Posts Tagged ‘idling’

Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 5

January 18th, 2011 No comments

The Work You Do For Money Should Be Part-time

A review by juniorcain of Jaron Lanier’s book You Are Not a Gadget (a critique of the internet revolution) asks, angrily, ‘Will we all be expected to work at jobs to which we’re indifferent so we can come home and do the things we love for free online?’ The answer to a more general form of this question is ‘yes’. We will work at jobs (though not full-time) to which we are indifferent, and we will come home and do the things we love for free (though not necessarily online).

The type of work you do to earn enough money for rent and food – what we shall call subsistence work – is not so important. The most important aspect of this work is that it is part-time. Your important work is not your subsistence work, but the work you do in your spare time. We shall call the latter type ‘work’, because when we spend our time taking pleasure from our genuine capabilities we will put in effort, and to not call this work is to give it inferior status to our subsistence work.

The modern work ethic, which says we must take satisfaction and meaning in our lives from our full-time career, is an invention of the last couple of centuries, created by the Industrial Revolution. In the Middle Ages people worked the hours necessary to earn enough money to live: subsistence work. The rest of the time was their own. Would you not prefer to live like this? The idea that we must take meaning from our work has become so entrenched it is not surprising if you are unaware there is an alternative.

Full-time career work has commandeered the definition of the word ‘work’. If you refuse to have a career, you will still work, but at ideas of your own choosing. You will not go along with the lie that full-time career work is the only route to finding meaning in your life, because not only is it not the only route, it is rarely a route at all. Only our own ideas are meaningful to us. Other people’s work is automatically less meaningful, because it originates from other people’s ideas. It only has value in that it provides us with food and rent, and is subsistence work.

So how do you live with a part-time wage, and what type of subsistence work will we look for that will support our real work?

next: Part 6 – The Nature of Your Part-Time Subsistence Work is Not Important

Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 6

January 18th, 2011 No comments

The Nature of Your Part-Time Subsistence Work is Not Important

Is it best to be a part-time salesperson, barman or doctor? The nature of your work is not important. Your ambition for work is less about the nature of the job, and more that this job is part-time. A summary of the careers advice contained here is: find the sort of part-time work that allows the most freedom for your important work. Your job needs to be part-time, and better still, freelance, in that you work as and when you need to.

Plumber, fitness instuctor, nurse, bar work: these are all jobs that are easy to do part-time or freelance. Well-paid executive for an telecoms company is not. Lawyer and advertising copywriter are not. Many part-time jobs are manual jobs, which may not appeal to you. If, however, the important work you do outside of your subsistence work involves sitting at a desk using a computer, active manual work might be a pleasant change. No one is suggesting that being an electrician is going to be your life’s fulfillment. This will come outside of your subsistence work.

Happily, the rewarding jobs discussed earlier can be much more rewarding if part-time. The part-time doctor or teacher, if they can resist the pressures to work longer than the hours for which they are paid, can feel the rewards of these jobs more keenly when their spare time is not so minimal. But not all rewarding jobs are possible to do part-time, and should be avoided.

Better still if you can combine a number of part-time jobs (so long as they only add up to the hours of one). You have greater job security if you lose one of three part-time jobs rather than one full-time job. You also have more chance to avoid being exploited when you have more than one job, for you can give it up more easily because you have other work. The best kind of subsistence job is the one where you could not care less if you lost it.

In full-time career jobs people work a huge amount of unpaid overtime. They do this because they fear being seen as not as good as their colleagues, who also work unpaid overtime. In your casual subsistence job, if your employer does not pay you for overtime, you will rightly complain, or threaten to leave. No one threatens to leave a career job, because they have worked so hard to get it in the first place. Their employer will exploit that to the maximum. The principle in feudal times was, ‘Pay the poor just enough that they can buy the food they need in order to work, and they will continue working.’ In the modern career the principle changes to, ‘Increase the employee’s workload to just before the point where they are off sick with stress, and they will continue working.’

The great thing about part-time work is, the less you work, and the less attached you are to the work you do, the more available you are to take on different, more interesting subsistence work. Don’t take on the fear of your parents, or your school, that you have somehow failed. Part-time subsistence work is not a stop-gap to a full-time career. If you have created the spare time for using your genuine capabilities, and you take pleasure in this, then you are a success.

