Day Forty Six: Organization

Daily Journal:

to-do-listToday, I’m just going to focus completely on the Deng Ming-Dao entry about organization as I get caught up with several missing days.

Deng Ming-Dao on Organization:

Today was actually the topic I’ve been waiting for. How do planning and goals fit in with Tao?

Deng Ming-Dao says, “It is wise to plan each day. By setting goals for oneself and organizing activities to be accomplished, one can be sure that each day will be full and never wasted.” He says we have “master goals” and each day you match “interim patterns” with “master goals”. I took that to mean you have goals, sort of an overall plan of what you want to accomplish. You set out in the morning with a To Do list, but also having the understanding that events of the day may disrupt your plans, and you will have to improvise. Not only that, but you should become skilled at improvisation, to be prepared when unpredictable things happen.

This is a problem I’ve been running up against. I’m setting goals and laying out a schedule to get things done, but days are sometimes disrupted by unexpected events, like the flat tire issue this week. It throws my schedule off. This week brought some unexpected overtime opportunity at work. I need to get out of debt and hit my savings goals, but that takes time away from getting errands run, like car maintenance, or creative goals such as writing, and so on. It’s a matter of prioritizing, and I decided to focus on my finances as a high priority at this time.

Daily Stoic:

Today, Ryan Holiday begins with a Marcus Aurelius quote about waking up to realize what was upsetting you was only a bad dream.” Many times things you dread and become upset about don’t even come to pass. They are a fiction. “The thing that provoked you wasn’t real- but your reaction was. And so from the fake comes real consequences. Which is why you need to wake up right now instead of creating a nightmare.”

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 Eighteen: Spectrum

One of the big New Years resolutions I made for myself this year is to avoid too much exposure to outside control and influence. Have you ever gotten an idea or goal, and before you know it, someone has talked you out of your idea? Or had a “better idea”? Does it ever seem that you aren’t following your own script but doing what people tell you to do much of the time? spectrum

Goal setting seems almost un-Taoist, doesn’t it? Seems more like a western perspective. I think there may be a balance though. I don’t want to be obsessed with end goals or results so much. I can’t be. Shit happens. The vicissitudes and storms of life. Everything you have built could collapse, or be lost, TOMORROW. Yup. Gone. It’s happened to me many times before.

Even still, I have quite a few problems to fix and I think getting a clear list of what I need to do is a good idea. I am open to gifts from the Universe, or any kind of windfall or breakthrough, or I am prepared to deal with having to shit can my plans if things become suddenly disrupted. We never have any idea what will happen in the future.

But to dream…

Here is a rough idea of where I want to go.

Goals:

  • Artistic: Write a book. Eventually re-emerge as a musician, when the timing is right.
  • Attitude: Changes habits and behaviors, such as going to bed and waking up, being tidier around the home, being on time, etc. Stop exhausting my mental energy with anger and grudges. Distance myself from people I have toxic relationships with (without being so much of an asshole about it).
  • Career: What is ‘career’? Do I have a career? My legacy is in music, not in business. Besides that, I have jobs. This year I have decided that my career is writer.
  •  Education: Can’t afford it. Don’t want to allocate the time and money there. Don’t want student loan debt. I will be an AUTODIDACT: a self taught person. Always learning. Every day.
  • Family- Already have two children. Limitations with being able to see them frequently, due to driving distances and custody schedule. To become a better parent and father. Eventually create a life with my girlfriend.
  • Financial- Get out of debt. Save. Get out of the working poor “paycheck to paycheck” lifestyle. Somehow. Dealing with geographic problem in rural Kentucky. (Location, location, location…)
  • Physical- Daily Qi Gong exercise. Hiking. Quit smoking. Physical challenges such as Couch to 5K, 100 Pushups, etc.
  • Pleasure- Travel. Visit Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Go to silent retreat.
  • Public service- Volunteer work at Bernheim Forest, as I did last year.

Deng Ming-Dao on Spectrum:

Today’s entry seemed like a riddle.

Pure light is all colors,
Therefore it has no hue.
Only when singleness is scattered
Does color appear.

The same is true of Tao. In its pure state, it embodies everything. Thus, it shows no color, so too is all existence initially latent and without differentiation in Tao. Only when Tao enters our world does it explode into myriad things. We say that everything owes its existence to Tao. But really, these things are only refractions of the great Tao.
-Deng Ming-Dao

Daily Stoic: See the world like an artist or poet.

