Month: October 2016

Spring Cleaning

October 20th

Spring is well and truly here and it’s time to clear out the cupboards of my mind to prepare for another move. This time, it’ll be a move to about two square metres of house space…

With the prospect of moving further south now that it is warming up (although I’m told it’s still frigid down there), it’s time to look at what comes with and what gets turfed. Funny how much we accumulate even when space is limited. I’ll be sticking with the caravan for now, but the end goal is to have my rig built and ready to set out on The Longest Walk in January.

This means downsizing to a ridiculous degree while still retaining all I’ll need to stay internet capable and able to provide basics for myself and the dogs. Building has begun already, with the intention of making a kind of kit-set ready to assemble when I get to Gore. From what has been rigged so far, you can get an idea of how small I’m talking.

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The chassis-to-be and wheels for my home for the next year (?)

It also brings logistical concerns such as storing or selling the excess. With this come several emotional/psychological challenges. Not only do we accumulate, but we attach ourselves to the stuff that collects. Taking stock in the caravan, I realised that actually, most of it really only applies in the caravan ‘system’, so luckily, it’s only really clothes and tools that need sorting. But the caravan itself presented more of an issue.

I have no issues flipping cars when their purpose is fulfilled. They’ve not been a status or ego things since the teenage years. That’s certainly the plan as soon as we’re parked up in Gore. The caravan however, also represents significant capital that could be liberated. Furthermore, it may not weather well in the cold and damp of the deep south very well. It may be best to flick that on too and leave the future to sort itself out.

That’s a fairly big psychological hurdle for me though. Not only does it represent tied up capital, it also represents a means to responsibly manage my dogs on others’ property. In short, it represents an important back-up where there is no certain plan for the future. That’s a big call. In a more conventional sense, I’m attached to the time investment I made in renovating it and the fact that it is set up especially to meet our needs.

So, whether I decide to keep or sell it, I’ve begun the process of detaching from the caravan. And I gotta tell ya, it feel good. Lighter somehow. As one of the other tenants here flippantly said of my proposed adventure “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. This line from the famous song of the same name has been lingering in my thoughts. It’s really quite profound the difference that release of attachment has made and it’s another step toward discovering just how little I need to live in relative comfort.

This process has also brought to mind how long this process has been. It occurred to me that tit has not been just this year. Not really. While my childhood was in family homes of three, four and five bedrooms, my adulthood has been in several small spaces. First came a tent (for over six months) while working at an outdoor camp. After a short period living back home while studying, it was off to a series of three tiny bedrooms in various share houses. A bigger room and eventually a flat shared with just my partner came next. Even that time was interspersed with army expeditions into the bush, carrying my house on my back.  A month-long trip living in a car and tent was next. Followed by another month-long trip in a camper (van). Four years in tiny, shoebox-sized apartments in Korea before returning to relatively ‘normal’ accommodation in Australia. That brings us up to now… a pop-top caravan moving on to a micro-camper based on a bike trailer.

WTF?! How did that even happen? And why? I haven’t really worked that through fully in my head just yet, but I found it intriguing that it has happened without planning it. And I guess it is this history of upheaval and minimalist living that makes now relatively comfortable. Funny how life puts a pathway to opportunities before us.

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Freedom Is: Going to the Dogs

18th October, 2016

Today’s interview is with Trish Harris. Trish is, among other things, one of the happiest people I know. While she may be small in stature, she is huge on personality and cares deeply for those she holds dear. She is one of those rare people who exemplifies the art of living. I had a hunch she would have some advice on how to live consciously.

Trish is an important mentor and previous employer of mine in her role running Four Paws K9 Training. Four Paws is one of the largest and most successful dog training businesses in Melbourne, Australia. She has crafted a lifestyle around her business which allows her freedom to live in rural bliss, paying close attention to her diet and health. Listen in for a bit more on how she has got to where she is and some advice from someone living life their way.

