Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Passions, Experiments, Curiosities

This blog chronicles quite a ride!  From broke car-living... to abundant international jet-setting.

Sorting through the adventures, the rants, the peaks, the anger & defiance, the sublime gratitude, and ultimately the bittersweet awareness of impermanence... I find one thread:  an all-out exploration of passions and interesting experiments.

Tim Ferris recently posted a documentary about Richard Feynman, the great physicist.  I found a kindred spirit speaking in that video... for Feynman had the same approach to life.  He had no grand plan for his life other than enthusiastically exploring questions and experiments that excited him. 

The curious thing is that when you do this consistently, "success" (societal, material) tends to follow eventually as a by-product.  But when you pursue "success" directly, it often proves elusive.. and when reached becomes a soul-crushing trap.

This is my ineloquent way of saying what Joseph Campbell said better, "Follow Your Bliss". 

In every culture of the world, powerful forces (media, "authority") coerce people to abandon their dreams and their great pleasures.  Everywhere people are pushed to conform to the soul-crushing demands of work.  Everywhere people are told to be "realistic", which is a code word for conformity.

They are controlled by fear.. told that they will suffer poverty and misery if they pursue their passions and live according to their own values.  It's lies upon lies upon lies... and this is why "the mass of men (and women) live lives of quiet desperation".

Far better to spend your life pursuing the curiosities, passions, experiments, and crazy schemes that fire your imagination. 

Live simply.  Trust yourself. 

Do not waste your life in miserable conformity.

Everywhere and Nowhere

5 years later.....

It was all pointing here... to the inevitable:  A fully nomadic life.

As of last year, I am a full time traveler. 

My preferred mode of travel is to spend 1-3 months in one place, then move on.  Bored with backpacking and tourism, I prefer to have something to do or learn in each place.

I started on Maui (Hawaii) where I learned to kite-surf; which turned out be be quite a challenge!  Through nothing but dogged persistence I finally managed it and now count this as one of my great pleasures.  Whenever I feel tense, or worn down by cities...  I conjure an image of the Maui north shore, with Haleakala (the mountain) in the background... viewed from my kite-board... riding a deep blue wave towards the beach... gliding past a sea turtle.... turquoise, azure,  and countless other shades of blue without names.  Ahhhhhhhhhh.

From Maui we (my wife and I) went to San Francisco... still a frequent stop... to visit my best friends Kristin and Joe. 

And then onwards... a stop in Japan... and then on to Australia.  Attended two reiki courses in Sydney, with our Reiki teacher Frans.  Beautiful city... and very expensive!

Then it was Ubud, Bali.  A new favorite.  The food is what stands out.  Ubud is a yoga and superfoods hub, strongly influenced by superfoods super-hero David Wolfe.  This place, for me, is all about health:  incredible organic food, runs through the rice fields, swims in the guest house pool... and our evening ritual-- dinner at Kafe with Kristin and Joe.

Ever onwards from there... to Thailand to visit our good friend Todd, who now runs a beachfront backpacker resort on the tiny island of Koh Payam. 

From there I had 2 weeks of Winter (about my maximum!)... learning to snowboard in Hokkaido, Japan.  Kite-boarding skills came in handy and I picked it up quickly...  exhilarating!  Thoughts of Basho came to mind... slicing down the mountain in white-out conditions... I imagined the great poet shuffling along trails through deep snow.

Thoreau said that travel is the most basic life metaphor: going from, towards....

I'm writing this from a tiny room in Kyoto, Japan... where we are spending the summer.

I have found my home at long last..  everywhere... and nowhere in particular.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Going Mobile

Well, we've arrived at last! Two years of work, with some play thrown in... and now we're ramping up our mobile lifestyle!

Just recently got back from a trip to Mexico with Tomoe-- this is a picture from the Baja coast. I was surprised to find that the water is still cold all the way down there! I was expecting balmy tropical waters-- but the ocean felt quite similar to San Francisco's.

However, as you can see it was absolutely beautiful. This pic is from a buggy dune ride we did... cruising around the desert canyons and beach in a little mini 4x4. It was an absolute blast!

Back here in SF, we just finished a visit with my good friend Chris-- who visited from Chapel Hill, NC. He's a hobopoet friend I first met in 1994. He was there for the first car living experiment and the van living experiment-- and has video of both the car and the van somewhere in his house! I'd love to get that on YouTube sometime :)

He reminded me of conversations we used to have in Athens, GA-- discussing Thoreau and Walden and how Thoreau's ideas could be translated to the modern world. I had the realization of how miraculous it is that this man, who lived over 100 years ago, had such a profound effect on my life.. and that his words are, if anything, more profound and contemporary now than when he wrote them. Truly an amazing and beautiful spirit.

Chris flew back home tonight. I helped him start a small business in February and I'm happy to say its doing well and has already replaced his income from the two jobs he has. He's continuing to work a while longer-- using the extra income to build savings and pay off his mortgage. But he plans to become a fulltime hobopoet soon! During his entire 9 day stay, I constantly overwhelmed him with ideas for adventure... and pushed him to hurry up and quit those damn jobs ;)

He did commit to joining the big Hobopoet Clan in Thailand next Feb/March for diving and general hedonism.

Until then, Tomoe and I will be busy with trips to Ireland, Florida, Honduras (Roatan), and Fiji. From Fiji we'll fly to Thailand, and then hop over to South India for a month. Then back to Thailand (and also Laos and Cambodia). A damn busy travel schedule for the next 9 months!

