Monthly Archives: May 2014

…And So The Bank Balance Diminishes

With only a couple of hundred in the bank and having stopped seeking work until my money runs out, it’s been interesting to watch my own thoughts. Sometimes I want to spend/give away all that money at once, other times I want to make it last as long as possible because I’m afraid of running out.

Basically, I’m oscillating between “must spend” and “must save” – two intrinsic compulsions that money provokes in people, both of which are quite destructive and unbalanced. Observing these compulsive tendencies in myself further convinces me of the importance of facing my issues surrounding money by taking up this £0 Challenge.

Two compulsions...

Two compulsions…

Why not give all my remaining money to charity? Whilst this seems like a good idea, the point of the £0 challenge is to face my issues. Therefore, watching my reactions as my bank balance diminishes and working through my fears as I get closer and closer to zero, is an important part of the process and I should let the money run out in its own time. With any luck, I’ll end up less afraid of lack and be a more naturally generous person in the future anyway (which is worth much more in the long run than the small amount I could give to a charity today).

How should I manage the decline to £0? Rule 1 of the £0 Challenge ( see – https://symphonyforhappiness.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/im-taking-the-0-challenge/ ) I’ve set myself is to stop seeking any type of paid work until my bank account reads £0. I made this rule on the assumption that if I stopped seeking work, then none would come my way. But what do I do if I’m offered work before my money runs out? Well, the aim is to mimic what would happen if my business dried up, so I should take work as it’s offered, but not seek any. Surely my money will keep declining anyway?

But what if it doesn’t? What if I don’t promote myself, take no steps to seek gigs, students, clients for my recording studio, CD sales etc, and yet it simply refuses to dry up? That’s when I realized the beauty of The £0 Challenge. If I run out of money and then show that I can build a living for myself from that point, it’ll be a valuable journey for me to experience and for you to read about. If I try to go to £0 and find that I can never get there, in some ways, that’ll be even more profound! It would release my fears of running out of money in a completely unexpected way and it would be an anti-capitalist revolution.

Lets see what happens.

 

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei , watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom , interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom , everything at kimwei.com

 

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The Wisdom Of Supertramps

It’s funny how starting on a particular path leads you to immediately meet likeminded souls. Having decided to take The £0 Challenge (in which I let my bank balance run to zero before I’m allowed to start seeking work) I met Chris almost immediately.

Chris is a 66-year-old professional houseless man, who subscribes to the-Gandalf-look hair-wise and the skip-diver look, clothing-wise. I picked him up in my van as he was hitchhiking to Wales and he informed me that he had been travelling around, living out of a rucksack for 30 years. During that time he’d no income, nor drawn benefits. He currently chooses not to take his state pension because it had been his own choice not to work during his eligible years. When I asked what he did for money he simply said, “I struggle along”, which could be a euphemism for begging, but I sensed he was not a standard tramp. For a start, he didn’t hang around in cities sleeping in doorways, but saw houselessness as a way to stay in nature, where begging would of course be more difficult.

Naturally I was fascinated at the idea of someone getting along in the world with no form of income. I asked him everything, from what was in his rucksack, to what he ate, where he’d travelled. It seemed that he got around mostly by hitchhiking, taking more than twice as long to get a ride than my young blond friend Jane ever does (which is a useful thing to know). He said “yes, young girls always get picked up easy, mostly because most blokes have a daughter that age”. Chris said his most important possession was his bed: a 4 season down sleeping bag and bivi. He claimed tents were too conspicuous and no use unless you were staying somewhere for several nights

It was clear that Chris could get along in the world with fewer possessions than most, but that’s also because all he wanted from life was ramble to around the countryside, sleeping outdoors. Naturally, all he’d need to do that was a rucksack’s worth of stuff. I asked him if he ever ran out of food and money. He answered “Yes, but you just keep going”. It was obvious then that Chris’s success at this way of life depended heavily on being able to accept going without his basic needs being met for short periods of time, without panicking.

Unfortunately what I want in life includes a wider range of activities than walking in nature. My drive for performing and recording music, necessitates a wealth of kit that just won’t fit in that rucksack. Although maybe this guy (below) is doing exactly that!