Sometimes it takes a severe shock to the system to choose meaningful change. I once heard it put (and I’m paraphrasing here) that sometimes life whispers in your ear what you are meant to do. If you don’t listen, it gives you a nudge. If you still don’t listen, it gives you a push. If you still choose not to listen you get a shove off the edge of a cliff. Maybe we should learn to listen to the whispers and then just take that leap ourselves.

I’d like to thank Trish one more time for her time and advice. If you are in the Melbourne area dealing with dog issues of any kind, I don’t hesitate for a second in recommending Trish. Pop over to her website http://fourpawsk9training.com.au/ for more information on her services or to order her new book “When Three’s a Crowd”.

KICK ME!

One of the key things that is coming through from EVERYONE talking about taking responsibility for one’s life is ACTION!

Today I took a big step in acting towards my dream. I launched a Kickstarter to fund the first of (hopefully) several children’s books about dog safety and dog training for kids. It’d be awesome if you could pop over to the campaign and share the link and/or contribute. This is a pretty big deal for me and I’d really appreciate your help 🙂

You can find it here:

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Please click through to help me fund my Kickstarter. I appreciate it a lot https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1627759942/dog-proof-armour-for-kids

Freedom is: Living in NZ… Working in Europe

October 5th, 2016

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Photo Source: unsplash.com (David Maciejewski and Tommy Ferraz)

There we were, sitting in their lovely home by the sea. Nestled amongst some of the world’s most pristine beaches and forests in a region known for its warm weather throughout the year. Corinne and Nick live here and run their tour business in Holland from home.

I met Corinne and Nick through my dog walking job where I get the privilege of walking their lovely dogs. It’s been great getting to know them over the last few months and seeing how hard work can lead good people to freedom and happiness. This is their story of how some of their choices and actions got them to where they are now. It’s a story of passion, persistence and near-death experiences. At their request, it has been transcribed below rather than posting audio (abridged in places for ease of reading).

Corinne: “Hi, I’m Corinne and I’m originally from Holland”

Nick: “And I’m Nick. I was born in the United States in the mid-seventies and have been gone for close to forty years. Thirty-seven years in Holland before coming here to New Zealand about seven years ago.”

Me: “Could you please let us know a bit about your business?”

Nick: “It’s a travel company. They originally referred to it as an incoming tour operator…. We arranged programmes for people that were coming from other countries, coming into the Netherlands and Belgium and we would arrange programmes for them.
We started off doing what they call special interest programmes and we’d work a lot for non-profit organisations. So that’s something like the National Geographic Society, or the Smithsonian, different museums…. In the United States, the government doesn’t fund a lot of those organisations, so they raise their money by sponsoring tours. They’ll send a curator along, or a botanist if it’s from a botanic garden or something like that. They come to us and ask us to tailor-make a programme for them.
It actually has two sides to it. That side concentrates on the special interest tours and then we have another branch of it that does a lot of work with river cruises in Europe and that’s primarily what Corinne does.”

Corinne: “Which means that when a ship sails through Holland and Belgium, they offer excursions for the people that are on-board or certain shows that they want to have on-board and that’s what we arrange. So we hire guides and motor coaches and canal cruise boats and groups that are going to perform.”

Me: “Ok. So, I see you as successful people who have created your lifestyle very consciously. And perhaps you see it differently. But I was just wondering if you could take a couple of minutes to describe how you see your lifestyle.”

Corinne: “It mostly came about by trial and error, didn’t it? [Nick agrees] And persistence. When we were running the business together in Europe, we had ups and downs. I mean huge ups and huge downs. Especially because we were working a lot with the American market. And if you had a terrorist attack somewhere in the world or a plane that came down, suddenly we would be almost out of business, for a year. Because we work on our programs almost a year in advance. So if something like that happened, the whole business would kind of fall apart and we would be wondering what to do next.
I think we are now at a point where we have evened all that out, so it’s much more stable. We’re less affected by those kind of things. That has come about because we have moved away from just working in one particular area… by me going into the cruise area as well. And at one certain time, even that we weren’t sure about, so on top of that, we both decided we were going to go and do something else outside of the business just as a back-up plan.
What was the other thing?”

