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Life, Reformed: Life So Far

So what happens when a work-a-holic decides to change his ways?  Does insanity ensue?

Surprisingly, no.  Heck, for that matter, I’m surprised how (relatively) easy this has been so far!  I’ve been going to bed pretty close to on time – an hour late one night, and two hours late the next night (OK, I suppose two hours doesn’t count as “close” – but I still count it because it’s nowhere near 3 or 4 AM)

Waking up hasn’t been as much of a challenge as I expected either.  Back in my history I used to have to adjust my sleep schedule from month to month – when working at the office in town it was perfectly fine to get to work at 9, 9:30 AM.  But when I was out of town on a job site I might have to be at work at 6 AM.  My body is still sort of used to being able to do that, and every once in a while i have to adjust my schedule for early morning meetings.  The real trick is trying to get on a schedule and KEEP the schedule over time.  Yes, a couple of days is a success – but only a small one, and guarding against falling back into my old sleeping / work schedule habits will be the real challenge.

Reducing my hours hasn’t been as much of a challenge this week as I expected so far.  In fact, since I haven’t been working as many hours I’m much more “fresh” every morning when I go on the attack.  And the way I’ve set the rules helps too – it’s number of work hours in the day that comes as the top priority rather than exactly when.  Now, I’m not allowed to work at 9 PM or anything, but if I take a hour off for lunch then an hour off to chat with friends I can make it up.  There’s a “within reason” factor here though – if I take of 8 hours during the day I’m not allowed to make it up by working 8 hours at night.  The idea is working enough hours to keep my income flowing, which at the same time providing me with flexibility, and setting hard limits on how much I work.

So far, that’s going great!  No 16 hour days so far, even though I’ve got two crunch-time projects going on (along with the associated meetings that happen for them).

It also allowed me the flexibility to start addressing the Stability rule (and the associated rules that cascade down from it.)  The first thing I sat down and did was put on paper what I wanted (goal: between $800 – $1000 / mo. for a part time gig, 25 hours a week max.)  From there I drew up goals, adjusted my existing business income to remove the smaller projects and focus on only working as much as another 25 hours a week after I’m done at the part time job.  I can accept 50 hours a week – my goal is actually 40, but, I know that’s going to be even more difficult.  Then I took my existing invoices and my cash in hand, and plotted “survival time” based on NO extra income – depending on what I picked up for a place to live, $800 a month wouldn’t cover 100% of my expenses, but it would cover the “core” expenses.

All things considered, I was looking at 5 months of survival time if I never sold another web development job, book, game, or app, and that also included things like paying off my personal loans in that budget number.  Not as good as I’d like – my goal was to try and guarantee 6 months of survival.  My DREAM goal is to not have to worry about that “months of survival” number and have something part time that just covered it, then everything else is gravy.  And keep in mind, that’s based off of number that were somewhat pessimistic.  The invoices and reserves from the last couple of months is now starting to flow in – Baby Jaguar is an example of that.

Now that I had a non-business meeting today with a friend – I’ve known him for years, and he’s in the construction field, and he’s also been a customer of mine for a few years.  When I walked in one of the first things he said was “I’m sorry to hear you guys broke up.”  He never met the ex-girlfriend, but he knew I was “fond of her”

I laid out the pitch, and explained what I was wanting to do: I wanted him to give me a construction job.  I can do anything from run jobs to swing hammer, interface with inspectors, read drawings, revise drawings, heck I can revise them and send them back to the architect while I’m on site thanks my my iPad (he’s seen AutoCAD WS for it and loved the idea).  I also informed him flat out – I’m smarter, stronger, and faster than anyone you’ve got on your team.  And he knows it’s true.

Problem:  currently, he doesn’t have enough work.

But… I know another company he’s supposed to be involved in if they get the funding.  Funding is in the multi-millions range, and he’s supposed to sign on as President as a full time job.  He doesn’t want to give up his construction company just in case it all falls through.  We talked about it a bit, and basically he’d hand me the reigns of it for the most part, and I’d run the company and do part of the construction work.  But this circles back to the stability issue – he doesn’t have enough work, so without more sales, I’d be in the same boat I’m in now, except I’d be fretting over two companies.  No real benefit there.

