Sunday, December 30, 2012

25 New Year's Resolutions You Should Make


It's that time of the year again. A time to look back at how the past year went and a time to plan and make goals for the upcoming year. 

But before you start setting goals for next year here are 25 things you should commit to doing this year to give you a fresh start at success in 2013:


  1. Get your passport. You never know when a great travelling opportunity may arise. You can download the passport application here.
  2. Read your preferred religious text all the way through. If you claim to belong to a religion it's about time you read your holy book all the way through if you haven't already. Break it down day by day so that it's manageable. The best site for the Bible is here. 
  3. Register or renew your domain names. If you don't own your own name as a .com it's about time you went out and bought it.
  4. Check your credit score.
  5. Go to the dentist.
  6. Buy new socks and underwear. And remember that white socks are only for yard work and working out at the gym.
  7. Put together a savings plan.
  8. Put everything on a calendar. Google Calendar or iCloud are both great.
  9. Organize your closet. Pull your old clothes out and donate them to charity.
  10. Organize your computer files and backup up the important ones online.
  11. Put up a Linkedin profile.
  12. Make plans to travel at least one place in 2013.
  13. Put together a list of quotes that inspire you.
  14. Set aside a few minutes each week to meditate.
  15. Update your rèsumè.
  16. Write down your bucket list.
  17. Write down all of your account #’s, logins and passwords in a secure place.
  18. Get a safety deposit box at the bank.
  19. Put together a list of books to read.
  20. Buy a paper shredder and get rid of old documents.
  21. Buy a scanner and scan important files.
  22. Put together a plan to learn things that will make you better at your current job.
  23. Make sure your computer and antivirus are up to date.
  24. Backup your phone #’s and contact info.
  25. Write down your list of goals for 2013.

Wishing you the best in 2013! -Shawn


Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Review of The Big Texan Steak Ranch


I've always wanted to go to Amarillo and visit The Big Texan Steak Ranch (www.bigtexan.com) for a meal. Finally I got the opportunity to stop in on my way through town.

For those of you who have lived under a rock, The Big Texan has been on numerous food and travel shows. They're famous for the Free 72-oz. Steak Challenge. If you can eat a 72-oz. steak,  baked potato, roll, and shrimp in under an hour it's free.



I'm not a competition eater so instead I ordered the "50th Anniversary Steak". It's like a smaller version of the challenge. It has an 18-oz. sirloin, 3 shrimp, baked potato, salad, and roll. Normally I would order a steak medium-rare but I chose medium this time. Something about this place didn't make me trust that they knew how to cook a steak.



My food came out and was was very underwhelming. I knew it was going to be rough when the waitress looked at my friend and said, "Umm. You may want to cut into your steak and let me know if you think it is cooked correctly." Ofcourse it was not so it went back to the kitchen to be cooked longer.

My salad, roll, shrimp, and baked potato were standard cafeteria fare. The steak was dry, tough, and tasted more like a cowboy boot than a steak. I was thoroughly disappointed.

However, this is not where the story ends. While the Big Texan is definitely not a food destination it is most certainly a tourist destination. It's stereotypical Texas on acid. Being a native Texan I was somewhere between amused and offended. I'm a little horrified that travelers might stop in and think this is what Texans are like.

The staff dresses up like a character from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. There are even cowboys walking around playing the guitar and singing folk songs. The restaurant itself looks like a wild west saloon. The outside of the building looks like a cross-between a circus and a old west town. There really isn't anything else I've ever experienced quite like this place.

So if you're on I-40 cruising through Amarillo stop on by. It's definitely worth the experience., and afterwards make sure you stop by Cadillac Ranch right outside of town.


  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Axiom 29: Sell Yourself First


"Everyone lives by selling something." -Robert Louis Stevenson

"Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman - not the attitude of the prospect.
-W, Clement Stone


If you're not good at selling yourself then you'll never be good at selling anything else. I've known a lot of talented and smart people that couldn't succeed because they couldn't sell themselves and their ideas to others. Likewise, I've also known many people who were very average in their abilities who accomplished a lot by being great at selling themselves. We're all politicians in our own way, crafting our message in order to convince others to follow us. In a lot of ways it can seem superficial and showy but it is very necessary to completing the sell. Sometimes the way the message is delivered is more important than the message itself.