You ask again: but how do I live on part-time wages? We will get to that in Part 8.

next: Part 7 – University is Not Essential For a Fulfilling Life

Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 7

January 18th, 2011 No comments

University is Not Essential For a Fulfilling Life

So how does the ambition of part-time work guide you on what to study if you are still at school? Do the subjects you like. If you can, do the ones which have the most inspiring teachers, since these teachers are examples of how best to take pleasure in your capabilities. (Inspiring teachers are thin on the ground, not because there are few people who genuinely love to teach, but because they have been so ground down by their full-time career.) Learning how to take pleasure in your genuine capabilities is what education ought to be for but rarely is.

If you feel it important to go to university, do the subjects whose exams you can pass. If your capabilities do not lie in passing exams, don’t worry. Spend your time discovering your creative capabilities. Exams are not essential for part-time work.

You ask: so should I go to college or university? This is a difficult question. Universities can be fantastic places for meeting inspirational people, learning how to live with others, and having the freedom to investigate your genuine capabilities. Art college is an environment set up for the understanding of the pleasure of creative ideas. But nowadays going to college or university also saddles you with enormous debts, debts that are such a burden that upon graduation you may have no option but to find full-time work. There is the great danger that, forced to then find a well-paid career job, you may never escape.

Society gives us the idea that much of our life must be spent studying or training to attain some better, distant future. If you are taking pleasure in the present by investigating your creative capabilities there is no need for this. The path for many graduates is: leave university and spend months or years in part-time subsistence work, and all your spare time applying for that good career job; finally land the good career job; realise the stress and lack of fulfilment of a full-time career job; wonder how you can return to the part-time employment that you had when you first graduated. Just skip the career part, and the problem is solved.

You do not have to go to university. The benefits you gain there, the communal living with your peers, the freedom, the interesting people whom will turn your life in unknown directions, these can all be had elsewhere for a fraction of the price. Travelling and working abroad can give you equivalent social experiences. Education, in its pure sense of gaining knowledge, can be obtained through independent study, through the Open University if you require some structure, or just on your own. You may also decide it better to attend university part-time, and perhaps as a mature student, in order to lessen the crippling debts.

The only thing you cannot get outside of a university is a degree. A degree will help you get you a full-time career job. It is not necessary for part-time subsistence work.

next: Part 8 – Learn to Live Cheaply If You Desire Spare Time for Real Work

Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 8

January 18th, 2011 No comments

Learn to Live Cheaply If You Desire Spare Time for Real Work

If you want to work part-time, you have to learn to live on part-time wages. This will be the most objectionable piece of advice contained here. Some of you will stop reading and think, if that is the case, then this isn’t for me. If you are a teenager, dependent upon your parents, you have most likely been looking forward to the day when you have a pay packet and the freedom of choice to spend it as you choose. Self-determination and security via a surplus of money are the most human of desires. But the person who demands a secure pay packet for their self-determination is blind to what they must give up in order to achieve it: the spare time to pursue work of your own choosing, using your genuine capabilities.

Besides, those in full-time career jobs rarely appear to have much surplus money. It is spent on travel to work, on clothes for work, on food whilst at work, on weekend breaks. Mostly it is spent on treating themselves whilst recovering from the pain of their full-time job. When people say they ‘deserve’ an expensive foreign holiday, they mean in return for the punishment their career inflicts upon them. Strive for a life in which you don’t feel you need a holiday.

The widely-held misconception is that if you don’t have a lot of money you are lacking in the means to enjoy life. This is not some Buddhist advice on the benefits to your soul of having few possessions. It is merely to say that the careerists who are responsible for this misconception do so because they have lost the ability, which they had in childhood, to take pleasure in their own creative ideas. They would not know what to do with themselves if they did not have their full-time job: they would be bored, and they would need money to distract them from this boredom. The semi-retired do not need money for repeated holidays, because they have learnt how to find creative pleasure in their everyday life.

