This is going to be a weird post for me, and there are multiple reasons for this:
- I thought I’d be dead before 30, 35 at the latest, much less making it past 40
- Thinking long-term is a relatively new process for me as a result
- It took several years but it is really paying off
Trying to do things with long-term goals and good in mind can be especially difficult when the budget isn’t enough to make ends meet, prospects seem non-existent, and the future looks dim at best.
Believe me, I know. I lost most of my 30’s to a severe multi-year depression where everything fell apart and everything that could go wrong did – multiple times over. I understand what feeling utterly hopeless is like.
Even if you’re not hopeless, maybe the attitude is a special type of combative: “I’m going to lose all my money anyway, so why not have a beer or two while I can? How can I plan for the future when I can’t break even in the present?”
Well my question looks at it from the other direction:
If You’re Screwed Anyway, Why Not Plan Ahead?
If you live another 10 years, then in 10 years you’ll be 10 years older. I know, that’s not rocket science. But if you do nothing to plan ahead, you’re going to end up in the future whether you like it or not. That’s something you have no control over.
If you do no planning for the future, nothing will change. If you do a little bit, at least older you will have a little something to look forward to.
Here’s a chart starting at age 30 and looking at five year increments after.
Oversimplified Chart Showing the Obvious
Look I get it. $1,300 ain’t shit and if you could afford $20 a week you wouldn’t be in the current situation.
Been there. Done that. Used those excuses. Been in those places in life…and been homeless twice.
But the point of that chart is the fact that all that is no interest, no compound interest, no return. It also doesn’t change the fact that $1,300 in 25 years is better than having $0 in 25 years. Or that $26,000 can be used to change your life when you have it all at once.
Or there’s no lucky breaks in all this, no extra cash, nothing. Picking up cans for money can get well above $1 a week from any set of parks (or many highways, sadly) in summer. Go around offering hard labor to clean up a yard for $20. Go to coolworks.com and get a seasonal job for nearly free housing and a decent wage from an industry that is constantly starved for bodies.
The point isn’t money: the point is there are options and if you could do even a baseline minimum…it builds up to something. And chances are you’ll be around a lot longer than you thought.
If you start with the goal of saving $1 a week for money you will realize quickly how stupid easy/possible that is and to get the idea of working on something rather than nothing. Starting the momentum the right way instead of just hoping someone will ride in and save you because:
- That’s what you’re hoping for with vague thoughts like “things will get better”
- No one’s going to do it
- If you’re going with “It’s hopeless anyway” somewhere deep down you know you’re lying to yourself and using this as an excuse
If you’re in a position where everything looks bleak looking around you and you feel like you’re just screwed, why wouldn’t you start doing something, anything, to give yourself a chance and even a slightly better life with slightly less suffering in the future.
God knows I expected to be dead by 30 and by 40 for sure. It just often doesn’t happen. I look at how much harder my Dad destroyed his body and had bad habits and how he’s still moving in his mid-sixties and it occurs to me…I might be screwed if I don’t course correct.
Start Building Something
This doesn’t mean it’s easy, but if you’re screwed instead of wallowing in how screwed you are, sleeping on a ratty sofa or corner of the living room in an overcrowded apartment without work or underemployed badly and using a credit card to eat or fill a car with gas as you still slowly sink further a further down – if you’re there anyway and can’t change your life right now – why wouldn’t you plant some hope for your future self?
The Mental Challenge: Take a day or two to acknowledge the pain, the anger, the frustration. If you’re 25 and trying to plan for 35 or 30 and planning for 40 that means you need to admit that you’re “Throwing in the Towel” so to speak on the fast turnaround – that all of us hope for but realistically almost never happens.
At first this is frustrating, but it becomes freeing because by doing so you stop waiting for a miracle to save you and start the work that, had you started a year or two ago, would already start bearing fruit.
And truth be told you’re not throwing in the towel for life getting better, but if you’re not used to thinking 5-10 years in advance for goals, it feels like a gut-punch of giving up.
