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People who have escaped the purgatory of the 9-5, how'd you do it?

 
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Yesterday I saw a question on reddit that said "People who have escaped the purgatory of the 9-5, how'd you do it?"   I said:

On the weekends, I wrote articles and gave them away for free. Then some videos. And made some forums. I reduced my expenses.

Then the videos started to send me money, and I monetized the articles.

And then one day, my piddly income was bigger than my expenses. I was able to break away

And the I did some kickstarters, made some movie-like things, wrote a book.

Now I own a couple hundred acres and support a half dozen people. I have been free of the 9-to-5 for about 15 years.

And it all started with giving stuff away for free.




And for a few hours, I was a little internet famous.   You can see it all here.  I thought I would share some highlights ...


First question:

What kind of articles were you writing?

What's your website?



I wrote: My first article was before the internet became popular. I made a handout for a class I was teaching, for free, to about a dozen people in 1994. In 1995 the internet took off and I posted my article. It was the only one of it's kind for many years, so the search engines loved it. The article advised people how to have a better lawn with less work and zero toxins: https://richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp -- I think I cut deeply into the profits of weed and feed companies for many years.

Later I made forums at javaranch.com and then permies.com.

My big passion was about gardening, and that grew into permaculture. A few months ago somebody wanted a list of everything, so I made this: https://permies.com/w/stuff




Some lovely responses:

This is the most in-depth article I’ve ever read on lawn care. I’ve learned so much in five minutes. Thank you!



You made permies?! I love your website. Thank you so much.



You are javaranch? Awesome. It was a great resource when I was learning.



Bookmarked! This is gonna be so much help.



man your site is awesome!



Excellent information. Thanks for sharing.



Dang that article is legit! I've learned a lot from just skimming through it.



This is very good information - about getting out of the 9-5 and about lawn care. Thank you for posting



OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU. I am also a big fan of manual mowers, and now I have science to back it up.



Big fan of your website permies !!



Man, I used Javaranch a ton in the early-mid 2000s. Thanks for saving my ass at work more than once.



you made javaranch?! you literally helped me get my degree. thank you so much :)



So, yeah, it turned into a nice day. :)  Really cool to get such positive stuff on reddit of all places.  There was a lot more really nice stuff too.


There were a lot of gardening questions, and questions about my place, and people being funny and stuff ...


Back on topic.   I had this exchange:

As a writer I'm hoping something like this happens to me. Although I have no idea how to start writing articles and get exposure...



I wrote:I started off with zero exposure. I just put it up because I felt the other info was poor. And then later things I put up because there was nothing about it anywhere on the internet (like hugelkultur). And one article started off as a reddit reply, which eventually became such a big reply that it took me two full days to finish. And then, of course, the reddit peeps had moved on to other topics. So I massaged it into an article.

So it wasn't about the money. It was about the need to say a thing.



Thanks for the advice. I agree with you on the last point; the reason that I write is because there are so many things I want to say. It would just be nice if I could also get paid for it.



I wrote:I guess I'm saying write without thought about pay.

I've written thousands of things, and only a handful actually turned into coin.

But I also turned to a hundred of those things and glued them together to make a book.





There were some trolls and there were some people where I felt like they were making ample use of Cunningham's law.  And there were some where I felt like if I answered I would get stuck to a tar baby.   And several of those things were quite good starting points to talk about - just not with people that were trying to bait me.  So I thought I would copy them over here and have a go.

This one is not too bad, but I stayed out of until the end:

That's genius!



The genius isn’t the important part.

The important part was the willingness to do lots of work for free.



That’s the genius part.



The hundred people that did hard work for free and are gonna die poor anyways aren't posting



Also the timing.



The important part is doing highly monetizable work for free.

Like there are hundreds and thousands (the majority) of video editors, youtubers who never make it big.



I wrote:The important part is to do something rather than do nothing.

99% of my stuff is seen by only a handful of people.



Thats not what we are talking about. Yes doing something is better than doing nothing, its obvious, its nothing to talk about.

