Monday, March 31, 2014

Warren Says:

The other day, I read a piece on Warren Buffett. It outlined his ten steps to success. I listed them here in case anyone else wants to be worth $62 billion other than me.

I (of course) editorialized to make it practical for the "common" man.
1. Reinvest Your Profits: When you first make money, you may be tempted to spend it. Don't. Instead, reinvest the profits. Warren Buffett learned this early on. In high school, he and a pal bought a pinball machine to put in a barbershop. With the money they earned, they bought more machines until they had eight in different shops. When the friends sold the venture, Warren Buffett used the proceeds to buy stocks and to start another small business. By age 26, he'd amassed $174,000 -- or $1.4 million in today's money. True story.

NOTE: I'm trying a similar process at the casino. I invest in one machine ... then another ... then another ... then another ... now I gotta work on the money making part.

2. Be Willing To Be Different: Don't base your decisions upon what everyone is saying or doing. When Warren Buffett began managing money in 1956 with $100,000 cobbled together from a handful of investors, he was dubbed an oddball. He worked in Omaha, not Wall Street, and he refused to tell his parents where he was putting their money. People predicted that he'd fail, but when he closed his partnership 14 years later, it was worth more than $100 million. Instead of following the crowd, he looked for undervalued investments and ended up vastly beating the market average every single year.

NOTE: I tried to actually market myself as an undervalued investment in case Warren wanted to invest in me. He DOES like oddballs, after all.

3. Never Suck Your Thumb: Gather in advance any information you need to make a decision, and ask a friend or relative to make sure that you stick to a deadline. Warren Buffett prides himself on swiftly making up his mind and acting on it. He calls any unnecessary sitting and thinking "thumb sucking." When people offer him a business or an investment, he says, "I won't talk unless they bring me a price." He gives them an answer on the spot.

NOTE: I have never been a thumb sucker. When I was a baby, my mother actually put me in a special crib that looked more like a cage. I was fed through a slot in the bars and had special shoes that were held together with a piece of metal. I was told it was the treatment for club feet ... I didn't have club feet but it made me feel like there was a purpose. Anyway ... it was there that I learned to play the harmonica ("Old Man River") instead of sucking my thumb.

4. Spell Out The Deal Before You Start: Your bargaining leverage is always greatest before you begin a job -- that's when you have something to offer that the other party wants. Warren Buffett learned this lesson the hard way as a kid, when his grandfather Ernest hired him and a friend to dig out the family grocery store after a blizzard. The boys spent five hours shoveling until they could barely straighten their frozen hands. Afterward, his grandfather gave the pair less than 90 cents to split. Warren Buffett was horrified that he performed such backbreaking work only to earn pennies an hour. Always nail down the specifics of a deal in advance -- even with your friends and relatives.

NOTE: I too learned the hard way. One of my many part time jobs in high school was working at Ernst Grocery Store. I didn't ask enough questions when I was hired and was given the dog food aisle to stock. Although it was cool to stamp the cans with my very own price gun (in those days the ink pad clicked the price on rubber numbers), the cans weighed a ton. My friend Tommy Quinlan had the cereal aisle and finished way before me ... in fact ... everyone finished before me.

5. Watch Small Expenses: Warren Buffett invests in businesses run by managers who obsess over the tiniest costs. He one acquired a company whose owner counted the sheets in rolls of 500-sheet toilet paper to see if he was being cheated (he was). He also admired a friend who painted only on the side of his office building that faced the road. Exercising vigilance over every expense can make your profits -- and your paycheck -- go much further.

NOTE: Debbie counts the toilet paper sheets at home. She is usually concerned that her cupons don't lose their value.

6. Limit What You Borrow: Living on credit cards and loans won't make you rich. Warren Buffett has never borrowed a significant amount -- not to invest, not for a mortgage. He has gotten many heart-rendering letters from people who thought their borrowing was manageable but became overwhelmed by debt. His advice: Negotiate with creditors to pay what you can. Then, when you're debt-free, work on saving some money that you can use to invest.

NOTE: Sammy never subscribed to this. He not only lived on credit cards but was always ordering new ones with lower interest rates. Trouble was ... he used the old ones and the new ones regularly. Even today, he insists that he got a good deal.

