Sadly, modern Feminism is destroying the gentleman. Instead of encouraging women to become more, since the 50's it has mostly slid into the practice of dragging men down. It is becoming difficult to teach boys to be gentlemen when girls are constantly being told they don't need gentlemen. Or men.
Being a gentleman is a lost social grace... when technically they're not needed. If a man serves as a gentleman at all times, when the need arises he will be ready and trained to think of others outside himself.
We have to break the cycle. It has to start somewhere. We must continue to teach and expect our boys to be gentlemen, regardless of what society tells them. That way when things finally (hopefully!) level out and reason comes back into fashion, they will be poised and ready to fill that role in society. They refuse to be victims, and insist on true "correctness" even when nobody is looking.
What is the purpose of a Gentleman? Why are they in short supply, and are they even really needed? The Fierce Gentleman Manifesto breaks a Gentleman down into twenty-one basics, which does an excellent job of explaining. So much so, that I'm not going to try to recreate what they've already done so well. I'll touch on a few of these that are near and dear to my life, however.
I don't rant very often, and most people who know me would say I'm a very laid-back guy (some people say if I were any more laid back, I wouldn't have a pulse). But sometimes, my cynical side thinks bad things about expensive bikes, and snobbish cyclists... and I have to take a long, hard look at what I really enjoy about riding a bike.
I like real casual group rides, the kind where they might stop for donuts and coffee. I'm not interested in Snagging a Strava KOM. I like hanging with my buds, getting lost and finding new trails and roads. I'm the guy who shows up to group rides in baggy shorts and a 35 year old Raleigh, and proceeds to ride whenever, wherever. My jersey pockets aren't stuffed with Blok Shots, probably just bananas, PB&J and some trail mix in my panniers.
I'll admit it, I'm tempted to over-think cycling, and so are a lot of other people. But at the end of the day, I don't need a bunch of stuff to enjoy cycling. That's part of why I started riding to work. I didn't want to just ride as a hobby. I wanted it to be a normal part of my life, like breathing, or eating. I wanted to make a difference in the world, and a change in my life.
And I think, overall, I've accomplished that. I'll admit it, my bikes are heavy, mostly cheap, and cobbled together from spare parts. Even if I were concerned about weight, I couldn't spend serious coin on a bicycle. And I'm here to tell you you don't have to. I've been around long enough to know what you ride isn't as important as how much you ride. And even that pales in comparison to how much you love to ride. I will always have respect for someone who puts down big miles, especially if they do it on a cheap/heavy bike. Bonus points if you built the bike yourself. Don't think that you have to have to lay out a lot of money to have a decent commuter bike. Usually, you can use what you have already, and just add to it as you go.
This is how I got started, with a cheap bike.
I haven't posted a one-a-day minimizing picture in a while. It's not because I haven't been minimizing, it's just that I've been too busy trying to think up other things to post about, and I don't minimize as much as I would like. I do still get rid of things, though. Quite a bit, actually.
Last week, we cleared out four bags of old clothes, and our broken flat screen TV (which we're not replacing). Also got rid of a spare computer we had, and a bunk bed we weren't using. So yes, we're making progress. I think there's more there. We've got boxes upon boxes of books, toys, magazines (still!) and more clothes we can get rid of. I can't walk into my closet yet, but it's better.
What to do with the extra space? Well, I've got plans for that, actually. I want to set up some musical instruments- guitars, keyboards, drum pads, violin, etc.- so me and my kids can jam whenever we want. This is a totally worthy cause, and I'm going to do everything I can to make this happen.
2 Corinthians 10.
I have a problem... and chances are, you have the same problem, too.
I hate missing out. In modern culture, this tendency is called "FOMO," or "Fear of Missing Out."
And after I sit and think about it for a while, I realize just how pervasive and deep-rooted this is in my life. The more I look, the more I realize it's driven almost every aspect of where I've been and where I'm going. Social Media has only made it worse.
And why shouldn't we hate missing out? We should experience life to the fullest, right? We should reach for the stars, climb the highest heights, go big or go home! Right? Right??
But that's not how it works. It's taken me a long time, but I'm realizing that everything costs something. Every time I want to go run off and experience some cool new thing, there's something else in my life that has to give. When I want to go catch a concert (because hey, I may never see it again!) there's consequences. Someone else pays for my spontaneity.
Life is funny. Since Google shut down their RSS Reader feed, I discovered RSS is a pretty slick way to compile and review bunches of excellent blogs. I didn't even know what the fuss was about until I heard all these people complaining about how convenient it was, so naturally, my curiosity got the better of me.
I started following all kinds of blogs, from friends and people I respected. As I looked through my list last night, I discovered most of them have a common thread. This caught me off-guard at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew why. They almost all have something to do with non-traditional living.
So what does this have to do with me?
Well, I have a blog, too (shocking, I know). What good is it if I just post occasional rantings here? A few people like reading what I write, but it's not doing much other than that. What if I could combine all the things I have experience with in ways people could actually use, and then post them up here to help other people get to where I'm at?
Well, yeah, that's a no-brainer. I've already got a few articles on how to do things, but I haven't tied them in to anything specific. I've just been posting whatever comes off the top of my head, which sometimes is interesting, and sometimes isn't.
