The New Yeoman

Thoughts on Making a Living

Category: Self-Employment (page 1 of 2)

Emerson on Improvement of the Individual Rather Than Society

I thought of Jordan B. Peterson when I read this this morning,

“As our Religion, our Education, our Art look abroad, so does our spirit of society. All men plume themselves on the improvement of society, and no man improves… Society acquires new arts and loses old instincts.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I thought this was very close to Peterson’s saying of,

“If you can’t clean your room, don’t try to change the world.”


Paul Stinnett, A Yeoman to be Missed

Paul Stinnett – The New Yeoman who inspired me

Paul was a logger for most of his life and he owned Stinnett Logging in Fredonia, Kentucky. He died on the job at the age of 72 and may God bless me with the same fate. He and my Aunt Faye owned Stinnett’s grocery in the old river port town of Dycusburg for years as well. If you have ever imagined a country store in your mind, you’ve seen Stinnett’s Grocery. It was a hub of activity for a rural area where supermarkets are tens of miles away. Paul was a member and active congregant at Dycusburg Baptist Church.

Paul Stinnett, 1 February 1946 – 2 February 2018

Paul Stinnett was my uncle by marriage to my mother’s sister, Faye Stinnett. He was always kind to me and took interest in me when he did not have to. Unknown to him, he set the standard for how I was to treat my wife’s nieces and nephew. I’ve always thought you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat non-blood aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews — those binds that can tie if we let them. When you are young, you expect people to be good to you. But as you grow older, you realize that this world is not always good and you learn to appreciate it more. In reality, you begin to understand that people like Paul Stinnett are the only thing standing between a community and a damned mess.

Also unknown to Paul was that he was my model of an ideal man in the art of making a living. Thomas Jefferson thought that America would be a great republic, because of yeoman farmers. These were people who made a living on their own and held a community together without needing a government to step in and do it for them. They did not hold jobs, they made jobs for themselves and others. They created value out of thin air and strong backs. They served their community; They didn’t take from it. All they ever asked for was for the good Lord to allow them to get out of bed each morning. They would provide the day long effort of feeding their families and building a community that would help each other. Paul Stinnett was the modern manifestation of Jefferson’s ideal and thank God for him.

The world is a poorer place today than yesterday, because Paul Stinnett is gone. However, know this for sure… Yesterday, and the seventy-two years prior to it, was a damn sight better than we had right to expect, because of Paul Stinnett.

If you would like to contribute to Paul Stinnett’s legacy, please consider sending a donation to my Aunt Faye Stinnett to help with the upkeep the cemetery that Paul and Faye have administered for years. My parents and many of my relatives are also buried there.

Send donations to:

Dycusburg Cemetery Fund,

c/o Faye Stinnett,

202 Stinnett Rd., Fredonia, KY 42411.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Confucius on the Higher Type of Man

In my morning reading, I stumbled upon two very different passages that presented a  great connection for me.

Confucius, from The Analects – Book II, Chapter XII

The Master said; “The higher type of man is not a machine.”

and Book II, Chapter XV

The Master said: “Learning without thinking is useless. Thinking without learning is dangerous.”

I think these two concepts go to the heart of the modern work world where many fear having their jobs eaten by robots or software. The first is something that all of us need to remember. The higher state of man is not a machine. Let that sink in. We are not machines. We were meant for much more. BUT, we must get over the idea that we can think our way out of the current environment without a true education on the meaning of life and the meaning of work. We must examine where we have been as a people and examine our souls for what is meaningful. Pay, beyond subsistence, is not meaningful. Work that nourishes our soul is meaningful. Work that can be done by robots or software is not meaningful, unless you add something to it that the robot or software can’t do, like empathy or creativity.

Following the post-WWII path to the workplace is high-stakes and increasingly dangerous. What I mean by the “post-WWII path” is doing what everyone else does, because the historical statistics point to it and believing you are a genius for following a formula, i.e. learning without thinking & thinking without learning. However, when everyone tries to follow the formula, it cannot, by definition, lead to higher than average performance in work or happiness. And when the formula requires 5 & 6 figure debt, it is high stakes and dangerous.

Which leads me to this passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance,

If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges and is not installed in an office in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York [or Silicon Valley, Ed.], it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont [or Kansas or Tennessee, Ed.], who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always like a cat falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. [Sounds like a New Yeoman, no? Ed.]

My point? Conventional Wisdom says everyone should go to college, get good grades, regardless of what is learned, and then get a “good” job. It worked for the majority from the 1940s to approximately 1999. Things have changed, but our learning has not kept up. Everyone going to university and then saying, “But I did what I was told was the smart thing!” when things don’t go as planned is not a successful strategy now … or in Confucius’ or Emerson’s times.

Consider becoming a New Yeoman instead.

