For most of my early life I suffered from severe depression, it wasn’t until I was 31 that I decided to make a change. This article is for people who want to live a life better than the one that people expect them to live. It’s for people who expect more from themselves and their life. I hope that people will decide to make changes in their life and realize that any life they can imagine they can live if they are willing to move toward their fears and never give up.
Why do we Work?
Most people spend most of their waking hours in their lives working. Very few actually enjoy what they do, but almost universally human beings seem inclined to focus on their work so much that it often affects every other relationship in their lives. As a result their families often suffer as do their relationships with their friends and often even the people they work with. This book takes a hard look at some of the possible reasons for this condition and more importantly how to correct it and learn to live the life you want to live and still be able to do everything you always wanted to do. This should be attainable without working any more than 16 hours a week. Once you start creating the life you want for yourself you will find yourself turning away work because in your ‘enlightened’ state you will see that the LESS you can work the better your life can become.
Make a choice to be Happy
If you want to be happy you have to make a conscious choice that they want to be happy. The biggest hurdle for most people is that they feel for whatever reason that they don’t deserve to be happy. Figure out why this is true for you and what you need to do to change your own mind.
Do you love your job?
Sit down and make a list of your 10 favorite things to do. Once you write down the list look at the list and find your favorite thing to do and put a 1 next to it then the next favorite and put a 2 etc, etc, etc. Now that you have your list look at the top 5 favorite things to do and think about any way you can make a living combining any 2 of those things.
Most people hate their jobs, but nowhere is it written that you have to dislike what you do. In fact if you like what you do, there is a very good chance you will do it very well and that the time will pass quickly while you are doing it.
As an American it is extremely difficult to have any kind of functional relationship with money. Everything and everyone around you is encouraging you to be financially irresponsible. The cost of financial irresponsibility is high, affecting everything and everyone in your life. Although many people think, “I am too smart to be affected by marketing and commercials” corporate America knows better. If you were immune then they would not spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year trying to sell you things that you absolutely do not need.
The problem with money is that it is too easy to spend and too hard to get. It is an abstract concept that people do not associate with anything tangible. The best way I have found to relate to money is to think about my life as a timer ticking its way to zero. I never know what the numbers are on the clock because I don’t know when I will die, I only know that the numbers are ticking and that I have a limited time on this planet. When I spend money that is time I have to spend working when I would rather be traveling, kiteboarding or playing with my son. Every time I have to decide “Do I buy a new car or get my old car fixed” I have to look at the price of new cars and think about how much time I will NOT be able to do the things I want to do and will be forced to do things that may not be as much fun just to work to earn money. Most people do not make that connection and end up with huge houses with huge mortgages and big expensive cars that get horrible gas mileage and have a terrible relationship with their family and friends.
The best and only way to resist the urge to buy is to not own a television and to not go to stores unless you absolutely have to. In the age of Netflix where you can get movies mailed to your door practically free of advertising why would you ever want to watch TV again? If you must watch TV you can download programs without commercials from the Internet. When you go to stores make a list of things you have to buy and have a preset amount of time you allow yourself in the store. Having a list will help keep you from impulse buying and having a predetermined period of time to go to the store will ensure that you do not just spend your time looking for something to buy. Money will never make you happy and things will never make you happy. Only doing things you want to do with your time will ever bring you any real measure of happiness.
There is many different things that happen to us in life, if we had to break them down it would be best to break down the things we have to do into 2 categories, Important and not important. Most of the things we spend our time on day-to-day are totally NOT important. So then the question is why do we focus on Non-Important tasks instead of the important things. The answer often lies in the perceived urgency of something. If we perceive that something must get done right away we often deal with that before other more important things. Phone calls are the perfect example of an urgent interruption that often takes precedence over truly important things.
Computer Programmers often refer to a slightly hypnotic state that they get most of their work done in as ‘flow’. This flow state is difficult to get into, often taking 15 minutes of deep concentration. Once they are in this ‘flow’ state they are able to be remarkable productive, but there is a drawback of course. If they receive any kind of interruption while in this ‘flow’ state they will immediately break out of the state and it can often take another 15 minutes or more to get back into the flow state. Once the flow state is broken their productivity drops substantially. While in the flow state most people do not notice the passing of time, and many artists and writers are also familiar with this state. It is where they get most of their work accomplished and often feel like they are at their best.
