Wait. YOU read a self help book?

April 24, 2018


Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.

- Dale Carnegie

 


My taste buds were tingling. The chicken cashew nut was perfectly spiced, the baby kai lan had just the right amount of garlic-to-oyster sauce ratio and the Tiger beer was blizzard cold.

 

I sat on my plastic chair at a plastic table enjoying a meal served on plastic plates with plastic chopsticks. I was with a close friend in a Singapore hawker centre, just behind the bustling end of Boat Quay in the CBD. The food was delicious, but most of all cheap!

 

We had been talking about the usual crap, football, his latest girlfriend(s), business, weather… you get the picture. He knew I had read ‘The Book’. I had been waxing lyrical about it at a past drinks meeting, but he didn’t know how much of an impact it had really had on me.

I tried to pick my moment. When and how could I drop the bombshell? I needed to get it off my chest. I wanted some kind of positive reaction but kind of feared the worst.

 

I dipped a chicken morsel in some Chilli padi (an insanely hot dipping sauce made from bird’s eye chillis, garlic and soy sauce), shoved it in my mouth and went for it.

“So yeah, I’m gonna quit, (pause…..munch munch). We are going to leave Singapore to travel the world!”

 

“What on earth are you talking about? Are you demented?” my mate asked incredulously. “Don’t pin your hopes and dreams on the written words of some self-styled self-help guru you idiot! You have a family to think about! You have a career to build and a responsibility to your company.”

 

Bugger.

What a journey since that moment!

 

Who in their right mind would actually believe that reading a ‘self help’ book can actually change your life so dramatically, forever?

 

I was probably the hardest sell of the bunch. I never ever read such books and, honestly I judged people that did. I couldn’t figure out why people would read self-help books and then still be in their same job, same position, same state of mind and same rut years afterwards. I would listen to their giddy highs of enlightenment for a couple of weeks, quietly shaking my head in the knowledge that it would all wear off after a week or two and everything would be back to normal.

 

Which of course, it always was.

 

So, how did I ever come to read a self help book? I have a conversation with a different friend to thank for that.



The Book

 

"I trust that everything happens for a reason, even if we are not wise enough to see it.”  

- Oprah Winfrey

 

The voice at the end of the line abruptly cut off, leaving me mid-sentence. I swiftly slammed down the phone in a rage of frustration, disbelief and anger. A deal had just gone sour that I had been working on all morning and I was seething.

“What a waste of fucking time! Seriously, what’s the point of this shit, why the hell would he do that deal away from me? I set the whole thing up. It was even my idea in the first place. He would never have even thought of it!”

I pushed myself away from my desk, wheeling backwards in my chair, stood and grabbed my mobile phone in the same motion and made a call to a friend as I walked into the empty board room.

“Hey, this morning has been frigging awful, I need some sense in my life. Let’s get some lunch today. How about that Ramen place you mentioned last time we met up?”

With the lunch meeting set, I counted down the remaining hours and was out the door on the first chime of the bell.

 

Walking through the searing heat and 100% humidity of Singapore in the midday sun is no mean feat, and by the time I reached the restaurant I was even more het up and ready to unleash my burdens on a friendly ear.

Instead of enjoying a nice social get-together with a guy I really respected and wanted to have fun with, I spent the entire meeting bitching and moaning about my job and how there had to be another way to live and enjoy life. He listened like a good friend does, whilst probably making a mental note to start avoiding me.

The dreaded time of returning back to the office approached us… and then it happened.

 

As we got up to leave the table he nonchalantly said, “You should read The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss”.

That was it?

The great all conquering advice? I had just outlined how rubbish my life had become and he recommends a self help book! How many self help books have you been recommended and just completely ignored?

We shook hands, loosely scheduled a drink for one night in the future and parted ways, walking off into the humidity and ultimate looming misery of the office.

 

I got back, covered in sweat and headed to my desk situated in a room which lacked natural sunlight. I sat in my chair, which had a broken arm rest, and stared at my PC trying unsuccessfully to avoid listening to the drivel my colleagues were openly discussing. I shrugged and shook my head at how pointless their chatter was and remained shocked by their lack of understanding and urgency with completing or even contributing to their actual workday.

 

Balls to this.

 

I opened a web browser, searched for the nearest bookstore, called them up and reserved the book. The afternoon dragged laboriously by, and at 5pm I received the gut wrenchingly terrifying news that I had another pointless meeting to attend at 6pm.

