Could Everybody stop the Whining please

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Think about it if you next time are tempted to start whining and complaining. One example of a recent panic. Overall, the world displays an astonishing resistance against going down. Since 4 billion years! 🙂 

I don’t know what your experience is, but something I frequently notice lately, is that I am very often standing out as the only optimist in a given round.

I mean, not always, and certainly not within my close friends, who are a great bunch of people with very positive mind-sets. But often when I am at a party, business occasion or – worst – wherever in that toilet room called internet, I find myself surrounded by people who are all more or less of the opinion that the world is doomed, all is going down, etc.

People whine about our politicians (while themselves being too lazy to engage in politics), they whine about refugees (while themselves hoarding piles of money they will never be able to spend), they whine about Germany getting too much foreign influence (while themselves having no kids – do they expect this fertile piece of earth staying empty forever?), they whine about Greece costing our money (while sipping their champaign or pushing buttons on their brand new Apple computer), etc. pp.

As I like to oppose this view, I very often get accused “Gutmensch” (negative word for a positive person), “naive“, “dreamer” etc. 🙂

This is a pile of crap!

All this apocalyptic stuff is not only very boring to listen to for outsiders, it is also unhealthy to your own mind if you worry too much about stuff that (a) you cannot change (b) you are too lazy to DO something about and (c) did not materialize and thus is only a product of imagination at this point of time.

My theory why people love to whine and complain is like this:

  1. Some are lazy egoistic bastards, who do not want to really make the world a better place if it costs them any effort or money. Thus they complain about everything being messed up anyway giving them a perfect excuse to stay passive.
  2. Some are un-imaginative people, who have too little ideas what to spend their time on, so they spend it on complaining.
  3. Some lack self-esteem and any basic idea of “meaning of life” and they slowly sense that something is missing. They circumvent that by saying: “Doesn’t matter, all is going down anyway“.
  4. Some lack social interaction and positive feedback (maybe because they give so little of it themselves), and thus really see the world as a grim place.
  5. Some are simply getting old, and thus lose their ability to adapt to a world that is ever-changing (and was ever-changing, and will be ever changing). Or they don’t have kids, so see no need in caring for tomorrow.
  6. Some people somehow feel that they messed up their lives and now want to find somebody outside to blame.
  7. Some people lack attention and want to get if by screaming “FIRE!“.

Somehow, this whining mechanism seems to be built in deeply into people.
Throughout the centuries, you can find dozens of examples of apocalyptic scenarios that fascinated people at their times.

I have a little list somewhere myself where I from time to time note the “current crisis” and “actual reasons why the world will go down” and do a reality check a few years later.

Just from my mind, among many others, the following topics are on that list:

  • AIDS (that was when I started the list 😉 )
  • Dying woods (big issue in the late 80s)
  • Ozone hole
  • Peak oil (no oil will be left around 2010, total breakdown of economy to follow. Today we swim in oil)
  • Devastating food shortage and hunger (in fact hunger is at record low today, compared to the decades before)
  • Y2K error (atomic rockets to start automatically due to an IT error at 1.1.2000)
  • Ebola I. (early 2000s)
  • SARS

more recently:

  • Finanical Crisis
  • Ebola II (last year)
  • Energy revolution (in Germany, atomic reactors get abandoned for renewable energy. The whiners said multiple brown-outs will follow. I have seen not a single one since four years)
  • War with Russia over Ukraine (one year ago, no big deal anymore)
  • Greece and Euro crisis (half a year ago, no one gives a f*** anymore)
  • Refugees (the newest hype, at least in Germany)

Number of the above topics that in fact did make the world go down or did put a catastrophe on us?

Zero.

I don’t know if this is a “German Angst” thing, but it’s funny, isn’t it?
While many whiners always argue very convincing and prompt millions of “facts” and call me and others the “dreamers“, actual evidence is on the dreamer’s side!!

Think about it if you next time are tempted to start whining and complaining.
Because it is not good for you.

