Day Thirty Five: Utilization

Daily Journal

I just wrapped up two weeks straight of voluntary overtime at work. I have approximately $800 of debt remaining to pay off (mostly old medical and credit card bills I was unable to pay when I was unemployed for several months). That doesn’t sound like a lot, but my income is so low that it barely covers my expenses. So I have to work overtime. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am following the Dave Ramsey “baby steps”.

you-are-here-arrow-big-stock-photoMy girlfriend and I have been working through the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. It’s a fun book to work through, the premise being that you can design your life in the same way that products are designed.

The Health/Work/Play/Love Dashboard:

You can download a PDF version of the Health/Work/Play/Love Dashboard worksheet from DesigningYour.Life website.

As instructed by the book, you must always start where you are. So the first exercise is to assess where you are in these four areas of your life, ranking them from 0-Full. Then find your problems and solve them.

As a note, about two years ago, all four areas would have been close to 0. No job. No love. Everything I ever loved taken away from me. I lived in isolation, and what little limited contact I had with other human beings was mostly conflict. No play or joy in life whatsoever. Poor health, especially mental health, but also a respiratory illness and an injury that put me on short term disability. I was entertaining the idea of suicide as a way out. 

Right now:

Health: I am in good general health, getting regular exercise at my job and hiking trails in my area. I am no longer a daily drinker and haven’t been for a few years, and I quit smoking cigarettes about a week ago. I still cave in to junk food temptations (my family loves junk food!), but overall my diet is gradually getting healthier, having removed most of the fast food/vending machine/gas station food that I was eating almost daily. I could stand to get more sleep, as I only sleep about 6 hours a night. I would put my Health at around 50%.

Work: I work in a fulfillment center warehouse that ships shoes and apparel. It’s not the worst job in the world, but I could use some better income and more growth opportunity. At least, I get physical exercise at my job, and there are so many employees that you can’t get to know many people and you can avoid drama for the most part. I have started blogging and writing again. I’m on hiatus as a musician right now. I volunteer occasionally  to work in the Edible Garden at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky. I put my Work at 50%.

Play: Right now, it is winter time. My level of Play is really low this time of year, which I utilize to work overtime. Play will pick up in the summer time. For play, I go camping and travel (often to see bands or visit friends in other states). My Play is at 25% and I would like to keep Play sort of low, around 25%.

Love: My primary relationship is great, but is presently long distance as she lives in Arizona and I live in Kentucky. This will be resolved in March. My relationship with my children is okay. Unfortunately, I barely see them during the school year and their mother lives far away from me. These are “gravity problems”. I don’t have a lot of friendships in Kentucky and find it somewhat hard to relate to the culture in rural Kentucky. Most of my friends live in Arizona, but I’m blessed with technology that helps me to keep in touch with them and I’ve become accustomed to solitude. I have connections with my hiking and meditation groups. I have lost my passion for music, but have renewed my love for books and writing. I put Love at 75%.

In Chapter Two, the book covers Workview and Lifeview. I really liked this concept of two categories, one beginning related to personal development and goals, and the other related to spirituality and higher purpose, and seeking integration of the two.

I supposed I’m not too shocked, but as I completed the Workview exercise, I realized that I mostly view work from a crisis model. I don’t have enough money, so I take whatever work out of desperation just to eat and pay bills. Ideas like growth, career development, and utilization of my talent aren’t in the picture at all. The closest thing I’ve had to a career was in music, and for the most part, I’ve lost music.

The Lifeview Reflection exercise indicated that my values have changed from an atheistic, existentialist sort of model to a vaguely pantheistic, where there is more order to the universe than I previously believed, although I would not categorize it as hard determinism. I am exploring spirituality for the first time in the last two years.

Today I will do the full exercise of writing 25o words about each of the two views and comparing them.

Today, I will also do some running and work on writing a book. I have decided to write a book-length “manifesto”. I’ve gotten planning done and now I have to just get down to typing a draft.

Deng Ming-Dao on Utilization:

Today, Deng Ming-Dao says that harnessing the forces of nature is “proper utilization of Tao” and the idea is perfectly related to the Designing Your Life book I just mentioned. You can borrow from the power of nature, but we cannot change nature. As the authors of Designing Your Life, many problems are “gravity problems”. You can’t do anything about gravity. You can do things to make the struggle easier (like climbing a hill with a lighter bicycle) or use gravity to your advantage at times.

