The Girl That Glowed With a Thousand Splendid Suns

Being wanted is a feeling that is innate and borne into us as soon as we leave the womb and feel that loving embrace from our mother, someone who truly and unconditionally wants us… most of the time. I have completely forgot what it felt like to be wanted after being stuck in a relationship for almost a decade where our relationship was devoid of emotional connection and I truly believe neither party “wanted” the other. There are tonnes of baggage, disappointments, and sadness that has festered and allowed to stew to create a horrendous cyst that was drained every now and then but always kept growing back because the root was never removed – and I personally did not think it could be. We stayed together for so long because of our daughter but the Universe finally said enough is enough and gave me a sign to move on and my gut has taken me so far in this world so I decided to proceed. This story takes place one month after the separation and is another fulcrum moment in my life that I will always cherish. This happened on Friday and it’s currently early Tuesday morning therefore I wanted to get my feelings down of what I felt before my memories and emotions start to blur and it’s not as poignant. My hope is that I can look back on this post when I’m in a spot where love has left me and I’ve become callous, that it can remind me that there is love out there and it’s the best high you can get. Warning – major cheese ahead, proceed with caution and eyeballs ready to roll backwards.

A Going Away Party at Suki’s Karaoke Bar
A member of our MBA cohort was leaving back to his hometown so we all got together for one last time at this bar which I use to drive past all the time when I worked out in Hillsboro but have never noticed. I walked in around 9:30 PM or so when the party started at 8 because I was busy watching LeBron James try to come back from a 3-0 Finals deficit. I enjoyed the atmosphere because there was a diversity of folks – a group of cosplaying friends, the long-term couples in the back, the college kids in the corner, and the creepy old guy right in front watching the drunken Asian guy sing Amish Paradise. There were eight of us with six being part of the cohort and the other two girls being friends. Things started uneventful as I just went to the bar to catch up by drinking summer shandys… I can’t help it but they’re delicious. After about three of those I was ready to karaoke!!
Focus is Great but Learn to Look Up Once in a While
During this time, I had taken an interest into one of our cohort members and spent the majority of the night talking with her. My plan was, as corny as it sounds, to sing “As Lovers Go” by Dashboard Confessional to explain to her my feelings – I know right, what is this? High school? But the plan was foiled by the DJ not having that song so I settled for some “All You Wanted” by Michelle Branch which is an awesome melody in itself but didn’t quite get the message across, but it was also a super fun song to sing. So after the song, and a few more beers, I went to talk to my cohort member some more and came off way too forward. Like when you take that leap with your crush and you wish you can get back on the ledge but that train has choo-choo’ed away. Anyways, she was not interested. A quick detour in the story but I tried to see if it would work over the weekend by messaging her but she was not having it – I was almost about to buy her a gift/flowers and have it sent to her but before I did I googled “when to know when to stop trying to get someone who is not interested” or something like that and found this absolute gem of an article by Love Panky: here is the link. First and foremost, I do not blame her for anything. I completely understand that everyone has their preferences and clearly I was not her type and it was hard for me to understand that at the time but the article helped me overcome that mindset. Anyway, I had spent the entire night focusing on someone who had absolutely no interest in me that I did not notice the stunning girl sitting across the table from me.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
I honestly don’t recall how it happened but we ended up drinking canned Tecate at a table all to ourselves. The alcohol was flowing and we ended up starting to get closer and closer then I had flashbacks to middle school of playing the “nervous” game where you would creep your hand up until the other person said they were nervous – we were as nervously close as could be. When the orange musky bar light illuminated her face, the first thing I noticed was that her face was kissed with hundreds of freckles. They were generated randomly yet somehow in all the chaos of genetics, their beauty was undeniable. The first thing that popped into my mind when I first saw those freckles was that it made her face radiantly beautiful and bore the glow of a thousand splendid suns. Now whenever I see another freckled face, hers will always be the golden standard that I would set all else to.
Living in the Moment
It all started with her hair being all frizzy on one side because of the humidity I guess, not sure since I don’t have long girl hair. As soon as I reached up to fix her hair, to her great surprise, I felt a strange surge of warmth that was mixed with desire and acceptance. She asked if I did that to truly fix her hair or if I was just trying to touch her and I replied both, and she whispered that she liked it. I repeated the kind gesture a second time but this time she reached up to hold my brushing hand and gravity pulled us together in a delicate embrace. It was the first time I kissed a different woman in almost a decade and it was life changing. I cannot speak for her, but for me, it was so eventful for me because I was currently in a state where I was unsure of myself. Was I attractive? How am I going to recover from being in such a long relationship? What if I’m a terrible single person and no one wants to date me? Should I just go back to the safety of my ex and forgive? But her kiss showed me that yes, there is more than one girl in this world. When our eyes entwined, I saw something that I haven’t seen in many, many years… my longing for that person being accepted and then mutually reciprocated. The Universe has a great sense of humor if you haven’t noticed, how do I know? Because for the brief moment that my ears became lucid, I heard some drunk dude signing Mirrors by Justin Timberlake and among many other things, that song will forever remind me of her. It was a beautiful experience in my life because for that brief moment in time, I was utterly and completely lost in her soulful chocolate eyes. I felt like Leo and his wife in Inception where they had already spent a lifetime together in what amounted to just a fraction of time in reality. I didn’t care that the night would eventually end, I didn’t care if there were people staring at us, or that I will probably never see her again after tonight. For once in my life, I was in the moment and not thinking about the next step. I will forever be indebted and grateful to her for giving me an experience that I will cherish it for as long as I need it.
Be Patient, There is Love Out There and It’s Beautiful
In our marketing classes, we saw a TedTalk with Drew Dudley talking about lollipop moments where an insignificant event in your own personal life makes a profound impact on somebody else’s. In his case, it was telling a shy guy to give a lollipop to the girl standing in front of him in line, that small ice breaker led to the two being married several years later. Once again, I can’t speak for her and this might just be another drunken random make-out session in a bar but to me it was an epiphany and a reminder that there are people out there who are interested in you and are more than willing to reciprocate your love. I have nothing but complete admiration for her, I feel as if she was an angel sent down to help lift my spirits and all I can pray for is that I made her feel happy in our short moment together.

How I Cut the Cord and Got Rid of My Cable Bill

My favorite part of Gardetto’s Original Mix is the roasted garlic rye chips and I would only eat those if I could but nope! Gardetto’s makes you buy the entire bag with all the other bull crap and won’t let you pick out those rye chips by themselves. This is exactly how I feel about cable packages. They bundle all this crap together and make you pay for it but you really only want ESPN, TNT, and BeIn Sports!! And it has been this way for decades with no other place to go but just like how Gardetto’s finally got wise and made the Special Request: Roasted Garlic Rye Chips bag, somebody has finally come up with an offering that fits YOUR wants rather than what THE CABLE COMPANY wants and what works best for THEIR contract agreements. Join me on this journey to learn how I cut the cord and custom fitted my TV entertainment to what I wanted and ditched a $170.92 cable bill from Comcast.

