What I’ve learned – week 1

I’m really loving this writing gig. I’ve not made anything from it yet, but I find it really rewarding crafting ideas and then sharing them with the world.

I’ve also learned that in order to succeed you have to be prepared to put your work out there and risk people saying,

“Alastair, your writing/blog/opinion is sh*t!”

For a long time I’ve been afraid to share my thoughts and opinions in written form with those close to me, so I posted without updating my local social media links like Facebook and Twitter. I was worried what people who knew me would think as I couldn’t hide behind a veil of anonymity. But I’ve come to realise that this is ridiculous.

Look, if friends of mine don’t like what I write, that’s fine. It probably is mostly crap, at least for now, but hey – I’ve got to start somewhere. People who create, write, paint, photograph, build etc – at some point they have to launch their work to the world and risk being ridiculed. The only other option is to not launch, and if I do that, well there is no hope of me ever achieving my goal.

I also learned that of all the people out there, 1/3rd will like me, 1/3rd will hate me and 1/3rd don’t give a toss about me. Whatever I do, this’ll be the same. So it’s not worth getting hung up about the 2/3rds of the population who at best don’t care at all what I do or say.

I learned that Podcasts are the way to go. I hold myself up as a pretty tech-savy person, but yet I’ve never listened to a podcast until yesterday. I know, where the hell have I been? Instead of wasting journey time, I can learn more from people I admire. In my 6 hour work car journey yesterday, I learned how Gary Veynerchuk needs reading for advice on nailing social media promotion, Lewis Howes made millions using LinkedIn and Webinars and Tucker Max proved how no one really knows anything, even though many people pretend to know it all – 300 of the top book promoters turned down his million selling debut book. And these people were the experts who’s sole job was to be able to spot the next best thing. 300 of them got it wrong!!

I learned all of the above by subscribing to The James Altucher show podcasts.

And finally I learned that removing baby sick from velcro is really, really hard to do.

Have a great weekend dear reader and while you’re there subscribe to the email link or leave a friendly comment.

How free are you?

In my current job I am given 5 weeks holiday allowance.  For 5 weeks out of 52, my employer allows me off the leash to do what I want.

But even then, I do not have full freedom.

I cannot decide to take all 5 weeks in one go.

I cannot take some of this time, added to already earned time off in lieu of working overtime.

I cannot take time off if too many of my colleagues have also booked time off.

I have to give adequate notice to take time off.

You see, even my holiday “allowance” is not freedom.  It’s a leash which I am occasionally allowed to slip.  But then I must come back to my masters, tail between my legs and carry on being a good employee, servant to the organisation, lackey to my overlords.

It’s not about my not wanting to work hard or even work long hours. Working hard on something that excites or interests me is an enjoyable experience.  I’m writing this post at 10.04pm because although I’m tired, writing energises me and I feel then need to get my ideas out.  So no, it’s not about the work.

It’s about freedom.  I want to regain freedom so that I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to take time off from my work.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that being an employee is in direct opposition to achieving that freedom.

I’m not free yet.  But I intend to be soon.

How free are you?

A minimalist approach to savings and investment

Your bank does not care about you. Your financial advisor does not give a monkeys about how much you will have in your retirement. And neither of these “experts” actually know very much about the right investments for you.

Ask yourself – if any of these so-called investment “experts” really had the super skills they market, why would they be bothering to advise you?

Investment organisations, banks and even governments deliberately try to make things complicated. Because if something is complicated and you don’t understand, then you’ll stop asking questions about it. And investing and saving is not complicated, particularly if you follow a minimalist ethos.

Now I’m not a financial advisor, or expert – God-forbid.  So don’t take any of what’s coming as gospel, it’s only a system that has worked for me. Your mileage may vary and this post is not investment advice ok?

Now that we’ve settled that. Here’s what I do.

  1. Take my earnings.
  2. Pay myself first and take 10% to put into a savings account
  3. Take another 10% if needed to pay off any debts (although I carry no debt now, except a mortgage) This is one of the ways I became debt-free
  4. Take another 10% and give it away. To charity, friends in need etc
  5. Take a final 10% and play with it. This is my fun money, to not feel guilty about.
  6. The remaining 60% if you have debts, or 70% if you are debt-free is what I live on.

If 60% is not enough for you, then you need to reduce your outgoings as soon as you can.  And do this as a matter of urgency, as you should not be living as close to your earnings as you are.

