Doctor Day

I stopped into one of my favorite places this afternoon enroute to the eye doctor. The coffee has been pretty consistent at Ink Café over the years and I am going to miss dropping in occasionally. Though I am sure a place exists, I have yet to find any equivalent in my travels throughout Atlantic Canada. Fueled by a couple latte’s and a piece of cheese cake I managed to be productive for a couple hours before I had to leave for the eye doctor.

Being of the age where its common to require reading glasses or progressive lens, I’ve been driven insane by the constant need to take my glasses off whenever I want to read something near to my face. What generally happens afterwards, is a mad scramble around the house whenever I need to go out or watch TV due to not remembering where I placed them.

Hopefully progressive lenses will eliminate that hassle. Without health insurance the visit cost more – ~$30 CAN for prescription in hand. Another reason I will miss Taiwan, cheap near immediate access to quality health care.

Next up was a visit to the “iPhone doctor”. These repair places are everywhere here and they offer all kinds of upgrades. The place I went into smelled of greasy KFC but the owner and his wife seemed nice enough. My daughter goes through phones like others go through tissue. A new screen for her old iPhone 5s is going cost $60CAN for non-factory original. I might update the battery for an additional $30. BYOD seems to be the best way to go in Canada with the exorbitant fees, so this price certainly beats purchasing through a telecom, or buying off Kijiji.


Infected with malware

There is a first time for everything. One of my WordPress sites had malware installed which caused the homepage to redirect to some spam site. Things were much simpler when I used Moveabletype and delivered flat files.

The problem is solved for now, but I still have no idea how “they” managed to get access, nor do I care much to go down the rabbit hole that is exploring all the ways to securing a WordPress install. I already do the most obvious.


Short lived sneezes

For the past 15 years or so I’ve kept a diary of sorts, this blog and others also serve as a diary but I haven’t really been able to utilize them as such. I first started just keeping audio recordings, a lazy way of record keeping, and for the past 4 years have been using Day One to write short notes, rants, goals, photos etc. as a form of cheap therapy, and to serve as a record of the days events. I’m not religious about it, but my memory being as it is I find it valuable to look back at the events and mistakes of the past. Day One has a great “on this day” feature that helps with that.

Going through past entries I see that we were all much sicker in the past. My recent bought of sneezes were extremely short lived, all of a morning, and it was truly an anomaly as outside of gastro intestinal issues I seldom get sick. Whether this is due to my relative isolation, better diet, exercise or a combination of all I don’t know. But on a number of occasions in the past I was complaining about bad head colds and other maladies.

Some problems repeat themselves. 10 years ago one of our dogs had me up through the night due to her crying and I was knee deep in doggy poop as a result. Just the other night Sheryl, who does have a bad cold, was up through the night with our other dog who was crying because she needed to go outside to relieve herself.

Lastly, it seems now, as then, I get stuck in these productivity sucking deep dives that take up the better part of the morning. Things like reading past diaries and the resulting introspection.


A Yarus at BMW Prices

From: Canadians pay some of the highest wireless prices in the world — but report says they’re worth it

MEI claims the study is “simplistic and misleading” because it ignores factors that can inflate prices, such as Canada’s geographical barriers and the investments that Canadian telcos have made to provide superior wireless services.

“We have some of the best networks in the world,” said MEI report author Martin Masse. “We’re paying for a Lexus, but it’s worth a Lexus.”

This must be the most ridiculous metaphor I have ever heard but if they want to use it, a Corolla or Yarus at BMW prices might be more apt.

As for the argument that Canada’s wireless services are comparable to driving a luxury car, like a Lexus, not every Canadian can afford — or even wants — Lexus-like services, says Laura Tribe, executive director of consumer advocacy group Open Media.

“Not everyone needs an elite product,” said Tribe. “We have expensive; we don’t have affordable.”

She even gets it wrong.

Months ago, when I created a spreadsheet to budget our monthly expenses in Canada, the biggest percentage change in the budget month over month was wireless and home internet charges. Our current usage habits here were not going to be sustainable in Canada.

As a point of contrast:

Currently we have the kids plans which cost the equivalent of $4.00 CAN a month with 1 gig each of data. They both came with free Android devices which failed and were replaced with older iPhones we had on hand. The plan my wife I have is $43 CAN each for unlimited data – the price was originally marginally higher as it subsidized our iPhones. We don’t care about talk minutes or sms, as everything uses data.