Don’t take me wrong, I have no problem with a little bit of complaining here and there. This is normal social behaviour and can even provide some social glue (we are the good ones, all outsiders are idiots). But it does get dangerous if you dig too much into your whining, start to feel like a victim etc. And that is what many people unfortunately do.

In the long run, there is only one result of too much whining: Bitterness.
Not a nice thing.

You should avoid that at all costs!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

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Get Rid of Your Money-Attachment

raffende_haende

It is in your own interest not to become the owner of this hand.

Every human strives to life a live as happy as possible. Much, if not most, of what we do, is geared to make our lives better and to increase happiness.
However, most people do not really seem to progress in their pursuit of happiness.
Why is this the case?

I think it has a lot to do with the means that people want to use to increase the quality of their life.
In our outward looking and materialistic western cultures, and in our religion-stripped consumption focussed times, the view – more than ever in history – is focussed on material things, on possessing, on body improvement and on other features of the physical world.

Most people constantly think about what they need. What they want. What they would like to add.

Interestingly, instead of looking for more to add, it is equally important to look for letting go to become happy.

There are several concepts out there describing the benefit of letting go, but the one phrase that describes it best is the word “Attachment” (German: Anhaftung) that is used in buddhist philosophy.

Attachment means the negative way that humans getting dependent on certain things, on feelings, on their position, on regard by others etc.

Attachment clearly produces suffering and has to be overcome.

To make things more clear I will revert to my own case that you can even reconstruct when scrolling back in this blog.

Five years ago, when I started the mission of downshifting, I was very much impressed by the ideas of massive saving, accumulating passive income, retire early etc. I introduced a strict savings plan (that worked out quite successful), and started to find ways how to consume less and to save more.

All fine and good so far. But after a few years I recognized (with the help of some hints from Mrs Woodpecker) that things somehow went wrong.
Instead of feeling more and more happy when looking at the growing savings account, I got more and more unhappy and impatient whenever small blow-back occurred (e.g. when a tax or the rent was raised, when a costly and non-sheduled repair came up, when I had to push my calculated retirement age back etc).
I was spending massive time with my stocks and personal book-keeping, in the order of, well, I’d say 15 hours a week. Hell! 15 hours! Yeah, yes, yes, it was all for the good thing, all for increasing returns etc. blabla, but still…15 hours of prima age life spend every week only to have more time later at a age where time is not so scarce anyway?!
At that time thinking about money was a second nature to me, it was always there, with every small spending the internal calculator was active, and that was finally the moment when I realized:

I am attached to something very pathetic. I was attached to accumulating money.

It was not more about doing a wise thing (saving still is wise, and stupid consumption still stays stupid), but money became the measure of most things, and thus an “obsession”. A mild sort of obsession only, but still this is what attachment is all about:

You are no more controlling the object (in this case money), but it controls you.

To cut a long story short, I think I was able to overcome that particular attachment until now. Woodpeckers still save, we still look for efficient deals, we still do not consume excessively but with care. But all of this is more natural now, with less force and with much less bookkeeping. With more acceptance of the tides of life and fate and with the knowledge that long-term plans are nice, but in the long run reality does tend to ignore them.

In parallel I looked around and found that so many people around me were attached to money! And they all fueled that negative trait in me.

Only a few of my friends, but a lot of acquaintances, some colleagues and many people in business life or in finance internet forums are clearly attached to their money, to their returns, to making the good deals etc.
Some of them to an extend that is ridiculous and sad at the same moment. I could add countless anecdotes here, but leave it to your observation skills to find cases in your life.
You identify a money-attached easily if you dig a bit deeper in any serious discussion. Let it be politics, refugees, the future, ecology, economy, the society etc. All of this topics are very very complicated I know, and very very often we are far from an optimal solution, but with the money-attached, in the end, all of their arguing always end up in their fear that they have to pay something or something could be taken from them.
There is a lot of hiding this behind moral, wanting the good, protecting others, but if you drill down it will boil down to:
“OMG! I might have to pay! This world is so unfair, this politicians are so bad, everybody around me is evil, corrupted or stupid. It would be much better if I was in charge! Because then, finally, I would take care that my two birth-rights will be respected: Not to pay more than now. Not to get less than now”

The effect often is the stronger the richer the person is. Maybe because the more you have to more you are obsessed with protecting it.

