We’re getting close to the coveted 50% milestone on funding the Escape Everything! book.
Word to the wise: marvelous things will happen when we reach 60%. So hop on board to help us get there. Intriguing? I think so.
I can also tell you that the book will have a foreword from a very popular blogger whom I know many of you are fond of. Also intriguing? Indeedy.
Getting the book funded and published is quite a big deal. If successful, we’ll not be merely printing a book (something we’ve always done without money) but getting it properly distributed to bookshops, pushing the idea of Escapology out to wider audience. We’ll also be getting the kind of editorial and design assistance that only a publisher can offer.
So, if you’ve not already done so, please order your copy today.
For reasons I don’t understand, the site seems to give an automatic £5 discount whenever you add a book to the cart. It could well be an oversight, so act quickly if you want to take advantage! (I’d rather you clicked the “I want to pledge more” link at checkout though, since we need the money and this mistake will surely cost us dearly).
In addition to the basic book package, there are pledge levels with bigger rewards. The £50 and £65 levels are good ways of ordering the complete New Escapologist back catalogue in that they’re cheaper than our shop packages and will get you the book as well. Admittedly, you have to wait until the project is fully-funded to get your magazines but if you order the £50 “Digital Escapologist” version and send me a sneaky email I’ll just send you the PDFs right away.
If you’ve already bought the book and would like to upgrade to a higher level, you can send an email to email@example.com and they’ll let you do that.
Here are some of those levels. And they’re clickable!
In Part 0 to this series, I said we’d be exploring a simple, logical planning framework.
The method I’ll describe here is loosely based on The Combat Estimate, which I learned about during my military service. The Estimate is comprised of four steps:
In the military context, this method is useful for solving all sorts of problems: applying a limited budget, organizing a training event, engaging one’s enemy.
Here at New Escapologist, however, we’re interested in a project that’s so much more appealing than mortal combat: life, and how to live it well.
1) Aim. What does it mean (for you) to live well? Are you sure about that?
2) Factors. What aspects about your own character and your situation do you need to consider, and how do they inform and shape your solution?
3) Courses. What avenues are realistically available to you?
4) Plan. Among the options available, which path grants you the greatest probability of achieving the good life?
In truth, there’s nothing really remarkable about this method, and it’s not strictly a military tool. You’ve likely seen elements of the process in your workplace, because operational planning is at the heart of all organizations: where are we? where do we want to go? how do we get there?
And if you think about it, we inherently go through this line of questioning at the individual level, in a continuous, subconscious decision-making loop: where am I? where would I rather be? what’s the best way?
So. Why Bother?
Right now you’re probably feeling a little ripped-off.
If there’s nothing remarkable about the process, and we already do it, what’s the point of this blog series?
Because most of us don’t do it very well. We don’t do it deliberately, or holistically, or consistently. At best, our lives are a process of trial and error–we’re like paramecia, bumping into the same obstacles over and over, hoping for different results each time. Through equal parts luck and pain, we finally figure things out after X iterations…by which point we’re in our 40s. That’s the most likely scenario. The worst case scenario is that we make a complete hash of things, but don’t realize it until it’s too late.
Wouldn’t it be better to strive for the best case scenario? To cut the crap, avoid the hassle, identify early on what it means to live well, and make a beeline for it? That’s really what this is all about: efficiency, economy of effort, focused action.
Because personally, I’d rather come up with something like this:
My mission is to live well through self-sufficiency and community involvement, which I’ve determined to be the true drivers of my happiness.
After considering all the relevant factors, I’ve concluded that I need to break this mission down into three phases. Phase 1: I’ll optimize my finances by maintaining my current job, by embracing scorched-earth minimalism, and by focusing only on core leisure activities. Phase 2: I’ll quit my job, I’ll move to a place conducive to my long-term goal of self-sufficiency, and I’ll find interim work that pays the bills. No later than July 1, 2017 I’ll purchase a small parcel of land. Phase 3: I’ll develop an organic farm and I’ll turn my attention to being a productive member of my local community. Common to all phases is the maintenance of my fitness and my close relationships, because without those things, I am nothing.
My main effort–what I’ll focus on when I have to prioritize–is the accumulation of savings for the purpose of buying land.
My desired end state–the performance metric by which I’ll judge my success–is to produce 50% of my family’s food consumption on my farm, and to be a positive force within my circle of influence.
My immediate tasks for Phase 1 are: [insert list]
Especially if every single phrase in that statement was the result of careful contemplation and analysis.
