Downshifters! Avoid to get a Rich but Boringly Selfish Person!

Ammersee 096_bearbeitet-1

Sunset over lake Ammersee, near Munich, while having a beer with a friend.

The “Rich Guys Trap”

Collecting money, securing your material well-being and planning Financial Independence are important building blocks for any downshifter around. Financial Freedom is a great asset to have.

But we must not forget that the ultimate goal is not downshifting or FI per se, but leading a happy and fulfilled life and develop ourselves to the fullest extend possible.

In other words:
Climb up Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs up to the top and it is very likely that you can truly say yes, when asked if you are a happy person and have a fulfilled life – no matter if you are FI or have a job, are young or old, have a huge villa or a small flat, have kids or not.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

And as we have learned, in Maslows pyramid only the first two steps are dealing with “material” needs.

The three advanced steps are about your mental/spiritual/psychological (call it whatever you like) development.

I think this is important to remember:

All the financial thinking, all your investments, all the blogs about frugal living, or financial independence can only help you to climb two out of five steps. These two are of course very important, as they set the base for the following steps. Also, downshifting and a maximum of independence and freedom are in most cases very helpful to have sufficient time and “muse” available for working on the subsequent steps.

But the true story and the real greatness of being a human being starts only beyond materialism!
It is the upper three steps where we distinguish ourselves from an animal!

Thus if you get stuck in the financial thinking, in the accumulation race, in pushing your financial independence further and further beyond real need, then you creat you own new rat-race, and in fact you more are not much more than an intelligent animal. In that case all your striving becomes simple boring greed, camouflaged as “I want to be independent”.

I think it is important to ponder on this, as the danger to end up in this greed trap seems very real to me when I look around.

After years and years thinking about material things (during climbing the lower steps), it is not easy to recognize once you actually got where you wanted to get, and to subsequently let go and turn to other goals. Instead, most people who get wealthy get gridlocked in fear of loosing their wealth, many lose sight of the needs of others, many simply got so used to judge everything in monetary terms that they lost the ability to see things in the world otherwise than in economic terms. This is why there is a strong measurable correlation between richness and selfish behaviour (Article here).

Some however escaped that trap.
So there are encouraging positive examples out there. But honestly, they are rare. Sad, but not surprising, as the highest parts of Maslows pyramid are certainly thinly populated, and climbing them needs character, humbleness, inner strength and social values – money is by no means sufficient, or even more: The abilities needed to climb the top are very different from those needed to make money (we come to that later).

But if you look, you can identify the positive examples easily:
They will not talk about themselves or about their needs anymore (because they realize their own needs are fulfilled anyway), but they talk about the needs of others and how they can contribute to make the world a better place.
E.g. Bill Gates would come to my mind. Not the so much praised Steve Jobs, who seemed to circulate around himself only in my perception. But I am no expert in studying wealthy guys’ biographies, because in my view you cannot learn much from them. You are neither Bill Gated nor Steve Jobs, and you should not pretend to be them. You are simply yourself.

So what are the ingredients you need to hover yourself beyond the material steps?

I think this can easily be answered, as since the dawn of men the most intelligent people of the human race pondered this question and, driven by their inner need to help the human success story, they luckily shared a lot, spoke about it, wrote it down.

Thus you can go through the great works of philosophy and religion worldwide, and you will find a striking set of common values. As they repeat themselves so often I tend to declare them as:

The Critical Values of a Good Life.

In this post I will start by looking at one of those:

1) Compassion and Giving

What is compassion? Why should you give in this cruel, though and competitive world?

I read something very clever about this that I’d like to share:

“You should always act in a way that is not led by enforcing your rights, but so that our all common life on this planet is made as pleasant as possible”.

You see the different focus?

In contrast to economic thinking, the focus is not on maximizing your own wellbeing (e.g. by enforcing your rights) but on maximizing the common wellbeing. A very noble thing, as everybody will benefit: The others obviously as you give in, and yourself because this will lift you in a way that is actually difficult to understand for a more science and rational driven  person like Woodpecker :-) . But you know what I am speaking about, and if not, try out.

What is the downside of this?

There is a chance that you get exploited from time to time by other, more selfish, persons.