It is pathetic and stands so much in their way of leading a fear-less and happy live. And yet it is so difficult to overcome, because so many forces around us secretly whisper: “YESSSS. YOU NEED TO HAVE MOREE. YOU ARE ONLY WORTH SOMETHING IFF YOU HAVE A,B,C. YOU EARNED IT. YOU DESEERVE IT. YOU HAVE TO COMPEEETE TO STAY UPPP.”

But all of this is crap of course.

So I am asking you:

Do you see that pattern in your environment?
Do you even have a self critical moment and see it at work in yourself?
Nothing un-normal, as this is the disease of our time, most people are infected to some degree.
But once you recognize this mechanism at work within yourself, do me a favour:

Cling to it, observe it, scrutinize it, see how it beats you down, because, damn, the more you have the more you can loose. And damn, there are always forces out there beyond your control, no matter what you do!
Drill your thought and fears down to its source: The fear of loss.
And finally: Kill that fear!

Accept the world for what it is. Accept the risk it brings. Start to understand that you can never fully protect yourself against the world. You are part of it. Start to trust in your own power to handle future problems should they come up.

And your fear will vanish…your attachment to money will yield back. The fog of worries and threats around you will lift.

YOU will be the first to benefit if you are able to get rid of money-attachment.

And for the time being, avoid others that are money-attached.
They will try to comfort you in your attachment. And they will attack you as a naiv good-do-er, or a “Gutmensch” (stupid german derogative word for people thinking beyond their own benefit) if you do not follow their path anymore.

Later on, when you ended your struggle and erased your own money-attachment you can come back to these people.
On the other side: Chances are that you will not. Because they will no longer be interesting to you. They have nothing to say other than “I want to get as much as possible and I do not want to pay”. And you heard that often enough, right?!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

 

The Power of being Alone or: Are Efficiency and Competition your Enemies on the Way to Happiness?

The creek "Partnach", on its way down from Germany's highest peak, the "Zugspitze"

The creek “Partnach”, on its way down from Germany’s highest peak, the “Zugspitze”

Oh boy, time flies past these days.

It’s more than three weeks since the last post!

The weather this year is just way too good to spend it in front of a computer. However, today it is that hot in good old Munich, that staying inside is fun again.

Last weeks have been loaded with nice grill events, family time spent at the nearby lake (Hooray, even three-year old small Junior Woodpecker is able to make it with his bike now!), a multiple family trip to the nearby medieval festival and all sorts of other social events.

 

The gourge "Partnachklamm". Belief it or not, this is Bavaria, not Middle-Earth!

The gorge “Partnachklamm”.
Belief it or not, this is Bavaria, not Middle-Earth!

In short:

Social dividend rolled in big these days, seeded in the past by spending as much time as possible with PEOPLE and FRIENDS, and not in office maxing out your cash-flow, or with wasteful “modern life maintenance” activities.
Actually it rolles in so big that I get used to having so many friends and am more and more surprised by the fact that most people seem to have much less social contacts! If you are still in the latter group, no need to despair, but start doing something about it! All can be changed by investing time, time, time and also care and niceness. Not once or twice, but over years and years you have to prioritize friends over career…and you will build a powerfull community around you.

Woodpecker also got a new job (will report in another post). Of course I choose carefully not to get hit by the crazy modern times workaholics-hammer 🙂 , but still I am currently a bit more busy than usual with office, too.

Anyway, Woodpecker is now at a point where the great plenitude of social contacts makes something else a quite rare thing in his life:

Solitude.

Of course I do not mean the negative but the positive side of solitude:

Being able to be only with yourself. To concentrate on your own mind, thoughts, body.
To think things through clearly and without distraction.
To empty your mind from the constant swirl and chaos of thoughts, external demands and constant attractions around.

Thus, Woodpecker decided to go on a solo two-day mountain hike.
With the explicit goal to see as few people as possible.
To NOT make acquaintance with anyone (not easy for me, haha).
To speak as little as possible.
To be in nature.
To have a demanding physical challenge, and of course:
To be without cellphone.

