My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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#041 08/30/2013 Part 1 : A Go@ld Medal and A Higher Mountain

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#041 08/30/2013 Part 1 : A Go@ld Medal and A Higher Mountain to Climb

I've often wondered what Michael Phelps does with his life after becoming the most decorated Olympic athlete ever (22 Medals).

I also wonder what this guy: Evolution of Dance is doing nowadays.

I wonder what a mountaineer does after he/she has fulfilled a life long dream to climb Mt Everest.

What are their realities now?

Life surely goes on, but what possible higher mountain can they climb? How do they top their peak? Their defining moment in their life?

Do they live in the past, defined by this peak, conceding their best years behind them, content on reminiscing on past great glory?

Or can they find an ambition or passion that surpasses that peak?

Can they redefine themselves, and find a higher mountain to climb?

Was that peak moment the end or can it be made into a means to a greater end?

Retirement as an end-My Go@ld Medal

Early Retirement has been my mountain peak and my go@ld medal for the longest time, so much so that it has redefined itself as the end, rather than a means to an end.

Too often if I am truly honesty with myself, I behave and act as if retirement itself is the end and convince myself it is a means to an end.

If all I do is focus and train on my SWR, my net worth, my simplicity and my frugality, and get my sense of self worth and identity from these things, i.e. I identify and define myself more with my means rather than my end, than it is a lie. Retirement has become my end.

Early retirement is suppose to be the means to a greater end: I/we ambiguously define this greater end as freedom.

But yearning to be 'free' with out any foresight or planning on this freedom, I realize is not an end, but a dream.

We spent so much time micro analyzing and obsessing over our numbers, but when it comes to what we are actually going to do, it gets very fuzzy and ambiguous at best.

A goal without a plan is just a dream.

Dreams and fantasies: I want to travel, I want to volunteer, I want to...<fill in the blank here>, etc. It sounds very similar to the things I said when I was 18: I'm gonna be a pro beach volleyball player, I'm gonna be a millionaire, I'm gonna bench press 300lbs, I'm gonna live in Australia, etc.

No thoughts on the logistics or actual realization of these dreams. No effort, no hard work. Just delusions of grandeur.

Where do I want to travel? Who do I want to volunteer for? What cause do I believe in? Where are the SWR, the measuring, the book keeping efforts or plans on these goals? What am I doing today to make these things a reality?

I spent all my energy climbing the retirement mountain, but near none focusing on the greater peak that lies after.

I must realize that the climb up the retirement mountain is just a training period for the more difficult mountain(s) to climb that lies after.

FI/ERE as Self Mastery

In many ways I have been training and wanting early retirement for most of my life. Working in various capacities since 14, now 41.

I've stated before that my view on financial independence/early retirement is a manifestation of self mastery.

To do it right, IMHO you have to master yourself and your life to get there. Understanding what is anorexic, and what is a healthy fast, understanding what is delay of gratification and what is hoarding. etc. They are different for everyone, and there are fine lines that you must deal with in your life.

In the end if you trained yourself properly in ERE, you have the dexterity and financial muscle control of a gymnast. Body fat of 8%. A coordination of yourself that allows you to leap any obstacle or pull yourself up from any contorted position.

Discipline, self regulation, problem solving and personal understanding, among the few traits you master.

Since committing to the process, I've admitted that the pursuit of retirement had become my new 'religion' and that it had consumed my identity and shaped my reality. This is somewhat transitioning now.

If I am truly honest with myself, and I stopped lying to myself, I struggle to find a greater achievement, a greater mountain peak in my life, than achieving early retirement.

I wanted this for so long that it's hard to see that it's really a means to an end.

All i think is life will be better, an upgrade, if I am retired, if I am free. This is lazy, and also a fallacy. Life after retirement should not be an after thought.

I've told myself very explicitly countless times throughout this journal and to myself, that it is the journey, not the destination.

Let's say for the sake of arguement that I am indeed enjoying the journey, that I recognize my growth, and I realize that the journey, the pursuit of early retirement has already made me a better person (learning and growth), and that I've enjoyed the climb up this early retirement mountain.

But what happens after the destination is reached? What happens after this mountain has been climbed?

What happens when I get my Go@ld Medal of early retirement?

Retirement as a means to an end

So much time, energy and focus is spent climbing the retirement mountain, I develop a tunnel vision.

I forget the Goal wasn't to get to the top of this mountain, but it was to climb the next mountain after:

The mountain of my personal freedom.

