Greetings from Boston! I’m here to give a talk about blogging to a group of travel writers. I’ve spent some great evenings strolling along the Charles River and Cambridge, checking out Quincy Market and hopping into some awesome restaurants (including a particularly fascinating Afghani eatery that’s allegedly owned by the the President of Afghanistan’s brother).
As my regular readers know, the past few months have been a whirlwind: Jamaica in June, Paris in July, California/Boston/next Nevada in August. I’ve been earning my living entirely from a laptop, barely home before it’s time to leave again.
“I lived at your house for two weeks before I met you,” my new roommate mentioned the other day. He had been living at my house for several weeks before I returned from Paris, saw him in the living room, and greeted him with: “Hey, do you live here? Me too!”
My travel schedule shows no signs of slowing. I’ll lay low in September, but October brings trips to Washington D.C., Charleston and St. Louis. November heralds Thailand (unless I defer that to February), and December brings Las Vegas.
At some point, I also need to spend a week in another country before I turn 30 in late October, to reach my 30-by-30 goal. (Maybe I won’t lay low in September, after all.)
This lifestyle is made possible by two things:
- Finding laptop-based work
- Outsourcing like a mo’ fo’
I’ve written a number of posts on the benefits of developing an entrepreneurial mindset – even if you’re an employee, you’ll be more secure in knowing that you could fend for yourself if you needed to. And if you’re going to be working from your laptop, even if it’s for another company, you need the motivation and focus of someone who runs their own show.
But I won’t delve further into that in this post. Instead, I want to chat about the second quality, outsourcing – a skill that’s critical regardless of whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee.
The Frugal Worker’s Dilemna
Like many self-employed people, I’ve always struggled with outsourcing. I’m frugal in nature; I dislike paying someone to perform a task that I could do myself.
But time is more valuable than money. That’s not just a cliché. The laws of economics support it. Time is a finite and scare resource. Once spent, it can never be resupplied. Money is near-infinite (at least for our purposes) and renewable.
Limited supply (time) vs. unlimited supply (money). The choice is clear.
Like many entrepreneurs, I remind myself that just because you can do-it-yourself doesn’t mean that you should. My time on the planet is limited to 100 years or less; why spend it stuck in an Inbox?
Of course, digging out of the Inbox is easier said than done. That’s precisely why I travel so much.
The Benefit to Changing Your Surroundings
When you remain in comfortable surroundings, everything serves as a trigger for your existing habits. The alarm clock buzzes; you hit snooze. Your laptop powers up; you immediately check email (or the news, or whatever you’ve habituated into doing first). Humans are creatures of habit.
Step into a new environment, however, and those triggers disappear. When we’re no longer surrounded by familiar cues, we’re forced to re-make ourselves.
That’s a golden opportunity to weed out our bad habits and replace them with something better.
Lately, my bad habit is that I remain stuck in the “Do Loop,” performing repetitive tasks that I could hand off to others at minimal cost and with minimal workflow interruption. This is the failure to use money to purchase time, and it’s a common character flaw among frugal enterpreneurs.
Fortunately, travel is an effective remedy. Nothing is more frustrating – and more motivating – than yearning to explore a new city, but feeling stuck in your hotel room doing HTML formatting tasks.
When you hit that point, you realize the insanity of constantly executing non-critical tasks. You start to hire. You start to offload. You start to perform only the most crucial work, and eliminate or delegate everything else.
And then something weird happens: you start to grow. Not just as a business, but as a person. You learn your own worth. You establish firmer boundaries. You fiercely guard your two most important assets, your time and energy, and reserve it exclusively for the most exciting projects.
Sometimes those projects happen at work; sometimes they happen at home. And sometimes, those “projects” are nothing more than strolling the streets of Boston in search of delicious Afghani food.
I imagine that people reading this will fall into one of two camps: You’ll either understand exactly what I mean, or you’ll think that I’ve completely fallen off the rails.
“You’re growing as a person, just because you hired someone to backup your blog?”
Yes. Yes, I am.