An experiment in personal development

Freelancing Update – One Month In

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It has been a little over a month since I quit my full-time job of 8 years, a comfortable but soul-sucking corporate monster of a career that went nowhere. People who know me have probably been waiting for updates from the front and wondering if I feel like I made the right decision.

While it’s still very early to tell with any kind of certainty, my gut feeling tells me yes. I have absolutely no regrets. Since leaving my job, I’ve felt rejuvenated and re-ignited in my passion for life and what it has to offer. I’m enthusiastic about the possibilities that the future can bring. This is not to say that there haven’t been challenges – there have, and I foresee many more in the coming months. However, I was prepared for them, and I have faith that in the end it will all be worth it.

So, how are things in Vadimonkey land? I think, this hilarious web comic strip explains it beautifully.

But, here are my own thoughts:

The Good

Since quitting my job, my life feels like an extended vacation. I’ve been sleeping in, watching a lot of movies, reading more; I’ve been spending more time with my family and my friends. I’ve been riding my bike, hanging out at parks, bookstores and coffee shops, and generally taking it easy and being mellow – my natural state of being. This is good, because a vacation is exactly what I needed.

I took the time to update my demo reel and I’m finally starting to network more, look for potential clients and market myself and my services. It’s a slow process that I’m sure will take some time and a lot of effort, but once again – I was prepared for that and knew what was coming.

The Bad

By quitting my job, I yanked myself loose of the rigid corporate chain and the mind-numbing work, but also from the nice benefits and the safety net it provided. No more free high-speed internet, affordable health insurance and a cushy retirement plan. I now have to pay for all these things out of my own pocket.

Despite caring very little for my job or the prison-cell-like work environment, I was lucky to work closely with some genuinely great people whom I’ve grown very fond of. We all had similar interests, and on slow days, work felt more like hanging out with friends and socializing than an actual job. I miss that aspect of it.

Being a freelancer and generally working from home also means very limited human interaction. I now understand why many people who work from home are so active on various social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and so on) – other than purely for marketing purposes, sadly, it becomes their main way of interaction with the outside world. I’m going to try my best not to fall into that extreme.

Also, now that I don’t have a steady source of income, I have to keep to a budget and be mindful of how I spend my money. I have usually been okay with that, but now I must be even more strict. Which means, even though I have a lot more free time to enjoy concerts, movies and various cultural and entertainment events, I also have to limit myself to the ones I can afford to go to. Whereas, before I would have been pissed for not being able to go see Muse at the Pepsi Center because I had to work that day/night/early next morning, I am now frustrated because I have the time to see them, but can’t afford to (or can, but really shouldn’t) spend $60+ on the ticket. C’est la Vie.

Finally, and I feel that this will be my greatest challenge, my laid-back and relatively quiet, shy personality can be detrimental to getting ahead in business. I hate to think of it this way, but it’s true: what I’m getting myself into is first and foremost – a business. As such, it requires an outgoing personality, rock-solid determination and thick skin. It demands great people skills and an ability to sell myself. This is something I constantly struggle with, but hopefully it will get better with time and practice.

So, what’s next?

Network, Network, Network

In the coming months, I will try my best to connect and network with people, community organizations, businesses and local establishments; to seek out collaborators, clients and even new friends. Forcing myself to get out of my shell and get the word out about my freelance business will be the most difficult part of this leg of my entrepreneurial (I can’t believe I just used that word) journey. It’s a big experiment in self-actualization, the outcome of which depends almost entirely on my own determination and the ability to bend and adapt to any given situation. It’s counter-intuitive to my personality, and I honestly don’t know how it will turn out, but I’m going to give it a good old try.

In addition, despite being somewhat of a loner for most of my life, I’ve always craved the company and interaction with like-minded, creative, and inspired/passionate people. I haven’t had much luck with it before due to my inherent shyness and awkwardness in approaching people, but I would really like to surround myself with a circle of acquaintances and friends who are kindred spirits and live and breathe art and beauty and all the things that fuel my own passions. I think it’s important to build a strong network of support and collaboration, a group of positive people to bounce ideas off.

