Living the Dream – 56. Kyproulla

Kyproulla is my new car. When I say new, she is actually 15 years old.

Kyproulla is a small Japanese hatchback with a tiny engine and a lovely personality. She has taken us into town for a gig (more on that later), and along the highway to the golf course. Economical and a dream to park, we’re off to a good start. Of course, that could all change in a smokey, breaking down heartbeat.

Why a second car?

The mountain hideaway is isolated. Nothing is within walking distance. Therefore, if one of us is playing golf, then the other is either playing too, or staying in the house. That’s doable, but Margaret is improving rapidly as a golfer and sometimes (always) would like to play with people other than me.

Additionally, Margaret has taken employment. She helps out at a kitchen store in the mall. Already, a week in and her Greek is accelerating away from mine. So, several times a week, she takes the car to work.

I feel that Kyproulla would enjoy a little customisation, so I’m seeking an evil eye and some worry beads to hang from the rearview mirror. She is helping me find my inner Cypriot.

Gigging

UB40. They were great. Everything was incredibly well-organised, the weather was kind and the band were brilliant. We were both nervous that the event would be hot, chaotic and unpleasant, and so were surprised and delighted. A cracking time was had by all.

Last night, she took us to Il Divo, the “Popera quartet”. Mags and I are both big fans so were really looking forward to it.

Meh.

The danger of expectations. UB40, we expected little, and they delighted us. Il Divo, we expected a lot and they disappointed us.

They were OK. Personally, I expected better voices. Between songs, the four attempt a little Rat Pack-esque banter. Cringe!

Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the evening, and will continue to listen to the music – perhaps with a renewed appreciation for the production team.

Transport

Kyproulla behaved impeccably, and I managed to squeeze her onto a pavement, between two trees. Dainty little thing.

Going Solo. 5. It’s a piece of cake.

We’ve looked at why, how, how much, and when. This is a piece of cake. Isn’t it?

No.

Reality check

Time for a reality check. Going solo is tough. You will work long hours for no pay. For every success, you will experience multiple failures. Your family life will suffer. Your social life too. At times, frustration will be overwhelming. You won’t know which way to turn or what to do.

If you plan on making your side-hustle your main revenue stream, then just take a moment. Sit back now, perhaps pensively stroke your chin for effect. The odds are against you. Most businesses fail. If you have invested capital, then you will probably lose it.

Sorry about that. I was just concerned that you might be getting a bit carried away.

Bear-traps

Let’s complete an exercise. Time to get into the notebook again. Start a page – “Bear-traps”. Start writing down what might go wrong. Make a list. This will be specific to your particular project, but common themes will emerge. “No time. No customers. Revenue too low, costs too high. Too busy” Keep going. Keep imagining things that might not work.

Yikes.

That was no fun, was it?

Alright. Let’s go to work. How do you prevent each of these things happening? How would you deal with them if they came to pass? Perhaps the answer is obvious, or perhaps you need to write a few lines. Go through the list. Think each scenario through.

How did it go? How do you feel? Afraid? Crushed? Emboldened? Empowered? There is no right answer, but you have just stress-tested your idea. Hopefully, you have identified key threats to your business.

OK. Let’s keep going.

Sacrifices

New page. New title. “Sacrifices”. List out the sacrifices you are going to make to get this thing going. Are you kissing goodbye to TV time with the family? Are you halving your gaming-time? Write them all down. Again, how does this feel? Depressing? Exciting? Test your commitment.

You will be making these sacrifices with no guarantee of any successes.

Sometimes, going solo is a piece of cake, mostly, it isn’t.

Think on this.

Next week, we’ll pull everything together and make a decision.

Members 30. Wild East 2. Negotiation

“I will come down for negotiation.”

“Thanks Vesselina.”
I put the phone down.

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Living the Dream – 55. Rock ‘n’ Roll

“Oh. A George Michael tribute. The same guy that was Freddie Mercury last month. Shall we go?”

Experience prompted me to take a moment before answering. I elected for “hmmm…”

Proof that I can be diplomatic.

Tribute Bands

Let me unpack this for you.