Which is to say, with the success of my business I'm now fully fulfilling my potential as a hobopoet-- and will continue to push the envelope and log the occasional report here.

Seeing as I usually end my posts with a nugget of advice, here it is:

This amazing lifestyle that I now enjoy started with an experiment in simplicity-- living in a Toyota Corolla for one summer in Athens, GA. That moment of action, risk taking, and adventure shaped everything that followed.

So that's my advice to you-- whatever it is-- take that inspiring risk that you've been putting off. Be bold. Do something crazy. Dare to experiment with your life. The incredible positive ripples of that action will completely transform your life.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fear-- Our Good Friend

Another year is gone -
A travel hat on my head,
Straw sandals on my feet

Complacency is the enemy of the Hobopoet. We try to be present and mindful in the moment... but we never want to be complacent.

Freedom is a road, not a point that is reached. There are always new challenges to face, new chains to throw off.

There are always new fears. Fear is our good friend. It points the way. It shows us where we need to go.

Most people move away from that which they fear. As Hobopoets, we must move towards our fears... embrace them, befriend them, and ultimately transcend them. When we do, we will arrive at a new level of living we never thought possible.

We'll feel good at that level. We'll feel strong and comfortable. We can and should enjoy those feelings. But we mustn't linger there too long. Always, we must seek out the next fear.

On a recent trip to Baja, Mexico, I realized that I have been lingering too long. I faced the fears of starting and growing my own business. I have succeeded. I'm happy. I'm comfortable. I feel strong and confident in my new life as an entrepreneur.

But it hit me, on that trip, that the fear was gone. I had lost my edge.

I have been playing it safe for several months now. The solution-- scan my soul for dreams & fears and go after them.

I thought deeply about my life and asked two particular questions:
1. What dreams have I harbored for decades? What dreams have I always been afraid to admit, discuss, and pursue?

2. What terrifies me?

In answer to number one, I realized that music has been a lifelong dream for me. I have always wanted to sing and play music. I made a few half-hearted attempts as a teenager, didn't do well, and quit from embarrassment and fear of failure.

As for what terrifies me-- I found one very simple, very raw, very visceral fear that has terrorized me since childhood-- I am terrified of heights. I also found a spiritual terror-- I'm afraid of losing myself, losing control of myself... of death... and Salvia is the thing that simulates that the closest.

Finally, on a less intense level, I realized that I crave and fear the unknown. My travels during the last few years have been safe. I crave and fear a solo trip into the unknown.

So I have started, and am planning, new challenges-- with the guidance of my fears:

1. I'm taking singing lessons, and will perform in public in a year or less
2. I'm learning Bass Guitar, and will perform in public in a year or less
3. I'm joining a Rock Climbing gym- and will confront my terror of heights regularly
4. I'm getting a vial of Salvia 20x, and will face the fear of ego-death
5. I have a motorcycle, and will make a solo, unscripted tour through Mexico & beyond

As I looked at the fat, waddling, befuddled American tourists in Baja, Mexico recently... I realized that a lack of intensity was, perhaps, one of the deeper spiritual causes of their disease. These were people who had shrunk back from the edge-- years, possibly decades ago.

They had lost their ferocity for life.

We must feed that ferocity. We must constantly seek our edge. We must always seek to grow,.. or else we will surely start to stagnate and die before our time.

In that quest, we have one friend above all others-- our fear.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Jessica's Birthday

Today is Jessica's birthday.

I hope you'll take a little time to visit her memorial website and think about her:

She was truly a special, one of a kind person and I've never met another person remotely like her. Ill always remember her boundless energy, joy for life, and unmatched kindness.

Happy Birthday Jessica

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Reaching People

OK, now its time for one of those words I hate: "marketing". In big business, "marketing" basically means-- "lying and spewing total bullshit to coerce people into giving you money".

Yuck. For micro-biz, I prefer the more direct phrase "Reaching People". Hobopoet methods are somewhat different than the mainstream approach, as follows:

1. Only try to reach people who you can genuinely help. For example, my lessons are good for intermediate and advanced English learners who wish to speak better. I dont try to trick beginners into buying them, even though that would make me more money. I can genuinely help intermediate and advanced learners, so those are the only ones I try to reach.

2. Only sell something you completely believe in... something you are passionate about. Many many years ago, I tried to sell health supplements as a means of escaping wage slavery. The problem was, I didnt totally trust the supplement company myself, and I wasnt passionate about energy supplements in general. "Good Salesmen" may be able to brainwash themselves into ignoring pesky details like these, but I wasn't a good salesman.

Now, however, I am totally passionate about my English teaching. That passion comes from 11+ years of teaching and traveling and living abroad. It comes from training, and practice, and research in the field of teaching English as a foreign language. It comes from personal failures and frustrations with foreign language education (as a student). I can talk and write passionately about this topic because I have lived it and breathed it and struggled with it for over 11 years. I dont need to fake anything.

Thats the best way to "Reach People". Not lies. Not bullshit. Not technique. Yes, you need to learn how to reach people in intelligent and skillful ways. But first, you've got to have genuine, burning passion for what you are doing-- and know for certain, deep down, that you can help people with what you're doing.

3. Permission Only. Only, and I do mean ONLY after you accomplish number 2... learn about "Permission Marketing". Start by reading the book by the same name, written by Seth Godin. This is a method of reaching people that emphasizes voluntary, respectful contact with people who are genuinely interested in what you do, and who overtly and specifically ask to receive more information from you.

In addition to being much more respectful and principled (when used as its supposed to be used), this method is also a lot more effective than blindly shoving ads in people's eyes and ears.

