This week a friend asked me, "Why did you decide to get rid of your car? Was it for ecological or economic reasons?"
Answer: It's not primarily for either of those reasons.
My kids have my car. They need one more than I do.
They have active social lives, I don't.
They want to go places, I don't. I like staying home.
It's not for ecological reasons, but I'm glad not to be buying gas and puffing out exhaust fumes.
It's good for my health. I walk most everywhere I want to go—the grocery store, public library, post office. I'll be back on my bike when winter's over.
It saves time, because I have to decide if I really need to go somewhere, and which one place I can go in a day, rather than driving around doing errands. I save money because I don't go shopping.
There are other financial reasons. I might get another car someday for special trips, but my priority for now and the foreseeable future is to save money. I'm using the income from my second job to pay as I go fixing up my house, which is kind of an investment as long as I'm careful and find creative solutions.
I'm lucky to live near the bus lines, and to have kind friends who give me rides sometimes.
Here are a few of the people that provided some foundational principles and/or were the sources of many ideas I’ll report on, which, when put into close proximity between my ears, sometimes sparked glimmers of insights: Derek Sivers (blog, podcast), Naval Ravikant (podcast/Twitter), Tim Ferriss (books, podcast), Seth Godin (books), Chuck Surack (Sweetwater, Inc.), Carolyn Dweck (the book “Mindset”, Chris Dobrian (grad school friend). I didn’t read all the books in the bibliography from cover to cover, but I got something from each one.
I’m writing this for a stadium of people like me—who are interested in what I’m interested in, like the same style, and have a similar sense of humor. I’m writing it for myself, and maybe my kids will enjoy it at some point to understand a little better what the old man was going through.
I expect that this is going to be a process. I plan to write about the ideas that come up the way I do in my journal, and make it public in case they are of help to anyone else. I’ve written a few textbooks in the last couple of years and will try to stick to the approach of eliminating non-essentials and keeping it brief. I may be writing an autobiography on the side, along with maintain a gratitude diary.
One of the books that influenced me the most last year was Richard Koch’s “The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More With Less”. It provided the theoretical foundation for much of what I’d been putting together intuitively. Here are the “directives” that I compiled—distilling down the things that he advises the reader to do, so you can get the meat of it without having to read all the stories and philosophy behind them. One of the lovely exercises he suggests is to determine what makes you the happiest, and then to spend more time doing that in a metaphorical place he calls your “Happiness Island”. I decided what I especially wanted to do more of is to create soothing and reassuring music. Since then I read Seth Godin’s “The Practice: Shipping Creative Work” which made me look at what I was doing as more of a vanity project. The reason I abandoned producing new age jazz folk bossa nova electronic instrumental experimental music in my home studio was that I didn’t see a way to support myself with it, and that society didn’t owe me a living to park myself in the optimal position between two loudspeakers to enjoy my discoveries. I think this year I’ll be combining the two perspectives and will try to do something that I love to do, while creating something that can help other people. Another piece of the puzzle that fell into place recently was the decision to adopt Seth’s format from “The Practice”—short entries that individually that seem suited to releasing along the way as blog posts. Maybe someday I’ll circle back and organize and repackage a collection. I might use a framework that Taylor told me about called “Motivational Interviewing”, and put it into a rough order suitable for whatever stage the reader is in as they face the prospect of change in their life:
Please forgive me if this writing is not polished and becomes repetitive. My grandmother used to tell me “Stop me if I’ve told you this story already.” I never did. The stories that I remember about her life on the frontier are the ones she told me many times. There’s bound to be a lot of rehashing of the same ideas in different words. Get healthy. Spend time with the people you love. Eliminate the non-essentials to make space for success. Do the right thing. Serve others. Be kind. Work towards your goals, knowing that they aren’t going to make you a lot happier when you achieve them over where you are now. Use your time wisely and make every day count. Pay as you go. Make stuff. Improve things.
I’ve been interested in time management techniques for a long time, and now that I am halfway through my 60s am even more motivated to make the most of the time I have to live. I wrote a song called “The Speed Limit Years”, the ages 55-70 that correspond to the maximum speed allowed on freeways in the United States. I decided to call this project the “Golden Decade: Getting Most Out of Your Sunset Years”, which I hope for me will be the ages 65-75, as I slow down a little but am not hopefully facing life-threatening conditions.
I’ve read a lot of self-help books in the last few years. I went through a painful re-education program to keep my job, learned and applied a lot, and came out the other end stronger and wiser. I asked myself a lot of questions and became more stoical. I learned a lot from the problems I had and wouldn’t want to trade them in even if I could go back in time. I didn’t keep a good record of all the sources of the ideas that inspired me, so I won’t be able to credit the original authors, but I guess the ideas are more important than the names and book/article titles and that they would just interrupt the flow. One I do remember is from one of my mentors (people who have guided me through their writings and saying, most of whom I have never met), Naval Ravikant, who said you shouldn’t rent out your time. He says very few people will freely give away their money, but most will give away their time, which is even more precious than money since you can always get more money but never more time. He says that the goal is to get to the point where you don’t have to go anywhere you don’t want to go, wear anything you don’t want to wear, and do anything you don’t want to do. I have become much more attentive to how to use time wisely and enjoyably, and most of what I expect I’ll be writing on here is how to use your time and energy to maximum advantage. The Golden Decade is a good time to do this since you generally have more free time (whether you’re “retired” or not), and don’t have to worry about looking cool anymore. What have you got to lose?
This blog is dedicated to my my mother in law, Oneide Malcher de Oliveira. I asked her once what her favorite decade in life was. She said that, if you’ve got your health, that the 60s are the best, since the kids have grown up and you’ve got time to relax a little and enjoy life. She continues to inspire me with her stoical attitude.
I would like to thank two other people that helped launch the project: my therapist, and my son. I was telling Taylor Stevens about how I’d started to use the stopwatch on my cell phone to log the minutes that I was spending on my “Happiness Island”, the way that other people use a Fitbit to count their steps, with the goal of getting up to at least 120 minutes a day doing what I love to do. He said that I should write a book about my journey to happiness and the changes I’ve made in the last two years. I told him I like writing books but that I don’t know how to sell them, and he said then I should just write it for myself. The next day I told my son about how I’m using the stopwatch on my cell phone to log the number of minutes I spend a day on my Happiness Island, the way that some people use a Fitbit to count how many steps they take a day. He said I should write a book about that and the other life hacks I’ve assembled. I told him I like to write books but that I don’t know how to sell them, and he said then I should just write it for myself. This coincidence suggested that maybe there could be something of value here, and I decided to give it away for now in the form of a blog. I decided to do it on the Lovely Thinking website, since the mission here is to create and curate inspired ideas. I hope that you find something that you can use to make your life more enjoyable and rewarding.
I'm wound up and winning, and hope that some of these suggestions may contribute to your happiness.