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#13 Eliminate All Personal Debts


I have to say that in the past I was never a fan of any piece of mail from Aspire. Not that I blamed them or anything, I mean they were just doing their job, but every piece of mail I got from them was a constant reminder of this proverbial knife I had over my head.

Unlike other forms of debt student loan debt never goes away, it always accrue interest, and it cannot be discharged by the court. After graduating in 2008 I cannot begin to explain how happy it mad me to get this letter. With this paid in full notification I now have no personal debts to anyone. Not saying I don’t owe anyone any personal gratitude, but I find the terms for paying back gratitude is usually easier than that of money debt (not to mention that is something you really can’t pay back).

How Did I Do It?

Well, it wasn’t easy. The first thing I had to do was assess my personal situation. Like many people this was not fun. To assess the situation I had to write out everything relating to me and money. It wasn’t fun, everyone likes to spend money, but I had no joy in being accountable for it.

Then I had to talk to Denise about it. Being married means nothing is really just yours. There were some hard conversations. I knew that if we were ever to pay this off we were going to need to make some big sacrifices. All those money advise columns like to talk about if you just cut out that daily frappuccino from your budget you can afford anything. Maybe that works for some people but we are not coffee drinkers and even if we were we would never spend that much money on something like that. Discussing our finances came with a lot of tears but we got through it as a couple.

In the end we dedicated $500 a month for student loan payments. That was almost triple our minimum payment! That caused us to make serious quality of life choices. We downsized majorly. We have one car which we use sparingly. After running the numbers we moved to closer to my work to take advantage of lower costs on the car and to take advantage of public transportation (which is not always cheaper but the key is we have options). We have a budget and every dollar is accounted for by the end of every month. We shop at the discount markets (which sometimes require use of a foreign language).

In addition to the budget we invested. In addition to my regular job I make money in other ways. I registered my own private business, I sell on ebay, and I do other odd jobs on the internet. All the money I make from these extra sources I put into the stock market. I am not Warren Buffet, but I do my research and make a pretty good return (I have average over 30% in the last three years). It is all little stuff but it adds up.

Day after day, month after month, year after year we have been doing this and it has all been piling up. Eventually one day I looked at the budget and I saw that if we used our savings and cashed out our stocks we could pay off the loan, so we did.

So Now What?

Simple, we keep going. In making the last push to pay off the loan we dipped into our savings and had to cash out some stock options. Some would argue that would be a bad move based on opportunity costs lost to interest, but after running the numbers I found we would save more by paying off the loan early. In fact by my calculations we saved ourselves about $25,000 dollars by accelerating our loan payments. That is money we will be able to reinvest in ourselves. We have decided to pay back our savings at a rate of $400 a month, the difference being now all the interest earned comes to us and our monthly budget has a very good padding, because let’s face it, no one is ever 100% sure when it comes to finances.

A Family Walk

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

Today the Pedroza family did our first Grand Canyon Training Walk. As far as both speed and distance goes it was terrible. 2.18 miles in 47 mins. That comes out to about a 21:30 min/per mile pace (If you want to see the map go to Yeah, we are not setting any speed records anytime soon, BUT, it was a start. And start is a good thing. We are hoping that gradually over one year we will work on this very humble beginning and increase our pace and distance to the point where we as a family will get to the bottom of the grand canyon and back again. It is very hard to contemplate this task at the moment, but I know we can do it.

#15 Visiting all of the California 21 Missions

Looking back at my blog entries I started my goal of visiting the California missions in October of 2009. Back then it was just whim really. We were on our way back from Bakersfield, on our way to Disneyland and we just happened to be in San Fernando. Didn’t think or write about it much at the time. In fact the last part of that blog post is dedicated to me getting a high score at Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, but everything has to begin somewhere.

