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

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

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

Are we Really Living in a Society Driven by Fear? …and What to Do Against It

People increasingly feel uneasy because they think all decisions have to be made perfectly correct to avoid ending on the "looser road"

People increasingly feel uneasy because they think all decisions have to be made perfectly correct to avoid ending on the “looser road” (link to clip see below)

Seen a great little film today on the media site of German Television (ARD).

It is about us being a “society of fear”. The clip is about German society, but certainly describes the feeling in many if not most modern societies.

Key theses are:

  1. The whole society today is basically driven by fear
  2. Everybody is obsessed by status and even more by the fear of loosing his/her current status
  3. People feel the constant urge to compete and want to be “fit
  4. People have the feeling they always have to choose and always have to be chosen
  5. Thus people become “radar persons”, always sensing for feedback from the outside (waiting for the “I like” of others) instead of trusting in their own intuition or inner guiding.
  6. People have the feeling that all relationships are alway cancel-able. Thus security dwindles
  7. We are more and more becoming a society of lone warriors
  8. All of this leads to a diffuse unease. But people see no real alternative, thus carry on.

A very accurate assessment of the situation in my opinion.

Link here (German only).

Having said that the question is out what can you do against this unease that probably most of us will feel from time to time.

Obviously I don’t have the answer (yet 😉 ).

But a few of Woodpeckers mantras is certainly helpful to address most of the points above:

  • Improve and nurse your social contacts.
  • Hook up to groups, societies, or (if you feel like) to political parties, NGOs etc. And I mean offline, not online. Online communities are worth close to nothing if the shit hits the fan.
  • Always prioritize friends and families above work, duty, competition etc.
  • Understand that all this “a crisis is coming” talk is bullshit (see this post). We all have food, housing, warmth and clothes in full abundance and almost certainly will still have all of this for lifetime.
  • Be open and welcoming to all sorts of people. Use tit-for-tat in case the other misbehaves, but always start out friendly and trusting and be ready to forgive.
  • Never burn bridges.
  • Try to revive old contacts, even if they were buried for decades.
  • Understand that people will use this kind of fear to intimidate you and make you do what they want (to work cheap, to obey, to be “flexible” etc.). Resist and you will see that you have more negotiation power than others try to tell you.
  • Do a good job in your employment, but don’t play the work-drone. Once others notices you do everything, they will shovel everything on you. Not good.
  • Do sports, out-door activity, travelling to concentrate mind and body.
  • Spend more time offline and without news / internet. Definitly no blackberry outside office-hours!
  • Try to turn off all communication devices after e.g. 8 p.m. Learn to be by yourself or with the people who accompany you this very moment.

Any more suggestions by readers?!

Please comment, all ideas are welcome.

Cheers,

Woodpecker

A Rant agains the Modern Flexible and Mobile Employee Idea

...and it's lovely food. Here: Weisswurst Breakfast.

Still in love with the city of my choice, and it’s fantastic food. Here: Weisswurst Breakfast

A well-established concept of the modern work life is the “flexible employee”, always changing city and job.

The idea the apologists of “life is all about work” are pushing is that the modern employee has always to be “mobile“, “flexible“, always willing to leave his place of living or his company and go where ever a job pops up or the employer wants him to go.

It is said that this is
(a) necessary in today’s globalized world (probably to stay “competitive” or whatever crap)
and
(b) it is for the best of the employee, as he will get so enriched by all this experiences that this is a far better life than sticking to his back-yard home town or dusted old employer/department

I think this is all a load of crap.

Munich - you may live long and prosper!

Munich – you may live long and prosper!

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing against leaving your hometown and switching the place you life and your employer a few times. Woodpecker did the same in the past when he was younger and did not regret it.

But there is one caveat:
You have to know when enough is enough.
The benefits of seeing something new are indeed great when you are young, at a time you do not have yet any roots anyway. But then, when you get a bit older, you have to be careful not to miss the opportunity to settle down and build up the benefits of not being mobile both regarding place to live and employer.

You have to be careful not to become one of the countless sad rootless roamers of the modern economy who get more and more restless and disoriented because they are not able to quit their wandering.

