How to Plan an Awesome Retreat – Step 2: Don’t ask for permission

IMG_9815 This step is more of an anti-step, or a “what not to do.” But sometimes it’s just as important to not-do something as it is to do something. Just ask Miles Davis.

The next phase in the journey is probably where most people get stuck in the doldrums: getting the “green light” to go ahead with a retreat.

Here’s the secret: you’re a grown-up* and you don’t need anyone else’s permission to do things any more. You get to wake up every morning, decide what you’re going to do, and face the consequences! Most people (including me) decide they’re going to spend the day working for the man, but ultimately it is a choice.

One day not too long ago, I decided it would be fun to plan a retreat for folks who are into frugality, badassity, and generally being awesome. And since I thought it out loud on the internet (in the Mr Money Mustache forums), it’s preserved for the world to see. Forever.

MMM had just hosted a very private and very expensive retreat in Ecuador, and wrote about duplicating the event on a more modest scale all around the country.

His biggest takeaway from the trip was “you really give your life a boost by meeting the right people.” I thought, why do I need to wait for him to get around to planning a Seattle event? I’ll just start planning one myself. It doesn’t take any special superpowers to arrange a weekend of “meeting the right people.”

I don’t have much more to say about this “anti-step” so maybe this can serve as a segue to book I recently read that was really inspiring, and very relevant.

The book is about how the internet is making traditional “gatekeepers” obsolete. It’s called Without Their Permission, by Alexis Ohanian.

Ohanian is the creator of Reddit, one of the world’s most popular websites, which he created with a few bucks, a ton of elbow grease, and a metric boatload of gumption.

The book is part memoir, part business how-to, and part political manifesto. The common thread of the book is that the internet is a giant filtering system, and as long as it’s kept free and open, the coolest stuff will get filtered to the top, regardless of who created it. (That also happens to be the gist of Reddit)

On the internet, the differentiating factor is no longer money, connections, or birthright. It’s “who gives the most damns” about their work, according to the author.

Ultimately, the book’s about no longer needing to ask permission before creating a webpage, or starting a business, or planning a retreat.

So stop reading this, turn off the laptop and start giving a damn! What are you going to build? Let me know, I’d love to help.

* Probably? If you’re not, do your parents know you’re reading this blog?

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How to Plan an Awesome Retreat – Step 1: Get pumped about something

camp cabinAlong with a few internet friends, I’m planning a retreat for fans of Mr Money Mustache and JD Roth, two awesome bloggers. It’s going down in the Spring of 2014, here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

This isn’t the first retreat I’ve planned, but it has been a while. As a teenager, I planned a retreat for my youth group. Like any large event, it went off with only a few snags, that were mostly invisible to participants. I still get ribbed by old friends about the schedule for the weekend. I made a silly one as a rough draft and turned it in as a placeholder. Whoever was in charge of photocopying thought it was the real deal, so they made copies of it and handed it out to all attendees.

What that old retreat and this new one have in common is that in order to put in the time and energy to making any dream into a reality (whether it’s a retreat, or a startup, or making balloon animals), it’s essential that you pick something you’re really passionate (or pumped) about. For me, that’s financial badassity. Or whatever you want to call it.

I’m gonna do a few posts while I figure this retreat-planning thing out (again). At least I know how not to make retreat schedules this time around.

Leave a comment if you’re interested in attending and want the deets when they’re available. Or if you have questions about planning your own retreat.

Twitter IPO and diversifying your portfolio

Good to GrrrrreatYay for the upcoming Twitter IPO and congrats to Buster for being a part of that story!

The stock market is the world’s most profitable money-making engine, and investing in it (as part of a diversified portfolio) is almost a prerequisite for the lazy early-retiree. But if you’re looking for riskier investments or unique ways to diversify, investing directly in early-stage companies seems lucrative.

And whenever a company goes public, or a major acquisition makes headlines, the idea becomes even more salient. For instance, Baylor3217 asks:

I’ve been a pretty avid [twitter] user the last 4 years or so. Had I wanted to invest $100,000 – $200,000 3-4 years ago, could I have done that as a nobody and what could it have entitled me to in the upcoming IPO?

At the $100k level, you’d be considered an angel investor in the tech world, meaning you are investing a relatively small amount of cash into a very-early-stage company. You’d be given equity and expected to advise the company, make connections to potential clients and Venture Capitalists, etc. To put this in perspective, by the end of 2009, Twitter had already raised over $100MM in venture capital, so a $100k investment would have been laughed at, to be honest.

VC rounds usually start at around $1MM. Like with angel investment, VC is not just a money/equity swap. Venture Capitalists sit on the boards of the companies they invest in, so they are expected/required to have decades of relevant business/entrepreneurship experience. Even more importantly, VC is about connections, as startup founders don’t only look at deal terms when comparing VC deals. Since money is the fuel that will propel their company out of “startup mode”, they want the highest octane fuel they can get, meaning a sharp VC who will give good advice, connect them to potential clients, and eventually help them through a liquidity event (acquisition, IPO). It’s called “smart money.”

The answer to “what could it have entitled me” would have been totally up to the terms of the investment deal you made with Twitter. These are some VERY complex arrangements, involving esoteric clauses like liquidation preference and “capped participation”. Google those terms and if you’re not falling asleep reading their definitions, you might make a good angel investor.