 

“Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate.”

- Dave Barry

 

​Finally released from my prison at 7pm, I dodged the invite of a drink from a colleague and sprinted to the book shop before they closed.

 

I read the first chapter on the train journey home. Immediately, a light switched on in my mind.

 

I texted my friend……


“Mate, I think you might have just changed my life forever.”


I was hooked.

 

Like an addict, I would find excuses to be alone to read the book, voraciously turning pages and trying to figure out how I could make any of these practices work in my own life. As a 37-year-old married man with four kids all under eight years of age, I had responsibilities. I had to bring home the bacon. I had to be out the door and into the office every day. I had to entertain clients and be home late two or three nights per week, and I had to be away on business trips some weekends.

 

That’s just what you do, right?

 

That’s the man’s role in life, isn’t it? We work and work and work, to the point where we become nothing but a glorified lodger in our own homes. Put up and shut up, pay your respect, pay the man and grind through it.

 

As I completed my first read (there would be five in total) I closed the book and sat dazed, confused, suspicious, convinced yet unconvinced, but above all, excited. What the in the world had I just read?

 

What a whirlwind of information, suggestions, advice, truths and, for lack of a better word, sense. It all made perfect sense!

I turned the book over, re-opened it and started reading from page one again.

That was November 2013.

By March 2014, I had quit my job and we had given notice to our landlord, sold almost everything we owned, taken the kids out of school and were leaving a country in which we had lived, built a successful career, called home and raised our family for fifteen years.

 

All on the back of a book?!

 

Most friends and family were supportive, some needed time to understand the decision but respected it, and a few thought we were just plain nuts.

 

But our plan was clear: leave the rat race and travel anywhere we could, just go and be together.

 

One line from the book resonated throughout my mind the first time I ever read it, and it  still does to this day.

 

‘Enough is enough. Lemmings no more… the blind quest for cash is a fool’s errand.’

- Tim Ferriss.

 

The burning question on your mind right now is likely….

“But how can you just decide that enough is enough and suddenly up and leave?”

Ah, if it had only been that simple.

 

Finding Validation

You see, this was not a decision we took lightly. How could it be?

Sure, the book was the catalyst, but my goodness did we go through some soul searching over the next weeks and months before we actually decided, definitively, that we were going to actually go for it.

There is so much to consider when making life changing decisions, whether it be your choice of school, university, career, where to live, getting married, buying a house, having children, the list goes on.

I am sure that there are some books out there that will tell you that there is a correct procedure or process to follow. Well, there isn’t. Not one that can magically cover every individual’s personal circumstance at that exact moment in their lives. How can there be?

 

Instead, what one has to do is juggle advice — solicited or unsolicited — and try to figure out the best course of action for them and their family alone.

One thing you should absolutely do when making big decisions, however, is seek validation.

 

We got clear in our minds that what we wanted to do more than anything was to travel as far and for as long as we could. We agreed that the experience would bring our family together as a unit and open us all up to a learning experience that very few get to enjoy. With this clear goal set, we started researching and looking for people who had done the same.

 

Were there families out there that were homeschooling their children as they travelled long term?

 

How had it affected their children and family life?

Where had they been?

How long had they travelled?

What pushed them to go?

 

Amazingly, we found that there is a whole community out there of people that were doing just this!

 

Some are professional Bloggers, Vloggers, or Digital Nomads who can work independently from anywhere in the world via a laptop. Others just took a life break, a sabbatical or quit their jobs entirely to figure something else out along the way.

 

“Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.”

  • Richard Feynman


We found the Pearce Family (at www.pearceonearth.com) via Tim Ferriss’s blog. Brandon Pearce had been invited to write a post about running his business remotely whilst travelling long term with his young family. I immediately emailed him with a list of questions, begging to pick his brain. I was desperate, I wanted to believe it was real, I needed validation.

Below is the original email I sent to him….

 

Hey Brandon.

 

Brace yourself, because this could be a long one, but on the upside this is a totally personal letter, I am NOT seeking any endorsements or publicity, so I have that going for me! Right?

 

Anyway, if you do find yourself reading the full letter and are willing to get in contact that's great, if not I totally understand, so here goes.

