Retirement Progress Report 2

So things have changed quite a bit since we last looked at the Lowe family retirement strategy. They’ve simplified. Mainly, I realized that it made very little sense to have such a big “Rainy Day” fund ($20k) and not have that money invested and compounding. So now we have $5k ready for emergencies and the rest gets invested.

The last few months we’ve worked hard to spend less frivolously, and to invest more aggressively.

Here are the figures:

TFSA (self-directed TD Waterhouse WebBroker account): $15,194.46

Up $9,127.46 since last report.

This is our main investing account comprised of 3 low MER TD E-Series mutual funds (TDB900, TBD905, TDB902). We’re 1 month ahead of schedule for our goal of $20k invested for the year, averaging $3,042.49 invested every month.

This quarter we invested 42% of our net income. To help free up money for investing, we’ve also been selling thousands of dollars worth of shit we no longer use via Kijiji. Guitars, a motorcycle, electronics, old paintball guns, roller blades, it adds up!

Mortgage: $168,381.87 ($1,496.13 lower than last report)

We haven’t paid down our mortgage any quicker than we had been prior to the last report. Our current interest rate of 2.92% is below what is expected to be earned investing in indexed mutual funds (8%). If we renew in a couple years with a significantly higher interest rate (anything over 8%) it will make far more sense to pay down the mortgage more aggressively and stop purchasing mutual funds altogether.

That’s all for this report, see y’all in October!

 

How to Be Really Fucking Productive Whenever You Want

I feel like a big bag of shit today. Last night I drank right after sports and I think when that happens my body gets extra dehydrated. The water I need is replaced by beer and so I wake up with angry little alcohol molecules all throughout my system (and probably a reduced ability to excrete them via breathing/pissing due to my lowered overall body hydration).

But I’m still going to dominate work today, and here’s why:

I Have Magic Headphones

Yep. Magic fucking headphones. According to Olympic coach Todd Herman, creating a secret identity or alter ego can unlock peak performance in elite athletes and everyday Joes. Think back to being a kid, and pretending to be a superhero (or an animal, or whatever). Kids have this natural ability to step into another identity and behave how they imagine that other being would behave. It’s pretty awesome. But we stop make-believing when we grow up, and we think we get better at stuff by “taking it seriously”.

Apparently that’s not true.

It would seem that Todd has created some freakishly dominant athletes by encouraging them to go back to creating alter-egos. These athletes have ways of getting into character just like kids do. A name, such as Batman works. As soon as you become Batman, Batman is on the hook to deliver, not you. And we all know Batman fucking delivers! Ideally, there will be some token item associated with the change. Todd has a special set of “business glasses” that he puts on to become his superhero of business. He takes them off to be with his family, because who he is in business isn’t who he is at home. But when those glasses are on, he’s only the Todd that dominates whatever he’s working on.

Todd talks about a Tennis player who thought Wonder Woman was the epitome of badassery, so she decided she’d be Wonder Woman when she competed. She connected the identity of Wonder Woman with wearing an actual Wonder Woman bracelet.

wonder woman

So for me, it’s headphones. I have a set of those big studio headphones that completely engulf your head and blast epic sound right through your skull. When I put those on, smash a coffee and hit play on something like this, work happens really fucking hard.

I make sure I only have the headphones on when I’m working. I take them off if I stray into a YouTube session or Facebook tunnel. That way I’m physically signalling (and training myself) to respond to the headphones with only epic productivity.

That’s how I get into the zone for work. It’s different for every identity I have. For frisbee, I become the super-hero version of me by taking my shoes off. I play barefoot, and almost nobody else does in my city. So when those shoes come off, it’s time for me to play like a god damn animal. Funny thing is, when I play with shoes because it’s too cold for bare feet, I’m not quite the same. There was a game where this happened and a few points in I took my shoes off. What followed was my equivalent to Clark Kent taking off his shirt and revealing the Superman spandex beneath. Without shoes, I feel like a force of nature, and I play like one.

What are Your Alter Egos?

This is where you get to reflect on what alter-egos you step into, maybe without knowing it. How can you reinforce them with a physical item? Or an action, like taking your shoes off. If you don’t have an alter-ego, is there a super-human version of yourself you could create? What would that person wear? Try it and let me know how it goes!

For the full talk with Todd Herman and his take on becoming super-heroes, check out his episode on the Tony Robbins podcast.

