The Necessary Virtue of Suspending Judgement

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In the “Information Age” we live in, we are confronted daily with issues, ideas, and news stories faster than our ability to absorb them can keep up. In days gone by (and I mean like two decades ago) the necessity for us to confront and formulate multiple opinions on so many things daily or even hourly didn’t exist. There may have been a “water cooler” discussion over some worthy topic at work, an important newspaper article to think about, or a story on the evening news to digest, but typically only a few a day.

Now, even when checking your home feed on Facebook, you are inundated with a host of earth-shattering stories and ideological challenges. Life on social networking isn’t all just cat pictures and Farmville anymore. Not only that, but the expectation of a response is as instant as the posting of the issue. When I scroll down my own feed at the moment, I see deadly protests in Venezuela, an article about the foolishness of snake handling churches, an article about people being buried alive, a treatise on the potential moral evils of the Judeo/Christian God, and varied responses to the recent “coming out” of Michael Sam and Ellen Page. That doesn’t even cover half of the pithy issues and stories that have been shared in the last day.

I, of course, share stories and issues as well. We all desire to inform and/or challenge our peers via our social networks about things that are important to us. Such interaction is a big part of what social networking is all about. Ironically, you will probably form an opinion of this blog entry, which addresses having to formulate opinions on articles, social network posts, stories, and blogs. That said, I want to encourage us all about this current reality in society; a reality where issues and ideas are constantly barraging us.

Here are some of the positives that result from this:

1. We are being tacitly encouraged to become faster thinkers and rely more on reason, evidence, and logic to ascertain good information and deflect the bad. If we cannot adapt to this social mode, we will be easily fooled and be reactionary to unsubstantiated claims. I chuckle when an “Onion” satire article inflames the sensibilities of a person who isn’t privy to such parody and “Poe” stories. I see this trend as a type of intellectual, “Natural Selection,” revealing the “fittest” for this new Internet driven world.

2. The Internet allows for us to be exposed to positive ideas, technologies, and relevant issues that we wouldn’t otherwise know about.

3. It is very hard for a person to be kept ignorant by those around them who would desire to limit their information access.

Here are some of the potential negatives:

1. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE can post anything they want and “trolls” are aplenty. Memes, photoshop, and slick looking, cheap or free websites can give the appearance of validity to an idea and the ability for people to share nonsense. Some of these are even dangerous. For example, when a person who needs effective medical treatment abandons such for the “essential oils” or “homeopathic remedies” they see in a meme or foolish article, they can actually die.

2. We can spend otherwise enjoyable time researching and formulating opinions on all the things we are exposed to. Ultimately though, it is on us to prioritize our time and shape our own online experience. If our exposure is stressing us out, we should curb internet time and/or rethink our “likes” and “friends list.” (I use the pronouns “I,” “us,” and “we” heavily as I consider these pros and cons because as we engage in online interaction, we are all in this new social world together)

All that brings me to an important consideration… Who says we need to have an instant opinion on everything? Who says we have to know everything? I think there is nothing wrong and everything right with asserting, “I’m just not sure. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you later.” Humbly saying, “I don’t know,” is also a glory in today’s world. In this modern Age of Ideas, intellectual humility and intellectual honesty is sometimes hard to come by. Of course, there are many things that you may have already considered and developed a position on. Share those positions straightaway of course, yet be willing to revise them if new data necessitates it.

Give yourself permission to take appropriate time to formulate an opinion or make a reasonable judgement regarding issues and ideas you think are worth considering. If you don’t have enough information at present, suspend judgement until you do. Then, you can do your due diligence to acquire sufficient data and/or perform needed philosophical consideration at an effective pace or at your leisure. You can also require those making certain assertions to provide their own evidence. It is not your responsibility to prove their ill-supported case for them or provide proof against a claim made sans evidence and reason. To quote Christopher Hitchens,

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

In temporarily suspending judgement, you’ll also be teaching those around you that you require time to consider issues of importance and lean on rationality over emotional, knee-jerk reactions. Be an example of effective intellectual methodology among your peers. Fostering a less emotionally reactionary society wouldn’t be a bad thing. Such an intellectual climate is even more desirable as society becomes increasingly dependent (if that is possible) on Internet social networking.

So, what are your thoughts? (Take all the time you need) 🙂

*The meme at the top of this blog is my creation, but feel free to use it as you wish.

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“Cha-Ching!” Goes the Cell Phone: Year 6 for an Entrepreneur and Lessons Learned

On this day in 2008, at 30 years old, I made a big decision. After months of back and forth, I decided to start a business. I was a husband, father of five, and part-time professional singer/songwriter. But, my main gig was being a regional driver for a household goods moving company. Damn hard work.

At that time, I was working the same job I had in my early twenties. After leaving the moving business the first time, I said I’d never go back. But, after several years of busy concert schedules and limited flex time at my previous job, I made a deal with my old company; give me any time off that I ask for with thirty days’ notice and you can work me like a rented mule the rest of the time. They knew how I worked and my level of customer service, so they agreed. And to no surprise, they held up their end of the bargain, especially the second part.

I stayed there about three years before getting fed up with the road, illegal hours for a driver, some of the fools I had to manage on jobs, and my ever tiring back. Not that there weren’t perks. Most of my songs came from experiences I had travelling and two of my co-workers became my good friends. But, in the ending months of 2007, the fear of another year to come like the one before became scarier than the proposition of starting a business and failing. That was the key…being pushed passed the point of contempt for the “status quo” in my work life and the fallout it had on my family life. I was missing too much and was just too damn worn out when I was home. But, that’s what working 120 plus hours some weeks will do to you, even when you’re young and strong.

