Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Thursday, September 11, 2003day link 

 A day in the life
picture Oops, I forgot to blog for a whole week. No particular reason, other than that I've gotten into a daily routine, and there were plenty of other things going on each day, which took more of my attention.

And I still don't have DSL, so I'm still not as plugged into the rest of the blog world as I used to be. My phone line somehow registers as being not suitable for DSL, even though those of my neighbors are perfectly suitable. So, the person who signed me up had some technicians look at it, and decided that of course it should work for me too. But when other people in the same company then look at it, they've forgotten that, and the line just comes up as being unavailable. So I have to work through that maze. Oh, it isn't particularly harder than in the U.S. I had similar problems when I first got DSL in Van Nuys, and it also took more than a month. The language just makes it slightly harder to negotiate myself through things.

Part of the trick here, to pretty much anything, is that you know somebody. There is such a drastic contrast between the cold bureaucracy you often meet first, and the personal service of somebody who knows you. They don't have to be your pals from highschool or anything; I'm just talking about that they've met you a couple of times and recognize you. Like, at the France Telecom office, I asked for the same lady I had talked with a couple of weeks before. And she recognized me right away and came over and shook my hand and apologized that she had to finish up with some other people first, and she brought me a glass of water. And then, when she heard that I had taken the bus to their office, which is a little outside of town, and I had to walk a bit to get there, she said that, oh, I shouldn't have to walk back in that heat. So she got one of the other employees to drive me to town in his car. I would like to point out that nobody at the phone company in L.A. has ever driven me home, let alone recognized me and come out to greet me.

My older kids, Marie and Zachery, go to French classes at Alliance Francaise every day. Which has already made a huge difference, and they come home chatting away in French. Already after 3 days, Marie, who a week before insisted that French was just impossible to learn, was suddenly answering phone calls in French, and having a great time with it. The class is 3 1/2 hours every day, and lots of extra activities too, and chances to hang out with other people who've come here from all over the world.

Not much change in my work or money situation, so our life is still very modest. I.e. we can pay the rent and eat cheaply and ride the metro, and that is about it. Not that that is horrible in any way. I just prefer a little more abundance and freedom of movement. I got a couple of small new contracts, but I'm still looking for more significant business opportunties.

I'm still looking for some opening into getting a French social security card, while I'm waiting for paperwork I need for my Carte de Sejour (residence permit) card. Like, I need (I believe) fresh copies of birth certificates, with nice looking stamps on them, and in the proper language. I've gotten somewhat conflicting information about that, but I'll try to be as prepared as possible. The local Danish consul (who didn't speak any Danish, and not much English), and the Danish embassy in Paris, were very friendly and helpful in providing information, and in translating birth certificates to French. The local U.S. consulate, and the U.S. embassy in Paris, however, seem rather rude and uncooperative by comparison. Whereas the Danish Consul was somebody I just come by and visit, who spent quite some time with me, trying to help me as best he could, the U.S. consulate can only be contacted through an answering machine, asking for an appointment, which will only be available on Wednesdays. It took them about a week to call back. And then they insisted on sending me some papers I'd need to ask for birth certificates (which I probably already have), after which I have to call again to get an appointment to see the Consul. And I haven't received anything from them after about a week. And really, all I needed was a notary public to notarize a signature on a form that I could fax to the U.S. and I'd have the birth certificates I needed in a week or so.

My wife Birgit finally found a library that she could borrow books at. That took about four tries. The local library we first found was closed for the summer at first. And the English library that seems to exist at the university is not going to be open before the end of the month.

And little Nadia has found kids to play with at the playground. So life is pretty good for all of us.

Oh, we'd really kind of like to receive our stuff from the U.S. soon. We still have just the clothes we carried in our suitcases. Somehow the shipping thing turned out to be a bigger hassle than expected. First of all it was shipped a couple of weeks late, because they couldn't get a ship for it for some reason. And for some strange reason, they shipped it to England instead of to Marseille. And apparently it takes a while to clear customs and everything, and then they need to look for a truck that drives this way. Hopefully within a week. Not that we've been missing terribly much, but there's a few items that could come in handy.
[ | 2003-09-11 07:22 | 4 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

picture There's a secret to how to live a relaxed and secure life. It is unfortunately one I haven't mastered very well myself, but I do have an idea of what it is about. It is simply that to do many things in life without being stressed about them, you need to get them out of your mind and embedded into a system which will run on automatic, even when you aren't paying attention.

