Too Good To Be True

I would like to start off this post by saying that what follows is a true story. I don’t mean to imply that my other stories are not true, but this one might seem a little hard to believe. So I wanted to make sure that everyone knows I am not making this up.

A couple of days ago I rode my bike to the library to return some books. There is a Bank of America that shares a parking lot with the library, so I stopped at the bank to deposit a check.

As I rode up to the ATM a white truck pulled up and the driver rolled down his window.

“Hey guys, listen to what just happened,” he said.

At first, I looked around to see who the “guys” were that he was talking to. I was all alone, so I figured I must be the “guys” he was calling out to.

He went on to explain that he owns a store that sells speakers and he just met a client who accidently gave him two more speakers than he had ordered. He said something about how the guy only spoke Spanish so there was a miscommunication and he wasn’t able to give the speakers back. So he had two extra speakers and he said he was “looking for cool people to give them to.”

I’m sure with my bike helmet and backpack, it isn’t hard to see why he thought I was “cool”.

I told him that I didn’t need any speakers but that didn’t seem to faze him. He got out of the car and showed me the speakers as well as a website on his phone that showed the value of the speakers to be over $2,000.

I asked him why he couldn’t just sell them in his store along with the others he purchased. He said, “bro, I can’t do that. That would be illegal.”

I didn’t really understand why, but since I am not up-to-date on my speaker laws, I said “oh, okay” like a dummy.

After I told him no thanks a few more time it was clear that he wasn’t taking no for an answer. I finally said, “Best I would do is 100 bucks” thinking this was such a low ball offer that he would give up and drive away.

To my surprise, he said “Throw in an additional $20 for beer and you got a deal. And I’ll even drive you and your bike home.”

To this, I gave in and figured what the heck, maybe I will resell them a make a couple of bucks. So I withdrew $120 from the ATM.

It is here in the story that I would like to point out that not only did I break the cardinal rule of not talking to strangers, but I was about to give a stranger money and jump into the back of his truck. I never claimed to be smart, but in my defense I figured I could probably take this guy (despite his advantage of having about 30 more tattoos than I do) or at least I could out run him if something happened.

Back to the story…

Since his truck was filled with boxes of speakers, I told him I would sit in the bed of the truck and hold my bike as we rode to my house. I figured this would make it harder for him to kill me, you know, if that was what he was going for.

As we drove away from the bank, I looked at the box of speakers. I decided I would Google the speaker’s brand so I could get a better idea for how to resell them.

The first page of Google pulled up results about a scam that described the exact scenario that I currently found myself in. (You can check out that page here). People had posted about a guy with tattoos pulling up to them at the bank in a white truck and offering to sell them speakers.

Even I am smart enough to realize that I was sitting right in the middle of a scam. I’ll admit that I was a little embarrassed.

At this point I remembered a saying I’ve heard numerous times, “if it seems too good to be true, it is.”

When the truck pulled up to stoplight, I considered jumping out of the truck and riding away. I visualized a chase like the following scene from Premium Rush.

But before I could muster up the guts to make a break for it, the truck was moving again. Realizing that I probably shouldn’t let this guy see where I actually live, I yelled for him to pull over at the next left.

Once the car parked I hopped out and told the driver that I looked up the speakers on my phone and found people posting about the scam. I apologized for wasting his time but said I would be keeping my money.

At first he pretended like the internet was crazy, saying “you can’t believe everything you read online.”

When I told him that it described the exact scenario including his white truck he responded by saying, “uhh…well…this is more of a van, not a truck.”

I’m not a car expert, but even I know the difference between a truck and a van, so I just kinda smiled. At this point I think he got the idea and he said, “your loss.”

I apologized again and rode away. I decided to take a long zigzag path home, looking over my shoulder the entire time. Maybe I watch too many movies, because I kind of thought he would follow me home. He did not. I guess he didn’t want to waste any time before finding the next sucker at a bank.

I wanted to share this story with you not to explain how exciting my bike rides to the library can get. Rather, I wanted to reinforce the saying that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

I have heard this saying dozens of times, but chose to ignore it for a chance to make a few bucks. Next time you come across a situation that seems a little too good, I hope you are smarter than me.

How to Come up With Great Ideas

Have you ever struggled to come up with a good idea?

I know I have. I often have a tough time coming up with content for this blog. I wish there was some magical way of creating exceptional new ideas.

