Losing The Cornerstone: 60 Days to 6 Figures, Day 22

blue Work Harder neon signage

Yesterday was very productive. I wrote almost two thousand words yesterday, double what I consider a good writing session. It took most all of the morning, since I had to take several breaks, both to take care of the kids and have my regular Zombie. LLC, scrum call. After I published here, I went and created a Substack and reposted there. I also published it as a LinkedIn article and shared with one of my groups there. I think I’m done with long-form on Medium, although I’m not sure.

I think the Substack could prove most interesting. I’ve got a considerable mailing list through my political campaigns and crypto blog that I ran, probably close to seventeen hundred addresses, not to mention the piles of business cards that have been sitting in my organizer for the past year. I think I’ll wait a week to decided, and come up with another article before I do anything. Hopefully I can “build my tribe” as the saying goes, and maybe even earn some subscriptions out of it.

Zombie lost another client yesterday. Our cornerstone client, one of our first. Boss said our runway was very short. I had to press him on how short several times before he wagered a guess. I figured two weeks, he said another month. It’s very unlikely that we’ll be picking up enough new business to make up for what we’ve lost in the last six months. The writing is on the wall. I can’t imagine what’s going through Boss’s head right now.

Losing the cornerstone, beyond the ramifications for Zombie, have affected my plans for picking up the pieces. I was hoping to take the cornerstone and another with me if/when Zombie folds, but the client was basically lost to another firm without even a “chance to compete”. We’ve known there was a change in ownership among the partners at the firm, but it looks like we failed to foster the relationship with the new primary, and they have apparently been talking to this new firm for at least several weeks. Neither Boss nor I know the details yet, hopefully I can find out when I talk to my contact over there on Monday.

I had a call with the CEO of the new firm yesterday. I stalked him on LinkedIn and sent a connect request, which he accepted. Boss had deridingly referred to them as “fly by night” when he broke the news to me in the morning, but their website wasn’t that bad. Looks like a husband and wife team, with two engineers. The CEO even publishes some long-form content to their blog, which I thought was nice. The call was professional, even though we were blindsided.

I’ve got my first call lined up next week. It’s not a formal interview, but the position is very lucrative. I’m not so much interested in the position as I am in getting to know the CEO and figuring out what the company is like to work for. I don’t want to jump at the first thing that comes up, but I’ll consider any offer with a salary over $100,000 to be a successful conclusion to this goal.

I’ve also been sending out my resume, yesterday I managed to send a finely crafted email out to a staffing agency about a six month contract position. I’m not sure it’s going to fit my requirements, but I think it matches what I’m doing now, and I may need something to fall back on. That’s one line that I’m trying to tread, between jobs that I’m qualified for and those with the skills I want to learn. I’m passing on a lot of positions right now because they have high experience requirements on certain software development skills, but I’m pretty much saving everything else for targeting.

Right now most of my targeting has been through LinkedIn jobs, and I’m also going through my wish list of other big tech firms, ones like Gitlab, Square, Stripe, and Coinbase, for example. So far, I’ve been struggling to find positions that fit, since most of the software development or engineering jobs that are available don’t fit my experience. I’ll keep slogging though.

Each day is just another day to keep plodding forward, taking a step here and there to keep moving forward in the direction that I want. Keep building my network, keep working on my projects and making them better, bit by bit, and building the habits that will bring me success. That’s all that I have control over, and I know that success will follow.

Freakanomics and Atomic Habits

Mini-reviews of two good books

Yesterday was rough. I must have taken three naps throughout the day, the execution of which was confounded by the tea, coffee, and energy drink I consumed throughout. The last one was late in the day, I took a melatonin at ten and tried to sleep at eleven, but wound up getting up to read at midnight and again at one-thirty before finally going to sleep. I woke just after seven, in the midst of a vivid dream, and feel back to my normal, ready to conquer the day.

I finished reading Freakanomics. It’s a very interesting book, and deals with race in a very frank way. The last few chapters are about the role of parenting and schools in a person’s success in life. One of the main findings is that who you are as a parent matters more than what you do. It gave me pause for a moment, to reconsider how far I’m pushing the kids. They’ll be all right.

