I’m not a huge fan of blogs or Facebook pages that show the rosiness of peoples’ lives and nothing else.
And I’ve stated many, many times in the past that I didn’t want to allow this blog to morph an OMG-my-life-is-so-wonderful-type-thing.
I mean, it is pretty wonderful. But that’s not the point.
I typically find these sorts of displays to be … unhelpful.
I’ve always felt that sharing the weird bits of life — the parts we struggle with — are usually more useful to other people when it comes to helping them think through complicated decisions. Withholding data results in the other outcome — incomplete understanding, compromised thought processes, sub-optimal choices.
But I’m a little concerned that in my last post I shared too much meta-weirdness and not enough good stuff — the reveal was perhaps too focused on aspects of my internal world instead of cool things I’m able to do now that I have a ton of flexibility.
And since it seems there’s some genuine curiosity around what I’m actually doing now that I’ve retired, I figured I’d restore balance to the Force by doing a fun, optimistic dump.
So forgive me if the contents of this post end up looking mostly like that hypothetical too-perfect Facebook page I’d just been bashing.
It’s time to provide that additional data to complete the picture.
Mom Medical Support
I’ll start here, because this particular item means so much.
My mom is sick. For a while this was restricted to her mind — she is depressive, and a clinically-diagnosed hoarder.
But then early this summer, a physical problem was added to her challenges: She started having trouble walking.
In mid-July, over our weekly phone call, she suddenly announced she was going to have knee surgery.
Alarm bells went off in my head. It seemed too fast for me. Knee hurts to knee surgery in four weeks. (She’s 67).
I researched, found a quality doctor and convinced her to get a second opinion. Then I went to appointments with her. The new doctor had a nice bedside manner and was only interested in surgery as a last option. She recommended first cortisone shots (no improvement) and then Synvisc injections (substantial improvement) along with physical therapy (which is also helping).
Long story short, Mom’s knee is doing much better, and she doesn’t think about surgery anymore.
In addition I was able to help her find a good local analyst to help her work on some of the other things going on upstairs.
So seriously — It would have been extremely difficult to do most of these things in my old life. I burned 10+ days working through these issues with her. All weekdays. All during business hours. (And there will be more. Always more.)
It feels absolutely incredible to be able to support my mother in this way, to give back to her and improve her quality of life.
In fact, if this was the only thing I listed in this entire post, it would have made quitting my job worth it.
But it’s not.
This has been the year of medical emergencies for my parents. My Dad’s 72 and lives 2 hours away from me with my stepmother.
Early in February — actually, while I was sorting out all of my holy-crap-am-I-really-going-to-quit? issues — he was afflicted with major heart arrhythmia.
At the time I was still working and I just flat out left the office in the middle of a Monday to drive to a hospital in Connecticut where he was getting treatment. I stayed there for three consecutive weekdays, at which point he was stable.
So this is proof you can do these sorts of things while you’re employed.
The thing was, when I got back to the office, my work hadn’t gone away. I had to adapt a Death Star construction worker mentality (we shall redouble our efforts!) on projects.
In other words, I was squeezed again, having difficulty fitting everything I wanted to do every day, because there weren’t enough hours that week to do my job plus support my family. (Obvious: It pretty much blows to work from the position of being very behind on projects with inflexible delivery dates. And this has nothing to do with whether or not you generally enjoy what you do — workloads, schedules, and functions are separate aspects.)
At any rate, he went into the hospital again in June when I wasn’t working and visiting him was a completely different experience. No need to ask for anyone’s “permission” to see him. Zero concerns about how many days I can spend away from the office or how behind I’m getting. I told my wife I was heading down and that was that: Simple.
I followed that up with bi-monthly visits — every other weekend pretty much all summer just to spend time with him and my stepmom.
In contrast, while I was working, I saw my Dad perhaps four weekends a year for a grand total of perhaps six days. Compare that to over twenty days this year so far.
And I still have gobs of time left over to do whatever else I like so I no longer have any reservations about making these choices.
Score another huge life improvement — for the both of us.
Other Family Stuff
I’ve hinted at this topic in the ‘Three Months of Early Retirement‘ post, but it remains true: Since I quit, I’ve been more helpful than usual around the house, taking on the lions share of cooking and cleaning, because I had time, and my wife didn’t.
And this arrangement worked out well — she was thrilled to come home to a clean environment and food ready. Awesome.
Since she quit a month and a half ago she’s been picking things up again and we’re again tackling the day-to-day work as a team.
The other family improvement is that I can spend a lot more time with my nephews, of which I have two — one in grade school and the other in Jr. High. They’re a ridiculously fun pair of people to hang around, so long as one of them isn’t in the middle of a meltdown. (Younger nephew, I’m looking at you…)
I now have the luxury of picking them up from school a couple of times a week most weeks, which is great for them, for me, and also their mom, because she can nap or run an errand instead.
Anyway, the big thing we do lately is football – Due to the Patriot’s fine season and quarterback Tom Brady’s play, they both simultaneously developed an interest in passing, which is not so great for me. (No offense to any readers, but I don’t have a strong interest in football, and more to the point, I can’t throw to save my life. No one ever properly taught me, and as a kid, I admit that I would have resisted these efforts anyway in favor of perfecting wall-jumping in Ninja Gaiden on the NES, but whatever… look, the point is, the kids want me to a) throw spirals to them and b) teach them to throw spirals at me, and I’m not even remotely qualified to do either of these things. So a lot of laughing and poking fun at one another ensues during our practice sessions, and by “one another,” I mean it’s mostly directed at me.)