What if I told you there was a way?

All you have to do is come up with some bad ideas.

That may sound funny, but it is true.

In his book Linchpin, author Seth Godin explains that the best way to create good ideas is to allow yourself to generate bad ideas.

This is hard for us. We would rather freeze up and come up with nothing than take a risk on a perceived bad idea. Because after all, we don’t want to have our bad idea laughed at.

But if we really want to find good ideas, we need to allow ourselves to be laughed at. If we start turning down ideas because we think they might be bad, then we will miss the really good ideas that try to slip through.

Godin says, “All the creativity books in the world aren’t going to help you if you are unwilling to have lousy, lame and even dangerously bad ideas.”

What’s even more, most people can only come up with one good idea for every dozen bad ideas.

So I encourage you to start coming up with bad ideas. We have to work through all the rotten ones to find the brilliant one.  Write down your ideas, even if you think they are terrible. As Godin explains, if you do this exercise a lot you will discover that some pretty good ideas will start showing up.

Thank You!

I sat with my notebook, pondering what I should be thankful today, when it hit me.

I’ve written about 14 different things that I am thankful for since I started writing this blog. I’ve covered everything from DVDs to free t-shirts, but I’ve left out the most important thing.

What could be more important than DVDs and free t-shirts, you ask?

You are!

That’s right, you. You, the readers are the most important part. Without you, this website would be like www.PetsForMoney.com, www.ExtremeCombMakeover.com, or any other non-existent website.

I didn’t start this blog to get fans. I started it because I like to write and thought there might be people who would be interested in what I have to say.

I was wrong, no one was interested.

Just kidding. If you are reading this, then I hope you are interested. And if you’re not and only found this blog because you thought it was about baking, I am sorry.

No matter how you found this site, I want to say thank you! You give me the motivation I need when I don’t feel like writing. You are what keeps this website going and I am sorry it has taken me so long to thank you.

You are the best!

First Library

As I sit in the library and write this post, I can’t but be amazed by all of the free books. I am surrounded by hundreds of book, all of which I can check out and read at no cost.

In today’s world, the library is very unique. I can’t think of too many places where you can take home hours of entertainment for free. I guess you can say the same about YouTube but even there you have to watch ads.

My mom is a teacher and she is constantly checking out books. Because she has so many checked out at one time, she often forgets to return them on time. When I was younger I used to think that my mom’s overdue fees singly handedly kept the library in business.

Looking at all the books makes me wonder when the first library started. Was there some president who was a real bookworm that came along and decided that everyone needed to read more? If so, I’m guessing it was James Polk. He kind of looks like a bookworm, doesn’t it?

James Polk

History of Libraries:

Turns out libraries have been around since long before James Polk. Like hundreds of years before JP.

Wikipedia says that the first libraries open to the public were a collection of Greek and Latin scrolls which were available in many buildings in the Roman Empire.

Why did I just assume that libraries were an American invention?  Didn’t I realize that people were reading long before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue?

There is some conflict over what was the first public library in the United States. Some claim that Boston’s library was the first in 1636, while others argue that Charleston’s St Philip’s Church was the first and was started in 1698.

Whichever was first, it is pretty clear that James Polk had nothing to do with it.

So there you have it, libraries have been around forever. I just wonder how they survived before my mom was around to pay late fees. Maybe I have an ancient Roman relative who also couldn’t remember to return their books.

Top 10 Principles From Jay Bilas’ Toughness

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word toughness?  Maybe you picture a body builder, an old truck or a cheap steak. True toughness is something that can be difficult to recognize and even harder to define.

ESPN’s college basketball analyst Jay Bilas wrote an awesome book on the subject of what makes a person tough in his appropriately named book, Toughness: Developing True Strength On and Off The Court.

I was blown away by the many thought provoking messages that I discovered in this book.

Here are what I found to be the top 10 principles from Bilas’ Toughness.

#10 – “Never delay gratitude”:

Bilas begins his book with this quote from the late Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser. Most people put their acknowledgments in the back of the book, but not Jay. He feels that the book wouldn’t be possible without the help and support of those around him and he wants everyone to know upfront. I think this is great.  If you have a powerful quote before you even get into the real book, then you know you have an awesome book.

#9  – Toughness Has No Relationship to How Nice a Person is:

Bilas talks about how his parents are among the toughest people he knows, but he also makes it clear how nice, polite and smart they are. Many of us think that you have to be a jerk to be tough. We assume bullies are tough, but they aren’t. You can be nice and tough at the same time.

