March Vinyl Acquisitions

I actually made it a month without buying any records!  Of course, I was recovering from illness and working through the 2,000 records I bought in January, plus it was the shortest month of the year, and I had a couple business trips (photos from one coming soon!), but the fact remains I didn’t buy any vinyl in February.  I had worked down the January acquisitions to less than 100 records to process, which included clearing one of my two shelves of about 150 records that were “in queue” to be listened to as well.  So overall, a good month for working through my acquisitions, and I felt like I had reclaimed much of my available space in the man cave.

I made up for it in the last 8 days, buying about 825 records, of which about 75 are “junk”. Of the 750 I like, about 475 are mostly Motown and soul, and the other 275 are classic rock.  They’re currently sitting in 9 crates and boxes, so all of that available space I created in February is about gone.

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9 boxes of vinyl remaining after sorting out the “junk”…

The group of classic rock is fairly spectacular in my opinion.    It came after the Motown collection, and Mrs. Outspoken’s response after I received the call about the collection was “Really?   You have all these albums yet to clean and listen to, and you’re buying more?!?!”

Yep.  I gotta buy when the opportunity arises.  I went 7 weeks or so with nothing, so buying 2 collections in a little over a week might seem a little over the top, but both were great deals at under $1 per album.

So what makes the collection of rock so great?  How about 4 Zeppelin, 4 Pink Floyd, 4 David Bowie, 4 Allman Brothers, 3 Beatles, and 20 Bob Dylan for starters?    Other artists with multiple albums include Van Morrison, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Steeley Dan, Springsteen, Foreigner, Rush, Yes, Kansas, CCR, ELP, Grand Funk, Heart, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, the Cars, and Aerosmith.  It’s basically a compendium of 70’s and 80’s radio rock music, including some of the softer folk-ish tunes, with none of the pop-disco stuff.

Then there’s some oddball stuff too – stuff I just don’t see. The Butterfield Blues Band, Steve Hackett, Kate Bush, Patti Smith,  Nektar, and some Christian praise stuff by 2nd Book of Acts and Phil Keaggy.  Honestly, I could probably enjoy listening to about 80% of this collection, and if it comprised my entire collection, it would represent probably 60% of what I’d want to have.  Basically, the guy who assembled this collection and I had similar tastes.  🙂

One of my favorite finds so far has been an album from The Monroes.  It’s an EP, only 5 songs, and it was their only album.  I really enjoy it.  Definitely and 80’s sound, but 80’s guitar, not the electronic stuff.

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It was missing a lot of Beatles (but hey, it has Abbey Road), Hendrix, and some of the psychedelic stuff I like, but overall, it’s a great collection in my opinion.   I’m sure I’ll find enough titles to cover my costs, but I think I’ll be keeping a much higher percentage of this collection than normal.

Both of these collections came through my previous contacts; the albums are finding me at times!  It’s also part of why i got the deal I did on them.  I’ve treated the sellers fairly, and they’re active collectors, so I was in a way helping each of them move a large quantity of records quickly.    I also agree to buy them all, and don’t get into cherry picking the collection  or nit-picking on the condition of certain albums.

The way you treat people is important in life and business.  Over the course of my career, I’ve always been focused on process improvement; how to find ways to do “it” better.  It hasn’t really mattered what “it” is, as the basic problem solving methodology of Lean works anywhere (at least I’ve yet to find an application where it doesn’t).  While some people call me an efficiency expert, I look at it more as improving the overall performance of the teams and systems of an organization.    We change the system to change the result, and coach the people through the systemic changes.  But it’s about more than results; for the changes to stick, it’s also about behaviors.

As we change the behaviors and systems to produce different results, we start changing beliefs within the organization.  What happens when the shared beliefs of an organization change?  One, we change the future of that organization.  Two, we have created a culture change.

How’s all this tie into me buying arguably too much vinyl?  Honestly, I wasn’t sure at first.  But for one, I buy with no fear of spending too much, because I have a several year track record of all my hobbies actually producing money.  I have the tax returns to prove it.  🙂 Plus, I’m spending cash that has come from the hobbies.

Therefore, I believe, as does Mrs. Outspoken – even if not as completely as me – that I’m not being irresponsible or delaying our objectives, because in the end I actually contribute towards those shared  objectives from my hobbies.   And I believe I’ve done so buy dealing appropriately with others, and the evidence of that is the number of opportunities that tend to find me.

