Welcome back to our series on how to get what you want in life. Last time we talked about the importance of knowing what you really want. Not what would make your mom happy or what society expects of you. What you, personally, really want in your life.
Hopefully you’ve spent some time thinking about this and have decided what you really want. If so, it’s time to go after it. In this post, we are going to talk about how to “ask for it” to get what you want in life.
We’ll start by clearing up a little confusion.
If you’re like a lot of people, you are probably wondering why your life isn’t already the way you want it. You work hard. You follow all the rules. You’re a loyal employee doing everything the boss asks of you. You’re an all-around good person doing what you are supposed to do. Our parents did this and made out much better than we have. So is there something wrong with you?
I don’t think so. I mean, you could be some kind of screw-off who has wrecked your own life. But the fact that you are reading a blog like this tells me that isn’t it. I believe there are a lot of reasons you are in the mess you are in. And most of them are totally out of your control. Mega-factors like changing demographics and stupid government policies can explain much of why our generation isn’t doing nearly as well as previous generations. But there is one big factor that you can do something about.
To understand it, let me give you a 60-second history lesson.
The Industrial Revolution gave us huge leaps forward in productivity and standards of living. But an industrial society requires a certain type of worker, someone who:
- Works hard
- Follows the rules
Over time the whole of Western society was geared toward turning normal people into hard working, rule following, interchangeable factory workers. Schools trained kids to behave like this. Our parents pounded the idea into our heads too. Employers and the government also extolled the virtues of this kind of behavior. Characteristics like initiative and flexibility could actually gum up the works.
At first, this was a pretty good deal. Sure, working in that manner is dehumanizing. Still, if you did your job and didn’t cause problems you could count on regular raises, the occasional promotion, and a comfortable, company-funded retirement. The system provided for most people pretty well without them having to take much initiative.
But the world has changed a lot in the last couple of decades. The old industrial system is breaking down. The tacit deal of “work hard and follow the rules and we will take care of you” has collapsed. For the vast majority, getting what you want in life is much harder than it used to be.
If working hard and following the rules like you were told doesn’t work, what should you do to get what you want? You need to take the initiative…
If you want something in life these days, you have to ask for it. I know that can be a big issue for people, especially people in their 50’s and older. We had the old way beat into our heads from childhood. It is a hard mindset to break out of.
I spent much of my life living that way. Into my 40’s I thought if I just followed the rules and worked really hard, it would all magically turn out right in the end. No luck there.
I realized I had to change my thinking. Some of the old self-help gurus talked about asking for what you want. It was clearly the way to go, but it was hard. You need to muster the huevos to do it. You not only have to be willing to tell someone you want something from them, you have to face the fact that they are quite likely to tell you, “NO!”
Eventually I learned to ask for what I wanted. It wasn’t fun. Worse, it didn’t always work.
Over time, I learned that there is more than one way to ask for something. It is usually more complicated than simply saying, “Please sir may I have the keys to that Lamborghini over there?”
I learned that the right way to ask for something varies depending on circumstances. Asking someone to pass the salt while sharing a meal is pretty straightforward. Asking someone to give you something of significant value simply because you want it seldom works.
When you want something of real value, or getting the thing is really important to you, you want to propose a mutually-beneficial exchange. You get something you want in exchange for giving them something they want. This way both sides gain. A couple of examples of this might help:
In both cases, to “ask for it” includes showing the other person why or how giving you what you want will benefit them. If you can muster the initiative to not only ask for what you want, but to ask for it this way, your life should start improving almost immediately.
Here’s a third example. My daughter and I were on our way to visit family in Pennsylvania and had stopped at a rest area on the NY Thruway. When we came out of the building, we saw a bunch of people staring from the parking structure out into the access road. They were staring at two guys who were standing next to their cars talking. Their fancy Lamborghini sports cars.
My daughter is a big fan of those vehicles and said she wished she could see the car better. I was in the middle of training myself to ask for things that I wanted, so I swallowed hard and walked the 15 yards or so to the two guys. I told them my daughter loved their cars and wanted to get a closer look.