  1. “A George Michael tribute.” A person who may or may not look or sound like George Michael singing his songs. I want to know why the person isn’t singing their own songs. Is this a glorified karaoke, just without audience participation?
  2. “The same guy that was Freddie Mercury last month.” What? This person is essentially an impressionist, presumably without the humour.
  3. “Shall we go?” No. Let’s not. Please, God. Let’s really not. Let’s poke our own eyes out, it will be more fun.

As you may gather, I’m not terribly keen on the idea of tribute bands. I’m sure that they are brilliant and it’s a great night out, but I just cannot muster any enthusiasm for them. That’s not Rock ‘n’ Roll.

However, I am keen that we “live”, that we take as many opportunities as we can to have a good time, to live the dream as it were.

Rock ‘n’ Roll (and opera)

The Cyprus Mail came to my rescue. “UB40 and Remos.” I have no idea who Remos is, but UB40, English band of the 1980s? Them, I knew. I booked us tickets. A stadium gig, no less.

A page later, Il Divo. Pop/Opera crossover, and more importantly one of Mrs L’s favourites. Playing the week after UB40 at the Limassol Garden Theatre. Where UB40 was cheerfully good value for money, Il Divo made my eyes water and my wallet cringe.

Both concerts begin at 2100, meaning we won’t be home till gone midnight. Will we turn into pumpkins? Both are outdoor venues, and both are at sea level. Temperatures are likely to be high 80s, low 90s with high humidity to boot. Doing the concert any earlier would be even hotter.

Scorecard

Our “cultural” tally For Cyprus thus far then, will be:

  • The Central Band of the Royal Air Force in a modern amphitheatre
  • Wine Tasting in a winery
  • A street art festival in Limassol
  • A tour of the Olive Park
  • A book launch in Limassol
  • Hamlet in an ancient amphitheatre
  • UB40 & Remos in a football stadium
  • Il Divo in the Limassol Garden Theatre

Not a bad start, I think.

Amusingly, the promoter suggests ‘formal wear’ for Il Divo. Good luck with that.

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Going Solo. 4. Where will you find the time?

Time

The finite resource. You spend some of your time earning money to fund your life. We spend yet more time sleeping, eating, and drinking.

You need to find the time to follow your dream. Time that might otherwise be spent with loved ones or on other things. In my opinion, this is the single biggest sacrifice that you will need to make if you want to go solo. There is an often used trope:

“Don’t say that you don’t have time. You have the same hours in the day as Albert Einstein/Jonny Ive/Nelson Mandela/Insert overachiever here.”

There’s truth in this. We all have multiple demands on our time. We make choices. Assuming that you are keeping your day job and starting a side-hustle, then you have to choose to spend some of your leisure time differently.

Notebook

Pick a page, say 10 pages before the end of your book. Write “Time Audit” at the top and in the index. Next Monday, account for every hour of the day on this page. On Tuesday do the same on the next. You can get as granular as you like with this, and there are all manner of electronic methods too – Toggl springs to mind, and I use one called Harvest. The Tech companies are pretty good about showing you your device usage if you care to look for it. We’re just trying to get an honest understanding of where our time is currently spent.

For example – my morning looks like this so far.

  • Up at 0600
  • Dog 0:20
  • Social Catchup 0:15
  • Swim 0:30
  • Journal 0:10
  • Business – Suppliers 1:05
  • Journal 0:20
  • Writing 1:00

I don’t try to account for every minute, whether I spend 6 minutes or 8 minutes on a coffee doesn’t interest me. We all need those minutes in-between, “margin” as some writers call them.

At the end of the week, revisit each page and tot up where your time is going. Again – be honest. You’re not publishing this anywhere, it’s for you. Most people I know come across one or two categories that surprise them. Social media and that wonderful phrase, “content consumption” often come up.

Analysis

Looking at your week, where can you find the time that you could reassign to the side-hustle? An hour in the morning before the household wakes? On your commute? As part of your lunch break? Instead of Game of Thrones or Fortnight? Something has got to give. It can be tempting to look at sleep. “I’ll just go to bed an hour later.” Be very careful. Sleep is important, you need it to function at your best and starting a new business, you want to be at your best.

Family

If you share your life with one or more people, then you need to discuss your plans with them. You will need their support going forward, and this is the time to get buy-in.

At the end of the week, you should have an idea of where you can find the time to dedicate each week, and at what point in the week. You will know what you are setting aside to achieve this, and, if relevant, you have support of those with whom you live.

This is beginning to look possible, isn’t it?

