Joel's Note: This is a guest post from Chris Badgett.
It was a wake-up call from an Alaskan squall.
The rain was pouring down on the helipad, a common occurrence in Southeast Alaska.
I was in the dispatch room of the hanger talking on the radio with the team up on the glacier where I worked. They said the weather up there was marginal at best.
A pilot investigating the weather conditions broke into the frequency, declaring the day a wash due to deteriorating visibility and a rapidly descending cloud ceiling.
The day of helicopter-supported sled dog tours on the Juneau Icefield was cancelled and I couldn't fly up over the mountains for my scheduled week of work. This particular week was an important one for me; the last one before my boss had generously scheduled me three weeks of paternity leave.
With the day canceled due to weather, I went home to my very pregnant wife. Late that night, she went into labor, three weeks before her due date. Our daughter was born the following afternoon in our bedroom; a day I was supposed to be working up on the glacier.
This point marked the beginnings for an upgrade of my beliefs around money, career, and family…something you can do too.
Through sharing my experience and offering a few experiments and questions around living in integrity with your values, I hope to help you level-up your belief system around money, livelihood, and lifestyle.
Belief systems are like business systems or any machine; they can be optimized.
Now, I would never have forgiven myself for missing the birth of my daughter, even while pursuing the decent income I made managing a dog-mushing tour business I loved. This close call didn't feel right at all.
After three weeks of paternity leave, I flew back up to the glacier and completed the summer there. There was the occasional weekend where I flew back to be with my new family or where my wife and daughter flew up for a few nights on the glacier. We made the most of it for sure.
But deep down, I knew this near decade-long chapter of my life was about to end.
Even as parents, we could have kept patching this lifestyle together. Hell, I had even met my wife on that glacier.
But extended time apart for remote work was not at the top of my priority list. A well-bonded family that enjoyed each other every single day was now my top priority. And so began my journey into entrepreneurship and questioning my assumptions and those placed upon me by others about money, livelihood, and lifestyle.
Put yourself in my shoes: A 32-year-old new father, a professional sled dog trainer and tour guide, operations manager, novice real estate investor, and WordPress hobbyist. There was no well-worn path ahead that I could see.
When it comes to money, I've always had a lot of assumptions at play. And often these assumptions lived secretly in my subconscious mind.
As a simple framework, I believe money is what you get when you work. Livelihood is how you get it. Lifestyle is how you spend it.
It took the near miss of my daughter's birth to help me challenge my assumption that “getting” the money was the most important priority. For me, time – specifically with my family – became the most valuable commodity.
Was it hard to walk away from the job? Absolutely! But in my gut I knew I had to.
Experimenting with Priorities
I started questioning my assumptions around money and how I prioritized them with my other top values.
So I ranked the big four:
I tried switching the order around with an open mind and imagined what life would be like. I took it a step further by experimenting for a week, consciously reordering this list.
One week, I was very efficient with my time above all else and realized I was capable of getting more done. For example, I could cut 30 minutes of reading every day and replaced it with strenuous exercise. I also spent more time with the people I really cared about, even though it hurt my performance at work.
Another week I obsessed about money and my real estate investments and devoted myself to bringing in as many dollars as I could.
I've found that you can run these experiments in your mind, but they're much more effective if you run them for real. This reminded me of hearing an anthropology professor say that:
You can't perceive your own culture except from the context of another.
This is absolutely true from my experience having spent extended periods in Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, and even remote Alaskan villages. I would also say you can't perceive your assumptions except from the context of another set of them.
I discovered that when I put money in the “right” place in the list of my assumed priorities, my body literally relaxed. However, there is no one right way to do this.
For some, money will be at the top, and that is OK. I went through an intense empire-building stage and worked long hours to advance in my career, earn more money, and save aggressively. That felt great at the time.
After the birth of my first daughter, empire building took a back seat to building a strong family.
When the wheels pulled up on that airplane out of Alaska, I looked out the window and watched the mountains I had worked in for so long fade away along with the financial stability they represented. I looked the other way and pulled my wife and baby a little closer. I was jobless, but totally relaxed. It was bitter sweet, but more sweet than bitter.
The body doesn't lie, and it's smarter than you think.
Now let's fast forward two years to today.
The Journey to Financial Freedom on My Own Terms
I have another beautiful daughter, born at home on a summer night (I was definitely available for that birth).
As for the money, I now work as a freelance website builder and as an online project manager for a big web development company. I manage my real estate investments from home and I'm experimenting with creating products, including a recent book on leadership.