The mountain of using the skills, mastery and personal understanding achieved in my ERE apprenticeship(ie. the means), to then go forth, and find the real end.

But the next mountain peak(s) are often much too ambiguous, and it is very difficult to find or define.

Partly because the nature of those mountain(s) must lie somewhere in the clouds of uncertainty, and partly because we never really spend any time looking for it or even acknowledge that they exist.

Often we turn around, and chose not to climb the higher mountains in our life, and we do indeed identity and define ourselves by our past glories.

These days, although I have been working full time 'physically' at my job, mentally, my full time job has been spent answering the above questions in my life, scouring the clouds of uncertainty to find the next mountain in my life to climb.

Tying to truly make retirement the means to a greater end.

I realize that the greatest achievement and defining moment in my life should not be the climb up this retirement mountain, but the one that lies thereafter.


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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by mfi »

"Everything has been figured out, except how to live."
Jean-Paul Sartre

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »


A very fitting quote. Thank you.

I suppose the only thing really resolved so far, is that I do not (or no longer) want to live my life based on the ideals of consumerism/materialism or hedonism (i.e. most of western society?).

There is still a lot for me to learn about myself and the world, as well to experience.

For example, can I live without having to want to climb higher mountains? And is it right or wrong to want to do so? Can I be totally present and accepting of whatever comes, and still climb higher mountains? Or should I learn everything is just flat?

And why the hell am I being so philosophical?

I don't know! lol..

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by spoonman »

I like this bit that you wrote in #040:

"One also can get quite disoriented, i.e lose a sense of what is up and what is down. "

I'm actually looking forward to that sort of feeling after achieving FI. I'm guessing that it will take a while to navigate that new reality.

I think it will definitely be a challenge to develop a new identity after achieving FI and retirement. In a way, it's incredibly difficult not develop tunnel vision while pursuing a fabled thing like FI because, well, it's pretty darn hard to get there and requires a certain level of concentration. My own strategy to achieve FI is pretty much a "turn the crank" kind of deal by now, so like you I am starting to think about what sort of difficulties I might encounter after pulling the trigger.

After reaching FI and quiting the 9-5, I foresee a period of time that I call the "honeymoon" phase, where it will feel like we're just on vacation. Then we will move on to a short phase where we will feel like we're getting away with murder. After that I think I will get the urge to get a major project going. We'll see.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by brighteye »

Another female reader of your journal, always enjoy your philosophical reflections! I too am a person that thinks all things through beforehand, but I guess there is just so much preparation that you can do before FI. Before my 1-year world trip, I planned, made lists, browsed travel forums, read books etc.. All that was very important, but once on the road, opportunities and new ideas just popped up and everything was suddenly easy.

I think spoonman has a good point here.
spoonman wrote:After reaching FI and quiting the 9-5, I foresee a period of time that I call the "honeymoon" phase, where it will feel like we're just on vacation. Then we will move on to a short phase where we will feel like we're getting away with murder. After that I think I will get the urge to get a major project going. We'll see.
Maybe give yourself some time (3-6 months) after FI as vacation. Is there a place you always wanted to visit? Go and live there for a while. Spend time in nature (for me that always helps). Take your time, reflect. Then go from there.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

@brighteye: Your 1 yr trip/adventure sounds like it was an awesome experience, and I most definitely agree that trying to make certainty out of uncertainty is a sure fire way of removing any serendipity out of life.


Thanks so much for your feedback and thoughts, it really really helps me to see my thoughts more clearly, as well as examine myself deeper. Thank you.

I am FI now (ie. my passive income suplusses my expenses) and am 2 years and 3 months away from early retirement. (I think what you guys are calling FI I am calling 'early retirement', but I think we mean the same thing!)

Upon reflecting a little more this weekend, I do hear @spoonmans words of advice: take every day as it comes and don't live in the future.

I totally see his point, and he has reminded me that the effort to get there requires tremendous focus. Thinking about what lies after can possibly be a distraction or divert energy/focus. (Especially for one track minded people such as myself).

For me, my reflections are that I am now in the gap between being FI and ERE , and that area is a bit of a twilight zone. A period of acclimatization(I think ?).

It is another transitory phase in this process. Most of my post these days I cannot help but reflect on that despite knowing that it makes me sound lost and disoriented.

Things start turning upside down. Gravity begins to disappear.

