Guest Post: How to be the Happiest Person in the Room

Last weekend, I went on a snowboarding trip. I almost canceled because I had a lot of anxiety. A couple of the people on the trip were friends, but there would also be new people there. Meeting new humans is never been something I look forward to:

“What will they think of me?”

“What if I say something stupid?”

“What if I embarrass my old friends?”

A couple days before the trip, I read through the guest post that you’re about to read below. Rainbows and unicorns appeared when I read this part:

It is said suffering is excessive focus on the self.

Damn. There was the answer. I had anxiety because I was focusing on myself. Quite selfish and stupid. Immediately, I thought:

To hell with it. I’m just going to be me and not worry what anyone else thinks.

I felt better and had a great time on the trip.

Today, I’m thrilled so share a guest post about happiness from The Happy Philosopher. This one hits home because I’ve been working on my happiness for a while.

How to be the Happiest Person in the Room

The Happy Philosopher playing a happy song (maybe a G chord which is happy sounding)

I came home from work and told my wife we needed to talk. I had been soldiering through severe burnout for months now and I could not do it any longer. Something had to change. I simply was not happy anymore. I told her I could work at most five more years and then I was quitting. That was my plan. It was not a great plan, but it was something.

This was the final punctuation in a conversation that we had been having for months. But as satisfying as it was to have an end date, I still had the same problem. I was not happy. I needed to become happy now. I was not willing to wait 5 years.

No one taught me how to be happy; not my parents, teachers or friends. There was no elective in my high school or college class I could take. As I sat down later that night with a glass of wine I took a deep breath reflected upon this.

What did I know about happiness and what was I doing to achieve it?

Unfortunately, very little and next to nothing were the answers to those questions. I was trying to find happiness by reaching for things that I thought were supposed to make a person happy. I watched what made other people happy, both in real life and through entertainment like television and movies. I looked at people I thought were happy and tried to reverse engineer it. I suspect this is what most of us do.

Society was my teacher, and as it turns out a pretty rotten one. From that day on I have been on a quest to become happier, and it is not an exaggeration to say I am now usually the happiest person in the room.

It’s been over 5 years now since I’ve hit rock bottom, and I would like to share my observations with you.

You cannot force happiness, it must emerge Continue reading

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Ask the Readers: What Would You Do?

My last day of formal work is quickly approaching.

4/13/2017.

Hmmm, that’s pathetic. I can do better:

4/13/2017!

Meh. This is how I really feel:

 

I wasn’t excited when I told my bosses that I was leaving. It filled me with anxiety and dread because I have a great sense of loyalty to a job I’ve been at for almost 15 years. The people I work with are top notch and my bosses have been incredible to me. I was sad to tell them about my departure.

However, the fog is slowly lifting. I get a little bit more excited every day. I see blue sky ahead.

Before I babble on too long, let’s get to last week’s question where I asked you about your bucket list.

 

What’s On Your Bucketlist?

Reader SpacemanFry has an awesome goal. It’s amazing to think that people will walk on Mars, probably before 2040:

Travel in space and set foot on another planet. I really hope in my lifetime I will be able to go to Mars or at least Luna.

Mrs. BITA has a good one. I want to see E.T. too: Continue reading

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Friday Mindfulness: Open Eyes

I’m trying to be happier, so on Fridays, I’m writing about all of the stuff that has put me in a good mood lately. Stop gagging! Hey, I’m serious.

Writing these posts is a worthwhile exercise because it causes me to focus on positivity.

 

One of my favorite things to do is wander aimlessly. On my walks, I look around and take notice. It’s amazing what you see if you force yourself out of tunnel vision and start paying attention.

 

Was Thoreau the original frugaler?

I love this quote. When you think about a purchase as spending a bit of your life, it changes everything. Always spend mindfully. Make sure that what you’re buying is worthwhile.

 

A teacher wrote this on her whiteboard at my children’s school:

 

I’ve been farting around with meditation lately. It isn’t always easy. but this bumper sticker was a reminder to stick with it:

 

Graffiti! This “artist” should learn how to spell so they can skillfully deface public areas: Continue reading

Posted in Friday Mindfulness | Tagged | 44 Comments

My $17.89 Phone Bill on Ting

I’m obsessed with optimizing my spending. Who wants to waste money? Not me.

Optimizing some expenses is so obvious and easy, I just assume everyone else is doing it. That’s definitely the case with mobile phone plans. However, I’m consistently proven wrong. Readers tell me frequently that they’re barely getting by. At the same time, they let me know that they spend $60 or even $100 per month on their phone bill. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Mrs. 1500 and I haven’t had a super-sized phone bill in a long time. We’ve been on Republic Wireless where we pay about $24 per month for each phone and the service has been fine.

Recently, I received an offer* to try Ting, another mobile phone service. I had used Ting before and enjoyed the service, but was hesitant to try it again because I didn’t think I’d be able to lower the expense. I was wrong.