Work through it. It’s worth it.
And it’s the only way you’ll see the progress you need for your life to get better.
I get this isn’t easy. But even in the worst situations, there are opportunities to start moving the needle the right way, and that’s what the focus needs to be right now.
So what can you do?
Building a new set of skills is one of the best ways to open up the opportunities and possibilities in the future. Many people get discouraged at the idea of spending months or years learning skills piece by piece, but I’ll ask you to look at things from the other angle: If you’re going to be alive 10 years from now (and assume you will be) then imagine looking back with the regret of having 10 years and YET being in the same spot as before. Or worse.
The frustrating part with building skills is that you often have to build up to overqualified to even get your foot in the door. And that sucks. Why work three years on your free time just to get your foot into the door for a job on the lower end of things?
Well if we’re just going from the pure money standpoint:
- Minimum wage is $15,080 year gross, so even a terrible $20,000 a year is much better than that
- $25,000 is much better than $20,000
- $30,000 is much better than $25,000
- Entry-level jobs at higher amounts generally open up opportunities with higher ceilings when you improve and advance
- Even small bumps in annual income can open up the time, effort, and opportunities available
If we’re going from the personal skills for better quality of life:
- Knowing how to cook versus not means cheaper meals and better tasting meals (better meal time experiences)
- Knowing how to make basic repairs on apartment, house, vehicles, tools, or other things saves money and boosts confidence
- Embracing learning new skills or hobbies helps curb depression, anxiety, or hopelessness
- Being known as someone who knows how to make things, cook things, grow things, repair things, being “that guy” or “that gal” can open up social connections and lead to a healthier social life…and can also lead to job/side hustle opportunities
- Making a habit out of learning skills is a skill in and of itself
If we’re going from the opening opportunities standpoint:
- You can learn the wide array of side hustles out there and spend time learning all the ins and outs of one bit by bit
- Online skills like creating YouTube videos, video editing, sound editing, blogging, monetizing websites, SEO are all skills that are learned from experience and practice – and can be extremely valuable opening up opportunities everywhere
- Every skill you learn is something you can do now that you couldn’t before
- Every skill you learn opens up more advanced, specialized, or in-demand skills
These are hardly detailed, in-depth lists. There are many benefits monetarily, personally, and in opening up life’s possibilities from making the dedication to focus long-term and work at creating that better life in tangible ways.
Just look at this short list for a wide array of topics or skills you can learn.
10 Amazing YouTube Tutorial Videos for Learning Very Different Skills
- Introduction to Programming & Computer Science Full Course
- Building a Cabin from Scratch (55 Video Step By Step Video Guide)
- Learn Spanish (Full Free Course) from The Language Tutor
- Small Engine Repair Course which pairs well with Fixing a Bunch of Small Engines
- Cooking on an Extreme Budget
- How to Make a Budget from Scratch which pairs well with many personal finance videos, audiobooks, and courses also on YouTube
- Business Writing 101 Course (Believe it or not, more and more businesses are willing to hire good writers regardless of degree – and these jobs have writing samples which let you show actual skills)
- Woodworking Master Class is an amazing channel and goes well with specialty videos like Small Woodworking Projects That Sell
- How to Knit or How to Sew – which also allows you to mend clothes, offer services, or create your own products to sell
- Starting a Niche Website – because if you’re living by the skin of your teeth for years to come, why not start building a site that can earn you a full-time income from past work?