When you want to be creative and get things accomplished its important to have a place you can go without any interruptions from family or friends, be able to turn off the cellphone and just “generate”. It is often said that the highest form of human existence and it is also the place where you will get most of your work accomplished. Most people spend 40-60 hours a week at work, but most people really only work 10-20 hours a week. When you are working focus on work, nothing else. When you are playing focus on having fun and nothing else.
Figure out what you like to do
Take a moment to consider this, discovering what you like to do will be one of the most difficult tasks in your life. Most people spend their entire lives not really knowing what they enjoy doing because they don’t take the time to really explore it. My favorite things to do travel, kiting, skiing, and whitewater kayaking were all extremely difficult to learn and for each there was several times I wanted to quit. The most important thing was that I chose to not give up and kept trying until I got it right. I have put far more effort into finding out what I like to do and doing it than I have ever spent working for someone else. I think this is the right way to live.
Once you figure out what you like to do, find ways to do it as much as you feel necessary. Don’t worry about what other people think about this, if they discourage you from doing what you want to do to be happy it is probably because they have already given up on trying to be happy. If what you want to do does not hurt other people then there is really no reason for you NOT to do it. We frequently make excuses for why we can’t do what we want to do but the truth is that there really is NO excuse for not doing what you feel called to do except laziness and fear of failure.
Avoid wasting money
Lotto, smoking, alcohol, trailer lots and paying rent is like flushing your money down the toilet. They are things designed to keep the poor people poor and the rich people rich. Think carefully about everything you spend money on. If you’re going to live somewhere for more than 3 years then buckle down and buy a house. Try to buy a house with an apartment or two in it, which will partially or totally offset the cost of even owning a home. In this society those willing to take on more responsibility are rewarded financially and those who don’t want to are punished. Build up your credit and buy a house. The best time to buy a house is before you start your own business because banks really don’t like to loan money to people who start their own businesses because of the high failure rate of most new businesses. Once you have a reasonable mortgage then it’s time to start your own business.
Don’t buy into life in indentured servitude when you buy a house
When it comes time to buy a house look for a cheap house in a decent neighborhood. Apartments can generate income and are not stressful to run if you get the right tenants. Too often people go shopping for a house and buy the biggest house the bank will finance without much thought to how much they will have to work to pay for it. Once you buy a house look at replacing poorly insulated doors and windows and super insulating the attic. Blown insulation is very cheap and you can easily blow 2-3 feet into an attic to get the R40 equivalent insulation in the attic. If you want to insulate the walls 2” PolyIsoSyrinate with aluminum backing is R14 and can be applied to the interior or exterior of a home. If used inside you will need to put 1/2 “ sheetrock to cover it, use firring strips on both sides of the insulation which gives you an additional R22 in the walls. If you use it on the exterior make sure to put some kind of covering over the outside of the house. You can easily spend a few hundred dollars on renovations and save thousands on your heating and energy bills.
Learn to do everything yourself and decide what you WANT to do
I’ve made it a point to try to learn to fix or install or modify everything possible in my life. Then when it comes time to do something I know how long it will take and how much it will cost if I do it or if I want someone else to do it. With that information it is far less likely that I will get taken advantage of by a dishonest auto mechanic, heating repairman or plumber. If you know a little bit about something it makes it much easier to get that work done.
Although you might not like fixing your car or doing your plumbing it’s really important that you know how to do these things in case you can’t find someone to do it or their rate is too expensive. Be prepared to spend 2-3 times as long as a professional accomplishing the same task. Take your time and do research on what you are trying to accomplish before you start the task. Once you start doing your own things you’ll certainly find that you enjoy some of it. The trick is to figure out what you like doing and do that and let other people do the rest.
As Americans we are taught to only buy things that are new and whenever anything breaks to throw it away. If you ever travel to most of the other countries in the world you will see that this is not how the rest of the world operates. Most countries, especially poor ones are incredibly resourceful. They tend to reuse everything they can until it is so worn out that it is useless. When you go shopping to buy clothes for yourself you are basically saying, “How I look is more important that how much time I have to enjoy myself or spend with my family”. If that truly is your how your values lie then shop away, but more than likely shopping is an addiction, an opiate for the masses so you can forget how much you hate your job and your life. Spend money and for a short while you can forget the way things are and be happy, until the credit card bill comes. Why don’t Americans buy second-hand clothes when they cost next to nothing? Social status, we don’t want to LOOK like we buy 2nd hand clothes, but even more we don’t want to FEEL like we are the kind of people who would buy second-hand clothes. The only one making us feel like that is ourselves. In reality no one knows, nor do they care, whether you buy new or used clothes unless you tell them.
