I had a relatively long talk with a co-worker in the parking lot yesterday. He had pulled a page from his Army days and confronted a battle buddy he thought was struggling. He was right. I’m struggling. Standing there in the first sunny day of what looks like spring, we talked for quite a while about options and off-ramps.
We’ve both chewed up some of the same dirt, and have many of the same frustrations with regard to where we are professionally. It’s good to bounce ideas and thoughts off of someone like that, knowing that they aren’t going to over-react or judge you harshly. As we talked, I was able to articulate the sticky place I’m in right now… tied to geography, with few alternatives that don’t involve major readjustment of expectations. Verbalizing these things is good for me since it’s one of the best ways for me to organize thoughts and pick apart thorny problems. People who know me, know that I tend to think best when I think out loud and on the fly.
In the course of the conversation, my friend hit upon a theme I’ve come back to repeatedly as I’ve sought for a future that didn’t depend on the kind of horse shit I’ve been dealing with lately — finding a way to be self-employed. It’s a super attractive idea for many reasons, but it’s one I’m not ready to put to the test. At the moment, the risks appear to outweigh the benefits.
First, all the ideas I’ve had for financial independence from big business and big government have either failed on first contact with reality, or would require several years of zero income and simultaneous investment in business development. Zero income may be achievable with my retirement check and VA disability if my family would re-assess needs for things such as lessons, organic foods, alternative medicine, vacations of any sort, etc. But I lack the resources or equity to achieve the investments required to become profitable. I’ve also lived the consequences of a cold-turkey transition from traditional corporate drone to self-employed poorly paid artisan. I don’t think I can put my family through that.
One path I’ve seen advocated, and was taught in an entrepreneur class I took as part of my transition out of the military, is to borrow the required capital. I’ve done the homework, and more significantly, watched close friends go down that path and essentially drown in debt before ultimately folding and losing everything they put into it in the first place. In the process, they’ve set back the family finances by at least a decade. To make matters worse, I have no assets against which I can borrow. I have almost zero equity in my house. No other real-estate. No 401K of any value. My cars and other personal property aren’t worth the price I could get for scrap. There is nothing I could leverage, and so would be stuck with options like utilizing credit cards. That math won’t work.
The best alternative, then, is to build up a business as a side-hustle while I still draw a regular paycheck. I work with several people who do this, including one who works as a general contractor in the evenings building custom homes. They spend 8 hours a day at one job, then another 8 building up their hustle. I can’t do that. As-is, I leave the house within 30-40 minutes of getting out of bed, get home just in time to eat some dinner, spend a few minutes with my kids, then crash out to repeat the process again the next day. I won’t give up that little bit of time I have for maintaining relationships in exchange for piss-poor odds that I can make a success of any of my bright ideas. Hell, I don’t even have the time to really explore bright ideas, little lone figure out how to monetize them.
So, after all that, I’m stuck right back where I was. Hoping to find a way out of where I am, but convinced that I don’t have a real path to do so. I’m not willing to risk what it takes, even knowing that in doing so I would risk far less than the average entrepreneur. I guess I’m just a spineless jellyfish to scared to step into the unknown unless I’m pushed there.