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Members 29. Wild East 1. Kidnapped – Part 1.

Kidnapped

Marina drove for the highway back to Sofia.
The Mercedes roared up behind us, lights flashing, horn blaring. Alarmed, my eyes went to the rear view mirror.
“Pull over, Marina. It’s Vlad’s guys.”

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Living the Dream – 54. Smash

Smash. The smaller car lost all forward momentum and flew sideways off the road.

A normal day

We had been down the mountain to get some cash from the bank. Our shiny new tyres had emptied the wallet and our local taverna doesn’t take plastic. We were following a Japanese hatchback up the mountain road. Margaret was driving and we were discussing a potential vacation.

An abnormal sight

An oncoming car suddenly turned hard right into the oncoming traffic (We drive on the lefthand side of the road in Cyprus). Time slowed to a weird film-effect, like it was running under water.

We both felt we were watching a movie stunt as the larger car hit the hatchback on the front headlight. Smash. Both bonnets crumpled, airbags deployed and the hatchback jumped left onto the scrubland. The saloon stopped dead, a few metres ahead of us, on our side of the carriageway, spewing oil and water onto the tarmac. Margaret is a good driver and had left plenty of distance between us and the hatchback, allowing her to avoid us becoming part of the drama. I hit the hazard lights, jumped out of the car to make sure everyone was alright.

Aftermath

The saloon driver was out of his car, dazed, but upright, and on the phone. To the emergency services, I hoped. I asked if he was OK, and after initial language confusion, he nodded. I kept going to the hatchback. The front of the car looked as though it had been driven into a wall. The windscreen was gone, as was the side window. The young woman driver was vocal, which I took to be a good sign. She was talking and moaning, clearly in shock. I told her that she was OK, as I tried to open the door.

I remember her repeating, in English, that she couldn’t breathe. Judging by the way she was chatting away, there was no shortage of air getting to her, and there appeared to be no damage to her chest – and I surmised that it was the smell of smoke from the engine that was alarming her. (It was scaring the crap out of me.)

Resolution

Other road users joined me at the car, and we got the woman out from the passenger side. The drivers side was stuck solid. We got her away from the car. The emergency services arrived very quickly, whether by chance or in response to a phone call, I don’t know. I left everybody rattling away at each other in Greek way beyond my elementary level.

Analysis

The crash shook Margaret up. So I drove on to the taverna where we were meeting friends. Inevitably, we speculated as to what had caused the smash.

The roads are very lightly used here, and perhaps a consequence, people tend to drive too fast. (Myself included.) There remains a culture of using the phone while driving too. Sometimes, it seems that more people are on the phone while driving than not. Whether this was the case here, only the driver will know. The theory, that distracted, the driver thought he was going off the road, panicked and over-corrected, would fit the sudden lurch across the carriageway.

Thankfully, both drivers seemed OK, with no major injuries.

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Going Solo. 3. Money. Can you afford to go solo?

Money

On the next blank page of your notebook, write “Finances”. (Don’t forget to add it to the index.)

This bit is scary. Just writing that word is frightening, which in itself might spawn a series of posts: “Why we are so bad at money.” I digress.

Audit

Step 1 is to perform an audit on your personal finances. This process could definitely provide a hundred blog posts. If you are looking for a template/approach, you might do a lot worse than look at “You Need A Budget” (YNAB). What we are trying to work out is how much money we need to live each month. Write “Income Requirement” under “Finances”. Write down all your expenditures. Rent/mortgage, utilities, food, travel, everything you spend.

For most people, this exercise is, in the first instance, pretty simple. Very quickly, they arrive at the point, “I currently earn 1,000 dib-dabs per month, and I could certainly cope with earning 1,000 more, but if I earned any less, there would be trouble.” This post is for those people.

Side Hustle

Quitting your job tomorrow to focus on speculatively writing the script for “Star Wars 45 – Facebook Fights Back”, would be very dramatic, and we all love a dramatic gesture, but to be honest, it’s probably not a great idea.

Whether your solo project is a creative one, a business one or a combination of both, it is unlikely to finance next month’s rent. Almost always, going solo begins as a side hustle. You are going to start your new “thing” without giving up your current income.

You may already have known that, but stick with me. This exercise is not about the result, but about the process. You have documented not only your minimum monthly income requirement, but why it’s the minimum. If you have done this properly, you should already be feeling empowered. You know what you need and why.