Today, was a good entry in the Ryan Holiday book, mostly about the artistry in some of Marcus Aurelius’s passages in Meditations (a book on my reading list this year!). More though, it reminded me that I need to work on my writing some more. Bringing the reader into the experience, showing instead of telling, using objective correlative in my writing a little more, and let people see things they might not otherwise notice in the world.

Tomorrow, I will talk about teachers and mentors.

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.

Day Fifteen: Time

What an appropriate topic for today!

I was just thinking about time and time management. In fact, I was stressing out about being behind on my blog posts. I just finished up yesterday’s blog post a few minutes ago, because I had the kids over yesterday and sitting around blogging while the kids run wild in my apartment wasn’t an option. I’m already behind on getting some evening exercise, I have some small household tasks to accomplish, I haven’t eaten dinner yet, and I still need to call my girlfriend tonight.now-clock-1_grande

I’ve been tracking how I use my time for the past couple of days, and how to tweak my time to accomplish the things I want to accomplish this year like:

  • Blogging every day for 365 days.
  • Daily meditation.
  • Exercising at least three times a week, with various 30 day challenges.
  • Reading goals.
  • Writing an ebook.
  • Getting my finances in order, and getting out of debt.
  • Traveling.
  • Learning to be a better cook, and get off fast food and junk food.

What I’m finding is that a huge chunk of my time- surprise!- is eaten up by my job, and getting to and from my job. I work 10 hour days four days a week (in theory), with Wednesdays and Saturdays off. I get Sundays off if I don’t get called in for mandatory overtime. This is interesting because I actually cannot survive on $12 an hour with a 40 hour work week. This week, I will work 60 hours, just for the extra cabbage to pay off my medical bills from early 2016. That’s before I start working on paying off all other debts and getting my credit rating back to the 600s, average credit, where it used to be before baby mama suddenly ran off with her married coworker just over two years ago, right before I lost my job, had a serious injury, and my credit was destroyed and put in the 400s (which was worse than before I repaired my credit last time!)

I would describe my job as a dead end situation.

There are worse jobs, such as the sweat shop in Louisville where I assembled attic ladders for $2 less an hour, with an added 30 minutes of car commute, and only ten minute breaks instead of the usual 15 minute breaks, with a really mean Type A boss whipping us to boost the production numbers, very little time off allowed, and grumpy co-workers.

And then there were the horrible call center jobs I had for 10 years, chained to a phone that rang nonstop  in a cubicle with a computer, while eating bagels and cakes that were brought in almost daily.

I don’t hate my job. In fact, it’s easy work, provides physical exercise with the added boon of  allowing headphones so I can listen to audiobooks, podcasts, and recorded lectures to learn from.

But when it’s over for the week, I lose 40-60 hours of my life, and I hopefully have almost enough to cover my expenses until the next payday. I usually phone in excuses and promises to pay every week to somebody.

If you can believe this, I also played in bands for the last 20 years, tying up my weekends too. Sometimes I got paid. Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I worked 10 hours on Friday, played a gig on Friday night, stayed up all night, and went in for another 10 hours of work on Saturday, using a mixture of coffee during every break supplemented with 5 Hour Energy supplements, which were quite effective.

Somehow, I still used to find the time to get drunk several times a week, stay up late listening to music, engage in arguments and feuds with other people, waste hours on Facebook and text messages, and watch several hours of bad television programming too.

LIFE is really lived in the moments when I don’t have to be at work.

Sometimes when I am ready to experience life during those brief windows of opportunity, I am thwarted by the weather, such as the rain we’ve been getting all week in Kentucky.

Enter a pretty old, tried and true concept in my life for the first time ever.

TIME MANAGEMENT.

I’m experimenting with another old principle, a staple of the Protestant work ethic in America.

Early to bed, early to rise… 

This may seem strange to many people, who keep day timers and have their shit together as much an average adult is expected to, but I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants since high school, with a few false starts and failed attempts at improving my time management. Here I am again.

I’ve been getting up at 5AM since 2017 began (which is only 15 days in, as I type this) and this week, I will bump it to 4:30AM. This allows time for shower, breakfast, morning meditation, starting my blog post for the day, planning and creating my To Do list (which I’ve never used with any regularity until now).