Personal / Artistic Development

I will need to make it a point to regularly spend some time pursuing personal and creative projects; things that are important to me. Reading books, taking photos (for myself, not just for clients), watching good films and learning new skills. I also have a few other irons in the oven; ideas for projects that may or may not find fruition. I will write more about them in due time.

This is just the beginning, and the first steps of any journey are always the hardest. Time will tell how things will turn out, but I’m excited to see where this journey will take me. To sum it all up – no, I have no regrets in leaving my job, and I’m enthusiastically pushing forward. Of course, it’s still scary and uncertain, but that’s also what makes it feel so right.

I would love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions. Are there experiences or lessons in pursuing your dreams that you would like to share? Feel free to leave comments below!


Written by vadimonkey

September 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Life, Personal Development

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Lifestyle Design? Call it whatever you want. Welcome to my experiment in personal development.

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Most people who know me are aware that I’ve felt this way for a long time. However, until last year, it was just a vague idea; something that was always in the back of my mind, but something that I never truly followed through.

In the summer of 2009, after going through some soul-searching, I came to a revelation. It was partially brought on by an event that marks an important point in most people’s lives: turning 30. Sure, it’s just an arbitrary date which doesn’t really mean anything. And yet, it carried a significant impact. It pushed me to stop and reflect where my life was going, and most importantly – to question myself whether or not I was on the right path.

The conclusion I came to was not surprising, and it made everything clear, jump-starting a process of re-defining myself and looking for a more meaningful and fulfilling way of living. I made a decision, and a pretty dramatic one: to leave my comfortable, well-paying, yet mind-numbing and creatively stifling full-time job within a year in order to pursue my dreams and aspirations.

Some of my friends and family were skeptical. In this economy? When most people are struggling to stay above water, many of them living paycheck-to-paycheck, paying bills and mortgage, hoping and praying that they won’t lose their jobs? Am I really that arrogant, ungrateful, delusional or just plain stupid?

Well, the last part may be true. However, I realized that life is just too damn short and fragile to be wasted on working for a large corporation, doing meaningless work that robs you of your precious personal time and kills any creativity or higher ambitions you may have in exchange for a steady paycheck, health benefits and a measly few weeks of vacation.

For many people, it’s a worthwhile arrangement. Most of my co-workers have families, children, a house and a 30-year mortgage. I respect that. Working 40-60 hour weeks to pay for it all, at what is essentially a variation of a desk job, is not such a horrible thing, right? Certainly, nothing compared to being a coal miner, highway construction worker or having another physically demanding blue-collar job.

Still, something is wrong with this picture, and it has little to do with the job itself, but more with the entire corporate system and this commercial consumerist culture that has gone way out of control.

The truth is, modern media and corporations have conditioned people to spend their hard-earned cash on things they don’t need, convincing them that buying things on a regular basis (bigger, better, faster) will make them happier. Guess what? It’s all an illusion.

This is the popularized American Dream. To get a college degree, find a well-paying job, buy a car, purchase a house, get married, have children. Put your children through college. Rinse and repeat. But, what does it all really mean? What’s it all for? Where does happiness and meaning in life truly set in?

Here is how things really work, the way I see it. After finishing high school, you go to college to get a degree, so that you can get a good job when you graduate (you’ll need that job to pay off all the student loans you’ve accumulated – and it will take years). Unfortunately, the higher education you receive, in most cases, will carry very little value by the time you graduate. Most of the classes you’ll take, while good for your overall well-rounded knowledge, will have zero practical implementations for the rest of your life (unless you’re studying to be a doctor, a lawyer or perhaps going into a specialized technical field like engineering or IT).

In any case, you graduate and eventually find a decent job. Chances are, it is probably not something you’ve always dreamed about, but it’s good enough, and you convince yourself that you’ll only stay there long enough to save some money and pay off those student loans, or until you find another job that is more fulfilling or pays better.