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This is not Chris. I didn’t take any pictures of him to preserve his animosity. This picture was taken from https://twitter.com/grumpy_oldbloke

However, this raises an important point – Chris proves that to live and be in nature is perfectly possible with the minimum of resources (although I don’t know what happens when he falls ill or needs dental work etc.) So why aren’t I doing the same thing? Well, it’s because I want to continue to engage with the modern world, socially, professionally, musically, use computers, phones, the internet and more.

It’s very important to recognise that this is my choice. It reminds me that each time I panic about running out of money, it’s not my survival, but my connections to the lifestyle I’m used to that’s threatened. One of my fears is that my computer/phone, which I depend on for work and enjoy for entertainment, breaks and I am unable to replace it. Even in the UK, people are running out of money for food but still refusing to sell their car or cancel their mobile phone contract. Why? Because doing so would cut them out of the game of getting another job.

Wait a minute! Panicking about having no food or shelter is sensible, but panicking about computer breaking is 21st century madness. Chris, and other’s like him serve to remind us of alternatives to the norm, where the norm has become as crazy as this: A computer is more important than food. How powerful are we willing to let Apple and Microsoft become?

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei , watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom , interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom , everything at kimwei.com

 

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I’m Taking The £0 Challenge

As a self-employed musician, I have always been afraid of running out of money and having no work booked. I plan to face my fear and overcome it, by deliberately letting my money run out. Essentially, it’s about going to £0 and then trying to make it back to a healthy living from that point.

So what are the rules of the experiment? Well, they are dictated by what I’m trying to learn through this experience. I’m trying overcome a fear that many self-employed people harbour: what will happen if my work dries up? I don’t actually fear that I’ll starve, but my fear of running out of money is totally out of proportion. It almost feels as though I might die if I run out of money, even though I know that isn’t true. That’s how I know I have to overcome this fear.

The rules mimic what would happen if I simply ran out of work:

  1. To stop seeking any type of paid work until my bank account runs to £0.
  2. Once £0 has been reached, I can start taking steps to make my living through self employment.
  3. No begging, borrowing or stealing.
  4. No relying on handouts or state benefits.
  5. The accepting of gifts is permitted, as long as the giver is not influenced by this challenge.
Me, as a student, following an experiment where I busked with a watercooler I found in the street until I could afford to buy a djembe with the takings. I wanted to find out if it was possible to work up from having no money, to buying and instrument.

Me, as a student, following an experiment where I busked with a watercooler I found in the street until I could afford to buy a djembe with the takings. I wanted to find out if it was possible to work up from having no money, to buying an instrument.

When does the challenge end?

To face my fear, I don’t think that I need to carry out this experiment for very long – 1 or 2 months at most. That’s all I’d need in order to establish whether or not I can work up from £0. If I feel that my income is steadily increasing and that £0 no longer holds fear for me, I could end the challenge in order to, for example, borrow some money to invest in some music gear that helps me to make more money. Borrowing would be ok if I finally felt confident in my ability to make money, because I’d be confident that I could pay it back.

Another reason I might end this experiment is because of an extreme life event. Someone suggested that the challenge would be workable until an emergency happened to me or a friend or relative. This is a good point. What if my only remaining Grandparent fell ill and I missed out on valuable time with her because I couldn’t afford to travel to see her? I’d see that as going too far and would end the challenge in order to see her, if it meant breaking one of the rules to do so.

 

To answer a few questions:

A few people have asked me why the challenge I’ve chosen is so extreme. Others are saying it’s not extreme enough. I don’t think I’m doing a radical thing, when you consider that most self-employed people go to £0 sooner or later when work dries up. I’m simply creating that situation on purpose in order to face it now.

Keep in mind that the situation I’m creating must mimic what would happen if I ran out of freelance work. That principle shapes the rules that I’m giving myself. There’s no need to go to absolute zero with no money, no possessions, no food and be standing in the street naked. As with any challenge to do with conquering fear, its about going to the situation that I myself am afraid of. For me that’s about having £0 in the bank, with no job and no work booked. I’ve been in debt before, like many people, but each time I had work booked for the next week or so. Not this time.