Currently Chunghua Telecom, the national carrier has a Mothers day special available from today until the 15th, detailed below:

  • 30 Months contract
  • ~$31 CAN/Month
  • Unlimited Internet
  • Free calls within CHT
  • 90min/month free calls to other mobile providers and landline.

Alternatively, limited to 12GB/month and less free calls: ~$13 CAN/Month. If you want an iPhone, the price goes up to ~ $25 CAN / Month.

Phone quality and speed is excellent, and even when you find yourself at the top of some remote mountain you can still stream video.

I’m surprised more Canadian aren’t up in arms over the price gouging they endure at the hands of telecoms.


Sneezes

This used to be called 竹科 station but they changed the name recently and I can never remember it.

Since the SARS epidemic here in Taiwan, which served as a sneak peak into a dystopian future, I’ve been very careful about trying to prevent contact with virus’s while out and about in whatever city we are in. Not to the point of developing some kind of complex or OCD, but a gentle reminder to watch where we place our hands, keep them clean and away from our face. Common sense when living in crowded environments.

Unfortunately all these good intentions don’t help when faced with the other peoples lack concern with the health of others. On the train from the HSR Sunday an older woman felt it necessary to sneeze on me, and with boy body being run down from lack of sleep I’ve now caught a cold. My first in recent memory.


Our Hsinchu Food Tour

My one way ticket has been issued. With only 6 weeks left on this island, the clock is ticking and we are using all of this remaining time to visit those special local restaurants that we have been frequenting since we arrived here so many years ago.

When we travel we have always eschewed fancy restaurants, hotel food, or so-called expat eateries (expat is a term I abhor), as we have preferred to eat where the locals eat. Often these places are found off the beaten path and can require some effort to find. This same philosophy applies to where we call home, as you can walk around any neighborhood in Hsinchu or Taipei and find a new place to experience. Of course as a family with limited resources, there are good sound economic reasons to do this as well.

One of the great advantages of living in Taiwan is that despite being towards the end of the month, when the budget is tighter, you can still afford to go out to a restaurant and feed a family of 4. Taiwan’s “small eats” or junk food is far tastier than what you would find in Canada.

The other great advantage of living in Taiwan, is that this country has such a wide range of good food to eat. Within walking distance of our house the whole world is represented; Indian, Korean, Italian, Japanese, American (Cajun), Thai., and French food is all available. As well, as all the regions of China.

Here is some of the food we have started to sample:

酸辣湯 at 五花馬. A franchise in Taiwan. It wasn’t that great and I wouldn’t be surprised if it came from a package. I might source a more homemade, replete with pigs blood, source before we go.

Inexpensive 鮭魚丼

Latte and blueberry cheesecake in Zhudong. Even in somewhat small and remote towns you can wander down some alley and find good coffee and pastries.

鍋貼 and 貢丸湯 at 新明牛肉麵

An Indian family opened a non-decript restaurant nearby. We stopped in for what could be best described as Indian family cooking. Tastey.

蔥油餅 is a favorite of the kids.

炸醬麵 at some some little place in the downtown.

鮭魚丼

I forget what this is called, maybe 綜合肉丼

高麗水餃 at十一街 in Zhubei

蛤蜊冬瓜湯 at 十一街 in Zhubei


What’s up with Canadian banks?

I wrote a short entry recently on the UX of the contact feature, essentially about how sending email is more often than not a waste of time. Company’s keep putting up contact details but can’t follow through with “people systems” to actually reply to inquiries. In Taiwan, using Line or Facebook gets you far better results. In China, email doesn’t really exist and your life revolves around WeChat.

In my very very limited sample set, many of these types of problems in the past year or so have been with Canadian banks, who despite having created complex contact protocols to their staff (sales people disguised as advisors), have a terrible record of communication. Is banking in Canada still an in person business culture?

When finding financing for a home we skipped the email chain entirely and were personally recommended to someone in a bank in my wife’s hometown. A long expensive phone call later we gave her our life story, with a promise to continue the meeting in a couple of days. Having gone through this process before I know if she knew how to use her information system at her desk she would have most of the information she need within an hour but chalked it up to inexperience with international clients. She never did continue the conversation nor reply to further enquiries.

Contrast that with smaller companies we have been dealing with in Prince Edward Island who on the phone and via email have been more than helpful. One of which I will visit in person, despite not going forward with their offer, to thank for their help. Are the incentives different for those with small businesses?


An update on our journey home

I shared a little over a month ago the difficulties we were having in finding a place to live in Prince Edward Island. It was something that we hadn’t planned for, nor experienced in the past.

