Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Perdition County

"Well, get in there and get it done ‘fore it gets too dark.” A small droplet of brown spittle dribbles from Pa’s protruding bottom lip. Leaning over the fence, he spits a brown stream onto the dry ground and wipes the excess away from his face.

“Ah pa, do I have to?”

“You want to be a rancher er not?”

“Yeah. I want to be a rancher.”

“Well, this is part of the job, so yer gonna have to do it eventually. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it” Pa presses the sole of his boot onto a dirt clod and crumbles it into dust.  I sigh and look at the barn. I’ve been dreading this day all summer.

We’d moved to the homestead earlier last fall with enough supplies to get us through the winter, but as soon as spring arrived, there was work to do. Lucky for us, the land was ripe for harvest. Pa worked the fields while ma tended to the kitchen, and when the time was right, my older brother Amon made the trek back into town to drive home the cattle that would help sustain us for the years to come. 

It was a good herd too, the finest in Perdition County. There were bulls and heifers for breeding, dairy cows for milk, butter, and cheese, steers for beef, and lots of little calves.

I liked the calves the best. The mature cattle could be moody at times, but the calves were usually good natured. I liked one calf especially. I named her Lu Lu Bell and raised her as my pet. While the other calves were skittish at first, Lu Lu Bell came right up to me and let me pet her.

Branding day was especially difficult considering my affinity for Lu Lu Bell, but I knew it was necessary to keep her safe. The folks in Perdition County weren’t known for their honesty, and it was fairly common for unbranded cattle to go missing. The thought of Lu Lu Bell ending up on someone’s dinner plate kept me up some nights, so even though I knew it would hurt, I branded her myself. She was scared of me for a couple days after that, but before long, I’d regained her trust.

“Go on already,” Pa holds out the knife. “No use puttin it off.” I look at the barn door and swallow hard. Branding day would be a walk in the park compared to today. Heck, castration day would be a walk in the park compared to today.

“Why can’t Amon do it?” I search for any excuse to keep me from my responsibilities, but Pa’s not having it.

“Amon’s done it plenty of times, now it’s your time to learn.”

“Ain’t nuthin to learn. I already know how to do it. I just don’t want to.”

“Do you want to be a rancher or not?”

I consider the alternatives before answering. “If I do it, do you promise to leave Lu Lu Bell alone?”

“Lu Lu Bell is gonna grow up to be a fine heifer. It’d be silly to use her for meat.” Pa spits on to the ground again and looks at me.  

“Ol’ Dottie use to be a fine heifer, then she couldn’t give no more calves and we ate her just the same.”

“I promise we’ll never use Lu Lu Bell for beef even when she stops giving us calves.”

I search Pa’s face for confirmation. Against my better judgement, I trust him. “Alright then. So long as you promise.”

Pa nods with a toothy grin. “I promise.”

“Ok.” I take the knife reluctantly.

“You remember what to do?”

“Yeah,” Pa and I had gone over it several times. Take the steer from the pen and lead him over to the trough. One slice across the throat should be enough to do the job. Drain him out in the trough. When it’s done, string him up so he can be skinned. Call Pa in once I get the hyde off and he’d show my how to butcher it.

I make one last plea with my eyes, but Pa has no sympathy to give. Out of options, I stomp off, knife in hand, towards the barn. When I reach the door, I flip the latch and swing it wide open. Inside, the cattle are in their pens. A few perk up, thinking it might be feeding time, but most don’t even acknowledge my presence. To my right I see Lu Lu Bell peering out of her pen towards me. “Hey there little Lu Lu Bell.” I walk over to her and pat her on the head. “How are you today?”

Lu Lu Bell looks up at me with her big eyes. I pat her on the head once more and reluctantly return to my duties. Glancing around the barn I try and locate the steer who’s life I’m about to take.

He was one of the bulls that had arrived with Lu Lu Bell. They were brother and sister but he was a full three years older than she was. He was supposed to grow up to be a breeding bull but he’d been causing too many problems. One night he’d escaped his pen and we had to send out a search party for him. We found him nearly seven miles away. After that he started causing trouble with the other cattle. So much so that Pa decided he needed to be castrated to calm him down. Amon held his arms, Pa held his legs, and I performed the procedure. I’m pretty sure he’d hated me ever since. 

