Life advice

The importance of delayed gratification

Well said Brian

Well said Brian

The ability to delay gratification has been one of our most powerful weapons in our fight for the life we want.

My goal is to work six months each year. This pays my pension up front for the next two years and living costs up front for the year, as well as provide a sizable cash cushion in case I don’t get work as soon as I return to the UK to look. So in effect, I am over saving.

In short, six months of work is more than I need to fund my existence. I work in the winter.

When this current contract finishes in the next few weeks, I am free, just in time for spring and summer. It’s an enormous milestone and marks three years of patience and effort.

Three years ago I made a big decision. Things were, at that time, very rosy. I had just started to reap the benefits of the ground work of my 20s. Money was coming in, from work, from side projects. I had plenty of cash and I was starting to, at 33 and no longer a kid, get respect at work from colleagues. Life experience, confidence, gravitas and success also transformed my dating life. All of a sudden, with a little maturity and more focussed game, the super-hot girls who I struggled to get in my 20s were making themselves available to me. I lived with my best friends, we holidayed, smoked cigars and picked up chicks. We had no responsibilities to anyone other than ourselves. Life was getting very easy and as the money piled up, the scope of my options was growing by the pay cheque.

However, I worked 12 months a year. My holidays were a week here and a week there. Despite my growing success, my quality of life in the UK was ever eroding, the quality of life I could have abroad was ever improving. I needed to find a way to limit my time here and maximise my time there. Spend as little time and money in the UK as possible and so I could spend it abroad as much as possible.

Better than the UK?

Better than the UK?

Let’s face it, name almost any country in Europe and it has better weather, better food, better women, better men, better schools, better coffee, better newspapers, better apartments, better standards of living, cleaner streets and greater freedoms. Once you have been to some of these places and tasted the food, dated the slim women, stayed in the fine apartments, then I’m sorry, but the UK becomes intolerable.

So I quit my job. Or at least, when the opportunity arose where I may lose my job, I let it happen. The HR lady was a bully. She’d left me alone for the first few months of my tenure, but when a Director gave me free reign in one project to ‘do what needed to be done to deliver’ and not to have to abide by internal procedures and protocols, she was deeply offended. They were her policies I was allowed to ignore. She complained and the Ops Director, in front of me, told her to get back in her box. She began immediately to try to paint scenarios in other areas of my work where I had done things wrong, to try and win back some self-esteem for herself.

I advocate getting yourself into a position of security, with a cushion of money in the bank, because in this situation for example, since I had plenty of money in the bank, a skill set in demand and a low cost base and I just didn’t need the job to pay my rent. The very first time she got fruity with me I delivered an ultimatum, it was my way or the highway. I knew there was a 99% chance they’d choose the highway, but it didn’t matter to me, I won either way..

So I found myself out of work with the same kind of unvested interest as you might have when you hear that England women beat Latvia women in a World Cup qualifier. Just ‘oh, ok’.

I’d toyed with the idea, because friends were doing it, to become a contractor. Higher pay, shorter commitment.

My first 12 months I couldn’t get work. Not as a contractor. They just kept asking me why I left full time work to be a contractor. It was very strange. They were obsessed not with my abilities, but with the idea that I was not already a contractor. It took me 12 months on the dot but I finally got myself a contract for six months.

Between then and now, I have had a battle. I need to work during the winter and have time off during the summer. However, up until now, I have only been able to get the reverse. I’ve worked the last two summers, I have had to take work when offered, and then only had the winter to travel. My life has been, for the last three years, enormously restricted and that’s before I even get talking about the family tragedy we’ve had to live through.

Making a long term career change is a bullet I chose to bite in order to get a long term gain. If I hadn’t done it, I’d still be working 12 months a year, paying most of it in tax and stuck in the UK. As it is, for at least the remainder of my 30s I have some degree (50%) of economic and geographic freedom. It’s not 100% but it’s plenty to be happy.

Readers, as I write this, I sit on the cusp of spring. My contract ends in eight weeks, just as Spring begins. I have during the course of the winter paid my pension and living costs up until 2016 and now, I am just waiting.

