Friday, December 30, 2016

I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

This is the first in my series of book reviews. And it's a quick one!

I’ve read several personal finance books lately. I Will Teach You To Be Rich is a very readable, fun, and practical guide targeted at college-aged readers to get them started off on the right foot financially. I wish I had read it 10 years ago-- I certainly would be farther along the road to financial abundance today if I had. Here are my main take-aways:

  1. Set up an online savings account. I took his advice and set up an Ally Savings account online, which gives me 1% interest right now instead of the 0.0000001% I’ve been getting from my Wells Fargo savings account and my Charles Schwab money market account. Over the long term, that will translate into hundreds if not thousands of extra dollars. If you haven’t done it already, just do it today. It’s easy money.
  2. When buying a car, get salesmen into a bidding war, without even leaving the comfort of your home. Ramit Sethi did this by faxing 17 different car salesmen at the end of December, when many were desperate to meet their quotas. A little work on the front end will result in a great deal.
  3. Target-date (also known as Lifecycle) index funds really are the simplest way to invest well. I’ve been investing in a Vanguard Target 2050 fund in my Roth IRA for the past few years, and am glad I have. It’s hands-off, automatically rebalancing, and stress-free. For now, that’s the only kind of fund I plan to invest in. Down the road, I’ll probably get a little fancier, but it’s the perfect vehicle for investing for someone like me who just wants an automated, super-low-load vehicle for my investments.
  4. Right now, paid financial advisors are not worth the cost. In fact, NerdWallet has a free app where you can ask a financial advisor any question, anytime, for free. Which is what I’ve done. I’ve also talked to several other financial advisors over the last few weeks, and they’ve all confirmed that what I’m doing is pretty much optimized.

There are plenty of other topics he covers in the book, like credit cards (good for the rewards if you always pay them off), 401(k)s and IRAs (which I’ve been maxing out the last few years), budgeting tactics (which Mindy and I are developing right now), automating, negotiating a raise, buying a house, and real estate. Though his treatment of these areas is overly superficial, you’ll probably pick up a few pearls-- and it’s a quick read. I’m glad I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it, because I knocked it out in a couple hours and don’t feel the need to ever pick it up again. Plus, most of the information and much more is probably available on Ramit’s website,

The book certainly has its limitations and blind spots-- see Mr. Money Mustache's book review at for more on that. Overall, the book was helpful but not life-changing. If you’re looking for an easy introduction to personal finance or to pick up a few tips that might have escaped you in your financial journey, give it a look!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Look Ahead to December, and Beyond

         During my six-month hiatus from this blog, I graduated from residency, road-tripped out West, worked in a mission hospital in Togo, and moved from Wichita to Boone, NC. If you followed Mindy and me at, you know that we had a great experience in Togo. Click on the link if you haven't read about it. In this post, I'll simply be looking at where I am now and where I see myself going over the next 6-12 months. If that sounds selfish, I'll just point out that I focus on self-improvement with the hope you'll be surprised, gratified, and challenged by my ideas and experiences.

The 5 AM Miracle

        When I was in medical school, I lived with a dude who got up at 4:30 AM every morning. I'd mosey out of my room at 7:15 to find Ben reading or rolling on some little project, and part of me would wish I had the discipline to do the same. Seven years later, I now fully realize his genius. Though I can't speak for him, my experience tells me that getting up early is more a matter of planning and execution than grit. Good mornings start the night before.

        My biggest goal for the next year is to get into a productive and healthy morning routine, starting at 5 AM. On work days, that gives me 100 minutes to toilet, meditate, pray, journal, stretch, work on mobility and pain issues, and read. I'll also try to work in a couple power poses and some personal mantras I've developed if I have time. On off days, I can stretch it out another couple hours with additional reading, writing, and exercise. My goal is to read 4 books a month, with a good mix of self-improvement, spiritual, fictional, biographical, and medical titles. I'm also planning on putting reviews of each book I read on this blog to help me process, encode, and integrate what I learn.