“When initiative and natural forces are combined, there is true harmony.”
-Deng Ming-Dao

That quote is really the entire theme of this blog. I am trying to combine my own initiative and goals with the laws of the universe and make them be in harmony.

The Daily Stoic

Reacting emotionally will only make a bad situation worse. If someone is provoking you, they may be trying to get a response from you. If we shrug off attacks, and easily handle pressure and problems, then we are invincible, per Epictetus.

Tomorrow, there will be more about the “Designing Your Life” exercise and I will provide a list of all the books I am using right now. I also need to work through the Tao Te Ching, which I’ve barely covered so far. I’ll eventually get around to everything, I supposed. Only 11 months to go!

Take care.
B.G.

Day Twenty Nine: Scars

Daily Journal

Yesterday was very productive. The kids completed the tasks on their To Do list by 11:00

businessforbohemians

The latest book by Tom Hodgkinson, one of my favorite Gen X writers.

AM, and then went to the movies to see A Dog’s Purpose with my mother and sister. I took a couple of hours to catch up on three days worth of blogs I was behind on, and restored the kitchen back to a clean condition. I went through all my bills, using a bill organizer notebook I purchased for $2 at Dollar General. Remarkably, I noticed I had paid off $350 to a collection agency for debt owed to my doctor’s office for almost one year, and paid off half of what little defaulted credit card debt remained with this week’s paycheck. I ran my annual free credit report, finding 3 open accounts I still need to pay off. Surprisingly, I’m almost debt free. The problem seemed much worse than it actually was, but I’ve been so poor for the last two years that even paying off $1500 in debt seemed impossible. I finished filing my taxes yesterday too.

 

I downloaded two new books to my Kindle, and added to my Goodreads reading list:

I’ve been a fan of Tom Hodkinson since I first bought his book The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste at the Borders bookstore on Mill Avenue in Tempe, AZ sometime during the year 2007. I generally purchase every book he writes and Business for Bohemians is the latest one I didn’t have.

Write It Down
My advice now is to go for a long walk and think about your life. Then come home, sit down with a notebook and write down what you want to do and how you want to live. What brings you pleasure, and what brings you satisfaction? What would your ideal day look like? That is the first step.
-Chapter One: How Do You Want to Live?, Business for Bohemians by Tom Hodgkinson

My ambitions are return to a regular writing habit, keeping a blog, and writing ebooks which I put up for sale. I’d like to have some kind of part time job I don’t have, and a band that produces income and keeps my legacy and name out there. My ideal day will go like this: Wake up early in the morning. Shower. Meditation. Exercise. Breakfast. Writing or journaling. Maybe podcasting. In the afternoon, I have some kind of job I do that I don’t mind doing. In the evening, I have dinner, spend time with my family, maybe have a beer or a coffee, and read a good book. On weekends, I hike, play a gig somewhere, go on a road trip. 

This sounds like fantasy, but everything I’ve done started with goals. In 2007, it might have looked like this:

I plan to release several more albums with different acts, go on tour every winter, eventually getting a spot in a band with a bigger name, going professional. Quit my job. Maybe live part time in Kentucky, and do winters in Phoenix or Los Angeles. Write a book. My ideal day: I wake up whenever I want, work on my book in the backyard with a laptop, coffee, and pack of cigarettes. I practice on my bass or a guitar for an hour or so. I don’t have a job, and luckily I don’t need one because I make more from music than a job would pay me. In the evening, I socialize in a bar, drink as much beer as I want, and stagger home to bed. 

