SLT 013: Escaping My Shawshank Cubicle, and First Steps on the Road to Simplicity


Escaping My Shawshank Cubicle, and First Steps on the Road to Simplicity

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Main Topics  

Dan’s Topic: Escaping My Shawshank Cubicle

“Indoor” jobs have never been a good match for my personality. I did well at them…the tasks, anyways, but I felt like that “staff work” was slowly sucking the life out of me…stealing my soul. Plus, I’ve always been a pretty fast worker and some would say I’m a great time manager, and that’s how it may look. But the truth is, I just have an ability to get crazy focused and knock out some really quality stuff really really quickly. Some people think that’s a gift…but I always said it was a curse.

So, the reason I say it’s a curse is because I vividly remember…so many times…sitting at my desk, looking at the clock, it’s 2:30 pm, I’m not only caught up on my work but I’m way ahead. Yet there is no way I can leave. That’s just not how it worked. I’m essentially a prisoner….to a cubicle cell, and my master is $7 clock. A really, really slow clock that I swear sometimes ticked backwards, just to spite me.

It was in those times that the seed was planted that someday I would build a future for myself, us, and our family,where our lives were designed purposefully around what we love. And I’ll get to that in a bit.

But I’m just guessing that as you simplify your life, shaping how you work is important to you, too. You probably dream about creating a simpler life that includes a lifestyle business…you know, not a business that you work at 24/7 for a few years hoping someone buys you out…I’m talking a situation where you do something that helps other people, that you love doing, and that affords you the chance to live life on your terms. So, I wanted to share a couple of adages that will give you something to ponder this week as you listen to podcasts in your car or cubicle. Maybe they’ll prod you just enough to take some action.

The Frog in a Pot of Water:

The adage goes that if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to jump right out. But if you place it gently in a pot of warm water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death. Crazy huh? Now don’t run out and try this. Be nice to frogs or they’ll keep you up all night when you’re camping. Seriously though, haven’t you felt like this at work some times?  I know I did. You get to the point where you’ll put up with anything because you’re comfortable with the “security”, “predictability”, whatever. But is that as good as it’s supposed to get?

Crabs in a Bucket:

So the story goes that if you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket, most of the crabs will just clamor around at the bottom of the bucket making a fuss. But what happens when one of the crabs tries to climb out of the bucket? Do all the other crabs join in to help him escape? Nope. They pull him back down into the bucket. Now, I’m not going to draw any direct conclusions to your life, but how many times have you wanted to do something new, different or adventurous and all those around you who supposedly “care” about you say “that’s crazy”, or “no” or try to talk you out of it, or tell you how bad things could get. Now it’s certainly not because the they don’t want you to succeed. I think it’s because they DO care and just don’t want to see you fail. But sometimes, just like the crabs, they don’t know that if they just give you a lift then you might actually make it! That’s the crab mentality. Sure, there are some who might think “Well if I can’t have it then no one can.” But, I tend to trust in humanity, and I’d bet most cases are just people who care about you but are too scared to take action themselves, so they think they’re giving you good advice.

How I Wanted to Define My Work Life:

I decided that when I left my first career and started my next life, it would be by my rules. And I defined what I wanted this way:

  • Do work where I was paid for performance over presence
  • When possible, work on a project basis versus a time basis (the only clock I want to work on is nature’s clock)
  • Wear what I wanted, when I wanted
  • Innovate without permission
  • Gather my own toolset that best serves my craft
  • Don’t limit myself to vacation days or how long I can work
  • Choose who I want to work with and why

How It All Played Out:

  • Vanessa was doing the stay at home Mom thing at the time, but it was getting to that point that she was ready to go back to work.
  • Well when it comes to a Simple Life Together, it sure is a lot better when you can have the together part! So we tweaked the plans a bit to plan out what Vanessa really wanted to do with her career, too.
  • Vanessa decided that being a Professional Organizer was her calling
  • Before she even started doing hands-on organizing we set up a website for her to start blogging about organization and simplicity.
  • We focused on her making the transition to self employment first, with me supporting her efforts and then following along with my goals later.

Starting Our First Website. Ugh!!!!

I gotta tell you, setting up that first website was a bear! I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and everything I read got me more confused. But I kept plugging away at it and in the years since I can’t tell you how many sites I’ve set up for us and for clients. But I vividly remember feeling absolutely lost and almost helpless! It would take me hours to figure out some of the simplest tasks or collect the info to make an informed decision. And that website was so important to us.

  • It was a proving ground for me to get it set up and learn about things like hosting, WordPress, plugins, and a tiny little bit of code.
  • It was a proving ground for Vanessa to begin writing about her new found passion for organizing.
  • It was like this huge opportunity and major stumbling block rolled all into one.
  • But we did it! We were on our way to starting a lifestyle business, a “side gig” as many call it.

I Got Some Great Advice!

I’d certainly recommend that that’s how you start your lifestyle business, too. Some of the best advice I got was from Dan Miller, author of the best selling book 48 Days to the Work You Love.