       The main tools I will be utilizing will be focus@will, headspace, and mobilitywod, all of which I have recently bought subscriptions to. Focus@will is music scientifically designed to help you focus. It's what Adderall would be if it were converted to audio. Headspace is a mindfulness meditation app, which I've gotten into over the past few months. Seems like every day, I see another article touting yet another benefit of mindfulness meditation, and I will just add my voice to the choir. If mindfulness meditation could be made into a drug, it would be all most people needed. Everyone should be doing it, period. Mobilitywod is a program designed to "optimize your mobility, prevent injury, train smarter, recover better, treat your own pain and injuries, enjoy performance gains, understand your physiology, and help more people" on just 15 minutes a day of mobility work. So far, it has lived up to the hype. Thanks for the recommendation, Justin. You all should give it a look.

       My books for the next few months will include The Imitation of Christ, White Coat Investor, The Critique of Pure Reason, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, The Power of Habit, Originals, Quiet, The Road, The Mountain of Silence, Prayer (Tim Keller), and Tools of Titans. Hopefully you'll start seeing little reviews of each of these on here before too long. For my commute, my go-to podcasts right now are The 5 AM Miracle, Common Sense with Dan Carlin, Let My People Think by Ravi Zacharias, The New Yorker: Fiction, Homegrown Liberty, Brute Strength, The Tim Ferriss Show, and The Art of Manliness, but I'm always switching up the rotation. If you don't yet listen to podcasts, you are missing out on much. My life is so much better because of what I've learned from listening to a bunch of people smarter than me talk.

The Other 22 Hours
        One of the foundational concepts I picked up from my pal Warren Buffet is the "Two-List" strategy. It goes like this: Make a list of your top 25 goals. Then pick out your Top 5. The other 20 goals are not your "work on them when I can" list, they're you're "Avoid at All Costs" list. That list is the good that is the enemy of the best. When I think back over some of my goals over the past few years, I can identify many good goals that never cracked that top 5, and should have never made it onto my goal list. Starting a Youtube channel, building a website, establishing 21 professional contacts, quantifying 21 areas of my life: all good ideas, but with high opportunity cost. Fortunately, I never got around to any of them anyway.

       So instead of making monthly goals of dubious value, I'll be checking in every couple of weeks with book reviews, new ideas, and life updates. Things like archery, firearms, music, smoking meat, jiujitsu, rock climbing, and self-defense will probably take the back burner for now while I focus on my five primary areas of People, Mind, Spirit, Body, and Profession. I'll be going on day- or week-long trips with Mindy, joining communities, reading articles and books, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, worshipping, doing Crossfit workouts, and enjoying the outdoors. I still may occasionally have 21-day projects to do things like count macros, start a new collection, and build garden beds, but my morning routine should keep me moving forward in all the areas I need right now.

       Other strategies I'm implementing are personal retreat days every month, scheduled date nights every 1-2 weeks, and scheduled 24-hour fasts every 1-2 weeks. Today was actually my first personal retreat, and it was great. The personal retreat is a concept I got from Richard J. Foster's book The Celebration of Discipline which involves removing yourself from your normal environment and spending the day in contemplation. I stayed focused all morning, lost some steam in the afternoon, but brought it back to write this blog post and do some reading. I modified it to involve quite a bit of physical activity and get a few things accomplished, but it was still emotionally and intellectually refreshing. Mindy was super supportive, which made the process even more pleasant than it would have been. I hope this practice continues indefinitely.

      I'm especially thankful for the opportunity to get perspective today because tomorrow is my first day as a hospitalist at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. For the next few days, my focus will be almost exclusively on learning how to do my new job. As I step into my new role in our new home, I hope to continue to grow in presence, power, warmth, perspective, godliness, wisdom, humility, gratitude, and grace. As it happens, that's also my hope for you. Until next time, be wise, warm, and well.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Springtime Pangs

Over two months of passed since my last post, so I have lots of updates to share with you. The most pressing thing in my life right now is my imminent graduation from residency and subsequent travels. My formal medical training is almost complete: I am about to meet my magic number of 1650 clinic patients, I only have 1 procedure requirement yet to log, and I took my board exam last month. The only thing that remains is my sixth and final obstetrics rotation next month, which will tune me up nicely for all the obstetrics I'll be doing in Togo from August to November. Though I've not been taking advantage of as many teaching opportunities as I was a couple months ago, I continue to learn something every day.

