restless peasant: life, changing :

the absurdity of work

Great piece by Andrew Smart on the Idler here about the Amazonification of the workplace where real, intelligent folk with families to feed are being measured on the most ridiculous of metrics!

Further info on Andrew Smart’s new book at OR books

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5 easy steps to start a freedom business.

The safest and easiest way out of the rat race is to dig a tunnel.

When did you last consider digging a tunnel?

Probably not since you were a child I would imagine. (Tunnelling Engineers…work with me here…)

Put another way, have you ever thought (or ever stopped thinking) about changing your life for the better?

Ever spent hours day dreaming about how much different your life could be?

Ever wondered if there is more to life than the 9-5?

Well of course there is and a growing army of people like you and me are realising that they were sold a dud when they were unwittingly indoctrinated into the capitalist religion and the rampant consumerism that supports it.

I used to work with someone who talked about digging tunnels incessantly. He always wanted to talk about the same thing; getting out. He would come up with all sorts of ideas about how he was going to start an Internet business (this was in the infancy of the web), I would encourage him to go forward with any idea that sounded reasonable, but he never did. By the way he still works at the same place 17 years later, and I’ll guarantee he is still talking about digging tunnels.

However, he gave me the idea for this article because he always referred to his little schemes tunnel digging; in other words he was digging an escape tunnel; a tunnel through which to escape the 9-5 existence forever.

Tunnelling is making arrangements to improve your income or even start to build an income that comes from an entirely different stream than the one you consider your main income producer today (your job probably).

The analogy of course comes from The Great Escape, where the prisoners had to dig a tunnel using increasing amounts of ingenuity in order to have any chance of escape.

Now back in the day when my colleague was bleating on about tunnelling, the internet was young and most of his ideas were about using it somehow to conquer the world.

If he had only taken action with one idea even, then his life could have been changed for ever; 1995 was a time when you could get a $1m for any harebrained idea that was using the internet!

So what did he do wrong; only one thing: he » More »

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The BIG why

The big hurdle that prevents people from making progress with their freedom dream is that they simply don’t have a clue what it is that drives their inner mojo for life. They might know why they like this idea or that subject, or whatsoever activity; but they just don’t know why.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of negativity in my approach to new subject areas; you know the kind of thing I mean. Scratching around to find all the ways an idea wont work instead of saying fuck it, we’ll make this work!

Restless Peasant grew out of 2 ideas I had for blogs 5 or maybe even 6 years ago. One was a kind of philosophical review site, where I pontificated on what I thought was the way of the world and the way people should be thinking. That was before I joined a meditation group and realised that instead of sitting thinking all day long, I’d actually been sitting meditating most of my life. I just thought, that I’d been sitting thinking. I also thought that I was good at thinking and that maybe I could even help other people with my thinking. so I started a blog called thinking phil, even though my name is john:-)…I know weird and shy..who knew? After a while I realised that what I had been doing wasn’t thinking, but just being and that thinking isn’t really a useful thing to do most of the time.

I also thought (covertly) that poeple needed to hear about my thoughts and even that they needed to be alerted to the problems with Capitalism, employment and be warned about the dangers of following the well worn path that most people endure all their lives in the hope of getting some free time (that they end up not knowing what to do with) when they eventually retire form work. Of course, everyone who ends up on this blog already knows all that stuff and is looking for something different to inspire them, not a treatise of what’s wrong with the western world view.

Yes, I did say this grew out of 2 blogs; I’m coming to that.

The other blog was called grow slow farm and it was like a country diary. I’ve always lived fairly rurally, but in 2004 I moved with my growing family to the deep Scottish countryside, ended up being the owner of donkeys, sheep and chickens and started living a version of the good life.

I was still working 00.00 to 23.59 (the self absorbed business owner’s version of 9-5), thinking I wanted to be a millionaire businessman. In 2010 I pressed the reset button and have been living a life of freedom and making my living from my life since then.


Now, I’m not a proper Buddhist, but you’ll often hear the phrase “thought is not our highest level of consciousness” or something similar in Buddhist circles and it seems that I already knew that…without thinking :-). What I thought was thought, was simply me watching my thoughts. I’ve never really thought anything through in my life; always going with the gut feeling and that is what this long winded introduction has been about…getting to the gut reason, the feeling, the driving force behind your big freedom ideas.

In a previous post I revealed my way of getting to the bottom of issues that niggle me, by repeatedly asking Why? When you suddenly start doing something different from most other people around you, it’s easy to feel that you’re wrong and everybody else is right. Deciding on a daily basis what your daily life will be can result in you catching Imposter Syndrome. So I have been using the 5 why’s to get to the bottom of problems for a while. A lot of times we do stuff everyday without stopping to get a grip on why we do them. Quite a lot of the things we do when drilled down to,  show up a deep seated need or desire for recognition; a pat on the back maybe. I know, it’s deep psycho shit, but it happens to everyone.

The BIG Why?

