January 12, 2016 - Phil Hodgen

From the Star Alliance Lounge at LAX; Send Help!

Hi from the Star Alliance lounge at LAX, where I am en route to the Middle East. I will be spending some time in Riyadh on this trip, and will be making another trip to Riyadh in February, in all probability.

In Riyadh, I will be at the Faisaliah, which is adjacent to a shopping mall (something to do!) and flanked by a Starbucks and a Costa Coffee (something to combat jet lag!).

Email me if you want to meet up in Riyadh.


This is a quick trip, to take care of some stuff and get back fast.

This time I’m flying on Lufthansa. I had a big credit on Lufthansa that was “use it or lose it” so the choice was easy.

But I am entirely agnostic about airlines. I’m not chasing Platinum status on American Airlines this year — because it doesn’t do much for me.

Well, I take that back. Last year it got my whole family upgraded to lie-down-flat business class on the final leg of a long trip home from the Caribbean. What an absolute joy it was to hear my name over the intercom at JFK shortly before boarding, and to have the guy at the gate tell me what was happening. The kids, naturally, were ecstatic. They’d never flown business class before. 🙂 Or since. 🙁

The nonstop Emirates flight to Dubai (with a quick hop to Riyadh) is always the first choice, except that the Emirates prices vary wildly. Lufthansa and Turkish offer better consistent values overall and are very pleasant indeed. You just have to be willing to get off the plane at Frankfurt or Istanbul and walk around for a while.

Travel Light

As usual, I travel with a backpack only. Each trip, I seem to take less and less stuff.

For the gear nerds, I use a Goruck pack: the “slick” version of the GR2 (no webbing on the outside) — that I don’t think they sell anymore. It’s a 40 liter bag. For shorter trips (4 days or so) I use a 20 liter Goruck pack, the SK20. Again, they don’t make it anymore.

I have some ripstop nylon zip bags to hold clothes. Bought them at the Container Store. Underwear, socks, etc. don’t take much space.

It’s really simple, after I got over the fear of “I might need ___ so I need a big suitcase full of stuff”. There are stores almost everywhere on the planet and I can buy stuff there if I really need it.

Take fewer items of clothing. Wash them there.

Add shoes, toiletries, and the bare minimum of electronics, and you’re done.

When you only have one thing, it’s easy to keep sane, even after 18 hours on the go. If I’m on a plane, take one thing out at a time. Use it, put it back. When I stand up to disembark, I only need to remember the backpack. (I lost my passport on a plane once, before I learned this lesson.)

Organize your life so it’s hard to make a mistake.

We Are Hiring

I need your help. Send me good, smart, happy people.

We are hiring an administrative assistant — a replacement for Kirsten Frank, who is headed off to law school in the fall.

We are hiring an accountant too. You might be straight out of school or you might have done your tour through the Big 4 or somewhere else and are disillusioned. You want to do international tax work that interests you — instead of junk that some senior partner thinks you should do. And you want a life.

Both of those jobs are posted on, and both are “work in Pasadena in our offices” jobs.

We also need to hire a lawyer. That job listing is something that I will write up somewhere in the sky between here and there. But we do a lot of:

  • Hardcore international tax work;
  • Foreign and domestic trust work (build, fix, or demolish — we don’t care!); and
  • Real estate transactions (that are typically wrapped up with hardcore tax stuff and held in trusts!).

So you won’t be surprised if we are looking for someone who can help in one or more of those categories. This could be a part-time or a full-time position, and we will entertain the idea of a remote gig as well.


Taylor Pearson is a friend of a friend. Interesting guy.

He wrote an interesting book, The End of Jobs. If you are early in your career, this is worth a read. Even if you are deep into your career — as I am — the message is valuable.

Buy the Kindle version — it’s just $3.99, the cost of a trip to Starbucks. And it will make a far bigger impression on you than a cup of coffee.

The kind of people we are looking for are, as Taylor puts it, people who have a demonstrated trajectory. Read Taylor’s blog and The End of Jobs to see what this means. He tells a story about himself:

I got my first job because I spent a couple hundred bucks buying domains and SEO products to teach myself SEO. Then I went to a guy and said, “Hey, I ranked these sites, and they get a bunch unique visitors each month. Here are my analytics; want me to do the same for you?” Not much of a track record, but it’s still something (and a lot cheaper than law school).

I like — and want to hang around with — people who have done stuff, and are building one achievement on top of a previous one.

It doesn’t have to be a big-deal kind of achievement.  Just that you’re a builder. A learner. As Dan Sullivan says, “batteries included” people. (You know those Christmas gifts you received as a kid, where you open the box only to find that the toy that needs batteries, and there are no batteries in the box? Yeah. Like that. How much more fun is it to receive a “batteries included” toy! Same with humans.)

If you’re interested in talking to us about working on the team, shoot me an email. If you know someone who might be a good fit, forward this email to them.


Life is too short to screw around. (I’m reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius — the Gregory Hays translation.  It’s good. Marcus Aurelius was intensely aware of his mortality and it focused his attitudes and actions on what he needed to do and how he needed to treat those around him).

2015 was a tough year for us because we were understaffed and overcommitted. No more. We are solving both sides of that equation: more people, fewer commitments.

Happy trails. I will be back in Pasadena very soon indeed.


Jell-O Shots