Is this how you want your future life to be, with you so inexperienced at how to spend your spare time that you prefer to fill it with meaningless full-time work? You think I am exaggerating, that of course people with careers would know what to do if they had more spare time. I am not. Observe what happens to careerists when they unexpectedly have time on their hands. Right now you may not yourself have much idea how you would spend your spare time, and this is fine. But it is something you must learn.

What careerists do not know is that you need much less money to be happy when you can spend a significant number of hours a week doing something that brings you creative pleasure. Those with spare time and creative desires are not unemployed, or under-employed, by the government definition of someone who needs more subsistence work to fill their time. Your spare time for important work is already filled, thank you very much, even if you have not yet decided what this work is. These creative ambitions are important, however. Without them we will be under-employed.

You might say: I don’t want to work this way if it means I have to watch my money all the time. But you won’t have no money to spend. You will simply be more careful in how you spend it, you will only spend as much as it is necessary to earn in order to leave you with the time for your important work. Clothe yourself from charity shops, where careerists throw out very decent clothes. Couchsurf and camp for holidays. Read library books. Be a late-adopter and use all the technology that careerists trade in for the new model. The semi-retiree’s value system slowly changes: cheaper goods become more valuable because they mean you can do less subsistence work and thus have more time for your important work. Also, you find you need less money because you associate with other semi-retirees who have similar cheap ideals.

In any case, you may someday be paid (and paid well) for your pleasurable work – you may even be hired by one of the large organisations with whom you are not going to have a career. But then you will work for them freelance, on your terms, and you can decide how little or much you want this paid work to disrupt the rest of your life. You may feel able to give up your subsistence work. But pay should not be your goal. Being paid for this work is good so long as it does not interrupt the unpaid work that brought you the freelance work in the first place. Being a jobbing musician or journalist is not the same as investigating your capabilities in music or writing. As soon as regular wages are involved, the rewards change. If you are being paid for your pleasureable work, try to remain in the position where you do not care about the pay, just as you do not care if you lose your subsistence job. This is why keeping a part-time subsistence job puts you in a much better position. If you are a writer, write for pleasure and maybe sell the work afterwards, not for an advance which will compromise the work as you create it. If you receive financial reward after the fact, that’s a bonus.

Many people earn lots of money from their pleasureable work, but have had to live cheaply at some point in order to get where they are now. You just need to have the knowledge of how to do so, to not be scared of doing so, because there will almost certainly be times when you need to. Fear of the absence of a full-time pay packet is what keeps most people in mind-numbing careers.

The annoyances of living cheaply are outweighed by not having to work full-time, which is far more annoying. If you cannot do this, or think you cannot do it: then you condemn yourself to a life of full-time work.

related post: Living Cheaply is Easier Than You Think

next: Part 9 – The Pleasure of Creative Ideas

Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 9

January 18th, 2011 No comments

The Pleasure of Creative Ideas

You say: I still do not understand what this is, this pleasure from creative ideas, from using my genuine capabilities. What form does this take? How do I go about finding it?

The first step in discovering the pleasure of creative ideas comes when you see the fruits of the creative ideas of others, and think, ‘I would love to do that myself’. You see musicians perform, you want to be on stage with them. You watch a great football match, you want to play football. You read of the ideas of Darwin or Einstein, and think, ‘I want to investigate theories and experiments that help understand the world’. You read a book that sets down clearly on paper the ideas floating around your own head, and think, ‘I want to publish my own ideas’.

If left to your own devices, what are you most drawn to doing? What fascinates you, and where do your genuine capabilities lie? Do not think that because you did not have these capabilities identified and praised at school that you do not have them. Or that if you did have some capabilities praised at school it has to be these in which you feel creative pleasure. (At school I was praised for being good in maths and logical subjects, but now my creative passions lie in writing and music.) School only tests academic capabilities for the purpose of passing exams in order to get a full-time career job. School education ought to be helping you discover how to be creative, but does not, and has little interest in identifying your creative capabilities.

You love reading but do not consider that a writer is something you can be yourself. You can. Trying is being. All the things you enjoy, books, music, comics, they are there for you to use as a model. Everyone starts out wondering if they will ever be able to create anything of value. You might be obsessed with music: there has never been an easier time in which to make and record your own music. It does not matter that at the moment you have no idea how to go about doing so. The first attempts will be bad, the tenth ones will be better. But the first ones are important. The tenth attempt can’t happen without the first one.