 

Six weeks ago I bought the '4 Hour Work Week' by Tim Ferriss and am already on my third read, I literally get to the last page and turn straight back to page one. This book has finally given me the nudge I needed to throw all of the common wisdom of life out of the window and given me the confidence to take charge of my own destiny, and you sir are the closest thing to living proof as possible; with regards to my own situation, that is.

 

Following Tim's blog I came to learn about your own leap of faith into the great unknown and after reading about you and your journey so far I felt compelled to write you this note.

 

Let me explain myself further, I am a married male aged 37 with 4 young wonderful children aged 8, 6 and 3 year old twins, who I miss immensely all day long whilst I am at work. My wife and I are both British and have lived in Singapore for the last 15 years where we have grown our family and a wonderful circle of friends.

 

My career was mainly made up of 17 years as a Foreign Exchange broker but am currently now in the commodity markets trying to make ends meet. After reading Tim’s book and your own story we have now decided to follow as best we can the theories and practices in the book and see if we can make things work for ourselves and truly come together as a family.

 

Our lease here runs out in 10 weeks, so that is our timeline and we are busy now with all of the uncomfortable tasks such as selling 'stuff' and getting admin etc etc all in order. How many people do you think have stumbled at this first hurdle? What a gargantuan task it seems to be, we have SO much furniture and toys and general rubbish that it just seems so much easier at this point to just turn your brain back onto the autopilot deferred life mode and get back on the treadmill of life. ANY words of wisdom or encouragement about your experience regarding this early stage would be very much appreciated!

 

Creating a muse (sideline business to earn a small income as per The Four Hour Work Week) will naturally be a huge part of the operation, or snagging a remote working arrangement for the new year, but if either of those do not fall into place come March, we will still go. I have one muse already, as a children’s book author, so will be able to use time to promote that.

 

We own a house in Koh Samui, so that will be our first port of call. All I would need is enough money to get food on our table and pay some electric bills and health/travel insurance etc, I can lean into savings for that.

 

If you are still reading, you are probably thinking 'Hey that’s great Dan, random weird dude from the internet, nice story pal, but what does this have to do with me?'

 

Fear dear Brandon.....FEAR!

 

When I rationalise all of this in my mind, I KNOW it is what I want, what we should do. BUT, oh my word, the fear is always there, that nagging horrible self doubt, the close friends or family that tell you that you’re mad, that tell you not to 'throw' away everything you have worked for, 'just a few more years, get that little extra bit of money in the bank account' or 'you can't just take the kids out of school'.

 

I feel the pressure and burden of it all weigh so heavy, and feel that I might really be just trapped in a pipe dream 'following the written words of a self promoting snake oil salesman' or 'a terrible LAZY father dreaming of early retirement and leading my family into certain disaster'.

 

This, my dear Brandon, is where you might be able to help, any advice or comparisons from your own experience will certainly give us more strength and help us through to the promised land of REAL life!

 

In truth you have already helped and I do understand that. The blog is brilliantly written, open and truthful and addresses our biggest fear of education for our kids.

 

So I will sign off now and leave you to enjoy your day, thank you for taking the time to write this blog, I hope letters such as these validate the time and effort that you put into it.

 

Good luck renovating your house in Bali, what a wonderful place to live, we have been there many times and will return again soon, our favourite spot was dining on the deck at Gado Gado in Seminyak, eating great food and watching the waves roll in.

 

Peace

 

Daniel Prince

 

Brandon came straight back to me with a ton of information and friendly practical advice. We have since become good friends and met with the Pearce family as our travels crossed paths, coincidentally on the southern coast of England.

Here is Brandon’s response….

 

Great to meet you, Daniel, and I empathize with where you're at. It was a big headache getting rid of all our stuff, too. But OH! So liberating once we did. We gave a lot of it away in the end just because we didn't want the hassle of trying to find buyers.

 

Many family and friends didn't understand, but some were supportive, and we've met so many more friends along the way who are. Our relationships with many back home have changed. Especially since we left the Mormon church, some people (including family) have completely dropped out of our lives. Now we focus on fostering relationships based on authenticity and connection rather than superficial similarities, even if they are genetic. We feel much healthier and alive now. You may want to check out the Families on the Move Facebook group if you want to meet more traveling families who've done similar things, and are funding their lifestyles in a variety of ways. There are several hundred families in the group, all over the world.

 

Fear can always come up. But it's okay. It's just an emotion, usually temporary, and when I see it like that, I find it doesn't have as much ability to control me. It's usually also not based very much in reality, but often gets carried away into stories that will probably never come true. If they do come true, I'll deal with it at that time. No sense worrying about it now, especially if it's something I have little control over.

