I don't have an exact system but in general, when many people around me ask the same type of question, I get the siren alarm in my head that it is time for a post on the matter. The question I have been hearing a lot recently is: How did it all start? Why are you doing this?
I can confirm that I can count. Yep, they are two questions but truth to be told, they are the same thing just asked from different angles. And the fact that you are reading this post after that the banner says to not do it... well that's on you!
On my part, I will walk you through how I got to the point of embarking with my lovely half on this bLife journey, grab a coffee, I am pouring some for myself as I write this.
Side note, I did not drink coffee, in any sort of measure, for 40+ years. Then my lack of sleep became such torture that I found comfort in jumping-start the brain in the morning with a Nespresso shot. I do realize that most people already know that coffee is the daily drug for that purpose but for me up to that point was a mystery.
Anyhow, my father was born in a very poor family. When I say poor, I mean that they were renting a place that didn't have a bathroom inside nor in the range. Despite the unchosen situation, they were all entrepreneurs at the heart. His father had started a little business but unfortunately shortly after he became legally blind when my father was just eight years old and his brother was 6. The family had to be fed, therefore the father put a box in my father's hands with some DDT dispensers and told him to not come back home until they were all sold! Parenting skills of another era...
Somehow, this half of cork of a kid, clearly a salesman at the core, pull it off and came home with the empty box very late at night. He had finally sold it all. His entrepreneur future was so defined and kicked off by the necessity of life. He dropped out of elementary school and off he went to become a truck retail store. With one problem he didn't have enough money to buy the truck. He had to start with a donkey bought in installments.
About a year later he was able to afford a cart that the donkey could pull; that was until he realized that the donkey wouldn't have been able to handle the weight. Therefore, his brother and he became the donkeys. That was until his brother decided that was better to pick tomatoes from the fields than pull the caret. That's when my dad pawned everything he could and bought his first Lambretta. That allowed the business to expand really well as he could now go to other nearby towns and sell plates, pants, and all sorts of household items. For many years growing up, I was known as "the son of the plates man" (slang: piattaro) because his best-selling item was "plates". Pasta people...
Judging from the photo this big achievement must have been really tiny and flimsy as modern trucks go... but nonetheless, he was so young that I don't believe he was of age yet to legally drive.
From that moment on he kept working like there was no tomorrow, brutal hours, and very little time to enjoy life. And all he was making wasn't even going to him but to the father, that was, in old fashion style, managing finances and distributions. From there is the Italian expression that "money gives the sight back to the blind".
After seeing his brother breaking his back and hands in the tomato fields, he pulled him in the business, and from the donkey age
fast-forwarding to the age of 42 they built a little empire posing the company as the third largest of Southern Italy with distribution all over the places. Thanks to Google Earth for finding the place!
He was so constantly busy building a better future for his family while chasing his dream of who comes from nothing, that I have almost not seen my dad in my youth. The few times it would happen it would be instructive and full of laughter. Without never speaking about he taught me the work ethics that have been a foundation of my career.
With lots of employees, track distributing the goods, he could finally start enjoying life and spending some quality time with family. He started traveling with my mom to Africa, Egypt, and all other places that in his mind were on the bucket list. Flying and cruising and start spending time with my younger brother which at that point was just eleven years old. He wanted to do with him what it was too late to do with me or my sister.
At the age of 43, he was struck by brain cancer and not all the money in the world could have saved him. He managed to pay a huge fortune to restore his father's sight but not saving his own life. A selfless man that literally worked his all life. 8 months after a surgery that was supposed to save him, he died in excruciating pain. So much pain that not all morphine available in the hospital could calm down. They had to tight him to the bed so hard was the pain. Two nights later, a man of massive strength and body build gave up and left one adult child (me) and two minors in the hands of a widow that had known only one man in her entire life.
On that day, I promised myself to spend as much time with my future kids and to work as hard as he had led by example his all life. While I was on a business trip, someone that was unhappy about us no longer paying the dues to the local gangster decided to burn down the whole warehouse, with my family inside! I found out about what had just happened with the newspaper that was given on my flight back home.
At this point of the story, you may wonder: what this, sad, story has to do with you going to Molokai and the bLife project?! Well, my astute reader, here's what has to do:
- He worked his ass off, neglected his family, at the edge of his half a century milestone he died for reasons of no fault of his own
- All his sacrifices went literally in smoke and if it wasn't for a clever move of a firefighter, my mom and siblings would have died inside their home while the fire was going. The apartment's main door expanded because of the high temperature and wouldn't open.
You can call it bad karma, ill society, or whatever else fits your framing of thinking about such tragic events but something for sure is established in my head. You have to learn from history otherwise you just like what is expected to come.
In other words, if you keep making the same mistake over and over, then you like it. And this joke below totally captures that message :-)
A hunter goes to the forest. He sees a bear and fires at it, but misses. The bear is nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly the bear taps him on his shoulder and says, "You tried to kill me, either I'll kill you or pull down your trousers and let me fuck you". The man chose life.
He goes home embarrassed, buys a bigger gun and goes back to hunt the bear. He sees it at a distance, fires, misses, the bear disappears in the thick brush only to pop up behind him a little later. The bear recognizes the hunter and says, "You know the choices."
The hunter, after being fucked again, brings a bazooka to get over his humiliation. He finds the bear, fires and falls back due to recoil. The smoke clears and the bear is standing over him, rubbing it's chin. "You don't come here for hunting, do you?" [source]
I didn't want to be that hunter.
When I reached 47 of age, I was at a junction where I start seeing the signs of working day and night to accrue wealth and chasing entrepreneur dreams. Just like my dad.
My daughter became seriously ill, I was spending so much time building innovation of all sorts of things that I neglected my wife from my before being always there. My health deteriorated massively due to the inability to stay asleep for more than three hours per night. All that became a compound of bad choices, it didn't happen overnight.
At that point, I did what I do best. Stop, breathe, and spin a massive number of thoughts in graph mode while chasing the shortest path for a change, for the better.
I pulled the break big time on everything and start restoring order and priorities in my life. I developed a new hobby, Mountain biking which ends up developing a strong, healthy relationship with very close friends.
I relaxed business travel by 90% and resumed an activity that I had done for years, reading about subjects outside of my work/life needs. My daughter's situation improved and my focus at this point was only being available for the family while re-learning how to take it easier. I even bought a new car which is the least ever thing on Earth that I have ever care to own. I hate driving and it pollutes even when it is not used...
The change was so massive that I could read the expression of friends trying to figure out if I was going through some kind of mid-crisis stage or all of the sudden I had hit a jackpot. They were neither, I was living as I should have done many years before the click happened.
This takes me to the end of September 2018, while talking to my friend Alberto, which I had not spoken to in a decade. Our laughter took me back to when we were talking about the bLife philosophy back in Milan and bPositive tag lines we were throwing around to friends back in the 90s. I had just found how I wanted to cruise toward the end of my life cycle. A bit of a geeky way to say: wait of naturally dying but on my own terms.
That day I came back home with the understanding that I had to learn how to define my next potential 1 to 50 years of remaining time on the planet. For the first 50, I didn't really have a choice. I had figured that I could have used my next couple of years, till the conventional half a century milestone, to establish how to redefine my future.
I start reading about a simpler life, healthier habits, and every single piece of knowledge was ending to: you need lots of money which translates into burning more time to eventually not being able to do anything else. Just like it happened to my dad. Self-sustainability became my focus and so many other little details would invert that stupid money equation.
I am a huge time nerd, so money to me has never been more than a tool; because of that way of seeing things, I was clashing with the principle that money is the blocker to accomplish the things that people brag about about when thinking of pre/retirement.
There's nothing more adrenalin to me than be presented with a problem that I can't immediately see a possible (even if not ideal) solution. Ultimately, I came down that money wasn't the blocker.
The fear of making drastic choices was the reason why people claim the money card. Without any money is super hard, no doubt, but that didn't stop my dad from pursuing his first steps of a better life. He was the donkey when he couldn't afford a motorized vehicle. He could have worked in the tomato fields as a daily worker, but instead, he made a much more difficult choice. Be the donkey.
I came down to this list of achievements:
- I raised my daughter at the best of my abilities and significantly more present than my parents and their parents combined
- I honor my mother every day
- I worked my ass off and used every single brain cell to maximize the IQ gift of my parents. Although according to science, I owe all to mom, and nothing to dad on the matter. Meh!
- I have no debts
- I have great friends that are loyal to me because I never changed since they met me
And that point I asked myself, what made all that possible, where I had found so much energy and drive to achieve so much in a relatively short time.
Looking at the mirror, I said aloud to myself:
- I am a maker.
- I am an innovator.
- I always smile because I only focus on the good around me.
- I want to die next to my wife.
- The kids are now playing their first 50 years milestone, no matter what, their cards are their own, not mine.
- If I try to change my future by looking at the guy next to me, I am just postponing the inevitable, ignoring that to make a big change you have to grow the balls of doing it. So if no one follows my steps, I am still doing it.
Freedom is everything and if I don't make changes I am going to be a slave of a system that was not built for the little guy. I am a little guy. That night, I had a vision: I built so many projects from nothing. In domains of which I had no prior knowledge or connections. And they were all aiming to make fame & fortune. They were driven by the pursuit of intellectual achievement, but ultimately the outcome was money, not time! My next and only project will be to achieve: quality time, in the company of people that jolt each other by sharing the same belief.
As trivial it might appear to be, that simple goal is what very few actually achieve and definitely even less attempt to pursue. Since I started talking about the bLife project to friends, every single one (but one or two) can't compute what bLife is. Their expression constantly tells me "so, that's it?!"
The reason why they crash and burn with their own thinking is that they try to assess the money component. How much does it cost to participate? How much money do you want from me? How do I assess good and po$$ible lo$$?
Just like I was, they are skewing their own reality and constraining themselves and their thinking. None of them is thinking in terms of time. Time is not money. As the old say goes. It's the other way around. It has always been. Unfortunately, progress has built those models where our goal is no longer happiness but status, necessary to become happy. A black mirror episode in real life.
I said fuck that.
I will die figuring out how to do better and if I manage to do it, I will document it and help others to reshape or create a trend of getting older with better priorities.
If at this point you think that I am building a cult. You might be at the stage where you can choose to get old just like anybody else and you may or may not never regret a second of that choice. If you still have doubts, then you should learn how to ask the right questions. That for me what the trigger.
With my bike friends, I rediscovered what really made me the man I am today. The values that sustained me in the biggest hardship moments of life. Friendship, a common goal, total disregard for the status quo.
The bLife Movement™ is the brand under which I want to design & engineering a new model for a higher quality of life. And if I will be successful, I will have given to my child and to my family legacy more than any fortune I could have accrued.
If I will not, I will die just like I wanted, on my own terms, happy in the company of my wife and with who was crazy enough to follow another schmuck-Steve-Jobs that disregarded the rules.
When dealing with complex problems, you need to remove the non-essential variables that make the problem exponentially harder to solve. Since everyone has a phone in their pocket these days, I will close with this analogy:
Just like the successful Apple App Store, a closed ecosystem, not perfect but curated and leading to the expected outcomes. It's like an island. You don't feel isolated if you have all you need and the people around you that have the same thing. Like Molokai.
Just like an iPhone, hated by some and absolutely loved over a billion users, an idea that seemed impossible and was a chimera until he became a reality. Like The bLife Movement™.
It's a cult, it's nothing, it's whatever you want it to be. As long as it makes you happy.
Just, fuck it.
Now, you know how I got there.