Second, since there was so much David Bowie in the one collection, would be this album:

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A line from the song Changes is perhaps the foundation of the best inspiration I can think to provide today:

“These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”

No matter what it is you’re trying to do or achieve, there are often people who will try to hold you back, make you feel like it’s too hard, not worth it, or even impossible.  Don’t listen to them.  Act responsibly and with intention, treat people with dignity and respect,  but be courageous at the same time.   You can’t do what everyone else thinks you should do and still achieve the greatness that is within you.

Great things aren’t done by being average.

 

 

Another load of vinyl

After making it through December buying “only” about 140 albums, I’ve once again picked up a large collection to enjoy searching through to find some hidden gems.

Here’s what the car looked like when I pulled into the driveway:

All together it was 31 postal crates of 12″ singles and LP’s from primarily the 1980’s and 1990’s, all loaded into one large American sedan.  In this situation, and old “boat” of a car still has some practical value.

What’s really cool to me is that this collection is from when the popularity of  vinyl started to fade, so there could be some real gems in here.  Once I got it into the house, it looked a little more manageable:

Once i get it sorted, I fully intend to return the US Postal crates.  I expect I will find several additions to my personal collection, a lot of good value for resale, and still  be able to sell the remains for more than what I paid for the original 31 crates.

It was billed as 2000 records, but my initial samples average about 80 per crate, so it might be closer to 2500 records.  My random samples at the sellers location indicated the records are in very good condition, most showing no visible wear on the vinyl, while the covers have some wear and some labels, as it was part of a club DJ’s collection who worked int he 80’s and 90’s.

So while a lot of it isn’t going to be what I typically buy, for the price I couldn’t pass it up.  I got everything for $150.   I was very quickly able to find that much of value in things I could resell in just a few crates, so it was worth it.  Essentially I expect to get everything I want to sell and keep for free, and flip the rest for a couple hundred dollars.

I started looking through the first crate, plus a few that were stacked on top of it.  Totally random, it was just the one sitting next to me at my laptop.  In the first 50 albums, I found 10 that combined are worth $150.   Here’s the first 10 that should pay for the entire lot:

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Not exactly my cup of tea, but they should sell relatively quickly.  At that pace of finding ‘winners’, assuming 2,000 albums, I have potentially $6,000 worth of vinyl (before taxes, shipping, fees, etc), and that’s just the first pass at the things I can define value.  I think a lot of this dance music and singles have a market, I just need to find it.

So there’s perhaps $3600 profit to be had from 20% of the collection.  Not a bad return on $150.  And that doesn’t count selling the other 80% for what I paid for it originally, or probably a little more.  As i finished the first crate, I’m at about $220 of value, time 31 is  close to $7k, so I’m excited about this buy.  Even if I’m half wrong, it’s a great return on $150, and it’s great entertainment.  I’m excited to play some of the singles of songs from my youth.

The seller had many people contact him, but I was the only one to commit to purchasing under the condition that the collection was what he described it as being.  I was confident that a large lot of 1980’s and 90’s pop and rock vinyl would have some real gems, and i probably couldn’t go wrong.  When you know what your objective, be confident and take a few risks.

This sort of makes up for the lot in December which was largely in poor condition, but also had a ton of 45’s as part of the deal.  I’ll still make some money on that deal, but not every buy is going to be as good as this one.  And it may not pan out as great as the initial sample, but that’s OK.

Keep your eyes open, work hard, and you can create some luck.

 

Small changes

I wrapped up 2016 on vacation from work, but unfortunately I’ve also been battling a cold almost the entire time.  Since December 27th, cold-induced bronchitis has limited my activity.  My wife jokes that every time I take a winter vacation I get sick, and it’s hard for me to remember one when I didn’t.  Last year. I worked through Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks, and I didn’t get sick.  This year, I’ve been sick twice: After Thanksgiving, and after Christmas.

So while that may seem convincing to some, I think there’s another factor:  consumption of alcohol. Both of these rounds of colds were preceded by drinking a little too much the night before.   There seems to be some research to suggest heavy drinking can affect our immune system’s ability to fight off infections for at least 24 hours.   Maybe it’s common sense that I just had never considered…

After I factor in the expense of drinking, I have decided I’m going to curtail my drinking for both health and financial reasons.  There’s probably at least $1,500 annually (and maybe upwards of $2,500 when I consider all spending) I can cut from my spending on alcohol, which when I think about it is a lot of alcohol.  I have slightly expensive tastes, though, so it’s not like I’m pounding cases of Milwaukee’s Best every weekend.  Of the things I buy, bourbon is $30-$50+ a bottle, craft beer is $30-$60 a case, and wine is about $10-$12 a bottle.  And drinking at a restaurant or bar is just crazy expensive, even the few times a month I do that.