In 10 Years…
- If you saved $1 a day you would have $3652
- If you wrote one page double spaced of fiction per day you would have completed approximately 10 novels
- If you wrote one blog post a week you’d have a website with 520 blog posts
- If you walked 2,000 steps extra per day (20-25 minutes/avg), you have walked enough miles to stretch across the United States (great for health and weight loss)
- If you learned one skill a quarter, you would have 40 new skills
- If you took one free adult education class per semester, you would have the skills/knowledge from 20 classes under your belt (30 if you took summer classes)
- If you practiced a repeatable skill like drawing daily, in ten years you would have incredible likely expert level skills
- If you took one college class a semester (plus one per summer), you would be only 3-4 classes short of a bachelor’s degree
- If you started one new conversation per week to work on social skills/charisma, that’s 520 conversations to build those soft skills
- If you read one page of non-fiction a day, you would have read 3652 pages of non-fiction (and if that was self-help, financial, and skill based, that’s a lot of learning)
- If you picked up one part-time hobby a year, you picked up the skills and knowledge from 10 different hobbies and/or crafts
This is just a small sample of how taking the really long outlook and plan on things can really open up the possibilities even when in the short-term options seem so limited.
Just realizing this and waking up to the possibilities is the first step to overcoming despair. And that’s hard, I get it, but it’s necessary if you’re ever going to win that fight.
Looking at the long picture is a winning strategy. It’s THE winning strategy.
Easy Resources for Life Improvement
What do you need? The best part about this is that there are so many resources available that even 20 years ago were not as widespread or even completely inaccessible. While things are, in many ways, undeniably harder, there are more ways to learn new skills, find new opportunities, and build a better life in ways that were impossible a few decades before.
So what do you need to do this?
While most of us waste time on social media or use the Internet to check on the most recent sports scores, or YouTube for entertainment’s sake, the truth is that the sheer amount of free information, guides, classes, and skills available to anyone with access to an internet connection. Most people have an internet connection at home.
What if you don’t?
There are still options. The key is access, and there are multiple coffee shops, businesses, and even entire cities that have free Wi-Fi. If you’re using the Internet to learn new skills or advance your education then there’s not that much concern with even using open Wi-Fi. Besides, if you’re in that bad a shape financially…what more do you have to lose or be paranoid about?
Find the free Wi-Fi and improve those skills.
The Power of YouTube
If the bullet point list of random examples didn’t give this away already, YouTube is a gold mine. While so much time spent on YouTube by most people is for entertainment purposes, there’s no denying the sheer amount of videos of really useful information, tutorials, and even free online classes. Sometimes you might want to save up for that Skillshare subscription or Udemy course but don’t sleep on what can already be found here for free.
Some things are much easier to learn by seeing or watching examples versus having to try to use pictures to get from A to B or working from text descriptions. This is where the power of video naturally lends itself to being a great teaching medium.
When my time online shifted heavily to YouTube, and then my time on YouTube shifted heavily from pure entertainment to motivation videos, to teaching videos, to skill videos, my life started taking off.
The Playlist Trick
Don’t slip on what a good tool playlists can be. I have a playlist where I drop motivational videos that really did it for me at some point. I have two playlists called “Daily Affirmation” that I have conditioned myself to work sprint to every time one of them plays, I have a playlist for when I want to be in creative writing mode, and another couple for whatever type of motivation I feel I need which include such descriptive titles as “Kick Ass,” or “Kick in the Ass,” or “Proud of Progress.”
This will take more time to develop, and while I get how many people preach that mindset and thankfulness is enough (it’s not), it does make a difference and it takes a lot of time to hone in.
Hell, I’m still working on it. And I imagine I’ll continue working on refining this for years if not forever, but it gets more and more rewarding with each passing step, so it is worth it.
Small side motivational speech aside – YouTube playlists are powerful tools for training yourself to accomplish your goals and change your lives when used properly and consistently over time.
Your Local Library
The local library in most towns or cities is an absolute hub for employment programs, new groups trying to get members, charities looking for workers (the number of times this has led to someone getting a job with an organization is stunningly high), as well as free books and Internet. Depending on the size of the library, the non-fiction skills books available might be limited.
A local library in a town of 500 won’t have the book selection of a local library in a city of 100,000. Still, they will have useful books and resources and you start by working with what you have on-hand.
It doesn’t take many detailed non-fiction hobby books with picture tutorials to get you on the road to mastering some serious skills. But what if you find a passion, know the big books in the space, but your library doesn’t have them?
Let me introduce you to Inter-library loan.
