Tuesday, September 22, 2015
On a Facebook group I’m on, a new boat owner recently asked for a little help. They had just purchased the boat and said they were a little nervous about taking her 30 miles to her new berth. Someone (that would be med) suggested just hiring a professional Captain for the trip. It would be a great learning opportunity.
This suggestion was immediately met with a dismissal.
“It’s only 30 miles. Who needs a captain for that? Just go do it,” they wrote.
This is the perfect dismissive advice to shame someone into doing something stupid. If someone says they want help, if they say they aren’t comfortable, it’s an honest thing to say. Asking for help means you are a better sailor, not a worse one.
Hiring a Captain is not a big deal. It's a learning opportunity. I've been sailing since I was nine. I know how to sail. When I bought Brigadoon (my largest, heaviest and most complex boat ever to date), I had been off the water for a decade. She is a serious cruising boat, with much heavier gear, higher loads, and a higher possibility for damage or injury. I knew how to sail but I wanted to ensure I was ready for Brigadoon.
I went to Seattle Sailing and hired a professional captain for a "checkride". When I was a pilot we did this all the time to ensure competency, good decision making, and safety. It’s required for pilots and for good reason. The good idea isn’t restricted to pilots, though. Why not get someone to check you out, give you an opportunity to learn, and make you a better (sailor, aviator, motorcyclist, climber, etc.)? We went out in a comparable sized boat. He walked me through everything. I knew almost all of it but I still learned a thing or two.
There was another benefit. I had another experienced sailor’s eyes on me. They saw habits that are invisible to me. They suggested possible ways to do things. They provided me with some local knowledge.
I’ve always liked teachers. Years of studying under various mentors have driven home the value of being a student, of discovering how little I know about something, and how much there is yet to know. Competence blindness is an easy trap to fall into. We get comfortable with what we know. We ignore the shortcuts or mistakes we make because nothing bad has happened yet. We avoid learning some skills or taking on some challenges because, well, we don’t want to be challenged. It’s the easy thing to do; lie to ourselves about our skills and abilities because it’s convenient.
I welcome the observations, even the criticisms, of those with more experience, even just different experience, than myself. The outside eye is usually more honest than our own. It pays to listen to informed opinions.
Hire someone to teach you. Find a mentor. Learn from them.
It doesn't mean a person isn't competent. It means they are ensuring their competence is better than they would normally be willing to settle for. Don’t settle with what skills and abilities you currently have. You might think they are enough. You might be right. It will take just one situation where you are wrong.
Monday, September 14, 2015
This whole idea started out with the crazy concept that we would buy and live on a boat. It was actually her father’s fault. He suggested it one day as we were leaving a visit on his Tayana 37. Little did I know this would lead us down a road that brings us today – here.
At first, the commitment was simple, we sell the condo and live on a boat. We were going to live aboard a sailboat for five years. We needed a commitment and a plan. Over the years the plan has grown more complex and ambitious, but, it has proven to be the right path for us.
Yes, one can live on a beautiful sailboat, literally in the middle of a beautiful city, enjoying views that cost millions for landlubbers, but that isn’t what this sailboat is for. That isn’t what the plan became. It became The Freedom Project.
About a year or so in, while looking at our debt, and thinking about the capabilities of Brigadoon, we considered another course. What if we didn’t just live on the boat, keeping the same rat-race jobs, running though the same corporate grinder, serving the same masters that we always have? What if we actually went somewhere? Yes, one can cruise the Puget Sound and Salish Sea for a lifetime and never find every bay, harbor, or little coastal town. But, what if we went beyond the big front yard that is the Puget Sound? What if we want Out There? What if we saw the world?
All of it.
Many people do go out there. They save their money – a “cruising kitty”, develop a monthly budget, buy a boat, make some plans, take a sabbatical from work, go cruising, and return to the rat race when the money runs out. That is not our plan. I find no appeal in taking a vacation from a master, only to return after I’ve ‘rested’. Rested up for what? For more of the same?