There was a second option:  the company he’s going to potentially be working for is the same company I’ve got a bit in on a web contract.  If he starts there like is planned, why not go to work there – it’s IT work.  We talked for a bit and he rattled off an hourly wage for a 25 hour week.  It DOUBLED my goal line.  In fact, it fell within my dream goal – all of my expenses would be covered from end to end, with some left over.  No kidding.  It would be “with bennies”.

Let me say that again:  with bennies.  Can you imagine what life would be like with things like insurance, or maybe a 401K?  I can’t – it’s been too long since I’ve had either.  I’ll take insurance over a 401k at the moment – I’ve been healthy and beat the odds for a long time now, but my teeth really do need fixed.  But both would be preferable, of course – I cashed out my 401K for Gamer Zone long ago and have nothing.  Getting that built up again?  Amazing.

If I landed this particular gig, I could not only end up stable, I could end up far ahead on my goals – get a years worth of survival money in the bank, for instance, and get all of the old back-bill from the Gamer Zone era completely gone.

BUT – this isn’t a hold your breath situation.  I won’t know for just a bit if it’s going to happen, and trust me, that could all fall through easily.  All that has to happen is that the funding check they supposedly got doesn’t clear, and that whole dream falls into a heap.  But what a way to get the confidence up!

Originally I was looking at rentals, but I decided to take a gander and see what there was for cheap properties out there that were owner financed.  With a pay stub to show stability / a job, and a bank statement to show what the last two months were like, plus show my invoices, I could talk an owner financed deal into place pretty well.  My concern though was down payment – a down payment would cut into my survival time if something happened and I didn’t end up with the dream goal setup.  I’m being bold with life, but conservative with cash – every decision I make, IMO, must be responsible and uphold the long term goals of stability.  (According to a survey done in 2008, most people can only survive 11 DAYS without income.  Right now, without a part time job, I already surpass that.  My ultimate goal is one year – I’ll consider that point to be “ultra-stable.”)

After just a bit of looking, I emailed a company that specializes in owner financed home sales, and got a couple of interesting hits.  What I was expecting was to see some 1 bedroom houses.  Surprisingly, within my monthly payment budget were some two and three bedroom houses.  How interesting.  I called him and chatted with him for a bit – I explained my situation, past debt problems, and what I was doing.  He laughed a bit about the past debt problems – he had been there before himself.  Either before the end of this week or Monday he’s sending me brochures on a few other places.

At the same time I have a friend who knows of some rental properties that are being ditched – houses that used to be for rent, but, are now up for sale by the landlords for cheap.  That would require bank financing though, but I may go down to my bank and chat with them, just for the heck of it.  No need to pass up things that could be good deals just because I haven’t asked.

But I’m still concerned at that point about the down payment issue – I might be able to negotiate down with an owner finance, but with the bank negotiating down the down payment is harder.

Right now it seems as if every time I move forward with this plan, God hands me a cookie.  “I’ll go talk to a friend about a job.”  “Good boy.  Here’s a cookie.”  “Maybe I should be looking at buying rather than renting – but I’m going to have to be extremely careful about the down payment.”  “Good boy.  Here’s a cookie.”  In this case, about an hour after that phone convo with the realtor I get a phone call from my customer in Wisconsin.  The end of the conversation was “Did you get the check yet?  No?  Well, it should be there shortly.  Also, send us another invoice.”  I had to confirm that last point – I’ve already invoiced them (at their request) for the full amount of the job before ever stepping foot on the job site.  He confirmed – they wanted me to invoice them more.  And, on top of that, they might be extending my stay up there in July to as long as two weeks.  (I won’t reveal here the insane amount of money I charge for out of town work.)

Um… that extra invoice covers a 10% down payment pretty well, and handles making sure my survival money doesn’t get dwindled.  If I was there for two whole weeks, well, that’s just gravy.

All things considered, this whole lifestyle change is going well.  Not a dang thing is a “done deal” though – until I have been on my work and sleep schedule for a couple of weeks I’m not even going to consider that a “done deal”.

But it’s a start! 🙂

Oh, and I’ll give myself extra credit for following my “Live A Little” rule, too.  Headed out to hang with friends tonight, and last night was a “guys night” involving pizza & beer.  I give myself credit for 4 out of 12 rules, and half-credit for 1 (stability) and quarter credit for working towards the “My Own Space” rule.  Considering this is all downright fundamental changes only three days after I wrote them down, well, I’m good with 4.75 out of 12 possible points 😉

I’m flat out excited about the future!

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