Now, given that I understand all of that, how can I find what really drives me? How can I land upon the one thing that will fire me up without a moment’s thought every single day for the rest of my life? Don’t assume this will be easy. A lifetime conforming to someone else’s ideas will have ensured that your BIG why is well buried under a heap of indoctrination and brainwashing, even if you think you haven’t been indoctrinated or brainwashed! Just because your not paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t all out to get you after all!

The good news is that the very same, 5 why’s technique will do it with just a few tweaks.

Take an idea that you’re keen on progressing (if you ain’t got no ideas start here) with and start to ask yourself:

Why am I doing this?

then… with take the answer to that question and ask yourself why? again.

then…OK you’ve got it, I’m impressed. Keep asking why until you get to the deepest Why possible.

When you can find no more why’s then you have arrived at the BIG why…fro this particular idea.

The hidden danger in BIG why’s

Of course, it is quite probable that this BIG why isn’t a good enough reason for progressing with this idea…why? Well, as I revealed in my original post proclaiming the wonder of the 5 why’s, in the early stages of changing your life around, a lot of your investigations will lead to little niggles you’ve been carrying around for your whole life and that means that the BIG why for some of your existing ideas will be just all wrong for the purposes of making you happier and more fulfilled. Here’s an example of how that can happen.

But here’s one I came up with for myself, after many many false starts (the message here is to keep trying…don’t give up).

Statement 1: I want to grow a movement based on the ideas behind the Restless Peasant blog.

1st Why?; answer: So that I can engage others and demonstrate that real freedom is within everyone’s grasp.

2nd Why?; answer: So that the ideas behind restless peasant are spread and more people can benefit from them.

3rd Why?; answer: So that many more people can enjoy the benefits of a life of creativity, freedom, mindfulness and sustainability without worrying about money.

4th Why?; answer: It’s cool.

5th Why? What’s the BIG why from this?; answer: Value to others.

My BIG why is to provide value to others.

What’s your BIG Why?

Photo thanks to

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nuts and bolts

Today I deleted a page from one of my websites. It was the page where I outlined the terms and prices and took orders for the face to face consulting work I do regularly for a small number of clients in my original field of expertise building and managing sports grounds.

Why did I delete the page? Because even although the work pays a decent fee, my longer term desire doesn’t include this kind of time hungry activity. After all I only have 168 hours a week available to me.  So, although I wont be cancelling contracts with any current clients, I wont be taking on any new ones, meaning that eventually (probably within 2 years) I wont have any clients in this field.

Why the hell would a restless peasant who needs to make money from somewhere do that? Why, after encouraging readers to do similar work i.e. tap into their previous networks and do freelance work based on their previous career…why would a guy that previously said that, now say that it isn’t such a good idea?

I still think it’s a good way to get started on your freedom quest, but not necessarily the only way and not inevitable that you have to use it either. It might still work fine for many readers, but my reasons are clear and you should be clear on this too.

I’ve made the decision based on 2 things.

By the way, have you noticed how many times that happens? How many times you say to yourself, there’s two ways to look at this…or…there’s two things to think about here! My theory is that most decisions bring us up to a metaphorical fork in the road and at any fork in the road, there are only two options…I think this is significant. This makes me glad I didn’t ever break through with my guitar, as I might have been “going down to the crossroads” on a regular basis and would have at least 3 and on occasions up to 4 things to think about:-)

Anyway, back to my two things I based this decision on:

  1. This doesn’t make financial sense due to the fact that I have to travel and spend a significant amount of time and money doing that.
  2. This doesn’t fit with my intention to be free of constraints of place and time. I want to be Steve McQueen eating lobster on the beach with Faye Dunaway, then fly to Paris.

Nuts and bolts are physical entities and income opportunities that rely on nuts and bolts resources (sometimes referred to as bricks and mortar) are difficult to grow and sustain in the longer term and quite often have hidden costs that cut into their efficacy. These hidden costs can be down to one or more of a multitude of problems like:

  1. An overly optimistic view of how much time will be spent on each project, making the hourly rate of return much lower than anticipated.
  2. Difficulty in determining an average cost for travelling, equipment and resources.
  3. The effect of Parkinson’s Law on face to face meetings and report writing
  4. Extra pull on your time that wasn’t factored in at the start that you feel can’t be billed
  5. WIP…Work in progress that can’t be billed and sometimes never is.
  6. Nuts and Bolts resources like your car, tools and even lunches literally eating into your profit margin.

However, more troublesome than any of the above is the fact that they tie you down to a place and a time…ughh!

But, wont I just be dumping ready cash by doing this? No…I’ve already established a lively website for this industry with 10 different money making resources that allows me to reach customers world-wide and although I am committed to it and love my customers and support them like my life depends on it, the income from the site is otherwise passive income and even though at busy times my time commitment is significant, it is low cost and on my terms always.

Nuts and bolts income can fool you into thinking you are freelance, working a freedom business or even that you are free. Fact is, if you have to be somewhere at a time specified by someone else for a pre agreed fee and you don’t know how long you’ll be there…you’re taking orders again.

