Every conjurer worth his weight, every blogger of minimalism, has a certain repertoire. Certain tricks that are expected to have been mastered within a practitioner’s oeuvre that must be performed with a certain dash of flair that separates the practitioner of the seemingly impossible standing before you from the hacks who know a few slights of hand, distractions meant to keep you mesmerized long enough for them to grab for your money without you even realizing it’s gone.
We as spectators of magic tricks and real-world transcendentalism are secretly hoping that (in both cases) people can truly float above the ground that pulls them to it, that dollars seemingly torn, cut, burned and otherwise defiled can manage to reconstitute, that where before we thought we needed more we can actually survive and even thrive with what before seemed impossibly less.
One of the tricks of the modern-day minimalists is the claim that goes something like this: Learn how I kicked my 100K+ job the curb and managed to actually improved my life!
While on the surface this does seem to be a very impressive feat, I’m going to give you a peek at a few of the techniques, a tour of the smoke and mirrors behind the scenes that allow you to honestly make a claim like this and to actually pull it off.
- When you’re making 100K, or whatever you’re making, don’t live like it. I made a little over 100K at my last gig, but I sure didn’t live like it. I had read Your Money or Your LIfe several years before and I had put myself on a pretty tight schedule to pay off debt, student loans and to generally quit pissing away my money. In short, reading the book really just made me think more about whether or not I really needed something and what I was willing to sacrifice for it. My habits were actually more like living on about $40,000.
- Work with a net. Back when I was making about $30,000 I began doing what mom always said to do. “Pay yourself first.” By the time I quit my 100K gig I had accumulated about $20,000 in a bank account (not to mention about another $30,000 in a 401K that disappeared from my paychecks without even touching my sticky little fingers. The point is that it’s psychologically easier – and that makes it physically easier to walk a tightrope with a net below you than without one. Sure, I don’t want to touch that money. And that right there is enough to motivate me to hustle in my life sans cubicle. But, it sure helps you sleep at night knowing that if worse comes to worse you could survive a good 6-9 months without another penny coming in.
- Take a Day On. If you don’t know what this means by now, it means to build another kind of safety net. This is where you get in the practice of doing what it is you’d love to do for a living by actually doing it – and doing it for money before you need to. While I was holding down the long series of 9-5s, subsisting in those cold, air-conditioned cubicles, being careful not to blend my morning 15-minute break, my 30 minutes for lunch and my afternoon 15-minute break too closely together so that a “superior” would frown on my manipulating time to steal away a solid hour from the corporation. While I was working those gigs that constricted my throat so, I would come home and work other gigs that were the gigs that I would like to work full-time. The mantra is to not take a day off and waste it, but to take a day on, and then another… and another. Build, slowly the life that you would like to live, like a dream house and then one day it will be able to be lived in. I brought my existing clients and a plan to duplicate my successes.
- Have a support system. When it came time to jump ship on the corporate gig it sure helped to have a wife who was happily employed as a teacher. She was able to get our family on her insurance pretty easily. It’s just what the word says it is: insurance. It makes you feel better knowing that if something does happen you’re taken care of. Maybe it’s a false sense of security, but then again the planet could get hit by a meteorite tomorrow and wiped out.
- Get fired. It’s a lot easier than quitting. It’s the truth! You’d have to be extremely ballsy to quit a $100K job even if it sucked as bad as my last one did… and the ones that paid less that came before. It justifies your situation to your family and friends. Up and quitting a great job is probably grounds for divorce and distain especially in this economy. Plus, as I just said, it’s a plunge that I know I don’t have the stomach for. When I left my last job to take the much less secure contracting gig I knew that it probably had a finite lifespan. Instead you have to set yourself up as best you can and then not fear the speech that your boss will be giving you. Shake his or her hand as though he just gave you a promotion – he did! Walk out the door knowing that you’re going to a better place, a place of the freedom that is of the order that the constitution promises us. Your finally going to get your life, liberty and ability to pursue happiness.
What all these steps really have in common is that you have to begin thinking and planning for the inevitable which is not something to fear. Plan for the future that is a better life. Save not for a rainy day, but a sunny one. This is a life insurance policy that pays off when you begin truly living.