Notes From Jeremy Land | Volume 35 | Issue 339

I was waking up this morning, planning my day as one does, when I remembered the kids were home today due to a teacher walkout. “Huh,” I thought to myself “I’m curious what it would be like to go on strike.” Having been vehemently anti-union most of my life, to the point of arguing with my manager at Fred Meyer when I was 17, I had – and still have, really – zero practical experience of what going on strike is actually like. So, me being me, and continuing on with my promise to myself to try everything possible this year, I made the only logical choice: “I will go on strike today!”

After I realized what I had said, I became a little concerned and followed that up quickly with “For a couple of hours at least.”

It was actually quite nice lying in bed, aimlessly browsing the web, reading through non-work related emails – there weren’t many, I’m not a prolific communicator outside of business – and generally doing a great deal of nothing. Once 10AM rolled around, I decided I’d been on strike long enough; it was now time to reflect on what I’d gained from this experiment.

After ten minutes furiously thinking, the answer was twofold really. A new found acknowledgement of how much I truly enjoy working, combined with the sting of realizing I’d lost two billable hours I’ll have to make up somewhere down the road. I’m curious how many teachers are realizing the former at the moment.

Regardless, I do support the goals of the walkout, as they are ultimately very good ones. Having performed hundreds of interviews over the past 10 years, with many of the candidates being recent high school graduates, I am firm in my belief that if we don’t increase funding to education across the board in this country, we may as well just lay down our swords, wave the white flag and announce boldly to the world “We give up! Would you like to purchase a nice national park?”

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    Adopting Ben Franklin’s Schedule

    I’ve heard many times that you should create the life you want to live. It’s sound advice, but I think it presupposes that one knows the life they want to live. While I have an idea of what I want to accomplish, I came to the realization that I can’t get there with the chaotic schedule I currently attend to, so I began researching time management<fn>Anyone who knows me should be aware of the fact that managing my own time is not one of my strong suits.</fn>. Among a huge amount of people trying to sell me something I found Ben Franklin’s Schedule, which intrigued me greatly.


    After reading more about it, I have decided to give it a try for a bit to see how well it works. Being who I am, I started searching for an Excel template and quickly found a large number of them, but decided to use the one I found on Wolf & Iron to build my own Daily Schedule from.


    I don’t know that I will want to stick with this for the long term, but I’m going to this schedule on for a while to see if it will work for me. Just in case this doesn’t work, or there is something better out there, do you have any recommendations I could look at?

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    How To Become an Independent Consultant

    After discovering that I’ve been an independent IT consultant for quite some time, I’ve had quite a few people ask me how they too can enter this most exciting of careers. Since I recently typed up some advice around this for the 3rd or 4th time, I figured it would be worthwhile to put it in one place to refer people to. I’m not going to cover a lot of the more detailed items – some things I will happily leave to lawyers and accountants – but rather I’m covering the high level items. These are the things that usually turn people off from the idea anyways; if you’re still interested after this, contact me and I’ll help you further.

    Note: I’m sure parts of this will come across cynical. They’re really not, I’m simply trying to lay out the facts – both pretty and ugly – around becoming an independent consultant.

    Further Note: I am not a lawyer. I am not an accountant. Like I state below, you should talk to both a lawyer and an accountant prior to embarking on a journey like this. If you make mistakes, the penalties are ludicrously large. Don’t blame me if you do something wrong.

    Carefully Consider What You’re Doing
    When people ask me how it feels to be my own boss, I can’t help but laugh. In the movie The Patriot, there is a specific line that always resonates through my head: “Why should I trade one tyrant, three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants, one mile away?” Now, I’m in no way comparing my customers to tyrants as they’re usually very easy to work with, but I can’t stress enough that while independent consulting gives you freedoms most don’t have, you are in fact trading one boss for dozens of bosses. You report to every single one of your customers all the time.

    Obviously this results in quite a bit of juggling, which requires a certain mindset that most simply don’t have: You need to possess both a willingness and ability to switch your train of thought on the fly, and you have to be able to please multiple people simultaneously while still turning out excellent work product. Luckily you don’t have to do it in 8 hours because there will be plenty of days you get to put in 12-16 hours making sure everything gets done.

