All posts by Carl

Why I’ve Been So Quiet

To be honest, I’ve been neglecting you.

That’s right – I’ve applied my warcry of I Don’t Care to you.

It’s not that I don’t like you – surely you’re my readers, I appreciate you greatly.

But life has its way of changing things – and it’s changed me these past few months.

To give you a brief rundown of how I’ll use a nice easy to read set of bullet points.

•  Roadtrip Disconnect

I finished a month long roadtrip this summer with an amazing woman.  I learned a great deal about living on the road even though I had been doing it for nearly eight months.  What it’s like to take care of your space, be direct and honest with other people, reach out when you need to, and take care of myself both physically and mentally.

The roadtrip also helped me disconnect from a number of addictions or habits I had cultivated over the years.  An addiction to being connected was broken because I was in a car in the middle of nowhere half the time where my iPhone didn’t even get voice service.  An addiction to coffee was broken when in Chicago I made the decision to cut it out of my life.  Three months later and I don’t need coffee or caffeine, my energy levels are more even (I wake up naturally without an alarm about 9:30am everyday) and I don’t spend as much money feeding that addiction.

I cultivated a practice of doing yoga every morning.  I call it a practice and not a habit because it’s a conscious choice every morning to get up and flow through my sequence – it’s a part of my centering each day.  On top of that I added rigorous body weight intervals to increase strength, endurance, and power (while home I managed to add about 8 lbs. of muscle mass in less than 6 weeks).

•  Family

While there I helped (i.e. smooth talked) them renovate my old bedroom into a library space.  This involved sorting through about two decades of attic and storageroom stuff of theirs and sending it to Goodwill, the dump or repackaging it for sale or storage.  Then tearing out a ceiling and a wall, sanding down a floor, staining the floor and building a wall to wall bookcase with my dad.

Additionally I spent time helping my father after a surgery around the house.  Cutting down trees that had been bent over in an ice storm last winter.  Chopping firewood for the external wood furnace that heats our house.

Spending time helping my family through a bit of a rough patch, involving myself in manual labor and creating something with my hands, helping my family streamline a bit of their life – these things have so much reward for me and they took precedence.

•  Retreat

I went on a weeklong retreat in Hartland, Vermont hosted by Vida Samiha that focused on sustainability in our lives.  It began with a workshop focusing on Design Thinking, Permaculture and the intersection with Social Movements.  Tasked to implement these strategies in relationship to a project we were involved in, it really helped clarify where I wanted to go with my work-career-liberation path.

The rest of the week focused on the retreat space where we could reflect on specific terms like oppression, sustainability, and privilege in our lives.  It allowed me to connect with individuals doing exceptional work in their communities, explore concepts in a new way, and revisit activist (both socially and ecologically) roots that I have let stagnate.

As part of the retreat I got to share the ideas of the lifestyle design community and the vagabonding community with everyone, including a 45 minute talk about my expulsion from Canada, my embracing of a transient life and minimalism (including the 100 item challenge).

•  Coaching

I started exploring the possibility of adding life coaching to my repertoire of skills.  I reached out to a few life coaches I know personally and they explained their entry to the field, how they operate and some valuable lessons they have learned in the process (Jonathan Mead talks a bit about this in the latest conversation we had).

As part of this process, in addition to researching it, reading about the practice and studying the concepts I had my first coaching session with Jenny Blake from Life After College.  It was an amazing experience.  She guided me through some visualizations which guided me to a re-imagining of my path in life.   It also included an wonderful visual image for me about how I will walk through the world and enact change.

The following work I did at the Retreat and at home has led me to the place where I will be retiring Slacker Reform.  Even though I love the name, the work I do here and what it embodies – it lacks a certain mindfulness and calm that I want to embody in my life.

So where does this leave you?

The path I will be walking through the world will involve the retirement of Slacker Reform, however, it will be the birth of the Drop Of Change website and blog.

Drop Of Change’s mission is to create sustainable, curious and mindful living.

