Over the years I’ve learned the technique of starting from the end and work backwards. This is especially useful when I know what the end-game should look like, but I can’t get a handle on where to begin.
In addition, it’s handy to acknowledge up front any unknowns or variables. In Agile working there is the concept of ‘Minimum Viable Product’, i.e., what is the very least that you would settle for, below which any solution is not acceptable.
With that in mind, my next job ‘MVP’ would be thus:
1. I would like to spend most of my time living at home here in Ireland
2. Each year I/we will spend 1-3 months living abroad, preferably a different spot each year.
3. My paid work, if any, would be conducted while at home in Ireland, ensuring I am free to spend my days abroad doing my own thing.
The variables to the above include:
1. If I were doing admin work of some kind which could be done while abroad, I would accept spending a couple of hours of my choosing each day doing so.
2. With the appropriate language skills and training, I would be OK with working while abroad, perhaps TEFL.
What’s unacceptable is:
1. Multiple meetings per day with less-than-useless 15 and 30-minute breaks leaving no time to do any real work.
2. The assumption that I would meet in the day-time, I would work in the nights and weekends, and that I would be ‘always on’ phone and IM.
I don’t want much, do I? Still, if this is what I want and I have the necessary interest and skillset, why shouldn’t be able to organise it; why couldn’t any of us?
While going through the options with my spouse, it occurred to me that we may well be able to live as we want without paid employment at all, depending on our willingness and ability to adjust our lifestyles while living in Ireland and travelling abroad.
Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one, and I may discover that I simply don’t need a job, per se. I do need (every does) to get out there each day, interact with people and feel I’ve created something, or contributed towards a positive goal, or even helped others.
Since I stopped working directly with IT systems and focused more on delivering training, what I’ve missed the most, apart from working directly with machines, is the feeling you get when you’ve fixed something for someone, or helped them do their job, even just something simple like getting an app or fixing a broken mouse. I always got a kick out of it, and I really miss that feeling of accomplishment.
So the simplest course of action may simply be to just stop working and start volunteering somewhere, whilst living off shared rental income. Try it for a year and see where it takes me. I call this the Super Grover option, simply cruising around the locality, lending a hand in worthwhile endeavours, but with no expectations of continued or full-time commitments.
The Tintin Option
In 1929, Belgian cartoonist Hergé (Georges Remis) introduced Tintin, the boy-reporter who crisscrossed the world righting injustices (though not necessarily those of the Belgian colonies) and writing up his newspaper reports at home, work which presumably kept him in plus-fours and hair cream.
Whilst I’m not going to become an journalist-cum-astronaut, it’s not impossible that I could find a way to supplement my income doing work which I actually like. Work which has previously absorbed my attention completely is genealogical research, which has the added dimension of being work that could be of benefit to people. Work as a researcher is another option, though I have basically no background in this kind of work. I also feel I may not have the academic qualifications for this work, and it may also be dependant on visiting libraries, places of record and research, and basically not be suited to the lifestyle I’m looking for. I mention it because I love following up leads in any kind of search, and I’ve got to work until I get a result; it’s a real hit for me.
What Do I Know?
“But Ethnicolor!”, you cry, “you already have a job! You’re an I.T. guy; so do I.T.!” Here is where I think I may be too close to the paint to be able to see the picture. The work I’ve done over the decades has always been in medium-to-large enterprises with lots of users with lots of equipment that needs installing, fixing breaking, whatever. Not to mention the fact that a huge part of my work has evaporated up to the Cloud in the past few years. Amazon, Microsoft, Google and others can dangle seemingly limitless file & data servers, compute power, fully abstracted application deployment environments to business without needing so much as a server rack anywhere on-premise. There goes my job, mate.
Sure, my specialisation continues regardless of location, but even that has changed so much in recent I years I’m feeling more and more like a dinosaur these days. I’m out of touch and I don’t know if I want to be bothered getting up to speed.
A couple of years ago a work opportunity arose which can best be described as a nixer. I found I was able to put together some spreadsheets and other Office 365 services to help a small business owner scale with some new workloads. I found this work rewarding and interesting in several ways, and when I think of my future work I often remember this opportunity and think; “could I find more work like this, and would it be a fit for my MVP-approach?”
Whilst it’s work that I know and can deliver upon, I.T. systems only go down when you can least fix them. Managing customer expectations can also be a challenge, as customers are likely to present anything from a rubbish phone application to a neighbour’s broken hard-drive and say ‘fix this.’ In short, though I’ve spent my working life tackling and solving problems like these, I don’t know that I want to continue doing this kind of work. I also feel like it might be patchy work, and difficult to source in the part of Ireland where I live.
So Where Am I?
These boulders have been rolling around inside my head for at least a year now. This is the year I get a sense for where they might land and how far I might roll upon them once I let them slip outside my skull. I feel I know the kind of place I want them to rest at, only the trek remains elusive for now.
And perhaps I wont know until I get there, and I may just have to be satisfied with that.
Whatever way this plays out, I feel the final answer will be some odd combination of all of the above, plus an option I’m not considering because I don’t know it’s there. In my experience thus far, other people can often bring something my way which up to that point I had never even considered.
Finally – I’ll just mention that things have a habit out working out, just not the way you expect. I’ve found this to be true again and again, though usually it’s hard to see this at the time and you only realise this in retrospection. But I keep an open mind and an open eye on things, and with a little bit of luck I may well end up where I believe I want to be.