There’s a fascinating chapter about a particular crack gangs in Chicago and their leader, who I believe may have served as the inspiration for Stringer Bell in The Wire. We went to business school and ran it like a corporation. One of the lieutenants kept detailed notes on their day to day finances, and the story of how it got into the hands of an economist is fascinating backstory.

The book is from 2006, and while I have some concerns about it might be received today because of it’s racial themes, I still recommend it. It’s not very long, and written in an engaging style that made it a quick read.

After I finished Freakanomics, I picked up Atomic Habits, by James Clear, which the missus gave me as an early Fathers’ Day gift. I didn’t want to put it down. Clear opens with a story about how he had to recover from a life-threatening childhood injury, learning to walk again, up to how he reclaimed his identity as a baseball player and started writing a successful blog and now, a book. I’m only a couple chapters in, but I really like it. It begins with an insight about outside in versus inside out change.

Most people, myself included, focus on setting goals as a path to change. The goal drives the person’s actions, and then, hopefully, this causes a change in identity. There’s several problems with this. One is that actions that are incongruent with identity are eventually dropped. The other is that if the goal is the only thing driving the behaviors, then the new behaviors may revert once the goal is achieved. An example about a smoker stood out to me: if a smoker declines a cigarette, saying “I’m trying to quit,” then they’re focused on the goal, their identity hasn’t changed. If they say “no thanks, I don’t smoke”, they are much more likely to succeed at the goal, because their identity has already changed, to that of a former smoker.

This may sound hokey to some, but it’s congruent with my own experience quitting, and is core of some of the concepts I learned during through neurolinguistic programming. The goal here, ultimatley, is change from the inside-out, to figure out what type of person you want to be, first, and then the behaviors and goals will take care of themselves.

My approach to success has usually been goal driven. When I worked telemarketing sales some twenty years ago, my manager drilled into my head to set our goals higher than what we ultimately wanted to achieve. If we wanted to hit a 150% quota, for example, we would set a goal at 200%. This would set the pace for the sales period, and if we only hit 175% during the term, well we were probably better off than if we had just aimed for the 150% to begin with.

This type of aim for the clouds thinking has served me well the last two decades, but it usually gets a scoff from my wife when I speak them out loud. And I’ll admit, was firmly in mind when I set the Sixty Days to Six Figures and FIRE by 2024 goals. It may also seem like we’re veering into The Secret, or magic thinking, prosperity gospel. (Even now, I have an internal Ekart Tolle reading along as I type this. )

Clear recommends working backward from your goals, to reverse engineer the type of identity that would manifest those goals. As I said, I’m only a couple chapters in, but it’s already got my head spinning, and reexamining how I’m going to approach dealing with the kids. I may even have Elder read the intro out loud to me, to see if I can get her interested this.

Atomic Habits has already given me a strategy in framing our family identity. Our family is organized so we keep our house clean and free of clutter; we’re academics so we study hard and love learning; we’re athletic so we like physical activity; we’re entrepreneurs and leaders so we have strong work ethic and treat everyone with respect. I’m only a couple pages in and I think it’s going to be one of my favorites already, right up there with Dalio’s Principles.

Hustle and flow

black and white Hustle-printed ceramic mug on table

Day ten of the 60 days to six figures challenge

Five thousand, five hundred dollars a month. That’s what it is going to take to achieve our goal of becoming debt-free in four years. Fifty-five hundred dollars more a month than what we’re currently making at our regular day jobs. The equivalent of an extra $66,000 salary, on top of everything else we’re doing now. During a time when most people are making way less than that, and thirty million are unemployed, it seems preposterous to even set such a goal. If the path lies through full time employment, then I’m not just talking about taking a six-figure job, I’d need to practically triple my take-home pay in order to get there, considering taxes.

I’ll admit that I had a moment of doubt today, browsing the jobs on LinkedIn. A couple of high-salary jobs were in my feed, and I was trying to weed out the ones that I wanted, while my monkey mind was there telling me that I wouldn’t meet the criteria. But does one apply for the job they’re qualified for, or the one they want to grow into?

I have been spending a lot of time on LinkedIn the past week or so, tweaking my profile, looking at others’ news feed and figuring out how to leverage it. You’d think I’ve been on social media long enough I should know how to “build a brand” by now, but to be honest I’ve never truly had success in that way. Part of it may be my “procrasterbation”, or how I tend to flit from project to project without ever really finishing anything. Part of it was how I have tended to treat those platforms like I was starring in my own sitcom. Well, now that I have my goals a bit more focused I can hopefully build more.