Some of the benefits of not being mobile are:

  1. Social dividends
    I repeat myself, but it cannot be said often enough that building up real social ties do take a lot of time. A person you meet 5 times for a beer might feel like a friend for the moment, but probably he is not really a friend. So many people I see in fact to not know what a real friend is anymore. Because a real friendship will take years and years to develop and grow. It takes time and them some more time to get firm and stable.
    Thus the downshifter shall (a) care to have enough free-time to spend with friends, (b) select friends who have time as well and (c) stay around a certain area after a certain age to enroot things further.
  2. Benefits of the first mover
    When staying in a given place or company for a long time, you sooner or later will have the right connections, the local knowledge and the benefit of long optimization that will give you good deals in many aspects: Much better and cheaper living (you had the time to optimize, know the market and the good areas), less stress in private live and in your job (you know how to avoid it, you know the people in your company and how to play the politics game there without too much effort), good value choices (you know the value places, the great spots, when to be there, which road and time to use etc.)
  3. Benefits of the incumbent
    After having waited for some time you will finally have access to scarce resources, like places at the cheap state childcare, a good house for a small rent, joining clubs or interested groups difficult to find, having the great and relaxed position in your company, avoiding the ugly work which you can shovel over to the eager new-comers etc.
  4. Invulnerability
    This is your home-turf. You know this area in town or this company since ages. You know the rules, you know the important people., you found your niche. After that much time they have accepted you and/or they don’t want to have you as an enemy because you know too much.
    This makes life so much easier compared to the ever-changing and moving vagabond. Even your boss will not be able to hurt you after a certain time. Great and important for any downshifter or free-spirited person! (Needless to say that your employer might not be so happy about this and will urge for constant change. Resist!)
  5. Feeling of belonging
    Oh no, Woodpecker again with his old-school and outdated 20th century style antic values.
    But seriously, those values are not out-dated. They never were. Only some crazy maniac “efficiency and growth rules it all”-freaks are telling you they are. This morons are wrong! A feeling of belonging is great. And it for sure is something a lot of people are lacking today. Most of them without knowing.
    So, create a feeling of belonging to your city of choice, your country, your continent, your flock of friends and family, and also to your company and industry.
    All of them may have flaws, but that’s where you still belong to anyway. Accept their flaws and yours will be accepted, too.
  6. Reduction of choices
    What? Woodpecker is telling me to voluntarily reduce my so beloved choice-space?! Yes. I do. Because a problem of today’s modern life is not that we have too little choices but too much! Every psychologist can tell you that this is creating stress. The fear of missing out. The fear of not picking “the best” (whatever that might be). The fear of making a choice at all.
    So make that decisions at some time: This is the place I stay. This is the company I belong to. This is my family. You might curse your decision from time to time, but overall you will be better off with this more simplified life.
  7. Slowing down
    Yes, it is great and thrilling to see new things. And you should continue to do so. But it is also important to be able to slow down a bit. And you can do that better if you are not changing city, employer and partner every year.
    Keep your curiosity and keep having your thrills, but you can do that as well by travelling, or moving within your city of choice, or to the countryside close-by and then back to downtown a few years later etc. No need to live in New York today, Bombay next year and Tokyo the year after, only to experience new things.
  8. Avoid Unhappiness from Restless Wandering
    Many studies show that – contrary to what most affected people say when you ask them – expats and people working abroad rate significantly below locals in happiness and life satisfaction. The interesting thing is that the most happy persons are often the ones that sticked in their town for a very long time, and ideally are getting old together with the friends and people from their youth.
  9. Avoid getting exploited
    See (4). You know the rules after some time, you now the potential dangers and benefits. You will not get tricked easily after some time in a job or city.
  10. The deep drill
    To know something really, to get to the deeper layers, you need time and muse. I have seen so many people who spent a year here and a year there for their jobs, but learned nothing about the culture and the specifics of their host countries. Because they only stayed in an artificial expat-bubble and did not have time or will to look closer. Wasted time then.
tracht

This guys appear more happy to me than the average modern flexible and globalized consultant guy.

So what would I recommend?

After moving out from at home take your time to look around. Travel a lot, ask a lot of people, visit different models of life, swap town and employer a few times if you want.
But swap consciously and with open eyes, not because your employer sais: “You now go to xyz” or because next door you can earn 10% more.
Analyze what you like about those places and companies and what you don’t like and then think about it: In which town and with which employer can you max out what you want and need? Where can you feel at home and where can you belong to?

Then make a choice and stay with it.
If circumstances really make it necessary you can always switch again. But don’t do it because someone tells you “it is good for your career” or something.
No problem with extended travelling or a few months abroad. But have a firm and stable home base for you and your family. This is important.

You might ask now: “What makes Woodpecker so sure about this?”