It only takes a few seconds to locate the problem steer and make my way to his pen. His eyes are filled with fear and hatred. He knows what’s coming.

“Please Moloch, not my brother,” Lu Lu Bell pleads from her pen in the lower language only English cattle can speak. “Please take me instead. Please!” Lu Lu Bell cries but I force myself to ignore her.

Pa told me once that humans (that’s what our cattle like to call themselves), are always volunteering to die for each other, especially if they’re related, or if they were “in love” as he’d called it. I didn’t believe it, cause that’s not something us demon folk would ever do, but now I now it’s true, and it makes the job even tougher

The steer kicks and screams and beats at me with his fists, but it’s no use. Humans are no match for us demon folk. As Lu Lu Bell and all the other humans continue to plead for his life, I lead the young man to the trough.

I wish I could spare Lu Lu Bell’s brother for her, but in Perdition County, a demon’s got to do what a demon’s got to do, and this family of demons needs to eat.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Why Do I Always Do This To Myself...

Back when I was in Jr. High, my buddy and I were out wandering the fields surrounding our small town when we found a cliff over-looking a drainage pond. Growing up in the plains of Nebraska, the cliff was somewhat of an extraordinary find. It must have been 10 to 15 feet tall and unlike anything we’d run across in our part of the world.

Of course, our first instinct was to climb it.

Doing so meant shimmying out on a narrow ledge above the water and then working our way up to the top. The climbing was easy, at least until I started to reach the top and ran out of hand holds. I remember feeling sick to my stomach looking over my shoulder at the muddy water below and thinking “I hate myself for doing this. I don’t know what I’m doing and if I ever get out of this alive, I’m never doing anything like it again.” 

I started thinking about this experience today because I’ve got that same feeling in my stomach right now, and as much as I hate it, I seem to be running into it more and more often. A few other notable instances from my past include:

Accelerating down the runway alone on my first ever solo flight.

Sitting down to take the six-hour long Series 7 test.

Leading a group of students on a trip to India. 

Leaving my job as a stock-broker to start my own business.

Walking into my first Jiu Jitsu class.

Looking out at the crowd of 600 at my first ever performance with Dylan Bloom.

Today I’ve got that feeling in my stomach because I’ll be playing my first show with my own band tomorrow. I’m worried I’m not a good enough singer. I’m worried that not enough people are going to come to the show. I’m worried that I’m going to disappoint the promoter and be black-listed from ever playing in Omaha again and then my band will quit because I can’t book enough shows.

I seem to have a bad habit of seeking out challenges that are a bit beyond my means. Challenges that give me a pit in my stomach and make me think, “I hate myself for doing this. I don’t know what I’m doing and if I ever get out of this alive, I’m never doing anything like it again.” What I find interesting is that almost every time this feeling pops up, overcoming it leads to the achievements I’m most proud of.  

I made it up the cliff without falling. 

I flew an airplane all by myself. 

I passed the Series 7. 

India was an amazing experience. 

I’ve survived for three years now being self-employed (with a lot of help from my wife).

I excelled at Jiu Jitsu and now I teach the classes. 

I went on to play 100 shows with Dylan, and have about 100 more scheduled with him in the future.

My brain knows my fears about the show tomorrow are blown out of proportion. It knows that even if the show doesn’t go well, I’ll be ok. It knows that overcoming these fears will make me a better person and give me another moment to be proud of. I guess that’s why it keeps seeking out these challenges.  

Now if I could just get my brain to convince stomach...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Problem with Death

The other day I was training a client and he said something very interesting to me. He said “I realized the other day that I get to experience two things in life that men my age hardly ever get to experience. One is having a 90 year old father and the other is having a seven year old son.” My client is in his 60s and if you think about it, he’s absolutely right. How many men in their 60s still get to talk with their father, let alone have a son who’s still in elementary school?

In a similar manner, I've realized that at 34 years old, I’m inexperienced in something most people my age are not; I have very little experience with death. 