The reality went like this:

Three of four albums I played on came out. That would be The Earps debut and follow up called Get a Room. Back to Monkey City with Jeff Dahl. The Moonshine Millionaires EP. The idea that any of those works sold well enough to not have to work is beyond merely laughable. I moved back to Kentucky. I stopped writing blogs and failed at several attempts to write a novel. I did manage to earn $12,000 per year by playing every weekend in a country cover band, but that only lasted four years. The rest of the time I worked 40-50 hours per week at $10-$12 per hour dead end jobs. I was asked to join one of my favorite bands, Nine Pound Hammer, to the shock and awe of my old bandmates, particularly The Earps guys. I played two gigs with them, the summer Europe tour never happened and I was disappointed about that, and then the former bass player asked to rejoin the band and I was out. I did drink a lot, smoke a lot, and spend a lot of time in bars. After I turned 40, I started to think more seriously about my health. Everything fell apart when the ex ran off with a coworker, and I bottomed out completely.

I think it’s good to make a plan, and maybe follow up on it in six months, tweak it a little. I’m not sure everyone ever achieves their ideal fantasy life, but it does at least give you some direction. That’s all planning is really good for. It is remarkable how much of what you planned can be accomplished, even if those things are subject to disappointing results or Careful What You Wish For syndrome. Then there are some unplanned events and disasters. Note: Not all unplanned things are negative, but many of them can be.

Either way, we are really lucky to live in the first world, where we can pursue our dreams instead of merely pursuing our next meal and trying to avoid our own death today.

Deng Ming-Dao on Scars

Today’s entry is like Part II of yesterday’s discussion, focusing on the scars and abuse we were subjected to in the past. He says that “scars that have happened through no fault of our own may bar us from spiritual success. Unfortunately, it is often easier to give up a bad habit than to recover from these injuries, the scars mar us forever.” He goes on to say that doctors and priests can only do so much. Personally, I’ve dealt with many issues from childhood that have carried over into my adult life and helped set me up for failure, creating a lack of confidence and self worth, which I medicated with booze for about 15 years. Bullying, whippings, humiliation, and intimidation are really the only events I remember with any clarity from my childhood. At this point, not being able to change the past (yes, I can reframe the past, perhaps), I look more toward not scarring my own children and “try to acquire as few new problems as possible”. I’ve gone through psychiatry and counseling. As the author says, it only did so much. I was unsatisfied with psychiatry insistence on treating everything with drugs, and at best the results were mixed good and bad. I think Deng Ming-Dao gives good advice here that we must heal ourselves through self cultivation. Use many methods. “Travel widely”. Overcome our phobias. Do not continue living with your own toxic patterns and perpetuating more problems. If we cannot overcome each scar, they will “bar us from communion with Tao”.

The Daily Stoic: Keep it simple.

Good advice today. Don’t overthink things. Focus on what’s right in front of us. “We don’t need to get lost in a thousand other distractions or in other people’s business.”

On February 1st, I will celebrate an entire month of blog posts. I will record a podcast where I reflect on the experience of January 2017. February 1st begins a new challenge: I will spend at least 15 minutes per day doing some kind of work toward the goal of increasing my income. That can be looking around for a better job, looking for extra money gigs, updating resume, anything that might help improve my earnings for 2017.

Cheers,
B.G.

Day Seventeen: Cooperation

Full disclosure: This blog is backdated. I was wrapped up with work for 10 hours on January 17th, followed by hiking 6 miles with my Meetup hiking group, coming home in time for dinner, call to my girlfriend, and heading off to bed, turning in a bit later than I wanted to.

Today, I did something I hadn’t tried in a few years. I sat down and created a budget. Over the years, I’ve mostly kept track of my finances in my head, which sometimes has worked out okay, but mostly hasn’t. My big problems have been impulse purchases and falling behind while in crisis, or after a disaster, and all those years I spent way too much money drinking, both at bars and at home.

moonshine-millionaires

Cooperation: Moonshine Millionaires, probably the best-managed and ost productive act in my music career. All members influenced each other, and were placed in roles that suited them best. We had an excellent, experienced, and well-connected outside manager, a career first for me.

I’ve been reading some Dave Ramsey material. Of course, he’s the wildly popular radio host of The Dave Ramsey Show, about getting out of debt and managing money. Seemed like a good place to start. I used the Dave Ramsey Quick Start Budget printout.

My key discovery- no real surprise here!- I spend almost as much as I earn, even after cutting many things out of my budget long ago, such as daily beer drinking, and dining at restaurants. In the past, at times, I was able to eat, drink, and be merry a few nights per week. I had multiple sources of income back then.