To get past this roadblock we decided that we would simply buy instead of rent. We have long planned to have property on PEI of some sort, either for the summer or long term habitation, and this would simply push forward our plans a year or so. Of course thinking of buying a house and actually buying are widely disparate things.

So for the past month I have gone down a deep deep rabbit hole which is the home buying on a budget experience. Doing so from Taiwan made the process all the more difficult and expensive. Not being from the 1%, or the 10% for that matter, we need to secure a mortgage. Being away for so long meant we were treated as non-residents, which we were, despite my attempts this past year to the contrary. So we didn’t have access to programs and rates available to other Canadians.

It’s a funny thing how banks decide what kind of mortgage you qualify for. It’s always geared towards the maximum – you go through the process and they proclaim you can afford a huge home you don’t need. Even the bank’s online calculators are far too simplistic and don’t take into account how a heavy mortgage changes a person’s lifestyle. Luckily we were looking to downsize, and looking at a more sustainable long term living.

Most of the houses we found were of the fixer-upper type. I prefer older homes but not being “handy” I was getting concerned that my first year back on the Island was going to be primarily spent renovating or fixing whatever problems might occur. I had really hoped to focus on my work and getting the kids settled on their other Island adventure.

But as luck would have it, our house buying experience and my deep dive into home renovation how to videos, was for naught. Through a connection, everything seems to be through a connection on PEI, we heard there was an apartment available in the Charlottetown area. A few phone calls later, and after a relative went to have a viewing, I signed a lease and paid the fees to secure the apartment. It would appear we have a place to live.

What a relief.


When you have no wifi or TV

Taken one summer at the then family cottage in Canoe Cove. That summer we had no TV or internet so we had to find all kids of creative uses for our time. Mostly we read, played outside and went to the beach, but sometimes we would record silly little videos like this.


Presence

Dinner is a great chance to talk to your colleagues and find out what is happening in their lives outside of work.


In France, in 1818, a nine-year-old boy accidentally blinded himself with a hole puncher while helping his father make horse harnesses. A few years later the boy was sitting in the yard thinking about his inability to read and write when a friend handed him a pinecone. He ran his fingers over the cone and noted the tiny differences between the scales. He conceptually blended the feel of different pinecone scales with reading and writing, and realized he could create an alphabet of raised dots on paper so the blind could feel and read what was written with it. In this way Louis Braille opened up a whole new world for the blind. Braille made a creative connection between a pinecone and reading. When you make a connection between two unrelated subjects, your imagination will leap to fill the gaps and form a whole in order to make sense of it. It is this willingness to use your imagination to fill in the gaps that produces the unpredictable idea. This is why Einstein claimed that imagination is more important than knowledge. 
Michael Michalko


Remember the effect sound has on your customers experience

I’m in one of my favorite coffee shops in Hsinchu. They have a great new location near our house and their coffee knowledge is second to none. My wife especially loves their coffee and dropped by their old shop almost daily. Unfortunately the music playing a touch too loud, over poor sounding speakers, doesn’t match the rest of the experience. It’s a shame because they are otherwise a world class gem tucked away in the side streets of the Science Park. They pay attention to their customers and the interior design of their shop. Companies need to remember just how important the audio experience is to the overall experience a customer has with their product. This would include data gained from user research, personas and customer feedback etc. Starbucks gets this to a certain extent I believe.

When I was working in China I had a service design project where I in part focused on how sound could enhance their experience.

Here is a list of reading material I read to get me started.


Great piece.

The menu bar has been, and in my opinion remains, the best mechanism for providing familiarity, discoverability, and progressive disclosure in user interfaces on any platform. Even beyond the Mac, anyone who has clicked on a File menu in one platform has a pretty good shot at guessing where a Save command might be when provided a File menu somewhere else. Likewise and also regardless of operating system, someone presented with an entirely new application can safely open and explore menus to try and locate features they might need. Never pivoted data before, but need to for the first time? Hey look, there’s a menu in the bar called Data! Finally, let’s say that same seemingly one-time operation becomes a regular course of action that is needed multiple times a day. The best menu bars provide an equivalent keyboard shortcut right next to the command so, for example, anyone can discover how to save using command – s without having to be told.

So then why are menu bars fading out of more modern UX conventions?
The Menu Bar


Hello, is anybody there?

I start our move to Prince Edward Island in earnest at the end of this week, all of our planning has been long finished, and for reasons mentioned in “Difficulties in finding housing in Prince Edward Island” it’s going to be more of a challenge than I ever imagined. I’m actually concerned about moving forward.

