Home, sweet home

Home, sweet home

I was delighted to find this post, in which two of my favorite bloggers, Ramit Sethi and Tim Ferriss, talk on video about the false starts and failures they’ve had in their business lives. As Ramit points out in his written introduction, perhaps the most interesting idea they bring up is Ramit’s “tripod of stability”: the practice of making sure the big things in one’s life are reliable and secure, so that one can feel comfortable taking risks in business or anywhere else.

That idea speaks to me. I don’t feel comfortable with the life I have now, and I want to go in a more entrepreneurial, varied, and independent direction, especially with my career and financial life. Since I don’t know how to do that, I’ll have to take major risks and learn as I go along (often, I’m sure, by screwing things up). If I could build a base of stability like Ramit’s, maybe I, too, will have the guts to build my own business and create the life I dream of. How am I doing so far?

The three big things Ramit mentions in his post are relationships, car, and where he lives. In the video, he also says he’s conservative about taxes. Well, I’m terrified of running afoul of the IRS, especially as a freelancer, so I’m extra conservative about taxes, too. Let’s see how I’m doing on the other major parts of my life:

Relationships: I actually do feel stable and happy in this area of my life. I get along all right with my family, and they’re doing well right now. I have a small, but solid group of wonderful friends. I feel supported, important, and drama free. I even have a serious romantic relationship in the works, and while it’s too new for me to be sure it’s a reliable, long-term thing, so far it’s bringing me nothing but joy and comfort. The people in my life definitely make me feel safe and supported.

Car: Um, yeah. For everyone who lives outside those cities where public transportation really works (San Francisco, Portland, and Chicago are the ones I’ve visited), having a good, reliable car is key to getting things done. For the past eight years, I’ve had just that, and it was a tremendous comfort. I could get anywhere I wanted (and I mean anywhere! That car took me across town, and to Canada and back.) whenever I wanted to go. I could carry anything. In a pinch, I always had a place to sleep. My car was my home, my rock, my best friend…

And now it’s dying. My car has been diagnosed with a failing front axle, plus a bad case of “Chevy Metros weren’t made to go 190,000 miles! It’s time to give it up!” It’s true. My beloved Metro has served me well, but it’s a discontinued model, which makes parts for repairs increasingly expensive, and it is, ultimately, a tin can that has already had a far more exciting life than anyone expected. My car, so reliable for so long, is no longer a rock of stability in my life. In fact, I drive around every day listening to every little noise, waiting for the front wheels to freeze up completely. It’s time to retire the Metro and get a more reliable ride.

Which is my main order of business for the next week. I’m off to buy a used car. According to Rajit, apparently being Indian requires him to drive a Honda Accord. Tim drives a Volkswagon Golf. I like both cars, but after weeks of internet research (read “procrastination”), I’ve decided on a Honda Civic. They’ve got Honda’s reputation for reliability, but they’re smaller than the Accord, less expensive than Volkswagons, and they get better gas mileage than even my beloved Metro did. Wish me luck in my car hunt.

Home: And, even more than Ramit does, I really need a reliable car in my life, because without one, I can’t be absolutely sure where I’ll sleep each night. I completely understand wwhen he says having a stable home can help you feel brave and secure, but at this point in my life, I can’t have one. I’ve spent my savings living the dream in San Francisco (except for what I’m about to spend on a car), so until I get some income—let’s face it, a lot of income—flowing in, I can’t afford to rent a home. For now, I’ve told all of my house-sitting clients I’m back in town, and I’m already hopping from house to house (all the while hoping my Metro will keep carrying me and my luggage for a few more days). I have to admit that it’s wearing me out, and I’m frustrated that I can’t find any of my stuff, that I don’t know what all I own (since most of it is in storage), and I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about where I’ll live next week.

I really do want a stable home. I love the multifaceted, entrepreneurial, exploratory career path I’m on, so wherever I live, I’m sure I’ll still be living a life of adventure. Soon, though, I’d like to stop being so literal about the “nomad” thing. I want to have a home again, to organize my stuff where I can see it and use it, to stop worrying about my most basic needs and start thinking about business ideas, creative projects, and new things to learn.

By Ramit’s standards, I’m in a Catch-22. To have the courage to take risks, I should have a stable home. However, until I’ve taken the rather large risks I’ll need to take to increase my income to the point where I can pay rent every month, I can’t afford a stable home. I suppose I’ll just have to take the risks anyway, reminding myself that it’s perfectly reasonable to be terrified—even my entrepreneurial heroes know it’s scary.

But not too scary. Heck, after next week, if all else fails, I can always sleep in my car.