Friday, February 8, 2008
Thursday, September 13, 2007
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 . . .
The Virginia Sound Man
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
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 spreadingprosperity.blogspot.com
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.
The Virginia Sound Man
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I have found over the years that the most interesting aspect of the people who work free is the diversity. There is really no way to stereotype them. They vary by age, gender, race, education, the work they do, the hours they spend doing it, the hours of the day and the days of the week they work, the incomes they generate, where they work, how they work and other variables. There really are no stereotypical working free people.
Let me give you a few examples. In the past two weeks, I have spent time with my son, a free worker. He chooses to work on contract for different employers. A contract may last for a month or three months, six months or longer. When a contract ends, he may take off on some R&R. He’s been to Hawaii twice this year, so far, and plans another trip there in the fall. Then he plans to take a trip around the world. He also is developing other business ideas of his own that he will be able to operate from virtually anywhere since they will be on the Internet. Now, I have to admit that he’s a chip off the old block. He grew up under my influence and learned about working free from the time he was old enough to walk and talk. He traveled with me, worked with me and learned by OJT, so to speak.
I met a woman recently who decided that she was tired of the old working model and is following her passion for interior design and decorating. But, she wants a lot of freedom, so she is not looking to set up a formal office or shop. She is creating her own workspace to reflect her freedom.
I dropped off my main audio studio computer today with my “computer guy.” I’ve known Don since we were both quite a bit younger. He was an electrical engineer back then working with a major aviation firm. But, his passion was recording and eventually he left the aviation firm and went into recording full time. Then he managed a company I was a partner in. Then he went into computers. For the past 15 or more years he has been in the computer business. For a while, he had a storefront operation with several employees. But, for the past eight to ten years he has worked from his home in lovely wooded rural communities without employees. He recently built a new home in an idyllic location. He designed and built in a beautiful office and work area with a separate entrance. His wife works with him, but she is now branching out to follow her passion, which, coincidentally is . . . interior design and decorating.
I have six brothers in law and a sister in law from my first marriage. We are all still great friends. Virtually all of them have created very different ways of generating incomes, yet they all work very untraditionally. Let’s see, one is an artist, another does high-value home improvements and creates one of a kind, western style picture frames out of cattle horns, dear antlers, various kinds of wood – and they are in demand at high prices. Another brother does furniture restoration. Still another runs a wholesale brokerage and supplies various kinds of materials and supplies to prisons and other state institutions. Another spends part of his time working in high tech medical simulation training and another part of his time traveling around the world taking breathtaking photographs. My sister in law is an aerobics choreographer. She has created and markets her own line of DVDs, is invited to train aerobic instructors internationally and designs aerobic routines for some of the celebrity aerobic instructors. Even my former wife does massage therapy and various other kinds of holistic therapy. And not one of them works a traditional 9-5 job.
While in New York State a week ago for my one brother in law’s wedding, the bride’s mother was a massage therapist and works from an area of her home that is separate from the rest of the house. She also provides other holistic therapy as part of her services. And the bride’s aunt and cousin (mother and daughter) operate a beautiful bed and breakfast on a hill overlooking Seneca Lake, one of the larger of the Finger Lakes.
As I keep posting, I’m going to continue to explore more and more diverse ways to work free. I’ll talk with various people and learn about their motivations, passions, joys and challenges. I’ll learn how much they earn. I’ll explore their philosophies of life, working and what kind of lifestyles and work styles they enjoy. All of this is with the intent of providing ideas, information and inspiration for readers of this blog both for people wanting to break away from traditional jobs and for those already working free. There will be postings from other people, including John Applegath, the author of the original book on Working Free that affirmed my belief in this lifestyle and was my inspiration for creating this blog. And, I invite you, the reader, to spread the word about my blog to as many other people as possible. I also invite you to contact me and tell me about your working free story. Til next time, I’m . . .
The Virginia Sound Man
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Welcome to my new blog, Working Free. Now, before you get the wrong idea, Working Free does NOT mean working for free. Working free means working and earning your income by some alternative to the traditional 9-5, five day, 40 hour work week. Now, of course, there are many variations on the traditional theme – for example, shift work where you may work 2nd or 3rd shift or rotating schedules where you may work three days on, four days off, four days on, three days off and your days rotate through the week as each shift rotates. Perhaps you are a teacher and work 8 to 3 PM and have summers off. Effectively, someone other then you determines all of these work models. You are required to adhere to a model or work structure determined by a boss, institution, corporation, government agency, but you do not make the Determination of your work structure or your income yourself.