In particular, is the realization that the reward-feedback loop:

Learn Skill & Save Money-->deliver dopamine to the system-->hit milestone-->rinse and repeat

ie. the pavlovian stimulus response that defined my life for the last two years or so, i.e. the early retirement accumulation phase, will disappear.

This phase in the early retirement process made decision making, purpose, motivation, ambition, etc,etc. very very clear. Everything made sense and everything in life aligned. Everything had purpose, a reason and meaning: The goal of retirement.

The twilight zone gap between FI and ERE is a process of moving from a highly structured, objective binary thought process to something that is completely abstract and subjective.

I.E the process of converting the ends to a means.

The academic response here would be to say that if I were doing things correct, the goal of retirement should always be kept as a means to an end, and not the end.

But the rebuttal/contradiction, as @spoonman mentions, is that retirement requires singular focus, i.e. it needs to be treated as an end, at least for a certain portion of the phase, in order to succeed.

@J_ , a poster senior to me who replied on my journal early, in his years of experience, said often that the hard part starts when you are retired.

The brain has a way of accepting and agreeing with this and thinking you believe it, and therefore make you think you are immune,since you acknowledge and agree. Most of my journal entries tried focusing on life after retirement, thinking that this too would make me immune.

Yet real internalization, really understanding this, is something I know now to be completely different.

Similar to how we may say "I am very fortunate to be living in the first world", yet not really have an understanding until we travel to the third world and experiencing how they live.

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#042 09/24/2013 Part 2 : Higher Mountains to Climb

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#042 09/24/2013 Part 2 : Higher Mountains to Climb

This post continues on with my thoughts on my last post, on finding greater goals, purpose and meaning after early retirement.

After approximately six months of being FI, it has taken me that long to wade through some thoughts and feelings on my (early retired) life ahead. There has been a lot of reflection, some periods of melancholy, and some periods of manic thought.

The TL;DR version of some of what I have concluded so far (for myself) during these last six months:

1. Early retirement is failure for me if in early retirement rather than growing (ie. healthier mentally, spiritually, physically) I regress (laziness, slothfulness, comfort-ie. weight gain, increased tv watching, etc).

2. Having a frictionless life is dangerous. The accumulation phase provides restraints and regulates me in a very disciplining and directed manner (so too does a conventional job). The accumulation phase for me is analogous to perhaps the training period of an Olympic athlete. Early retirement pulls the plug on this system, similar to winning a Gold Medal, and the Olympics are over.

3. Early retirement is not the answer to my 'problems'. 'My freedom' does not make life in and of itself better or easier. And in many ways, makes it harder, living by your own set of rules. Living a manual life.

4. There are no more excuses in life. The answers all come from within.

5. My focus and thought process has shifted from "retiring from" to "retiring to".

I am sure there are other conclusions but that is the gist of it.

Retiring to higher Mountains

Spending the last few months more or less in full time mental mode thinking about exactly what I want to "retire to", I realize that for me, I personally need greater challenges, higher mountains to climb than achieving early retirement.

I need to create a path to better ensure that the me of tomorrow, will be better than the me of today.

Rightly or wrongly, I see myself as the GDP of a country. I need/want continued personal growth.

I realize now , that just by being retired and 'having my freedom', that this will not ensure this.

In many ways, I see early retirement like being at the seat of an All You can Eat Buffet. Substitute food with time for this analogy.

For the most part my nature (and human nature) at a buffet is to gorge and satiate till I am numb and stuffed. I do this because everything is free and limitless and the normal constraints that regulate me are removed. In the end, the buffet turns out to be the opposite of a blessing in disguise.

Four Mountains Defined

I want(need?) goals in my retired life.
I want(need?) to have greater ambition/passion/desire in retirement, not less. (This is huge anxiety for me).
I want(need?) friction.

I don't ever want to go back to paid work to find meaning in life.
I want to continue climbing higher (personal) mountains.

Finding these higher mountains are especially difficult when via the ERE process you have plugged yourself out of what society normally defines as mountains:

Status, recognition, title, displays of wealth, popularity, etc.

The ERE process has sufficiently beaten all these things out of me.

For the most part, it's only now me vs myself.

I see now on the horizon of my life 4 mountains to climb (so far, hopefully more). Two of these mountains have become very clear and defined, and two of these mountains are off in the distance, visible yet hidden somewhat by the clouds.

