Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ben Fountain decides to try something different

The following resonated with me, because it reminded me of the time I left a corporate job I absolutely loved.
“I was tremendously apprehensive,” Fountain recalls. “I felt like I’d stepped off a cliff and I didn’t know if the parachute was going to open. Nobody wants to waste their life, and I was doing well at the practice of law. I could have had a good career. And my parents were very proud of me—my dad was so proud of me. . . . It was crazy.”
That is Malcolm Galdwell writing about author Ben Fountain, a successful lawyer deciding that he wanted to be a writer instead though he had no real writing experience. The above is from Gladwell's essay on late bloomers.

Aside 1: I read Fountain's book “Brief Encounters with Che Guevara,” when it came out in 2006 and loved the stories. He is such a talented writer, and until I read this essay I had no idea that he had to struggle for so long before he became an 'overnight success.' Read the book.

Aside 2: After reading Gladwell's the essay "John Rock's Error" I was wondering why women weren't emailing it to other women. And everyone who sees the world in black & white, and is angry about what Enron did should read "Open Secrets."

Overall, I am extremely impressed with Gladwell's book "What the Dog Saw." His other books get a lot more press, but this collection of his New Yorker pieces covers such a wide range of topics. He so thoughtfully takes the contrarian view and makes me rethink my many stereotypes. I have no hesitation in labeling the book a 'must-read.'

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What are these posts about?

The title of this blog is not accurate. It is difficult to be accurate while also being succinct.

When I was setting up this blog, I couldn’t possibly name it "An Attempt to Give Up A Regular 9-5 Corporate Job In Order to Obtain Lots Of Free Time, Pursue Leisure and To Get By with Occasional Paid Gigs." So, I went with something reasonably catchy.

But I hardly ever use the word "retirement" in conversations with respect to myself. I now feel that the words 'retirement' or even 'sabbatical' are too blunt for what I am attempting to do.

When I look at what ties the posts in this blog, I see two of my obsessions recurring.
They are 1) Financial independence and 2) Getting free time.

Actually, even those two are not very accurate. What I am really interested in is getting to choose how I spend my time (autonomy over time). And for most of us, that is only possible if we take care of the money question. In this blog, financial independence is narrowed down to 'freedom from dependence on a monthly paycheck.' So these are the two central underlying themes that I post about.

Staying Sharp: One of my big fears is that an unexercised brain will quickly go to mush. As our world gets increasingly complex, I especially worry about how I will stay sharp. Under the broad label of intellectual stimulation I post about puzzles and games.

Getting inspired by those who are trying very different lifestyles: I am fascinated by people who are trying out unconventional things, shunning traditional routes. Since we can't all try everything out, we have to learn from others who are trying to move off the conventional grid in small and big ways, and maybe find a few aspects to incorporate into our own lives. So I sometimes post about that.

The specifics of how each one of us can get away from a dependence on a monthly paycheck varies from person to person. So my posts are about a few basic financial guidelines and also about my situation.

I also wouldn’t presume to tell others what to do with the free time once they get it.

But why is getting autonomy over time so important?

Because deep down I believe that if all my friends and all the readers of this blog get autonomy over time (full control over how they choose to spend their time), each one will eventually get around to "doing good." Sure, the definition of doing good in society will vary for each of us. Doing good, as I repeatedly find, is actually not straightforward, and I sometimes post about that.

Staying sharp, and learning from others about how to get control over our time so that we can perhaps do a little good.

These are the things I post about.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Data Driven Life - The emerging self-tracking movement

"One of the reasons that self-tracking is spreading widely beyond the technical culture that gave birth to it is that we all have at least an inkling of what’s going on out there in the cloud. Our search history, friend networks and status updates allow us to be analyzed by machines in ways we can’t always anticipate or control. It’s natural that we would want to reclaim some of this power: to look outward to the cloud, as well as inward toward the psyche, in our quest to figure ourselves out."

This is from an article in The New York Times by Wired's Gary Wolf. I do a bit of self-tracking myself, but the people mentioned in this article take it to the limit. Ben Lipkowitz's life-logging project logs everything he's done in the last 5 years in categories. People are tracking time in 2-minute segments, tracking every idea one has had in the last decade, tracking their physical location using GPS. This is way beyond what we would normally see in Facebook entries and on Twitter. Looks like we have a whole new field of data analytics emerging.

I track things in the hope that I can analyze the data some day in the future and perhaps learn things about myself. I had no idea that there were so many other self-trackers, and these people are obsessed. Check out the fascinating article.