Group Hug

Bike Tribe.
Bike Tribe.

If you’re searching for the answer to a dilemma, begin with a mirror, because the person who stares back is more than likely the problem, and more than likely has the solution.

I currently imagine myself like a long-ago launched spacecraft that is now leaving the solar system. I’ve been journeying for fifty years, but now find myself leaving familiar territory – our own solar system –  and heading into parts unknown. What I’d like to happen is to fall into a nice steady orbit around a welcoming planet…but I’m not sure that’s actually in my future. Perhaps a lifetime of wandering and making observations is more likely.

One recent discovery is that (when not lost in space) hanging out with the right people is super important. Knowing kinda sorta what these people look like is one thing; finding them is quite another. I guess the ego would like to find folks who are approximately like me, at least in the spiritual sense. The wider spiritual sense that is, meaning they have a similar life philosophy, political philosophy, morality and so on. Plus it would be nice if they could communicate in the same way I do, which is sometimes direct, and more often elliptically. I enjoy small absurdities.

So that’s become a priority, if we can ever rank such a thing as the chance of meeting like-minded individuals. I guess if we look, they’ll arrive, but, hey, whatever. The important point here is that I understand now that being alone like I have been isn’t healthy or productive. We are social creatures, which is a practical admonishment, not simply a generalized platitude.

Perhaps the best thing would be to ditch the space voyager analogy altogether. More important to look at that mug in the mirror and take a careful shave. That’s way more likely to help with finding my tribe.

 

Comcast Madness

Escape from cable prison.
Escape from cable prison.

My six-week flirtation with cable television concluded this morning, thank the Lord. After waiting forty minutes at the Comcast office I returned my cable box, remote, sorted out my internet service, and finally regained my dignity.

The story began back in early February when my co-worker, Charlie, offered me his surplus tv. Despite – OMG I can’t believe I did this – despite being tv-free since September of 2007, I said yes. That’s nearly five and one-half years in which I’d never owned a television nor had a cable tv bill. I was free! Until I screwed up.

So I accepted. The thing is a six-year old Sony Bravia, LCD (I think) and forty-something inches in size. It’s a big piece of kit that barely fit into the trunk of my car. I lugged it inside, where it sat for a month. I just couldn’t raise the enthusiasm to call the cable company and get connected. I wasn’t ready for a relationship.

Backtracking a little, it’s important to note that Charlie’s intention was that I be able to watch this season’s Formula One races. I’m a fan, as is he, and I think he felt we’d be better able to compare race notes if I was watching live rather than the delayed highlights. Frankly, the idea appealed to me, being deprived of live races now for five seasons. The big question is whether the recidivism of backtracking on my anti-tv stand was worth having a season of F1 racing.

Of course, the answer is “NO!”

Almost as soon as this adventure began, I just knew it was wrong. It was wrong to accept the tv, wrong to consider spending time watching the dopey thing, and completely wrong to think I could afford the seventy dollar cable bill. The outcome was predetermined, and I went ahead anyway. I ignored the still voice inside.

But all’s well that ends well. I did see three races. I watched Adam Scott win the Masters. Despite some less than stellar interactions with Comcast, I ended up with a decent internet and new phone deal. The phone’s important for business, and so that’s a step ahead.

Plan Your Future

Red Benz.
Red Benz.

Maturity – or, at least, age – has its virtues. I’ve had four decades of experience and contemplation to understand a few things about living on our planet. Of all the stuff, it boils down to a handful of key concepts, one of which is utterly contradictory: that when we are young, there is less time than we think, and when we are old, there is more time than we think. Here’s my example of this.

I am fifty now. At this age, my father had a seventeen-year-old son and a twenty-four year-old son. He seemed, as parents tend to, beyond the reach of my youthful enthusiasms. He and my mother lived in a related, but docile and non-reactive world. They seemed past it. I could never see myself being him.

Thanks to discipline and energy, I structured my life and did what I set out to do. I ended up an airline pilot at age twenty-two, a first officer at twenty-six and a captain at thirty. At one point I would have been the youngest Boeing 747 commander in the world. That pace of doing stuff seemed normal to me.