Inter-library loan is a common program in most states, so if you start with a few hobby books your library has but know you need some “classic” titles in the space to further your education that the library doesn’t have, ask the librarian if they participate in interlibrary loan programs. If they do, often times they can get a list of the books you want to check out and borrow them from another library so you can check them out in your neck of the woods. This is a great program and it is usually free or sometimes $1 to use, so don’t be afraid to ask!
If you are in a larger town or small city you’ll find that the local library often has amazing resources. Free computers to use, employment classes, a bulletin board that may advertise jobs, volunteer opportunities, clubs meeting, other announcements. Find clubs for improving public speaking, free adult literacy classes, or see if someone is advertising for odd jobs or local part-time businesses are looking for people to train.
The library is an amazing resource, and if you want to the tools for long-term change a good public library is a gift.
Used Book Sales
This can come from flea markets, library sales, or even looking online for cheap listings on eBay and Amazon (though be wary as shipping charges add up fast in this case).
Used book sales can be a place to find a lot of gems. It can be harder to find something targeted without going through eBay and Amazon if you want something specific. However, all the knowledge from books are available and used books go cheap.
If go to an estate sale or major garage sale/auction type of setup you potentially could find a massive haul of non-fiction books, especially if you’re at the estate sale of a hobbyist. During my book hound and antiquing days, it wasn’t uncommon for me to find sales where a box of 20 books were all on woodworking. Or home gardening.
Or old school crafting, sewing, and homesteading skills.
You would also be amazed how often a box of books went for $1.
There are options and while used book sales aren’t as reliable and available as what’s always available from places like eBay or Amazon, it’s worth taking a look around. You never know what you might run into and even just the practice of getting out and doing things that could move your life forward improves those soft skills and puts you in position where things start coming up that give more opportunities for something to just happen.
Many people get opportunities of many sizes that come into their lives and don’t even recognize them, dismiss them out of hand because of bad habits deeply ingrained, or are too scared to act.
This last one can be especially insidious because a person will rarely say they’re cared or acknowledge that fear is a driving force behind it. There are always other excuses, many of which are semi-valid. I’m busy, I’m tired, I don’t feel great, I don’t have the energy, I’m stressed and really need a day to myself, etc.
But at the heart of it if we’re being completely honest is being scared. Getting into the habit of improving yourself and looking for even the smallest opportunities to improve is something that helps build the muscles to squash these concerns. It’s a crucial soft skill that doesn’t get nearly enough attention, but it really is the key to everything else when making a consistent improvement in one’s life.
Or any long-term improvement and betterment, for that matter.
Do You Live Near a Local College?
There is a common practice called “Auditing” a class. This is often practiced by college students, or by college graduates interested in a topic being taught in a class on-campus, but who aren’t pursuing it for a degree.
If there’s a topic being taught that interests you, or might interest you, you can arrange to audit the class. At some universities this is at a greatly reduced price, a very small flat fee, and at many others it is actually 100% free.
So this does depend a bit on the policies of the colleges or universities in your area, and to be clear, an audited class does not count towards any degree, but it might open up the possibilities for study.
If a local private college is in the area, it might be possible to talk to professors to work out a deal to get access. My Dad used this effectively to get access to the pottery wheel and tools at my college to re-ignite his old passion for pottery – which had been his major at the same college thirty years prior.
Even if these resources aren’t available, colleges by their nature tend to work to generate good press and improve the surrounding community by offering various services. Check out what’s open to the public, what events they hold that are free to attend, and just see what’s available. You might be surprised by just how much is open and yet not widely advertised.
What If I Can’t Read?
First of all, kudos for somehow getting this far 🙂
There are many options. Adult Literacy Options can be found online and throughout many cities. Many of these programs are free. There are also multiple educational videos and courses online that are designed to help people of all ages to learn how to read. Courses even exist that are focused at helping adults with learning disabilities to still get the ability to read.
