So yeah, I’ll admit it. I’m as guilty – if not more so – than most people when it comes to having a consumerist Christmas. I’ve been blessed with two families for most of my life so I’ve always received a disproportionate amount of gifts during the holidays. Double the gifts, double the Christmas dinners, double the family activities. Of course it also means I had double the gifts to purchase for all those extra family members as well.
When I married the love of my life, again my family size doubled. Since both of our parents were divorced when we were young, it now leaves Amie and I with four separate families all wanting to spend time and exchange gifts with us. Needless to say, the holidays can get pretty maddening and even more expensive when you add everything up!
It isn’t the family that’s the problem
We LOVE all of our families. Our families bring joy to our lives in so many ways. Sure family can be extremely frustrating at times, but isn’t that the point? Family teaches us something nothing else in this world can: To Love Unconditionally
You may have an uncle, cousin, or even brother or sister that you don’t like being around. However, since they are family, you end up finding a way to not only tolerate these people but also love them in your own way. You know you’ll have to spend the rest of your life with these people, so you better get used to it and learn to love them no matter what.
Its the presents that suck
If you think about it, you’ll probably agree. Sure, we all get one or two really cool presents that stand out each year, but other than that the majority of presents we receive will hardly be used, immediately thrown away, or stored away in our basements or garages because we feel too guilty to get rid of them. Even the “cool” presents are most of the time unnecessary.
When you have a big family, the need to purchase multiple gifts really starts to weigh down on you both financially and mentally. It just isn’t sustainable, and it isn’t what Christmas should be about.
Yet we all love Christmas
We wouldn’t give it up for the world. We instinctively go through the motions every single year with a focus on the gifts we will be giving. We believe that the presents are what make Christmas so special, but in truth the presents are the worst part. It’s the experience of giving and helping others that truly makes us happy.
So how do we find the perfect balance? How do we give to those we love, but not make it about the presents? How do we teach our children what Christmas is really about so they don’t perpetuate the consumerist tendencies we have so blindly accepted in our own lives?
Here are a few quick suggestions to get you thinking about what you can do to change the role of Christmas inside your family:
1. Start New Traditions – There are so many things to celebrate during the month of December. If you are open to it, learn a little bit about other cultures and how they celebrate the season. Chances are you can integrate some of their ideas in to new traditions for your own family. My family in Idaho celebrates St. Lucia every December 13th. I won’t go in to the whole history of the holiday in this post, but essentially it focuses on celebrating light during the darkest days of the year. We don’t give gifts on this day but instead focus on cooking great food, and being with friends and family. Celebrating the Winter Solstice is another great way to celebrate this time of year.
2. Try Family “Group” Giving – Transform the “Giving” part of Christmas into something the whole family can do together. Instead of buying presents separately for individual family members, try pooling your resources and giving a large gift to a person, family or organization in need of the support. If you need a few suggestions, check out Charity: Water (bringing clean water to people in developing nations) or Kiva.org (Loans that change lives). With Kiva.org you actually get your money back (well, 98% of the time) so you can re-invest time and time again. Every year your family can continue to contribute to your family portfolio and soon become an amazing force for world change!
3. Spend money on Experiences instead of things – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Experiences appreciate over time, while “things” just depreciate. Think about some of your best memories in life. Chances are it was when you were doing something with loved ones (including your best Christmases!). How many great memories do you have of your Super Blend-orama 5000? Exactly. If you must invest your money in buying something, consider buying an experience that your family will cherish their entire lives. My parents have started doing this as part of their yearly Christmas tradition. They take the money they would have spent on presents for all the kids and grand kids and instead spend it on a fun family vacation that we can all enjoy. To this date, I can’t think of a better present I’ve ever received.
4. Make Physical Purchases that count – If you can’t help but purchase presents for people, consider purchasing them gifts from “one-to-one” organizations like TOMS Shoes. If you aren’t familiar, every time you purchase a pair of TOMS, another pair of shoes is donated to a child who needs them. This means every purchase you make actually helps to make the world a better place – instead of just lining the pockets of CEO’s who are actively working against these concepts.
