When life kicks you in the teeth, smile back. When life gives you a present, good or bad, say thank you. When life changes, accept it as the one rule in life that never changes, things change. This is not meant to be an inspirational post, if it gets wishy washy then I give you permission to click away, shut down your computer, and walk away. Actually, if it’s a nice day out, go ahead and take a walk now, I’ll still be here when you get back.
Things change. Life changes. We change. Our significant others change, our family changes. Jobs come and go. You get the point. But how do we manage all this change? Uh, er, did you read the title? We don’t manage the change, we should just accept it, adapt to it, and move on. I know, easier said than done. But if nothing else, the past 12 years living, traveling the world, and working has taught me it’s a waste of energy to bemoan change.
Child on the Way- I’m Unemployed
But Todd, you have a great life, what do you have to worry about? Well, nothing really. Didn’t you just read my last paragraph? I’m a big fan of giving advice ONLY when I live that advice myself. In the next one month I will be leaving my dream job, having my first child, and will be moving in with my in-laws in Japan. Does my life still sound sexy?
First the job. My contract is up and there is no more money in the project to pay for me. I will miss my job. I loved working for the United Nations in Northern Kosovo. But instead of wishing things were different, I’m working my ass off to leave the project with what it needs to survive after I leave. I want it and the people there to succeed. I’m grateful for the past year, would never change a thing, and will bring the experience from this job forward with me to whatever I do next.
Towards the end of June my wife will deliver our first son. Instead of being worried about being unemployed at the same time I become a Dad I’m looking forward to it. I will have 2 months of NOT working to spend with my wife and new child. Who gets that? Not many people. Sure, it requires some sacrifices, like moving in with my wife’s parents, living in a small room with the three of us etc etc. But the rewards are so much better. Two months not worrying about work, living in Japan, being close to family. Amazing.
Don’t be Lazy
Being calm, thankful, and hopeful is not the same thing as being lazy. I’m looking for new jobs. I might have some consulting work coming up that combines my development work with my travel and tourism work. If it works out great, if it doesn’t, something else will.
I’ll use my 2 months off to finish my Shikoku Pilgrimage Book, work further on my blog here, and continue to push my quest for world domination. I’ve worked hard to get to this point in my life: unemployment, wife, kid, no house, no mortgage, savings (yes, that helps not being stressed), amazing friends who understand and support me, and a singular desire to get paid to see what is around the next corner.
Great, you have filled my head with ideas of happiness, joy, and fulfillment, but what next? I still don’t have a job, I still have responsibilities, I have bills. Well, life is about making the most of your time RIGHT NOW. I’m sitting here on a Sunday Morning, the sun shining, a cup of coffee (OK ten cups later), writing this post. I’m taking action. I’m reveling in my change, enjoying it, sharing it. I could be sitting on the couch, watching TV, doing nothing. But I’m not. Here is my secret boiled down into 7 steps that range from personal finance to career development. This helps me not only manage the risks of NOT managing change, but it ensures I have the space to enjoy the change:
1) Never Carry Credit Card Debt. I know this sounds easier than it is but it is a fact that you are paying more for what you buy today with credit due to the interest fees. If you have credit card debt, make it a priority to pay it off. Once you pay it off take the money you were paying each month and apply it to another fund (more on this below). Pay off your credit card bill before the end of each month. This way you get the convenience of a credit card without having to pay for it.
2) Make a monthly budget. Cut up your expenses, savings, and discretionary funds. Start with bills, then see what is left for savings (retirement, house, emergency fund etc) and then put the rest into your passions.
3) Establish an Emergency Fund. If you are worried about losing your job and paying the bills than this is a must. Try to have at least 2 months of expenses in the fund but build it up to 1 year. Because you followed point 2, you know exactly how much you need each month to survive.
4) Establish a passion fund. Life is not about squeaking by. You need to ENJOY life. As you know, I love to travel and it would be easy to blow all of my money on traveling. Instead I put a dedicated amount of money aside each month for travel. This keeps me sane and means I don’t go overboard. Last year I only visited 16 countries…This year I’m on 4 so far…
5) Keep things balanced. I paid/saved what I could when I was younger, and as my salary has increased I have made the necessary increases to my funds. Most of my extra money goes to savings and paying off student loans.
6) Always think a few steps ahead. My job is ending now, but I take something valuable from each job to help me get the next. Be strategic and always look at upgrading your skills, knowledge and understanding.
7) Do things for free. If you love something and have a passion for it, do it. I just recently managed a free Lonely Planet Book and I’m working on a free hiking guide to Dragash, Kosovo. Both have led to new opportunities and I don’t regret any of the free time I spent.
Yes, it’s that simple
I know you are thinking that I’m the exception, that these are just general ideas, and it can’t possibly be you. I have been living and working abroad for the past 12 years, and I wish I had started these from the beginning. I didn’t get my finances in order until I made a plan 4 years ago. I left college and moved to Japan in 1999 with $30,000 in student loan debt. I graduated from Graduate School in 2006 and moved to East Timor with $110,000 in student debt. I have a wife, a kid on the way and I’m about to be unemployed. Life is what you make of it, and what you tell yourself it is. I can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner!
Question: How do you deal with Uncertainty and Change?