For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing, often abbreviated as CQ, is pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring. CQ is a megacity of 30 million people in south-central China, on the Yangtze River. I’ve come a long, long way – 13 time zones to be exact – from my original hometown of Rolla in south-central Missouri, on the Little Dry Fork creek. Depending on how loosely you define “city”, one could argue that CQ is the world’s largest city. In my quest for a simple life, I publish these observations and admonitions from my 18th-Floor Homestead. Some would call these articles drivel; I prefer to think of them as words from the future – 13 time zones in the future, at least.
Business and Publishing Updates:
Mind Fleet, Inc. (Perhaps the Inc. stands for Incorrigible.)
Photo courtesy of Randy Green
I am pleased to announce that every step has been completed to establish Mind Fleet as a business (Officially: Chongqing Mind Fleet Education Technology Co., Ltd.). The business license has been issued, a tax account has been created, company chops have been made. It seems that everything has been completed, including opening a business bank account, which I hope to be making deposits to in the near future when our website is officially open. A physical address is a requirement to get the business license so Mind Fleet now has an impressive office in the Yubei District Free Trade Zone although most of the operations will be conducted online.
Photo courtesy of Ding Ruizhen
Diary of a Country Girl, the memoir of Fu Di lu, is progressing nicely. She is back in her hometown gathering photos and memories. Thanks to the wonders of AI translation site DeepL.com (fast and free but not always as accurate as one would wish), this charming collection of vignettes is metamorphasizing into a full book to be released in bilingual form this autumn.
Photo courtesy of Fu Di lu
Tangier Island, Point Zero
Tangier Island, located a few miles off the coast of Virginia in America is a tiny and isolated fishing community. When I visited it many years ago, stepping off the ferry was like turning your watch back a full century. No cars were allowed on the island. All the islands’ children attended a one-room school. Access to the mainland – and the Twentieth Century – was only by a ferry which acted as a filter, keeping out the undesired elements of modern society. Tangier Island was not an artists colony, nor was it home to a religious cult. It was, quite simply, an American Brigadoon, a place that time had forgotten – and the residents preferred it that way.
A term that has entered our lexicon since the onset of the pandemic is “working remotely”. The idea of safe, physical contact-free, digital interactions was immediately recognized as an obvious solution to the dangers of an invisible virus. Sure, we had toyed with the idea long before Covid-19 reared its ugly head. We joked about working at home in our pajamas. Sometimes we called it telecommuting. But very few people were really serious about it… until necessity forced it upon millions of people around the world.
So, you may be asking, what does Tangier Island have to do with self-publishing and working remotely? Tangier Island comes into this story because it was while I was on Tangier Island, I had the realization I could write from anywhere. Ernest Hemingway famously said all he needed to do his work was a notebook and a pencil. For modern writers, substitute a laptop computer for the paper and pencil and you have the same enviable situation. It was on Tangier Island that I understood I was no longer tied to any one location or lifestyle or company. Merely having a laptop computer made it possible to be creative, even from an isolated locale like Tangier Island. Since the days of my visit there, the proliferation of internet access, apps, and services has made research, collaboration, and productivity far easier than before.
Now, I can send files back and forth to collaborate on a book with Torgeir in Norway, have zoom meetings with Miles, my business license partner in England, send articles written in Chinese to DeepL.com for fast and free AI translation into English, then discuss their content with Lulu while she is on a train to her hometown (her own version of Tangier Island), participate in a literary circle centered around an author we admire, send Wechat messages to Alice or Alex or Karen or Heather or Liv or many others to keep my new business, Mind Fleet, moving forward, make a quick call to CS on his new wrist phone the size of a blood pressure cuff, or order then instantly download ebooks to one of my Kindles. (No, I don’t work in my pajamas. However, during the blazing CQ summer, I often wear my Hainan Island uniform, purchased on my first trip to that island paradise.)
If Hemingway could produce his masterpieces with only a pencil and a paper notebook, surely I can manage with a laptop featuring a word processor, digital voice recorder, Dragon transcription software, DeepL AI translation, and internet search engines for research.
