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When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories was Treasure Island. (Still is, actually.) Those of you familiar with that book will remember the character of Ben Gunn, who was marooned (left on the island by treacherous shipmates) three years before Jim Hawkins and company showed up. I think Ben Gunn may have been conceived as the story’s main comic relief, as a wild man dressed in goatskins who dreams of cheese every night was a welcome break from the throat-cutting and betrayal that marked much of the book up until Gunn’s appearance.

But over several reads of Treasure Island (and at least as many viewings of the 1990 film made of the book, starring Charlton Heston and a very young Christian Bale, which remains a favorite of mine to this day), Ben Gunn became one of my favorite characters. Despite having forgotten a lot of social courtesies after spending three years alone on the island, it is Ben Gunn who helps Jim and his friends, Ben Gunn who knows the island best, and Ben Gunn who (spoiler alert) has already found the treasure and moved it to safety. His uncouth demeanor hides a sharp mind and a strong sense of moral loyalty, and in the end it is his support that allows the forces of good to prevail and the story to have a happy ending.

I’ve been thinking about Ben Gunn a fair bit these past few days. Not because I’ve been digging up treasure or dreaming of cheese, but because for the last week and a half I’ve essentially been stranded. I arrived at my friend Val’s house near Gainesville, FL, on August 21, intending to stay for about 5 days, maybe 6 at the outside. Instead, I’m leaving today, just over two weeks after I got here. Val and her mom already left (the house is their summer home), and her dad has been in and out but is getting ready to leave as well. Thankfully they’ve been gracious enough to let me stay as long as I needed.

And believe me, I needed. Every single one of the options I had lined up for where to stay after here fell through. It literally took me until yesterday to figure out new ones, a process which involved finding and juggling several different puzzle pieces of who was available where when. Hence my feeling stranded. I had a place to be for the moment, but nowhere to go if I left. And while central Florida might be a bit more hospitable for me to traverse than the middle of the ocean would have been for Ben Gunn, I still was loath to strike out into the unknown with no immediate destination. Maybe later on in the trip I’ll be ready to do that, but not yet.

As if that weren’t enough, I’m also feeling financially stranded. Several editing clients that seemed really promising two weeks ago have either disappeared or dragged their feet long enough that I haven’t seen any actual work from them. Which means that several hundred dollars in up-front retainer fees that I expected over a week ago has not arrived yet. I’ve got other potential clients coming up, as well as various freelance writing gigs, but most of them will not start to pay off for another couple of weeks, so the immediate short term is looking pretty damn skint.

Which leads me to this revelation about Ben Gunn. By the time Jim Hawkins met him, he’d been on the island for three years. He’d had plenty of time to learn his way around, find the best places to sleep, learn to hunt wild goats and find edible plants, follow the clues to the treasure, and transport it to his cave against the return of Captain Flint’s piratical crew. But for the first few months on the island, I’m sure Ben Gunn was pretty miserable. He was completely alone, with limited resources (a musket and a shovel were all Flint left with him), nowhere else to go, uncomfortable surroundings, and no guarantee of survival. He could have easily given up, crawled into his cave and waited to die.

And if he had, Jim Hawkins, Dr. Livesey, Squire Trelawney, Captain Smollett and the rest would all have died horribly at the hands of Long John Silver and the remnants of Flint’s men. The story of Treasure Island would have been a tragedy. And all of that was prevented by one man deciding, three years earlier, to look the most adverse situation of his life in the face and refuse to crumble before it.

Here’s where I’m going with this. This quest I’m on isn’t just about the treasure I’m seeking. For all I know, there’s something I have to do three years down the road that lives may depend on, either literally or figuratively. I won’t know what thing will be until it happens. But if I give up now, whatever that thing is will never happen because I won’t be there to do it, and those lives will be lost. And as scary and difficult as it is to be where I am right now, the prospect of letting those unknown people down is unacceptable.

I’m poor Ben Gunn, I am. I’m tired, I’m scared, I’m alone, and I’m just getting started. But I refuse to give up.

I’m not running anymore

So one of the people who really inspires me and the trip I’m on, unsurprisingly, is Matt Kepnes, known in larger context as Nomadic Matt. I got to meet Matt very briefly at World Domination Summit, and he’s quite a pleasant guy, a bit soft-spoken but more than willing to answer a rather specific question about travel insurance despite being in the middle of a gigantic party and having only been introduced to me 30 seconds prior.