So off I went to a tour in the close-by Wettersteingebirge (the mountain massive that also holds Germans highest mountain, the “Zugspitze”).

And what should I say?
I think for me it was the first time since 10 years (!) that I spent a full two days out of house without any company or meeting someone I know.
Plus, as a bonus: I did not bring any clock with me! 🙂
Two days I had no idea what time it was, and did only what my body (and nature) were telling me.
A rare experience these days.

And all of this in a majestic, or even magical, nature surrounding, as you can see from the pics (taken by my good old 3kg heavy Nikon camera, not by cell-phone…).

View from one of my "perfect" resting places. Location: Secret ;-)

View from one of my “perfect” resting places.
Location: Secret 😉

I made an interesting observation:

If you do hiking, you might know that your body picks its own speed, if you do not have to care about others, or about time. It picks the speed it needs to operate optimally, and to make you endure a long stretch of way.
In Woodpeckers case (and that seems to be a synonym for my whole lifestyle, now that I think about it), the marching pace turned out to be very high and energetic, but then I also needed frequent and long breaks in beautiful surroundings to replenish.
So it was maybe two hours tight marsh, then spending a long time to find the perfect spot e.g. at a creek (or any spot with some energy, if you know what I mean), pulling out loads of food, water and a book, and resting, reading or snoozing for one hour with nothing around than the sound of rippling water.

The thing is, normally, if you go with others, you are not able to follow that body rhythm. You have to do some compromise or you would not see each other the whole tour.
Which is fine.
But it was also great to experience the fantastic feeling of your body operating exactly at its own pace. And the energy it can muster if allowed to follow that pace.
A feeling that is long-lost in todays super-planned and scheduled world.

In the end I was surprised how easily I managed the challenging tour overall, so that I even had to add some 500 extra hight meters as I did not feel yet exhausted.

What I also did several times:

Marching tightly, and then just do a totally useless detour to explore a waterfall spotted in the distance and completely off the track. Or take a more difficult and clearly longer way, because on the map it showed to pass a spring and I felt like a drink from a spring.

Exploring the interesting creek down there took me one hour de-tour...and was worth every minute!

Exploring the interesting creek down there took me one hour de-tour…and was worth every minute!

Long life inefficiency!

Despite what I thought in the past, I more and more get the feeling that inefficiency – and not efficiency – brings the highest pleasure to life…if you are able to let go of maximization, of optimizing, of comparing and of competition. An insight I admittedly do not yet manage to life up to often in day-to-day life.

I am surprised myself, but the more I work on stage four of Maslows pyramid, I am slowly getting an enemy of optimization, efficiency and competition. Maybe these things are not needed anymore on the upper stages of the pyramid?
Maybe optimization, efficiency and competition are fine to safeguard provision of basic needs but are in your way once you start looking for the higher goals, like true happiness?

I tend to think so.

Well, that’s all I wanted to say today.

Excuse the little bit confused post, but that hike was a great experience and started a load of new trains of thought as you see.

Recommended for copy! And will repeat myself, next time for three days minimum.

Cheers,

Woodpecker

ps. Forgot to say. Total cost: Transport by car 25 EUR. Night in hut 18 EUR. Luxury food 20 EUR. Good value I’d say. 🙂

Arrived at the mountain hut. A bit crowded for my taste, but what can you do? Sleep according to your body clock. Around 8am in my case. And everybody of this competitive achievment hunters had left to climb "Zugspitze" already! So I had the whole place ALONE in the morning! Crazy world.

Arrived at the mountain hut. A bit crowded for my taste, but what can you do? Sleep according to your body clock! Around 8am in my case… and everybody of this competitive achievement hunters had left to climb “Zugspitze” already! I don’t care for ticking peaks, and thus had the whole place ALONE in the morning! Crazy world.

Modern Times: The Issue of “Showing off”

Approaching Rovinj by boat: Nice. Doing so with 4 great old friends on board: Fantastic!

