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.