Too often in America we see brand new American cars and trucks parked outside run down trailers. Why do people buy these brand new cars and live in run down houses? No one sees their house and everyone sees their car. In America we are such a car-oriented society that a great deal of one’s identity is tied up in your car. The greatest drop in resale value happens the first several years of car ownership so if you insist on buying a new car, at least buy one that is 2 or 3 years old. Let someone else take the massive hit in depreciation. Better yet, find a good honest mechanic and just get a car that is
Many liberal-minded Americans spend a lot of time thinking about trying to alleviate global warming. It takes far more global resources to build a brand new Prius than it does to buy a cheap old Honda Civic and keep it running for a few more years. Building a huge new house is far more of a drain on global resources than buying an old house and replacing the heater and super-insulating it. Don’t buy into this ‘new green’ mentality that says you have to spend a lot of ‘green’ to be ‘green’. Being resourceful and thoughtful about energy usage is the BEST way right now to curb global warming, not buying more ‘stuff’.
- Find a sport you love to do and don’t stop doing it.
Get physical exercise
One of the best ways to get happy and stay happy is to get physical exercise. Every person must learn how much exercise they need to get happy and stay happy. For me I need at least 2 hours of intense exercise a day and I prefer at least 4 hours. Any time exercising is time well spent, as your attitude and energy level will almost always be higher. The more you exercise the more energy you have, the less you exercise the less energy you have. You’ll never live the life you want to live if you are sedentary.
Often times it is harder to get paid decent money for doing physical labor. If you have a sedentary job I suggest using one day a week and just dedicating it to doing hard physical labor around the house. You’ll feel much better and you’ll have a chance to make your house be more attractive. Make a list of lots of cheap things you can add or fix with your house like making stone walkways and cleaning out the gutters. You’ll find yourself looking forward to that one day working on your house all week long. If you have kids they can often help too which makes the work even more enjoyable. We are wired to like hard physical exercise and yet most people spend their lives in America behind a desk, which is not the way our bodies were designed to operate. We are physical.
Drink a lot of water
The experts say you should drink 2 liters of water a day, if you are active I would double that. Americans are a dehydrated nation. They drink too much soda and coffee and alcohol all of which are diuretics. Your body is mostly water and you lose at least 1.5 liters a day through urination, sweating and breathing. Do not drink anything but water, juice or milk and if you must drink diuretics than drink twice as much water as the diuretic to make sure you can replace the water you are loosing.
Starting your own business
Want to work 15 hours a week and still make enough to live comfortably on? Chances are you will have a very difficult time finding someone to hire you who will pay you what you’re worth and will allow you to work part-time. You will need to create a business on your own. Contrary to popular belief you do not need a lot of start-up money to start your own business, just a lot of motivation and gumption. Pick a business name that is early in the alphabet and is highly descriptive of what your business does. If people can’t immediately tell what your business does by the business name then it is a bad choice. Then register a domain on the Internet from any of the many domain registrars, which costs about $10/year. Find someone to host the website for around $100/yr and create a simple webpage from a template using an off the shelf program like Dreamweaver. Once you upload it you’re ready to get business cards. Don’t get stuck spending months, weeks or even days on the designs. Come up with something quick that accurately describes what you do and start working right away. You can spruce up the website later.
Print 1000 business cards with your email address and cellphone number and website. You can get 1000 full color cards from many online companies for around $100. Make sure it is clear what you charge for your services on the card and your cell number is large and easy to read. Get the paperwork filled out for a DBA, which is usually under $50, and make sure your bank has a copy of your DBA paperwork so if people write checks to your business name you can deposit them to your bank account without a problem.
Now for about $260 you have started your own business. The next thing to do is go out and get customers. Start with your friends and family. Get them to come up with lists of everyone they know. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce. The Chambers frequently want to get new members and you can often get a mailing list of current members as an incentive to join. You can use this list to start targeting local businesses. Remind yourself that people want to spend money and Americans have more money than they know what to do with. They are quick to get rid of it if they feel like it will benefit them in any way.
