • Horrible gardens. Depends on the property. A large block and it might be cost prohibitive to clean up. A townhouse, a mow and a weekend gardening will make a big difference.
  • Internal walls with dints, chips, murals or whatever. Unless there is structural damage, no big deal. Some areas might just need filling and paint. Other areas might need some plastering. A tradie might be required, which will be costly but a lot can be done with DIY. Double your estimate and deduct from your offer.
  • Cigarette smell. One of my favourites. The smell can be very off-putting to some buyers, which only makes it better for me to buy low. It may take a while to air out but it could save me thousands!


There are a heap of opportunities for discounting. In reality, getting rid of the tenants and investing $1000 in a professional clean and some garden clean up and the property will look massively better. Not everyone sees that though and are put off immediately by the appearance. I just see dollars I can save.

Once I clean up the property, I have it re-valued. I have always added value. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Use the extra equity to look into reinvesting to more property. I know zero about the stock market but have been fortunate with property. I prefer to stick with something I know then opportunities that I’m unsure about.

Anyway, I have a savagely low-ball offer in at the moment. If it doesn’t play out, I will move onto the next place that looks terrible and try again.

Buy second-hand clothing to reduce carbon pollution

In principle, this is ideal. Saves money, saves the environment, helps the needy.

If only everyone wasn’t so damn short!! (seriously though, it’s a good thing..do it!)

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Taking opportunities…and feeling tired

I blogged recently in Obstacles to the dream – Options and opportunities that I had been reassigned to a work location that provided little in the opportunity for shift penalties and weekend work.

In reaction to this, I sought out any chance to work additional hours to make up lost income. An opportunity was posted for staff willing to work the following two Sundays. I responded quickly, and soon received confirmation that I had been allocated the Sunday shifts. Double time work, happy days!

Shortly after this, I was contacted by HR to advise that I could return to regular work locations that provide more penalty shifts and weekend work. Another colleague was keen to work at the Monday to Friday work location, so in exchange, I was provided her shifts.

This was a blessing but also came with strings attached. My colleagues shifts were primarily 1-2AM finishes. Obviously, after getting home, going to bed at 2 to 3 AM is not ideal to get a solid sleep and I end up feeling slightly fatigued most of the time. In itself, this is not a big deal as the shifts usually last a few days and then I get a day or two off to recover.

However, as I had already taken on the Sunday overtime shifts and my colleagues shifts were not aligned to a Monday to Friday week, I find myself working 10 days straight. By this Friday, I will have actually have worked 17 days with only 1 day break. Subsequently, I’m dragging my feet a bit.

I reflected on this a moment though. How many successful people work Monday to Friday and have weekends off? I would be confident in saying it would be close to zero. Successful people are aware that when they aren’t working, some one else will be working and potentially they will be losing business to them.

I thought of the new immigrants to Australia that run small business. I used to frequent a supermarket close to home when I lived in Sydney. The Asian owner was there, 7 days a week for 12 hours per day. Obviously, these hours are not ideal for family time but they pave the way to success.

I considered also the brave men and women that have fought in war. Years can go by where they are involved in active combat. I’m fairly certain that in the World Wars, there was no cease fire called on weekends. They essentially worked 7 days a week and often 24 hours a day, primarily for the reward of serving their country and hopefully coming home alive.

Putting it all in perspective, working 10 days straight is no great accomplishment or even hardship. I have obviously been softened by decades of Monday to Friday work and need to harden up to succeed in order to achieve my dream of early retirement.

Never let a stumble in the road be the end of the journey

As indicated in my post Obstacles to the dream – Options and opportunities, I recently encountered a challenge to my goal for early retirement.

Without recounting the whole story, I had been assigned to a particular work location for an indefinite period. The issue being that the location provided very little in the way of night or weekend work. This means reduced shift penalties, which means less money.

I’m not talking a few dollars but potentially hundreds each fortnight. For me, this is significant. The other problem was that the location has a low customer volume. I thrive on high-volume work and the difficulties this presents. It is definitely not uncommon during night shifts to have to deal with inebriated customers and those on illicit substances. For some, that sounds horrible. For me, it’s a learning experience and challenges and improves my customer service skills.

For the purpose of my early retirement though, the financial aspect was the key issue. I had been advised by management that I was obliged by my employment agreement to be assigned where there was a business requirement. From a business perspective, I appreciate the necessity to fill a space with staff but I didn’t want that space filled with me!

