Do You Own Your Life?

treadmillI had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine in Canada. He was talking about downsizing everything in his life so he could have more time and money to do some of the things he’d prefer to do.

What struck both of us was the proportion of a person’s expenses that are directly or indirectly related to having his job. For example, to have a well-paying job in a city means owning or renting a home that is close enough to the city to make daily commuting possible. Those homes always cost more money than rural (or foreign!) homes. So the payment on the home, the maintenance and the insurance are all more.

Then you need a reliable vehicle to commute every day and that also means a bigger monthly payment plus maintenance, plus more expensive insurance. If it’s a white collar job you need better clothes. Perhaps you eat more expensive meals while at work. Perhaps the “good” job comes with extra stress. And on and on with unwanted burdens just to hold onto a job.

In many cases, at the end of the month there’s almost no money left over. A huge proportion of income supports costs in making that income. I believe this is the definition of living on a treadmill.

My friend is looking for a way off the treadmill so his life-energy can go into something that feels more fulfilling and less like being small cog in a financial machine he doesn’t want to be in.

What does all this have to do with owning your life? Well, it leads to a conversation about control of your life. If you own your life but other people control it, then what’s the difference between that situation and you not owning your life?

Hard Times Are Waking Up People

I think many people are starting to wake up and realize that by one perspective they are working for their mortgage company, working for their car company, working to pay student loans that benefit marginal professors and the builders of college sports stadiums and lavish student rec centers. They are working every day to pay for someone else’s dream, but not really working for their own dreams.

My friend was telling me he could earn an income at home (or from anywhere) with his computer but that it would likely not be as much as he can earn going to a “real” job. That’s why we talked about the financial costs of a “real” job.

Perhaps the better measure is how much money you have left over at the end of the month. In my view, the guy banking a thousand bucks a month while making relative peanuts trumps the guy making big bucks but having nothing left over every month. If he’s making those surplus peanuts while fulfilling his personal goals and dreams it’s a complete win.

It’s a form of Occam’s Razor; the work that delivers a financial surplus with the fewest hours, lowest stress, lowest expense, least complexity and most personal freedom – wins. This could be what defines ‘work’ in the 21st century. People engaged in activities they really enjoy and look forward to every morning. Work that delivers income, not from a single-source employer, but from hundreds or thousands of direct customers and consumers who form our own micro-marketplace of mutual  benefit. In that model, people really do own – and control – their own lives.

6 Responses to Do You Own Your Life?

  1. Kevin December 16, 2013 at 3:09 PM #

    Totally agree with this. Love this quote: “the work that delivers a financial surplus with the fewest hours, lowest stress, lowest expense, least complexity and most personal freedom – wins.” That makes busting your butt for a startup company for 5 years at 50-60 hours a week seems like a bad idea!

  2. Pete Sisco December 16, 2013 at 3:33 PM #

    Yeah, it’s a bad idea for a lot of the people involved. Might be a great idea for the ones who are in love with the whole start-up process. But I think most people get pulled along by momentum that puts them in situations not of their choosing.

    What excites me is the changing tide where people are starting to own and control their source of income. Once you own and control your income you are on the road to personal freedom. There are other steps but that’s a giant one for most people.

    • Margaret December 20, 2013 at 5:57 PM #

      Entrepreneurship is the way out. Sure–no security but you are definitely in charge of your own life (except for govt regulations &pressures ) but the feeling of empowerment makes it better than the alternatives mentioned. “Live Free” is what a lot of folks over the years have died for. Think about it.

      • Pete Sisco December 20, 2013 at 7:04 PM #

        And there’s really no security with government anyway. They change policies on a whim and, since they are all going broke, it’s only a matter of time until the promised security is revealed as a lie. Pensions will vanish, social programs will vanish. Far better to become independent before the collapse than to try to pick up pieces afterwards.

  3. h5mind January 6, 2014 at 11:17 AM #

    This reminds me of Jacque Fresco’s ‘Venus Project’. If Pete Sisco’s approach can be thought of as the building blocks of a new infrastructure for humanity, then perhaps Fresco’s ‘Venus Project’ may be considered the blueprints?

    • Pete Sisco January 6, 2014 at 2:08 PM #

      I’m not very familiar with the Venus Project but I understand that “experts” would make decisions for others. That only works in a Contractual Republic when 100% of the others explicitly agree to the terms. Rebuilding entire cities for the purpose of resource efficiency would require the agreement of every person whose property is affected. So the owner of St Paul’s Cathedral has to agree to have it bulldozed because resource efficiency is also more important to him than every other consideration.

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