A cable bill just like everyone else’s
Yup you read that correctly, $170.92. This was the Xfinity Premier Double Play with DVR and 2 extra boxes and 100 mbs internet. Sure it was pretty great having 200+ channels but when you’re only watching 5 of those, it’s quite a big waste of money! Just thinking about how much myself and other people have spent on unwatched channels just makes me sick, $170.92 * 12 months = $2,051.04 per year!! You can take a pretty solid weekend vacation for $2,000 bucks! That’s a lot of clothes! A lot of drinking! A lot of restaurant time with the people you love! But nope, it’s getting spent on things that are of no use to anyone except for the cable company. Going through my debt-free journey, I’ve learned to be INTENTIONAL with my money and this was clearly a monthly payment that was not.

Step 1: Deciding on what Internet package to get
I could have stayed with Comcast and reduced my package down to just internet but I’ve quit from DirecTV before and if you want to have constant phone calls and letters about why you quit and if you want to upgrade your package then please go this route. I wanted a CLEAN CUT. I considered it a white lie when I told Comcast that I was cancelling because I was moving overseas. This was the best part, they asked if there was someone who could keep using the services I set up or if I knew of someone I could transfer my package to… wtf do you even mean! I HIGHLY recommend telling them the reason for cancelling is that you’re moving overseas because I haven’t received one phone call or letter from Comcast where DirecTV still calls and sends me letters when I have told them repeatedly to fuck off, just like that bad ex.

I decided to go to with Frontier because I had them before so I knew they were reliable and they were also cheap at $40/month for 30 mbs speed. Since I didn’t game anymore and we have a fairly small household, this was the perfect package for me. The worst part? Having to take a fucking day off so that they could hook-up my internet which took 15 minutes because I was a previous customer. Yes, let’s make our CUSTOMERS wait for us to install OUR shit and don’t let them pick a time, just tell them we’re going to be there sometime between 8 FUCKING AM AND 5 MOTHERFUCKING PM… what a joke. WHERE IS GOOGLE FIBER?!?!

SOFTWARE

Step 2: Tailoring YOUR entertainment package
I NEED SPORTS!!! This ultimately led me to have the package that I currently have along with what makes my parents happy as well. Although one sacrifice I had to make was giving up my soccer matches because I couldn’t find a good alternative and I didn’t watch that much anymore anyways. So here is what my subscription/software package entails:

Netflix = $9.99/month
I feel like this is an absolute must for that price. There are not many things that cost $10 that give me as much entertainment value as Netflix. Just think of all the great shows available on there: OITNB, Stranger Things, Marco Polo, Narcos, Master of None, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and so many great movies. This is the bare minimum.

Sling TV = $13.99 (T-Mobile Discount, usually the price is $19.99/month)
This is also a necessity for my situation because it gives me the Big 3 of ESPN, ESPN2, and TNT (for NBA basketball – LeBRON JAMES!!). It also gives me the Travel Channel and CNN which I really don’t care for but my parents love.

Amazon Prime = $99/year or $8.25/month
I mostly got this because of the free 2-day shipping but they also have movies and music available to stream. Not gonna lie but I haven’t watched a Prime movie or show since I’ve gotten it, however, my parent’s like the foreign movies on there so at least someone is using it. Once again, this is essential not necessarily for the entertainment value but that 2 day shipping is unbeatable, freaking LOVE IT!!!

Total Monthly Subscription = $9.99 + 13.99 + 8.25 + $39.99 = $72.22 for a total savings of $98.70!! WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH AN EXTRA $100/MONTH??!!?

HARDWARE

Mohu Leaf 50 = $49.92
If you’re a sports fan, then this is another piece of cutting the cord that you can’t escape. The Mohu Leaf 50 lets you pick up the local channels but why is this important? COLLEGE FOOTCHIE BALL, THE NFL, AND THE NBA FINALS!! WHAT MORE DO I NEED TO SAY? But be sure to check what kind of channels you can expect to pick up with the Leaf – here’s the FCC website. It’s kinda funky because I get ABC, NBC, CBS downstairs but not FOX, however, in my parents room upstairs, they get ALL of the Fantastic Four channels.
Amazon Fire TV = $64.99 (Refurbished)
This Fire TV itself is not that amazing but paired with Amazon Prime and Kodi, the Fire TV has no rival. You can also use the Fire Stick which works just as well but cheaper. I would talk more about Kodi but let’s just say that the first rule of Kodi is that you don’t talk about Kodi. It’s kinda like Pirate Bay but except with streaming, and that’s all I have to say about that. Kodi is what will fill all the gaps in your entertainment needs, believe me.

Total hardware costs = $49.92 + 64.99 = $114.91 => ONE TIME COST TO GET THAT STUPID ASS CABLE COMPANY OUT OF YOUR LIFE!!! Except for the internet… still no solution to that oligopoly. COME ON GOOGLE FIBER!!!

So if you’re like me and so freaking tired of dealing with the cable companies bullshit then cut the cord!! I’m not going to lie, I was afraid at first because what am I going to do without my OPTION of 200 channels?!?! Well It’s been 6 months now and I’ve never been more happy with my entertainment package. I do hear some cries from my mom because the soccer matches are a lot harder to find but everything else is copacetic.

STOP THROWING YOUR MONEY AWAY AT SHIT YOU’LL NEVER USE!!!

CUT THE CORD!!!

What It’s Like Owning Your Dream Car

A Ferrari Enzo? How about a Porsche 911 Turbo? Maybe a Lamborghini Aventador? Perhaps a Lykan HyperSport? NO THANKS!!! My dream car is a Honda S2000 and I have loved every minute that I have owned this wonderful, beautiful, and absolutely kickass car. It was love at first sight when my virgin eyes were forever changed with the most exotic thing I’ve ever seen – a black Honda S2000 with them sweet ass decals and that NOS absolutely decimating poor Jesse’s VW. And of course those iconic words coolly whispered by Johnny “House of Ogedei” Tran, “Too Soon, Junior.”

johnny-tran-s2k

Since that moment in time, I knew that someday I would have the privilege and honor of owning my own Honda S2000 and luckily that day came sooner rather than later. In the year of my quarter-century, the tipping point came when Tiffany got herself a new Honda Fit and I got bit by both the jealously bug and the S2K centipede (why a centipede? well if you’ve ever seen one move, it’s sexy as hell and very intriguing – just like the S). I began the search and found a completely stock one at CarMax with only 45k miles and one previous owner – it was one that I just couldn’t pass up! And to sweeten the deal, it was a free transfer from California! So I got a loan from LightStream and next thing you know my dad was teaching me how to drive a manual transmission in the Lowe’s parking lot! The car has been an absolute orgasm to drive and I’ve learned a few things from not only owning my first car but my DREAM car!