Over the next while I will post about these (four) mountains.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by Ego »

Yes! This is THE post early-retirement challenge. Seeking intentional discomfort. Deciding to put oneself in frictious situations. Provoking positive adaptation.

You are wise to foresee it. I look forward to reading about your mountains.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by almostthere »

MBGI I really appreciate what you are doing, writing about this transition period. I leave my job for "retirement" in eight days after about six years on the path. Like you, I have defined myself by the path. Now, the next phase is here. I too have been playing with the idea of new goals. On the one hand, I am afraid that goals and goal achievement have not brought me lasting satisfaction though. On the other hand, how else can I organize existence? My current guess, subject to change at any moment, is that I'll just doing things for the sake of doing them. I'll walk, do yoga, cook, meditate, play with my kids, study, and teach. Don't get me wrong. Over the last six months, I go into manic planning mode every five to to seven days freaking out about what I am going to do with all my new time. Anyway, again I appreciate your honesty and your ability to see yourself as you are. Your sharing helps me know I am not alone and that my range of feelings in this relatively uncharted area is normal.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by jacob »

Several people have adamantly told me that my retirement was a failure because I didn't spend more time enjoying the view from the top of the mountain after I climbed it. I think some would have preferred I sat around at the peak forever after. Then again, maybe the point was in the journey, in the climbing...

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by spoonman »

MBGI, you write another awesome post yet again. I think you should get the price for most articulate person on the boards (though Dragline is pretty good himself).

I hate to admit it, but I think the thing that will be hardest for me to conquer are status-related (or the perception of) aspects of early retirement. That's why I don't think I will ever fully reveal what I'm doing to my family. One of the challenges that I look forward to in early retirement is finding a good group of people that understand where I'm coming from, that should pretty much evaporate all of my status-related concerns.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

@Ego: It's definitely helped a mega-ton reading/learning from others experiences and knowledge from on this forum and else where. It has most definitely been a source of inspiration, knowledge and strength for me.

@almostthere: Thank you so much for your post, and first and foremost a big congratulations on your impending retirement! Your reply actually made me feel normal as well. I definitely relate to everything you said, just that zero gravity feeling.

@jacob: You've definitely had it much tougher being a figurehead as well as being a pioneer in this generation of the minority of early retired inclined persons combined with the internet age. People watch you and will dissect you for that reason alone unfortunately :(

@spoonman: @dragline is definitely a sage of knowledge that much I will agree with you ;)
As per finding a community/others, most certainly a big challenge, still a work in progress for myself as well. This board has helped a lot and i definitely plan on taking more future risks in this regard.

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The First Mountain- 100 Days of Solitude

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

#043 10/01/2013 Part 3: The First Mountain - 100 days of Solitude

IMHO, A successful ERE accumulation phase (ie. training period) that leads us to early retirement (the Goald Medal) is several recursive iterations of S.M.A.R.T goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound).

These goals are like a Russian nesting Matryoshka doll where each goal is contained within another.

On a simplified high level a set of nested goals may look like this:

1. Get out of debt
2. Reduce Expenses
3. Create surplus Savings
4. Acheive XX% Savings rate (several times over increasing this step)
5. Create passive income
6. Acheive XX% SWR (several times over decreasing this step)
7. Pay off house/mortage free
8. Achieve Early Retirement

Each of these subset goals tells us we are on the way, gives us feedback, a sense of accomplishment and direction, and of course a hit of dopamine.

We refactor, test and modify this system of goals and planning several times over the years to cater to get to where we want.

We realize how empty and hollow the statement "I want to retire" is, without developing the inner workings, the smaller dolls, contained within the bigger one.

My point in mentioning this is because when we do achieve this early retirement, why do we let go of these principles that obviously have transformed us and given us great personal success?

IE how come we are so goal oriented and meticulous in our planning of early retirement, yet do not apply at all the S.M.A.R.T principles to things like

"I want to travel!"
"I want to volunteer!"


"I want to do something really important to me that I always wanted to do which is the reason I retired!"

Most of our efforts at these endeavours become half assed, doomed to failure, or a moving target at best, specifically because we haven't planned, defined, thought out what these things mean to us. We thought it would come easy to us when the time came.

Uncertainty and Serendipity

I am not trying to advocate the removal of uncertainty or serendipity from my life by overplanning or goal setting, but rather the opposite:

MY thesis is that S.M.A.R.T. skills developed in my ERE accumulation phase can be applied in a way to lay a fertile ground for uncertainty and serendipity.