There are plenty of people that say, "I'm not in sales. I don't need to know about selling". To that I say, "We are all in sales". Selling is the most crucial and vital skill you can learn in life.

Here are some instant ways to sell yourself better:
  • Have a firm handshake. Not too soft, not too strong. Never let the other person turn your hand palm up while shaking it because it is a sign of dominance.  
  • Maintain strong eye contact. The eyes are the window to the soul. Make sure you maintain strong and direct eye contact. Make sure the other person breaks eye contact first.
  • Have impeccable hygiene. Make sure you are well groomed, you smell nice, and you are clean at all times.
  • Dress appropriately. You clothes make a strong subconscious statement about yourself. Make sure you are dressed for the situation and that your clothes are clean and fit properly.
  • Speak with confidence. Don't stutter. Don't hesitate. Maintain a strong and commanding flow of your speech.   


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Utah's Favorite Condiment: Fry Sauce


Around the Salt Lake City area I discovered a condiment virtually unknown to the outside world. It's called "Fry Sauce", a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup, and sometimes other ingredients.

So what's so magical about this special sauce anyway? I was determined to find out myself so I went to the regional fast food chain, Arctic Circle to try some. 

Arctic Circle claims to be the inventor of fry sauce. They even sell it in to-go bottles (see picture above). Many restaurants have copied them with their own fry sauce recipe, but I decided to try the originator first to make my own judgement. 

So I took a fry and plunged it into this mysterious sauce for the first time. My first impression was that is was slightly bland and underwhelming. Then something magical happened. I was devouring this stuff with out even knowing it. Fry sauce has a funny way of flying under the radar and being very addicting at the same time.

While I don't think this stuff will ever reach notoriety outside of Utah, I do think its worth a try for anyone that is in the area. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Axiom 28: Inherent Value


"Strive not to be a success , but rather to be of value." -Albert Einstein

"What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
-Oscar Wilde


A few years ago I was visiting a company down in Houston that I purchase a lot of material from for my job. I was utterly fascinated by the size and scope of the products that they had on the shelf. As I walked through their huge facility I couldn't help but ask a lot of what I thought at the time were stupid questions.

"Wow, how many of those do you keep in stock?" I asked.

"If we don't have at least 20,000 of those on the shelf at all times we're in trouble." he replied.

"That's an incredible amount of inventory for just one item!" I responded.

As we continued the tour my eyes were drawn to a part I had never seen,

"I've never seen that before, how much does that sell for?" I asked.

"Whatever the market will bear." He responded.

"Give me a ballpark figure." I asked.

"I can't. It's really whatever the market will bear. See, the owner of this company places a huge emphasis on inventory." he continued, "That's why when you call us you know we'll have what you want in stock. Depending on the situation the market will dictate the price."

It took awhile for the real meaning of that conversation to sink in but it finally did. Everything has an inherent value, even you and me. That value is not static, it fluctuates, and scarcity is main determining factor in value.

When it comes to buying a product or service something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. It doesn't matter what the price tag says. It only matters what someone is willing to actually pay and scarcity means that people are usually willing to pay more.

So look at yourself like a commodity for a moment. Are you marketing yourself the same way everyone else is or do you have something different to offer the world? As you progress in life you acquire skills that give you a differentiating factor from the rest of the public. Market these skills and use them to your advantage because ultimately the market will dictate your value regardless.   

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lazy Man's Guide to Learning Guitar


Have you always dreamed of playing the guitar but you're just too damn lazy to take lessons? I have a few way to beat the system and make the learning curve easier and more fun. Try these tips below and before you know it you'll be rocking out like Ted Nugent.