Doing something for the sake of doing it wont bring you lots of money.



And yet, that is exactly what happened.

I wrote the lawn care article with the idea of printing 12 copies and handing them to people that came to learn about lawn care back in 1994.   I taught that tiny workshop for free.  I wrote that with zero intent of ever seeing a penny.  And in 1995 I put it up on the internet - at the time, there was no way to make money by putting it up.   I think it wasn't until 2002 or so that I put the first adsense ad on there - and maybe added some amazon affiliate links.  

99% of all the stuff I have ever written and is available now started off with zero thought of monetization.  And this is really the root of my point that only a few people have the patience to understand.  I'm doing it because I feel the urge to present my position - primarily to help people.   Often rooted in "somebody on the internet is wrong!"

I kinda feel like it is deeply rooted in this thread:  https://permies.com/t/41892/dream-big --  but with the idea of "I wanna write this down now before I forget" or "I wanna write this down now, because there is a bigger thought driving me crazy, but I can't quite grasp the bigger thought until the smaller pieces are written down."  

Even more:  I think 99% of people want to do stuff and they don't do anything.   There is a hurdle, of sorts.   Not a physical hurdle, but they are in a routine where they don't do the thing they want to do.  Maybe they want to draw, and there is a pencil and paper just three feet away, but they never touch them.  To start drawing, they just need to start doodling.  Not for the sake of getting coin, but because they just feel like it.   So I am saying they feel like drawing ...  and there is paper and a pencil .... and they have oodles of time .... and they even know that that the next step is to spend one minute doodling ...  but they don't.   This bizarre, invisible barrier is the thing that is stopping 99% of people.  I think the more we talk about this barrier, the more people will get past it.


Now for a bit of dance with the trolls ...

that's not going to work for everyone.



It doesn't have to.  There are recipes in cookbooks on how to make chocolate cake and those are not going to work for everyone either.   The question was not for what would work for everyone, the question was directed at who pulled it off and how did you do it.  So I shared my story and maybe a few hundred people will try something similar.


For this next one, a guy posted that he had read a new thing about my book!  I said "You are super on top of my stuff! That came out like two hours ago! "  And we had a lovely conversation.  How fun!   And a troll says

Shamelessly plugging your own work and talking to yourself from an alt account



Nope.  I have no idea who that guy is.  I guess the troll did not see the reality of two people having a lovely exchange.  Instead, he saw the exchange through shit-colored glasses and ended up feeling like the world is a lot shittier than it actually is.


Why, when I search for your name does it suggest ‘Paul Wheaton scam’ in the suggested searches?



Because people tried to scam me and I wouldn't fall for it, so they threatened "fall for our scam - or else!" And what they posted is the "or else."   That's was my best guess.  

But this is actually news to me.  I've never heard of my name being associated with a scam, so I replied:

No clue. Try it and see what you find.



No response.  

So I tried to duplicate it - nothing.  Tried a couple search engines, nothing.  

So probably just a troll.


15 years ago. Keywords. This is not really doable by today’s standards. Nice try though and good work I guess.



I wrote:I didn't try doing keywords. I just shared a thing.

I have not attempted any SEO for at least ten years. I suspect it is all different now. But what I do is the same: give stuff away for free. Help people.

Everything I do is: try 100 things, 2 will work out, and you never know in advance which 2.



First off, this guy super sucks at math.   1995 was 25 years ago.  

Today, a person could create a thousand pieces of content.  And then they can share it in some way that is absolutely free.  They simply enjoy that anybody enjoys it.   And then five years into the future, something happens that says "take two hours and do qqq - and then money happens".  So they apply "qqq" tot heir thousand pieces and BOOM!  Instant coin!

I suppose if you look at my exact story, and hyper focus on just one piece, then you can say "I can't do that now - therefore I will do zero." Then zero is what you get.  



I am saying create those 1000 things and have fun with zero thought of money.  Now you have 1000 things that you did not have before.  And there is no telling if these things will ever have value in the future.   But I keep stumbling on places where I can use the things I have to maybe do something - most of the time it pays zero, but sometimes it pays a lot.  