One of Matt’s most inspiring posts for me was one he wrote back in 2009, the one called Everyone Says I’m Running Away. In this post, Matt talks about how he is in fact running away from a traditional. conventional life, and toward the kind of life he wants for himself–a life on his terms. I didn’t see that post till over four years after he wrote it, but it spoke to me very clearly, and it’s one of the reasons I’m doing this trip and this location-independent life.

Today I’m going to offer my own perspective on running away, not in relation to travel (Matt did that handily already), but in relation to starting a location-independent solopreneurial business and lifestyle.

In the months before I started seriously considering the trip I’m currently on, especially while I still had my full-time job, I did a lot of research on the kinds of entrepreneurs I wanted to emulate and be like–Nomadic Matt, Sean Ogle, Mike Hrostoski, Jenny Blake, James Clear, Chris Guillebeau, Laura Simms, and many others. I also read books like The $100 Startup and The 4-Hour Workweek, which contained many examples of everyday people who transitioned from 9-5 jobs to financial independence in various ways.

I noticed something about the majority of these people: when they started their journeys to location independence, they were in one of two places. Either (1) their current situation was intolerable, and they wanted to get out of it, or (2) they had some earth-shattering idea that they just couldn’t wait to make reality. In other words, they were either running from something, or running toward something. In fact, pretty much everyone I read about fell into one of those two categories. And a lot of people did some pretty amazing things in the interest of running away from their untenable situations or running toward their fantastic ideas.

That being said, I believe the focus on those two categories creates a false dichotomy.

(What the hell is a false dichotomy? It’s when a scenario is set up to make two choices appear to be THE ONLY TWO CHOICES available. A common example of a false dichotomy is “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” It’s patently false, as you might also be an innocent bystander or in some other way unrelated, but it also convincingly paints the picture that if you’re not one, you must be the other.)

“Either you’re running away from something, or you’re running toward something” is a false dichotomy. For one thing, you may be doing both at once. For another, you may be doing neither; it’s possible to pursue location independence without trying either to escape a bad situation or bring a great idea into reality. There are options three and four right there.

But what really intrigues and draws me is the fifth option. The fifth option is simply this: you’re not running at all. Even if your current activity involves movement or travel, you aren’t running. Not running from or to anything, not running in place, not even running your engine in idle (to stretch the metaphor to its breaking point). And while I have definitely related to running away and running towards at various points during my early exploration of location independence, not running at all is the option I choose.

Because when you aren’t running, you are okay with where you are, even if it isn’t where you ultimately want to be.

When you aren’t running, you’re content to move at the pace that feels right to you, or even remain still.

When you aren’t running, you’re at peace with yourself and with the world.

When you aren’t running, you’re okay not knowing everything yet.

When you aren’t running, it doesn’t matter when you started, because you’re not chasing anyone who started first.

When you aren’t running, it doesn’t matter when you get there, because “there” is where you decide it is.

When you aren’t running, you probably won’t burn out or collapse from exhaustion as easily.

And when you aren’t running, you have time and energy to appreciate the journey you’re on.

Now THAT’s the kind of trip I want to be on.

So in the words of John Mellencamp ca. 1999: I’m on my way, but I’m not running anymore. Who’s singing it with me?

One box, two box, red box, blue box

My quest to Crossfit in every city I visit is going really, really well. One of the great things about integrating these really intense workouts into my trip is that doing them once a week makes sense both physically and logistically. I’m moving around enough that one WOD a week (usually on Saturday) fits my schedule really well, and I’ve been away from CF for a long enough time (over a year and a half) that doing one WOD a week is about all my body is really ready for to begin with. This morning was my fourth WOD back, and while I was not in pain, I could tell that I physically wasn’t ready to do all of the exercises yet. And that was okay. Doing step-ups instead of box jumps, rowing instead of running, jumping pull-ups instead of banded ones, low weight on all the lifts, etc…I’m 100% okay with that, because I know I’m pushing myself hard at a level that works for me. The more I do and the longer I keep this trend up, the higher that level will get.

So last Saturday I was in Hollywood FL, staying with my good buddy Josh Barad, and I almost didn’t get to Crossfit. Because I’m writing about Crossfit on this blog, I’m trying to trade blog exposure for free drop-ins when I WOD (because saving money on this trip is pretty much priority 1). Normally the drop-in fee for a CF class is $15-20, and at this point even that amount once a week is not sustainable for me (though hopefully it will be soon). At the first box I went to that Saturday morning, the owner was out of town, and the coach leading the class didn’t feel able to offer me a free drop-in without the owner’s approval. So that box was out.