5. Create your gifts – This one may seem obvious, but most of us ignore it. Creating gifts for other people is one of the most satisfying and inexpensive ways to give. Paint something, write a poem, make a craft. You can also do something similar to what Amie and I are doing this year. We’ve decided to make home made goodie baskets. We’re making home made Spicy Dilly Beans, home made pasta sauce & noodles, dried cinnamon apple rings, and clove stuffed oranges. We’re taking all of this stuff and putting it in to a basket to give to others. It still cost money to get the ingredients, but far less money than buying everyone a gift from Walmart.
Of course none of us are perfect and I’d be lying if I said I will never buy another gift. I do however think its time for a change in this country and around the world. We the people need to do everything we can to slowly change our traditions. Its time to build a world that is less concerned with consuming and more concerned with actually giving. Lets teach our kids that there is another way.
Here are some great posts on this subject. Highly recommended reading:
1. The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents – ZenHabits
2. What Christmas is NOT about – Man vs. Debt
3. 1 Simple Strategy to save $2,000 this year and make everyone love you forever – Far Beyond the Stars
What do you think? Are presents key to a good Christmas? Can you and your family live without them? Am I just some idealistic hippie? I want to know! Oh, and MERRY CHRISTMAS!! - Bryan
Throughout our lives, especially when we are younger we get the idea that failure is somehow a bad thing. In school if we don’t answer all the questions correctly, we get a bad grade, sometimes a big “F” for “Failed”. In church we are told that if we don’t believe a certain way or do certain things we will have failed god and won’t get in to heaven. If we botch an interview and don’t get that job we wanted, somehow we aren’t good enough and we have failed to succeed in business.
There are countless other examples as well, but you get the point. All in all, we are taught that we should do everything we can to avoid failure because failure means we aren’t good enough and there is shame associated with that.
Unfortunately, the fear of failure is something that keeps a lot of us from even attempting to do great things. We don’t want to take the risk of falling on our face because we are scared of the repercussions. We are scared that our friends and family will think less of us if we attempt something big and it doesn’t work.
And that’s a shame. Its a shame because failure is actually the key to success. If you aren’t willing to fail (over and over again sometimes), then you will never get to make an impact on the world, or do something worth remembering. If you aren’t willing to fail, then deep down you might just be afraid of success.
“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
~ Sir Winston Churchill
We learn by failing. Think about your own life and the times that you have failed. The only way we really learn is to try something until we get it. After all, if we weren’t willing to fail at walking, eating, speaking, writing, etc… then where would we be? It seems that failure is actually part of what makes us human. The problem is that as we get older, we seem to forget that. Once we have the basics of surviving down, we tend to stop trying new things and we lose the motivation to try new things and fail in the process.
“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” – Woody Allen
So if you want to do something great, the first step might be to try something you have never done. Try something new and fail completely at doing it. Enjoy it. Laugh about it. Learn from the experience. Then try it again. Immediately you will be better since you’ve already tried it before. You might not be the Michael Jordon of your chosen task, but eventually – by failing over and over again – you just might be that guy.
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan
It always helps to get examples of why something is worth failing for. Hopefully the following list will help to encourage you to start failing more. The more you are willing to fail, the closer you will get to doing something great and possibly changing the world in the process.
- John Grisham’s first book was turned down by 12 publishing houses and 16 agents. Once he was finally published, his first book sold over 2 Million copies in the first printing. One of only two authors in history to accomplish this. The other being J.K. Rowling.
- Speaking of J.K Rowling… Before writing the Harry Potter Series and becoming one of the richest women in the world, she was almost homeless, clinically depressed and without any type of income or support to speak of. If that isn’t failure, I don’t know what is. She followed her dream and is now worth over $1 Billion dollars.
- Walt Disney was fired from his first job at a newspaper because (he was told) “He lacked imagination and had no original ideas”.
- How about the guy who eliminated slavery in the United States? I’d say that Abraham Lincoln is just about as successful as anyone in history. Yet before he became President in 1960, he was defeated for legislature in 1832 and then elected in 1834. He was defeated as Speaker of the House in 1838 and then defeated again for a nomination for congress in 1843. He was elected for congress finally in 1846 but lost his renomination in 1848. After that he was defeated for Land Officer in 1849, defeated for senate in 1854, defeated for Vice President in 1856 and again defeated for Senate in 1858. Count that up. He was defeated for elections on 9 separate occasions before finally being elected for President in 1860. WOW! Where would we be today if he had given up and let failure stop him?