Make the 1000 things.  And this other guy will make zero things - he will have "better" uses for that time:  beer, porn, rooting for the home team and discouraging people on the internet.

So the long and short of it is you started getting famous by being old enough to utilize the internet right when it was getting huge and were able to get lucky by posting about lawns and being the only person to do so online at the time. Thanks for the tip.



Same.




like is no one gonna address how this dude is literally a weird kind of sort of cult leader



TLDR: OP started a cult



That's me!  Putting the "cult" in permaCULTure!  

This morning at breakfast I reminded everybody that they are in a cult.  

I'm not certain, but I think if you are not physically here, you don't get to be in our cult.  You guys will need to make your own cult.


I'm glad that the trolls got downvoted a lot.  I used to hear this thing about "haters gotta hate" which sounds a bit like "just let them hate - that is what they do".  But every time I hear that I think "rapers gotta rape".  I think we choose that either of these things are not okay.   And the good ole downvote is a great way to show that.



The thread got flooded with comments about alternative schedules to "9-5" ("I work three 12 hour shifts a week!")   And there were comments about longing for 9-5.  

If nothing else, the original question, and the responses to what I shared, and even the troll stuff ...   they all give good traction to what I think we are trying to accomplish with passive income streams.  

For three months I was stuck in bed staring at the ceiling due to a spinal cord thing.   And money kept coming in.   I think that was an excellent test of passive income streams.  And the escape from the 9-5.





 
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Thank you for taking the time to share all of that here, Paul! Since I'm no longer on Reddit, I miss the good stuff too.

You made some great points and I think the people who have the doer bent will look at your actions and use it to inspire their own. Permaculture (I love the way you put the cult in it hah) and your book's focus are another example. DO this. DO something. Don't be angry and bitter.

I think a lot of people are trolls but/and a lot are just permanently trapped in victim mode. You could prove to them that pushing a button one time would make them an instant millionaire and they would insist that pushing that button was impossible for them because of their special situation.

Thankfully you're showing us all how to fashion our own buttons and push them.
 
pollinator
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awesome post. I'm in the midst of escaping 9-5. Finished my house, paid off the land, paid off school, reduced my work to (4) 9hour days and my wife was able to ditch hers completely. Used the Early Retirement extreme method and lived super frugal for 5 years and dumped all monies into paying things off. Of course permies has been critical to my own reduction of work. I think without Paul and without the great community online, I wouldn't have believed such reductions would be possible.
 
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Paul- thanks for posting this.

One of my questions I have is "how did you grow/earn money, without irritating your readers with "buy this" banners, Amazon affiliate/"everything in this post is sponsored" stuff.

I feel like, but have no proof, that avoiding the offputting ad-ness of a lot of other sites has helped grow your following. I probably wouldn't be here regularly if "Buy my ebook!" Was a banner ad I had to turn off every time I open the the site, but dont mind the tiny ads at all. I havent bought anything from you but have bought something from a staff member. But then- i also have never bought off of a "Buy this thing!  Sign up for my newsletter!" Full page banner ad either.

I know you have mentioned most things you do cost money, the few that make money pay for the rest, I just feel like I dont understand how websites are less-obviously monetized can make money. Starting a small website about things that interest me is an "if I get laid off" goal but I am so off put by the way most small websites are run right now (yet, in my dream world, the website would pay for itself eventually).

Edit- maybe it's the ratio? Like 1 ad per 100 useful pieces of info, instead of 20% ads?
 
paul wheaton
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Most web sites seem to be 95% ads.  And my guess is that 95% of people have ad blockers - so there is a small bit of text and images in a sea of gray blocks.  

I don't use an ad blocker, so I don't know.  

I remember I used to get a software developers magazine called "Dr. Dobbs Journal".  About a third of the pages were ads, but they were ads for stuff that I very much wanted to know existed - and some of the things I bought because I learned about it in Dr. Dobbs.  This was advertising I appreciated.  I kinda feel like here on permies, there is a lot of commercial stuff that people are into learning about, provided it is presented the right way.  