Approaching Rovinj by boat: Nice. Doing so with 4 great old friends on board: Fantastic!

Woodpecker just came back from a great week of sailing the Croatian Coast with good old friends from School. Although our boat was a bit on the slow side (gosh, accidentally I booked a “comfort” version and not a “sportive” one. Its stern was as wide as the ass of a clerk one day before his retirement!), the trip was amazingly great.

The landscape and beautiful small coast towns of Istria (NW Croatia) are amazing, again Europe surprised me with another great strip of land that I did not dare to expect to be so beautiful.

But above all it is great to be on a boat with people who you know since 20+ years.

A repeating topic in the many good conversations on board was the issue of showing-off in the modern social world.

Very quickly we all agreed that we see this widespread tendency to show-off as a major energy drain today.

So what do I mean by that?

Evening at the anchor bay - time for beers!

Evening at the anchor bay – time for beers!

I mean that I (and seemingly a lot of others) have the impression that showing-off became more and more important in the western society over the recent years.

Probably driven by social media, the internet and massive information overflow, people seem to compare themselves more and more to others, no matter what they do. This seems to be more critical in business environments, large cities and generally among materialistic people. But it is not limited to those groups.

In fact I think that showing-off rather is a symptom of worshiping consumption, material accumulation and money, which in turn take the place of religion, or of political and social ideologies, who all left the scene in the 1990s. Leaving a great void of meaningless that is now filled with an endless struggle to have more and to show it to others.

The big problem is that most people do not realize how much energy and effort they spent to show-off. In fact, even you and me as downshifters are not immune to this effect, as we still are social beings, embedded in our time and in our society.

The more important it is to realize any showing-off within your own actions.
Because as a downshifter, you obviously want to avoid spending money on stupid things like invoking envy in others, or trying to underscore your social status by superfluous purchases.
On your way to happiness the same holds true: Getting lukewarm applause or envy from others is a short-living drug. They are not what will carry you through the great storms in life.

So how do you distinguish between showing-off and just having a good time or doing something that you really enjoy?

A first self-test for show-off is:

Do something or buy something, and do the following:

  • completely abstain from taking photos
  • abstain from posting anything about your deed or purchase on Facebook (=pose book), whatsapp and other social media
  • best, abstain from bringing (or turning on) your cell-phone at all during the trip/event.
  • do not tell anyone about the event/purchase unless asked
  • if telling others then do so in the most modest way possible, explicitly in a way that does not invoke envy, but on the contrary makes the other person say: “Well, nice, but nothing special“.
  • Or put in one word: Be humble.

If you still enjoy the thing, if you do not have the feeling that “something is missing” until you post your deed or your purchase  on Facebook, then likely the motivation to do this or to buy this was not clouded by showing off.

If you repeat train this, it will become natural to you to be humble.

Europe at its best once more: Sailing in front of a medieval setting.

Europe at its best once more: Sailing in front of a medieval setting.

The “disadvantage” is, that short-term you will get much less applause and regard on your way. But remember: The applause you are foregoing is lukewarm and tepidly anyway. Better face it now: You cannot buy anything with that kind of false esteem on the long run. Sooner or later it will dwindle anyway, so why bother with it in the first place?

The huge advantage is: Over the long run, the superficial people will automatically sort themselves out from your circle of friends. They will walk away and look for more glamorous acquaintances somewhere else. On the other side, the really interesting people will stay and more of them will be attracted to you. This are the people who are not easily blinded by a dazzling surface, but who want to dig deeper and who want to connect on a personal and profound level. This are the people who lifelong friends are made of. Once you are connected, this people will stay, no matter what happens, no matter what car you drive, no matter how ill you get, or how long you lose contact. This people will be your bullet-proof social treasure and not the interchangeable guys that are attracted by money and show-off. Do not forget this!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

The next step.

All is flowing. From time to time you must venture on to new waters. (pic: Sailing, approaching north-west coast of Mallorca)

All is flowing. From time to time you must venture on to new waters. (pic: Approaching north-west coast of Mallorca by sailing boat)

It’s been a long time since the last post.

