People come in everyday at the health food store that I work at in hopes of buying a supplement to cure their problems.
Some costumer came in the other week and complained ‘My stomach hurts when I eat beef. What can I take to stop this?’ Another woman, who was about 80 pounds overweight was inquiring about what supplements could help her lose weight. Supplements are great, and many do offer benefits (like Turmeric, B12, Fish Oil, Magnesium), but they should be the last line of defense. Lifestyle change offers the most dramatic, as well as the most permanent changes in terms of health, finances, etc.
All of us outsource our lives to some extent. I’n not talking about the Tim Ferriss outsourcing of ‘outsource your business to some virtual assistant in India’. The vast majority of us outsource much simpler things: cooking, cleaning, car maintenance. This change came about post World War 2 when the consumer economy took off. All of a sudden the husband and wife were both working and developing their careers. Who had time to cook dinner?! Chances are that your grandparents or great grandparents had a garden, canned their own food, mended their own clothing, and did their own home repairs. Some people still do these things, but they are now the minority. Most of us hire someone to do these things for us, or at least, buy the finished product (like produce at the grocery store). On one hand this outsourcing of basic tasks like car maintenance, cooking, cleaning, haircutting, and even dog walking is good. It provides jobs for people. You could be a professional dog walker if you wish simply because people are too busy to walk their own pets. On the other hand this outsourcing of our everyday tasks complicates our lives in unforeseen ways. When I get a haircut it costs about $20 for the haircut and the tip. And I go to a cheap place like CostCutters. My brother, who enjoys the finer things in life, has no problem dropping $40 on a haircut. He gets one about 4 times a year, which is $160 a year. This amount balloons to over $2,500 after 10 years at 7% which is the historical stock rate average. Not only does outsourcing lead to unnecessary expenditures of money, but it also leads to the atrophying of our skill set. Currently I don’t know how to cut my own hair, mend my own clothes, or ferment my own food.
“Who gives a fuck?!” You may be asking. “That’s why there are haircut places, tailors, and the grocery store.” And you have a point. We don’t need these skills to survive anymore. But there are hidden benefits to insourcing skills. For one it brings about an increase in self confidence and competence. Call me traditional, but I feel less masculine for not know how to change a tire. Even if you don’t foolishly base your self image off of your skill set like I do, learning a new skill is good for your brain. Learning new things builds new neuro-pathways that make our brains work more effectively. Also insourcing simple skills that we usually spend money on creates wealth for us. Learning how to give ourselves a haircut, and then investing the saved money can create thousands of extra dollars over the years. Even without investing the money we can create more pleasure in our lives by insourcing skills. If we were to stop spending as much money on things that we could do ourself then we would have more money to spend on pleasure whether that be a meal at our favorite sushi place, or a movie at the movie theatre. Every week for the next month I’m going to learn 2 new skills a week, on Monday and on Thursday most likely, and then write a blog post a week about it. The list will be as follows (in no particular order):
- Shave with a straight razor
- Give myself a haircut
- Cook a new meal
- Forage and eat a wild plant
- Mend my pants
- Learn how to change a tire
- Pay for my phone
Doing so will require some expenditure of money for things like hair clippers, scissors, ingredients, etc but I will use the money from my freelance writing gigs to fund this stuff. This is why it’s a good idea to have several side hustles so that you can have some extra spending money to improve your life.
Learning new skills is like investing in ourselves. At first the skills may feel inconsequential and foolish. I mean who cares about saving a few dollars and learning how to give ourselves a haircut? But my prediction is that like with investing money, at first the impact will be quite small. The changes to our self image and wallet from insourcing our lives won’t make much of a ripple. But eventually we will be a jack of all trades. I hate forking over money for doing things that I could learn to do myself like fixing my own clothes. Insourcing is a remedy to stop the superfluous outflow of money and skills. The politicians in the Senate as well as the president (past and current) lament about outsourcing.
‘They are taking our jobs”
“Bring back coal!”
All of these war cries rally our spirits in the hopes of defeating the enemy of our economy, whether that be the Chinese, the Indians or whatever ethnic group happens to be the manufacturing king at the time. But most of these politicians fail to take a more micro-scaled look at the problem. They probably outsource their lives to the barber, the tailor, and the chef. If you’re a die hard patriot then you can take pride that insourcing your life is making yourself, and thus your country more powerful. But too bad The World Is Flat and the outsourcing of the economy is inevitable right? But that’s a discussion for another day.
Onwards. Let’s learn something new! Are there any simple skills that you want to learn that you usually pay someone for?