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CapitalOne is the Best Credit Card Company Ever

This Picture is Fitting For My Below Rave About CapitalOne because the only thing better than being this happy on Splash Mountain is knowing that your credit card cash back rewards just paid for the trip to Disneyland

This Picture is Fitting For My Below Rave About CapitalOne because the only thing better than being this happy on Splash Mountain is knowing that your credit card cash back rewards just paid for the trip to Disneyland

I have a biz crush on CapitalOne. There are very few companies that I 100%, without any hesitation, endorse like I own them. CapitalOne is toward the top of that list.

My experience with CapitalOne has been flawless and awesome from day 1.

My first interaction with CapitalOne was many years ago when I was a broke college student who couldn’t get qualified to buy a car with any lending institution… not even the credit unions who will take anyone with a pulse.

Capital One sent me a blank check and gave me a… decent… interest rate.

I’ve had various credit card accounts with them over the years and here are a few things I will share with anyone with is bored enough to listen to me rave about CapitalOne:

  • At one point I filed bankruptcy and I had a balance on a CapitalOne card that went into the bankruptcy. A lot of creditors hold a grudge and are hard to deal with in a bankruptcy. CapitalOne was as smooth as butter and welcomed me back with open arms.
  • CapitalOne has an awesome online interface and an even better mobile app. Love how easy it is to navigate and make payments.
  • CapitalOne lets me download all transactions from any date range I choose to a spreadsheet for various accounting purposes. *Awesome
  • CapitalOne has the very BEST cash back reward card I can find or get approved for. Their Quicksilver card is 1.5% cash back on EVERYTHING all the time. You can’t beat that. My wife and I both have a Quicksilver card and we try to put everything on it. We feel like we are getting a 1.5% discount on everything we buy. (Of course that only works because we always pay it off in full and don’t pay any interest fees ever).
  • CapitalOne’s Spark card for businesses is equally awesome offering a flat 2% cash back on EVERYTHING. To get the 2% cash back you do have to pay a $59 annual fee but that is an absolute no brainer. If you don’t want to pay $59 a year you can still get 1.5% cash back. (The math works out that if you charge more than $12,000 a year it is worth it to pay the $59 annual fee.)
  • CapitalOne is amazing at fraud prevention and fraud restoration. Its very common for me to get a text message and/or email from CapitalOne asking me to quickly verify purchases. I don’t find this annoying… rather satisfying.
  • All the same, likely due to my own behavior and not the fault of CapitalOne, I have on more than a few occasions had card info stolen and unapproved charges appear on my card. I make a call that lasts no more than 4 minutes… identifying the charges that I didn’t approve and then they… take care of it. All of it… with speed and awesomeness. Every charge is immediately credited back and the replacement card is in the mail.
  • The other day I called to request a new business card for an employee. Phone call lasted about 4 minutes. New card was at my front door the next day… FedEx Overnight at no expense to me.
  • When you call customer support, you get someone in the USA… or at least if they are off seas they must find English speakers that are really good!

Seriously get rid of any existing crappy card you have and go with CapitalOne.

And if any CapitalOne employees are reading this and want to thank me for this endorsement… how about 2.5% on the Spark Card???

Bug in the Ear… The Real Thing

Recently while I was on the phone Ami came rushing into the house from the backyard where she had been working screaming something about a bug climbing into her ear.

Yeah it was true. With my head light on… looking into the ear canal I finally caught a glimpse of the bug turning the corner. I tried calling our family… doctor. He is both family and doctor so take that how you wish but he didn’t answer.

bug in earIn case this ever happens to you… we followed the instructions provided by the top Google search results… later confirmed by the doctor. Get a siringe and spray water into the ear canal. Apparently the ear drum is hard to get past if you are a bug and hard to damage or break if you are fast moving water. This worked to wash out the bug.

Moral of this story, next time you hear someone say something about having a bug in their ear you should believe them.

 

I Found Out My Kids Can’t Dial 9-1-1

It occurred to me all of the sudden. I was thinking about my own childhood and how I was taught when I should dial the universal emergency number.

I imagined in my own mind the house where I grew up, grabbing the phone from the wall in the kitchen and dialing three numbers; 9-1-1. That is when it occured to me. My kids don’t have it so simple. My children’s teachers, coaches, and parents (yeah me) have been teaching them the same thing we ourselves were taught… “pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1.”