Total topic change – I didn’t know where to stick this item but wanted to mention that I’ve also been able to donate blood every 8 weeks like clockwork — there’s no longer the slightest bit of difficulty scheduling an appointment. And I love being able to do this so easily instead of having to work harder to fit it in. I think of this as supporting other peoples’ families.
OK, so let’s move on from the touchy-feely god-im-such-a-good-person stuff and talk about true leisure.
So I used to draw in my teens. And paint sometimes. I’ve suddenly been able to immerse myself in these activities again.
For some reason I’ve been moivated to try my hand at pixel art.
Here’s my prototype of Mario. Kind of like a proof-of-concept to see if my technique would work. Acrylic.
Then I scaled things up in order to paint the character that called to me.
And that’s MegaMan, a character in an 8-bit video game who eventually defeats evil by crushing the despicable satanist mechanical engineer Dr. Wily. Life goals achieved, he runs away from Wily’s Techno-Base Hideout and returns home. Yeah, I know — it’s just a silly video game — but the ending scene has always touched me. Maybe I think there are parallels to my own life or something.
Note that I added the dog manually — he doesn’t actually appear in the ending sequence. But I always thought MegaMan needed company, so there you go.
And here’s one of Batman. This took me freaking forever and I don’t like the background much but the dark knight came out all right.
The older of my two nephews asked me to do one of Samus — that’s his favorite Nintendo character — to hang in his room. So this happened:
In contrast, back when I had full time employment, I would occasionally get inspired to paint something but found it extremely difficult to actually clear time to do it. There’s a lot of overhead to the process — preparing your workspace, mixing colors, methodically fleshing out your idea, and finally cleaning up. I’ve found I pretty much need a 3 hour chunk to get any real work done — and that block better be during a time of the day when I’m fairly alert because concentration is kind of important or I screw up body proportions on the traces.
Worse, if you manage to find half a day to work on something and you don’t finish, you may not be able to find another suitable day for like, a month — at which point your inspiration for the piece may be gone, leaving you with some dumpster-bound half-baked mess of shame and regret.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s terrific to work on personal projects pretty much whenever I want, as long as I want. It’s no longer an exercise in frustration, as I can always find the time to finish what I’m working on.
Related: I’ve also gotten back into pad-and-pencil sketching. I’ll find a comfortable spot to sit and will then draw whatever’s in front of me. Haven’t really done any of this sort of work since I lived in San Francisco in the early aughts.
The results are not always great, but the process itself is completely engaging. And it feels terrific to be creative in ways that have little to do with business. No deadlines, no external requirements, no value propositions, no evaluation or grading.
Just the good stuff — the creativity and expression — and nothing else.
I’ve gone on a few trips out of my home-base state spanning multiple days.
One was to New York, which I wrote about in the previous post, to visit an old friend and hike a mountain.
Another was to California. This one lasted nearly three weeks, and aside from missing my wife a bit, it was absolutely amazing. I have some old tech homies on the West Coast from back when I used to work out there. We burned four of those days on a houseboat on the San Joaquin River delta, just playing cards, swimming, eating, and chatting.
While I was out West, I also managed to walk around San Francisco itself for a couple of days, checking out old haunts, eating at my favorite restaurants (Naan-N-Curry, baby…) staring flabbergasted at the changes to the Mission, and the overall turnover of companies on the main strips. (Bye Bye Pets.com, hello Twitter, and so on.)
I also hit up the computer history museum which I must recommend as a required trip to any technology worker.
Here’s my favorite exhibit:
They also had a google car on display, a huge section of older computers, another devoted to the history of video games, the evolution of mobile devices and wearable machinery, computers-and-war, and even an entire room with working 1401 mainframes and some older, gnomish computer engineers showing them off to the public. Incredible.
Back on the East Coast, I went on a camping trip for a couple of days in Northern Massachusetts. Sometimes it’s good to remember what it’s like to spend a night pressed against hard earth, with your only cushioning a wimpy sleeping bag.
These are days when I basically wake up and decide right then and there to go somewhere and not come back until it’s very, very dark outside.
My favorite destination is this ‘classic’ arcade in New Hampshire called Funspot. They have a slew of old cabinets — Missile Command, Kung Fu Master, Pac Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, etc. The whole place feels a little old and maybe not as well-kept-up as it could be, but man, I don’t really care. It’s not about the presentation — it’s about the content.
Because that content includes Donkey Kong.
Slowly but surely, my scores are improving.
Then there’s walking. I absolutely love picking a location I’ve never been before and roaming around with my senses open. Walden Pond, Mine Falls in Nashua, smaller trails around the Charles in Newton, the Blue Hills in Norwood, Callahan State Park, and on and on. There are little nooks and crannies everywhere once you start looking. And the people you run into on hiking trips are pretty much all nice and smiling and cool. (General Life Observation: Assholes don’t like strolling around in natural environments much.)
I’ve also visited a few local museums and wandered around other locales I’ve never been to – Salisbury and Crane Beaches, Plum Island and Sandy Point state reservation. I drove to Madison, Connecticut to see an old saltwater creek where I used to spend a few weeks every summer with my mom’s side of the family. The deep smell of the marsh made me feel like I was ten years old again, ankle deep in mud, getting absolutely filthy scrambling for fiddler crabs.
