He lives in Spain and works three days a week, need I say more?
Thank you Kevin and Elle. As I'm about to launch my own business this is encouraging to hear
The 20 hour week was something I stumbled into early on but was then able to engineer repeats...because I loved it!
The motivator to bail from the rat race (mechanic back then, my whole work history here - http://www.davebross.com/resume.html ) was discovering the people my friends and I had been working for were ripping us off for a LOT of money, had been for years, all under the guise of "we'll take care of you, family, etc, etc.
I had almost no expenses ( $100 mortgage payment, food + utilities ) at the time so thought I would try my lifelong dream of owning a junkyard.
The minimal expenses were key because there was a LONG learning curve.
I ran newspaper motor routes early AM to make enough cash to cover the basics and finish building the equipment I wanted, the right equipment being another major key to so much productivity in less time.
I was so determined in the early stages I was loading junk cars on the trailer with a pulley setup in a big old oak oak tree and used a running junk car to lift the cars.
Within about 2-3 years I was making enough money and had decent enough equipment that my first 20 hour week became real.
As I would warn anyone to plan for when going into a small biz, I was unfairly torpedoed, and it wasn't going to be the last time.
Details in the resume at the link I posted above.
One big benefit of online biz is that the jealous ones, who would gladly kick you in the face if they suspected you might be doing slightly better than they were, can't really tell what, or how well you're doing and then throw a monkey wrench into it.
This happens more than you might imagine if you haven't experienced the small local biz world.
The down side would be it was SO much easier to advertise effectively back then when there weren't 5 million web pages screaming for attention.
A $40 a month yellow page ad and line ads in the bargain papers was more than enough.
OK, back to the story....
I did have enough money saved at that point to take a "see the USA" tour for a year plus in my old school bus camper. I love museums and hit every one I was interested in all over the USA
Side note on that...living in a vehicle is SUPER economical and easier to do now than ever. Lots of really good info out there. This was 1990 dollars but the entire trip, fuel, food and whatever, cost me less than $1500.
My next success at the 20 hour week was returning to Florida and going back into the junkyard biz. Once again, I was knocked out of the saddle by crooked politicians.
Next move was escalation of my glassblowing hobby into a 20 hour a week biz,
Success again! Just in time for the 2008/9 recession to wipe out the art world.
The handwriting was on the wall anyway, the generation that bought a lot of art glass was downsizing and selling off what they had. 08/09 just accelerated the end.
Last and maybe best 20 hour week was driving a school bus for our rural county here.
We're so rural that when the big security/prove you were born in the USA fuss hit a lot of the drivers had no birth records because they were born out in the woods by midwives.
That was a funny (ha ha or peculiar?) era in that all the school bus drivers were made into secret agents with our very own number code and a secret phone number to report anything suspicious. Not a bad idea really, aside from the paranoid overtones.
"Secret agent" status has been a benefit in small ways. Last gun I bought, the gun store was surprised when my paperwork and registration came back approved immediately. They had never seen such a thing and I explained my "secret agent" status to them.
The Feds knew exactly who I was because all the bus drivers had been vetted.
The school bus gig lasted 19 years and got me a nice little state pension to go with my Social Security when I retired.
Now that I'm retired I still put in around 20 hours a week following my curiosity.
I'm currently teaching myself locally adapted survival gardening, which is progressing along nicely.
Mmmmmmm!, food! says Homer.
Amazing amazing work. Thank you both.
Really enjoyed reading this, Elle. A lot of what Kevin said resonated with me. I was about five years into freelancing in Barbados when it struck me that this was what many people retire to achieve. I've always been grateful for the freedom and flexibility it brought, and even though I'm now working part-time, I've chosen a company that has that same flexibility built in.
Good interview Elle and Kevin. I agree with Mark Starlin, balance on the tight rope challenges.
It’s good to remind ourselves “to live for the art, not from it.”
I hope you find a good balance, Elle. I recently got burned out on writing thanks to overcommitment and deadline pressure with my newsletter (I learn the hard way.) I had to back off for my own well-being. I got rid of the deadlines, promising paid content, and paywalls. It is now a "patron" paid option (pay if you appreciate my writing.) My weekly humor and fiction newsletter is no problem, but my serials are on hiatus until I have a desire to write them again.
As far as work/lifestyle, Americans are too obsessed with career "success" and money. When they should instead focus on life success (family, friends, love, contentment, happiness, helping others.) Having "just enough" is a great concept. I was certainly no wealthy tech worker, but I can relate to Kevin's story in that I exchanged a good-paying airline job for a creative job teaching guitar, a job that has regular turnover and no benefits. I make far less money, but I am far happier. And I have time for the pursuit of passion projects.
I am not a fan of the "side hustle" idea. The best way to turn a passion into a job is to try to make money from it. It is easy to lose that passion when money is involved. It is tough tightrope walk. You have to still do some things for the joy of it or you lose all of the joy. It becomes work. I believe hobbies are beneficial to our well-being. We don't have to make money at everything we do.
Another excellent interview. Thanks.
This was such a great read. Thank you for sharing your story Kevin 🙌
The honesty in "I am not the sort of person to handle stress well" has made me realise that, at some point in our life, we must admit that we're struggling, and that it's time to reassess.
There's nothing in the world like a rich community life. No.....thing!!
This is lovely Elle and Kevin. It was a joy to read and took me away from my very focused reading to another place. Thankyou.
Elle, thanks for this outstanding interview, filled with insights I hadn’t considered before. The Lagom concept (“just enough”) is powerful, as are the questions in the link, “How to Choose Where to Live”. I’ll also be exploring Paul Millerd’s The Pathless Path. Thank you, too, for your candid reflections on your own experiences with the Substack fellowship, and finding your own unique way of living & working. Please do what works best for you….your readers understand & we will be here, whenever & whatever you choose to write. Stay well.
Elle, it sounds like you and I process stress in a very similar way.
Kevin, thank you for sharing your experience. I'm a queer trans dad, so it's, you know, got it's own thing :D I'm glad you're advocating for leaving the mainstream grind for a life of real experience. We all need more of that!
This was a killer interview and post! Your newsletter always challenges my thinking and offers glimmers of possibilities waiting for me down strange avenues provided I’m brave enough to explore them.
Wow Ellie the vulnerabloty of this post is incredible. This feeling and cycle is something I've been working on and figuring out for the last 10 years. I've been following your posts about writing and perhaps we can do a little knowledge exchange session together. I'd love to offer you some of the tools I've sharpened over the years. We need you to stay here and keep doing what you do!