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When life kicks you in the teeth, smile back. When life gives you a present, good or bad, say thank you. When life changes, accept it as the one rule in life that never changes, things change. This is not meant to be an inspirational post, if it gets wishy washy then I give you permission to click away, shut down your computer, and walk away. Actually, if it’s a nice day out, go ahead and take a walk now, I’ll still be here when you get back.

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Things change. Life changes. We change. Our significant others change, our family changes. Jobs come and go. You get the point. But how do we manage all this change? Uh, er, did you read the title? We don’t manage the change, we should just accept it, adapt to it, and move on. I know, easier said than done. But if nothing else, the past 12 years living, traveling the world, and working has taught me it’s a waste of energy to bemoan change.

Child on the Way- I’m Unemployed

But Todd, you have a great life, what do you have to worry about? Well, nothing really. Didn’t you just read my last paragraph? I’m a big fan of giving advice ONLY when I live that advice myself. In the next one month I will be leaving my dream job, having my first child, and will be moving in with my in-laws in Japan. Does my life still sound sexy?

First the job. My contract is up and there is no more money in the project to pay for me. I will miss my job. I loved working for the United Nations in Northern Kosovo. But instead of wishing things were different, I’m working my ass off to leave the project with what it needs to survive after I leave. I want it and the people there to succeed. I’m grateful for the past year, would never change a thing, and will bring the experience from this job forward with me to whatever I do next.

Life Changes

Sometimes you have no choice but take a different road.

Towards the end of June my wife will deliver our first son. Instead of being worried about being unemployed at the same time I become a Dad I’m looking forward to it. I will have 2 months of NOT working to spend with my wife and new child. Who gets that? Not many people. Sure, it requires some sacrifices, like moving in with my wife’s parents, living in a small room with the three of us etc etc. But the rewards are so much better. Two months not worrying about work, living in Japan, being close to family. Amazing.

Don’t be Lazy

Being calm, thankful, and hopeful is not the same thing as being lazy. I’m looking for new jobs. I might have some consulting work coming up that combines my development work with my travel and tourism work. If it works out great, if it doesn’t, something else will.

I’ll use my 2 months off to finish my Shikoku Pilgrimage Book, work further on my blog here, and continue to push my quest for world domination. I’ve worked hard to get to this point in my life: unemployment, wife, kid, no house, no mortgage, savings (yes, that helps not being stressed), amazing friends who understand and support me, and a singular desire to get paid to see what is around the next corner.

Now What?

Great, you have filled my head with ideas of happiness, joy, and fulfillment, but what next? I still don’t have a job, I still have responsibilities, I have bills. Well, life is about making the most of your time RIGHT NOW. I’m sitting here on a Sunday Morning, the sun shining, a cup of coffee (OK ten cups later), writing this post. I’m taking action. I’m reveling in my change, enjoying it, sharing it. I could be sitting on the couch, watching TV, doing nothing. But I’m not. Here is my secret boiled down into 7 steps that range from personal finance to career development. This helps me not only manage the risks of NOT managing change, but it ensures I have the space to enjoy the change:

1) Never Carry Credit Card Debt. I know this sounds easier than it is but it is a fact that you are paying more for what you buy today with credit due to the interest fees. If you have credit card debt, make it a priority to pay it off. Once you pay it off take the money you were paying each month and apply it to another fund (more on this below). Pay off your credit card bill before the end of each month. This way you get the convenience of a credit card without having to pay for it.

2) Make a monthly budget. Cut up your expenses, savings, and discretionary funds. Start with bills, then see what is left for savings (retirement, house, emergency fund etc) and then put the rest into your passions.

3) Establish an Emergency Fund. If you are worried about losing your job and paying the bills than this is a must. Try to have at least 2 months of expenses in the fund but build it up to 1 year. Because you followed point 2, you know exactly how much you need each month to survive.

4) Establish a passion fund. Life is not about squeaking by. You need to ENJOY life. As you know, I love to travel and it would be easy to blow all of my money on traveling. Instead I put a dedicated amount of money aside each month for travel. This keeps me sane and means I don’t go overboard. Last year I only visited 16 countries…This year I’m on 4 so far…

5) Keep things balanced. I paid/saved what I could when I was younger, and as my salary has increased I have made the necessary increases to my funds. Most of my extra money goes to savings and paying off student loans.

6) Always think a few steps ahead. My job is ending now, but I take something valuable from each job to help me get the next. Be strategic and always look at upgrading your skills, knowledge and understanding.

7) Do things for free. If you love something and have a passion for it, do it. I just recently managed a free Lonely Planet Book and I’m working on a free hiking guide to Dragash, Kosovo. Both have led to new opportunities and I don’t regret any of the free time I spent.

Yes, it’s that simple

I know you are thinking that I’m the exception, that these are just general ideas, and it can’t possibly be you. I have been living and working abroad for the past 12 years, and I wish I had started these from the beginning. I didn’t get my finances in order until I made a plan 4 years ago. I left college and moved to Japan in 1999 with $30,000 in student loan debt. I graduated from Graduate School in 2006 and moved to East Timor with $110,000 in student debt. I have a wife, a kid on the way and I’m about to be unemployed. Life is what you make of it, and what you tell yourself it is. I can’t wait to see what’s around the next corner!