I’d provide pictures for more of these excursions but I usually don’t bring a camera — my preference has been to make an effort to absorb the scenes as best as I can instead of taking a snapshot (which somehow has the adverse effect of telling my brain we’re “done here” and can/should move on to the next thing).
I don’t want to move on to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. I want to experience this thing, whatever it happens to be.
Video Game Vacations
I do this thing sometimes where I exercise in the morning just to shake things loose and then immediately launch myself into an epic gaming session with breaks only to grunt something in the direction of my wife and take care of the basics. (I’m not 100% sure she loves me on these days…)
So yeah I know that this is in direct opposition to the outdoorsy, nature-loving side of me, but as a once-in-a-while thing, it’s still a pretty awesome change of pace. And it’s the sort of activity that’s almost impossible to pull off as a responsible adult with a demanding full-time job and an SO and potentially children on top of it all.
But you can do it quite easily once your life is not time-constrained.
I’ve spent 3 days in this total veg-out state, spread out over August, on BioShock Infinite and Batman: Arkham Origins. (Both are fantastic games, btw. Just… wow.)
I know what you’re thinking, but please — try not to judge.
The Half Marathon
Going into this whole quit-work thing, one of my theories was that strenuous physical activity would provide meaningful goals and also a healthy amount of so-called “good stress.” On this count, I have not been wrong.
I regularly run a set of local races in Cambridge, MA with a couple and out of the blue they invited me to do a half marathon on Labor Day in New Haven, CT. As it happens, that’s just a few miles away from where my Dad lives, so I figured I’d get a two-fer out of the commitment — a great fitness goal, and another visit with Doom Senior.
Race day came around and conditions were hot, and humid, and difficult —
But also bright, sunny, and beautiful. I pounded out 13.1 miles alongside three thousand other participants in 1:58, give or take a couple. It’s my 4th half-marathon and, believe it or not, this is the best time I’ve submitted by about 10 minutes.
(Hey, I didn’t say I was fast. That couple I went with finished together, in an awe inspiring hour thirty.)
While there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from training for a half while simultaneously working a full-time job, I have to say, it is much, much more pleasant to gear up for one when you know you have plenty of time and energy to devote to it.
In other words, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I logged my best time on this particular half…
And I’m sure to do another next year.
Being Down For Whatever
I basically say ‘yes’ to just about anything that a family member or good friend asks me to do.
Half Marathon or Other Unspecified Painful Athletic Event(s): Let’s do it!
Cook Beef Bourguignon for dinner? Anything for you, sweetie.
Paint a couple of rooms of your house? Sure. Why not?
Help you move? Yep. What time you want me over?
Go to a 10-year-old’s soccer game at 8 in the morning on Saturday? No problem.
Do a blog post about what you’re up to in retirement? Absolutely.
I’m starting to feel a little like Jim Carrey’s character in the movie Yes, Man. (He joins some sort of cult that explicitly disallows him from rejecting any invitation to go and do something… and of course, hilarity ensues.)
That movie got one thing right. It feels great to rarely say no to people.
An incomplete list of stuff I’ve read, or re-read:
Watership Down, The Cider House Rules, Freedom, Console Wars, The Bell Jar, The Heart and the Fist, World Enough & Time, World War Z, The White Lioness, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, What is the What, Million Dollar Blackjack, Filth, Mrs Dalloway, Snow Crash, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Overshoot, Limits to Growth, The Martian, Breathers
Plus, all 5 books in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, which comes out to something like 4000 pages in total.
I’m certain I’m missing a few but you get the idea. I read constantly and without guilt (at least since I’ve killed my TFB…)
I came up with this idea of person piggybacking back when I wrote the post about building a life without work.
The idea here was to latch on to someone in your life and basically follow them around like a puppy, to the extent that they allow. Do what they do. Irritate the heck out of them. Chew on their shoes.
I did this for a five days with an old college friend that lives in Salem. He works from home which gave him the flexibility to do this —
And it went great, actually. We both play guitar and were able to learn from one another, just jamming. I also got to know his wife much better, went to the Witch House and a few other tourist attractions, ate great food and became great friends with his enormous gray cat.
You can also sort of count some of my time on the West Coast as a similar activity because I was more or less attached to my Googler friend. I gave him breaks of course — I’m hardly clingy and there were some things I wanted to do that were best done solo, like traipsing around San Francisco — but still, sizable portions of most days were spent together. It’s neat — you get to directly see alternate sides of this person that you’d otherwise have to guess at.
I’d record some of my findings but it’s probably not cool to document the quirky things I learned about these fine and upstanding citizens on this blog, on the off chance that they’re reading.
My sister, who lives in Seattle, is next.
God help her.
Closing the Doombook
This post is starting to feel longer than a breezy post of this kind has any right to be, so although it’s still somewhat shy of complete — how do you capture an entire
six seven months of life into a single blog post? — I’m going to call it here.
You get the idea by now. I’m exactly busy enough.
I do what I want to do and enjoy activities for what they are. Some days are packed with travel and sightseeing and brutal exercise, and others overflow with just the basics of life — eating, hanging out with my wife, reading.
And while it’s true that were I still working I would have been able to do some of the things I’ve listed here, it’d be a fairly small subset. The multi-day vacations would have been gone for sure, along with a lot of time spent outdoors, most of the books and day-trips, and probably my mom’s knee would be missing as well — that first butcher doctor she consulted with probably would have replaced it.
This is what financial independence allows you to do: Exactly the things that you want.