20151001_161229

1. Driving Can Be Fun, Especially If It’s Manual
I’ve always looked at driving as getting from point A to point B although I knew how exhilarating going fast can be as I drive my motorcycle in the summer but those are two completely different categories, it’s like comparing lamb and tuna fish – it just doesn’t make sense. I never thought the acceleration of 1st gear and then shifting into 2nd could put such a fat-ass smile on my face, I literally screamed out-loud because it was that awesome. And then hearing that awesome roar of VTEC when I hit 6.5k RPM, I don’t think I felt that kind of an adrenaline rush since I jumped out of a plane. And the incredible thing is, I still get that feeling every time I drive that freaking car! I also met a great group of people who also enjoyed driving their S2000’s and the group showed me there are fantastic roads to push the limits of your S2K – I highly recommend joining the enthusiast group of your dream car, everyone shares the same love that you do for the vehicle.

20160521_125414

2. It Feels Different When You Have the Title and OWN the Car
This might have to do with me going through my debt-free journey with the car payment. I had the constant battle of should I sell this car so I can get out of debt faster because at the time I could basically sell it and not lose any money. But, I decided to stick through it because I didn’t want to be one of those guys who had to sell their beloved cars because they got in a financial bind and it gave me extra motivation because this was the first car I bought and also my dream baby. I kept and car and cleared my debts and as soon as I got that title the car just started to sound different and handle differently. This is MY CAR, not the banks’, not the lenders’, nobody’s but MINE, MINE, MINE! It was the first major personal asset I had and it felt absolutely incredible to own it outright.

grace-mcqueen

3. You Don’t Give a Shit About What Other People Are Driving
I was a little envious of my peers driving sweet ass cars like BMWs, Audis, Subaru’s, Lexus’, and of course my girlfriend’s brand new Honda Fit! But one thing I learned about this dream car process is the horrors of having a car payment and how many people are throwing away money in a depreciating asset where they can “afford” the payments. I read an article that said the average car payment in the US was $457/month!! That was believable to me since my own car payment was $267/month and my mom’s was $650/month for her 2013 Honda Pilot. So instead of putting that $5,500/year into a Roth IRA, you’re putting it in an “asset” that goes down in value with every single mile driven. I daily a shitty 1999 Toyota Camry and feel completely fine with that because I know I got my queen in my garage and when I look at these new cars, I just feel sorry for the buyers and their monthly car payment.

If you have the opportunity to purchase your dream car, DO IT!!!! But only if you can do it with cash and avoid that car payment! I don’t ever plan on selling my car because it has too much sentimental value tied to it and I don’t foresee myself ever being in a financial pinch where I’m forced to sell it.

VTEC JUST KICKED IN YO!!

How I Got Debt-Free!!!!

I’m not special.

I don’t come from a wealthy family, I didn’t win the lottery, and I don’t have a 6-figure income, nor am I a genius.

I’m your typical Millennial that graduated college with student loans, although I’m in the STEM field with a decent income for a recent graduate. My goal is to help inspire Millennials and other generations that debt is not a way of life, not everyone has debt and there is a plan to help guide you through the process. Below is the story of my financial paradigm shift from a typical American to a Debt-Free believer.

Living Like Everyone Else
The initial point of my debt-free journey occurred a few weeks after my 26th birthday on a February Sunday in 2015. Up to this point, I was extremely comfortable with my life and thought that I was financially secure. I graduated from Oregon State in 2012 with an engineering degree and had a job already lined up at graduation making $56,000/year which is something that was unfathomable to a broke college student like I was. Fast forward to 2015 and here I was saddled with student loan and credit card payments and to my great chagrin, a car payment because I felt that I could “afford” my dream car (a Honda S2000). I also got wrapped up in a bad video game addiction that had been haunting me all my life since I got a Nintendo Gameboy. My life was falling into a rut where I was blinded and falling into a deep, deep hole. I would go to work, go home, play video games, pay bills, sleep, and repeat the process. The video game addiction was starting to interfere with my personal life where I would spend my weekdays when I got off work and more than 20+ hours on the weekends playing games. It also started to seep into my work performance and that’s when I knew that things were starting to get bad.

Dave Ramsey and a Cold Turkey
I’ve always been a fan of personal finance with my interest starting at a young age where I asked my parents at 16 to help me open a Roth IRA so I could see what it was like to purchase stocks and mutual funds. I had a credit card with my mom at 15 and had a checking account along with a savings account therefore I considered myself “financially savvy” for my young age. Now as an emerging adult, the name Dave Ramsey came up a few times through my forays into the personal finance space of the internet but I never really paid him any attention. My coworker introduced me to podcasts and I downloaded a few episodes of the Dave Ramsey Show on my phone but didn’t listen to them – I was too addicted to the Serial podcast! Little did I know, the planets were already aligning to open the gate for my Debt-Free journey.

On a Sunday night in early February after a 16 hour bender of video games (DotA being my drug of choice) I stumbled like a zombie back to my room that I share with Alexis (daughter) and Tiffany (girlfriend) – we sleep on a bunk bed 😀 As I climbed the short ladder to the top bunk, Alexis’ butterfly night light illuminated both of their faces perfectly and flashed an epiphany in my mind. I heard a voice asking me if I loved my video games more than my family and why I couldn’t see the unintentional pain that I was causing them. Rather than spending time with them and putting them to sleep, I was in the other room wasting my life away in an unforgiving virtual realm. My inner eye was finally opened to the potential repercussions of my current path: losing my job, alienating my family, destroying my other relationships, and extinguishing any potential I had in this life. As I lay in bed, I made a vow that I would quit playing video games and I would refocus my energy to better my life. As corny as it sounds, I shook my own hand because I’ve always believed that a man is only as good as his word and that was a principle that I lived on.

The following morning I deleted DotA from my laptop along with the back-up file I had in my external hard drive therefore I had no way of getting the game again without considerable effort. I know I needed something else to latch on now that I didn’t have video games preoccupying my time. That same morning on my drive to work I decided to listen to my downloaded Dave Ramsey episodes and the rest is history…

Battle of the 5 Debts
I put pen to paper and listed my debts from smallest to largest to visualize how big and mean this monster was that I had to vanquish. The evil horde consisted of five demonic debts:
1. Phone Bill – $432 (I bought my mom a new iPhone for Mother’s day on a payment plan)
2. Credit Card – $1,645 (Remaining debt of my vacation to Florida TWO years prior)
3. Student Loans – $15,034 (I received my BS from Oregon State in Construction Engineering Management)
4. Car Loan – $18,968 (My beautiful Grace, a 2005 Honda S2000 with 45k miles)
5. Parent PLUS Loans – $44,052 (My parents sacrificed so much to put me through college therefore I wanted to repay them by taking over the loan payments)

Total = $80,131

The Debt Snowball
Dave Ramsey’s recommendation to getting out of debt is using the “Debt Snowball Method” where you list your debts from smallest to largest regardless of interest rate and work your way up the ladder. Once you pay off a debt, you use that monthly payment and add it to the snowball so that when you’re on your final debt the snowball resembles an avalanche! The debt-snow ball is a simple equation:

Debt Snowball = Income – Expenses

To increase the rate of paying off debt there is only 2 variables that you can modify, either increasing your income or lowering your expenses. I did as much as I could to change both variables so that I could finish this journey ASAP! I was making too much money to be so broke, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. My initial timeline showed me completing the journey in 26 months.