I realize now for me to say to myself "I want to travel when I retire" is too vague. It's like a boat going out to sea without a sail. If that is ones idea of serendipity and uncertainty that is fine. But for me, I see applying SMART goals/skills as having the best possible sail for your boat. I still don't know exactly where I am going, but I know I have a greater chance of getting there, and harnessing the wind.

So what exactly does "I want to travel" mean to me?

what am I trying to achieve by travel, what is it I want?

How do I prevent travel from becoming that buffet table, where I gorge myself without restrain, traveling directionless, purposeless, and becoming sick of it?

More on the Education of Solitude

I have been reading/exploring a lot in the area of solitude. I feel drawn to it, despite the fact that I know it weakens me against the greater society as whole.

Part of the thesis for myself is:

If I am single, and have chosen to live as such, and I am an introvert, should I not explore or create an environment that optimizes/maximizes these characteristics? Have I ever placed myself in such an environment, i.e. a fertile soil natural to my roots?

(Quite ironically, I can honestly say that I have been to the extremes of planting myself in the depths of an extreme extroverted environment, ie. working in bars and clubs, parties, busy urban life, facebook, drinking, etc. This was ofcourse when I was a little younger, and also when I was exploring the opposite end of my boundaries.)

I still consider myself an apprentice on the subject of solitude but some of the literary education/readings I have read so far:

-La Solitude - Johann George Zimmerman (Awesome!!!)
-Solitude: A Return to Self - Anthony Storr (Awesome!!!)
-Into the Wild- Jon Krakauer (Awesome!!!)
-The Loners Manfesto (Awesome!!)
-Quiet - Susan Cain
-Book Of Silence - Sara Maitland
-Wild - Cherryl Strayed
-Walden-Henry Thoreau
-And several books on meditation

In these readings, the conclusion that I found, is that the pinnacle or mountain of solitude for oneself is often quoted as 100 days.

This is the benchmark for truly stripping yourself from the armour of constructs and clutter around you, and for untethered, naked and humble access to areas of your mind/thought that you never knew existed.

Rules and Friction

Somewhat of an apparent tangent here, but please bare with me.

I have been following this thread discussion of Diana Nyad's epic swim crossing of Cuba to Florida:

110 miles, 53 hours: Questions for Diana Nyad ... na-nyad/p1

The forum thread is 14 pages long. I have read and been following every post with fascination. I learned not only a lot about the sport, but about myself.

In a nutshell, Diana Nyads swim from Cuba to Florida is being questioned by the small/specialized marathon swimming community because she had broken 'several' generally accepted rules (ie. 'THe English Channel Rules').

By Diana Nyad claiming that her swim was "unassisted" it compromised the very integrity of their sport and the accomplishment.

The arguement is that Diana Nyad conveniently removed a significant amount of the friction to her goal, by not having any rules beforehand, and at the very least making them up as she went along.

The rules one places on oneself, are there to enforce ones own integrity.

This discussion of defining self imposing rules before hand was a eureka momment for me. A way to create your friction.

For travel, I realized I should create a set of very tangible rules that guide the integrity of my travel purpose.

For 100 days of solo travel solitude.

My first mountain.

The purpose of the rules are to maximize seredipity and the benefits of solitude and to create adequate friction and constraint, such that travel does not become a buffet table. Travel for me is for growth not indulgence.

The rules are to give me direction, focus and purpose in travel. They are to create a hard floor, and hopefully a limitless ceiling.


These rules are still a work in progress but here they are so far:

MBGI's Rules of Solitude Travel (100 Days)

1. No Media

No internet, no TV, no phone, no newspaper, no social media, no skyping, no texting and no music player.
I cannot connect with how my stocks are doing, no checking the ERE forum, the sports box scores, or any other news which is local or from back home.

EXCEPTION 1.1 : I am allowed to use the internet to book hostels, transportation, check weather or research where I might be travelling to. IE. Internet is only allowed to aid my trip logistics.

2. No social communication with friends

No contact with the 'security blanket' of friends that I already had before my trip began.

EXCEPTION 2.1 : This does not including making new friends, which I find perfectly fine and consistent with maximizing serendipity.
EXCEPTION 2.2 : I am allowed to communicate with my mother via phone or email once a week, just to let her know I am okay.
EXCEPTION 2.3 : I am allowed to connect and trouble shoot with my tenants of my rental properites.