While in the world of YouTube and with plenty of skilled and unskilled jobs don’t necessarily require reading, but you are at an incredible disadvantage if you don’t have basic reading skills. I’d also say moderate to advanced reading skills are in higher demand than ever, required by more and more industries than previously because of tech advances in all sectors.
Also, make sure to thank the person reading this and/or be thankful for the audio recording if the article has it by then, otherwise not sure how you’re reading this.
So my advice would be simple:
- Start with skills you can learn by video instruction that don’t require reading
- Start the learning process with learning how to read ASAP
- Create a ridiculously easy habit/skill/goal to focus on (like $1 a week – but it in a coffee can that is hidden under the bed if need be, mine had an index card attached via duck tape that called it the “F*ck It Bucket”)
This means you have clear measurable progress even as you spend more time developing necessary reading ability for more long-term skills and growth. This can be crucial, especially if you are inclined to frustration and giving up, especially when that is paired up with depression – a pairing I know intimately and far too well.
If for some reason you live in a place where people are going through your things or you can’t trust your stuff to be secured while at work, then it’s time to look at changing that situation and in the mean time keeping as much on you as possible or finding an alternative.
But accomplishing a lot while illiterate is going to be hard.
Work on the very basics because that opens up the options. Opportunities beget opportunities.
Once you’ve started learning tangible skills and seeing the benefits of that, you might even start pursuing skills that make it easier to learn skills. If that sounds a bit confusion, you’re in the same boat I was when this all started, but once you experience being able to learn some useful real life skills via YouTube and online tutorials, you become more and more capable of continuing to help yourself or pull yourself out of even the most seemingly hopeless of situations.
Quality of Life vs. Fear of Death vs. Indifference
Sometimes the things that were an advantage at one point in life end up boning you later on. In fact, this happens to a lot of us who grew up in any type of situation where you had to fight, scratch, claw, and seemed to thrive compared to other young people around you because of those experiences and personal tools…and then at some point nothing changed but suddenly you were way behind. How?
What if what you do to survive, kill the things you love, fear’s a powerful thing…I’ll take your God-filled soul and fill it with devils and dust.Bruce Springsteen, “Devils & Dust”
The how is because when you’re young time is a nebulous thing that it feels like you have an endless supply of. And you can easily be more comfortable with less while living a threadbare life because, what else do you know? If where you came from was bad enough or traumatic enough, you might even be comfortable because it’s an upgrade!
When comfortable or indifferent, the burning desire and motivation to change isn’t there. When you feel like you’re ahead, it’s even more so. By the time you want a quality of life change it’s a lot harder – or maybe the indifference has been there so long that it almost has become permanent like a pillar of who you are (or who you think you are).
The shift or change needs to happen even when you are ahead and that’s where a lot of us stumble at some point – because time is relentless and if you aren’t the same, things can go badly.
You don’t have to be Superman, but that’s where the power of showing up comes in. As those numbers earlier in the article show, a little bit of steady progress every single day builds up. Those who won’t stop showing up don’t need to be motivated, they just keep making progress and eventually that will get you somewhere.
I’m Not Saying Declare Bankruptcy But…
I’m required by law to give that crucial bit of legalese: I’m not a financial professional and don’t give financial advice. No one should be looking to me for in-depth financial advice however, one thing I learned from experience: don’t let the stigma of a term keep you from making the right move for yourself.
After the 2008 crash and a ballooning of student loan payments, and unwisely using credit cards to help family out, I spent 10 years paying off huge monthly bills…only to end up declaring bankruptcy in 2017 after struggling through the middle of a multi-year depression.
The bankruptcy wiped the slate clean off all but the student loans, and made me realize something a couple years later after coming out of the depression: I was making $600 a month in payments for nearly 10 years on bills that I could have easily wiped clean while the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash was still happening.
That’s 100 months or so. All those payments could have gone to pay off all my student loans, instead of forcing forbearance and interest accruement. They could have paid for dental bills when they would have been $5,000 instead of $30,000. They could have become the down payment to a house before prices sky rocketed and everything in the area became unaffordable.