Persons that mis-use your “softness(as this behaviour is called among economic thinking people) against you. In fact, this happens from time to time. Interestingly that happens less often over time, because no-one said you have to let others exploit you permanently. So what you do when you recognize somebody is playing the selfish game, is reducing contact. And you increase contact to other non-selfish persons.
And there are plenty of non-selfish persons around! (If you don’t see any, you should check if you shied them away by playing selfish too often yourself!)

That way, something magical will happen:

The circle of non-selfish and helpful people around you will grow (you will attract them and be attracted yourself), and your life will get richer, deeper, more and more harmonic and with fewer and fewer fights. You draw increasingly self-esteem from this selfless interactions, and you will get more and more immune against the “hit” to your self-esteem when you are “losing” in a “battle” (thats what they think life is) with selfish persons.
This is what I call the social dividend and your social capital. You invest time and gentleness into others and you will get back manifold in the long run.

What if I cannot avoid the selfish guys?

Good point, as sometimes it is not possible to go out of their way. E.g. in the job you cannot always choose whom to work with. (sidenote: This seems to be the true reason of many looking for FI. To simply get rid of a job they hate)

For that annoying cases, I’d come back to economics at last, in that case game-theory:
Play “tit-for-tat”.
Always start the nice way, but if the other person does responds in a selfish/negative way, then you will switch to selfish behaviour too, to avoid getting exploited permanently. However, you should be always open to forgive and switch back to cooperation if you see the other person came to his/her senses. But don’t be too naive either. If somebody mistreated you two or three times, it is unlikely that he/she will ever become a true friend.

Anyway, let’s be frank:

To some extend, your more “soft” attitude will be exploited from time to time.

This is the price you pay.

But after thinking a bit about it, I came to the conclusion that a bit of getting exploited is still much better than becoming a hard and selfish person, mistrusting every move of others.

The rewards you gain by building up an environment of caring and helpful people around you, plus your own personal growth is much greater than what you lose by sometimes being pulled over the table. Especially if you learn not to take this personal.

Any thoughts from your side? Let us know!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

A Short Trip to Nördlingen or Belonging to Something Greater

What a nice medieval town!

What a nice medieval town!

This weekend was a long one, thanks to our ancestors who fought hard to make May, 1st into a holiday, the “day of work”, downshifters day to think of how to work less. :-)

So dear grandma looked for the kids, and Mr+Mrs Woodpecker have been on a short trip to a little town about 100km away from Munich, called Nördlingen.

Weather was quite miserable, but in good old Woodpecker tradition this did not discourage us from having a good time, but on the contrary helped to keep other tourists out of our sight while enjoying history.

Like Rothenburg that we visited last year (gosh, forgot to write a post on that one!), Nördlingen is surrounded by a complete medieval wall in the form of a perfect circle (yes, you can surround it on the wall day and night, takes around 45 minutes).

On the minus side, Nördlingen has a bit less of medieval flair to offer than the infamous Rothenburg, but on the plus this comes with cheaper prices and much less tourists hanging out there.

The town is located in the impact crater of a 1km meteorite that hit south Germany 15 million years ago.
This makes it a geological unique location and there is a quite interesting museum on meteorite impacts located in town. That bloody thing had so much speed that the whole 1km-block vaporized during the impact, leaving basically a sea of molten rock – what a mess. Next impact a bit further away from Munich, if you please…

Castle Harburg

Castle Harburg

As always when travelling Germany, there is a lot of history to be found. In the case of Nördlingen it shows how a then very important town went into decline after a huge fight that took place in the 30 years’ war in 1634.

Castle Harburg

On our way back we discovered a great castle along the way: Castle Harburg.
As Woodpecker is a bit Castle-Fan, we stopped by for a guided tour, that was very interesting.
Only 15 km away from Nördlingen, that Castle was the seat of their enemies, the Öttingers and shows how amazingly small-sized the power-structures of those time were.

The castle is well worth a visit if you are around.

Harburg4

History – Belonging to Something Greater

More than only being entertaining, I love history because it can give you the feeling of belonging to something Greater. That you are part of something that spreads out beyond your own more or less unimportant and short live.
That in fact whoever and wherever you are, you are the today-living part of an endless chain that leads back into the fog of history and until the beginning of man-kind.And a chain that hopefully will as well lead forward into the fog of the far future of man-kind. A future that all of us cannot imagine, as little as the Harburg rulers could imagine the tourists running around in their castle with smartphones.

I think the feeling of belonging to something greater is an integral part of happiness, and next to family, friends, worthwhile projects, your history is a strong source of belonging.