With the savings ‘pot’, firstly build up an emergency fund of 2-3 months salary. That way you’ll not be so worried if the fridge breaks down, or you need to change jobs. Believe me, there is nothing so satisfying as having cash in the bank when you decide to finish with an employer.

Once you’ve built up your emergency fund, then find somewhere to put your savings. And no, I’m not going to tell you where to put them, and I don’t thnk you need your bank or financial advisor to do so ether. Just spend a little time working out what’s best for you.

That’s it. There is no more you need to know. Where people fail is in not saving in the first place. If you do so regularly and interest rates go down, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

If you want some further reading, then I’d recommend you read the classic “The Richest Man in Babylon” as a basic primer and then for more specific tips “The Motley Fool” (These links are affiliate links which will help support the blog)

If this post has been of use, please share it.  Enjoy what you read here? then subscribe top left and have each post delivered to your email inbox.

And if you’ve anything to add, feel free to comment below.

How to fit your work to your personality type

I am an INFP.

For those of you unaware of Myers-Briggs personality types, I strongly recommend that you find out what your type is.

Today’s eureka moment came when I was thinking about my current job, managing a team in a medium sized organisation and why it doesn’t seem to make me happy.  Well, to be honest, it makes me feel anxious and worried a good deal of the time.  And I’ve felt this in many jobs.

Thinking about why this was so, and if it was because I was lazy, no good at my job or overly worried, I looked up some research I had been doing on Myers Briggs personalities.

I found this:-

INFPs and INTPs have the lowest job satisfaction of all types (Myers et al., 1998).  Both types noted that they were dissatisfied with their company, the work they did, and their future job opportunities.

I also found that the reason I get stressed with budgets, deadlines and other people asking me what to do at work are that,

INFPs, like all Perceivers, enjoy a relaxed, casual working environment without tight deadlines or strict rules.  Structured work with lots of little details to remember does not appeal to them; they would rather work creatively with freedom to improvise.

The best part about all of the above is that I now realise I need to go easy on myself.  There is not something wrong with me, it is just that my current mode of working does not fit easily with my character strengths.

And finally, one of the preferred and best fits work-wise for an IFNP is writing and peaceful surroundings.

INFPs love writing and are heavily overrepresented among students in creative writing courses.  As noted previously, one of the job prospects for INFPs was Writing.  In this age of internet, where anyone can publish an e-book, this may be a profitable hobby indeed.

Indeed… just maybe this blog will be the beginning of a new career and life.

What do you think?  Have you changed your work to fit your personality?  Do you agree/disagree with Myers-Briggs personality type testing?  Let me know in the comments!

The Unavoidable First Post

March 15 2012 was a very special day for me.

Something happened that I had never thought would actually take place.

My son entered the world.

Often in life, events can act as a catalyst for change.  People make new resolutions at New Year, people lose their jobs and decide to create a brand new business or finally travel the world. People use a single event to actually get on and do something that has been in their thoughts for a long time.

Well, the birth of L was my kick up the bum.

I’d been interested in the whole Lifestyle Design phenomenon thanks to superstars like Tim Ferris, Chris Guillebeau etc.  I had, for a long time been wanting to create my own lifestyle and business that suited me.  But I also realised that unlike these two gents I had responsibilities and ties.

Also, I am inherently lazy and a terrible procrastinator.  So I waited.  And waited.

On March 15 though something changed.  I became a proud father, a proud partner to a beautiful woman and 3 lovely step-kids. I decided I had to become a man.

Designing a new lifestyle had real meaning to me now.  I wanted to be able to support my family and also be there to spend time with my newborn son.  I want to be able to take him out into nature and show him the amazing world we live in, I want to be there for school events.  I want to be able to provide for him financially.  I want to achieve time and monetary freedom.

In order to do this, I want to develop my own business.  And through this blog and products I’ll write for it I hope to achieve that aim.

I’m 40+ years old, I procrastinate, I love writing and creating, I’m looking to post useful information on fitness, finance, life-balance, lifestyle design, adventure, travel and contribution.  I’ll be fighting my bad habits and looking for tools that help me overcome them.  I’ll be taking time to enjoy and wonder in the amazing world around me.  If any of this seems of interest to you, I hope you’ll follow along and share my journey with me.