There are only three deaths I’ve experienced in life that have caused me a memorable amount of pain. One was my grandpa, one was my childhood dog, and one was a friend. But even these experiences seem distant. I was young when my grandpa died, I’d been away at college for a while before we had to put Sassy to sleep, and I hadn’t been in contact with my friend for almost a year when he passed away. 

While there have been funerals I’ve attended and acquaintances I’ve seen laid to rest, I've never lost anyone I was extremely close with. That is until two days ago, when my wife and I had to say goodbye to Henry, our beloved Basset Hound. 

If you know either me or my wife, you’ll know that “beloved” is an understatement. Our lives revolved around Henry. Our phones and Facebook pages are filled with pictures and videos of him. We tell stories about him to anyone who will listen. We talked to him, sang to him, and snuggled with him every single night. He made us happier than almost anything else in life, and we loved him more than almost anything on Earth.

My wife and I have been married almost nine years, and Henry has been with us for the entire ride. Until this weekend. This weekend will be the first weekend we’ve been married without Henry. 

The problem with death is that it slows down time exactly when we wish it wouldn’t. 

Most of us spend our lives in a state of perpetual motion. Everything seems to be moving faster and faster and we all just wish it would slow down. 

But then we lose a loved one, and time stands still.

As we snuggled with Henry on the bed in his final hours on Earth, the clock seemed to mock us as it ticked by. 

One second less. 

One second less. 

One second less. 

As we drove home from the vet, and walked into our quiet home without him, the clock creeped by.

One second more. 

One second more. 

One second more.

When we lose a loved one, all we want is for time to speed up so that we can put as much of it between ourselves and when the tragedy occurred. It’s not that we want to forget, we just want to remember without the pain, without the punch in the gut and the urge to dry heave. We want our regrets to fade. We want to remember the good times without needing to cry. 

To make the time pass, we distract ourselves. We check Facebook every other minute, we drink too much, we play video games or watch TV or buy things online. 

I admit, I’ve done all of these things over the last few days and I probably will for several more days to come. 

On the other hand, I want to make sure I don’t surrender completely to the distractions, because I want to appreciate the pain. 

The pain we feel after a loved one dies is proof that they mattered. It proves they played a meaningful roll in our life and that we’re better for having known and loved them. 

I hope somebody misses me someday as much as I miss Henry. 

Until then, it’s my job to ensure I become that kind of person who will be missed.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

In Remembrance of Henry.

I barely slept last night. I can’t remember a time I fell asleep in my house, in my bed, without you at my feet or snuggled up under the covers with me. 

That was my favorite thing about the winter. I’d pick you up and put you on the foot of the bed before I crawled in myself. Then you’d sit there looking at me and whining until I lifted up the covers and invited you in. Once you got the ok, and you never settled for less, you would trot up to the head of the bed, crawl in head first under the covers, and suction yourself to my side. That’s how we slept every night until spring.

When it eventually got warm enough to where you preferred sleeping on top of the covers, I still had to be touching you. Even if I was snuggling with Mindy, you’d whine until I stretched my foot out so that you could lay your head on top of it. 

And I really don’t know how I’m going to nap without you. You may not have been great at learning tricks or playing fetch, but you were the world’s best napper. You could hear those couch cushions creak from any room in the house, and the moment I laid down, it was as if blood hit the water and you were a shark zeroed in on the kill. You’d be there in a second, begging to snuggle up beside me and snooze the afternoon away.

I remember the first time I saw you. I’d bought a house a couple months before, and Mindy and I were going to be getting married later that year, so it only seemed natural to look for a dog. I remember I was sitting at my desk at work when an email came through. Mindy knew of a family looking to re-home some dogs and sent me an email with the dogs that were available. She thought I’d be interested in the Labrador, but when I saw your picture and your name, I knew you were the one. I replied “I want to meet Henry,” which worked out perfectly because Mindy wanted to meet you too. I spent the rest of the afternoon looking up information about Basset Hounds online while trying to simultaneously answer phone calls at work. Later that week I got called into my boss’s office for a call review. As she replayed the video capture of my call, the only thing on my computer screen was the wikipedia page for basset hounds. Needless to say, I was graded poorly, but it didn’t matter. By that time we’d picked you up and brought you home.