 

Beating Isla’s Ex-Boyfriend to Death with a Sock Full of Gummy Bears

This is one of those posts that gets weird before it gets useful. By the end of it, I hope to share with you one of the most life-altering realizations/techniques which has made me a tangibly happier man.

To start, we need to talk about psychology for a hot second. Specifically, we’ll look at 2 innate mental reflexes that must be tweaked in order to make us permanently happier. The first reflex up for modification is our hedonic adaptation. The second is our ability to visualize the future.

To be clear, this post isn’t about big, laborious or dramatic shifts in thinking. There is very little effort required here. We don’t need to go off into the mountains and meditate on mushrooms in a cave in order to make these changes to our brains. We are not monks, this is not Nirvana. We are monkeys, and this is merely a bigger stick to shove into a juicier mound of termites. I want you to think of these 2 mental techniques as being more like simple realizations, doorways into a different (and much happier) way of thinking. Simple is good. Simple can be profound. So let’s grab us a stick and get some motherfucking termites!

Hedonic Adaptation

Hedonic Adaptation is one of the great human advantages. We have this shit wired right into our core programming. Hedonic Adaptation is what allowed our ancestors to adapt to the absolute shittiest living conditions, make nature our bitch, and ultimately take over the fucking planet using only fire and stabby objects.

Hedonic Adaptation, put simply, is our ability to get used to anything. It brings our happiness levels back up after something horrible happens to us, like death in the tribe or getting our genitals mutilated by barbed wire whilst attempting to escape over the fence at summer band camp. On the other hand, Hedonic Adaptation also automatically lowers our happiness back to our normal levels after something insanely awesome happens in our lives, like finding a legit lightsaber amongst the wreckage of a UFO crash site or inheriting a sizeable troupe of (highly obedient) samurai chimpanzees. If left alone, our Hedonic Adaptation will reliably return our happiness levels to normal no matter what happens in our lives.

So how can we fuck with our hardwired Hedonic Adaptation? To start, take a coat hanger and unbend it so it’s nice and straight. Then take that twisty part that’s like a cork-screw and, with great care, guide it up your left nostril until you feel some pain. Next, find a power outlet and…

Hedonic Override

If I want to consciously override my Hedonic Adaptation, I need to have a look at my desires/appetites. If I have a shoe fetish (which clearly I do), a big part of my fetish is fantasizing about new shoes. I get a major jolt of pleasure when I buy the latest Prada Stilettos, black, because they make my calves look sexy and I can wear them with anything. But the moment those beauties belong to me, they begin losing their appeal. Hedonic Adaptation is already eating away at how happy they make me. In no time, I’m swiping through celebrity Instagram accounts hunting for my next shoe fix.

This is the common pursuit of happiness we all grow up with. Everyone we know does this to some degree, some more egregiously than others. There is this treadmill approach to happiness through creating external jolts of pleasure, as illustrated by the highly scientific and technical chart below:

Happiness chart

You can see how the black line (a person’s happiness) is like an excited heartbeat, spiking when something good happens (like buying a brand new hot tub), then fading a little below the average happiness level as the person Hedonically Adapts, compounded by a healthy dose of buyer’s remorse upon reviewing his credit card statement. Once the hot tub no longer gives adequate pleasure, the person makes another indulgence in order to spike happiness levels again.

So apart from not ever buying hot tubs, how do we set up our happiness such that it resembles the chart below?

increasing happiness over time

Here we have a nice, gradual increase in average happiness over time, with a smoother rise and fall in our high and low levels. External events still affect us, of course, but our inherent happiness is far less reliant upon our ability to repeatedly indulge our various novel appetites.

The answer is drugs, so many drugs.

And a little golden nugget of awesomeness blatantly stolen from A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy called “Negative Visualization”.

Negative Visualization

First let’s look at Positive Visualization, because that’s going to be much more familiar to us.

Positive Visualization gets shit done. We picture the job we want and we go out there and get it. We picture the person we want to marry and we don’t stop searching until we find her. We picture a big, greasy hamburger and we drive to McD’s and crush one in the parking lot with the A/C blasting into our sweaty, desperate faces.

Positive Visualization is one of the most powerful techniques humans are innately capable of. It gives us the power to create the future we’ve imagined. With our minds, we shape god damn reality as we see fit.