Now, for a bit of a historical perspective…
Long ago, John Waller Hills offered a glimpse into the soul of a writer when he penned (literally with a pen and ink, in his case) the words that lurk unbidden in the breast of every writer, “I hope there are some readers whom this book will interest. As I have written it, and still more as I have read over what I have written, I have been appalled at the thought that it was of no interest to anyone.” Mr. Hills, long deceased, can rest assured that he still speaks for all writers. Storytellers, as far back as spinning tales around the fire in preliterate times, have always had the same fear and doubt. But, Mr. Hills, things have changed for writers.
John Waller Hills wrote his books using the technology and infrastructure of 100 years ago. The exploding universe of self-publishing is a fascinating place in the year 2021. Barely a decade after modern technology (computers and the internet) made it possible for virtually anyone, anywhere to self-publish their own book or their own blog articles, or rants (complete with paid advertisements) on Facebook and many other social media platforms, the world of published matter is irrevocably changed – and, mostly, improved. The world was moved further down that path by the Covid-19 pandemic with its lockdowns and social isolation, making stories – both reading them and authoring them – more therapeutic and rewarding than ever.
The result was what we now call “working remotely”. It was a quantum leap of social change – both good and bad. From the perspective of the 18th-Floor Homestead, it is unlikely that we will ever completely reverse course and return to the old ways of the old days. Or, as James Althucher beautifully states it in his book Skip the Line:
There’s B.C. and A.C.
“Before coronavirus” and “after coronavirus”.
When the entire world shut down, everything turned upside down. Tens of millions lost their jobs, lost their careers, and suddenly realized that nobody was loyal to them.
When the economy came back, so many people were left unemployed. So many businesses had just disappeared. The institutions we trusted – college, government, whatever support systems we thought we had – had all either disappeared or changed and let us down.
Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” He never said they have to be face-to-face encounters. I have valued digital relationships around the world now, people whom I have never met F2F (face-to-face) who are now part of my personal Rohn Top Five. Tangier Island (or Hainan Island), I’m ready!
Photo by Free-photos
Exhibit A: I will now use the wonders of working remotely to offer yet another excerpt from my upcoming book (with the working title of Reinventing A Simple Life). This is from the first chapter, with one of the fundamental tenets I am promoting – and, ideally, living. I welcome your comments in any language you prefer. Hopefully, they will be suitable, friendly,and practical.
Let me begin with a rather unpleasant truth: If you are like most people, you are about to waste your time and your money. Why? I am going to assume anyone who buys a book with a title that promises to simplify their life is probably unhappy with their present circumstances. Presumably, they are in that rather large set of people that Thoreau described as living lives of “quiet desperation”. Maybe you are in that group and looking for ways to leave it. So why are you – or, at least, most people – about to waste your time and money?
Short Answer: Most people will read this book without taking any action to change their behaviors. If so, the concept of reinventing a simple life will remain only that… a concept. A week from now, a month from now, or a year from now, nothing in their life will have changed as a result of reading this book. Except for a brief warm and fuzzy feeling because you felt like you were doing something, it was time and money wasted.
I should elaborate upon that statement. I was thinking of the things you can control in your life – a tiny subset of all our activities. Be assured that Life will continue to toss at you the unpredictable twist, the random encounter, the totally unexpected, the occasional Bad Hair Day, and, as always, the effects of The Second Law of Thermodynamics which says that matter (including human life) will always tend to move towards greater entropy – or, as Gordon MacQuarrie beautifully stated it, towards “mild-to-acute chaos”.
Simply put, if you keep going in the direction you’re headed… you’re gonna get there. If you don’t take active steps to change your life, nothing significant will change. A year from today, people who read this book but do not take any action steps to implement changes – physical, repetitive, measurable, verifiable changes – in their life will be… merely 12 months older; their habits will be one year more fossilized; and the original reasons for buying this book (unhappiness, feeling overwhelmed, frustration verging on rage, etc.) will be unchanged… or maybe worse.
