Monday, February 11, 2008

Living Free! Working Free! Part 2

In this post, since I already posted about Living Free, I want to reflect on Working Free! Once again, it is extremely important to fully recognize that I am NOT talking about working FOR free! That is a very different breed of cat. I'm talking about working freely – controlling your own time, what you do, how much you make, etc.

My new friend and the author of the book Working Free: Practical Alternatives to the 9-5 Job . . .,” John Applegath, states in the introduction to the book – where he explains that his motivation for writing the book was to show that “many people are most productive when their work arrangement provides maximum autonomy and flexibility.” He goes on to say, “This book is not about how to get a job–at least not a traditional job. It is about designing the part of your life devoted to earning a living so that you can maximize your creativity, productivity and enjoyment during every hour and every day of your life.” Has any job interviewer ever suggested that this was what you could expect if you accepted their job offer? I doubt it.

Marsha Sinetar, in her best selling book, Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow: Discover Your Right Livelihood, says at the conclusion of her introduction, “. . .Do What You Love reveals a well-kept secret: that there are hundreds of thousands of people who have overcome both internal and external obstacles to become successful doing work they love.” and “. . . this book describes what it takes to achieve (true success) and even what it means to go beyond the goal of money to the goal of authentic self-expression, self-trust and actualization.”

There are other books on the subject of “work,” but none, as far as I'm concerned that approached work from the perspective that these two books approached it. For most people “work” takes up minimally, after adding an average amount of commuting time, even the lunch time that keeps the worker away from home and family and personal pursuits, about 50 hours per week. I did say, minimally. It is not unusual for that to expand to 60 or 70 hours, sometimes more, with work that continues after regular hours, Saturday hours or sometimes Sundays and holidays and time spent on work at home. It also doesn't take into account the time individuals may spend in a second part-time job or a part-time business to help make ends meet – and most often, if there are two adults in a household, both of them are working. So, let's deduct a minimum of six hours for sleep time, seven days a week – that's 42 hours. That takes the 168 hours available in each person's week to 126 hours. So, if minimally work is consuming 50 hours a week – that equates to just about 40% of your waking time devoted to work. But, if more realistically, that number is more like 60 to 70 hours per week – then we're actually talking about 48.5% to 55.5% of the waking week devoted to work. Is it reasonable to suggest that “work” controls on average – about 50% of our waking hours?

Now, I tend to define work that I LOVE as something that I enjoy so much, that I'm so passionate about, that I'd do that work for FREE, if I had to. I seldom run into people, who work at what we can term as traditional jobs, as those who would describe their work in this way. Most people work mainly because they NEED the money to support their lifestyle. But, when you look at so many people's lifestyle it consists of working, sleeping, preparing meals, shopping, doing laundry, caring for the house and the vehicles, mowing lawns, if there are kids, helping with homework, school projects, involvement with boy scouts, girl scouts, soccer, little league, church on Sunday's and perhaps one or two other days of the week, crashing at some point in time and watching some TV or playing a video game, maybe catching up on some e-mail. Well, I'm totally exhausted – when is there any time to Live Free? There doesn't seem to be much time left for that. Does this kind of routine make for happy people? Who has time to even think about what happiness means?

I am not condemning this lifestyle and work style. I'm simply saying that if this is what you CHOOSE for yourself and you are happy, content and satisfied with your life. Then that's great. I'm pleased for you. But, somehow, I still go back to that simple phrase in the Declaration of Independence about and “inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Exactly, how does that play into this picture? Oh, I know, work hard now so you can relax and retire and enjoy life after the kids are out of the nest and have completed college. But, what about this trend for so many kids to return home after college because they can't find “meaningful” or “fulfilling” or “financially viable” WORK! So, back they come. How about when the kids do leave the nest and finally get established and start their families, but both mom and dad have to work and they really can't afford the high cost of child care, so gramps and grams kick in for another 16 to 18 years to “help out?” What happened to that freedom, relaxation and time to travel and enjoy life they had been waiting for over the previous 30 to 40 years?

Okay! I've painted a picture of middle America and what most of the people, families, individuals call a lifestyle. It's perfectly fine. I have no qualms with anyone who has chosen this lifestyle freely, accept it, love it and wouldn't have it any other way. Great! But, how about those who are not happy, don't love it, didn't really choose it, but fell into this lifestyle by default? Do they feel like, perhaps, they are in a self-imposed prison or enslavement? Remember, no one put a gun to anyone's head and said you MUST live this lifestyle. Each person has created their own set of circumstances. A verse from the Bible states, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” What happened to all those dreams you had when you were a kid growing up to do work that you idealized to be a fireman, a scientist, a doctor, an explorer, a salvage diver, a full-time musician, actor, artist, marine biologist, white water rapids guide, small business owner, inventor, Air Force or Navy fighter pilot, astronaut – the list could go on and on, of course. Oh, I know, they were all impractical, took too much education, cost too much, didn't pay enough, were too risky, etc. The excuses are as endless as the dreams.