Method #1 - for the Super Cheap Ass - Learn the Ukulele - I know the the ukulele is not a guitar, but it is way easier to learn. Ukuleles only have four strings instead of six like a guitar so the chords are easier to learn. It is pretty easy to play after only a few hours of time invested. Check out Dr. Uke's Waiting Room for songs to see how easy it is. Once you get the basics down you can progress to a real guitar fairly easy or you can buy a baritone ukulele for a guitarlike sound. Best part is you can pick one up for about $50.

Method #2 - for the 'I can't pull my ass away from Xbox' person - Buy Rocksmith for Playstation or Xbox. You can plug in your own real electric guitar or buy one in a package deal with the game. The game teaches you all the chords and tricks and let's you play real rock songs. I bet the people that put 10,000 into Guitar Hero feel stupid now!


Method #3 - for the computer dork rockstar wannabe - For about $400 you can buy a Fretlight guitar. You basically hook this thing into your computer and download the songs you want to learn into the guitar and it lights up the fretboard showing you where to put your fingers. Pretty easy and cool.

Friday, September 21, 2012

5 Must See Documentaries

I love documentaries. They entertain and educate all at the same time. I'm most fascinated with documentaries that look at life from a different perspective or documentaries about people with over-the-top personalities. Below are a few of my favorites that I think will forever change the way you view the world.


5. Freakanomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Based on a bestselling book, the film is a collection of short clips covering a wide-variety of social topics. Topics range from baby-names to sumo wrestlers, most of which are interesting and thought provoking to say the least.



E-Dreams is a documentary about the rise and fall e-tailer Kozmo.com. It is a fascinating look at the process of starting a business. The truth is that most start-up businesses fail and what makes this documentary so good is that it looked like Kozmo.com had a good chance of success until things suddenly made a turn for the worse. 



Proving that sometimes execution and flair are better than the actual product is quirky Japanese inventor Dr. Nakamats. He has made a successful career because of his eccentric personality and wacky inventions. 



Collapse paints a bleak view of the future in an interview with Michael Ruppert. He talks about energy shortages, peak oil, hyperinflation, water shortages, and other doomsday scenarios in terms that really don't sound as crazy as they seem at first.



This documentary paints a optimistic view of the future in an interview with inventor Ray Kurzweil. Technology in the future will allow us to live longer and live better than any generation before us. Some of the technologies sounds extremely far-fetched. Is Kurzweil crazy or ahead of his time? Check it out and decide for yourself. 




Friday, September 7, 2012

Axiom 27: A Guide to Sane Finances in an Insane World


"Better to go to bed hungry than wake up in debt." -Proverbs

"Pay as you go is the philosopher's stone." -G. Randall


I guess I was lucky enough growing up that I was instilled with some solid common sense basics about how to handle my personal finances. No matter how little money I've ever earned I've never been deeply in debt. I've always had spare money in case of an emergency and I've always had money to go out and do the things I want. It wasn't until later in life that I realized that a large number of people in the United States are absolutely consumer crazy and whacked out of their heads when it comes to being responsible with their money.

I can't say that I don't understand where they are coming from though. Most people never grew up with a financially successful role-model to learn from. Their only understanding about money has come to them from lenders who's goal is to coerce people to borrow more money and pay it back with interest. Let's also not forget the books, CDs, and workshops that the financial gurus are selling to help you straight out your finances - gimmie a break! Sound personal finances is not that hard.

