Letter to My Children
Jean Luc Godard said, “He who jumps into the void owes no explanation to those who stand and watch.” Jean Luc Godard may have been right, but Clark’s kids are not just standing by and watching. They’re on the journey. The decisions Clark and his wife have made about how to live their life directly impact their children. Perhaps he does own them an explanation.
Leaving behind a succcessful career at the Reagan Ranch, Clark and his wife depart on a six month road trip with their son. Their plan was that once the journey was complete they would return home, buckle down, live respectable lives, send their kids to the right schools, serve on the right boards and live happily ever after. They set off thinking they were on sabbatical, but their sabbatical would turn into a lifestyle.
“Living epicly is like crack. Once you get a taste you can’t stop; you just have to figure out a way to keep it going.”-Clark
Chapter 1: From the outside looking in
The life of your dreams is not about money. There are lots of people with money who are not living the life of their dreams just like there are lots of people without money who are not living the life of their dreams. It’s not about the money.
Why is the life of your dreams so elusive? Can anyone live a life of their dreams, or is that kind of life only for people who are “special?” Those are theoretical questions that are “too big” for the purpose of this book. The real question is, “Do you believe a life of your dreams is possible?” Do you believe you can live a life of design?
“Most people get the highest-paying job possible and then figure out how to arrange their lives around that job. They get a job and then buy a life commensurate to their income level. To these people, one’s lifestlye is determined by how much money they have. I suggest that you not arrange your life around a job, but that you arrange your life around what you value most. Get a job that fits your life, not a life that fits your job.” -Clark
Chapter 2: Growing Pains
Many times the path less traveled is littered with failure and humbling experiences. Learn how to use the failures in your life and embrace the freedom that comes with them. Clark talks about how defeated he felt after losing his congressional campaign and moving into his in-laws garage. He paints a picture of what life in the garage looked like and quotes JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series: “Rock bottom became the solid foundation from which I re-built my life.”
“Losing everything was the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me realize that losing everything isn’t all that bad. I was forever freed from the fear of failure. I have been freed from the things I used to clutter my life with that I thought would make me happy. Rebuilding from nothing, I was given the opportunity to build from design.” -Clark
Chapter 3: Casting a vision for your future
Businesses know that future success won’t just happen. They need a plan. Think about your life the way you would if you were about to prepare a business plan. Stop spinning your wheels. Don’t just keep trudging along. Give yourself time and space to figure out what you want. Having a vision for your future will help you do the hard work when the time for working comes, but you’ve got to have the vision first.
“Settling on a vision for the future is important because once you settle on a vision, you can stop wasting your time doing things that aren’t helping you achieve a life of your design and focus only on those things that do.” -Clark
Chapter 4: Living in the Now
“I wish I had retired two years sooner.” Those were the words a man spoke to Clark whose wife had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. To Clark, two years seemed like a pittance. What about the rest of the years? So many people are working toward a great future, but that future is not guaranteed. The only thing we know we have for sure is today. Retirement and those promised “Golden Years” may never come; if you do reach that finish line, life may not look like you expected. Don’t postpone time with your family, adventures, and living an epic life now for the hope of doing those things in the future. Learn how to live an epic life now.
“I made the decision to no longer give the best of my life to someone else and to abandon the idea of simply trading my time for money.” -Clark
Chapter 5: It’s hard to find a friend
When you abandon the conventional life you can become very isolated; friends and even family can become distant. Many see it as a rejection of their life, some are jealous, some just don’t understand. Learn how to seek out people who support your new life, deal with those who don’t and let go of the ones who will never understand.
“I felt terribly alone living in my in-laws’ garage. My relationship with my wife and kids was strong, but everyone else was gone. Although Monica and I were full of hope regarding our future, I also struggled with waves of depression. I’d sit in the garage at night reading and drinking cheap whiskey, wondering what happened to everyone. I felt like I had lots of friends when I was a big shot… Where were all those people now?” -Clark
Chapter 6: It ain’t always easy
It ain’t always easy! Don’t jump off into the abyss and think that everything is going to work out perfectly. Great stories don’t develop that way, and you want your story to be great! We all have to prepare for the hard times. Here is an honest picture of some hard times Clark and his family faced. Before you throw caution to the wind, count the costs.
“I feel very strongly that I need to communicate how precarious our situation is at times because I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture, have you throw caution to the wind… and then blame me for not telling you how hard this is! It’s hard, but it’s totally worth it” -Clark
Chapter 7: Let’s Make a Deal
Whatever we have in life, we have because we have traded a part of our life to get it. We trade a part of our life to get money, and then we trade our money to get stuff. To put it directly, whatever we have in life, we have because we trade a part of our life to get it. How much of your life are you willing to trade to get what you want? There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. The only wrong answer is to not address the question at all. You want to make sure you spend your life energy wisely.