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” - Abraham Lincoln
There are countless other success stories I could mention here, and believe me I was tempted to do so. But I think I’ve made my point. Failure is so important to being human. Failure is so important to success. Don’t let yourself be afraid of it. Instead embrace it. Seek it out. Do what you can to accelerate your rate of failure. Once you do, you will be closer to achieving the true dreams and greatness you are meant to achieve.
“The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.” - Dale Carnegie
I hope you enjoyed this post and it inspires you to go out and fail! What is your greatest fear in life? What are you scared to fail at? Share it in the comments below and take the first step today. After all, there’s no time like the present.
If you liked this article, please share it on Facebook or Twitter. I would really appreciate it. Thanks my friends. - Bryan
Greetings from Fairfield, Idaho! Amie and I just returned from a mid-week trip to Boise. We decided to leave the high plains and meet up with Chris Guillebeau on his Unconventional Book Tour. If you follow Chris’ blog, you already know he is on a tour of all 50 states, 10 Canadian Provinces plus San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. Add that all up and you get a total of 63 cities in 4 months. Not bad! He is doing it to promote his new book, “The Art of Non-Conformity”. If you are at all interested in a non-conventional approach to life & work, do yourself a favor and get this book!
I’m telling you about Chris because he has been such a huge inspiration to us over the past couple of years. He’s found a way to follow his passions and interests while at the same time making money and helping others. Its the type of life Amie and I are pursuing at this very moment and its great to have met a real life “solopreneuer” in person.
As many of you who read this site already know (there are thousands, trust me), I too am working on combining my passions and interests with my work. Its a really tough thing to do when starting out. There aren’t a lot of people who understand the goal, and even more that think it might be a cop out to not get a real job. While I would love to immediately start writing and making money doing it, its going to take time and dedication to make that my sole source of income. So instead of giving in and getting that J-O-B, I’m building a business instead.
Luckily I have other passions that relate a little closer to my background and skills. One of those passions is technology and the fast pace at which it is evolving. I’m fascinated by how quickly it is changing our lives and the world around us, almost so quickly that we hardly notice it is happening. I love to check out new software and systems and see how they all integrate together. Above all else, I love seeing the effects that technology has on our work and the businesses we create and support (I know, I’m a geek).
Because of this passion, and because I already have over 11 years of experience with technology consulting, I’ve decided to focus on building a small consulting practice & blog. My goal is to help small businesses adapt their mindsets and work practices to operating in the digital age. I’m calling it Biz Evolution. I’d love it if you checked it out and became a fan on Facebook. Its definitely in its infancy now (still working on updating design and services), but something I’ve actually been working on since early February of 2009.
I’m hoping to grow this business very slowly and deliberately so it can help sustain Amie & I in our upcoming adventures. We are hoping to start traveling around the US and the world starting next spring. If I have my way, I’ll be working remotely while we travel. We’re going to need all our skills and determination to make it work, but the effort will be worth it!
One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do. - Henry Ford
I honestly believe that if we work hard enough, and don’t back down, our dream of working for ourselves and living a location independent lifestyle really will come true. As a worst case scenario, at least I will have tried! That sounds a lot better than never attempting something hard in the first place. In other words, its better to have tried and failed, than to have never tried at all. Many successful people out there will tell you that same idea. The more you fail, the closer you get to success the next time.
So here’s to following our passions! Here’s to finding a way to live those passions out and make money at the same time. Here’s to helping other people along the way. But most of all, here’s to failing and being willing to try again.
How about you? Have you ever had a crazy idea that you wanted to try but haven’t? What are you afraid to do? Let me know in the comments below or go out there and do that thing right now! Please share this if it helps inspire you. Thanks so much. - Bryan
One of the big aspirations in my life (and indeed the theme of this blog) is to break away from the 9-5 and never look back. When I say “9-5” I don’t mean I want to stop working. On the contrary, I know the things I want to accomplish in life means I’m going to have to work hard. Probably even harder than when I’m working for “the man”. But I’m okay with that. There is a huge satisfaction I get when working for myself. Setting my own goals, my own schedules, and being accountable to myself. What I really mean, is daring to work for myself. Daring to put myself on the line, follow my dreams and live the life I know I want to live. Pretty simple right?