That all sounds awesome! So why bother with Negative Visualization? That sounds like it sucks! Why would I think about un-eating a hamburger? Why would I picture myself without a job? Why would I picture my wife leaving me for Ellen Degeneres? I imagine all of this because, however counterintuitive it might seem, picturing my situation as worse than it currently is makes me happier by making me realize what I already have. It shifts my desire away from things I don’t have, to things I do have. And while I’m visualizing not having these things, my built-in Hedonic Adaptation reflex starts adjusting to the shittier reality (if even just a little bit). Then when I come out of visualizing not having these things, I’m suddenly very grateful for having them!

Positive Visualization helps us get what we want by creating present dissatisfaction. Negative Visualization helps us want what we already have by thinking about being without it, creating present satisfaction.

OK! I Get it! Just Get to the Gummy Bears Already!

I have an almost-2-year-old daughter, Isla. Positive visualization with Isla includes seeing her, in my mind, on her first day of school, taking her to her first beach volleyball tourney, and beating her first ex-boyfriend to death with a sock full of gummy bears just so the next kid in line knows I’m not fucking around.

While these fantasies make me smile and look forward to the future, they preclude my full enjoyment of the present moment with my little lady. I believe happiness derived from the present moment always trumps happiness derived from looking forward to some future moment, or happiness derived from memories. If some kid breaks Isla’s heart, it’s way more enjoyable to actually beat said kid into unconsciousness with a sock full of gummy bears than it is to merely fantasize about it. Don’t worry – I wouldn’t actually beat a kid to death with a sock full of random gummies. I’d make sure to eat all the red ones first.

Negative visualization, by contrast, is much more morbid. Negative visualization with Isla is picturing that she’s mortal (which she is) and that one day I will hug her for the last time (which I will). Even just writing that chokes me up. But it also makes me more loving and appreciative of the sound of her little voice as, while I write this, she sings the Paw Patrol theme song:

“Da da do, da da do, da da da da da DA DOOO!”

Realizing that my time with Isla is finite motivates me to actively and immediately increase the quality of my time with her. The more often I’m able to remind myself of our limited time together, the better that time will be, and overall the happier we both will be.

Yes, thinking about the inevitability that both of us will die (and I fucking hope it’s me first) does invite a quick dose of heartache into my present moment, but the immediate payoff of being hyper-aware of my love for my little girl and the resulting (and overwhelming) joy of having the time with her that I do have, is well worth a quick look at the harsh reality of our inevitable separation.

I’m more a fan of a little preemptive sadness if it buys us a happier today. I’m less a fan of avoiding sad thoughts with the assumption that we’ll always have tomorrow.

 

 

 

Retirement Progress Report 1

nail figures

I’m currently stuffing my face with a bagel slathered in butter and dunked in baked butternut squash soup. I’m drinking cold homo milk fresh from the fridge. My legs are sore from having just played hours of ultimate frisbee. My mind is silent. It was in programming mode today building this javascript calculator and now it seems happy to be idle. Lia, Isla and I biked to Little Lake and fed the ducks, played, and sang the ABCs dozens of times. Today was damn near exactly what I’d like every day to be.

Thinking about that, I catch myself not appreciating the day for what it was. Recently I’ve caught onto Mustachianism and become infatuated with saving more aggressively for retirement (defined as the point I no longer have to work but for sure will keep working on certain things). This mindset is problematic in that it has me preoccupied thinking about the future more than ever before. This is good if it gets me to invest instead of wasting money on dumb things, it’s bad if it clouds my ability to see the moment I’m in. There’s a lingering fear that if I stop thinking about it, I’ll backslide into old habits and not change my behaviour at all.

Overall I’ve got it pretty good. I enjoy my work, mostly, and I’m already living how I’d like to be living. So why save for retirement at all? Why not just keep doing what I’m doing if it’s enjoyable?

The answer, for me, is about a core principle that I wrote as a note to myself late one night in Hawaii:

Always move toward greater freedom and happiness.

More net worth means more freedom. Debt is the opposite (unless it’s “asset” debt). The happiness part is in my head.

I think of saving for retirement as a very difficult challenge presenting a massive payoff. I played around with this compound interest calculator to figure out where my current rate of saving was going to land me in 14 years. I currently buy $200 of Mutual Funds every month. That puts me at $62,000 by the time I’m 45 years old. Not horrible but not retireable either. Further tinkering with the compound interest calculator indicates that Lia and I will need to sock closer to $20k annually if we’re to hit our retirement goals. It’s just doable on our current income, but we’ll have to be much more intentional about our spending than we’ve ever been before. Sushi once a month instead of once a week. Not buying a bunch of drinks at the bar on a random weeknight. Not buying expensive toys whenever I want.