“Time is of infinite value. If I’m going to trade a part of my life for something, I’d better make darn sure that I want it. I want to make a good trade.”-Clark
Chapter 8: Patchwork Income
Living a different life requires different thinking about how you make money. Clark and his wife have developed a system that provides flexibility and freedom which they call “Patchwork Income.” Patchwork Income is different from “freelance” or being a “consultant” and provides much greater financial security than “getting a job.” Patchwork Income brings the idea of diversification to income. If diversification is such a good idea for retirement savings, why not bring the idea to income?
“Once we realized what we were doing — how we had accidentally started building this amazing patchwork — I determined that I would never depend on a single source of income for our family. We would make a beautiful patchwork.” -Clark
Chapter 9: Choose Your Risk
Nothing in life is guaranteed. If you have a good job there is no guarantee you will have it tomorrow. The old economic system was built on the idea that if you were loyal to your employer they would be loyal to you. This idea is dead. Move on. Experiment with new things and find work you love. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are being selfish by pursuing work you love. Pursuing work that you love will make you come alive. Just as important, there’s a gift in you that you have the opportunity to give to the world. Don’t hold back. Give it.
“It may sound scary to ‘go for it’, but it’s no more risky than staying in a job you don’t love. There is no security in the job market today. There’s no such thing anymore as a safe or secure job. Your choice is not between playing it safe and taking a risk. Your choice is between risk that is unsatisfying or risk that satisfies.” -Clark
Chapter 10: Eat, Talk, Make Love
If you are married or in a committed relationship, accomplishng your goals in life will be almost impossible if you and your partner are not of one heart and one mind. Learn how to be of one heart and one mind with your partner despite wild changes in your life. Challenge tradtional gender roles and rethink income generation and household responsibilities. Studies show that couples where both partners share these responsibilities have more sex than couples where there’s a division of these areas.
“I’m not sure which comes first – sharing household responsibilities creating good vibes or sharing household responsibilities growing out of a shared life. Whichever it is, who’s going to argue with more sex?” -Clark
Chapter 11: Family > Career
You’ve heard the expression, “Nobody ever said on their deathbed that they wish they’d worked more.” People say this and shrug their shoulders like there’s nothing they can do about it. There is something they can do about it! Live a life where work and family are intertwined. Most people are working and unLiving. Start living and unWorking.
“Slowly the chase for a new career or business opportunity or more money began to take a back seat to lifestyle.” -Clark
Chapter 12: unSchooling and unWorking
Our world has changed, but the way we view both work and school has not changed. School today looks the same as it has for decades and the model is outdated. The future of work is unWorking and education today should be designed to meet the needs of tomorrow. By unWorking, we remove ourselves from the rat race. By unSchooling or hack-schooling, we get our kids out of the minaturied, pressurized rat race.
“For me, the line between what is recreation and what is work can often be very blurry. What’s fun and what’s work isn’t defined by punching a time clock. Why should it be any different for my kids? Why should I think that in order for them to learn, they have to be at a school? If I don’t go to an office to work, why should they go to a school to learn?” -Clark
Chapter 13: Go a little crazy
Society has labeled certain aspirations as ridiculous because there’s not much potential to make a lot of money. These aspirations aren’t ridiculous if your goal is happiness and fulfillment. Rethink your definition of success. Learn about “the hypomanic edge” and how people who are “just a little crazy” tend to be successful.
“When we’re kids, dreaming comes naturally. Our imaginations run wild and everything is possible. Over time, our schools and our consumerist culture beat the dreamer into submission. We’re taught to think according to career counselors. We begin thinking less about what we love or what we were born to do and more about meeting market demands or how much money we can make at a profession. We need to learn to dream again” -Clark
Make the most of what you have now. Don’t wait to be happy until you have things right. You will not be happy in the future if you can’t figure out how to be happy now. Small steps in your current life can bring new perspective. If you live in the mountains, enjoy the mountains. If you live at the beach, enjoy the beach. If you live in an incredible cultural center, enjoy the culture. Be interesting. This really goes beyond where we live and the recreation we choose. This is about our entire life energy and where we spend it and how we spend it.
“Make the most of your life, wherever you are, right now. Whatever you may want life to look like in the future, you can be that person today with every choice you make.” -Clark