    Figure Out What You’re Good At
    The first part of this is quite obvious; find something you’re really, really good at. It doesn’t have to be a ‘white collar’ profession either. I personally know IT consultants, sales consultants, marketing consultants, supply chain management consultants, and wholesale distribution consultants; even Cesar Millan is really a consultant in the end. The key is that it needs to be something you’re excellent at that you truly enjoy doing.

    Oh, and it also needs to be something that you can demonstrate enough value in that people will happily pay you to do it for them. I’m not going to cover how much to charge here as that is a blog post in and of itself.

    If You Choose A Niche Field…
    Personally, I’m in a niche field. While I’m an IT consultant and advertise my expertise across a narrow(ish) spectrum of services, I spend most of my time doing systems integration for messaging and directory infrastructure in the merger/acquisition/divestiture space.

    Due to this, I travel. A lot. I live outside of Seattle, but I’m writing this in Chicago. This year I’ve also worked in Dallas, Jacksonville, Denver, and Buffalo.

    Moral of the story? If you can’t find enough customers local to you, you’re going to end up traveling. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

    Get A Business License
    Quite simply, business licenses are mandatory, even if you’re a Sole Proprietorship. There really isn’t any justification needed for this – it’s just the law of the land. Also some companies (mine, for example, when I subcontract work out to others) require a business license prior to putting you on a contract. LegalZoom has a good article on the subject.

    Obtain Insurance
    You’re likely going to want insurance to cover both Errors & Omissions and General Liability, at a minimum. A good insurance broker will be your friend here as the cost of the premiums can be all over the board and they can tell you what you actually need. You know, instead of the likely completely off base suggestion I gave earlier in this paragraph.

    If you end up in the IT consulting field, I can’t recommend TechInsurance enough. I signed with them a few years ago and never looked back.

    Note: As I state below, you’ll probably spend a good amount of time sub-contracting through other companies. I’ve never seen a single contract that doesn’t require seven figures of insurance.

    Find An Accountant
    This really shouldn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyways. Unless you’re a CPA yourself, go find a CPA to work with. If you’re in the Seattle area, I can recommend Mark Bennett without any reservations. If you’re not in the Seattle area, ask around for a personal reference.

    I’m not saying “don’t do your own books” here by the way. Rather, contact your accountant with specific accounting questions and then pay them to review your books on a monthly basis. Or something different if they recommend it.

    Consider an LLC or Corporation
    There are a number of benefits, both legal and financial, to running your business as an LLC or Corporation. Talk to an attorney and accountant to make the right choice for you, but at least consider it.

    Use QuickBooks
    While I firmly believe that QuickBooks is developed by SatanSoft, Inc. it is quite simply the gold standard. Once you learn how to use it, it is quite simple and most accountants will only work with QuickBooks. Note that many don’t want to work with QuickBooks Online as it doesn’t deliver all the features needed.

    Yes, I know there are many other options, but save yourself some time. The money you save isn’t worth it as an accountant fixing your books down the road will negate all the cost savings, cost you some more on top of that, and give you a huge headache.

    Send Invoices to Customers
    Don’t just expect your customer to pay you. Even if they’re willing or offer to do that, don’t do it. If you’re going down this path, you’re not an employee and you don’t want to risk being retroactively classified as one down the road. Personally, I don’t pay sub-contractors unless they send me an invoice for a number of reasons, most having to do with maintaining the employee vs contractor boundary.

    Also, don’t expect to get paid right away. I work with a couple companies that pay on receipt, but the remainder are on Net Terms. Oh, did I forget to mention you’re also going to be a money lender now? <grin>

    Expect To Be a Sub-Contractor
    When you start, and likely for quite some time afterwards, you’ll be solo. This will make large companies shy away from working with you directly.  However if you’re good at what you do you’ll likely find a lot of “partnering opportunities”, which will allow you to come in as part of a larger team, offering your specific expertise to help complete a broader project goal. For example, I’m currently part of a five person team working at one of the largest businesses in the US.