The second box I went to was closed, even though the door clearly said it was open 9-11 on Saturdays and I was there at 9:10. Strike two.

The next closest box I found was up in Fort Lauderdale, a good 10-15 min drive from where I was…and its next class started at 9:30! So I booked it north, navigated some crazy road layouts between the Fort Lauderdale airport and the Port of Fort Lauderdale, and drove through a tiny alley to find Crossfit Empirical. I got there just in time.


When I say Crossfit Empirical is a hidden gem, I mean that literally. I almost couldn’t find it. It seemed a bit like the Isla de Muerta in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film: it can only be found by those who already know where it is. But once I got there, I was so glad I found it! The welcome I got was one of the warmest I’ve received at any box, and the self-professed “community Crossfit” box included a pen for members’ young kids and/or dogs to hang out in during WODs. (The coach of that morning’s class, Lindsay, had in fact brought her large dog, which barked the occasional encouragement at us from the pen. It was pretty awesome.)

The WOD was actually two WODs back to back: Grace and Helen. (For those not in the know, a lot of CF benchmark workouts are named after women.) Grace is 30 clean and jerks in a row, Helen is 3 rounds of 21 kettlebell swings, 12 pull-ups, and a 400m run or 500m row. I went light on weight for Grace, but it still tired me out for the first round of Helen–I’m pretty sure I negative split between rounds 1 and 2. Crossfit Empirical also has a computer system where members can input their results, even drop-ins like me. This was a very progressive box.

By contrast, the box I visited this morning, Crossfit Gainesville, was a bit more traditional–no computer system or dog pen there. But it still had a great energy and community feel to it, and the morning’s coach Matt was very welcoming.


The box was also surrounded by grassy areas as well as paved streets, so when we did our opening 400m run, I got to run on the grass and save my ankles and shins a bit of impact. No complaints about that!

The WOD was fairly straightforward: 4 rounds of 30 KB swings, 20 box jumps, 10 burpees, and a 400m run or 500m row. I scaled the crap out of it (3 rounds of 20-20-10-500m), but still got a great challenge out of it. What I liked even more, though, was the skill work we did before the WOD. Periodically in Crossfit there will be strength or skill training after the warmups but before the WODs, and today’s was on a skill move I hadn’t done often even back when I WODded regularly: the snatch-balance, one of the rarer Olympic lifts.

What the hell is a snatch-balance? Imagine doing a squat and an overhead barbell press at the same time. Now imagine doing it really quickly, so you drop under the bar more than you push it upward. Now do that without falling over. That’s a snatch-balance. It’s tricky and technical, but a lot of fun in its way. I was definitely happy to get some pointers on it.

Next Saturday I have no idea where I’ll be, but I know I’ll find a box there. I’m excited already.

Embracing the suck

So with a title like that, I’m sure you’re already bracing yourselves for a post full of whining. Especially following the one I wrote earlier this week about not being on vacation. But please, hold off on breaking out the cheese plate to go with my potential whine, and bear with me for a bit.

One of the reasons I’m writing this blog is that as a 31-year-old new solopreneur, I’ve dealt a lot with feeling like I’ve started this late and everyone else is way ahead of me, so that I’m the only one dealing with the beginning solopreneurship blues anymore. I realize that this is patently untrue, and yet it’s a hard feeling to overcome in the day-to-day rush of trying to do everything on my to-do lists (yes, I have more than one). I also figure, however, that if I feel this way, there are probably lots of other new-ish solopreneurs who feel exactly the same way from time to time, and thus if I sometimes need to hear that I’m not alone in dealing with this shit, some of you reading this might be helped by hearing it too.

So for myself and all the other beginners doing this brave adventure with me, I’m going to start with a quote from everyone’s favorite billionaire daredevil, Sir Richard Branson: “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.”

I first heard that quote at World Domination Summit, and like many of the amazing insights I heard there, I wrote it down and then quickly forgot about it.  I was reminded of it this evening after I stumbled across my WDS Evernote doc and getting sucked into rereading it instead of writing this blog post. But when I saw that quote, I realized it was applicable to what I was thinking about writing here.

It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun. To me, this quote is about timing and goals.

The short game can be stressful, inconvenient, expensive, tedious, tiring, terrifying (remember the three T’s?), uncertain, cramped, busy, confusing. and a hundred other adjectives that make it less fun, but the long game can still be a blasty blast, which makes all the short game struggles worthwhile.

Conversely, the short term can be full of amazing experiences, but the long term can still be really difficult and not very fun at all, which can bring up questions of whether all the short term activities were worth doing after all.

