More than thirty years ago, when I was about 24 years old, I had a pretty good office job in Toronto. I used the subway system to commute to and from work every weekday.

I have a vivid memory of of seeing a middle-aged man dressed in a cheap corduroy suit, during one evening commute home. It was the kind of suit a person buys because he needs to look presentable for work, but isn’t paid enough to buy something that looks really sharp. He was also carrying a battered briefcase. But what hit me like a ton of bricks back then, and stays with me now, is that he was making a wild, thrashing run out of the subway and up multiple flights of stairs in order to catch his soon-to-leave city bus.

The thing that struck me was that I was the young guy just starting out in the business world and he, in my eyes, was (or should have been) an established, dignified, businessman in a position to conduct himself with a calm air of professionalism. Instead, he was running like a school boy who is afraid of grave punishment if he were late.

It bothered me. In fact, it scared me.

Because I wondered if there was a chance I could end up the same way. I wondered if I would be a grown man who was under such close control and scrutiny that I would have to rush around like a maniac for fear of other people’s judgement and sanctions if I didn’t meet their schedules or other requirements. Yikes.

A year later I was driving to work along a roadway featuring typically under-engineered capacity called the Don Valley Parkway. Virtually every day the traffic was bumper to bumper and crawled along at 10 or 20 miles per hour, which stole at least a half-hour or more of time from every one of us poor saps who had no better alternative.

I once calculated what all that time, back and forth, every weekday would cost me if I did it for 40 years waiting to retirement. I’ll save your the detailed computation and just say, it would represent the equivalent of over two years of waking hours. The equivalent, financially and productively, of spending that time in a prison cell somewhere. In fact, a guy in prison could likely get more done than a guy stuck in traffic. Again, yikes!

Anyway, the combined thoughts of living under the unwanted expectations and control of others, combined with the wretched inefficiency thrust upon the average worker, were very motivating to me in terms of seeking alternatives.

Escaping the Noose

So one of the sweetest things Connie and I have enjoyed these last almost twenty years of having online income through our own businesses is our Freedom of Time.

When our kids were in school in a rural area, Connie and I could drive them to school, spend a few minutes chatting with teachers and joking with our kids’ friends as the school buses arrived, then visit the local coffee shop and discuss our plans for the day in a relaxed, peaceful manner. We both did our work from home so we were available for anything that came up at school or elsewhere. We never missed a school play, concert, or a sporting event.

We could vacation any time school was out. There was none of the familiar concern, “Well, we only get two weeks vacation per year and we already used most of it. Plus we were all told at work that nobody can take days off in August.” Those restrictions were long gone. Later, when we home-schooled, the school calendar ceased to be a restraint also. We traveled with the kids. We made our own schedules. It was a wonderful time in all of our lives.

These days our kids are grown and spread to the four winds, sometimes living on four different continents simultaneously. Still, Connie and I can make our own schedules and engineer our work so we can live where we want and experience what we want.

That doesn’t mean we do very little work. We actually do quite a lot, but it’s work we like and want to do. We also have future plans to do different work we’ve never done before. Just for the pleasure of it.

But what days of the month and what time of day we do the work is always flexible and that alone is a massive benefit. We never shop when it’s busy. We don’t drive places when traffic is bad. We don’t visit counties during peak season when choices are limited and prices are highest. We aren’t forced by circumstances to waste our time or money.

By the way, don’t believe the stories you hear about having some absentee online business where everything is outsourced and the proprietor just sits back and watches his money pile up. I’ve never seen it. I don’t know anyone who has seen it. People who want to sell the idea of a 1-hour work week are always working 80-hours a week telling people about it.

In the online business world, the same intractable, fundamental truths about business apply the way they’ve applied for centuries. To make a profit, you have to provide people with something of solid value. Something they literally want more than the money they have to pay to get it. That law never goes away and likely never will. But the other advantages of doing it all online are massive when it comes to delivering Freedom of Time.

Conventional employment is fraught with disadvantages to the individual. Days of the week, hours of the day, available vacation times, and other circumstances are all dictated externally. These conditions force people to be inefficient outside of work and to incur unnecessary expenses. Owning and controlling your own source of income permits an order of magnitude more freedom of time.

In Part 4 we’ll discuss: Freedom to Create

 

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