Good info on this topic:
"Permission Marketing" by Seth Godin
www.sethgodin .com

4. Build a Community and offer them useful information for free. Using the method above, you create a community. You can do it very simply, by building a subscriber base for an email newsletter, for example. Thats what I do. I have an email newsletter-- and in each email, I give tips and suggestions for learning to speak English better. At the bottom of each newsletter, I include a link to my website-- which has information about my lessons.

Even if they never buy my lessons, they still get a lot of useful information. In fact, I tell them how to create an independent learning plan... one that does not require my lessons. Luckily, some of them do decide to use my lessons too :)

So there it is in a tiny nutshell-- the Hobopoet method for reaching people.... (don't call it "marketing" ;)

Mental Hurdles

I still have trouble using the words "business" and "marketing". For me, they are tainted by the countless evils done by big business-- the exploitation of workers, the union busting, the lying, the environmental destruction, the political bribery, the manipulation of "consumers".

In fact, the single greatest obstacle to reaching financial independence, for me, was finding a way to do it that didnt carry a connection to standard business.

Luckily, I was able to see that there is a HUGE difference between my friendly neighborhood coffee shop (for example) and the multi-national empire of Starbucks. I realized that I could follow the path of countless good-hearted, ethical, and moral micro-businesspeople... without every having employees (wage slaves).

And I realized that a job was no better-- its easy to rationalize... but working for an evil company is usually far worse than having a business of your own. In fact, its mostly a cop-out-- you pretend you are not responsible for the evil done by the company simply because you aren't the CEO (and thus the "good German-like" excuse, "I just work there").

With your own micro-business you are totally responsible... no passing the buck. Thats good news to me-- it means I can stick to my principles 100%. I can construct my "business" any way I want. That means I can make it 100% electronic, for example, in order to avoid wasting paper, ink, etc.... a better ecological choice than printing my lessons in books or on CDs.

Could I make more money if I also sold books & CDs. Yes. Absolutely. But Im doing fine as is, and I want my biz to have the smallest ecological footprint possible.

Likewise, on principle I absolutely will not have an employee. I will not be anyone's boss. I detest that whole power structure. Could I make more money by exploiting (uh, I mean "hiring") employees to do all my work for me? Yes. Absolutely. But again, since I'm responsible I can do it however I want.

That's the difference between financial freedom and wage slavery. As a slave, you compromise your principles constantly. You duck your head and cover your ass. You ask for permission, and when its denied, you obey. Your economic dependence always takes precedent over your principles.

For anyone who wishes to lead a moral, ethical, kind, and generous life, there really is no choice but to create your own biz and escape wage slavery.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Micro-Business Simplicity

Simplicity isnt only a key value for your personal life-- its also key to success as a micro-entrepreneur.

For many years, I hoped to start my own business. I dreamt of leaving my wage slave jobs and becoming financially independent.

At these times, I'd run out and buy business books and magazines. I even went to the Small Business Development Center, talked to an advisor, and took classes.

BIG mistake. The net result of those classes was this-- I became absolutely convinced that I wasn't a "businessman". Of course, I already had deeply negative ideas about business-- based on the behavior of typical companies and their employees.

In the typical business class or book, you will be overwhelmed by boring and pointless details. They'll drown you in legal jargon about sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, limited liability companies.

Even worse, they'll try to teach you accounting. For people like me (and probably you), accounting is just about the most soul-sucking, boring, tedious subject there is (right along with taxes... which they'll also try to teach you).

Here is a valuable secret that I finally learned... a secret that has led to my financial independence: none of that stuff is necessary.

Until you have money coming in, you don't need accounting, and you really don't need to worry about legal structures.

As a beginning entrepreneur, you need only to focus on a few simple principles:
1. Do/Make something cool, interesting, or remarkable to sell (ie. a product or service you are passionate about)
2. Find ways to tell people about your cool-thing, and convince them to try it (ie. marketing)
3. Never go into debt-- make more than you spend, from month 1 (ie. cash flow)

That's it. Forget the rest. A year later, after you've quit your job and have plenty of money rolling in-- you can pay an accountant to straighten out all the legalities and finances and taxes. Cause the truth is, without something cool to sell, and a way to tell people about it-- you won't have any need for accounting!

Don't demoralize yourself with all those lifeless "entrepreneur" books & magazines. Rather, focus on your passions and skills.... and learn everything you can about reaching people (marketing). More on this to come.........

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Free Your Mind First

OK, so enough of the depressing reality of the TV programmed "good citizens". You want to know how to free yourself from that hell.

Let's get practical. Here are Skald's easy steps to mental freedom:

1. Unplug the TV
Cancel your cable service. Destroy the satellite dish. Never-- NEVER -- watch TV again.

2. Don't read or watch the "news" in any form
Don't read the newspaper. Don't read news websites. Don't listen to news radio (no, not NPR either!). Thoreau was absolutely right about the "news"-- its trivia and government/corporate spin.... it is designed not to inform you, but to make you fearful, powerless, and passive.

BUT HOW WILL I STAY INFORMED, you ask? The answer:
Read Books!

But maybe you are wondering, "What will I do with all my "free time" if I don't watch TV, or read the newspaper?"

