Friday, April 29, 2005

Pilot Projects

by AJ/Skald

My chest felt tight. I put the book down and tried to breath more slowly. "What is going on?", I thought to myself. The book's title: "Ten Years of Living In Cars and Loving It", by Craig Roberts (THE bible of car living). My pulse was racing.

Roberts' book electrified me. But, inexplicably, I also felt terrified. Terrified because I seriously considered taking the plunge: moving out of my apartment into a car.

Those hoping to make radical shifts in lifestyle often feel overwhelmed by the prospect... by the enormity of the task. This has certainly been the case with me. Im subject to grand visions and ridiculous notions. But those thoughts turn from inspiring to frightening when I think of putting them into action.

The car living experience taught me a valuable way to bypass the fear and move forward: pilot projects.

In other words, I try the change on a very tiny scale and/or for a short period of time.

I was inspired by Roberts book but had many doubts. Could I do it? What if I was miserable? Would it be safe? When I thought of making this wholescale change, questions like these flooded my thoughts.

So I inititated the Nissan Stanza experiment. I had accepted a job in Japan. So I decided to quit my American job three months in advance, and live in my car during that time. I would give it a try for 90 days only.

That made the change seem manageable and doable. Putting a short timeline on the experiment eased my fears.

I saved plenty of money to fund this experiment. I didnt want to contend with a money shortage at the same time (living in a car for the first time would be enough of a challenge).

And the experiment was a huge success. While not always comfortable, I was never miserable. Most of my fears evaporated like phantoms. I enjoyed three lazy months in Athens, GA. I read books, wrote, met homeless people, played Ultimate frisbee, played disc golf, walked in the park, ate at restaurants. I bathed in the river.

And I gained tremendous confidence. Confidence that propelled me into a much longer van-living experiment once I returned from Japan.

Gandhi wrote "Experiment with your life". Its good advice, and a great mental stance to take.

That stance breaks the "success" / "failure" dichotomy, and helps rid us of fears. View changes as experiments, rather than "decisions", and you no longer feel trapped. A "lets see what happens if I do this" approach encourages us to live like philosophers (or true scientists,... or artists).

When faced with a monumental urge to change, or a huge goal,-- consider a test run... a pilot project.

Try that new freelancing enterprise on a micro scale first... with just one or two clients. Get rid of a percentage of your stuff and move into a little cheaper apartment. Wander for three months and see if it suits you. Dab your feet in the waters,... test it out... make a trial run.

The confidence gained by these mini-experiments will launch greater journeys than you ever imagined.

Bedding down on the plywood bunk, I turned to pet my dog, Athena. "Goodnight". She put her head down and sighed... a strangely human mannerism. I peeked through the burlap curtains on the car's side windows. Downtown Athens was quiet. I laid back and thought of my perfect hobopoet day... a day spent doing exactly, and only, what I wanted to do.... the sublime fruits of my first car living experiment.

I echoed Athena's sigh and nodded off.


No comments: