I didn’t know who this Paul McKenna geezer is – I don’t watch much TV. However, I fancied breaking out of the PF scene for a little, so when I came across his book in the library I borrowed it.
Quite a blowhard, our man McKenna. He reckons he can make me thin, make me sleep, get me to quit smoking and all sorts of other goodies, provided I grease his palm with a few pieces of paper with the Queen’s head on them.
I’m of the view that it’s always worth taking the occasional look on the wild side of ideas, and the library lets me do that, I got this and Benjamin Graham’s classic book The Intelligent Investor at the same session. Graham is a hard read, however, so I read McKenna’s book on a lazy afternoon under an oak tree, when the rest of the world seemed to be glued to their tellies watching ads instead of goals being scored in the World Cup.
McKenna’s thesis is that people get stuck in ruts and end up thinking poor, and with the help of his hypnosis CD you can change that for the better. It sounded like snake-oil to me, but I gave his CD a spin and got to the book.
He delivered for me. Not so much in terms of I am now writing this from a Bermuda beach sipping martinis because I won the lottery 🙂 He prompted me to take a 360 degree look at where I was, how I had got here and what I wanted.
I’ve been an employee all my working life, and in general I’ve enjoyed the stability and reliability of the income. When I took out my first mortgage, in 1988, I knew what my income was expected to be, and I am still working at the same company as I paid down the last of the capital on the mortgage, twenty years later.
What McKenna’s book showed me was a curious long shadow cast over my working life by events at its start. I left university in Thatcher’s early 1980s recession, and I was unemployed for several months after leaving university.
This experience made me take a very conservative view of the world of earning a living. I prize the regularity of employment income, though I’m perfectly ware of the fact that you never get rich working for somebody else. I ran a company on the side for several years, but that was hamstrung by the amount of time I had, and I am just not cut out for the feast-and-famine income of the self-employed.
My DGF is self-employed, and she manages to live with the peaks and troughs of it – the more I see of that sort of income the further I want to run from the stress. I have no idea of how you go about planning, budgeting or do anything meaningful in ones personal finances if you don’t know how much you have coming in each month.
FaM: What is Bumhood?
SDXB: Bumhood is the state of idleness.
To arrive at Bumhood you must start to plan early in life. It’s not something you can achieve unless you have money in the bank, unless you own your own house, and unless you own your car. And you have no bills: I always pay everything thirty days cash. That is, I pay everything in full every month.
I already do all those things, but at the moment I plan to carry on working for another two years. I am a little past SDXB’s get off the gerbil wheel age. All this seems logical – I get to build up enough capital to take me to 60. There’s one small niggle.
I had visioned the next couple of years as on a glide path to retiring. What doing McKenna’s exercises showed me was that continuing to work for two years also places a dead hand on my capacity to develop alternative income streams. The shadows of the graduate unemployment and endless application forms and rejection letters were stretching across my entire working life to make me prefer the safe and sure over the greater potential and realising my dream of escaping the rat race earlier.
Know Thyself was inscribed in the Delphic Oracle of Ancient Greece. I got damn good value from my public library’s £18 spend to Paul McKenna, so that his exercises could show me this unseen force skewing my choices. I may still not change anything. I probably still don’t have the cojones to surrender security for opportunity, even as I am on the final approach of my employment career.
It also makes me feel for the classes of 2008 and 2009. When I went to university only 7% of school-leavers went to uni, where now we have many more graduates looking for jobs.
My first job wasn’t a graduate job, and I got that six months after leaving university. If that experience skewed my thinking about self-employment at least I had the option of eventually joining a company I stayed with for over 20 years, 19 of which were rewarding until globalisation began to destroy the work environment. I’m not sure the same opportunities will be open to more recent graduates. I wish them all the best of luck.
As for Paul McKenna, well, I don’t know if he’s going to make me rich, but he has made me richer in self-awareness, and that’s a pretty good return for a lazy afternoon under an oak tree while everybody else was watching the telly 😉