Think about it!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

 

Turning a simple package tour into an adventure – Turkey south coast example – Part 2

What a view!

What a view!

This is the second post to our recent Turkey trip, part one see here.

Antalya

We also did a day trip to the old town of Antalya.

It is a nice stroll around more or less old Anatol style buildings, all very cleanly renovated and in great shape.
And admittedly, the setting of the city on a cliff at the see and close to the Taurus mountains is indeed spectacular.

However, to be honest, overall we were slightly disappointed:
Although the beauty of the city is widely known (and it is beautiful in fact), it misses something very important, that other Turkish Cities can offer:

A kind of “air” or “authenticity”.

The thing it, that the old part of town makes the impression of a museum or Disney park. Everything is a bit too clean and polished, too many tourist places, and actually the local life and the buzzing of the native population it completely missing, as the actual city live takes place outside of the old town.

This is much different in other cities we have seen in Turkey, like Istanbul, Sinop, Safranbolu.
And for Woodpecker, this “air” is one of the most important factors of a true must-see city.

Recommendation: If you are around, give it a visit, but half a day is enough I’d say.

(Click to enlarge, hover for captions)

 

Now we come to the undisputed highlight of our trip:

Selge

We took a drive to a nearby canyon for a nice climb-down to the cool and wildly rushing river and throw stones with the kids (you can do rafting there too) and then decided to proceed to the ancient city of Selge, a secluded place a lofty 1100m above sea level.
It was quite a challenging drive. A few clowns we met actually used Jeeps to get up there, which is unnecessary, because the pavement of the road was quite fine in all steep sections, the problem was rather that the road is very suspended and without guard rails, so sometimes the mountain just dropped off into 200 meters of void next to the road.
In a word: You should not suffer from vertigo there.
However not a problem for Woodpecker as an old mountaineer, thus I’d say we were considerably faster than the Jeep-Clowns. :-)

When we finally arrived, I was in full awe of the beauty of the place.

THIS IS A HELL OF A SPOT.

Boy, these Greek and Roman chaps sure knew how to pick great spots for their cities!

Full 10/10 Lord of the Ring score and
9/10 Indiana Jones score.

A true magic place, like you would not expect to find it outside a film, and only 90 mins away from a busy tourist area.

See yourself:

(please enlarge by clicking to get the full experience! hover for captions)

 

Aspendos

Aspendos was another spot we visited.

This one is an “A” spot, thus there is a guard, an (significant) entrance fee etc.
However, the theater there is among the best preserved worldwide and even hosts a music festival (like Verona), which must be incredible to join.

The secret tip here is to go the hilly excavation site uphill from the theater, which is typically not visited by groups (too much walking), and quite interesting.

Lord of the Ring Score 4/10.
Indiana Jones Score 4/10.

You think anything your country is building these days will still be that spectacular like this theater 2.000 years from now?!

Hm.

I will never complain again about the waste of public money on prestige buildings, provided one precondition:

Dear politicians and leaders! Build if you want. Spend our money. Build it big and beautiful. But please, please, build massive. Build in STONE. So that Woodpeckers 50*Grandsons can enjoy the place 2000 years from now!
Thanks.

Sillyon

Last excursion was to Sillyon, a totally undeveloped place on a table mountain.

There is not too much to see, but strolling around the location is fun anyway, as cows are grazing between the ruins and you find nice examples of ancient cities biggest enemies: Stone looting for constructing other houses.

Lord of the Ring Score 6/10.
Indiana Jones Score 7/10.

 

All in all, this package tour turned into some good adventure thanks to only a little additional own initiative.

Btw., it was a great mixture for the kids as well. Exploring, climbing, beach and a bit of swimming in the pool and the indoor pool.
Parents know that it can be difficult to combine the needs of young kids and your own activity needs from time to time.But it is doable, there is no need to hang out two weeks exclusively in a plastic paradise of a “family hotel” or in a hyper expensive Disney-World.

This trip might serve as a blue-print!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Turning a simple Package Tour into an Adventure – Turkey South Coast Example – Part 1

A trip back in history. Turkey, south coast.

A trip back in history. Turkey, south coast.

Winter finally is gone, and it is about time to leave your sofas, go out and explore the world a bit.

This is what the Woodpecker clan thought, when some weeks ago we checked the internet and found a very pleasantly prices package tour to a tourist resort in southern Turkey (apparently all the russian tourist are missing there, so price was incredible low).