This applies to money making, and it applies to organization.

As I've mentioned before, most people aren't actually making a living by doing good work and being duly rewarded for it. They do it by having a system in place that pays them money. The low level way of doing that is having a job. You show up every day, appear to be doing what looks like a job, and you get a paycheck every two weeks. More successful people have set up other kinds of systems. The most successful and leisurely way of making a living is to have set up a system that pays you each month forever, without requiring that you show up for anything, or do anything. That is called residual income. You happen to have invested some money wisely, or you've patented something or created something that people pay you royalties for. Or you happen to have gotten in early on some multi-level marketing scheme and have thousands of people paying you percentages. Or you have this website that sells things while you sleep. All of those are systems. You've set up something that will work automatically, with as little involvement from you as possible. The more involvement you have, and the more it depends on your daily work, the more you're a slave to work. And the more it has nothing to do with your actual daily work, the more you have succeeded and freed yourself. The more you can pass the buck on to somebody else who will do actual work, the better. In a capitalistic society, the ultimate accomplishment is to have a lot of capital which you can lend to others, and which they're forced to bring back to you with interest, without you being involved in how.

But it isn't just about passing the buck and living off of the work of others. It is also simply that it is generally a good idea to figure out how to do the most with the least possible effort.

That might be more obvious when applied to organization. Organization is generally about setting up a system that best deals with the stuff that is there to do, requiring the least possible brains to manage it every day. If there's a job to do, and a bunch of people to do it, you don't want to every day try to figure out how to do everything all over again. You'll make up an outline of how things will flow. Orders come in here, then they go over there, and these people here pack things in boxes, and those over there keep track of the numbers, and somebody answers the phone, etc. You set up certain posts, certain hats that somebody can wear, and some lines between them. And then, even if the posts are manned by half-asleep minimum wage employees, things are likely to get done. There's a system in place, and the system keeps things running, somewhat on automatic.

Same thing with my personal organization. Bills go into this basket, letters to answer go into this one, and there are file folders for everything, and a routine for doing things. A good system would require minimum attention, and one doesn't have to be very awake to carry it out. You just follow the system. A well designed personal organization system will take all the things to keep track of out of your mind, and down on pieces of paper or lists or in computer programs, or whatever it is that works. And you can just relax and concern yourself with more interesting things, trusting that the system is keeping track of things for you.

It is almost like it is a step in human evolution. If we're smart enough, we can potentially free ourselves from repetitive work and unnecessary stress. We figure things out well once, and then hand most of the job over to a system of some kind. And if it at some point is found not to work so well, we change the system. But we'd spend most of our consciousness on the things in life we actually enjoy spending it on, rather than on solving the same problems over and over again. So, maybe, if we successfully offload more of our lives to automation, we might pass on to another level of evolution.

I don't know. That's an idea. I can't say that I typically find rich MLM people or super neat people terribly evolved or worthy of admiration. But there's something to it somewhere. Some kind of message that we'll only survive if we can manage to offload bigger chunks of our lives into automated systems. Or there just isn't enough hours in the day to making a living and keep track of all you want to keep track of. A lot of us are drowning in things to do, and don't have a chance of doing it all the hard way.

As I said, I haven't really figured this out in some key areas of my life. I tend to end up doing most things the hard way. I work for a living, and the moment I stop or slow down, my checkbook is empty. And my desk is crowded with paper. I don't always remember to pay bills, and I often can't find where I put certain papers.

I do notice that some people do these things fairly naturally and effortlessly. Their desks are clear, and when something needs doing, they don't just volunteer to do it. They typically will find the way of doing things that requires as little involvement of their time and resources as possible. I need to study how that works.

Doing more with less. That's what I think I'm talking about. The right system can leverage your energy to you get the most done of what needs to be done, using the least possible resources. Which then can be free for other endeavors.
[ | 2003-09-11 17:19 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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