Beware of nuts and bolts.






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basement tapes

Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Queen have all revisited their old material to make new recordings in recent years. Some of the material they have used was languishing on tapes in some dusty studio cellar, discarded decades ago as unsuitable, maybe not good enough or just bad; hidden away never to be seen again.

Fast forward to the 21st century and these artists have opportunities that none of them could have foreseen back in the heyday of their youthful recording sessions. The old tapes of sessions long abandoned are of course highly valuable assets that can be re-visited, digitised and re-worked, improved or re-purposed to create new assets that are highly valuable, not only in a crass, consumerist way, but in a way that exposes true fans of the artist to previously unheard music and events; adding new layers of complexity and intrigue for aficionados to devour with gusto.

In some cases, the previously impossible has been achieved due to the progress made with technology in the intervening years. Who ever thought we’d  hear Freddie sing a new song, or perform a duet with Michael Jackson?

Who wouldn’t want to hear the magic back-line of Entwhistle and Moon again on new tracks previously unheard of?

The two advantages these artists have is a deep understanding of their audience and a deep understanding of the costs involved in making their art; both the emotional and the financial investment.

Sometimes it’s easy to be dismissive of something you create at the kitchen table as not good enough or even useless. Maybe it’s hard to assign value or even a cost of production to it,  but are you making that judgement from the best viewpoint? Would a few years in the basement maybe change that view? Can you re-visit previously discarded and possibly unfinished art or work that can now be rejuvenated, restored, finished or re-purposed to make something of high value and quality for your audience or even just for yourself?

Similarly, if you’re at a crossroads and can’t decide what to do next. If you feel like your idea stream has dried up. Why not make what you already have; what you’ve already sweated over, better first? Before assuming that you need to do more in order to get a result. Make what you have of the highest quality first, trust your gut feelings. If you thought they’d fly, and they haven’t (yet) then re-visit their design, prominence, features and promotion first before dumping them and starting again. Many old crazy ideas can be revamped and re invigorated and made successful for you now.

Save the planet…Recycle!

Photo Credit:

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When I first set off on my quest for real freedom, just after I baled out of wage slavery and just as I was getting to grips with the wealth of time I had on my hands; I succumbed to an urge that I immediately doubted myself over, as it seemed to represent the very essence of what I was trying to leave behind…consumerism.

I bought myself a Barbour wax jacket and a pair of Argyll wellies. The latter I bought because I needed new wellies and I remembered that I had a pair of these as a boy when I fished almost every day in life and they were indestructible.The former I bought almost unused, but secondhand, as new ones are very expensive and the kind I really wanted wasn’t sold new anymore. I thought it represented those long ago fishing days when, although I would have loved to have had one, it was crazily out of reach.

5 years later, I still wear the jacket every day, whilst the wellies were a poor imitation of the ones from the old days and are long gone.

Regardless of the deep psychological shit that is likely going on when someone simultaneously jettisons all of his means of income and splurges on top end country wear, I’ve come to realise that this episode represented more than just an indulgence in nostalgia on my part. Indeed something of this is threaded through everything I try do now and it is the quest for Quality.

I’d like to claim that I had great vision and forethought on this quest, but must confess I was simply the blind watchmaker until I recently read Robert Pirsig for the first time. This experience lightbulbed as soon as I got deeper into the story of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

The Barbour jacket after all of these years has remained a bastion of British artisanal craftsmanship and has of course lasted for the long haul and will continue to, despite donkeys nibbling the edges of it and barbed wire fences doing their level best to destroy the tough, waterproof fabric. Like Pirsig’s cycle, the Barbour must be maintained in order for me to continue to get good service from it. And the true mark of artisanal quality? Yes, the manufacturer stands by its products for the long term. If required I can still send my Barbour to South Shields for repair and reproofing and have it returned like a new garment. Stories of battered and abused Barbours being fully repaired and restored by the conscientious artisans in Tyne and Wear at the end of the shooting season and returned in pristine condition to their owners in time for the start of the Salmon fishing are lodged in my grey matter from the line drawn adverts the company used to run in the fishing magazines of old. These stories, fully backed up by real testimonials, even to this day, garner respect even though times move on and the respect for that kind of longevity in products is less obvious.

The wellies were a disappointment; the makers had obviously turned their back on their previous attention to detail and were chasing the fast buck, with inbuilt (fast) obsolescence and all that.

All of this just to say that quality is just that…quality, it can’t be faked, it can’t be hurried. And if you aim to make a living from your own efforts, why would you compromise quality.

Consumerist indulgence usually feels hollow straight after the event, but I needn’t have worried about my psychological state as I silently congratulate my smug little self on this purchase every cold and wet day of the winter. Why would you pass up the chance to have your customers think about the stuff you make in this way? Why send anything out of the door that doesn’t reek of the same art, attention, passion and grace that my old donkey feeding jacket has?

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