Men: Change or Die

Skyler and Walter

The open secret is that men are less skilled at adopting to change than women. As a matter of generalization I guess men know this, but on an individual basis, probably not.

So let’s state it out loud: Men, you must learn flexibility in your work and professional life, or risk irrelevance or death.

Yes, that sounds dramatic, but it happens also to be true. We risk death at our own hands at an increasing rate.

They are all part of a “sandwich generation”: they sit between the baby boomers and the digital natives. And they are a group who have, according to recent statistics, lost their way. The Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report for 2014 shows that men aged 40-44 are the demographic group with the highest rate of suicide, nearly four times that of women the same age; for those aged 45-54, the rate is roughly three times higher for men than women.

This is from an article that, if you are, or know a middle-aged man, is worth a read. In my social and work circle, the biggest underlying phenomenon is this notion that women have adapted to the enormous changes in work and money-making in the last thirty years: men remained the same.

And because we stayed the same we are “remaindered”. No-one much needs the qualities and skills we have any more. We’re powerless and therefore have fewer freedoms than our fathers’ generation. The modeling we had from our fathers and grandfathers is not useful any more…but we are often too lazy or unwilling to see it.

I think this is a good summary from the article that I paraphrased:

Men need relationships, men need to be connected, men need to be heartfelt.

Whatever the opposite of bah humbug is to that.

Just a Little More

What just happened.
What just happened.

How is your year going so far? June, here we are, beginning week twenty-three of 2014. The summer solstice is in three weeks. Independence Day here in the US in a month. My yearly dental check-up is in eight weeks. Slowing time isn’t an option, so onwards we march.

Time has my attention of late because there seems to little of it. I suffer the usual human dilemma, which is that life happens while we’re planning other things. Planning is in my blood, and, I’m guessing, in yours too. We tend to overlook the immediate while contemplating the future. Being in the moment doesn’t come naturally. Keeping still and observant requires lots of energy and perseverance. Ironic, eh?

I am wrong about there being a lack of time. There’s infinite time, at least for our purposes. Time does have a direction, however, which makes life like those sushi restaurants in Tokyo with the conveyor belt that runs endlessly right in front of you. Spot some gorgeous fatty tuna and you’d better grab it while you can.

A little more available time would mean doing more of the stuff I have planned. My plans currently revolve around creating ways of making income disproportionate to the amount of time spent. In my own case, I spend eleven hours a night at my job. It’s a linear relationship between hours and dollars. The smarter way to occupy one’s day is to create multiples of dollars for each hour worked…ideally, multiples of recurrent dollars. Let’s call it an asymmetrical paycheck.

This makes the whole idea circular – I need more hours to work at creating more hours.

Simplicity tells me that the way to make this happen is to eat the elephant one bite at a time. (Awful metaphor. I certainly don’t advocate eating elephants. They’re too tough. Kidding.)

One hour at a time. Small efforts, consistently. One customer at a time. Conscious leverage.

 

Talking to a Stranger

Java skill, obtained
Java skill, obtained

 

It is true. Entering one’s sixth decade coincides with more thought of death. The rate of change towards our last breath remains the same, it merely seems faster. The fact is the same with or without the nuance; no matter how you think about it, death is closer that it was yesterday. Our time in this body is limited, and becoming more so.

The natural partner of our personal deathwatch is wonder at how to approach what’s left. I want to make each day count now, avoid dead-ends and pare back the fluff. Here, though, the paradox. Life consists of dead-ends and fluff. No sane individual expects their life to be one big highlight. Not every day can be a winner. The unspoken let-down of life is that it’s mostly about mowing the lawn and getting your hair cut. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone every day; you’re not going to either. In fact, I haven’t the time, I have to pick up my car after its oil change.

I reserve the right to change my thinking on this, but I think one big key to satisfaction in life is attaining competence in new things. Little things even. I’m lucky, I’ve seen more of the world than most people, and more of people than most people. People talk about the stuff that they’ve done right, that they know and like. They’ll tell you how they took an amazing underwater photograph, or learned how to sell insurance, or that they finally built the house of their dreams. In these and almost every other case I can think of, success at the new thing was the thing.

Squint close enough at this idea and you’ll see the whole history of our species. We’re not satisfied with stuff for long. The new, the challenge, the improved, the different, the what we don’t have gets us up in the morning. It’s the Jobs thing, but on a smaller scale. He made stuff that was new to all of us, but what’s new to us individually is quite good enough.

Although I need not say it I shall: Money won’t make you happy. It will make your misery more comfortable, for sure, and the theme of this blog is all about finding your way to financial independence. I want to make it clear that the ‘independence’ part is the important part. Two points about that. One, you cannot survive without money, but the less you have to do for it the more time you have for Two, the wonderful challenges at which you can succeed and be therefore fulfilled.

A better way of saying this might be that once you no longer need to spend your days grinding for money, it becomes less worthy of your attention. At that point life ceases to be about mowing your lawn and begins to be about learning how the German railway system works, or getting that guitar riff down or finding the nirvana of that yoga pose you enjoy most.

Namaste, independent achievers.