Creative capabilities are commonly thought to only be found in subjects labelled ‘art’, such as writing, musical performance or painting, but there is pleasure in creative ideas everywhere: even in the organisation of people, or in the abstract talent of being good with people. If you can organise people, make things happen, this does not have to be for an employer. What organization would you like to see brought into being, something charitable, something sporting, something political? Volunteer for an organization doing something similar and plan how you will do it better yourself. If you love sport, join a team and play. Start your own team or games, but play, don’t just watch. You can’t feel the same pleasure as a spectator.

The pleasure of creation is not in being the best at your chosen pursuit or receiving acclaim for it, but in having the creative ideas and following them through. Success in creative pursuits is measured only by the finding of pleasure – recognition and financial reward are secondary. How many times have you heard people say this? But you have to experience it to understand. The great thing is there is no such thing as failure, except failure to feel pleasure, at which point you change the direction of your ideas.

Don’t worry if at first you think you are not getting anywhere. It takes time to develop faith in and feel pleasure in your capabilities. You have to relearn the delight you had in creative ideas when you were a child. This creativity is later educated out of most of us and forgotten when older, as we rely more and more on passive forms of entertainment, until we are left with the idea that passive entertainment is all there is. A population of careerists is a population of spectators who are easily bored rather than participants who know how to delight themselves. Watch the creative pleasure of these schoolchildren, particularly at the end where they make up the dancing themselves. They did not learn this for a school exam.

Some creative activities will automatically bring you into contact with others who have similar passions. But if your activities are solitary you need to find like-minded people – watching and sharing in their success and failures helps guide you in your activities. If you are interested in traditional arts, hire a space in an artists’ studio. Make sure it is a social studio, for much of your creative energies come from interacting with other artists.

These activities, the pursuit of pleasure from a creative idea, this is art. Art is not confined to drawing and painting, or whatever is done in a school art lesson. The categorization of school lessons brainwashes us from an early age to think that art is a subject separate from everyday life that requires special talents. Anything that involves following through your creative ideas to produce something that you value, this is art. You are not excluded if you cannot draw or paint or sculpt well. And, even you felt no affinity for the traditional arts at school this does not mean you should not investigate them. Try them for yourself, without deadlines, without a forty minute lesson block. You may find there is something about them that you like and want to pursue. Van Gogh said, ‘If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.’ There is art in science. Darwin’s theory of evolution was a creative idea: the design of a scientific experiment is a creative act, as is the movement into space on a football field that leads to a goal, holding an audience whilst speaking in public or the nailing together of wooden pallettes for a makeshift den.

When you do art for yourself there is no timetable or homework. The work you do for art won’t feel like work, because it is pleasureable, and if it is not pleasureable, if you do not find value in it, it is not art.

This pleasure from creative ideas is not to be taken lightly. It is one that few people have, but many people could have and do not realise. The artist Bill Drummond thinks everyone should have art in their life (see question 88): we should not be watching others make art, we should be making art. We need art for our minds like we need exercise for our bodies. This is the idea behind art therapy in prisons or mental institutions. We all need art therapy, though it need not be called therapy. Everyone is aware of the importance of being healthy, of socialising, but the importance of art, of taking pleasure in creative thoughts, is neglected.

Take semi-retirement from the world of full-time work. Do so before you’ve even started. You are not slacking off, you are not ‘joining the ranks of the unemployed’. You are only unemployed, or underemployed, if you have no creative work with which to fill your spare time. When you are immersed in a project which gives you pleasure, you always have the sense of something to look forward to. You don’t get the Sunday evening blues before Monday work, because even if you have to do subsistence work the next day, it won’t be that long before you can get back to the things that really thrill you.

Forget about finding fulfilment in life from a career. What are you waiting for? Instead plan how your current studies or work will lead to part-time subsistence work. And meanwhile, begin to discover the pleasure of ideas that use your genuine capabilities. This is the life of the happiest people I know.

related post: Finding Other Semi-retirees Will Lessen the Chance of You Giving Up Your Creative Work