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April 2013

Working from Home

What most people want, more than anything else, is just to be able to do what they want to do.  For most of us, this is the ultimate goal in life.  Going to work is usually the opposite of this.

Time spent at work is time that you are owned by an employer.  Your employer defines your goals and tasks, sets your schedule, and tells you how to behave.  What motivates you at work is mostly fear.  Your alarm clock rings on time because you worry about whether you will lose your job.  At the end of the day, you are afraid to leave the office and go home before your boss does.  Indeed, the primary motivator at work is not the desire to accomplish a goal; rather, it is fear of perception, fear of failure, and fear of consequence.

I have been working from home now for almost 8 years.  Being physically away from the office means that my work behavior is driven less by fear and more by a desire to efficiently achieve results.  My strategies and tactics have become more rational, more effective, and far more efficient.  What I used to do in 8-9 hours I have learned to accomplish in 3-5.  More importantly, the value I create for my employer with these 3-5 hours per day far exceeds that of my colleagues in the office.

Being in charge of your own day requires a lot of discipline.  If you are trying to lose weight or get in shape, it means being internally-motivated enough to work hard and eat well.  If you're trying to learn how to play an instrument, it means making the personal decision to work hard over the course of years.  If you are trying to become a top-performing sales rep, it means having the internal discipline to make the calls and do the presentations.  External fear (from bosses, colleagues, or from a general sense of social pressure) is not really the force that will help you become the person you dream of becoming.  Yet most of us are stuck in the employment trap because we see few alternatives.

I remember my first week, working from home, as an expat.  My life prior to that moment had been spent trying to figure out how to make my escape.  Perhaps, until that point, I had never fully taken responsibility for what would be required of me post-escape.  Until then it was enough to go to work, play the game, and then hold onto a lot of excuses for why my dreams were on hold.  Ironically, my first week of freedom also came with a huge burden.  I realized that what was to happen in my life from that point forward was now up to me.

Working from home is the first step toward designing the life that you want.  While your choice of careers becomes more limited, the options available to you in life become endless.  You can decide how much time you spend working.  You decide how to approach your work for maximum results in minimal time.  You decide how much time to spend with your loved ones.  You decide how much time to dedicate to building your skills or practicing your hobbies.  You decide whether you want to be at home or even working remotely while traveling.  You decide when you want to go to the gym or to the cafe.  Without the commute, waking up to an alarm clock becomes a distant memory.  Working from home, so much of your fear is lifted and you are able to slowly transform yourself into the person you want to be.

On the flip-side, what you give up are the relationships you once had at work.  Working from home, you will no longer have any desire to engage in the usual office gossip.  This is not how you will chose to spend your time now that you have the option.  Besides, you will no longer think in the same way as your colleagues.  It is important to be aware of this try to expand your non-work related social network. 

Becoming an expat was a great opportunity for me to begin working from home.  But even if you don't want to relocate, I would highly recommend finding a job for a company that isn't based in your town.  Better yet, start a business and forget about jobs altogether.  Either way, plan your escape carefully and make sure it is sustainable at least over the short-term.

The picture below is the technology I needed, in 2005, to make my escape.  I didn't bring much with me to Europe, but one whole suitcase was filled with gadgets: a VoIP phone plan with a US and UK phone number from Lingo, a laptop, a scanner, and a printer (purchased locally of course).  If you position yourself properly politically, most people will have no idea that anything has changed.  This is one path toward FREEDOM!



I Hate Good Customer Service

I dislike good customer service.  But what I hate even more is excellent customer service.  

I don't want to go into your restaurant or shop because I need some sort of escape from reality or because I need to experience some realm in which strangers are fake-nice to me only for the fake-reason that they don't want to be fired from their jobs. Customer service is only another form of detachment from reality, alienation from each other as human beings.  Excellent customer service is only a manifestation of fear and inauthenticity.  

I have enough escape from reality in my technology bubble of content, apps, and devices.  When I occasionally find the time or reason to wander into the public realm, what I'm hoping for is something which is real, imperfect, and unpredictable.  At least if my waitress is bitchy, I know she's being authentically bitchy!  Please, please don't ask me how I'm doing, if I've ever been to your establishment before, if I have a club card to save 10%, or if there's anything at all you can do for me.  I know you don't care because I know you don't get paid enough to care.

I know that my argument is silly, naive, and a complete waste of time.  I know that, in some parts of the world, if you do what I am asking, you will be immediately fired from your job.  Then you'll end up on the street corner begging.  Then it will be my turn to be authentic with you and to authentically walk past you in annoyance and disgust.  No, if you live in a consumerist paradise like the US, UK, or Canada, then you know very well how to put on your fake smile and deliver your fake lines to me as though I'm not a human but merely a consumer.  That is what your boss expects and it is a means of survival for you.  I know this very well.  So I will spend my money and we will both pretend to be happy with the situation.  You pretend to be happy to see me and I'll pretend to be grateful for your excellent customer service.  But if I don't look you in the eye, please know that is is not because I don't care about you as a human being.  It is because I'm embarrassed to be playing this silly game in this silly consumerist empire.

At least I want you to know that there is one person out here who wonders who you really are.  My occasional rudeness has nothing to do with you; rather, it is only a reaction to the emptiness and pointlessness of this consumerist play which we are both bound to.

In much of the world, outside the consumerist paradise, customer service is crap.  Where I live, they serve me crappy food and don't even give a shit.  That's ok, because it is cheap and I won't tip for it.  You hate your job and I hate the horrible food you serve.  Fuck off.  But if we somehow manage to share a smile, at least we both know that it was a smile that was shared between two human beings.  

I'm pretty sure that nobody will agree with this observation.  But I'm also pretty sure this fakeness is killing our souls.  I wish it didn't have to be this way.