Here's a short list of ideas:

Read books that challenge and inspire
Meet with friends and talk
Go to a meeting of interesting people
Practice the guitar, bass, drums, singing,....
Take classes
Write a journal
Start your own microbusiness
Learn a language
Do Yoga
Plan a big trip
Build something
Ride a motorcycle
Get a massage
Go to a spa or hotspring
Go to the gym
Watch a documentary
Make a documentary
Write a blog ;)

Freedom Step 1-- Your Mind

In "the West", we are mostly enslaved mentally (as opposed to the naked physical oppression employed by China, Burma, etc..). Most people in the West will forcefully and confidently tell you that they are "free".

But here's their idea of freedom:

Spend 40+ hours a week at a job where their schedule is strictly regimented. They must show up at 8:30 every weekday, must take the prescribed lunch break, and cannot leave until 5:00. Any deviation from this regimented schedule requires "permission" from the boss.

Likewise, they must dress according to the boss' rules. If they get sick, they must call the boss and beg to be "allowed" to miss work. If they are just tired and want a rest, they must go through all kinds of lies and acting to pretend to be sick, in order to get one of those precious sick days.

If they want to take a trip and travel for a month or two,... forget it. They only get 2-4 weeks of vacation a year (if they're lucky).

At many jobs, people spend 8 or more hours doing monotonous work that sucks all the life and enthusiasm from them. At other jobs, people are subjected to grueling physical stress and injury. A few bosses are "nice", most are tedious, and many are degrading or downright vile.

After work, the "free" worker comes home and watches TV-- where they passively ingest propaganda ("news", cop dramas, etc.) designed to make them feel afraid, worried, anxious, powerless, distracted, &/or complacent.

On the weekends, many watch sports (spectators) and some invest their identities in their favorite teams. Few actually play sports or games. Most get fatter and less energetic every year.

And thus very few people indeed have the mental/physical energy, or awareness, to take any kind of significant action to free themselves. Most limp along, with a vague sense of unease, boredom, lethargy. "Is this all there is?" is the thought that is always looming just at the edge of their minds.

This is what most people call "Freedom".

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Simplicity Leads To Audacity

When you follow my advice, and live off of half your income.... what happens?

One of the most amazing benefits is psychological-- fear begins to evaporate. As your "needs" decrease and your savings increase, a huge psychological weight is lifted. Every month that passes brings more relief.

Sooner or later, you find yourself feeling more confident.... no longer intimidated by your boss, or the company. You start taking risks you'd never have taken before. You start speaking more directly. You stick to your principles more.

Here's the big prize- the more audacious you become, the more successful you become. You get more respect. You do a better job, not because you're following rules.. because you do what's right whether or not its "policy". You become better at what you do.. whatever it is (true whether you're working at McDonalds or IBM).

As you become more audacious, you inevitably polarize people. Lots of people love you because you do what's right, and/or you're more honest and sincere than most. Others (mostly bosses, administrators, and other boot-lickers) dis-like you. You flout the rules. You have a bad attitude. You have no respect for "the chain of command".

All the while, your needs are decreasing and your savings are increasing. Maybe you're already planning that 6 month tour of South America.... or already plotting your own micro-business.

Eventually, your growing confidence, sincerity, and audacity are likely to get you fired. You simply can't fit in like a good wage slave anymore. Perhaps that spurs you to finally launch that micro-business, or take that trip.

Perhaps you get a low-responsibility, part-time job and relax a while as a part-time hobopoet.... spending your free time writing, making music, drawing, or dreaming.

But eventually, as your confidence and audacity grow, you will take some big leaps. And you will succeed. Which will only make you more audacious!

That is the path of simplicity... and that's why Simplicity is Hobopoet Principle Number 1

My Definition of Simplicity

Simplicity is Hobopoet Principle number 1. What does it mean?

Well, it means: Live well below your means.

And what does that mean, exactly?
My rough rule is this: Live off half of your income (and save the other half to fund long bouts of blissful unemployment).

If you make 200,000 dollars a year, congratulations! You live of 100,000 with a very abundant lifestyle and rapidly build savings (and thus economic flexibility and freedom) at the same time.

If you make 12,000 a year, then you live off of 6000. Maybe you live in your car or van to avoid paying rent (see my 2003-2003 Archives for practical tips). You drastically simplify your needs and wants. After a year, you have $6000 saved (a year's salary without work... enough to live very comfortably in Thailand or India for over a year).

W are brainwashed to live beyond our means-- taught that luxury is the key to happiness and comfort. The opposite is actually true.

Simplicity is not hardship once you learn it. Simplicity is the key to comfort and the key to security. A simple life, lived well below your means, reduces stress, increases feelings of security, and increases economic flexibility.

Simplicity reduces your dependence on any particular job. Simplicity increases opportunities (for vacations, for travel, for risk-taking).

Stressed about your job? About money?

Follow the Hobopoet Simplicity Formula:
Live off of half your income.

(Yes, it may take time to reach that level... but start working on it now!)

The First Key to Economic Freedom

I must admit I find the whole slacker/hipster "scene" annoying and pathetic. I'm a full-fledged convert to inspired laziness-- and my hatred of wage slavery is well documented.

But I still despise the Cult of Cool. In essence, The Cult of Cool is a belief system (aggressively marketed by big business, by the way) that values cynicism, criticism, and shallow posturing.

As any hipster knows, to care passionately (about anything) is not "cool".

But here's the thing-- caring passionately about something (anything!) is the first key to economic, mental, and temporal freedom.

So right away you have a choice-- the security, snideness, and coolness of hipsterville; or the risk of caring, the risk of passion, the risk of enthusiasm.

As far as I can tell, the only reason people bought my English lessons in the beginning was because they loved my passion and energy. The website was ugly. The sound quality was sub-par. My teaching methods were erratic at that point.

