Libbys on the Loose:2 Humans. 2 Great Danes. 1 RV.: Eric's Story: The American Dream?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Eric's Story: The American Dream?

An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor's orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.
"How long did it take you to catch them?" the American asked.
"Only a little while," the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.
"Why don't you stay out longer and catch more fish?" the American then asked.
"I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends," the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket. 
"But ... What do you do with the rest of your time?"
The Mexican looked up and smiled "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life señor."
The American laughed and stood tall. 
"Sir, I'm a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you.  You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat.  In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul.  Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats."
He continued, "Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery.  You would control the product, processing, and distribution.  You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management."
The Mexican fisherman asked "But señor, how long will all this take?"
To which the American replied, "15-20 years.  25 tops."
"But then what, señor?"
The American laughed and said, "that's the best part.  When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich.  You would make millions."
"Millions, señor? Then what?"
"Then you would retire and move to a small coastal village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos..."
 -the preceding was an excerpt from The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

So what does this all mean?  Does it mean I don't want to work? No.  Does it mean I don't have goals that I want to achieve?  No.  Does it mean that I'm going to Harvard to pursue my M.B.A.?  Well.... :) Nope!

"It's not retirement."  (I said that I would get back to the idea of retirement from our first post)  When you tell people that you are going on the road and living in an RV, (after the "You're effing crazy" look clears from their faces) the assumption is that you're retiring.  That is what a lot of people do when they retire, so the confusion is understandable.  I can understand why people think that you're going on an "extended vacation".  I mean, recreation is right in the name Recreational Vehicle!  We're not retiring - heck we can't retire!  Our brains are physically incapable of retirement :)!  But there is a growing movement of non-retired full Time RVers.  These are other couples who still work full time, and travel full time in their RVs.   They travel the country and work full-time from their mobile offices - this sounds like a far-off luxury for most, but if you can do what your employer requires with access to phone and internet, could you do it, too?

When I was younger, I had dreams of living in a 20 room house with a 50 car garage and 10 people on staff to wait on my every need.  I never wanted to worry about what I was going to do when I woke up in the morning.  I figured that I would have so many options that it wouldn't matter.  Simply walking around my amazing house would inspire me so much that plans were unnecessary for that day.  I may have been slightly delusional...but I did have goals.
Just a touch of crazy :)

I always thought "getting rich" was the only goal worth pursuing.   I looked at different career paths and chose the one that would lead me to my riches the soonest.  Unfortunately, I was too young and naive to take the time to consider why I wanted to have lots of stuff.  I didn't consider the cost of having all the stuff but not necessarily the time to appreciate (and use) those things.  And they were just that, things.

I loved my work for a long time.  I enjoyed the challenge and subsequent rewards of helping people with their needs.  I enjoyed being the person that everyone came to when there was a problem.   I always thought that I would get to the point where I could never get enough or too much. I never considered what time I was devoting to work was taking away from time that we wanted to enjoy our lives, even if that meant sacrificing a substantial amount of income. 

"Why?" you ask, would I want to give up income for time?  Why would I want to give up our dream home?  Because I got to where I wanted to be, where I thought I wanted to be.  It turns out that I was doing the exact same things as I was doing before, just at a different level.  I didn't have any more time to enjoy the things that we'd acquired.  I made more money to be able to afford the things I wanted, but I didn't have the time to enjoy all of the stuff that we amassed. 

It wasn't the stuff that I thought about.  I didn't think about the cars or boats or any of the stuff.  I didn't daydream about the things we had, I thought about where I was and what I wasn't doing.  I wasn't doing what we wanted to do.  We wanted to travel the world.  We wanted to hike thousands of miles and live in a tent for days or weeks at a time.  We wanted to go to the airport on a whim and travel to wherever the next plane we could get on would take us.  Yeah, we're a little crazy.  I agree.  But sometimes a little bit of crazy is what it takes to initiate a change, both in perspective and lifestyle.   

What if I told you that I needed you to tell 1,000 people about a new product - in any way that you wanted, but you had to be able to prove that you told 1,000 people and at a minimal expense.  Here are a few options:
1.  Go to 1,000 doors and knock on all of them.  Tell each person that answers the door about your new product and have them sign stating that they were informed about the new product. 
2.  Mail 1,000 postcards to specific addresses via postal mail service.  Use certified mail or electronic tracking to ensure that proof of receipt had occurred. 
3.  Hire 20 people to go to 50 doors and follow the same directions as step one.
4.  Outsource postcard mailers to a bulk mail center and send to 1,000 people with the same directions as step two.
5.  Figure out the demographics of those groups that you feel will most benefit from your products.  Based on that information, seek out and collect data relating to the contact of people in those groups.  Once all the data is compiled, send out a traceable email to as many people as possible in one email with the subject and body being information about the new product.  Track those who click on "more information" or similar tab.  Once 1,000 people have opened the email, you will have proofs of receipt.

