How to be Independent: Write your story, then burn it

Chapter 1: Write your current Story, then burn it

When I was growing up, my generation was taught the following “sure fire steps to

1. Stay in school and study hard

2. Go to college and study hard some more

3. Get good grades and participate in lots of extracurricular activities

4. Either:

a. Go to law/business/grad school or…

b. Interview with the best corporations, land an entry-level job

5. Work hard

6. Climb the corporate ladder

7. Contribute to your 401k, save for your kids’ college
8. Fit in, play the game, take the training, show up early and leave late, work
weekends – all to make sure you were not the one laid off when the inevitable
downturns come

9. Retire

10. Travel, fish, learn to play banjo, try stand-up comedy, take a cooking class –
finally have the time to do what you want in life

11. Write memoirs

12. Pass along what’s left of your money (or your debt) to your kids (after the medical
system has taken its share)

My father grew up a poor sharecropper from the southern U.S. He was determined to
make a better life for him and his family. When he was 18, a truck came through town
hauling laborers north to the fertile fruit orchards of Michigan. He hopped on for a
better life picking fruit. Fortunately, the truck broke down in northwest Indiana. He
heard the local foundry was hiring so he headed over and started work the same day. He
worked hard, sought progressively higher pay grades, contributed to his 401k, saved for
his kids’ college, played the game. He is now retired and doing all the things he never
had time to do before. A great life. Except for the factory part. He worked hard for
longer hours in dirty and hot conditions. He wanted a better life for us kids. So, he gave
us what he did not have – encouragement to stay in school and get a good education. He
also gave us the part he did have – encouragement to get a job, work hard, climb the
ladder, save for retirement.

Thus, my story is predictable. Until step 8. That’s where I disrupted the process and
found a better way.

I grew up in a small northwest Indiana town and went to public
schools. I was happy and got good grades. Learning was always fun to me and pleasing
the teachers and my parents was my number one goal. I graduated valedictorian of my
high school class and went to the prestigious Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in
Terre Haute, Indiana (look it up; “prestigious” is not an overstatement). I studied hard
and earned my B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering. Grad school was not an option for
me – I wanted to start earning bank as soon as possible. I landed an entry level process
engineering job at a large pharmaceutical manufacturer. Good pay. Good 401k match.
Good advancement opportunities.

But it was missing something. I was missing something.

Next time: a move to Chicago not on my own terms…

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How to be Independent -Introduction

February 2002. War was raging in Afghanistan, the Twin Towers were still smoldering,
and I was smoking a cigarette in the parking lot of a dirty chemical plant four hours
from home. As I contemplated how I had gotten here after swearing not to work in dirty
chemical plants anymore I realized my life and my career were not my own. I went
where my employer told me. I did the job my employer wanted me to do in the way he
told me to do it. I had been two months out of work after being canned from my  previous job. We had been living paycheck to paycheck, so we had to max our credit
cards. Even though it required travel I was desperate, so I took this job and showed up
for my first day on September 11, 2001. I knew the world would never be the same. I just
didn’t yet know how different the world – and my life – would be.

As I took another drag off my cigarette and exhaled. I watched the smoke and my
breath drift off in the crisp bright air. I looked around nervously – I didn’t like my boss’s
client to see me smoking. Even quality time with my buddy Winston was not wholly my

I made a decision and a promise to myself in that moment. I gave myself five years.
Five years to become free. Within five years, I swore, I would own a business. I would
call my own shots. Even if I ended up at a dirty chemical plant, I would be serving my
client. It would be my decision and I could walk away or stay as I wished. My job
security would no longer depend on the whims of an employer. My job security would
depend on my ability to network and enlist others in my vision. My salary would depend
on my negotiation skills. I liked my chances as a business owner more than my chances
as a corporate drone. 

Within three years I made good on my promise and then some.  I had become an independent consultant and I was serving my first client. I was making more money and working in a clean office instead of a dirty chemical plant.
And I got to hang out with my friends in the evenings instead of sitting in a Motel 6. My
career and my future were in my own hands now.

As I continue this blog, I will describe exactly how I did it, step by step. I will give you tips that
you can apply to your own career and your own life. If you’re willing to work hard, maybe you could free yourself, too. The results are up to you, though. My story is not
typical. Few are willing to do the work and have my level of success. That’s a good thing.
Because there are tons of opportunities out there, but not many know how to take
advantage of them. So, read on. Do the work. Free yourself and change your story!  

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How to be independent? Go!

Apparently I don’t know how to get focussed and disciplined to write a book. I do, however, know how to write a blog post.