So we do have several ads on each page, but rather than taking up 95% of the real estate, it is probably something like 5%.   And I am pretty sure that all of it points to our internal stuff - it doesn't go offsite to some super commercial site.    So, in a way, that kinda takes it from "5%" to "0.5%".  

As for "gimmie your email address for our newsletter!"  - I know that I don't like those, especially when I am on a new site and I haven't yet learned whether I like the site.   But even more, I think people are a thousand times more interested in an excellent freebie than in signing up for an unknown entity.  And people today are used to trading an email address for a freebie.  

So we have a weird mix of "just talk about permaculture" and "gotta get at least a little coin to pay the bills."  I feel pretty comfortable with the mix.  I suspect that there will be some people that insist that it is too commercial, and others that will insist that we are foolish for leaving a million dollars on the table.


 
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Your Reddit exchange falls exactly in line with my experiences.  You can have the absolute best idea in the world, and some numb-nuts will give you 10,000 reasons it won't work EVEN THOUGH IT DID.  And if you can get them to acknowledge that it did indeed work, they will give you the 10,000 reasons it won't work for them, won't work for everybody, won't work now, won't work in a given place, blah de blah fucking blah.  And they are right.  It won't work.  Neither will anything else.  For that person.  Because without doing a single thing, they've already determined that it won't work.  And then there are the people that quietly go on doing things that work.  I love your idea of doing something just because you want to do it.  Maybe you will make money at it and maybe you won't, but you won anyway, because you are doing something you wanted to do and were willing to do for free.  I love it.
 
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Catie George wrote:
I feel like, but have no proof, that avoiding the offputting ad-ness of a lot of other sites has helped grow your following. I probably wouldn't be here regularly if "Buy my ebook!" Was a banner ad I had to turn off every time I open the the site, but dont mind the tiny ads at all. I havent bought anything from you but have bought something from a staff member. But then- i also have never bought off of a "Buy this thing!  Sign up for my newsletter!" Full page banner ad either.



I've wondered about that myself. I open a web page, start reading an article, and no sooner do I finish one paragraph than the screen dims out and a popup appears, blocking the article, and asking, "Would you like to sign up for updates?" And I'm like, "I barely read one paragraph. That's not enough to know whether I'm interested in updates. Plus you just pissed me off by interrupting me." Is there any evidence to suggest that this aggressive strategy actually makes money? I would think just the opposite.
 
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For me escaping the purgatory of 9-5 happened in two ways. One was a change at work, it started in January of this year due to someone quitting. So I took over there job which is to make water for the city. My weekends are Thursday and Friday then working Saturday and Sunday. Having days off in the weeks allows me to beat the crowds.  The week seems to go by fast but the old saying "love what you do and never work a day" is true. The other way was having a house and land that is my own. The freedom to plant and build what I want is great. Seeing the rocket stove and ovens helped me view thing in a different way. It started me thinking about how to create a better place to live. That is why I like this site a lot. You can see how plans work and the errors that happen also lessons learned.

P.S.

I cut my lawn high, thanks to the Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy article. It is happy lawn that I mow about once a month.
 
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For me, the escape has been an ongoing process and not a discrete event.  There have been times when I have not held any job. There have also been times when an exceptional opportunity presented itself, and I jumped back nto the 9-5 for the short-term. Money can be useful.
 
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It's funny how some people turn the question "How did you escape the 9-5?" into other things, like "How can I become a millionaire doing absolutely nothing differently?"
 
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Thanks Paul. You've given me a lot to think about over the years.

You're right. Helping people is really the way to go. That's what my gig is all about, and I feel like it's starting to gain traction after many years of work.

What you have done is not easy, so people should understand that. It might have been second-nature for you, and it might have been enjoyable, but it is not something that a busy person can fit into their life without some discipline and sacrifice - especially a person with a family. It's not the lifestyle for everyone.