7. Be Persistent: With tenacity and ingenuity, you can win against a more established competitor. Warren Buffett acquired the Nebraska Furniture Mart in 1983 because he liked the way its founder, Rose Blumkin, did business. A Russian immigrant, she built the mart from a pawnshop into the largest furniture store in North America. Her strategy was to undersell the big shots, and she was a merciless negotiator. To Warren Buffett, Rose embodied the unwavering courage that makes a winner out of an underdog.

NOTE: Deb and I have different strategies when we make a purchase. Deb will research price, look for the best place to buy and negotiate when she gets there. I usually ask for the price and then buy it. (and I am a decendent of Russian immigrants ... or Polish or French ... whatever).

8. Know When To Quit: Once, when Warren Buffett was a teen, he went to the racetrack. He bet on a race and lost. To recoup his funds, he bet on another race. He lost again, leaving him with close to nothing. He felt sick -- he had squandered nearly a week's earnings. Warren Buffett never repeated that mistake. Know when to walk away from a loss, and don't let anxiety fool you into trying again.

NOTE: What? Is he crazy?

9. Assess The Risk: In 1995, the employer of Warren Buffett's son, Howie, was accused by the FBI of price-fixing. Warren Buffett advised Howie to imagine the worst-and-bast-case scenarios if he stayed with the company. His son quickly realized that the risks of staying far outweighed any potential gains, and he quit the next day. Asking yourself "and then what?" can help you see all of the possible consequences when you're struggling to make a decision -- and can guide you to the smartest choice.

NOTE: When I was younger, I once worked at a store in New Orleans that ripped off the customers by over charging and selling things that they didn't need. I knew that it was wrong so I quit Nieman Marcus that very day.

10. Know What Success Really Means: Despite his wealth, Warren Buffett does not measure success by dollars. In 2006, he pledged to give away almost his entire fortune to charities, primarily the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He's adamant about not funding monuments to himself -- no Warren Buffett buildings or halls. "I know people who have a lot of money," he says, "and they get testimonial dinners and hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them. When you get to my age, you'll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you, actually do love you. That's the ultimate test of how you've lived your life."

NOTE: I LOVE YOU, Warren ... please send the check to J..o..e..l M..o..m......

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What do Theater Chairs, Elton John and Sno-Balls have in common?

Brookstone: Not Cool???
Been a little lax with my blog entries lately. Sure I've been busy at work, I'm also writing another novel and a nonfiction book and been trying to spend more time with the family. But those are flimsy excuses. 

Everybody is busy. Debbie sure is ... planting St. Joseph statues upside down all over the place to sell houses and writing personalized novenas. She tried to get me to carry one upside down in my pocket last week. Wonder what that's about? 

Last week we were "communicating" about things. Actually, Debbie turned off the TV set and asked me what I REALLY wanted as new seating elements in my man cave.

"Theater seats," I said.

"No REALLY want." 

"That is what I really want. It's the same thing I said I wanted last week and last month and six months ago."

"We really need to have a discussion about this."

"We did. I like theater seats."

"I know but Michael (who helps her look for furniture and fixtures like the big balls in the dining room) says that no one uses theater seats anymore."

"Theaters still do."

"Yeah but not people in their homes."

Yes they do. I looked it up on line. Thirty six websites I found sold home theater seats including Brookstone. I knew I'd find it. You see, when Debbie asks me what I really want, it's so she can talk me into what she really wants which are not theater chairs. She wants to put a sofa in there. I know I'm not going to get them but I won't give up without a fight. It's just like our "conversations" about soft water (I beg her to get rid of it in the shower) and the big three ton leaning mirror that takes a crane to hang.

Speaking of Debbie ... she did the sweetest thing this weekend. 

This weekend, she surprised me with a birthday trip that we had to delay because of our work schedules. Told me to pack my bag and kept it secret (almost the whole time) and flew us to New Orleans for a stay at Harrah's and a concert with Elton John. 

Great trip ... here are some pictures:
Here's Elton embracing the crowd. He's 67 years old and sounds like he's only 66 .... naw ... really sounds incredible and plays like a kid. Great concert at the Smoothie King Arena (a name that is almost as good as the 1- 800 Ask Gary Amphitheater).