So since I’ve spent a majority of the Winter Holidays not drinking,  I might as well continue the trend.  I think it will have a very positive impact on my overall life.  Having a drink after work or with dinner often relaxes me and leads to an evening of not getting stuff done.  If I’m going to ramp up the side hustles this year, I’ll need to be more productive in the evenings.

I think the benefits from reducing alcohol consumption may also carry over into my real job as well.  I’ll be more active, which should improve my overall health.  More activity in the evenings should lead to better sleep, which will make me better rested for the next day.  It might even lead to more “real” exercise.   So overall, it seems like a good idea, and deep down I’ve been feeling like I drink a little too much some nights, so it’s time for a change.

It’s less a New Year’s resolution and more of a product of having  11 days to think about ways to improve my life and the ability to realize our financial goals.   Regarding the finances, it’s not about the money directly, but more about what the money represents: freedom.  If reducing my alcohol consumption affects that realization of freedom on so many levels, it would be foolish not to change my ways.

In December, I added a Habit Tracker to my notebook.  It looks like this:

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December Habit Tracker

I found it useful and enlightening, and I plan to continue it’s use over the coming months.  If you’re working on creating some new habits in 2017, perhaps a similar tool will be helpful to you.  Whether it’s in a notebook, on a piece of paper posted on your wall, or maybe even on a chalkboard in your kitchen, visually tracking your adherence to your targeted habits can be very beneficial in cementing the change.

Whatever you choose to use, find a visual way to track your goals and progress towards them.  If you do, I bet you’ll find you hit more of your targets in 2017.

 

 

End of year update on the Sailing Dream

Step by step, we’re getting closer to realizing our dream.  We just made our last mortgage payment of 2016.  Since refinancing late this spring, we’ve made enough progress to be at the three year mark of our amortization schedule.  So that’s 3 years of a 15 year mortgage paid in 6 months.  In respect to our 5 year plan to get it paid off, we’re already 6 months ahead of schedule.  If we maintain this pace, the house is paid off in December 2018 – two years from today!

And as if that’s not motivation enough, I stumbled across a Craigslist posting for a CAL35 sailboat.

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Picture from the Craigslist post for a 1983 CAL35 sailboat

The CAL35 was on the shortlist of potential affordable sailboats for us to live on as part of the dream when it was first defined.  We’re in good enough financial shape that we could buy this one right now if we wanted.  I mentioned I saw it to Mrs. Outspoken, and she seemed a little excited too, then responded that she’d rather get the house paid off first. I agree.  Plus, we can’t use a boat this size around Pittsburgh due to the mast height not clearing many of the bridges in the city.  It’s more of a coastal/Great Lakes/Carribbean cruiser.

We have decided to take the vinyl/book selling and try to ramp it up next year, focusing more on the vinyl.  I’m making about 3x the profit on records, although it requires a little more work to clean and grade them.  As long as it stays relatively fun, the work won’t be so bad.  Hopefully we can make a little extra as insurance to getting the house paid off by the end of 2018.

Then what?  We’ll we’ve started down a path of gradually transforming our lifestyle.  We decided that buying a canoe is a good first step to start creating more of a focus on spending time on or around water when we can in 2017.  We’ve saved up some money from our Christmas budget and gifts to fund the purchase.

The next step would probably be those sailing lessons in 2018.  After the house is paid off, we probably would need to take some extended charters in a couple locations we’re dreaming of visiting via sailboat.

We’re not entirely ready from a financial perspective to retire.  Getting the house paid off would relieve much (almost all?) of our financial pressure, and then we’d have to decide where to invest over the coming years to reach financial independence to support a potential sailing lifestyle.   My retirement calculator at work says I’m good to go at age 50, but it will come down to what else is happening in our lives at that time.

I’m also going to really take a look at my spending on alcohol.  I enjoy decent wine and whisky, as well as craft beer, but some months I spend way too much.  Also, the only two times I’ve been sick in the last year (both this month) were after a night of drinking a bit too much.   So for my personal health as well as our financial health, I need to cut back, and cutting the spending by 50-75% should make that happen.

As i discussed in an earlier post, we could cut back a little more.  But I think we’ve done a pretty good job of changing our future outlook.  Sure we could get there (wherever there is) a little faster by doing some extreme things, but I can’t say it would be worth it.  But I do wish I’d started this sooner, which is why I gave a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover to my niece last year at Christmas, and to her brother this year.  I’m also probably going to send them a few tweets in the coming weeks about Mr. Money Mustache.  If I can get one or both of them to see a different possibility for their future, that would be more satisfying than me getting to my destination of Financial Independence a few months earlier.