I’m using LinkedIn premium, on a trial right now. Being able to see who’s viewed my profile is the most important thing for me at the moment. As is figuring out what searches I’m showing up in. (I haven’t figured that one out yet.) But it’s obvious I need to really focus on building my network up. There’s not a lot of activity in my feed, and not really any that reflects where I want to be, so I need to curate that, and figure out what I need to be showcasing. I never actually talk about my work, or what Zombie, LLC is up too. I think that’s telling. My boss is on there too, and I on some level I’m trying to keep things from him, so that introduces a level of stress in my life. It’s certainly not the radical honesty that I was preaching months ago after reading Principles, is it?

I’m going to make a point to connect with everyone I can, maybe start with my personal contacts and anyone interesting that I can think of from Twitter and elsewhere. Maybe make a point of it to connect with anyone I’ve dealt with as clients in and out of work. Time to go through the hundreds of business cards I collected during my campaigns.

I’ve been trying to hone the skills I have listed on my profile, hoping that it will help me get found by a headhunter or recruiter. LI has added new skill assessments aimed at knowledge work. They’re quick, fifteen question quizzes on programming languages or other knowledge work applications, and if you score in the top 70-percentile, you get a little badge to put on your profile. If you fail, you have to wait three months before you can take the same one again. I failed the first one I took, on C++, but was able to get two earlier today, one for Python and another for Django. I will probably go through several more, but they’re probably more useful for people without experience than someone like myself.

Ultimately, I’m still not a hundred-percent convinced that a salaried position is going to get me where I need to be. Part of the doubt is probably coming from the fact that the kids are still home. I don’t see an end to the COVID pandemic for us until next fall when the girls go back to school, and part of my brain hasn’t figured out how to reconcile that with getting things done.

In the long run, it’s going to be the project work that gets it done. Building a stable of retainer clients to develop some sort of residual income stream is going to be necessary. Building websites and ecommerce systems, via WordPress, Shopify, or the like will probably take me part of the way there. I’ve got opportunities; I just got to finish them. I just don’t think that’s going to happen with the way I’ve been working, breaking my two hour a week chunks into fifteen minutes here, half an hour there. It’s going to take a lot more deep work sessions, which are really hard to come by the way things are right now.

So, for tonight, I’ll make sure I get to bed on time, with a clear purpose of what I’m going to do tomorrow, and I’ll make damn sure to execute.

Six Figure FIRE Update: Day 6

Job search, investing performance, and BTC reFIREment plan

So here I am writing at night again today, as getting up early just hasn’t been my thing lately. The girls are enjoying the quarantine bubble that we’ve formed with the family down the street, and they spent most of the day outside playing today. It was the most productive day I’ve had in a long while.

I applied to two jobs the past two nights, one, a fast-growing firm that provides AI-enabled insights for customer data, Outlier.AI, and a startup trying to “cancel the endless cycles of extractive capitalism,” Good Money.

Outlier is a rather large firm that has an office nearby and meets my salary requirements; Good Money is an unknown, but it’s a startup and the culture looks so awesome. I’ll keep applying to my dream list over the next few days: Square, GitLab, Stripe, Twilio. I’m also continuing my consulting gigs, but I don’t know that I can grow that fast enough to reach my goal. We shall see.


Other good news today is that the retirement account hit a new all time high. I was finally able to figure out my actual account performance by looking at my cost basis gains.

SecurityOpen dateClose dateGain(%)
APPLE INC (AAPL)12/26/201310/5/2018170.64
AMBARELLA, INC. (AMBA)12/26/20139/19/201819.05
AMBARELLA, INC. (AMBA)9/3/20159/19/2018(55.98)
AMBARELLA, INC. (AMBA)11/4/20159/19/2018(40.97)
AMAZON COM INC (AMZN)12/26/20139/6/2018383.27
AMAZON COM INC (AMZN)2/20/20149/6/2018457.70
ACTIVISION BLIZZARD INC (ATVI)12/1/201410/10/2018248.63
BAUSCH HEALTH COMPANIES INC (BHC)12/26/20139/13/2018(80.58)
8POINT3 ENERGY PARTNERS LP (CAFD)8/5/20156/21/2018(20.48)
8POINT3 ENERGY PARTNERS LP (CAFD)8/3/20166/21/2018(25.19)
3D SYSTEMS CORP (DDD)2/20/20149/5/2018(75.12)
3D SYSTEMS CORP (DDD)2/18/20159/5/2018(38.07)
FORTINET INC (FTNT)5/4/20179/5/2018112.83
NVIDIA CORPORATION (NVDA)2/10/201610/8/2018917.65
OCEANEERING INTL INC (OII)12/26/20139/18/2018(68.84)
Total:93.58
2018 Realized Gain/Loss