But then you might guess our next thought:

A package tour? An All-inclusive tourism resort?! Hm, not really the thing the Woodpeckers are typically into. Sounds too much like fat-bellied ever-beer-drinking average consumer chaps in the main stream hotels and hard-working rat-racers with their mobiles always on in the golf clubs next door.
Not seeing the country but feasting on “international” (i.e. boring) food, buying overpriced carpets, demanding “Schnitzel” or Burgers in every restaurant and complaining if Turks only speak Turkish.

All not really what we are looking for, as we traveled Turkey a total of 20 weeks before individually and far off the beaten tracks, two times even with our own car that we brought there all the way from Germany, one time a full eight weeks in a row during parental leave (different story).

Anyway, the price included accommodation, flight, food, kids care, pool etc and was so good that it was hardly beatable by anything we could compile ourselves, plus we had an advantage:

Most people going to the area around Antalya rely on their tour operators on what to do, and miss out the chance that there are actually a lot of places to discover and a lot of non-mainstream things to do, provided one thing:

Your own transportation and a bit of trust in your own ability to cope with local traffic and sometimes “challenging” road layout, e.g. in the mountains.

So we decided to go for it but do it the Woodpecker style:

The booked AI hotel should only serve as our comfortable and cheap home-base and we rented a car with a local company that I can wholeheartedly recommend especially to Germans, as they are specialized on german customers: Say Automobile. It is a hands-on rental company, friendly and cheap (we paid 30 EUR per day for a compact car plus ony 3 EUR per child seat and day, delivery and pickup included. Prolongation of rental period was settled by phone and simply leaving 30 additional EUR in the car when parking it in front of hotel for pick-up).

So, we arrived and where all puzzled by the fact that someone with out name on a sign was already waiting to pick us up at the airport, everything was prepared, we did not have to care for anything, etc.
Not need to organize something themselves – obviously what most tourists are looking for.
But after two days of hanging out at the pool and walking from one AI food station to the next – as expected – it started to bore us (can’t understand how people are able to spend a full two weeks in the resort without their brains getting mash), so we started our excursions:

And South Turkey (or all of Turkey to be precise) is just perfect to go out and explore. People are extremely friendly and helpful, especially outside tourist zones, and especially if you have kids and do not behave like a superior asshole. Turkey also is cheap, food is great, landscapes are diverse and fascinating, and the best is:

Ancient cities!

Woodpecker loves ancient cities, especially if they are not boring ordinary ancient cities, but if they fulfill two criteria:

1) A great setting, what I call a “Lord of the Ring setting”, giving you that “Fellowship of the Ring travels the empty lands of Middle Earth” feeling.

2) As few other visitors as possible and as little signs of modern culture as possible. Giving you what I call “Indiana Jones discovers magic place no Westerner has seen before” feeling.

Thus, the perfect spot would be an ancient city, half buried under vegetation, barely digged out, no signposts, fences, guards or paved walkways, sitting in a secluded, quite and spectacular landscape, not really visited by a lot of people.

And belief it or not: Turkey is full of this places! Even as close to touristic hot-spots as the Turkish Riviera.

However, to max out your chances to be there alone, follow the classical four rules of anti-cyclical tourism:

Go there when:

  • Time is odd, off-season, or early in the morning or late afternoon (or night for the pros)
  • Weather is bad (this is a big secret tip to enjoy so many places that are otherwise crowded)
  • You have to exert effort to get there. A long hike necessary? Perfect. A difficult drive not doable for tour busses? Great.
  • Choose the second tier. This ruins may be a bit smaller, but this is more than off-set by being able to be there alone and really feel the thousands of years of history plus the magic of the place (holds true as well for mountain peeks, churches, cities, basically all places that gain from being empty).

Termessos

The first tour took us to Termessos, an ancient city in the Taurus mountains, set on a spectacular mountain valley quite close to Antalya.
It is not fully clear when it was founded, but certainly before 500 BC. Termessos was under siege by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, but Alexander finally had to give up and conquer half of Asia instead.

It is a difficult drive though and a long sweaty walk to get to the ruins, thus the place is not crowded. At least not in April and with weather being on our side (i.e. cloudy, cold, some rain). A few people running around but if you go to the fantastic necropolis (the city of the dead, an extra 30 min walk uphill) you are alone again.

This is what we got. The theme of the this location was mountain grey.