This concept of working free really came home for me in September 1986 – nearly 21 years ago. My wife at that time, Cynthia, and I were going away for a Marriage Encounter weekend event. As we packed, I found this book on the bookshelf and threw it in my suitcase to have something to read if I had extra time on my hands. The title of the book was Working Free: Practical Alternatives to the 9 to 5 Job by John Applegath and published by Amacom. To this day, I have no idea how that book ended up on my bookshelf. I don’t recall ever buying it. But, somehow, there it was and it ended up in my bag that weekend. That was a pivotal moment for me. No! Not because of the Marriage Encounter event, though I wish that had turned out more positive in the long run. Cynthia and I separated in 1989 and divorced in 1992. Thankfully, we are still friends.
While I fully participated in all of the events of the Marriage Encounter and gained much valuable information and many tools to make relationships work, unfortunately, saving our marriage was not in the cards. However, while I only just got into the Working Free book that weekend, I found something in it that really related to me and affirmed me in my feelings about work, income producing, earning a living and even the value of money, time and relationships. I have never been without a copy of that book in my possession and have reread it several times and refer to it regularly. Actually, I started looking for the author shortly after I read the book. I wanted to thank John for writing the book and I wanted to explore this concept more. Well, it took about 20 years to finally locate the author. I called John Applegath in mid-March of this year (2007) and we have met by phone, so far. He is retired and living in New Hampshire. We had a great initial conversation and I keep in contact with him with a plan to travel up to New Hampshire in the near future to meet him in person. It is also my hope that John will collaborate with me as I carry on his concept in the 21st Century. I’m looking forward to him contributing to this blog whenever he is so inclined. And, if he will agree to it, I’d like to record an in depth interview with him as well as some other possible audio content.
My intention with this blog and with the podcasts that will be part of this Working Free blog are to seek out, meet and interview all kinds of people who are “working free” and have found many different variations to earning an income – where they control their own time and life – they are working free. I’ll be drawing from John’s original book and I’m hoping to find at least a few of the individuals John interviewed as subjects for his book. It would be interesting to see where those people are today. But, we are now in the 21st Century. A lot has changed over the 25 years since John’s book was released. While it is dated, most of the concepts are evergreen and just as valid today as they were back then. As a matter of fact, I still see used copies of the book appear on Amazon Marketplace from time to time. I urge you to acquire a copy. It is not currently known whether John Applegath has regained the rights to the original book. But, if he has or we can regain those rights, I will republish the book and even record an audio version of it. I might even make it available as an e-book.
Since I have spent most of my life working free in the recording industry, some video production, voice-overs, a few ventures into multi-level marketing, independent professional video equipment brokering and most recently as a book publisher, I understand this concept very well. Working Free: Practical Alternatives to the 9 to 5 Job was the affirmation I needed that the work style and lifestyle I have chosen to live is as valid and valuable to our society as that of the more traditional model that most people have been conditioned into since the Industrial Revolution.
I also plan to develop seminars and workshops that I can present in cities, towns and communities across the country as I travel around meeting and interviewing people. But, I’ll talk about this more in future postings. I invite your comments. I and we (the readers) will all benefit from your contributions. So, don’t hold back. And, I also invite others to contribute postings to this blog. Simply let me know that you’d like to be a contributor and we’ll set up the channel for you to send your postings directly to me and we’ll post them. Don’t spam me with all your Web sites trying to sell people your “home-based businesses” and “MLM/Network Marketing” sure fire businesses or the “get rich schemes” that are all over the Internet. I will not support that. Although there will be some advertising allowed on the site, if I feel the advertising is anything like what I just described, I will remove it. I want to, both, give ideas, information, education, encouragement and inspiration through this blog and the podcasts AND I want to receive the same for my own improvement.
So, we’re off the starting blocks and on our way to what I expect to be an exciting adventure into the world of Working Free!
The Virginia Sound Man