I think it all depends on where you put your focus. If you want to focus on short-term fun (thinking like a backpacker), sometimes your long game will suffer. If you want to focus on your goals for the next two years, things you want to do in the next two months may need to be sacrificed. And both of those situations can be okay, provided that you face them and accept their consequences.

Trouble is, as a solopreneur (especially a beginning one) sometimes you feel like there’s no either/or option, that you need to cover both the short term AND the long term simultaneously. And that, to bring this post full circle, really sucks. Who wants to feel like your immediate needs are so pressing that you have to work on them yesterday, and simultaneously feel like the truly important long-term work you want to do is falling by the wayside and needs to be revitalized immediately if not sooner? “Not I,” said the James. And probably not you either.

So how do we get out of this trap, or learn to avoid it altogether in the first place?

Search me. I don’t know yet myself! But here are my thoughts on what might help:

– Work to strike a balance between short and long term activities, like working on one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, or taking one or two days per week to devote exclusively to each one.

– Take imperfect action. Accept that you probably won’t get all of it right the first time, or even the hundred and first, and do it anyway.

– Consider your why. If you find yourself moving away from what inspired you to get started to begin with, see if you can recenter around that thing or at least remember it as you work.

– Be kind to yourself. Remember that you’re learning, and that everything is a practice, and that even doing each day 1% better than the last (or 0.1%, or 0.01%) will gradually get you where you want to be, so be patient with your efforts. Remember that you are doing the best you can, right now, and that is perfect.

– Get support. If you can delegate or outsource some things, do that. Reach out to people who’ve been where you are and ask for their perspective. Develop skills and hacks to make your life and work easier.

– Practice self-care. Exercise, nap, call friends, get a massage, take a long shower, whatever you need to do to feel your best, make time to do it.

– And finally, embrace the suck. In the words of John Green, “the way to do something really difficult is this: you accept that it’s difficult. You acknowledge that it’s going to be really tough. And then you DO IT.” One task at a time. Head down, inch toward daylight. Embracing the suck is not fun, but remember, it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.

These are some of the things I’m trying to do. Beginning solopreneurs reading this, what are some of your ways of coping with being pulled between the immediate and the long-term? More established readers, how has your relationship with that situation changed over time? Any thoughts or advice to share with us newbies? Let us hear in the comments.

I’m Not On Vacation

So I’m on a trip.

A road trip.

A road trip that’s currently taking me all over Florida.

A road trip on which I’m getting to see lots of friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in months or even years.

A road trip that has no set itinerary, no final destination, no boss to call me back to work after two weeks, and no limits of location or time.

So I’m on vacation, right?

Not so fast. For starters, let’s not forget that someone has to pay for this trip, and that someone is me. Since I’m a freelancer, that means I spend a lot of time working on my laptop, either getting gigs done or looking for new ones. And since my goal is to have a self-sufficient business, that also means that when I’m not doing the work that pays my immediate bills, I’m developing my skill sets, reading entrepreneurship resources, reaching out to contacts, working on this website, blogging, journaling, and doing the hundred and one other things that find themselves on my business-building to-do list. So while I do make time for self-care (exercise, naps, time with friends, reading), this lifestyle, despite taking place on a road trip, is most definitely not a vacation.

In a recent guest article on Sean Ogle’s Location 180 site, entrepreneur Mike Harrington wrote about several traps that new location independent solopreneurs tend to fall into. One of these traps is thinking like a backpacker. Says Mike, “Backpackers employ the ‘short timer’ mentality.  This means they’re trying to pack in as much fun and experience before loading up their packs and moving on to the next stop on the backpacking trail.” Now, I am moving from place to place a lot on this trip, but if I focused solely on the fun activities I wanted to do in each place instead of the work that sustains my travels, I’d run out of money and be stranded in about three days. Does that mean that I don’t have a goal of being able to go somewhere amazing, take a week off working, and just enjoy some great relaxing time? Hell, no! You bet your asbestos I’ve got that goal.

But “goal” is the operative word. I would love to think like a backpacker, but I know I’m not one yet. First and foremost I’m a word coach, a business builder, and a long-distance driver, which means most of the things that don’t support those activities take a backseat (yes, that pun was intentional) to the things that do. Case in point: I just spent a week in Orlando, with free tickets to both Disney and Universal parks available for the asking from my host family, and I didn’t go to either one. I had work to do. And I was okay with that, because I’m not on vacation.

But when I take an actual vacation, I’ll be back. Because that’s the goal.

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