If you don’t like the direction you’re headed and you want to change your future, read on – but, remember, I said that you must take action, not just read. Nothing will change until you take action steps to change your behaviors and your habits (including your habitual ways of thinking). Action, not reading and pondering, is the essential requirement. Action is the only solution if you are asking yourself, “How did I get myself into this mess – and how do I get out of it?” To truly reinvent a simple life from your present situation will require changing direction – and action is the key.
Let’s examine the opposite side of that coin. Failure to take action means failure to change. Sure, you can get excited about visualizing a new and improved life but, without action – consistent, focused, consciously chosen action – nothing will change. It’s like the athletes say, “You gotta do the reps.” Otherwise, each day will be like waking up the morning after a great dream – you are still the same old person in the same old life.
I remember an incident from my past. My father was discussing a man in our hometown who had made grand, public pledges to donate large sums of money to a certain cause. He was getting lots of praise and honors for his announcement. My father simply said, “Until somebody puts some money on the table, all you have is talk.” Father meant talk doesn’t pay for buildings; let’s see some cash.
Let me offer a concrete example: Let’s assume you want to run a marathon. You want to be one of those people who proudly wear a t-shirt proclaiming to the world that you completed a 26-mile/42-Kilometer race. Really, it’s simple enough: Run the race; get the t-shirt. To get that t-shirt, however, you first have to change your life. You make preparing for the marathon a high priority. You take action steps – lots of them literally. You also read books and articles about preparing for and equipping for and eating for and training for running a marathon. It is highly beneficial if you can find some kindred spirits to go on those training runs and the 5K and 10K races as you build up to the marathon distance. (In fact, it helps if you can immerse yourself in that marathoner world in every way possible.)
But those are not the most important action steps necessary to complete a marathon. Yes, if you are going to run a marathon, you should do all that reading and preparing, planning and committing. But their purpose is to fine-tune your daily training runs. The essential – indeed, the only – action requirement is to get your butt out of bed a little earlier every morning and start running to condition your body to meet the physical demands of a marathon. And you don’t do those training runs once or twice. To have any realistic chance of completing a marathon, you should be prepared to take months to go from complete beginner to qualified t-shirt wearer because you ran in and completed a marathon. That’s why you will be damn proud to wear that t-shirt and why you will share an unspoken bond with others who have also earned the right to wear one.
Almost everything in life is like that. If you want to learn to cook, speak persuasively in front of a group, play the piano, converse fluently in a new language, or build happy, fulfilling relationships, you have to take certain action steps and repeat them consistently over a period of time. That is why it’s called “putting in the reps”. Sometimes, you see the results quickly; usually, however, it takes a long time to reinvent yourself. Researching for information and inspiration helps, associating with other people with similar goals or interests helps, having the right equipment makes it more efficient – but nothing will replace the fundamental necessity of taking meaningful action.
My point in this first chapter is a very simple idea: Nothing will change permanently in your life until you change your behaviors. Specifically, until you take physical action steps rather than read, dream, visualize, identify, clarify, plan, or whatever else you can do while still continuing your old behaviors, nothing in your life is going to change. Back to that marathon analogy, thinking about crossing the finish line may give you a warm glow of satisfaction… but it ain’t gonna happen if you don’t regularly take the actions to wear out some running shoes.
Indeed, some authorities are warning us that such visualizations and staging activities can actually be counterproductive. Since our brain cannot tell the difference between a vivid mental image of finishing that marathon and physically crossing the finish line in real life, we can get a lot of satisfaction without ever breaking a sweat. Don’t fall into this trap. Visualize, plan, research, prepare… sure. But they will not replace taking action. Whatever your dream or goal is – including reinventing a simpler life – you begin by taking action.
Action Step: If you are ready to make a commitment about reinventing a simple life, begin by answering this question: What is one action I can take today that will show I am serious about reinventing a simple life? Then take that action step.
Notice I said “action step”. Immediately turning the page and beginning to read the next chapter – although I hope you do read it – is not an action step.
Photo by Shad0wfall