Living the Entrepreneurial Life

So, my girlfriend Miranda recently took a pretty significant plunge. She has spent the last few years working a typical 9-to-5. It’s been in the field she thought she would very much enjoy, and it was perfectly aligned with her educational background. Unfortunately, after a couple years in, she was forced to face the uncomfortable reality that the actual work wasn’t as thrilling and rewarding as she thought it would be. As a result, she made the decision to step away and try something new.

Ever since she made the decision to take the plunge, she’s been noticeably happier and more vibrant. I’ve commented about it to her, but she denies that it’s made much difference. Maybe she’s not being completely forthright about how happy she is about the change, or maybe she can’t detect it yet. But as someone that lives with this woman, I can tell you that it has dramatically changed her mood. To be frank, she’s much more like the adventurous, energetic, and optimistic girl that I met a number of years ago. And I absolutely love it.

The only problem with this new arrangement is that I’m still stuck in a traditional 9-to-5. It seems to me that this new arrangement can go one of two ways. Either I will find myself living vicariously through her and gaining renewed strength through my knowledge that she is living the good life, or I will become jealous that I’m not doing the same.

Although I absolutely see the problems with the traditional 9-to-5, which I’ve written about on this blog in the past, I feel stuck in it. It’s an odd feeling, because I don’t feel required to stay where I am for financial reasons. To the contrary, I would be just fine trying something new with a more flexible lifestyle. At the core of it, I think I feel compelled to stick it out where I am simply because I’m concerned how others would think of me if I left.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a pretty unhealthy conclusion. We only have one life, and it seems silly to spend that life doing things so that other people will have a good impression of you. Seems to me that each of us should take the one life we have and live it in accordance with our deepest passions. If we love to paint, we should spend our lives focussed on that. And if we love to travel and have adventures, we should spend our lives travelling adventuring. Dying poor isn’t anything to be ashamed of, especially if you made away with a great life.

While making that kind of decision could cause people to look at you as though you’re crazy, surely it’s better than doing something that doesn’t fulfill your deepest life purpose only to avoid criticisms from other people. Especially when those other people probably aren’t fulfilling their life purpose either. Could it be that we’re all just crabs in a bucket, all too afraid to pursue our deepest life passions and pulling down into the bucket anyone else who tries to make a run for freedom? Could it also be that we judge and put down those that take the plunge and pursue their deepest life passions, because, deep inside, we’re jealous that we don’t have the courage to do so?

Cheers to Good Times!

When some friends were recently visiting they introduced my girlfriend Miranda and I to an amazing drink called the Moscow Mule. I had heard of it before but never tested it myself. Dan and Sheila are obsessed with this cocktail – so much so they even travel with their own set of Moscow Mule mugs! Talk about committed! Anyways they brought a set of four mugs, some vodka, and ginger beer along in their carry on and proceeded to take over our kitchen the first night concocting their favourite alcoholic beverage. Needless to say, we were hooked! We spent the evening playing crib and drinking mules and I can’t think of a recent night I’ve had so much fun.

This got me thinking, what is it about friends and cocktails that makes for such amazing memories? Sure the booze and its effects helps, but honestly for myself I find having a couple light cocktails just takes the edge off and helps me relax that much quicker. Now I’m not a big drinker so don’t get me wrong! But I think as a male who works long hours, it can be tough to unwind sometimes around people I don’t see all of the time. One thing I want to work towards is de-stressing more quickly without any sort of help from a drink but for now, I really appreciated these tasty cocktails enjoyed with old friends.  I think I’ve been spending too much time at work too which made this night a welcome departure from the every day. I can’t remember the last time I played crib but I had a great time, even though I wasn’t winning! I learned Miranda is a shark at crib and she won almost every time!

If you’ve never tried a Moscow Mule before I highly recommend them. Dan says that a good quality ginger beer is really important to the recipe – he used Reed’s ginger beer which is really easy to find and I’ve seen it in Trader Joe’s before. He is also crazy about using traditional copper Moscow Mule mugs because he says the drink doesn’t taste the same without them. Something about the way the copper feels on your lips mixed with the drink as you take a sip makes all of the difference. The mugs also help keep the drinks extra cool which is a nice feature! The drink is the perfect balance of sweet and spicy (from the ginger) and they go down way too easily! I was counting all of the ginger beer bottles in the morning wondering how we could have drank so much! This night with friends was a great reminder for me that I need to relax and indulge more often. With summer upon us, I don’t think this is the last time we will drink Moscow Mules!