Nick: “And being willing to go outside of your comfort zone. [Corinne agrees]”

Me: “So that is how you managed to get there. What do you see your lifestyle as now?”

Corinne: “We have periods of the year where we start at maybe eight o’clock and not being done until eight or nine in the evening, especially when it is high season in our business. Then, we have to work through seven days a week, ten hours. But we always know that is only for a certain period of time and we know when that will end. [Nick agrees] But that’s part of the choice of how we live…. Once we get through that, it sort of slows down and that’s when you see us sitting outside, having coffees in the morning [laughs all around].”

Me: “I do. It looks good.”

Nick: “I think something that we do and have done is always chosen to work in something that we love and that we wanna do. [Corinne agrees] We’ve never gone and done work just to earn money and get by. It’s always been trying to figure out a way that we can do something that we really like doing and get paid for it.
It’s cost a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of ups and downs, but we’ve been very persistent with it and we’ve been doing since 1981. So we’ve been able to build up connections and knowing people and just the experience of doing that. So now we’re at a time of things falling into place and it allows us to do the things we wanna do…
We’ve more or less got the technical aspects of how we can run the business down… and because it is very seasonal. We have a lot of time where we’re very busy… but for the most part it’s stuff that’s pretty exciting and then, outside of that, we’re just making proposals and preparing for the next round… And it gives us the opportunity to live here and look like we’re not doing anything. [laughs all around] But we actually are. [more laughs]”

Me: “Was there a defining moment where you decided to follow a career path that created your own lifestyle consciously?

Corinne: “I think for both of us, we never really consciously chose to go into this direction. It’s not something we got our education for. For me in any case, it just kind of happened and I enjoyed it and I continued doing it. You [Nick] had more or less the same thing. You were travelling through Europe and you ended up helping some people running the business and you enjoyed it….
It’s basically because we both like what we do and we can work together quite well. But there definitely has been one defining moment that changed our perspective. Which was when I ended up in the hospital just from one moment to the next. I had to be operated on urgently and they told you [Nick] to say goodbye…. I think after that things changed even more…. It really put our priorities straight.”

Nick: “That was always a point we could use as a reference point…. When things were going not so good, we thought “It could be worse” and it also gave us an opportunity to say “Well, let’s do it. Why not?” [Corinne agrees]
We had visited friends in New Zealand quite often. At one point, we were sitting on the Kapiti Coast in a little restaurant, right on the beach, looking down over Kapiti Island and we said “It’d be nice some time to maybe move here…. and then when the time came that I was 56 and that was the cut-off point being able to immigrate into New Zealand, we said “Ok, let’s do this. Why not?”
It’s one of those things that we’d laugh and say “If youd known everything that that would entail, would we have done it?”

Corinne: “You’re better not to know everything.” [all laugh]

Me: “Are there any key challenges that you faced along the way? And how did you go about overcoming them?”

Nick: “In 2008 with the economic crisis, with the work that we were originally doing, we would work twelve to fifteen months in advance and people can cancel up to three months before the tour goes and then the gulf war would break out in January and our trips were all scheduled in April and May and they were cancelled. So you’d lose a year’s worth of preparation. So we’d do all that preparation and we wouldn’t charge for that.

Me: “ And I suppose there’s a flip side to that, in that you are so advanced in your preparations and you can see that people aren’t making the bookings and…”

Both: “Yes”

Nick: “We’d watch all of that. But with that, we’ve tried never to get ourselves into any financial commitments in the future… We do a lot of work from home and a lot of things to keep our running costs down. So that gives us flexibility to adapt to those situations… Not taking on future commitments or renting out office space…”

Corinne: “Or buying a house, for that matter. It took us forever before we decided to actually buy a house.”