Obviously Amazon and NVidia were the big dogs here. My portfolio was imbalanced with the sheer amount that I was holding there, and I had a bad feeling about the economy. I wanted cash in hand, so I sold about half my position via a trailing stop. It looks like genius in hindsight.

2019 wasn’t too great from a gains perspective. On paper it’s only about 4%, but realistically it should be more since I was covering positions, covering my initial capital investment while retaining the rest of the position, risk free. I was able to take profits on GBTC, Paypal, RestoreBio, and Yext, but lost most of it in Aurora Cannabis and Cronos Group when weed stocks collapsed. I also got stopped out trying to play a very volatile penny stock involved in Bitcoin mining operations.

2020 hasn’t seen any major sells, my trading is automated now via my value averaging protocols. Very low volume, so to speak, and a modest 4.7 percent realized gains. My unrealized gains, however, are sitting at a whopping 38.54 percent! Most of that is Amazon (2014), NVidia (2016-17), GBTC, (2019-20; about one-third of my total portfolio,) and Netflix (2013). Major losers include Sierra Wireless, Hive Blockchain Technologies, FireEye, Overstock, and 3D Systems Corp. I’m currently holding thirty-one positions in all, seven of which I’m currently value averaging into.

Before I go tooting my own horn too much, though, I’ve got to acknowledge a bit of cherry picking here in the results. Due to my original brokerage being acquired, I don’t have access to my full trade history prior to the last four years. I’m sure it’s ugly. It’s not really fair to cout gains on positions I’ve held since 2013 while tossing out the ones I lost on during that time frame. I also closed out my traditional brokerage account, about one-fifth of my IRA at the time, and put it into bitcoin in 2017, before it broke 10K.


I am obviously putting my money where my mouth is with Bitcoin. Between my hardwallet and GBTC holdings, I have well more than half of my liquid net worth in the big orange coin, and a smaller bit more in Ethereum and other tokens. I’ve done the calculations and am looking at a BTC price target of $67K, at which point I will have more than enough to pay off all mortgage and student loan debt and establish my financial independence. My target date is sometime before the next halving, which I based off of the stock to flow model, which predicts BTC ranging above $100K before then.

There are lot of details to be worked out before we get there though. Obviously taxes is going to be the big one. I assume we’ll be looking at long term capital gains in the case of Bitcoin. GBTC gains in my IRA are untaxed, but withdrawing anything will be subject to income tax plus 10% early withdrawal penalty. So the best strategy right now is to continue to accumulate and hodl. Since I think BTC is going to accumulate price much faster than my four percent loans, it makes more sense for me to continue to accumulate BTC while making the regular payments.

One change I will be making moving forward is that I am going to resume contributions to my IRA, which I suspended in favor of buying bitcoin directly the past few years. I am missing out on the tax savings from my contributions, which is going to be a big factor next April given my expected increase in income. Once we’ve topped that bucket off, I can make a final decision on where my additional savings will go.

Genius dad

So this is a late post for me today. Woke up the same time as the kids, and forgot to turn my phone on DND before I started meditating, and got a text in the middle of it about an outage at one of Zombie, Inc.’s cornerstone clients. So I felt obliged to take it, and the morning was just shot from there. The day actually improved from there, even though I wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be. So here I am, trying to finish what is for me one of the most important parts of my day. I finished meditating after I put the kids to bed, and I want to put down some thoughts before I get to work on coding. No TV today.

I had a good day with the kids. One of their friends came and knocked on the door. They hadn’t seen her in several weeks, so I let them out for some socially distanced bike riding. I chaperoned. Then after lunch Younger and I took a ride to the pier nearby. She’s totally comfortable on her new pedal bike, only took four or five days. I’m so proud, she’s not even four yet and riding a pedal bike; didn’t even need training wheels. I feel like genius dad.