One by one up and down the state we went. Sometimes we saw lots of missions together. Other times we saw them one by one very slowly. Then in the quick instance it began it ended. That is how a lot of goals go. It can be sad, but it is also kind of nice to know the proper order of things. If you are interested in the details here are the blog post entries themselves, many good memories lie within those words:

S Fern, S Diego, S Barb, S Inez, s Gabriel, S Luis Obispo, La Purisima, S Buena Ventura, S Luis Rey, S Juan Capistrano, S Francisco Solano (Sonoma), S Rafael, S Juan Baustista, Soledad, S Antonio de Padua, S Miguel, Dolores, S Clara, S Carmel, S Cruz, S Jose #1

Naysayers vs. Reality

smileyI have this older friend at church who I would always ask how he was doing and he would always reply to me “Well John,I woke up this morning on the green side of the grass so it can’t be that bad.” In general I consider myself an optimist. Life is way too short to be a grumpy person. It takes too much work in my opinion to be a grumpy person and it doesn’t help you much at all.

Mark Twain once said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that. But the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Despite it’s appearances the world is a very balanced place. It seeks a general equilibrium. Just like a pendulum, the more energy you put into something the more you will get energy you get back. The key however comes in making sure your energy is being placed in the right thing.

Case in point I present the following video (warning emotionally this may be hard to watch):

Now one might view this video and say “Oh my gosh! These people are horrible!” but I don’t really see it that way. What I see some very passionate people that put a lot of effort in the wrong direction. The world wants equilibrium and so it brings them Gordon Ramsey, arguably one of the best chiefs in the world, but unfortunately they cannot take the help. I am sure you can find part 2 of this video on the Internet, but I will spare you the train wreck. In the end Gordon Ramsey quits helping them and the couple has a total melt down on Facebook. Really sad, but very preventable.

I think the problem becomes that people want success, but they want it instantly. They want to achieve a goal but think they can do it with no real work. Real success only comes through consistent practices over time. Shortcuts are usually illusions that unfortunately waste your time. You need constantly be on the watch that what you are doing is in balance. Go for your dreams, do the impossible (impossible doesn’t really exist anyway), but do it in a manner that is sustainable and will support you on your journey. It is a hard path to find (very narrow), but it is out there.

Some Thoughts on Belief

yodaIn Hebrews 11:1 in the bible it says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Now I have never met Yoda in real life and I am not going to say that I believe that Yoda exists, but the idea contained in the picture to the left is something I do believe in. So the question comes to mind what is belief?

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not believe in traditions simply because they have been handed down for many generations.
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
– Siddhãrtha Gautama (Buddha)

I have come to know that belief is an action. Belief is something you do. When you truly believe in something you will work to make that idea become a reality. The question does not become if you can believe. Everyone can believe in something. The question becomes is the something I believe good. If you can answer yes to that question there is no doubt in what you should do.

Learning Our Duty

“We never fail when we try to do our duty, we always fail when we neglect to do it.”
Robert Baden-Powell

Part of making goals is learning how to prioritize what is most important to you. This is going to be different for everyone. When you learn what is the most important that becomes your duty.

I think if I had to list my top 5 priorities it would go something like follows:

1) God – If it wasn’t for God I wouldn’t exist. I know that God the Father created me for to have joy and to learn to live with him again someday. He sent his only begotten Son Jesus Christ to redeem me of my sins. He guides me through the Holy Ghost so that I can learn to make correct decisions to return to Him someday.

2) Wife – I love Denise so much it is hard to put into words. She is my friend, my partner, my lover, the mother of my children, my confident, and my greatest cheerleader. I trust her with everything and place my hope and eternal happiness in making her happy.

3) Family – They love me unconditionally and so I am compelled to love them in the same manner. My family is by no means perfect, but even though we have tested each other many times I have found that family is a bond that cannot be broken.

4) Work – I believe that honest work makes an honest man. To that end I intend to give my all in the pursuit of happiness and prosperity. To my job I owe my loyalty and diligence. I have an unspoken duty to any employer to give them a hard day’s labour and in return I expect fair and adequate compensation.

5) Church – Some might be confused with this being number 5, but to explain Church (to me) is not the same as God. Church is a community of faith that helps us become closer to God. I believe that all humanity are brother and sisters. I believe that we must love and help all regardless of who they are, even if they hate me or do not agree with my beliefs.

“The List”

dreams It has been a very quiet birthday. I mean how does one celebrate their 37 birthday?! It isn’t what I would call a milestone in any sense. In fact it has been a pretty quiet birthday. Overall life is good. I can’t really complain. Life isn’t perfect, but it isn’t bad either.