I have tried both lifestyles in the past
I used to own and operate a high tech recruiting firm for about 5 years. I remodeled the garage behind my house into a fully equipped office and started “commuting” to work in my sweat pants and slippers. It was awesome. Looking back on it now, I can’t believe I gave it up. But I did. I wanted to try something new, and at the time I only equated that to a different job. So sad…
In hindsight I should have moved to South America and kept working, all the while traveling and experiencing new places. After all, I had a location independent business! Why not take advantage. Instead, I shut down the company and took a J.O.B. with a local software company. 3 years after that (again needing something new) I moved to Denver and took another job with a systems integration firm that lasted another 2 years.
5 years have gone by and now it seems like I’m back where I started, both physically and mentally. Through a series of weird events I find myself back in Fairfield Idaho, without a full time job, and without a clue as to where my next check is going to come from (unemployment maybe?).
For some strange reason I’m okay with that. I actually feel a profound sense of peace and optimism about the situation. It’s almost as though someone somewhere is forcing me to stop dreaming about the life I want to live. That someone is telling me to get off my ass and actually start making it happen!
Sure, it’s a little scary. But beyond being scary it’s exciting, empowering and a challenge I’m ready to take head on!
So what am I going to do?
This is what all my friends and family have been asking me. I’m sure its perplexing to all of them that I moved back to Fairfield, a place with zero jobs (but tons of hotsprings!) and still expect to be able to provide for my family. Honestly, I’m a little worried myself. But! (and this is a BIG but) I have some killer inspiration and heroes that are proving to me that my dreams ARE possible. These heroes’s have set out on similar paths ahead of me and are kicking ass and taking names along the way.
Where I draw my inspiration from
Corbett Barr – This guy’s story seems so much like my own that I was naturally drawn to his writing. Like me, Corbett is creating a location independent business that allows him to work anywhere in the world. Well, he has already done it. Corbett writes on strategies for working for yourself and living the life you want. The name of his site is Free Pursuits and it has really inspired me to take the leap I know I need to take. He is also a freelancer & consultant helping people build high traffic websites at ThinkTraffic. Very similar to what I’m trying to accomplish with BizEvolution. I like Corbett because he not only is making this whole “Solopreneur” thing happen, he is doing it relatively quickly by actively working on two projects at the same time. I admire that dedication and passion to making things happen. I only hope I have the same drive and stay power as he does.
Chris Guillebeau – If you want to talk about inspiration, look no further than Chris’s Blog, The Art of Non-Conformity. Ever since I was introduced to him through Seth Godin, I’ve been hooked. Chris makes traveling the world, working for yourself and setting your own rules look like child’s play. He has released two awesome (and free!) manifestos that I’ve read at least three times each. He also has a huge collection of “Unconventional Guides” he’s written covering topics on travel, working for yourself, and living the life you want. Do yourself a favor and check him out if you haven’t already. But be advised, a severe case of wanderlust may follow.
Seth Godin – Put quite simply, nobody does it like Seth. I have been a fan of Seth Godin, his huge list of best selling books, and his blog for many years now. His short daily updates always have killer advice and insights. Above all, Seth really understands the new world we are living in and works hard to help people understand the new “rules” of the game. If you want a highly relevant and timely business advice, I suggest you subscribe to his blog or get his most recent book, Linchpin.
And the list goes on…
Of course there are many more writers, bloggers, artists, non-conformists, travelers and more that I’ve been drawing inspiration from. People like John T. Unger or Hazel Dooney who prove that artists can survive and thrive on their own without middle men. World travelers like Jodi Ettenberg at Legal Nomads and Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months are proving that traveling the world is possible to do and more fulfilling than run of the mill corporate jobs . I’m also highly encouraged by people like Adam Baker of Man vs. Debt & JD Roth of Get Rich Slowly. I’m learning a great deal from them in the realm of personal finance, letting go of material possessions and what the definition of “true wealth” really means to me. The list could go on and on, but I’ll stop there for now.