Question: How do you deal with Uncertainty and Change?

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34 Responses to “How to Manage Uncertainty- Don’t”

  1. simon alixNo Gravatar says:

    Interessing points, may I add some others?. On my side I prefer it extreme. When I finished my bachelor’s I travelled around the world from holiday visa to holiday visa and instead of paying ridiculous fees on student loans, I went bankcrupt, screw the banks: they make up money out of thin air anyway. Then when I realized it’s very hard to get a business job with a very bad credit (no wonder). I used society again as a leverage to reach my goal to keep traveling. So the government paid me (yes – but I had to manage how to get paid – planning planning planning my friends) to go back to school for a 2yrs boat ingeneering program. So now working on boats 6 months/year and doing shit load of money. Could work less or more….meaning traveling more or less. never worried about jobs, always planning more adventure! Working won’t kill me, avalanches, rip currents, lions and exotic diseases are more likely to get me.

    point 8: be clever in planning.
    point 9: use society as a leverage to reach your goals.
    point 10: societal pressures exist only in your mind.

  2. so so loved this! I’ve been unemployed since I was preggos todate…no job..just few gigs here and there…research related.. I have a 3 year old to take care of….in the meantime, I do volunteer community fundraising…I am now embarking on fundraising for Somalia…from Ugandans (…..)hoping that would pay off to become my foundation…I am living with family…but I am not good at that…driving me to the walls…and it’s also difficult for my family to know I have no income…so, don’t expect me to pay this…so, I share my limited savings with about 10 people (sometimes more!)…

  3. MaryMNo Gravatar says:

    Love the list. I’ve been doing #2 ever since I started working, I’ve got #5 covered, and I’m glad to report I’m closing in quickly on the rest. We’ve been in our house for 10 years, and while we could move to a “nicer” (read: more expensive) home, I think it’s best to stay here so I don’t become a slave to a house.

  4. JennaNo Gravatar says:

    Congratulations on your new baby! I just had my second, and as I’m sure you can imagine, having children is truly wonderful. My heart has grown so much because of them.
    I completely agree with the advice of not managing uncertainty. Life is full of unexpected change, and we have to learn to take it all in without expectations. I have had a few difficult lessons in this the last few years, and as I said in this post (about a comparatively minimal event that felt big at the time), we have to accept what comes at us because there is no other option!

  5. wow todd! well first, congratulations on becoming a daddy- what a beautiful change to come :) second, i love your whole attitude about this. it’s so admirable and inspirational that you’re choosing to interpret things this way. and i think, bound to put you in good stead for what’s next. warmest wishes! :)
    Lorna – the roamantics´s recent [type] ..The Vancouver Riot- Thoughts and Photos

  6. LatinAbroadNo Gravatar says:

    I wholeheartedly agree! Great entry — this is what I try to tell my friends ALL the time. They can’t believe I have traveled so much, sp when I did most of it while still in college. They all have this misconception that in order to see the world you have to be rich–NOT!! Thanks for such a great reminder post =) I’m paying off debt myself right now and getting ready to become a digital nomad =D
    LatinAbroad´s recent [type] ..An introduction…

  7. Great post, Todd. I like your advice a lot. I dealt with a lot of uncertainty when I quit my job in the US and moved to London, but keeping balanced definitely paid off.
    A Lady in London´s recent [type] ..Lady in Bergen

  8. andynewbomNo Gravatar says:

    awesome! Todd, you made both of us laugh so hard we spit out our coffee! great article, great advice and good stuff. The first thing you gotta do is cut expenses and pay off credit cards. We got a tiny piece of only one left and then they are gone forever. Love the tone and voice man. keep it up.
    andynewbom´s recent [type] ..Cuatro Puntos El Salvador- La Palma

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks Andy, I hope it wasn’t good coffee! I hate wasting good coffee :) Good luck getting that last bit of CC debt gone. My life has been so much better since then. So yesterday was my last day of “work” and tomorrow I’m off to Japan. Now that things are settling down expect more regular updates here.

  9. This is great. I like that you’re not advising putting one’s head in the sand and point out that being calm is not being lazy.

    I believe that when a person tries to ‘manage’ a situation of uncertainty – that’s when fear takes hold – and that can be devastating.

    Kudos for looking forward and knowing that something good, something interesting is about to happen.
    Acceleratedstall´s recent [type] ..How You Doing

  10. Congratulations for having a baby, you are so blessed. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NIV Version).´s recent [type] ..Headway Theme

  11. JT McGeeNo Gravatar says:

    Going even further, we should embrace uncertainty! Uncertainty is what keeps all the opportunities open for the people who aren’t afraid of following a path without knowing the end.
    JT McGee´s recent [type] ..Waiters and Waitresses- Don’t Blame Me for Your Bad Tips

  12. Just a gentle reminder that there is no two months vacation as such, my dear…A harder but joyful work is waiting ahead of you…diaper change, bathing the little monster, entertaining in-laws for 60 days, bagle making, and lots of running with a ninja who wants to be fit after the delivery…good luck!