So, beginning 1/1/08, I started scheming on a way to make a big change. I didn’t have much money or many foreseeable options. I decided to start a “near industry” business to capitalize on my current contacts and skills. I gave myself 4 months to plan and execute the launch of my business.

I realized that what I would do at first may only be a stepping stone to anther venture, but it was a necessary one. I had to just create some space to live, think, and wait for and create other opportunities. It was a lot like “pulling guard” in Jiu Jitsu… I was creating a “safe place” from which to defend or attack in due time. A position I could potentially loose from, but hoped to just do work and catch my breath for the time being.

My business officially began April 1, 2008, a month early. I started a “3rd party company” that assisted moving companies with what was out of their scope. I did custom crating, pool table and grand piano servicing, appliances, and more. I created a turn-key business with zero debt and produced a living wage right out of the gate on a $3,000 start-up budget. Not bad if I say so myself.

But, actually doing it was scary as hell. I almost changed my mind a couple times in February ’08. I nearly scrapped the whole idea for the safety of the time clock boat anchor. Sure glad I didn’t.

Then, in the late summer of ’08, the economy crashed. The good thing was, since I worked for myself, I had a lot of options to adapt. When contracting work was slow from moving businesses, I hustled side work on Craigslist and by word of mouth. I did interior painting, drywall work, bought and sold, and scrapped tons of metal over the next couple years. Unfortunately, with the moving business hit hard, my 3rd party work got slower every year, so I had to hustle harder. Always hunting for side jobs got old and since people were getting broker, they did less home improvement…that meant less side jobs to go around.

The great thing was I still made a livable income in about half the hours that I used to work as an employee. Some weeks I’d have a few days off through the week then be really busy the next. But overall, I saw my family every day and was pretty energized to enjoy them. I got to spend lots of time with my wife, who is my best friend, for the first time in our marriage.

That said, in the spring of 2011 I desired to have a more stable type of business. My wife and I discussed options and came up with a new plan. I would escalate my part time hustle, buying and selling, to my main gig. The plan was to replace half our income in six months, before the slow season for my current business. The next phase was to completely replace our income with buying and selling in twelve months. We achieved the first phase in five months and completely replaced our income in nine months. The initial capital I had to invest at my first auction on May 15, 2011…$200. I bought five things that sold within a month for over $1,100 and we were off.

For the first four months, I only sold on Craigslist. Then in late August, I purchased a rare knife at an auction for $9. I knew I’d need greater exposure to get what it was worth. I listed it on ebay and a week later it sold for $490. I fell in love with ebay and within three months, it became my primary selling format.

It still is on 1/1/14 and we’ve come a long way. We now have three “Power Seller” and “Top Rated” ebay stores. I work less hours than ever, spend stupid amounts of time with my family, and basically do whatever the hell I want every day. I’m not rich in dollars, but if freedom is your currency, I’m a millionaire.

So at 12:54 a.m. today, I got my first sale of 2014. “Cha-Ching” went my ebay cell phone app. Not a big sale, just a $39 vintage coffee percolator that I bought for $3. I’ll have shipping, ebay, and paypal fees out of that, but will still net about $25ish. That “Cha-Ching” is less an audible symbol for money and more of freedom for me. Good job ebay on creating that Pavlovian response via your app by the way!

One thousand words later, I’ll briefly share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my business. I hope some of you might be able to get some use out of them if you’re interested in starting your own company or service as well.

  1. “Pulling the trigger” is the hardest thing– It is one thing to desire change, another to plan, but to execute a plan is the tipping point. That not only applies to business, but life in general. Most people are ruled by fear. They let the fear of “what if” bully them into settling for something they are dissatisfied with in life. You MUST master that fear and kick that bully’s ass in order to flip the script in your life.
  2. Bet on yourself- Every change has varying degrees of risk. But, do you know what people don’t think about? The risk that leaving everything the same has. Don’t be afraid to bet all your “chips” on yourself. Then, rise to the occasion and be your own hero.
  3. With a great plan and the right tools, you are more likely to succeed than to fail– I did not have a mentor when I started my business or anyone pushing me to do it. I did have people that supported me and that was invaluable. I also had the experiences of being exposed to business in my younger years by my mom, dad, and grandparents in different ways. Yet, I still needed other knowledge and information. I got that from the Internet and books. Some things (actually a lot of things) I had to figure out on the fly. But, you handle things as they come. I know the stats on start-up businesses failing. The thing is, many of the failures have distinct features in common. Poor planning is #1. Lack of understanding of the business being started is another vice. There is NOTHING you need to learn that you can’t find out. Do your due diligence and then make things happen.
  4. Sometimes, “You can’t get there from here.”– I’ve heard old timers from the mountains use that phrase jokingly to describe where they are from. But, it can be true situationally. You may not be able to jump right from your current “A” to your perfect world “B.” You might have to make some incremental changes toward your ultimate goal. Don’t be discouraged from the journey toward your goal just because it won’t be an instantaneous teleportation. Usually, the “good stuff” in life can take a lot of hard work. Sweat equity can be more important than investment capital. If you have less of one, you’ll probably need more of the other
  5. It’s worth it- There’s nothing like being able to thank your own former self for the good decisions he or she made that led you to where you wanted to be. There’s always more work to do and need to reinvent things. Start your journey off well and in time, if you stay the course, you’ll be glad you did.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing my blog! I am an independent poet, author, and singer/songwriter and I have my own ebay business to keep me as flexible as possible. But, writing takes time and if you appreciate what I do, if you have been moved or made to think by my writing, OR have just enjoyed something on my blog, please throw a buck or two in my tip jar!:) Your kind contribution may buy me a cup of coffee out at my next writing session. Click my easy paypal “tip jar” link that follows and THANKS! -Luke

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