Photo credits:
Confucius – By Anonymous Chinese painter of the Western Han period [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Emerson – By Schoff, Stephen Alonzo, 1818-1904, engraver. Rowse, Samuel Worcester, 1822-1901, artist. (Library of Congress[1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Now is the Contest

For all of you that are determined to join the New Yeomans in 2018, here is some inspiration;

“And if anything laborious, or pleasant or glorious or inglorious be presented to you, remember that now is the contest, now are the Olympic games, and they cannot be deferred; and that it depends on one defeat and one giving way that progress is either lost or maintained.” — Epictetus, #50, Enchiridion

Get after it.

Expectancy and Control

“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours.”

Seneca, On the Shortness of Life



Image Credit: I, Calidius [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Self Discipline and Self Employment

Whenever and wherever the client wanted was not a form of self -discipline for me

I have always prided myself on doing the work wherever and however it came. My only requirement was that it be interesting work. I’d travel anywhere and do anything within reason. At one point, that meant working on projects in Kuwait and Los Angeles simultaneously while living in England. Another meant spending every week in Estonia for 6 months. Another meant splitting time in Bogotá, New York, and Cambridge while living in Nevada. It was exciting travel and good work. However, at the age of 52 and with kids in the age range where my being here is critical, I am focussing on core issues again and again. Part of that is my work and what I am willing to accept in terms of what I will do at this point of my life. Another part is trying to live the life that I am encouraging my kids to live. e.g.

  • Find something you love.
  • Commit yourself to doing it well.
  • You can only truly control your own actions and feelings, not anyone else’s.
  • Know your own personality and plan your own actions accordingly. i.e. don’t regularly put yourself in situations where you know you are likely to do things that you’ll regret later.

What I find, though, is that I have developed some bad habits over the years. This was not a problem when I would take work wherever it led me. Now that I am putting some boundaries on the type of work and where it is located, I’m finding that I need to shape up my own ship. Nothing like circumstances and parental guilt to get your ass in gear, no?

Influential people to me on my path to professional self discipline and self knowledge

That’s where two people have influenced me lately. Jocko Willink and Jordan B. Peterson. Willink is heavy on self discipline. Peterson is heavy on self knowledge. If you want to share this with your kids, Willink’s “Way of the Warrior Kid” is a great way to do so. Also look up Willink’s back story on getting this particular book published against a skeptical publisher’s wishes. Peterson’s Self Authoring Suite is for adults. It helps the individual focus on their life and what they want from it, so that a rational psychological bias for action on those points can be built.

I hope these recommendations are of use. They have helped me begin to improve my professional discipline with self imposed restraints that I want to be part of my life.

A Moped, a Wheelbarrow, and Grit

I met a man on Friday while I was walking around Reno waiting for my car that was being serviced. I was vexed with my work and I was trying to sort it out in my head while I walked. I mean I was wound up tight over some trivial issue. I probably had a scowl on my face. I was totally in my own head.

I spotted him as he rode past me on his moped pulling a two-wheeled wheelbarrow. My first thought was, “That is so cool!” I suspected he was a guy trying start his landscaping business. However, a little further down the road, I saw him pulled up next to a dumpster. At first, my opinion of him changed, but then I thought “Why?”

I went over to talk to him. I told him I liked his rig. He said it was much better than pushing a shopping cart around. However, it had gotten him in trouble with a traffic cop who had recently given him a ticket for riding his moped in a bicycle lane. He showed me a contraption that had a matching backpack that he had just found in a dumpster. He had me guess what it was, but I could not. He popped it open and it was a combined propane lamp and stove with a matching backpack. It had probably cost $50 or more when new. He said he thought he could get it going and sell it to someone. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was walking while my car was in the shop. He immediately asked what was wrong with my car and asked if I needed some help. I explained that it was just a routine service, but thanked him for the offer. We talked about a few other things. It was still hot for the 1st of October, but supposed to turn cold in the next few days. (Do people who live on the street hear about the weather forecast? Or does it just sneak up on them?)

He asked if I was a soldier. I told him no, but I had been at one point earlier in my life. He said he guessed that, because I stopped to talk to him. He had slept in front of a recruiting center the other night. He had been awakened by a female officer who handed him a Egg McMuffin, but told him he couldn’t sleep there. He said soldiers had always been good to him. That made my eyes well up a little. Soldiers know what it is like to sleep on the floor and how to make equipment work for us in odd combinations. Soldiers also know that there, but for the grace of God, go I.

I wished him good luck and repeated that I really liked his rig. I walked away thinking about him and how blessed I am. The walk had worked for my tangled mind, but not in the way I had supposed when I set off. A hundred yards down the sidewalk, I realized I did not get his name. In most social circles that is the first thing I get when I meet someone. I was ashamed of myself, so I turned around and went back. I asked him his name. He said it was “JT” and I laughed and said, “Well, mine is TJ.” We said good-bye again with a hand shake.