    Build Your Network!
    You’ll be surprised where some of your most lucrative work comes from. I’ve landed business from friends, family, former colleagues, even strangers on planes, a train, two hotel bars, and – once – a NYC subway car. Strike up conversations with people around you; if you can work with them exchange business cards and follow up. It will not always pan out, but if you don’t let anyone know what you do, nobody will ever hire you.



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    Air Travel Thoughts

    Sometimes as I wander through airports with a smile on my face, I get strange looks from people. Then I realize I’m one of the few people smiling and it starts to make sense; many people see airports as either frightening or rage inducing. I can almost understand them being unhappy or shocked that I’m enjoying my stroll through the terminals.

    Not everyone finds airports peaceful, I get it. I didn’t always either.

    Like most things in life though, it’s about making a choice.

    Easier said than done though, right? Yeah, but there are a few simple things you can do to make sure you have a smooth(er) journey. I’ll go over them at a high level in this post, but feel free to ask me questions in the comments or on twitter if you have any specific questions.

    Think Differently
    I enjoy watching people get ready for travel. Don’t ask me why, I just do. It’s interesting to see the different attitudes that people use to mentally prepare themselves as well. Some people see travel as an adventure, full of new and exciting places and events that they’ve possibly never experienced anymore; this is me. Some are indifferent and treat air travel as nothing more than a large bus, which is probably the most rational mental state to be in as that’s really all it is. The rest of the people I see are pretty evenly split between either sheer terror, rage at the idea of walking through security and getting on a plane, or a combination of the two.

    I freely admit I’ve been through all these states myself when traveling. However only two of them are really healthy for your psyche, and only one of them is any fun, and why not have fun? Treat the whole thing like an adventure and you’ll enjoy it more, especially considering you’re going to be stuck in a magical metal tube miles above the earth’s surface for hours on end.

    Oh, and don’t think about the physics keeping the ~100,000 pounds of metal, jet fuel, and humans ~35,000 feet above a corn field. Most people wouldn’t understand them anyways and when you’re looking out the window, trying to rationalize the fact that you’re actually flying, you could find you need to borrow a Xanax from the single serving friend next to you if you’re not careful. If you have to take benzodiazepines while flying, you’re likely not treating it as an adventure.

    Take Your Time
    When I see people rush through airports and then wind up at the gate next to them, where they still have 40 minutes left until their flight is even scheduled to board (let alone actually board), I’m really quite curious what is driving them to ignore all the cool murals and such along the way, like this super happy one in Denver, CO:

    Seriously, take your time and enjoy the sights. Spend 5 minutes walking down a hall way and you could find a hidden nook filled with rocking chairs facing floor to ceiling windows overlooking the runways like in Buffalo, NY. If you have 20 extra minutes and there is a SkyTrain, take a spin or two around the airport; I’ve seen gorgeous sunsets from the SkyTrain in Dallas and awe inspiring sunrises from the SkyTrain in Detroit. The theme here, in case you missed it, is to engage your inner child and explore! You’ll be amazed what you can find.

    Ignore the TSA
    I find conversations about the TSA to be quite possibly the most interesting, mainly as the thought of TSA agents used to be rage inducing for me. Why? Simple, they have no standards – not even between shifts at the same airport, let alone between airports – and they are frequently just not nice people. I don’t worry about it anymore though. I check my luggage and I’ve pared down my carry on to bare essentials so it takes me less than 30 seconds to get everything out of my bag, off my body, and in the tubs for the x-ray. I don’t even mind the full body scanner anymore, but then again I’ve already had all the kids I plan on having. ;)

    Quite simply, all you need to do is take off your coat or sweater and put it in a bin with your belt, put your shoes on the belt, put your laptop in a bin by itself and walk on through. You will get randomly popped for various things, but it’s not as common as you’d expect. Probably one out of every 50 times I spin through, I get pulled aside for either random explosives screening (they just swab your hands and look embarrassed while you both wait for the results) or they want to dig through my bag because “You have too much [change|cables|stuff] in your bag and I need to check it”.