The challenge is that there is no phone on my kitchen wall and dialing 9-1-1 on my cell phone takes a lot more tapping and dragging than just touching 3 numbers on a keypad.

So I decided to put it to a test…

I tried first with my 8 year old son. It went something like this:

“Simon, what should you do if one day mom falls down the stairs and hits her head and doesn’t wake up?”

Simon: “I should call 9-1-1.”

“How would you do that?”

Simon: “With a phone.”

“What phone?”

Simon: “Mom’s cell phone or your cell phone.”

“Here is my phone. Can you show me how to do it? Don’t worry, I’ll stop you before you actually dial it.”

Simon: Fiddles with the phone. Manages to unlock the screen and find the phone app. Can’t figure out how to make a dial pad display. Gives up and says: “Dad where are the numbers?”

The experiment didn’t go much better with my 5 year old daughter. I suspect they could have both successfully opened Netflix but dialing 9-1-1 was too difficult without me showing them the step by step process. Further, each time I get a new cell phone I’ll have to re-teach it for awhile.

Can your kids dial 9-1-1?

How I Built My Business While Keeping My Day Job

When I quit my day job to start working on my own business full time people expressed a lot of concern. I suppose that most of them assumed that I was going to venture out and start something new… building from the ground up. That wasn’t the case. The truth was that I had spent 8 plus years growing something steadily on the side.

Before I say anything else let me state how important it is that you truly give your employer all the time, energy, and passion they deserve for employing you. This is not an article about how you can do 40 hours of work in 20 hours so you can steal time from the company to build your thing. During the last five years I spent at my job I worked hard to not only give them the expected 40 hours a week but extra hours, my dedicated energy, and passion. When I started to feel too distracted to give them what they deserve I left. You should too.

If you are an employee of a company and also have a side business you are working on I can relate. Today I’m going to outline some of the key tools I used to manage my time in a way that I was able to grow the side business while still being true to my employer and the time I was morally and legally obligated to give them.

You Need Technology

I leveraged a lot of modern tools to allow me to keep my day job while growing my business. Some of these tools including file storage and sharing tools like Dropbox and Google Drive. Tools that made it easy to jot down quick notes or thoughts from anywhere I was like Evernote and Google Tasks. Identify the challenges in your work and business systems and find technology to solve the challenge for you.

You Need to Out Source

You don’t have to do everything in your business. Identify the tasks that can be out-sourced. Stretch yourself here… it can be very difficult to let go of things that you somehow believe that only you can do but it would be necessary eventually any way if you ever hope to have a big business and it is certainly important now if you want to keep your day job. As an example, I hired someone to take all my business phone calls. That was anywhere from 30 to 100 phone calls a week that I decided I didn’t need to answer anymore. Now that I quit my job do you think I want to answer those calls? NOPE. Happy to keep the arrangement working. I also started to hire people via Elance.com to do a lot of data entry and online research work for me. Things that really anyone with the time and limited expertise could do but that frankly I didn’t have the time for. (more on outsourcing here)

You Need to Work More Hours

Inevitably during your 8 hour employed work day some things are going to come up from your side business that you are going to have to deal with. An email here and there… an emergency on occasion. The fair way to make this all work is to build in extra hours for your employer outside of the standard 8. I got to my day job 30 minutes early every day for 5 years. I also made it a point to look at and respond to emails during the evening. If my employer ever had any concern about an personal email that I took now and again they would have been reassured by the above and beyond work hours I was putting in. That is what it takes to deal honestly.

You Need to Batch Tasks

There are a lot of things both in your day job and almost certainly in your business that take up a lot of time. Can you batch these together to save time? Over the years I was able to find routine tasks that I used to do as they came in or daily etc… and change my system to doing them all at one time each week or month. Forcing myself to batch tasks saved a lot of time. For one example, I used to do daily accounting… entering in expenses and sales every day. Then one day I realized… I could do this monthly. Sure it may take 4 hours once a month but that would be better than 20 minutes almost every day all month long.