One of the guys smiled, threw me the keys and said my daughter could sit in his car if she wanted! This was the result:
Once I broke the ice, all the people who were watching from the parking garage came flooding over. There were people everywhere staring at the cars and asking the owners questions. Everyone was having a great time. And then…
…another Lamborghini arrived, and another, and more and more. By the time they were done arriving, there were at least 60 of these super cars there.
It turned out to be a meeting of a group of Lamborghini owners from all over the Eastern USA who were making a run up to Canada. They were gathering at this spot to start their trip and were more than happy to show off their cars to us regular folk.
Bringing this back to the subject of this post, doesn’t this show that you can get the good stuff by asking? After all, I didn’t offer them money or anything like that.
In retrospect, it is pretty clear that these guys loved their cars and wanted to show them off. And they probably wanted a crowd of people in place to “ooh” and “aah” at their buddies as they arrived. They just needed one of the bystanders to get up the guts to come and talk to them. I offered the car owners exactly what they wanted in exchange for them letting my daughter sit in their car.
These days I try and look at things a little deeper. With enough information about the other party you can usually find something they will accept in exchange for what you want. Like everything else, you’ll get better with practice and won’t need to rely on the kind of luck I had that day.
Now realize I am not guaranteeing that this will always work. There are lots of reasons someone might not give you what you want, even if you ask for it the right way.
So what should you do if you can’t get what you want, even after asking for it the right way? That depends heavily upon the circumstances.
We’ll talk about the various possibilities in Step 3 of this series.
In previous posts, we talked about some of the ways you can be freer tomorrow. In the next few posts, I will be focusing on getting what you want in life. Unless you are incredibly lucky, the things you want in life are not going to just drop into your lap. Getting what you want in life isn’t easy. You’re going to need the personal strength to work for them. It is a multi-step process. Happily, each step helps build the strength you will need for the next step. Step 1 is to know what you really want in life.
How do you figure that out? The “follow your passion” approach is quite popular. Unfortunately, it is also quite wrong.
If you’ve spent some time working to improve yourself, you’ve probably noticed something. Most of the “self-help” advice being published these days really sucks. I’m seeing a lot of, “follow your passion and the universe will reward you” crap. It all sounds lovely. Just get that basket weaving degree and get cracking.
You will love what you are doing and somehow, everything will be wonderful. The world will recognize your genius and passion. You will become rich. Your ideal partner will find his or her way to you. Everything you want will materialize for you because of your passion for weaving baskets.
But life doesn’t work that way. Especially when times are tough like today. No one will give a damn about your baskets. You won’t become rich and famous. The man or woman of your dreams isn’t going to miraculously find you and bring you endless happiness. All the passion and wishing and affirmations in the world won’t make it happen.
There are two flaws in the “follow your passion” approach. The first is that passion is enough to somehow bring you success. All you have to do is think this through to see the fallacy. Tens of millions of kids have a passionate desire to be Olympic athletes. And only a few thousand make it.
The second flaw to this approach is built in right at the start. You need to “follow your passion” for basket weaving or you won’t be happy.
Do you really want to build your life around some job (whether you are passionate about it or not)? Do you really want this to be the focus of your existence? When you’re on your death bed, do you really want to look back and say I was the best damn basket weaver in the world?
Or do you want all that other stuff instead? Do you really want the:
And all that other stuff that is supposed to come your way when you “follow your passion?”
Figuring out what you really want in life can be hard. In the USA, most adults know what they are supposed to want. The media tells you what you are supposed to want, and believe, and do. Advertisers use the latest psychological research to manipulate you into wanting whatever $#!+ they are selling. But digging out what you, personally, really truly want can take some serious work.
I’m not the guy to tell you how to figure this out. I wrestled with it for a long time, and I am sure there are more efficient ways of doing it. If you think it will help you, leave me a message at the end of this article. If enough people are interested, I’ll try and reconstruct the path I followed and do a post about it for you.
Your best bet is probably to consult wiser heads than me to help you figure this out. I suggest you:
NOTE: After publishing this post I did decide to post one technique that helped me a lot.
Or perhaps the problem is that you know what you want and it isn’t what you are supposed to want. Society has expectations for us. It puts massive pressure on us to conform to those expectations. And part of that pressure is to like certain things and dislike other things. To want certain things and to not want other things.
