I’ve wanted to write this post for a while. The bones for it have been forming in my mind, but I kept putting it off. My intention is to explain how it is that an ordinary family from Adelaide in Australia could find themselves where we are – in the middle of selling all that we own, to quit our jobs and travel with our children. But, the reason I have been putting it off is because it seems impossible to piece together. In other posts I’ve said how we’ve felt trapped by our 9-5 lifestyle and the ‘lightbulb‘ moments that Simon and I had and the feelings of stuffocation. In hindsight, the last 15 years have been like a jigsaw puzzle, and bit by bit pieces have come together to reveal the next adventure that life is sending our way.There have been so many writers, speakers and stories that have all led us toward the next course of action and I’ll try to explain a little bit about some of them and the inspiration they provided.
In 2007 I was on leave from my teaching job, at home with our new born, Oscar. It just so happened,that one of his day time feeds coincided with the time that ‘Oprah’ was on television. After years of working days, I enjoyed a quiet moment of day time television whilst feeding, and ‘Oprah’ fit the ticket because I didn’t need to keep up with a story line. One day, Oprah did an interview with Rhonda Byrne, and the contributors of a film and book called ‘The Secret’. I know every man and his dog has heard about this book by now, but back then, it was all new and I found the whole idea of the Law of Attraction and an energy that connects us all to be quite intriguing. Much of the message aligned with the faith and beliefs I already held, but unlike my Catholic School upbringing, the message of positivity and that it was OK to ask for the things that our souls craved, felt like a breath of fresh air. After pondering the interview that I’d seen on Oprah, it took me a few days to talk to Simon about what I’d seen. I thought that he would laugh at me for believing a bunch of mumbo jumbo, but he listened politely and reserved judgment. A little while later, I watched the film ‘The Secret’ still wanting to figure this all out.
In preparation for this post, I asked Simon if he could recall the moment or the inspiration that pointed toward our current course. He said that he could even recall the exact moments! One day, also in early 2007, he was driving the long commute to work with his mind wandering. So big was the realisation, that he actually said out loud in the car, all to himself, “There has to be more than this!”. And then again, later in the year, and after the conversation I’d had with him about ‘The Secret’ he was on a lunch break shopping in a book store. Again his mind was wandering, and as he reached the top of the escalator, there, like it had been deliberatly placed in his path, was a display table full of Rhonda Byrnes’ book, ‘The Secret’. That evening he put an audio copy of the book into the CD player in his car and began to listen.
It would be lovely if I could say that was all we needed to start planning our escape, thank you very much Rhonda Byrne. But alas, those of you who know us, or have followed from the beginning of the blog, will know that before deciding to run away with the proverbial circus, we had a stint at small business ownership. We poured our soul and energy into setting up a small cake shop in the hope that working for ourselves would free us from ‘working for the boss’ and the tide of ‘blah’ that went along with it. Unfortunately, this had the exact opposite effect, and we felt more trapped than ever by the long hours and reduction in income that came as part of getting a small business off the ground. And whilst small business is not for us, we will always be grateful for the many lessons we learnt, and skills gained from the experience.
After reading ‘The Secret’ Simon began listening to other audio books and presentations from the contributors to the book, and the resources that they spoke about. This introduced him to the work of John Assaraf, who is an entrepreneur and money making expert, the very spiritual Michael Bernard Beckwith and master of positivity, Jack Canfield (he wrote the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, remember those?). Simon also listened to “The Science of Getting Rich” written by Wallace Wattles in 1910 and one of Rhonda Byrnes’ own inspirations. The message ringing loud and clear from all of these people is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme but basic principles of gratitude, a positive outlook and the belief that ‘I can’. Not only that, if you do what you love, with the intention of positively effecting others around you, you can succeed.
Since 2007, I have discovered blogs (obviously) and TED talks. The funny thing is, that the blogs listed in our blogroll were discovered after we decided to embark on this adventure. They continue to be a constant source of inspiration and validation for our decision with each new post. Another excellent blog, discovered only recently, is Marianne Cantwell’s Free Range Humans. Marianne is a traveler, blogger and advocate of living unconventionally by chucking in the 9-5 and ignoring other’s expectations, to live a life that makes you happy.
Some of my favourite TED talks are:
- Matthieu Ricard‘s ‘The Habits of Happiness’
- Nigel Marsh‘s ‘How to Make Work-Life Balance Work
- Steve Jobs‘ ‘How to Live Before you Die’
- Graham Hill‘ ‘Less Stuff More Happiness’
- Everything by ‘Sir Ken Robinson‘
- JK Rowling’s The Fringe Benefits of Failure
Matthieu Ricard is a Biochemist turned Buddhist monk who believes that we can train our minds in habits of well-being. He says
“Well-being is a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment, a state that actually pervades and underlines all emotional states and all the joys and sorrows that can come ones way.”
Ricard goes on to explain that people think that we can gather things to be happier, but that all emotions are only fleeting so we should learn to look inward and unfold our emotions as an antidote to the negative ones. He advises that changing cognitive patterns is possible, but meditation takes time. Unconditional compassion and nothing but loving kindness are the goal, because mind training matters to determine the quality of every instance.
Nigel Marsh wrote a book called ‘Fat, 40 and Fired’ which I read recently. It is based on his year off of paid work that got him started on the road to advocacy for life-work balance. In his talk on the subject Marsh makes the following observations
- If society is to make any progress, we need an honest debate.
- Face the truth, government and institutions aren’t going to solve this problem for us.
- We have to be careful with the time frame that we choose upon which to judge our balance.
- We need to approach balance in a balanced way.
“Being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life. With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life … moreover, I think, it can transform society … because if enough people do it … we can change society’s definition of success … away from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money dies wins to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well-lived looks like … and that, I think, is an idea worth spreading.”
In Steve Jobs‘ address to graduating students from Stamford University, he make the following excellent statement about lessons learned in life and how hindsight and experience allows us to connect the dots. I love it.
“Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever–because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”
Graham Hill talks about downsizing our homes and possessions to make more happiness. He advises others to find happiness like he has, in a streamlined, smaller, uncluttered home. This will save money, make a smaller environmental footprint and save time. He give the following 3 guidelines to achieve this:
- Edit Ruthlessly
- Think Small
- Make Multifunctional
I absolutely agree with everything Sir Ken Robinson has to say about education in his TED talks. I won’t go into it here, because that’s a whole other post, but check out his insights into education if you agree that our education system is ready for reform.
J K Rowling is one of our favourite authors. All of us in our family love the Harry Potter series, and even Oscar who is still only 6, aspires to read the books soon, after hearing the audio of The Philosopher’s Stone, and seeing the film. So it is no surprise that I love Joanne’s address to graduating Harvard University students. My favourite quote follows, and the entire talk is excellent.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
When not busy listening to Harry Potter books in the car, Simon has also drawn inspiration from Tim Ferriss‘ ‘4 Hour Work Week’. The book focuses on what Ferriss refers to as ‘lifestyle design’ and a rejection of the traditional ‘deferred life plan’ in which people work long hours and take few vacations during the prime of their life, saving money in order to relax after retirement, obviously this one has rung a bell 🙂
Lastly I’d like to end with a song, watch out though, it’s a catchy tune with a catchier message, and you just might find yourself running away to join the circus after listening to it… It’s Frank Turner’s Photosynthesis, enjoy!