Whatever it is you want to do, it’s very likely you can do it if you put a clear plan in place.  Start with the “Why”, as in “why do we want to do this, to make these sacrifices or changes?” Then create a vivid visualization of what it would look and feel like to achieve that “Why”.   Next identify what needs to happen to get there, then lay out the simple, often very small steps to make it happen.  For example, why would we buy a canoe if our dream is to sail the Caribbean, Great Lakes, and maybe even the European coastlines?  Because it’s the next small step.

As 2016 comes to a close, take the next step.  Whatever it is, just commit to the next step on your path to achieving your dream.  Every great journey starts with taking the first step.  Where will that first step take you?

 

 

Drinking Whisky and Feeding Kids

Due to my recent involvement with Leadership Washington County (LWC), I’ve also had the pleasure of working to raise money for a program called Blessings in a Backpack.  Blessings provides food on the weekend to children that are fed during the week by government programs.  Without this support, many of them wouldn’t eat for the entire weekend.  “Poor nutrition can result in a weaker immune system, increased hospitalization, lower IQ, shorter attention spans, and lower academic achievement” according to the Blessings website.

This makes perfect sense, and while I’d rather figure out how to impact the true root causes of this problem, the kids that benefit from the program are in their circumstances now.  So a small group of us from LWC were put together in a team to raise money for the local Blessings program.

Our initial brainstorming session had a common theme: alcohol.  Eventually we landed on a handful of options, and once we visited Mingo Creek Distillery we thought we had a good location for  an upscale event.  As we continue the planning, there’s some concern we’re dreaming too big for our upcoming February event.

The distillery is a small venue, but their spirits are relatively high end.  Their Rye is $47 a bottle; their Bourbon is around $55.  Our event is planned to coincide with the release of their next batch of Bourbon.  There will be 4 or 5 tables in different rooms of the distillery which pair upscale food with craft cocktails.  There’s about $20 of drinks in each ticket, and tickets will be limited to a max of 50.  We’re calling it the “Winter Warmer.”

Our intended price is $150 per ticket, shooting for $100 to Blessings for each attendee.  Essentially, every ticket would feed a child for the entire year of weekends.   With bourbon and craft distilling being so hot, paired with an exclusive event and some great food, I don’t think the ticket price is too steep.  We’d offer a $25 discount on a pair of tickets.  Others think we’re severely overpriced.

I think the kind of people who buy $50 bottles and $14 cocktails would be willing to pay up for a release event that feeds children too.  “A little less guilt for your guilty pleasure.”    We’ll see how it pans out, but I will say the act of getting involved in supporting this program has been very personally rewarding.

Giving doesn’t always need to be monetary.  In Romans 12: 5-8, Paul talks about all of us having various gifts.  Too often people think of giving as a monetary thing.  But often, giving of your time and talents in service to others is more personally fulfilling, and frankly might cause a greater financial impact in the end.

If you have some time off around the holidays, think about some ways to give of yourself rather than just of your money to help some other people.  It might be the greatest gift you can give yourself, and them too.

 

 

 

Simple Compliments

Last Friday I was asked to conduct a three-hour training session for our entire leadership team, which is about 140 hours.  It is part of an annual Leadership event that encompasses all levels from supervisors and managers up to the CEO.   I’ve done a lot of training sessions, and have worked with all of the levels, but to provide a singular message that represented about 75% of the days’training had me a little stressed.

I was worried about the quality of the videos that I shot and edited.  I was worried that too many people might think the targets of performance and behavior I was suggesting for the organization were too aggressive.  I believe any time a person puts themselves out there just a little too far as they urge the organization forward one of two things can happen:  either their stock rises or it falls.  People either get more aligned with your goals, or your can lose some support and momentum.

At this point in my career, I’m not worried about promotions, so it’s more about making sure that I leverage these opportunities to gain momentum on our Lean Transformation journey.  I felt like this training and the corresponding message, if successful, would take us to the next level on our performance improvement efforts regarding our Lean Management System.

If  you imagine a three hour seminar on metrics and leading effective team meetings (or huddles, as we call them),  you can understand why i was a little worried, because those were my topics.   To top it off, I had been battling a cold that had just gotten progressively worse all week, but was just starting to improve.

It’s one thing for my team and close co-workers to tell me they’re sure I’ll do a good job.  But the point of this long background story is that sometimes a simple, polite comment can do wonders for someone.  At our first break, which was 2 hours into my material, someone at the table in front of me looked at me and said “has it been two hours already?  Man, you really keep this stuff interesting, with the speed of your words, your timing, and your clear diction.  This is really good.”

