Thursday, September 13, 2007

Losing Your Marbles!

This morning, like most mornings, I woke up early. I listened to some segments of Morning Edition on one of my favorite public radio stations, read more of an interesting book, a novel, about the Ford Motor Company that I'm talking with the author about turning into an audio book (one of the various things I do in my Working Free lifestyle) and checked my e-mail. I did all this before climbing out of bed and before breakfast. In my e-mail were a couple messages from my long time friend (and a fellow Working Free colleague), Brian Morris from Auckland, NZ. Brian and I have been friends since the mid 1980's when we met through an ad I had placed in Success Unlimited magazine advertising my monthly audio cassette magazine, Successtrax. Over a year or two of corresponding by mail (it took forever back in those days) Brian convinced me to license him to market and distribute SuccessTrax in NZ. We'd never met in person - but somehow I trusted him and he trusted me and we shook hands across about 9000 miles and we've been like brothers since that time. More about Brian in the future and I'm sure he'll be contributing to this blog as time passes. He's a prolific writer, successful in business and one who has been working free most of his life.

At any rate, Brian sent me the following story this morning. I had read this story before, but not in the same context as below. However, since Brian knew that I've been a licensed ham radio operator most of my life (first licensed at age 14 and continuously licensed since then - nearly 50 years) he instinctively knew I'd read it. There is an important message here for everyone and there are direct implications to working and living free. So, read and learn about losing your marbles.


The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it:

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whom-ever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles." I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say--

"Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It's too bad you missed your daughter's "dance recital" he continued."Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities." And that's when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles."

"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

"Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I'm getting to the important part.

It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail", he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays." "I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear."

"Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life.

There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight ."

"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time."

"It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 Year old Man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!"

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast." "What brought this on?" she asked with a smile. "Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles.


Think about it! Are you losing your marbles or are you enjoying using your marbles? Have a great day . . .

Ed Helvey
The Virginia Sound Man

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's Time To Get Serious About Freedom . . .

I am embarrassed. It has been since July 17th since I last posted to this blog. I’m embarrassed because I inspired a new Internet friend to start her own blog about her interesting life and upcoming adventure, she started hers after I started mine and she already has at least 30 postings. She pointed this out to me. Thank you, Andrea. I look forward to crossing paths with you soon. Check her blog at

But, then again, I am promoting working free – so the only requirements are the requirements I set for what I do. So, while embarrassed that I have not posted more up until now and that Andrea has moved far ahead of me, I do not apologize. I, like everyone, have had a number of things that have consumed my time since July 17th, one of which was an entire crash of my primary hard drive and a domino effect that created problems with my entire computer network. I’m still not out of the woods, but I’m recovering. The offending hard drive and the computer it was in – are still not operational – turns out that the problem may have occurred due to a hardware problem that I subsequently learned about from the computer manufacturer. Actually, there are thousands of computers that may have this problem. My computer has to go back to the manufacturer and be repaired – meanwhile, I’m still hoping to recover some of the lost data from the hard drive. Fortunately, most of my data was backed up and my primary losses were some timely and critical e-mails, some more recent e-mail addresses in my address book and a lot of important bookmarks. If I don’t recover them, I’ll survive, but it has made life more challenging.

But, isn’t that life? I have been on a quest to simplify my life for several years now and I’ve made a lot of progress in that direction. Yet, for as much progress as I’ve made, there have been other issues that have crept up and created new complications. Life is a balancing act. On the one extreme, we could simplify our lives so much that we live in a cave, make fire by rubbing two sticks together, shop for our food with a bow and arrow or spear and communicate with smoke signals or drums. This may seem like a simple life, but it’s not exactly what I have in mind for myself. On the other extreme, we could incorporate every possible electronic convenience humans have created. We can have a computer run our homes, provide our written and voice – even video – communications and provide our entertainment. We can order our food on line to be shipped to us, shop for clothing, books and just about every other material thing we may want. The sun and other renewable resources can power our homes and cars. However, this is also not the kind of life I’m seeking – because with all of this technology – come new problems and complications like my crashed computer system or the recent merging of my bank with a larger and way less technologically advanced bank – that has totally upset my finances and banking.

Somewhere between these two extremes is what I am seeking. My concept of Working Free actually encompasses a second concept and that is the idea of Living Free. Now, to remind you, Working Free does not mean working FOR free – it means that our workstyle is designed and controlled by us – not by a boss, corporation, institution or government agency. We determine what we want to do to generate the resources we require to finance our lifestyle at whatever level we choose and doing what we choose to fulfill that.

