If you've done programming for any length of time, you've probably heard the terms "coupling" and "decoupling".
Of course, these terms aren't specific to development, so even if you're not a developer, you've more than likely still heard these terms. But, since I'm a developer by day, I tend to think of these words in terms of computer programming (definition taken from Wikipedia):
"In software engineering, coupling is the degree of interdependence between software modules; a measure of how closely connected two routines or modules are; the strength of the relationships between modules."
In essence, and in a more general sense, coupling simply refers to being dependent on something else.
Of course, I've had the concept of coupling beat into my mind for many years as a developer, but ever since I was laid off from my previous employer over a month ago, I've started thinking about coupling in a more general sense and how it applies to everyday life. In other words, I realized that I was tightly coupled to my job, just as many of us are.
I think a lot of my dependence came from my naiveté regarding being laid off. Layoffs had been happening for well over a year, so it wasn't much of a surprise that it happened, but given my history with the company and friendships I had established with management, I guess I thought I was immune to ever being laid off. I figured that if I wanted to stay at the company for many years and part ways on my schedule, then I could certainly do so.
I realized later that this was also a form of self-entitlement, but more on that in another post.
If you've done any sort of investing, or if you've ever studied business, you know that some common advice is to diversify your portfolio and to not put all of your eggs in one basket, right? Well, why, then, do we not apply that advice to other areas of life?
If you look at your life, what are you so dependent on or tightly coupled to?
Do you depend on one job to provide your household income, or do you have multiple revenue streams to help with life's curveballs and keep you afloat when the bottom drops out?
What are you going to do when you're laid off or fired from that one job on which you depend? Can you live off savings, or have you been living paycheck-to-paycheck, never expecting that your job will one day disappear, and now you're going to lose your house?
Are there people in your life on whom you're dependent to provide you with happiness or take care of you? What happens when they mess up and stab you in the back, or just flat out leave you altogether in one form or another? Are you self-sufficient enough to not let that keep you down? Will you get by, or will your world be completely shattered?
What about substances? Do you seek alcohol or drugs (or even food) to numb your pain, or do you have the mental fortitude and support system of great friends and family to help weather life's storms?
How about when it comes to "stuff"? Do you need a big house, fancy car, and stylish clothes to give your life meaning, or do you know that you're already enough and have nothing to prove?
What happens when all of your "stuff" breaks down (which it all inevitably will)? Do you have the know-how to fix things, or are you so dependent on other people to do it all for you?
I could go on and on with examples from different areas of life, but I think you get the point.
When I was laid off, I tried to view the situation in a positive light, which I did for a while, but eventually, the suckiness of the whole situation hit me like a ton of bricks and I became super bitter.
Not only did I become so dependent on that job to maintain the lifestyle my wife and I had chosen to live, but I also put all of my trust in a couple of individuals to provide a sense of security and keep me safe. Naturally, as the situation unfolded, I became worried that we would lose everything, and I also felt double-crossed by people I had trusted for so many years.
So, how you do go from becoming so tightly coupled in life to living a more decoupled life? Simple. You look at all of the dependencies in your life and start minimizing them.
You start paying off your debt (Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University is a great place to start), you look for ways to generate multiple/passive revenue streams, become more self-sufficient and learn more about the world in which you live and how it works, and be careful in whom you put your full trust.
Now, I don't know that it's possible to completely eliminate all of the dependencies in our lives, but I think we can do a much better job at minimizing them.
One step at a time.