You were a challenge to begin with. Our first outing was to one of my softball games where you barked incessantly and then took a big dump in the middle of the picnic area. Being new dog owners, we’d brought nothing to clean it up with. Then, even though you were advertised as being house trained, you refused to pee anywhere but on the deep shag rug in the living room. Eventually we came to an understanding as to where the bathroom was, but it took some work.

Despite your stubbornness, you stole our hearts immediately. A few months later, as Mindy and I were making the final plans for our wedding in Jamaica, we realized we were going to have to leave you behind for ten days. It was seriously one of the most difficult decisions we’d had to make as a couple. When we got back, we could hardly wait to see you and bring you home. Coincidently, the friends that were watching you could hardly wait for us to take you back. 

No one has ever accused you of being less than a handful, and that was never more evident than our first night home as a married couple. Up until then it had always been Josh and Henry in bed. Now it was Josh, Mindy, and Henry in bed, and you were convinced there wasn’t enough room. It took a good week before you stopped being a grump about it.

Through the years you gave us so many good memories. 

The time a kitten hissed at you while we were walking, and you ran away howling. 

All the times you bulldozed yourself down a freshly mowed hill, staining your white fur green. 

The time you were literally broad-sided by a rabbit and you couldn’t figure out what happened. 

The times you gave Grandpa Jim and Grandma Melonie’s neighbor dogs the “what for and where how.”

All those times you showed undying patience with the nieces.

That time you ate a bunch of Molly’s poop and then puked it up at 3:00 in the morning, staining the carpet so badly that I had to cut it out and throw it away before I could go back to sleep.
I guess that wasn’t a great memory, but people sure do laugh when I tell them about it.

And the noise. You were almost always making some sort of noise. I remember walking in on you with your head in the bathtub, making noises and listening to the echoes. You would raise the biggest ruckus whenever we walked through the door. You would bark when you thought it was time to eat, bark when it was actually time to eat, bark as I was pouring your food, bark when you wanted to go out after you got done eating, bark when you wanted to come back inside. There were whines and groans and whimpers and grunts and moans and teeth chatters and licking. 

The house is too quiet now without you.

When you got sick the first time, I got depressed in a way I hadn’t been for years. Seeing you in pain was one of the worst things I’ve had to deal with in life. All you wanted to do was to snuggle, so I made it a point to snuggle as much as possible, even skipping work for several days to lie with you on the couch. I remember going to bed snuggled up with you one night but not sleeping. I was convinced you were going to die and I didn’t want to be asleep when it happened. The next day, as I drove you to the vet, I was convinced it would be our last trip together. 

When the Prednisone helped you start feeling better, I was relieved and heart broken at the same time. I was so happy that those few painful days weren’t your last, but I knew it likely meant you had lymphoma, and that we were living on borrowed time. I’m so thankful we got those last two months, but I still wish it could have been more.

I wish a lot of things. I wish I’d been more patient with you. I wish we would have gone on more walks. I wish we hadn’t gotten rid of your favorite couch. I wish I would have spent more time in the yard with you and less time scrolling through my iPhone. I wish I would have been less preoccupied with work, and success, and money, when what really mattered was right in front of me.

But there you go again, making me a better person, because now I see that there are still plenty of souls left here on Earth that I can love better. I can be a better husband, a better friend, a better son and grandson, a better brother, and a better master for Molly or any other dogs we have in the future.

I think that’s why God gave us dogs. They teach us to love unconditionally. You loved us regardless of our imperfections. You always forgave, you never held grudges, you loved us when we messed up at work, or were in a bad mood, or couldn’t afford the best dog food.

Some theologians believe that there will be no pets in heaven. Since there isn’t any concrete evidence in the Bible stating that animals have souls, they believe that animals simply cease to exist once they die here on Earth. These theologians obviously aren’t dog people, otherwise they would know the truth. 

Personally, I like to picture you snuggled up next to Jesus on the couch in heaven, and even though you’re perfectly content, every time a new soul walks through the pearly gates, you perk up your ears, hoping one of us has come home, knowing that once we do, you won’t ever have to watch us leave again. 

I look forward to the ruckus you’ll make when that day comes. 