  13. What a great outlook on life, and it applies to everything! Planning for parenthood, transitioning into a new career, establishing budgets and planning financially for the future of your family. In my line of work, there is one thing I know for sure and it closely relates to what you wrote about. Creating a monthly budget and avoiding credit card debt is the best way to properly plan for the unexpected curve balls that the relief pitcher of life will most certainly throw our way… Its just a matter of time so the best we can do is simply be ready for them once it comes.

    Thank you for sharing such an uplifting view of the way life really is.

  14. ArtiNo Gravatar says:

    Congratulations, on the sweet little bundle of joy coming to you soon! I am sure he will light up your life with loads of happiness and bring along lots of good luck and cheer! :)
    Arti´s recent [type] ..Exploring The Real Beauty Around

  15. ChristinaNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Todd,

    first of all, congratulations on becoming a father soon!
    I think your attitude is great. It’s like Seth Godin says, we should re-invent or adapt ourselves more, instead of trying to control our environment and make it change so it fits us.
    Good luck and enjoy your time in Japan!
    Christina´s recent [type] ..Weekly photo- Sky jump from Sky Tower- Auckland

  16. Congrats with the baby, Todd! That’s what really counts.
    Sophie | Sophie’s World´s recent [type] ..The longest place name in the world

  17. CailinNo Gravatar says:

    Congrats on soon being a Dad and I wish you the best of luck with everything! Another job will definitely be coming your way soon, no doubt about it :)
    Cailin´s recent [type] ..Naked in a Foreign Country

  18. I love your accepting view of life. I always try to turn my life over to the Universe, asking only that I be shown what path I am supposed to follow and that I recognize it when it is revealed. I’m sure with your attitude, things will wok out just fine. Even before I read your comment I thought, that means he’ll have time to spend with his son after his wife gives birth. So cool that you thought that way, too.
    Barbara Weibel´s recent [type] ..The Royal Ballet Theatre of Luang Prabang- Laos – A Cultural Miracle Under a Communist Regime

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks Barbara. I’m a big fan of “work as hard as you can” and good things will happen. If things don’t happen that you expect than maybe you weren’t meant to do them. If bad things happen, you just need some perspective to know why they are happening. I’d also be happy if I had a few more extra months with my son :)

  19. krantcentsNo Gravatar says:

    Congrats on on your future son! Although I may disagree with some of what you say, your attitude will get you through any perceived difficulties. many times that is all you need.
    krantcents´s recent [type] ..Is Networking Over for Job Seekers

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks :) I’m always happy for dissenting views here, so if you have other advice, please do share! I have to admit that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes, but there is only so much you can squeeze into a blog post!

  20. AdventureRobNo Gravatar says:

    Congrats on the baby on the way!

    I’ve recently got myself in a relationship with a Japanese lady too; I have no debt at all and generally have good control of my finances, but I’m looking to start studying in Japan next year, so may find myself in a similar situation to you a few years down the line, so will be watching carefully for any advice you give out here!
    AdventureRob´s recent [type] ..Helping Out

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Rob, whoohoo, a Japanese Lady as well! Glad you don’t have any debt, that is a lot better than me at this point :) If you have any questions about living, working or studying in Japan feel free to ask away (even by e-mail). I studied, worked, and lived there for over 5 years so while my info might be dated, I still might be able to help.

  21. Congratulation!!! Life is going to be crazy once the little one join you.
    We just had a baby and I am taking 3 months off to bond with the little guy. Mrs. RB40 just went back to work and let me tell you the little guy keep me busy all day long. I can keep up with my blog and that’s about it.
    Don’t plan to do a lot during the first 3 months. ;)

    Good luck on the big day!
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  22. KimNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Todd

    I’m Kays friend from Australia from back when she stayed with us in 1989!
    We’re expecting our first child too ( end sept ) … coming across your post in my FB feed early this morning was timely indeed :) and has given me a much needed kick out of a worried money-related funk I was indulging over the last couple of days.

    So thanks for your words and for taking the time to write them :)


    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Kim! Nice to meet you and I have heard about you from Kay many times. Congratulations on your own new gift, we are both really excited for you. I’m glad my words helped out. I figure there are other people facing similar issues (unemployment, kids etc) and my perspective might be helpful.

  23. JillianNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Todd,

    Boy you really are setting your life up for great blogging material!

    It’s difficult to go against the grain, to swim upstream, to do what you truly believe in despite societal pressure and I admire you for it. I really think it takes an optimistic person to accept the changes and embrace them with a positive vigor.

    Congrats on your little boy on the way. With three boys of my own, I can tell you that you are in for your biggest adventure!

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Jillian, thanks for the congrats and the nice words. I think I have fully left societal pressure behind, but with a kid on the way you’d be amazed how it can try to find me even in Kosovo :)

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