My concern stems from a belief that if a business with established communication channels cannot bother replying to inquiries then they are not deserving of my business. If I send a business an email, essentially wanting to give them my money, and they don’t reply, what else should a person do but move on to another company.

But there are only so many companies on Prince Edward Island. I have already sent email to a range of banks and rental agencies in PEI. None have replied. If I continue and I get the same lack of response than I’ll have no one to do business with. It’s funny.

Perhaps this is simply a case of a clash between business styles, and not rude as I feel it is. PEI might be like the small Islands of Thailand, relaxed, slow, and informal.


Heavy Load

You will often see seniors here helping to support themselves by collecting recyclables. I suspect many are without family support. A couple weeks ago I was out riding on the nearby hills and came across an old lady laying on the road. I approached her cautiously, as Taiwan unfortunately has a reputation for using accidents for financial gain, scams abound. This may be a contributing factor as to why you often see people reluctant to help accident victims. But no normal person is going to walk by an old lady in need. Luckily she spoke Chinese, some in the rural parts of Hsinchu might be more comfortable with Taiwanese, and I asked her if she was ok. She had been hauling a refrigerator on a cart down a steep hill and it fell over taking her with it. I asked if she was ok and she said she was just a bit sore. I offered to call a family member, but she said their was no one to call, she was alone. With the help of passerby’s we got her on her way, but it’s unfortunate to see someone in this kind of situation. Growing old is hard enough without having to resort to collecting others garbage to put food on the table.


Learn to do it yourself

I’m taking a break from what I consider hell … trying to massage a WordPress theme to fit my humble needs. The ftp client crashed taking all my tracked changes with it and now the website won’t load.

It’s a lesson and a longing for a return to my former self when I had time to labor over a non-client project, building everything myself. I have so much respect for product designers who, like the web designers of lore, can create the whole stack, and make it look and work great.

This is one of the reasons why I started learning programming in earnest. To have more control over what I wanted to create. Self-reliance. And it’s why I plan on spending time in late summer, hopefully much sooner, brushing off my web development skills so that I can stop this WordPress bloat that has appeared in many of my web projects these past number of years.

I miss MoveableType, it’s flat files and mark-up language, and of course it’s speed. I made my own themes then and didn’t add every possible feature, javascript framework, or plugin that makes decoding and paring down each and every WordPress website a bloody nightmare.


The forgotten UX of the contact feature

Hard to believe this is still an issue.

When I started in design many years ago, particularly when I started working with small and medium sized corporate clients in Taiwan, one of the most common features that we would work on to improve their corporate websites user experience was the addition of easily findable contact information, and all the back-end systems required to make it effective. There was no point in including a phone number for support if no one was there to pick up the phone. At that time this was one of the primary tasks that users would visit a website to perform. Of course, it’s as common as air today, and yet this most basic element of a good user experience, has been the most frustrating for me in my interactions with a number of companies of late.

In Taiwan, I think it must be generally accepted that email is broken. With some exceptions, you don’t send an email to a government department and expect a reply, nor do you email a company and expect a timely response. I once sent an email to Garmin in Taiwan about one of their products and got a short 2 sentence reply 8 months later. In the interim I bought a competitors product. Facebook or Line is the way you interact here and I have had varying levels of success with that as well.

When I was last in Canada, I sent out a number of email to various local government departments. Reply times were generally 2 weeks – its best to use the telephone.

This past summer I had an agreement with the TD Bank in Charlottetown that we would communicate via email so that I could do some investing and take care of my mothers estate. The first couple of email replies were within a couple weeks, then no replies for months, then no replies at all. I doubt I will do any further business with this bank, and am considering switching completely to another institution.

Correspondence with a local Charlottetown insurance agent went unanswered, and the requested actions never took. That coupled with a misrepresentation of the policy itself means that they will lose all my current and future business once the current policy expires.

TDBank isn’t the only bank in Charlottetown with a poor communication experience. I sent an email, via their internal systems, one of the required methods off contact, to the Royal bank in Charlottetown looking to set-up an appointment to discuss a loan. It’s been a week and no reply. I guess they don’t need the business.

Finally, in looking for a place to live in Prince Edward Island, I’ve sent email to a number of rental companies. Despite a big bold contact box on all their websites, not one has replied. The rental market in PEI is a landlords market, so perhaps they don’t need to worry about drumming up business or damaging their reputation.

These are just a few examples of the may experiences I’ve had.

