The Man in the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910 

Hacking Sleep: My Quest to Obtain the Perfect Night’s Sleep

Me and sleep haven’t had the best history together.

Throughout my life, my sleep schedule has varied. I’ve gone from a huge night owl to just recently, waking up from 5-6 am everyday. Normally, I just chalked it up to my natural body instincts. (I once read somewhere that smart people naturally can’t sleep early because of all the things going through their head at night. Whoop?) But like everything, your body is a machine and totally hackable. Sleep was definitely something I was looking to fix.

The first step to hacking my sleep was to be able to fix the biggest part of it all:

Hacking Sleep: The Mattress

My mattress was probably one of my biggest improvements I’ve made to date. After all, you spend a third of your life in it, you might as well invest into it.

Going from a hard spring mattress was probably the easiest fix of all. There are a ton of research that suggests that a spring mattress isn’t the best thing for your back, posture, sleep in general. After doing quite a bit of research, and testing out some model storefronts in a recent trip to New York City, I decided to go with Leesa.

Lessa is a relatively low cost foam mattress that delivers to your house in just 2-3 business days. It generally has the best reviews across multiple review sites for its balance of softness and support.

The best part? Leesa offers a very strong 100-day, in-home trial period.

If for whatever reason you don’t like the mattress within the 100-day trial period, just drop their customer service team an email and they will refund your money. You don’t even have to ship the mattress back. If you don’t like the mattress, Leesa will help arrange for a donation or recycling center to come pick the mattress up at no cost. This made me feel very comfortable giving it a try.

My review of the Lessa is quite simple: It’s amazing and I’ve never slept better.

The only downside I’ve had is simply trying to leave the comfort of the bed can be a bit difficult.

They are having a great sale right now, so definitely give it a try. I can’t recommend it enough.

Hacking Sleep: The Sheets

I’ve always been a fan of great soft sheets. They can sometimes make, or break, a sleep environment.

My process before finding my favorite sheets was simple. Go to Ross/TJ Maxx, inspect the thread count options, open the zipper a little bit and feel inside to feel the softness. Select and hope for the best.

Don’t tell me you have never done the same. 

The issue with that process was trying to find another diamond in the rough when it came time to update or replace.

Thankfully, I’ve found my new set that are easily the SOFTEST sheets I’ve ever slept on. The best part about them? The price.

 

The Mellanni Bed Sheet Set is the best sheets I’ve ever slept on.

With white coming under $20, and colors coming under $30, these are easily some of the least expensive sheets I’ve ever purchased. Don’t believe me? it has over 21,000 reviews backing it up.

Give them a try. You won’t regret it.

My Favorite Card in My Wallet: Platinum Card from American Express

With the recent updates made today, March 30th, to the American Express Platinum card, I thought it would be a good time to share why my favorite card in my wallet is my American Express Platinum.

Besides its new metal design, the American Express Platinum Card is a monster of a card in a lot of different ways. Its annual fee as one example, recently increased from $450/year to $550/year. While it does carry a steep annual fee, a lot of its features tend to balance out the expense.

Some of the features I’ve come to use often are:

$200 Airline Credit

Delta

Every year, the American Express Platinum Card gives you credit to a preferred airline of your choice for you to use on any type of fees you may encounter such as baggage fees, or even meals on the plane. While it doesn’t give you credit toward airline tickets directly, some users have found success buying gift cards from the airline at $50 increments.

For my use, I selected Delta as my preferred airline when I travel and always use my Amex to pay for baggage fees. They instantly get credited back once the charge clears and we are good to go!

$200 Uber Credit

Uber

One recent change that came with the new version of the card launched on March 30, 2017 was the addition of the $200 Uber Credit.

Every month, your Uber account will be credited with $15 worth of Uber Credit and $35 in December. The downside is, the credit disappears after every month. As an example, my Uber account was credited today with $15, but I have till tomorrow to spend it till it renews again on April 1.

