I read Tim Ferris’ book The Four Hour Workweek, which turned out to be a conflicting experience. Only until the very last pages I realized why this book provoked this sentiment in me. In there he provides his perspective on the regular 9-5 work structure, and the knowledge and tools to get away from that.
The single most important tool in this process, he argues, is mobility. The ability to generate income from anywhere you want. If you are an employee this ideally means “working from home”. When you have your own business, the trick is to create a product or service that can be offered online. Finally, another fully explored option in the book is to fully automatize your company, if it’s not suitable for the internet.
Anyway, all well so far, the thing is though that mister Ferris earned 5 figures a month on the time of writing that book. Easy talking for him right?
I don’t think so. The fact that he earns a lot of money does not mean, that money is the only tool to get what you “want”. If you want to be a millionaire it’s probably not because of all the paper you can now stuff your mattress with, but the possibilities that come as a consequence.
The 80-20 Principle
It is nice therefore, that money is not the only way to get those things. When you work from 9-5, there is a high chance that what you are doing could be done in a lot less time. The 80-20 Principle, striking similarities to Matthews Law that I mentioned in another blog, was introduced by economist Vilfredo Pareto. It dictates that 80% of the output gets generated by 20% of the input.
80% of consequences result from 20% of the causes, 80% of the results from 20% of effort and time, 80% of a company’s revenue will be generated by 20% of the products and customers, and 20% of the people have 80% of the financial capacity. This list is endless and encompasses even your clothes. 80% of the time you wear 20% of what’s in your wardrobe. The division is often more extreme than it is less, 85-15 or 90-10 is not uncommon. So when we talk about your clothes for example, why would you hold on to that 80 percent? And why should you engage in that 80% of work that only generates 20% more output?
Even though, it seems counter intuitive, give it a try. Show your boss, professor, or most importantly yourself, what quality you can provide in 20% of the time. Nobody will probably notice, because the fine tuning you do for 80% of the time usually does not create anything of value.
When you redesign your life this way, you are already getting closer to living like a millionaire right? And you haven’t earned a penny more than before!
Then, for a couple of years already I have been wondering about the value of retirement.
Why the hell should I wait until I am 65 to have all the time in the world to do everything I have been wanting to do for 40 years?
Only if you believe that money is an end-goal and security isn’t a sensation but an externally acquirable object, retirement is for you.
I conceive money as a tool, and security as a sensation that doesn’t depend on money. Then how does retirement still make sense? Only if you don’t like your job. When you consider this information, and The Four Hour Workweek gives you plenty ideas and insights on how to do this, there are plenty possibilities to start doing the things you want now.
Those three months turned into 15, and I started to ask myself, “Why not take the usual 20-30 year retirement and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving all for the end?
To me, it doesn’t make sense to wait to go rock climbing when you are seventy, start learning a new language when you can only use it for 10 more years, or start hanging out with your family when you can’t lift your children up anymore. Why not start now?
What The Four Hour Workweek Did With Me
I find that the book does a great job putting these decisions in your face. However, it might just be that you are happy where you are, right?
If yes, that’s amazing. I wasn’t sure while reading. I was continuously imagining living in Thailand. I would take a sabbatical, find an opportunity to create some small revenue online, and take up mini-pensions every two years. I felt increasingly conflicted and unhappy with my current situation.
A day later I was walking back home after stopping by the supermarket. I was carrying two backpacks on my back and stomach, full of groceries, wearing my sunglasses even though sun was down. Overthinking the book, I realized: I already live this life. I don’t know if there was anybody watching me but it must have been funny to see a tall gringo, with two backpacks, and sunglasses, laughing like a maniac.
Where Tim Ferris calls it The Four Hour Workweek, I call it living an authentic life, true to your desires. In both cases the lifestyle design is the process to realize evermore of the way of life you want to live. I know that it helps immensely to expand your knowledge, see how others write the rules to their life, and understand your own reasons for working and motivations in life. After reading this book, I realized that that is what this blog is about. I am happy to have figured that out after 9 months!