I am currently James, Project Manager. But my Jimmy suit is dusted off, he’s coming back. My trusty Converse are out from the back of the cupboard. I’ve been patient.

Let the fun commence.

Avoiding the snake oil salesmen, the leech of your financial independence.

My friend’s daughter has stumbled around since her 2010 BA in Art and English from a University of dubious merit. She has graduated around £20,000 in debt. She is struggling to get work so she is talking about doing a Masters. My friend is worried about this because he is funding her existence at the moment and doesn’t foresee supporting her much longer.

The problem may well be that his daughter just can’t to get a job and so she is turning back to the education teat for security. It’s a risky move because she could end up 27 years old, £30,000 in debt and with two degrees that employers aren’t very interested in.

Not only would she be £30k in debt, she has lost 10 years of compounding returns. This is not a good position to be in. Not for her or any of us. People with no financial security always seem to end up relying on the state. That means working people have to pay taxes to support them. That’s money they don’t spend elsewhere. Bailing out someone who makes mistakes means you don’t spend that money in some hard working shop keeper’s store.

I sense no small cynicism on the part of the Universities, for peddling snake oil. What else though are these lecturers going to do a living? The only people who get paid for simply knowing about esoteric things are academics. Everyone else is paid to make something.

Does the responsibility lie on the shoulders of the daughter? She signed the agreements after all, so she needs to have done her due diligence. What about the father? What disastrous advice and poor guidance has led to this situation where they have wandered into the clutches of chancers who have taken them for £30,000.

You have to build yourself a skill set that enables you to produce something that people want. If you learn video game design then there’s an obvious market for what you can do. The more clearly you can define your skills the better.

Science is often a good choice. I have witnessed people with a degree in Computer Science earning piles of cash after only a year. He had three job offers before he even left University. He was on almost £100k a year before he was even 25.

The usual retort is when they tell you ‘I measure my success by fulfilment and my ability to think critically and analytically, read widely and write well.’ Just think about these things for a moment. The assumption we are supposed to accept, without evidence, is that only humanities degrees will enable you to achieve these things to a suitable level and also that these things are of absolutely crucial importance to be exercised at the very highest level.

These are all also things that are quite hard to measure. We’re asked to just accept that an English degree is superior to a science degree because the holder is ‘an analytical thinker who is able to write really well’. Is that not also a scientist? There is no proof that an English degree brings these benefits, merely it is a claim, one that is made over and over again. Life is full of these such claims. Renting is dead money, that’s another one. Say it often enough and no evidence is needed, it’s taken as accepted fact.

The next argument is ‘doing it in your spare time isn’t good enough; you don’t get to ‘immerse’ yourself.’ The problem I have with this defence is that I don’t think someone needs to dedicate years learning things that won’t get them a job. It really is a dangerous indulgence because if you can’t do something with it, you’re leaving yourself with a hell of a lot to pay back down the line when you could have just taken a class or two or read a book. With a good degree you are able to teach yourself humanities in your free time.

I have learnt far more in the last five years reading politics, economics and philosophy in my spare time than I ever did at college and University.

Liberal arts degrees are nice and fuzzy, but the value they offer is dubious and hard to prove. That’s why we often hear cloudy phrases like ‘well rounded’ and ‘depth of learning’, ‘think critically’ and ‘immerse one-self’. Again this is the language of snake oil salesmen.

When there is no benefit that can be clearly defined or proven, we need to resort to cloudy language.

If you can afford to throw away money then do whatever you like with it, but for most people a degree is an investment, the biggest single investment they will ever make and it is significantly damaging to not protect yourself from snake oil salesmen who propose difficult-to-market disciplines.

I hope to hell these kids who waste their money years studying woolly subjects in the humanities have all the creativity and depth of knowledge they say they have, because they’re really gonna need it.

Just as a footnote:

I know of someone with a Humanities degree who earns a lot of money. Me. I got my job after working up the ladder for many years and putting my career first. This all had nothing to do with my degree. I have worked my way into this position DESPITE my degree.