The most important thing I learned about getting debt free is that it’s not your weekend 5k fun run, it is Forrest Gump running across the country!! It requires 100% commitment from you physically, mentally, and spiritually – you will not succeed unless you get “gazelle-intense” and take it seriously.

Increasing Income
I knew I had to increase my income if I wanted to tackle this debt and Dave talks about getting a part-time job with pizza delivery being his go-to job recommendation. I didn’t think being a pizza delivery boy would work for me because A) I had a full-time job and the hours could potentially conflict B) my hours would vary from week to week. Therefore I searched for part-time jobs on Craigslist and found a perfect one! I was going to be a garbage man!

ZipEco (formerly Ecommunity)
The job was from 8-11 PM every day of the week except for Tuesday and Friday nights which basically meant that I would have to skew my work/life balance to the extreme. The other dagger was that it was in Vancouver, WA therefore I had a 40 minute commute each way to get to work. Fortunately, the pay was good and I had a fixed schedule that I could work with.

The apartment complex I was servicing consisted of 188 units and the tenants would leave their trash and recyclables in containers in front of their doors. My job was to carry these items from the door step to a centralized area that included a trash compactor and recycling bins. It was a physically demanding job but I was not scared of doing manual labor because I’ve spent many summers doing those types of jobs. Another odd thing was I never complained or felt angry about doing this job because I was doing the job for a greater purpose. I was “living like no one else so that later I could live like no one else.” That was my life for 12 months, I would work at my day job as an engineer till 4:30 PM, go home to eat and usually take a quick nap, head off to my part-time trash job at 7:00 PM, get home at 11:30 PM and then wake up at 6:00 AM to lather, rinse, and repeat. Adding this part-time job helped me reduce my journey by 9 months!

Additional Income
I did various things to increase my income as much as possible including:
Driving for Uber
Selling Plasma
• Selling everything I could on Craigslist
• Liquidating my stocks ($10,000) and decreasing my savings account from $15,000 to $1,000
• Taking out all the money that I had saved for Alexis’ college fund ($5,500)
• Selling all my silver at a 60% loss (never buying commodities as an investment again!)
• Eliminated my CarMax warranty (I didn’t even know you could do this until Dave mentioned it on his radio show)

Lowering Expenses
The greatest expense reducer I had was being able to live with my parents – if you have this option available then I highly suggest moving in with your parents to help boost your debt-free journey. Of course, make sure everyone is on the same page with a goal in mind of when you’re going to move out and what expenses you’ll be helping with. I am an only child and in the Vietnamese culture it’s not odd that children live with their parents for a prolonged time period – my grandma is currently living with my aunt and has lived with us as well for several years. I don’t pay rent but I do pay utilities to aid my parents in their household expenses and I also promised them I would take on additional expenses once I’m finished with this journey. Living with my parents has been a tremendous boost to me getting debt-free because they gave me support and have helped me cover so many typical expenses that I don’t have to pay for like laundry and groceries. I could not have done this without my parents.

Public Transportation
Another aspect of reducing my expenses was no longer driving to work but taking the public railway and even better my company pays for 50% of the public transportation costs! Another added benefit was now I get to read books instead of sitting in traffic. I usually spent around $20 on gas a week and countless wasted hours but now my commuting cost was $12.5/week which equates to almost $400 a year – this doesn’t include the wear and tear on the vehicle and of course the decreased probability of getting in a traffic accident which is astronomically higher due to Oregonian’s terrible, horrible, no-good driving abilities.

Bringing Lunch from Home
I started to bring my own lunch instead of going to fast-food restaurants. Typically, I was spending around $6 for lunch every day and eating non-healthy foods – the simple math shows that I was spending $30/week or $1,560/year on eating out at lunch. Bringing my own food allowed me to eat healthier and eliminated a big expense that I never really thought about.

No Social Life
A sacrifice I made was that I rarely, if ever, went to any entertainment or social events with friends and family. I didn’t go out to dinner, no movies, and no more nights out to the bars and clubs. This made me miss going away parties, birthday parties, celebratory parties, and all awesome parties in general! I was okay with making this sacrifice because it was only a temporary pause on my social life, I only needed 2 years to complete the journey and then I could enjoy myself without charging a big night out and then paying for it in monthly installments.

Stopping 401(k) Contribution
This cut was probably the moment I knew that I was fully committed to my Debt-Free journey. I loved investing in my 401(k) but I was diluting my goal by spending potential debt money into an investment. I was basically borrowing debt to be able to invest and that was not a smart move. I did a calculation on what I was giving up from my company match by not investing in the 401(k) and it was around $1,500 a year but to get the match I was also “sacrificing” $3,000 of income. I decided that I was diving into this thing 1,000% and changed my contribution to 0% and didn’t look back! Of course, when I get debt-free I will bump my contributions back to 15% as taught in Baby Step 4.

I’M DEBT FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!
This has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. It required me to be fully committed to a goal that demanded my body, my mind, my relationships, and every inch of my life. I had to do a complete paradigm shift of my thoughts about money and how I viewed debt. I literally lived like no one else and now I can finally live like no one else. I sacrificed and took every principle Dave offered to help me through this journey. I was able to pay off my $80,000 of debt faster than I imagined and finished in 12 months! It’s really amazing how the universe starts to help you when you’re on this journey. I had money coming in from unexpected places and opportunities opened up that allowed me to get additional income. Break the chains that debt has on you because the borrower is truly a slave to the lender! I hope my story gives you inspiration to start your own debt-free journey because the view is magnificent from the top and when you don’t owe a single penny to anyone!!

There were two quotes I kept repeating as I went through this journey:

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse” – Jim Rohn

“Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else” – Dave Ramsey

I sacrificed a year of my life for an eternity of freedom and I would make the exchange again EVERY TIME.

My Battle with a Twitter Troll

I grew up in the internet age therefore I know all about trolls and trash talking on the internet. An internet troll is someone who lurks around the internet behind their veil of “anonymity” and makes senseless arguments and comments about hot-button issues just to entice a response from others – basically your virtual bully except much, much, much more dumb. Well, I happened to attract one after I wrote my blog post about what it was like driving for Uber in PDX. I’ve dealt with internet trolls through my gaming experiences but never on websites/Twitter/Facebook therefore I didn’t REALLY know that people went out of their way to make comments about others. From what I can gather, the troll was a cabbie who didn’t like Uber encroaching on their “time-tested” industry of taxi cab drivers. I don’t even know why I engaged in the pointless banter but it just goes to show you that the internet is full of idiots with opinions and you know what they say about opinions, “An opinion is like an asshole, everybody has one and it usually stinks.” The same guy also goes on to make comments on my blog but I didn’t publish them because I love freedom of speech as much as the next person but I see no point in publishing his pointless comments. Also, he’s a Ducks fan so that kinda explains a lot 🙂

It all started with me posting my blog on Twitter to garner traffic.
1 - Tweet about blogThen the wild troll appeared.
2 - 2nd call-outI tried to take the high road and thank him for talking about my blog. He also posted earlier about coming to do my job for a few hours like what I was doing to his.
3 - Free market!!And then a 3rd player jumps in and starts talking about cab driving being time-tested and we take a trip back to the future.

