Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Simple Life. A Life most Uncommon.

"You laugh at me because I'm different, I laugh at you because you're all the same."
- Jonathan Davis

Unconventional shenanigans

On Saturday evening, I was on phone with one of my best friends whose name for the purposes of this post will simply remain Shee.
At one point following a conversation inundated with laughter, Shee asked me why I deliberately opted to resign my Engineering job back in the day and following a brief freelance career in Web and Graphic Design, eventually decided reside on a small farm. She wondered why like many other people do, I didn't first work in Engineering for some years, accumulate capital, and upon resigning, go back to the village and live on the dividends of my hard labor in Engineering which in her considered opinion, is a very good profession with handsome financial returns.

This is a question I have had to answer innumerable times, and the answer is never standard. Granted, my answer in any particular situation is always an apt response to whoever asks it, since it is invariably a poignant reflection of how s/he looks at life. In fact, I believe Jonathan Davis's words quoted above (with the necessary inclusion of the word 'bozos' between 'you' and 'because') would be my most comprehensive epitaph.

Well, my life is largely a living example of going against the grain, being avant-garde, unconventional, borderline eccentric, and whatever other phrases can adequately describe anything that is not exactly in line the norm. It is a markedly significant deviation from what many people, considering my background, would end up doing in life.

Let me explain:

Pete the 'chop'

From the day I started schooling, I was consistently the best student and remained top of my class from Class 1 through Class 8. In high school, I was always in top 10 position, and anyone who went to MHS will know that I was a piD veteran ;-)
I then proceeded to pursue Mechanical Engineering at JKUAT and despite the realization (mid-course) that this was not what I wanted to do all my life, I still graduated magna cum laude.

In view of the above intellectual proficiency that such academic accomplishments illustrate, I soon got a job in a Building Services Engineering firm in Nairobi a month after graduation. Six months later, I resigned my position at the company and decided to go freelance, thanks to an enduring decision that it'd be in my best interests to fly solo.

Since January 2006, I haven't been anyone's employee. The only other time I seriously considered formal employment was in August 2006, where I did get a job in a Nairobi-based heavy earth-moving machinery company as a Sales Engineer but resigned my position only 3 days later.

Flying Solo

When I started out, I gave myself a carte blanche in managing my own affairs. It is the desire to be in charge of my calendar, my hours, my decisions, my goals and aspirations and to a very large extent, how I would meet my obligations and realize my aspirations that informed the desire to go freelance. I well knew there would be challenges, and I was ready to face them. And I continue to face them every day.

Much has however changed along the way. For example, I recently put an end to my freelance writing career, preferring instead to be a creative entrepreneur with the very intention of putting systems in place that will ensure that it is money that works for me. This is very much in contrast to the murky freelancing situation where one is always working for money by repeatedly looking for more work instead of creating value-adding opportunities both for himself and others. This very notion has been very well discussed by one Andrew Kiriti in the March 2013 edition of Complitly Connect Magazine.

To best understand how and why mine is essentially a very different approach to life, read once again, Jonathan Davis's words above. Perhaps you'll then realize that I have set for myself some very long-term goals which thankfully, I am satisfactorily accomplishing. Admittedly, some of the goals are lofty but heck, it's good to raise the bar really high at times. And for the record, I do not in any way compare myself with others. I actually revel in the fact that I am different.

Steve Jobs in his Stanford address (watch video and highlights on this Living in 2010 post on The Walkabout) was quite clear that:
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice.
That said, I am simply living my life the best way I know how. If anything, I never waste a precious second trying to figure out how others are living theirs, unless it directly and adversely affects mine. I have learnt to live and let live. That way, I have all the time to focus on whatever in my own life needs my utmost attention.

The Simple Life

How then, do I live?
Well, my stated objective in life is to seek and find meaning. Only then can I be more than happy and satisfied - I'll find true and enduring fulfillment.
I therefore unrelentingly seek enlightenment and every time I find it, I simply keep going. I do place a very high premium on doing things that are for the greater good, I have already that I'll accomplish my mandate of doing so by sharing useful information and even better, adding value to information. Perhaps this is why I'm always reading.

I am a renewable energy enthusiast. Informed by the realization that the most important things in life are not things, I am also alive to the fact that money should not be the only motivation in life. Life would then be so damn limiting, and a mindless pursuit of things only results in a vicious cycle where things that really matter are soon forgotten. My approach to wealth is not to accumulate a vast amount of tangible things, but to have the least wants having adequately, even ethically met my needs.

Towards this end, I live in a simple house on a small farm in Limuru, located in Kiambu County in Kenya. What I do here in line with my intention is to rear animals, grow most of my food, set up systems that will earn me money whether I sleep all day or not, and effectively manage the natural resources at my disposal by using solar, wind and biogas for my energy needs and as much as possible, reduce, reuse and recycle.

The best two examples of people who have come close to living this way are Robinson Crusoe after he was ship-wrecked on a deserted island and Henry David Thoreau as described in Walden.

Of most importance, I am keen to have had a lasting legacy in this world. Through my writing, I intend to make a positive impact on many lives - one life at a time. That way, if my writing entertains, edifies or simply makes you think, than my mission is accomplished.

Finally, the book!

Interestingly, simple, uncommon living has already inspired my novella Life Uncommon which is scheduled for publication on December 31, 2014.

In sum, mine is a simple life. A life most uncommon.

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