    I find that if you stand still and smile at them silently the whole time they go faster with whatever they are doing, and if you end up in a pat down a “good job” combined with a smile and a wink makes a world of difference to the speed with which they finish patting down your nether regions. Who knew spreading cheer could effect a work ethic so positively?

    Have A Meal
    For your own sake though, don’t make it fast food. The pressure in the plane will be screwing with your body anyways. Instead go find a restaurant and have a quick meal, or even just an appetizer. Yes, it will be mildly overpriced but most (not all) airport restaurants make pretty good food. Not only do you get some tasty – and hopefully healthy – food prior to takeoff, but there is something to be gained from the peace you’ll find in munching on a BBQ quesadilla.

    While you’re eating take the time to drink some extra water as you’ll end up dehydrated on the plane otherwise, which isn’t as fun as it sounds when you’re the one slowly shriveling up.

    Bring A Book
    I stopped counting the number of people that I’ve watched get on a plane and end up either sleeping or staring at the bulkhead because they didn’t bring anything to read, naively expecting there to be in-flight movies on every flight. Yeah, there isn’t. So do yourself a favor and bring something to read, either a book or a stack of magazines. If you prefer a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader, you can now use them from takeoff to landing on most airlines, provided you disable all WiFi and/or cellular functions.

    Again, if you have any questions, or completely disagree with me for some reason, feel free to either comment below or hit me up on twitter.

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    Spotify Year in Review 2013

    This is pretty cool. Spotify’s year in review shows a selection of the top artists, songs, bands, and the like, all sorted by how many streams they’ve been played throughout the year. It also gives you a personalized card showing your Spotify year in review. Hopefully yours isn’t as awkward as mine. I’m not really sure how “Yoga Music for Massage” is my top playlist as it doesn’t even exist anymore. Maybe I left it playing somewhere for a couple weeks on accident. Find Spotify Year in Review 2013 here.


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    Current Podcasts I’m Listening To

    Podcasts anywhere anytime

    In a recent blog post I mentioned that I’m currently listening to 40+ minutes a day of podcasts and I’ve had a couple people ask me about what they are. Since it’s a bit of effort to put the list together – tracking down URLs and such – I figured I would post them in one place so everyone can reference them. First, a note though: I have rather eclectic tastes. I’m almost positive nobody I know will want to listen to all of these, but I hope you’ll pick and choose the ones that make sense to you and give them a shot. Also, this is a fairly fluid list; while going through the list I found a couple I didn’t enjoy much and axed them so I can focus on the ones that I believe to have a positive influence on my thinking.

    TravelCommons | The first podcast I ever listened to. For quite some time – years in fact – this was in fact the ONLY podcast I listened to. It’s focused on business travel, with a tagline of “It’s more about the journey than the destination” and covers airlines, hotels, rental cars, and all the unique and entertaining experiences related to traveling. Website is located here.

    The UC Architects Podcast | A (roughly) weekly podcast covering Unified Communications, focused on Exchange & Lync. This one I honestly have a love/hate relationship with, for no particular reason that I can discern. Sometimes I enjoy the whole episode, sometimes I stop listening ten minutes in. I met some of the guys on it at MEC last year, and found them to be great people. It’s worth a shot and the information you get out of it is priceless for anyone in the UC space. Website is located here.

    HBR IdeaCast | “The analysis and advice of the leading minds in management” is how this podcast describes themselves, and that’s pretty much what it is. Produced by Harvard Business Review staff, the usually short episodes do pack a punch with the amount of information they manage to include. Occasionally I completely disagree with everything they say in an episode, but that in and of itself is more than enough reason to listen to it. Website is located here.

    Inspiring Words of Encouragement | Excerpts of speeches from Zig Ziglar. ‘Nuff said. Website is located here.