Lord of the Rings Score 7/10.
Indiana Jones Score 6/10.

(Click for large version, hover for caption)

 

Lyrbe

Being fascinated by Termessos, the real surprise came when we discovered Lyrbe (incorrectly called Seleucia, even in Wikipedia), a quite unknown place, not much written about in the guidebooks.

But what a magic setting, so quite and secluded in the middle of a pine forest. NO ONE in the whole area there except the Woodpecker clan. Bird chirping and wind being the only sound around to disturb the sleep of centuries.

Lord of the Ring Score 6/10.
Indiana Jones Score 9/10.

Difficult to catch this special atmosphere in pictures, but I tried. Note the lovely greenish atmosphere in the forrest.

(Click for large version, hover for caption)

 

 

But then, a few days later, Woodpecker really was swept off his feet by another excursion.

This one – Selge – was so spectacular that it deserves a separate post – stay tuned!

 

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Stressed? Not you, I hope!

Hope you have some time left to read this post - it might pay out...!

Hope you have some time left to read this post – it might pay out…!

Why are some fellows so relaxed and seem to have all the time in the world, while others – in similar circumstances – are always busy, stressed and seemingly close to burn-out?

Well, some of that is personality, some might be unchangeable external factors, but on the other side I belief you have quite some control over how stressed you are.

Here’s some ideas on how to increase available time and decrease stress:

1) Limit commuting time

Probably one of the most important bullets, and probably the biggest time consumer in modern times – and very often underestimated.

To make the effect of commuting clear I did two calculations for you:

a) The “holiday-equivalent”

If you commute 1h to your work, that is 10hrs a week or (at 40 work weeks) = 400hrs per year. 400hrs in turn equal about 10 weeks(!) of additional holidays. Or more than 1 additional free day per week.

That is, in this situation by simply cutting commuting time you could earn yourself additional annual spare time far beyond your yearly holiday!

b) The “I want to express everything in hard currency”-calculation

Take your commuting time per month and calculate how much you earn on your job when working that amount of hours.
In the example that would be: 2hrs commuting per day x 20 work days = 40 hrs commuting per month. Total work time per month at 38hrs per week = 152hrs.
Let’s say you take home 4.000 EUR per month, this means your commuting “costs” you time-wise: 40/152*4.000= 1.052 EUR. Per month! Additional to any costs for your car! Per year this is a >12.000 EUR equivalent cost!

Are you now seeing the real price you pay for that nice house on the countryside? Still willing to pay it? Yes? Well, fine, but then don’t complain about having little time.

2) Home-Office

If your company allows, then push for home-office.
My perception is that this is not really helpful if you want to pursue a career (at least in Germany presence seems to be key in that case), but next to working undisturbed in more concentrated, and thus less stressful, it saves heavily on your commuting-time-budget.
Assume the above example, and two days of home-office, this saves you a time equivalent of 160hrs per year (=4 work-weeks) or a money equivalent saving of 4.800 EUR per year. A good deal. Plus helping the environment, relieving traffic density and saving your employer food, subsidized coffee, energy consumption and time consumed by casual office chat etc. A clear win-win.

3) Don’t do over-hours

Unless you really love your job, always remember that the really limited resource of yours – the resource that nobody can extend – is your time on this precious planet.
Don’t take the money for the over-hours but convert them to additional holidays or leave earlier.
Btw: Most companies unfortunately did not notice yet, but scientific evidence is clear: After more than 8 hours in the office, people become fairly inefficient and error prone.

4) Let go of perfectionism

You certainly know the 80/20 principle: The first 80% of the job can be done in only 20% of the time, while the last 20% (to make it perfect) needs another 80% of the time.
I think this is very much true for almost most areas of life. And in almost all cases, you are better of doing only 80% perfection on task A plus let’s say 80% on task B, and 80% on task C, and still you need only 60% of the time that the perfectionist needed for doing only task A. At the workplace it very much depends on your boss and corporate culture whether you better go for 80/20 or perfectionism, but in private life, 80/20 really is the way to go, when it comes to cleaning your house, doing the garden, planning your holiday, thinking about your investments. You will be amazed how much you get done, how good things still work, and how much time you have left to hang out at the lake.