Let me help you stop the madness now. Here are the basics to sound personal finances:
  1. You should always spend less each month than you earn. This includes credit card purchases.
  2. If you're behavior now is to spend more money than you earn, you'll do the same in the future no matter how much money you make. You can easily be a broke rich person earning $15k a month with $20k month in expenses. More money is not the solution.
  3. You should save at least 10% of the money you earn each month. Save this money in a separate bank account and invest it safely.
  4. If you lend money to a friend, assume you'll never get it back. Remember that lending money has caused the demise of many good friendships.
  5. No matter how good you are with your money if your significant other is not at least decent with their finances you'll have a very tough time. Money problems are a significant cause of stress and divorce in marriages.
  6. Your lifestyle will try to absorb any extra income you receive and grow as you earn more money in life. Remember this and don't let it get out of control.
  7. Always pay your credit card off at the end of the month or at least have a set plan to pay it off as quickly as possible.
  8. Remember that if you own too many things that they will start to own you. No one will care about your 2,000 disc blu-ray collection 30 years from now. Learn to have self-control and curb your shopping addiction.
  9. A dollar is just a piece of paper whose purchasing power decreases over time. Excess money in savings should be invested wisely rather than lose value in a savings account.
  10. Avoid buying cheap things at cheap prices or quality things at expensive prices, It is always better to find quality things at bargain prices if possible, no matter how much money you make.
  11. Be a man (or woman) of your word when it comes to finances. It you say you'll pay someone at a certain time, do it.
  12. Get in the habit of paying your bills as soon as they arrive so you don't forget about them or spend the money on something else.
  13. Look at your bank account at least once a week so you can track your expenses. 
  14. Don't overpay for things. Something is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it.
  15. When someone is trying to hard sell you something be aware of any hidden motivations. A steak on special at a restaurant would make me think that the meat is old. An electronics employee pushing an additional warranty on a TV makes me think that the warranty-claim rate is very low and it is a high-profit sell for the business.
  16. If the price is suspiciously cheap, or if it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is.
  17. There isn't anything free in life. Everything comes at a price.
  18. Diversify your your investments because the value of everything is cyclical.
  19. You can't have a million dollar dream with a nickel's worth of problems.
  20. Rich people are lenders, poor people are debtors. Be a lender as soon as possible.
  21. Money is only the vehicle to the lifestyle you want, it is not the goal in itself.
  22. More money will only help your happiness level to a point. Once your basic necessities are covered money only adds happiness through freeing up your time and helping you access new opportunities and experiences. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Axiom 26: A Modern Revision to Franklin's 13 Virtues


"The unexamined life is not worth living." -Socrates

"A man can never hope to be more than he is if he is not first honest about what he isn't." -Don Williams, Jr.


Benjamin Franklin wrote about 13 virtues he thought necessary to have a happy, complete, and successful life. He worked on these virtues throughout his life. For those that are interested you can read more about it here. You can also read in detail about the process Franklin used to refine these virtues in his autobiography.

I think the concept Franklin developed is still useful today. However, a virtue in the strictest sense has moral implications. Therefore, in our modern world Franklin's 13 virtues seem slightly out of place. With this in mind I have written 13 areas of study that transcend the barriers of virtues to encompass all that is needed to become successful and happy in our modern world.

How you work on these 13 categories is entirely up to you. Franklin worked on them by making a grid with the days of the week on one axis and the virtues on the other axis. At the end of the day he would put an 'X' in the box on each virtue that he failed at. His goal was to mark fewer and fewer X's each week. Franklin also began concentrating on one virtue individually for a week or month until he saw improvement and then moved onto the next one. Ideally you will do the same, finding simple ways to improve your life by focusing on these 13 categories as a whole and also individually. Gradually you will notice an enormous change in your life.

The 13 Areas of Mastery of the Modern Successful Person:
  1. Education - Always learning, always reading, always watching. School ends but learning never does. Always learning new trades and skills is key to continual improvement.
  2. Organization - Everything has a place. Neat, tidy, easy to find and recall when needed.
  3. Time-Management - Our greatest resource. You must master time or it will master you. Schedule everything, waste as little time as possible.
  4. Balance - Everything in moderation, including moderation. Make ample time for work and family.
  5. Simplicity - Always look for the simpler solution. Everything can be simplified.
  6. Distractions - Minimize distractions. They are killers for success and happiness.
  7. Money - Master your money or it will master you.
  8. Appearance - Be clean, well-dressed, always pleasant.
  9. Charity - Be willing to help others with your time and resources.
  10. Health - Your body is your temple. Treat it as such.
  11. Ethical - Be true to your handshake and your word. Your reputation and success depend on it.
  12. Network - Reach out to others. Find a mentor. Be a mentor.
  13. Faith - Practice and study your spiritual beliefs.    