An awful lot of us know what we want in life…and we know it isn’t what society says we should want. We might want something that we are unwilling to admit to others because we know they won’t approve. Our parents want us to be doctors, but we want to be video game designers. Society wants us to work our asses off to buy crap we don’t need, but we want to live a minimalist lifestyle.
We know that if we do what we want to do, it will upset someone. We will disappoint Mom. The people around us will rag on about how we’re wasting our potential. If we care about the opinions of others, this noise can make us feel bad about ourselves. It can make us pursue things in life that we don’t really want, in order to avoid upsetting expectations and feeling bad about ourselves.
This is something you need to get over if you are going to be freer and happier in the future. The pain of violating expectations, of pissing off your friends and family, is real. But it goes away. The pain of living a life you don’t want, just so someone else isn’t annoyed, never goes away.
Again, I am not an expert on doing this, but you have to do it somehow. If it takes professional help, go for it. You can wreck your life living this way.
Or maybe you really know what you want and accept it. But you know that others won’t accept your choices. In today’s crazy world, people think they have the right to force you to think, to live, the way they want you to. So you may have to take steps to protect yourself.
For an extreme example, look at the 2016 US Presidential election.
People know they are supposed to want Hillary Clinton to be the next President. The media says so. The government says so. Screaming mobs of professional protesters demand that they support Hillary. If someone says they don’t support Hillary, they are asking for trouble. People might call them names. Their friends might shun them. Their Twitter account will suddenly disappear. Or even worse. As a result, many people in the USA are unwilling to say that they support Donald Trump for President.
So what’s the solution? When friends ask, they say what they are expected to say. When pollsters call, they tell the caller what they expect to hear. Or they hang up. They keep their mouths shut and their true feelings to themselves. They keep their true feelings to themselves to avoid unnecessary trouble.
When pressed, they may have to lie to protect themselves. It sucks that they need to do it, but there is nothing wrong with this. Remember that this is a response to people trying to force them to do what they don’t want to do. To live their lives the way someone else wants them to. To think the way some self-appointed authority wants them to.
You may need to take this approach too.
I know that it is very “in” to tell everyone what you are going to do. It can definitely help you achieve goals when your friends and family will harass you if you don’t. However, where people won’t accept what you want to do, keeping your mouth shut is probably the way to go. Over time, you are likely to end up with a new set of friends that actually agrees with you, and supports you, but that’s a topic for another post.
Once you know what you really want in life, you are facing in the right direction. Are you guaranteed to get everything you want? Hell no. Are you guaranteed to get any of it at all? No! But you at least have a fighting chance now. One that doesn’t rely on dumb luck or supernatural intervention. You’ve taken your first step.
In the next few posts we’ll talk about getting what you want once you know what you really want out of life. Start with this one: Ask for it to get what you want.
In my last post, we talked about how my lifestyle leaves me free to do less. That’s a pretty obvious result. Today we’re going to talk about something a little less obvious: how this lifestyle leaves me free to do more and motivates me to do so too.
As I’ve mentioned before, the life I’ve built for myself leaves me with a lot of free time. That’s great, but it can be a trap too. You can actually get into a rut of doing nothing. And like any other rut, it can be tough to get out of.
I fell into that trap. There was a period in my life where I basically did nothing of note. What did I do with my time:
And that’s pretty much it.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. I worked hard to be “freer tomorrow,” and when tomorrow got here, I took advantage. I had been working tons of hours and dealing with huge stresses for years. So just hanging out and catching my breath for a while wasn’t a bad idea.
But… This went on for 2 years!
I was stuck in a big rut. Even after I realized it, I found it hard to get unstuck. I felt bad. I was drifting through life and I hated it. I’m happiest when I feel like I’m making some sort of progress. It was clear that I wasn’t getting anywhere during this time, but breaking out of that rut was surprisingly tough.
It took a 10-week stint working at a stealth 3D printing startup in Puerto Rico to finally snap me out of it. The company failed in a scandalous manner, and I never got paid a cent, but at least I was unstuck.
One thing I learned from all this is that anyone, even someone as hard-driven as I used to be, can get lazy and lose direction. Another thing I learned is that too much freedom and too much free time can be dangerous for someone who is used to working hard. If you don’t believe me, try talking to some retirees. Many suffer from having too much time on their hands. It can happen to anyone.
