Finding my individual style of work took on a new urgency this week.

In the job just past, all I needed to do was to turn up. The paycheck arrived without much creativity or thinking on my behalf, although it wasn’t as though there was no pressure or need for action. The choices at that place were relatively few for most circumstances, which made life simpler than if I had to create choices and then decide upon them.

Another way to look at it is that in, say, a simple strategy computer game, one makes decisions, but there can only be a limited number, and thay have been thought out prior by the developers. The feel is one of choosing one’s destiny but the reality is that it is only a slice of all possible outcomes. Plus it’s a computer game.

Being in the business of making one’s own income means we do all of that. We create the game, we define the rules and, given enough time and experience, we can limit the choices down to the best ones if only to save the angst of choosing. Decision-making can be very stressful, a problem we can mitigate by reducing the number of decisions to be made each day, or reducing the number of choices on each occasion or both.

Now to find my own work style. I can be creative in spurts, but my preferred way of operating is more mundane: If this, then this, with the alternative of this. I’m relatively lazy and enjoy checklists and following rules, so this simple way suits me day-to-day. Neat and tidy makes me happy.

This won’t suit everyone, and so we each need to find what works strategically and tactically. My strategy involves short bursts of insight and creativity with the view to financial independence, whereas my tactics are to make implementing that strategy as simple as possible, with as few stressors as possible.

It can be done, but feels frustrating when you’re between both ends of that barbell. Onward ho, though, for there is no other choice.

Opposing Currents

Late autumn, Sarasota Bay
Late autumn, Sarasota Bay


I notice in myself an ability to keep two opposing thoughts in mind at one time. For instance, I tend not to pay my household bills until about two days before they’re due. That’s a fondness for keeping hard earned cash in my possession as long as possible. What I know I should do is to pay all my bills by the fifteenth of each month. It’s a small housekeeping fantasy that I nurture with promises to self of “…there’s always next time…” on the 30th of each month.

The logic of paying early is to avoid the stress of a) having to remember to pay just prior to the due date, and b) to create a good habit of keeping a cushion in case something goes astray.

Are you similarly split? Another example might be that you know you should be eating kale and cucumbers for breakfast, but choose milk and cereal instead. Ahem. I might also have this dual current going on.

What I think is happening here is a mismatch between intellect and the flesh. We’re intensely tied to our habits. Think of smoking cigarettes, for example. I cannot imagine many smokers would, if asked, agree that the deliberate inhalation of burnt fermented vegetation is of any benefit to them. And yet they still continue to do so. The power of the rhythm of the smoking routine is so difficult to break, let alone the chemical addiction.

The problem with habits is their essential illogicality. If I could show you a more cost-efficient, safer, better quality way to do your laundry, would you be interested? Most people are not, because they’re so in the groove of tossing a giant container of Tide into their shopping trolley and calling it good. An inferior and more expensive pathway is easier to negotiate than changing to something new.

My theory is that our lives are made more difficult by change…at least initially. Change is hard, and requires effort. But aligning what we know is good for us with what we really do each day (cucumbers instead of cereal for instance) has enormous long-term effects. Not least among them is the stress reduction we feel every time we observe that we’re actually doing the right thing by ourselves.

And even the smallest changes work like this. Excuse me, I’m off to pay some bills. Or at least set a reminder.




Follow your passion, right?

Cleaning bubbles
Bubbles of self-help


Self-help books extoll a life of satisfaction from self-expression. Find your passion, and make it work for you. Don’t be satisfied until your reservoir of pent-up you-ness is fully drained and out there in the world.

Great. I wish everyone on that quest the best of luck.

The problem I have seen with that approach to life is that stuff gets in the way. Pesky stuff like utility bills, the need for food, and landlords wanting their rent. It’s a hassle, man, just keeping your head above water.

So the kind of self-help book that should be written would follow this kind of recipe for life:

1. You will always need a minimum income simply to get up in the morning. Find out what that is, and understand that it will vary over the course of your life.

2. If your passion, the thing you most want to do can provide you with that amount of money (and hopefully a little extra) then go right ahead and indulge yourself.

3. If your passion isn’t, cannot, or won’t likely in the future come close to creating the cashflow required in point 1, above, do something that will, then…

4. …pursue your passion as a hobby.

Having a jones for a particular way of spending your days will not overcome the misery of being poor, or behind on the rent, or interminably in debt. Debt squashes everything about your life, by which I specifically mean your freedom…freedom to be creative, freedom to have ideas, even your freedom to look clearly at the world. Likewise if you have insufficient money to pay all your monthly bills. If you are struggling to make ends meet, if there’s more month left at the end of your money, you’ll be miserable. And miserable people stop having passions.

So here’s my hierarchy of self-help: Be able to pay your bills. If possible, be able to pay your bills with recurrent income. Once you know the bills can be paid, then you can try your passion, to see if that makes money. Self-help is about never needing help from others. That’s a somewhat different spin than all those books provide, don’t you think?