 

Would I use the NHS and other taxpayers services?

I wouldn’t draw jobseeker’s allowance, because I have chosen to give up my job and so should face the consequences. I also wouldn’t feel comfortable taking state benefits if my business failed, because that would be my responsibility, not the state’s. However, I would still use the NHS and other taxpayers services unless I truly went moneyless and therefore stopped being a taxpayer. I’ve always declared all my income and paid tax when relevant and that wouldn’t change upon taking up this challenge.

 

Why not beg, borrow, steal or accept handouts?

The point of the challenge is to try and “earn” my way back from £0. That’s what I want to learn. I’m not aiming to learn how to apply for a bank loan, or how to persuade my friends into helping me out. I’d rather learn to catch my own fish. Once I’ve finished the £0 challenge, and am convinced of my own ability to make my way back from zero, I might be more comfortable with the idea of borrowing or even accepting gifts of money. Why? Because I’d know that I could pay borrowed money back. If someone really wanted to give me a gift of money I could accept their kindness because I could guarantee that their money wouldn’t be “wasted”. It’s like the parable of the careless man who loses all his money and asks his rich friend for help. His friend is very rich, but refuses to give him any money at all unless he can tend a flock of sheep successfully for a year without losing a single one. The rich man wants to be sure that the money he gives his friend won’t be carelessly frittered away.

 

If that’s the case, how can you justify accepting gifts?

One of the rules is: The accepting of gifts is permitted, as long as the giver is not influenced by this challenge. I don’t wish to stop people being kind or generous as normal. I might be more generous if I wasn’t so afraid of running out of money, so part of spirit of the challenge concerns encouraging generosity. So, if I went to stay with my Dad for a few days and he bought all the food, that’s ok because he normally does that when I visit. But if my Dad suddenly invited me to stay for a month, or sent me money because of this £0 challenge, then that wouldn’t be ok.

 

Would I break any of my rules if I was starving?

I don’t know. Let’s find out.

Footnote: I’m sure people will challenge or ask me to clarify EVERYTHING I’ve written as time goes on, so this post may be subject to additions and footnotes in the future as the fundamentals of the matter are bashed out.

 

 

Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei , watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom , interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom , everything at kimwei.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Facing Fears Surrounding Money By Going To £0?

So what would happen if I ran out of money, with no job and no freelance work booked? It’s something I’m afraid of but it’s never happened to me. What would happen if I went to that point on purpose to conquer my fear of going to zero? It would be a lifestyle experiment.

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Stuff that I may have absolutely none of soon.

 

In my last post, I asked myself why I gave up a steady job as a University Lecturer in order to live in a van, with no current income planned? Let’s be clear about this – I also refuse to draw benefits. What right do I have to ask for state benefits when I can work, but have chosen not to? This leaves me in a very insecure position, with a van to run and only a couple of hundred left in the bank.

One reason that I quit my job is that even though it was only part time, it still didn’t leave me enough time to spend being creative as a singer songwriter. I had spent 5 years working on the same album in fits and starts, but after giving up my teaching job in March, I finished the album within the space of a month by working on it full time. Soon, I’ll start the process of promoting and releasing it by working full time at that… but first, a lifestyle experiment.

Here are some lifestyles I could have:

  1. Being employed part time = have enough money but not enough time for creativity (I already gave up this lifestyle at the end of March 2014)
  2. Having no job = have enough time for creativity, but where will the money come from? (this is where I am now)
  3. Doing freelance work = likely to be the same as option 1. In my experience, being self-employed takes up more time than a part time teaching job. (done this before)
  4. Being picked up by a record company or publisher = Being paid to be a singer-songwriter – but only if the deal is right! (If it’s going to come along, it will come along in it’s own time.)

I’m currently living in option 2 and wondering if a better version of option 3 is possible. Is it possible to make a good living from freelance work and have enough time to be a singer-songwriter? It would have to be done by either living on less money, or earning more per self-employed-hour.

But all 4 ideas are about earning enough MONEY to live on. There is another option – go Moneyless.

The Moneyless Man (Mark Boyle) lives without money and has devoted his life to helping others do the same. He lives an modest life and has everything he needs, but he gets what he needs without using money.