There were a couple of reasons for this which I think can be best summarized as “creative break” or “philosophical re-adjustment”.

Actually this had three aspects:

  1. Woodpecker & family were simply quite busy these months
    Social “capital” increasingly pay “dividend” in the form of various invitations, visits, social activities etc. Plus obviously the travel season started good and early this year and let to quite a list of trips, e.g. to Verona (see here),Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Freiburg in South-West Germany, a trip to relatives in Hamburg and finally, the last two weeks, I managed to integrate my passion – sailing – deeper into family life by doing a family sailing trip in Croatia. More on this in a separate post. All of this led to a phenomenon that – thanks to downshifting in the job – I seldom encountered before:

    Time got scarce!

  2. I decided to decrease virtual activity a bit
    This is on one side connected to scarce time and social activities.
    Plus while I like blogging and being in the internet, I am more and more convinced that we (as the western society) spend too much time in the virtual realms and too little in real life.
    I mean the internet is fantastic, one of the greatest inventions of modern times (right next to the dish washer), but more information is not always better.
    The internet is also dangerous in that it can distract us from living life itself. Distracting us into planning and planning, looking for non-binding contacts and social exchange, flipping from idea to idea without ever sticking to something real and enduring…you certainly know what I mean.
    And all the time, the real life is out there right in front of our doors and beyond the screen of our smartphones.

    When in doubt better turn off the computer and take a step out (Even if this means decreasing traffic to this blog! 😉 ).

  3. I had to do a few re-adjustments in my job
    In todays world which is centered all around work, progress, “sucess”, career and status, it is not always easy to go the middle way. It is easy to run in the rat-race and it is easy to just quit the job but if you want to go down the down-shifting road, i.e. work in a job, but in general concentrate on maxing out free time rathern than pushing career, then a lot of people around you will frequently get confused.

    Because not living 100% for your job is kind of a taboo today and considered almost a rebellious act by many of the rat-racers.

    The reason is clear: You do question their view of the world, and people don’t like that.
    So you have to do your moves carefully and spend some time every now and then to convince bosses and co-workers that you are committed to do a good job, but you simply want a different balance in your life.

    Companies are typically very normed social entities, thus the way to do this is to seek personal contact and build trust. On that basis it will be easier for others to accept you being different.

    Thats what I did, and I’ll go on another two months block of parental leave this summer, according to the plan to have a minimum of 50 free days (plus weekends of course) per year.

  4. The frugal living and thinking about money topic is sucked dry for Woodpecker
    We shall not forget that money still is only a tool. It is extremly important and thrilling to set the stage right by getting your financials in order, start to monitor and question your spendings, think about opportunity costs, efficient spending and the fact that happiness and money spending are consumption are little correlated, learn about adaptation effects and psychological traps when dealing with money and consumption, and understand the principles of successfull investing.

    But honestly, once this is done, it is time to move on to the next step.

    Because if you did your homework, your habits will sustainably change and you can savely put lots of the money related things decribed in this and other blogs to auto-pilot to a certain extend.So I could write 100 more posts about tiny savings and tiny optimizations, but I would start to repeat myself.

    Money is merely the tool.
    It is the hammer that drives the nail into the wall.

    But we should not admire the hammer, but the beautiful picture that you will put on that nail.And the picture is your life.

    If you keep on admiring the hammer, you are in no better position than the rat-racers or career-driven, no matter how frugal your life is.
    In that case you’d still worship the wrong god, the colden calf.

    Only from a different angle.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs (link)

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

So Woodpeckers journey (and with it this blog’s topics) will probably move forward to focus on the next stages on Maslows pyramid: Stage 4 (Esteem) and 5 (Self-Actualization).

Cheers,

Woodpecker

To the next 70 great years for Europe!

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The European Family – let’s stick together in crisis time instead of running for divorce!

European Readers:

As you know, Woodpecker is a great fan of the European idea.

I just came back from London today and have been to three other European countries already this year (Austria, Italy, Netherlands). And again and again I find it fantastic that finally we are living on a continent of peace, freedom, open borders, good relationship and even a common election throughout dozens of countries!