I'm still pursuing jiujitsu and weightlifting. Justin Grant and I have almost completed all 36 Gracie Jiujitsu blue belt lessons, and will be reviewing over the following month in preparation for recording my blue belt qualification video. I've also found myself getting more interested in workout programming (ie creating a long-term goal-oriented workout plan). I've realized how imperative it is for me to gain more shoulder and back mobility, and have started to gear some of my workouts towards that end. I've also decided to build my own home gym next year, including a squat rack, a prowler, a plyometric box, and a couple other odds and ends. That will also be a nice way to learn some carpentry while saving some cash. Finally, I have started to dabble in Krav Maga and the SPEAR self-defense system lately, and hope to learn more in those areas in coming years.

Also paramount have been travel and relationships. Easter weekend afforded Mindy and me the opportunity to explore beautiful northern Arkansas, which was an inspirational blast. We also hosted lots of her family last weekend for her brother's wedding, and it was nice to reconnect with many of them seven months after our own wedding. This month holds fourth the promise of two four-day getaways, first a solo trip to North Carolina to reconnect with my college pals, then off to Colorado Springs with Mindy to explore the area and hang out with her aunt and uncle. I have high hopes for both trips.

                                   Mindy and me on the scenic Kings River in Arkansas

I have also made a few strides in time management. I now listen to podcasts while taking showers, which has been really rewarding. The ones I like the most are The Art of Manliness podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, This American Life, and The Memory Palace. I also continue to read several articles a day that I come across via the Pocket app (which gives you way better articles than Facebook, without all the clickbait), and have started skimming issues of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) and AFP (American Family Physician) the day they arrive instead of letting them stack up. Finally, my Facebook hiatus continues, which has allowed me more time to do, well, life.

On a grander scale, I continue to believe wholeheartedly in the goal-oriented process I've been pursuing on this blog for the last 1.5 years. It produces results, and the scientist respects empirical evidence as the ultimate authority. Yet I've also learned that our purpose as humans-- to understand the human condition-- is one that will never fully be realized, and which can't be monitored with the kind of metrics I apply to the other areas of my life. Wisdom grows by fits and starts and in unexpected ways as we flourish as human beings. Because we don't know what we don't know philosophically, we can't strategize or plan our path forward. Yet we can trust that if we continue to challenge ourselves, new windows of insight will keep flying open.

That's my word of wisdom for now. June will be busy with delivering babies, packing, graduating, and saying goodbye. I plan to give you all an update once this bittersweet period is over and my life has transitioned to its next stage. I'm taking advantage of each moment with my amazing friends and acquaintances here in Kansas, hopefully many of whom I will stay connected with the rest of my life. But the pangs of impending separation sharpen by the day... if I may be so dramatic.

Friday, March 4, 2016


Well, the year is 17.5% over. For some of us, it may be more than that, if we happen to die before next January rolls around. How have you been doing? Can you quantify any progress you've made? Don't forget Peter Drucker's adage that "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it." People don't improve themselves like they could because they aren't intentionally strategizing their life, nor intensively measuring their progress over time. Heed the words of Gandhi, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." Spend 5 minutes each morning and 50 minutes every month reviewing and strategizing your life moves, and watch how your life transforms.

The counter-question to the above is, have you been enjoying the ride? I'm happiest whenever I'm throwing myself into a new project and climbing a nice, steep learning curve. What makes you happy? Whatever it is, make that a bigger part of your life, and make sure to be thankful for it. I've been remiss on being thankful for the blessings I've been given, and am trying to make gratitude my newest habit. What three things are you thankful for right now? I'm thankful for an afternoon off, nice weather, and a sweet wife.