So, here's the bottom line: WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT? Do you want time to pursue your dreams? Do you want to live simply? Do you want to have lots of time for fishing, reading, writing, doing jigsaw puzzles, playing with your kids, traveling with your partner, etc. Again, the this list is as endless as there are people. Do you want to be in control of your own TIME? Do you want to be FREE from someone else telling you what to do, when to do it, when to be somewhere, how to do it, etc.? Do you want to truly do something that you love doing and that you're passionate about? I won't even start a list here. How much will it cost to live free and have all the time you want and to do work that you love and are passionate about? There is ALWAYS a price for everything. The ultimate answer here is what will make you HAPPY?

Three quick stories to wrap up this posting. Story #1. I recently went on a trip to New Hampshire to finally meet John Applegath, author of the Working Free book. It was a 20 year search to find John and I'm delighted that I finally met him and consider him one of my friends now. While I was with John, he introduced me to several of his friends. They were amazing people and you'll meet some of them in the near future, probably in this blog, but definitely in the podcasts that will be forthcoming. Not one of these people makes a lot of money. They make what they need, they live simple, conservative lives, but all of them exhibited an attitude of being happy with who they were, what they were doing and what they had. They all said they lived and worked free and they had the time to do the things they loved to do. Many people would look at them and say they were poverty stricken. I viewed everyone, without exception as living rich, full lives – ON THEIR OWN TERMS! Did they need more, I don't think so. Would they want more, sure – if the opportunity to have more presented itself without requiring them to sacrifice what they had or to sell their souls.

Story #2: I have a friend in Canada. I already introduced you to her in this blog a few postings back. Her name is Andrea. Andrea is a free thinker and a free spirit – here is what she said to me today in an e-mail while we were tossing some ideas back and forth.

I remember being in kindergarten daydreaming about a tiny house on wheels. At that age I didn't know about RVs or mobile homes or even vans, but I knew I wanted the feeling of being in charge of my own life and free to go anywhere I wanted. At FIVE!

Andrea is preparing to set off in a Ford Econoline van that she is outfitting to live in for a year of travel all over the U.S. and Canada. This is a dream, a vision that she has had since she was five years old. And, did you read the words, I wanted the feeling of being in charge of my own life and free to go anywhere I wanted. Now, that is holding onto and soon living her dream. You'll be hearing more from Andrea, but if you want to check out her two new blogs (she added a new one since last week) go to:

Story #3: A number of years ago, a good friend and business associate of mine introduced me to one of his college buddies. My friend owned a successful small business. His college buddy was a lawyer. Now, it turns out that the lawyer, apparently, never really had aspirations of becoming a lawyer, but his parents felt that he should have a solid, financially rewarding, professional career and their thought was “my son, the lawyer.” Obviously, he was a lawyer and he had his own private law practice on Long Island (NY). But, he was really never happy in his work. He had all the trappings of success – a nice home in a nice, Long Island, upper middle class community, decent cars, good clothes for he and his spouse. They entertained and were entertained. From all outward appearances, he was exactly what his parents wanted for him . . . EXCEPT HE WASN'T HAPPY! One day he up and gave up his law practice, bought a “greasy spoon” diner and became his own short order cook. He was happier then anyone could imagine someone could be in that kind of job. He passed away, at too young an age, shortly thereafter, but at least he finally lived his dream, despite what anyone else thought. It was his life and he died happy – or at least happier then he had been.

And, just so everyone who reads this blog knows something about me, I have had a 40 year dream of traveling this continent with my house on my back – essentially, like a turtle. I have wanted to live the nomadic life of a full-time RVer since my last year of college. I even thought about the idea when I was in the Air Force, stationed at Bolling AFB in Washington, DC, that I would love to have, somehow, acquired a motor home (much more primitive in those days) and lived in the parking lot right behind the building I worked in. If you remember the TV show “Trapper John, MD” from about 15 or 20 years ago, there was a character in that show who lived in the hospital parking lot in an old Winnebago he had named “The Titanic.” Well, after 40 years, my dream and goal for this year is to set out in an older (probably 6 to 10 year old) motor home – of substantial size – I'm thinking 38 to 40 feet and live that full-time, nomadic odyssey as I travel mostly the byways and see America, Canada and Mexico first hand. I want to meet the people, see what Americana is really all about – and spin the tales in blogs and podcasts and books as I travel. Perhaps you recall Charles Kuralt and his “On The Road” TV series he did for CBS News. Well, he is a role model. I'm rereading his book A Life on the Road. I full plan to be meeting up with Andrea on her travels. I'm already in contact with a couple other nomads who have been on the road for a couple years already and will cross paths with them, too. You'll meet up with them at some later time in this blog and the podcasts. But, that's enough for now. More about my upcoming adventure in the future.

I just leave you with this closing thought about Working Free and Happiness. It is NEVER about money. Happiness is about enjoying every facet of your life that you can have control over. Working Free means controlling your own work and your own time and your own destiny. Marsha Sinetar summed it up with the old concept, “Do what you love, the money (however great or small the amount is) will follow.” Too many of us miss the happiness and joy that freedom brings when you're doing something you love while in search of financial wealth and security.



If you're new to reading this blog, go to the first posting: “Welcome to My World!” which will appear the beginning of each month in the archives and you'll gain some insight about what this blog is all about.

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