But I cared. I cared about my learners. I cared about helping. I genuinely enjoyed what I was doing and I didnt hide it. I put it out there with gusto!

Turns out that was enough to get me through my first 6 months.

So the first question you need to ask yourself is:
What do I care deeply about?
Another equally good variation is:
What do I genuinely love doing?

Hopefully you can identify a couple of things (and dont limit yourself to jobs, for goddsake)

From there, the next questions are:
How can I increase my enthusiasm for these things?
How can I enjoy them more?
How can I learn more and build more skill in these areas?

Answer these questions, then take the necessary daily actions..... and you've taken your first step towards freedom and self-reliance.

Beyond All Expectations

Its been a while, as usual. Quite a while since I invested energy in Hobopoet.

Where have I been? What have I been doing?

Mostly I've been fully immersed in my latest project for economic, temporal, and physical freedom: the development of my own internet micro-business.

As loyal readers know, a year and a half ago I'd finally had enough of bosses and wage slavery and decided to try to be rid of them once and for all. While still working, I launched a little website-- a micropreneur project-- starting with $200.

The first site was crude, amateur, and ugly.... yet somehow I got a few members (not enough to pay the bills, but enough to fire my motivation and imagination). I experimented, changed, evolved, and improved the site relentlessly... and 7 months later I quit my job-- my LAST job.

Most people assume it was one long party after that, but to be honest, the specter of a return to wage slavery still haunted me. One or two bad months and I would have been back in the job search ranks.... a nightmare.

So I worked for another year to continue improving and evolving. (And yes, I've played a fair amount too :)

And now, just a year and a half later, I find that this project has succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. I find myself with an abundance of time, resources, opportunities, and energy.

Financially, I'm free. I'm making 9 times more than the highest salary I ever made as a wage slave. I say this not to brag, but to show what's possible and hopefully to inspire others to take the plunge and start their own micro-businesses. I work as much or little as I like, when I like, where I like (though "work" is a poor word choice, as I love and enjoy what I'm doing-- its as much play as work).

From the start, this blog has mostly been a record of resistance and struggle: A struggle to break free from wage slavery, to make my life "a pasttime, not a hardship". At times I've raged against the forces that shackle our minds and bodies. I have chronicled my various experiments in freer and simpler living. I have chronicled the highs, and the depressing lows. Throughout it all, I kept writing.

But the one thing I wasn't ready to write about was success! I have succeeded. I'm free of wage slavery, and I have the time and resources I need to enjoy my life as I choose.

How do I write about that without sounding like a smug, gloating asshole?

I dont really know, but all I can think to do is continue being open and sincere about my thoughts, feelings, ideas, and life experiments... wherever they lead.

I'd also like to share some of what I've learned with the hope of helping others in their own quests for freedom.

I'll start this new phase now with what I call The 5 Hobopoet Principles-- topics for future posts:

1. Simplicity- Live well below your means.
2. Freedom- Never surrender your right to physical, mental, economic, and temporal freedom.
3. Compassion- Cause no harm or suffering. Ease suffering when possible.
4. Self-Reliance- Full responsibility for your own life. Neverending learning, growing, evolving.
5. Play- Enjoy your life as a pasttime, not a hardship. "Dance before you calcify"

Friday, January 04, 2008

Spread The Love

Most of my writing has concerned actions that INDIVIDUALS can take to liberate themselves.

But now that I have attained a degree of (physical, financial, temporal, emotional..) liberation, I find that my attention is turning towards helping others do the same thing. At one level, that involves sharing my ideas on this blog.

But Im taking other steps too-- which are more personal. I have decided to help two friends who have always shared my disgust with wage slavery. Like me, these friends have tried a number of experiments to loosen the grip of bosses. Both are working less than full-time, but both are still caught in the wage slave system and are very unhappy about it.

So I made a proposal to both- I would teach them my teaching system and work with them to make lessons. Then I'd help them build their own internet business.

When I tell people about what Im doing, the first reaction is always "aren't you afraid they'll compete with you?"

That knee-jerk reaction sums up the state of America quite nicely- no one is willing to help anyone else succeed, for fear they will lose something. Everyone is looking out for themselves, and only themselves. And when someone actually succeeds--- does well economically, for example... their first reaction is not to share, or teach, or help others. No, the first reaction is to horde their goodies and keep everything to themselves.

Next, these people tell themselves lies to justify their stingy greed and small hearts. They grumble about how "lazy" everyone else is. They create a mythology in which their own success is the result of their own genius and effort (with no help from anyone else and no luck involved).

This attitude eventually makes its way to the political level-- where we have rich people constantly insulting and degrading the poor for being "stupid", "uneducated", "lazy", etc.

What a dreadful country this is. How utterly uninspiring are Americans.

Here's how I see my own situation: After many many years of struggling, experimenting, researching, learning, etc... I have finally achieved a degree of liberation. I certainly contributed my share of thought and effort to this achievement. But I also learned a great deal from other people (living and dead). Likewise, throughout my life I have received help from many people.

Now that I'm doing fairly well, my instinct is to help others do the same. Im not afraid and I dont see my friends as competition. Rather, I know that their micro-businesses will enhance my own. The three of us will refer people to each other, we will share ideas, and we will help each other learn and improve.

We have also decided to create a "liberation work group"-- a small collection of people who are working towards financial liberation. It will include me, my two friends, a guy who just opened a small English school, and a woman who just started her own Chinese medicine practice.