No. We decided that, if we are to travel, it must be as unencumbered as possible by obligations to others. Those obligations mostly took the form of debt. We owed someone for a house, a car, a boat; it all adds up to a burden that cannot be ignored if one is at all responsible. If we want to maintain a good credit rating, and live a peaceful life free of requests to pay, we have to pay our bills. Paying bills means income and, since we have not won the lottery, that means a well paying job. We have had to choose the right jobs and stick with them until we reached our goals. For me, it didn’t matter if I liked the job or not. It was where the money was.
The Freedom Project was born. It was simple. Get the boat, live aboard, pay off debt, upgrade the boat and ourselves. Leave. Last Friday, we executed on one of the most important parts, freeing us to concentrate on a future of our choosing, not determined by the burden of obligation. It’s taken a great deal of planning and work to pull this off. It was a good plan and it’s still working.
We now own Brigadoon free and clear. This was our last debt. We have no more financial obligations to anyone else. We are debt free.
This means that, instead of taking a vacation along with an eventual return to corporate life and all it entails, we can simply go. It is actually possible for us to go right now – right now. We’d go with less and we’d go before we are ready, but we could go if necessary.
Until then, we continue to execute the rest of the plan.
Being free of the corporate environment brings a greater feeling of lightness, of unburdening, than I had thought possible. The freedom from debt, obligation, possessions is enlightenment. I’ve written about this before; how I would gladly trade the relative safety and security (such as it can be in the corporate world) of a job for, well, something else. Something not at all secure, not as well paying, not as – oh hell, there is no whitewashing it.
Corporations and corporate life are a special type of hell, created for manufacturing money. The only reason most people are there is so they can keep up with their debt. Yes, there are those that have good jobs, with decent companies, working for good bosses, with competent co-workers, all cooperating on something interesting. In my 25 years of experience in various corporate environs, I have seen very little like I’ve just described. The forced socialization of the corporation, where we trade our autonomy for money, creates a toxic environment. It’s an environment where common sense, intelligent discourse, real problem solving, and real accomplishment are a true rarity. I’ve spent 25 years, the lifetime of a whole young person, working in corporate IT nonsense factories. IT is a place where the drama queens rule, the only planning acceptable is simply demanding something be done sooner, and incompetence is often its own reward, especially when camouflaged by a healthy dose of politics. Don’t tell me it’s better where you are. I'll admit that it could be but, winning at this game is not a medal or trophy I want. Saying it’s better is like saying that this master doesn’t beat me as much as your master does and, well, the food is fresher. It’s still the same grind, for the same masters, for the same breadcrumbs. How much does your CEO make compared to you? Are you getting a good review this year? What if your boss decides you aren’t getting a good review? What if your review doesn't matter because the stack ranking your company adopted poisons your contributions and hard work anyway? Are they going to offshore your job next? Remember, your boss has said that he can hire three people in India for the cost of you. How about that late night call with the underpaid offshore team in Pune, India on the project that is in a death spiral? At least there’s the paycheck that one can spend on that new big screen TV or that vacation to the swim up bar in Mexico before having to return to the same damn job.
It’s a trap. It is.
It’s a trap. It is.
It’s one we are casting off, little by little, but casting off none the less.
I’ve joked from time to time that I would trade every lousy business meeting, every out of context nonsensical email from the person no one in the office wants to talk to anymore, every political stunt I’ve had to witness, all the positioning and maneuvering for position and power, for my own chance to simply survive at sea.
I’ll take that chance. We will take that chance.
The last few weeks have been a storm of events and plans that have brought us here. Here is good. It’s a place where we cast off some of the older burdens, some we never knew we were agreeing to at the time. It’s a place where we can look out over the water, think of going there, and there, and there, and leaving this world behind.
I am retired. I’m starting a new path in life as an author.
Brigadoon is paid off. She is ours.
There are more upgrades to do and plans to execute but, our time is finally near.
It seems almost here. It's just over the horizon.
You know, that way. That's our course now.
You know, that way. That's our course now.