Financial Independence or Slavery

September 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Freedom

Wat lives like a king

Wat lives like a king!

You really have two choices.  You can be financially independent or you can be a wage slave.  Which do you choose?

It is a choice.  Its a choice you should think very carefully about, especially as the US and World economies teeter.

I imagine, if you are reading this website, that you choose financial independence.  You may not have it now. You may not know how to get it.  But you know that you don’t want to be a wage slave any longer.

You have probably realized as well that the old belief that a “good” job guaranteed “security” is the cruelest joke of capitalism.   When times get tough, who suffers first?  Employees.   Wage slaves are the first ones to be cut loose.

To paraphrase Marx (and mangle his philosophy ;)–   if you don’t own the means to your own financial production, you are not only a slave– you are an extremely insecure one.    Business owners, be they micro or macro, will find a way to adapt and do well during tough times.   Because they own their own finances, they have much more flexibility.

But a wage slave can only beg.   If downsized, they are in deep shit.  All they can do is go “job searching”– competing with hordes of other desperate souls to beg for scraps.

That never felt very secure to me.

So here it is– the fastest and most secure route to financial independence is to own your own business.

Don’t panic at the mention of the word “business”.   I too hated that word and the grubby republican connotations it often carries.   But as Ralph Nader says, there’s a world of difference between a family owned local business run with integrity– and the evil soul-sucking criminal mega-corporations that are destroying our planet.

You can be the former–  a micro or small business owner doing what you love with passion and enthusiasm.

In fact, I think its often best to adopt a “micro-business” goal at first.   The goal of a micro-business is not to make you rich– its goal is to cover your basic living expenses while you do something you love to do.  (And if you simultaneously reduce your living expenses– it becomes quite easy to reach your goal).

So my advice at first is:  Think Small.

You don’t have to be the next Apple or Microsoft.   You don’t even have to compete.   Just choose something you love and are reasonably good at, find a tiny niche that also loves it, and sell your funky/fun/unique product or service to them with passion and enthusiasm.

My good friend Wat is a great example of a micro-business owner.  He makes silver and leather jewelry.  He used to sell it on the sidewalks in San Francisco… but got tired of the long hours.  So now he makes a big batch, goes to music festivals from Spring through Fall, and sells his stuff there.

He loves it.  He meets great people.  He hears great music.  He “works” very limited hours.  Yet he makes enough to pay his living expenses and even save a little.

During the winters, he lives in his home country of Thailand– on a beautiful tropical island.

In many ways, he has the lifestyle of a very wealthy person.  He spends most of his time doing fun things that he loves and he lives on a tropical island 4 months a year–  swimming, diving, relaxing, etc…

I know people who make 350,000+ a year from “great jobs” who dont live as well.

So the point is–  own your finances and start micro.   Do it part time.

Just do it.  Create your ultra-tiny micro business this month.  Stop making excuses and reclaim ownership of your life!

On The Road In Good Hands

September 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Freedom, Independent Travel

On The Road

I just found out that a movie version of On The Road is scheduled for production, and Walter Salles will direct it.  He directed the excellent adaptation of “The Motorcycle Diaries”, so I think Kerouac is in good hands!

On The Road, of course, has inspired countless Hobopoets to declare their freedom, hit the road, and explore the world.

If you haven’t read it- definitely get it.  And read Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums” too!

Read more about the upcoming movie at: CNN Article

The Difficult “I Suck” Stage

September 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Self-Reliance

Yes, I suck at singing

Yes, I suck at singing

When transforming your life in any way, be it financial, artistic, physical, etc….   the most difficult phase is the beginning.

In the beginning you have absolutely no momentum.

And perhaps more significantly, you suck.   When I started my business, I sucked.  I had no freakin idea what I was doing.  The website was ugly, the marketing was crude, the lessons were raw.

When I became a vegetarian, I sucked.  I’d manage for a week or two, then I’d sneak a hamburger.. and then another.. and soon I was chowing down on meat again.

When I lived in my car the first time, I sucked.  I was extrememly uncomfortable, and paranoid as well.

And now, as I learn singing and bass as an absolute beginner, I suck.

One of the key “secrets” to the transformations I’ve been able to make is that I have learned to shrug off my pride and revel in the chaos of the “suck stage”.

The problem most people have, in my opinion, is that they are afraid to suck.  Most people are horribly afraid of appearing stupid, foolish, incompetent, or uncool.  In fact, the more they assure you that they don’t care, the more you can be sure that they are, in fact, terrified of failure.

Worst of all are the posing cynics who attempt to hide their fear behind an air of affected disinterest.  Whenever I see such a person, my first thought is always “loser”.

When it comes down to it, you can be cool & safe or you can live your principles, dreams, and visions to the fullest extent possible.  Rarely is it possible to do both.

