Saturday, April 13th marked my two year anniversary of leaving work. While I have never considered going back, I think about my job occasionally. I liked my co-workers. My manager was great. I liked the work when I got to write code but overall, my heart wasn’t in it anymore.
Despite falling out of love with my job, leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I worked really hard at my career and the sunk cost weighed heavily. I was at the job for 15 years and it had become part of my DNA. I felt that cutting the job out of my life also cut out a little part of me.
But I had to do it.
The greatest adventures and accomplishments in life happen outside of your comfort zone. If there is anything you take away from this post, let it be this:
Sometimes, you just have to leap big, even if you don’t know where you’ll land.
Uncertainty can be scary, but what fun is routine? Which road would you take:
Three more decades of spending 2,000 hours per year in a cube. Work hard and you’ll make it to middle management. Put in 80 hour weeks and maybe you’ll be a partner or CIO.
Live spontaneously. Become a master of your time. Live life on your own terms. Spend long summer days with the kids. Enjoy the outdoors now instead of at an advanced age when your body is in rapid decline. Volunteer. Make the world a better place. Do the work that’s close to your heart. Endless adventure.
Choose the first path and you may end up with a shitload of money, but wouldn’t you rather have a shitload of memories?
To hell with the cube.
Two Years In
When I quit, I didn’t know where the adventure would take me. I only knew that:
- I wouldn’t quit the blog: My original plan was to quit the blog when I quit work. I had even written my final post. But as the end approached, I couldn’t do it. I love writing too much to stop. The blog has also led me to incredible people like Physician On FIRE, Waffles On Wednesday, Fiery Millennial Gwen, Even Steven, Tanja, Liz and Nate, Frugal Fringe, and many, many other bloggers and readers. I didn’t see this coming and I’m so thankful for the wonderful people who I get to call my friends.
- I didn’t have to worry about the money: My money insecurity issues have largely faded, but I still had them two years ago when I left work. Wife Mindy had never planned to go back to work, but then something amazing fell into her lap. It’s a lot easier to leap when you don’t have to start spending your nest egg.
- I would work on myself: Two decades sitting at a desk left me with 30 pounds of extra weight, high blood pressure and irritable. I needed to turn this around.
Here’s how my two years have gone.
The Good: Daily Life, Fitness, Friends and Financial Anxiety
My Daily Routine
No two days are ever the same and I like it this way. In the past two weeks:
I installed a backsplash at the coworking space that I co-own:
I went for a hike with friends:
I hung out at Google (Nerd Paradise):
I looked at potential properties to flip:
And spent a lot of time goofing around with the girls:
And on some mornings, I just like to wander aimlessly around town:
I love my daily routine because there really isn’t one. Aside from getting the girls off to school and exercise, every day is a new adventure. I used to dread uncertainty, but now I embrace it. Spontaneous living is so much more fun.
The best part of having money is that it frees you from having to worry or even think much about money. We spend mindfully and record our spending. That’s pretty much it.
It’s only in the past two years that I’ve developed a healthy relationship with money. Even though I quit work with $100,000 more than I had planned and I had created a nice side hustle (you’re reading it), I still worried about going broke. Now, my financial insecurity is gone. We have a huge buffer (we could get by living on 2% of our net worth), so I don’t lose sleep anymore.
On the investing side, I still check in with the markets a couple of times a day, but it’s for amusement only. I rarely make a trade except to deploy more cash when it lands in the bank account.
At the age of 45, I feel as good as I ever have. My big gut from my work days is mostly gone. So is my high blood pressure. I can do 11 clean pull-ups now (my max was 1 before I retired). I can run more than a mile. I bike 100 miles per week.
I had a friend tell me that early retirement would lead to an early demise. The truth is the opposite; I don’t have extreme stress and now have the time to exercise. If I die at an early age, it won’t be from cardiovascular disease.
The Bad: Happiness, Willpower, And Ugly Truths
I’m filled with dread when I hear someone say something like this:
Only 429 more days until I retire!
FIRE won’t make you happier. It will make your life better, but happiness largely comes from the inside and the lens with which you choose to view life.
Life is too short to wish your days away! Find something great and beautiful in every day, no matter where you are on your journey. Don’t wait until you quit your job to work on yourself and your happiness.
Willpower And Discipline
Before I left work, I restricted staying out late and alcohol consumption to Friday evenings and Saturday. I wanted to be sharp for work.
Now that I’m vastly underemployed, sometimes this will happen at 1 pm on a weekday:
- Friend: I’m at the local watering hole! Come down and have a beer!
- Me: Ummm, OK!
While I’m much healthier than I ever was with a job, my alcohol consumption also increased. I’ve since dialed it back and realized the importance of setting up rules and adhering to them. Don’t let your willpower and discipline fall off the cliff when you no longer have to answer to a strict schedule.
Do you want to see who you really are? Quit your job!
Problems that were buried by a busy job will now bubble up to the surface. Now you have time to contemplate and focus on who you really are. This may also lead to tension.
Some marriages will end because of early retirement. It’s a big life change and you must be able to reconcile your new life with your old relationships. And if not, that’s OK too. Have you ever let go of an old friend? Sometimes, people just evolve away from each other and no one is at fault. This is healthy, even if it’s not easy.
The Awesome: Unexpected Adventures
The best part of the journey are the things that I didn’t see coming.
MMM HQ Coworking
Since January of this year, I’ve been a co-owner of a coworking space.
As more members sign on, the space is blossoming:
- On Wednesday of last week at our entrepreneur mastermind, one of the members gave a talk on starting a podcast. Beau provided a lot of value and inspired one of the other members to start an accountability group focused on podcasting.
- On Friday, a group of us sat around a table for a weekly meditation/mindfulness session. It’s led by a member named Jenn Altman who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. The session was great! Jenn is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about her work. While I was sitting there, I kept thinking about how fortunate I am; this incredibly smart person could be doing 100 other things but was volunteering her time to help a group of people she hardly knew.
- On Thursdays, we get outside:
- I’m also thrilled to be helping others at the space work on their dreams. I’m helping a member launch a YouTube channel. I’ve been helping another launch a webcomic.
Collaborating with fun and interesting humans on amazing ideas and projects is exactly what makes a coworking space great. I’m so happy that I’m involved with this.
A couple of weeks ago, I talked to another blogger about starting a small brewery. This would be a passion project that we’d run on our own terms and on our own timeline.
I’d love the brewery to be a running, inside joke with the FI community:
Will this ever really be a thing? Yes. Not soon, but yes.
My new project, a webcomic, is delayed, but I’m more excited about it than ever.
Two years ago, I had no idea that I’d be involved in a brick-and-mortar business. A brewery? Hell no!
Life is so much more fun with serendipitous adventure. And none of this would be happening if I had to commit 40 hours a week to someone else’s dream.
If I had to list my goals at this moment of my life, they would be:
- Bring the girls up to be thoughtful, smart and hard working humans.
- Surround myself with interesting and fun people.
- Give back and inspire others.
FIRE has made all of this possible.
- I’m there for my daughters every day. I walk with them back and forth to school. We have lunch together (Mmmmm, corndogs) and I volunteer for everything.
- I felt like a socially awkward wierdo most of my life, but not anymore. Mindy and I have an awesome tribe of people here in Colorado and we’re so thankful for them.
- I’m happy for the life I’ve created for myself and want the same for others. It’s fun to hear friends talk about their dreams and then encourage them to get off their ass and take action.
Two years in, my life is vastly different than I thought it would be. I have no clue what the next two years will bring, but I’d have it no other way. I’m so happy that I took the leap.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.Helen Keller
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