I hope you follow me on my path to the Drop Of Change – I will continue to write about personal development, lifestyle design, life hacking and all of the issues I address here but the tone of the site will change from Slacker Reform and I will add issues that are important to me like sustainability, design thinking, spirituality, physical practices and more.

If you are interested in the path I have chosen to walk, please visit my personal vision statement that was the culmination of my time at the Vida Samiha retreat.

If you are interested in contacting me, please e-mail me at carl(at)slackerreform(dot)com.

Liberation Artist Conversation – Jonathan Mead Revisited

LiberationArtist JonathanMead Liberation Artist Conversation   Jonathan Mead Revisited

I’m excited to bring you another conversation with Liberation Artist Jonathan Mead.  Jonathan is a liberation badass.  This year he quit his real job and moved into coaching and writing full time.

I had the opportunity to first speak with Jonathan back in the spring and you can find that interview here.

There’s been a lot of change and growth since then and in this conversation we talk about our own personal growth both personally and on a more business level.  We’re not just talking about this online world either – we explore how we each explain the juncture of the personal development online community and the social worlds we inhabit offline, how we help to enrich the world and communities around us, and inspire others to go out and create change in the world.

Reverse-engineering motivations, how life coaching changes both the coach and the client, and why he’s been holed up in a cave (i.e. desk) for a month.

Listen to it here (Donald Trump apprentices need not apply):

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Jonathan Mead is the author of the Zero Hour Workweek and Reclaim Your Dreams.  He’s a regular contributor to Zen Habits.  Runs the Black Sheep Project with Jared Kessler.  Is the Lead Ass-Kicker for Project Mojave.  And is ready to launch his own e-course on how to Get Paid to Exist – an indepth examination about how to turn your passion and skill into a saleable skill.

Excuse the breathing into the microphone – I sound like I’ve got a respiratory disorder.

Words to Live Your Life By

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Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

That depends a good deal on where you want to go, said the Cat.

I don’t much care where, said Alice.

Then it doesn’t matter which way you go, said the Cat.

Lewis Carroll

Do you much care where you are going?

I’m sure you do.  If you’re reading this you’re probably much more interested in where you are in your life and where you are going that the majority of people I meet.  Perhaps that rings of a bit of cynicism for the general populace – regardless.

Living your life with a certain care, a certain aesthetic or design requires a conscious choice of the values that will guide us.  Otherwise we are asking for directions without having a sense where we should be going.  We need not be as blithely unaware as Alice though.

So how do we determine our values?

There are many ways, but this is one way I find effective for myself.

Find a quiet space for yourself where you can sit and contemplate.  This may be headphones in during your lunch break, in the park, in your favorite arm chair – whatever is truly comfortable for you.

Close your eyes (after you’ve finished reading this).

Take one, two, three slow deep breathes.  With each inhale let your body relax and fill with calm.  With each exhale let go of the troubles of your day, the worries and the practicalities.  You can get back to them later.

Think about this question: What values do I seek to embody?

Turn it over in your mind, stretch it out, look at it from as many angles as you want.  This question is about you. Not your work, your family, or your art.

Picture the person you are in five years – wiser, experienced, learned.

What values does that person embody?

Open your eyes, write down anything that came to your mind.  Spend a few minutes writing these things down.

Now look at your list and determine common themes.  Repackage them into groups by connecting them with arrows or circling them together.

For each group write out a sentence or two about what that group of kindred values means to you.  By giving your value groups specific meaning clarifies what it is embody those values for you.

Words are merely jumbled letters unless meaning is attached.

In determining the meaning for each of your value groups you will realize some values are more shallow or less important than others.  Select the top five or six value groups that you seek to embody.  Clarify them further.

Repeat this exercise on occasion. At the beginning you may notice your values are material or connected to things in the world, as you repeat this exercise you will find that they become more about who you are.

If you want to see my values which I re-examined recently, click here.

Flickr photo by Kelsey Shay.

