by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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I guess I should start with the definition of what sovereign means…
The easiest and probably most applicable definition is: the ability to be a self-governing state. For the purposes of this blog post, think of yourself as the “state” in this definition.
Despite being at least willing to entertain some conspiracy theories, this is not about an evil mastermind sitting on an island compound, twisting his mustache as he plots the demise of the world. This is not about taxes, your Alexa device listening in on you, or anything like that. This is about you making yourself as free and as untouchable as possible. Here is what I mean by that…
In the year of the COVID19 pandemic, many people were forced to confront the fact that they are far more vulnerable than they ever realized. The Federal, State and Local governments all stepped in with mandates and closures and rules made up along the way. Business owners were forced to shut down, restaurants were closed, then reopened and somehow expected to run at 25 – 50% capacity and still be profitable. Meanwhile, large companies like Walmart, Costco and others were deemed “essential” and allowed to run business as usual. This has crushed the economy, and is killing small businesses day after day. The ripple effect of this will go on for years to come: Business defaults and closures, then personal bankruptcies, evictions from current homes…the list goes on. It is scary to say the least.
So this brings me to the question: WHO OWNS YOU? Technically its not the government, although they do exact a lot of control over you. It is not your job, although they also have a lot of jurisdiction over your life. If you are tied to a desk job, you are proverbially in shackles. Your ability to pay for your mortgage, your car payment, and everything else is tied to you clocking in and clocking out, on the schedule that your company regulates. What if there was a better way? There is to give credit where credit is due, please read the Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. I am sure he didn’t create this idea, but he certainly did a great job of illustrating HOW to live a lifestyle different from most. We are not all going to be able to charge $50K to sponsor our podcasts, but the ability to break out of the society norms and live an untethered life is absolutely possible with just a little work.
Let’s look at my life over the past year as an example. I went to my office every day, I worked at my desk and did my job. I interacted with my co-workers and I paced myself to be busy all day. In other words, my day was four to five hours of work stretched into an eight hour day. Since March of 2020, I have been working from home; I have a dual monitor set up in my home office that I used to have at work, and my laptop. Everything I need is available electronically, I did not bring home a single folder. I now have the ability to work WHEN I chose to. Yes, I have clients that I have to meet their schedules, but many are on the East Coast and two (or three) hours ahead of my time in AZ. This means I can be on the phone or Zoom with them at 6am my time, and scratch that off my list. In many cases, I finish my day job by noon.
Phase 1: Cut the cord
Some days, I will not start my work day until 9AM. I can go to the gym, go to the coffee shop and write, and THEN start my work day. It is still the same work load, but I can choose how and when I start and finish my days now. The funny part is, I always had way more latitude in my day job then I exercised, it just took a pandemic to make me see it. I landed our largest client ever during this time, and have consistently added the same amount of business month over month that I did before. There is no difference in my output or results. BUT…I am MUCH happier in this new set up. I control much more of my day, I set my hours, and I get stuff done. Now, let’s extend this out a little farther from Work From Home to Work From ANYWHERE…
My wife and I went out of town to a resort a couple of weeks ago, and we left on Friday morning to start our drive. About an hour into the drive we pulled over to get coffee, and WHILE WE SAT IN THE PARKING LOT OF STARBUCKS, I did a quick presentation over Zoom to a prospective client. I had planned on this ahead of time, and knew that the Starbucks would be a good place to facilitate this. With my own hotspot for internet and my laptop, I was mobile and yet still working. I did my thing, I landed the client, and we went on with our day. We finished our drive, and after checking into the resort, I logged in to answer a few emails from the resort room. At 2pm, I logged off and was done for the day. We were at the bar on site ten minutes later, and I never thought about work again until Monday. I have a staunch rule about answering emails on weekend…and my rule is NEVER. It is not my obligation to answer emails on every client’s timeline versus my own (reasonable hours) and I certainly do not have to feel guilty that they are working on a weekend and I am not. Whether that is poor planning and time management on their part, and actual desire to work all the time, etc. there is their business and not mine. I do things my way and on my timeline. That is part of my personal sovereignty.
 