3. Budget of $2500

This budget does include the aifare ticket that get me to the destination and back.

$2500 works out to about $830 a month or $25 a day for 100 days. This $25 a day must include lodging, food, transportation, visas, entertainment and medical insurance. A private hostel room usually runs about $15CAD a night, just for some solo travelling perspective (ie. solo travelling is generally more expensive.)

The purpose of the budget is to create a sense of voluntary discomfort. In places where the standard of living is significantly cheaper, it is quite easy to develop a buffet mentality (ie. shopping, eating, drinking, etc).

Having the hard budget will help me to stay true to the voluntary discomfort purpose and to guide my travel towards truly find value in the 'free things' the destination has to offer.

4. Read 25 books

Works out to about a book every 4 days. This is to ensure that I am excercising my brain. My general pace is a little over a book a week, so this doubles my reading pace.

5. 7 days of Intermittent Fasting

Not consecutive, but sprinkled throughout the trip, I want to complete 7 days of 24 hour periods of no eating (intermittent fasting). This is to encourage healthy body.

6. Daily journaling

To examine deeper my mental workings and thoughts.

7. Fill a 100 page sketch book

This is to spur help creativity. When was the last time you drew or doodled?

8. No Drinking or Drugs

No mind altering substances. My general view now on drinking and drugs are they are shortcuts, easy/artificial ways of putting yourself in certain states of mind, that are much harder to do naturally.

9. Must Maintain Weight

Must stay within a range of +2 lbs to -4lbs of my departure weight. Right now I have gotten myself down to 169 lbs so if I were to leave today, the weight variance allowed would be 171 to 165 lbs. Again, this is to regulate health.

10.No Check in Luggage

Living out of a ~35 litre backpack and messenger bag.

100 Days of Solitude Logistics

The execution of the 100 days of solitude travel with probably look something like this:

4 countries, 25 days each in South East Asia. (I guess I am stating the obvious, but South East Asia is to travellers, what the Pacific North West is to minimalists ;p )

When I was 30-34, my goal was to travel five continents in five years, which I did: 1. Asia-Korea, Japan, Thailand, 2. South America-Peru, 3. Africa-Namibia, 4. Europe-Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, and 5. Oceania-Australia and New Zealand. I've also been to Cuba, Jamaica and Domican, but those were 'vacations'. Last year I travelled to Italy and Nepal. Through it all, south east asia has always been my favourite. Right now the list of possible countries for the 100 days of solitude include: Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Phillipines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

By having each stay less than 30 days, I minimize travel Visa hassles (i.e standard visas are usually 30 days), I stay long enough in a country to slow things down but not long enough such that I get too complacent. I want to indulge my transient nature, but I also want to keep things slow enough so things are absorbed.

I want to keep the trip flexible enough such that the itinerary is extremely loose, but structured enough such that I have focus and direction.

The biggest dilema right now for me and these rules as they stand now, is whether or not bringing a laptop is okay.

Discipline/willpower being the removal of temptation, bringing a laptop on 100 days of solitude is way too much temptation. The reason I will like to bring it is I would like to work on some personal projects, and it makes writing and journaling easier, but violating rule #1 and #2, become far too easy. So, the decision on the laptop is still up in the air at this point.


Since I've converted the thought of "I want to travel when I retire" to "100 Days of Travel Solitude" with my catered rules, it's been night and day the amount of anticipation and focus/direction I have now for travel.

It is almost as tangible as the difference between way back when I would say to myself "I want to retire" versus the plan and execution of putting into practice many of the ERE methodologies and strategies. One was just a dream, the other was reality.

It's still 2+ years away, but I am already planning and 'training' for this trip, the journey for this mountain has already begun.

A few months back, I booked a trip to Vietnam which I will be going to in mid-November 2013. I got a great deal on my flight since I booked so early, and also got a flight that flies in approx 20 hours each way, which is great for south-east asia.

Because I used up the majority of my vacation days this year for moving into/renovating my co-op, the trip will only be two weeks instead of three. Half the trip will be in Ho Chi Minh, and the other half will be in Mui Ne.

For my Vietnam trip, I will be implementing all my rules, except for rule 4-adjusted to 5 books, rule 7-adjusted to 25 page sketch book, and Rule 3 - Budget is $1000 (not including flight).

The rules have taken me a while to formulate, and began around the same time I was reading about the Marathon Swimming community.