Re-Imagining for the Future – Feedback Please

Sometimes you outgrow a place in pursuit of your purpose and must accept to leave it and move on to the next step – that is what will be happening in the future.

And so I turn to you, my readers, friends and network, for comments and suggestions on the redirection and branding behind my future blog venture. This time I’ve got a clear purpose and plan and that starts with hearing from you.

An Interview with Cath Duncan – The Bottom-line Bookclub

 An Interview with Cath Duncan   The Bottom line Bookclub

Cath Duncan – Life Coach & Location Independent Professional

And all around awesome person.

I had the opportunity to meet Cath in Denver for lunch when she was traveling through the U.S. for a month with her husband.  We had a great time and snapped the above photo.  It really goes to show how you can develop strong connections with people across the globe that resonate with your lifestyle through social networking, blogging and more.

I interviewed Cath last week about her entry into the world of Location Independent living and her Bottom-line Bookclub series.

She shares some fantastic stories about her transition into location independent living and the online world as a complete newbie and the challenges it presented her with.  Her ability to understand problems and how to ask smart and open questions really provides insights into how we should approach the difficulties in our life.

She also delves into how our perspective influences the options we see in our lives and how, once we change our way of viewing the world, we open up to the opportunities that were there before us but we failed to acknowledge.  Removing the blinders enables us to focus in a whole different manner.

Please enjoy this interview with Cath Duncan.

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The Bottom-line Bookclub

BLBC banner7 An Interview with Cath Duncan   The Bottom line BookclubHer Bottom-line Bookclub series takes one personal development book each month and breaks it down into its core ideas.  It’s easy to skim over books and material and fail to put that knowledge into action, instead the Bottom-line series gives you a workbook with exercises meant to guide you through the growth process.

This month the book was The Flipside by Adam Jackson.  The Bookclub also includes interviews with the authors, a social network to collaborate with other members, and daily tips.

Get a free copy of last months Bottom-line book – Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pam Slim – by giving Cath your feedback just by filling out this survey.

Disclaimer: This post does include affiliate links for the Bottom-line Bookclub and by helping to spread the word I’ll earn a percentage on any sales made here.  I don’t endorse many products here at Slacker Reform but Cath’s Bookclub is an excellent program and if you enjoyed the interview and filled out the survey (do it, it’s free!) and still want in on the Bookclub please use one of my links and throw a few bucks my way.

What You Know is Useless (Or Why You Shouldn’t Bother to Think)

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… Without Action.

Regardless of how much you learn or how much self reflection goes on in your head – if you don’t put it to action you might as well not be thinking.

Knowledge is power.

Buddha: What we think, we become.

Our thoughts are one of our greatest resources, yet they easily become an escape – a prison in which we gladly lock ourselves.

In relationships, lifestyle design, business, health – whatever aspect of life – we escape into our thoughts as a means of avoiding the world around us.  We embark upon a quest to live among the clouds and believe we are flying when we are really falling.

Falling into complacency, habit, unconsciousness.  We fall into a life where we are no longer the governing force and become governed instead.

Is that how we want to live? In our heads – in the clouds of thoughts, drifting along in our own passing fancy?

That’s not how I want to live.  Regardless of how much positive thinking I have, if I don’t get down to business I’m really just full of it, pretending to be what I’m not.

When you learn something new, it is then that you must be bold and give that knowledge life.  Put yourself out there with the possibility of failure and stand a chance of understanding the knowledge you possess.

My most recent example:

I recently finished Keith Ferrazzi’s book on networking, Never Eat Alone, and began taking action on the information.

Networking, staying connected, being social with strangers – these are things I’ve usually been bad at or that make me uncomfortable.  Yet, something different was driving me to put into action the things I was reading about.

With each step where I reached out, called an old friend, sent followup messages, and talked to strangers, I felt emboldened to reach higher, extend my knowledge further and connect with the people I know and meet everyday.