I’ve got no profound truth for you here, Reader, but I know who had more grit and grace at that moment next to a dumpster in a parking lot in Reno, Nevada.

His name is JT and he rides a moped and pulls a wheelbarrow around Reno trying to make a living. It was 31° in Reno this morning.

It is no secret that I like Mike Rowe. Here is an interview with him at the National Review from 15 June. This article just repeats his main theme of education comes in many forms and a university education is not right for everyone, but one of the links led me to a commencement video he made which talks more about passion and how to use it. “Do not follow your passion, but bring it along with you.” Good advice. The video below is worth 5 minutes and 18 seconds of your time, especially if you are 17 years old.

Elliott Hulse and Non-Jobs

I like Elliott Hulse. The guy is mesmerizing. How often do you run into a guy who is so physically fit that is this eloquent? If you are an older guy like me looking to improve your health, check his Strength Camp video channel. If you are a young person and are debating university, watch this one. If you don’t like the cursing, ignore it. Elliott is speaking to an audience that he understands and the cursing helps his authenticity. I love his message which is truer than many will accept.

Elliott’s view on NonJobs is boiled down to these points.

  1. Find something you love. This is sometimes hard, but Hulse’s point is that you have to keep searching, even, no, especially when you’ve found it.
  2. Share the love. I like his point about credentials. If you get a degree… a piece of paper, you may or may not know much about it. It probably depends on why you went for the degree. However, if you LOVE a topic, you “ooze” your knowledge and that is attractive to other people. It is far more attractive than a degree.
  3. Receive the love. Our world is cynical, but the love does come back, if we gave it freely. I can’t tell you how many times I have bought something after having someone give me something for free that I loved and valued. I want more of that person, I feel a connection with them, and I want to make sure they are fairly compensated for that.

Watch this video below and if you like it, you can get more from Elliott at the NonJob website.

Disclosure: I get no payment of any kind from Elliott Hulse or any of his affiliated businesses. I am just inspired by the guy. Good luck, Elliott.

Deep Work and Self Education

In his new book, Deep Work, author Cal Newport goes in to detail about why the ability to focus on work that requires deep thought and multiple levels of inquiry has become a competitive edge. No doubt, this type of work has always been relatively rare. However, it is more so these days due to the much discussed proliferation of technologies that nip at your attention like a pack of hyenas trying to pick off the weak in the wildebeest herd. Sadly, in our world, the attention-hyenas have grown fat and don’t even have to give chase. We sit in our chairs and wait for them every morning.

I think Newport’s thesis is correct. The ability, not the time, is actually what is missing. Lots of people say that they just don’t have the time to set aside and think deeply on things that are important to them. However, I don’t need to quote specifics –about the billions who use social media all day long or the people who respond to emails in seconds like it is some lab experiment to grab pellets when the bell rings– to make the point that we are not using the time wisely. (yes, I see the irony in this article… get back to work 😉

Because we have been doing this now for one or two decades, many of us have lost our ability to do the deep work even when we have the time. Stare at a blank document or project plan for twenty minutes, meet the first obstacle, and freeze. Send an email to Fred to see if he got that new data. Text Mary for an update on how the meeting went. Read our “professional” newsfeed for the fourth time this morning, etc. We are all talking about talking about talking. We’re just doing it on new and different platforms.

The ability to think deeply and present new ideas on how to tackle problems is now the rarest of things. I often see this in the board room. The conversation flies around, but nothing is tackled in depth. No one brings deep critical thinking to the table. Every one just brings the latest data, report or presentation. None of it sticks to the walls and becomes deep conversation.

I agree with Newport on career development too. If a person wants to make themselves valuable to themselves or to an organization, they need to develop the ability to go into a quiet room, think deeply on an issue, and come out with either a new option on the issue or deep analysis of which known options are better and actionable. Either output is far more valuable than anyone else is likely to bring to the table.

When one ties this ability with the other rarity of the modern world which is the ability to self-educate, a person will have a formidable set of skills. In fact, I’ll go further. Teaching yourself to A) work deeply and B) self educate is the whole education that most should be seeking. If one develops the discipline and skill to work deeply on any topic and develops the skills to educate themselves with the near-universal amount of knowledge available today, there is no need to predict what comes next. One with these two capabilities doesn’t care. They can analyze any market, make deeply considered choices, and educate themselves to tackle what they choose. If they are wrong, they can start again. They are not one-trick ponies. In other words, strive to be adaptable, not prescient.

Finally, I think this is New Yeoman territory too. Any trade is susceptable to improvement in these skills. Don’t waste time in the truck on Facebook before the next customer call. Read the trade journal and come up with new ideas for your customer. Consider how your invoices and receipts may help you convert more sales. Develop that nagging idea you’ve had for a new specialized tool. Think deeply, turn it into digestable chunks of work and take action.

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