Month: July 2017

Shell FuelRewards Dining Challenge!

Shell FuelRewards Dining Challenge!

When shopping at all, but especially dining, I try to get as much bang for my buck as possible.  To recap my frugal dining rules, which I’ve yet to actually post:

Dining Rewards Programs

A while ago, I belonged to a dining program calling iDine. It was a pretty good program back around the turn of the century, and then they started reducing their benefits substantially.  Combined with my traveling less for a few years and eating healthier, I just stopped participating.  Another interesting point to note was that I sent them to a “spam” email account, which resulted in my not reading their emails.  I didn’t want to waste my time reading about places they’d like me to go.  I preferred to choose not only where I went, but also how I spent my time.  They actually canceled my account because they demanded that their spam promotional emails be read.

Well, fast forward a decade or so, and I’m traveling again.  This time, however, blogging isn’t just a new thing, everyone and their dog has one.  But given that my blog has an “enjoy life, but frugally” theme to it, driving around seems to happen a lot.  I’m always filling up the MuffinWagon™.  I generally use GasBuddy to find the best gas prices, or fill up at CostCo, but sometimes, I just don’t have a lot of choices.  I’ve been filling up a lot at Shell, and thought I’d check into their new FuelRewards program, now that their FuelPerks program has died a bloody death.  And just today, I just got hassled at Winn-Dixie (where I hardly ever shop, because the shopping experience is generally unpleasant) because my old, “you don’t get the advertised price unless you carry our card” card was no longer their program, and new they’re doing this new “Plenti” thing.  So, how long until this new program is defunct?  Who knows…

After signing up with Plenti, so I could get my BOGO salsa, I bit the bullet and signed up for the new FuelRewards program, and researched a few restaurants to go to new week while traveling.

Then, in researching this blog post, I’ve discovered that the old iDine program is still around, as well as a few others flying the “rewardsnetwork” banner, such as:

I was really curious, at first, why the same restaurants were in FuelRewards as were in the Delta program, which triggered my research and here we are.  It’s all really one program.  So, I registered my cards with Fuel Rewards, Delta, and Plenti.   As soon as I registered with the second program, I got this lovely email:

You recently registered a credit or debit card which has been registered with another dining program administered by Rewards Network.  Credit and debit cards can only be registered in one dining program at a time.  As a result, you will no longer earn rewards through [the new program] when you dine and pay with this card.  Instead, you will earn rewards through the program you moved the card to.

While I’m a little confused, from that email, which program I am still registered with, its apparent that they don’t want you double-dipping.  And if you weren’t aware that you were, you’ll sure find out when you try.

The various programs break down like this.

  • iDine:  5% rebate up to $250 spent per year, 10% between $250 and $750 and 15% back on spending over $750, and unless they can prove you’re reading their spam, they kick you out.
    • $250 = $12.50
    • $500 = $37.50
    • $750 = $62.50
    • $1,000 = $100.00
  • FuelRewards: Earn 10¢ a gallon for every $50 you spend dining out, limited to 20 gallons per “fill up”, then you start over.  From reading the site, it seems there’s the same spam requirement.
  • Airline Miles: Read their spam and eat at RewardsNetwork restaurants 12x a year, you get 5 miles per dollar spent dining out.
  • Hotel Points: Read their spam and eat at RewardsNetwork restaurants 12x a year, you get 8 points per dollar spent dining out.

Overall, the miles program seems like the best deal, and you get your choice of a few participating airlines.  Right now, Delta is offering some pretty wicked bonuses for dining out and leaving a review:

For a limited time, join SkyMiles Dining and earn up to 3,000 bonus miles right out of the gate. Just sign up, register your credit and/or debit card, and Completing an online review of each restaurant within 30 days visit to earn bonus miles:

Earn 500 Bonus Miles by spending $30 or more at any participating restaurant.

Earn 1,000 Bonus Miles by spending $30 or more on your second participating restaurant.

Earn 1,500 Bonus Miles by spending $30 or more on your third participating restaurant.

Triple Whammy

Now, being a consultant who is compensated for meals while traveling, I get reimbursed for these meals.  However, by participating in the reward program, I get airline miles for these meals as well.  And finally, as a blogger documenting my experiences of enjoying life frugally, I get a chance to experience and document my experience of these places for free.

My challenge: To be able to find decent vegetarian food at these places, get the food for take out, and document the experience on the blog.

