In this podcast episode you’ll learn:
- What is settled work.
- Why you need time and space to find and do your best work.
- What is a commonplace book and why it can be helpful.
- How filters and saying no can help us control our time.
- The important role of serendipity in finding our path.
A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure Series) by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, and Shlomo Angel
The majority of people are taught from a young age that someday you get to retire—but David says don’t retire, settle. At retirement age, you often still have a significant amount of years left in your life. Why waste it withering away doing nothing of substance? Why not invest your time in something meaningful? David talks about the concept of “settled work” instead of retiring in this episode of Money for the Rest of Us.
What is the concept of “settled work”?
The definition of “settled work”, according to Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein is “The work which unites all the threads of a person’s life into one activity. The activity becomes a complete and wholehearted extension of the person behind it.” Most people don’t know what their settled work should be. It takes time and years of reflection to decide how one wants to spend their retirement.
David points out that there are numerous ways to spend one’s settled time. For example, he writes and works on this podcast. For some, it could be working in a home woodworking shop, or even running a business selling antique lamps. The point is that it needs to be something meaningful to you that comes naturally.
How do you decide what your settled work is?
Any given individual is not guaranteed a pension, a retirement fund, or finances to see them through their life. With current technology and medical marvels, people are living longer and longer. So it is imperative that you find meaningful work to carry you through retirement. Perhaps, something that can bring in a small income that also brings you joy. So how do you go about that? Take time.
You must set aside time from the demands of work and life to reflect. Spend some time investing in what can be termed “side-gigs” or even a hobby. Eventually, they could be where you get to devote your time. David traveled frequently while he was working as an investment advisor, often reaching 150,000 miles in an airplane a year. He took that time to write and reflect, focusing on what he wanted his future settled life to consist of.
Why you need a commonplace book
David utilized what is referred to as a “commonplace book”. Nicholas Basbanes defines a commonplace book as “A book, essentially, in which techniques for entering proverbs, quotations, ideas, speeches were formulated.” Commonplace books are different than journals in that they are organized by topic, not chronological or overly introspective.
David used his as a means of note-taking on important subjects, books he was reading, or even ideas for the novel he was writing. In May 2008, he listed ideas for things he could do when he retired from his investment firm: transformative projects, making residual income, blogging/writing, traveling, and giving general investment advice. Over ten years ago, David had outlined nearly exactly what he is doing now.
The art of saying “no”
It’s already been noted that finding settled work takes time. To find that time, one must learn how to say “no”. Say no to the things that are distractions and focus on the essential things. Most people don’t have extensive time available outside of work and taking care of a family.
So you must learn how to say no—but also how to recognize the opportunities you do want to take advantage of. If something comes along that would help move you in the direction of defining your settled work, don’t pass it up. Learn to see the difference between distraction and opportunity.
David talks in detail about the concept, why settled work is needed, and much more. Be sure to listen to the whole episode for his musings on settling.
- [0:20] An antique lamp store in Phoenix
- [3:10] The concept of “Settled Work”
- [5:30] How do we find our settled work?
- [7:40] David’s commonplace book
- [12:15] Why we need settled work
- [15:00] Take time to reflect
- [16:05] Take back control of your time
- [18:00] The art of saying “no”
- [21:00] Capturing Serendipity
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