Whatever one might criticise of a European Union that – as all political and social constructs – is obviously not yet perfect and probably never will be, we always have to take into mind that freedom, peace and good relationships are not an automatically given thing – in fact it is a state quite new to this continent!

For 2.000 years or more, the people on this beautiful and unique patch of earth banged their heads, crossed swords, fired rifles and sent tanks at each other. And it is only 70 years ago that we finally overcame all of this crap and now live in one of the best places in this world in a harmony never seen before.

If you have not done yet, go and vote for the European parliament!

Let not pessimist, nationalists, populists and other narrow-minded people destroy what was built here!

Let not disappointed and angry people take the easy way and simply blame all the problems of this continent, its countries and economies on the EU as the new universal scape-goat.
Do not forget that many problems stem from other sources (demographics, greed, financial system imbalance, global competition, speculative bubbles to name a few) and that it is naive to think that weakening the EU would help in any way.

I firmly belief the opposite is true – we need Europe to have any weight in this world compared with the big chaps like China, Russia, the US etc.

Instead vote for something that might not be perfect yet but could very easily get replaced by something very nasty and much more unpleasant if we are not careful!

Woodpecker recommends:

Be optimistic! No one said it will be easy, but we will overcome current problems together.

Vote pro Europe! Vote against Nationalism!

 

Cheers,

Woodpecker

 

Exchange Freedom for Money?

The lovely city of Freiburg im Breisgau. A worthy short trip from Munich two weeks ago, and only 30 EUR return by the new "Deutsche Bahn Bus".

The lovely city of Freiburg im Breisgau. A worthy short trip from Munich two weeks ago, and only 30 EUR return by the new “Deutsche Bahn Bus”.

Hi Guys, it’s been quite a time since the last post, but what can I say:

Spring hit Germany very early this year and with this is coming the wonderful season of outdoor activities, travels, short trips and general idling in the sun. And this is what Woodpecker & family are quite busy with these days.

Today I’d like to share a few more thoughts on the work world, a topic where you can never spend too much thinking on how to (down)optimize this unfortunate time-consuming necessity.

Because besides enjoying the sun I was somewhat busy with an issue at my workplace:

A potential move within my company

… a move to an even more bright spot from a monetary and “power” point of view, but of likely negative effect on freedom and work load.

The thing is that the new position would increase salary quite substantial (+12% or so and a better outlook for future growth) and it would come along with one of these stupidly important titles in the company and thus more “prestige” and “power”. But it would most likely mean that I’d have to sacrifice my holy days in home office, have much fewer relaxed coffee breaks with colleagues, work under a quite work-focused and demanding boss and have a slightly increased commuting time. And it would be a much more challenging job than today, meaning that any 80/20 effort scheme would not work anymore but quite likely frequent stressful times would be part of the package.

As often I seem to think in quite different ways about these things than most of my co-workers or other rat-racy people, most of whom would lick their fingers for this “opportunity to get ahead” or to gain that “warm feeling of power”.

But getting ahead where to? To having the most lengthy title on your business card at the end of the career?

And what warm glow of power? For some reason the fun of having power is a feeling that my cerebral system is missing entirely. I know all sorts of warm glow, but they come from having a good authentic and relaxed time with friends, see a foreign city, collect new impressions and experiences, wrestle with my kids on the sofa on a rainy evening, sailing through a thunderstorm at the edge of your abilities to steer a sailing vessel.

But getting warm feelings because you are able to command others?

Sorry, but this always struck me as quite pathetic and to be honest as a very pitiable way of having a good time.

So no, power drops out as a motivator for Woodpecker.

And same holds for prestige.
If people want to talk to me and spend time with me I enjoy this as every other human does. But the reason should be that this very people like me, find talking to me or spending time with me interesting, and not because they fear me or somehow are attracted by my potential prestige, title, money or whatever.