Lastly, it’s easy to look at Twitter’s IPO and say, “I should have invested 4 years ago.” What you should really ask yourself is “Do I know what will be making headlines in the business papers 4 years from now, and do I have access to these people?”

If all the above doesn’t deter you from angel investing, you still have that $100-200k, and you wouldn’t mind never seeing it again, you may have what it takes to become an angel investor.

[This content was originally published on the Mr Money Mustache forum]

Obama and the Talmud

mask sink

Saw this quote from The Talmud in huge letters on the side of a building:

“The past we inherit, the future we create”

Which reminded me of a more recent quote, from President Obama:

“Our destiny will not be written for us, but by us”

Both quotes reminded me of this blog, which I’ve neglected over the past few months.

The longer you go without a new blog post, the harder it gets because it feels like you have to break that silence with something awesome. But I just broke that silence with something…less-than-awesome?

Sriracha Popcorn Recipe

popcorn This is a first for my blog, I think. A recipe!

One thing I hate is when there’s not enough contents left in a bottle of sauce or tub of yogurt to do anything with it, but too much to throw out without feeling guilty.

We had this exact situation in the Foundry household a couple nights ago, when I found the sriracha (Thai hot sauce) bottle sitting next to the sink (in Venessa’s patented “Joe, I put this here so you’d wash it out” spot).

I couldn’t let this precious mouth-watering nectar go to waste, so I decided I’d try to make popcorn with it. The popcorn turned out AWESOME, Venessa mentioned it to a friend on Facebook (giving it a lukewarm review. Thanks, honey!), and a friend of that friend requested the recipe (despite the lukewarm review). Since facebook is private, I figured I’d put it here to share it with the world.

Two servings of Sriracha Popcorn:

Ingredients:

  • Popping corn – a handful
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)* – 2 Tablespoons
  • Sriracha – 2 squeezes
  • Butter – 2 Tablespoons
  • Salt – to taste

* [edit: Venessa told me not to use EVOO because of its low smoke point. But I used it and things turned out OK. Caveat emptor.]

  1. Put a medium sized pot on medium-high heat and pour in enough EVOO to barely coat the bottom (about 2 good “glugs” out of the bottle).
  2. Pour a handful of popping kernels into the pot and put the lid on it. It always makes more than you think it will so err on the side of caution.
  3. Watch the pot carefully (watched pots never boil water, but they will pop the heck out of popcorn). When the popping starts, grab the pot and the lid and give it a few good shakes (using a potholder).
  4. When the popping slows down to about a pop per second, turn off the stove and empty the popcorn into a serving bowl.
  5. Salt to taste. A large 3-finger pinch should do it.
  6. Put the pot back on the stove, but leave the heat off. Put about 2T of butter into the pot. The heat of the pot will melt the butter. It may spray up so be careful. (1T of butter is like the size of the pat that they slice off the stick in butter and bread commercials. Also most butter wrappers have a little measuring guide printed onto the side.)
  7. Squeeze 2 squeezes of sriracha into melted butter. It may spray up again so be careful.
  8. Put the popcorn back into bowl to soak up the sriracha-butter magic you just made. Shake it around and pour it back into the serving bowl.
  9. Prepare your mouth for the imminent onrush of awesomeness by saying the following out loud: “I JUST MADE SRIRACHA POPCORN FROM SCRATCH!!!!!”

You can actually buy pre-made bags of sriracha popcorn from J&D (the Bacon Salt guys). I know the J&D founders personally (we used to work together) and love ’em, but $5 a bag is highway robbery! This recipe is about 50 cents worth of ingredients and 5 minutes of your time.

Most of the credit for this recipe goes to Venessa since this is pretty much her popcorn recipe, but with sriracha added at the end.

So there ya go! Enjoy! Maybe I’ll do more recipes, but how can you top this one?

* I even tried to condense the recipe but it’s still way too long for a tweet: “cook handful kernels in 2T EVOO on med-hi. Empty popcorn into bowl when popping finishes. Salt to taste. Melt 2T butter in cook pot. Squeeze 2 squeezes of sriracha into melted butter. Put popcorn back into bowl. Toss.”

Just-Cash June 2013

Here's a guy who's never going to get robbed at the ATM

Oh, hey.

This is a short post to let y’all know that I’m doing Just-Cash June again this year. Join me if you feel motivated to try out a different way of spending. So far I’ve used nothing but cash in the first week of June.

The rules can be found here: https://foundryintheforest.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/just-cash-june/

One thing to add is that if you already use cash as your primary form of spending, try doing just Plastic this month. The goal isn’t cash in-and-of itself, but to stir the pot and give something new a try.

I’ll let you know how it goes throughout the month. So far, the most annoying thing has been entering cash spending in Mint. I use their app on my phone so I can do it from anywhere but it’s still a pain.

Meet Your Meat

My friend Rose from Our Lady of Second Helpings posted her version of our trip to the farm to buy our cow. She’s a food blogger, so her article focuses more on the nutritional aspects of grass-fed beef. It’s a great compliment to the articles I’ve written on the cost-savings potential in buying an entire cow.

For instance, here’s her take on grass-fed vs. whatever-junk-they-use-on-feedlots beef:

Taste and Nutrition – We would rather not eat greasy food. Compared to factory raised grain fed beef, grass fed beef is extremely lean. We prefer the more meaty and slightly gamey flavor of grass fed beef. Studies have shown grass fed beef to be higher in nutrients, minerals, and “good” fats.

Go read the whole article, it’s interesting.