To create my rules, I thought about and deconstruction my past trips, and what I liked about them the most, and what I thought was most challenging and gave me the best conditions for personal growth and serendipity. My trip to Nepal adhered to these rules the most, and it was no coincidence that it was the trip I grew and learned the most.

I hope that my trip to Vietnam in November will play a role in developing my rules further and getting me closer to climbing this mountain.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by jacob »

I think SMART (oh how I hate that acronym) goals are useful for an engineering approach to the problem, but they are fairly useless to a scientific approach and so I don't use them.

Scientifically speaking, if the goal is to discover, then discoveries are by definition

Unspecific, because you never know what you're looking for until you find it

Immeasurable, because measuring implies comparing to what you already know, fitting concepts into boxes

Risky, and not necessarily attainable, mainly because you're in pursuit of the unknown

Surprising, because if you already have a preconceived notion of what's relevant, you will shut your mind off from seeing novelties

Open-ended, because just because you haven't found it before the deadline doesn't mean it's not worthwhile or doesn't exist.

Funny (insider joke), we could call these the SURIO non-goals.

Also see Ego's recent post:

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

Yes, as acronyms go, SMART is the cheesiest of all!! :)


Are you saying it doesn't apply to the ERE process or just certain scientific pursuits in general?

My thought is :

-By the application of SMART goals I achieve early retirement. For example, SWR, Savings Rate, projections, net worth, budgets, etc are all artifacts of SMART.

-Early retirement then allows for greater 'discovery' (and opportunity) than would have existed had I not engaged in it in the first place. IE i'd still be a mindless consumer.

My discovery is not limited to the destination, but also the journey (ie during the smart goal process). IE had one never set sights on the goal, you'd never 'discover' that you could actually do it or that you'd discover certain skills, potentials.

I didn't read egos post before my entry, but I don't see it as contrary to smart at all? Maybe I am seeing something different?

I certainly wouldn't argue that for some people/personalities 'discovery' is best nurtured with complete spontaneity.

I'd argue that for specifically an INTJ, by using SMART goals (ie. the application in the ERE process for example) we create greater discovery in areas that are unrelated to the actual goals.

IE. I didn't think I'd be riding my bike to work and enjoying it soo much for example, etc. That would have never happened without the application of smart. I can list countless ways that the application of smart has lead to numerous discoveries for myself.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by jacob »

SMART goals would apply to ERE in terms of executing it. However, I doubt that SMART goals would have discovered ERE. Rather with a SMART goal mindset, the person would meticulously have tracked and followed the conventional approach of 9 to 5 until 65.

I presume you didn't discover this place/ERE by following SMART goals?

They're good for following a map. They're not good for creating a map. They're the opposite of playing.

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” - FRdC

I'm a weak j and this may influence my opinion. Consider how I used goal setting in the book. They weren't SMART and linear. They were merely connected with no desire to specify, measure, or even be attainable within a certain time frame. They were only highly relevant and homeotelic.

TL;DR - Using the SMART methodology you risk exclusion of what doesn't fit into the methodology. I can say that playing, novel discovery, surprises, and maybe other things don't fit. They would be accidental to the process.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »


Hm, if it sounds like what I am trying to say is SMART will tell me what it is I want in life (ie. "i want to retire"), that is not my point.

For me its about using smart to materialize or lead to better success a predefined dream (ie. "I want to retire") into a reality, and in the process create new discoveries, new realities during and after.

Smart, for me, creates friction and a floor I seek, where no friction or a floor existed in the first place.

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by spoonman »

Reading about your 100 day adventure got me all excited. That sounds like it's gonna be awesome. As a single guy you can plan these things with a minimum of fuzz. That's the one thing I miss about being single, logistics and planning was an order of magnitude easier.

I have to confess that I cringed when I saw the SMART acronym. My company has been trying to force feed that idea into all its employees. I remember jotting down my goals at work and pledging to follow SMART, only to quickly forget what it meant. I don't deny that it's a fantastic idea, and that you can follow it to achieve great results, but because I thought it originated from a corporate environment I strived to tune it out. I wonder what else I've tuned out that is also useful....

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Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »


Lol, yeah, the smart acronym I suppose is not to popular.

How about, 'the strategies and skills we develop in our ERE accumulation phase that help us to materialize a previous vague notion into a concrete reality?' ;)

I.E turning "I want to retire!" into "I am going to be projected to be retired by year XXXX with a SWR of XX? given that my expenses are $XX,XXX with a savings rate of XX%"

I want to apply the same logic/skills to "I want to travel!"

