Freeze your Credit Before Your ID is Stolen

Over a year ago I was informed that my information, once again, was involved in a data breach. Thanks, T-Mobile, Experian, and Home Depot. I appreciate how well you treat your loyal customers… But I digress.

Freeze your credit and prevent identity theft.No one wants to have their identity stolen and go through the hours and hours it takes to get everything cleaned up. Around the same time I also read Brian Krebs’ post on how to freeze your credit so no one can open a new account in your name. So instead of signing up for “credit monitoring” which can ONLY be reactive, and waiving all legal rights, I decided to be as proactive as I could. I froze my credit.

Now, no one can open an account in my name in any of the 4 (Yes, I meant 4) largest credit agencies, Equifax, ExperianTrans Union and Innovis, not even me. Trust me, I tried once. It failed miserably.

So if I can’t even create a new credit account, I’m rather confident that no one else can either.

So let the next information breach come. My credit’s safe. I don’t have to worry anymore.

It could cost you up to $60 and 1 hour of your time. But how long would you have to spend on the phone trying to get your name cleared if there’s a real ID theft using your name, Social Security Number, and address? It all looks legit so convincing the company that loaned the money to the thief won’t be easy. Securing your credit is much easier to do BEFORE there’s a problem than AFTER the problem has occurred.

The Best Career Test I Ever Took

A while ago I was floundering around after a failed business venture and wondering what path I should take. I took this personality test and that job recommendation test. They all sucked. Then I discovered Sokanu.

Sokanu, pronounced like “So can you”, was the first site that actually had relevant and exciting career choices for me. It listed some things I’d already done and some that just sounded exciting. Here are my top 6 matches.

My top Sokanu careers

After you’ve answered their extensive questionnaire, they recommend different careers and most of mine, as you can see, went toward 1 area, computers. That’s not shocking at all because they’ve always been a passion of mine.

Admittedly, the idea of becoming a commercial diver is new for me. But I think it’d be fascinating and constantly changing so I agree that it belongs there.

If you’re looking for a new career direction but aren’t sure where to turn, I highly recommend Sokanu. Their tests can really drill down into what you like and dislike, and it will almost certainly provide you with some new ideas as well as help you to consider some old ideas differently.

And best of all, the service is free. There are some advanced features that you can pay for but I haven’t paid for them and I’m not entirely certain what you get for your money. The free reports and list of careers were enough to get me thinking and eventually moving in a new direction.

I’ll probably take you 30 minutes to complete all the questions but if it helps you find a fulfilling career, it could be the best 30 minutes you ever spent. Give Sokanu a shot.

Learn How Encryption Works

I don’t know about you but I’m fascinated by cryptography. I want to know how it works, how it can be tested, and most importantly, how it can be used to keep my data private from prying eyes.

In recent years, you’ve probably heard FBI Director Comey talking about the evils of the world “going dark” where the government can’t track everything we do. Personally, I think that’s a great thing. In the United States, we have the Constitution which, in the 4th Amendment, secures us from illegal search and seizure by our government.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (what was until recently a secret court making secret interpretations of law) has essentially decided that we no longer have those rights. This is what the FBI, CIA, and NSA absolutely love. They (and their governmental contractors) love knowing everything you do online and on your phone. They track just about everything we do online.

But with encryption, we can keep our text messages, emails, and other personal information safe from the government, schools, and even your family. Encryption is how you keep secrets secret.

If you’re also interested in encryption and cryptography, here’s a free course from Khan Academy that teaches you the basics of how cryptography works.

Body Posture and Positivity – Helpful Hints

Every Monday of this year, I am going to post something that has helped me and I want to share with you. It may be a video, blog post, realization, supplement… It may be about life, coding, spirituality, anything… If I genuinely find it to be helpful, it’ll get posted in this space.

Today’s share is a video from TED by Amy Cuddy. This video encouraged me to simply change posture and that changed my outlook on life.

In this video, Amy talks about how your mind responds to your body’s physical posture. You can influence your hormones, increase confidence, and influence how others respond to you by adjusting your posture. Since I found this, I’ve had some of the best times in the last few years. It’s truly helped me beat some of my depression. I still struggle, but not as often.

Thank you Amy!

How to Recognize Biz Opportunities

If you’re a child of the 80’s-90’s, you might recognize part of my Twitter profile. It says “I got more biz ideas than Picasso got paintings. And THAT’S why I’m learning Full Stack #webdev“.

I borrowed the beginning from a Beastie Boys song, “The New Style”, that says “I got more juice than Picasso got paint.”