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Axiom 25: Hard Work is Underrated


"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." -Thomas Edison

"Good luck is a lazy man's estimate of a worker's success." -Unknown Source


I'm here writing this axiom to tell you that contrary to what your parents told you, you're not special. The world doesn't owe you anything, and even if you were born rich you'll still have to work hard to be successful and earn the respect of others. Hard work is the only way to truly achieve success and appreciate it. So no matter what you previously thought its time to realize that success is more about effort and less about luck.

You have a better chance of dying from a dog bite than from winning the lottery. Don't put your head in the clouds just hoping for a lucky break. Take control of your life and start working hard at everything you do. If you have good experience and you're still not successful it may be because you're following along with the crowd. What separates great people from good people is their combination of experience and the ability to take the road less traveled and try something different in order to achieve success.

The youth in America has been fed a dangerous lie. They have been taught that success is a combination of, "Do what feels good," coupled with, "College is right for everyone". Now the market is totally saturated with people in their early 20s that have thousands of dollars in student loan debt and college degrees in subjects where there is little or no market demand. The problem isn't a shortage of jobs in America its a shortage of qualified workers.

So armed with a college degree with little market value and a chip on their shoulder these young professionals reluctantly enter jobs that are far from what they would consider their "feel good" dream job. Because hard work was never emphasized to them they thought a college degree was all that was needed to make the big bucks. I've met many of this MTV generation over the years who were disheartened and confused that after two weeks of hard work they were not promoted to CEO. They eventually quit or get fired and start the next job with the same expectations and after years of repeating the cycle they still don't get it.

My wife worked for a place that had to caudal their employees just to tell them they were doing a bad job. They had to "sandwich" criticism between two things that the employee was doing well. What a load of crap! What has society come to that people can't handle hearing the blunt truth of their mistakes. 

I realize that Americans look down on hard work. I also realize that humans are naturally lazy. However, no matter how much you dislike your job continue to work hard and realize that you are gaining experience. Everyday you are learning something. Translate your experience into bigger things and know that unfortunately sometimes it can take years to build up to something great.

Let me be clear that I'm not telling people not to forego college. College can be a great experience in its own way and was the key to many of the skills that led to my successes. However, college did not get me a job and it did not keep me from years of hard work that I continue to do daily. Overall, hard work has been the key to my successes in life. Hard work slowly carved out lasting success over a period of years.

So take this axiom as a wake up call. Hard work can gain you experience and respect. Use that experience and respect to take the road less traveled. That's where you'll find success. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

5 More Books That Can Change Your World

Last year I wrote about 5 Books That Can Change Your World. Since then I've read many more books and I'm back with 5 more books you should pick-up and read.


5. Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands by Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conoway

Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands is a dictionary-style book that covers cultural business differences country by country. This book is essential for anyone doing business internationally. Even if you have no intentions of doing business overseas this book is a great insight on the differences in human culture.


    
4. The Education of Millionaires: It's Not What You Think and It's Not Too Late by Michael Ellsberg

This book is a eye-opening work about the importance of building your social network. It also talks about the importance of being a giver and helping others without expectations of something in return. This can be a powerful way to build your network which I will cover in a future axiom.



3. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy by Simon Blackburn

Everyone should have a philosophical dictionary on their bookshelf that they can refer to when they can't quite make sense of things. I always have a small pocket philosophy dictionary close by to use as a starting point on almost any topic that I want to delve into. 



2. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

This is an older book written in a fictional style making it is a very entertaining and easy read. The value of this book is really in the basic lessons on how to handle your money. Depending on how good you are with your money now this may or may not be a worthwhile read for you. Overall it has some really good basic information about money that everyone should be implementing in their daily lives.



1. The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco

As of the time I am writing this post this is by far the single best and most complete book on how to become successful that I have ever read. If you only read one book I recommend on this entire site make sure that this is the one that you pick up. DeMarco does a wonderful job of painting the entire picture of what works and what doesn't works on the road to success.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Axiom 24: A Simple Guide to Time Management


"You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again." -Benjamin Franklin


"Don't be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week's value out of a year while another man gets a full year's value out of a week." -Charles Richards


I've read a few time management books over the last year. I always get really excited reading the introductions: "You'll finally have time to accomplish everything you ever dreamed of." Then by chapter two I'm knee-deep in some system of lists and priorities I know will never be practical for me. I would be spending more time everyday writing out to-do lists than actually doing anything. I need something simple.