Money sits happily at the bottom of my priority list, and I couldn't be happier carving out my own path as a multi-passionate entrepreneur. It feels right this way … for now.
Am I millionaire? No.
Do I want to be? I wouldn't be opposed to it, but I would never sacrifice quality time with my family, my health, or all the relationships I cherish to achieve that goal. As long as our basic needs are met, I'm happy with my relationship with money. Anything more is a welcome bonus.
Pushing through Limiting Beliefs
I've had to challenge a lot of beliefs to get to where I am, and I want to share my upgraded assumptions with you. Then we'll cover a simple exercise I've used to level-up my beliefs surrounding money, livelihood, and lifestyle for your “optimization tool kit.”
Belief 1: “I'm not qualified and don't have the experience to be a professional web designer.”
After getting past this belief, I've created websites that my clients are very happy about, without any formal training. I now highly value my own self-learning, willingness to “just start,” and commitment to learning or outsourcing roadblocks on the fly.
Belief 2: “I'm being financially irresponsible by becoming a freelancer without guaranteed business.”
That belief is now replaced with my pride in taking responsibility for my own income generation. I've also adopted a “couldn't care less” attitude for any negative perceptions of bootstrapping entrepreneurs, as well as put-downs by people working more traditional jobs (who interestingly sometimes simultaneously complain about their own jobs).
Belief 3: “I have a family, so it's time to saddle up with a mortgage and buy a bunch of stuff.”
I've replaced this with the powerful philosophy that minimalism is the key to happiness and freedom when it comes to possessions. This manifests itself in a number of ways like:
- A mortgage is something my tenants pay, not my family
- I pay rent for a modest home that I can instantly walk away from
- We are a one-car family
- Most of our clothes are old or second-hand
- We cook at home most of the time
- Entertainment involves free things like hiking, cross-country skiing, YouTube, and spending time with friends
The liberating power of minimalism is never in doubt.
Belief 4: “I'm a family guy, so it's time to get serious with my lifestyle and become more traditional
I should live near a good school system, secure a good (traditional) job, and not have more wild adventures into the wilderness (at least until the kids are older), right?
We're rejecting these beliefs. Not to be different; but to do what feels right to us.
We're likely going to homeschool or unschool our kids, develop as entrepreneurs, and our kids have already ventured deep into the backcountry. Don't worry; we bring bear spray with us and my wife and I have backcountry medical training. We also plan on traveling with the kids more and more and using the world as the classroom. We're not against traditional education, but believe we can do better without it.
Listening to the Wisdom of the Body: An Exercise
I want to leave you with some practical tools for fine-tuning your beliefs by asking you some questions. Take your time with these, and try closing your eyes and reflecting after you read each question:
1. What was happening the last time you woke up without an alarm clock?
2. How does your current work make you feel?
3. When it comes to work and money, where might you be focusing too much on quantity and not enough on quality?
4. Are you building assets that can add lasting value in the future? If not, what sounds like an energizing direction to take?
5. What type of continuing education or new skill acquisition sounds like a ton of fun?
6. What would feel really good to let go of right now?
The body is wise beyond our intellect.
Think about it. All these millennia of evolution produced you. Your body is designed to survive. When it feels good over the long run, it will tell you to keep doing what you're doing.
When it comes to money and your career path, the body still knows if you're committing a survivalist act or heading in the wrong direction.
Slow down. Focus on it. Meditate. Get outside of your head. Get primal and listen to how you feel.
The next time a stranger asks you, “How are you?” and you say “Fine. Thanks.”… Think about how you really feel. Be honest.
When something just doesn't quite feel right to me, I know it probably isn't.
There's a belief in there somewhere in need of an upgrade.
What assumptions about money, livelihood, and lifestyle do you feel need upgrading? What stale money beliefs have you exorcized and what did you replace them with?
Chris Badgett lives in Whitefish, Montana with his wife Samantha and two girls. He's a freelance website builder, online project manager, product tinkerer, and real estate investor. He also teaches people how to build quality WordPress websites with his free video training: WordPress Website in a Weekend Method.
Chris believes that conscious parenting and entrepreneurship hold great power to positively change lives, families, and the world, so he's building a community around this belief at UnconventionalParents.com. If you're a parent looking to optimize your family and your income, join the free Unconventional Parents Community to learn from other committed parents and successful entrepreneurs. It's a movement; not a website.