It could have done all those things – and if I had declared bankruptcy right away I could have done all of them. If those bills/stress weren’t hanging over me – I wonder if the depression would have been as bad, if having that money on hand wouldn’t have led to drastically different opportunities.
Not to mention the fact that just 3-4 years after the bankruptcy, my credit score was the best its ever been (somehow?) and I have two emergency credit cards loaded with travel points. Buy what I need only, log-in online, pay off the purchase, bank the points. It’s a good system for me right now.
Instead, I don’t get those 10 years back and instead of being a few years past the bankruptcy being off my credit report, I have five more to go.
Rich people don’t hesitate to use it to protect assets. Neither do companies. So why should I be shamed when I’ve had to live with the consequences of not throwing in the towel early on an impossible fight?
Despite how I was raised, there is no honor is wasting money and years of your life on an impossible fight.
For many people bankruptcy won’t provide enough relief to matter, but for a sub-set of people struggling it could be a lot better to rip the band-aid off sooner rather than later, and if everything else is in order that is something seriously worth considering.
Especially if you have confirmable cash flow after rent and bills if the debts forgiven by bankruptcy are wiped away. It might be worth taking the hit now so you can start rebuilding sooner rather than later.
This is an option, and it’s worth noting that although this won’t be right for everyone, if the only reasons you have for not doing them are pride, or fear of having to do it solo, those are terrible reasons to imprison yourself. You’re not only robbing yourself of your current years and opportunity, but future ones, as well.
If you think this might help, do your research. I was floored by how much someone declaring bankruptcy could protect/keep, and the person running bankruptcy court couldn’t believe I had so little (and had waited so long) before using bankruptcy court to get a clean(ish) start. When attorneys representing their clients in the room make the comment that you waited too long to declare, you know you messed up.
When used correctly, bankruptcy can give the clean start that is otherwise unavailable.
Developing Your Plan
One of the major parts of developing your plan is understanding a basic truth: better to commit to doing one thing, anything, no matter how small, to making it a habit rather than let the dread of trying to make a plan freeze you. Nothing replaces massive action, and in lieu of that, nothing replaces steady consistent action.
If the thought of making a plan is overwhelming just choose one small habit to make your environment better, one small daily health habit to pick up, and one small trackable goal (whether money, time reading, picking up a hobby, etc). Taking a few months to make those small habits second nature starts moving the needle and lets you prepare for another small step forward in the future whether in the same vertical or something else.
If you somehow even freeze up that, then do this bullet point list daily until it’s so much of a habit that it’s automatic:
- Make your bed immediately upon waking up every morning
- Take a 15 minute walk after work (or a pre-set time every single day)
- Journal one half-page per night before bed (hopes/dreams in 10 years, ideal vacation, something small or nice to do by year’s end are great topics)
- Meditate for 5 minutes at the same time each day
That’s it. If making a plan was too intimidating than those four bullet points that should take up less than half an hour of non-consecutive time each day is your entire “homework” for the next three months.
If during some down time during those three months you brainstorm ideas for a business, a hobby, or simply take longer walks or start collecting cans for pocket change, hey, all of that is bonus at this point. Making the smallest achievable victories available to you is all bonus at this stage.
Example of the website sale – per hour not worth it but what was I going to do during those other hours?
Sample Long-Term Plan #1
Starting situation: Minimum wage job, 30 hours a week, 3 hour round trip bus commute, 0 free income.
I’m a big fan of big index cards because you can put down a lot of planning or impact quotes/reminders that hit home for you without overcrowding the space. Use this to put down some inspiration and some main goals to keep focusing on.
- Pick a main long-term goal for savings/financial
- Decide to visit a library once every two weeks minimum to find a book to read, a skill to look up online, to get into the habit of taking action
- Look for additional ways to scrape together even a pittance of savings
- Take a daily walk to think and stay in shape.