The solution to the problem of too much freedom, of just drifting through life, is to do more. If you have something you want to, or need to do, then you eliminate the problem of drifting. When you have a regular job, and a regular life, this isn’t a problem. Your job gives you things you need to do (whether you want to or not).
When you are truly free, you need to figure out what it is you’re going to do. But if you do this right, you will have the time and the energy to figure it all out. You are free to do more than just hang out for a few years. And best of all, you get to choose what your “more” is. Some people donate time to charity. Others work on improving their health, or develop a new hobby.
Right now, I’m taking advantage of my free time and energy to administer my mother’s estate. I could pay an attorney to handle this, and if I was still living and working in the USA, I would. But now I have the time and the energy to do this myself. It certainly isn’t a fun project, but it is important to me and my siblings. It’s also important for keeping me from falling back into a rut of doing nothing in particular.
Doing this is forcing me to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t ordinarily do. Deciphering all the legal gibberish involved isn’t fun, but it keeps my mind active. Living in Ecuador and dealing with an estate in New Jersey also requires a lot of problem solving. Even something as simple as getting a document notarized can turn into a project. Not exactly fun, but something to keep me motivated and thinking.
What should you be taking away from all this? If you work hard to be freer tomorrow, someday you will be. At that point you will face the problem of being too free and needing to find things to do with your time and energy. Don’t waste years of your life like I did. You need to plan for freedom. As you go along, spare some thought for what you will do when you are free to do more.
We’ve talked about being freer to do less, and freedom to do more. Next we will talk about one more freedom you will want to take advantage of, the freedom to change your priorities.
Have you ever thought what it would be like to be free to do less?
If you live in the West, particularly in the United States, you are likely on the run every waking minute. Part of that is necessity. With the economy falling apart, jobs scarce, and raises non-existent, most people have to bust ass just to keep from drowning.
But a big part of this is cultural. In the USA, there is always pressure for more. More stuff, bigger stuff, better stuff. Already got more stuff than you know what to do with? That’s not important. Buy more.
You are bombarded 24/7 with advertisements and subtle pressure to work harder and borrow more money to buy more shit you don’t really need. And recently it has gotten even worse. Now the governments of the West are busy flogging you to buy more stuff too.
After 9/11, President Bush said that everyone needed to go shopping to get the economy moving again. Since then governments everywhere say it is your duty to buy shit you don’t need to stimulate their economies and save the world from a recession or worse. And of course the central banks (the Fed, or Federal Reserve in the USA) are manipulating interest rates to punish you if you are evil enough to save, instead of borrow and spend.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. I have figured out how to change my life to (mostly) free myself from these pressures. Because of the way I’ve organized things, I am free to do less. I can live within my means, even while working for myself and putting in far less than 40 hours a week. And I don’t feel the pressure to have the latest, greatest, most expensive version of whatever the marketing guys are trying to ram down my throat this week. I even put my money in banks in places where you earn a decent amount of interest.
In other words, I am free to do less while maintaining a good quality of life.
I’m not perfect of course. I grew up in the USA and still get those occasional mad urges to buy something new and shiny and expensive that I don’t really want or need. But those impulses are mostly under control now.
When you are free to do less, your stress levels will go down and your health will likely improve. Over the last few years I’ve lost about 25 pounds. I look and feel much healthier than most of the guys I went to school with. And because I am not constantly working, I am free to actually live.
Yesterday we spent the entire afternoon visiting with friends, playing pool, and watching a soccer match on TV. It was a Tuesday and you were probably busting your butt at the office. If you keep working to be freer tomorrow, you will eventually be free to do less. You’re gonna like it.
Being free to do less is great. But sometimes that’s not what you want. You can also be free to do more.
I love my smartphone as much as the next person. But when it comes time to get serious work done (or I just want some peace and quiet), I sometimes want to throw the thing against the wall. The constant beeping and buzzing and ringing of incoming messages can make it impossible to concentrate. But things are much better now that I have started using the Do Not Disturb option built into my Android phone.
I’ve known about the Airplane Mode on smartphones for years. I use it all the time when flying. And I use it at night when I go to sleep and don’t want to be awakened by spam email, or somebody’s drunken Facebook post at 2am. It works great for this.