Years go by. Maybe you find a better/higher-paying job, maybe you don’t. Either way, you get used to the steady paycheck, the benefits and the comfort that comes from making a stable living. You decide that it’s time to settle down, so you get married, have kids and/or buy a house. Meanwhile, your original hopes and dreams are slowly fading away, replaced by what you feel is a more practical reality. You can’t escape it, so you just get used to it. After all, life isn’t so bad — you have food on the table, a roof over your head and a family you can support. All you have to do to keep this stability is to continue working for most of your life, exchanging your time at the office for the money to pay for all the things you have bought and are continuing to buy, occasionally taking a painfully short vacation to get away from it all and recharge your batteries.

The problem with this system is that the majority of people (particularly, the middle class) are living well beneath their full potential as human beings. From the moment we are born until the moment we die, we are conditioned and brainwashed into the idea that happiness and fulfillment come from making money and buying things. The more, the better. And to make money and buy things, we need to work for most of our lives, often in jobs that we don’t necessarily like or that provide any kind of meaning or fulfillment for us, other than purely monetary.

So, we work and we buy crap that we don’t need. As we start to earn more money, we start buying more expensive things. Perhaps, deep inside we understand that most of the things we buy are really useless or unnecessary, but they distract us and give us temporary moments of relief from our problems and general dissatisfaction with life, so we continue to do it. Sure, not everyone is spending all of their hard-earned money on stuff. Some of us choose to save or invest some of our income, little by little, just so we can have enough to retire in peace and get a chance to do all the things that we really want to do when we’re in our golden years.

There are variations to this societal entrapment, and while some of them seem more attractive than others, I feel that they are all part of the same illusion spoonfed to us in order to keep the majority of the population constantly working and/or in debt so that the wealthy few who run corporations and media conglomerates can continue to make profits.

Honestly, in my opinion, this system wouldn’t be so bad if workers were allowed to take extended vacations or have flexible schedules. However, in this country we get an average of 2 weeks of vacation PER YEAR. If you ask me, this is just criminal. That’s roughly 4% of our time during our working lives that we get to dedicate to relaxation, personal fulfillment and other things that we like to do. The other 96% is spent working for someone else. Even when you factor in weekends and holidays, we are still spending at least 70-80% of our lives working. For what? Just so we can afford to buy food, a house, a car, healthcare insurance, education for our children and a few other things here and there. Does that seem fair to you? Sure, it may be fair if you actually love your job and your work is providing you with a sense of purpose and satisfaction in life. But honestly, how many middle-class working people can say that? A disturbingly small percentage.

And, when the economy takes a dive because people are no longer able to afford the things they spent their money on, corporations are forced to downsize, people lose their jobs and find themselves up to their ears in even more debt. The house of cards comes crashing down.

There is a way out of this downward spiral, but it requires a fundamental shift in perception and erasing the very notions of how we are supposed to live our lives. It requires saying no to the endless pollution of consumerism, greed, destruction of our environment and our health. It calls for overcoming our fears of failure and instead finding the inspiration and motivation to pursue our dreams.

I am talking about something that has been recently popularized, but has, in fact, existed for a very long time and in virtually every western culture. The current “hip” term for it is Lifestyle Design.

There are countless books, websites and blogs dedicated to lifestyle design. The basic notion being, that virtually anyone of us has the power to change our life; to free ourselves of the status-quo 9-5 routine of the corporate world and to pursue our hopes and dreams, either through enterpreneurship, starting a small business, traveling the world, decreasing our spending and simplifying our lifestyle, or a variation/combination of any of those things.

I am not going to attempt to reinvent the wheel, or to regurgitate information from any of the wonderful resources that already exist online. A simple Google search will reveal a wealth of information, if you would like to learn more about lifestyle design.

The purprose of this blog, from now on, will be to document and share my personal journey into the unknown and everything that comes out of it, including mistakes (inevitably, I will make some), failures (I’m sure there will be some of those, too), and (hopefully) — eventual success. And, if success doesn’t come, at least there will be a satisfaction in knowing that I tried and did my best. I can live with that, but first I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I don’t have to. So, this blog is for all of my friends and family, and everyone else who is curious and wants to follow my endeavor.