Here I am, 27 years and three days old and I am taking a moment to reflect. What the hell am I doing with my life? This year was the first time that I celebrated my birthday in the winter, and in the month of the crazy dog. A couple of interesting novelties that I didn’t see coming if you would have asked me one year ago.
So what did I learn in 27 years roaming around on this planet? I experienced a variety of cultures, people, and situations that shaped me into who I am today. In the meantime I think I have come to know a wide ranging amount of perspectives. Underneath I sum up three things I learned from those.
1. I laugh when I don’t understand
I remember when I was 12 years old, standing in the center of our village next to a green telephone booth with a glass door. Already out of function, partially due to me and my teammates’ efforts. The brick stone streets deserted and the cobblestones on the side quite slippery. A slight mist and temperatures far below zero. Me and my 3 teammates were waiting for another to come with a family member to drive us to a nearby village. We would play an indoor soccer tournament there, if our legs would still be functioning when we would get there anyway.
When our blood pressure was so low we could barely move our legs, a dark colored sedan came creeping up the street. Slowly because there could be a thin layer of ice on that is usually hard to see. When it freezes, it melts and then it freezes again over a short period of time, black ice might occur. Or ijzel as we call that in the Netherlands. Every bike, truck and car drivers’ nightmare. Government officials work all night to throw salt on the streets to make the ice melt. Not in our village though.
When the last of my teammates threw the door shut, off we went. More or less motivated for what was coming because I wasn’t really sure we would win any game. We creeped down another brick street, passing the protestant church up the hill on the right, the butcher on the left with it’s curtains down behind the windows, and later the bungalow village house on the right. Nobody in the streets. Leaving the village we changed from brick to asphalt, still driving like a snail. The sister of one of my teammates who was driving seemed quite tense. Past the soccer field on the left, and around the corner. Swoosh no ice. Softly braking we came to a crossing surrounded by trees. Right turn, accelerating slowly, big oak trees on both
sides of the road, and space for one and half car. Always nice when you encounter a car driving the other direction here. Between the trees we could see frozen grass fields and an occasional house in the distance. One more turn, and over the white wooden bridge we would come to the next crossing to turn on to the big road that was the main entry to our village.
Were it not that the turn before the bridge, our driver turned the steering wheel to the right. Without success. Straight we went. BOOM! Lucky there was a wooden fence or we would have ended up in the canal. We opened the doors, stepped on to the street. Our driver started crying, my teammates looked shocked out of there eyes, and I, I couldn’t stop laughing for 20 minutes.
Now before you think I am some sadistic freak, a shock response can come in many forms. After this event I ended up in another car accident not that long ago. I totally saw this one coming, but again, I was quite lyrical after the accident. I couldn’t believe what had happened.
Now this not only applies to accidents like this. I am bound to laugh when I feel uncomfortable, or when something is out of my field of comprehension (for that moment). These defense mechanisms are normal because the body and mind love structure, routine and preferably not too much novelty. Now when I laugh, somebody else might get quiet, frustrated, bossy, feel insulted, or be judgmental. The clue here is that your defense mechanism might kick in without conscious attention, just like mine, that of a strangers, or that of your friends’. When you understand this, you can be both more accepting towards your own behavior as well as others’.
2. I learn easily, but only under the right conditions
A couple of years later, I was addicted to computer games and I tried to shoot people in the head all day. In between I indulged on grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and I gained quite a bit of weight as a consequence. Also, I rather didn’t go to school. My parents were figuring out how to motivate me. They would pull of my blanket when I was trying to sleep in on school days. It didn’t work I’m telling you, I just went downstairs to get my blanket and slept some more. When I finally got up, I didn’t waste time to hop in front of my computer screen and start shooting heady’s again.
I did hate school then, unbelievable, and my German teacher I hated the most. I tried to provoke her every class, trying to put as much of my frustration as possible on to her. All that time, she was just trying her best with a class full of very hard-to-please teenagers. Anyway, when I was at school at least. I remember one time my team-leader scheduled a meeting with me and my mother. He showed a statistic of my absence. May, 30 days absent. I didn’t go to school for a month. I was surprised because from my perspective I hadn’t been absent for that long.