 

Ting’s Amazing $17.89/month Phone Bill

The first thing I did was investigate Ting’s rates. With Ting, you pay for what you use. Their estimator tool told me that with normal usage, my bill would be about $24 per month.

Pay for what you use!

While $24 is really great, it was the same as what I pay on Republic Wireless, so I wouldn’t save any money by switching. And then I did some research and discovered a cool hack…

Before I explain the hack, I’ll show you my numbers for my first month on Ting. With normal usage, my bill came out to $17.89, all taxes and fees included:

Yes, $17.89!

Here was my usage:

0 minutes and 0 texts? What?!

I hear you calling foul:

You used 0 minutes and sent 0 texts? This is nonsense. Go scratch!

Continue reading

Posted in Saving and Investing Money | Tagged | 56 Comments

Ask the Readers: Bucket List! (And FI Town!)

What would you do if you knew you had a year to live?

I’ve been wanting to create a bucket list for a while, but haven’t had time. With my impending departure from traditional work, I’ve been thinking about it lately.

 

My Bucket List

Mountain cabin (and FI Town?): I’d love to build a cabin in the mountains near my primary home (maybe Nederland?). I’d build it with my own hands and make it hyper efficient. I would model it after MMM’s home (lots of south facing windows to capture passive heat in the winter):

Anyway, I’d spend time in Future Cabin writing, making and hanging out with family and friends. When not there, Future Cabin will earn its keep as an Airbnb rental.

I’ve mentioned the idea to some others who are also interested. Maybe we’ll get a couple acres, subdivide and build 4 or 5 cabins. I’ll call it FI Town! FI Town will have open space and common buildings for making, meeting and microbrewing. The water tower would have a smiley face, rainbow and middle finger (FU Money salute).

I acknowledge that FI Town is mostly insane and will probably never happen, but I can dream…

Bike up to Allenspark: Allenspark is a town near me in the mountains. The ride up is 30 miles with 3600 feet of elevation gain. Biking there was a goal of mine when I first moved to Boulder County in 2013, but then floods washed out the road. The road is back and I’m not getting any younger, so it’s time to put this one in the bag.

Write a book: I’m working on two. Continue reading

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Friday Mindfulness: Confession, I’m Polyinvestmentamorous

Happy happy, joy joy! I’m trying to be happier, so on Fridays, I’m writing about all of the stuff that has put me in a good mood lately. Hey you, stop gagging!

Anyway, this is a great mind exercise because knowing that I have to write this post makes me focus on positivity. Today, I write about Transformers and my alternative lifestyle (I’m polyinvestmentamarous). Don’t judge, Mrs. 1500 approves and even encourages it!

I had a conversation that I never, ever thought I’d have a couple of weeks ago. I was picking up my older daughter from a friend’s house and started talking to the mother. The conversation soon turned to Transformers. Yes, the robots that turn into other things:

Foreground: Slag and Snarl. Background: Optimus Prime and Megatron.

I swear on my nest egg, the conversation below actually took place. I can’t make stuff like this up. It started when I noticed the family was watching a Transformers cartoon:

  • Me: Hey, Transformers!
  • Mother: I love Transformers!
  • Me: Oh yeah? I still have mine from when I was a kid. I even have a couple Dinobots*.
  • Mother: Wow, which ones!?
  • Me; I have the stegosaurus and the triceratops.
  • Mother: Holy cow, that’s awesome! By the way, their names are Snarl and Slag.
  • Me: Wow? You know their names?! Is that what they’re really called?
  • Mother: Oh yeah, I totally remember.

The conversation eventually turned to Megatron, the leader of the evil Decepticons. The mother was impressed that I still had the original and asked me to bring him over next time we met. Upon returning home, I verified that she actually knew the names of the Dinobots. She did. I was highly amused.

 

My Tribe

More Dinosaurs (at the beer fest)

The Transformer loving mom is just one person in our local tribe who my family enjoys spending time with. We’re thankful for all of the people in our life. We go camping and have spontaneous gatherings in the middle of the street with our neighbors (we live on a quiet, dead end). This last weekend, some of us walked over to a local beer fest.

And I’ll tell you what isn’t fun: living around people you I don’t like. The neighborhood we lived in prior to this one was beautiful and we had a huge home, but our neighbors were shallow and we were miserable. We’re much happier in our small home with good people around us.

 

Polyinvestmentamorous

Continue reading

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Guest Post: Mind Wide Shut

I discovered Bayalis is The Answer a couple months ago when the author, Mrs. BITA started leaving hilarious comments on my posts. Curious, I clicked over and read some of Mrs. BITA’s posts. I immediately appreciated her honesty and profanity. My favorite writers are those that write in such a way that their personality shines though. Mrs. BITA has no shortage of strong personality, so I asked her if she’d like to write a guest post. She agreed, so I’ll shut up now and turn the show over to her.

Mind Wide Shut

The next person who tells me that I need to “keep an open mind” is going to fucking live to rue the day.

My mind is an exclusive club. You need to be on The List to enter. There is a bouncer of intimidating proportions at the door (and the fact that he is wearing an Ascot hat and can actually pull that shit off only serves to make him more intimidating).

