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Life Guides: Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project

[ 4 ] December 8, 2010 |
floating through life unsure what to do next?

Image by Helga Weber, via Flickr

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, about life, about this blog, what I’m doing, where I’m going, what I really want.

It used to be I didn’t know. I just kept doing what I was doing because I couldn’t think of anything better. It always bothered me that life wasn’t any better than it was–it always seemed like something was missing–but then I’d think how easy I have it and tell myself I should be grateful.

Lately, though, I’ve been reading a lot of inspirational stuff from people who do know who they want to be and what they want to do, and I’m starting to see where I want to go and what I want to be.

I want to be a writer. I want to live a location-independent life of freedom to work on my own projects and govern my own time and priorities. I tried it for two weeks, and I’m more determined than ever to make it happen for the long haul. (I cannot express how much it sucked going back to the office after two weeks of doing only what I cared about.)

I know there are a few people out there who truly enjoy their jobs and are satisfied with their lives. My hat is off to you if you’re one. I admire and envy the people in this position.

The rest of us, though, are faced with a choice. Do we keep coasting, settling for B+ lives and working for the weekend? Or do we scramble, struggle, strive, change, break out, demand and become something better?

For me, the answer lies in a simple number. It was 17,011. Now it’s 16,744. I can’t get more, and I can’t call back the days that have gone by. I can only make the most of the ones remaining.

The best way I’ve found to do that is to do work that is interesting and meaningful to me, work I love. I just need to figure out how to support myself while doing that.

That’s why I’m so excited today to feature someone who can offer guidance on this very thing. I interviewed Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project, who is one of my blog heroes. She’s a brash dynamo of unbridled awesome who has taken charge of her own life and takes no shit from nobody. She’s done it, and she’s reaching out to give a hand up to the rest of us.

How cool is Ash? I know I said only two posts ago that if I had to be stranded on a desert island, I’d want Leo Babauta with me, and I’m sure he’d be very practical and soothing, but Ash? She’d kick the island’s ass and have me laughing and crying in the process. Bring it on!

Cara: For the readers who are new to your work, can you tell us a bit about your blog and why you named it The Middle Finger Project?

Ash: Ha–I named it The Middle Finger Project because I’m impatient as hell, and was getting tired of procrastinating launching the site because I didn’t have a name that I liked enough. Finally, after a brain storm session, the name came to me, and while sometimes it can be a bad thing (in the past, companies interested in sponsoring have backed down because they were unsure that they wanted to be linked with the name), it’s largely a good thing because many people end up on my site simply because they have to find out what on earth it’s about.

So, speaking of that, The Middle Finger Project is about a lot of things–living on purpose, adventure, exhilaration, travel, & digital entrepreneurship–but at the end of the day what it comes down to is quality of life. I strive to teach people how to live better by living up to their own potential.

Cara: What is your advice for people trying to live a satisfying life? What’s most important? What works?

Ash: I believe that in order to be satisfied, we’ve got to get a little selfish. We’ve got to start acting on our own desires, and having faith in ourselves enough to know that it will work out, one way or another. A lot of people get tripped up here simply because they don’t know how. There’s something they’d love to do, but they don’t know how to make it happen, and so instead of insisting on finding out, they let it die. So in that regard, one of the tricks is simply learning. If you don’t know how to do something, go find out.

Cara: What makes you happy?

Ash: Ah. Good friends. Good books. Good ideas. Good laughs. Good intentions. Good wine.

But mostly good intentions.

My own & those of others.

Cara: I know you’ve been working on a book lately. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Ash: It’s a sexy, soulful publication that teaches others how to do what they love and get paid for it by leveraging the internet. It’s focused on digital entrepreneurialism, and digs deep into both why & how. It’s targeted at beginners who either don’t have a web presence yet, are just getting their web presence off the ground, or who have had a web presence, but an ineffective one in terms of generating an income, assuming that’s a part of the goal.

You don't need a job, you need guts

Cara: You can write a book called You Don’t Need a Job, You Need Guts because you’ve lived it yourself. Can you tell us how that happened? How long have you been working for yourself? Did you plan and save up, start earning income before you made the leap, or wing it?

Ash: Oh gosh, before I finally figured it out, I was a mess! I’d go from 9-5 job, back to freelancing, back to 9-5, back to trying to launch my own creative projects, back to 9-5, etc. It was very difficult at first because you still need money to pay the bills, and until you’re generating your own income, it needs to come from somewhere.

That said, I didn’t have anything saved up–rather, I consistently worked on my own projects while still working in a more traditional sense here and there. I was up until 2AM or 3AM every night when I was first getting TMF off the ground–but that’s what let me know that it was the right path, because instead of being drained from it, I was energized. I would wake up a few hours later & jump out of bed to keep on working.

Cara: What’s your best advice for those of us who want to support ourselves but are still waiting in the wings, preparing and/or afraid?

Ash: KNOW THAT IT TAKES TIME. None of this is over night. And when you start feeling like you’re not progressing, know that you are. Because sometimes if you’re not seeing any action right away, it can be discouraging. Don’t let it be. Keep on trucking. Forward motion, people.