I should stress that the risk of failure is always there, and I acknowledge it. But, I believe the rewards that could come from success (financial rewards being the least of them; I’m talking about freedom, independence and a sense of fulfilment and purpose in life) are absolutely worth risking for.

My goal is to be as honest and transparent in this blog, as possible. It is my hope that this will also help all of you who are looking to get off the beaten path and find your calling in life, just as I am. I’m not planning on making any money with this blog, as many other lifestyle design and motivational self-help websites are doing. I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I did. I’m the farthest thing from a social media guru. I know next to nothing about SEO, affiliate ads or building traffic. I’m not a business-savy person and this is not that kind of a site. I’m simply here to organize my thoughts and ideas, and to share my experiences in an informal and honest way. It’s a learning experience that I’m willing to publicly document. Until I decide not to.

Having said that, this blog is as much for you, as it is for me. Feel free to comment, discuss, share your advice or your own experiences regarding the topics I will write about. I am learning as I go, so much of this will likely be experimental and unpredictable. This whole little project may or may not last. Unforseen events may come up and force me to abandon it altogether. However, I promise that I will do my best to post here on a somewhat regular basis.

So, welcome to the new world of vadimonkey, and wish me luck! I’m going to need it.

Written by vadimonkey

May 10, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Happiness is a choice. Be sure to make the right one.

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I knew that 2010 was going to be a year of major transitions in my life. Deep down inside, I just knew it. I assumed it would be mostly focused in the career and personal development areas, but I simply did not anticipate the heavy, deeply personal life lessons hitting me right in the gut in recent months. When it rains, it pours. Perhaps, even a little symbolic, with all the precipitation we’ve been getting in Denver lately. And yet, I can’t help but notice a pattern; a vague hint of a grand scheme somehow orchestrated that seems to be guiding me in the right direction, albeit through some real fire pits. Ironically, this seems to be helping me overcome my weaknesses, even if it’s through pain and serious bouts of self-doubt.

I realize something now, though. Life is a complicated, twisty road. It’s never perfect, but sometimes it can come close. It is often difficult and seemingly unfair, but it’s life and there is a purpose behind everything that happens. Even, if that purpose sometimes doesn’t become apparent for many years, or in some cases — at all. And, to be alive is one hell of a great gift that should be cherished, no matter what.

When shit hits the fan, it’s not random. It’s a wake-up call to re-examine the choices we make, the patterns we fall into and the very nature of our actions. At least, that’s the way I see it. It may be naive or wishful thinking on my part, but more and more I’m starting to realize that nothing is random. Every single action yields a reaction, and the butterfly effect is more than just a fascinating theory. It’s the fabric of life itself.

You have to look deep within yourself, peel away all the lies and half-truths, manipulations and distractions; shed away the fears that cripple and transform you into something lesser (the most difficult thing to do, in my opinion) and simply focus on who you are. Clear away all the clutter, and the nature of your being will shine through — embrace it. Follow your instincts, create positive patterns in your life and happiness will find you.

Yes, my life has gotten complicated in the past few months. Perhaps, the worst since 2006.  I briefly lost my way. I’ve had enough emotional roller-coaster rides, burn-outs and major life lessons to last me for years to come. But now, I feel that perhaps it was just a detour that was needed to teach me something important. And, I feel that the time is right to clear the clutter and get back to the basics, both physically and figuratively speaking. So, let the spring cleaning commence. And let’s see what’s next, around the dark corner. Somehow, I feel it’ll be sunshine.

“If you want to be happy, be.” – Leo Tolstoy

Written by vadimonkey

April 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Life


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Last week, I came across this article on about the places in the world with highest average pay. Not surprisingly, the top 10 cities were in Europe: places such as Zurich, Geneva, Dublin, Oslo and Munich, among others, where the average net pay is somewhere in the $18-$22/hr range.

