The past 7 days were crazy busy:
- DIY solar panels: On Wednesday, the electric utility came out to perform a final inspection on my solar system and I passed! My system is now connected to the grid and on most days, I’m putting back much more than I consume. DIYing solar panels took a lot of planning and labor, but it was a fun challenge and I’m happy to have done it. If you’re a photon voyeur and would like to see how my system is performing in real-time, click this.
- Kitchen: Because I’m a poor planner and have a bad habit of keeping myself too busy, I started a kitchen remodel at the same time as the panel project.
While I was installing solar panels and demolishing/rebuilding my kitchen, I was also preparing for one of the biggest (and most terrifying!) challenges of my life, speaking in front of 400+ fellow humans at EconoMe. Today, I’ll tell you how I got the speaker gig, why I did it, what I got out of it, and why you should attempt similarly scary things.
Struggles, Fear, And Meeting Diania
I first met Diania Merriam at Camp FI back in 2019. Shortly after meeting her, she told me of her dream of hosting a big, FIRE conference. After she heard my talk, Diania asked me if I would be interested in speaking at her event. My first thought was this:
I’m a hack speaking in front of 50 people here at Camp FI. Why would she want me to speak at a big event? I’m not worthy. She must be blowing smoke up my you-know-what.
Soon, I realized that she was serious. I was taken aback and almost cried that someone thought I was worthy to handle something like this, but I said “No.” I really wanted to do it, but more than that, I wanted Diania to succeed. To draw attendees to a big conference you need big speakers. Liz Thames (Frugalwoods) or JD Roth (Get Rich Slowly) are very nice people with big followings. Go after them Diania! I’m nice most of the time, but far fewer people read my silly content and I won’t sell as many tickets.
I thanked Diania, but told her that I was not the speaker she needed. I offered to make introductions and help with whatever I could, but that I was a poor choice for her conference.
Fast forward to 2021. Diania pinged me and asked if I wanted to speak at this year’s edition of EconoMe. My thought process this time around:
She’s already done one EconoMe, so she must know what she’s doing. If she still wants me to speak, I’ll do it.
I agreed to the gig and then immediately asked myself what the hell I had gotten myself into…
I Can’t Talk
As a kid, I had some speech issues. I stuttered and couldn’t get certain words to come out of my mouth. I had particular issues with making the “sh” sound.
Side note: If anyone heard the number of times I said “bullshit” during my talk at EconoMe, they know I have overcome my issues with “sh.”
Years of speech therapy helped out. But I had turned inward. I wasn’t just terrified to speak in front of a crowd; I was terrified to speak at all.
If you don’t reveal your weaknesses, other humans can’t hurt you with them.
The manifestation of this was tremendous insecurity and lack of confidence. These traits don’t serve you well in life. I had no idea how to get over them though.
In 2017, I was invited to speak to a very small group of students at Colorado State University. Even though the audience was less than 20, my leg was shaking on the drive to the talk. It was terrifying at first, but then it got easier. After the talk, I noticed a funny and unexpected thing:
I feel a little more comfortable now around other humans. My confidence level ticked up a couple of notches for having done the public talk.
I was a slightly better person for having ventured out of my comfort zone, so I agreed to more talks. Stephen Baughier allowed me to talk at Camp FI and each time, it got a little easier. And, I felt a little better about myself after every talk.
Comfort Zones Are Where Dreams Go To Die
Here is what you should take from this post:
If you want to be a better person, you must be willing to acknowlege what you’re afraid of, confront it, and get past it.
Every human should try to be the best example of themselves that they can be.
Figure out where your weaknesses are and then defeat them.
Figure out where your potential is and go after it.
Maybe you’ll use your new powers to help make the world better. Maybe you’ll just them to amuse yourself. Either way, you’ll have new skills and be a better person for it.
Unless your dream is to watch TV and eat Cheetos, comfort zones are where dreams go to die. Normal life and normal effort get normal results. You’re going to have to bleed a little to get to the extraordinary stuff. But, you’ll be so thankful you did.
If you would have told me when I started this blog in 2013 that I’d be giving a talk to a small group of college students in 2017, I would have said:
Nope! Too scary!
If you would have told me in 2017 that I’d be giving a talk to 100s of people in 2021, I would have been like this:
But, here we are.
It isn’t an understatement to say that speaking at EconoMe was one of the highlights of my life:
- Diania: I’m incredibly thankful that you believed in me and gave me a chance.
- Other speakers: We all volunteered to do this for free. I love it when people give freely. Hopefully the world is a slightly better place for our efforts.
- You crazy people who watched me: Thanks for listening to my very public therapy/personal-growth session. At a minimum, I hope my talk was amusing. I put some lessons in there too though. I hope that some of you took notice, learned from my mistakes, and take action.
Finally, it was surreal being on stage talking about how I discovered FIRE via MMM and JD Roth. Meanwhile, those two humans were in the audience listening. It’s interesting how life comes full circle sometimes.
Life is good. Screw that, life is great. I’m so thankful for it all.
The best part of events like EconoMe is the people. It was awesome seeing old friends. It was just as good making new ones. I wish that I could have talked to each and every one of you and perhaps someday I will.
I’ve never been around a group of strangers that I feel so instantly comfortable with. The FIRE crowd isn’t necessarily better than any other group of humans, but I find we have a lot in common. Money nerds are also board game, optimization, and travel nerds. Money unites us, but I notice at these events that most of the talk isn’t about money. And that’s how it should be. Let’s get money out in the open so we can help each other out. Then, let’s move on.
Thank you all for a tremendous weekend.
Thank you all for allowing me to share a little of my life with you.
See you again soon.
More 1500 Days!!!
You can also find me (and the dinosaurs) at:
Mile High FI podcast:
- YouTube: My channel is mostly devoted to home improvement, but I have some other material coming up soon too.
- Instagram: Pretty pictures of dinosaurs, sunsets, and nail guns!
- Twitter: Spontaneous, often insane, ramblings
- Coworking space: On the surface, MMM HQ is a coworking space. Look a little deeper and you’ll see that we’re really building community. The members of MMM HQ are some of the finest people I know.
- Facebook: Facebook group and page
Other resources I like:
- Camp FIs are amazingly fun! I hope to attend Rocky Mountain and Joshua Tree this year. See you there?
- Need to learn how to invest? The Simple Path to Wealth is all you need.
- New to FIRE? Need some FIREy guidance? Check out Fiology and the accompanying workbook!
Join the 10s who have signed up already!
Subscribing will improve your life in incredible ways*.
*Only if your life is pretty bad to begin with.