David Allen has been in an ongoing state of transformation for the past 35 years. As the bestselling author of ‘Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity‘ (GTD) he took a leap four years ago and moved with his wife Kathryn to Amsterdam to start a new chapter. They radically changed how they ran their company and expanded the reach to a global network of trainers from their new home base.
In part 1 of our interview, David and Kathryn have put the pieces in place for the big move.
Following is part 2:
We weren’t sure how long we were going to live here. We just said “Let’s unhook.”
We put some of our key things in storage because we didn’t know how long we would be gone. We kept it that open. So, we kept a 10 x 12′ air conditioned storage unit in Santa Barbara with art that we wanted protected and gave most everything else away.
We’ve been in Amsterdam for 4 years now. We fell in love with the place and we’re still in love with it and decided we’d stay. We don’t know if we’ll ever leave.
To be fair without kids and not many family obligations we could really unhook. Being as footloose and fancy as we felt, we could begin.
Even as clear as we were, there were a lot of things that had to do with being in two places that had to be addressed. You still have to pay taxes in two places and things like that. But now we plan to immigrate.
The quality of life is just the best. The Dutch take care of their own. For example, there are no homeless people on the streets. We also haven’t had a car in 4 years. We bike and walk everywhere and take great public transportation when we need to.
The Dutch are active, out in the world. Healthy and happy. People ask us “You moved to Amsterdam from Santa Barbara? What’s the weather like?” Actually we love it, it’s very dramatic. It’s right on the North Sea and you get variable weather. And it’s easy to get around Europe if you want a break, You’re an hour and 40 minutes from anywhere.
We’ve been in 3 apartments already. We were more in the center of town, which has more tourism and can be a little noisy, but was a good place to get to know the city from. Then we moved out a little bit out, and now we’re in a place that we absolutely love.
NFM: How did you have to change your thinking and perception of who you were to pull this off?
It’s really all about the picture you have in your mind, where do you want to be? How do you want to be? Every time Kathryn and I go through some change we write it down – ‘This would be the ideal thing to live in this kind of neighborhood and do these kinds of things, etc.’ Over all these years and through my own journey of personal development and growth training, it’s what’s worked for me.
It’s one thing to visualize the big house or car – don’t hold back on that. My friend jokes “Why do people lose at their own fantasies, nobody else is even watching.” But, ask ‘What is the ideal scene that you are experiencing or feeling?’ For example, ‘I want to feel comfortable’ or how I would feel after.
A sense that I’m doing the next cool thing and writing those things down.
We know that distributed cognition is a real thing now. It is so powerful. Get stuff out of your head. It helps for clear thinking. When you’re in a transition mode, especially when faced with unexpected change. When you rethink “What is it I’m doing?” It’s a good time to write it down or draw it. Doing that shakes people up.
Unexpected change, such as death, can become a really good catalyst for rethinking “What the hell am I doing?” If I can make it up, what will it be? If I write my own script what would that be like? Sharing that change with your partner in this process is obviously a good idea too.
The idea of reticular activating system is that the mind doesn’t make a distinction between fiction and non-fiction. But the process of writing it down or drawing it, creates an environment where you begin to recognize signs about it that you may not have otherwise.
It also takes it out of the “woo woo California” stuff. “Let’s visualize success and millions of dollars will come to you. That comes from someplace, if you’ve trained your brain to look for blue, for example, you’ll see it from across the room. It’s really a mechanical process.
The realization of the effects is subtle. There is a real cognitive process that goes on. It’s why parents can hear their kids unique cry and it wakes them up, whereas they won’t wake up to loud music or trucks rolling by. You start to identify with something.
A lot of people want to see how ‘to do’ their next game before they see themselves ‘doing it’. You have to see yourself doing it, before you know how to do it.
NFM: What’s Next For You?
We have 3 partnerships now and have shrunk the company from 50 people down to about 7. We are an intellectual property licensing company. We found partners that were better than us at marketing and selling our work. Now have license partners around the world.
I have just finished the blueprint for our global curriculum – if I get run over by a bus, the work will go way beyond me. And now, I’m not sure what to do next. We appreciate being in a place that challenges us to keep ourselves living and growing. We say learning Dutch is Alzheimers prevention.
I’ve started painting and I’m not sure how that will play out and I don’t have to now.
Read Part 1 of the interview.