Considering the “Staycation”

I have had some friends from abroad stay with us recently. That’s always a lot of fun. I remember always finding it curious when I saw people dressed up in suits walking the streets of cities that I travel to during vacations. I guess what I mean is that, when you’re in the middle of a vacation and in the vacation mindset, it feels a little odd seeing someone in the same location that is completely out of the vacation mindset and very much focussed on their day-to-day grind. In the same way, it’s sometimes a bit odd to be in that day-to-day grind in your home city and see tourists visit who are obviously in vacation mode. When I see them, I often stop and wonder: why would they possibly have chosen to take their vacation here, in my city?

That isn’t to say that I don’t live in an interesting city. Far from the contrary. But Portland it isn’t necessarily a city that I consider a vacation spot. But then that leads me to a further inquiry: is it a city I don’t consider a vacation spot because, from an objective perspective, it really isn’t a very good vacation spot, or is it just that I’ve associated the city with the work grind, rather than good times?

I don’t think I am alone. Most people that live in the city probably haven’t seen all of the tourist attractions within it, simply because they don’t conceive of the city as a vacation spot, and so spend their vacation time at some far flung destination. But, that makes me wonder: why spend so much time and money travelling elsewhere if you can stay in your own home and enjoy a vacation in your own city?

I have heard more and more of my friends say that they are taking what is known as a staycation, which is essentially a vacation in your own home. While I absolutely love the idea of minimizing costs and staying home, I do see some challenges around getting a proper rest during a staycation.

In fact, studies have shown that vacations can be extremely healthy because they help break the cycle of stress that most of us fall into with our jobs. When we travel elsewhere for our vacation, we are essentially shocked out of our regular cycle. We are in a new place, the time zone may be different, we are eating different foods, the scenery is different, and were interacting with very different people. All of that means that the cycle of stress breaks down a whole lot faster.

But, if we are taking a staycation, everything in our life will probably feel exactly the same, but for the fact that, at least during our waking hours, we have much more time at our disposal to use as we please. And, if so much remains familiar, it seems that there’s much more possibility of being reminded of the stresses and anxieties that await you upon the conclusion of your vacation. So, while a staycation may be less expensive and more convenient, it may not actually be providing you with all of the benefit of a real vacation abroad.

Of course, none of that is meant to say that we shouldn’t take the time to become tourists in our own city. Frankly, as residents of a particular city, we should be well-versed in its virtues, and, if we’re up for the challenge, it’s vices. 😉 But we can do that with a long weekend or in extra day off taken here or there. Or, better yet, save it for when you have friends in town who are delighted at the thought of being a tourist in your city. Strap on a fanny pack and join them, and maybe you’ll see your city through fresh eyes.

Biking: The Way of the Future

The other day I was riding my bike on a flat stretch of road near my apartment. During that ride, I was blown away by the efficiency of my bike, at least relative to modern means of transportation. I mean, a bike that is half decent should weigh less than 20 pounds. Imagine that, 20 pounds of steel, or aluminum, or graphite, or whatever else your bike is made of, is all you need to create a vehicle which is capable of propelling you vast distances. Contrast that to the standard automobile. Here’s something made of a couple tons of steel. It does the exact same thing as the bike does, although much faster, but the resource drain needed to manufacture a car and run it is astronomical relative to the bike.

Sometimes I wonder whether technological advances are really for the best. For example, before the passenger car was developed, most people got around on their feet, or on horseback. If the car had never been invented, the bicycle would probably have evolved into one of the most popular means of transportation in the world. Bikes can be produced cheaply, which means that they are within reach of pretty much anyone anywhere in the world, and they don’t require fuel to run. In all respects, the bicycle seems like the ideal means of transporting a passenger.

This isn’t to say that automobiles don’t have their purposes. Obviously, while a bike is great for transporting you across town, it isn’t very great at transporting a load of potatoes, or heavy machinery. However, it does strike me as a bit wasteful to see a person requiring a machine made from 2 tons of steel and fuelled by gallons of gasoline in order to cross town, particularly when they could have done the same thing on a bicycle in perhaps not more than twice the time.

That’s why I bike pretty much everywhere. I am lucky in that I live fairly centrally, which certainly makes it easier to bike everywhere. But even if I didn’t live centrally, I think I’d still prefer to bike. Something about the experience makes it a lot of fun. You can’t really get stuck in traffic on a bike; there’s always a way around the traffic, although you do need to be on your guard when navigating the streets to make sure you don’t collide with a distracted driver.