Living Free, likewise does not mean living FOR free – it means that our lifestyle is designed and controlled by us – not by any government, boss, corporation, institution, special interest group, neighborhood association, etc.

Does that sound like a maverick? Possibly. But, I’m not suggesting that we move into a very structured segment of society and then become a pain in the side of everyone who chooses to live within that structure. I’m simply saying as one chooses their workstyle – and wouldn’t go to work for a major corporation or any organization with a defined set of policies and rigid structure and expect everyone to conform to us, the same applies to living free. If we don’t feel we need to buy into, be financed up to our ears and enslaved to a mortgage to live in a community of McMansions, we can seek out other places to live. Examples include everything from true communes (which still exist) to co-housing – an old idea being revitalized where groups of people come together who have a common mindset about where and how they want to live and create their own small, self-contained communities. There are over 1,000,000 full-time gypsies or nomads in the U.S. currently. I’m talking about full-time RV dwellers. They’ve given up their traditional homes in exchange for some form of recreational vehicle ranging from travel trailers; slide-in pick-up truck campers to million dollar plus custom built motor coaches. There is an explosion of what are called Park Model Homes. They are actually very sophisticated travel trailers – basically designed to be moved to a location and being somewhat permanently installed. They actually look like log cabins, cedar homes, beach houses, New England style cape cods, southwest desert style homes, etc. They are between 300 and 400 square feet of very efficient living. Many people are moving to small, sparsely populated rural areas and building small cabins or cottages or renovating an old farmhouse or even converting a barn. And these are only some of the examples of Living Free that go hand in hand with Working Free lifestyles.

So, who are these “drop-outs” and nomads? Are they the dregs of society who can’t make it any other way? Are they left over from the old “hippie”days? Are they the poverty stricken? The simple answer is NO! NO! and NO! Sure, some of the kinds of people I just described are included in this sub-culture of people who are choosing to live and work free. But, the reality is that there is a percentage of our society who has chosen to step out of the “Jones’s” neighborhood. They choose to not buy into the power and greed driven society any longer. They no longer identify with those who seem to think that working massive hours, possibly accumulating tons of money to acquire huge houses and piles of stuff, big cars, boats, etc. all in search of happiness. Contrary to what may be popular belief – money and stuff do not equate to happiness. Happiness is from within. Happiness is not having massive complication in your life. Happiness is spending time freely with those you love to share time with. Happiness is lying on a beach or next to a lake or in a field at night and looking up at billions of stars and wondering what’s out there and how insignificant each of us really is in the scheme of things. Happiness is about doing what you want to do when and how you want to do it. Happiness is not about things – it’s about life, time and people.

Now, lest I offend some of those who may read this blog, if you find value in accumulating financial wealth, possessions, and real estate and enjoy the challenge of dealing with all the complexities and stress that typically accompany this kind of pursuit, I have no problem with you or with that kind of life . . . for you. If you choose that and it works for you, that’s great! I have no interest in imposing my ideas on you and please know, that I don’t envy or covet anything you have or your lifestyle. My workstyle and lifestyle do not embrace your values for my life.

As I write this posting, I’m sitting on my front porch on a beautiful day, blue sky, puffy white clouds, birds singing, temperature approaching 70 degrees, light breeze and listening to Alan Alda on a talk show being interviewed about his life changing experience in the Chilean Mountains. My life is far from perfect. I have a long way to go in my journey of living free and working free and I have much to do in simplifying my life more.

My current goal is to become one of those nomads I spoke about earlier, giving up a somewhat more traditional lifestyle living in a pretty traditional home, albeit in a rural setting. It has been a 40-year dream of mine to be a “turtle” and have my house with me wherever I am – and see this great country and Canada and maybe travel all the way to the southern end of South America in a motor home. I want too learn about people, see all there is to see, experience life as others experience it – and convey all of this to anyone interested in listening and learning. I want to inspire others to live free and work free and make their life whatever they want it to be. I can just about feel that road under my wheels as I acquire a motor home that fits me and my workstyle and lifestyle and watch those mile markers passing by as I travel the highways and byways of this part of the world. Accumulating financial wealth and possessions just to have them does not motivate me and I am happier every time I realize that the less I have equates to more happiness for me.

That’s it for now. I want to focus on the rest of what Alan Alda has to say.

Ed Helvey
The Virginia Sound Man