Why a crisis can be good for you, just don’t wait for one.

Why a crisis can be good for you, it’s a thought I had last week and it’s one that stuck. In my life I have had a few setbacks. At that time they seemed much more like a crisis to me.

Because I didn’t know or understand a real crisis. One where you can’t make a plan to get out of the situation fast and you have no real control or feeling of control over the majority of the circumstances. A health crisis is one that meets those criteria, and I can argue there is worse. And it make me think a lot about what I want to do with the rest of my life.

I always looked at time as an infinite factor, or didn’t think about it. I just rushed trough it, as I wrote before did as many things as possible without real and intense focus.
So what has this done for me other than a desire and need to focus. Well it made me think about my ‘career’, I have always worked in IT and did various tasks developing software which were fun and enjoyable without all the politics that go with it. It also never contributed to society as a whole.

Being confronted with my health and all the work that goes into recovery also made me appreciate people working in healthcare or other fields that contribute a bit more to society a lot more.
I never really thought about working in one of those fields, be it in healthcare, environmental work, research, education or some other more useful occupation. I have been talking about it a few years back with people about some of the ideas I had for a career switch involving a bit more social and a bit less career and money. Like a mid-life crisis of sorts feeling useless in general and wanting to be more active and beneficial for others. But hey, the next good job came along and the daily routine took over again. Just doing what you have always done feels comfortable. Change scares me, simple as that.

This time it really feels different, not just a general feeling but a real conviction I need to make this change. Not just because of the limitations I am currently experiencing, those can still improve, but a real gut feeling I need to add some value to the overall well being of society, even if I can only make a difference for a few people I would be happy.

I have always been fortunate enough with the way I grew up, the chances I got in life and the opportunities I had, which enabled me to get a good education, a nice job and a good overall understanding of how things work and how to go about setting your goals and make them happen. I utilized these skills for me, myself and I (An excellent De la Soul song as well, with a different message altogether).

I have experienced first hand the importance of good guidance and help in life , and especially when you go through a crisis in any form. Not just from the people around you but from experienced professionals as well. Without the help of those people I would have ended up pushing my limits and ultimately being exhausted and repeating my mistakes over and over without any insight how too manage this. It would be a road too nowhere. So in my journey towards a new job I will make it a priority that it helps people one way or the other.

I would like too encourage anyone to take a good look at themselves once in a while and figure out what really makes you happy and what it is you want to do with your time. If it’s not found in the things you are doing now start changing them now. Take small steps towards your new found goals and enjoy each step. Don’t wait until the next real crisis, as it can very easily be your last. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Running again

After a couple of months of knee problems and general fatigue I did a little run this past Tuesday, just to see if my knee would hold up. It did. It was a bit sore the day after but not in ways it was before. I could walk normally without any pain and put pressure on my knee. So now I can slowly pick up running again. And start building some strength in my knee with some nice and boring exercises.

It felt good to out running again and I realized how much I missed it and how big the impact is on my mind. Just that slow 30 minutes running made me feel so much better. Strange how this works.
I am now working on a nice little training schedule, 3 times a week for now and some core training. Already found a few inspiring running books to read while I am working on my fitness.
It’s nice to know I can stick to a plan again.

The value of time

Money and time, a combination not many people are thinking about. A few years ago I was re-introduced to the concept of “Time value of money” , simplified meaning the future impact on your life of every financial decision you make.

I knew it was a thing in economics and finance because I learned about it in school. But that just stated the definition and the calculations that go with it.

Not the concept , the philosophy behind it. Not just the numbers but the way you make choices based on the wrong perception of the “Time value of money”.

First the dry calculus behind it. And I will make this really simply and boring so anybody can understand this. Let’s say you have 1000 Euro, dollar or whatever currency , you can spent it on the coolest new jacket. Or invest it it with a yearly return of 3% , not much but it’s safe and you will keep your 1000 no matter what. In 30 years with compounded interest the initial 1000 will amount to about 2400 and change if I calculated this correctly but it’s close. So just making the decision not to spent but save/invest will return 2427,26 in time.

