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Life, Hacked: My 3 Weeks of Kitesurfing & Working from the Beach

Life, Hacked: My 3 Weeks of Kitesurfing & Working from the Beach

For the past three weeks I have done my work, writing blog posts, managing social media accounts, drafting case studies, and executing email marketing campaigns, all while staying in a three-bedroom penthouse apartment overlooking the beach, kitesurfing in the afternoons when it gets windy, taking not a single vacation day from my job, and spending no more than a few hundred dollars. That’s a few hundred dollars – for the whole trip!

But this story isn’t just about the last three weeks. The fact is, my life is generally charmed beyond belief. I have a job that I enjoy at an amazing company, filled with fantastic people. I have a perfect three-year-old son, who is truly the best kid in the whole world. I live in a great house in a great neighborhood right outside DC. I travel often, I have free time for myself, and am surrounded by people I love.

But it wasn’t always like this. In fact, like many good stories about living the good life, this one starts with my getting fired.

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Step 1: Get Laid Off

Almost exactly two years ago, I was laid off from my job as Communications Director at an internationally renowned and venerated DC think tank. I mention its reputation only because that is really the only good thing I can say about it in terms of being a good place of employment. Organizational goals were disconnected from daily activities, the people were ensconced in various fiefdoms of closely guarded influence (with much of the hard work being churned out by unpaid interns), and it practiced death-by-meeting like an art form.

Several months before I was laid off, management called a general staff meeting to inform us that they were unsure whether they had the money to meet payroll that month. Consequently, if we wanted to cut back our hours or even not show up at all, we should feel free to do so, since, after all, no one knew if we would get paid.

As a result of this staff meeting I began to look for work wherever I could find it, which meant contacting an old colleague who had started a marketing consultancy. As it turns out, he had a re-branding launching that very week and would need someone to setup and manage new social media accounts. From there work grew and I found other clients, and by the time I was finally laid off from the think tank several months later, I had more than replaced my salary with consulting work.

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Step 2: Find One, Amazing Client

I loved all my clients, truly. But from the beginning, I had one client with which I gelled particularly well. I could see immediately that they had a good story to tell because they were doing innovative work in healthcare. Their leadership was actually forward-thinking, and they gave me largely free reign to beef up their social media marketing activities in support of clear overall business goals.

Step 3: Go Work For Them, If You Want

My work for them grew over time, until one day they raised the possibility of bringing me in-house. At that point they comprised roughly 50 percent of all my consulting work, and culturally it was a good fit.

My main condition was that I would continue to work on my own schedule, coming in to the office as needed for meetings, check-ins or events. For a metric-driven company more concerned with getting results than with having a lot of butts in their office chairs all day long, this wasn’t a problem. Besides, I had been getting stuff done for nearly two years as a consultant already. Thus was born my work-at-home job, with people I love, doing work that is important.

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Step 4: Learn How to Kitesurf

Why should you learn how to kitesurf? Besides the fact that being sped along the ocean on a wakeboard whilst flying a 12-meter kite and getting 10 feet of air jumping off the waves is absolute pure, unfettered joy, there is also the fact that kitesurfing is the perfect activity to do in-between work.

That is because you can generally only kitesurf one to three hours a day, after which you are totally spent. In the case of kitesurfing in Cabarete, Dominican Republic, it only gets windy for a few hours each afternoon anyway. The rest of the time there’s not much to do. That means my schedule in the Dominican Republic was nearly identical to my schedule at home. In both places I woke up and immediately started work, but instead of a mid-afternoon break to workout, I took a mid-afternoon break to kitesurf.

In the mean time, I spent my time with my laptop either out on my porch overlooking the ocean in my hammock, or at the bar restaurant on the beach next to the kitesurfing school. Both places had excellent Wi-Fi.

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Step 5: Combine Other Lifehack Strategies and Execute on Grand Plan

After what has come before, the following should be pretty standard operating procedure for Lifehack.org readers. These strategies have been written about extensively elsewhere, but it’s worth noting that there are several aspects of new media, the sharing economy, and general sociableness that combined to make this whole experience possible:

  • I rented out my place in DC for three weeks on Airbnb, meaning I got a deposit of $2,066 into my bank account just as I left for the Dominican Republic. Pretty sweet. This essentially paid for my plane ticket and for my room and kitesurf rental for three weeks at the amazing eXtreme Hotel. The only other money I’ve spent here is about $150/week on food: cheap and tasty.
  • I forwarded my cell phone to my Google Voice number, which rang straight through to my laptop any time someone called me. Likewise, I could make free calls via Google Voice back to work colleagues in the U.S. any time I needed. This allowed me to both launch a new website and coordinate troubleshooting of some complex technical challenges even while out of the country.
  • Dropbox plus WordPress plus Salesforce plus Google Docs. I can’t say enough about web-based software that is designed to enable remote collaboration. I can log in to post new blogs or add new leads or edit case studies as easily from the Dominican Republic as I can from my house or from the office.

Finally, there was one non-technology-related bonus. Shortly after getting to the hotel, I and another couple struck up a conversation with the hotel manager about the three-bedroom penthouse that overlooked the ocean on the top floor. She offered to put us up there at no extra cost, since the place wasn’t booked. Rest assured I will be writing her and the hotel a badass TripAdvisor review. This development was mostly luck, but it goes to show what being social and willing to take a risk with some people you don’t know can get you. They were great company, and the penthouse overlooking the ocean made the trip.

More by this author

The One Mind Shift To Rule Them All: Everything is a Deliverable Life, Hacked: My 3 Weeks of Kitesurfing & Working from the Beach What Mark Twain Knew About Life (and Business, Love, Work, Travel) Why Selling Out is the Path to Fulfillment

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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