By contrast, I’d like to avoid saying something like this:
You know, I always wanted a farm. I guess it was just a silly dream, and in any case, life got in the way. Marriage, house, dog, kids…then I got a promotion and a transfer at work, and my responsibilities piled up. Life just happened, and before I knew it…blah blah BLAH!
Life doesn’t just happen. We make it happen. For the record, I don’t want to be an organic farmer, because I’m very lazy (my laziness is a key factor that I must consider when formulating plans)…it was just an example. But regardless of what your personal version of the good life is, a statement like the one in the example is what you want to aim for by the end of this series. We’ll work on that together.
Of course, the skeptics will say that planning is futile. That plans are almost always overcome by events. “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”, someone once said. To which I’m tempted to respond, “Okay, don’t plan…go shopping instead…best of luck with your tiresome, cookie-cutter, unplanned, unfulfilling life of sheer bullshit.”
Thankfully, I’m above that sort of response.
Instead, I’ll argue that planning has benefits beyond your basic probability of success. Even if things don’t go exactly according to plan, you’ll have gained crucial insight. You’ll have a much greater appreciation of yourself, your situation, and the underlying factors that constrain or enable your success. This understanding will grant you strength and flexibility in the face of adversity. Your plan will be a stable, thoroughly-reasoned starting point from which you can make informed adaptations.
A Word Of Caution
I’m going to show you a process, but nobody can do the work for you. Because it’s your life, and it’s a personal voyage. The more you’re willing to put aspects of your situation (your character, your relationships, your work, where you live, your preconceived notions of success, etc) into play, onto the table, and up for debate, the more you’ll get out of it.
Ideally, this series will make you think, engage your imagination, and ask yourself some awkward questions. The good news is that it will be both fun and rewarding. Most of the hard bits can be accomplished while lying on the floor staring up at the ceiling, and by doodling on blank sheets of paper.
In Part 2: Good Intentions, we’re going to discuss the importance of establishing a long-term, overarching intent. To prepare you for that, I have a question:
What do you think it means to live well?
See you next week.
As always, we invite your comments and participation.
It’s not about overthrowing capitalism. It’s not about trying to change human nature. What we’re doing here is we’re taking a few simple steps towards an economics fit for purpose. And at the heart of that economics, we’re placing a more credible, more robust, and more realistic vision of what it means to be human.
The gist (but watch the video anyway) is that we must curb our lust for economic growth if we’re to save the planet and close the inequity gap between rich and poor. Doing so, he shows, need not be damaging to our collective or individual dignity and it need not cost us our convenient and comfortable System. We just need an economic reality check (that’s the title of his talk, actually) on our society’s addiction to growth and GDP.
the only thing that has remotely slowed down the relentless rise of carbon emissions over the last two to three decades is recession. And recession, of course, isn’t exactly a recipe for hope, as we’re busy finding out. So we’re caught in a kind of trap. [...] We can’t live with [growth]; we can’t live without it. Trash the system or crash the planet–it’s a tough choice; it isn’t much of a choice. And our best avenue of escape from this actually is a kind of blind faith in our own cleverness and technology and efficiency and doing things more efficiently.
Working hours rise, wages stagnate or fall, tasks become duller, more stressful and harder to fulfill, emails and texts and endless demands clatter inside our heads, shutting down the ability to think, corners are cut, conditions deteriorate, housing becomes almost impossible to afford, there’s ever less money for essential public services. What and whom is this growth for?
It’s for the people who run or own the banks, the hedge funds, the mining companies, the advertising firms, the lobbying companies, the weapons manufacturers, the buy-to-let portfolios, the office blocks, the country estates, the offshore accounts. The rest of us are induced to regard it as necessary and desirable through a system of marketing and framing so intensive and all-pervasive that it amounts to brainwashing.
From a positively glistening essay by George Monbiot.
Thus the Great Global Polishing proceeds, wearing down the knap of the Earth, rubbing out all that is distinctive and peculiar, in human culture as well as nature, reducing us to replaceable automata within a homogenous global workforce, inexorably transforming the riches of the natural world into a featureless monoculture.
Is this not the point at which we shout stop? At which we use the extraordinary learning and expertise we have developed to change the way we organise ourselves, to contest and reverse the trends that have governed our relationship with the living planet for the past two million years, and that are now destroying its remaining features at astonishing speed? Is this not the point at which we challenge the inevitability of endless growth on a finite planet? If not now, when?