Until I found myself sitting in an airport in an hour long conversation with a japanese student about our own lives, interests and family.  We struggled over the language barrier.  We managed to laugh a bit.  I even shared with her the information of a friend of mine who runs a photography blog when she expressed her own interests in photography – she was new to the area and would be there a while, and I believed she would benefit from knowing this particular friend.

The faster you put newly acquired knowledge into practice the faster you get past the stumbling stages and can excel at applying that knowledge.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

~Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

Reach out and engage with the world, even if your knowledge is imperfect, even if you have self doubt.  Recognize that it is there and then act anyways and own it.

What have you learned that you’ve been neglecting to act upon?

Don’t ask yourself why, you’re only escaping again with self-justifications.

Go. Do.

If you need to: 3-2-1 Go!

Flickr photo by hathu-.

The Slacker Revolution Newsletter

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This past week I made the decision to put the Slacker Revolution Newsletter to good use.  It’s been sitting idle and I can’t stand by that any longer.

So, for the first time I’ll be adding value every week to those members of the Slacker Revolution with these simple items.

A selection of articles for Slackers to peruse.

These may be inspiring, useful or just plain interesting to Slackers everywhere.

A weekly action item for Slackers to get behind.

This may be a challenge, a tip to improve oneself with, an exercise to perform, or something similar to engage in during the week to come.

A quote to inspire Slackers.

I’ll also include short commentary on how I interpret the quote in my own life.

In addition, I encourage all members of the Slacker Revolution to send me links to interesting articles, quotations, and any other feedback.

Join the Slacker Revolution Now!

rightarrow The Slacker Revolution Newsletterleftarrow The Slacker Revolution Newsletter


 The Slacker Revolution Newsletter

Flickr photo by DRB62.

Are You Ready to Make a Sacrifice? (goats not included)

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To have anything in life, you have to give something up.

That’s the way it is.

A liberated existence comes with the burden of conscious choice and with conscious choice comes the understanding of what you sacrifice to gain something. This applies across the board – finances, relationships, work, play.

My own choice to vagabond through the U.S. – and soon abroad – was a deliberate one.  I put a constant home on the block and struck it down myself.  I did not know what other sacrifices that it would take to maintain a life on the road – but as each comes up I learn and accept each for what they are.

Some are easier to let go of – not always having a comfortable bed, while others are harder to deal with – letting go of the possibility of a long term relationship.  Yet the vagabond life is one I have chosen and still pursue. It is an honest part of who I am right now and forcing myself to deny that would take me away from my path.

What have you put on the block?

Similarly, to choose self employment over a regular job is to sacrifice the goat of security.  That security comes in the form of a regular paycheck, company health insurance, colleague banter we all pine for (maybe not), and so on.  We sacrifice the security of being taken care of by a company for the freedom self employment offers.  With that freedom we take on the responsibilities that were taken care of by the company – finding clients, paying for health care, finding collaborators on projects, etc.

What is your goat a symbol of?

There are many examples of things that we offer up as sacrifices yet understanding what we gain and what we have given up is important.  Whether our sacrifices are for our sanity, our health, our freedom, our security – the choice is ours to make.

What would your sacrifice afford you the freedom to do?

Why haven’t you done it yet?

Flickr photo by Melissa Maples.

How To Get Kicked Out of Canada

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And Why It Was The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

I don’t tell this story all that often but it’s probably the biggest story in my life (so far).

Back in the fall of 2007 I was a student in Montreal, living with the woman I thought I would marry. I was a teacher and artistic director for a great dance studio, a barista at a local cafe.  I was applying to a graduate program in Educational Technology.  I did yoga and pilates regularly, and trained in capoeira when I wasn’t teaching or social dancing at night.  All things seemed to be on their merry conventional way in my life.

Cups of tea were plentiful and there were no jarring questions to shake my existence.

