Some Thoughts on Work

Sunset 9.2020 by Sharon Flegel8.27.20 – Work: Portland, Oregon, USA

Hello Boundless Thinker! (this was a draft for a friend’s newsletter )…

I’ve been a fan of Paul’s work since I met him at the World Domination Summit in 2018 in a writing workshop. I knew he knew something I did not, so I started to follow him via this newsletter and I’ve been reading his writing closely ever since. I’m also an amateur sociologist and love thinking about work and the world and how we can have things better for everyone. So, when I saw Paul’s offer to have guest writers for his newsletter I wrote him, and here we are. If you’d ever like to read more of my writing, I publish a newsletter also – it’s called The Eleven and comes out every month on the 11th. I also have a newsletter focused on marketing for small businesses and nonprofits (the sign-up link is the same!) There is also an 11 life tips series that is also fun and useful. Onward we go!

I’ve always wondered about the way we work. I grew up in a middle-class household in suburban New Jersey. My father seemed to have a different approach to work than the other fathers in my neighborhood. When I was in my teens he started a series of software companies. The upside that I noticed is that he tended to work when he felt like it. Sometimes he’d be programming at 3 am and then I’d meet him drinking his coffee as I was headed to school. I knew he was sleeping during the day at times. His business never seemed to make a lot of money, but we always had enough to eat and he seemed content with the way it was going. My Mom worked part-time at various jobs but did not seem to enjoy work as much as my Dad did.

I had a number of part-time jobs growing up. Delivering newspapers at 5 am; selling guitars and effects boxes; fast food cook @ Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips; and I also had an entrepreneurial streak – stuffing envelopes for my Dad’s business; selling seeds door to door and making candles. I headed to Israel in a group program (go, Habonim-Dror) to live and work on a kibbutz in Israel (large communal farm) for a year between HS and college. While there I learned how to drive a tractor and I probably did the hardest work of my life – picking fruits and vegetables and farming!

After that year I spent 4 years in college at NYU – working all the way through to pay for various things and because it was something I knew how to do. I made bagels near Penn Station at Lox, Stock, and Bagel; monitored squash courts, and drove a van for a high-end florist. Now that I think of it, I’ve made money working in so many different ways over the years – no wonder I enjoy thinking about this topic. I’m going to fast forward closer to the present day now – whoosh!!!!

…past the years of temping in NYC (with a long stint in the investment banking world and in WTC #2)

…past the years of living in Germany and playing music on the streets and cafes of Europe

…past the years of being a software tester in the late 90s and early 2000s in Seattle  

….past 20 years of living in Portland and transitioning from software into marketing

To the current day. Well, not quite. About 10 years ago I ran into Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Work Week. It came at a time when I had bounced between working on various contracts in the software world and being on unemployment (using the time to do community work; organizing tree plantings; creating community gardens). It also came right after the highest paying work I’d ever done for a long time – being a software tester at BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) for $46/hr. for 1.5 years straight. That was my high point as an earner. But it was a low point in terms of free time. I still found ways to enjoy myself, but working 40-50 hours a week at something you’re not enjoying does not make Albert a happy boy.

In 2008 or so I began teaching people how to use Facebook in classes in my living room. That led to becoming a Constant Contact partner and learning something about passive income. This is the type of work I’ve been doing to this day – teaching small businesses and non-profits how to make the most out of digital marketing tools, mostly email.

So, after all that what do I actually think about work? I tend to agree with what I think Paul’s theme is – that our societies are poorly organized in terms of work. That many people are stuck doing work that is unnecessary – that we consume too much and thus end up doing work to chase the “American Dream” – one more trinket; one more European vacation; one more expensive toy. Since you’re here you’re possibly a fan of someone who has been a guiding light on this topic for me – Mr. Money Mustache. If you’re not familiar with his work, I highly recommend signing up for his newsletter and reading some past blog posts on his thinking. He’s more about living a full life and retiring early vs. what most of our society seems focused on. Also, keep reading Paul’s writing – he’s got an insightful way of seeing things and he may be able to help you find a path you hadn’t thought of before.

I want to switch gears and end on an observation that has been really interesting to me for the past months since we’ve been quarantining. It has to do with our local community and who is walking by our door. I think it relates to so many aspects of our lives that it’s been hard for me to describe, but it’s actually very simple: the people who are walking in front of your door quite possibly are your neighbors right now. Before Covid, the people walking by could just as easily have been tourists renting a nearby Airbnb, but right now and for the past couple of months, they have likely been locals. This may continue for a while and I encourage you to take action. Why is this important to note?

I write a lot on about neighborhood resiliency. Partly due to Portland, Oregon expecting a major earthquake at some point (let’s get prepared!), but also just from my own desire to live in a better way with my neighbors. As I’ve been seeing the same people pass by every day (the joys of having a west-facing front porch!) it’s struck me that we have an opportunity right now to strengthen our neighborhoods. By knowing who actually lives near you you can start to create friendships based on nearness vs. interests. I mean, it would be nice to have both, but having someone nearby who you can walk to vs. having friends located all over town is a big plus in my book. I wrote an article about how to use to create an instant community a few years back, but now there may be a shortcut to what I had in mind – it just takes introducing yourself. Granted, this is a challenging time to do that, but there are ways to just start to track who lives near you – start the conversation (physically distanced, of course) and exchange names.

Dating is something that could especially be impacted by what I just described. I’m 59, and I’ve been using online dating apps for the past couple of years to very little effect. What I would personally prefer is meeting someone who is walking or biking by me (or me them) – like in the old village days J and funny enough, that exact thing happened about a week ago. A woman walked by and we ended up talking and then talking for hours.

And now back to work. I’ve thought for a long time that people working closer to home would improve everything. This is something that Mr. Money Mustache talks about a lot – reducing or removing your commute. Now with many more of us working from home, the traffic has improved greatly. I thought it would be a good idea to have a database of some similar kinds of work – take 3rd Grade Teachers, for example. Then, these workers could be reassigned to schools by their proximity to home vs. where they originally got the job. This could work for many job types, especially in large organizations. If you need more info on this idea or any of the others I’ve mentioned above, feel free to write me. I love feedback, too. This is also part of my series: My Great Ideas that are Going Nowhere. Feel free to borrow or steal any you find useful!

Thanks to Paul for having me this week as a guest writer. I’d love to hear your feedback on what I wrote – feel free to write me and let me know if any of this resonated with you! I wish you the best.



Albert Kaufman –

Portland, Oregon