I’ve been helping out at New Escapologist for a few months now, so I think it’s time I introduced myself more formally.
My name is Drew, I live on the west coast of Canada, and I’m leisure-centric. It’s been a year since I last worked. Unless, of course, you count the four days I spent picking grapes at a winery, for which I’ll be paid in Gewürztraminer next spring.
To celebrate my one year anniversary in the post-work era, I’m writing Plan Your Escape, a series that will describe a logical process for examining your life (or any other problem, for that matter).
But first, I’d like to explain how I got here.
I used to fly helicopters, first in Canada’s military and then briefly as a commercial pilot. When I resigned from my job a year ago, I didn’t think of it as the end of my flying career. I simply wanted out of a crappy situation and needed some time off.
Then, a few months ago, I applied for work at a few companies and received an offer very similar to my last job. I declined, and I consider that to be the moment when I officially crossed into the post-work realm.
Why did I decline? First off, the last twelve months have been the best year of my life, bar none. I reconnected with family, improved my health, and spent time on activities that I truly enjoy. I don’t want that to change.
Perhaps more importantly, going back to flying would constitute a betrayal, of sorts. The money was decent, but I’m not particularly money-driven. More to the point, I don’t want to be money-driven. Further, the nature of the work had become unappealing. The type of flying I did was mundane, and required that I be away from home well over half the year. I knew, deep down, that if I accepted the offer, it would be because I lacked the courage to try something else, and was taking the easy way out.
[See also whore (verb) - to debase oneself by doing something for unworthy motives, typically to make money.]
And so here I am. Post-work. My current job description goes something like this:
I get up at seven. Or eight. Certainly no later than nine. I make coffee and breakfast for my wife, shop for groceries, and do laundry. It’s the least I can do, really. Otherwise, I read books, I hike, I cycle, and I think about things. If I’m feeling ambitious, I shower and walk to the centre, where I engage in good old fashioned flânerie.
Clearly, I can’t go on like this forever. Or can I? My job description mentions that I think about things, and indeed, I’ve spent a good portion of the last year doing just that. Mainly, I’ve contemplated how I want to spend the rest of my life, what constitutes a good life, and most importantly, how I can best achieve it. In the process, I’ve asked myself some interesting questions: how much is enough? what do I truly value? what does it mean to be productive? and, does any of this even matter?
In a way, my wife and I have been implicitly contemplating a better life for years, resulting in The Sale Of All Things in 2013, her shift from employment to contract work, and our recent move to the coast. All well and good, but I always felt that our approach was piecemeal. Our overall, long-term intent lurked somewhere just below the surface, but we never explored it in detail, acknowledged it, and adopted it as the basis of decision-making. And our method wasn’t methodical, resulting in unsynchronized and inefficient actions.
What we lacked was a deliberate process, a framework for examining the problem holistically. My post-work status has finally given me the opportunity to do this. Now that I’ve gone through the process, I’d like to share it with you.
The technique I’m using is simple, logical, and effective. Think of it as another tool in your toolkit. If nothing else, it’ll be food for thought. I’ll post an instalment of Plan Your Escape each Wednesday for the next five weeks, as follows:
Part 1: Why Bother? A closer examination of the benefits of planning.
Part 2: Good Intentions. The first step is to identify your overarching intent.
Part 3: So What? How to assess the relevant factors.
Part 4: Which Way To The Good Life? How to compare several possible courses of action and select the one that’s best for you.
Part 5: Putting It All Together. Articulating your plan, and establishing performance metrics to keep you on track.
See you next week.
In The Talented Mr. Ripley, a clever young man is charged with the task of dragging an errant playboy back to New York from a life of bohemian decadence in Italy. He finds himself in two minds about his task.
Why should Dickie want to come back to subways and taxis and starched collars and a nine-to-five job? Or even a chauffeured car and vacations in Florida and Maine? It wasn’t as much fun as sailing a boat in old clothes and being answerable to nobody for the way he spent his time, and having his own house with a good-natured maid who probably took care of everything for him. And money besides, to take trips if he wanted to. Tom envied him with a heartbreaking surge of envy and self-pity.
It is to be regretted that a portion of our community should be practically in slavery, but to propose to solve the problem by enslaving the entire community is childish. Every man must be left quite free to choose his own work. No form of compulsion must be exercised over him. If there is, his work will not be good for him, will not be good in itself, and will not be good for others. And by work I simply mean activity of any kind.
It’s Oscar Wilde’s birthday. Three cheers for the birthday boy!