The only question left is: Which do I value more? Being in a position to retire 20 years early or grabbing sushi/drinks/toys every time I get the urge? I really hope it’s the retirement option.

I’ve heard there’s a lot of power behind making goals public, and providing measurable evidence of one’s progress or lack thereof. And it’s probably true because I’m really second-guessing whether to proceed with this or not. In kicks the Neil Gaiman quote I really love:

The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself…That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.

Remembering that quote always makes me man up and take the risk.

So here it is, in black and white for everyone to see: our progress toward retirement. I’ll post an update quarterly, with actual figures. This holds me accountable to at least two other people, Kyle and Tyler, both of whom I know read these blog posts religiously.

And the numbers are…

Rainy Day Savings: $3,436

TFSA: $2,631 

Mortgage: $169,878

Our first priority is to save $20k in a savings account for “rainy day” situations/seriously slow times at Butter/etc. Once this $20k layer of fat is in place we’ll be able to invest in mutual funds with the confidence that we won’t need to sell them prematurely out of a sudden need for cash. For those of you interested in tracking our progress, “rainy day” money is what we’re currently trying to save up.

After that, you’ll be able to track the growth of our mutual fund holdings because they’ll be getting all spillover once the “rainy day” account hits $20k.

I’ll report back on this again in July!

A 3 Question Algorithm for Risk Taking

I’m listening to The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class and here’s an awesome formula for taking risks it presents:

When deciding whether or not to take a risk on something, consider these 3 questions:

  1. What’s the best thing that could happen?
  2. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  3. What’s most likely to happen?

If you can handle the worst outcome, and the most likely outcome brings you closer to fulfilling your goals: do it.

Otherwise, don’t.

Why Finishing Books is Usually Bad

I have mathematical evidence that finishing books is a bad idea most of the time. Unless you love every single book you read, you probably shouldn’t finish most of the books you start.

It’s easy to tell when you love a book – you can’t put it down and before you know it, it’s over. But the majority of books I’ve read were at least somewhat arduous to finish, and I’ve always felt like I was supposed to finish every book I start.

We can probably blame school for this, training us to persevere and suffer through material we couldn’t give half a fuck about. If a book was “decent” I’ve always stuck with it. What I’ve noticed though, is that merely “decent” books are actually worse for me than the truly “awful” books are. This is because I quit reading awful books right away, and tend to finish the decent ones – wasting a shitload of time I could have spent reading fucking amazing books.

We are no longer restricted by the god damn limits of the physical world and the piece of shit library card catalogue and our ability to manually and painstakingly search for fucking amazing books.

With the power of algorithms to match us up with massive databases of books available to us online, we should not be settling for anything less than total perfection every time we read.

I did the math to figure out what my own numbers looked like, and it appears as though there is an infinite stream of insanely awesome books on Audible for me to consume. I just need to stop wasting time on the “decent” ones.

Here’s how I figured out that my own infinite stream of perfect books actually exists:

I looked through all the books in my Audible library. Since 2010 I’ve listened to 118 books, and loved 25 of them. 25 “perfect matches” for me. So it appears that I love about 1 out of every 5 books I read. Out of Audible’s 180,000 title library, let’s say their algorithm finds that I’m only a good match for 1% of the total books available. That cuts the total down to 1800 books I’m initially matched with. Now, if I only love 1 out of every 5 of those books that still means there are 360 perfect matches for me on Audible right now!

At my current rate of listening to 17 books per year, it would take me 21 years to get through this new pile of 360 “perfect match” books. During this time, new “perfect” audiobooks will be recorded at a rate far greater than the rate I’m able to listen to them. With 43,000 new audiobooks added to Audible every year, and with me loving only 1 fifth of 1% of them, that’s still 86 new books per year added to my queue. I’d have to listen to 7 books per month, at 8 hours per book that’s 2 hours per day of listening. During the past 7 years I’ve averaged only 22 minutes per day. So I could listen 5x harder than I currently do, and still not get through all the perfect books available to me.

You can see where I’m headed with this. No more fucking around with less than perfect books.

My new policy: if a book sucks even a little bit I immediately return it (online) and start listening to another one. This process repeats until I find one I can’t put down.

