The world of work is daunting for a polymath and/or someone on the autism spectrum. A few years ago after overcoming my injuries enough to survive a 9-5 job, I spent 18 months in a big publishing company. It was awesome to be around so many creative people but I decided to leave. I always find myself in the same predicament, because I am organized and experienced I wind up burdened with one or more of the following: the worst projects (undersold or already disastrous), the meanest clients (thankless people who make employees cry) or very disparate responsibilities. As you may already know succeeding despite this doesn’t provide for better opportunities. I like being challenged but I prefer carefully building the fire-proof house over putting out the fires.
Working in an office, with constant distractions is also very inefficient. As a mom, I have become good at working while carrying on a conversation with a constantly talking child but she is older now and she reads books… so I can again enjoy the satisfaction of efficient work in silence. I am no longer interested in trading 50 hours of my week for the experience of accomplishing 20 hours of work! I actually need my time and I have a myriad of ways to spend it. Time is the most valuable thing I have and I use almost all of it to create value and quality in my life and the life of my extended chosen family. Over the past decade, the latter has proven to be the best investment for me. So to everyone who has been asking lately, I tell them that I am only available 3 days a week. I am willing to trade traditional more stable work opportunities for the the opportunity to meet the person who will understand that a non-distracted, organized and experienced person can accomplish 40 hours of work in about 20. I know from experience (as a consultant and as a supervisor) that a senior employee part-time will cost about the same as a junior full-time but render more/better work. This idea is absolutely not part of the local work culture so I don’t expect my experiment to render me a part-time job but for the time being it’s protecting my time to work on my startup.
And now that I have that baby to take care of 24/7, I put a lot of thought and effort into working smart and protecting my business. Of course, it’s not easy. I am building the leanest startup with no capital and in a few weeks, I have to move my whole family again for the 3rd time in 14 months. I know I can feed my family on 10-12$ a day and am even very efficient at living without electricity, hot water or even a kitchen. Being poor is not really a choice. I left home at 17 but it wasn’t until I was 26 that I accumulated my first insurmountable debt burden (after leaving my abusive husband just before moving to Montreal from Quebec City.) I made the choice to live in expensive West Island close to my second husband to lessen the stress on our daughter. This was also though the worst part of my recovery from a freak accident in 2004. I get enough spousal support to pay for food and bus fare for my daughter. I have never received one penny I am due from the government due to my dire financial situation. I am not holding my breath but I was recently told that this 9,000$ is mine if I want it. While my worst financial disasters are almost completely behind me (I have paid over $17,000 in back taxes for 2004, the last ‘good’ year I had before my accident.) I am in no longer interested in being a consumer and carrying over credit. I do face discrimination for services and work based on that fact but since I have gotten so good at having zero cash, I don’t worry anymore. It has gotten to the point where all the volunteering I did while not being able to work has made my favorite people rich and/or successful and/or connected, therefore I enjoy the flowback when needed. The whole effort of mastering Social Capitalism is turning into yet another useful skill developed entirely with time.
While most people would feel powerless and worthless at the though of ‘not being able to buy, or ‘not being able to afford’ I just see this situation as the cost of having choice. And my choice is to have quality of life. I didn’t think I would win at this game BEFORE having enough money to afford all the basic things/tools we need but the amount of things I need decreased as I optimized and so I reached the singularity of happiness earlier than planned. Most of the things I want cannot be bought anyway, and worse, they become unattainable as soon as I reach the idea of traditional success (overworked and well-paid) because things that are worth doing in life take time. So as someone who is capable of creating the experiences I want to have in life without having to buy them outright, it makes sense to stay away from being overworked. So by safeguarding my time to be able to live, learn, love, educate, volunteer and create, cash becomes less important.
And since I do not have a boss, I can make strategic choices to build my business in a way that provides my clients AND me with quality and I am not afraid to explain this as my business goal. I have become fine with the fact that I am the lone weirdo who calculates everything qualitatively rather than quantitatively.
One of the realizations I had when working for a large corporation is that I would never want to own or work for a company where I do not know everyone’s name while understanding exactly what they do. Coupled with the knowledge acquired while growing Web businesses from tiny to medium, I place that number at about 75 people. I will gladly take a small percentage of the custom-built white-label Facebook Pages promotion application market in return for the pleasant collaborative work with creative people and reasonable earnings. So I mostly work on tools to make my time efficient and limit disaster/recovery/debugging work.
I don’t just do this for myself, I have the immense fortune to live with two other creative polymaths, my spouse and my daughter. They are both geniuses who spend their time creating value in other people’s life, even my daughter who is only 11 is already teaching her classmates as well as tutoring 1-2nd graders. So in our home, each new idea explanation doesn’t start with ‘If I had time…’ or ‘If I had money…’ because we’ve stuck together patiently enough to render those things irrelevant. So between burger imagineering, movie script giggle fests and planning the greatest iPad app for autistic kids ever, we do crafts and build things. Last month we had an idea of making a website that imagines Reality TV-Shows and so we built BufónTV. And when we have time, we work on it :)
Nathan Myrvhol is one of our hero. His life path is similar to ours. A career of this and that, not necessarily what we studied, all interesting, creative and always new and challenging. It’s always great to read about and hear about people who manage to do this and earn a comfortable living.
Out of the 10 underfunded projects with commercial potential we are currently working on as a family, I am hoping that one of them returns enough to fund 10 more and so we can create a never-ending cycle of creativity and accomplishment in a multi-functional workspace that we can share with our friends.