First week’s agenda:

Athens Kouzzina

Athens Kouzzina takes its name from the Greek word for “kitchen.” Thus, you can expect a homey setting enhanced by vibrant colors and an open kitchen. Here, guests are invited to watch their food being prepared using fresh meats, seafood and produce to deliver home-style cuisine served with plenty of hot-from-the-oven bread. The casual yet inviting setting creates a backdrop that works for family celebrations, date night, or a get-together with friends. Like the atmosphere, the food has a traditional Greek warmth about it that is exotic but still familiar.

Wayback Burgers

What started as a simple desire to offer quality, fresh (never frozen) burgers has grown into the franchise sensation that is Wayback Burgers. Once upon a time (way back when) burgers were made fresh to order and served in a comfortable restaurant that felt like home. Wayback Burgers is bringing that back and is the place you want to be when the craving for “a really good burger” hits. Whether you want to create your own or try one of their signature burgers — like the BBQ Crunch, Double Bacon, or Philly — you’ll get a fresh, hot, and delicious meal. Also on offer are house-made potato chips, all-beef hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, turkey burgers, and fresh salads. And try to save room for one of Wayback Burgers’ milkshakes, because what goes better with a hot, tasty burger than something cold and creamy like a vanilla, chocolate, cafe mocha, or Oreo mud pie milkshake? Every month, Wayback Burgers rolls out a new burger and shake of the month, so there’s always something new to enjoy and keep you coming back for more!

Tilted Kilt

The Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery does a lot of things right. It has perfected five things which you’ll find each and every time you visit: plenty of ice cold beer (48 Draft), an interesting and delicious menu, every possible sporting event on a bunch of TVs, a vibrant atmosphere, and finally, a staff that is friendly and always smiling. When you’re looking for any of those things AND a place with a terrific Happy Hour and live music, then this is the place for you! Start your meal with the TK Irish nachos; with fresh cooked crispy potato chips covered in cheese sauce, ground beef and tomatoes, you’ll fall in love with this starter which is great for sharing. Then, dive in to one of their tasty dishes like the classic Big Arse hamburger; this 8-ounce behemoth burger is juicy, tender and delicious. Irish pub favorites include the Olde Dublin Irish stew and shepherd pie. With so many great dishes from which to choose, you’ll just have to go back again and again to try them all, and remember, the kitchen is open until late every night so finding late night munchies is never hard! For a festive and vibrant ambiance and a place that has a knack for putting a smile on your face every time, check out The Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery today!

Achieve Your Goals with a Modern Twist on Ancient Greek Wisdom

Achieve Your Goals with a Modern Twist on Ancient Greek Wisdom

Having mentored quite a few folks in the art of leadership, I’ve found that metaphors are extremely helpful.  By attaching a parallel physical or familiar concept to abstract skills being developed, it’s easier to draw corollary conclusions, paths, and jumpstart success by realizing what does and doesn’t work in the more familiar or concrete metaphorical concept.

One of the mantras I follow as a life policy comes from ancient wisdom, “Moderation in all things”.  This timeless instruction comes from the inscription Meden Agan (μηδὲν ἄγαν) [Nothing in excess] in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, where kings would seek the wisdom of the Gods.

Temple of Apolllo at Delphi

The Mind-Body Link

It is fairly common knowledge that yo-yo dieting actually has deleterious effects, resulting in weight gain over the long run. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s when someone goes on a weight loss diet, then stops, then starts again, then stops again, and so forth. What happens is that the period of reduced caloric intake pushes the body to believe it’s starving. The body responds by reducing metabolism, and weight loss plateaus (unless you go full anorexia – never go full anorexia!) After a while of this “Gotta lose weight at all costs!” attitude, then plateauing, it’s hard to keep up this sacrifice when there’s no obvious gain. So, after the restricted calorie window ends and caloric intake goes back to normal, the calories are now more impactful, since the body is now acclimated to fewer calories.

Similarly, in exercise, when performing the same actions again and again, such as running marathons, fitness gains plateau, as the body recognizes these patterns and becomes more efficient at what is now normal.  According to Dr. Arnold Lee, MD of San Francisco, “When you do the same activity all the time, your body gets used it and becomes very efficient. Eventually, that adaptation will mean that you burn fewer calories even when you’re doing the same amount of exercise.” Taken even further, and the repeated motion can start wearing down joints and connective tissue, and we’re back to deleterious effects of excess.