You Need to Focus on the One Thing

Above all else you need to learn to prioritize. To eliminate the minutia and focus on doing the most important things each day. I had a piece of paper taped to my office wall that read “What is the one thing that by doing now will make everything else easier or unnecessary?” I looked at that everyday. My employer and my business prospered because I was focused on getting the most important things done first. (The ONE Thing Book Review)

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Examples of How A School Teacher Retired Wealthy

My parents are cheap thrifty. Have you ever read the book, The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley? This book makes me think of my Dad. My parents raised five children on the income of a school teacher. Today they are retired and sitting on a good sized nest egg… though my Dad isn’t the kind of person to talk about his various investments and net worth and I’m not the guy to ask for details. Last night my Dad called to inform me they are buying the house next to their own as an investment. It has me thinking about how a school teacher become wealthy…

My parents understood that wealth accumulation isn’t so much a factor of how much money you make but how much money you save. Living “within” your means was thought to be extravagant and seeing how much money could be socked away was more of an inner competition than a simple goal.

Now that I’ve given my parents some props I can get in the reminiscing part of this article by sharing a few examples of the cheapness ability to save money we experienced.

Cereal Timelines: At some point in my childhood it was determined that we, the children, were eating too much cereal each morning. At that point forward when a new cereal box was opened my Dad would write an “expected use date” on the box. If that cereal was consumed fully before the hand written date we went hungry. When the date arrived a new box could be opened.

Lunch Money: In younger years I packed a lunch or came home for lunch. I wasn’t familiar with the concept of an allowance. When I got to Junior high it was no longer practical for me to return home for lunch so my Dad devised a new system. If I did my chores and was generally well behaved then I was given $0.50 per day in lunch money. At the time a “hot lunch” at school was running about $1.25 (a reminder here that my Dad worked in the school district and was intimately aware of the cost of lunch). The $.50 was enough to buy the leftover cheeseburger or hotdog from the previous day’s lunch and thus it was deemed sufficient. This “lunch money” was paid out monthly by check which I had to deposit/cash in my own bank account.

Paying Rent: After high school I began to pay rent to live in my parents house. Over the years I’ve met other people who have had similar requirements… but if you also had to pay rent after graduation you and I are among a select group of “special” individuals.

Reusing Dryer Sheets: My mom had an algorithm by which she determined the number of uses any single dryer sheet was good for. One unused dryer sheet was good by itself for a load of clothes. Two dryer sheets having been used once could be used together for a load of clothes. Four dryer sheets that had been used twice could be used together for a load of clothes and etc.

Ziploc’s and Tin Foil: Only in my adult life did I find out most people don’t reuse Ziploc’s and Tin Foil. After a dinner of baked potatoes we each carefully folded the tin foil that had wrapped our potato and put it in a designated drawer for reuse. Ziploc’s were put in the sink to be washed along with the dishes for the next use.

You Only Need Two Squares: My mom operated under a belief that under any circumstance a person should only need two toilet tissue squares to fully cleanse oneself in the bathroom. To use more than two squares was considered wasteful and was against the rules.

Milk From the Store: As I grew older and started to have sleepovers at friends homes I wondered why their milk tasted infinitely better than the milk at my house. The reason? Because my mom made all our milk from powdered milk which was purchased via some mail-in catalog in 50 gallon drums. Each week a few cups of powder were mixed with water and presto… we had milk.

On the Street is Free: My dad was famous for picking up stuff in the street. He came home with a lot of broken and not so broken tools, clothing, appliances, and other unidentified objects. Mostly he picked up a lot of aluminum cans because they could be cashed in at the recycling center.

The Cold Water From the Shower: Recently my dad has a revelation. With a five gallon bucket on hand, he can capture the cold water that comes out of the shower in those few moments when you are waiting for the water to heat up. This water can be used later to flush the toilet. His regret is that he didn’t figure this out years ago so his children could be forced to comply.

I was the youngest of five children and it is worth mentioning that my older siblings likely have much better examples to share! In my youth I likely complained about these and other things but now I’m grateful to have been taught frugality and money management.

Please share examples of your cheap parents in the comments below.

Tips For Creating a More Positive Experience When On The Road for Business

business travelI suspect that there isn’t anything below that would be too ground breaking for anyone but if you travel you might find that some of the lessons I’ve learned can serve as reminders or tips for you too.

