Andrew Wilcox recently shared a story with me about his experiences with conscious lifestyle change. His story includes some insights that I haven’t really touched upon. I asked him if it would be okay to publish it here in my blog, and thankfully he agreed.
Your lifestyle includes the work you do, the income you earn and how you earn it, how you relate to people, how you spend your free time, and even the foods you eat. When you shift towards greater alignment in one area, such as moving from scarcity to abundance or from feeling trapped to feeling free, you’ll often experience positive side effects in other areas that you wouldn’t have predicted.
When thinking about lifestyle changes, it’s common to focus on the freedoms you can gain, such as being your own boss, setting your own schedule, doing rewarding work that you enjoy, traveling, having new experiences, earning good income, attracting loving relationships, etc. Andrew’s story shows the value of another aspect of freedom — the freedom to be fully present when it really matters.
Here’s Andrew’s story:
My father passed away last year.
It’s a sad and tragic moment that comes in everyone’s life to have a parent die… a moment we will all experience eventually (unless a child should die before their parent, an even greater tragedy).
People of course say they are very sorry for my loss, and I appreciate the sentiment, and I do feel profound sadness and great grief… and yet one thing I don’t feel strongly is regret.
Regret would come from not having done what I would have wanted to do, given the situation that this was the year of my father’s death.
The year before, in the summer of 2014, I had attended Steve Pavlina’s Conscious Life Workshop, which had a goal of learning how to live the kind of life you want to live while also making that financially sustainable. Specifically, it had a target of earning $10,000 per month, without having to get a regular job.
Steve has noted that when we work on development in one area of our life we can often find ourselves surprised when that ends up contributing to making a lot of progress in a different area of our life, one that we hadn’t been focused on. This was my experience at the workshop.
Ostensibly about lifestyle and financial abundance, I found myself applying the exercises to my personal relationships. There I had tremendous insights, which made the workshop more than worthwhile!
Still, in the months following the workshop, I was no closer to having a plan for becoming financially secure.
I had ideas, projects I was puttering around with for passive income, but they were more like daydreams. I was spending time on them, but I wasn’t seriously applying myself, and not finding the motivation to do so.
I was working at the time as a freelance programmer… I find people often have any overly romantic view of freelancing. “Wow!” they say, “You could work at the beach!” Well, yes, it is true, it would be possible to carry my laptop to the beach. But programming is a difficult and mentally intensive activity. It’s not something I can do with distractions. And, why would I want to be at the beach if I had to work and was unable to enjoy being at the beach?
And freelancing income can be very sporadic. No one has to hire you. Ideally you’re doing enough marketing to have work lined up, but that takes its own care and attention.
I did have a company called 10x Management representing me as my agent. And you should understand, 10x is the powerful race car of agents. They will negotiate contracts, handle customer relations, market for work… but for myself, I was just kind of puttering around in circles. I was doing some open source work at reduced rates, spending some time helping non-profits and worthy causes, I had various acquaintances with business ideas that they hoped I’d work on for free in return for maybe future equity, I had my own passive income ideas that I was halfheartedly working on, blah blah blah… I wasn’t heading anywhere in particular.
Which of course was ironic since the whole point of the workshop had been to gain focus and to come up with a plan. But I had been applying the exercises to a different area of my life.
The thing about having an agent is that they work for you. Give them a goal (within their area of expertise, i.e. “go negotiate a contract with this customer”), VROOOM off they go and do that. But if I’m just puttering around in circles, what do I need a race car for? It wasn’t that I was unhappy with 10x. 10x was fantastic. But if I’m being a dilettante about freelancing, why have an agent?
So I mentioned offhand to Steve that I was thinking of dropping my agent. I remember Steve looked dubious. It’s funny, we didn’t even have a conversation about it. It wasn’t like Steve even said, “gee, are you sure?” or something like that. He just kind of went “hmmm” and the conversation moved on.
The next part of the story I feel a little bit guilty about. I realize not everyone happens to have 25 years of skilled experience in a field which happens to be in high demand. Not everyone has a leading talent agent working for them. But if you imagine yourself in my shoes for a moment, having lots of skill and potential but still floundering around, not sure what to do, unhappy at living hand to mouth, what could I do? What would be the smallest possible step to accomplish the goal of the workshop? What could take less time… than sending one short email?
After Steve looked dubious I gave the situation a second thought. There are lots of things that I might do that might be cool, make a good story, perhaps involving passive income, developing a product… but what if my only goal, or at least my first goal, was just to make $10K/month? Steve’s point was that he had found $10K/month a turning point, where money no longer was a real obstacle for him. And I was tired of living hand-to-mouth while pursuing ideas… ideas that I didn’t actually really care intrinsically about.
I emailed my agent and said that I knew I had previously been going in a bunch of different directions, but that I wanted to set a new goal for myself. A minimum income goal of $10K/month. That all this other stuff I was doing, stuff that I was doing for free or for reduced rates or for the possible equity etc., maybe I might still do, but only after my minimum income goal had been met.
And 10x made it happen.
If Steve hadn’t looked dubious, if I hadn’t happened to remark on my passing thought, if I hadn’t happened to drop in and visit Steve when I passing through town, if I hadn’t gone to the workshop… I probably would have stopped dilly-dallying around with sporadic freelancing and just gotten a job. Because, you know, steady income. Job.
If I had gotten a job, and then my father had become ill, I could have arranged some vacation time no doubt, maybe some kind of compassionate leave. Two weeks, certainly. Maybe three… perhaps. Four, probably starting to push it. More? Rather unlikely.
But there was no moment where it was clear, this is it, we know he is going to die. He had a serious medical condition and a weak heart, and it was 50/50 whether he might pull through. Even on the day when his heart finally did give out, there was as far as we knew still a chance that he might recover enough to live for a few more years. Or, maybe, to hang on for a couple more months in the hospital, and perhaps pass away then.
There wasn’t any point where I could have said, now. Now is the time that I should take the two weeks vacation. Now is the time that I should travel across the country to be with my father in his last days. I could have taken vacation when he first became sick, and then since he was in the hospital for over a month probably I would have had to return to work before his final days. Or, I might have held off, trying to judge when would be the right time to go… and ended up not going until he finally passed away. It is very unlikely that I would have been able to time it just right to be able to be there at the end.
As a freelancer, no one is managing me. No one is looking over my shoulder to see if I’m getting work done. When a potential customer asks me if I can do a project for them, I evaluate the project against my skills and abilities and either say, “yes, I can do that”, or, “no, I’m sorry, that’s not something I’d be able to do a good job at”. And once I say “yes”, it’s up to me to get it done. I make my own decision whether I can do the work in one location or another. I need not ask permission of anyone because I’m the one taking responsibility for getting the work done.
And I made the determination, my own determination, that for the work I was doing, I’d be able to do it while staying at my parent’s house. Which turned out to be correct.
My mother and my sisters and I stayed with my father at the hospital in shifts. They would visit during the day, and then I’d visit him in the evening after I had worked. I was able to visit my father every day of his illness. And, when he did pass away, I was able to continue to spend even more time supporting my mother with her transition.
This was a great gift. There comes a point when I have enough stuff, and making more money to be able to get more stuff isn’t useful. More important is the freedom and flexibility to be able to live where I want to live and do what I want to do. Which in this case was to be able to be with my family in their time of need.
Thanks so much for sharing this, Andrew.