Start with a simple money task, borrow from above if you need. $1 a week for a year, so $52. That’s the goal. A measly $52. Assuming you truly have 0 free income (and it’s possible – I’ve been in unfortunate situations where a credit card was “buying time” while I was -$114/month, so I get it) your goal is to now find $52. If you’re in a state that gives bottle returns, hit the parks and start collecting.
If you live by a college it’s likely gross, but you have a figurative gold mine of cans to collect, clean, and turn in. If not, look for local labor tasks on Craigslist. If you have a lawnmower, offer to cut grass. Talk to a temp agency about getting 1 day a week to work on the weekends. Find something. $52 should always be possible, even if it means one sleepless night, weekend, or
Do: Start picking up cans, looking for loose change, ask around for task for money chores, whatever. Do NOT assume that since you have 52 weeks you can somehow “put it off” or think of a plan. That type of thinking is how you get into this type of a mess in the first place.
Do something and start the ball moving. Even a pittance of resources is better than having no resources at all, and if you train yourself to look for opportunities you will become more aware of them and therefore be able to take advantage of them.
Sample Long-Term Plan #2
Starting situation: Unemployed, debt stacking up, little to no savings
- Find a stable or at least stable-ish housing option if you don’t have one
- Learn new skills (if you’re “screwed” anyway, not learning skills isn’t going to undo that)
- Find a job that breaks even
- Walk to local library or job center to learn skills or get job
- Focus on one or two skills that can be learned for free and focus on those
- Once stable, start incremental savings
These are two quick plans that only start with a $1 a week. Honestly, skip one meal if you have to. It’s not great or ideal, but there’s always a little bit more to be found or squirreled away even while juggling everything else.
These are just really generalized examples. The point isn’t to give up if you don’t see one that perfectly fits your current situation, but just to show how despite radically different starting positions and situations, there are still options. There are always options.
They aren’t always easy and they aren’t always nice. Some involve having more pain in the short-term to give yourself a chance in the long run. But there are options as long as you haven’t fully surrendered.
There are also much more drastic actions that can be taken. For instance…
Why Not Just Walk Away?
Sometimes a hard reset might be just the thing but I’m not recommending this when there are other options, especially when you have anything from above. But maybe the solution is to find any source of savings, work, side hustle, whatever to get enough for the cheapest travel laptop and a digital camera that works. Both to be hidden in a waterproof backpack (and make sure you have extra plastic bags or ideally sealable waterproof coverings, and then pick a direction and start walking.
And keep going. And keep going. And keep going.
Why the laptop and digital video camera?
Simple: in today’s world you have options if you can get online. If you have a story to tell you can reach others and that can bring opportunities whether through direct monetization, outreach from others, or other fortuitous opportunities that you couldn’t have imagined ahead of time.
Having these items makes getting up from the bottom far easier than if you don’t have them (though definitely not impossible).
If this means selling everything you own when you’re ready to start over then purchasing a chromebook and GoPro with that cash, do it. These are the tools that let you redefine your life by giving short-term tools for long-term life building.
This can be a literal thing. Start walking until you find a good place to start over. It can be more figurative. Go to coolworks.com, find a seasonal job, sell everything you’re not coming back for, and start over. Using bankruptcy to erase debts, sell everything, then go to a seasonal job with super cheap/free housing, free meals, and a steady paycheck in a new place is a solid break.
This form of walking away can even mean jumping from job to job. Always wanted to see Alaska? Seasonal work with tourist season is a massive industry up there. Montana, California, Florida, Maine, Idaho – all places with parks and popular areas that need help during popular tourist seasons. And many of them struggle to fill up staff, thus offering plenty of overtime if you want it.
You can jump from one job to another until getting a plan or like the awesome Timothy Ward (amazing YouTube Channel) you can make this a lifestyle until you move on to something else.
For some people the only way to get ahead long-term is to start by cutting off your current life and circumstances completely and going somewhere else. There’s a reason one of the major things addicts have to do is move and cut all ties with the old influences, places, neighborhoods. For other people this is a step too far and isn’t necessary and that’s fine, too.