The Soul of Man Under Socialism is a sacred text of Escapology.
We should be able, Wilde says, to spend our time precisely as we’d like to, slave to no duty or demand from others; and that the best way for society to cater for this is through a kind of non-authoritarian Socialism. In the meantime, of course, there are individual acts of Escapology–freeing ourselves from the grip of the system through clever individualist means–but that we’re brought to this is something of an indictment.
Wilde also uses the word “escape” a bewildering number of times in the essay. It’s quite uncanny. “Scarcely anyone escapes,” he says in his opening paragraph; artists of means are able to escape; Byron and Shelley escaped oppressive England for bohemian Rome.
Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others which, in the present condition of things, presses so hardly upon almost everybody. In fact, scarcely anyone at all escapes.
We should be free to work as cottage industrialists, to put ourselves into our art or science or craft:
One’s regret is that society should be constructed on such a basis that man has been forced into a groove in which he cannot freely develop what is wonderful, and fascinating, and delightful in him – in which, in fact, he misses the true pleasure and joy of living. He is also, under existing conditions, very insecure.
Minimalism comes up in the form of Wilde’s argument against private property. Not that it’s immoral per se but that it’s a pain in the arse.
The possession of private property is very often extremely demoralising, and that is, of course, one of the reasons why Socialism wants to get rid of the institution. In fact, property is really a nuisance.
I especially approve of this part about rebellion. Rebellion is not a thing to be enjoyed for it’s own sake, no matter what the punks might think. What great things might have been accomplished by, say, Tony Benn or Che Guevara or Richard Dawkins if they had not been required to spend so much energy going against the grain?
Most personalities have been obliged to be rebels. Half their strength has been wasted in friction. Byron’s personality, for instance, was terribly wasted in its battle with the stupidity, and hypocrisy, and Philistinism of the English. Such battles do not always intensify strength: they often exaggerate weakness. Byron was never able to give us what he might have given us.
Wilde also, like Andrew McAfee, suggests appropriate technology might be our salvation:
At present machinery competes against man. Under proper conditions machinery will serve man. [...] The fact is, that civilisation requires slaves. The Greeks were quite right there. Unless there are slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work, culture and contemplation become almost impossible. Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralising. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends. And when scientific men are no longer called upon to go down to a depressing East End and distribute bad cocoa and worse blankets to starving people, they will have delightful leisure in which to devise wonderful and marvellous things for their own joy and the joy of everyone else.
We moved this summer to a place where we can cycle year round. This was previously the stuff of fantasy due to -30C winters, so when we arrived here we were sorely lacking winter cycling accoutrements: high-visibility rain gear, headlamp and tail light, splash guards.
Cue another round of gear-buying…
Having had my come-to-Jesus (pronounced Hay-zeus) moment with consumerism, I now become irritated at the mere prospect of buying gear, and feel an acute nausea with each new item I purchase.
It wasn’t always that way. Gearing up used to be exciting. It was a sport unto itself, and we were just like the couple pictured above in the hilarious Portlandia episode. For any new activity, we’d go to the outdoor store and spend our hard-earned money on so-called must-have items, which we’d use for a while before moving on to the next great activity. The end result: lightly used climbing harnesses, six bicycles, four backpacks, three tents, light hiking boots, heavy hiking boots, winter hiking boots, downhill skis, cross-country skis, a snowboard. It’s a minor miracle we didn’t own three or four kayaks, some expensive fly-fishing equipment, and a small twin-engine airplane equipped with floats…you know, just in case.
Perhaps, like me, you see a little too much of yourself in the characters of the skit. We need to guard against that.
Let’s replace “Get the gear!” with “Do the math!”
Start work at 10am and sleep after lunch. If you want to get ahead, take a nap.
Friend Tom Hodgkinson has a nice piece about the benefits of sleep at the Guardian website this week.
More sleep equals economic growth: that is the extraordinary equation that we’re nearing. Which is great. If we can somehow convince the authorities, with the help of science, that sleep is good for productivity, then we’re on to a win-win situation.
We returned to Canada after a decade in London, UK with a small child in tow and decided to set-up a sustainable (more on this later) 21st century homestead on 5.65 acres of fir, alder and meadow on Gabriola Island, BC, Canada.
Here’s the blog of friend and New Escapologist contributor Rob West (genuinely not one of my pseudonyms).
Rob and family are setting up home in British Columbia, pretty much doing everything from scratch: building their own house, growing their own crops.
It’s a staggering undertaking. The blog charts the construction of their new home.