I said thanks and mentioned I was a little nervous since I hadn’t been feeling well, and the response was “I wouldn’t have known other than the four cups of hot tea…”

The COO and a colleague that organizes the training session both provided very positive feedback as well.   So I was a little more at ease when i went into the most challenging part of the message, which was about changing our questions as leaders; about letting our staff occasionally work to learn the answer to questions we might already know as part of their development.

It seemed to go well, and I was pleased that the CEO had incorporated some of my message into his closing remarks and system update.  Then, as we were cleaning up, one of the managers stopped and said thank you.  He mentioned that he could listen to me for hours – I was just so interesting and seemed so knowledgeable.  He was amazed that I seemed to have really good suggestions when people asked questions.

This was a manager I don’t consider as being “on board” with my vision for the organization.  But the small comments from just a few people really helped me through the day and boosted my confidence.  I also think it eliminated my worry over the weekend, allowing me to focus instead of getting well for next week.

Never underestimate the power of a small compliment.  When organizations talk about motivating teams, sometimes they turn to financial incentives.  This is usually only short-lived in my experience, and also has the potential to lower intrinsic motivation.  But the simple act of giving someone a sincere compliment, or even just saying “thank you”, can go a long way in making someone’s day.

Give someone a compliment today.  Maybe the girl at Starbucks, or the grocery store, or better yet, someone at your place of work.  It really might change their day, and I bet it makes you feel better too.

 

November Vinyl

After a bit of a lull in buying for a couple months, this month I purchased about 640 albums.  Six Hundred forty albums!  I started the month buying about 100 albums from a dealer to flip, with about 10 being albums I wanted to listen to and 4 or 5 likely to stay in my collection.  I bought them purely to add to my offerings for the December and January buying months.

 

Then I bought private collections on two successive weeks, each containing about 270 albums.  One was billed at 350 albums, the other at 200, so i paid a little more per album than I thought I was for the first, and did a little better on the other.  Both contained music primarily within the rock and blues area that I like, but had many artists I wasn’t familiar with or that I simply believe will sell.

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Collection #2 from November

Part of what I enjoy about collecting vinyl is the discovery process.  It is primarily why I like to buy entire collections.  From that first collection I bought in November, one of the “discoveries” for me was this Roy Buchanan Album.

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Roy Buchanan – Live Stock

Roy Buchanan sounds like a cross between Bryan Setzer and Eric Clapton.  The track Roy’s Bluz on side 1 is incredible.   I had never heard of this artist, so I looked him up.  Basically, he’s considered one of the best guitarists EVER, but he never had much publicity.  At one point he even stopped playing professionally and went to become a hairdresser until a PBS documentary brought him renewed attention and a new record deal.

The first track on side 2 is Can I Change My Mind, and it is also incredible, but also has a rhythm that reminds me of another song – much newer.  I’m thinking Roy Buchanan probably influenced a lot of people.  And an interesting note for guitarists – his tone was all guitar and amp – no effects pedals until late in his career.  He used the volume and tone knob on his Tele to control changes in tone.   Truly a great find, in my opinion, and one I would not have found looking through a record store.

Between the two collections, there were about 110 albums I wanted to listen to (on top of the other 300 or so waiting in queue).  Since i spent $650 on the two collections, that’s a little under $6.50 per album, which really isn’t too bad considering some of the stuff in that  grouping sells for more than I would pay at this time (or maybe ever).  There were about 60 not worth trying to sell, either due to condition or just lack of popularity.  So there’s about 470 I intend to sell out of the 640.

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About 500 albums waiting to be cleaned.

If I do the math solely on the others that I plan to sell, subtracting the ones I want to listen to and the non-valuable albums, that’s 370 albums for $650.  That works out to about $1.75 each.  I need to sell about 20% of them to make my money back, then the rest are profit, or fuel for other purchases.  Plus I essentially then added the 110 albums to my collection for free.  And realistically, I’ll sell a large portion of the 110 I wanted to listen to once I play them – often upwards of 90% of the albums I listen to I end up selling.   The $650 came from sales of other albums, so basically all my vinyl hobby costs me is some time – and space in the Man Cave.

I can’t see myself spending $20+ on a single record, but many people do.   Which just boggles my mind.  While I may not quickly amass a collection of all my favorites, I am building a nice collection and finding new music at the same time.  I currently have about 250-300 in my “semi-permanent” collection between home and the office.  I’ also apparently offering a small supply of vintage vinyl that is sometimes hard to find.  Many expensive hobbies don’t need to be expensive, if you’re just creative.