So until this January I never did any type of personal scheduling. I'm sure most people don't use time management for accomplishing their goals either. But once I started using a simple time-management system my productivity skyrocketed. I'm about to share with you my methods for time management, but first I want to explain why time management is vital to success.

Dedicated Time + Good Ideas + Hard Work + Motivation
= Success

That's the formula for success (with dedicated time being the most important element). Time is our most valuable resource. It is the foundation for success and the reward that success brings us. With dedicated time good ideas can evolve into great ideas. With dedicated time our hard work produces tangible results. With dedicated time our motivation turns into a deep-undying passion. Time management allows you to schedule dedicated time to accomplish your goals.

So here are a few ways you can take control of your time and become more productive:
  • Create a system - Start using Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, or another calendar program to keep track all of your appointments, tasks, and goals. I use Google Calender because it is free and allows me to access it from any computer as well as my phone. 
  • Implement all of your goals into your schedule - If you want to start a business, read a certain book, take a dream vacation, or accomplish any other goals make sure you write it down so you can implement a plan of action into your daily schedule.
  • Categorize everything - Divide everything in your life into categories and input it into your calender. Examples of categories are: Birthdays, Blog, Business Idea, Simple Tasks, Work, Social Functions, etc. Google Calendar is great at this because you can color code your categories. Make sure you input everything into your calendar from life goals all the way down to simple household chores. You want to take everything out of the clutter of your head and put it into a single outside source you grow accustom to checking regularly. 
  • Hold yourself accountable - Make sure you stick to your calendar and accomplish the things you list on it. Treat your calendar as the word of God. 
  • Treat your free time like you treat your work time - Time is money at work, yet in our personal life we often throw time away. Use scheduling to cut down on wasted time just as you would at a job.
  • Make specific and realistic goals - "Work on my book for one hour today", or "Write chapter one of my book today" are examples of specific and realistic goals. "Work on my book", or "Finish chapters 1-28 on my book today" are not specific or realistic goals. Don't defeat yourself by scheduling too much or leaving too much room for laziness.
  • Make free time - Don't schedule too much. Make sure you schedule free time for yourself to relax.
  • Keep a routine - Get into a routine so you can manage your time and your expectations more easily.
  • Work with your body clock - If you're a morning person or a night person make sure you schedule your tasks to fit your body clock. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lockhart, Texas BBQ Showdown: Kreuz vs. Smitty's vs. Black's vs. Chisholm Trail


I grew up in North Texas eating BBQ all my life. For a long time I've wanted to head south to Lockhart for a BBQ showdown between their four BBQ palaces that are considered to be the best in the state. So in March I finally freed up a weekend and headed down with a friend for an eating experience I'll never forget. We drove 25 miles southeast of Austin to the little town called Lockhart, the self-proclaimed, "BBQ Capital of Texas." As soon as we got there we started taking on their famous BBQ establishments one-by-one: Kreuz Market, Smitty's Market, Chisholm Trail Bar B Q, and Black's Barbecue.

  
We arrived at Kreuz Market (619 N. Colorado Street - www.kreuzmarket.com) right before they opened. There was already a line out front. I had actually been here before so I knew what to expect. The last meal I had here was absolutely amazing. We walked through the fairly new, large dining hall into the pit room. The smokey smell of meat here is like no other - it had me drooling. I loaded up on 1/4lb beef brisket and a jalepeno cheese sausage. Everything was served on butcher paper. Once I had my meats I went into the next room for some side dishes. (The German potatoes are a MUST.)


Kreuz does not have forks, and does not have BBQ sauce. Once you start eating this stuff sauce won't even cross your mind. The brisket flavor is perfect and sauce would actually take away from the taste. The sausage was my favorite of all the places in Lockhart, so make sure you get some if you stop here.