If one wants to grow something through social media, it is important to take the "helping people" philosophy into everything one does, and every product one creates. It doesn't need to be entirely selfless, though. A bit of shameless self-promotion is excusable if the product and information is honest and well intended. Quite often people are very happy to have a way to give back once they know you're all about helping.

The best thing about helping people is you can never fail. Even if your information, or product, or service doesn't become the next big thing, at least you never have to say you did it for nothing.

Thanks again for the help, Paul. This website is a wonderful resource.
 
paul wheaton
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Thanks for the support Karl!  I know you are on a very similar path.  


but it is not something that a busy person can fit into their life without some discipline and sacrifice - especially a person with a family. It's not the lifestyle for everyone.



This is perfect.   For the sake of this thread, this should be a giant font, gold in color and caked in glitter, because this is the core of it all in 20 different ways.  

First, I need to point out that while I was starting down this road, I was quite busy.  For part of it, I was working two full time jobs, and yet I continued to do it.  And i had a family.

But ...   and this is the most important thing ...  everybody is busy.   And you can use this word "busy" to relieve you of this yoke.  If it feels like a yoke at all, then don't do it.  

Some people have a gambling problem.

Some people have an alcohol problem.

Some people have a drug problem.

...   and some people have a problem where they just need to help others (in their own way) ...   and as the years pass it turns out you have helped a few million people ...  and then it "backfires" with coin or good will or good luck or something.

So I wish to make it perfectly clear:  nobody has to do this.  After all, everybody is busy.  A lot of folks that are thinking about it have families.  Or it's just not you.   There has to be a thousand perfectly valid reasons to not do this.  So don't do this.  Hell, I'll even give you a giant "get out of doing this free" card - you don't even need a reason.  You just don't wanna.  That's cool.  


The question was:  "People who have escaped the purgatory of the 9-5, how'd you do it?"    So I shared what I did.  I recognize that I am the only me.  And ...   I am glad to share this info because there are a few people around that are wired like me and they also have a problem of constantly helping people.  


If somebody is looking to escape the workee job rat race, this could work.  I know that I have created about a dozen paths to help people, but those things are largely untapped.  I have come to the conclusion that most people need a Mr. Slappy in their lives, so without the workee job rat race, they won't get food and shelter.  So we kinda gotta develop stuff for that.  


Paul's recipe for instant freedom:  my stuff has a 50% affiliate fee. connect adwords to my stuff and harvest that sweet coin.   I mean, we're talking about this in the residual income stream forum.  You could set this up in about 20 minutes.   I don't know how much more I could spoon feed a person.


 
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I feel like I’ve been on this path since I quit my last 9-5 over 10 years ago. I’ve since worked odd jobs seasonally, and been able to travel and now creating a homestead abroad with my family in Costa Rica. We live relatively “frugally” and are happy with what we have, but there is always this dream to do more and we need resources to do this, especially specially if we want to have an impact in the world and be able to spread our vision whether it through education, outreach, leading by example, however we do it, we want to make a difference, and we have big dreams! So I’ve always been looking for ways to just do what we love and be able to make an income doing it. I’ve recently found a high ticket offer (with residual income potential) to partner with and though utilizing an educational platform with some automation, attraction marketing on social media, I’ve gotten started in this business with like minded soul-tribe level community, many of whom have been making it work abundantly for them, and it truly allows us to live our lives, leading by example and attracting those who are inspired and want to change their lives too. After all,WE are the ones we have been waiting for, so let’s lead the way!
 
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I like this site.   Makes me think.
 
John F Dean
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The last time I formally dropped out of the 9-5 was about 10 years ago.  Yes, I am a serial drop out.  I just dropped in again.  Why?  Most of us, no matter how financially secure we are, can use some added cash.  As an RN, the present health situation allows me to dictate my hours. So, I am back to work for a while stocking away some added cash. The management is thrilled that I had no interest in days off or any of the normal benefits. But I do get to walk out to feed my goats .... a point of endless confusion for some of my coworkers.
 