But, that’s not what got me. What got me was the average number of paid vacation days per year: 21 in Ireland, 23 in Switzerland, 25 in Austria and 29 in Germany. That’s not including holidays, sick days and whatnot. Compared to that, United States is a bloody forced labor camp with its average of 9 paid vacation days per year for most jobs where people have worked for less than 10 years. Now, these statistics are not exactly something I haven’t heard before, but this list put it all into perspective and reinforced my views about the work ethic in this country. It’s bloody inhumane. I realize that Europe is no paradise and has its own share of problems, both economic and social. But still…

There is so much to do in this life, so many wonderful things to experience and to learn. Life is short and time is of the essence. Adulthood lasts only a few decades, before it starts to turn into old age and life begins to fade away. It’s such a shame that most of us spend at least two-thirds of our lives working at boring, mind-numbing or stressful jobs, just so we can pay the bills and buy things that distract us from the fact that we’re all slaves to this system. Is this really what life is about? Working your ass off for some company that doesn’t give a shit about you as an individual, its only motivation being in making profit? Unfortunately, with the exception of the wealthy, privileged, or the lucky few who actually have jobs that they truly enjoy, that seems to be the case.

Well, I say screw that. We all have choices, even if they are not always obvious or easy to see. That’s what’s great about this country — there are infinite possibilities and unlimited potential to grow, but only if you’re smart, persistent and are willing to work hard and choose to pursue your goals despite your fears. The most difficult aspect of it all is fear — fear of the unknown and fear of failure. It’s what keeps most of us encaged, chained and bound. I have that fear too, I’m only human. But recently, I made a choice to let go of it and free myself, because I have an ever bigger and more terrifying fear — fear of living my life without attempting to do something worthwhile with it; fear of being an expendable cog in the machine, working for someone else’s profit and not being able to control my own schedule and personal time to grow and experience the world. Fear of turning 60 and realizing that I have wasted the last 30 years of my life on jobs that meant nothing to me and made no contribution to my spiritual, intellectual and psychological well-being, other than providing the financial means to survive and live my life the way I want to for two or three measly weeks out of a year.

Realistically, I have no delusions. It is very likely that I will fail on my quest to become independent and self-sufficient, instead becoming hopelessly broke and having to start from scratch. I may have to fall back into the rigid system of grinding through the soulless corporate machine. In that case, I’ll be crushed, but at least I will know that I gave it my best shot and did what I could. And I will be okay with that.

Until then, I think it’s time to start living my own life instead of spending most of it making money for someone else. This year will be the year of transition, and I deeply hope that all the pieces will eventually fall into place.

And I’d like to live in Europe. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon…

Written by vadimonkey

September 2, 2009 at 11:14 am

Posted in Life

What’s over the hill?

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As it seems to happen every year right around this time, a feeling of general restlessness has invaded my life. It may be partially due to summer fever (despite recent schizophrenic weather patterns), or it may have something to do with my quickly approaching 30th birthday. Either way, I feel like I need to start spending more time on introspection and soul-searching. It has been difficult to concentrate on anything lately, and I find myself more prone to distractions than normal. I started 4 books in the past few months, and have trouble getting into any of them, even though they’re all pretty decent. What’s going on?

Yes, I will turn 30 in just over a week. While I try not to think of it as a big deal, in a way it sort of is. It is something of a half-way point, a start of that transitional period between growing up and turning old; an important time in anyone’s life. It’s a time of being an adult. A period, during which most people solidify their careers, form families and plant deep roots. Daunting, isn’t it?

Ironically, these are all the things that I want, and yet they are also the things that slightly scare me. Mainly, because there is an air of finality about them, and I feel that I haven’t yet experienced or experimented enough to know exactly what I need or what I will be happy with for the rest of my life; career or relationship-wise. Or, perhaps I do know and I just haven’t spent enough time or effort pursuing it, because, well… I’m the type of person that usually just goes with the flow and doesn’t like to rock the boat too much. I don’t like change, but sometimes change is imminent and crucial to evolving as an individual.

As I near this transition point, I look back upon the past decade of my life and wonder what I would have done differently. It’s a difficult question, and certainly an important one to ponder. Interestingly, I find that I do not have many regrets.