Because in one of my few bright moments I notices this truth already 17 years ago and after giving it some thoughts happily acted as stated above.
So neither the wonderful town of Munich, not my great employer and job, nor the excellent social ties and the contacts to old and very old friends and an accident. They are choices. Choices I do not regret in the slightest. On contrary, the more time passes I am more and more happy I made them.

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Saving by Efficient Second Hand Buying

You can use money you saved on your cloths shopping to finance a healthy lunch at your next outdoor activity e.g. (Here: Siebenhütten,  Kreuth, Bavaria)

You can use money you saved on your cloths shopping to finance a healthy lunch at your next outdoor activity e.g. (Here: Siebenhütten, Kreuth, Bavaria)

Frequent readers noticed that I got away from focusing too much on aggressive money accumulation because it became clear to me that obsession about money leads as well to unhappiness as having no money at all.

Having said that I still 100% subscribe to the need of efficient spending.

The concept is easy:

Money can buy you nice things and possibilities but money typically is in short supply, plus we downshifters are not into working long hours to maximize income.

Thus spending money on the right things, as well as spending as little as possible on a give thing we want to buy, are important.

One way to do this is to buy second-hand stuff:

In todays consumption and throw away world, actually the second-hand market is one of the most inefficient markets I know – to the benefit of the buyer!
A book not even read but unpacked typically sells for only 60% of original price. Once read but in perfect condition it drops to 30%.
Electronic articles are incredibly cheap to get once they are half a year old and thus no more “fashionable”.
Toys, bicycles etc. are available at very low prices even if they are still in very good condition.
In general the second-hand market is always in oversupply as most people buy new stuff far too often with a need to get rid of their old gear.

The same holds to a very large degree for second-hand cloths.

Problem here is that second-hand stores are typically stuffed with all kind of crap, quality is extremely diverse and it is difficult and no fun to find good cloths in those shops.

Now Woodpecker by accident came across a very good internet service (Germany only?) to buy used cloths.

I typically do not promote internet shops and like to assure you that I am not connected nor paid by these guys.

The site is called ubup.com.

It offers an amazing choice of cloths that you can sort by quality, size and brand. They still might want to work on their search function a bit, but in general this is much better and more comfortable than eBay etc.

I (and Mrs. Woodpecker) did some test buys and went only for high-end brands (brands that we typically would seldom buy because they are too expensive in the shop) and for the very high quality section (i.e. barely used or unused).

And, voila, we were very positively surprised. Prices even in the barely used section come in around 25%-30% of the shop price, and the things we got were in fantastic condition, no shipping costs plus you can resend for free.

Please feel absolutely free to ignore this post but if you want to try the shop anyway and would like to support this blog a bit without a cost to you, you can use Woodpeckers promotion code.

That way you will get a 10 EUR deduction from your first purchase, and Woodpecker gets a voucher of 10 EUR as well.

The code works anonymously for both parties (tried it already with Mrs. Woodpecker) and would be:

ZX7BWKWY

Simply enter it at the check out page.

Cheers,

Woodpecker

A Hooray to Idling and Loafing!

For us downshifters, this is the good guy: Epicurus of Samos.

For us downshifters, this is the good guy: Epicurus of Samos…

Today’s world for some reason raised working to a kind of religion.

It seems that without being stressed, without having a “challenging” job, without being busy all day, the modern man or woman is nothing.

At the job, admitting that one has little to do, has a relaxed position or that today coffee-drinking was the predominant task, is close to admitting having leprosy or syphilis.
Someone who is not busy (or does not constantly pretend to be busy) or who is admitting he does the job only for the money is quickly labeled as an outcast. “There must be something wrong with this guy – isn’t he having fun working and being busy?”

Even in their free-time, people do everything to constantly stay busy. Free time activities are squeezed into every single free minute, the idea of productivity and time=money thus even rules our spare time.

Here is a little experiment:

Try out and tell your colleagues on monday on the obligatory “what did you do at the weekend?”-question: “I did nothing but hang out idling“. Do this three weeks in a row and you WILL get some strange looks. 😉

Or ask to reduce to working part-time and try as an argument to your boss: “I’d like to idle and hang out each friday”. For some strange reason this will work less good than saying “I need time for my family, my side business or for preparing for my Mount Everest hike”.

Why is this fixation on work and busyness so predominant in modern times?

I mean after all, today’s world is amazingly productive, so much work is done by machines, wealth is enormous in western societies and beyond everything that people 50 or 100 or 500 years ago would ever have dared to dream of.