Maybe I don’t have “more biz ideas than Picasso got paintings” but I can come up with a new business idea just about every single day, some days I come up with multiple. How do I come up with so many business ideas? I’m glad you asked. Because I’d love to share this with you.

I listen to others.

How many times a day do you hear someone say “I wish someone would…”? That person could follow it up with something unhelpful like “get out of my way” or whatnot, but there’s a great chance that they’ll say something like “I wish someone would create a banana that doesn’t get squished in a lunchbag.” And instead of changing bananas, someone created the Banana Protector.

Phrases to listen for:

  • This sucks…
  • I wish…
  • I need…
  • Someone should…
  • I’d pay money for…

Those are someone telling you what they want. After that, it’s your job to figure out how to monetize it.

I listen to myself.

Often times you’ll say something like “I wish someone would…” but then you’ll dismiss is immediately. Stop dismissing it and realize when you say it that you are someone and you can do it. There’s no reason that YOU can’t be the someone to create what YOU want. When you see the need, take a note of it for later.

  • Write it down.
  • Take a note on your phone.
  • Somehow just make sure you are able to retain it for later.

I look for holes.

Are there products or services yo use that are missing features? Is there an easier way to do things but that way hasn’t actually been created yet? Why not create it yourself?

The other day I was thinking about an aspect of coding and programming education and realized there’s a huge hole in the space. I thought to myself, this thing (No, I’m not giving you my idea. ;-) ) has a lot of potential but it’s inconvenient and can only be done in person. That’s stupid. After I realized it was currently being done in a stupid way, I started asking myself how it could be done in a more convenient way. I asked questions like:

  • What would make it more convenient?
  • What features are needed?
  • Would people pay for it?

And after I realized what features would be required for a basic, MVP version, I considered many other factors and decided that I was going to do it for the Front End Capstone project in my coding education at Bloc. This isn’t a normal business because it’ll start out as a school project. Profitability isn’t my primary concern. I still have a year of school left after I finish the project.

I admit that I’m not going the preferred route of trial by perspective clients because I want to do this as a project. If no one buys into it, that’s fine. I want to do this project because I see the need and I want the experience of building it. If this wasn’t going to be a school project, I’d DEFINITELY be doing my due diligence to be sure it’s a solid business idea.

I ask questions.

People who say “I wish” can often give you a lot of insight into what they want. If you hear someone say “I wish”, that’s your opportunity to ask questions like:

  • How would you use that?
  • What features would it need?
  • Who else would use it?
  • How often do you have the problem that makes you want this item?

But if the idea was yours and there’s no obvious person to ask, ask people that could be potential clients/customers what they think. If you have an idea for an iPhone app, look for people who might be your target demographic then ask them moderately specific questions. Ask things like:

  • Would you find X feature of your app useful?
  • Would you be willing to pay for it?
  • How much would you be willing to pay for it?
  • How often would you use it?

When they tell you what they want, take notes. See what lines up with what other people say. The more people agree, the easier it’ll be to solidify your Minimum Viable Product. And that’s what you’re looking for, a solid MVP with a user base that’s willing to pay for your service. Once you have that, it’s time to start looking at how to build this business.

If you get answers that it’s not something people are interested in, that may be a sign that it’s not the right business to get into. Maybe the timing just isn’t right or maybe people don’t know they need it yet. Only you can decide what the case it there. Always remember, you’re not married to the idea. If the idea isn’t profitable or popular, you have to be ready to walk away from it. Either walk away or think about how you can make it into something that people are willing to pay for.

I’m not afraid to walk away.

Like I said, I have just about one new business idea every day. Not all of the are good ideas. I think about them and discard 80-90% of them and focus on the better ones.

I refuse to be married to a bad idea.

  • If it’s not profitable, I walk away.
  • If it’s not popular, I walk away.
  • If it’s too expensive to start, I walk away.
  • If it’s not something I’m proud of, I walk away.
  • If it’s not something I’m willing to work on, I walk away.

Be prepared to walk away from your ideas. Be prepared to discover that someone else has already done it. Be prepared to put in long hours. Be prepared for people to not believe in you.

Make it happen.

Me? I’m going to school again because most of my ideas are for web or smartphone apps. I could be looking for investors but then I’d have to hire a development team and I’d personally prefer to start out as lean as possible. So I’m going to code it myself.

I’m taking steps to build my next business. What about you?

Do you have ideas?

Do you want to own a business?

What will it take for you to make your dreams a reality?

It’s time to make a decision. Are you going to make it happen or are you goint to sit on the sidelines and wait for someone else to come up with your idea?

Here’s a bit of Motivation for you.