We recently started back on the road for a fall filled with speaking gigs. One thing Jason talks about is to “Stop living by rules that don’t exist.” This is a major way to fight your Adultitis. Living by this philosophy is exactly what gives the typical two-year-old the bad rap as “terrible.” In defense of parents of toddlers everywhere, let me point out that two-year-olds are in the business of testing everything, discovering the world around them and how they fit into it… which doesn’t always look pretty. Jason and I joke that inevitably there’s always a two or three-year-old throwing a major fit on the floor in the airport security line stubbornly objecting to take off his shoes for the TSA staff. We smile because they are the only ones who have the naivety (and guts) to stand up to the TSA, even if it is a losing battle. I secretly cheer the toddler on… how I wish I could refuse and throw a fit one of these days!
There is a lesson to be learned from the stubborn naivety of the terrible twos. You must challenge the status quo. Most of the time the “rules” that you insist on following are either insignificant or they simply do not even exist. As I think about our life, I smile at the opportunities when Jason and I have bucked the system, jumped off the conveyer belt of life, and taken our own path. It’s very childlike and with any lesson taken from our younger years, it creates a life of adventure and spunk.
Here are a few examples of how we’ve demonstrated that childlike grit by living by our own rules…
Rule: Get a job with good solid benefits. We ultimately rejected the safe school district insurance for the high deductible life of self-employment.
Rule: After you get married you should invest in a home. We chose to delay owning a home, and decided instead to invest in our business, ultimately gambling our house fund for a lifestyle that we love.
Rule: Professional speakers travel alone and keep a schedule that puts them in and out of cities in a 36-48 hour cycle. We set our own company policies that dictate both of us travel together. We fly in the day before the event and fly out the day after. If we are visiting a new area, we tack on a day or two for sightseeing. (Sidenote: Unfortunately, there is a high divorce rate in the lives of professional speakers, largely in part to their consistent absence from home.)
Rule: If you decide to move somewhere, you should have a job lined up or at least have contacts in the area to help you secure employment. Our first apartment in Madison was cosigned by our parents, because neither one of us had jobs yet. We came to Madison because we felt a strong pull to be here… it didn’t really make sense on paper but it did in our hearts. It’s been home ever since.
Rule: GenXer’s in Madison, Wisconsin must channel their generationally stereotypical cynicism towards the war, the government, and the environment. Jason and I are two of the few proud conservative thirty-somethings in this city.
Rule: You must prepare for childbirth with a doctor and deliver in a hospital. We are thrilled to have found an awesome fit with an excellent team of midwives at the Madison Birth Center.
You get the idea. It’s exciting to observe others breaking the rules as well. Jason’s brother and his wife maintain a lifestyle with two careers and yet only have one car, even though they work in different cities. They share the car, allowing them to save hundreds of dollars every single month. (Rule: You must have a car for each driver.)
Friends of ours sold their newer, four bedroom home and moved into an older, three bedroom home, so that she could quit her job to stay home with their children, avoiding daycare. (Rule: You must have two salaries to provide for your family.)
Here’s the dirty little secret… most people like it when they aren’t the only ones playing it safe, so it’s hard to find others who will challenge you to step out of your box. If someone they know starts rocking the boat, it’s often met with gossip and criticism because it challenges everyone else’s decisions. What a boring life! I’m not advocating you go to the extreme of childishness and shirk all responsibilities just to “make your own path.” Just do yourself and your loved ones a favor by asking yourself some hard and honest questions, “Why do we do things this way? Is this what’s best for me today and down the road?” Ask these questions and have the childlike spunk it takes to jump off the conveyer belt if you’re unhappy with your answers.
So, what rules are you breaking?