Despite some pretty dark and intense events that took place, at first glance it seems that my twenties have been relatively laid-back and uneventful. Sure, there were some major life-changing experiences, but I feel that compared to most of my peers, I haven’t had as much life experience as I could or should have. Particularly, in the social, personal and networking arena. My romantic relationships can all be counted on one hand, and my professional career (not including the freelance work) hasn’t really progressed much, beyond the normal turtle-paced financial climb up the soul-less corporate ladder, from which I can’t wait to get off. Things have largely remained status quo. And the thing is – I like status quo. It’s a place where I feel most comfortable. But, it’s also a source of certain insecurities and fears; things that could potentially be damaging.

And yet, I realize that I managed to accomplish and experience quite a lot in that formative period of my life. I graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder and got my Bachelor’s degree when I was 22. It was in Film Studies – a field that I absolutely loved (still do) and which tapped into my lifelong interest in all things creative, visual and artistic. I’ve worked on numerous independent films, TV shows and media projects in various capacities. Less than 6 months out of college, I got a stable full-time job in cable television; a position, that was vaguely related to my major, or at least – the technical aspect of it. When I was 25, I traveled around Europe for almost a month – entirely by myself, which was a huge step out of the shell for me and, in many ways, a life-changing experience in its own right. In the span of two years (24-26, right smack in the middle of my twenties), I met new friends, suffered through the illnesses and the deaths of both of my grandparents, and shortly after – my parents’ divorce; fell in love for the first time, survived the unthinkably tragic end of it; went through a pretty bleak period before finally starting to date again… Looking back at my mid-twenties, perhaps it wasn’t such a laid-back time. It was pretty fucking turbulent. Then, I took up photography as a hobby, which quickly evolved into a more serious pursuit, worked on more freelance video and media projects, traveled some more, found a romantic relationship that lasted more than six months and finally, in the last couple of years felt a little bit more relaxed and at peace with myself… And yet, I still feel that something important is missing.

But maybe, that’s normal. Maybe, we are not meant to be completely satisfied with our lives. Otherwise, what would be the point of living if there was nothing higher to strive for? It is wise to think that I should be happy with what I have, which is probably more than what many others have achieved by this point in their lives. However, it is also much less than the achievements and life experiences of countless other people my age. I know I shouldn’t compare myself with them, because truly – everyone is unique, has different upbringings, talents, lives and paths that they follow. And yet, I can’t help but think that by the time George Lucas was 30, he was already shooting Star Wars and Steven Spielberg had Jaws under his belt. J.D. Salinger was a little over 30 when he wrote Catcher In The Rye, and Salvador Dali painted The Persistence of Memory when he was only 26. I wouldn’t dare to even think of comparing myself to the genius of these artists, but my point is – the late twenties/early thirties is a pivotal period of creative/mental/artistic activity in most people’s lives. There are exceptions, of course, and many don’t find their streak of success until much later in life. But, for the most part, it seems that if you want to make something of yourself, you have to do it when you’re young, or in early adulthood. After that, it gets more difficult, because people’s minds get less flexible; they tend to get stuck in their lives and routines of their jobs, families, social obligations and so on. And, particularly in this fast-paced society driven by consumerism, it becomes difficult to indulge in personal soul-searching, introspection and creativity when most of us need to worry about making rent/mortgage/car payments and supporting our loved ones.

I get into these thoughts from time to time, as I try to look at myself from outside and attempt to comprehend who I really am and where I’m going in life. I have moments of genuine happiness and satisfaction, moments when I feel thankful for everything I have and everything I have accomplished; and then, there are moments of extreme self-doubt, uncertainty and fear that time is going by too fast and that I’m not enjoying and experiencing life as much as I could; that I’m not pursuing more opportunities and spending more time on things that really matter instead of things that are inconsequential and ultimately pointless.

The thing is, I’m not an ambitious person. By nature, I’m mostly well-balanced and fairly passive. So, it’s very easy for me to go with the flow and resist change. But perhaps, sometimes change is important, even for me. And perhaps, in this period of my life, change is imminent. And the way I think I need to deal with it, is to be true to myself. To respect my own feelings and trust my intuition. To try to shed the layers of ambiguity and find some clarity of mind. Only then I will be able to start sculpting myself into the person I want to be.

Written by vadimonkey

July 4, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Life