Gnawing On A Rock

“He’s worrying that like a dog gnaws a bone.” It is good to take time to consider, well, anything; mostly because for many, it is uncommon to take time for contemplation in today’s frenetic world. A dog knows there’s always something more to get out of a bone: a bit more flavor, maybe break through to the marrow. To many people, there’s so little chewing that they swallow ideas whole, without consideration. Some take time to chew and appreciate what they’ve been served. And a few will chew slowly, finding every last bit of enjoyment available. The trick is to not go too far because sometimes, what we’re chewing on isn’t a bone; it’s a fossil, it’s a stone. Gnawing on a rock might look the same, but the rock will outlast the teeth. I’m training myself to spit out the rocks and find something chewable.

I am frequently asked to review my financial misfortunes, to gnaw on the issue for a bit – yet again. The mortgage company is definitely curious. It is a good idea to consider the situation, look for solutions, and then to work on those solutions; but the effort can become a trap. Think through it once, good. Think through it again, also good; because, it is easy to miss something the first time. Think through it thirty times in a day when nothing has changed, and that’s gnawing on a rock. Enough folks are asking, and I appreciate the interest, that to keep from gnawing on the rock again and again in successive conversations, I’ve decided to provide a synopsis and update of my Backup Plans.

Pre-Plan A – A “Normal” Life
My “Normal” life, a regular job and suburban lifestyle, was outwardly successful, yet unsustainable because it was unhealthy. I’ve wondered if I’d be alive if I’d never left that world. I think I could do well there now that I’ve matured a bit, but we can never exactly go back, can we?

Plan A – Investing
This might yet work, but the portfolio is dramatically depleted through an unfortunate mix of poor timing and a few company misfortunes. Yet, what remains could succeed. (Come on AMSC, GERN, GIG, MVIS, and RSOL! Sooner is better than later, and later may be too late.)

Plan B – Trimbath Creative Enterprises
My business is doing better than ever, though not good enough yet to comfortably pay my bills, even without paying the mortgage. But, this is only March and I’ve already made more in 2013 than I did in all the previous years combined. Years of work and non-recurring costs spent on art and books may finally create a significant (mostly) passive income. Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland The marketing does require some tending. The classes hold promise. Next month’s Self-Publishing Weekend Workshop could do very well, and be a lot of fun. The business piece that has the greatest impact so far has been the consulting, a task I truly enjoy. An extra full-day client or two per month and my fortunes improve dramatically.

Plan C – Get A Job
Without a doubt, a good job that compensates me for my skills, talents, and experience would make many money problems go away quickly. My old job at a current salary would get me out of my mortgage issues within two or three months, and completely out of debt within two or three months after that. Within a year, I’d even be able to start into the long list of delayed repairs and upgrades. Even a moderate job would greatly ease those issues. I’ve applied to hundreds of jobs for everything from receptionist to engineer to manager – and have applied around the world. Yes, he will travel! The next phone call or email may be that pleasant positive response: a job I enjoy that pays me well now. How about a nice program manager job in New Zealand? Month 18 of the job search went by. The Month 19 report is coming up soon. Let’s have it include some very good news and the close of the series.

There’s even a new plan Plan B/C – Consultant turns into Employee
One of my clients, The History of Computing for Learning in Education Virtual Museum (HCLE), has granted me the resume line, “Interim Program Manager”. I started as a consultant helping prepare a program plan and produce funding proposals. If the funding comes through, the “Interim” may be replaced with an unwritten “Part-Time”. At least my work would switch from invoices and 1099s to paychecks and W-2s. That will take care of about half of my bills, which is appropriate for a half-time job. Look for the indiegogo campaign, coming soon – and you are welcome to donate privately as well.

Plan D – Sell My Home
On the market since May 2012, fewer than six realtor visits, price dropped from $291,000 to $275,000 to $269,000 – and an expectation that the foreclosure notice will be delivered as early as tomorrow (even though that’s a Sunday). Sell it and I am out of debt! and wandering around Whidbey looking for a room to rent.
Home For Sale

Plan E – ?
Variations on all of the above, including movies, collaborations, winning the lottery, and other windfalls. I always leave that door open.

The odds that all of those plans will succeed is small. The odds that they would all fail is probably equally small, yet here I am. The most likely scenario is that some fail, some succeed, and I enjoy a comfortably frugal life. I’ve had enough of the failures. Time for the successes.

A few times a week, someone who wants to help, asks me to review the entire list without knowing it. They ask me to gnaw on the issue. Surely there’s something I’ve overlooked.

  • Have I considered this or that business strategy? I haven’t tried everything, mostly because there are only 24 hours in a day, and even with only taking one day off every few weeks and typically working until 8pm, I can’t try everything everyone has suggested.
  • Surely I haven’t tried this or that job search technique. Possibly, but eighteen months of trying produced lots of variations.
  • Surely I’ve tried this or that approach to selling my house. This isn’t the first time I’ve sold a house, and I’m sure the biggest issue has been timing and price – and the price is down and the market is rising.

Throughout the conversation I must maintain my optimism for my self survival. They are reviewing everything I’ve done and asking for proof that I tried and proof that it didn’t work. It becomes a litany of failure which is depressing. It is like gnawing on that rock. For some, the review is a search for flaws because we have sincere beliefs that things like optimism, honesty, hard work, earnest consideration, and perseverance will succeed. My apparent lack of success threatens those assumptions. This can be particularly true of coaches and consultants. My situation is challenging what many preach, and what some get paid to espouse. Challenges to fundamental beliefs are usually scary.

Trust me, at the start I thought about this stuff every hour, not just when someone called. Then I realized that nothing had changed since the last time I worked through the logic, considered the options, sketched the scenarios. I realized my mind was repeating work it had already done, wouldn’t make progress until something changed, was wasting time, and depressing me too. I realized I was mentally gnawing on a rock. No wonder I was getting headaches.

Spit out the rock. The rock is the past and it can’t be changed.

The future is less rigid. The future is possibility based on the present. The present is substantial and every moment can be changed to alter the future. A lot of guessing is involved. Hopefully, maturity, experience, and judgment help properly wield the tools of skills and talents. It isn’t certain, yet chewing on something malleable is certainly healthier than gnawing on a rock.


Fiddleheads are edible, right?

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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1 Response to Gnawing On A Rock

  1. Good Golly Miss Molly says:

    Good thinking to stop gnawing on the rock. Besides giving you headaches, it will also do very bad things to your teeth. How about getting a “divorce” from all those failures and miseries now and head off to whatever’s new and ahead? What you’ve been through seems a lot like a bad divorce where we try to hang onto what we had and how things were even as the world turns upside down. That’s actually how I landed on Whidbey Island. Replaying the moments that led to the train wreck never changes anything. The pain of it stays with us, but life goes on and if we want to get to a new place, we simply have to get off that old track. You have a lot to offer. Stories to tell. Messages to send. From beyond the train wreck. And you have a willing audience ready to hear them. In the telling, you’ll begin to rewrite your own story. The new story…
    Con amore, con brio…

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