How To Return An Amazon Audiobook

A reader, one of my 3 subscribers actually (Tyler Steeves) asked me how to return Audible Audiobooks, and I sensed a YouTube video opportunity.

Audible allows you to return a handful of books online before you’re locked out of doing future returns on your own, but that’s not a big deal because you can return an audiobook through the Audible chat system in roughly 3 minutes.

Life Change = Feeling Stupid and Incompetent

Last night I was working on a code problem and not getting anywhere with it. I had to write some code (an algorithm) to convert a sentence into “Spinal Case” like this:

“My name is Ryan Lowe” = “my-name-is-ryan-lowe”

The problem was there were several other conditions that my code was failing, like when the original sentence was “myNameIsRyanLowe” or “My nameIS-Ryan lowe”. The algorithm needed to figure it out no matter what format of original sentence was entered.

So between 9pm and 11pm I failed over and over to get it right – feeling profoundly stuck and frustrated. All the while my morale was dropping and thoughts like, “You’ll never get this, it’s too hard” crept closer and closer to establishing themselves permanently in my core belief system. This is the important part, because if that had happened I might have stopped learning code and just gone back to doing the code I already know and am comfortable with. And that would be have been bad.

The problem with change is this: it’s easy and comfortable not to change or to change in a negative direction, it’s hard as fuck and extremely uncomfortable (mentally and sometimes physically) to change in a positive direction.

I don’t know why this is but I’ve noticed it in myself and it’s a pain in the ass. Any time I embark on a serious mission of positive change (such as learning difficult code) the road of progress is fraught with signs that read “You’re just not suited for this” and “It’s more efficient and profitable to continue to perfect the code you’re already good at.”

These thoughts seem to be an automatic reaction to my immense psychological discomfort while trying to grasp new and abstract coding concepts. Concepts that I struggle to even somewhat understand, and that struggling makes me feel both stupid and incompetent. Feeling truly stupid and incompetent is so uncomfortable for me that I’ve already given up at learning 4 other coding languages prior to this attempt. Each failure has hardened the core belief that I’m just not all that good at abstract “back-end” code and I should stick to the stuff I’m good at (design and “front-end” code).

Yet here I am, back at the drawing board and trying for a 5th time to “get it”. This time I’ve made more progress than ever before, been more consistent in studying, and have come to truly grasp some of the concepts that have baffled me in the past.

So what’s different this time? A couple things have helped a lot. The first is knowing that learning something new hurts a lot, especially when I’m not picking it up with ease. Knowing that I will be in a constant struggle and want to quit helps me not quit because I’m prepared for those feelings in advance. They still suck, but at least I’m more aware of them and can be cautious of their ability to sway me towards giving up (again).

The second thing that has helped is being aware of the idea of my own personal “depletion” throughout a given day. Smart sciency people have figured out that our inner “wills” become depleted throughout the average day as the weight of life grinds us down and weakens our resolve.

Events like dealing with a difficult client or arguing with a family member do actually decrease our ability to be our “ideal selves” and increase the likelihood of our self-destructive behaviour.

This knowledge suggests we should do the hard things first, like work out in the morning. We are far less likely to have the resolve to work out at the end of the day after having dealt with all the other crap.

The good news is our depleted “will-power” levels reset every morning, after a good sleep. So if something feels impossible, I’ve learned to just leave it the fuck alone for the night and to give it another shot after I’ve slept. It has worked for me in the past, and it worked for me again for the algorithm problem. This morning, with a fresh tank of “I can fucking do this” in my head, I solved it in under 10 minutes.

And, for now, I feel neither stupid nor incompetent.

It’s Like Magic

I recently discovered all of my old journals and sketchbooks from my late teens and twenties, high school through college and into “real life.”

The spooky parts were the bits where I wrote about what I wanted, or where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do in the future. Most, maybe all, of those things have become reality. This isn’t unique to me. I just listened to Debbie Millman’s podcast with Tim Ferriss and she goes into way more detail about it than I do here, so if you’re curious you should listen to the full episode.

It’s as close to believing in baloney like The Secret as I’m willing to go, and the only reason I do believe that writing about your own future is an effective method in realizing your dreams is because that pattern has been revealing itself in my own life.

The exercise goes like this: write down what a typical day looks like for you 10 years from now. Go into crazy detail. Specify everything from what your spouse smells like to how many kids you have and what their hobbies are. Go from waking up to falling asleep at night, and everything in between. Again, as much detail as possible. I’ll do one now so you can read it and maybe do one of your own. I swear, so far whenever I’ve written these, they’ve done way more good than bad. For example, the first time I wrote about wanting to earn $10,000/month passive income I think I was earning $200-$400 passively. That number is now over $2000. Under $8000 to go!