Nick: “Something else happened: a war or terrorist attack or something. We decided we’ll continue with this, but is there anything else you’ve ever wanted to do?… and we’d go to study for it. So we’d always have a back-up… so we could always earn money in a different way. So Corinne did a course to become a Private Investigator”

Me: “Really?! Nice.” [Nick and I laugh. Corinne nods]

Nick: “And I went in more to the Physiotherapy and Osteopathy and that type of work”

Me: “Cool”

Nick: “So we could always fall back on that.”

Corinne: Once of the risks we were running is that we were both involved in the same business. If anything happened, we would both be with our backs against the wall. So we’ve learned to always have a back-up plan. To have a way out….
It took the pressure off us to have to perform in our travel business. As a result of that, we think it relaxed everything and suddenly we got all that business coming in. It was a little bit unexpected.”

Me: “Do you think maybe you began to project a different energy in your communications.”

Corinne: “Yes. We were trying too hard and now we’re much more relaxed about it. And we’re thinking “If you don’t choose us, see if you can get it better anywhere else”. And it has happened that clients decided they were gonna go to another operator and try them because they probably offer a better price and then the year after that, they came back to us. That’s because we’re just so chilled about it and we do think we’re good at what we’re doing.

Nick: “We’re a lot more flexible about how we operate after that.”

Corinne: “And not having commitments helped… Not having a house. Not having children, for that matter…. We were much more flexible to move and go away and do this and that. We never wanted to get ourselves tied down.

Me: “If you were to start again knowing what you know now, is there anything you think you would have done differently?”

Together: “No”

Nick: “That’s always been our philosophy, is that it’s all a learning process… We’d always try to learn something from it and take that with us, going forward… It’s the whole journey that’s what it’s about.

Corinne: “I don’t know if that’s what we would think had things not gone the way we wanted them to go, but at this point, no… It really is a lot about timing: the right thing at the right time.”

Me: “Is there any advice you’d give to someone like me who’s consciously trying to take the reins of their life?”

Nick: “A couple of things. The first is probably easier to say than to do, it’s to not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. And if you have something in mind, picture just what you want and just work towards that. We were lucky because what we were doing is what we enjoyed. Just keeping true to that and not getting bogged down and settling for something less.”

Corinne: “That’s what I think: Don’t sell yourself short. Go for what you have in mind and don’t settle for less.”

Nick: “A lot of people will say “Why do you wanna do that?” or “Are you sure you wanna do that?”… We had a very comfortable life in Holland and people said “Why do you wanna leave this?!”… “

Me: “We can do better.”

Corinne: “No. It’s not about doing better…”

Nick: “It’s the idea of what do you want out of life… We could stay here and live a comfortable life, but your gonna start ‘rusting’. There’s still more to do.”

Me: “Well that’s all I’ve got. Did you have anything you wanted to add?”

Both: “No”

Me: “Well, thank you very much for having me over to your house and giving the interview.”

The take-home points for me were that they followed what they love and they persevere. There was a running theme of just pushing through the tough bits and keeping perspective. They kept pushing for their dreams even when they were living a ‘pretty good’ life. “Don’t settle for less” were words they both expressed. They knew they could have their dreams if they kept at it. They were very clear that they see the whole journey as a learning curve. They acknowledge highlights and lowlights and recognise that both will pass.

Actually, I stumbled across a quote a couple of days after which sums up this interview very concisely:

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
– Henry David Thoreau

This interview is the first of a series celebrating regular people’s success in consciously creating their lifestyle. In this series, I don’t define success specifically in terms of status, money or title. Instead, I am looking for people who have created freedom to enjoy the lives they seek in whatever terms are important to them. Keep checking in to share in other interesting stories as they become available.