#8 – “Responsible to the element, accountable to the mission”:

This quote comes from NASA engineer Daryl Woods. Woods explains this by saying, “You have to play your position and understand what every other position does and how you fit with the team.”  Too often we are only worried about our role and don’t focus on how everyone else fits into the mission.

#7 – “You can’t get to the top of the ladder in one step, but you can get to the bottom in one step”:

Bilas’ dad tells him this after Jay literally fell off a ladder. This quote also applies to non-ladder situations. Every step is important. You can’t expect to get to the top of your sport or field by skipping steps on the ladder. At the same time, be mindful of the steps you have already gone above. Remember the work it took to get past them and make sure you don’t fall back to the beginning.

#6 – “If you win, take immediate action to set the stage for your next win”:

This quote comes from Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight. Knight told this to Coach K. before the 1991 Final Four against UNLV. It is great to enjoy a win, but we don’t want to celebrate wins for so long that we fail to win the next game, opportunity or job.

#5 – Concentrate on what you’re doing while you’re doing it:

If you are anything like me, you get focused on things you can’t control. Jay Bilas uses a story where he was worried about school work during a basketball game. His focus was not on the game and his play suffered. His dad used that as a lesson to teach his son to concentrate on one thing at a time. Focus on what is before you, not on what is in store for you.

#4 – “Next play”:

Bilas explains that this quote is commonly used by Coach K. This is Coach K’s way of preventing his players from dwelling on what just happened, good or bad. Like the lesson Bilas learned from his dad in #5 above, you should only focus on the present. As a player and assistant coach at Duke, Bilas heard “next play” hundreds of times. None more important than when Coach K. said it before Christian Laettner’s incredible game winning shot in the 1992 NCAA Tournament. Who knows if Duke would have been ready for that moment if Coach K. wouldn’t have drilled “next play” into their heads?

#3 – Adapt and Overcome:

This is the motto of Camp Arifjan.  Bilas went to Arifjan as a part of Operation Hardwood, an event organized by the USO in which college coaches visited military camps to coach servicemen.  No matter what situation these soldiers were presented with, they were expected to use all their resources to adapt to the circumstance and overcome all obstacles. Wouldn’t it be great if we applied this same principle to our lives? Image what we could overcome.

#2 – “You are not tough alone”:

Here’s another quote from Coach K. I love this quote because you can almost take out the word tough and leave a blank space and it still works. You are not _____ alone. We don’t think of toughness as something we need help from others to achieve, but no one is tough by themselves.

#1 – Power of Hope:

The most important message I found from this book came from the example of Dr. Henry Friedman, a neuro-oncologist and the Deputy Director of the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, and professor of neuro-oncology at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Friedman said, “I believe the most important thing in any endeavor is hope. You cannot believe it is hopeless, because if you do this, it is.”

He works with the toughest people in the toughest situations. His patients are fighting cancer, but he doesn’t let them give up hope. When he gives patients bad news, he immediately shifts his focus to hope, and a positive outcome for that patient. Without this, they can give up before they even start the fight. Hope gives providers and patients the toughness necessary to fight the fight. Bilas and Friedman make it very clear that you can’t be tough without hope.

 

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I Need Your Help

I am excited to share with you the news that I have written a children’s book titled, Maury C. Moose and The Forest Noel.  The book features many puns, rhymes and quirky animal characters and is written for parents and kids to enjoy together! I am in the process of self publishing and in order to help offset some of the costs, I have created a Kickstarter campaign (or a Bakestarter campaign).

I can’t wait to bring this book to life but I could use your help.

If you are not familiar with Kickstarter, it is an online platform and resource used to help fund creative projects.  Since their launch in 2009, more than 4.6 million people have pledged over $754 million, funding more than 47,000 creative projects. This support is not charity. Every project offers a range of rewards that backers receive in exchange for their support.

My funding goal is $5,000 over the next 30 days. By reaching this goal, I will be able to cover the cost of editing, US copyright registration and additional items associated with getting the book into various bookstores.