Figure out what you’re worth
It’s amazing how many people have a hard time with this. If you have skills that other people want, whether it is cutting hair or investment banking your time is valuable. Don’t give it away because when you do people will not appreciate the value of your time. When I give free advice it’s usually ignored, but when people are paying me $80/hr for my advice I notice they intently listen. The best way to figure out your worth is to look in a mirror and say what your rate is and keep increasing it until you can’t keep a straight face. It’s a market economy so if you have a skill that’s in demand people will pay it. Once you build a solid customer base periodically raise your rates. You will find that people will stay with you because they don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding someone else. It’s human nature to be lazy and once a relationship with the customer is built you’ d be surprised how strong it really is. Do not start at less than $20/hr and be prepared to give 1/3 of whatever you earn to Uncle Sam. The best way to find out what you’re worth is to grab a phonebook and call other people who do what you’re planning on doing to find out what they charge. If you find the cheapest one and knock 25% off the hourly price that is an excellent starting point. Then raise your rates about $5-10/hr a year and before you know it you’ll be hardly working at all.
Set Aside Time to Work
Set aside certain hours on certain days to work. Try not to let other things get in the way of your work time. For me Mon 12-2 and Fri 12-2 are work times and I do not schedule other things in those times that are not related to work. Try not to schedule the two days next to each other, as it is much harder to work 2 days in a row. If you do not have work to do during those times then those are the times that you go out and create work for yourself. When I was just starting my business if I didn’t have customer appointments I would walk from business to business, telling people who I was and what I did. It was awkward doing that, but I actually got quite a lot of business doing that. The trick is to be well dressed and to not be intrusive to the workflow that is going on there. Do a brief introduction and leave a business card and ask if they have any questions and if not then gracefully leave. They will remember that you were polite and well dressed and didn’t harass them and there is a much higher chance of getting business from them later if you do not do a hard sell.
Don’t Let Fear Hold the Wheel and Drive
For most people there is one overwhelming emotion that controls most of the decisions that they choose to make in their lives. That emotion is fear. Learning to understand your own fear and to control it is a vital skill for success. Does the idea of standing up in front of hundreds of people and speaking fill you with a sense of fear? It does for most people, and yet if you can’t speak in public and do it confidently and comfortably it is unlikely that you ever being successful in your life.
Fear is an emotion that we evolved with to survive and escape from predators. Now that we are indisputably at the top of the food chain we have little to fear from predators, right? Wrong, we create fears for ourselves often where there is little or no threat. Yet when there is a very real danger and the threats are often very real we are often nonchalant and disconnected. Chances are the most dangerous thing that everyone does every day is driving. Statistically this is where most serious accidents occur, and yet how many of us when we drive talk on the cellphones or mess with the radio or generally find countless ways to distract ourselves from what we really should be concentrating on. Driving is a real threat we totally ignore, and yet when most people fly on airplanes they are filled with fear and dread and expect the airplane to explode at any minute. If the airplane did explode or have problems would there be anything that you could do from your seat? If the pilot messes up and sends the plane into a death spiral you really have absolutely NO CONTROL over the outcome. There is really no reason at all to be afraid and yet we are.
How do we control our fears? The best way I have found to do this is to recognize that when I feel fear that on some level, be it conscious or subconscious, that it is a choice I am making. I could just as easily choose to not be afraid, but that I am choosing to be afraid. I try to be present with the way my body is working and feel the hypothalamus secreting hormones which creates the chemical reaction which in turn brings on a bunch of changes in my body. By being aware of the changes that are happening and by realizing that it is a choice and that I am choosing to feel fear, it is easy for me to control it.
Finding Ways to Enjoy Time with your Kids
One of the most difficult things for parents is finding things that they enjoy to do with their kids. Most children enjoy doing things that parents truly dread doing. It’s very hard to find things that both parents and children enjoy to do. When you discover these things make sure you make a note of it. In our family if either person dislikes a board game it goes in the closet. The only games that stay out in our game pile are the ones that both of us enjoy. There are also many things that only one person enjoys doing but the other person enjoys as well if there is a little bit of fun put into it. My son hates to go for walks but I love it so we turn it into a game. There is always some kind of treasure hunt with mystical woods spirits that appear and act quite silly. When we do walks like this he loves it. Frequently it helps if we alternate hours as well. I will play for an hour then he home-schools or plays and I get an hour to myself then after that hour is up I go back to interacting with him for another hour. I find this is far more enjoyable than to try to spend extended periods of time just focusing on him and his needs.
Some parents go crazy trying to be everything to their kids; they burn out trying to focus on them all the time and then they buy them whatever they want. This super-parent mentality can be pretty damaging to both parent and child. It sets up the child with unrealistic expectations for attention that will never be met by the real world and more often than not the parent ends up resentful and miserable because their needs aren’t getting met.