I asked if there was a further avenue to request reconsideration. I was told that I could contact the head of HR but my chances would be slim. Well, a slim chance was better than no chance, so I went about drafting an email that detailed my claims. I was wary of indicating my financial issues as a primary concern and focussed on points that would benefit the business and others within the business. I made it clear that I could contribute significantly more to a busy station environment and customer satisfaction. I pointed out also there were several other employees that were seeking to obtain a position within the work location that I had been assigned and they would more likely be more motivated and enthusiastic.

Well, I was called by the head of HR today. I was expecting a long-winded explanation of the employee agreement and I had to accept my work location and suck it up. To my surprise, the HR head was very understanding. She agreed that it was much better for the business to have people where they want to be. I suggested at this time the name of a colleague that had expressed an interest in Monday to Friday work. The HR head said she would organise for shifts to be changed for next week and would contact my colleague.

True to her word, the HR head has organised for my shifts to be changed as of next week. I’m back to a busy station and I have a week of night shifts ahead. My mood has been immediately elevated, not just because I have achieved my goal of returning to the work I want but also by the understanding the business has shown to an employee. After being told by a manager at a former company, ‘You don’t get to pick and choose the parts of the job you do’, this was very refreshing. It is positive acts like this that create loyalty and happiness with staff.

I add also that my colleague is very thankful that I had been put her name forward to HR and she has secured a role that will work better with her family commitments and her career goals within the business. A win-win for all I reckon!

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The point of the story I suppose is to not let go of your dream lightly. If the HR head had responded negatively, I would have taken the matter to the next level until I either ran out of levels or received the response I wanted.

Another point to consider is how you win someone over to your way of thinking. Whinging and complaining about how much I didn’t want a lighter wallet would most likely get a negative response. Think of what appeals to the person or the business. If they see the proposal as something that will benefit them, they will more likely look at the matter the way you want them to. In this case anyway, it worked!

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Obstacles to the dream – Options and opportunities

I was called early last week to advise that I have been deployed to a work location for an indefinite period of time. This was not an offer but a statement. This secondment is considered a reward of sorts as it recognises my work ethic by placing me in semi-permanent location for stability.

However, my initial reaction was disappointment. I had worked the particular location for numerous shifts. I found the location did not offer me the opportunity to interact with many customers, provided little to do for a large part of the shift (which may suit some but not me) and possibly worst of all, did not have weekend or morning penalty shifts. There would be a significant financial impact that would compromise my early retirement goal.

Unfortunately, I can’t always think logically immediately after a disappointment, so for a day or two I felt sorry for myself and saw my early retirement goal drift away. I woke up a few days later though to pull my thoughts together to look at what options and opportunities the secondment would offer.

Plan A – My first option is to dispute the secondment. This proposal is proving to be somewhat difficult, as I am obliged to agree within the terms of my employment agreement. Nonetheless, I am pursuing the matter with a reasoned approach. Rather than just approaching this matter by bemoaning my personal concerns, I have primarily focussed on the benefits to the business by redeploying me to a more dynamic location. Of course, the locations I am recommending far better remunerate me but in all honestly, I do believe I am being underutilised in a quiet work location.

Progress – I have secured an appointment with Human Resources to discuss further. I’ll be approaching this meeting carefully as I don’t want to complicate my future in the company but I do want me point of view to be considered favourably.

Plan B – If Plan A fails, I considered how the secondment can benefit me. As the work location is quiet, there is 2-3 hours each shift of downtime that I can utilise to my benefit. This time can be used to learn more about the managers role to obtain an internal qualification. Once I have the obtained the qualification (which, generally takes only a few months), I can be redeployed to temporary manager roles throughout the network. This is not an ideal preference for me as I don’t necessarily want to pursue a manager’s role, however, it would assist in reducing the financial loss.

Progress – I have several rotating managers. I have approached them to ask for training, which has been welcomed.

Plan C – Start applying for higher level jobs. Strange as it seems, I can make considerably more money by continuing to work night and weekend shifts at a base level role than I can for a lot of higher-level jobs that are in Monday to Friday work locations. Again though, the purpose is to reduce my financial loss and keep my goal on track.

Progress – I have applied for a higher level role. Realistically, my chances are poor but by expressing my interest I am making myself noticed. I will consider an interview as a success in this instance and take any feedback as a learning opportunity.

Plan A is the ideal. I continue to work hard and make good money in the job that I enjoy in locations that are busy. While I do like the ‘all the eggs in one basket’ type of thinking as it promotes the desperation to succeed, Plan A may be restricted by formal legislation. Therefore, to ensure that I do not become desponded should Plan A fail, I have other Plans to pursue to maintain my motivation.

Every problem has a solution. Not every solution may be perfect but as long as I’m moving forward I’m not going backwards.