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.