OK here’s my dream day, January 30th 2027:

I wake up fully rested, early. Like, when the sun is just coming up early. The first birds are doing their thing, but not all of them.

My house is quiet. We have land, by the water. I can hear the waves against the shore. There are old trees on the property too, and I can hear the breeze in the branches just outside my bedroom window, which is on the second floor of the house.

Lia’s in bed with me. Maybe some of our kids come running in and jump on us. Maybe two are old enough to do that, and the other one is too small so they had to carry him/her in. The baby’s shat itself and Isla’s 10 so she can do a pretty good job of changing the diaper, which she does. The kids are happy. Lia and I are happy. We’re somewhere warm, or cold, it doesn’t really matter, but we’re together. Is it our house? I don’t know. Maybe it’s somewhere we’re staying for a while. It feels like home, wherever it is.

Anyway, we get up and shower. The bathroom is connected to the bedroom, I know that’s important to Lia and now that I think of it I like it too. The whole family doesn’t shower. Actually I don’t even think I shower. Nobody showers, we just get up and brush our teeth and do our thing, there’s a breeze coming in so it can’t be winter at this point, wherever we are.

Big breakfast gets made. Isla and her younger bro/sis help but mainly I do the cooking. Lia makes a smoothie or a salad or something. The food I make is fucking terrible for you but delicious. I’ve gotten pretty decent at cooking all kinds of things over the past 10 years. I’ve even figured out how the FUCK to make sourdough god damn bread. Fuck.

Isla says “FUCK” when she burns herself on something hot and nobody cares about the swearing.

Things feel easy, calm, peaceful. Real chilled out. There will be higher-energy stuff because that’s in our blood. But for the morning, things are calm.

Family breakfast, no fucking phones. There’s a mini gong and the baby smashes it with something hard and we all hold hands and feel gratitude for whatever until it finishes ringing. Might take a minute. This isn’t religious, it’s just presence and coming together in a token way as a family.

We eat. Food’s great. Kids pack it in like animals. Lia’s smoothie isn’t just greens and water, it tastes good. Dates or something. But we’ve hit that balance between my version of a smoothie (which would include ice cream) and hers (which often smells like a fresh cut lawn).

Off to activities. Do we exist in some kind of permanent vacation? Not in a conventional way. It’s like a ninja-in-the-mountains kind of training. Like when Bruce Wayne becomes a part of the League of Shadows before becoming Batman. We’re all studying different, or the same, things and that sometimes influences our location for a while. If we all want to learn to surf, as an obvious example, we would need to be in a place like Nosara Costa Rica for several months. Or roadtripping along a coast, preferably with waves that wouldn’t drown my god damn children (or me). Soooooo not Hawaii.

This sounds like we live in a trailer, which we very well may.

Late morning, the kids are studying something or another or we’re surfing or have just finished surfing or hiking or doing something we’ve never done before. Safe to say there’s a good deal of variety in our lives at this point. Lia’s a yoga pro by now, of course. Nobody doubted that for even a second.

I think I’m much better at web design than I currently am – like scary good, and “Full Stack” so capable of building full-on god damn anything I want. With databases and users and automatic two-step verification and payment processing. I know how to do all kinds of shit, and I have clients that love it and pay me to do it from wherever I am.

I am the ninja in the mountain.

What else….

Lunch time – again we maybe get food somewhere or eat something simple. I don’t want my family to get too extravagant. I’d like to be able to feed us but I’m also horny about efficiency. When I cook, there are leftovers (which taste damn good) and nobody complains about eating it for a day or three after the fact. I make good money but I don’t spend it like an asshole. In fact, a decent amount of it gets invested, donated, used for travel in a modest way.

The kids are awesome. I’m reminded of that every so often. Not every time I look at them or my brain would burn out, but a couple times a day let’s say. They piss me off too but I like that about them, they challenge things. They’re not pussies. They speak back and fight me the best they can and I usually win but sometimes they do and that’s the best moment of all, because it means they’re learning and they’re independent. They’re learning how to use their tools, and they’re pumped about it. Lia and I reward their efforts profusely. Our kids are really starting to turn into gritty little bastards, and it’s awesome. Sure, they’re weak sometimes too, and that’s OK – so am I and so is Lia and we show them that it’s OK to be vulnerable. These aren’t machines. They’re kids, but you get where I’m going with this.