My initial impression of the year is that I'm taking really good advantage of my opportunities to learn medicine, primarily via the avenue of "Image Review" mini-lectures at the beginning of noon conferences. I've been doing one 10-15 minute lecture per week for the last five weeks, focusing on various ultrasound topics in my attempt to take Tai Lopez's advice to "Spend 10 minutes every day giving a lecture to 10 people, and your brainpower will skyrocket." Though I'm only doing it every week, my brainpower has still gotten a nice little boost. 

I'm also enjoying doing the Crossfit Open, which started last week, and continuing to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Another thing I'm getting into is meditation, which was not on my list of original goals for the year but which I added because I kept hearing about all its benefits. I'm six into ten free sessions on the app Headspace, and have gotten into a schedule of 2-3 10 minute sessions per week. Check it out-- you won't regret the small time investment. I also haven't checked Facebook for the past two weeks. Coincidence?

Below is a color-coded list of how I've been doing on my goals for 2016. I plan to keep updating it as the year goes on.

new goals I've made since December
goals I've worked on since December
goals I'm starting to work on in March
goals I'm no longer pursuing this year

-Relational: Continue to make monthly goals with Mindy, make it a habit to ask better questions of friends and acquaintances, visit far-off friends, talk to strangers at every opportunity, monthly microadventures, date night every other week, road trip out West in July

-Public speaking: Record myself speaking 21 times, take advantage of opportunities to speak

-Musical: Start playing guitar again, learn 21 new songs

-Spiritual: Do yoga, fasting, Bible meditation, and family prayer on a weekly basis; meditation

-Intellectual: Read 21 works of mythology, classical literature, philosophy, poetry, or biography on a weekly basis, continue to blog at least monthly

-Medicine: Go through study folder on a weekly basis, keep trying to read the equivalent of 21 journals per month, answer practice questions on a weekly basis; teach myself ultrasound, do lots of certain procedures

-Medical missions: Go on a 3-4 month medical mission trip to a hospital in a Spanish French speaking country (Togo), do lots of OB, and build relationships with the staff there

-Spanish Linguistic: Go back over Spanish grammar before my trip, start using two more verb tenses, expand my vocabulary every day while in Latin America, learn French

-Psychological: Start logging my dreams in an Evernote document, play the Situational Awareness Game on a weekly basis, list three things I'm thankful for each day

-Culinary: Learn new cooking skills by going to classes at Williams-Sonoma, smoke meat every month (started in November), improve my table manners

-Physical: Log all my workouts, go for walks on off-days, do the Crossfit Open, get my jiujitsu blue belt, do a set of 20 squats at least once per day

-Efficiency: Time-track 21 times this year, consistently get up before 7:30 AM on weekends, delete facebook app and check it at most weekly, make a time budget

The areas I haven't made any major progress in are Musical, Intellectual, Linguistic, or Psychological. These are particularly areas in which I haven't yet had a clear, concrete goal to pursue. For instance, I'm not signed up to play music for a talent show, I'm not involved in any book clubs and am busy learning medical stuff, I'm five months away from having to speak French, and logging my dreams first thing in the morning is not as motivating to me at 6AM as hitting the snooze button for another 10 minutes in my warm bed. This goes to show that the kind of people I surround myself with have a profound impact on my self-improvement. For example, if I was to find someone who was really interested in time-tracking and situational awareness, we could make some joint goals in those areas, and those areas would dramatically improve for both of us. Always be on the lookout for people with whom you share an abundance, growth mindset.

As only four months now remain in my residency, I plan to continue to prioritize medicine in the above lists. In addition, I'll continue to make my relational, physical, and psychological goals major priorities. Not all life goals are equal. Proper prioritization is the key element of any good strategy.

If you are reading this as a fresh post and have been following my blog, you are now three months closer to death than when you read my last post. Memento mori. Memento vivere.