If you’re an avid user of Uber, this could work out greatly in your favor. In my city, while it is available, I don’t use it as often. On the plus side, the credit is also valid for UberEats, which I will totally take advantage of.

$100 Global Entry/TSA Pre Check

Airline security is annoying. With the card, you can get $100 towards Global Entry or $85 toward TSA Pre Check. I decided to go with Global Entry because it automatically includes TSA Pre Check.

Skipping the long line when coming in through customs while flying international is always a nice feeling.

American Express Centurion Lounge

American Express Lounge

One of my favorite features of the card is the Amex Centurion Lounge Access. If you find yourself traveling (as of March 30) through Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), New York City (LGA), Miami (MIA), Mexico City (MEX), Seattle (SEA) or San Francisco (SFO), you can stop by the lounge before your flight or your layover for free. You are also able to bring in two guests for free. If you’re not an Amex Platinum or Centurion member, the cost to enter the lounge is $50.

I’ve personally visited all but San Francisco’s lounges and they are definitely something I’ve enjoyed.

In DFW as an example, one of my most visited locations, you are able to get a free massage and manicure at the spa, enjoy free breakfast, lunch and/or dinner as well as free premium drinks. You can even rent out a shower suite as well.

American Express is continually adding more lounges with Hong Kong and Philadelphia next on the list.

5x Points on Airfare and Hotels

While the American Express Platinum Card usually only credits you 1 point per dollar spent on the card, the recent changes now allow you to receive 5 points per dollar when purchasing airline tickets through the airline or through amextravel.com and 5 points per dollar when booking hotels through amextravel.com

This addition easily beats out any of the competition when it comes to points earned when purchasing airfare. With outsiders valuing Membership Reward Points at $0.019/point, you can earn a lot of added savings.

If you’re the type that purchases flights on your personal cards, you should pick up this card for this feature alone.

SPG Gold

SPG

Starwood Preferred is one of the best hotel programs out there. From the W Hotel, Westin or even the St. Regis, SPG is a great program to be a part of if you are not already.

With the card, you can fill out a quick form to get instantly upgraded to SPG Gold status.

With Gold, you have access all the benefits of Preferred membership, plus:

  • Earn three Starpoints for every dollar spent on eligible stays — a 50% bonus over Preferred.
  • 4p.m. late checkout.
  • An upgrade to an enhanced room at check-in — corner room, higher floor, or better view.
  • A welcome gift upon arrival – a choice between bonus Starpoints, complimentary premium in-room internet or a beverage. I always choose the points.

With the recent merger of Marriott and SPG, you are also matched to Marriott Gold and Ritz Carlton Gold automatically as well.

Roadside Assistance

Included with the card are four free Roadside Assistance offers. Similar to using your insurance’s roadside assistance, American Express allows you to use their preferred companies four times at no charge. This feature came in handy when I was having battery trouble with my vehicle.

Travel and Baggage Insurance

One of the features that I recently didn’t know this card carried was Travel and Baggage Insurance.

On my recent trip to Spain, I left my carry-on on the plane. Because I booked the flight with my American Express Platinum Card, I was able to get reimbursed for the carry on and its contents, up to $3000.

Other features that I (thankfully) haven’t used but are available include:

  • $250 a day per person for food if your airline is delayed more than 4 hours.
  • $500 per person if your luggage fails to arrive after 4 hours.
  • Another $500 if they don’t arrive after 48 hours

Talk about generous.

Conclusion

There are a ton of other features that come with the American Express Platinum Card but these were just a few highlights that I use day in and day out.

With American Express’s current offer of 60,000 Membership Reward points, there are plenty of great redemption options thanks to its 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners, so you have no shortage of options for putting your rewards to use.

Between the airline credit of $200, Uber credit of another $200, Global Entry of $100, and the current offer of 60,000 Membership Reward points (currently valued at $1,140), this card easily pays for itself.

Sign up for the card today!