Start-up capital

Now – aside from the income question above, let’s look at capital. Does your solo project need capital? Do you need a start-up fund?

I’m not talking about the money you might need in the future, I’m talking about the money you will need to spend to get your side-hustle going.

I’ll give you a clue. The answer, at this point, is “No. I do not need capital.” I have raised money in the past, to start a new venture, and we’ll come back to that, but at this early stage, we’re talking about a side-hustle.

I often hear objections to the above.

So, let’s deal with those now. Continue your Finance pages with, “Start Up Capital Requirements”. List out all the things that you actually need to start your side hustle and your estimate of their cost. Knock your self out. Enjoy! In minutes, you can get yourself to 50,000 dib-dabs. A new computer, business cards, mobile phone, website, stationery, a desk, gardening tools, new suit. The potential list is endless, and of course specific to your business idea.

Wasn’t that fun?

It’s a useful exercise, and I do not doubt that you do need (or want) all of these things. I believe in you. You will have that Mac Pro. Just not yet.

Mindset

Before you buy anything, work out who will pay for it.

The device upon which you are reading this post is what you will use to find customers. You may even have more similar devices. Even if you have none of the tools that you need to deliver whatever it is you are going to do, first, get customers. Get commitments.

Before buying a rake for 5 dib-dabs, have someone who is going to pay you 5 dib-dabs to rake their lawn. Then borrow a neighbours rake and get your first job done. Then ask the neighbour if they want to sell you the rake for 3 dib-dabs.

This is important. It’s also not about capital. It’s about a mindset. If you have some money laying about, that you want to invest in your side-hustle, don’t. You’ll just buy stuff you don’t need. Trust me. I know this for all the wrong reasons. You also won’t learn anything. I am prepared to take on trust that you are really good at spending money. We all are. I, for example would consider myself an expert on spending money. What you need to learn is, can you hustle? Can you generate income with nothing more than words?

Summary.

You can afford to go solo. Because you are not going to spend any money.

Time? Yes. That’s next week’s post.

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Members 28. Inspiration

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However, before I go, I will leave you with a title for the next post in the series.

“Kidnapped.”

How’s that for a teaser?

 

Living the Dream – 53. Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold is what they used to call olive oil in these parts.

When I was a boy in England, oil was what you fried chips in. There was another type that you put in your car. Taste-wise, they were pretty similar.

As people traveled more, so did food. Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and with good reason. It’s medicinal powers are legend, and it’s taste unbeatable.

Before continuing, I should make the point that the majority of olive oil in shops in the UK (and probably elsewhere too) is a very poor imitation of the real thing. Some of it is a very well-marketed, premium-priced, imitation, but imitation it is.

To be honest, the majority of the stuff in shops here is pretty ordinary too. An Italian friend pointed me towards a place called Oleastro, in Anogyra where he felt the oil was good. Not as good as Italy, but good. (Italy – Greece – Cyprus. It’s complicated.)

Taste Test

Margaret and I went, and sampled some oil. Margaret gave a slight grimace, a partial shrug and pronounced, “it’s alright.” Higher praise from a Sicilian about oil, not from Sicily, does not exist. We took a litre for more extensive home-testing.

Ultimately, we agreed that though not Sicilian, it was the best we were likely to find on the island. We called up and ordered twenty litres. As expected, the oil came in a plastic jerry can, with strict instructions to get it decanted soonest.

Stocking up

Pouring liquid gold through a funnel into simple glass bottles is a ritual we intend to repeat. As the sun caught on the bubbles, the bottles sparkled. The oil reminded me of the golden syrup that I lusted after as a child. Rich, unctuous and well…golden.

That which remained, was left in a jug. Margaret urged me to dip my finger and taste it.

“This is better than the one litre we bought,” she confirmed. I knew better than to shrug and nodded my assent. The taste is extraordinary. A simple salad with a healthy pour of oil is a revelation here in Cyprus. It tastes divine.

Multi-purpose

As well as food, liquid gold serves as a cure-all. Actually, not a cure-all. Whatever ails you in Cyprus can be relieved by one of three things: Liquid Gold (Olive oil), Black Gold (Carob Syrup), or Fire Water (Zivania) but that’s for another post.

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