The point is building the best possible life for you by planning long-term like you’re going to be around instead of giving up because of how crushing your current situation feels.
I’ve gone out of my way to try to balance the push for doing something, anything, and encouraging the idea that you always have options to start no matter how small, and to make sure I haven’t crossed over to rah-rah territory where I go into the toxic area of self-help where it sounds easy and there are no outside factors that could make such a turnaround difficult.
But as someone who has been bottom out and then some more than once, who has been homeless more than once, I get when you’re in that darkness how hard it is to not give up – how hard it is to believe anything will ever get better or make a difference, especially when the actions are so small. But if you find yourself in that situation I implore you to fight because it’s the only way things will change and get better – and they can and will if you can push yourself to those small actions that seem so easy for others but a mountain for yourself.
When you start to se the other side, you’ll know it was all worth it.
Just Do Something: Pain Is Better Than Hopelessness
The number of big YouTube channels that make their owners tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year or more that started just from someone “doing something” is amazing. Start making shelters in the wild that you show step by step. Start exploring ghost towns. Start hiking and recording all these regional trails that many others outside the region may not know about.
One of my favorite YouTubers, Timothy Ward, said something simple but profound: There are no rules. The “rules” most of us follow are what we impose ourselves or let society impose on us. Build something. Start walking and keep going. Explore the hobo life. Find some wooded acres and practice building cabins/shelters until you get passable.
Live out of a canvas tent. Or do none of these things and look at what you actually want if you’d let yourself dream. Do something interesting. Just actually do something. Prove you can do it. Blog/record the process. Repeat.
The overwhelming majority of obstacles we have in our lives aren’t real – they’re invisible ideas from our own brains. Move those out of the way and you see even in the worst of situations just how many options there are.
You have no idea just how far that starting action may take you.
Examples of Those Who Have Turned Everything Around
Here’s a bullet point list of people who turned their life around from terrible conditions, did something different, or otherwise prove that there really are no rules – not the way we think of them.
- Homeless Man of 20 Years Becomes “London’s Happiest Bus Driver”
- He Walked the Earth for 17 Years without Speaking…
- A 67 Year Old Grandmother Was the First Woman to Solo Hike the Appalachian Trail
- The Story of Eric Thomas Is Something to Read
- Quora Stories of People Turning Life Around Late in Life
- Reader’s Digest Focused on Stories of Very Late Life Turnarounds
- Thought Catalog Extremely Varied Stories of Life Turnarounds in Just 1 Year
One thing to keep in mind is just the sheer diversity of stories in those examples. These aren’t people who all had jobs, or partners, or people to fall back on. Some people had some of these things, many had none of them. Ages vary from 20s to 70s.
In other words, there are so many examples of how the decision to take action and a series of small steady actions add up to life changes – sometimes so much faster than any of these people imagined was possible.
Take those examples for encouragement and get your own journey going.
Plan Long-Term and Your Short Term Will Improve, Too
Sometimes there’s a crackback reaction of “I don’t care about long-term, my life is shit now.” And that makes me sad. There’s an obvious logic being missed. If you spend 10 years to get to a good life and 15 years to get to a dream life…you don’t think it happens overnight, do you?
This is a long hike, a long trek, a long build. This means many gradual improvements and victories that get to that point. Which means the very process of building long-term is going to pull you up in the short and medium term.
Will there be dips where things get really bad? Of course. There always are, but the line is going to point in a steady direction and that’s going to be upwards. Planning long-term and starting to get the small amount of hope or direction or motivation that comes from having that plan no matter how obscure or far away will improve your life in the now.
And in 10 years, making the decision to start looking at the things differently, to focus on the long game, will have amazing results and you’ll be so glad you made that decision to start.
Those 10 years are going to go by anyway…so why not give yourself a better life instead of one that is the same or worse?
Future you, living a fantastic life you couldn’t have imagined when you started the journey, that you will be so grateful you did, and have nightmares about how bad “It could have been” if you had not made that start so long ago.