  • I listened to his podcasts and studied what he had to say.
  • Often, he’d advise people to “start doing something on the side” and grow that side business…that “side gig”…until it can support you.
  • Along with that goes another piece of advice, and that is to “bootstrap” your business, meaning start with your own money and start without going into loads of debt.
  • I know that if this is one of your goals you’re probably so motivated to start that you want jump right in. But, just like consumerism…and we talk about this all the time here…sometimes patience helps you realize what you really need to get started versus what you want to get started.

Some Caveats…Please Take These Seriously

Just know before you start that it takes a LOT of work to work for yourself. And I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s really hard to make a business simple…but if it’s something you’ve absolutely decided to do then that’s great! Go for it!

  • To be clear, it took us a long time working in “normal” careers to support us getting started on our own.
  • If anyone or any website tries to sell you a lifestyle line and promises it to be easy…RUN! It’s not easy.
  • You can be as passionate as you want about something but if you’re not making money at it then it’s just a hobby!
  • That’s why it’s best to start out with a side gig to test the waters.

The Light At the End of the Tunnel

But if you’re ready to start on the path to shaping your life a bit more then there’s one thing I’d like to give you to help you get started. Something I wish I had…a guide to setting up your website. Like I said, for us getting that web presence going was one of the most intimidating things because we had no background in it whatsoever. Now we can do it pretty simply and I’ve copied all the background info down for you in Seven Modules, including what you need to know about…

  • Module 1: Creating a Website for Your Lifestyle Business
  • Module 2: Choosing a Domain Name
  • Module 3: Choosing a Hosting Provider
  • Module 4: Which Website Platform to Use
  • Module 5: Giving Your Site More Functionality
  • Module 6: Getting Creative with Your Brand (logos, headers, print materials, promotional merchandise, etc)
  • Module 7: Tapping the Power of Social Media

There are even links to videos to show you exactly how to get started on your site.

So, What’s the Catch?

No “catch”, it’s absolutely and completely free and it will be available next week or sooner.

  • It’s over 30 pages long and is packed with great tips to help you get that lifestyle business going on the side.
  • If you like the guide, and we think you will…especially for the low, low price of…FREE...we just ask that you consider using the affiliate links inside the guide to sign up for the web hosting you’ll need for your site.
  • You’ll get a fantastic rate, a free domain with top-notch hosting that all told will cost you around a hundred bucks for the the whole year.
  • Out of this, we get a small commission from the host that costs you nothing extra, and knowledge that we helped you get your lifestyle business started to support your Simple Life Together.
  • Everybody wins!  If starting up a website is new to you, I’ll guarantee you that if you follow the tips in the guide it will save you countless hours of research trying to figure the process out. Geez, I wish I had this a few years ago!

So that’s it…a bit about how we started on this path toward simplicity and how we’d like to help you too if you’re looking to start a lifestyle business of your own. You can sign up to download the guide here:  Yes…I want the Simple Life Guide to Building Your Website and as soon as it’s available I’ll send you a link! Simple as that!

Edit & Forget It Update!

Well, the Facebook Edit & Forget It page is alive and well so if you signed up for Edit & Forget It feel free to join us on FB, too! For the folks that are there…it’s great to be able to see your photos and interact…we have some folks making amazing progress on their challenge! There have been some pretty funny posts over there too so if you haven’t been on the page, you’re missing out.  It’s still 2013 so it’s never too late to join the Challenge, so if you’re ready to edit 2013 things from your life, you can sign up right here! We have people signing up every day and we’d love to have you join us!

Vanessa’s Topic: First Steps on the Road to Simplicity

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and former colleague of ours sent me a direct message on Facebook commenting on how much he liked our podcast and our messages about living a life of simplicity.  He said that he realizes these are great lessons not just for adults but for our kids as well, but was wondering how parents instill these ideas in their kids? Though I’m not an expert, I have learned through my experiences as a parent, teacher, daughter and student (of parenting and organizing) that there are some strategies that can help make that learning process…those first steps on the Road To Simplicity…a little bit easier for your kids (or even adults).  So, in no particular order (except for the first thing I mention below), here are some thoughts and strategies:

