The Voluntary Life

16 November 2015

227 Review Of The Better Angels Of Our Nature By Steven Pinker

This episode is a review of a fascinating book, The Better Angels Of Our Nature, by Steven Pinker. The following quote summarises the book's main argument:

"Believe it or not—and I know that most people do not—violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence. The decline, to be sure, has not been smooth; it has not brought violence down to zero; and it is not guaranteed to continue. But it is an unmistakable development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars to the spanking of children."
Steven Pinker

Show Notes:

Listen To Episode 227

5 November 2015

226 The Mindset For Financial Independence

This episode is about three concepts that I've found helpful for managing money. These concepts are about the big-picture when it comes to money, rather than the details. I think they express the mindset for achieving financial independence. Here is a summary of the ideas discussed:
  1. Be Your Own CFO: managing your own money as you would manage the finance of a business.
  2. Be Investment-Oriented, Not Consumption-Oriented
  3. Be A Passive Investor. 
I've just set up a Facebook group for TVL listeners. Hope to see you at The Voluntary Life Community on Facebook!

Show Notes:

Listen To Episode 226

26 October 2015

225 Comparative Advantage Is Mind-blowing

This is a short episode to explain a key idea from economics. Comparative advantage is a simple idea, but its implications are mind-blowing when you really get it. It is a process that most people don't understand, but it is at the root of everything that we create. Comparative advantage is intimately linked to what it means to be human.

Show Notes:
Listen to Episode 225

19 October 2015

224 Ancient Vs Modern Ideas Of Liberty

This is a short episode to share an interesting idea from a book by Benjamin Constant called The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns. Constant was a French classical liberal writer who lived through the French revolution and the reign of terror. As he thought through what had gone wrong with the revolution, he came up with a distinction between two conflicting ideas of "liberty" that had influenced the people involved- an ancient concept of liberty and a modern one. I think his distinction is still useful today and can help make sense of the incompatible ways in which different people talk about freedom.

Show Notes:

Listen to Episode 224 (9 mins)

5 October 2015

223 A Guide To Passive Investment Portfolios: Interview With Tyler From Portfolio Charts is a brilliant, free resource for passive investors. It provides a comparison of all the main passive investment portfolios using funky charts to visually explain the data. The site was created by Tyler, an early retiree with a background in mechanical engineering. Tyler created the site for fun as a personal project, but I think it is the best guide to passive investing portfolios on the web.

In this episode, Tyler gives his own take on passive investing and talks about how to use the portfolio charts site. He explains some interesting results from his analysis and shows how they challenge common myths about portfolios.

Show Notes:

Listen To Episode 223

28 September 2015

222 Early Retirement Lifestyle Part 2 (Interview with Justin From Root Of Good)

This episode is part 2 of the interview with Justin from Root of Good. Justin talks about how the goal of early retirement differs from mainstream ideas of "success". He provides suggestions for those interested in pursing early retirement.

Show Notes:
Root of Good
Jack Ma Interview

Listen to Episode 222

24 September 2015

221 Early Retirement Lifestyle Part 1 (Interview with Justin From Root Of Good)

There are many practical steps required to reach financial independence, which we've discussed a lot on the podcast. However, there are also some interesting psychological challenges to early retirement. Who would you be without your job? What would you do all day if you never had to work? Justin retired at the age of 33. He writes about financial independence at the Root of Good blog. In this interview, he gives his take on the psychological side of financial independence and describes his early-retirement lifestyle.

Show Notes:

Listen To Episode 221

16 September 2015

220 What To Expect From Investing

Many people find getting started as an individual investor daunting.  This podcast episode is about how little I knew about investing when I got started. I describe what I came to expect from investing as I learned more about it. If you are starting out in investing, I think hearing my experience will be relevant for you.

Show Notes

Listen To Episode 220 (10 mins)

4 September 2015

219 How To Do A Monthly Financial Review

It took me a long time to work out how to stay on top of my finances. After a lot of trial and error, I developed the habit of doing a monthly financial review. This is what enables me to confidently manage my finances without having to think about money all the time. In this episode, I explain how you can implement your own monthly financial review. Topics covered include:

  • Habits to set up when implementing a monthly review, including dedicating adequate time (about 4 hours per month) and making a detailed checklist or task list to use.
  • Key questions to consider when designing your monthly financial review system, such as whether to use an online finance app or one that runs on your own computer.
  • Stages of the monthly financial review to implement: downloading finance data, cleaning data, inputting data, reconciling, and analysis (budget, investments, and net worth calculation)

Show Notes

Listen to Episode 219

26 August 2015

218 Choosing A Job-Free Lifestyle

In many previous episodes of this podcast, I've explored different ways to live a job-free lifestyle. I've interviewed extreme savers, unjobbers, lifestyle entrepreneurs, and startup entrepreneurs. Many listeners have raised an important question about these lifestyles: how do you choose between these different strategies for quitting the rat race? How do you decide which job-free lifestyle you want to pursue for yourself? This week's episode discusses this question and provides suggestions for how to choose a job-free lifestyle.