If you are interested in learning more about my campaign, here’s how to get involved:

  • Click here to view my project
  • Check out my video and learn more about my book
  • If you find the book idea compelling, choose a rewards level which you would like to pledge
  • In order to pledge you will need to sign up for a kickstarter account (all they need is name, email address & a password)
  • You will submit payment through Amazon (you will need to create an Amazon account if you do not already have one)
  • Kickstarter is an all or nothing system, so you will not be charged until I meet my goal. If for some reason I fall short, you will not be charged a dime.
  • Tell your friends!

I realize that not everyone will be able to support financially and I completely understand. If you would like to help without spending any money, I can definitely use a hand in getting the word out. If you can share this with friends, family and any other contacts who might want to support a young author and receive a new book, I would greatly appreciate it!

Thanks for your support. I will be sending out project updates letting everyone know how the campaign is going.

Change & Apple’s iOS 7

I’ll admit it…I don’t do well with change. I am very structured and like a routine. It is often difficult for me to handle change, even when I know the new situation will actually be an improvement.

This is just something I have always struggled with and constantly have to work through. That fact was highlighted the other day by my cell phone.

This week Apple introduced its new operating system, iOS 7. It is the latest big thing from Apple and has been met with much anticipation.

Since I am not too techy I didn’t think much about it and wouldn’t normally worry to much about my iPhone. I was all set to update until I started to read about the new upgrade and changes.

From everything I found, the iOS 7 is a massive makeover to the design and features of the iPhone. Reading this made me nervous. I’ve had my iPhone for a couple of years now and have become very comfortable with the features, the settings and everything else that goes into it. It took awhile but I’ve grown to become attached to the phone.

And now Apple is changing everything on me?

As a self prescribed change-aphobe that is hard to deal with. What if I don’t like the new settings? What if I can’t find my favorite apps?

I know this sounds silly but those were real thoughts running through my head. I started to fear that the new operating system would be too difficult for me to handle.

But that is crazy. Why would Apple, one of the most successful companies in the world, make something new that people couldn’t handle? Why would they take a great product and turn it into something awful?

There have been mixed reviews on it so far, but I have to believe that the new system is a good change. Apple knows what it is doing and this new system has to be for the better.

But just the fact that it is different is hard for me. Change is hard.

So how do we deal with change. And more importantly, how do we convince ourselves that we can handle it and actually accept the change?

Those are tough questions to answer.

I decided to take this iPhone example and use it as a learning experience.

I thought about it and found that I need to do three things:

1) I have to focus on the good things.

2) I have to be open minded.

3) I have to accept that the change will take some adjusting but eventually I will be better off for it.

In the reviews that I read, there were many good things that people had to say about the new iOS 7. From the Control Center to iTunes Radio, the new features sound pretty cool. Instead of focusing on the negative, I need to spend more time thinking about these new, good things.

I already said I am not a techy guy. Knowing that, I should have no problem being open minded about new technology.  After all, what do I know about cell phone operating systems? I have to have an open mind and realize that Apple knows what it is doing.

Finally, I have to accept that it will take time for me to adjust to the new phone system. Just like it took time to get used to the system when I first got an iPhone. But I adjusted just fine back then and can do the same again this time. Like I already said, Apple would not come out with a product that was too difficult for me to figure out and enjoy. They don’t make billions of dollars by making bad products.

So that is how I am convincing myself to update my iPhone. That being said, I did get some advice to wait a week to update so that Apple can work out all of the bugs first. But I am not using that as an excuse to avoid change. Rather, I have convinced myself that I can handle the change and am now excited to go through with it.

How do you guys deal with change? What did you think of my three steps and do you have anything to add to that? And if you have already updated your iPhone, what do you think of iOS 7? Let me know in the comments section below.

Manners

I am lucky to have great parents who taught me many things. One thing in particular that they wanted me to learn at a young age was the importance of manners. Whether it is saying please and thank you or opening the door for someone behind me, they did their best to make sure I turned out polite.

I think they realized that good manners are valuable, but even more, they knew that bad manners are gross. I am starting to realize this myself.

Often I will go to the library to write. I find there is something about being around books that helps stimulate ideas and makes it easier for words to flow onto the page.

Being at the library helps me appreciate learning and writing, among other things. Just the other day I was at the library when I saw someone who really made me appreciate good manners.

When I walked into the library and started looking for an open seat, I noticed one by a man who had headphones on, was drinking a Shasta Root Beer and watching a movie on a portable DVD player. This guy seemed like he was minding his own business, so I sat down and began to write.