5) Don’t schedule private life like a business day

You certainly know all that people who have their cloud-driven and family wide connected iPad diaries always with them, with a huge column for each day, sliced by hours or even quarter hours.
They are running their private life like a business schedule!
No good idea in my humble opinion.
I recommend getting rid of all the electronic toys in personal or family planning, and only stick a small paper year-calendar on your fridge. It gives you a great overview over the already busy periods in the year and it quickly looks so crowded that you will stop filling in too many additional appointments. Our calendar e.g. is only two DIN-A-4 pages big, thus per day that is not more than two square centimeters of space, less than the space for one hour on the typical iPad diary. No way to chunk in 4 or 5 items into a saturday. You fill in swimming and having ice cream with kids…thats it, slot is full, everything else will be declined. :-)
This is a great thing to relieve yourself from excessive planning, please try it out!

6) Don’t have too many regular appointments

“Less is more” also holds for regular appointments, like sports-club, meetings, trainings, kids-regular-things etc.
All of them might be nice and good stand-alone, but if you have your guittar training on monday, your yoga on Tuesday, swimming on Wednesday, grocery shopping on Thursday, chinese-learning on Friday etc. AND your wife AND your kids have similar schedules, then good night, prepare for your family burn-out. No fun anymore.
My rule of thumb is: Two regulars per adult and week is enough. For our kids it is one regular appointment per week for the older one (5 years old) and none for the 3-year old.
Of course, the Woodpecker clan very often does additional things, outdoor activities, short trips, sports, going out for a beer, meeting friends etc. But most of this is spontaneously, dependent on weather and mood or as a reaction on invitations (which we basically never have to decline due to our ample availability).
In the end, my feeling is that the Woodpecker clan in the end does more diverse things, experiences more and is much less stressed than the average well-planned and tight-schedule family.

7) Instead do more spontaneous things

As said, cutting on regulars frees time for spontaneous action, which can be much more fun like the 5th recurrence of a squeezed in regular activity.
E.g. last friday, Woodpecker decided to grab his boys and go for a night in an alpine club run youth-hostel in the mountains. Cost: 15 EUR. Fun: Great. Planning: Close to zero. Surprise-Factor: Very good, exactly because there was no plan and not much thinking beforehand. Weather: Horrible. But come on, who cares…! :-)
Last sunday, nothing scheduled, went bouldering with the kids. Next weekend, nothing scheduled, lets see what surprise comes in this time! Etc.

8) Stay more or less local at weekends

If you are already short on time, then no good idea to plan weekends 500km away with a lot of driving or flying on crowded roads/airports.
Weekend in Barcelona, Shopping in London, Daytrip to Lissabon? Besides the crazy costs, let’s be honest: This is more stress than real fun.
If hopefully you picked your place to live right, then most of what is interesting you should be close by anyway. Go sailing on the lake nearby or hiking in the mountains, or riding the bike on the countryside at the weekends. When you have holidays or time off and more time available, you can travel further away obviously.

9) Don’t do everything yourself

This is a point where I probably disagree with most of the otherwise admired frugal-living-community. I don’t think it makes sense to do everything yourself.
Of course you should do things on your own that you like and you are good at. But e.g. if you and your partner hate cleaning the house (more than working in your job) and a cleaning service costs you 13 EUR per hour, whereas you earn 26 EUR per hour in your job, then I see no reason why you should not outsource this work and spend one hour working in your job for two hours of cleaning get done by a third-party.
This may be different if you have ample free time left, but for somebody working full-time, or for a family, where time will always be a scarce resource, outsourcing makes sense in many cases.
Actually I very much prefer spending money on services that give you free time (cleaning service) or experiences (traveling) instead of spending it on stuff.

Edit: One more:
10) Use your Smartphone less often

Nothing much to say on that one, right?!

 

 

Any other ideas of you guys?

Curious to hear – leave a comment in case!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Work-Life-Balance, Stage Two: Learn to Accept your Job

What can you learn from this guy?! Stoicism and to always have a grin - even in difficult circumstances! :-)

What can you learn from this guy?!
Stoicism and to always have a grin – even in difficult circumstances! :-)

A job that you like, that is challenging, not too stressful and also rewarding, is a great thing.

If you have one – congratulations! Enjoy it, be thankful and rest assured that you have an excellent chance to be happy in your life. You don’t have to read this post, move on to other areas of your life and look how you can make them as satisfying as your job.

Unfortunately, probably the majority of the people today does not have that kind of job but is missing the one or the other ingredient at the workplace.