 

I can't promise what your life will be like by making this jump. It's quite a leap of faith to do it without a steady muse first. But people have done the same without even any savings and have made it work. You seem like you have the skills to earn an income wherever you are, perhaps even if it's just getting back into forex. :) But if you're determined, I don't doubt you'll be fine wherever you go. If you really hate the lifestyle and want to come back, I'm sure you can do that, too, and will have a fresh perspective to guide you into making it even better than before.

 

Good luck!

 

Brandon

 

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” - Yoda.

 

Boom! Validation found, and suddenly Brandon was my Yoda!

I was stunned to receive such a gracious and lengthy response and immediately shared it with my wife. It was the extra nudge we needed, that little confidence booster.
 

In his email, Brandon suggested that we become part of the Families On The Move Facebook community. It blew my mind that there was a whole Facebook group for us to join. In an instant, we now had a connection to over 250 families, all doing what we thought was impossible and all eager to help us in any way at all.

 

We were offered all kinds of great advice from people who had made the change themselves and were living the life we wanted. They had real, practical, in-the-field advice -- and not a raised eyebrow, tut, or scoff in sight! We were offered places to stay if we needed, invited to meet-ups or put in touch with friends of friends who might be able to aid our travels in any way shape or form.

 

The human spirit really started to show through and this was just our research phase!
 

Fear Setting

But there it loomed, that awful, all crippling emotion of fear telling me to stop being so ridiculous. How could I rationalise this to myself in a clear manner that smashed any of our doubts? In his book, Ferriss outlines a practice he coined as “fear setting”. He has even presented a TED talk on the subject. After following his steps of defining our biggest fears, listing the steps we would take if they were ever to actually happen and the probable outcomes, things started to look a lot easier.

There is much more on the subject of fear throughout the book, which I hope will carry you through the doubts you will certainly face, but for now let me give you a quick example of where my head was at when I went through this process.


Dan
Fear: Going bankrupt and never being able to get another job, losing the respect of everyone closest to me and being regarded as a total loser.

Steps needed to take if this actually happened: Move the family into my parents house where we will be safe, comfortable, loved and fed. Leverage my network, find out who is hiring, get introductions and make approaches.

Probable Outcomes and Benefits: Have a great time travelling whilst it lasted. Expose the kids to some unforgettable life lessons, cultures, sights and time together, which will be instrumental in defining their personalities, ethics and create forever treasured memories.

Moving in to live with my parents would result in giving them and the grandchildren more time to connect to each other on a new level and would open up the opportunity for us to reconnect with extended family.

Engaging with and leveraging my network would mean reconnecting with old friends, colleagues, customers and getting to meet super interesting new people. It would lead me along a path of self discovery, opening my eyes to new roles in markets I had never thought about exploring when blinkered with my old career.

Result……

Dan 1 - Fear 0

I then added another layer of fear setting on top of this and did what is called in the financial markets a Risk/Reward analysis.

It’s another simple exercise and one you can also apply.

List your biggest risk and then write out the possible rewards. Then you can make a call on whether or not it’s worth taking the risk. How high are the stakes on the risk side? If they are too high, don’t take the risk. If the rewards far outweigh the risk, then it’s worth taking.

An example:

Risk: Leaving my Career and losing all the money I had saved.

Reward: Time with my wife and children travelling the world, no boss, no constraints, no career pressures, no business trips, no client b/s, no office politics, the ability to do what I want, when I want.

 

Result….

Dan 2 - Fear 0

I remember one final moment of clarity that really helped us see through the dark forest of doubt as we faced this huge moment in our family’s lives. Thankfully, I wrote it all down in the journal I kept at the time and can subsequently share it with you too:

 

“Just imagine the feel of dread and regret if in fifteen years from now, when the kids are grown up and gone, we look back at this pivotal point in our lives and we had succumbed to our fears and decided not to go through with it.

Think about all the thought and effort we have put into making this decision over the last few weeks. We have ultimately come to the conclusion and knowledge that it is totally achievable. To not action this now would forever leave us asking the question, ‘what if?’

It really doesn’t matter what happens, good or bad it will always be better than not knowing.”

 

 

"To travel is to live.”

- Hans Christian Anderson

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
- Steve Jobs

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