I love you buddy boy.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

8 Things I think will change my life in 2016

Looking back, I realize I didn’t do one of these for 2015, but that’s probably because I was in the midst of a giant life change; transitioning from employment to self-employment. In doing so, I was more focused on the macro than the micro.

Now that it’s 2016 and I’ve been self-employed for a year, I’m starting to think about the little things again, which makes me want to write another one of these posts. If anything, it’s humorous and insightful to look back at them after a year and see what stuck and what didn’t. For example, my list of “7 things I think will change my life in 2014” and their outcomes is as follows…

Purple Belt in Jiu Jitsu - I’m still a purple belt. Self-employment takes a lot of time and I’ve neglected my training because of it. I still train, just not as much as I should. I hope to change that in the near future.
Personal Training Certificate - I’m still a personal trainer and I love it. This certificate has opened so many doors, it’s almost unbelievable.
Sugar/Alcohol - The idea behind this one was to only consume sugar and alcohol one weekend per month. That lasted about one month. I still confine most of my sugar and alcohol consumption to the weekends, but I enjoy my happiness too much to reduce it much beyond that. 
Precision Nutrition - This one has been extremely gratifying. I’m still a certified Precision Nutrition coach and have helped several people lose massive amounts of weight over the last year.
Intermittent Fasting - I still use intermittent fasting from time to time. It depends on what my current goals are. For losing body fat, it’s extremely beneficial.
Objective C - I studied this for a month or two and then quit. Apple came out with “Swift” to replace Objective C, so I was going to switch to that, but never did. I may just have to face the fact that I'm not going to be a computer programmer.
Hustle - This one was all about entrepreneurship, and whaddya know, by the end of 2014, I was self-employed. Hustle is my new middle name. 

So without further ado, here’s my List of 8 Things I think will change my life in 2016.

1. Honesty - I consider myself an honest person because I’m generally truthful. On the other hand, I often keep quiet about certain things so as not to ruffle feathers. To be honest though, (see what I did there) I’m getting tired of keeping quiet. I’m just not as concerned with what other people think of me these days, so I’m going to be a little less reserved in what I say and do.

2. Goals List - Every year around my birthday, I take some time to write down what I want to accomplish over the year, and for the most part, I accomplish a lot of what I set out to do. On the other hand, several of my goals fall through the cracks simply because I forget about them. This year, I’ve written down ten physical goals and five life tenants that I consider paramount, and every morning, I physically put pen to paper and rewrite the entire list. Then, later in the evening, I go through and grade myself on each (A,B,C,D,F). If I’ve taken positive steps towards achieving a goal, I give myself an A and write what I did well. If I did bad, I give myself a D or an F and write what I could have done better. So far it seems to be working. My goals are always at the forefront of my mind and I find myself constantly searching for steps to take during the day to help me accomplish them.

3. Writing - One of the goals on my list is to write a book in 2016. It doesn’t matter if it’s a book I publish or that sits on my computer for the rest of my life. I just want the accomplishment of writing an entire book. To make that happen, I’m trying to write at least 500 words a day. So far it’s going well.

4. Meditation - Referring back to Honesty in the number one spot, meditation is something I’ve been doing for a while now, but I’ve been hesitant to share. I find that about half the people think it’s hippie, new-age crap, while the other half thinks it’s dangerous and that I’m opening my mind to the devil. The word “meditation” comes with a lot of negative connotations, but it shouldn’t. For me, meditation has nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with health and performance. We have so many stimuli in our modern world that our brains are overwhelmed. Meditation is simply a means to give the mind a break; a chance to sit quietly without needing to accomplish anything. It’s very refreshing and it turns out science is finding it has a lot of benefits. Increased happiness, better problem solving capabilities, and decreased stress and feelings of anxiousness are just a few. I find it helps me sort through problems with less emotion, I get less frustrated when things go wrong, and I’m able to work harder, longer, with less stress and anxiety. If you’re interested in trying it out, is the system I use.