But early success led to early boredom. Boredom can kill anything, no matter how fascinating you found it in the beginning. And the speed of my ascent left me with an inflated view of my abilities in any sphere. In fact, I specialized and did well – transferring that experience to a new and completely different arena is way difficult.
But my biggest failing was not in failing; no shame in that. The biggest mistake was no recognizing early enough that I needed to make changes in my plans AND my outlook. Flexibility gave way to a rigid view of my future that simply didn’t work. Now, ten years or so later, I look back at a mess that I’m gradually working my way out of.

Returning to my precept, there was much less time than I thought, despite my relatively young age.

The upside is that from these ashes of my fall come the beginnings of better understanding and a new start. Those horrible days of failure and despair, of not knowing where to go or what to do, have given way to a strength I have never known. It’s true, in my life at least, that when you fall, it’s the getting up that’s important, not what happened before.

So now I truly am starting anew. At fifty. But let’s look at my small history. In Seventeen year at the airline, I had an awesome time, and achieved some amazing things, all from a standing start. (And the last seven years were basically cruising, so we’re actually looking at around a decade from bottom to top.) My point is that even though the years are really scurrying past, there are many more of them that my brain thinks. In ten years I’ll be sixty, and I could very well be living the kind of life of which I’ve dreamed. It. Is. So. Possible.

Yes, selling my products is a part of the game, even if it’s not the only part. Knowing when to change is an important part of my repertoire. But understanding that working towards financial independence, residual income, a happy customer base is best done by displaying integrity, clear-headedness, honesty, hard work and discipline is the lesson anyone can learn.

Maybe I can help some others along the way, and even save them from the Big Dip I just went through. Oh, and my company will give me a car when I have enough customers too.

Stress

Sunday cafe calm, Siesta Key.
Sunday cafe calm, Siesta Key.

My day job is a night job. My aim is to turn my sales job into my day job, but until my commission check is more than $2500 per month, I need the night job. When I reach my $ threshold, the night job disappears, leaving me with the day job, ie: my sales job.

Is that clear? Good.

Night work is stressful, not least because the body is designed to sleep when the sun’s down. The constant fight against our biology stresses our system, leading, over the long term, to more illness and, eventually, a shorter lifespan.

It’s interesting that my working life has almost all been about shift work. At the airline, the hours where whatever the schedule determined. Not only were we flying at night, but the constant changes of time zone, the east-to-west shuffle, made any kind of circadian stability a dream. Worst of all were the night flights beginning at the time one’s body was ready for bed: departing Honolulu for Sydney, for example, or Singapore to London. Those flights I do not miss one. little. bit.

In terms of stress, my current job is probably on a par with the big piloting gig. Sure, the flying hours were stupid, but there were sufficient days off and enough money to compensate. My job now doesn’t pay at all, and has minimum time off, but requires basically no mental input, and has a nice fixed schedule. The latter makes a lot of difference, but not enough to make me want to continue a second longer than I have to.

Last week I spent the night with a new guy, doing a little “training”. The term is a joke, because the company doesn’t pay the trainer extra, nor train him to train the trainee. And in the end, everyone has to learn by the experience, so in fact, there’s very little actual knowledge being imparted.

The guy, Scott, a forty-something biker-type dude, was maybe the most stressed man I have ever met. His life was a country tune ie: his wife left him, one of his daughters left him, they both took all his money, he wanted so bad to be back in Michigan, etc. Oh, and he had zero cash until the next paycheck (two weeks away) and no cigarettes. Holy Penguins, could it get any worse?

The answer to that of course, is, yes, life can get much worse even than that. From minute to minute though, his main concern was getting cigarettes, which strikes me as an entirely avoidable problem. Indeed, the giant life-stress he was putting himself through was entirely avoidable, by doing what I’m doing, which is to create myself a residual income. Living at the behest of nicotine, an employer, a paycheck or an ex-spouse – these are conditions that need never affect you.