Cara: How do you manage your time? I know of at least two projects you have going at once, and I’m sure there are others. Do you set yourself a schedule and goals, or do you just do whatever you want to do most each day? (I’m kind of a control freak, so I love the idea of the second option, Zen Habits-style, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t get the right things done if I did it that way.)

Ash: If someone could make me stick to a schedule, I’d be amazed! I’m a total creative–I’m all over the place all of the time, picking up the pieces as I go and figuring it out along the way. I could never work on a schedule, because my priorities are always shifting. I’ve got to go with the flow.

That said, I am a little nutty about lists. I’ve got the world’s worst memory, so if I don’t make a list of what I absolutely need to do, I’ll forget. And when you’re working for yourself, you can’t forget the details, because everything matters.

During the day, I’ll do whatever my mood is right for at the time, and keep going that way. If I’m not in a writing kind of mood and can’t get into it, I move onto something else & come back later.

Change your life, change the world, make a splash!

Image by Tambako the Jaguar, via Flickr

Cara: Do you have any warnings about what not to do when going into business for yourself and quitting your job?

Ash: Yeah–you’ve got to stand for something. No matter what kind of business you’re running, you’ve got to stand tall & represent. Too often, we look at other examples of success & try to replicate, in order to gain confidence that we’re doing it right. But when you’re in business for yourself–especially digital business–there IS no right. That’s partly what makes it so profitable–you’ve got to be fresh. And you can’t do that by doing what everyone else is.

Cara: What’s your favorite part about working for yourself?

Ash: Time and time again, most people who make the decision to work for themselves do so for freedom. I’m no exception. I’m selfish, and I want to be able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. If I want to hop a plane & go hang out in Brazil for a few weeks, then dammit, I want to be able to. If I want to take a time out & have a little nap, then dammit, I want to be able to. If I don’t want to work at all that day, then dammit, I don’t want to have to.

Freedom. Having it is really the only way I can continually experience the world & consistently learn and grow. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be enough time for that, and that’s freaking important.

Cara: A few people who are very close to me are unemployed and somewhat at a loss as to what to do next. They’re having a hard time finding jobs, and they don’t really want to go back to what they were doing, but they’re having a hard time figuring what else to do instead. What is your advice for them?

Ash: I talk about this in my book–it isn’t just a matter of what you want to do, but you’ve got to also think in terms of who you want to become. For example, I’ve always wanted to write, and traditional schools of thought would have funneled me into a career as an editor, a reporter, a copywriter, or a Starbucks employee. And while I would have been writing, I never wanted to become those things. I wanted to become a dramatic, impulsive, smokey-eyed writer, thinker & philosopher of life. So I had to take that into consideration, and then figure out how to make THAT happen.

Figure out where you want to be, and then figure out how to get there. Not the other way around.

Cara: Now that the book is launched, what’s next? What big dreams are you working on turning into reality?

Ash: I’ve got another big project that I’m working on that I haven’t actually discussed publicly yet–it’s called Host An Entrepreneur, and I envision it being a platform similar to couchsurfing, where people around the world can volunteer to donate a bedroom to a bootstrapping entrepreneur for a fixed period of time, and in exchange, that aspiring entrepreneur teaches their host their skill set, or helps them create their own projects. It’s a way to promote & support entrepreneurialism, and I think it will also be fun as hell. So, why not, right?

Cara: What a cool idea!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Ash: Yes. If you come across a spare bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce, send it to:

Balmaceda 5300 Parcela #3
Talagante, Santiago, Chile

Ironically enough, a country named Chile has NO HOT SAUCE. And it pains me greatly every day. So I’m spreading the word & hoping for a miracle. 😉

* * *

Thanks, Ash, for sharing your insights!

About the hot sauce, I am not making this up: a few weeks ago when I went to Kroger, the cashier accidentally rang up a bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce in my order when really it belonged to the guy in front of me. I was baffled and annoyed when I got home and realized what had happened. Contrary to my usual apathy and procrastination, I returned it. (I never use hot sauce.)

What are the odds of a stray bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce anyway, and then being asked for one specifically a month later? Clearly I need to buy it again and send it to her!

Meanwhile, check out You Don’t Need a Job, You Need Guts! Today is the launch. I preordered a copy and can’t wait to read it.

You don't need a job, you need guts

About Cara Stein: I'm a writer and dreamer with a PhD in self-reinvention. (Or was that computer science?) Whether you're stuck, lost, or just looking to enjoy your life more, I want to help because I've been there!

Comments (4)

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  1. Kelly says:

    How awesome that you got to interview her! I just discovered her recently, and the book is now on the top of my Christmas wish list. I long to be in the same place she is.

    • Cara Stein says:

      The book rocks. It’s an inspiration/how-and-what-to-do/inspiration sandwich. I devoured it on launch day.

      I long to be in the same place she is.

      Me, too. Working hard at making it happen.

  2. Élan says:

    Count me in the group who wants to be in the place she’s in (and I’m working on it, too).

    Thanks for sharing the interview! :)

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