But Airplane Mode is hard-core. Your phone’s built-in radios are deactivated. No calls or messages arrive from anyone. You can’t place calls either. And you have no GPS or Internet either. You are completely out of touch when Airplane Mode is on.
Do Not Disturb mode on Android phones gives you much more control. In this mode, your phone is still connected to the world. You can use the Internet, make calls, send messages, all that good stuff. And people can still send you messages.
But Do Not Disturb mode stops the phone from notifying you about those calls and messages. It mutes all incoming calls and alerts. In other words, you still get messages on your phone. And people can still leave you voice mail. You just won’t get the noise and flashing lights that would otherwise distract you from what you are doing.
You can also use this mode to block only certain people, or set it to activate automatically on a schedule. But in this post I’m going to show you how to find and use the basic Do Not Disturb mode. If you want details on the fancier aspects, leave me a message below and I’ll do another post specifically on that.
This puts you in control. Instead of incoming stuff grabbing your attention whenever it arrives, you only see the stuff when you want to. Using Do Not Disturb makes it easier to concentrate when you need to and gives you a bit of control over the endless distractions that bombard you every day.
So if this all sounds good to you, let me show you how to put the basic Android Do Not Disturb mode to work.
I’m going to walk you through this step by step. But before I do, I have to make a disclaimer. Android phones don’t all work exactly the same. Each version of Android does things slightly differently. And phone manufacturers often add their own bells and whistles to the stock Android setup. On top of that, mobile phone companies (the guys who own the phone networks, not the ones who manufacture the phones) sometimes add their own unique twists to the interfaces of phones that run on their networks. And if you are using a non-Android device I am virtually certain it won’t work but you shouldn’t be reading this post anyway.
That’s all to say that while what I am about to tell you works on my phone (a Samsung Galaxy J7 running Android 5.1.1), I can’t guarantee that it will work on yours. It probably will, but I can’t guarantee it. The bright side of the story is that what we are about to do here can’t break your phone in any way so there is no risk in trying. Ready?
The first step is to find the Do Not Disturb option on your phone. If your phone has this capability, you should be able to find it somewhere on the Settings screen. On my particular model of phone, it is an option in the Notifications section of the the Sounds and notifications page. This is the logical place for it, and if your phone supports it, you will likely find it here.
As I said, today we are not concerned with the fancier options under Do Not Disturb. To activate this mode, tap Do not disturb. You should then see a slider or similar option that allows you to turn this mode On or Off. That’s all it takes.
You can tell when Do Not Disturb is active by looking for its icon on the phone’s notification area at the top of the screen. In the image below it is the leftmost icon at the top of the screen.
Turning this mode on and off is easy once you get to the right place. But if you are going to be using this option regularly, you probably would like it to be easier to get at. We can make that happen too (depending on the capabilities of your specific phone of course).
Until recently, I was clueless about this aspect of Android. In the standard (stock) version, you can place two fingers side-by-side at the top of the phone screen, then drag them down to display a group of Quick Access Settings. These settings are typically thinks like WiFi, Sound, and so on. However, these may not be the only options you have available. Chances are, you will be able to put Do Not Disturb here in place of one of the other options. Let me show you how this works on my phone.
When I originally did the two-fingered drag, this is what I saw:
Notice the blue text that says, EDIT? When I tapped that, the phone gave me some new options:
Note that Do Not Disturb was one of those options and Airplane Mode another. All you need to do is long tap (press and hold) an icon and after a moment you will be able to drag it around the screen. I dragged those two up there, displacing Screen Rotation and Location. Once I was finished, my Quick Settings looked like this. Mission accomplished!
Welcome to Freer Tomorrow. For the last few days I’ve been wrestling with what to write for the first post on this blog. Do I talk about a typical day in my current, much freer life? Do I hit you with some philosophical rambling about freedom and dignity, blah, blah, blah?
Then the power went out.
While it was out, I read an online news story that said lame-duck President Obama had, without the approval of Congress, given away US control of the Internet domain naming system. Control now moves to an international body that apparently includes the biggest advocates of Internet censorship on the planet. Not at all a step toward making people freer tomorrow.
Since you’re sharp and observant, you may be wondering about that last bit. Not the bit about Obama giving away the Internet (he’s had that in the works for a while now). The bit about reading the article online while the power was out.
