Friday, June 14, 2013

Face Up, Make Your Stand: A Golden Year in Review

One year ago today, I walked out of my job -- and my career as I knew it.  I've already written on the topic before, so I won't rehash any of that. But suffice it to say that one year later, it has proven to be one of the pivotal decisions of my adult life.

You learn a lot from walking away from any long term relationship and going it alone.  And here is what I've learned:

Money isn't everything. However, having a budget is critical.  And if you wait until you're already poor to set a budget, you're going to spend a lot of time angry at your former self, who used to waste so much cash.

Installing a back splash is one of the easiest home improvement projects out there. You will still fuck it up, get discouraged, and leave it halfway done.

If you don't take a shower and get dressed within the first 90 minutes you're awake, you probably won't get much done at all. Put some pants on and face the day.

The clients don't come to you.

Learn to cook. Most of it isn't actually that hard. And your buddies will treat you very differently after they taste your oven roasted buffalo wings. I promise.

Also: make your own salsa.  $4.00 16 oz jars are for suckers. SUCKERS.

Even if you can watch porn all day long, you really shouldn't.  You will see things you wish you hadn't seen, and it will raise very troubling questions about who we are as human beings.

If you have extra cash lying around, pre-pay your rent or mortgage.  This could some day be the difference between being poor and being broke.

Washington, D.C. has some first rate public pools. 

If you want to find out what kind of shape you're in, swim laps in an Olympic sized pool for an hour.

If you swim laps in an Olympic sized pool for an hour, three times a week, you will lose that beer weight.

If you stop drinking every day, you will lose that beer weight.

If you eat nothing but almonds all day, you will lose that beer weight.

If you swim, eat nothing but almonds all day, and cut back on your drinking for a couple of months, you will get drunker than an intern the first time you meet your alcoholic former coworkers for happy hour. You'll black out on the way home, you'll throw up, and you'll feel awful for months about everything you put your wife through that night.  Be a professional and eat a proper lunch.

Freelancers get paid last.

Read books every day.  Fiction, non-fiction, trashy rock and roll doesn't matter.  It'll make you smarter.  

Christmas without money sucks. Especially if your brothers make an unannounced decision that this will be the year they're going to resume gift-giving after a several-year break. You'll feel like a shitty brother, a shittier uncle and kind of a loser.

It turns out that LinkedIn is actually an incredibly valuable tool. Not sure when that changed.

Take skin cancer seriously. But don't be afraid to get a little sun. People will notice and comment on how much better you look.

If you drink seven cups of coffee each morning, you're basically just drinking to maintain. We call this "chasing the black dragon."

Smoking pot at 10:00 on a Tuesday morning sounds like a fun idea.  But in reality, at some point it will penetrate the fog in your mind that every single person you know is working, being productive, and contributing to society at that moment, and you will freak out. But at least you'll never do it again.

Getting a massage or a pedicure at 10:00 on a Tuesday morning, on the other hand, will make you feel like a king. You will silently mock your friends who are working, being productive and contributing to society at that moment. (Too bad you can't really afford it).

You know that chronically unemployed/underemployed friend you have? Watch him closely. Make damned sure you don't turn into him.  If he calls you in the middle of the day, don't answer the phone.  Call him back later and explain to him that you were working.  This is important.

Don't be afriad to take a job or two that might be "beneath" you.  Chances are, you have some extra time, and you've gotten a little lax on your fundamentals.

If you have a day off, go to a museum you've never been to. Just try it.

Selling your porn on eBay feels a little weird.

If you have a chance to do something ridiculous and spontaneous, do it.  That night your band drove up to NYC on a few hours notice to play an unpaid show in front of four people will stand out as a very happy memory of a unique moment in time. As the four of you huddle over 1:00 AM burritos at the all-night place off St. Mark's, you will be exceptionally glad that you left your job.

Do a pro bono job at some point. Even if you really need some money.  You'll find out real fast if you love what you do.

If you have all day to sit around and look at your junk, sooner or later you're going to convince yourself that something is wrong with it.  You'll make an appointment and your doctor will tell you everything is ok...but she probably won't ever look at you the same again.

Make friends with other freelancers.  This may just save your ass.

Tattoo removal doesn't hurt as much as everyone says it does.  But it is expensive, and it takes months.

Learn about taxes.  Things change when you work for yourself.

Don't play XBOX during working hours.  Ever.

Make time to see your friends. They're going to try and buy you drinks and dinner and it'll make you feel weird. Just accept the offer, and return the favor when you're in the position to do so.

Don't be a slob.  If you're home all day, you should be able to get at least some house keeping done.

Remember: money isn't everything.