Get your Needs Met
In this society if you take time out for yourself it’s considered quite selfish, especially if you have a family. As a startling contrast, those who choose to work a 40 or more hour week are regarded as good parents. I think this is totally backward. It is important that everyone take as much time as they feel like they need to do the things that they want to do and spend whatever time is leftover on family. Whatever time is leftover from that can be spent on working or earning money.
1) Personal Time
2) Family Time
3) Earning money Time
People will always project their insecurities about themselves and their lives at you and the important thing to remember is that you cannot spread joy in the world if you are not happy. Let your happiness be the most important thing in your life.
Projections and Denial
Sometimes it seems like all people are in a constant state of projection and denial. Most people are always reacting to everything in their environment. It’s extremely difficult to be an effective person if you are always reacting and becoming emotional about everything that is happening around you. The best way I have found to not react is to realize that when people are emotional it’s because they are making a choice on a conscious or subconscious level to react. In turn I now have an opportunity to either react to what they are saying or doing or to choose to not react to what they are doing. Almost universally I find it is best to not react to them. If you want you can repeat what they are sawing with something like
Angry person: “I’m really pissed off”
You: “I hear that you are really pissed off”
Try to do it with empathy and some compassion without sounding judgmental or harsh. Most of the time people want to get angry or sad just to have other people acknowledge that they are angry or sad. Don’t ignore it and don’t react either, just acknowledge it and let it pass. People tend to react to other things in other people that remind them of something that they don’t like with themselves. Sometimes there is a deep emotional wound from childhood that also is what causes intense reactions; your job is just to be compassionate. Don’t try to help and don’t encourage intense reactions because they rarely get people what they really want.
Recognize any unhealthy addictions in your life and get rid of them right away. Smoking, alcohol, gambling and shopping are addictive and can be destructive. If you want to be happy one of the biggest barriers in the way is addictive behavior. The one addiction that is acceptable is addiction to exercise, as there are little or no harmful side effects. Often exercise can work like psychiatric medications do to stabilize the brain chemistry and can be used as a substitute for medications for mild neurological disorders. In many high stress colleges as many as ½ of the undergrad population is on some kind of medication for depression. Depression is a sign that you are not living the life that you want to live. The best remedy is to make serious and drastic changes to start living the life you want to live.
Seriously Consider Homeschooling your Kids
Even as a single father I have made homeschooling my son one of the highest priorities in my life. I can’t imagine sending my child off to school all day long. For me school was totally intolerable and when I start looking a quality of life issues one of the easiest things to do with the greatest increase in quality of life for my family is homeschooling. Homeschooling does not have to be a chore, in fact most of the time it’s fun. I discover what my son is interested in and focus on those things. What’s the difference between reading comic books and reading textbooks? Kids actually enjoy the comic books and they are much more challenging to read. There are numerous collector card type games on the market that are very challenging to learn and play. Evaluate each game separately and discover its merits and problems. I limit all video games to less than 1.5 hours a day. The average American child spends 8.5 hrs a day in front of digital media which is way too much. You should carefully evaluate video games for what they teach the child. Many, like the Zelda series, are very challenging puzzle games, other are more or less zombie brain filler. The most important thing is to make learning fun, not a chore so the child learns to enjoy learning things instead of hating it.
Create Clear Written Goals with Timelines
I cannot overemphasize the importance of having clear written goals with realistic timelines. Very little can ever be accomplished without focus and determination. Writing things down makes them real in the world and can inspire us to do extraordinary things. Write down your goals, give them realistic timelines then put them somewhere where you can read them every single day of the week. By doing this it will encourage you to actually accomplish what you set out to do.
Getting a good coach or shrink can do far more for you than just trying to use your friends for support. The reality is most of your friends have just as many issues as you do and are ill-equipped to facilitate you’re getting closure with the emotional baggage that is keeping you from being happy. Medications are being overprescribed for depression, bipolar and pretty much any mental issue you may be afflicted with. Try medications only as a last resort if nothing else you do can make you happy.
About the Author
Karl Gesslein lives in upstate NY in a renovated farmhouse with his teenage son. He travels 6 months a year for vacation and has worked less than 7 hours a week or less since 1999. He has had his own business since 2001 and continues to accomplish almost everything he has ever set his mind to, with the exception of traveling in space.