And on the flip side, you can also do this: Never again engage in unsatisfying activities or work.
Conventional wisdom says that our actions define us.
And my actions say that apparently I like (drawing && nature && writing && reading && socializing && helping my family out) a lot more than (sitting in meetings && programming && complaining about work && turning business requirements into software and infrastructure solutions).
Who would have guessed?
Love it, man! Granted, achieving financial independence isn’t all vacation-like, but with the right attitude and a solid, grounded state of mind, you sure can make the most of it. And the ability to spend more time helping family and friends is damn, damn powerful stuff. It is truly awesome that you were able to be so productive and use your time for incredibly meaningful things over the past several months.
Our time will be next year – the end of next year. I plan to be productive and creative, just like you – I’m more on the photography end while you definitely have a pen-to-paper artistic skill. I can hardly draw stick figures.
Thanks again for the post-early-retirement report. I always enjoy reading your material and getting a feel for how early retirement is treating you.
Steve: I’m glad to hear you’re only about a year away, and it’s wonderful that you have plans of your own to execute, things to look forward to. Tremendous.
Best part is that you can look forward to more of the same!
Before going to uni I wanted to be an artist, the harsh reality of the economy of art quickly moved me to a more pragmatic major. I did continue for a bit, now I can think about rebooting this just for the enjoyment (though I have a hard time dealing with being imperfect…..). I am glad you’ve picked this back up.
Artists: Our society loves their work but generally does not want to pay them for it.
I’m very happy to hear you’re considering plugging back into an old passion. If my experience is any indication, you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for the update! It is reassuring to hear someone who has actually FIREd describe the experience (rather than hearing a wage slave bemoan “what would I do all day!?”).
One comment: I find the contrast between your laid-back lifestyle’s “say ‘yes’ to everything” approach and the commonly-spouted advice to start saying “no” more often. I’m pretty sure the contrast is due to the loose (in your case) vs. tight (in others’) constraints on available time.
>>rather than hearing a wage slave bemoan “what would I do all day!?
Right. I simply do not have this problem.
>>commonly-spouted advice to start saying “no” more often. I’m pretty sure the contrast is due to the loose (in your case) vs. tight (in others’) constraints on available time.
Again, right. I actually took that advice (say ‘no’ more often) during my working career and it was, at times, helpful — it allowed me to avoid over-scheduling burnout. But once you have 50+ hours freed up (along with the corresponding energy) you can easily change your approach.
I’m very happy to hear that you’re finding more than enough to do with your time between family/friend time, cooking, art, games, and books. Sounds like a great life!
I totally relate to your family stories: my dad was unexpectedly hospitalized for a week earlier this year, and I ended up flying to California right away and missing a week of work. My coworkers were very understanding, but that experience would have been worlds better had I not had all my work responsibilities to deal with as well.
If you do make it out to Seattle, I’d be honored to buy Dr. Doom a coffee!
Absolutely: it’s probably obvious from the blog post, but family support is the specific no-work perk that I value the most.
Hope your Dad’s all right now.
Can you ever get enough meta-weirdness? I don’t think so.
If you’re looking for another great read – Ready player One by Ernest Cline was great. I read it over a ski vacation a year or so ago. Mrs. SSC was pregnant, so no skiing for her, and a lot of downtime to just relax. It’s a great story, especially since you’re into video games. I have to say, the video game vacation sounds awesome, along with the other things. But that just reminds me of junior high when we’d stay up all night trying to beat Contra in one go, or other video game adventures.
Thanks for sharing, and keep up the updates.
>> Ready player One by Ernest Cline was great.
Funny you mention this — another friend just recommended this to me two days ago. I added it to my list — I am 100% the target audience for it. Seems like Enders Game plus video gaming: sweet.
So great that you’re a Contra fan. I’ve destroyed the original on the NES in one guy. (Yes, really.) But not without an NES Max. Rapid Fire Spread + Level Memorization = Win.
My friend and I could tag team through it with one guy, and a lot of Mountain Dew but I couldn’t quite get it solo.
From what you were describing, I figured Ready Player One seemed like a good blend of your interests.
but.. but… solo is actually easier because the other player, who is supposedly your friend but really isn’t, can’t scroll the screen forward and murder you accidentally-on-purpose!
touché… I forgot about that happening sometimes. hahahaha
I finished reading Ready Player One over New Years’ weekend. Great read, nicely written, fast-paced, and enough unique ideas to keep me into it. Totally grokked out on the old-school video game references and descriptions – Tempest, Zork, Joust..
Fun! Thanks for the suggestion.
Awesome! Yeah that part with the old school games was pretty cool, and I agree the writing style kept it flowing nicely. Glad you enjoyed it!
So much awesome stuff filling your days. 🙂
The neat thing is that you haven’t saved the world or invented anything revolutionary, yet you’ve had a very fulfilling several months and did accomplish a lot for friends and family.
I love the ability to always say yes. In my case, it was: Want to meet for lunch and catch up? Yes! Hey, check out this new book and let me know what you think. Yes! Can you help your father in law sort through medical bills and navigate medicare/medicaid? Yes!
And of course video games. I’m currently knee deep in Hearthstone (blasted friends that invited me to play with them!) and a friend requested I kill all the terrorists in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (I think that’s what it is – there are definitely a lot of terrorists and guns and ammo).
Busy times. So glad work doesn’t encroach on the actual fun and meaningful things in life!
All the best,
>> you’ve had a very fulfilling several months and did accomplish a lot for friends and family.