All of a sudden I heard a loud burp. At first I started to chuckle. I’ll admit that I have an eight year old somewhere inside of me that still finds burps funny. But even eight year old me would only laugh at the first burp.

Just a couple of minutes later, the same guy burped again.

I don’t know if it was because this guy had headphones on or if he just couldn’t control his Shasta Root Beer, but he didn’t seem to notice how loud and distracting the burps were. Not to mention disgusting.

I was at the library less than two hours and I counted nine total burps from this dude.

I don’t know if that is called bad manners or just being barbaric, but whatever it is, it made me thankful that my parents taught me the importance of good manners. Thanks mom and dad!

Jaywalking

What are a few of the worst things someone can do to get arrested?

Did any of you think of jaywalking?

Probably not, but that is a crime. And what an odd name for a crime that refers to reckless pedestrian crossing of a road.

Why is it called jaywalking anyway? Why not call it illegal walking or christopherwalking?

According to Wikipedia, jaywalking dates back to 1909 and was put in place to refine streets as places where pedestrians do not belong.

Apparently the jay in jaywalking was a synonym for “rube”, a term for a rural resident who was assumed to be stupid and naive. A jay was basically someone who was too dumb to stay out of the way of oncoming traffic.

Check out this hilarious anti-jaywalking poster from 1937.

Jaywalking Big

Their “jay” kind of looks like Frankenstein and it appears that he is almost past the car which to me means that the car had to speed up to hit him. But I don’t blame the driver. If i saw a Frankenstein in the middle of the street I would probably try to hit it too.

Also, isn’t the driver normally on the left side of the car? This driver appears to to be on the right or at the very least the middle of the car. And what is the policeman doing? He looks like a baseball umpire calling a runner safe. To me, the Frankenstein clearly looks out, but maybe the tie goes to the walker.

So there you have it. The term jaywalking comes from the name Jay which is a synonym for dummy. Don’t tell that to Jay Z or Jay Leno.

Top 10 Lines from Kid President’s Teacher Pep Talk

As I have discussed in a previous post, I love the work that Kid President and his team are doing. The videos that they create are not only hilarious, but they are inspiring. I look forward to every Thursday when they come out with a new one.

Kid President has outdone himself with his latest video. He has created another pep talk, this time directing it to teachers and students. I was so impressed with this video that it motivated me to share it with you. The video is below, but first I would like to highlight what I think are the top 10 lines from his message.

10) “The worlds greatest thinkers…put their pants on one leg at a time, just like me.”

If you are like me, you often think that you can never keep up with the greatest or most successful people in the world. They must know something that I don’t, right? Wrong. As Kid President notes, they put their pants on just like we do. What makes them special is that once their pants are on, they make a difference. And there is nothing stopping us from doing the same.

9) “Don’t be a bully. Even to the bullies.”

This one is simple yet important. Be nice to everyone. Even those bullies who don’t treat us with respect, still deserve kindness from us.

8) “Life is school and you gotta show up.”

If you don’t show up to school, you won’t get good grades. If you don’t show up to life, the consequences will be even worse. Even if you don’t know what to do in life, show up and you will be surprised with the difference you can make.

7) “You here. You take up space. You matter.”

Much like #8, this reminds us that just by being here we matter. We all take up space. Imagine how great things would be if we used that space to make the world more awesome.

6) “Read a book, any book.”

Take a break from watching Honey Boo Boo or Breaking Bad and open a book. You will let you imagination grow with each turn of the page.

5) “Time to be more awesome.”

Kid President is a young kid, but he knows that it is his time to be more awesome. He didn’t wait until he was an adult to try and get people to listen to him. Now is the perfect time for us all to be more awesome.

4) “We can’t just study history, we’ve got to make history.”

I love this line because he follows it up with reassuring us that “history is made by ordinary people.” We should take the things we’ve learned to make our own history. Even Martin Luther King Jr. and Albert Einstein started out as ordinary people.

3) “Look for the awesome.”

There is awesome in every situation. We just have to look for it.

2) “If you want to change the world, you gotta know about it.”

Take time to study the world around you. Ask questions and seek answers to those questions. Grow your mind and you will grow your influence.

1) “Together, we’re louder.”

Kid President has a great message that is made even more powerful when people across the world share it with one another. No matter what the subject is, together we can make more of a difference than any of us can individually. As Kid President mentions, share this video with a teacher you love. “It’s time to get our learn on.”

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