A week ago a twit who labours under the delusion that he is an engineer sent me some of his code to review. Two hours after the original request he sent a follow up email reminding me and everyone in my management chain that getting this done is of the highest priority. I interrupted what I was doing, and like a good little worker bee, I jumped right on it. I waded through a few gadzillion lines of incomprehensible code changes. The blood vessel in my forehead started to pulse ominously. I then discovered that he hadn’t actually tested the fucking code before he sent it out (for the engineers out there – a null pointer dereference in a common code path). Puffed up with self righteous indignation I pointed out to my manager that the twit needs to keep his hands where we can see them and not on our product. His response?

“You need to keep an open mind, Mrs. BITA. People learn from their mistakes and grow.”

No thank you, Mr. Manager. The aforementioned idiot is not a fresh-faced intern, from whom a charming amount of idiocy is only to be expected. He has about four years of experience. The only thing that is going to grow here is the size of my ulcer if you force me to keep dealing with him as if he were a worthy development engineer.

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” says Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors. And most of the time the things they will try to put in it are pure unadulterated garbage.

 

What an Open Mind is Not

Continue reading

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Performance Update 50: Whatever.

My main goal was to build an investment and cash portfolio of $1,120,000* in 1500 days**, starting from 1/1/2013 and ending in February of 2017. I made my goal last year, but I have a lot of fun with these financial updates, so I continue.

There are loads of great things about being financially independent (FI). I think I’m a better, more honest person. Consider the following:

  • No worries about what anyone thinks of you: Feel free to let your co-worker know what you really think of his shitty PowerPoint. If Bossman decides to fire you, you can be like:

  • Be yourself: Now that I’m FI, I find that my true personality comes through more often than ever. This is not necessarily a good thing:

  • And I can be my true self right here on the blog too: After 4 years of blogging, I’m still not exactly sure why email lists are such a big deal. However, every blogger who knows what they’re doing (the opposite of me) states that collecting emails is important. So, I signed up for a fancy service to try to persuade you to give up yours. I can’t take it seriously, so I configured a couple of my forms like this:

Life is just a lot more fun when you don’t have to care. And it’s even more fun when you don’t care.

 

Performance Update

February was another great month. My portfolio went from $1,316,646 to $1,351,858 for a gain of $35,211. $1,47o of this gain was from 401(k) contributions. Continue reading

Posted in Performance | Tagged | 81 Comments

Rant: ???

I’ve largely given up on my ranting. It’s a side-effect of trying to live a more positive life. However, sometimes I just can’t help myself…

Exposed!

We were mostly anonymous until we received some press last year. After that, our cover was mostly blown. To my surprise, none of our friends or family cared much. Some of them made comments like:

Oh wow, I see you’re on Yahoo!.

or

Y’all are millionaires? That’s cool!

And that was the end of it.

And I was a little disappointed. I was hoping that our publicity would provide a conversation opener to help folks. I’m so happy with the way my life has turned out and I love showing others the path. It wasn’t to be. We have been asked for advice this many times:

0

Up until very recently, I’d even try to chat people up about money. And let me tell you how well that worked out:

No one wants to talk about money. Ever. I just keep my mouth shut now.

And I’ve realized I was foolish for even trying. If the student isn’t ready, the teacher should shut the hell up. But I digress… Continue reading

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The Greatest Life Hack of All

Writing doesn’t come easily. Here is how it usually works:

  1. Inspiration!: I come up with a very basic idea for a post. Most of the time, the spark arrives comes when I’m doing something completely unrelated to the blog. I record the idea in a notebook so that I don’t forget it. I spend a lot of time seeking inspiration.
  2. Start writing: When I’m back in front of the Macbook, I start translating my notes into a post. It’s at this time that I usually realize there isn’t enough substance to the initial idea. I rarely complete a post on the first try.
  3. Find the missing pieces: I think about the rough idea when I’m walking, driving and ahem, in the bathroom. Sometimes, I find the missing pieces in a random conversation or observation when going about my daily routine. As more words come, I modify and revise. I spend a lot of time here.
  4. Revise infinitely: I repeat step 3 over and over. I’ve revised a post 100 times. This process can take hours, days, months or even years. There are posts I started in 2013 that I still work on occasionally.
  5. Publish: When I feel the post is passable (Note: not done, it’s never really done), I schedule a time to publish.

While the process may sound laborious, I enjoy it. Writing forces my mind to go to places it has never gone before. I love the challenge.

And sometimes, I’ll come up with a missing piece after the post is published that seems so obvious, I can’t believe I didn’t think about it when I was composing. Last week’s post about life hacks was one of those times.

I’m a Big Dummy

When I was writing about life hacks, I tried to come up with examples from my own life. The ones I wrote about were weak, but passable. I was frustrated, but scheduled the post anyway and went to bed.

After the post went live, lots of life hacks started magically floating into my head. I was mad at myself for not thinking of them: Continue reading

Posted in Something Completely Different | Tagged , | 51 Comments