Thoughts on Making a Living

Tag: Self-Employment

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.

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.

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.

Slavery

Charles Bukowski via Brain Pickings,
In a letter to a friend that encouraged him to pursue his art, “You know my old saying,”

“Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

IMHO, it is not just artists that this applies to. It applies to everyone who would rather work for themselves rather than toil for someone else for a wage that erodes in one form or another over time. It is certainly right for many, but I truly believe that a lot more people are employed than should be. A size-able chunk of the employed workforce owe it to themselves to become self-employed and do greater (or just happier) things to put food on the table.

In another letter via Jay Dougherty, Bukowski writes,

“I have one of two choices–stay in the postoffice and go crazy…or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.”

That was Bukowski at age 49. It took him a long time to stop working for someone else and start doing what he was meant to do. It is never too late.

Conventional Wisdom is only Conventional

“Get into the best school you can” is the conventional wisdom given to many university bound students. In what I thought would have been parental common sense, but obviously is not, Jillian Berman lays out the decision making that should go into choosing a university.

When parents and children talk about applying for colleges, they consider all sorts of factors: the school’s prestige, the location, even the food in the dormitories.

But often there’s one thing that never is on the agenda: How are we going to pay for this?

Even people who over-buy on cars and homes normally know what the monthly repayments will be and how much of their take-home pay it will constitute.

In my mind, a parent who does not have this discussion, including the alternatives to university, is committing parental gross negligence. And for high school guidance counselors who negligently parrot the university administrators’ marketing lines and platitudes from the 1980s; fire them.

Seth Godin on Students trained to be Students being Students When Looking for a Job

Seth Godin gets a lot right and I think this is spot on. What schools and universities do mostly these days is teach students to be students. Schools and universities give the impression that all you have to do is be an expert navigator of the system. That was probably true from 1950 to 1999 (and the vestiges of the system are still there, especially in the non-profit, education and government sectors), but in the private sector, more is needed.

What students don’t understand is that they are increasingly being graded on the items that Godin mentions:

Can you show me a history of generous, talented, extraordinary side projects?

Have you ever been so passionate about your work that you’ve gone in through the side door?

Are you an expert at something that actually generates value?

Have you connected with leaders in the field in moments when you weren’t actually looking for a job?

Does your reputation speak for itself?

Where online can I see the trail of magic you regularly create?

Unfortunately, students are too busy navigating byzantine application procedures and primping to be picked to actually spend any time thinking about what is valuable and show-casing it.

Universities’ current value to students is credentialing and signaling. It is what they have used to justify mammoth tuition increases every year for thirty years. What universities don’t understand is that as employers start to notice that the credentials and signals have no there there, they will look for other credentials and signals… like demonstrable mastery of a trade.

Right now, many are graduating from university and then taking a coding courses, design course, etc. and treating it like grad school. Grad schools require you to have a undergraduate degree, these schools do not. How long before students and parents start looking to cut-out the unnecessary part of this process?

The big question is that if you did as Godin proposes in the list above, would you need the signaling and credentials at all? Four years is a long time to learn nothing and expend a ton of money.

Entrepreneurship Is the Solution to Higher Education, Not More College

Great points by Zachary Slayback. We are at the tail-end of the system that says that getting a job is always the right thing to do. Our country needs a generation of entrepreneurs and our young people need pragmatic advice.

Source: Entrepreneurship Is the Solution to Higher Education — Not More College | Zachary Slayback | LinkedIn

As Mike Rowe says, we don’t have too few jobs, we have too few self-employed people.

Why The New Yeoman?

I’m a little late getting around to starting and posting to this blog, The New Yeoman. I’ve been too busy practicing the life rather than writing about it.

I was first inspired to build The New Yeoman by an article in USA Today about Mike Rowe. The specific quote was,

USA Today: You’ve said we need to look at unemployment numbers differently. What do you mean?

Mike Rowe: I mean that 12 million unemployed people doesn’t necessarily mean 12 million too few jobs. It could just as easily mean 12 million too many employees. Not too many people – too many people trained to think like employees. Fostering entrepreneurship is no less important than “Creating Jobs.”

I couldn’t believe there was not a follow up. This was a profoundly important point for everyone in the USA (and world-wide for that matter). No one owes anyone a job. People with needs for a specific skill or set of skills create “jobs,” temporary or permanent. Not only may the employers not need, or ever need, the number of “unemployed” people, but there may be a formidable disconnect between skills needed and skills possessed by the “unemployed.” I think we have a mixture of these two issues.

So why do so many “unemployed,” possibly “unemployable” simply wait for a job that may never come? Why not self-employment? There has never been a better time to be self-employed.

At The New Yeoman, I hope to describe the self-employed life and what it looks like in the hopes of encouraging a few more people to self-remove themselves from the “unemployed” line.

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