In both of these situations, a “good thing” becomes a “bad thing” when taken too far or for too long.  I believe the same to be true in the pursuit of happiness.  For example, it makes me very happy not to go to work as a wage slave. I might be able to give that up for a year or so and live off my savings, but after the money is all gone, what will I do? At some point, I might find I need some money for fundamental needs, such as food, shelter, gas,  etc.  And then, I have to work again, but what work will I do, when I’ve been out of my lucrative field for the past year.  How will I explain that gap on my resume, assuming I’m even given the chance?

In the pursuit of wealth, I can scrimp and save every penny, and spend my time clipping coupons, visiting deal sites, and but what does this do to my overall health and happiness, if I take this to too much of an extreme?  Most coupons are for crap food that fewer and fewer people are eating, so these products need additional incentive to keep the product moving.  So, I stock up on garbage food that cost me next to nothing?  What if I become so conditioned to not spending money, that I don’t enjoy my life while I still have it?  What good is a huge bank account at 40, if I die at 45 because of the stresses I’ve imposed on my body and mind during that time?  What good is “retirement” at 65, if I’m only going to live 5 more years?

Proven Solutions

Yo-yo dieting fails because of the mind-body issue associated with deprivation combined with the body acclimating to new caloric levels.  The “slow and steady” approach with everything in moderation results in solid weight loss that sticks.  Increase exercise, decrease intake (many different perspectives on which intakes to reduce and how much), and slowly, but surely, the weight will come off.  Come on, you didn’t get fat in one month, did you?  How long did you think it will take to lose it?

In Personal Wealth terms, though, this seems like the “Work Your Whole Life for a Pension” plan.  And we’re back to “What good is it to retire at 65, so I can die 5 years later?”  There has a be a better way, right?

Hacking the System

I’ve often used this metaphor when a client attempts to use “averages” to make decisions, but completely ignores the persistent huge swing back and forth.  If your head is in the oven, but your feet are in the freezer, “on average” you’re comfortable, right?

If slow and steady wins the race, is there some way to turn up the heat (as it were) on the process, and still keep an “average” that results in expedited progress?

The Cycle Diet takes our natural metabolic processes, and turns them in our favor.  Without going into all the detail, periods of reduced caloric intake create the weight loss, but then there’s a weekly binge to throw the pattern off.  This doesn’t just keep your body from thinking it’s starving, it actually triggers what’s called situational hypermetabolism.  Quite a few programs are now leveraging the findings of the Cycle Diet.  The Four-Hour Body and Paleo diet, for example, similarly work this same angle, though each works a bit differently.  The key point is that the program becomes more effective, at least partly, because rather than feeling deprived, there’s a reward waiting at the end of the tunnel that makes each day of “suffering” a bit more tolerable.  Then on cheat day, you can eat that piece of cake or have that date night at the fancy Italian restaurant.  In fact, if you’ve been having a hard time making time for that special moment to rekindle a mature relationship, having a cheat day makes you put date night on the calendar.  Mine is Saturday, and we use that as our chance to visit the restaurants we review and blog about. We can have the decadent dessert, appetizers, and the works to get a full appreciation of the menu and still be on program.

If you haven’t heard of the P90 Workout, it’s an exercise regimen that works for muscles just like the Cycle diet works for the metabolism. Through a process called “muscle confusion”, the efficiencies that Dr. Lee warns us about are averted.  New muscle groups and movements are rotated through so that you get a complete workout yet the plateauing phenomenon is bypassed.  The boredom of constantly Sweating to the Oldies or Tae Bo’ing to the same DVD for months on end is also avoided.

As Yogi Berra said, “90% of [the game] is mental”, and this is the same with any program requiring you to change your behaviors, especially if it involves some form of austerity, such as a cash fast.

Hacking Your Psyche – For The Win

If doing without is just too hard to stick with, and all that sacrifice results in a backlash of horrific eating, spending, or loafing — maybe we can learn some lessons from the successes in the Cycle Diet and P90 regimen.

Here’s an idea:  After a month of cutting out fancy coffees, dining out, and cigarettes, use half of that big chunk of savings to take a day trip.  Make it a reward for all that hard work.  Knowing what’s waiting, after success, might just make it easier to say “no” to those expensive habits.  Then, after those habits are broken, the motivational tool becomes less and less necessary, at the pace that makes cents.