In fact, today’s work life is more and more characterised by increased work-density, hectic management, short-sighted decisions and more than all: constant change. Positive feedback, real humanity and appreciation of the employee is, at least in Germany, a rare thing.

All of this is proven to promote stress, burn-out and a feeling of meaningless in the job. In my opinion the resulting unhappiness in the workplace is the primary driver for so many people to think about early retirement and downshifting. An understandable starting point, but not a good motivation for the long run.

In fact – I freely admit it – unsatisfaction was one (but only one among others!) driver for Woodpecker’s downshifting journey as well. Hence, in a way I even owe my downshifting journey to some bad experience in my early work-life! Thus, irony of history: a warm thank you to two nasty and slave driving bosses that I encountered right in the first years of my work-life: I guess you did not intend so, but well done, you early on opened my eyes to a different and much better way than a career! :-)

Anyway, I now, after a few more years down the way, understand it is not wise to continue being unsatisfied in the job.

Because one of the (important!) secrets of happiness is that you have to start it here and now, and not attach it to a future precondition like working less hours in the future.
In fact this is one of the things why I don’t belief in early retirement. Because it means a future precondition for happiness, it means postponing being happy to a much later point in time. And once you start to postpone, you will postpone again and again and always find new preconditions to be met before being happy. All experts in the field will confirm: Planned future happiness is not going to work. The way is to decide for happiness here and now.

OK, so where does that leave you, assuming you are currently more or less unsatisfied with your job, but understand that just clinging to the hope of a future early retirement is way to little to get happy?

Again, it leaves you with the middle way:

1) Install downshifting measures now.
Take a sabbatical asap to think about things and develop your extra-work-life, convert your over-time into holidays, leave earlier, go to part-time, disengage from office politics and from career-plotting in favour of concentrating on your actual job (that will save a lot of time in most companies), in general shift your focus from money/job/career/consuming/status to private life/community/simple pleasures/experiencing/diversity.
Some of this measures will cost you money or career opportunities, but combined with a bit of exercise in frugality, no problem.

2) Actually, do not disengage from your job per se. On the contrary: Muster more passion for your job.
I don’t say it for your employers sake, but for your own sake as passion will lead to more satisfaction at work. The optimal combination as I understand now is: Downshifting that leads to a rich and divers private life PLUS being able to enjoy your job, leading to a good time at work as well.

3) How can you do that? Enjoying your job, while your environment spins faster and faster, or your boss is not quite supportive, or the company is doing bad commercially?
Well, is some cases of course there is no way than leaving, but in most cases you are in a grey zone, where some things are bad and some are quite ok. Try to see the whole package. Do not think about the future of your department, company or position (that’s all speculation and you cannot change it anyway), keep away from the office gossip. Learn to just wait and see without speculating. Accept the price you have to pay for downshifting.
Try to get more independent emotionally from your job. E.g. the company is not valuing your work our you as a person? Would be nice if they do (and would increase productivity) but if not, as a downshifter you should have a whole set of sources of appreciation, so why rely to get it from your company/boss? Continue to do a good job anyway. Be friendly and sympathetic to everyone and build as many personal ties as possible. Understand that many of your fellow workers are stressed too or entangled very deeply into the treadmill. Never be missionary but accept when others see the job differently or even honestly love it. Do never rate any colleague on his/her benefit for your career. Listen to others. Less often insist that you are right.

Understand that all of this will make your job much more fun and all this things are in your hand, no matter what your company or your bosses are doing.

 

In a nutshell:

In the end, your job will very likely continue to play a major role in your life. The option of just dropping it might sound compelling, but rest assured that other troubles would follow if you did so – it is the nature of life itself that always something is missing :-) .
Thus the better way to me seems to learn to accept your job as it is.
I guess this holds for many aspects of life…to be continued…

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Prometheus – on the Art of Empowering Yourself

Prometheus brings fire to mankind.

Prometheus brings fire to mankind.

From time to time, even the true downshifter, who is much less interested in power, money, glamour that the average chap, will feel a stitch of envy.

Especially if you are a self-made man or woman, who started without rich daddy, without great family connections, helping little ties etc.

A downshifter will typically not envy the powerful or rich career makers who made it to the top on their own account and paid their price to climb up the ladder, because he theoretically could have done the same but decided not to.