At first, I couldn’t see what the difference was between getting what you need with money or without it. Then I took a closer look and realised that money encourages a lot of negative tendencies in people that don’t exist with trade. Money can be hoarded (it’s called “saving”), an obsession with profit or gaining status through money is likely. People are constantly afraid of running out of money.

I am constantly afraid of running out of money.

I’m not planning to go moneyless, but what would happen if I let my money run out on purpose? Once my bank account reached zero I could begin to seek sources of freelance income, but not until then. The rule would be that even if I was struggling, I could neither borrow, beg nor steal, neither could I start living on hand-outs. I would have to earn, trade, or womble (to womble: to make good use of the things that the everyday folks leave behind) in order to make a living and work upwards from there.

The purpose of the challenge would be to try and dismantle the fears that I have around money. I can’t decide if I want to go moneyless or not, but if I AM to keep using money, I must stop being afraid of it. I could start trying to build a freelance business for myself right now, whilst I’ve still got money in the bank, but if I did, I’d always be afraid of going to £0. If I take this opportunity to go to £0 now and find that I can work up from there, then I can stop being afraid.

Just to be clear, this is not about some middle class kid irresponsibly running out of cash, having a hard time for a month or two and then thinking they know all about what it is to be poor. I would never presume to understand how poverty affects people just because I’d carried out a brief lifestyle experiment. This challenge would be solely about facing my own personal fears and issues surrounding money.

So what do you think? Should I do it? Comments welcome.

 

 

 

 

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University Lecturer Lives In Van – Apparently That’s Intrigiuing

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‘Do you think people will want to read this weblog?’ I asked a friend the other day. ‘Lot’s of people live in vans’.

“Are you kidding?” she replied “University Lecturer lives in van and then gives up lecturing for van-living – of course people want to read about that!”

I hadn’t thought of it like that because I forget that up until last month I was a University Lecturer as well as a singer songwriter. It’s also easy to forget that whilst I had that post I also lived in a yurt with no electricity, for 6 months.

So, where did we get to in the story? I moved out of a house at Christmas, then meandered, then moved into a red van, then got a housesit for the whole of April to work on my album, and now I live in a yellow van that I bought from the neighbour of the house I was sitting. What luck!

Started new yellow van life with a comedy incident. There was no phone signal at the house in order to phone up and buy car insurance and breakdown cover, so I took a chance and drove into town to get signal.. upon which the van broke down before reaching town, before I had any breakdown cover! But that is another story.

So I’ve moved into this lovely duck-bill-yellow van and got it fixed up. Took it on a test holiday to various places (Oxford, Cambridge, Coventry and more) and am now writing this post from a mystery location by the sea, after a day’s busking. As we speak, I’m burning off another 10 busking CDs on my laptop. To be clear – this is not the singer-songwriter album I’ve been working on for the past few months, but a folk album I recently produced for a band I busk/gig with. None the less, it’s pretty amazing that CDs can literally be pressed IN A VAN!

So, here I am, with no teaching job (or any other job), £230 to my name, in van by the sea…

What happens next? Oh, I have a lot of skills for sure that could get me another job, but hey I just walked away from a decent job for a reason. It was a good teaching job, in which I could have worked to create a strong career and be offered development opportunities as time went on.. but I quit it. Perhaps I’m drawn to having an experience that’s full of uncertainty and variety, that breaks the illusions of security and safety. Perhaps I’m only capable of being employed for a year and a half at a time (my track record).

Even I’m not sure yet what I’m seeking, but it’s something different.

This is not the first time I have done this sort of thing. As a teenager, I spent my summers in cheap sublets, making my living by painting kids faces in the street, even though I could have stayed home with my parents rent-free. In 2009 I quit a teaching job to travel and then release an album. Each time I got closer to a way of living that I am still seeking now.

Yes, it’s about living with less.
Yes, it’s about being less at odds with the planet.
Yes, it’s something instinctive
Yes, it’s about not feeling trapped by society.

But what it actually IS… I don’t know, or I’d just go straight to it. As it is, I’m still journeying. Guess what happens next.

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