The point I’m really trying to make is this:
It really is possible to break away from the 9-5. Not only that, success on your own is possible and even probable if you are willing to put in the time and stick to it. There are countless others out there doing it already.
Not to sound self absorbed or anything, but I don’t think any of these people have more than I’ve got. They don’t have some god given talent that is unobtainable by me or anyone else. The main difference is that these people realized their dreams and actually went for them. They ignored the nay-sayers and friends who told them it wasn’t possible. They put their head down, got to work and kicked some ass!
Now it’s time for me to follow suit, but in my own deliberate and very “Bryanish” type way that I do things. It is time for me to roll up my sleeves, get my game face on, and start following my own dreams. I can’t wait to share the experience with you.
So how about you? Have any dreams you want to go after but haven’t made happen quite yet? Feel like you need a little encouragement. Use the comments section below and I’ll make sure to pump you up – whether you deserve it or not. Oh and Cheers to following your dreams!
“If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams,and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a sucess unexpected in common hours.” - Henry David Thoreau
I love this quote. Not only is it inspiring, but it also has the blueprint for living a successful and fullfilling life built right in to the text. Of course many of us know that following our dreams is a good idea. Problem is, life gets in the way and the things that once seemed essential in life invariably get pushed out of the way. The zest for life and exploration we have as youth eventually give way to the demands of reality. Suddenly conformity becomes our only option to “get by” in a pre-designed societal structure.
Instead of traveling the world, we take the job at Dad’s store. Instead of becoming a full time artist, we make excuses to work instead of painting or sculpting. Instead of studying something we love, we go to business school so we can be better positioned to make money when we graduate.
Are we doomed to live a prescribed life of daily commutes, 9-5 cubicle confinement, and paycheck to paycheck finances? Do the choices we made earlier in life dictate the rest of our lives whether we like it or not? Or is it really possible to achieve our goals and dreams while also providing for our families?
While many people are trapped in an unfulfilled life, I don’t think it is impossible to escape from it. The real problem might be a lack of goals and dreams. What are your goals and dreams? Do you know? How are you planning on achieving them?
Start by writing it down
It’s amazing how writing things down can help you achieve your goals. Amie and I started a practice of always writing down our dreams, aspirations and goals. We started this about three years ago and the impact has been significant. It isn’t that every goal we write down automatically comes to fruition – they don’t. It is however very impressive to see just how many do start happening in our lives – often in much different ways that we initially expect.
As an example, Amie and I started this project (the blog you are reading now) a few months ago as an experiment. For the first time ever, we wrote our goals down not only for our own purposes, but also as a way to get others involved who might be interested in our lives. We believed (and still do) that by broadcasting our dreams to the universe, those dreams would have a much better chance of becoming our reality. The hope is that the more friends and family who see these goals, the more empowered we will be to actually achieve them.
Everyone we are connected to in our lives – our friends, our family, business acquaintances and more – make up our personal circle of influence. In one way or another we are connected to this circle on a frequent or semi-frequent basis. As scary as it is at first to do, these are exactly the people we want need to share our goals and dreams with. These are the people – for better or worse – that will help to hold us accountable for what we write down. These are the people that (hopefully) care.
You see, if there is one thing I’ve learned about goals, it is this: The more your broadcast your dreams and aspirations, the more empowered and accountable you are to making them happen. Of course it is scary to do this. After all, we are human. We are concerned about what people will think about us. Will they agree with me? Will they stop respecting me if they know this about me? Will I be ridiculed for my thoughts and beliefs? In the end, it really doesn’t matter what other people think. If you live your life the way other people expect you to, you may never find what truly makes you happy.
Since we started this project a few months ago, we have made great progress on almost all of our stated goals. I’ve written about our progress on a few of these goals in previous posts. My next few updates will focus on more of those goals individually and what steps we have taken to achieve them.
In the mean time, what are your goals in life? What are you doing to hold yourself accountable to achieving them? If you are struggling with making things happen, perhaps you can start by writing things down. Use the comments section on this post to get your feet wet.