So why the hell are we not able to relax a bit?! To let go and accept the status quo for what it is: Great!

This might seem like old-fashioned thinking in today’s world, as the idea of “productivity” and “performance” is so deeply entrenched in most people that they never in their life question this idea.
But I really think there is a kind of religious motive here.

Let’s go back in history a bit. Back to the first society that consciously and systematically thought about what it means to live a good life:

Ancient Greeks

In ancient Greece, the perception of work was clear. It was considered an unfortunate and unwelcome element of life. Something one has to do to get his/her food. But apart from that, work was considered as something that distracts you from developing yourself, enjoying life and having “muse” (Tell someone that this weekend you plan to have some “muse“. They will send you to the doctor!). Consequently the Ancient Greek developed a rich philosophy of happiness, among others my favorite author of that time: Epicurus.

It is funny enough, but I think from then on – and this was 2.300 years ago (!) – the overall societies’ focus on having a good live never again reached that level. It was replaced by something else: To have a productive and successful life. Whereas successful now is defined by “achieving something“, which in turn is set equal to accumulate wealth, possession, status, victories of some sort or power.

If you define success by “having a good life” – enjoy your days, avoid stress and avoid any harm and bad feelings, get free from desire, enjoy time with friends and simple pleasures – this is how Epicurus defined it – you are likely to be labeled as somehow strange, lazy, unwilling or unable. In the best case people will just think you are odd, but in all cases  they will not think you lead a successful life (while you do exactly that).

However, this “ancient” values is exactly what you should focus on.

Protestant work ethics

...and this is the bad guy: John Calvin.

…and this is the bad guy: John Calvin.

A huge caesura was the Lutheran work ethics, and later on the even more drastic Calvinist / Protestant ethic from 16th century on. It was at this point of time that salvation by god was no more taken as anything granted but as something you have to earn. And you have to earn this by being productive and hard-working (Protestant work ethic). It was at this time that the unpleasant formulas “time equals money”, “wasting time is a sin” and “work is an end in itself” came into the world and in fact the philosophy of capitalism was born.

Thus even today, as religion is gone for so many, this strange conditioning still stays in the subconsciousness of people and the society: Salvation comes as a consequence of hard work. And, probably even more so as other ideas of “salvation” are becoming scarce with religion being in retreat.

OK, let’s be fair and admit that calvinism also fostered the excellent idea of democracy and distribution of power. And capitalism and hard work brought huge progress to the world. It made possible all the developments, progress and all the wealth that we are able to enjoy today. Good, thanks for all that. Anyway, let’s be honest guys:

It is a good time to harvest now!

In a western society progress was so huge, wealth is so abundant, that from now on it is really not important to increase consumption and production any more. To the contrary it becomes unhealthy from this point on. Environment is harmed enough, resources are become scarce, other societies in the world have more need for growth than we do and people here get victims of the accelerated change and crazy, senseless growth.

So after centuries of restless growth, it is more than time to take it easy and relax a bit for a change.

And YOU should start doing so today! Especially if you are having an ok or even good job in a western society. Yes, it will mean some pain, because damn, you have to break out of the mass and you have to think about something else to replace the worship of busyness. And this process of thinking is not easy. But before you back away, ask yourself the question:

Do you really want to except that all the meaning of your life is working as efficient as you can, be as productive as possible, earn as much money as possible, climb as many career steps as possible, collect status and power and then be done with it after – don’t know – 30 years, ready to decline slowly and then retire? Do you want that to be your life?

If the answer is YES, fine, go back to work NOW. Nothing wrong with it if this makes you really happy.

If the answer is NO however, then, dear friend, there is no way around thinking what you actually want to do with your life. And very likely this will mean efficiency, work and busyness stepping back. Giving up some career and some professional “achievements” for something else. If you have no idea what to do else yet, start with some heavy loafing and idling (in other words train to have some “muse“) and see what comes to your mind.

And you can easily shift down as an employee in most modern workplaces. Of course you still should honor your work contract, but fortunately there are a million strategies on how to make everyone happy and still don’t have too much stress at work 🙂 .

Not that I want to encourage anyone to grind less of course, but if you would like a bit of help to optimize your job towards more efficiency and less stress (an altruistic goal, isn’t it? As stress is bad for health and thus for society…), an interesting book for a start is said to be:

Die Faultier Strategie

(“the strategy of the sloths”, German only. Let us know about similar books in English or German!)

Cheers,

Woodpecker