Let’s make a deal…

I’ll write blog posts about my journey of independence. Along the way, I’ll give you some tips and wisdom that may help you on your independence journey. In return, you will:

  • tell me what works and what doesn’t
  • ask questions for me to answer in future blog posts
  • Share posts that hit home
  • Share posts that might help your friends and family
  • Receive a gratis copy of the book I will compile and edit from the blog posts

My goal is to help people. I want to spread the message that you can be independent. I want to share my story of how I became and remained independent in the hope that it will inspire others to forge their own path. Because I think the future will continue to seem unpredictable and chaotic. The world is changing faster than our old institutions can keep up. To take care of ourselves and our families in these times, we will need to understand what it means to be independent. Because the old way – relying on a company or the government to take care of us – simply will not work for many of us.

Next up: introduction to my story.

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To be clear

I believe in the power of the mind. I also believe in reality. And science. I also believe in the healing properties of humor. And sarcasm. So let’s set a few things straight.I made up the diagnosis Chronic Senescence as a tongue in cheek condition to which I would attribute my symptoms. I am well aware that my symptoms are self inflicted and that they are ever more challenging as I pile on the years and pounds and minutes on my butt. I am friends with my doc and I knew he’d get the joke. That, by the way, was the first and only joke in this visit.

This doctor visit was not about getting a diagnosis. It was about enrolling an expert partner. And it was about having a bucket in which to pour my seriousness about getting healthy. Think of whatever metaphor you want. Whether it’s the piano teacher who you wish not to disappoint by not practicing, the personal trainer who will notice if you haven’t done the drills, or the cycling partner who will kick your ass up the hills if you don’t get in the miles. Doc is my guy. And he knows a ton about the human body.

For those of you worried that I’ve run to a doctor who’ll just pump me full of pills and for those of you who are worried that I’ve gone to a witch doctor, neither of you has a thing to worry about. I’m in good hands – my own. And I have a trusted partner to guide and advise me along the way.

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Getting Healthy Day 1

I am 47 and I have self-diagnosed Chronic Senescence. I went to the doctor today. It was just a check-up, but he confirmed my diagnosis. This condition is characterized by increased body fat, frequent tiredness, and a feeling of being run-down. Patents report occasional vertigo and difficulty focusing and concentrating. Put another way, I’m getting old.

Getting old, it turns out, is more than a state of mind and not exactly a preventable condition. It is quite possible and, for me, desirable to manage the symptoms. This is day 1.

Day 1 was about assessment. No answers yet. Just questions. From my Facebook:

It’s a whole body approach. Looking to healthfully and sustainably (and as naturally as possible) bring my body to a higher state of health. We’ll see when results come back but I suspect refined diet, supplements, and maybe some meditation. I’ll know I’m making progress when I’m not so tired all the time and my body composition and weight are closer to normal.

They took my BP, measured my body composition, took my vitals, etc.

Dr. Logan ( ordered a panel of blood tests to be conducted by The Cleveland Heart Lab. Among the markers they will look for are indicators of inflammation. I expect I’ll fail this portion of the test. Or, pass if you consider that I’ll find out why I’m tired all the time and feel run down a lot. Dr. Logan added some tests for cholesterol, testosterone, and thyroid. The thyroid part is because of my history of depression. The testosterone is about the energy.

I will have results in about 8 weeks. First, I have to wait 2 weeks to get my 12 hour fasting blood draw on account of my scooter injuries possibly throwing off the result. What’s that? You didn’t hear about my scooter accident? That’s over on Facebook.

In the meantime, I’m going to start myself on some MCT oil, some ghee in my coffee, and a lot less sugar.

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Public vs Private Intention

I never follow through on my public intentions. Many self-help programs (books, training workshops, etc.) will tell you to make your intention public and it will more likely come to pass. Power of attraction, affirmations, mindfulness. All these systems have a ton of people hovering around them that promise great riches if you just speak your intention into the  universe.

Not me. The minute I speak my intention to the  universe, the universe looks at me and says, “oh yeah?”

Which is why I am going to state my intention here, in public. And then prove the universe wrong by making it come true. Take that, universe. My compromise with the universe is this: I will not provide details. I’ll just state the goal, the benefit to humanity, and the  start.

Step 1

Set up high value on-line mentoring

Step 2

Use social media (without spamming my friends) to build a fanbase

Step 3

Pay off my bills and stop worrying about money

Bonus Step

Collect underpants

Your critique is welcome

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Days gone by

Having been sick since Sunday afternoon, it’s a weird feeling to have just lost 3 days. It’s not the money (if I don’t work I don’t get paid, but days off are in the business plan). It’s not even feeling sick (humans forget what pain feels like; otherwise we’d all be only-children). It’s knowing that I just lost 3 days. Now I’m feeling better and sitting out on my deck listening to the birds and other evening sounds. The smell after today’s rain is thick with life and earth. A few bugs are tickling my skin, probably feasting on dead skin cells (bastards probably don’t know yet that they are now infected). Point is, I missed 3 days of this. So, tell me. Aside from vitamin C (which I already take), how do you avoid getting sick? 

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