Lunch is done and we’re driving, why not? I know I woke up in a house but I think I was confused. I’m probably in a kick ass trailer. We own a property or a couple properties but Lia AirBnBs them when we’re away.

I think we’re driving somewhere none of us have been before. It isn’t sketchy, it’s safe. There’s no real stress about this trip.

I don’t think we own the trailer. I think we’ve rented it, because we’re going to leave it in some town in Sweden and get in a rented sailboat and sail somewhere cool. Lia and I have heard about these islands where people sail and camp throughout them. Maybe we’re there. Maybe we know some Swedish and that’s what the kids were studying before lunch.

I check in with the office and things are normal, I have a bit of work to get through and it takes me an hour or so. Nothing crazy. All of my clients are very cool people, they know who I am and what my life is like. They’re cool with it.

We set sail, maybe we catch a fish or something and maybe by then I know how to clean and cook a fish. That’s dinner.

The kids are documenting these things. They already have developed little followings of their own. They get the value in connecting with their own online audiences and communities and they also earn modest incomes of their own and I probably don’t really understand it fully because I’m 41 and the social side of the internet has long left me behind. I just don’t have time for that shit.

Evening is closing in, the sun is setting. The water is glass. Maybe I do some sketching or watercolour painting or writing. Lia and I have some alone time. The kids have friends I guess, they’re hanging out with them for a bit. Things get steamy on our boat, BOW CHICKA WOW WOW.

Everyone is together before bed. We hang out on the boat and watch the stars. Lia still almost shits herself every time she sees a shooting star. The kids have inherited that from her so actually all of them almost or actually shit themselves as a result of shooting stars. We heat up some hot chocolate, Lia puts cheese in hers. Isla crushes cherry tomatoes into hers. The other kids are normal, they just drink it plain like I do.

We pack into our small sleeping quarters, chat a bit, then one by one we pass out. The kids talk in their sleep but I can’t hear it over Lia’s epic snoring.

Not Being A Professional

I caught myself not doing things because I wasn’t going to take it through to the point where I’d be able to make money doing it. The thought would be something like, “I feel like playing guitar right now” then another thought would say “Well, why? Are you going to play professionally? Are you going to be a musician?” and then I’d say “no” and not play.

The same thing was happening with art. I’d studied art in school in the belief that I’d end up creating art professionally. When that didn’t happen, I stopped making art. The “Why do this if it won’t pay me money?” question was silently cock-blocking my creativity.

But really, not getting paid for something is a very good thing. It means nobody gets to have any god damn say in what you’re doing. The moment you sell your shit, you are accountable to the person buying it. What lovely freedom resides in not having to give a fuck about anyone else but yourself when you do the things you love doing.

Here is a drawing that I loved doing:

life drawing 1

It’s good to be a professional when making money, building strong relationships, and delivering on whatever you said you’d do.

I think it’s bad to be a professional when exploring yourself creatively. I think creativity is a place for immaturity and childishness where no promises are made or kept, no consequences or expectations exist, and above all you get to do whatever the fuck you want to do.

Here’s another set of drawings that felt god damn awesome:

I don’t know about y’all – but I feel really good when I make stuff. Writing, snow forts, decks, bread, it doesn’t matter. The making seems to matter more than what I make. And by that logic, when I stop is irrelevant. I don’t have any pressure to finish what I’m doing. There’s no need to do a “good job”. There’s just the need to be “doing”.

I don’t know if creation is inherently important for all humans, but I suspect it is. Maybe it’s like eating and shitting. We take so much in, but what comes out?

I’ve deleted Clash of Clans and Pokemon and Chess from my phone. Those games were fun in the moment, but the moment they ended I had nothing to show for my time and energy. I’ve replaced time on my phone with time with dough or a pencil or a saw in my hand. The stuff I make accumulates. It’s real. It would be awesome to leave behind a lifetime of sketchbooks, pottery, songs, stories, photos. Every hour spend watching Netflix is an hour I could have also been painting. And ya, down time is important too. Shutting down the creative machine is, for me at least, necessary in order for the batteries to recharge. But it’s always harder to power it back up again, which is why it’s that much more necessary.

In the cardboardy wisdom of @dankosaurus:

The start of many things to #make. #cardboard #typography #sansserif #letter

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