1. Eat light. I have found that I’m tempted to eat bad for me meals simply because I can or because the company may pay for it. This is not only good for my health in the long term but it also tends to cause for a bad nights sleep, habit breaking issues when I get home, and a nagging feeling that working out that night won’t feel so good.

2. Work Out. At home its really easy to make excuses to not work out. On the road its a little more difficult. I don’t have to put the children to bed or get them breakfast in the morning. I should replace that time on the road with going for a run or getting on a machine in the hotel fitness room.

3. Just leave that TV off. Honestly its a trap. If I turn it on it will consume me until very late hours of wastedness. I just get the work done on the computer that I so claim is engulfing me and if really tempted  then  may watch a single episode via Hulu or a movie on Netflix and then go to bed. I can do all this without turning on the TV.

4. Video call home. Technology is great and the family wants to hear from me just as much as I want to see them.

5. Find a travel hobby. I like geocaching. Everywhere in the world I can geocache and its always a great way to see a city and explore. I have friends who like to find certain types of restaurants, hang out in malls, or visit a book store. If the destination city has a sports team in town buy a ticket. Find a hobby that will help you explore the town somehow.

Eliminating the Common Cold From Life

tissue boxIn 2012 I was sick far too often. I was unable to keep an exact count but I know I went to the doctor for 3 sinus infections. Beyond that there was a lot of downtime from the common cold. Being sick kills productivity. If I had to guess I would say there were 6 to 8 days during the year when I was completely incapacitated and another 10 to 12 days when I was unproductive or partly incapacitated for a total of 2-3 weeks.

It’s easy to blame the environment. I have two young children, one going to preschool and bringing home all manner of germs. I live in a cold and dry place which lends toward sickness. I exercised less in 2012 than any prior year in the past 15 years. These make for good excuses and certainly the lack of exercise is my own fault. As I entered the new year of 2013 among my various goals was to be more healthy in terms of eliminating down time. In order to have a measurable and easy to define goal I said, “no sick days in 2013.”

The year is half over and so far I haven’t been sick once. I don’t know if I can maintain this perfect streak through the rest of the year but I intend to. The environment hasn’t changed much, I still live in the same place and my children still bring germs home and spread them. I didn’t even exercise much more than before. In June I started running again but from January through May I didn’t exercise at all. Here are the simple changes I implemented that I believe have made the difference.

I take a Multi-vitamin every day. I figure my diet has never been very good and supplementing the things that my body needs most is a simple and easy way of making a big difference.

I drink a cup of orange juice every morning. I keep a gallon at my office and pour myself a cup when I first get in in the morning. The vitamin C goes a long way.

I gargle really well a few times per week with Listerine mouth wash. Since the throat tends to be a starting point for a lot of types of sickness this tends to kill germs and bacteria that start problems. (Some people will think I’m gross for not doing this everyday but hey give me a break.)

I have cut back on late night eating. In the past it was very normal for me to eat a piece of cake or an extra piece of lasagna around 9pm. While I haven’t been perfect I have cut most eating after 8pm out.

Lastly, my wife has been far more aggressive than usual this year about cooking more healthy. As an example she substitutes a lot more whole wheat for the old breads, tortillas, and pastas we used to eat.

That’s it. With zero downtime so far this year as I move into mid-July I am not only more productive because I don’t lose days to sickness but because I feel better. What are the little things you do to stay healthy?

July 4th Flag Raising Ceremony at the Paulsen Home

This morning we hosted about 50 people in our front yard at 10am for a flag raising ceremony. We installed our flag pole just a few weeks ago and have been waiting for this awesome holiday to raise our flag for the first time. We passed out invitations to 92 of our neighbors and invited many other local friends. Boy Scout troop 137 from our church came to perform the flag raising.

This was  a somber occasion as we all shared in giving honor to the greatest symbol of our country. My wonderful wife prepared muffins and other snacks for all those who came. We are very grateful to all those who took time out of their holiday to spend a little time with our family.

If you weren’t able to attend in person then perhaps you can enjoy the occasion and honor the flag via the pictures? Ok, that might be pushing it but either way next time you are in the Denver area drive by and see our flag!

And This Be Our Motto: “In God Is Our Trust.”

Our founding fathers rarely used the word God in their correspondence and rhetoric. Perhaps it was in defiance of England’s close marriage of church to state, but more often our country’s founders could be quoted as referring to divine providence or one’s creator. While these, our American icons disagreed in many counts about the meaning or nature of the American Revolution, they all agreed about the divine providence that made it possible.