Hand-Me-Downs to Feed the Brain

A photo by Liz Weston. unsplash.com/photos/IOzk8YKDhYg
Photo credit: Hope House Press (unsplash.com)

June 1st– October 3rd

This is a literary review of a stack of books I was given by my wonderful cousin Izzy. One of the best things about the last few months down here in Motueka has been getting to know her and her branch of the family tree. One of the others it chewing on the literature she suggested I read to help achieve my goal of true freedom. As it is a literary blog, I’d like to start with a poem.

Motueka– a Haiku by Stephen Brassett

People are nice here.
Very seldom is it cold.
Come visit. It’s choice.

I know. I know. You are blown away by the overwhelming intensity of such deep sentiments. What can I say? It’s a gift. Fun fact: I chose a haiku because they had a haiku competition at the library here a couple of weeks ago. Well… that and I was being cheeky.

And on that note, I shall move on. The list comprises mostly two types of books: those about entrepreneurship and wealth creation; and those about effective thinking. Often they overlap into both categories significantly.

First up, Ray Avery’s Rebel With A Cause- New Zealander of the Year. This is a great book for anyone who feels hard done by. Having said that, it is far from a sob story claiming rags to riches and ‘woe is me’. Blah blah blah… Ray seems like a top chap with a positively incredible attitude towards life. Then again, he did write the thing, so I guess that’s how one would probably choose to portray oneself.

Seriously though, his story from an abusive family life, through orphanages and some fairly humbling trials made me appreciate my advantages a little more. His school of hard knocks included many beatings, living under a bridge in brutal London weather and shows how, far from keeping him down, it caused him to become more creative. He problem solved and used his positive attitude to win people over in a relentless bid to design a life of independence and success. He managed to put himself through school and build several companies from nothing. His efforts to help people in developing worlds help themselves are truly spectacular and his dedication to quality control systems is something any entrepreneur can learn from. Well worth a read.

Next came The Power of Healthy Thinking to Change Your Attitude and Your Life by ‘The Attitude Doctor’, Dr Tom Mullholland. The title may run on a bit, but the book is actually quite compact. A great one for your handbag maybe. A page out of this has become the background for my phone since I read it. His archetypes of negative thinking patterns and their complimentary alternatives are a kind of retraining system for your mind. The theory is to catch yourself in unhealthy/ineffective thinking patterns and sub in a more useful alternative.

It’s one of those ‘use it or lose it’ types of things it seems. I did find it useful for a little while there, but I haven’t really been using it much recently. Perhaps I will make an effort to. His approach has far-reaching potential in both your mental health and how you communicate. In turn, I could definitely see it having effects in every avenue of life. Stories of his own life as well of those of his clients seem to corroborate that idea too. Probably not for everyone as it is sorely lacking in dragons and sex scenes, but if you are into self-help types of books, you could do far worse. Have a look.

Next up came a couple that I will count as one entry. They are both by Brandon Bays: Freedom Is and The Journey for Kids. They get just one entry because, to be honest, they didn’t hit the mark for me. For those who are not aware (I wasn’t), Brandon is famous for her book The Journey, which talks about the use of intuitive healing. That’s probably got the hackles up for many people as they read it. Personally, I keep an open mind about ‘alternative’ healing methodologies. If they work, that’s the main thing really.

It doesn’t put me off if they get labelled as placebo effects and I’m not bothered if science cannot (yet) explain how things work. As Arthur C. Clarke said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. He reminds us that we don’t understand everything yet and sometimes it’s not because it’s invalid. Only that we’ve not worked it out properly.

Alas, I digress. The thing that made them hard for me to connect with was their infomercial tone. They are both just a litany of testimonials of how wonderful the approach is and how it had helped. While the approach may or may not work, the lack of evidence or even a theory of how it might work made for pretty unconvincing reading. That was MY take anyway. Personally, I think you’d be better off reading/watching The Secret or What the Bleep Do We Know?! The message of attracting those things that you focus on is really the same for me. I did enjoy the way she adapted the Journey Work for kids by laying them out in story form with balloons representing positive internal faculties though.