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 I spent 17 years in Wireless Telecom. I was standing in the airport in Sydney waiting on a plane to head to Bali. I looked up and on the bottom shelf in the bookstore was a book, The Four Hour Work Week. I bought it and could not put it down for weeks. I did everything in the book, I practiced making myself comfortable in public, eyegazing and dreamcasting. Maybe, I got to the chapter on quitting your job a little soon.
I came back to work for a few months. Then had to travel for work to Utah for a winter, Alaska for a summer and then Hawaii for a winter. I was burned out, I worked inside these tiny little cellular buildings with no windows all day in some of the most amazing places in the world. I came home dropped off my work duffelbags and flew back to Hawaii. Six weeks later my boss called me and was like are you coming back to work? I said no I don't think so.
 Here I am 9 years later. We started the farm 8 years ago and have never looked back...
 
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I used to reply in forums where that question came up, and there would always be someone who would criticize what worked for someone else as impossible for them for a variety of reasons (some more excuse than reason to me). "Hard work and sacrifice" was a particularly frowned upon answer. Perhaps people were more venting their frustration of the typical career vs wanting specific steps to take which might help?

While I'm still in the 9-5, I now see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not an oncoming train, yay! Back in the 1990s I came across some common sense by (I think) Dave Ramsey and the deal was to pay down debts based on interest rate, accrue several months of bills in savings, pay off the mortgage, and finally invest in stocks for long term wealth growth. I really liked the goal-oriented method and it worked for me.

The biggest takeaway for me at that time was to avoid spending what I didn't have, and instead always put aside some to avoid living paycheck to paycheck, where one unseen expense throws everything into disarray. For me it included about 6 months of working 3 jobs, around 80 hours a week, and that sucked but it got my bills/loans paid off and enough in savings to get in front of the wave. I also wasn't spending anything (helps when you're 7 days a week) other than utilities, food from Aldi, and a land line phone. I was heckled by friends who spent everything they had and were always juggling bill due dates but after those 6 months life was back to normal and was far less stressful.

25 years later and the mortgage payment is triple what it was back then (dangit California!), but I still follow those principles and will be retiring at 49 rather than 67 or older. I've always driven boring, reliable cars so sudden big expenses are rare. No fancy cell phone plan, no cable TV (or a TV for that matter), no gym membership (pedaled the bike to work today) or anything else to put a monthly drain on the bank account. I used the early retirement extreme and Mr Money Moustache tips to save as much as possible.

A person could switch from a full time job to part time instead of retiring, or switch from a soul-draining but higher paying job to something they love but doesn't pay as much. Web-based or remote work is an option for some careers these days, and Paul has a big list of residual income ideas out there. Sometimes a person lives in an expensive area but their job isn't tied to that city so moving can help a lot. Back in the 1990s I had the book The Tightwad Gazette which was a frugal-living kind of book. The author discovered that while she made like $15/hour in the '80s, after accounting for commute time, taxes and work related expenses like child care and an extra car, her actual take home pay was under $4/hr. She figured out things she could do which saved more than $4/hr, and that list was big enough that quitting her job and doing those things was a net cash gain.
 
Karl Treen
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Mark Brunnr wrote:
A person could switch from a full time job to part time instead of retiring, or switch from a soul-draining but higher paying job to something they love but doesn't pay as much...



Mark,
Your excellent post made me think that maybe my own reply could have been more specific. So here's my own journey toward self-sufficiency, in excruciating detail. It, too, is still incomplete. It is very different from yours, and I'm not entirely sure what exactly the "light at the end of the tunnel" will look like. I offer it to demonstrate that these paths are often quite different and, in my case, not well planned.

Growing my own food has always been an interest, but it is only in the past decade that Permaculture has become a big part of my life. Before that, I gardened as a hobby but didn't see it as a means of supporting myself. I am still uncertain that it will ever entirely support me, but it has started to contribute to our household economy. I'll take you from the beginning so you can see what a more random, risky approach looks like. Sometimes I wish I had followed a path more like Mark's (I would probably be retired by now) but it just wasn't in my nature.