3 - MillenialsNext thing I know we’re talking about the generational battle against Millennials. I stole a joke from Key and Peele for my response.
4 - Going back in historyFinally, he asking if I drive for Lyft as well and how long I’ve wanted to be a cabbie then brags about how much he makes. This was our final interaction for the day and ends my idiotic rhetoric with dumb internet trolls.
5 - The Final BattleP.S. He then proceeds to post comments on my blog that I chose not to publish. Just goes to show you what people will say when they’re hiding behind their computer screen. FYI, @travisk is the CEO of Uber.
6 - Blog comments

5 Important Life Lessons I learned from Diablo II: Lord of Destruction

D2 CoversOne of the fondest memories of my childhood is playing Diablo II and the expansion pack Lord of Destruction. I’m sure anybody who has played any MMO can relate and say they’ve made great friends through the game and you truly get lost in that wonderful world. I played this fantastic game starting from 5th grade all the way up to 10th grade and stopped after that, however, there are people still playing the game! The game consists of choosing a hero class and then leveling them up by killing monsters through five different “Acts” and ultimately defeating the 3 Prime Evils of Mephisto, Diablo, and Baal in Acts III, IV, and V, respectively. You get better items and skills as you progress up your levels (maximum is 99) and once you “finish” the game then you’re free to go back to any Acts and kill more monsters. It seems repetitive and I truly don’t understand why I did thousands of cow levels, Baal runs, and Magic Finding quests but I loved every minute of it. People might say that playing video games is a waste of time but I feel that if you enjoy the time you’re spending on anything then it’s not a waste of time FOR YOU. It might not be the most productive thing you could be doing but you have a limited amount of time on this earth so you might as well enjoy it! Of course this mind set changes tremendously when you grow up and have that horrible disease called responsibilities. The game also taught me many great lessons that I’ve applied to my everyday life and helped shape who I am today – I thought I would share my experience for shits and giggles.

Lesson #1 – If you want to be GREAT at something, you need to put in the TIME

I spent a considerable amount of time playing D2 which I will go into further detail in Lesson #5. Let’s just say that if I used that time to read the dictionary instead then I would be able to recite the entire English language either starting from A and going to Z or from Z and going to A. I SPENT A LOT OF TIME PLAYING DIABLO 2! With all the effort and time I put it, it definitely showed in my account, items, knowledge, and characters that I had. By the time I quit the game, I was quite wealthy in this virtual world. I was rich enough to get any item in the game and was giving away items that people would literally jump up and down IRL if they found it during Magic Finding. To compare it to real life, I wasn’t rich as a Warren Buffet or Bill Gates but more like an Elon Musk or Mark Cuban. However, I started playing the game like everyone else: a level 1 hero with the default items. I put in the time to become great by learning about the game, the mechanics, how to trade, how to barter, how to maximize Magic Finding, and the relationship between players. As the saying goes, “There is no shortcut to any place worth going”. If you want to be great at something, then put in the time and you’ll see the fruits of your labor.

Lesson #2 – NEVER give your password to ANYONE

D2 Login

In this age of technology, this might be more important than ever. I learned the hard way not to entrust your password to anyone. This happened perhaps during 7th grade and I had multiple accounts however my main account was the one I entrusted to a friend. He wanted to see what my characters had and play on my account for a little bit. Being the nice guy that I was, I said sure go ahead since I had other accounts I could play on. I trusted him but the problem was that he then told my password to his other friend who I barely knew. Next thing I know, that dude changed the password on my account and would not give it back to me. It was extremely infuriating and it still boils my blood when I think of that interaction. If that guy is reading this and you know who you are, YOU’RE A PIECE OF SHIT! I wish that you never plug in any USB device the right way on your first try and always have to flip it AND that you always feel like sneezing but never get the satisfaction of being able to sneeze! Never give your password to anyone, I don’t care if it’s your mom or if you’re telling it to your cat! DON’T GIVE YOUR PASSWORD TO ANYONE!!

Lesson #3 – There is ALWAYS a way to make MONEY doing something you LOVE

I first found out about people selling Diablo items on eBay shortly after I started playing and finding it was impossible to trade for an Ume’s Lament with my measly items and wanted to buy it from someone. Unfortunately, I didn’t know anything about buying something on eBay or even how bank accounts worked. Fast forward to freshmen year of high school and I was now quite rich in Diablo 2 and had a large surplus of items that people would actually PAY for. Logically, I researched how to sell items on eBay and had my dad/mom help me set up the account and I learned a lot about the financial world through this small endeavor. I also learned how to market my product and make an appealing website for potential buyers – the name of my store was Khangaldinho’s Arsenal haha… blame it on my youth for that goofy name 🙂 The first item I ever sold was a 160/60 armor that was very similar to the image below for $12!! That’s a lot of money IMO for a VIRTUAL item and to a 14 year old who has never made a dime.
DuskShroudI sold over 100 items on eBay and made enough money to buy my own soccer cleats! I will never forget the feeling I got when I was able to buy those shoes with MY OWN MONEY! THAT I EARNED ALL BY MYSELF! They were golden Nike Mercurial Vapors and I still have those shoes to this day. I learned that there is always a way to make money with something, you just have to be creative about it or sell it in a way nobody has thought of before.

Lesson #4 – Plan and gather as much information as you can before proceeding with any endeavor.

D2 CharactersThis is a lesson I learned from wanting to play different hero classes and didn’t want to trudge through finding/trading items as I leveled up. I was lucky to be in a position where I could fully furnish any character I wanted with just a few days of trading. For every new character I created, I did extensive research on what the best items, builds, skill sets, and attribute allocations were. I searched forums, talked to players in-game, and ultimately modified the build according to my own knowledge of the game. Therefore, as soon as my character was created and “rushed” I was able to hit the ground running and didn’t waste time learning how the character worked, I already had everything planned and figured out from the start. This lesson has transcended to my everyday life where I do extensive research and calculations before I begin any time consuming task or something that has any risk aspect.

Lesson #5 – Video games can be EXTREMELY ADDICTING

As I mentioned, I spent a lot of time playing Diablo 2. For example, in the summer time I would wake up around 9 AM and start playing Diablo with bathroom and food breaks in between and play up until 2 AM and then wake up again at 9 AM to repeat the pattern for the next 3 months. I didn’t know what “addicted” meant as a kid because I was having so much fun playing and I had a lot of friends that played as well. I mean I went to soccer practice and tournaments and played with my friends outside like a normal kid but the majority of my time was definitely spent playing Diablo. It got so bad that my dad actually took out my Diablo 2 disk and SNAPPED IT IN HALF! I got a little addicted to other games as well like Star Craft and DotA but nothing was comparable to the time I spent playing D2. Be very careful of getting attached to video games and be cognizant of how much time you’re spending on these things – you can very, very easily get lost in the virtual realm. I would relate it to being at a casino, you sit down for a few games at the start of the night and next thing you know it’s 5 AM! This is the reason I never played Diablo III after being a die hard D2 fan – I knew I couldn’t handle it.