His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama weighs in next. He bounds out of the blue corner ready to defeat his enemies with love and compassion. Happiness in a Material World- The Dalai Lama in Australia and New Zealand (by Gabriel Lafitte and Alison Ribush) is all about his visits and messages to those of us Down Under and Across the Ditch. It’s what you would expect of such a work if you’ve had much experience of Buddhism. It’s all about non-attachment and calm observation being the key to happiness. I’m a big fan of this approach although I’m also far from a master at it. It seems to be useful to come back to it periodically and be reminded by the pros.

This book’s focus on the verses of Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment was useful for me. I’ve never seen a whole religion so well summed up in sixty-eight verses before. The authors have summarised the Dalai Lama’s explanations of this ancient text quite well and expanded for the lay man where it is not as clear. It also outlines the stories of various Dalai Lamas through history and we see how to be proactive rather than passive while still remaining detached.

In stark contrast come the nest two books about the cut-throat world of business. Cue Presidential Candidate Donald J Trump and his co-author Robert T Kiyosaki jump in with Why We Want You To Be Rich. Although I suspect Meredith McIver and Sharon Lechter (with their names in substantially smaller font) did much of the writing. My first reaction was “I couldn’t give a flying f*%$ what you want Trump”. But once I’d read through all the rest of the books, I figured I’d flick through it.

And flick through is exactly what I did for most of the first hundred pages. They outlined doom and gloom and how dire the situation was for America and all the ‘muricans. Blah blah blah… I felt justified in my hesitation to read it as it seemed like another “Create the problem and offer the solution” type of scaremongering to control the masses. – see Y2K, 9/11, the Gulf War, the War on Terror, the Homeland Security Act, Bird Flu and countless other fear-based control tactics for more information. It was also a blatant plug for Kiyosaki’s range of wealth creation products.

However, I must say that the information after the intro was very good stuff. The only thing that kept me going to that point is that these are two very wealthy men who obviously know about successful lifestyle design. The fact they have designed a different lifestyle to my own vision is irrelevant. Idealism is one thing, but the blunt truth is that you need either the physical resources or the money to buy those resources in order to live sustainably. Currently, I have neither and I’m quickly realising that I need to find a middle way in order to succeed. Decreasing expenses has freed up time, allowed me to develop The Longest Walk and the first of my kid’s books. But creating wealth one way or another is the only way it can continue for much longer.

Anyway, this book and Kiyosaki’s other book (also in my reading list) If You Want to Be Rich and Happy, Don’t Go to School help define a way into wealth creation through investments and entrepreneurship (as opposed to being an employee or self-employed). They are about learning to use your money to create wealth. I’m not big on the property investment focus of it. You may have already read my theory on closing the economic gap. While I can see the obvious advantages for the investor, I struggle to embrace the idea morally, as it keeps the poor powerless. That said, Kiyosaki’s business is all about trying to educate people to help themselves out of this plight too, so he is at least trying to do good while still being ruthlessly pragmatic.

The contrast between Buddhist teachings of living dispassionately and a man (Trump) saying “Without passion you don’t have energy; without energy you have nothing” is tough to bring into alignment. These two heavyweights are definitely not short on pride in their accomplishments but they are also somewhat detached from the money side of it. They seem to be much more interested in money being an indicator of success at ‘the game’. For me, both books have caused a slight shift for me and helped me see money more as a tool and tipped me a little closer to understanding how to make it work for me. They’ve also shown me I need to start practising if I ever hope to get it properly and that’s what I intend to do while I have small expenses.

So that is The Great Motueka Book Review for today. Until next time, stay safe and keep working on how you can free yourself and design your life. I will be. Actually, I have a new idea for that and it will feature in blogs soon. I will be interviewing people about their own paths to success and freedom in the hopes we can all learn from them. There are a couple already lined up and I’m looking forward to it.