So, which one would you choose? And surely there are many more options.  Each of the above options is achieving the same goal, but the last one is, by today's standards, the most efficient way of reaching the 1,000 people while doing the minimal amount of actual labor at a minimal cost. Can you imagine how long it would take to go door-to-door and tell 1,000 people about your new product?  Days, weeks, at a minimum.  The last option is a little more involved than the others, but achieves maximum results. While this may seem like the obvious choice, think about the many times you've seen these methods employed.  While effective, they are inefficient and costly in both time and money. 
Work Smarter. This is the entire definition of success in my eyes.  It isn't about not working.  It's not about retiring and "living the dream" (whatever that is!).  It's about working smarter and actually living, not just existing for the purposes of working.  It's about achieving the maximum amount of work in the least amount of time.  It's the story about the American businessman and the Mexican fisherman - doing what you need to do to achieve what you want to achieve to make you happy.  Many think that money buys happiness.  Not true, money affords you the things that may make you happy but does not guarantee happiness in any way.  What makes one person happy is usually very different from the next.  Most would agree that the American Dream relates closest with the American businessman's description.  But does every American have the same American Dream?  For some, it may be to have billions in the bank.  For others, it may be to have billions of minutes of free time.  Finding the right balance between time and money is our American Dream. 

The story points out an obvious truth.  If you can do what makes you happy and allows you the time that you require while demanding a lesser amount of man-hours worth of work, why wouldn't you?  Well, a few reasons, most of which is financial security.  By building and making millions upon millions of dollars, it affords you the time, presumably, to do anything that you want - and the money it takes to afford it.   The real question is, what would you do differently if you were a billionaire versus what you do right now - on a daily basis.

Initially, I think most people would do whatever their "dream" is.  Problem is, most people don't really know what their "dream" is.  Is it to own a sprawling mansion on the ocean or a penthouse apartment in New York City.  Ok, so you have your dream home and billions in the bank.  What are you going to do every day - after you've done all the things that you wanted to do i.e. travel, buy lots of toys, charity, etc.  Then what?  You've already driven all your cars.  You've already taken your boats and sailed seas afar.  Keep in mind that you have all of these things only after an average minimum of 15-20 years assuming your business is doing well and is a great success, or longer.  But, in all this time you're taking building this, what are you missing out on?  Is it that vacation that you've always wanted to take but don't have the time?  Is it spending time with your kids but you can't because you work too much? Is it your good health wasting away on your years of working towards the goal of "retirement"?  Or maybe you're wired for work - to that, I say if that's what drives you, then go for it! 

I didn't always think about a career that way.  When I thought I was working towards what I wanted, then found out that it really wasn't that important, I realized that change was inevitable for my well-being.  To add to that, things happened over the past few years that caused many priorities to change.  First, and most important, if you haven't read Jeanine's Story, you should.  There are parts that she revealed that even I was not aware of.   She inspires me every day to want, and to do, more, for us and for our futures.  

Jeanine is, by far, the strongest woman I know.  In the early stages of her most severe back problems, the pain Jeanine was experiencing was reflected by the looks on her face despite her attempts to hide it.   In the more intense moments, she was able to teach herself how to breath and self-meditate to work through the pain without painkillers or any other artificial means of ease her suffering.  Time after time, I watched her reach for the pill bottle, only to stop, reconsider, and go back to her breathing exercises.  Minutes later, when I asked how she was feeling, she would force a smile and tell me she was feeling "ok" - I knew better.  Still, she kept pushing.    

We also had Guinness, our four year old Great Dane, who struggled with Wobbler's Syndrome, was also a daily reminder of just how important good health is.  Despite being challenged on a daily basis, he kept getting up day-in and day-out keeping his body moving as much as he could.  If you read Guinness: A Tribute to "Squishy", you know he had his bad days and his good days.  Nearly two weeks ago, he gave his last try.  His last day with us was nothing short of perfect.  Because we were free to work remotely, we were able to spend his last day with us all together. 
Guinness spending this last full day with us

The other major thing that made me take a look at my priorities was moving from the big city (Orlando) to a small town. Jeanine and I both grew up in small towns and both enjoyed the small-town mentality of people-helping-people and knowing most of the people that you live around.  When we lived in the larger city, most of our lives were directed towards working excessively and making as much money as possible - that's what we knew at the time and we truly enjoyed it and what it brought us.  We had a beautiful house with all the latest tech, etc, and put obscene amounts of money into its renovation. We had nice cars and "toys" to play with on the weekends.  We really felt like we were living the American Dream.  Despite that, we both still agreed that there were parts of our lives that we felt like we were missing out on.   Where we were at that time was not adding to our achievement of those goals.

Does backhoe operator who works eight hours a day moving earth work less hard than a ditch digger who does the same with a shovel?  No. He is just doing it more efficiently.   Working smarter IS working harder.  Figuring out new, smarter methods instead of relying on "the way they've always been done" - that's how innovation works! :)  Remember the five options for getting your product out to 1,000 people?  You can go with option 1, 2, but wouldn't option 5 be the smartest choice? 

So how do these things tie together?  Since the night we met, Jeanine and I have known what goals we wanted to achieve.   We always wanted to "live the dream" and make lots of money so that we could travel the world and experience other cultures (and check off those bucket list items!)  We still do.  What we realized is that it isn't about all of the stuff and things, it's about the experiences.  It's about seeing and doing and living how we want to live. 

I started this journey because I wanted for Jeanine to be able focus on regaining her health and for Guinness to spend time and being able to watch lots of things, not sitting all day on the couch. What I didn't realize was that extended travel was possible with the ability to work remotely.  This is not leisure travel - this is nomadic employment.   The perk is that when work is done, we get to experience where we are, not go through the same routine daily which, believe it or not, is very stressful.  For many people, change is uninvited and difficult.  For us, we thrive on change.   At first it was seemingly near impossible idea to live on the road, but by making some adjustments to our lifestyles and creating additional streams of income (more posts on that later), we are moving one step closer to our version of The American Dream.  
- Eric

Disclaimer:  We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions.  We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback. 

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