Elder had a good day also. She had a nine-thirty call with the gifted teacher, which probably broke up our routine for the better. She has this idea that she’s been bringing up for the past couple days about turning the house into a hair salon. I’m trying to humor her but explain the reality about what that really would mean. We also discussed writing a book. She came up with this idea for a story called “Cave of Gold” or “Treasure of Gold”. Her description of it sounds like The Goonies, which we watched over the weekend. I told her the most important thing about making it happen was getting it out of her head and into the real world. We discussed typing it, writing it, and I even showed her some voice dictation options, both on my iPhone and a electronic voice recorder that I have. She wound up writing a scene just before bed. It was a dialog between a mom and an older sibling being asked to take care of their little sibling. Sounded like something right out of our house. Seems like she’s already learned the rule, “write what you know”.

Getting work during the day is hard, though. There’s the distractions from the kids that make most deep work impossible. By the time I actually have the time in the afternoon, my energy is dead. I moved the needle on a few small tasks: ongoing domain migration woes from a crappy reseller; and got a copy of my resume added to my CV site and made a few edits. I’ve got no excuses to start applying now.

I’ve started refactoring my value averaging code. The main function is a hundred lines long, and there’s no tests, so I’m going to to spend some more time on that again today. I run it every day when the market opens. I’m having some problems with it. I give it a list of positions to process, and it takes each one and goes through several steps of calculations before sending a buy or sell order to the exchange. Some of the positions are failing and I’m not sure why, so I’ve got to decouple several of the functions so that I can debug it better. After that I need to pull it out of the package that it’s in and make it a separate library. Right now it’s in my trade plan library, which has turned into a bit of a junk drawer over the past year or so. It’s also tightly coupled to the TDAmeritrade brokerage, and that needs to be abstracted out at some point. I’m getting ahead of myself though.

Tomorrow, I want to get up by six so I can get my meditation and writing done. After the kids are settled in and I’ve done all my morning checks for Zombie, I’m going to focus on the software design pilot project I’m working on there. Then the afternoon, I want to find the best job posted on LinkedIn and apply for it. We’re going to make this happen.

Mother’s Day: Halvening Edition

Today is Mother’s day. Everyone is up and in a good mood — it seems. After I finish this I’m going to make mimosas and cook breakfast. We don’t have anything planned today, but I imagine it’s going to involve a lot of movies and sweets. I’m going to keep the kids productive, though, there are a couple rooms of the house that are in dire need of tidying.

It’s also been over six months since I did the house accounts. I use GNUCash, to keep tabs on the house expenses, mainly the mortgage and utilities, but it also let’s me stay on top of contributions between my wife and myself. She’s put up large lump sums in the past, for the roof and the HVAC, and I have to balance that against my monthly deposits until we’re more or less even. Things are even more complicated because she pays the health, car and home insurance and has also made the daycare payments. We split those payments and I credit her on the house account, but we’re not very disciplined about keeping up with adjustments.

We don’t track groceries or clothes for the kids or anything like that. We tried once using an app, but she just spent more than me, and it became too much of a conflict when it came to buying groceries, or eating out, or buying things for the kids. So we just try to take turns with the groceries and call it a day. We also make our own contributions to the girls. Missus prefers our state’s 529 plan, and I have bitcoin wallets for the two of them on my hardware wallet. Like driver’s licenses, I don’t think the kids will have a need for either by the time their old enough to use them.

I’ve managed the other bills through the joint account, but we’d never been able to keep much of a buffer in our savings. My individual account usually hovered just above water, maintaining tenous balances on my credit cards that I would struggle to pay off each month. She’s since started building it up through her side job, and with the addition of our stimulus payment and a hefty tax return, we’re sitting on close to six months expenses in that account.

I told Missus about my Sixty Days to Six Figures goal, and we wrote up all our debt on the board, which is about two hundred and seventy grand for the mortgage, my student loans, and my car. We wrote it up on the fridge. I also wrote up the current price of Bitcoin, and where we needed the price to be in order to pay all that off. Without disclosing how much I’m holding, I’ll just say it’s between a new all time high and six figures.