5. Style - Many who know me well know that I could care less about dressing well. If I had my way, I’d wear jeans and a hoodie for everything. On the other hand, one of the goals I write down every morning is “Improve my social skills,” and dressing better is key if I really want to accomplish this. Surprisingly, I’ve found it’s not that difficult to be stylish. First, let me clarify that “stylish” is not the same thing as “fashionable.” Lady Gaga is fashionable, Audrey Hepburn is stylish. Glitter beards and man buns are fashionable, leather shoes, a bomber jacket, and good fitting jeans are stylish. Fashion changes every season. Style does not go out of style.

6. Primal Man Stuff - I like modern technology, but near the middle of last year, I started feeling like something was missing. Then, on a whim, I tossed a line into my parent’s pond, caught a bass, and realized how badly I missed fishing. I made it a point to fish every weekend after that and it was unbelievably refreshing. Then I bought a splitting axe and starting splitting wood and building campfires in my backyard. It was amazing. I think iPhones and MacBooks are great, but taking part in activities that were life sustaining for early man is something entirely different. I think lots of men in our culture are missing this element, and I’m looking forward to finding new ways to scratch this itch.

7. People - I’m an introvert by nature, and I don’t think anything is going to change that completely, but I’ve taken a new interest in people as of late. One of the tenants I write in my goals list every morning is “1 new person,” which means I try to learn one new person’s name every day. Ideally, I go beyond getting their name, and actually have a conversation, but I don't require it. Learning one new name a day is a baby step, and it makes the challenge of networking more digestible. I tend to interact with lots of people every day, but often it’s nameless. Simply asking someone’s name is a means of bringing humanity back to our transactions. I’m finding that in doing so, I have a lot more friendly conversations with strangers, and I meet lots of new and interesting people. As an introvert, I used to view people as obstacles I needed to navigate, but now I’m starting to see them as fascinating creatures in which to investigate.

8. Lidè - I consider myself extremely blessed. While I’m not rich by American standards, I’m extremely wealthy in the grand scheme, and I want to help others who aren’t. While I’ve given money to causes here and there, I’ve been searching for a cause to really throw my weight behind, and I think I’ve finally found one that makes sense to me. Everyone knows the old saying “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime,” but I believe there should be third line. “Teach a woman to fish and she feeds a village for a lifetime.” I believe that education is one of the most valuable resources available and studies show that educating a man tends to be beneficial for the man while educating a woman tends to be beneficial for everyone in that woman’s sphere of influence. Lidè is a charity organized by Rainn Wilson, better known as Dwight from “The Office.” It’s focus is using the arts to educate girls in Haiti. While I don’t feel this charity is the end all in my new found quest to educate girls, I do think it’s a good place to start. You can watch the imbedded video if you'd like to learn for yourself what it’s about, and go to the website if you’d like to donate yourself. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Lesson Two: Time

As an employee, one of my biggest regrets was that I knew I was wasting my life. Eight or more hours a day were spent doing work I didn't care about. During the course of my employment, I spent more than 16,640 hours under someone else's control, trading my free-will for money. String those hours together and it equates to two solid years of my life that I spent mostly being unhappy.

As a self-employed person over the last year, I've worked an average of eleven hours a day. Monday through Friday I wake up at 4:30 in the morning so that I can be to the gym at 6:00 to train clients. After the gym, I head straight to the shop to work on my cars, and then usually head straight back to the gym to train more clients. With travel time it's not uncommon for me to leave the house at 5:30 in the morning and get home around 7:30 at night. 

As an employee, I had lots of free time for hobbies. I didn't need to be to work until 7:00 in the morning, so I'd get up early, train Muay Thai at the gym from 5:30 to 6:30, go to work from 7:00 until 3:30, go home for a couple hours, and then head back to the gym to train Jiu Jitsu for another hour or two. I also had plenty of time to read, write, lift weights, play music, or do whatever I wanted to do in my free time.

As a self-employed person, I'm lucky to train Jiu Jitsu once or twice a week. I don't have time to train Muay Thai any longer, and it's difficult to find time to lift weights and work out. As for writing, the idea for these posts was initially "Lessons I've learned after Six Months of Self-Employment," but by the time I was able to sit down and write, I'd already been self-employed for ten months. 