What companies don’t seem to realize is that by including a simple means of contact on their website they are setting the expectation that they actually want, and or are able, to communicate with their customers. By not paying attention to this most basic user task their customers experience with their company is most certainly poor, thereby losing opportunities, harming your brand, and doing a disservice to your organization. And for smaller organizations it’s just plain rude.

Before you absentmindedly add that contact information module to your website, do yourself and your company a favor and ensure that you truly are committed to communicating with your customers. You might even try stating when they might expect a reply, something even I do on this weblog. Set your customers expectations with a statement stating when they could expect a reply, and perhaps a follow-up email acknowledging receipt of said email with further confirmation of as to when you will get back to them. It’s not really that difficult.


Form vs. interaction

It is not the design of an object that makes it special, but what a person does with it — the interaction — that makes it special. A well–designed object must have the capacity to offer interaction, express deep human needs, and form relationships.

But don’t mistake these interactions as the entirety of the users experience. Great user experiences happen beyond the screen and in the gaps. Gaps between channels, devices and business silos. They happen when organisation’s pay attention to the nuances of their interaction with customers.


In the same way that industrial designers have shaped our everyday life through objects that they design for our offices and for our homes, interaction design is shaping our life with interactive technologies – computers, telecommunications, mobile phones, and so on. If I were to sum up interaction design in a sentence, I would say that it’s about shaping our everyday life through digital artifacts – for work, for play, and for entertainment.
Gillian Crampton Smith


The Downsizing Uprising

“I don’t need as much money to live which means I don’t have to work as much,” explains Andrew Odom, who with his wife, Crystal, and their three-year-old daughter recently downsized from their 248-square foot house in eastern North Carolina into a 27-foot travel trailer. “Every penny we would have paid toward a normal American house goes toward living life and adventuring and figuring out the next step, whether that’s living in a yurt or moving overseas.”

There’s plenty of new evidence to suggest that we’d all be happier shrinking our footprint and rethinking the American dream. According to a report published earlier this year by a team from Cornell University, people generally feel happier and more fulfilled when they spend money on experiences rather than material possessions; the anticipation of the outing—canoeing a river, climbing a peak, pulling off a bucket-list expedition—bumps up the happiness factor. In 2010, researchers at the London School of Economics correlated data from more than a million people who recorded their emotional states and locations on an app called Mappiness. The takeaway: We feel happier when we’re outside (yeah, we knew that, too), especially—go figure—near water.
The Downsizing Uprising

I’ve been following the tiny house movement with some interest, and have checked out a model home on display at the Science Park Hub, but have since decided that there is no way we could possibly downsize to that extent. People need some space to themselves, at least I do, and tiny homes mean you are together all the time. But I do get the appeal, the need, and with the fact that I am not getting any younger feel the next house we live in will be much smaller than the current norm. Also, I think we have always felt that “experiences” trump material positions in out life. Something that is hard to explain, let alone share with family, who like most people see success in the light of material gains.


Difficulties in finding housing in Prince Edward Island

This summer we are we are planning on relocating from Taiwan to Prince Edward Island, which feels more like emigrating than a simple move, and despite that day still more than 3 months out, and a year of planning, it’s proving to be far more “complex” than I ever imagined. I’m already losing sleep due to the uncertainty of what will come.

It’s a high risk move, a much larger challenge than when I left PEI, my birthplace, many years ago. Leaving Taiwan and China means leaving behind stable employment, good continued job prospects, a higher standard of living, and the comfort that comes from living in a region for almost 20 years. Ironically, one of the reasons I wanted to leave Taiwan, I left for this reason before but have returned, was due to work. In the tech. industry, salaries in Taiwan are the amongst the lowest in the developed world, work life balance is a problem, and industry growth stagnant. PEI doesn’t have a tech. industry to speak of and most similar job openings advertise salaries that are on par with what you might find here, less than in China, but with much higher taxation and a higher cost of living. Of course larger centers in Canada don’t suffer from lack of choice and low salaries, but Toronto isn’t home, PEI is.

The lack of employment opportunities in PEI came as no surprise, it’s known for its beauty and people, not for abundant industry. We are attempting to work around it by working remotely, starting a “wee size” business, and living apart for one year. One of us will stay behind in Taiwan to guarantee a stable income. Splitting the family takes some serious commitment.

What does come as a surprise is the complete lack of housing. The lack of housing is compounded by the fact that before we can register our children for school, we must provide a verified address, and schools are zoned aggressively, which if we are interested in our children attending a particular school, limits our choices even more. Our daughter taking the I.B. program at Colonel Gray or Charlottetown Rural, hangs in the balance.