    NPR: Car Talk Podcast | Mostly entertainment, with the occasional factoid about auto maintenance thrown in. The hosts are hysterical (yes, I’m that guy laughing to himself in the car whenever I listen) and since it isn’t time sensitive you can listen whenever you want. Website is located here.

    this WEEK in TECH | While I don’t necessarily agree with their self description of “the last word in tech”, it is definitely entertaining. I usually learn a few new things with each episode as well. Interestingly, I just noticed they also have “This Week in Enterprise Tech”, which I’m going to try out for a few weeks to see if I like it. Website is located here.

    This American Life | This is a tough one to describe, so I’ll just copy and paste from their About Us page. If you’ve ever heard the show, then it’s a no brainer. If you haven’t heard it before, give it a shot. “There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe.” Website is located here.

    I’ve also got a few new ones in the list, but I can’t recommend them yet so I won’t.

    One last thing | While it isn’t a podcast per se, I would highly recommend obtaining some of Alan Watts’ recordings. He was a very interesting man and his recordings, even though they’re centered around Zen Buddhism, which I don’t practice, are peaceful, enlightening, and they force me to think about the choices I’m making in life and how I interact with the world around me. If you’ve ever watched Life, these are the recordings Charlie Crews is listening to all the time. Here’s an excerpt from his Wikipedia entry, which I would also recommend reading through if you have ten minutes to spare:

    Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master’s degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest then left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.

    Watts gained a large following in the San Francisco Bay Area while working as a volunteer programmer at KPFA, a Pacifica Radio station in Berkeley. Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to Eastern and Western religion, introducing the then-burgeoning youth culture to The Way of Zen (1957), one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism. In Psychotherapy East and West (1961), Watts proposed that Buddhism could be thought of as a form of psychotherapy and not a religion. He also explored human consciousness, in the essay “The New Alchemy” (1958), and in the book The Joyous Cosmology (1962).

    Towards the end of his life, he divided his time between a houseboat in Sausalito and a cabin on Mount Tamalpais. His legacy has been kept alive by his son, Mark Watts, and many of his recorded talks and lectures are available on the Internet. According to the critic Erik Davis, his “writings and recorded talks still shimmer with a profound and galvanizing lucidity.”

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    Shameless Self Promotion Tuesday

    Shameless Self Promotion

    When I initially thought about this, I was going to pick a single day of the week for shameless self promotion and thought “Hey, new movies are released to DVD & Blu-Ray on Tuesdays, so why not Tuesday?” It just so happens that I opened a new business and launched a new service at Cohesive Logic on Tuesday as well, so Tuesday seems like a natural fit to engage in shameless self promotion. So expect posts from me on Tuesdays whenever I have something new I want you to know about.

    Without further ado, I’m happy to announce the below today:

    1. At Cohesive Logic, we’ve launched our Hosted Exchange 2013 service into production effective today. We aren’t reselling anyone’s service – we own the hardware, designed/deployed the entire infrastructure, and manage the network that the servers reside in. We guarantee 99.9% availability (it’s been well above that to date for the Friends & Family we’ve been hosting) and really know what we’re doing when it comes to Exchange. So if you happen to need hosted Exchange, or aren’t really sure if you do, visit the informational page at and request information. We’ll be releasing a datasheet later today and updating our site to reflect the availability of this service later this week.
    2. While my close friends and some of my family are most definitely aware of it, I don’t think most know that my largest time sink outside of work for the last couple years has been preparing for natural disasters, civil emergencies, and the like.Being the unabashed capitalist I am, combined with the fact that I think people really need to prepare for how they’ll take care of themselves in a natural disaster, I’ve launched Plateau Preparedness, a small retailer of quality preparedness gear that I’ve personally tested and use myself. There aren’t many products there yet – I’m one man and I am manually entering and updating every product – but I will personally stand behind everything sold. If you don’t like it, if it doesn’t meet your needs, even if you just want to screw with me, I will refund your money if you aren’t happy.We’re also going to be releasing Personal Evacuation and Relocation Kit (P.E.R.K.) Bags in the coming weeks. These are designed to be small backpacks that you can keep in your home, your office, your car (or all three) that you can grab and go without worrying about packing them. They’ll have everything you need for 72+ hours outside of your normal environment. Think what you would do right now if you were at your office and an earthquake happened; would you have the supplies you need to get home safely?

