How Making Micro-Adjustments Can Produce More Joy Episode #34

Aaron McHugh


Podcast Highlights:

  • How Micro-Adjusments are required if you live with very small margin
  • If you feel constantly on the clock, its not sustainable. How to get back meaningful moments for yourself.
  • Learn about the concept of the Joy-Use Ratio
  • Understand how watching for serendipitous small bursts of Joy changes everything
  • What is a Joy Bucket? How do you use it? What goes in it?

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Working For the Man-Work Life Play

The original post 

Working for The Man

For a lot of years, I worked too much and played too little. My kids were little, my marriage was fragile, my career was young, my financial resources were limited, and my vacation time amounted to less than ten days a year.

If you’ve been working in your career for more than five to eight years, this idea of The Man will make sense to you.

If you’re married, have kids, a mortgage, and some general desire to “be successful,” this story will not need a lot of translation.

You’re already feeling the angst of The Man.

Get ready to revolt.

Who is The Man?

The phrase “stick it to the Man” encourages resistance to authority and essentially means “fight back” or “resist,” either openly or via sabotage. (Wikipedia)

The Man isn’t our boss, our company, or our customers; the Man is bigger than all of them. The Man is more intrusive than the government. He is more controlling and persuasive than any one person, organization, or individual in power.

The Man is

  • Mortgage payments
  • Deadlines
  • Obligations galore
  • The pressure to have green grass
  • The sticker on our windshield reminding us to not exceed 3,000 miles before the next oil change
  • The owners manual recommendations on everything we own
  • The house we live in
  • The Jones’s who live next door
  • The pressure to give our kids a better life than we had
  • The cars we drive
  • The PTA
  • The pressure to live an epic life
  • The word “should”

About eight years ago, the weight and pressure of working for The Man started making my knees buckle. With every additional grain of sand added, every increase in PSI (pounds per square inch) on my chest seemed to be foreplay for an inevitable implosion.

Kind of grim, huh?

Come on, haven’t you felt this same stuff yourself? If you had the pen, you could tell us plenty about your woes with The Man.

Transition the balance of power

The Man wasn’t standing over me every day imposing his dogmatic regime. I was allowing my obligatory beliefs and my allegiance to him to control my actions, decisions, and priorities.

How do I stop living under the weight of what I’m supposed to do and start living what I want to do?

How do you stick it to The Man?

You have to start with a quick list.  Title it, “What I would do today if I was going to revolt to the system of The Man?”

Let me help you get started. Think of all the stuff you say you are going to do if you were independently wealthy and didn’t have to go to work every day. What about that list of adventures you keep saying you are going to take? How about those Life List items you have vowed to complete. Write them all down.

If The Man didn’t have me, I’d…..

  • Watch the sunrise every day
  • Fly fish in Montana where Brad Pitt caught that monster trout in A River Runs Through It.
  • Travel to Italy and spend a month taste-testing the countryside
  • Live in a shack on the beach of Hawaii
  • See Game 7 of the World Series

You probably don’t need a lot of help with the list. You can see my list here.

Stop Blaming The Man

We are going to close the gap between the lives we wish we had and the ones we are living today. We blame it on The Man, but we are about to remove him from the picture.

MSR Pocket Rocket
MSR Pocket Rocket

Start small

When the Man had me down, I blamed my lack of adventures on him. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough everything. I had this MSR Pocket Rocket stove stored in my basement that I had never used. I resented the fact that I hadn’t used it on some big multi-day trip where I brewed up Starbucks Via packets in my tent vestibule.

I decided I’d pluck it out of the basement storage and put it in the back of my car.  Maybe I’d find some way to use it.

If it weren’t for my friend Morgan and his Joy-to-use ratio idea, this stove would have stayed dormant in the basement.

His shitty grin said, “Why do you care if you only use that stove on the back of your truck instead of on a bike trip in France?”

The Joy-to-use ratio is all that matters.

Son's of Thunder Joy Bomb™
Sons of Thunder Joy Bomb™

 What does Joy-to-Use Ratio mean?

How much Joy you derive from using it each time matters more than how many times you use it or where you use it.

I started using the little joy bomb stove after a bike ride or a run.  During lunchtime at work, I started going out to my car  just to fire it up and brew up some coffee. I started Sticking The Man anytime I could find an excuse to light a match and boil some water.

I was winning. With every BTU, I was getting revenge.  I was standing over Him for a change.

My Joy meter went up and my oppression meter was going down.

Take that!

Joy Bucket-Trunk

Insert Joy Bucket

I had this white 10-gallon Home Depot bucket that I bought to use for Triathlons. I would stuff my towel, helmet, goggles, etc. into the bucket and use it in the transition area when switching between race legs. I also had this file of stickers that I was saving for the future when I could figure out what to do with them.

Bland bucket plus cool stickers = Joy Bucket

I plastered the stickers in a mosaic across its white canvas and it transformed into certifiable coolness. I took all the little pieces of gear that I had accumulated for the hopeful adventures that weren’t taking place and dumped them into the bucket:

  • MSR Pocket Rocket stove
  • Cook set
  • Petzl headlamp
  • Shackleton tea brew
  • Spare running socks
  • Stainless steel wine glass
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Starbucks Via
  • Sunscreen
  • Wool gloves from the Dollar store
  • Bike inner tubes, tire tools, flashers,
  • Spice kit
  • Pocket knife
  • 1/2 lb. of white minute rice
  • French Press & coffee grounds
  • Toothbrush, deodorant, tooth paste

The Man can’t keep me down

Here is what the Joy Bucket has become:

  • Portable anticipation
  • Serendipitous-expectant-possibility  
  • My favorite things assembled and waiting, short, small bursts of use

You see The Man doesn’t stand a chance anymore when his lopsided influence over my life has been diminished.   Now fifteen minutes on the back of my trunk can yield stories that last years. Ask some of my buddies about the time’s I brewed up a cup of Ramen or a French Press cup of Joe.

The Oppressed became Kings.


The Man only has as much power and influence as we permit. He is far less of a tyrant than we believe him to be. Find small ways to stick-it-to-him every day. I’ve gone fishing at 6 am and to my desk by 8:30 am but refused to wash my fishy hands just so I could smile each time I got a whiff of their odor.

He can only have what you allow him.

What would you put in your Joy-Bucket?

When are we going to fire up a brew together?

2 thoughts on “How Making Micro-Adjustments Can Produce More Joy Episode #34

  1. Enjoyed the podcast. The joy bucket blog post was one of my favorites. We have practiced this by pitching tent in the backyard and using the weber grill for a “campfire” to make smores and making firefly lanterns. A great memory for our family when going camping at the state park for the whole weekend wasn’t going to work out.

    1. David this is a great story-Weber Grill in the backyard YEAH MAN! #Micro-Adventures rule. Such a good story. Thanks for sharing. We’re onto something here together. Your story is proof David. Well done. Keep going.

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