What about inflation, that’s true but doesn’t matter for now it’s the concept and mindset I am trying to illustrate. There are more and better investment options as well. Moving on.
Not buying the latest whatever will make you richer financially. It also shows the power of an integral part of investing , compounding returns over time , interest, dividends etc.

By simply stopping and asking the question, is the investment in this jacket worth the loss of future returns? Do I really need this jacket ? And is there a better alternative, say spend 250 on a jacket and save 750. You can buy more jackets during that 30 years from the compounding alone. Interesting, but hardly on anyone’s mind.

So what does this mean. Every financial turn you take will affect your future options in life. Over time compounding will make you wealthier in money and in time.
Wait richer in time. Yes , time. Time is an uncertain factor, and a lot of people are only considering money when making financial decisions. Nobody’s asks ‘How much time will it take me to earn the money needed to buy the jacket?’

Again simply calculus, you make 65 Euro an hour (which is a very good) , meaning you will have to work about 15 hours just to buy that 1000 dollar jacket. So by saving this money the amount of time your need to work in the future becomes shorter. Even with the evil inflation over time. Let’s substitute this for a house to make it more acceptable. Let’s say you can buy a house of 200000 Euro with a mortgage of that amount, or one which has the same features but is slightly smaller and cheaper, let’s say 175000. You will have to pay this off in 30 years. Not taking the burden of interest into account and the same hourly income that 25000 difference will make that you have to work about 384 hours in the future. So your ‘retirement’ just got 384 hours shorter. Taking interest into account you will have to work even more hours to pay this debt off.

I deliberately simplified the calculus just to show the concept. So the questions you should ask yourself are , does this purchase add value to my life and what is the cost in time for this purchase, time value of money.

A lot of people are complaining they are way too busy, maybe it’s the new norm to be busy. One of the main reasons behind it is financial pressure, we have to make X amount of money each month just to pay off all sorts of debt and buy all sorts of stuff to use in the limited amount of free time left at the end of each week.
I don’t know that many people who are over the moon about their job and rave about the cool stuff they are doing. Most people are passionate about hobby’s , volunteer work, sports etc. Stuff other than the thing they spend doing most of their lives.

The people I do know who love their work and get a lot of value out of it have followed their passion, and have success. But this is not attainable for everyone.
If only I had more time to do X, Y or Z. It’s a frequent remark. It’s all too familiar for most of us. But by taking the value of time into consideration a lot of financial decision making will become decisions on life.

How to go about this ?

First starting point is figuring out what you really want out of life, and start asking the right questions. I have always wanted to….
Make the list , get that list in the right order. Finally attach a sum of money to it. And a time frame. See how much time it will take you to get there and then do it.

It’s that simply and hard at the same time. Making choices always is, but without choices you will be bound to a life that’s never really yours.

Redesigning everyday life – Start climbing

Last week I got permission to start a reintegration project with a foundation that specializes in people with brain damage and getting them back to work, or other meaningful social activity.
My work with the revalidation centre is almost done , I can manage my day to day life pretty well without going into the red. It still takes a lot of careful consideration and planning. But for now it’s more than enough to manage daily things. Next step will be getting back to work, with specialized help, which is paramount. At the recovery centre they do not have this kind of expertise as their focus is on the day to day.

So it was important to get the approval of the government body that issues my social benefits as they need to pay for it. In the old days, before the new law my employer would be responsible for my salary, recovery etc for 2,5 years. Since I just switched jobs and only had my second short term contract out of three maximum, with the new law the government takes this responsibility, and must make sure I get back to work instead of the employer as my contract ended.

the idea behind this law is to reduce the risk for employers and make sure more people get long term contracts. In real life a lot of people only get the 3 short term contracts and then get replaced, especially with generic work. The new law works it’s magic, but that’s another discussion altogether. Just some background to sketch my situation.

