J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Category: Alternative Economics (Page 1 of 4)

I Have Seen the Future of Local Transportation


As regular readers know, my family gave up our car about a year-and-a-half ago. Our lease ended, we turned in the car, and we didn’t get another one. The idea was to go one month without a car and see if we could get around with biking, walking, public transportation, Lyft, and the occasional rental.

Overall the experiment has been a success. I’ve written about the experience at length in the followings posts:

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Eight Months Without a Car, Cost and Convenience

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The eight-year-old’s bike.

Back in February when Kia and I turned in our leased Fiat 500 and decided to do a “one-month experiment” of living without a car, I suspected that the experiment might last longer than one month. But eight months? No way. I was sure we’d have another car by now. But it turns out there are a few advantages to not having an expensive hunk of metal to care for, including:

  • On average, it’s cheaper (about $150/month less).
  • It’s great to not worry about your car (will it break down or get stolen/scratched/dented/broken into/ticketed).
  • We save time on car maintenance and paperwork.
  • All three of us are fitter, stronger, and leaner (details below).
  • I feel more physically and socially connected to my neighborhood.
  • Our carbon footprint is reduced (though still high — we sometimes fly on airplanes).
  • I get to use my phone like a magic wand to summon friendly drivers to my house who arrive within minutes and take me wherever I want for a reasonable price and I don’t need cash not even to tip (thank you Lyft).
  • Local grandparents have been great sports about having to drive a bit more (thank you!)
  • Given our situation (we both work from home, our kid goes to school three blocks away, our neighborhood has a Walk Score of 91/100, local car-sharing options), we’re pretty much the ideal family to NOT own a car.
Our neighborhood Walk Score

Our neighborhood Walk Score

Costs

Back in February I calculated our average cost of car ownership at $440/month, as follows:

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Why Basic Income Makes Sense in the United States

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Basic income, or a citizen stipend, or a technology dividend, or whatever you want to call it, makes sense. Here’s why:

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What Makes a Good Coach?

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Photo by Carl R. Jr.

I became interested in the topic of coaching after reading this excellent article in the New Yorker by Atul Gawande, published in 2011. Gawande, a skilled and well-respected surgeon, noticed that he had more or less stopped improving at surgery. Instead of coasting, he chose the path of self-improvement and hired a coach (a retired surgeon and mentor). Though his decision raised some eyebrows in the O.R. (it’s unusual for a practicing surgeon to use a coach), Gawande found numerous areas for small, incremental improvements (how he positioned his elbows, how his lights were placed). This was true even for operations he had successfully performed hundreds of times.

Since then I’ve offered pro-bono coaching services in various areas to a few friends. I was curious … would I enjoy it? Would I be good at it? I did enjoy it, and I think in each case my coaching services were helpful (though not enormously helpful).

Recently I met with a professional business coach, Ellen Ercolini, to learn more about coaching, both as a craft and as a profession. Ellen specializes in helping entrepreneurs and lifestyle businesses* make more money. Unexpectedly, the second half of our meeting turned into an impromptu coaching session for me (my career goals, strategy, how I present myself online, etc.). A short session with a highly-skilled professional coach made me realize just how powerful an insightful coach can be. I left the meeting inspired, and within 48 hours took action on several major projects I’d been putting off (including transitioning this blog from wordpress.com to a self-hosted wordpress.org plugin).

Meeting with Ellen also helped me understand just how deep coaching can go. Not only does Ellen have detailed comprehensive systems in place (both for her own coaching process, and for her clients to implement within their own businesses), but she has a method for categorizing the personality types of her clients, and a corresponding set of motivational/behavioral modification techniques for each type.

Reflecting on what I’ve learned about coaching to date, here’s my current list of what it takes to a be a good coach in a particular area:

  1. A deep understanding of the technical aspects of the craft/sport/business/activity, usually acquired through many years of experience.
  2. A well-tested, constantly-refined teaching system or program (exercises and lessons that result in incremental skill improvement).
  3. The desire and ability to observe closely and provide helpful feedback.
  4. The desire and ability to understand different personality types and what methods and communication style motivates each type.

