5 Simple Living concepts I got wrong and don’t promote anymore

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest”

We’re all on a journey.

Me especially.

So many things have changed in my life in the shortest time.

Largely my life looks pretty conventional, but behind the scenes I feel like a Duck in a pond.

My head and body look calm, but under the water my feet are paddling a hundred miles an hour!

I’ve made more than a few mistakes. Here are the 5 things that I used to promote, but that I don’t anymore.

1. Simple living as sustainable or self sufficient living. We’re living in a society. There is no need to do everything alone. Besides sharing is fun. Why go it alone?

2. Simple living is action oriented. Not true. Mostly the simplest choice is no action at all. Often it is about reframing the activity or event to let myself recognise that I need play no part. What is happening is okay and I don’t need to control things.

3. Not doing stuff because of what ‘people’ might say. I used to have this baggage about wearing the same sweatshirt everyday. I felt like people noticed and that they were probably talking about me behind my back. Now I figure people are so busy and so into their own shit that there is no chance that I am their dinner table conversation.

4. Overmending stuff that didn’t really work in the first place. I’ve grown up. Some stuff just needs to go to landfill. Not everything is a treasure to be saved.

5. Searching for good news about bad habits. There are certain things that we all know are bad for us and the simplest choice is to stop doing them, but I was always ears out for reasons that justified the stuff I was doing that I plumb knew was wrong (think eating meat, eating fried fluorescent foods, smoking, being an aggressive parent – or whatever). Eventually I learnt about the concept of bad faith and from there I just had to man up do what I always knew to be correct. It was uncomfortable. It was hard and truthfully it was no fun at the time. Now I look back and future self thanks past self for being brave.

How about taking a leaf and executing one of your bad habits right now?

Our soil nature

“Emancipation from the bondage of the soil is no freedom for the tree”
Rabindranath Tagore

Life sure moves fast.

It can be loud, bright, complicated and stressful.

At those times it pays to remember your soil nature.

You eat food.

You accumulate a food body that is made from the food you eat.

That body grows, changes and declines until one day it returns the loaned food to the soil.

If you wish to become soil sooner neglect your vessel.

Ignore what passes your lips.

Otherwise care for your food body and it will transport you on a ride called life.

Care, but there is no point attaching to this food body for it is temporary and how healthy is it to attach identity to that which is loaned anyway?

We will become soil and so we must check in and ask ourselves if we are using our opportunity well.

We will all return to soil.

So ask yourself: Is my right use to labour for a crumby company in a mediocre industry or is there some better use of this gift that I have been given?

When you have your answer, no matter the barriers, do that and you will be happy.

The single greatest problem with frugal living

“It’s the intelligent thing to be frugal”

Chuck Feeney


There are lots of frugal communities on the internet. There are discussion boards, groups, blogs, tweets and websites.

There is nothing wrong with frugality, but one of the themes that I see is poor people remaining the working poor because of frugality and I find this very sad.

I’ll illustrate by telling you about my sister in law.

She and her husband don’t have a lot of money.

They both work hard and are outstanding people, but their jobs are never going to make them millionaires. They have a largish house with a mega mortgage and two young daughters with lots of hobbies and interests.

Consequently they have developed an amazing ability to find the greatest deal imaginable.

I mean it.

In fact they are so good that if I ever need to buy something I will get them to source it for me and mostly I will get an unbelievable deal.

So what’s wrong with this?

Nothing, except that they have absolutely no savings and they are not making any progress with their mortgage.

So here’s how it works.

Everything that they buy is the cheapest version available and that doesn’t mean the quality is always so good.

They find such good deals that they buy stuff they never use. To them the deal is so good that they need to make the buy rather than leaving money in the bank.

Together they are so effective at finding specials that they can easily spend their entire income every period.

That’s the wrong goal though right?

If the choice is:

1. Buy something high price/high quality (buy it for life)
2. Buy something that is the minimum viable and cheapest product
3. Save the money and don’t buy anything

Our family takes option 3 and gets creative to solve the problem without buying something (often we can).

Their family goes for option 2 even when they don’t need the thing that they are getting a deal on.

Also the stuff they buy isn’t very good quality.

If I am going to buy something I am happy to part with money to get the absolute lightest, strongest, most functional and best item (option 1).

I want to buy it now and use it for the rest of my life. If I can get a deal like that I am happy to pay $400 as opposed to the $12 item that will break in a year.

That said I mostly don’t buy anything. Option 3 baby!

Unfortunately, I see a lot of frugal people out there that are like my sister in law.

They are frugal because they want to have more money, but without a saving/investing habit they are always going to be terrible with their money no matter how much they ramp up frugal in their lifestyle.

Worse, a lot of these frugal guru’s are really just spammy internet marketer types that make their living spamming channels with affiliate links that they are paid.

There can be a gigantic chasm between being frugal and being a saver. Don’t let a frugal focus distract you.

Saving is King, Queen, Prince and Princess!

A message of freedom to graduates

“We don’t stop going to school when we graduate”
Carol Burnett

So you’ve just graduated from 4 years of epic study at a big time college?

First, let me congratulate you for your persistence and tenacity to study and sacrifice to get that degree.

I’ve been there.

Now comes a bit of travel and then the serious business of making your parents happy by putting that degree to good use in your first real job.

Spoiler alert…

Working sucks. It bites. If you are a normal human you are going to hate it. You’ll develop feelings of resentment, anger, frustration, desperation and anxiety within a couple of years.

Probably the very first thing you will notice is the loot is ok, but beyond that you’ll also notice how little freedom you suddenly have going from student to worker.