Fast forward to a Sunday night on a return trip from Albany, NY with my girlfriend.  We arrived at the border station at 10pm.  The guard checked our passports and said we needed to go inside.  I’d been through the border so many times it didn’t bother me.  Inside we waited. They called my name.  Took my documentation.  Asked a few standard questions, told me to sit down.

They called me back up and asked prying questions about my studies.  Something was wrong.  After the long weekend, driving, being generally exhausted, and now confused I started to panic.  I was called into a back room.  Small, gray, windowless.  A desk and two chairs.  A Quebecois border guard came in with a stack of documents and a yellow legal pad.  She did not look friendly.

Apparently they believed I had purposefully lied about my visa and study situation.  My old visa for prior undergraduate work had expired but no one had removed it.  Assuming I was studying on an expired visa and with no alternate paperwork with me to back my story up, I was out of luck.  She accused me of lying.  Badgered me.  Said I was taking advantage of their system.  It was probably after midnight by now but there were no clocks.  I was horrified.

She read a passage from the immigration law book, quoting the law I had supposedly broken.  Then two more.  The punishment, exclusion from Canada for a year.  Oh it could be much worse, I could be deported for life she said.  As if just a year was a kindness.  She handed me the card for the Consulate Generale in NYC and said that I could appeal it there but that I had no chance.  Obviously she was steadfast in her belief that her decision was law.

I was crushed, crying and really in no right space to think.  Really at a border you have no power.  But it got better.  I couldn’t just turn around.  They had to drive me back to the U.S. border.  I was locked in the back of an SUV and driven to the U.S. where they brought me inside for more paperwork.  Even the U.S. borderguards gave me crap.  Like I was in any state to receive more insult.

It was 1am.

I called my parents when I was back in the car with my girlfriend.  They say in books that people choke out words and they are right.  I had my life torn out from under me.  In 3 hours.

Life changes that fast.

Eight months later, thousands of dollars in travel expenses, lawyer fees, and immigration fees and the expulsion order was overturned as a misunderstanding.

That’s right, a misunderstanding.

In the meantime I had racked up credit card debt, moved to NYC, gotten a real job where I worked 40 to 60 hour weeks, and watched let my relationship fall apart.  3 hours and a misunderstanding had destroyed my idyllic Montreal life.

Life as we know it hangs on the edge.

Now you ask, how can that experience be one of the best things to happen to me?

Tragedy, despair, displacement, loss.  All of these things have something to teach us about ourselves, how we walk in the world and treat the things we care about.

Those 8 months weren’t the end of how low I would sink.  I turned to drinking, women, traveling and dancing to fill the voids in my life.  I ended up hurting friends, driving myself further into debt, and the tale goes on.

In all the pain and tragedy I ended up causing and feeling, I found the part of me that was strong enough to stand up, smile and make my way in the world.  It took me almost a year to sort out the layers of guilt, the feeling of powerlessness, and get my head on straight financially.  But for the adversity I withstood in a year, I have gained a strength of character and an understanding of myself that I never would have had if my life had remained idyllic.

So, besides the most obvious thing it taught me (always have a good lawyer versed in immigration laws if you are traveling, studying or working abroad), it taught me more about myself, my potential and my weaknesses, than any other series of events in my life.

Adversity and tragedy holds the potential for our greatest strength to come forward.

When we are stripped bare by loss and pain there are rarely more than 2 roads for us to choose from.

The road of apathy, self-pity, denial, anger.

The road of perseverance, courage and acceptance.

Sometimes only after we follow the first road for a while do we realize that the other road is even there.  Often not far out of reach but we can only see the brambles of self-doubt.  To realize that we can make it to the other road by steps regardless of how small they are is the biggest challenge and hardest step of all.

Each step towards the other road is the beginning of our own road and soon they are one and the same.

Tragedy shatters the reality we took for granted and we can only bury our head in the sand for so long before we suffocate.

It’s time to come up for air.  To breathe in a new life every moment and live to our greatest potential with the courage that tragedy has shown us we possess.

Flickr photo courtesy of Mechanikat.