Show Notes

Listen to Episode 218

19 August 2015

217 Panama: Our Adventure Begins

This episode is a discussion with a special guest— my wife Hannah Braime, who is the host of Becoming Who You Are. We've just moved to Panama and we love it here already. In this episode we talk about all the preparations involved in our move, the start of our travel lifestyle, and our first impressions of life in Panama.

Show Notes

3 August 2015

216 Financial Independence Strengthens Your Moral Backbone

A listener shared these reflections with me:

"I like to think I'm a moral person but many times in my career (and in the careers of friends), I've been forced to choose between unethical behavior and possibly losing my job.  I handled this on a case by case manner, where I had to weight the importance of the unethical behavior, the likelihood of me being punished, the odds of me successfully elevating the issue to a superior, how much the unethical behavior would actually hurt the injured party, etc.  In other words, my response was ambiguous and led to a lot of sleepless nights."

The listener went on to explain that achieving financial independence strengthened his or her moral backbone and make it easier to say no to bad people at work. This is a brilliant insight and highlights one of the great benefits of financial independence. In this week's podcast episode I share some suggestions about how you can use entrepreneurship, extreme saving and unjobbing to make it easier for you to do the right thing.

Listen to Episode 216 (10 mins)

28 July 2015

215 Extreme Decluttering

“Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”
 Charles Warner

Over the last three years, I've reduced my possessions to only those things that will fit inside one suitcase and one hand luggage bag. My wife and I decided to pursue extreme decluttering, in order to make a lifestyle of long-term travel more practical.

Decluttering was easy at first, but got harder the more extreme I took it. My possessions were not just serving practical needs, but emotional ones too. I had to work out how to address those needs before I could get rid of my stuff. Decluttering also forced me to acknowledge mistakes I had made in the past— mistakes I preferred to avoid thinking about.

Overall, extreme decluttering has been a fantastic learning process. I feel much freer because of it. I think that you can benefit in a similar way by decluttering, even if you don't want to reduce your stuff in such an extreme way as I did.

Show Notes:

Listen to Episode 215 (19 mins)

21 July 2015

214 From Drama To Empowerment: Discussion With Hannah Braime

In this week's podcast episode, special guest Hannah Braime talks about how to free yourself from a life of drama and move to a life of empowerment. Hannah is a coach, author, and host of Becoming Who You Are.

We discuss some powerful concepts from the field of psychology that Hannah uses in her coaching. She explains how easy it is to get stuck playing a series of roles in your life— acting out a script written by someone else. These roles are all too familiar: "the victim", "the persecutor" and "the rescuer". Hannah explains how to empower yourself to leave such roles behind and live life according to your own plans. I really enjoyed the discussion and I think you will find it both interesting and helpful.

Show Notes:
Listen to Episode 214 (25m)

13 July 2015

213 How To Think For Yourself Part 3: Logic And The Courage To Follow It

Part 3 in the series on how to think for yourself is all about logic. Here is how you reach true conclusions about any question in life: start with undeniable premises and use valid logic.  Logic— used in reasoned argument— is the universal, impartial method that humans have for finding the truth together peacefully. Yet very few people use logic consistently. I discuss some reasons why it is so hard to be logically consistent. The most important reason is that it takes courage to follow an argument to its logical conclusion, especially if the conclusion is not accepted by the majority of people around you. If you want to think for yourself, you need more than just valid logic— you also have to have the courage to follow it.

Show Notes:

6 July 2015

212 How To Think For Yourself Part 2: Science And Rationality

Last week I suggested two key challenges to resolve if you want to think for yourself:

  1. How do you tell truth from falsehood? 
  2. How do you know what you can be certain of? 

This episode is about how the scientific method can help address the first of these challenges: determining truth. I provide a summary of the philosophy of science and the rules for deciding whether a theory qualifies as scientific.

However, there is a huge problem with the philosophy of science when it comes to addressing the challenge of certainty. The scientific method—as defined by leading philosophers of science—is self-contradictory. It's not even an accurate representation of what practicing scientists do (which is why scientists tend to ignore philosophers and just get on with it). In the episode, I explain how rationality is the necessary foundation of science—more fundamental even than empiricism—and how it provides the certainty that makes the scientific method possible.

Show Notes:

Listen to Episode 212

30 June 2015

211 How To Think For Yourself Part 1: Introduction To Truth And Certainty

You can't be free unless you can think for yourself. If someone else is doing your thinking for you, then it's not your life that you are living.

When you know how to think of yourself, you cannot be controlled or manipulated. Your life is truly in your hands and is up to you what you do with it.

