Life without Compromise: Day 1

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Today has been Day 1 of my “life without compromise prototype trip.”

Let me go back a step.  I’ve been reshaping my life in accordance with a principle called “Life Without Compromise,” which I’ve been learning from Eric Jackson.  I could go on about LWC for a while, but suffice for now to say that more will come on the topic.  EJ is a well-known whitewater kayaker whose current claim to fame is Jackson Kayak, arguably the dominant manufacturer in whitewater kayaking, but if you ask him he’ll tell you that his life is about his priorities, and that business only makes it to number four on the list, after his wife, his kids, and kayaking.  Anyway, LWC is a fairly straightforward plan that I’ve decided to get wholly on board with.  I quit my day job and replaced it with one with flexible hours and without a fixed office location so that I could get my priorities in order.  I’ve evaluated my life and concluded that I have four priorities right now:

    Kayaking

    Practicing law

    Writing

    Friends

A month ago, my life was dominated by compromise.  If you looked at how I spent my time, you’d see:

    Helping someone else practice law

    Kayaking (on weekends)

    Trying to catch up on everything else

    Actually practicing law for my clients

    Writing stuff I didn’t enjoy or care about

    Feeling bad about not doing what I really cared about

I’m sorry if that list isn’t very articulate, but frankly it’s a good representation of how I felt.  My life actually looked fairly ordered: I was in a predictable place for 40 hours a week, doing nominally productive stuff that someone claimed to care about, and I was spending a solid two days a week doing the things I cared about.  But on slight examination, it wasn’t really like that.  My 40 hours at work weren’t spent meeting my goals or fulfilling my values.  More than half of that time was spent on tasks that didn’t relate to my primary practice area at all, and because of how my pay scale was written, that time actually took away from my income potential too, so I wasn’t even proceeding toward my financial goals.  My weekends “spent kayaking” were really mostly spent driving and setting up logistics, although indeed I did get in a lot of great runs; in fact 2015 has been a simply fantastic paddling year for me so far.  But I wasn’t getting any writing done at all, other than what looked like writing but didn’t really advance my priorities.  

Worse still, I was drowning financially.  I was stuck in a low salary with no real hope of bringing my income up – the structure at that firm left me powerless to raise my income in the immediate future, and the busywork thrown in (often as “punishment” for making my own time-management choices) took away time that I could have spent boosting my income.  It was a stifling environment for me.

So I decided that a change was in order.  I left that firm, and kept theoutside firm relationships that provided me with stable and immediate revenue, with one primary role providing me with more than enough work to make up for the lost salary and giving me back control of both my income and my time. Now, I have enough work to meet my financial goals, but I’m not stuck working on someone else’s terms, and I can see how my work translates directly into meeting my goals and satisfying my priorities.  So the “work” aspect of my Life Without Compromise may be covered.  But I’ll have to see if it works.  

There’s one major downside to leaving a salaried office position in favor of my new arrangement.  No longer do I have a guarantee of a certain income – I only get paid for the work that I actually complete and bill.  Nor do I have someone else helping me to stay organized – I have to discipline and schedule my own time.  But the only way to see if it works is to try it.  

In my first two weeks away from my salaried job, I learned that home isn’t a very productive environment for me. It’s loaded with distractions and derailments. I guess that’s not surprising; all the way back to first grade I’ve always had problems getting things done at home. Some things never really change.  And worse, I wasn’t fulfilling my priorities; I still only kayaked on the weekends, for whatever reason.  Could be that Buffalo just doesn’t have daily flow.  

This plan is about life without compromise. I’m choosing to focus on four priorities: kayaking, practicing law, writing, and friends. Buffalo is great for friends and not so bad for practicing law, but less ideal for kayaking. So here I am in Ohiopyle, PA, where there’s great kayaking and easy access. The plan is to kayak a bit every day, and work 5-6 hours in the other part of the day.  This is my “prototype trip” and my main goal of this week is to just see if it works.  I need to engage each of my priorities, but also work enough to pay my bills.  If I don’t learn how to be productive, I may have to go back to the drawing board.   

Today isn’t yet a big success. I only got through about five hours of work, and a lot of that wasn’t billable stuff.  But actually, that’s not a bad start either. 

I may or may not be more productive on the road. Currently, I’m still struggling to work out the logistics because sitting in my car itself isn’t the most productive environment. But it’s a learning process, and I’ll see how it goes.

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