Up until a couple years ago, I would stay awake until after midnight drinking Miller High Life beers while listening to music or internet surfing, until I woke up hungover and running late to my soul crushing call center job the next day. Repeat daily for a decade. Take a vacation or go on tour with my band once in a while, which were the highlights of my life back then.

Tonight, I planned to go through a basic Qigong tutorial video, finish my blogs, and spend an hour on the treadmill while talking to my girlfriend. However, 2 hours have passed while working on blog posts, and I turn in for bed in about an hour. Qigong and treadmill exercise will be migrated to tomorrow’s To Do list now.

Deng Ming-Dao on Time:

Key points:

  • Each day, we face a problem. We must validate our past, face our present, plan for the future.
  • Those who are nostalgic about how great the “good old days” were miss the reality of the present.
  • Those who live only for the present (guilty as charged) “have little regard for precedent or consequence”.
  • Those who who live for some reward in the future strain themselves with too much denial.
  • Understand how the past effects us.
  • Keep the present full of rich, rewarding experiences.
  • Devote some energy each day to building for the future.

My present project is to change the past a bit, or at least, my story about the past, which is a lot of pain, and pleasures pursued to escape from the pain. I used to live in the moment all the time, with some thoughts of future going about six months out, and a far off, far-fetched goal of being a writer/rock star in the future.

Somewhere around 2007 or 2008, I started living in the past with a tragic victim story of all the malicious things people did to screw up my life, and I wasted a lot of mental energy on maintaining grudges and entertaining revenge fantasies. My enemies called what I was doing “hate”, having a different perspective and an alternative story where I was the villain. Sometimes, years later, after some self-introspection, the offenders will apologize for what they did, and empathize and say things like “I don’t blame you for being so pissed off at me after what I did to you.” But until that day comes, you are the asshole in their version of the story, and your anger is the problem, and what they did was justified. It feels good when that day finally comes, but it doesn’t change the fact that you may have wasted years holding a grudge about whatever it was.

My Vipassana instructor referred to my grudge hangup as “righteous indignation.”

I feel pretty sure the thieves who sawed the catalytic converter off my car a few months ago, if caught, would also find a way to blame me for the theft. My fault for parking the car in a dark place without a car alarm, perhaps? Seems to be human nature. My exes blamed their affairs and running off with other men on the idea that I neglected to affair-proof the relationships.

I find you never really learn the actual reasons. You only hear the excuses.

To be fair, I probably provided a lot of excuses for own moral failings, and usually didn’t even know what the real reasons were, due to a complete lack of self awareness. Maybe most people are this way.

So, I need to:

  1. Get out of the past and change my perspective of the past as something to learn from, instead of something to suffer from.
  2. Fill the present with rewarding experiences, which I’ve been doing well at for at least a year, given my circumstances and limitations.
  3. Every day, devote some effort to building the future.
  4. Balance all three as a whole.

The Daily Stoic: Peace is in Staying the Course

Ryan Holiday says:

“In Seneca’s essay on tranquility, he uses the Greek word euthymia, which he defines as believing in yourself and trusting that you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction.’ It is this state of mind, he says that produces tranquility.”

Today’s post reminded me of the 2004 George W. Bush vs. John Kerry U.S. presidential election. You may remember how “stay the course” became a Dubya catch phrase, while John Kerry was accused of “flip flopping”. Here’s a funny attack ad, to refresh your memory.

To paraphrase Ryan Holiday, we should be assured that we are going in right direction (maybe not 100% sure) and we don’t need to compare ourselves to others or “change our mind every three seconds based on new information.”

  1. Identify our path.
  2. Stick to it.
  3. Make adjustments as needed.
  4. Ignore “the distracting sirens who beckon us to turn toward the rocks”.

The greatest temptation I’ve fallen for is taking advice and opinions, of both the asked for and unsolicited kind. Sometimes, you may be hearing sagely advice from the voice of a mentor. Other times:

  • You have any plan, and they will try to shoot it down for you, or explain why it’s a bad idea. Devil’s advocates. Crazymakers.
  • Their advice and opinions serve them very well, but don’t serve you.
  • They have a different goal, and are manipulating you to bend to their will, or serve their own needs instead of yours.

There have been many other “distracting sirens”.

  • My own fear.
  • Partying.
  • Facebook.
  • Television.
  • Depression.
  • Just giving up.

Tomorrow, I will discuss financial goals.

B.G.