Maybe progress won’t be as fast as going on a 90-day cash fast.  But, if you don’t make it through the cash fast, it becomes easier to label yourself a failure, and just give up on the whole thing – the dreams, the goals, and the effort required.  Slap on the shackles and head back on into wage slavery. It’s a gilded cage, right… that’s not SO bad…

Being able to set goals at which you can succeed are key to accomplishing anything long term.  The first time I physically fasted, I had no idea what to expect.  The same thing for the first time I ran a 5k, then 10k.  I’m sure you see where this is going.  Little wins create confidence that turn into the big wins.

Have you found a way to hack yourself and wire yourself to win in some other area?   Do you think you can leverage what you’ve learned about yourself to win in the new and scary place?  Share the lessons you’ve learned in the comments below.






Cash Fast! Making It in the Modern World

Cash Fast! Making It in the Modern World

It’s as pervasive as the wind, and it’s as old as the hills… Make a ton of money and retire early! Become Financially Independent and Retire Early.  Master the market and become a day-trader.  Invest in real estate and become a tycoon.  More money, more sex, more parties, more… More… MORE!

Are you ready to make your cash-flow get HYPER!?

Read More Read More

Three Words That Guarantee You Pay 4x Too Much

Three Words That Guarantee You Pay 4x Too Much

Words are powerful.  Quoth Edward Bulwer-Lytton, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”  And these three words have more power than you might realize.  When you utter them, chances are you are rushing headlong into an experience guaranteed to launch dollars out of your wallet like a T-Shirt cannon.  You turn to your special someone and utter these magic words of spending commitment …

Three Little Words

Go… Out… For…

Hey, would you like to:

  • Go out for drinks
  • Go out for a bite
  • Go out for a coffee
  • Go out for breakfast
  • Go out for lunch
  • Go out for dinner
  • Go out for a movie

When you “go out for an experience, you’re easily spending four times what you would at home for the products you are consuming.  In some cases, it’s as much as ten times.  How much does a cocktail cost when you mix it at home vs. paying $15 (before tip) to experience it “on the town” (three more magic words), at a smoke-filled bar where you can barely hear one another.  “THIS IS GREAT, ISN’T IT?!”   “NO, I THINK IT’S APPLE!!”

I realize there’s something special about going to certain places one can’t possibly, and shouldn’t try to, simulate oneself.  “Let’s go out for a drag race”, probably shouldn’t ever be in the comfort of one’s own home.  Seeing your favorite band on tour or a Mixed Martial Arts fight… not in my living room!  But, do you really need to do those expensive things every morning/night/weekend?

And I’m not suggesting you never leave the house.  Have a picnic.  Get outside.  Do Stuff!  But the markup on experience services is so ludicrous, it’s a habit that’s worth breaking — even if you just start cutting back a little.  Instead of “going out for a movie”, pop a bag of popcorn, watch some Netflix and chill.  Instead of going out to eat, get the same meal “take out” in the park and save on the expensive appetizer, bottle of wine, dessert, and tip.

A small start by cutting back on just one type of frivolous expense a week can ramp up into sensible habits that stick with you and turn into serious savings over time.  Who knows?  Maybe by cutting back on lattes for while, you’ll be able to pick up a cappuccino in Milan and have a truly memorable experience with your savings.

What’s one “go out” experience you know you can cut back on this month that you’re probably better off doing without forever?










Bald and Free: What would you be willing to do?

Bald and Free: What would you be willing to do?

On my journey of self, one of my first shifts in frugality that has actually stuck with me, was an investment in a nice set of clippers. I never went to fancy salons to get expensive haircuts by any stretch. But when I thought it through, shaving my head was about far more than saving a few dollars on hair cuts.  I usually went to a SuperCuts or Cost Cutters, so it was only $12 or so, before tip (unless I had a coupon). Recognizing that time is money, I had to drive there, wait for my turn, remit payment, and drive home, on top of paying cash for the cut and tip for the worker.

Barber Shop Sign

Barbers? Where we’re going, there won’t be any barbers!

When I started reconsidering my life and thinking about luxuries we might no longer have available if I lived off of savings in (aka “retired to”) the remote parts of Costa Rica or Mexico, I imagined that getting to the barber might be one of those little complications I could do without. I also considered that I might be able to use the money I was spending on haircuts for something more meaningful, so I went for it.