After a short break we went to Smitty's Market (208 South Commerce Street - www.smittysmarket.com) for a late lunch. There was a long line to get into the building. Most of the people in line seemed to be first-time tourists, not locals. The building Smitty's is in is a historic building with lots of character near the Lockhart town square. I had really high expectations ever since watching Smitty's and Kreuz go head-to-head on Travel Channel's Foodwars.


I got a 1/4lb beef brisket and a sausage. Just like Kreuz, Smitty's does not have forks or BBQ sauce. In this case sauce would have helped because the meat was dry and the flavor was not very good. The sausage fell apart and had a very dry texture. I was really disappointed in this meal. I will definitely pass on Smitty's on my next trip to Lockhart.  

After Smitty's we checked into the hotel for a break before dinner. (Side note: If you go to Smitty's or Kreuz be prepared to smell like BBQ smoke from the pit room. People will know you've been to one of those places after you've eaten there!)


We were planning on eating at Black's for dinner and calling it a trip, but a local said that Chisholm Trail Bar B Q (1323 South Colorado Street - www.chisholmtrailbbq.com) had all the other Lockhart legends beat so we added it to our list. Even if it wasn't as well known at least we could say we went to all four places in Lockhart.

Chisholm has been around since 1978, and it holds its own against the other places. It seemed like it was mostly locals eating there. The decor is fairly run down, and it has a simple cafeteria style line without the fanfare and show of a pitroom.


I stuck with the same winning combo of 1/4lb beef brisket and sausage. There was sauce available that I tried, but I did not care for the taste of it. Overall the food was good, actually very good, but not amazing. That being said it was still better than most BBQ I've had in my life.


After a good night's sleep we hit up Black's Barbecue (215 North Main Street - www.blacksbbq.com). Black's is the oldest BBQ place in Texas still owned by the same family, since 1932. At this point we were sick of BBQ so our hopes weren't very high, but then something magical happened - we ate the first bite.


It was the best brisket I've ever had. It was the saltiest and fattiest of all the Lockhart places we had been. I cleaned the plate and was hungry for more. That's how good it was. There was sauce available, but I did not try it. I did not even think of trying it. I was, "keeping it real" without sauce as the locals would say. At the end of the journey I knew that if I could only stop at one place in Lockhart for BBQ, it would be Black's hands down.

So here's a more complete breakdown of what I thought:

Overall
  1. Black’s - 9.5
  2. Kreuz - 9.0
  3. Chisholm - 6.5
  4. Smitty’s - 4.5

Beef Brisket

  1. Black’s - salty, juicy, tender. - 9.5
  2. Kreuz - close second. great flavor. very juicy. - 9.0
  3. Chisholm - good, but not amazing. - 6.5
  4. Smitty’s - dry, bad flavor. - 4.5

Sausage

  1. Kreuz - juicy, flavorful, amazing. - 9.5
  2. Chisholm - good, but not great. - 5.5
  3. Black’s - close to Chilsoms. good, not great. - 5.0
  4. Smitty’s - tough, bad texture, very average flavor. - 4.5

Sides
  1. Black’s - amazing, everything complemented the food perfectly. - 9.0
  2. Kreuz - very close second. German potatoes were great. - 8.9
  3. Chisholm - very good. close third. - 8.5
  4. Smitty’s - very average - 5.0

Bang for the buck
  1. Chisholm - very reasonable - 9.0
  2. Smitty’s - tie - 6.0
  3. Kreuz - tie - 6.0
  4. Black’s - bit overpriced - 4.5

Atmosphere
  1. Smitty’s - historic building with lots of character. - 9.0
  2. Black’s - old building with a cozy feel. - 8.0
  3. Kreuz - new and clean. - 6.5
  4. Chisholm - a bit rundown - 4.5

Friday, June 8, 2012

Axiom 23: The Inner Hole We All Face


"Illusion is needed to disguise the emptiness within." -Arthur Erickson

When asked what surprised him most about humanity, The Dalai Lama said:
“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”


Someone told me once, "Everyone has a hobby that they're willing to spend more money on than the average person". It made me think of all of the times that I thought someone else's hobby was a waste of time and money. Then I got to thinking about all the things I had spent my time and money on. Would most people consider my hobbies a waste of time and money also?