Let me share two of the most beloved stories of 1776 that allowed our country to survive and win the Revolutionary War by that divine providence.

In April 1775 a colonial military force (later to be called the continental army) surrounded the city of Boston to lock in the British military garrison encamped there.  This 11 month siege was essentially a stand off. The colonials (despite their recent battles at Lexington and Concord) knew they didn’t have a strong chance at removing the army garrison from the city and the British didn’t have the men necessary to break through the lines. The newly appointed leader of the continental army, George Washington, sent a book seller and promising soldier to Fort Ticonderoga to bring whatever cannon and artillery possible to Boston to fortify the position of the army. Henry Knox, by the grace of that divine providence managed to bring over 60 tons of artillery to Boston by horse, dog sled, manpower, and boat across poor roads, two semi-frozen rivers, swamps, and forests in a little less than 3 winter months. Many have called this feat the most impressive logistical feat of the war. With these new cannons in hand Washington organized an effort to distract the British during the night of March 5th 1776 while his men pushed these cannons to the top of Dorchester Heights. During that night they fortified the heights with logs and what else they could find since digging trenches was impossible in the cold of winter. The occupation of Dorchester Heights was the necessary tactical advantage needed to force a British retreat. This miracle was sufficient enough to have caused the British Commander to say, “My God, these fellows have done more work in one night than I could make my army do in three months.”

Later that same year the now super strengthened British army and fleet was in New York facing this same Continental Army. After a defeating battle Washington knew he had to withdraw his troops in a retreat of New York. The newly arrived British fleet threatened to sail up the Hudson and destroy the army where they stood. For over 10 days a strange and unexpected south wind forced the British fleet to remain in the lower bay unable to sail up the river to the side of the island where Washington’s camp lay. Not knowing how much longer this divine providence would shine down on him he planned and executed an amazing over night retreat in which the entire army, supplies, horses, and artillery, were transported across the river on boats while a single unit stayed behind to keep fires lit and make noise sufficient to convince the British that nothing was out of the ordinary. An unusual and heavy fog settled over the island that night making the retreat much more feasible. Almost immediately following that retreat the winds changed and the British sailed up the Hudson.

Some would just call this lucky but like the founding fathers I believe in Divine Providence. I believe that this country was formed and continues to prosper in direct correlation with our obedience to God’s commandments. Most of the founders agreed in the complete separation between church and state but that doesn’t mean they didn’t see a direct correlation in the hand of the almighty and the work they were doing.

The American Gospel is not a specific religion, God, or Deity. The American Gospel is the belief that our creator has given us all unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The American Gospel is the belief that our country stands as something and for something far greater than our individuals desires and pursuits. It is this Gospel that we carry into battle, that we wave with the American Flag, and that we must emulate in all that we do.

Today when it seems like there is more division than unity among our people we must stay united in the belief of the “American Experiment.” We must all unite behind the symbols and actions that are the core of this rhetoric. Only together can we keep the dream that has become America alive and breathing.

I leave you this July with the final verse of our Nation’s Song: “The Star Spangled Banner.” The story behind this song is equally inspiring but we will leave that for another day.

flag usaOh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

What Does Mother Nature Remind You Of?

Our home is situated in front of an open field. This open field does not open up to the wilderness. It, together with a small lake at one end, are surrounded by the homes of Denver suburbia on all sides. Within this wildlife safe haven we have seen a number of relatively “wild” animals which includes geese, muskrats, huge turtles & frogs, and all sorts of birds to include blue herons, ducks, etc. On a particularly lucky day we might also see a coyote or two. I love the coyotes. They have proven ski-dish as we have seen them chased by neighborhood dogs. The last year or so they have seemed more scare and less common to see.

On Sunday’s I’m particularly likely to spend a few extra minutes staring into the field with hopeful eyes. When I see the wonders of mother nature I’m turned to think of our creator and the serenity and brilliance of all of the creatures on earth. Perhaps that is why on Sunday I get extra excited to view our dear coyotes.

Regardless of one’s religious beliefs we all have a spiritual dimension of ourselves that we must grow and nurture. I have found that most people find that growth and serenity in mother nature.

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