When I first surveyed the rental market in the Charlottetown area many months ago I was primarily concerned with making a budget – I wanted to make sure we could actually afford to live there. What I found then was a grand total of 3 rentals that suited a family of 4! I thought it might have been an anomaly, but subsequent searches these past months have shown similar results. This morning when I looked across the whole Island the majority of ads on Kijiji were for people looking for places to live, not houses for rent, which while not remotely causal, might indicate that demand far far exceeds supply. Plea’s for help on social media also indicate difficulties in finding a place to live anywhere on the Island.

Buying is an option, but that market is difficult as well. And while I wouldn’t mind taking a risk on a cheap fixer-upper, these types of homes are rare in Charlottetown. Though the housing market is far more favorable than large centers in Canada, after your downpayment it’s cheaper to own on PEI than to rent, it’s still a significant investment and committment.

I can deal with some employment and business risk, we’ve embraced all kinds of risk over the years without any possibility of assistance. But the uncertainty of being able to have a roof over our heads is a whole new experience for me. Never in the past 30 years has there been any doubt we could find a place to live, until now.

While no plan survives first contact, hopefully this will all work out and the kids can start their new Island adventure in warm beds and a stable environment. I’ll just be sporting even more gray hair as a result.


If you want a meeting, ask for a meeting. Provide some time options and ask for a specified length. If you want an introduction, ask for an introduction. If you’re looking for funding, tell him you’re currently fundraising and ask to meet to show him your pitch. Don’t be sly. Don’t hint. Make the process ridiculously easy by just asking for what you want.
How to email busy people, by Jason Freedman


What is retirement to me?

My mother retired at 55 and most of her generation dreamt of early retirement like hers. Unfortunately by the time many of her generation made it to retirement, including my mother, they were so riddled with health problems that living the life they dreamed of became impossible. People I know in Taiwan and China are much the same, but at a different scale. They work insane hours, sometimes for great money, in the hope that in the end they can have enough money to have the freedom to walk away from the pressures of killing themselves.

I never shared this dream of working towards an arbitrary date, a date after reached that you could start living a life worth living. I had different ideas of how I wanted to lead my life, and by my parents definition, I’ve been retired for years now. It’s not been unicorns and rainbows of course, I don’t have a pot of gold, and have little interest, nor the ability, in buying the trappings of wealth like my peers. I’ve failed more times than I can count, I really wanted to work for a select few companies in China, but life has a way of changing your path. Their have been many challenges over the past few years and with a move to Prince Edward Island the greatest challenges are yet to come (how to survive in a region with little possibility of employment), but at least the battles I face are of my own choosing. And the things I have experienced!

I’m copying the following verbatim because I think it expresses much about my ideas of retirement. From Jan Chipchase’s great newsletter:

So what is retirement?

In the Bay Area, the topic of fuck-you money comes up a lot as a retirement goal. In part it’s because the conversation around income, stock and finance is so tied to the mythology of the area, and that most people know of a social or work peer who has achieved the freedom to step away from their job. What I don’t like about the phrase is that it’s a reaction to a negative, it implies earning good money and being happy cannot coexist. I’ve been around corporations most of my life, and understand what they, and the society at large, values financially and why. Not all jobs are intellectually rewarding or provide space for personal growth, but there are many that are — if you’re in the right place at the right time, skillful, and lucky.

Back to sitting on the verandah in Mill Valley — my colleague defined retirement as “doing only what you want to do”. She acknowledged she was part-way there, and suggested that I was fully retired.

So what is my retirement?

Four things provide the freedom that she described:

  • The first, and most obvious is in knowing the cost of living and having the savings to breathe.
  • The second is that Studio D passion projects have diversified our income streams to the point where we no-longer require consulting clients. The Handbook, SDR Traveller, retreats, expeditions, plus a few other things bubbling up, all generate relatively predictable income streams; and while revenues ebb and flow, they complement each other well. It means that every consulting client project is taken on for the right reasons.
  • The third is in maintaining a light footprint, including no offices or full time employees. This might change if the right opportunity came up, but there’s no rush.
  • The fourth, and most important, is in recognizing how little money is required to be happy, fulfilled. I start each year with a figure in mind for the year to live comfortably; after which everything, including whether to take on more work, is optional. We achieved this year’s baseline by the end of February.

If you know me, you’ll appreciate the hours I put in to bringing these things to life, and that it always takes a team. But for all of the past four years, it has not once felt like work. Is that retirement? You tell me.