The reason I could still be online even with the power out is of course the data plan on my smartphone. The power was out here at my house, meaning no WiFi and no Internet access through my normal provider. But my phone’s data plan is with a different company, located far away from here. They weren’t at all affected by the lightning strike or whatever it was that knocked out my power.
“Wow dude, you’ve got a data plan for your phone. That’s not very impressive,” you say. You’re right. Having a data plan normally isn’t a big deal. In this case, it was simply a short power outage. Nothing more than an inconvenience.
But what if something more serious had happened…
…like the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit us here in Ecuador in April, 2016.
I live far enough away from the crisis zone that the damage was minor. I was only without power for one day. Just as today, my home had no Internet connectivity (or lights or anything else), but I was able to connect to the Internet using my phone’s data plan. I was able to let my family know I was ok. And I was able to notify one of my clients that the review I was writing for him would be delayed a bit.
By paying a small amount per month for that data plan, I have freed myself from dependence on a single connection to the Internet.
The example above may not have been what you were thinking of when you decided to check in here. But don’t go just yet. We all have our own ideas of what being freer tomorrow looks like:
You get the idea.
These days it seems like personal freedom is under assault from every direction, and all those things I listed are harder and harder to achieve. You can read all about the bad stuff anywhere. We’re going to talk about something different here. We’re going to talk about things you can do to achieve your dream of being freer tomorrow.
Much of what you will read in this blog comes directly from my life. I have become much freer than I used to be and am probably much freer than you are. With a lot of hard work, and the help of various people, I’ve gone pretty far toward reaching my idea of freedom.
Unfortunately for me, it has taken years of research and experimentation to get here. What I want to do in this blog is show you things that have worked for me and for others. I want to help you get freer faster than I did. I want to inspire you to take action.
I was pretty much your typical American middle-class baby boomer. I made out pretty well during the whole Internet boom in the 90’s. Nice house in the suburbs, a wife, a kid, two cars, vacations to Disney, all that jazz.
Then it all went to hell.
My parents got sick. Then my brother and my brother-in-law both badly injured their backs. My nephew got cancer. Next my Dad died and I had to take care of my Mom, who suffered from dementia. Almost everyone in my immediate family needed help at once.
Between family responsibilities and the end of the dot-com boom I got laid off (multiple times). My marriage failed. For 2 years I had to drive 600-miles round trip every other week just to see my daughter. With everything, I was unable to even think about getting a regular job. I had to declare bankruptcy.
It was not the best of times.
While I was struggling with all this I never gave up on rebuilding my life. I knew I didn’t want to go back to the way it was before. I wanted to do right by my family. But at the same time, I wanted more freedom, even more than I had when times were good.
It has taken years but that is all in the past now. Today I have a nice house in an exotic location. I eat mostly organic food and have affordable medical care that actually produces results.
I have lots of friends and time enough in my schedule to hang out with them. “Meet you downtown for coffee this afternoon? No problem! Head to the coast for a few days? Why not!” I’ve cut my cost of living so much that I can pay for everything working only around 10 hours a week.
I’ve spent the last 15+ years of my life working to working to get beyond all the problems and roadblocks that were holding me back. Now I want to share what I’ve learned so you can be freer tomorrow too. Some things, like getting a data plan for your smartphone are easy. Others, like getting out of bad relationships or financial trouble, take some significant work. And some, like moving to another country, are literally life-changing.
Yes and no. I’m not trying to claim that I am the only person who knows how to do this. There are lots of people who have become freer than before and are sharing that information online. But most of the people who do talk about this seem to be in their 20’s and 30’s. And most of the information about how to live this kind of life is written by people in that age group, for people in that age group.
There’s also an entire industry out there that caters to the needs of retirees.
But what about people like me? People in our 40’s, 50’s, even 60’s who want to be freer, but aren’t retired, and don’t want to live like a 20-something on a sex tour of Southeast Asia. When I was starting out down this road I searched high and low for information that applied to people like me. There’s very little out there for us. I aim to fix that problem with this blog.
That said, it’s my hope and belief that you will find at least a few interesting and useful ideas in the posts to come. Here’s to a freer tomorrow for you!
One type of freedom that you may enjoy is the freedom to do less.