Capability

“If we did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

-Thomas Edison

Most of us have two lives: the lives we live and the lives we are capable of living.

Hacking Your Home: My Automation Setup

In recent weeks, I’ve began the process of adding a ton of automation to my home leveraging a lot of new technology to making my place fun and easy.

Why care about automation?

Time!

20 min vacuum from Roomba x 52 weeks a year = 1,040 minutes.
5 minutes getting up and turning off lights every day * 365 = 1,825 minutes.

It saves you tremendous amounts of time. Over 1 year alone just those 2 things is over 40 hours, which makes it a full-time job for an entire week to do what could be automated in seconds.

Here’s what I use in my home setup:

iRobot Roomba Vacuum Cleaner

iRobot Roomba
iRobot Roomba

The Roomba Vacuum Cleaner is one of my best purchases to date.

I have it scheduled to vacuum every day at 10 a.m. It powers up on its own, does the job and returns back to its dock to charge automatically. It goes behind couches, under beds and hard to reach places. Best of all, it does the job with no complaints.

It’s always a nice feeling coming home to a freshly vacuumed and clean place everyday.

I’m still trying to think of a cool name to name it.

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Echo Dot

The Amazon Echo is one of those devices you didn’t know you needed until you have one. The Echo Dot is the entry model to the “Alexa” system, and at $50, it is a very easy way to get all the power of Alexa, without the high cost.

Alexa allows me to control my automation setup with just my voice. It is the best way to play music, control lights and temperature in your place, manage your calendar and even tell you how much traffic there is on the way to work.

They are constantly adding new skills to Alexa so it is constantly getting better. At the time of this post, I can order pizza from Dominos and even order from my nearby Starbucks as I walk out the door with just my voice.

Nest Thermostat

Nest Thermostat
Nest Thermostat

You might already know about this one. But with Alexa, it makes it even better. All I have to do is say “Alexa, set the temperature to 70 degrees” out loud without having to move from my bed.

Even without Alexa, it helps save you a ton of money by monitoring when you’re in and out of the house and changing the temperature to levels that are easier on your bill. I was pleasantly surprised when I got my first bill.

Philips Hue Smart Strip Lights and Hub

I have a strip behind my tv which can pulse with music and make my living room pop a bit more. You can also control the colors depending on time of day or the mood you’d like. It can also make your bed look amazing (think of laying in the clouds of heaven).

Philips Hue Smart Bulbs

Philips Hue Smart Bulb
Philips Hue Smart Bulb

See above but in bulb form.

Philips Hue Go Light

Philips Hue Go Light
Philips Hue Go Light

Awesome Christmas gift. Has preset settings to set lights for different moods. Has an awesome default meditation setting.

Samsung Smart Things Hub

This is the main thing I connect all devices to and then connect this with Amazon Echo. You can then voice command everything or set it up based on as many rules as you want.

Next Steps

As I continue to add and make my home more automated, here are things that are next on the list.

Philips Hue Motion Senors

Imagine just walking into a room and the lights turning on, leaving and the lights turning off. Practically magic, plus saves on electricity.

Philips Hue Light Switches

If the bulbs can’t be changed, you can always change the switch to become automated instead.

Logitech Harmony Hub

With the Harmony Hub, Alexa will be able to turn on your television to your favorite channel. For example, say ‘Alexa, turn on the TV’ or ‘Alexa, turn on Netflix’ to begin streaming content.

Don’t be a donkey

There’s an old story you may have heard of.

Burden’s donkey is standing halfway between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. It keeps looking left and right, trying to decide between hay and water. Unable to decide, it eventually falls over and dies of hunger and thirst.

A donkey can’t think of the future. If he could, he’d clearly realize he could first drink the water, then go eat the hay.

Don’t be a donkey.

You can do everything you want to do. You just need foresight and patience. Think long term.

Most people over-estimate what they can do in one year, and under-estimate what they can do in 10 years.