As silly as it sounds, Diablo 2 shaped me into the person I am today – for better or worse. Either way, I would never hesitate to take the Soul Stone and penetrate it into my head again!

Here is a photo of where I spent a lot of time in Tristram – in the COW LEVEL!!
The_Cow_KingPhoto sources:
(Photos 1,2,4) Blizzard Entertainment
(Photo 3) http://wiki.theamazonbasin.com/images/thumb/9/92/The_Cow_King.png/384px-The_Cow_King.png
(Photo 5) http://i42.tinypic.com/nqu0p3.png

What’s in your wallet?

“What’s in your wallet!?” is the famous slogan marketed into this world by Capital One and I think it’s a very fascinating way of looking into a person’s life through the perspective of their wallet’s contents. I’m not referring to a person’s financial standing but what they keep in their wallet and the reasoning for each item. I remember when I was out with my coworkers one night and we decided to pour our wallet’s contents on the bar table. There were people with entire novels inside their wallets! Carrying every punch card they’ve received from all the eateries along with a random library card from a place they’ve visited only once. This contrasted with the minimalist who carried a money clip that had only one credit card, one debit card, his license, and $20 in cash. It was very enjoyable for me to take a peek at someone’s life through their wallet and how to correlated with their personality. Therefore I thought it would be a good post topic: “What’s in MY wallet”.

Here is a corny photo I took of 80% of my wallet contents.
Whats in my walletDriver’s License
This is the quintessential item I have in my wallet as it acts as my main form of identification and, more importantly, bears the responsibility of allowing me to consume alcohol.

Contact Card
I put my business card in the front in the case of an emergency where first responders might need to contact someone during business hours. On the back of the card, I’ve listed (2) emergency contacts. The main card in the front is laminated while I carry (3) regular business cards just in case I might need to exchange one with a new business contact.

Health Insurance Card
This is also for an emergency situation for when I might have to be taken to a hospital. Of course if it’s a life or death situation then take me to the nearest hospital! But if it’s not then please take me to a place that’s within my network! If you’ve ever had a health emergency then I’m sure you know how the costs can quickly become astronomical – I once had a 15 minute ambulance ride that cost $1,400!

College Student ID
This is just to show that I’m always a BEAVER! And to test my youthful good lucks trying to get that college student discount whenever I can!

$40 Cash and $8 in spare change
I went the longest time without carrying cash because I would only use my credit card. I learned the hard way that I needed at least some cash on me when I went to Cartlandia and all the vendors were CASH ONLY – I was so hungry but I couldn’t “afford” any food with my stupid pieces of plastic rectangles. I picked $40 because it’s a good amount when you’re in a pinch like needing to buy a decent meal for you and your date; geting a cab home or to a friend’s house when you’re too drunk; buying that awesome Domo Kun plushy at the flea market; or making a quick $20 bet on the spot that you can hit the goal post from the 18 yard box. The reason I carry $8 in two dollar bills is solely to give to homeless folks I cross paths with. My parents have always taught me to give to needy folks whenever I can and this is something I do as a small act of kindness. For $2 they can buy a Big Gulp and hot dog at 7-Eleven – a deal that I take advantage of whenever I get the opportunity!

Debit Card
It’s not shown in the photo but I always carry my debit card just in case I need to withdraw money from my checking account. The odd thing is I keep a very low balance in my checking account at all times – it’s usually below $75. My checking account balance is low because I believe I can maximize my money by putting it in other areas rather than letting it sit in a no-interest checking account. US Bank gives you a couple of designs to choose from for your debit card and I picked the Broncos one because Tim Tebow was playing for them when I got the card. However, as soon as I received the card the Broncos freaking cut him!!! I’ve been stuck with a Broncos debit card but I’m not even a fan……

Credit Cards
I carry all eight of my credit cards with me (only 4 of my cards are shown – the sexy ones) because I put a small charge on them to prevent the credit card company from closing the account. My main card is the Chase Sapphire because the points don’t expire and I reconcile the points to get a big check when I’ve built up 10,000 points ($100). I constantly check to make sure all my cards are there because I don’t want to go through the hassle of losing a credit card and not “promptly” reporting it.

Those are the contents of what’s in my wallet. Hopefully you learned something new about me and the next time your getting drinks with your buds, take out your wallets and see what it says about them. Do this prior to getting wasted as you’ll most likely find out that several of your items are missing by the next morning.

What’s in YOUR wallet?!

My experience with selling/donating plasma

My first experience with blood donation was in high school as a 16 year old when I donated for the Red Cross when they came to my school. I thought it was really cool to be able to donate and save someone’s life and the experience has led me to become a lifetime blood donor however I haven’t done it in a few years. This initial experience allowed me to get familiar with the process and learning not to be afraid of the HUGE ASS needle that they stick in your arm! That’s okay with me since needles, like the cold, never really bothered me anyway! And as sickening as it sounds, I actually like to look at it when they stick me.

I heard about plasma “donation” on the radio when I was a senior in college and they advertised that you could make $300 a month by donating plasma. I’ve read multiple articles about the semantics battle between using the word donation vs. selling and the main argument is that it’s not donating if you’re getting paid for it. At the end of the day, you are giving your plasma to help others survive and live longer therefore call it whatever you want but the end product is still the same. I decided to check it out and it was pretty identical to donating whole blood with the Red Cross except it took longer and you can donate twice in a week while you can only donate whole blood once every 8 weeks. I’ve donated at three plasma centers which include two locations from the same company in Gresham and Hillsboro along with a center from a different company in Portland. Before I started to donate plasma, I wanted to get as much information about the process, what its actually like, what can I expect, how much do I get paid, what are the health effects, etc., as I could. Therefore, the premise of this blog post is to provide my personal experience with the process mixed with what I’ve read over the annals of the internet – I’m going to report on plasma donation through my scope of what I saw and how I saw it.

The first step that needs to be done is to see if there are any plasma donations near where you live – this can be accomplished with a simple Google search for “plasma donation centers”. There are several providers that should have multiple centers where you live and from my experience they don’t vary that much from one to the other. I’ve read that centers are usually located in areas where people need the money like near college campuses and in the low-income parts of town. The centers I’ve participated in definitely fit this stereotype and the donors give off the vibe of being on the lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder. But at the end of the day, we were all donors trying to get a quick buck.

Once you find the center then you will need to go through the initial screening process which will take approximately 2-4 hours.During the process they will do a routine physical, ask you questions about your health, test your blood pressure, and take samples of your blood. It takes this long only the first time, your next visits will usually take 10-20 minutes before you begin your donation process. You can choose to donate after you pass this screening or elect to give a sample of your blood and then donate within the next few days. For the sake of my story, I will assume you just gave the samples and will return for your donation at a later date.