So with the government now has taken on the role of employer , I have to make sure everything I want to do and has to do with work related recovery has to be approved. So last week I had a meeting with my case manager and I told my story, and why I already wanted to get a head start with this new trajectory. The main issue is that all things recovery are going slow. And if I want to take the full effect I need to get started.

My case manager understood this perfectly and has worked it out very fast, so last Friday I got the OK and tomorrow I will have my first intake meeting, and hopefully get started quickly. I am looking forward to it as it’s a new step. I can now go forward again. Learning that all things take time was very valuable.

I am now back in the valley , it’s time to start climbing the mountain.

Focus find it and keep it

Focus is something I lack these days, not general focus but the ability too focus on a task for a long time. This wasn’t always the case, as I mentioned before my main fault was in wanting to do to much things that required a lot of focus. Now that that problem is out of the way I needed to get started with developing new projects. I have now come up with a very short list of things I want to do in the coming months, other then recovering.

First thing on the list is writing, simply because it’s the most relaxing thing I have been doing lately. It helps tremendously in calming me down and shaping a form of order in my sometimes chaotic head.

The second thing is getting my physical condition back on track, just as I got back to a nice level my knee gave in and I my running was halted. Now the knee feels solid enough to start working out again, no running yet as I want a final check to make sure it’s not damaged in any way. But some strength and core training I will be planning for the next few weeks to get my blood pumping a bit. And that’s it. No more no less.

There are other projects on the list but for now this is it. The projects are clear and manageable. Which is important. My targets are modest. For writing I want too work on a blog post every day and publish one a week. I will write about stuff that inspires me , gives me energy and helps me in my personal development.

In this process I am also making some minor adjustments, like turning off the sound of my phone so I don’t get distracted. Leaving computers off and only write on paper. Setting very small goals and hitting them. This should help in increasing the focus. It’s very interesting because on a larger scale cutting back and planning already have been producing good results. So on we go.

Minimalism

Watched “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”, on minimalism. Short version of the definition is living a meaningful life with less. Less stuff, meaning less material possessions, and stop the never-ending chase of more stuff.

Giving more space for time , perusing life goals , and focussing on experiences and way less on chasing materials possessions. I have been interested in this subject for a while now. The documentary outlines the trade off between time , money, material possessions and valuation of these items in life. So If I buy this product, what will this add to my life. It’s not advertising getting rid of all of your stuff. Just ask the question will owning this make me happier. For example , my record collection is an ongoing source of happiness, listening to the records, feeling the records, cataloguing them (yes even that) makes me happy. So should I get rid of them, no. Because they add value to my life. That’s the important question.

It’s not about living out of a suitcase and owning nothing, it’s about making life interesting, intriguing and happier when you get rid of the things that don’t add value to your life. Changing your way of thinking and getting out of the more and bigger is better rat race , rewards you with more time spend on things you value the most. It reduces your financial obligations and lowers the need for a high paid and high stress job as well as the need to finance your life , or should we say lifestyle.

It’s interesting because when thinking about it, you work hard , have less free time and what do we do in general, we spent our hard earned money as fast as possible in our limited free time. And the race continues. Advertising and popular culture creates this goal people trying to achieve, whether it is consciously or not. And a lot of people seem on auto pilot in that direction in one way or the other.

Trying to think about life differently is hard, for me it is anyway. Because ‘success’ is still measured with your job, financial position and stuff you own. While it should be measured by what makes you happy in life, not what society’s definition of a happy and successful life is. Food for thought.

Running and recovery

Since my encephalitis I have been suffering from concentration problems, analytical and problem solving issues, among other things. My recovery has gone fairly steadily upwards in the beginning but now is stalling a bit. One thing that is helping me a lot is exercising. Especially running. It helps me regaining my energy and makes me feel very happy. As my Paris marathon got cancelled I have now selected a new Marathon as a nice goal to work towards. It’s not going to be an attempt on my PR, the aim is to get across the finish line in one piece.

My recovery experts told me I have to select a goal to work towards and that there should be no pressure. So this is what I selected. I will keep a log of my training activity and share my thoughts on how it’s affecting me in general and towards the recovery.