May, 30 days absent. I didn’t go to school for a month. I was surprised because from my perspective I hadn’t been absent for that long.
He and many others would often say, you just have to try a little harder, we know you have the qualities to get your grades. I couldn’t care less.
Flash forward to Physical Therapy school. I am that guy sitting in the front, raising his hand all the time trying to give the right answer. One time I got a 7 (out of 10). Jesus, was I disappointed, I should have had a 9!
Over time I have come to understand that I am an easy learner, but only under the right conditions. When I am motivated I am a sponge and suck up every piece of information. I was lucky to choose the right bachelor program, after choosing the wrong one the year before. I had quit that one after 6 weeks.
Our school system is very limited, when it comes to providing the individual with what they need to know. Both in the subjects that are taught and the way it is done. Definitely when it comes to traditional high school education in the Netherlands. It’s a disaster, you only learn how to function within a materialistic society even though most of our experience is determined by the metaphysical. The system only works for the person that can bring up empathy for his teachers, is disciplined, and has himself figured out. However, which boy has all these things by the age of 15?
Now if something like that is your last memory of school and has left you with the idea you can’t learn, or schoolbooks are not for you, stop and think again. The latter might be true, but everybody can learn. The divisions made in schools do not resemble natural division, and only more or less, work within the society that was created by our forefathers. This does not mean however, that when you cannot read a book you do not understand what is written in there.
This does not mean however, that when you cannot read a book you do not understand what is written in there
There are a million ways to learn, but only one is being propagated during traditional education. Luckily nowadays, more and more people are becoming aware of this, plus all the information in the world is available online. The only thing for you to do, is to figure out what the right learning conditions are for you.
3. Bad people don’t exist
In the aforementioned chaos of my teenage years somewhere along the line an interest for the Middle-East was born. At the time wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were taking place and Israel and Palestine remained a reoccurring theme on the news as well.
A natural indignation to not believing what I was being told by mediums like the 8 o’clock news, partially ingrained by my parents, I was doubting the validity of what was being shown. The Middle-East; a breeding-ground for terrorists where nobody could be trusted.
This image was spread with such force it basically dehumanized the entire region and allowed for nonhuman interventions.
At that time I read a couple of interesting books by former Dutch news reporter Joris Luyendijk. In A Good Man Sometimes Beats His Wifehe wrote about the western perspective on Egyptian culture, and in They’re Just Like People (People Like Us in the US) he wrote about his experiences as a news reporter in the Middle East.
The thing I remember most profoundly about the second book is how he as a reporter barely ever saw the site of what he was reporting about. He always had to call to press agencies like Reuters and then create a story based on all the information he could gather from other people. In the end he would have 2 minutes to talk on the 8 o’clock news. So I was wondering, how well does that piece of information represent what really happened?
As the universe would have it I had the opportunity together with a friend to do an internship in Palestine a couple of years later. I couldn’t have been more excited to finally get to see things with my own eyes.
And what do you think happened? Nothing! People kind and forthcoming beyond believe and I never felt unsafe in all of the 11 weeks that I lived and worked there.
And what do you think happened? Nothing! People kind and forthcoming beyond believe
and I never felt unsafe in all of the 11 weeks that I lived and worked there. The scariest thing I experienced was the interim supervisor of the physical therapy department having an occasional anger attack. For reasons I did not understand, he would make a lot of arm movements, walk really quick, all the while shouting in Arabic to everybody he passed by.
Over the course of my life I have hung out with labeled terrorists, drug addicts, rich kids, poor people, well educated people, and people shaped by life. Not one of them I considered as a bad person, even when that person would (have) engaged in stealing, vandalism or dealing drugs.
As things go every single one of us is shaped by the accumulation of our life experiences. There are always moments where we can influence our decisions, but not everybody was dealt the same cards. Politicians, the traditional media, and corporations do their best to divide the world in to good and bad, smart and dumb, and quick and slow, only to capitalize on this division after.