A few things made this easier for me than it might for others:

  1. I am male,
  2. I’m getting old enough that people don’t assume anything weird when I have little hair up top, and
  3. A career I had pursued early in life was as a cosmetologist, so I was familiar with the tools,
  4. Buzzcuts are in… The Rock, Vin Diesel, Patrick Stewart, Bruce Willis, et. al. are all sporting nearly hair-free, carefree, hair styles.

But this change wasn’t just about who cuts my hair, it was also about giving up my attachment to having “nice hair”.   My concern about people’s response to my new lack of hair was holding me back. Once I worked up the courage, I haven’t looked back. I’ve just gone shorter and shorter. I started with a size “4” guard, and now I’m down to a “1”.

Rather than getting a haircut every 8 weeks or so (looking pretty shaggy in those last few weeks), now I have a fresh trim every week. Just put the guard on, and swoosh it all over the noggin until it stop making the “cutty” sound. Every weekend, I touch up my ‘do, and look fresh as a daisy. Once in a while, I’ll notice a spot when rubbing my hand around on my head that maybe I didn’t do so well on and feels longer than the rest. That helps me improve my skills, and I can just go at it with the clippers and fix it in a jiffy.

How much does this really save?

With little hair, I barely use any shampoo and don’t need conditioner at all. My haircuts take about five minutes from the moment I decide I want to do it until it’s done. Rather than feeling an itchy back for a few hours after the cut, I can trim up right before I shower, and all of those itchy bits wash right away.

In hard hair cut savings, I’ve gone from

  • $15 every 8 weeks = $97.50 a year


  • $30 for the trimmers that have lasted 5 years so far

But when you factor in the ease of maintenance, lack of hair products, and time savings… it comes out to a whole lot more.

Metaphor for Minimalism

The reason I share this story is not necessarily with the intent of kicking off a sweeping craze of opt-in baldies like myself.  With this shift in my thinking, the change required, the courage required, and the shift of focus from ego and working to please others to that of attaining peace through minimalism, are representative of many changes you can make to reorient your world from rampant consumerism, keeping up with the Joneses, and other reckless spending.

With the confidence that these changes are okay, and that I’ll be okay after making them, I started making other little changes.  Little changes add up to big dreams getting closer and closer.

What will help you find your happy?

  • A tiny house?
  • To fulltime in your RV?
  • To attain peace in your life?
  • Good health?

No matter what you’re going for, one foot down the path is far better than both up on the sofa.  What small things can or have you done to start down the road to your life goals, that are actually attainable? Share your story in the comments below.








Everything You Know is Wrong

Everything You Know is Wrong

I’m not sure what put me here, but my world as an adult was focused upon pushing myself harder and harder to get more and more.  Maybe it’s simply because I was a child of the 80’s, wherein Alex P. Keaton rejected his parents’ hippie ways to become a business-minded youth.  That was pretty much my speed at a very young age.  I needed to unlearn, as wise Yoda instructs in the Empire Strikes Back

Make More or Do More With Less

Minimalism is not that you should own nothing... but that nothing should own you.
Minimalism is not that you should own nothing… but that nothing should own you.

In order to free myself from wage slavery, either I needed to become incredibly rich with passive revenue streams out the wazoo from God-only-knows-where, or I need to start cutting back.  Of course, I did what every red-blooded American is conditioned to do… try to become incredibly rich with passive income streams, of course!  I’m sure I’ll get into the details of all that madness at some point or another.  However, suffice it to say, that’s not where I ended up.

My lessons from this path substantially reinforced Ludwig Mies van der Rohe‘s well-worn quote, “Less Is More”.  Everything I own seems to end up owning me.  The big house needs dusting.  The lawn needs to be mowed and patched up.  The lawn mower needs a tune-up.  And the list just goes on and on.  Where does the time go? It goes to taking care of the accumulated “trophies” of material gain.  More time comes from less “stuff”

Work Smarter, Not Harder

In order to make do in my life, rather than make doo (💩) of my life, I needed to understand how to work smarter, not harder.  Not in the general sense, mind you – that seemed obvious.  But, how does someone live a simpler life?  What do they do?  How do they live?  What fills their days?