My “A-ha!” moment was realizing that I personally lack the desire to try and understand what approaches best motivate different types of people. I’m interested in motivation in the abstract (especially for my fictional characters), but the nitty-gritty of applying various psychological techniques to motivate other people just isn’t my thing. It doesn’t fascinate me. It does fascinate people like Ellen Ercolini (for her, I think, clients are like puzzles waiting to be solved), and that’s a big part of what makes her an effective coach.

Hiring a Coach

I’m definitely open to the idea of hiring a writing coach, but first I want to experience what it’s like to work with a professional editor. Editing and coaching have some overlapping areas (another thing that Gawande discusses in the New Yorker article), and a good editor may function something like a coach. I’ll report back once I have more to share.

Would I hire a coach in another area? If I get more serious about racquetball, I would consider it, but at the moment I’m learning in leaps and bounds from watching youtube videos and getting tips from more experienced players. Same with chess. But if/when I hit a plateau, hiring a coach will be my first move if I wanted to break through to the next skill level.

Have you hired a personal coach? For what? Was it helpful? I would really like to know.

*  What does lifestyle business mean? It’s a controversial term, sometimes used derogatorily to refer to businesses that aren’t startups (businesses that aren’t trying to massively scale and maximize revenue at any cost). I use the term with a positive connotation — a profitable business that doesn’t entirely take over your life. As 37 Signals co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson points out, the direct correlation between hours worked and income is an antiquated notion. In the modern economy you can work very little and makes gobs of money, or vice versa. There is no virtue (or even necessarily profit) in overwork. I consider my own freelance database consulting to be a lifestyle business; I work <20 hours a week and have time to write fiction, write this blog, spend as much time as I want in the music studio, spend time with my family and friends, and play tabletop RPG games. I’ve been asked why I haven’t jumped into the startup game (I have technical skills, I know people in the startup world, I live in the Bay Area). Because I like my life, and I don’t need more money.

One Weird Trick To Get Skinny, Rich, Tan, and Live Forever (No Car Experiment)

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My U.S.-made $200 fixie from criticalcycles.com

Title is of course tongue-in-cheek. But Kia and I are both leaner, richer, tanner, and healthier from the experiment thus far.

We’ve just completed our first month of not owning (or leasing) a car. So far, so good. In fact, we’ve committed to at least one more month of not owning/leasing. We started the experiment with a few questions in mind:

  • Would not owning/leasing a car be more or less expensive than combined costs of lease, insurance, gas, and fees?
  • Would it be more or less convenient?
  • In what other ways would it change our lifestyle or perspective?

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Preparing for No-Car Month (and a Driverless Future?)

Thanks Fiat! You were great (except for the falling-off hubcap and bumpy passenger ride).

Thanks Fiat! You were great (except for the falling-off hubcap and bumpy passenger ride).

In a few months we’re coming to the end of our lease on the Fiat 500 (our family’s only car) and we’re committing to getting around for at least one month without owning or leasing another car. We’re considering using any and all of the alternatives below:

  1. Bicycling, transporting goods in either panniers/saddlebags, or backpacks.
  2. Using Lyft and/or Uber and/or Flywheel.
  3. Using City CarShare and/or Zipcar (both have locations within walking distance of our house).
  4. Increased reliance on local public transit (BART, AC Transit, MUNI, the ferry, etc. — using Clipper cards for universal payment).
  5. Purchasing or renting a small motor vehicle like motorized skateboard (see demo below).
  6. Using a grocery delivery service like GoodEggs or Instacart.
  7. Renting a car for day trips and road trips.

Transportation challenges will include visiting friends in Marin (difficult to get to via public transport) and Santa Cruz, transporting groceries and other bulky/heavy purchases, dropping off/picking up our daughter at play dates and time with her grandparents, getting to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco (challenging even with a car) and client visits all over the Bay Area. While in some cases we’ll solve transportation dilemmas by having things delivered, meeting online, etc., in most cases we’re planning to take the challenges head-on: how to do we physically get ourselves and our things from one place to another without owning or renting a car?

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