    That’s it for today, but seeing that my mind is continually wandering, and knowing the projects already in motion to release over the next 3-6 months, you’ll definitely see more of these in the future.

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    Spinning Like A Top

    twenty-one; spinning

    Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. – Ferriss Bueller

    At the beginning of September, I woke up and realized my son was attending his first day of high school, my oldest daughter was attending her first day of middle school, my youngest was starting her last year of elementary school, I was days away from hitting the three year anniversary of starting my company full time, and I had been married for over fifteen years. Oh yeah, my joints hurt more than they did ten years ago also. I realized I was beginning to get old, and that feeling simply didn’t – and still doesn’t – work for me.

    So I decided to accelerate the changes in my life that I had started upon in the spring. I’d been trying to eat better, and managed to somehow lose a few pounds in the process, but that was pretty much it. Nothing else had changed and that really bothered me.

    See, when I retreated to Thailand in June for ten days, something happened: I saw the sights (gorgeous), met the people (kind and generous to a fault), experienced the tranquility of being in a timezone fourteen hours away from almost everyone that knew me, and generally decided that the life I’d been living wasn’t for me. I had a family that I rarely did anything with, my preferred daily activity was sleeping in and I’d managed to put the vast majority of my business on autopilot. I made a huge mental list of things I was going to change when I got back. Then I arrived home and promptly changed nothing.

    A person should not believe in an “-ism,” he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” – Ferriss Bueller

    So, fast forward to that September morning when I woke up, swung my feet out of bed and decided to do everything I’d planned. A couple days into that, I said to myself “Jeremy, this is fun! We should do more things! We should do ALL the things!” Now that I’m fully in the middle of all the changes I implemented, hindsight is showing me that maybe I shouldn’t have done it all at once, but… eh, fuck it. To my knowledge, I’m only going to live once. So, looking back, what have I done in the past month?

    1. I’ve lost a ton of weight. I’m down 26 lbs from when I weighed myself in July, which translates to about 4″ off my waist somehow. This feels good. My joints ache less as well.
    2. Tried Couch to 5K. That didn’t end well for me as I ended up with shin splints in Week 1. I tabled it for September, kept walking and will be trying it again in October.
    3. Finalized a new service line that’s going live on October 1st.
    4. We’re launching a major marketing initiative on September 30th that will carry through the fourth quarter.
    5. Started another company that’s also going live October 1st.
    6. Realized I’m now running two companies and briefly wondered if I was insane.
    7. Decided to keep piling it on myself by transforming myself into soccer dad. I’m quite enjoying this so far.
    8. Started organizing the house. I’m currently working on my man cave, where I am consuming massive amounts of Sterilite storage boxes and label tape.
    9. I managed to attend, and actually focus on, all three curriculum nights for my children.
    10. Started attending events of any type almost every weekend. Tomorrow (Saturday) I already have ten hours of activities scheduled for example. This has been hectic at times but always amazing.
    11. Started planning for yet another new service line to go live on January 1st. It’s complementary to the service line we’re launching on October 1st, but I’m not sure if I could have picked a more complex service to launch and the technologies involved really aren’t my core competency.
    12. Began taking a conscious inventory of everything I consume and realized I’ve been putting a lot of crap in my body for a very, very long time. Now, I still put crap in my body, just not as much of it. I’m continuing to reduce the amount of crap I put in my body over time.
    13. I realized just how awesome I really am. Yes, I’m frequently cocky, sometimes arrogant, and occasionally ego-centric, but those things are part of what make me so awesome. I shall keep them.

    The best part of all of this? I was preparing myself to crash and burn, but then I didn’t. Instead, a wonderful, magical, fantastic thing happened: I woke up Monday morning and realized I am truly enjoying everything I’m doing. Then decided to do more. In the past week I’ve taken up tea, started listening to 40+ minutes a day of educational podcasts, began studying the same things my children are (and realized just how much I’ve forgotten in the process), and started transitioning to actually being a leader.