Maybe so, or maybe not. The more important consideration is why we pursue the things we pursue. It all goes back to that deep feeling of incompleteness. Something that has been described before as an inner-hole we all have. We all find different ways to fill that inner-hole, some productive and some destructive. Hard work, church, golf, alcohol, drugs, video games... how do you fill your inner hole? Where does your free time and money flow to?

Use the inner-hole you have to propel you forward in life. Use that feeling of incompleteness to learn a useful skill, start a business, or donate your time to a worthy cause. Afterwards you will feel more complete than if you pacify your inner-hole with empty purchases, alcohol, and passive entertainment. The inner-hole is the force behind your motivation. To be successful is to understand and manage this force. Without taking control of your inner-desires you will never gain the momentum to accomplish great things.

Friday, May 25, 2012

How to Hire Good People Fast


I've been doing the hiring where I work for a over a year now. What I've learned over the course of this time is that I'm not a big fan of calling a lot of people and scheduling multiple interviews. I don't believe the interview process needs to drag on for weeks or months to find the perfect person. 

There are a lot of articles on how to apply for jobs and write résumés but not many on how to review résumés and hire people. If you're a hiring manager take note of these tips below to help you save time in the hiring process. If you are a job hunter take note on what not to do.

Sidenote: If you're willing to pay $49 AppSumo also has an amazing automatic hiring strategy here.

First, start with an anonymous online job posting. The posting should be thorough and clearly explain the duties of the job. It should list the good benefits as well as the bad. You don't want to misrepresent the job only to have a new hire quit because you were afraid of pointing out the bad parts of the job up front. 

Next, somewhere in the job posting put a trap to see how well the potential applicants can follow instructions. An example is something like, "Please respond by email and attached both your résumé and your desired salary. We will not consider any applicants that do not submit both of these". Sounds easy enough but you'd be surprised how many people will not be able to complete this simple task. My thought is that if they can't complete a simple task before you hire them they won't be able to complete a simple task after you hire them either. Also, by asking them to submit their desired salary up front it helps you eliminate people whose monetary expectations are too far out of line with that of your company.

Next you'll have to go through the résumés and eliminate the bad ones not only by actual résumé content but also by the way it is presented. Let me also state clearly that it is definitely not cool, and it is illegal, to discriminate against someone because of their race, age, sex, sexuality, religion, health, or disability. You should look to disqualify people instead based on erratic behavior, unprofessionalism, inability to follow orders, and sloppy workmanship. 

Below is a list of things I have seen before in real life that would lead me to question a person's candidacy for a job:

  • Scanning their résumé in sideways.
  • Ending their sentences with no punctuation
  • Not capitalizing 'i'. (i really need a job. i hope to hear from you soon.)
  • Living over an hour drive away from the job they are applying for.
  • Just writing a couple lines that they are interested in the position and for me to give them a call, but not including a résumé of any kind.
  • Just including a résumé in a blank email.
  • Typing in all pink.
  • TYPING REALLY BIG.
  • Ending multiple sentences with two periods..
  • Having an email address like JaMiEsTePhEnS@aol.com or torturedsoul983@hotmail.com 
  • Weird salutations, "Dear Gentlest Sir or Ma'am", "Many Blessings Be With You,".
  • Having not worked in 3 years.
  • Having worked 5 jobs this year.
  • Having just started a new job two months ago.
  • Having a 5 page resume.
  • Typing everything in an Egyptian font style.
  • Having a resume that goes onto a second page by only one line.
  • Using profanity. 
  • The name of the person that emailed the résumé is different than the person applying. (It conveys that a spouse or family member is job hunting for someone lazy)
The red flags listed above should really eliminate 90% of the applicants leaving just a handful that you can more closely review. My feeling is that when a person is applying for a job they should be on top of their game. If they have multiple errors and are unprofessional right from the beginning just think about how bad they'll be after they work for you for a few months. Focusing on a good hiring process that weeds out bad candidates quickly will help you find stable, sane, professional people for long-term employment.