We have agreed that one important topic for the group is: how to help other people with our micro-businesses and how to create ecological economics that are in harmony with nature and humanity.

All of this is quite interesting and fun.. and I just can't figure out why everyone else is so damned scared, greedy, and ignorant.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dharma Economics

"While the materialist is mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist is mainly interested in liberation. Buddhism is the Middle Way and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical well-being. It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them. The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence.

For the modern economist [and consumer] this is very difficult to understand. He is used to measuring the "standard of living" by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is "better off" than a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. "

--E.F. Shumacher, Small Is Beautiful

I admit that my recipe for economic "success" is quite different than the advice you'll get from most.

Bookstores are filled with books about making money and getting rich. But they all come with certain basic philosophical assumptions-- mainly that MORE money is always better and the key to "success" is to be rich.

Even books that I recommend, such as The 4-Hour Workweek or Your Portable Empire, have an underlying philosophy of "getting rich". All of these writers are firmly centered in mainstream capitalist thinking.

My philosophy is essentially that of a Buddhist economist. While others speak of "success" and "wealth", my concern is liberation. And when I speak of liberation, I mean financial liberation, physical liberation, emotional liberation, mental liberation,.. and ultimately spiritual liberation. However, at this time in my life, I'm only qualified to give advice about financial and physical liberation (and somewhat on emotional and mental :)

Its important to understand the profound difference between seeking wealth and seeking liberation. Mainstream financial advice is always focused on more, more, more.

However, my starting point is always less, less, less. Simplicity is the core of my approach to financial liberation. Learn to need less, and you automatically become freer. Learn to need a smaller and cheaper living space. Learn to need a smaller and cheaper car... or better yet, a motorcycle,... or still better, no vehicle at all. Learn to need fewer gadgets. Learn to need fewer and less expensive clothes.

Simplify, simplify, simplify. This is the core of my "method". Before you worry about building a micro-business, before you worry about debt elimination, before you worry about working fewer hours or making more money-- Simplify every aspect of your life--- persistently, continuously, relentlessly. Pare away all that is unnecessary, distracting, and fashionable. Go to work on your cravings.

This is the basis for liberation. Without doing this, you'll always be a slave... no matter how much money you have-- because you'll always need more.... and thus will always remain a slave to work and economics.

On the other hand, if you simplify drastically-- you'll find that financial liberation is much easier than you thought. You'll find that you can work much less and live much more. You'll find that escaping your job and boss (part-time or permanently) is much easier than you thought. You'll find that eliminating debt is much easier than you thought.

You'll find that you are much less stressed about money. You'll find that you have many more options in life. You'll find it easier to save, easier to travel, easier to do those things you always put off doing.

Simplicity is the starting point, the center, the foundation, and the ending point. It is the key to your financial (and physical, and emotional) liberation.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


"Follow Your Bliss"
--Joseph Campbell

Let's be honest.

Most of us love quotes like the one above. We've all read great words about "following our bliss" or "following our genius" (Thoreau).... and we've nodded our heads. We love the words of Emerson, Alan Watts, Jack Kerouac, and other free spirits. We love the IDEA that following our bliss will bring happiness, prosperity, freedom, fun, etc...

But let's be honest. At a deeper level, we don't really believe it can happen to us. At a deeper level, we have been programmed much more strongly by our mainstream culture. That culture tells us "You must work hard", "Follow the rules", "Success, Happiness, & Bliss require hard work", "Be practical".

Be honest. No matter how much you profess to be an idealist, or a romantic, or an artist, or a free-spirit... you have these cultural messages deep inside and they have a strong effect on you. They have a strong effect on all of us. And so, when we read Thoreau or J. Campbell, there is an unconscious reaction that thinks, "this really isn't possible... its a great and beautiful idea... but its not possible practically".

That unconscious programming is THE barrier... THE thing which keeps us enslaved. We are enslaved to jobs, to "hard work", to "being practical" not through force, but through mind control. I know that sounds sinister, and in fact, the effects are indeed sinister and heart-breaking.

For years, I fought with these beliefs. My chosen route was to first prove to myself that Thoreau was right- that I could live extremely simply... and that by doing so life would not be a hardship... but would in fact be easier.

That's why I lived in my car, and then a van. And through direct experience I learned that Thoreau's words were not only beautiful... but EXTREMELY practical.

That set the stage for all that has followed. The old programming lost much of its power. I began to BELIEVE. I thought, "damn, if this is true, maybe its also true that prosperity, freedom, and happiness will come NOT from hard work... but by following my bliss".

So I took off to Thailand, one of my favorite places in the world. I started teaching English.. something I liked doing in the past. But this time, I decided I'd do it only my way.. that Id only teach in a way that was fun and thrilling to me (and my students)... consequences be damned.

Which led to two results: 1) I developed a very unique, energetic, and enthusiastic teaching sytle. 2) I was fired from my job.

I came back to SF, and got another job... at a place that afforded me more freedom. And I started recording my lessons and selling them. For YEARS I had thought of making my own micro-business.. but I didnt. Why not? Because of the old programming. Because of thoughts like, "Im bad at business", "Ill have to work hard to succeed, and I don't want to be a slave to my own business", "Having a business means I only care about money".... etc.

But it was different this time because I was doing something blissful-- recording fun, loud, enthusiastic, and somewhat strange English lessons. I finally asked myself, "why should my boss get most of the money for MY work, my energy, and my creativity?"

From there, in fits and starts, it grew.... and I quit my job. The amazing thing-- its MUCH easier than working. SO much easier than working a job. My micro-business feels like a "past-time" (to use Thoreau's words). It feels like a fun hobby, not a "serious business".