Good, that’s done then, so we are left with the last motivator:

More Money

Yes, the warm glow of more money pouring in is more understandable to me. Or, to be more precise, the warm glow of the things, experience and freedoms I can buy with this money. Because getting warm feelings from the money per se is as poor as the power thing. Money itself is only numbers in your bank account, not more. Nothing against enjoying these numbers, but if your life is reduced to feeling proud or happy more or less only about the size of this number, then you certainly life a failed life. And many, many people with money do exactly that. They are called Scrooge or niggard.
Not my goal obviously.But buying more freedom, working even less, yes, this are worthy goals.

So, slowly we come closer to the solution:

Sacrifice freedom for more money?

Hm, after the bullets above you might have figured out where this is leading.

Should I sacrifice a fairly large degree of freedom I have in order to earn more money which I primarily are planning to spent to buy myself more freedom?

Sounds like a stupid trade, doesn’t it?

And in my case, indeed it is.
Because +12% is nice but not a world of more money. This 12% can be tucked away for saving, yes, and earn interest, yes, but it is not likely to make a tremendous change in Woodpeckers wealth position, while the costs of freedom outlined above are substantial plus they are difficult to predict. Could be that in the end the new position is less stressful than anticipated, but could also be (and my inofficial research indicates this) that the potential new boss would give me a really hard-working time (something that is priority one to be avoided! 😉 )for a mere 12% more of solatium.

So chances are that I will decide to not go for this position and leave it to someone else eager for career.
And probably I will just wait until fate washes a better chance to my shores – more money without giving up freedom… 😉

All my life experience so far shows that typically all sorts of great chances simply appear sooner or later if you only wait and stay open and prepared. As a undestroyable optimist I do not see any reason why this should not be the case in future again.

OK, this was my special situation.

What is my general advise?

Obviously it is not to decline any opportunity that shows up, but the following:

  • Strip the benefit of the new opportunity from all valueless benefits, which are: Power, pride, prestige etc.
  • Remaining benefits are: More money, shorter hours to work, more freedom, a nice and relaxed boss (very important! maybe the most important of all), a nicer office, less stress, more satisfying work, shorter commuting, nicer colleagues, better lunch meals etc.
  • Check honestly for all disadvantages, which are basically the opposites of the items listed under the bullet above.
  • Do a lot of informal research to find out about all these “soft” factors. Use your informal network of co-workers that you hopefully have to find out the “truth” about the position in question.
  • Actively test readiness of the potential boss for your needs. E.g. I openly (but diplomatically) raised the home-office question and got a quite clear (negative) answer. Better for both sides to know before than later what they are up to.
  • Deduct for uncertainty. In case you can not get accurate information, assume a more negative scenario.
  • At the beginning of your career you will most likely be able to improve on many of the items above. So change a lot while you are young, eager and flexible.
  • The longer you are in a current position (especially if the boss is nice) the more difficult it will be to improve. You will already have a satisfying salary, you will have found your niches and made it comfortable, you will have a set of informal rules and tacit agreements with co-workers and bosses at hand that avoid stress and conflict. Thus later in the career, a step only makes sense if it offers a lot.
  • If in doubt, decline, stay open and prepared and wait. Your day will come.

And, most importantly if in doubt of sacrificing freedom:

  • Check for opportunity costs!

As with spending the question freedom vs. money boils down to the concept of opportunity cost, i.e. “what else could I do with the time / freedom I have to sacrifice for the job?”

It might be different if you have no family, less hobbies and inclination towards outdoor activities, but in the Woodpecker case the opportunity costs are simply huge.
I have just too many ideas how to spend my time outside of work in a very satisfying way, and the Woodpecker family not only needs a lot of vacations, days off, parental leaves etc to do so, but also a very relaxed working week to get household things done Monday to Friday evenings, such that the weekends are completely free from Friday early afternoon on.
Social life at Woodpecker’s is booming, the network of downshifting and outdoor focussed people is ever-growing and requests / ideas for frugal weekends and weekday evening activities are piling up higher than ever before! 🙂

So, sorry, dear employer, but no way that I am sitting in the office until 6 o’clock each day or on Fridays after 3!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

ps. There was a second project related to the work place that I chased the last weeks but this post is too long already. More of this later.