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#044 10/04/2013 Controlled Experiments

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

FYI, I am copying and pasting this pretty much verbatim from the other thread, just to give some context for my previous journal entry.

#044 10/05/2013 Controlled Experiments

I think I could have done a much better job trying to tie my points together in post #043, especially in regards to Diane Nyad and rules. I won't try and connect her story into the point I was trying to make anymore since that issue is so nuanced and complex, especially given all the info in their forum thread.

So for my dreams, and the things (I) might call the 'fluffy' stuff in (my) life, because (I) don't spend much time defining them or spend any real effort in chasing them (except for token acknowledgement), I am then willing to allow any compromise or facsimile of effort and pass it off as the dream. This is what I referred to as "half assed".

My brain wants to reward myself to say "mission accomplished" and it will do whatever it can do bring the two together, ie cognitive dissonance.

If I always wanted to live a life of travel, and I end up only going for a 2 week long trip and never really do it again or I travel and end up on a 3 month long hedonistic booze fest (fun! ;)), I can still say to myself that I 'accomplished' my dream and go back into my comfort zone in order to protect my dream, ie. my ego.

I think that this is in our human nature, or at least in my nature, to remove friction, create comfort and tell myself always, mission accomplished. That I am a rockstar.

This is the part where my integrity is compromised and my target has moved, and I have validated myself via the cognitive dissonance. The scarier thing is, I won't even realize that this is what I have done, and would never realized I fell short of really pushing myself outside my comfort zone, or reaching a greater state of growth or potential.

The rules, the personal accountability by declaring it to myself beforehand now is a way to try and prevent the cognitive dissonance, or at least that's my theory.

Given that the ERE process kicks the ass of our lower level Maslow hierachy of needs (ie. physiological and safety) and does address some higher level needs as well (via web of skills and renaissance ideal) it doesn't necessarily ensure the higher level needs will ever be met. We can at this point, stop growing. (This is the fear and anxiety I have written about quite often in my past entries in my journal).

This is therefore the need for me to create some internal friction.

I don't see that just because friction is internal, that it is artificial. But then again I use the term friction probably more loosely and more connected to the pyschology defintion of motivation.

While things can certainly change in my life to excuse myself from not following/pursuing these things (ie. having kids, finding a greater pursuit for example), if all other things were equal, my original intention for the dream wasn't to travel two weeks or go on a hedonistic adventure (as fun as that may be ;p ) and pass that off as mission accomplished.

I don't see planning and goal setting (and it's related constructs previously know as a hated acronym which shall remain namless ;P ), as necessarily a killer of uncertainty, discovery or serendipity.

On one side of the scale, you have a very structured process driven approach which kills the elements of uncertainty, serendipty and discovery. This is what I think @jacob is criticising and I don't necessarily disagree with.

However, I don't believe my approach falls under this.

On the other side of the scale you have a very loose and dynamic approach which I see as trial and error, or a needle in a hay stack, or a moving target. Some people may thrive under this, in particular extremely spontaneous people, but not me, not an INTJ. And this is the part of scale that I have been indirectly criticising.

My thought/point is that somewhere in the middle, is what I most relate to as a controlled experiment.

I believe that there is a sweet spot where goals and planning (and rules) can be used to nuture uncertainty, serendipity and discovery, and that this sweet spot (at least for me being an INTJ and all) is far greater than the needle in a haystack approach of trial and error.

For example, for me, unspecific, immeasurable and open ended, ie a non-commitment to anything, is largely how I would have described my life in my 30s where it was mainly guided by society and hedonism, ie my life before commiting to minimalism, simplicity and ERE.

The 100 days of solitude is for me a controlled experiment. Some of it is guided based on previous thoughts and research on 'me' and the ideas of minimalism, simplicity, stoicism, antifragility, mastery and solitude.

I feel an almost instinctual yearning to test prolonged periods of solitude that I have never come close to experiencing before.

The research has never been given a true field test on the magnitude of 100 days of solitude.

The rules are a way of ensuring that the field test has some credibility.

In this controlled experiment, I see boundless opportunities of uncertaintly, serendipity and discovery much moreso than getting on a plane on a one way ticket in an unspecific, immeasurable and open ended and non-commited manner.

lol, but then again, I am an INTJ afterall.

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