So little freedom that compared to being a student that it can be shocking. Most people struggle with this sudden evaporation of person determination, self direction and general freedom.

Suddenly you have a boss that determines your reality. They expect you to be in a certain place, at certain time, they tell you exactly what to do and sometimes with overbearing microscopic exactness every minute of most every day.

For most of us one of the biggest life shocks is the transition from student to worker. Your experience isn’t unique. We all feel this way.

It’s painful to suddenly you see you life stretching out in front of you with unending monotony.

So my advice?

Don’t play the game.

You are smart.

You have a degree to prove it!

Use that big brain to explore alternatives.

There will never be an easier time to start your own business.

There will never be another time where you can live in your parents basement while you write a novel.

There will never be a better time to set yourself up outside of the mainstream corporate job.

Knowing what I know now I feel confident saying that I won’t be encouraging my kids to limit themselves by getting a job.

I actually think the advice to get a job is terrible life advice.

Please set your sights higher.

Is a job working in some grey corporation going to give you that life you really want?

How do you holiday when life is a vacation?

“Laughter is an instant vacation”

Milton Berle


One of the massive problems with simple living is holiday planning.

A couple of years ago I wrote that if you need holidays you are doing life wrong.

That advice is evergreen.

Our biggest problem is what do you tell people you are doing on holiday when your life is effectively a big holiday?

We don’t have money to fly off to some exotic beach at the very time that accommodation costs the world over are at their most expensive.

We don’t see the value in wasting tanks of gas on a road trip so we prefer to stay local.

In fact we are at the point where we don’t bother with ideas like vacation and the need to manufacture dreamy fantasies to impress virtual strangers.

When every day is your vacation defining periods of time as a holiday is a complete nonsense.

We are free.

We can eat, beach, sleep, repeat any day we care to.

The absolute best (and utterly simplest) way to invest

“The individual investor should act consistently as an investor and not as a speculator”
Ben Graham

Is something left in your purse besides lint at the end of your pay cycle and you want to invest, but don’t know how?

I invest our money for the absolute best returns relative to the risk. I want low cost of access and simple ongoing acquisition and management.

The absolute start point and actually the only investment tool you need to learn about is an ETF. ETF is an Electronic Traded Fund.

It’s basically a composite of a collection of shares. Say you decided to buy 1 share of every stock on the Dow Jones. That is a pretty diversified low risk portfolio, but it will cost you at least $10,000 with fees of around $30 bucks for every $1.05 share you buy. The trading fees alone make that a bad idea.

Enter an ETF that is a composite representation of the Dow that you can buy for as little as $100. All the dividends, growth and value appreciation with equivalent risk and all for a single trading fee.

ETFs make investing safe, simple and profitable.

There are only three things to do right away.

1. Open an electronic discount broking service that you can use to buy ETFs online.
2. Understand the different ETFs and find the funds that are performing the best longer term (hint: it’s almost always the ETF that is the purest representation of the underlying asset category it is trying to model).
3. Save regularly and acquire consistently.

By far the third point is the hardest to implement. Investors always get sucked into shiny light syndrome, but remember this last piece of advice.

Only a handful of individual stocks and managed funds will out pace an ETF. Since you can’t know which investments these are beforehand and the vast majority won’t outperform an ETF then the possibility of a bigger return does not beat the probability that you will pick an investment that won’t beat an ETF.

ETFs are perfect for the average investor that wants a very good return without a lot of risk, complexity and active oversight.

For many people it is likely the only investment vehicle you need to understand.

Is everyone your friend Daddy? Infecting people with your friendlinesss

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend”
Albert Camus

Whenever I am out with my son and we come across a stranger he asks me the same question.

“Daddy…is that your friend?”

I always say yes. Quite often I say something like “She is our village store-owner and she is a very lovely friend of ours”.

Something interesting happens when you introduce people like this. First of course my kid sees how to be friendly and he expects people to be friendly because they are our friends. Second he wants to be friends with as many people as possible.

But, there is something else interesting that occurs with people we see around the village that we barely know know their name. The man that walks the dog has become our friend Nigel and his dog Woody. Nigel always stops and talks to us and lets us pat his dog.

Out of thousands of customers the grumpy old lady at the village store has become our friend the lovely storekeeper.

Several times we have referred to her in this way when she was actually short, slightly hostile or annoyed at being interrupted from watching daytime TV to sell us stuff.

Now we get a warm greeting. She asks my son what he is doing today and often gives him a couple of free lollies. I’m not super stoked with the lollies, but I wager myself that my boy is the only one she treats this kindly.

Even though I was always friendly prior to having two kids I never had the opportunity to use the interaction with my kid to message an intent of friendliness.

No matter how friendly I was she never really warmed up to me. It always felt like I was putting her out.

Now our friend the lovely storekeeper is always a lovely warm person to deal with.

I’m pretty certain once we leave she goes right back to being a grumpy old sausage, but she’s nice when we talk to her and that is what matters to us.

We still haven’t gotten on first name basis yet and not for the love of trying. My little guy has introduced himself and inquired about her name several times. She either ignores his question or grunts and waves her hand when he asks.

What can I say…it’s a work in progress. We’re slowly infecting her with our friendliness

Quite often as we walk away down the street my boy will remark ‘she didn’t have her listening ears on today did she Daddy?”

No my friend she did not, but she’s paying more attention and becoming friendlier every time we see her.

I want my kid to see strangers as potential friends rather than as scary bad people that would steal him in the night.

I feel that you can learn relationship skills and still learn safe community behaviours. Truth is more uncles and family members molest children than strangers. While there is some stranger danger that is not where you should focus your attention as a parent trying to nurture a thriving independent child.