Therefore, a vital skill for reaching financial independence, freedom, and general all around happiness & achievement is the skill of being patient and irrationally optimistic when you suck at something. Realist never accomplish anything– to really get what you want, you’ve got to believe in yourself even when its obviously irrational to do so.

You absolutely must find a way to thrive during the “suck stage” and believe in yourself no matter what.

Cynics will make snide comments.  “Realists” will barrage you with doubts and “logic”.  Some may criticize you or laugh at you.

Ignore them all.  Believe in yourself.  Believe in the power of kaizen– in constant and never-ending tiny improvements.

Don’t focus on how far you are from your vision, focus on the fact that you are finally engaged in it– you are doing it.

Trust me– after a few months of consistent sucking action, you’ll turn a few corners.  You’ll notice some small improvements.  You’ll feel a sense of momentum.

And then, suddenly, you will feel it.  Deep down.

You feel it and you’ll know–  what once seemed insurmountable is possible.  You may still be far from your dream… but everything changes on that day when you realize that you will nevertheless do it.

And so I urge you-  go ahead and suck at something.  Look & sound like an idiot and keep on doing it.

Because that is the path of greatness.

A Message of Hope

September 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Freedom

This is a re-print of a post from the old archives:

One thing I love about this blog is that it offers an honest view of the process of moving towards one’s vision. A big problem with “self-help” books and programs is that they often seem unbelievable. Why? Because the authors write them AFTER they have achieved their own vision of success. No matter how many times they say “sometimes it was tough”, you get the feeling that they always felt confident– that they always knew they would succeed.

There is a lot of that in Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek. Its a great book with practical advice. But as I read it I felt an almost smug sense of confidence. Sure, when you arrive it all seems easy and pre-ordained. But when you’re stuck in a crap job, depressed and frustrated… nothing seems easy.

I also admire Self-help guru Anthony Robbins for his passion, but again, when I read his books it seems like this guy was always a super-charged, enthusiastic, dedicated maniac.

So, when we read these people’s books, its easy to think “they are super-human freaks and Im nothing like them”.

My hope is that the extensive archives of Hobopoet will provide an antidote to those thoughts. In the archives, you find that I was frequently upset, depressed, angry, frustrated, and restless. I frequently had doubts. Sometimes, I was overwhelmed by them. You see the whole process in all its roughness. You see the occasional bitterness. You see the failed experiments. You see the desperation.

But hopefully, you’ll also find some hope… knowing that despite all that I somehow find myself here… free from wage slavery at last.

So what do I have to offer, in the way of advice? What were “the secrets” to getting here?

I think I can identify four… and they are Principles, Vision, A Process, and An Attitude:

1. Principles
My strategies, ideas, plans, and moods have changed constantly… and quickly. But throughout I have always had a core set of principles that have not changed. For me, these include Freedom (economic, political, social), Compassion (ie. a sincere wish that other beings be free of suffering and control), Lifelong Learning, Simplicity, etc…. You may have a different set, but the important point is that we all need a set of principles that enoble, guide, strengthen us. These are our compass.

2. A Vision
My serious journey towards Freedom started in 2000. At the time, I was working a horrible wage slave job as an Emergency Room social worker in a big hospital. I was doing 12 hour days… days full of crisis and chaos. Worse, I was in a new town that I hated (Greenville, SC)… a super-conservative and very Christian enclave where I had no friends. My longtime girlfriend had just broken up with me– and I was living alone (with my wonderful dog :) in a small, dingy apartment. I was deep in debt and had just started the process of filing for bankruptcy. I was so desperate financially that I briefly got involved with a multi-level marketing company… and was bothering my friends with ridiculous sales appeals. Truly, a low point.

But I had one important thing– a vision of the kind of life I wanted. I knew what I wanted. I knew the kind of lifestyle that fit me and pleased me. I knew I needed an independent income– that I HAD to be free from wage slavery. I knew I wanted plenty of time and money for travel… that I wanted to travel the world and live abroad at will. I knew I didn’t want or need a big apartment or a “nice” car.. but did want enough time-money for interesting adventures. I knew I needed a community of friends who shared this vision.

Though my life sucked at that time, I never forgot the vision… and never abandoned it in the name of “realism”. You must do the same. Many “responsible adults” will try to convince you that your vision is “irresponsible” or “childish” or “unrealistic” or “abnormal”. They’ll tell you its time to get a “real job” and settle down. They’ll tell you its time to conform. Never listen to these people and, in fact, eliminate them from your life. Never forget your vision no matter how far you seem from it.

3. A Process

Compared to the “experts” and self-help gurus, I have a very simple formula for living your vision (my definition of success :)

Most people make just one small mistake…. which dooms them to servitude. Most people follow the following process:

A. Brainstorm/Think
B. Analyze, Plan, Debate, Research, Contemplate
C. Try/Do

In fact, most people get stuck at B. They brainstorm some cool ideas. Then they start analyzing them… weighing the pluses and minuses. They think they can predict the success or failure of the idea through analysis. But since they can never be sure, they never stop thinking, debating, analyzing, researching, etc. They never reach C.