Exactly. I think this has really been the key for me — to allow myself to relax and feel fulfilled by simply supporting family and pursuing interests, even if those interests are so-called leisure. I’ve really been enjoying and valuing this time, and it doesn’t feel (anymore) like I’m “wasting” time. I’m spending it, sure, but I feel those hours are well-used and no longer judge myself for the slower pace of my life or the lack of so-called productivity. Which makes life pretty good 🙂
Thanks, as always, for the comment.
You rush in NYC. Scramble in Boston. Mosey is Jackson Hole. Saunter in Charleston. And I guess, out here in San Francisco, we do a fair bit of traipsing.
With all the clues given in this post I was able to calculate that Dr. Doom often puppy dogs Bill Belichick. Although Doom may be slightly more gentile than Bill.
I would not pick today to puppy dog Bill Belichick. The interweb tells me that their perfect season came to an end last night and he’s not happy about it.
Creativity – this is definitely something DW looks forward to in FIRE. Between soul sucking job and the kids, she really struggles. Even in my comparatively more relaxed pseudo retirement / second career as SAHP/crazy homesteader type the only creativity I find comes easily are gardening and cooking. Drawing and writing only come in fits and spurts few and far between.
No idea if we will do lots of travel or not, but the freedom and spontaneity you’ve found is definitely something we look forward to.
Awesome update 🙂
>>creativity I find comes easily are gardening and cooking.
I think this is the key — to find outlets for your creativity that are achievable given the current structure and constraints of your lives. Kids, while taking an enormous amount of time and energy, can also allow you to be creative in unexpected ways, through language, teaching them about the world, doing little projects with them, etc.
Although yes, I understand that this is quite different from working on a personal project. Still, gotta take what you can!
All the best GC.
You sound so alive in this post. Thanks for writing this blog it’s such an encouragement to me. I’m so happy for you and your family.
Same to you, thanks for the warm comment.
The river boat trip sounds awesome. Right now I’m trying to plan a trip with some of the guys and it’s so difficult as everyone works full-time, and at least one of us has a wedding or other event each weekend. I can’t wait until I can say “my schedule is wide open boys, just let me know when and where.” Definitely great to see how much fun you’re having.
>>at least one of us has a wedding or other event each weekend.
Now I know approximately how old you are, FF 🙂
BTW, boat trip = surprisingly affordable. It was $140 per person for 3 nights, gas included, split 10 ways (10 person boat.) Granted, we were not renting a luxury boat — lots of wood paneling will tell you the approximate age of the vehicle — but still. You can’t get a hotel at that rate.
Great read as usual, Doom. As you mentioned in the comments of your last post, some of the above stuff (e.g., multi-day impromptu trips) are things that my current laid-back remote work job doesn’t allow, even though on any given day my life is usually unhurried. I’m looking forward to these sort of things once I finally achieve FIRE. Relatedly, I’m also interested in the possible changes in my mindset once my time truly becomes absolutely free. I can see activities that I currently don’t engage in now because I fear the creation of more time commitments all of a sudden seeming more attractive. Even things which now I have time for sometimes seem difficult to do because the need to work and the feeling that I should be working is sort of always hanging over me — the feeling is probably TFB or a friend of his. Once I achieve FIRE I’ll be able to tell if it was really work preventing me from doing those things or whether it’s really some other aspect of my psychology and work is just the scapegoat.
Curious, have you ever thought of writing a book? I know some of the other financial bloggers have or have talked about this (e.g., MMM). I feel like that you’re really exploring some interesting life philosophy stuff. Not that you’re the first person to do this of course, but you have a good writing style, and it’s rare for someone to be honest and self-critical in their writing (well, at least in their public writings).
Based on your comment, you might be a candidate for semi-retirement or a gap year to help you sort through some of the questions around your relationship to work and its effect on your ability to pursue what you think you really want without completely ditching your job. Just something to think about.
>>Curious, have you ever thought of writing a book?
Flattered by the question, but honestly, not at this point. I feel this type of content fits the blogging format fairly well and the majority of people seeking FI nowadays look for help and community on the internet instead of the library, making this the best place to put it IMO.
> Based on your comment, you might be a candidate for semi-retirement or a gap year to help you sort through some of the questions around your relationship to work and its effect on your ability to pursue what you think you really want without completely ditching your job. Just something to think about.
I’ll have to think about this. My gut instinct is that I simply fear adding too many new activities to my life and blocking out time to decompress and self-reflect. At the moment I work a regular (remote work) job, go to the gym 3x per week, bike 80 miles, run 8 miles, and help raise a newborn daughter. I’d like to take up jiu jitsu, but that’s easily another 4 hours per week. I could swing it, but I really enjoy slow mornings with my coffee and slow evenings reading philosophy. Re-reading the above, my life sounds pretty awesome, and in many respects I have little to complain about. But there’s still room for more optimization. My parenting goals and time commitments will grow dramatically as my daughter becomes able to walk, play, etc. I don’t want to miss a minute of that because I’m playing office with a bunch of people who don’t intrinsically care about what we’re doing and just want to move up the ladder.
I pride myself on being a productive individual, and that makes the notion of early retirement seem a bit uncomfortable. But then I think about what working is actually like in most cases, and realize that perhaps not working is the best route to really being productive in actuality.
> feel this type of content fits the blogging format fairly well and the majority of people seeking FI nowadays look for help and community on the internet instead of the library, making this the best place to put it IMO.