The following paragraphs is what you can expect when you decide to sell/donate your plasma as they are eerily similar at all locations. Once you enter the plasma center, you will go to the designated kiosk area where you sign-in with your thumbprint and answer similar questions that were asked in your initial health screening. If you’ve donated whole blood with the Red Cross before these questions will be very familiar like are you sick today, do you have any new tattoos, have you taken drugs monobobopoopo, coochietera, or tooko, have you ever had HIV, do you live with anyone with Hepatitis, yadda, yadda, yadda. There are approximately 20-30 questions and it’ll take you at least 5 minutes because you cannot move to the next question since they are timed. Here is a picture of the kiosk:Questionnaire KioskAfter you complete your questionnaire at the kiosk you will sit down in a lobby or wait in line until you’re called by a technician to complete your shortened health screening. Below is a picture of the lobby of the place I used to donate at in Portland. I’ve covered the face of the individuals to protect their privacy.
Main waiting roomDepending on how crowded the center is, you could wait anywhere from 2 minutes to an hour. When I donated at the center in Hillsboro it only took 2 minutes because it was new and basically empty around the time I came in (6:00 PM which is their closing time) while at the Gresham center it took closer to an hour because it was packed all the freaking time. The nurse will call you up and take you to a private room/stall where they will begin the blood screening process to make sure you’re healthy enough to donate that day. Here is a photo of what that room looks like, sorry for the potato quality.
About to get tested!You’ll quickly find out that they ask for your full name and last 4 digits of your social security very often. Not sure if this is to verify if you’re the same person (I know, I know…) or to make sure you’re still thinking properly and not high off your ass. You can’t see in the photo above but there is a scale just behind the chair and that is what they’ll have you do first. This is important because there are 3 ranges for the amount of plasma you have to donate correlating to your weight – I weighed around 160 and was in the middle band which required me to donate 880 ML. At some centers you get more/less money (+/- 
$5-10) depending on your weight and at others its constant no matter what you weigh although you do have to donate more if you weigh more but you get paid the same as that skinny ass person. After they weigh you, then the worst part of the donation happens: the finger prick! They’ll prick you finger to get a blood sample so they test for your iron and protein levels. Other things they’ll check include your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. After you pass all those then you move into the donation zone or as I like to call it “THE MATRIX”.

Below is what THE MATRIX looks like. I call it this because the first time I walked into the area I was freaking shocked! It looked so surreal. The Gresham center has like 10 rows of beds and it was full of people hooked up to machines that were taking their life force similar to The Matrix before Neo got rescued by Morpheus. I wish I had a photo of the Gresham center as my photos below does not do it justice.
Plasma CenterPlasma Center 2Once you sit on the bed, the technician will ask you if you want the right or left arm. I usually alternate arms but some people use just one arm. My reasoning was that I wanted to let the wound heal and not collapse the vein which was unlikely. You’re allowed to donate twice within a 7-day period. The big, grey machine you see in the photo will take whole blood from your body and then separate it into plasma, which they’ll keep, and return your red blood cells back to you. The entire process takes approximately 45-90 minutes depending on how well hydrated you are. The fastest I’ve done was 41 minutes and the longest was 75 minutes. The IV needle stick starts with them pumping up your arm to see your vein and the best location to stick you! Once they determine your veins are good to go they’ll put iodine on the location and mix it for 30 seconds. Then the FUN BEGINS! They’ll take the needle and stick it in you! I’m a crazy person and I love to look at when they do. Other people look away like a little bitch but hey, I don’t judge. Here is a photo of me with the needle in me arm! The blot of blood is rare and usually no blood escapes from the wound except when they extract the needle.
Needle in me arm!After you near the end of your donation, they’ll either give you a saline pack through the IV or make you drink a bottle of electrolytes (Powerade or Gatorade) to help you replenish the fluids you’ve just lost. After that you’re all done and you get paid!

Most places will give you a very high dollar amount for the first 4-5 times you donate. IIRC, one place gave me $50 for the first time and $80 for the second time alternating till you gave 5 donations and another place gave me $50 for 4 donations. After that period expires, you’ll get into the regular payment schedule which gives you a small amount for the 1st donation and a larger for your second. For example, the most recent place in Portland was a $25/$45 split while the one in Hillsboro was $20/$40 – it varies from center to center but they’re all around that range. They also have promotions every month like you get a peel card for prizes on your 6th donation of the month or an additional $20 on your 7th and 8th donations.

If you just want to get some beer money, then this is a quick means to get that. You’re also helping others get crucial life saving medicine in the process. My only caveat is that you stop donating if you’re feeling/getting sick because it will prolong the amount of time you’re ill. I had first hand experience with this because I had a cold but kept going on keeping on. It was 3 weeks into my cold and I was very frustrated I didn’t get over it because I rarely got sick and never stayed sick for too long. I decided to stop donating and BOOM, within a few days I was back to normal. Your experience might vary but just giving you my insight. I also felt extremely drained after I donated and wasn’t able to do much – I just went straight to sleep as soon as I got home.

Therefore if you do decide to donate, make sure you know all the health implications and make sure you’re well hydrated the day prior, during, and after you donate. I personally had no qualms or ill effects from donating however there is limited research on the long-term effects for prolonged plasma donation. I’ve stopped donating at the request of my parents and I do miss the income a little bit; you can make more than 3 grand a year! Either way, you only have one body and money can’t buy health so make sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s before you make the decision to start donating plasma. I hope this helps in your decision to donate and don’t hesitate to contact me through the social media links!

How I passed the FE Exam on my second attempt!

I retook the FE exam in April after I failed it the previous April. I’m very pleased and honored to say that I PASSED!! The feeling of seeing “Congratulations” on the letter was indescribable when you know the amount of effort and sweat you put into passing that test. The worst part was waiting 7 weeks for your results to come back. I don’t know how many times I Googled “minimum passing score for FE exam” and I read the same forum threads over and over again just because I was so anxious. After having failed the first time and passing the second time, I believe I have some helpful insight for people who are looking to take the test. First of all, I commend you for taking this test because it opens opportunities for you down the road that you can’t even think about right now. I decided to take the test because of a situation I learned from one of my coworkers at my internship. My internship was at a government agency and one of the “engineers” there came from the same educational background that I did: graduated from the OSU CEM program. He was telling me how he was stuck at his pay grade and cannot get a raise/promotion because to move to the next level he needs to get his PE and the first step in getting your PE is to pass the FE. He told me that he’s taken the test 5 times and failed every time just because it was too much information and he doesn’t have time to study with a family and bills to pay (he’s 25+ years out of school). This lead me to firmly decide that I’m going to take the FE exam and pass because it stays with you for life! He told me he never expected he would be working for the government, his plan was to work for a contractor his whole life. You never know where your career is going to take you, so plan ahead as much as you can and pick the low hanging fruit!

