It was January 17th, at least by his best calculations. The gravel road stretched to the crest of the hill beyond, and the falling snow gradually obscured the road and his vision. He looked down at the orange hunting vest he had put on 3 days (or was it 4 days) earlier and wryly smiled to himself. “At least I won’t get shot” he said aloud. Turning his head to the left he scanned the distant hillside half expecting a shot to ring out. Nothing. He knew there was no one there, he knew it because there was only one way in and he would have seen someone coming…and then he did…
Ready for something boring? If so, you should stop reading now, because I am going to discuss SWOT analysis, which is by no means boring. So what is SWOT analysis and why should you care about it? Broadly speaking, SWOT is a tool used in business to analyze the current state of an organization, department, or individual. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. The Strengths and Weaknesses are an assessment of the internal state, the Opportunities and Threats assess factors which are external. Once again, these are broad definitions; you could perform a SWOT analysis of a large multi-national corporation, or a single individual.
So how is it used you ask? Let me show you by performing a SWOT of my ability to complete the Seattle half marathon.
- I have run the distance (13.1 miles) previously.
- I enjoy running.
- I like to finish what I start.
- I have never run 13.1 miles in a race situation.
- I sprained an ankle over the summer and it is still bothering me.
- I have a tendency to push myself too hard in the beginning of a race.
- The day of the race should be cold which means heat exhaustion won’t be a factor.
- There will be hydration stations along the course for mid-race refueling.
- There is a donut shop near the race finish. Donuts dancing in my head will keep me going.
- There are lots of hills in Seattle and the course will surely travel over many of them.
- The jostling and proximity of the crowd of runners will be a tripping hazard, particularly just off the start.
- The race occurs on the Sunday after Thanksgiving which makes watching my food intake in the days before the race that much more difficult.
So there you have it, an assessment of my ability to finish the Seattle half marathon. My strengths coupled with the opportunities should enable me to overcome my weakness and any threats which lie in my path.
A SWOT is a great way to quickly see the big picture, to take a step back and assess the situation. There is no minimum or maximum to the number of items you should come up with for each category, rather you should consider all angles, and the listing of the items will take care of themselves if you give the task its due diligence. Now get out there and start SWOTing things, your job, your financial situation, your golf game, whatever you want…
Houses are cheap! Interest rates are low! Buy a house now! According to the experts (and the idiots) now is a great time to buy a home. Interest rates will never be this low again, or at least that’s what they say, so if you plan on buying, buy now. I hear this over and over from many different sources. People whisper this to me as if they are passing on a secret; I hear it shouted on the radio, experts on TV impart the knowledge as if they are announcing the cure to cancer. So what am I waiting for?
I’m trying not to make the same mistakes as the individuals who lost everything several years ago in the housing bust. My basic understanding of the housing “crisis” is that people bought more house than they could afford with no money down. I don’t want the type of house I could afford (a shack), and I can’t afford the type of house I want (not a shack). I am willing to save (and to wait) until the house I want is the house I can afford. But what’s really so bad about renting a place to live anyway?
Renting has its perks. When the roof needs replacing, it doesn’t take the money I was saving for my Caribbean cruise. Weekends are not spent mowing the lawn (or trying to get my kid to mow the lawn). If I don’t like my neighbors I can simply move at my convenience. On a month to month basis, renting is usually cheaper than buying, leaving extra cash for investments in low yield bonds (har har).
Even with the appeal of renting, I assume that eventually I will buy a home. However, it is not something to rush into, or to allow others to rush me into. If interest rates are higher, or homes more expensive, it will be ok because I will be buying what I can afford. By the way, now is a great time to buy a home, a guy I met at Starbucks just told me about the low interest rates…