As an employee, my time was worth about twenty dollars an hour, regardless of what I was doing. Often times I'd be on the phone, taking a ridiculously easy call from a client, and playing "Clash of Clans" on my iPad. Some days I called in sick and still got paid. My work day began and ended predictably. Even if work was extremely busy, I rarely needed to stay more than an extra fifteen minutes, and I never worked on weekends.

As a self-employed person, my time is worth what I make it worth. If I make smart choices and tackle a challenge quickly and accurately, I can make fifty dollars an hour or more. If I make poor decisions and have sloppy execution, I'll work for less than minimum wage, or worse, I'll lose money. I'm also working in some capacity nearly every weekend.

Looking back, life was so much easier as an employee, but there's nothing I truly miss about it. Every day I drive by my former place of employment and I'm unbelievably thankful I managed to leave. While I don't feel I'm changing the world by rebuilding wrecked cars, I know I'm not wasting my life. I'm working towards a goal that means something to me rather than completing menial tasks for someone else. If that wasn't enough, training clients at the gym is extremely gratifying, and helping someone lose weight and change the trajectory of their life is worth more than anything I could ever earn per hour. 

Suffice it to say, as an employee, I spent a large portion of every day hating my life, but then I had the rest of the time to do whatever I wanted. As a self-employed person, I haven't hated a single day over the last year, even when they were terrible. On the other hand, my buckets of time are mostly filled with work which doesn't leave time for much else.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

One Year Self-Employed!!!

November 21, 2015 is the one-year anniversary of my last day as an employee. As a self-employed person, the last year has taught me more than I thought I was capable of learning. While these lessons may not be valuable to anyone but myself, I want to put them down for my own sake. Over the next couple days, I'll be sharing some of the biggest lessons I've learned over the last year.

Lesson One: Great Days and Terrible Days

As an employee, my work life was mostly boring. I didn't care about the work I was doing, so I punched in, punched out, and collected my paycheck. Eventually I grew to resent this and so most days defaulted into crappy days simply because I was at work. The actual bad days consisted of getting yelled at by clients, reprimanded by the boss, and being bored out of my mind, which in the grand scheme, doesn't seem all that bad.

As a self-employed person, there seem to be very few boring days. Days are typically either great or terrible. Great days consist of working hard while singing at the top of my lungs (most days), having indoor snowball fights, taking impromptu breaks to go sledding, or selling three cars in a single day and making enough to carry me through the next three months. Terrible days consist of making stupid mistakes like forgetting to cap my transmission lines and spraying transmission fluid all over the floor of the shop, improperly mixing the sealer and having it run off the surface of the car I was trying to paint, working for a full month on a car and making less than $500 on it, and buying a car that looked good, only to find out it had a bad motor and was going to cost me thousands more than I expected.

I've never felt more stupid on a regular basis than I have over the last year.

As an employee, my employer shielded me from the ups and downs of the market. Things could be going poorly for them, but I still received my paycheck. There were even times I made mistakes that cost my employer money, but it never came out of my pocket. Of course, if things would have gone bad enough for long enough, I might have been fired or laid off, but that never happened, and I was never even worried it would happen. In exchange for this insulation and security, I did whatever my employer asked and in turn submitted myself to a life of boring drudgery.

As a self-employed person, I immediately absorb every up and down the market throws at me. If people aren't buying cars, I don't make money. If the market says my cars are worth less then I calculated they should be, I make less money. If I make mistakes, they cost me money. All of my decisions directly impact my bottom line. It can be unnerving to say the least, but despite the inherent stress, the last year has been one of the best of my life.

If you're considering striking off on your own, the first of many questions you need to ask yourself is "What do I value more, freedom or security?" Freedom comes with some truly great days, but it also comes with truly terrible days as well. Security is rarely great or terrible. It's comfortable, but it's also boring. The correct answer depends on you. For me, the resounding answer is freedom. I would much rather suffer the emotional and financial roller coaster of being my own boss, than suffer the boredom and restraints of being an employee. While I admit it would be nice to have great health insurance and paid vacation days again, those pale in comparison to the fact that I'm taking a week off over Christmas to spend time with family, and I didn't have to get permission from anyone.

You'll see over the course of the next few days that life was actually a lot easier for me as an employee, but the freedom I've gained from becoming self-employed is far more valuable than the comfort my cushy corporate job provided.