The truth is though, that when you hit your child, when you bully other people, when you steal, when others call you a terrorist, or when you are addicted to drugs, you are not a bad person. Life is too complicated to divide into two sides.
Even though we are the accumulation of our experiences, we are not the experiences themselves.
Even though we are the accumulation of our experiences, we are not the experiences themselves. You define who you are, and how you manifest yourself in the world, good and bad is not part of that equation.
Recently, I have been reading a book called Mbraining; Doing Cool Stuff With Your Multiple Brains. It explains how we have actually three brains not one, and how every brain has it’s own expressions and qualities. To optimally function as a human being the integration of all three brains is key. Lack of coherence between them can lead to a variety of problems. The idea that we have three brains is not just an invention, but by definition the gut and the heart have identical qualities as the head brain or cerebrum. Besides that, this knowledge can be found throughout many esoteric traditions all over the world. By reading the book and using it’s awareness exercises I recognized how mechanisms between the three brains work for me.
Brain Centered Society
When I analyze the way we designed our society though, a lack of coherence between the three brains becomes evident. Looking at what we learn in school, how we should make responsible decisions and what knowledge we ascribe the highest value too, it turns out all these qualities are related to the head brain. First, in school we learn math, physics and geography. Then, when we take an important decision we tend to look at the pro’s and con’s, how much money we have to invest now and how much we might get in return. Finally, after receiving a masters degree I will get a high salary, because value is expressed with money.
The heart brain accounts for compassion and courage is to be found an expression of the gut brain. However, did I ever meet somebody who got rich solely by being super courageous, or somebody who was the most loving person in the world? There might be exceptions, but this is not the rule. On the other hand, an a-social person having troubles with expressing his feelings, living in fear, but a genius head-brainer, might end up earning a lot of money without doubt.
Furthermore, as long as we only value one out of many of our human capacities things are bound to feel wrong eventually. If they actually go wrong is a matter of perspective. Nevertheless, the fact that there are so many people feeling unsatisfied, even though they have jobs that provide them all the physical safety and material comfort, says a lot. Knowing that our head-brain-based-society is self-limiting, does not mean we should start making decisions solely based on compassion or fearlessness.
Even though, we value our head brain the most, both in society and the fact that reasonable decisions are supposed to be good ones, the heart should be listened to with the highest regard. This does not mean however, that I turn off my head brain, rather I chose to ascribe value to the entire experience. Including heart felt sensations and gut feelings in to my decisions with a proper mindset allow me to act with more confidence. Ultimately, opening up the way for me to feel happier and more satisfied.
It is still possible that decisions have an outcome that is unsatisfying to me. Nevertheless, the fact that I took my decisions in a state of coherence with everything I feel and think, it is easier to deal with these consequences. As things go, loss, gain and concepts like having fortune or bad luck are inventions of us humans. My heart and gut do not function based on this concepts. When it comes to the head brain though, I am perfectly capable of materializing these concepts, ultimately influencing my feelings in a singular way.
The heart and gut however, do not function according to belief, social construct and material importance. They express themselves and communicate with feelings. Therefore, when the head-brain-perspective deems a decision as wrong, there are still two parts of the equation that perceive differently. The result is, that a decision materialistically gone wrong can still be looked back upon with satisfaction when it was made with coherence of all three brains.
The shift of perspective this book provoked in me is still very significant. I have not finished it yet, but it already made it easier for me to make sense of certain experiences. On top of that, now I am aware of these interconnections, I can use breathing exercises, imagination, sound, smell and other modalities to enhance the communication and coherence between the three brains (more about this in the book). However, without doubt the biggest value it had for me personally is to put a structure to a decision making process that I was already engaging in. Now that this process is clearer, it is easier to reproduce. Ultimately, it showed me that all the moments I had the guts to follow heart before brain, the results led to great satisfaction. One of them being, that I call Brazil home now.