Yeah, you’re probably right.
> with a bunch of people who don’t intrinsically care about what we’re doing and just want to move up the ladder.
I don’t want to sound unfair to my work colleagues here. Some want to move up the ladder, some want to just collect the paycheck, others have other motivations. And I’m part of the problem too, of course. My work isn’t my fundamental passion, and I work with people for whom the work isn’t their passion either. And I’ve had enough experiences working with people on things that we were mutually passionate about (whether it be academic research, cycling, political activism, etc.), and I know how amazing it is to work in that type of environment. And that’s what I really want — to work on things that I’m passionate about, and if they involve other people, are things that they are passionate about as well. And that’s what I question I’ll ever find in a regular work environment, or at least in an environment that gives me good work-life balance.
I didn’t interpret your comment as being unfair to your co-workers. We all have different reasons for working, and honestly, I’ve concluded that many people just don’t THINK about it that much. We work because we work, because everyone works, because it’s what you do, because: money. It’s much simpler to think of work in these terms. Wondering why you’re working can be a an existential rathole of sorts.
BTW, work isn’t most peoples’ passion. At least 70%+ of employees in western cultures are not fully engaged in their jobs. So we make the best of it. I would go further and argue that it’s not possible to be fully engaged in certain types of soul-crushingly boring jobs. Doctor, lawyer, engineer, entrepreneur: Sure. I can see some people being all-in. But how about a job that is 100% paperwork or regulatory or involves doing the same physical activity over and over again like stocking shelves or something similar?
“by doing a fun, optimistic dump” – genuinely how I pass some time at work 🙂
Your paintings are awesome, the Mario and Megaman ones especially. Just personal preference.
I’m in San Fran next year for my honeymoon, will have to check out the computer museum. Sounds awesome, the history of computer games. Count me in.
Nowt wrong with a solid few hours/days on a game (as long as its balanced out with other things before and after, haha). I have resisted the urge to buy Fallout 4 so far as there is still so much to get done in Elder Scrolls…my first thing in FI would be a week long gaming binge. 😀
On reading, you mention the Yes Man film, you should read the book if you haven’t. It’s great. And then ALL of the Iain M Banks collection. GO!
Keep it real Dr Doom,
Thanks for the reading suggestions and awesome comment, Z. I’ll wait on Fallout 4 until it’s < $20 but I will admit I've gone through 1, 2, 3 and New Vegas already. Supremely awesome stuff.
Get off your arse and do something constructive. That’s something I often hear a little voice tell me as I settle down to read a book at half ten on a weekday morning with a cup of coffee, or as I aimlessly surf the internet, switch on the xbox or play sudoko on my ipad. I’m trying hard to kill it. I much enjoy reading your progress toward doing similar.
I approve of every activity you mentioned, if it makes you feel any better.
Aaah, full days of video games are one of my dreams, haven’t done that since college. So, nope, absolutely not judging you on that.
Also, your drawings and pixel-art are terrific!
Note that I did not share the un-terrific ones, of which there are many in my past. 🙂 Thanks!
Love it. I do all of this except for run half marathons (which would take me about 9 hours).
Latest project: splitting wood. Insurance company did an inspection. Findings…my split firewood is A-OK. My unsplit firewood is a “debris hazard” which I have until the 9th to clear else lose insurance. It is a LOT of wood. It’s going to be tight at 4 large logs split per day. I hurt everywhere!
It’s November 30th, so you’ve got 9 or 10 more days, depending on where that line is drawn. Keep chopping FV, those logs aren’t going to split themselves!
This was a great read! As usual.
Entertaining and definitely qualifies as ER porn. Living the life of a Renaissance man sure sounds exciting!
I’m almost ashamed to admit it, considering most of the readers of this blog haven’t made it to the finish line, but yeah, my life is pretty terrific. “ER porn” — what a great new phrase.
Life is good, ain’t it? Well done you! And thanks for the inspiring post, still have a few years to go before we can enjoy life to the fullest (albeit life is already pretty good, just too little time….).
Kickass, Doom! Man, you’ve been visiting some of my MA haunts! Crane Beach and Plum Island, in particular. Love the latter a lot. Recently finished my AMGA cert for rock climbing guiding, and got NY State Tier 1 Rock and Ice guiding license (been guiding this fall; this is the second career I aspire to in 3.5 years). If you ever get the urge to try either, shoot me an e-mail. I’m in Somerville.
Love the pixel-art painting which has given me the idea to have a go myself as I have spare canvas – a new hobby to check out, thanks! I look forward to seeing more examples of your artwork!
I’ve seen the Yes Man film and found it both entertaining and inspiring. I think after watching it, I became more open to trying new things (which I said ‘no’ to in the past). Perhaps I need to watch it again as a reminder (or read the book as Mr Z suggests).
Great effort in reading all the George RR Martin books – I plan on re-reading them and hopefully by the time I’ve finished, Martin will have written the next book in the series!
11 days until I retire (Dec 1). I’m SO looking forward to my time being MINE. First to do item – turn off my phone alarm. Second item – get passport photos and submit passport renewal applications.