But he might envy the 1% (or 5%, whatever), who did just nothing, who did not work hard or invest clever. Those who simply and by stupid luck were born rich and powerful, in the right family, at the right time, in the right place. Those that (although they – as the only ones – will never see that) got their status, their wealth and their (apparently!) care-free life not by effort, but by pure luck.

As most human emotions envy is nothing wrong at all, but holds a function:

It’s a signal from your subconsciousness, that something is wrong here, that you seeing something unjust.
Of course the signal can be wrong, but often it is also right, because – please don’t tell your kids – life is indeed unjust.
There was never full justice in the world, there is not today (not even in your country, company, family) and there probably never will be full justice in the future. I don’t like it, but that is the way it is.

On the other hand, too much envy is certainly not helpful, so today I have something for your comfort:

 

One of my favorite “heroes” from Greek mythology and a “role model for the modern middle-class employee” (woodpecker interpretation :-) ):

Prometheus!

As you might know, Prometheus was the guy who stole the fire from the gods and brought it to humankind.

In the Woodpecker modern interpretation:
Prometheus was the anti-authoritarian self-made man, who empowered himself, built his life from scratch without the help of a devine birth and then took what needed to be taken from the powerful without caring too much about their permission (in fact no harm done, of course the gods still have their own fire too, but they just wanted to keep it all for themselves). And he had his pride about his self-empowerment and about all he had accomplished HIMSELF despite his low born start.

To better understand, read my favorite poem from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Simply replace “Zeus”/“the gods” by the “rich and the powerful born class” and “Prometheus” by yourself or “the self-made-man”.

You will see how Prometheus/you can be proud about the house he built on his own and in fact is envied by the gods for the warmth of his hearth. A warmth that they will be able to enjoy.
You will see that the gods/the rich born are poor in a sense that they all depend on the mercy of the people plus owe their whole status to our all masters: time and fate.
You will see that Prometheus/you overcomes disappointment, empowers himself and decides on his own to be as happy as the gods/the rich&powerful, and you can be as well.

You will understand that you, the self-made man/woman, have sources of happiness at your hand that the rich born will never know.

That is independence.
That is real comfort.
That will shield you and make you an upright and self-confident person, no matter where you stand on the “social ladder” of your country.

What a fantastic piece of art by Goethe!

(English translation of the poem here)

Prometheus

Bedecke deinen Himmel, Zeus,

Mit Wolkendunst!

Und übe, Knaben gleich,

Der Disteln köpft,

An Eichen dich und Bergeshöh’n!

Mußt mir meine Erde

Doch lassen steh’n,

Und meine Hütte,

Die du nicht gebaut,

Und meinen Herd,

Um dessen Glut

Du mich beneidest.

 

Ich kenne nichts Ärmeres

Unter der Sonn’ als euch Götter!

Ihr nähret kümmerlich

Von Opfersteuern

Und Gebetshauch

Eure Majestät

Und darbtet, wären

Nicht Kinder und Bettler

Hoffnungsvolle Toren.

 

Da ich ein Kind war,

Nicht wußte, wo aus, wo ein,

Kehrt’ ich mein verirrtes Auge

Zur Sonne, als wenn drüber wär

Ein Ohr zu hören meine Klage,

Ein Herz wie meins,

Sich des Bedrängten zu erbarmen.

 

Wer half mir

Wider der Titanen Übermut?

Wer rettete vom Tode mich,

Von Sklaverei?

Hast du’s nicht alles selbst vollendet,

Heilig glühend Herz?

Und glühtest, jung und gut,

Betrogen, Rettungsdank

Dem Schlafenden dadroben?

 

Ich dich ehren? Wofür?

Hast du die Schmerzen gelindert

Je des Beladenen?

Hast du die Tränen gestillet

Je des Geängsteten?

Hat nicht mich zum Manne geschmiedet

Die allmächtige Zeit

Und das ewige Schicksal,

Meine Herren und deine?

 

Wähntest du etwa,

Ich sollte das Leben hassen,

In Wüsten fliehn,

Weil nicht alle Knabenmorgen-

Blütenträume reiften?

 

Hier sitz’ ich, forme Menschen

Nach meinem Bilde,

Ein Geschlecht, das mir gleich sei,

Zu leiden, weinen,

Genießen und zu freuen sich,

Und dein nicht zu achten,

Wie ich!

 

(side note: Prometheus was harshly punished by the gods for his theft, thus be a bit careful with the “stealing” part ;-) )

Cheers,

Woodpecker