#110: Full-Time Workers Go Nomadic, Credentialism & Power, Life Advice
😃 Life, work & what matters.
October 3rd, 2020 - Greetings from Puerto Escondido in Mexico where we’ll be spending the next several months before heading back to Taiwan. Here is a shot of our last night on the road trip renting a camper on Hipcamp in Joshua Tree.
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#1 Road Trips & Living Remotely
Right as I finished my road trip, I saw this tweet from Bloomberg. Am I not special?
The article is about full-time workers who have been able to detach from their locations to live and work in different places. This is exciting for me as I love that full-time workers are able to get a taste of some of the freedom and possibilities that many self-employed people live every day. They are asking the same question I asked three years ago:
If I don’t need to go into an office, why am I here?
While many people like certainty too much to live in different places or may actually love where they live, others are embracing the opportunity for experimenting with new locations. I had one friend relocate to Montana for a flexible remote job, another is in the process of moving to Portugal from NYC, multiple friends working remotely from their parents larger primary or secondary homes (tap into that boomer wealth!!), and others who are preparing to embark on short-term relocation experiments in the coming months.
When you start deciding on where to live based on where you want to live it can be incredibly freeing, but that freedom comes with a ramping up of discomfort. Things like bedding, weather, food, childcare and healthcare can be hard to navigate when you first land in a new locations.
However, this can be a good thing. As I removed some of the comfort and convenience from my life, I’ve found that I’ve just become more flexible and that the discomfort I’ve dealt with has only given me more confidence about my ability to handle more possible futures than the singular high-wage paycheck path I was on.
The biggest challenge to being nomadic for me has been severing the link between a place and the meaningful relationships one has in that place. My solution has been to go places where I have good friends. I went to Taiwan originally for this reason and have ended up in Puerto Escondido because another good friend had a room in a house and several local friends already.
Some other tips if you are thinking about experimenting with shifting your location while working remotely:
Invest in things that help you get into a routine in a new location. For me, its traveling with a $5 pour over coffee maker and some filter paper and a laptop stand, mouse and keyboard. I was able to set up and start writing this newsletter this morning in less than five minutes.
Try to make local friends as quickly as possible. Support local business owners and workers and tip generously.
Try out a new routine or habit. Moving locations often disrupts our daily habits and creates space for new ones to emerge. Have you wanted to try a new morning routine? This is your chance.
Be prepared for deeper existential questions to emerge such as “why do we all live where we can get a job?” My conversation with Andrew Taggart may help here
Find online communities to engage with, ideally positive ones. With a little creative muting and blocking, you can find a lot of these on twitter. There are many emergent communities around different newsletters, products and types of work that have taken off in the past few years. These can help you stay connected with things that matter to you or even meet other nomads who are living in a similar way.
Think about some of the things you might want to do with your day. Even if your manager is telling you that you must be at your computer from 9-6, if you can figure out how to steal two of those hours to do something you want to do, you will feel a whole lot better. Here are some more tips for how to optimize your remote working life.
Take time to reflect on the new possibilities that are emerging. One of my favorite exercises to do with my wife is the Designing Your Life 5-year life plan. The original exercise from the book has you come up with three different life plans: your original life but more experimental, your dream life and the “what if people wouldn’t laugh?” life. This exercise can be incredibly freeing for many of the constraints we assume are part of modern living. (Grab the free templates here)
This is an interview with Michael Sandel about his latest book, The Tyranny of Merit. Sandel is also a Professor at Harvard and creator of the freely available online course on Philosophy but makes the case that societies have given Universities unprecedented power:
We have cast universities as the arbiters of opportunity. We have assigned them the role of allocating credentials and defining the merit that the wider society rewards — economically, but also in terms of honor, recognition, and prestige.
…and why this might be a mistake:
Society as a whole has made a four-year university degree a necessary condition for dignified work and a decent life. This is a mistake. Those of us in higher education can easily forget that most Americans do not have a four-year college degree. Nearly two-thirds do not.
…and why this system, along with the supposed meritocratic economic rewards it bestows fuels strong emotions:
Meritocracy is an attractive, even inspiring ideal, but it has a dark side: It generates hubris among the winners and humiliation among the losers. I suppose you could say this is a reading of the moral psychology of our political moment.
I’ve written a bit about some of the challenges with meritocracy and the fact that one of the biggest problems with it is that we pay a lot more attention to the symbols of success (like degrees and amount of money) rather than actual skill, expertise or wisdom.
I’m somewhat hopeful that new types of prestige are emerging through virtual communities, but its too early to know if those kinds of paths will be broadly available.
#3 Happiness & Wisdom
Oliver Burkeman has been writing at the Guardian for several years about what enables people to thrive. I enjoyed his final column on the topic where he offers eight principles he has landed on. Three stood out:
#1 There will always be too much to do – and this realization is liberating.
My approach to work has been to figure out how to do less of almost everything and then once there is enough space and time to ramp up the things I keep being drawn to. Writing is one of these things.
#3 The capacity to tolerate minor discomfort is a superpower
In my first night in Puerto Escondido, I got locked out of the house, the AC was broken amid intense humidity, I got slightly electrocuted in the shower. Luckily after living nomadically for about two years, these things make me crack up more than lead to any sort of stress.
#6 The future will never provide the reassurance you seek from it
As a consultant, I used to help channel the anxiety of grown men into certain five year roadmaps. Of course, these plans would always need to be redone in six months, but it never ceased to amaze me how much money could be made trying to calm uncertainty for the future. As Burkeman says:
Humanity is divided into two: on the one hand, those who are improvising their way through life, patching solutions together and putting out fires as they go, but deluding themselves otherwise; and on the other, those doing exactly the same, except that they know it. It’s infinitely better to be the latter.