Doom, I respectfully direct this question to you and to other folks in the FI community who have reached their goals: I realize that you have essentially won the game and earned the right to live a completely self-directed life by de-coupling your happiness from employment. And that’s awesome, and I can see why you would want to visit foreign countries, eat delicious food, and unwind with video games and George RR Martin. But, do you ever think most of what you’re doing is basically nonsense and a complete waste of your talent? (I am not talking about spending time with family; that is unquestionably worthwhile)
If really smart, nice, progressive engineers like Pete at Money Mustache, Jeremy at Go Curry, Brandon at Mad Fi, and yourself won’t save the planet, or fix broken systems, who the heck will? I am not talking about just being another cog in a corporate machine. I am talking about using your talent and experience and thoughtfulness to make the world a better place. Indeed, because you don’t need the money, you are free to speak truth to power and develop solutions that work — not just those that satisfy corporate or bureaucratic nonsense. And besides, wouldn’t that also be more fun?
>> But, do you ever think most of what you’re doing is basically nonsense and a complete waste of your talent?
Yes, of course, once in a while. Hence the recent post (done detoxing) where I investigate shutting off my rational brain, which is the source of these bleak and depressive thoughts.
Also, to be fair, I also frequently think that most of what I did at work was ‘basically nonsense and a complete waste’ of energy. So I’m also left asking “What was the real value of my career to the world?” And I don’t have a great answer to that question either, unfortunately.
>>If really smart, nice, progressive engineers like Pete at Mr Money Mustache, Jeremy at Go Curry, Brandon at Mad Fi, and yourself won’t save the planet, or fix broken systems, who the heck will?
Systems will always be fixed. There are plenty of skilled software/hardware laborers willing to architect and maintain technology solutions for a price. And if there aren’t, then that price will go up, which will in turn prompt more people to learn how to do this sort of work because: Money. It’ll all be fine, trust me — DraftKing’s servers will remain up 24/7.
Saving the planet is a whole other story. I would personally argue anyone going down this path is already doing their part because conscious spending results in reduced consumption.
But aside from that, is there all that much a single person can do? The real problems the world faces (climate change and energy production/usage are the top two mid-to-long-term problems by a wide margin, IMO, despite the current media fixation on terrorism) are of such enormous scale at this point that sweeping worldwide government regulations are necessary to enable any significant course adjustments. Further, solutions to these issues already exist — making the real problem less engineering and more political in nature. But the government in the States is so broken at this point that we have difficulty passing legislation for the simplest of things, let alone these massively complicated problems. In short, party rhetoric aside, there’s very little underlying political will to actually do much to solve humanity’s underlying problems.
Also, there’s just no way I’m going into politics – I don’t have the temperament for it, and further, the politicians who do have the fortitude and means to speak truth to power are marginalized and get nowhere, at least in part because corporations run the media, our lobbyists, our campaign financing, and therefore the politicians themselves and our country. (Example: Lessig.)
I get your point loud and clear. It’s almost like that old saying “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good (people) to do nothing.” You could argue that I’m that guy doing nothing. That’s fair.
But I would still respectfully disagree. Instead, I’m simply focusing my energy in a tight circle where I can help the people around me while seeing measurable results from my efforts — supporting family, visiting friends, occasionally helping charities I care about. If that sounds like small potatoes and a trivial waste of my life, well, that’s your perspective and you’re entitled to it. But enacting real change in a small circle makes me feel a lot more satisfied than trying to push a boulder up a mountain of infinite height.
Another analogy to represent how I feel about ‘changing the world.’
Humanity is a river flowing to an unknown destination. And I am one of eight billion or so drops of water in that river: .000000000125%.
That value says it all: Struggle though I might to create a tributary, in the end I’m going to be swept along with the rest of the flow. Expending energy to shift course is an exercise in futility, to be blunt. So I’d prefer to be humble and focus on areas of ‘personal responsibility.’
Who knows, though — my viewpoint on this might change as the years pass. I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me. LAF for Prez 2036?
Thanks for the interesting comment.
I think you had a great answer. I think it’s also hard to make much of a large impact unless you have tons of your own money to invest, otherwise you’re still at the mercy of investors looking to make money.
Curious which of the books you listed were your favorites. I loved Watership Down, one of my favorites of all time.
Watership Down was amazing but I just read half of Richard Adam’s “Shardik” and had difficulty getting into it. It’s not the content, either — there are interesting ideas in Shardik — but the writing is not as beautiful and neither are the characters particularly relatable. That’s right, I just called a bunch of bunny rabbits ‘relatable.’
I believe the Song of Ice and Fire series is going to go down as the greatest fantasy series ever written — above LOTR, the Foundation Trilogy, Harry Potter, Ender’s universe and whatever else. It hits on every level, from writing style to character development and plot, world creation, complexity. Amazing.
The Martian was also a standout. Haven’t seen the movie, but the book is terrific. Funny, geeky, fast-paced awesomeness.
Thank you so much for all your blog posts. In the last 24 hours I’ve read them all (and re-read the ones I’ve read before) and enjoyed them immensely. I love your writing style and insightful reflections. Thank you again.
Thanks for the warm comment to you and everyone else who has ever left one on this blog — You’ve all made the experience extremely rewarding.
I’ve discovered your blog recently LAF. I have just started on my journey towards FI and Im giving myself 15 years to reach it. I wished I had discovered this sooner, I am 31 and haven’t worked much most of my life. I recently just got a new job working with disabled kids at a middle school, it doesnt pay much but I hope to make it into a specialization. Im pretty frugal, I spend about an average of $100-200 a month. I have $20,000 in debt from school (I majored in Religious Studies, I regret majoring in it) and it seems like FI is very far away and that I may not realistically reach it until im 50. I plan on saving at least 70%-80% of my income and go to school again to become an interpreter for the blind and hopefully make more money in order to invest. Even though it may be a meaningful job, I still want to be secure that I can quit anytime it becomes too tedious or just not fulfilling anymore. There is so much more that I want to do with my life and I want the freedom to do it and part of it involves the cash to do it. Ex (Master Piano, Learn a martial art etc). Your story is an inspiration for me, much like Jacob Lund Fisker’s and Mr. Money Mustache. And I was wondering what advice you can give to someone who is just starting out in FI? What would you tell someone like me to focus on? Where should my attention be and how should I be using my time (15+ years) towards FI? Thank you again.