Here is a really good blog post by Brian Eisenberg called What Makes People Buy? 20 Reasons Why. This list is worth a look, if you wonder why you buy things.

While I’ve had some problems with emotional spending (“retail therapy”), I’m not really a fear buyer or one who must have all the latest fads. My #1 problem is buying due to addiction.

I am presently still a one pack per day cigarette smoker. I quit a few years ago, last over a year until my new band Moonshine Millionaires had a smoke break at the El Camino Restaurant & Bar in Bardstown. I caved. I quit another time for six months. Both times I used nicotine replacement therapy, having the most success with the patch. The best way to buy cigarettes is the get the lowest price on a full carton, which I have almost never done. Denial is very powerful, so of course, feeling that “you might quit any day now”, you just buy one pack at a time. You might quit tomorrow. Why buy 10 packs? Of course, years go by and you are still a daily smoker. The problem with buying one pack at a time is that means you stop at a gas station every day to get a fresh pack, and what usually happens? You buy other times, like a soda, candy, snacks, or decide you also want a six pack of beer. That pack of smokes can become a $20 sale for the gas station.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve also become addicted to energy drinks. My main brand has been Rock Star since Handy Food Mart in Bardstown has them for $.99 instead of $2.50. I also drink Venom Black Mamba, which is only $.99, when I can find it. I don’t like Monster. Red Bull is probably my favorite, but I can’t afford to spend $4-$5 for a drink. It wasn’t uncommon for me to spend $2.50 on energy drinks. I had gotten up to 2-3 energy drinks per day. Empty cans were littering the floorboard of my car. I’ll bet the average amount us energy drink users spend is around $1500 – $2000 per year. Having an energy drink once in a while wouldn’t be so bad. After stopping my habit of 6-12 beers every day, I can now go several months without a beer and never abuse it anymore. Hopefully, I will be able to do the same with energy drinks. Right now, I don’t want to pay through the nose for this newer addiction. I drank my last Rock Star on January 7th, purchased at a Circle K near the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix.

Another discovery I made is that my job requires a lot of my time and yet, I still remain a working poor person who is unable to save or pay off debts (and also maintain his addictions, of course), or deal with any kind of emergency. I thought about it, and this has lead to my having a poor attitude and resentment about work, but I can also see a LOT of money problems have been my own damn fault too. Right away, I can see that I will need to cut all unnecessary expenses to put what little money that is toward debt and savings.

I will need to work overtime on a regular basis or find a better paying job. In the past, I supplemented my income with cover bands, but I am no longer able to do that and still be present in my kids’ lives since live music is weekend work (my time with the little ones) and usually a much bigger commitment than you think it will be, with many demands on your time.

Starting February 1st, I will start a 66-day mini-project of spending 15-30 minutes each day making some effort to look for more income. This can be anything. Setting up a LinkedIn profile, browsing Craigslist looking for a random one-time gig, looking through Want Ads for a better paying job, anything toward earning more money.

I will be using the Dave Ramsey Plan, trying to get as far through the first three Baby Steps as I can during 2017.

  1. Save $1000 Emergency Fund.
  2. Pay off Debts using “Debt Snowball”.
  3. Saving $4800 (approximately 3 months of my living expenses)

Deng Ming-Dao on Cooperation:

Today was a good entry in Tao 365. I’ve really similar passages in the Tao Te Ching. Deng Ming-Dao says “true leadership is a combination of initiative and humility.

Key points:

  • When we join some kind of group, we gradually become a part of the group. There will be mutual influence.
  • We influence the collective, and we are shaped by our company.
  • To influence others: We need to know when to act, when to be passive, when others are receptive to us, and when they will not listen.
  • There will be both frustration and success.
  • Maintain our position or change it, if there is a better position.
  • Credit is never taken. The best leader should be obscure, not drawing personal attention.
  • Credit is awarded when people realize it was the subtle influence of the leader that brought success.

The Daily Stoic: Reboot the Real Work

To quickly summarize today’s chapter, Holiday is saying that making an effort improves the quality of your life and the world. Just do the work. Let go of the past and begin now.

Tomorrow, I will discuss some personal goals I’m laying out for different areas in my life.

Peace.
B.G.