So whats the point of all this babbling? The point is, I finally realize that Thoreau, Campbell, Watts, and others were NOT dreamy romantics. Their words are sober and practical.

Following your bliss does produce prosperity, freedom, etc. The only caveat is that you must do it with all your faith and enthusiasm. You must work on all those cultural programs and dismantle them.

Ive found the best way to dismantle them is through direct empirical experimentation with my life. Direct experience. Try simplicity and see what happens. Try following your bliss, and see what happens. At first, do it as a temporary experiment. Then experiment again. Eventually, make it your lifestyle!

When you do this, you will indeed find that life proceeds effortlessly. What was once difficult becomes easy. Everything begins to flow.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Fruits of Freedom

After several months of transition, I have finally settled into my new freedom. I know it sounds strange. It sounds strange to me. Who would have thought that when I finally achieved liberation from wage slavery, I would need an adjustment period.

I imagined myself immediately jetting off on exciting adventures. Instead, I continued to go about my daily routine in SF. Truth be told, I was kind of bored. Then Id think, "what the hell is wrong with me? How can I be bored? Im finally FREE!" But still, something was holding me back.

Looking back, I think it was a lack of faith. Put another way, I didn't quite believe it was real. I suppose I was waiting... waiting to see if it was all a short fluke... waiting to see if the rug would get pulled out.

Then slowly, week by week, it became more real.

And now, I have finally realized that Im free and its time to start the next phase of my life.

So, here I am in Guatemala, learning Spanish. The first thing I aim to do with my time-freedom is learn. Learn, learn, learn. I want to learn Spanish. I want to learn about other countries, people and cultures. I want to learn more about ecology. I want to learn more about sustainable economics-- so called "natural economics".

Along with this, I'll be doing a lot of playing-- starting next week with a 15 day SCUBA diving trip in Honduras. Ill be learning there too-- doing an advanced certification course and then diving, diving, diving...... soaking up the sun, sucking down pina coladas, hiking in the jungle, strolling on the beach, swimming with dolphins, visiting an iguana conservation center, and, of course, practicing Spanish.

To say that this beats wage slavery is the understatement of my life! I think back to a year ago... to the daily grind... the routine... the boss.... the boredom. I think back and I want to shout "Hallelujah" a million times!



Update From The Road

Hello from Guatemala. Its been a while since I updated this blog, so here's a quick summary.

After a few months of independence the reality of my new situation is finally sinking in,.... and Im finally starting to take advantage of it. Currently Im in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala-- studying Spanish. Ive been doing an intensive Spanish course for the last two weeks. Of course, two weeks isnt that long, but I have had a mini-breakthrough... Im no longer so nervous about speaking. I make mistakes in every sentence I speak, but Im really communicating in a foreign language for the first time, and it feels great.

Next week Im heading to a Honduran island for two weeks of diving. Ill be doing an advanced certification course and then diving, diving, diving like crazy. This is my long overdue celebration and "reward" for financial freedom-- two weeks of fun and hedonism!

After that its back to SF for a month or so. And then? Well, Im cooking up a whole series of trips and adventures. Nothing is definite yet, but at the moment Im thinking: Argentina in the Winter for Spanish study and general exploration (including some outdoor adventure), SE Asia (Thailand, S. India, Malaysia..) in the Spring to visit friends and have fun, a motorcycle tour around America in the Summer, and finally Spain in the Fall (for more Spanish and general exploration).

As always, these ideas are likely to change at my slightest whim. But I suppose thats the point-- spontaneity is entering my life again.... and I love it. This is what freedom is all about-- living according to your wishes, hopes, principles, and yes...even your whims.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Message of Hope

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!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Choosing A Micro-Business

You often hear the advice "do what you love" when starting your own micro-business.

Im not sure this is the best advice. My advice would be-- do something you enjoy AND are good at.

That's probably not going to be your favorite passion or hobby. In fact, I think its generally a bad idea to create a business that involves something you truly and fanatically love doing. For example, I love to travel. I also like writing and am decent at it when I put my mind to it. So its obvious-- I should do travel writing, right?! Wrong.

I did a bit of freelance writing while living in Thailand. It was alright, but in general I found I didnt like turning two passions/hobbies into work. Writing is great when Im doing little haiku in my journal or blog posts... not so much fun when I feel the need to make money doing it. This is even more true with travel.

I did some thought experiments on this topic. I imagined various travel based businesses and realized theyd all destroy my love of spontaneous wandering. I thought of being a tour guide but as I imagined the details of ferrying tourists around, the thought lost its appeal.

Finally I settled on English teaching... an excellent choice it turns out. This is something I like doing... but as a job. Also, Im good at it. Though I really have fun teaching English, I have always thought of it as work and so Im happy to work at it.

When thinking of what to do for your own business, I recommend you set aside your true loves and passions-- dont base a business on those. Instead, think about what you've already done (or are doing) to make money. Could any of those jobs-tasks be turned into a micro-business? What about items you know a lot about (clothes, computers, etc.)... could you find a manufacturer and sell one of those?

Remember, we're not trying to become rich here... you don't need something that will make millions. You just need enough to support your simple Hobopoet lifestyle. Think hard-- there's definitely something you can do.

As for the details of running your project, start with The 4-Hour Workweek... its got some good practical suggestions.