There’s also the awesome health benefits of riding a bike. Why bother with an expensive gym membership when you can get an awesome workout for free, and commute to work or back home at the same time? I feel that bicycles are also an obvious solution to the problem of air pollution and climate change.

So, what will it take for bicycles to become more common in the western world? I feel that it has a lot to do with the public’s perception of the bicycle. As I was growing up, all of my friends loved the idea of owning their own car. Cars meant freedom. Girls love boys with cars, and boys wanted to be boys with cars. That mentality is still with us today, and as we entered adulthood, most of the guys I knew were focused on getting a “sweet ride”.

Unfortunately, bikes just don’t have the same cachet in Western society, at least not yet. People riding bicycles are often portrayed in the media as being losers, wimpy, or poor, as juxtaposed to the cool dude driving his fancy car. Alternatively, people riding bicycles are portrayed in the media as being snobs covered in spandex.

I can’t help but think that this characterization is very intentional move by capitalist-fueled media. If everyone thinks they need a car to be successful, or at least avoid ridicule, then they tend to leave their inexpensive bike in the garage and lease an expensive car that requires expensive fuel to keep it going. Anything to keep the world economy trucking along, right? 😉

Musings On the Meaning of it All

Welcome to my new blog! I wanted to start things off with some ideas that have been swirling around my head for years. I’ve finally taken the time to get these ideas down on ‘paper’ and it feels so liberating. Read on to learn more…

I’ve recently been giving some serious thought to the meaning of life. Maybe it’s because I’m nearing the age of 30. What’s funny is that, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been just as happy as I am today. And all of that constant happiness is despite the fact that as my life has progressed I have acquired more and more things. So, it occurs to me: does acquiring more things really make us more happy?

It sort of seems like, at least in Western society, the purpose of life is to acquire as much stuff as possible before you croak. I appreciate that this is not a particularly bright characterization of the purpose of life, but it’s definitely the undercurrent of a lot of things we see. We all seem to be told that getting a good job, working hard, and making a lot of money will help us buy a lot of great stuff, with which will come a great deal of happiness.

But, I remember being a pretty happy go lucky person when, back to my high school days, I was perpetually broke. Being broke didn’t mean we couldn’t have a good time though; it just dictated the sort of fun we could have. In other words, cheap fun. Fast forward 10 years and I’ve got a job and a decent salary, with which come some things like an apartment and a car, and some disposable income to boot. And while those things let me have more expensive fun (or at least relatively more expensive), I’m not sure how much more happy I am as a result. To be totally honest, it seems like I am having the same amount of fun, just with the added anxiety of having to know that I’m due back at my office and piles of work come Monday morning!

What does make me more happy these days, at least for a temporary period of time, are experiences. Getting a day off here and there, or taking extended vacation, make for my happiest days. Could it be that we’ve all fallen for a trick? In an effort to become happier, we are all trading our waking hours at our jobs in exchange for money, which we use to buy more stuff, which doesn’t increase our happiness levels at the end of the day. But, if only we could use those waking hours to have experiences that are fun and rewarding, we would directly increase your happiness levels. We might have a bit less cash in our pocket, but does that matter if we are happier?

This probably isn’t a revolutionary concept, and it’s probably occurred to many of the people that step away from the 9 to 5 world in order to try life as an entrepreneur. Flexibility is awesome, and if I had it I would definitely spend more of my week enjoying the outdoors instead of strapped to the desk in my office.

But how do we achieve it? The problem is that most jobs are the usual 9 to 5 routine. Although a lot of jobs can be much more intense than that, the 9 to 5 routine is still fairly onerous. In particular, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for recreation during the week. If you’re a health-conscious cheapskate like me, you’re probably inclined to prepare your own meals, which means that your weekday evenings are probably spent making dinner and then cleaning up afterwards. Most of us get our weekends off, but, if we have to be honest, much of the weekend is probably spent decompressing from the physical and or emotional strain of the prior work week, or taking care of stuff that you need to get ready for the next work week.

So, the traditional lifestyle may not actually be bringing us closer to a more happy, fulfilling life. It seems, then, that those of us who have the courage to step away from a traditional lifestyle and try something different should do it. Doing so is probably going to be a bit uncomfortable, and it probably won’t always win everyone’s approval, especially those of our parents’ generation, but it does seem pretty clear that, for some of us, that’s the only way to live life to the fullest.

Interesting thoughts… 🙂