Phase Two: Reduce your exposure
Earlier I mentioned vulnerability as something to try to reduce as much as possible. While there are no guarantees in life, you certain can position yourself to be far less vulnerable than you may be right now. If you have chosen (or are too deep into the lifestyle to leave) to be a server in a restaurant as your job or career, you are setting yourself up to be vulnerable in my opinion. I am not saying that this profession is not to be respected, that is doesn’t require a skillset that is unique and developed over time or anything of the like. I am saying that this year and the pandemic conditions are shining a spotlight on certain professions not being viable all of the time. You can’t make a living if the local government mandates that your restaurant needs to close down for the next month. So, now what do you do? You can’t drive for Uber, as this is a dead market at the moment as well. There are a lot of Uber drivers that are hurting financially right now too. Yes, many switched over to Uber Eats, but there are only so many of those jobs that are worth doing. A saturated market of Uber Eats, DoorDash, and InstaCart means that everyone doing those jobs is working way harder to barely get by.
Phase Three: Pick a different path
You may not like this next sentence, but you need to hear it. You may need to find a different job, one that is less vulnerable. This may require you go back to school to be able to facilitate that, or use the degree you did get to head a different direction. You need to find a profession that is, here for the long haul, and that isn’t impacted by market or economic fluctuations so easily. Are you a massage therapist? Great, but vulnerable. Make that your side hustle and start working on a cyber security gig. Own a pool cleaning business? Vulnerable. As soon as the economy tightens up, people are looking for ways to save money, and not being too lazy to clean their own pool will suddenly be a way to save a couple hundred bucks a month. All of these professions are great, but like I said, they do not have the staying power that you may need to lead a more financially secure life. You need a job that doesn’t go away easily. All of this is easily rectified with just a little foresight and effort on your part.
The alternative is not easy, but it is worth mentioning….save money. If you have the money in the bank to not work for a little while, you are far better off than most. About 75% of Americans are two paychecks away from living on the streets. Think about that, and overlay that statement on top of the months of pandemic work conditions and see how that feels. Live below your means and stockpile cash for the inevitable lean times that will come. If you have three to six months of expenses covered, you can at least sleep at night knowing you’re in the clear for a short period of time.
Along these same lines of thinking, getting DEBT FREE is a huge step in the right direction. If you are house poor (your mortgage is more than 30% of your monthly income) lease or are on a 72 month payment plan for your car, and/or have a bunch of credit card debt, you are very vulnerable. You now HAVE to make a certain amount of money every month or your lifestyle will drastically change. If you get fired, the economy goes in the crapper, etc., you will suffer the consequences. And the pain will linger; filing bankruptcy, foreclosing on a house, getting a car repossessed, all of these things will be on your credit report for many years. This makes undoing these errors much tougher, as your credit score is basically your adult report card. If you are mismanaging your money, you are a risk for any creditor to loan you money in the future. This means higher interest rates, longer terms, etc. and all of that adds up to more struggle. You are now shackled to your job…
Getting to the point of being completely debt free is a goal of mine, and my wife and I are closing in on it. I learned the hard way to manage money better; I didn’t file bankruptcy but I was close. I was $70K in debt at one point not too long ago, and had lived my whole life thinking that “one day I’ll make enough money to pay off this debt”. I was wrong; it was my lifestyle and my mentality that was the problem. I kept thinking that if I had a better job that paid more, I would be fine. Every time I made more money, I spent it, and the pattern repeated itself. Years of this never solved the problem, only getting married did. Being married and having someone else to discuss and plan financial things with taught me to live under my means, pay off small debts first, then larger ones next. We are down to having only the house to pay off now, and we are more than one-third of the way there. We are targeting 12-18 months to be completely debt free. Talk about Personal Sovereignty…being completely debt free means we can live where we want, travel, and do whatever the heck we want. I can’t wait! If you need a plan to help with this, go get a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book, read it, and FOLLOW IT TO A TEE. That is how we did it, and it worked very well.
Phase Four: Additional income
Going back to the first couple of paragraphs, an additional benefit to having more time and freedom of schedule is that I started a sideline business. I have no intention of leaving my day job at this point; the money is good, I have a lot of autonomy, flexibility and I still really like what I do. But, as a personal pursuit, as an additional income stream, and maybe down the road, my job during my “retirement”, I am doing consulting and Public Speaking. Yes, during a pandemic, I started a business. I am well on my way to having a sideline business that I have complete control over the time and effort allocated to it, and that will make me money as well. The topics I speak on and the consulting I offer are unique, and should be pretty bullet proof when it comes to market and economic fluctuations. I will be helping companies save money and reduce turnover of employees. My service will be a value-add that pays ten times what it costs, and I only need a client or two at a time to make it worth while.
Now, as a back up plan, or if this really takes off, I could easily see this side gig being a full time job that I would love and make very good money at. MANY people do this type of work as a main source of income, and I would continue to have the ability to chose my own schedule, work from anywhere and lead the lifestyle I chose. These are very important things for me, and everything I do is geared towards achieving this level of personal sovereignty.
If you want your freedom, your own Personal Sovereignty, you need to start making adjustments now. I am fifty, so don’t think it is too late. I am just now getting a handle on this type of stuff, which is why I am trying to shout from the rooftops about this. I wish I would have known sooner, and had acted accordingly. Instead I did what many others do, and I dug the same holes they did. But, as I educated myself to the alternatives that were available, I slowly learned and improved. Now I feel like I am swimming down river for the first time in my life. It is a great place to be, and I am grateful for my own life and happy to share with others as often as I can.
I wish you luck in your endeavors. And as always, if I can be of assistance, please reach out.
 
 

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