  •  Start with your values: When it comes to organizing and not buying into consumerism I recommend starting by looking at the values you want to instill in your children. Do you value spending time with and nurturing your family, exercising your faith, practicing financial responsibility, promoting a healthy lifestyle and personal fitness? Or exploring your creativity via hobbies, experiencing cultures via travel, practicing a good work ethic and earning your keep or giving back to others and practicing selflessness? What do you value most in life and what do you want to instill in your children? I recommend evaluating that first before getting into the “how tos” of it all because that will affect the way you act…the way you make decisions…and the way you parent.
  • Practice leadership by example: For instance…Stop working at a reasonable hour so that you can get home and spend time with your family. Curb your own spending. Pick up after yourself. Edit your own belongings. Read the bible and pray with your family. Let them see you exercise and eat healthy food. Sit down at the dinner table together when possible. Show them how to donate things and help the needy. By walking the walk they’ll see what’s important to you and in turn hopefully they’ll internalize that themselves.
  •  Get into instructor/teacher mode: If you want to teach your children new habits or a new way of thinking, try using some of the Laws of Learning: In particular: the Law of Repetition (repeating an action over and over again) and Law of Recency (the more recent or frequent an action is practiced the faster it’s learned). Of course the Law of Primacy sometimes gets in the way (this is trying to break bad habits if they were the first ones learned). The idea is to instruct them:  tell them what you want and expect…explain why it’s important…show them how (if applicable)…practice…repeat… and then hold them accountable.
  • Speaking of accountability…have a system of rewards and consequences. This is along the lines of teaching your kids to be organized.  Reward them if they do good….but exercise the consequences if they’re bad. The key is to back up those consequences to prove you are serious.
  • Take advantage of teachable moments: They want to buy that big, expensive toy or the one with a million pieces? Ok. They have to save up and pay for it with their own money….or lug it around the store while you shop…or carry it around the amusement park all day long….or clean all the play doh up themselves…or pick up all those millions of pieces before they can play or do anything else.
  • Praise when they make good choices: Shower your kids with affection when they don’t beg for toys, voluntarily put artwork in the recycle bin, clean up after themselves or donate a toy willingly. Your children want to make you proud! You’ve gotta show them that you are!
  • Less television is always a good thing! I took that quote directly from Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist during our interview a couple of podcasts ago.  This is one I’m personally working on because honestly…the television was giving me a break!   But I realized it’s more important I spend time with my child rather than tune her out (pun intended).  I started to limit the amount of television she watches so now we do a lot of other activities together. We try to opt for recorded shows without commercials…NickJR…Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, etc. to limit her exposure to commercials and advertisements…bonus!
  • Have a genuine conversation with your kids: Ask why they want things. Ask them how it will make their life better. Ask them if it will make them feel better about themselves and how. Let them explore their own feelings without putting words in their mouths. Let them come to the conclusions on why something is or isn’t important. It shows that you are not babying them and that you respect their thoughts.
  • Compliment your kids often and build their self-confidence: It will help curb the need to be like everyone else. Your children’s clothes and things don’t define them…it’s their beautiful spirits and caring personalities that do!

So…that was probably way more than my friend expected to get from his question… but I’m so glad he asked it because I think it something a lot of parents wonder about and don’t mind getting some ideas and suggestions on how they can teach their own children on how to appreciate what they have. I hope this was beneficial for all of you listening out there.

The “Thing” Segment:

Vanessa: A Shopping Trip With My Daughter And Her Grasping The Idea Of Less

A few days ago I decided to take my daughter to the store to buy a volleyball and football so we could play catch in the backyard.  As we were walking through the store to go pay, I told her: ”Ok Junior…remember what we do when we get something new?  We have to give away something old, right?”  She said, “Oh yeah I remember mommy.  Yes, I can give away something I don’t play with anymore. That would be a good idea, right mommy?” And as we were having this conversation I passed a woman (who appeared to be there with her family of six kids) and I think she overheard me talking to Junior because she did a double take.  I don’t know if she heard or was interested in what I said but I don’t mind at all if she overheard my message! I was just so extraordinarily proud of my little girl….SHE GETS IT! And you know what…she got rid of 25 items in place of those 3 new ones!  Not bad for a 5 year old!

Dan:  A Private Podcasting Community on Google+ 

My thing this week is this group of fellow podcasters that I belong to. We meet on Google+ every couple of weeks and talk about podcasting, technology, what’s going on with our shows, you name it. It’s great. It’s so important to have a group you can bounce ideas off of, learn from, gauge your reality against, and know they’ll tell you their true opinion. That’s one thing I miss from my military days was having that peer group I can go to where everyone contributes. I’ve often thought of starting a mastermind group online to have that for the business side of things or the simplicity side of things. If you’ve never heard of a mastermind group it was made popular by Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich and the concept basically references the synergies created when several minds unite to work towards a common specific goal, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Basically, your own little think tank for ideas.  And so, hopefully you’re blessed to have people in your life to share and evaluate things with, too. If not…maybe you should take a look around. Start close to home with friends but maybe Google+ communities are a place to look, or…the key is to find a few people, with shared interests, and talk.  So, that’s my thing…

Closing Thoughts:

We’re blessed to be able to share some ideas and some of our experiences as we journey toward a simpler life in the modern world and we’d like to hear some of your experiences, too.

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Connect with us on Twitter, Dan is @DanielHayes and Vanessa is @GetSimplifized. You can find links to our Twitter and Google Plus profiles on the left side of the home page.

Be sure to leave comments below, send us a voicemail from the little microphone icon on the right side of the page, or you can go “old school” and email us!  Comments, questions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions…they’re all welcome and we’d love to hear from you!

So, here are the links we mentioned in the show:

Simple Life Guide to Building Your Website

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

48 Days To The Work You Love by Dan Miller

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