    I’m not sure what the coming months will bring, but I do know that it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

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    Travel Tech Essentials

    I’m an IT consultant and I travel all the time, did anyone really not expect this post?

    I’ve refined what I carry with me over the years and have it down to only the things that are needed. Below is a picture of the technology I carry with me, minus my iPhone 5, which I used to take the picture. The plastic sandwich baggies are to organize devices inside my bag; I cannot recommend enough that you find some method to organize. Just keeping the correct charging cables with the correct miniature devices is sometimes a chore and the baggies keep everything together in one place. I’m going to be experimenting with empty toilet paper rolls as a method of keeping cables from tangling; if successful I will follow up with a blog post.

    Note that for some reason I didn’t get my Kindle in the picture and there is a car power adapter and audio line out cable for my iPhone. I use the audio line out cable with rental cars that have Aux inputs, which is most of them lately.

    My Travel TechKindle

    I read a large quantity of books while traveling – and even when not traveling come to think of it – so it should be no surprise that my Kindle Touch 3G is first in my list of Travel Tech Essentials. I can’t recommend Kindles enough due to their ease of use and the large library available via Amazon, 3rd party publishers such as Baen and even our local library system, which supports borrowing e-books with your Kindle.

    The 3G version is highly recommended; it’s a one time fee and allows global 3G access to Amazon’s store, which is much nicer than trying to hunt down open WiFi or turning on your MiFi. I also can’t say enough about Amazon’s customer service – they’ve replaced two Kindles already, with both of them broken by me. Even after telling them “I broke it” they still replaced them under warranty with a simple $40 charge. Unfortunately the Kindle Touch 3G that I love is not available anymore but the Paperwhite 3G is out, and it has the benefit of a backlit screen – negating the need for the $60 lighted cover I use on mine.

    Here are a couple pictures of my Kindle, both with the power off and with the flip up light. You can see why I might prefer a backlight, but this will work just fine for me until it dies.

    Network Connectivity

    I carry two hot spots: a Verizon 4G MiFi and a Clear Spot Voyager.

    Since the inevitable question is “Why two?” :

    The not-so-simple answer is that Verizon 4G, while fast and ubiquitous, is expensive. I pay $80/mo for 10GB of data. I also get most of my TV shows in HD from iTunes, where they average 1.25GB each. I don’t mind paying for network access to perform billable work, and I want quality and consistency when I’m working, so I use my Verizon MiFi for that.

    However, I’m sure as hell not going to pay the $10/GB overage to download iTunes movies, hotel internet access is generally sub-par and guest WiFi is fairly rare at customer sites, so I picked up the Clear Spot Voyager. It’s WiMax and doesn’t work everywhere – Clear’s coverage is fairly spotty – but when it does work it’s generally fairly quick at 2-3Mbps and it is completely unlimited.


    At times, my engagements are ridiculously stressful and I quite simply don’t want to open my laptop when I get back to the hotel. Tablet to the rescue! I carry an Apple iPad mini with me and can’t say enough good things about it. I know that some people don’t appreciate the lack of a retina display but I’m coming from an iPad 2 – which ended up as the living room tablet at home after acquiring a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for it – so I really don’t notice any difference.

    For other options, I’ve heard good things about the Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE, which could possibly combine your Kindle with your tablet, thus reducing the number of devices you’re carrying. However, I’d be concerned about the battery life of the Kindle Fire vs Kindle Paperwhite as that is one of the big reasons I love my Kindle Touch; the battery life is phenomenal. I’ve also heard good things about the Google Nexus 7 as well, but I’ve never used one. The problem for me with both the Kindle Fire & Google Nexus is that I’ve pretty much locked myself into the iTunes ecosystem – willingly, mind you – and those are both Android devices. At this point I have no need to move to another platform even though I have DRM-free backup copies of everything I’ve purchased through iTunes.

    Where’s Microsoft in all this? Well, I tried to love them and carried a Surface RT for a few weeks but can’t recommend it in the end.