One of the responses above reminded me that mortgage interest on a $250,000 house is more than the house itself. It seems absurd now that we would have done such a thing, but given where we were coming from when we bought this place five years ago, I don’t think we could have fathomed any other alternatives. We know better now, so we’re going to do what we can to get out of this trap. And more importantly, teach our kids how not to get caught up in it either. There’s so much that could be written about this aspect of the American Dream, how the banks get rich off of servicing this loan debt, both mortgages and credit cards. The banking economy is driven by this extraction. It remains to be seen whether Bitcoin will fulfill the promise of P2P currency; it looks like it’s getting swallowed up by traditional finance. I am, however, more confident than ever of it’s worth, and am looking forward to the upcoming halving, now in about one day and eleven hours, early Tuesday morning.

Sixty Days to Six Figures: Day 1

I am chomping at the bit waiting for some sort of notification from the University that I am no longer an undergraduate! Last night I checked my online degree plan and there it is:

* Not an official record, heh.

So I am done! I’m not sure what the logistics are for the conferral of the degree, and I’ve received nothing in my email about what to expect. I just fired off a quick email to see if there was something else I should expect before I go announcing it on LinkedIn or whatever.

I originally wasn’t planning on walking. I’m too cool, I suppose. Commencement was moved to December anyways. I know some of my classmates are disappointed, as they had family members who had already reserved hotel rooms and the like. So the University is trying to make up for it with some efforts on social media. Oh well, I’ll suppose a still of my name on a video posted by the official school account will have to suffice until I get some sort of certification notification and my diploma comes in six weeks.

I’ll admit I’m slightly anxious that I didn’t see anything from Financial Aid after they added my one hour of independent study. I had anticipated paying three or four hundred for the cancelled boot camp, and I haven’t seen a bill yet. I can’t imagine that they’d just gift it. I imagine that I’m going to see an email in like two weeks with an “oh, by the way….”

One thing I did realize after checking all my requirements is that I actually have sixteen credit hours more than I needed for graduation. That means I could have graduated more than a year ago and saved close to ten grand if I hadn’t gone for my minor. I don’t even care about cybersecurity anymore. I think I got caught up in the Governor telling everyone there were some thirty or eighty thousand cyber jobs in the state that were going unfilled. Que sera.

I think it’s better to be graduating now though. There would have been no way for me to do that while I was running for office anyways. I would have needed to stop classes. Plus I think it’s fitting to be starting out on the next act of my life when the world is falling apart. They say a recession is one of the best times to start a new business, so this must be the best time in living memory. Plus I think think the significance of the upcoming Bitcoin halvening cannot be underestimated.

To reiterate the current plan: after announcing my graduation on my normie social accounts and updating my resume, I’m going to make some revisions to my resume and start applying to all the low-hanging fruit out there. There’s a lot of details to work out, how much time I spend per week, how much time I spend on customizing each resume and/or cover letter for each company. I may want to pay for a LinkedIn pro account so I can figure out how to game that. I want recruiters to call me. I have a shortlist of clients and projects I want to complete, to which I will block off at least two hours a week. I’ll track time in Harvest to keep myself disciplined an honest.

I was going to call it Ninety Days To Eighty K, but that seems too weak. Let’s up the game and call it Sixty Days to Six Figures. (It’ll make a better post title on Medium and get ton’s of income.) Anyways, that’s forty grand more than what I’m making now. If keeping taking on retainer clients at two-fifty a month, that means I need thirteen of them, and twenty six hours of project work a week.

I’m probably listening to the fear that’s telling me I’m not going to be able to secure a full-time, six figure job while working from home in the midst of a pandemic, or maybe it’s guilt or laziness. Either way, there’s a cacophony of voices that are telling me why it can’t be done or why I wouldn’t want it. But I do. I want financial independence and to be debt free. I want the car to be paid off, I want the student loans to be gone, I want the mortgage gone. I want to be able to walk away from everything with my family for a month and go anywhere without having to worry about responsibilities.

Is Bitcoin to deliver that freedom? Probably. What if I’m wrong? How quickly can we pay off two hundred and seventy thousand dollars in debt? Can Bitcoin hit six figures in the next four years? Can it hit half of that? Would I even want to sell my holdings if it did?

Anyways, today starts the next act. Let’s begin.