Congratulations on your new job – it’s wonderful to hear you’re going to be making a difference in the world.
The most appropriate post on this blog for people starting out is probably the ‘Becoming a saver‘ post. But in all honesty, you’d be best served reading MMM and ERE (see the 21-day makeover) for specific tips on how to increase your savings rate.
Don’t worry about the 20K in debt — you will crush it pretty quickly with a high savings rate.
– Create an account on MMM or ERE forums and get involved in the communities. I found it very helpful to read about the challenges and thought processes of other people — this will help you to increase your financial literacy as well as perhaps clarify your own goals because you’ll be exposed to so many like-minded folks.
– Since you asked specifically about what to focus on over the next 15 years, honestly — use the first year or two to get your savings rate up through a process of optimization. Cut until it hurts and then pull back to a point at which you are comfortable. Ideally changes to your spending patterns do not result in a drop in your overall levels of happiness and satisfaction. Once you’ve got your savings rate to a level you are satisfied with, you’ll essentially be on FI autopilot where all you have to do is maintain the same lifestyle and saving for X number of years.
As you’ve noted, 15 years is a long time. Therefore I’d strongly recommend you make sure you’re happy with the life you’re leading and you feel like you’re moving toward non-monetary goals you deem personally worthwhile. Although it’s great to have a high savings rate, it’s no less critical that you continue to live well according to your own values, i.e. take pains to ensure you are healthy, socially and intellectually fulfilled, etc. FI shouldn’t be the number one goal in your life. Example: If you want to learn piano and you can’t find someone to teach you for free, then spend a few dollars and make it happen — don’t stress about a few percentage points of savings rate. It’s not worth it IMO.
Money is simply an enabler to increase available options in life. Take care to not fall into the “deferred life” plan. Consider reading Tim Ferris’ 4-hour workweek for a more complete description of the DFP.
All the best.
Thank you for your response. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
It’s great to hear about all the things you’ve been up to and the good side of ER. I didn’t think from your Detox Over post that ER was bad or you were depressed. You were just being transparent and discussing the mental struggle that most ignore in their blogs.
I did like that we got two posts so quickly, so if us thinking you are depressed will increase post frequency I think your in very bad shape 🙂
The pixel art is cool, do you use a template or trace the pattern first?
>>if us thinking you are depressed will increase post frequency I think your in very bad shape
Funny stuff. I’m trying for one post a month.
Re: pixel art, I make a few markers to help me with width consistency and then I wing the rest of it. Then I put the sample image on a computer so I can count pixels off and that’s pretty much it.
Thanks Doom, for your inspiring posts. My husband and I are planning to join your legion in the next two to three years. I’m curious about how you and Mrs Doom coordinate your days. I’m afraid when we retire that we will feel obligated to spend every minute together even though we both realize we need to do our own thing. How do you find the balance of doing things together but also politely going your own way?
We tend to have breakfast in the mornings and usually dinner in the evenings but during the day all bets are off. Sometimes we do the same thing (go for a walk, watch a movie) but frequently we’re separate. Neither of us are all that clingy and we like having time to ourselves pretty much every day.
>>How do you find the balance of doing things together but also politely going your own way?
We’ve been together 15 years now: the urge to be polite has pretty much worn off. 🙂 She or I will just tell the other that we’re going to do some activity, and it’s always fine. Although we have a good number of shared interests, there are things we don’t have in common, and we each allow the other the freedom to pursue whatever they want. It works great.
If you haven’t already seen it, I recommend the documentary “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters”. It follows two people fighting for the world record high score in Donkey Kong. A lot of it takes place at Funspot. It’s on Hulu now and has been on the other streaming services from time to time.
Also, I wanted to say “thanks” for your blog. Over the past few weeks, I’ve read every post. We’re nearly identical in many regards — age, field of employment, thoughts toward work, etc. — so it’s been very enlightening to read. It’s help me to look at my current job in a more positive light (e.g. not allowing myself to get sucked into all the BS) and moved me to define a plan for when we can pull off early retirement ourselves.
Yeah, I’ve seen this, it’s an amazing documentary. It does at times unfairly paint Billy Mitchell as a total douchebag when IRL he’s perhaps only 80% douchey. But still, very entertaining and well worth watching.
>>not allowing myself to get sucked into all the BS
This is very encouraging to read. Once you realize that you can control your willingness to participate in politics, gossip, and other aspects of office-space stupidity that you may not like, work generally gets easier. I personally stopped attending any and all meetings that didn’t genuinely require my presence, skipped all optional-but-not-really-optional events like Christmas parties and Ice Cream Anti-Socials that your average employee attends because they know their manager is attending and therefore they need to put in an appearance because: need to impress boss. Instead I plugged into work to work, occasionally socialized with the handful of people I genuinely liked, and ignored the rest. Really made life better.
>>moved me to define a plan for when we can pull off early retirement ourselves.