The first tip I can give, and I know it’s cliche, is to STUDY, STUDY, STUDY! My first time taking the test, it was my final year of college and I wanted to have fun and party so that’s what I did and that’s why I failed. I didn’t study at all, not even opening the reference manual until the day of the actual test. Though maybe you’re a genius like some of my friends who say that didn’t study at all and still passed (I can vouch that he didn’t study for it lol). But if you’re like the rest of us then you will need adequate time. I recommend starting at least 3 months out if you have the time and spending 1-2 hours every night. I started legitimately studying at 1.5 months and those last few weeks I skipped a lot of sections. I basically skipped over the electrical section because I didn’t learn this in college and there was no way I was going to learn electrical fundamentals in 4 weeks. The book I studied from is the FE bible created by Micahel Lindeburg. DON’T BUY ANY OTHER BOOK EXCEPT FOR THIS ONE! I also got the NCEES civil engineering and that helped me a little bit but unless you have your company paying for it (I did) then I don’t think it’s worth the cost. Your main focus from this book should be the general math sections in the beginning. You want to be able to get all the easy points and not miss those because points are not weighted, all the hard questions and easy questions are the same points therefore the goal is to not miss any of the easy ones.

One of the best things I got from the Lindeburg book was the practice exam that they provided. I took the exam under “testing conditions”. I woke up at 6:30 AM and then ate breakfast and waited till around 7:30 before I sat down at my desk to take the exam. I used my calculator, a shitty mechanical pencil, the reference manual, and gave myself only 4 hours (you have another 4 years to take the afternoon section). I used all the same techniques as I would during the test. For example, there were 120 questions which meant that I needed to answer 15 questions every half hour and that’s how I kept pace to make sure that I wasn’t getting hung up on a question. Definitely wear a watch because it’s much faster than looking up at the big clock and depending on where you’re sitting, you might not even get to see the clock. I also incorporate the strategy I call “Live by the C, Die by the C”. Which basically means that if I don’t know the answer or can’t narrow down the answers then I’m going to put C and move on. You can do all the statistical analysis you want on putting one letter vs picking random but I just think that picking random you have a possibility of getting 0 of them correct. Putting C for everything you don’t know, you will get at least 1 correct no matter what. Who knows, that 1 point could be the difference between passing and not. The first time I took the test, I did not incorporate this strategy.

Lastly, remember to rest very well the day before the exam. I went into an isolation tank to clear my mind (that’s a whole separate post) and ate a good dinner and went to bed at a very reasonable time. I also took 3 days off from work. One of the most important things is to prepare your body for this test. It’s basically like your final exams but on steroids because it’s a culmination of not just one subject but multiple disciplines.

If you did your due diligence and studied accordingly, you should have no problem with this test. A final tip is to pick a relevant afternoon session and stay away from the Other Disciplines if possible. I was in construction engineering management so I had a few overlapping classes with the civil engineers therefore I took the civil section. My CEM friend took the Others and he said it was basically the morning session but they injected questions with venom and turned it into monsters! I wish the best of luck to you in taking this test and rest assured that it will pay for itself in your life time.

How I passed the LEED AP BD+C Exam

I just passed my LEED AP BD+C exam last week with a score of 184/200 with a 170 being the minimum passing score. Compared to the LEED GA the questions and overall test was very difficult! I had trouble with probably 30% of the questions and there were some where I was at a complete lost where as with the GA I breezed through the questions with ease. I will outline my study habits that I went through for this test and give some tips on what I think really helped me pass the LEED AP BD+C.

My study regiment didn’t really start until 3 days before the test; the test was on Monday and started to fully commit to studying on Friday. Turner had a study session two months ahead of my test date and that really helped because it got me thinking and most importantly, started. Our company had a copy of the LEED AP BD+C reference manual so I spent Friday and Saturday reading the entire book from beginning to end except for the appendices. I HIGHLY recommend doing this because this is what LEED is all about; you need to know the requirements for each credit to be able to help the client and owner in deciding which paths to pursue. I also had access to study materials at greenexamprep.com and this was probably what allowed me to pass the test. The website had close to 500 practice questions and this helped prep me for the exam. I spent Sunday taking the specialized practice exams in Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Earth & Atmosphere  etc. and on Monday I took 2 practice exams consisting of 100 random questions to prepare me for the actual test. When I say that I didn’t do anything all weekend but study, I’m not lying. I literally sat at my desk all day and studied from the time I woke up to the bedtime but most importantly, I got a good night rest each time and that truly makes a big difference. So here are a few tips for you to pass the exam:

Read the ENTIRE reference manual. Yes, I know it’s 600+ pages but if you are truly committed to passing this test, then you will have to read the ENTIRE manual and highlight and/or take notes as you move along. You want to focus on the requirements and implementation sections to truly understand what you need to accomplish to achieve the credit. This will help you create your foundation and with it you will be able to answer 95% of the questions. I would also stress to try and read it over a couple of days because it is extremely exhausting to look at that whole book for one entire day. I split the categories over 3-days and that seemed to work because it was still fresh in my mind over that period but wasn’t too draining.

Take as many practice questions/exams as you can. This strategy helped me out tremendously for the LEED GA so I did the same thing for the LEED AP. There are a few free sites on the internet that will provide you with a free 100 question practice exam but if you have the money then I would recommend signing up for a subscription at greenexamprep.com. Some of the questions that they had on their practice tests was verbatim of what was on my actual test and the format/questions are eerily similar. You CANNOT pass the LEED AP without practicing on questions and sample exams because this will familiarize you with the rigor of the questions and what pieces of information you will need to know to answer the questions correctly. I also found it very beneficial to take a full 100-question practice exam in similar exam conditions i.e 2-hour limit, no book, head phones on, etc. As the old saying goes: practice, practice, PRACTICE! And yes, we talking about practice. (Ref. Allen Iverson)

 Do a “Brain Dump” before the exam. The exam center will give you a 10-minute period to take an optional tutorial on how to use the computer system. TAKE IT! The tutorial will teach you the layout of the exam screen, how to mark questions, the calculator, and how to navigate between questions; the important part of this tutorial is the 8-9 minutes you’ll have after the tutorial. I took this time to do a “brain dump” which was basically writing frantically all the information I had in my head down on paper to help me during the test. You will be provided with 2 sheets of paper and it’s very useful to fill as much as you possibly can. What information should you write? Anything that you might have trouble with or anything that pops into your head. For me, it was some of the tables correlating % and points like the renewable energy thresholds. I also wrote down some requirements that I got confused about like percent needed for open space and restoring habitat. The most important thing about the brain dump is that it gives you a kick start to your exam and really ramps up your brain to get ready for the test.

Take my advice above and you should be fine for the test! Don’t take it lightly because it is a difficult test and you should give it the time that it requires. The scoring must be weighted some how because even though I ended up with a 92% overall, the highest percentage I got in any category was 88% and even a 50% in one category. I really thought I was not going to pass the test because I guessed on a lot of questions but it’s one of those tests where you can study for weeks/months but there will still be questions that will trip you up. We’ve had 4 people in our office take the test and all 4 have passed, including myself. Prepare well and you should have no trouble passing with flying colors on your first attempt.