the circumnavigation, mentally. And what I’m finding is resistance – not just from others – but from myself. Rather than beginning to live more frugally, I’m having a hard time giving up delivery when I’m at home. Rather than beginning to sell things I don’t need or use, I find myself continuing to acquire things I know don’t matter. This is not what I expected.
Change is something I work hard to incorporate in my life. If things get stale, I change. If things are going badly, I change. If things are going well, I change (ideally continuing to improve). But I’m finding it hard to change now, and I can’t put my finger on it. I had some time to think about it on my motorcycle the other day (between warp-speed, hairpin turns) and I really think it has to do with my job and being too comfortable.
Which means I need to get out and take a little risk. And this is my accountability – and hopefully some inspiration for you to do the same. Here are my steps, with goals – hopefully some of them will resonate with you.
Step 1 – Drain the Bank Account
This isn’t what it sounds like – I’m not giving everything away or buying everything I’ve ever wanted. But I want to be riding closer to the edge – I want to worry, just a little, about money. So, the vast majority of my “disposable income” is going somewhere I can’t touch it. I need the stimulation, I need the uncertainty, I need the push – to keep me on my toes.
Goal – December 2013.
Step 2 – Quit the Shenanigans
The new rule is I get one Friday and one Saturday night (per month) to cut loose. The rest of the evenings are spent at home, watching movies, or doing something productive. I love to have a couple of beers with friends, so this is a big deal for me.
Goal – Yesterday.
Step 3 – Focus on Independent Work
I could fill up 5 people’s calendars with the projects I have going on (but I’m scaling that back too) – so there is NO excuse for not being insanely productive. And I have NO excuse for pissing off a day or an evening or a weekend. Unless I’m taking a break – but that’s not an excuse, that’s a necessary part of maintaining a healthy balance.
Goal – Yesterday.
Step 4 – Focus on Health
I have two gym memberships, and for some reason I’ve been making excuses for not using either. It’s bullshit. I do have a legitimate reason for not visiting the gym twice a week (I spend two hours commuting Monday and Wednesday), but that leaves 5 days per week I can workout. More working out = more energy, and I know that’s going to lead me to a better place mentally.
Goal – lose 10 pounds and regain strength, December 2013.
Step 5 – Take Any and All Measures Necessary to Quit the 9-5
Yep. You read that right. Before I go on this circumnavigation, I’m quitting my 8-6 (ish), well-paying job. I find myself rushing everywhere, unable to take time for the things that matter (health, food, basic life maintenance) and so I’m quitting. I want to work for myself, on my schedule, without all the bullshit that comes with a typical 9-5. I’m over it. Some of this is under my control – some of it (really) isn’t.
Goal – January 2014 I’m self-employed.
Step 6 – Start Selling the Accumulation of Soul-Sucking Crap
I admit it – when I buy something I expect it to be with me forever. There has been only a single time in my life when I bought something with the intention of selling it (ever), and that was recently (two days ago). But I’m done with it. I’m over the materialism, I’m over the borderline hoarder mentality, and I’m over the stress of having too much stuff.
What the hell do you tell your family though? Something like: I don’t want any more presents for my birthday, I don’t want trinkets that you picked up at the gift shop, I don’t want gifts from your travel. Please spare me – I’m going to have to sell it, and then I’m going to feel guilty for selling it. In effect, you’ll be paying money to make me feel guilty.
I’ll take support, I’ll take a little bit of genuine (organic) promotion for my cause. Of course, I’m sure there will be a point where I need something on the trip – and at that point maybe my family/friends will send me something that I really need (I’ll have some brownie points by then, surely).
Goal – Big ticket items sold by February 2014.
Step 7 – Start Telling Everyone “No”
I’m completely fed up with saying “yes.” I can’t accomplish anything I want when I’m busy pleasing everybody else. To be clear – anybody that knows me understands that I’m not known for being overly generous with my time. I simply don’t have much to give. But I’m clamping down even more. Even tonight there was the inevitable distraction that I could have avoided had I said “no.” And guess what? I should have.
I can feel the clock ticking, and I when I’m busy pleasing others – I feel them sucking the energy from me. Energy that could be spent working towards one of my (huge) goals. Energy that could be spent working on one of my many projects. Starting yesterday, I’m doing what I want, when I want, and if people don’t like it – I’ll understand completely. But I won’t feel guilty anymore.
Goal – Yesterday.
When I got the panicked call that my Dad was dying, I was terrified. My whole life changed, I knew he wasn’t going to make it and I wasn’t going to get there in time. It was one of the most heartbreaking things that’s happened to me. But I’ve come to understand – it was a liberating thing as well. My father instilled in all of us, early, the value of money – having a “good job”, and working hard. And if that was what I really wanted, that would have been just fine.
But when I think about work, material possessions, and what we (in America) have come to accept as “life” – I really only see it as a form of mental, financial, and societal slavery. It’s everything I don’t want, but it’s been pushed so hard that I almost lost sight of what matters to me – my freedom.
Things became even more clear this year, when I got the same type of call about my Mother. Thankfully – she did survive and she’s now back to 100%. But here’s what those moments have taught me: Your life is full of bullshit. That bullshit is a drain on what you should be. That bullshit isn’t necessary. That bullshit can be cut out. That bullshit, if you let it, will completely blind you from what is important. Until that moment when it all becomes clear. And then it’s usually too late.
Death may be the greatest of all human blessings.
The phone call I answered, late that night was a gift not many get to experience this early – it stripped away everything that didn’t matter and reminded me exactly how fragile life is. I remember being deployed in Iraq and coming to this conclusion – but somehow, coming back into American society started to corrupt me again. It took a brush with the death of a loved one to remind me. Funny how death works – how it closes important doors, but it brings us together and forces us to confront things in our own life that might otherwise go unexamined.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
But this wouldn’t be a fair post without a couple of caveats:
- I just bought a second (used) motorcycle – and I’m not giving it up until I’m leaving. Everything else will go.
- I’m going to take time off when I need to. I’m not going to sacrifice quality of life.
- I’m going to continue to eat delivery occasionally. I’m not giving it up completely, but I’m cutting back.
- I’m going to have the occasional drink socially with friends – catching up doesn’t count as Shenanigans.