I have always been entrepreneurial. The idea that someone could buy and control most of the waking hours of my life just left me feeling angry and depressed. As Henry David Thoreau used to say "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". I have never wanted to be one of those men. So, after losing several friends in a plane crash in 1988, I swore to honor them by not wishing away too many of my own waking hours in quiet desperation. This promise has given me the drive to do many projects. Some of them, like my Food Forest Card Game, barely break even, while others help support my family and give me more control when and how I work. It's been a series of trials and errors, many of them impossibly challenging, but the more I build, the less I have to work for someone else.

When I was in my 20s, it was very easy to keep this intention. My pattern since that time has been to work for a few years, save as much money as possible, then do projects for a year or two. These projects have always consisted of entrepreneurial ventures, several of which have accumulated to give me more flexibility.

My first entrepreneurial venture, when I was 24, was to write a book. I had saved $10k selling "environmental education" materials and this was enough to shack up for a year with half a dozen roommates and a cheap laptop. The eventual 60-page manuscript was a piece of crap, long since lost to the mists of time. I ended up moving to NYC, getting a cheap place to crash (literally a couch), and taking computer science classes. While in NYC, I worked part-time and just managed to pay my own way.

Leaving the degree unfinished, I was recruited by a Boston friend to come partner in a web design business. It was the dot-com boom, and anyone with half a degree could get a job building websites. This went well for a couple of years and then collapsed during the dot-com crash. I took the $20k I had saved when times were good and put a down-payment on a condemned, uninhabitable, burnt-out, 4-unit tenement building in what you might call a "rough" neighborhood. I re-mortgaging it immediately with a home improvement loan based on the anticipated value of the property after completion. This was a foolish risk, as everyone warned me, and completing the project nearly killed me. It took 18 months to rebuild it, during which time my girlfriend and I lived in absolute squalor. I worked 14-hours/day on the building and worked over-night shifts in a group home. After we finished, we refinanced again, paid off the credit cards, got married and began living rent-free - which we did for another 15 years.

I went back to work again full-time and started saving. In 2008 my son was born, so I quit my job (which I didn't like) and advertised on Craig's List that I would work 25 hours/week and wanted x dollars per hour. My wife thought this was my dumbest idea yet (and she had lived through a lot of them) but it worked. I landed a job on my terms, doing my 25 hours in 2 days/week. With my free time, I could spend most of the week with my son. I also bought and sold my second, ramshackle, investment property. This time I did it a little better, but it was still a rough project.

Since childhood I had envisioned having a "forest of food". One day, on a whim, I Googled a term and realized that this was a thing. People actually grew food this way, and it was part of something called "Permaculture". I earned my PDC from Geoff Lawton's online course and fell in love with the puzzle-like nature of companion planting. My son was now in kindergarten, and I wanted to create a tool to teach him the basics of Permaculture. This was the seed that eventually became the Food Forest Card Game.

My first draft of the game was messy, but we tried playing it in my son's classroom and the kids loved it. I took home some suggestions and redesigned it. The result was much cleaner and I successfully launched it on Kickstarter in 2016. The game sells a few copies each week, and all of the profits have, so far, gone to reforestation charities.

At present, I am back in school. I left my job at the end of 2020 so I could focus on the graduate degree. I guess you could say I've "escaped the purgatory of the 9-5". Since the year 2000, there were fewer than 3.5 years when I was working full-time. It's not easy, though. It's just more flexible. I don't get to lie around eating grapes off of my fence. The food I grow helps us live healthier lives, but sometimes I struggle to find time to harvest and prepare it. Do I make a healthy dinner or fix a leaky faucet? But I still get to volunteer at my son's school, and I get to sit here and write this forum post.

I suspect I'll never go back to a 9-5 job. You don't have to, either but, if you choose to live an unconventional life, make sure you're ready to work really, really hard.
 