So I began to research my buns off.  I started looking into all sorts of ways that would allow me to jettison my existence of excess, my life of luxury, and finally face frugality.  These were only a few of the method of frugal living I looked into as a means of escaping the rat race:

  • Retiring to Costa Rica/Mexico
  • Extreme Couponing
  • Minimalism
  • Tiny House Living
  • Self-Sufficient Living (backyard farming/solar power)
  • Van Life

Each one of these investigations yielded a unique world of interesting tools, techniques and tips.  The attempts at mastery of these skills combined have shaped my concept of a meaningful and interesting existence.  Not one of them is right or wrong, in and of themselves, but each must be approached and implemented in moderation.


Working On Happy

Working On Happy

Depression… Anger… Sadness… Despair…

Before the pursuit of my “new life”, these were the emotions I endured every day.  I made “good money”, as they say, but I felt empty.  Hundred hour weeks weren’t uncommon. I have a solid technical skill set, a drive to excel, and a mind that lets me process information quickly. Between all of these things, I have always been in demand.  I have never found myself out of work or without opportunity, as so many others appear to have experienced.  Part of my so-called success involved the sacrifice of traveling.  I would go to where the money was, imposing a distance between me and my wife and kids.  When I came back home, friends and family would ask, “So how was Nashville?” (or wherever I went for that particular gig), and I would have no idea.

Angry Bird
Things aren’t all they were cracked up to be for this bird. He needs to work on his happy.

Traveling for work often involved researching a new client, preparing for (or documenting the results of) meetings and presentations, and participating in “mandatory fun” with clients and peers who feel alienated when an invitation to a night on the town is ignored. The crappiest part about the mandatory fun is that, while socially expected of you, you don’t really have a choice in the matter, and certainly you don’t get to bill for that time — after all, this is fun, right?  Having a handler plan 112 hours of your week, while getting paid for 40 of it isn’t fun. It actually sucks, even when you’re paid a lot for those 40.

Extroverts have no idea how draining it is for an introverted person to be drug from one crowded bar to another through the teeming streets of some bustling metropolis in search of the perfect night spot.  I would rather get up at dawn than stay up until its arrival. It’s far quieter then — downright placid.  Even Manhattan at 5am, just as the sun is peeking over the horizon, is a far different beast than she is at 1am, when everyone’s peacocking and strutting, trying to find someone to love, if even for just the evening.

As a result, I would come home from a work trip feeling miserable and exhausted. Between the travel itself on both ends and the 15+ hour days of prepping for then performing the actual work, I had nothing left to give when I got home to my family. I would pretty much pass out once I got home, for nearly the entire weekend, until I had to go off again the next week and repeat the process. I was useless to those for whom I sincerely thought I was working so hard.

What was it all for?  What was I truly gaining?  Money?

Mental Preparation for Happiness

My situation at that time reminds me of this story I heard repeatedly along my travels about a consultant who, while on holiday, stumbles across a fisherman. The consultant imposes his first world perspectives and ideals of success upon the fisherman, only to realize after his circuitous logic fails, that the fisherman is already living his ideal life. This causes the consultant to rethink his life.  This little parable is so commonly used, I can’t remember where I heard it first, but I’ve certainly heard it a few times.  Each time, like some books, such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the story can take a different meaning and trigger different insights, depending upon your maturity and context of your existential journey at the time of reading.

Love birds grooming.
It’s important to work. As long as it’s something you love.

It became obvious I was living in a gilded cage. I started searching for an answer to improving my health, my relationship with my wife, and my overall happy.   Was I working too many hours?  Was I working inefficiently?  Should I change my career?  Will working always demand this much of me?  I knew I needed a way out, but I didn’t know exactly what I was doing wrong or how to get “out”.  After all, I still had to make payments on my gilded cage, see my kids through college, and all of the other things for which I was working so much.

Along my journey, I read (through audiobook while driving back and forth across the state to work and school), Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.  Her work really hit home for me, as I was often one of the key producers in an organization or on a project, and there was generally little correlation between effort and reward. These sacrifices were often made in exchange for the perception of safety. In the end, I’m always and only employed at the convenience of my employer/customer.

While I might produce ten times as much as the next person, I was making fractionally more than the lowest paid member of the team.  Imagine working on a help desk, cranking out 25 tickets an hour, while everyone else squeezes out two or three.  In exchange for this production level, rather than any type of reward, imagine receiving  a reprimand to “pace yourself” and even threats from co-workers that if you didn’t slow down, there’s going to be some vigilante justice to impose group norms and protect their jobs.  This situation isn’t all that unusual or uncommon.  If only I could find myself a way to escape to Galt’s Gulch, where everyone worked at their capability and was directly rewarded for their work.  This seemed like part of my ideal life, rather than watching some folks skate by and cash in on the efforts of the few with ideas for working smarter and the wherewithal and downright gumption to make a plan and stick with it until it becomes reality.