Deb and I at Cafe du Monde just like tourists. The one exception is that we don't wait in line for a table ... we just find an open one and order.

That's what the natives do. 

Here's a sno-ball truck!

For those who think that they know what a sno-ball is but prefer to call them Snow Cones ... hah! NO WAY you have ever had a son-ball from New Orleans. I long for Hansen's Sno-balls. Shaved ice that is indescribable.

They are still making them after 75 years.

Flavors have gotten ever more exotic over the years.Hansen's is on Tchoupitoulas St. By the way ... if you can pronounce the name of their street, you can eat a sno-ball with pride.

And lookie here .... I am passed out on the way back to the airport riding in the back of .... wait for it ... a stretch limo that Harrah's provided. Debbie was very suspicious:

"Okay ... How much DID you spend gambling, Joel?"

"Honey ... they just like me."


Okay ... I guess I'll go with a couch in the cave.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

St. Joe's Knows

This week, Debbie and her sister Lee have had some challenges in the real estate market.

Apparently, these challenges were more serious than I thought because Lee visited St. Jude's to buy some St. Joseph's statues. Now ... many of you who are not Catholic might not be aware of what I will tell you next. I just found this out myself.

If you bury a St. Joseph's staute in your yard, your house will sell faster.

I'm not kidding. There is a whole industry out there for this. You can buy a St. Joe's Home Sales Kit for $5.95. There are instructions and a novena included:

1. Make a hole in the ground that is large enough to bury the St. Joseph statue (in protective wrap) vertically.
2. Place the statue upside down in the ground.

3. Face the upside down statue TOWARDS the home that is to be sold.

4. For nine consecutive days, pray to St. Joseph (Novena included).

5. Once the home is sold, remove the statue from the ground.

6. Display the statue in a place of honor in the new home.

There are numerous stories about the origin of this tradition. One dates back to the Middle Ages. An order of European nuns once buried a medal of St. Joseph while asking the saint to help them get a convent. Another was connected to German carpenters who buried the statues in the foundations of houses they built.

Whatever the origin ... it continues with Debbie and Lee (better known as the Catholic sisters of St. Pete). I think they should have a tagline on their business cards:

"The Catholic sisters, serving your every real estate need ... one statue at a time."

HOME MOVIES (click here)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dinner at the "Mia"

Went to dinner late last night at Italia Mia in St. Pete.

It is THE BEST Italian restaurant on the planet. Okay ... so I haven't tried all the Italian restaurants on the planet  ... but this one is pretty darn fantastic. Not much to look at, it's located in a strip mall on 62nd Ave North (1165 to be exact), but I love it.

The owner hangs out in the kitchen ... you'll see him as you walk through the door. His name is Pompello and he always has a TB Rays cap on.  When he sees me, he will yell ... "Hey! You been to Vegas lately? How much-a you win?"

My buddy Mike introduced me to the "Mia" about 10 years ago ... maybe more ... we used to eat lunch there a lot when I worked in St. Pete. A mother/daughter team usually served us. The mom had a string of boyfriends, all bikers and all ticked her off at some point. She served them some interesting dishes when she was unhappy. Not sure any of them are still alive. Her daughter told us all about her family. I remember her little girl ... only about 5 years old at the time ... and getting ready for Christmas. She was busy buying her presents, all in pink which was her favorite color: Pink crossbow, pink hunting knives and a pink blowgun, I think.

They are gone now but the rest of the wait staff is pretty much the same. They are always friendly, always talking to you as if you are eating in their dining room at home and no one has secrets.

I order either chicken cacciatore or a tuna sub ... not that there aren't other great things to eat. The menu is filled with delicious pizzas, calzones, pasta dishes with sauces to die for and the portions are HUGE. Deb and I usually split the cacciatore (when it's not Lent ... like last night). She had a tuna salad. The bread ... by the way ... is the best part of the meal big hot crispy Italian rolls.

Whether you live in Tampa or Wisconsin it's worth a trip to Italia Mia. You'll be hooked.

BUY THIS BOOK. It's by a very famous world renowned author ... Joel Momberg

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