Part of me really wanted to go on a rant today about all the issues hanging over the headlines. I wanted point out all the shit that I agree with or disagree with, and let you know what percent I am in, or how this guy or that girl is just awful.
But then I caught my breath, re-opened my eyes and thought on the lines of my body meeting the air. And I thought better of the whole thing.
Because really, you could find that stuff anywhere. You could go to any political blog and find views similar to mine. Someone could tell you whats wrong and whats right and radiate all that purposeless energy for you. I have made a decision about this blog, and by extension my life, that I cannot focus on what isn’t in front of me. As I march towards a situation of work independence and greater self-reliance for my family’s financial and total well-being, I can’t get caught up in generalities and sloganeering. What I want to occupy is the full limits of my body and reach out to those around me with what I can create.
This isn’t to say I’m not angry, or that I don’t get frustrated with the news. Its just that I don’t desire to take part in the incessant chirping about it, and I can’t see why anyone would want to consume that.
Instead, I see 7 ideas in my life that I feel respond to the issues I hear more and more of my friends thinking and worrying about. 7 things I have learned, that have gotten me to a point in which I can build my life independently and hopefully take up a position to help those close to me and beyond.
I list these not as a complete list , and not as a way of suggesting that I have achieved these things and am somehow master of my life. Rather this list is a way of focusing on what is important for being living on one’s own terms. They are as much achievements as they are a way to yell at myself for the mistakes I have made and make.
1. Don’t play games with banks
With all the anger that is geared towards banks and large financial institutions these days, I wonder why people keep on using them? There are so many options for local community banks and credit unions with a ton of great products as well as excellent customer service. There is no need to give in to large mega-banks and their soulless customer service and morally troubling worldviews.
A big part of this is to avoid credit cards. I had one when I was in college and used it more than I should have. I got rid of this several years ago and never looked back. A credit card is just a bet you play against your future self for something today, and it’s fundamentally a game played with a larger bank. It introduces risk to your life, and 9 times out of 10 for very little benefit. All of the reasons that I was told I needed a credit card are effectively marketing bullshit. For emergencies, for online shopping, for travel, for renting a car – all of these things can be handled through other services that take from what you actually have, not what you might someday create. Credit is a negative in your life, and I see too many other negatives in the world, no need to introduce more.
2. College Lies
First, I can tell you I had a great time in college. I made great friends, I had a lot of time to learn and explore, and some aspects of college led directly to who and what I am now. But –and its a big but– did it really equal the cost involved? It took me 8 years to pay off all of my loans and that sucked. Sucked in the biggest and hardest way possible – I scrimped while around me friends without loans were traveling and seeing parts of the world. I felt the weight of those loans on me emotionally and it was a tremndous thrill to get rid of them.
Was college a lie? I do think that in many ways it is. There is a prevailing social meme that getting into college is a big factor in being successful and making something of yourself. That is total bullshit, and I would counsel any young high-schooler to go to a cheap school and focus on broader life experiences. There are many ways I think to achieve the same results as college outside of college and that should be well considered by a great number of folks looking at taking out $40 or $50 thousand dollars in loans. Of course there are certain tracks that may require serious secondary education that only a large institution/corporation can provide, but for a good chunk of students college is more burden then benefit.
3. Make demands of your doctor
Here is something I have recently learned to do. Treat doctors like the businesses they claim to be. Before choosing an electrician for our new house I got 6 quotes from 6 different companies for the work. It was an education to get such varied thoughts and opinions on what needed to be done, and more than a little enlightening to see what the costs involved would be.
Before my daughter was born, I called 4 doctors, and 3 hospitals to get pricing for all of their services. Each one could lay out there services very clearly for the maternity care and eventual delivery. And there were variations in cost. Much like those electricians, it was shockingly enlightening to see the difference in price. Life in America, one supposes.
My new hobby is calling doctors and dentists and asking there prices for various things or asking for a menu of their prices. I understand that emergencies happen and then a different story emerges, but for so many things I think a lot of people need to start making the same demands of their doctors that they do of their mechanics and other service people. Comparison shop and play them against one another.
Its a horrible shame that we spend so much energy worrying about insurance companies when they are nothing but middlemen. Again, I am not saying that they are totally unimportant, but rather that our focus is skewed. We need to focus on doctors and their services, not how we are going to pay a company to pay for us.
4. Only people have value and it isn’t in currency
Everywhere you go there are messages flaunted about what things are worth. Houses are down or up, the nebulous stock market travels both up and down at the same time. This job gets this much money, and that job only that much. This movies earned a bajillion dollars – how excellent, how great …seriously…
People love to talk about how the best things in life are free, and how money isn’t everything. But so much of our culture comes down to issues of cost. Everything costs too much, unless you need it. Or you want it. Or its your thing to spend on.
In the end only the relationships we have are valuable. The way we spend our time together is the only true currency.All that matters is that connection. Over my life my friends and I have added unimaginable value to movies, meals, and any random thing in front of us just through our connection.
5. Want Less
Nothing has changed my life more than reminding myself of the value of wanting less. For a long time it seemed right to want more books, DVDs, types of tea, among so many other things. But the truth is stuff only ever equals stuff and there is a direct correlation between less stuff and experiencing more of it. I just feel it more and more necessary to focus on those experiences and less on accumulation.
Interestingly it seems as easy as ever to accumulate stuff without even wanting to.
6. Support the people you see
Having a daughter now, it makes you so thoughtful about what is around you and what is going into and around your body. Aside from the fact that everything starts to seem like a total danger, there is a really palpable sense that it is impossible to know where everything comes from and who’s hands it crossed before getting to you.
With that in mind, I am more enamored then ever with buying things locally and getting to know the makers that have created the items that enter my house and get on my plate. I want to know the name of the producer and why they are doing what they are doing.
7. You don’t need a job, you need income
I really believe the world is changing. The age of getting a job, getting up in the morning to go punch a clock and get a day’s pay is over. In a connected world the day can no longer be simply 8 hours. Everything has changed and that is awesome. Now everything is based on your ability to do the work in front of you and to be as good at it as you can.
I believe this to be entirely freeing. I have no desire to be tucked away somewhere trading all my time for a salary. Perhaps if I was doing the one thing that I wanted to do more than anything it would be different, but I imagine that many who call their jobs, jobs, aren’t doing that. The internet has freed us from the stagnant workplace and yet there is still so much work to do. Its scary as shit. I mean, I guess, but I see no option but to to embrace it.
Everywhere I have gone in my life I have found folks doing amazing things. Things I never would have even thought of doing. Farming, Importing T-shirt presses, starting websites, turn shoveling sidewalks into a full-time business, and on and on. Maybe I am lucky in someway that I have met all these amazing people, but I don’t think so. I think almost everyone doing something really great. But for many they put it up on a shelf come Monday. I’m just not sure they have to anymore. You don’t need a job, you need a way to support your family and get some cash every month. We shouldn’t forget that.
Let me know what you think when you finish reading, and hopefully we can list some more. As I wrote these out, I realize there is a lot more to be said.