    The part that people frequently overlook is power for all this technology. While more and more airports are installing power stations in boarding areas, they are still rather rare and it’s not easy to find an open spot to  sit and charge your devices. To that end I carry a Mophie Juice Pack, which is a very thick device that is essentially a large battery with three USB ports – two full size for plugging in your devices and one micro USB for charging the Mophie itself – that allows you to charge your devices wherever you may be. I’ve used other battery packs and been somewht disappointed with all of them. Not so with the Mophie – I’ve never drained the battery, even when charging my Kindle, my iPhone and my iPad in quick succession, and it also has a nice LED indicator of how much juice is left. The downside? It is really thick and quite heavy for how small it is. The photo below is side by side with a normal sized key fob for a 2012 Nissan Sentra. I still recommend it though.

    The only other thing I can recommend as far as power accessories go is for when you do manage to find a spare outlet. Pickup a  travel power strip and not only will you only be able to charge more than one device at a time, there is also a good chance you’ll make a new single-serving-friend when you can share the last remaining outlet.

    External Mouse

    Trust me, you don’t want to spend weeks on end with the touch pad on your laptop. To that end, an external mouse is a necessity as far as I’m concerned.

    Currently, I’m a big fan of the Arc Touch, which has the coolest power button in the world. To turn it on, click the lower half into place to use as a mouse and to turn it off you just have to click the lower half flat. Simple, stylish and the battery life is crazy; I’ve only changed them once in six months with 8-10 hours/day of use.

    Prior to the Arc Touch, I was sold on  the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook mouse and I still in have two of them as a matter of fact. They’re rock solid, bluetooth (instead of the mini USB dongle the Arc Touch uses) and have the normal quality level of Microsoft keyboards and mice. That said, they went through batteries quicker than I would have liked, to the point I carried a four pack of AA batteries in my bag.

    When I was using a MacBook Pro, I had an Apple Magic Mouse, which worked, well, magically. Had no issues with it besides the fact that it ate batteries just as quickly as the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook mouse.

    Lions, Tigers & Cables

    Sometimes I feel like Oprah when I open my bag. “You get a cable! You get a cable! Everyone gets a cable!”

    Cables are the bane of my existence when traveling. I leave them all over the place – hotels, airports, rental cars, you name it. You will too. It’s like a sacrifice to the travel gods. At least it doesn’t involve blood; I’m pretty sure the hotel would charge extra to clean that up.

    The only advice I can give you is to carry at least one of every cable you need – which is obvious – and if you want to win friends and influence people (as well as not be left short when you lose a cable), carry an extra of each. Buy generic when possible as they’re much cheaper to lose.

    Personally I carry two micro USB, two mini USB and two lightning to USB cables for my iPhone and iPad. If you have an older iPhone or iPad, pick up generic sync & charge cables in bulk. They won’t last as long but you’re likely to lose it before it breaks anyways and you can buy a dozen or so before you get to the cost of an official Apple branded cable.

    Extra Storage

    You’re going to want extra storage, for two reasons: First, you will inevitably have to share files with a customer or colleague and the easiest way to do that while traveling is with a USB key. Buy a quality one and try not to lose it. Corsair makes really nice ones for example and I would recommend a 64GB key.

    Second, and what will save your bacon at least once in your life as a road warrior, is a backup drive. I carry a 1.5TB Seagate but I’d recommend at least a 1TB drive. If you’re using Windows, your backups will exceed the size of your internal hard drive due to versioning and system images. For an example, my backups currently clock in at 566GB while I only have a 512GB drive.


    I own both the Bose QuietComfort 3 noise canceling headphones and Bose MIE2i earbuds/headset but only carry the MIE2i earbuds with me on a regular basis; they also function spectacularly as a headset for my iPhone and the softphone on my laptop.

    The QC3 headphones work superbly but they are also quite bulky in my bag and I always forget to charge them so they hang out at home right now. Regardless of what headphones you choose to carry, for your own sake carry a pair with you. Blocking out screaming children and snoring passengers (I’m guilty of this myself) or simply being able to watch a movie on your tablet will make your travel experience immensely less stressful. You can also use them to listen to Travel Commons, which is one of my favorite podcasts.

    Enjoy your travels.


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