Anyhow, I was thinking I wanted to give myself a present. I thought about it for a while and I decided for my own present I would give myself a new website. Designing a website is easy. I do that all the time, the hard part is deciding what the website was going to be about.

The name of the website is going to be This website/blog is going to be dedicated about making something out of nothing. It might be something great, then again it might be just another of many websites that have come and gone. As the name implies this website is about the goals and travel. More importantly, it is about the journey that gets to that goal.

So the first question of course is what is the goal? In 2010 I made a “list.” I made this list after I found a site called, it’s a site where you can get a really good deal, but it’s only available for 72 hrs. Well, on this deal, which I obviously bought, you got a bunch of self-help books (22 of them, pretty desperate I know) for only $97. One of the books was titled Reclaim Your Dreams. Basically, it talked about how we all have dreams and forget about them. Which got me thinking “Wait, a minute! I think I have some dreams, I think I even wrote them down!” So I looked it up and sure enough I did write them down.

I started to list my dreams out and then I decided I wanted to add some more and this is what I got:
(Completed / In Progress stuff is in parenthesis)
1) Hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
2) Visit Rome and Cinque Terre
3) See the Pyramids in Egypt
4)See the Capitols of all 50 states (CO, UT, AZ, CA, NV)
5) Hike the PCT or AT (Started part of it)
6) Run a marathon (11/10/12, Santa Barbara)
7) Enter a food eating contest (done in 1995 UCSB)
8) Ride a mechanical bull
9) Drive all of route 66
10) See the White House (done 8/11/10)
11) Visit the Statue of Liberty
12) Visit Vienna
13) Eliminate all personal debts
14) Memorize one book in the New Testament
15) See all of the California 21 missions (S Fern, S Diego, S Barb, S Inez, s Gabriel, S Luis Obispo, La Purisima, S Buena Ventura, S Luis Rey, S Juan Capistrano, S Francisco Solano (Sonoma), S Rafael, S Juan Baustista, Soledad, S Antonio de Padua, S Miguel, Dolores, S Clara, S Carmel, S Cruz, S Jose )

16) Learn to milk a cow.
17) See a show on Broadway
18) Get a video to 5000 views (EDIT: Accomplished as of 12/2/12 my video “Calle Revolucion, Tijuana, Mexico” is at 16,698 views)
19) Weigh 184 (195 now)
20) Ride an Ostrich
21) Swim in the Hearst Castle pool
22) Participate in a historical re-enactment
23) write a book
24) write a comic strip
25) grow a vegetable garden
26) Memorize all Articles of Faith (Done 6/1/14)
27) Make a living with a personal business
28) Climb Mt. Fuji, Japan (Done 7/2/16)
29) Visit Tikal, Guatemala (Done March 2012)
30) Go on two missions (1 was 96-98 Buenos Aires North)
31) Visit the Sacred Grove
32) Become an Analyst / Manager
33) Get a blog post up to 20,000 views
34) Ride 100 miles on a bicycle.

I told Denise (my wife) about this list and she told me she also has goals and so I decided to list them as well:

1. Be a healthy weight.
2. Hike a 50 miler carrying own pack.
3. Week plus roadtrip in RV/Teardrop
4. See Independence Hall, PA.
5. Visit a Civil War Battlefield (at least 2).
6. Sew myself a dress that I love.
7. Knitt myself a sweater I love.
8. Grow a garden big enough that I can preserve some of it.
9. Read every book that I own.
10. Go on a mission.
11. Crotchet an altar cloth for a temple.
12. Visit Church History Sites (Carharage, Navhoo, Indep, Far West, etc.)
13. Visit observation deck of Empire State Building.
14. Bike across USA.

So there it is and the website is officially up and running. Writing this list has been an interesting exercise. It has told me two things: I have some more blog posts I need to write about and I still want to add more things to the list. If by any chance you are reading these and you’d like to help me fulfill some of these goals please let me know. I can be contacted by leaving a comment or by emailing me at johnpedroza(At)hotmail(dot)com. If you have some goals I would love to hear about them as well. I also would like any ideas you have for this website. It isn’t much to look at now but I am confident with a little bit of effort it too can be something special.