The scariest part is starting. You don't need to choose the perfect thing... just choose something and try it. Try, test, evaluate, modify... then repeat. Thats the basic process for micro-business success. You can do it.. you can free yourself from wage slavery and be free.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Im currently in Oaxaca, site of an ongoing people´s struggle against big business, big money, and big government. The downtown Zocolo is filled with revolutionary banners and graffiti. Meanwhile, armed stormtroopers with machine guns circle around the downtown area.. 6-8 sitting in the back of pickup trucks.

Last Friday, two demonstrators were killed by police. More are in jail, being tortured. The people are dedicated to non-violence... but its not the whimpy kind you see at US demonstrations where protesters obediently apply for their permits and stay in their confined protest zones.

Being here shows me just how dead democracy in America is. Latin America is for real (witness Venezuela, Bolivia,.. and to a lesser extent Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador). Poor Mexico has always been under the imposing gun of the US, but even here democracy stirs and people fight for their freedom.

I stopped going to demonstrations in the US because they felt more like farcical parades than anything else. The general attitude was a subservient one-- yuppies arriving in their mini-vans, carrying little signs, chanting moronic ditties,... and basically begging "oh please listen to us". When they are ignored by the corporate media and the government, they whine.

If you read Gandhi´s autobiography, you discover that the sort of demonstration you find in America now is NOT what he had in mind. As he quips in the movie, "I have never advocated passive anything". Gandhi, and King, were extremely confrontational. Their forefather, Thoreau, was likewise a disobedient, cantankerous, no-nonsense guy. When Gandhi said "non-violence", he meant non-violent DEFIANCE of the law. Gandhi constantly, publicly, and extravagently broke the law. Same with King.

Which brings us around the honest truth of it-- none of the demonstrators (sadly, me included) in the US really cares much about the Iraq War. We liked to march a little to feel good about ourselves, but none of us wanted to go up against billy clubs or tear gas. Lets face it, the Iraq War, for us, is an abstraction. An idea. It doesnt effect most of us in the gut, heart, pocketbook, or home much at all.

As much as I hate the IDEA of the war, I must agree with Hakim Bey in the end-- freedom, anarchy, etc. must always be focused first on your own life-- here and now. Its easy to bemoan the faraway war... much more difficult to confront the economic and mental chains that hold YOU.. RIGHT NOW. For most of us, our job is the single most oppressive reality we face... day after day. Behind that, the mental-media environment keeps us enslaved to that reality.

Which brings me back to Oaxaca. Democracy has a pulse here because the people are fighting for THEIR own lives and the lives of their neighbors. They are confronting the daily realities of their moment.

Those of us north of the border have different realities. We´re bloated with material excess... but we too have our chains.

Democracy and freedom will only awaken when we turn our attention to breaking those. Thats where it must start... because its pointless to whine about the oppression of strangers half a world away while doing nothing about your own shackles.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Let Freedom Ring

Today is my Independence Day.

Today was my last day of work. We can never predict the future, of course, but with luck this is the last job I will ever work.

Today is the culmination of a 23 year struggle for freedom from wage slavery. It began with my very first wage-slave job at Arby's (fast food) and has continued until this day. In that time, I worked many horrible jobs, a few tolerable ones... but always the yoke of wage-slavery weighed me down.

To escape, I radically simplified my life-- perhaps the most important step on this journey. I lived in a Toyota Corolla with my dog, I lived in a Van, I lived in Thailand. Year by year, I whittled away unnecessary expenses & distractions.... and then whittled down the hours I worked to pay for my remaining wants and needs.

The final push started 8 months ago... Halloween 2006... when I started my own micro-business. This little project started because of my love for teaching English and meeting international people, coupled with my loathing for work, bureaucracy, and bosses. It was never intended to make me rich... and it never will.

The goal was simple-- help English learners around the world enjoy English, learn it effectively, and gain independence from schools & teachers. While I sell lessons, what I'm really doing is teaching students a way to learn independently. At the end of my course, they should be able to keep going on their own, with no more need for textbooks or schools.

On my side the goal was equally simple-- make a decent living independently, doing something I love to do. Free myself from bosses, bureaucrats, wage slavery, etc.... and make enough to live an enjoyable and comfortable life. Since I live like a student and enjoy doing so, I didn't (and don't) need to make much.

I have achieved these goals. The students are happy and most seem to love the lessons. I'm happy to finally be free to live as I want. Win-win.

So what's next? For starters, I'm off to Mexico for a two week vacation. After that, I'll be taking a break from English-- to do some fun and interesting things I neglected during the past 8 months.

And then? Well, I'll continue to develop the English Club. I have some strict principles about this. The first is-- it will never grow large. Most of the evils of business that we are all familiar with come from big-business. Few of us hate our local coffee shop or Thai restaurant. Business at a human scale can be a force of good... a force for connecting people and providing helpful services.

But when a business gets too big, humanity is lost. It becomes a machine... a profit-making monster that destroys humanity and destroys human lives. How will I avoid this. Well, first of all I have no desire for riches, and to build a big business requires a high level of greed and drive.

Second, I have a strict no employee policy. I absolutely will not be another person's boss. I'm happy to partner with people, but will not employ them. This puts a strict limit on how big my micro-business can grow... there's only so much one person can do after all.

So there it is.

It has been a very long time coming. The reason I write this blog is to help others find their way to this point-- hopefully much faster and much easier than I have. If you read through the archives, starting with post #1 until this one... you will find my own personal road map to freedom from wage slavery. I hope some of these experiences will be helpful to you, in your quest for freedom, autonomy, and adventure.

I hope that some day soon, you will celebrate your own Independence Day.