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"