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Basically, I learned the hard way how to live on very little...  While in college, I was hired by a local newspaper to write.  Politicians liked my writing.  I quickly got hired to write for them.  After I burned out on that, I started my own newspaper and borrowed to fund the start up.  That was right before the big financial crash... all advertising dried up and I lost everything.  I should have declared bankruptcy, but I am proud of my family name.  I spent a decade or so working every lousy job I could find and learning to live on around $100 per week.  I did a lot of catering, because I also learned to cook along the way.  I paid back every penny and learned the lesson never to go into debt again.  Now, I take the occasional magazine publishing (layout) job, but am getting closer to making it entirely on my writing... how much do I write?  Well, along with a weekly podcast and instructional video, I write a weekly article and have written 3 books so far this year, with a goal of 4.  Yep, 4 200-300 page books per year.  THAT is hard work, believe it or not.  Meanwhile, I am also gradually becoming able to grow/raise/hunt/fish for all my own food.  So, it is the Permaculture lifestyle... the real one, that involves a lot of hard work setting up the systems, multiple income streams, long term planning and living within my means.  Next year, I plan/hope to begin in person teaching.
 
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I haven't exactly escaped it nor do I want to. But the pandemic has created a level of flexibility in my life i didn't know i needed. I work as a therapist at a group practice. I work on a hybrid model and set my own schedule. I work Monday 9-11am Tues in office 9:30- (whenever I decide to leave) and Wed-Fri 10-6 (I often end my days early but I take calls, read mail and am open for sessions until 6). Because i'm working from home 4/5 days of the week I have a lot of space to use my downtime for other things like visiting neighbors (helped with a neighbor's bees last week midday on a tuesday), gardening, walking the dog, cleaning, sewing etc.

I will NEVER again go back to full time in office work. It's just unnecessary.
 
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A lot of people get there in different ways. For me, I had a pretty good income so I did things like buy land outright, go to multi-day hands on classes to learn to do things, bought good tools, and saved up money for the future. My eyes were always on making use of the money while I had it in a way that when the spigot stopped (by my choice or another's) I'd be relatively happy with the decisions I made.

I find it's very useful to have a multitude of market valued skills, so you have options. I've had some pretty interesting doors open up to me because I can weld, because of my professional background, and because of off-grid construction techniques I've learned and have accomplished. As an example, I spent a lot of time figuring out how to grow shade trees in the mountains where I live. A neighbor saw it, who's a second home owner, and asked me to do his landscaping for a few hundred a month. I never wanted to be a professional landscaper, and have little interest in driving around to do it, but walking down the road and attending to some trees and perennials that are basically mirrors of what I have myself is no sweat.

It sounds dumb and obvious but you really want to get your expenses down as low as you can, without being irresponsible. Focus on marketable skills that overlap with what you're already going to be doing. Landscaping, welding, mechanical work, maybe earthworks: these are all things I do weekly so doing them for others not only makes me an extra dollar but I get more experience for tackling my own projects.

Edit: and I should add that some of that stuff is free to learn. The local adult education system here does a 6 week welding course at the local college that while a bit of a drive is totally worth it. The class is free, and supplies all materials and instruction. Even better, you can use the shop after that during one night a week for your own projects. In my state you can weld for pay on any project that's under $1,000 and doesn't have a building permit pulled. Since I live in a county without building codes there's no permits anyway, and anything more than $1,000 is a job probably too big or serious for my skills anyway. All the welding gear you need if you bought it new would cost $2K, and you'll save that on the first few projects you need to do yourself, and now you can quite literally have your own little side hustle. My good friend does tile work, another one of those jobs that's pretty specialized and can be hard to find someone who's good and available.
 
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I left a bad company that didn't care for my health or our clients'.   I left all of a sudden so no reference.  Was very ill then and still have health issues from the experience.  The week after I left my job I put an ad in a paper.  Got some calls.  Got some supplies.  Did the jobs.  Got more calls, bought mores supplies, did more jobs. Escaped some bad clients. Declined some bad jobs.  Learned what people want you to say and do and did it.  Fell a lot made mistakes got back up brushed myself off and tried again. 4 years later I have enough regular clients (many from word of mouth) that I finally feel like I'm free from abusive work environments for good.   I'm a cleaning lady.  
 
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