This episode is part one of a new series on how to think for yourself. This episode introduces the two biggest problems you have to overcome if you want to think for yourself:

  1. How can you tell truth from falsehood? 
  2. How do you know what you can be certain of? 

Listen to Episode 211 (10 mins)

21 June 2015

210 Tax Strategies And Financial Freedom Part 2 (Interview With Joshua Sheats)

This week's episode is part two of an interview with Joshua Sheats, host of the Radical Personal Finance podcast. Joshua shares his insights on tax strategies for those pursuing financial freedom. In part one of the interview (last week's episode), we covered tax strategies for employees. In this episode, we discuss tax strategies for entrepreneurs. Joshua describes his own experience developing a lifestyle business and the tax advantages that this provides.

Show Notes:
  • Radical Personal Finance Podcast
  • As always, it's up to you what you do with your money. I'm not a financial advisor and you will need to do your own research.
Listen To Episode 210 (30 mins)

14 June 2015

209 Tax Strategies And Financial Freedom Part 1 (Interview With Joshua Sheats)

Tax is the biggest expense category for most people. It is crucial for everyone interested in financial freedom to understand tax and develop a tax strategy. Yet many of the leading books on financial independence hardly mention tax. In this interview, Joshua Sheats provides a wealth of insights on this topic.

Joshua trained as a financial planner and now runs the Radical Personal Finance podcast. In part one of the interview (this episode), Joshua discusses tax strategies for employees. In part two (next week), we discuss tax strategies for entrepreneurs.

Show Notes:
Listen To Episode 209 (41 mins)

9 June 2015

208 Creating Purpose, Structure, And Community Outside A Job

If you want to quit your job to pursue a more freedom-oriented lifestyle (such as entrepreneurship), there are many challenges to overcome. Some challenges are practical, such as replacing the job income that you no longer have. This episode is about the psychological challenges. Even an unfulfilling job has a psychological "pull" that is easy to take for granted because it provides:

  • A sense of purpose 
  • Structure for your life 
  • A ready-made community 

Part of the fear that many people feel about quitting their jobs relates to losing the sense of purpose, structure, and community that comes from a job. To live job-free, you have to create your own sense of purpose, your own structure for life, and your own community. You can hear more about this topic in the podcast episode.

Show Notes:

Listen to Episode 208 (12 mins)

2 June 2015

207 Who Will Buy Your Business?

If you are an entrepreneur, you might want to sell your business one day (or at least have that option). There are many issues to tackle in order to make selling a real possibility. For one thing, you need to identify a potential buyer.

This podcast episode provides an overview of the two main groups of potential buyers: strategic and financial. I suggest some issues to consider when looking for each kind of buyer and I explain why I would always prefer a strategic buyer.

Show Notes:
Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top by Bo Burlingham

Listen to Episode 207 (15 mins)

24 May 2015

206 Luck In Business

Are successful entrepreneurs just "lucky"? This episode is about the role of luck in business. Here are some of the ideas discussed:
  • The main job of the entrepreneur is to minimise chance and uncertainty. "Luck" is not the basis of success, it is the enemy. 
  • People confuse the success or failure of a business idea with the success or failure of an entrepreneur's career—they are not the same thing. Successful entrepreneurs have many failures behind them. 
  • A business is not static. It is not a matter of chance whether it succeeds or fails. You can adapt and change everything about your business as you go, and thereby improve your chance of success with every step. 
  • There will always be influences that are entirely outside your control. But even those things outside your control can be managed and adapted to. 

Photo Credit: andyburnfield

17 May 2015

205 The Most Powerful Planning Tool I Know

This episode is about the most powerful tool that I know for planning anything. A process map is a tool for visualising a workflow. It's also called a workflow map or a network diagram—there are many different names for this tool.

It's a way of clarifying exactly what has to happen to in order for you to get all the way from where you are now, to your final goal. The map shows the dependencies between all inputs, processes, and outputs. This identifies the logic of all the work ahead of you.

You don't need to be involved in project management to benefit from creating workflow maps. Visualising your workflows can help you achieve your goals in any aspect of life. However, a workflow diagram is also the basis of many useful project management tools, like a PERT Chart or Gantt chart. If you want to get more into project management, you can use this tool to identify the critical path and critical chain.

Show Notes:
Listen To Episode 205 (19 mins)

10 May 2015

204 Making Sense Of Frugality And Minimalism

This episode is about making sense of two important concepts: frugality and minimalism. Frugality means to be economical or sparing with regard to money, but this definition prompts the question: what are the criteria for deciding if a choice is economical?  Similarly, the definition of minimalism (to own the minimum amount of possessions) also prompts a question: what are the criteria for deciding what the minimum is?

Both these ideas only make sense if they are defined in relation to your goals and purpose in life. Using examples from entrepreneurship, I suggest ways to define frugality and minimalism in relation to your goals.

Show Notes:
Listen To Episode 204 (24 mins)