So starting today, I'm going to start tying all these things together with a common thread: living a non-traditional, debt-free Godly life, and using that freedom to turn around and bless other people, because that's what God wants His followers to do.
Let's face it. Who wouldn't want to donate thousands of dollars to charities? I mean good charities, not the ones that are business cover-ups. Who wouldn't feel great about being able to genuinely help people who need it? But most people don't, because they allowed themselves to get to a place where they spend everything they have, and nothing is left over.
I'm here to tell you that there's no reason you can't retire early with what you're making now, and spend the rest of your life doing whatever the heck you want to. All it takes is lowering your cost of living to the point where you can put a decent amount into a retirement fund, and then work a little while and let it build up.
Spend less, save more. Sounds easy, right?
It works exactly like losing weight (which I've also done). Your calorie intake has to be less than your output, or you will never- I repeat, never- lose weight.
"But that's uncomfortable!" you say. "Why can't I eat and spend what I want?" Well, you can. But you won't lose weight, and you won't become free from debt. You choose.
Still with me? Okay, this is where it gets interesting. I'm here to help you find ways to do more with less, using stuff I have experience with. We're going to lay out a few things you'll need on your journey to "Less Is More." Almost everything I'm going to recommend is either free, or ridiculously cheap.
Resources You Should Be Reading
You can't change your life without at least a little direction. If you're serious about wanting to change your life for the better, you should start by reading Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover. (Here's a hint: borrow it for free from the library!) Dave breaks it down into seven "Baby Steps" but you shouldn't be discouraged. This is how I got started!
The basics, for Those Who Can't Wait:
- Save $1000 for emergencies. Do what it takes to get there*, and don't touch it!!
- Snowball your debt, i.e. pay off the smallest debt you have**, then move on to the next biggest one until they are all gone.
- Once your debt is gone, use the money you saved from credit payments to save 6 month's of income in the bank.
- One that's done, invest at least 15% into your 401K and/or a Roth IRA***
- College Funds for Children. This is optional.
- Pay off your mortgage. Without dropping your retirement investments****
- Build wealth and give. This isn't really a step, per se, it is the goal!
*If you can't save $1000, then lower your cost of living until you can.
**If you can't pay off the smallest debt, lower your cost of living until you can.
***If you can't invest 15% into retirement, lower your cost of living until you can.
****If you can't put money down on the principal of your mortgage, well... you know.
Seriously, it's a very simple equation. Money in > money out. If you can't increase your money income, then lower your money output. It's just that simple.
"Ah!" you say with a frown. "I can't lower my standard of living!"
Well, yes you can, unless you're already homeless. You just don't want to. But you do want to be debt-free, right? Wouldn't it be nice to not have to work until you're 75, and then pass on debt to your kids?
"Sure, doesn't everybody?" you say.
Right. But what are you willing to give up now in order to be able to do that later? Cable TV? Hobbies? Eating out? Designer clothes? New cars? Chances are you have at least one of those things. If you do, and you're still in debt, you should stop right now and think. There are tons of websites and blogs to give you ideas as to how to save money.
I can see you're upset, so I'm going to just leave you with these words...
Less is More.
Recently, I was reading a Charlotte Mason book on homeschooling, and came across this quote:
Children should be taught to distinguish between "I want" and "I will".
And it got me thinking. This is primarily directed towards teaching and training children, but it struck me how applicable this is to everybody, especially in today's ridiculously backwards society.
How many times have we said to ourselves, "I just want...." or even "I'd really like it if..." when we really are saying "I wish things were different." The truth is, we can't change anything except ourselves, which includes our attitudes.
What if instead of saying "I want to know more about God" we say something like "I will spend twenty minutes a day reading my Bible." Did you know you can read through the entire Bible in about 90 days if you read 20 minutes a day?
Instead of saying "I want to write a book" we say "I will spend an hour today writing." Did you know if you can write 1500 words a day, you can write a novel in about a month?
Instead of saying "I want to save for retirement" we instead say "I will stop eating out and wasting money, and put that into my 401K." Did you know you can retire early (and even be debt-free!) if you do simple things like this? It's not as difficult as it sounds.
What if instead of "I want to lose weight and get in shape" we say "I will eat smaller meals, and get a little more exercise?" Did you know, just controlling your meal portions and getting a few hours of exercise a week is all it takes? Like 40 pounds in 3 months.
What it boils down to, then, is that we always want things to happen, but we're not willing to take the first step. And truthfully, most things we want to accomplish are easily doable if we just take it one step at a time.
How do I know this? Because I've done all four of these things. I'm not a superhero, either. And they weren't that hard if you break them down into manageable chunks. It's not magic! It just takes the willingness to take the first step.
So... don't just say "I want." Nothing will change.
Get up and take the first step.
Today's minimizing victim: old t-shirts that are taking up space in my dresser. Gone!
Today's de-clutter: Plastic tubs. This one has miles of cables and wires in it. All good stuff, but not things I'd use on a regular basis. If it stays in the tub for a year, then it's safe to say you don't need it.
Today's one-a-day purge item: magazines! I have tons and tons of old car mags. The only subscription I currently have is to Bicycle Times (which is an awesome publication) and they offer it in digital form. How to minimise? Convert your magazines to digital form!