My process makes just one small change to the formula:

A. Brainstorm/Think
B. Try/Do
C. Analyze, Plan, Research, Contemplate

What a difference this makes. The truth is, you can’t predict anything. Forget trying to do so… its impossible. Ive been shocked by so many unexpected failures and successes that Ive realized that debate prior to action is nothing short of asinine idiocy. As the Tao Te Ching says, “those who talk don’t know”. To that I’d add, “Those who talk don’t do”. Forget talking and endless planning.

Just brainstorm some cool ideas and then try one. See what happens. Save analysis and planning for after the fact… when you have something concrete to analyze. Analyze your successes and failures, not your ideas. Do that, and you will be inexorably pulled along a path of discovery and learning. Keep doing that, and you will reach your vision.

D. An Attitude

The last key is an attitude of persistence. Its not easy to do, but persistence with equanimity as an ideal is vital. Scan my archives and you’ll find I often lost my cool… but you’ll also find that again and again I corrected myself and tried to re-center. I tried to regard my downs as interesting results rather than failures. I whined and raged… then got off my ass and tried something else.

Persistence is more important than cleverness. I’ve met countless clever people who never do a damn thing but talk cleverly. They win every argument, but remain pathetic wage slaves nonetheless. Avoid these people. Cleverness is a dangerous thing, because clever people have a way of fooling themselves more than anyone else.

Persistence is a much more useful trait. Cultivate it. Try to see experiments in terms of “results”… not in terms of “success” or “failure”. Develop the skill of dusting yourself off and trying again. Learn to love the challenges… and the interesting results they bring.

Enjoy The Journey

That’s the sum total of my advice… nothing too clever or amazing. As usual, the doing of it is more impressive than the talking about it.

Mostly, I want to deliver a message of hope. I know there are many people in the world like me… people who hate their jobs, people who feel trapped and degraded by employment, people who long for a freer and more adventurous life. Hobopoet is dedicated to you. To you I say, It Can Be Done.

Take Care and Good Luck!

Dublin Ireland

September 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Independent Travel

Todd & Skald Enjoy A Pint

Skald & Todd Enjoy A Pint

Just got back from a week in Dublin with Tomoe, Kristin, and Todd.

First impressions were not good- our first day was filled with pouring rain, howling wind, and a damp chill we could never shake.   Truly miserable weather was followed by equally miserable food– our first “meal” consisted of lukewarm baked beans from a can and barely toasted white bread.

Luckily, we got the worst out of the way and the trip improved steadily from there.

One big challenge, however, was money.  I must admit that I’ve grown spoiled from frequent travels in Asia.  You get so much bang for the buck in Asia… whereas Europe is extra pricey now thanks to the weak dollar.  All four of us shared a small room in a hostel- and this created a bit of tension for a few days until we adjusted to communal living.  In the end I think the experience brought us all closer.

The second day in Dublin was considerably nicer than the first.  We took it easy and strolled around the city… then met several members of the Effortless English Club (my business) at a restaurant at night.  This was definitely the highlight of the trip.  I’ve been blessed with absolutely fantastic members–  positive, enthusiastic, friendly.

We talked a long time while eating then went to a pub and talked some more.

This is one of the great joys of travel–  making friendships.  When I first started traveling, I did it solo and rarely made friends during the journey.  At that time, I was more interested in personally challening myself and with using travel as a means to stimulate deep introspection.

Recently, however, my focus has turned towards community.  I find that I learn much more when I have a personal connection to a country and culture–  and I also value the longterm relationships that I’ve made.  As a hobopoet, its only appropriate to have an international community of friends.

The most stunning part of the trip was a day excursion into County Wicklow– countryside marked by tall, steep bare hills that plunge into lake filled valleys.  Its the Ireland of movies, and indeed, many movies have been filmed in Wicklow.

Of course, no trip to Dublin can finish without an obligatory visit to the Guinness Storehouse.  We dutifully walked across town and toured the Guinness facility. And of course, we sampled Guinness stout during the course of the tour.

I’m not much of a beer drinker (to put it mildly)- but Guinness is one of the few beers I actually like..  so it was a pleasant tour even for me.  My beer drinking buddies, Kristin & Todd, thoroughly enjoyed the tour…  and also love Dublin’s pub scene in general.

So that’s it.

Though this was only a short trip, and was mostly for “business”… it still provided an amazing mental break from “normal” life in San Francisco.  That’s one of the things I like most about independent travel– its the ultimate pattern break.

Independent travel, without fail, scrambles your routines.  Mental and physical routines are totally trashed– which has the very positive effect of opening the mind to new ideas.

This pattern breaking process is one of the things that makes independent travel such a powerful learning catalyst.