Piece this together with a few other books I would read along the way, and my mental kettle was quickly accelerating from tepid to overboil.

The Four Hour Work Week: Again, this book was actually consumed in audiobook form. The first and longest part of the book is about some relatively standard small business “hacks”, if you will. Ultimately, you should stop working “in” your business and start working “on” your business.  It’s good stuff if you’ve never learned these lessons. I’ve grown accustomed to consuming books, blogs, and so forth that merely repeat a thousand things I’ve already heard in hopes of learning one meaningful new tidbit.  Timothy Ferris did not disappoint.  What really struck a chord for me was the “Now What?” section.  I’ll paraphrase a few points that really hit home and made me rethink my path in life:

You’ve done it.  You only need to work four hours a week to keep the money flowing in that allows you to live the life of your dreams.  Now for the hard part, what IS that life?  What do you do, when you can do whatever you want to do?  Ultimately, who are YOU?

One in four couples over 50 divorce (aka grey divorce).  One theory is that their previously divided lives fail to converge successfully with the increased free time that retirement brings. Earlier, the spouses had completely different paths, evolved separately, and specialized in order to succeed at the game of life. While one focused on children, the other on career, and now that’s it’s time to spend time together, they hardly know (or like) one another.

To wrap this up and shorten what might otherwise be a long and arduous tale. My introspective journey went pretty much as follows:

    • Who am I, really?
      • That’s a huge question.  Let’s start with something easier…
    • What do I really enjoy doing with my time?
      • It certainly isn’t “work”, is it?  Admittedly, I enjoy being productive, but I wouldn’t volunteer somewhere just to do my “job”, would I? (more on that later)
    • What would I do if I could do anything I want to with the rest of my life?
      • Travel
        • Hiking
        • Biking
        • Flying
        • Seeing new places
      • Cook
      • Spend quality time with my wife
      • Take pictures of cool stuff
        • Nature
        • Architecture
        • Animals
        • People watching (Is that covered by “animals” already?)
      • Make movies
      • Teach people stuff
    • What’s keeping me from doing those things, even if just a little bit, right now?

Once I got past the hard part (the first three questions), it dawned on me that the biggest hurdle to start doing what I wanted to do and being who I wanted to be, was me.  I just needed to put my mind to it, and start working on these things.  I needed to stop working on “my job”, stop working on “my education”, stop working on “moving up the ladder” and start working on happy.


Grand Tetons
It’s almost within reach. We can see the top of the mountain from where we are now.  Many small steps, and we should make it!

And so I started moving in the right direction… a few years down the road, I see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I’ve had some good times, learned quite a few things, patched up my marriage, and truly believe in my work for a change.

Since one of my life goals is to teach people stuff, I thought I’d start a blog, vlog, or whatever the  kids are doing these days, as a mechanism to integrate all of my life goals.  By sharing what I’ve learned, maybe someone else will begin a similar journey. If just one more person were to start working on happy because of something I did or said, it would make me feel more accomplished than any of the superficial “success” rungs I’ve ever climbed before.

Photo Credits

One of my key aspirations is to express my creativity through capturing the beauty of nature through photography and videography.  All of the photos on this site were taken by me, The Happy Camper.


Because my wife and I still work for our wage slave masters, while I viciously attack the concept of such servitude in this medium, I will use a pen name and refrain from being directly visible in any of the photos or videos.  This is because “the man” isn’t terribly interested in having people work for them who aren’t in it for the “long haul.”  Just as companies can fire someone when it’s right for them, I reserve the right to quit my job when it’s right for me, and would prefer not to gain any unwanted attention from the overlords until then.

My Gear

Starting out:

Current Gear:


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Affiliate Links

You can help me achieve my dream purchasing any products you would normally buy from Amazon using my affiliate link. The Amazon Affiliate program allows content producers (like me) to earn a small commission for any customers referred to Amazon.  The cool thing is that the customers don’t pay any more for their purchases than they normally would. This allows viewers and readers to help support content creators without incurring any extra expense.

Thank you for your support of my happy! Any money that I earn from these ads, whether from advertising or Amazon Affiliate sales, allows me to focus more on creating content and take my steps to escape from wage slavery.

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