A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Where are you and where are you going?
suomalainen
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by suomalainen » Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:48 pm

Great place to be. I found myself in a similar situation late last year. It didn't work out, but it was fun to just say "This is what I want." and to see if they could meet it. And who knows, maybe they'll come back at some point.

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave » Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:04 am

suomalainen wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:48 pm
I found myself in a similar situation late last year. It didn't work out ...
As I've thought about this overnight I'm pretty sure my experience will wind up mirroring yours. I think I'm still going to go through with it, but I'll be careful to couch it in a way that is respectful and not jerk-ish. One of the things that makes it difficult is that in the end I'll be doing exactly the same thing I've been doing all along, just shedding some recent additions to that which, while tolerable, are less in my wheelhouse than my longstanding role. So the only tangible benefit left to me in making the switch would be to benefit financially. Even though it is the reason we all show up there every day, it's considered poor form in the culture to throw it front-and-center.

I said above I'm not much of a negotiator, but I am good at diplomacy--we'll see if I'm good enough to pull it off without degrading relationships.

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Seppia
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by Seppia » Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:58 am

If I can make a recommendation, make sure to explain the thought process that led you to your specific request.
If there is a clear logic behind it, it will be easier for them to see it as a fair demand, even in the case they cannot match it.

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave » Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:12 pm

Seppia wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:58 am
If I can make a recommendation, make sure to explain the thought process that led you to your specific request
You may. That was exactly the approach I'd intended to take to make it clear a) it wasn't arrived at arbitrarily, and b) isn't very negotiable if I'm to act in my own best interest.

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave » Sat May 05, 2018 4:37 am

Abbreviated Q1 2018 Summary

I've finally got a few numbers for Q1 2018. For the quarter invested assets grew by $13,900 and net worth grew by $7,700. Growth in net worth over the 12 months ending 3/31/18 was bout $168,000. I was surprised to see positive numbers for the quarter. On the down side I have debt for the first time in many years (auto loan). The interest on the loan is 0.9% and last time I checked my money market was paying about 1.8% and my muni bonds about 2.5%. So far I've succumbed to the temptation to play the delta interest game. If Dave Ramsey is standing next to St Peter at the Big Gate I am screwed, I guess. I feel sort of icky about it, but will let it go for now. Of course now that I bought another vehicle, my old Mitsubishi is running perfectly. Even the light that illuminates the position indicator of the gear shift when the headlights are on has started working again (most of the time). So the new one sits in the garage 6 days out of 7. It wasn't the worst decision I've ever made, but not one of my better ones either.

Work has gone insane. The upside is that it comes with opportunity for a little overtime pay. I've got behind in my spending tallies, but even excluding the vehicle I spent a lot in March and April (funeral and deferred home/property maintenance). So I'm happy for the chance to offset some of that. And at some junctures of life work provides a useful distraction.

In a sense the surge in irregular spending frequency messes up my spending profile data, making it more difficult to convince myself of the robustness of my position. But it is a real life example of the vagaries of real life and an imprudent thing to ignore. If I make too much of it I'll start down the slippery slope to prepper-hood, though.

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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave » Sun May 13, 2018 4:46 am

April 2018 Summary
Spending in April was about $3,200. Invested assets increased by about $5,000 and net worth increased by about $7,500. My multiple is "down" to about 43.5X.

I've revised my spreadsheet to "test" my financial viability in the face of heavier spending. Basically, I increased expected annual spending up to $51,000 (pretax) which allows for up to $24,000 in medical-related spending each year with no compensating adjustment to lifestyle spending. That's not what I truly expect to happen, but I wanted to see if I could sustain it. The answer is "yes" so long as everything else is not too hostile.

I recently had a birthday which puts me within one year of the opening of my window. That plus the above exercise have convinced me it is probably time to revisit my future spending plan/estimate.

I am extremely busy at work. I essentially have two separate jobs and both are hopping. I expect a significant amount of overtime over the next 3 months, maybe longer. At this stage the O/T will probably have a nontrivial affect on retirement bene's from my employer along with allowing me to offset some of my recent spending binge.

Today is Mother's Day. Hallmark Holiday or not it is a somber day for my immediate family. I'm still not back to myself after Mom's passing. I'm even more introspective if that is possible. The inescapable place the introspection leads is a renewed commitment to living life as fully as I am able. I'm also a little more concerned with having positive impact on those around me than I usually am.

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Seppia
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by Seppia » Sun May 13, 2018 5:15 am

IlliniDave wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 4:46 am
The inescapable place the introspection leads is a renewed commitment to living life as fully as I am able. I'm also a little more concerned with having positive impact on those around me than I usually am.
It is incredible how even the worst possible events can have positive side effects.

Virtual hugs to you

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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave » Mon May 28, 2018 6:35 am

May 2018 Update

In the spirit of the subforum: where am I and where am I going?

I've loosed a lot of words talking about that, here and other places. Some of it is probably bull$hit. It was genuine and reflective of where I was at the time it was written, but I'm still a work-in-progress. Most of it, I hope, is just the series of necessary waypoints I had to pass through. One of these days I might go back through and read it all to see.

The last month has been extremely busy at work, a good thing at this juncture since it comes with the opportunity to work some overtime. I still fall into the trap of thinking of retirement as a math problem sometimes, and opportunities to juice the numbers are difficult to pass up. I've recently retooled iDaveSim to reflect both the highest sustained spending rate and most sluggish investment returns I can justify (barring some form of semi-apocalypse) and the numbers still seem to add up. I've settled on the end of calendar 2019 as a working exit date and at that time I should be looking at an average withdrawal rate under 2% even with the heavier spend rate. It would take a lot of pessimism to anticipate finances being the weak link.

I think the biggest challenge I have is that life at present isn't awful. It has an insidious okay-ness that makes it easy enough to imagine me waking up one day 10+ years down the road still doing the same thing: half-living in a bubble of comfortable. That's another sneaky thing because the boundaries have enough elasticity that you can push them and as long as you don't push too hard, they'll yield, giving the impression that it isn't really a prison. A perfect set up for someone who is maybe biased towards fooling himself.

So again I find myself going through a phase of wondering if I have the gumption to follow through. It's sort of comical to still entertain such thoughts, but here I am. One of the more difficult things for my dad these last weeks has been going through the house encountering clues to the plans my mom had made but couldn't finish. They are small things like recipes printed off the computer or seeds purchased for the backyard garden. It makes me wonder what I might leave undone in the end, what's okay to leave undone, and what's not. What would really be helpful would be to transpose that line of examination into the more immediate time frame, even into a daily rhythm.

This is a little premature since there are still four days left in the month, but since I'm here writing I might as well take a stab at summarizing the month. Spending projects to come in at about $2,900, a number that reflects that comfortable bubble. As of now invested assets are up ~$30,200 for the month and have crept back over the two-comma threshold. There are plenty of other numbers I dutifully maintain, but it's hard to figure out which ones are relevant here any more. Maybe none of them are.

Looking ahead to June I want to get back to being a little more aggressive about clamping a lid on spending. I've had a lot on my mind the last three months and I let go of much of my mindfulness of the present to make room for all of that. That might be okay all things considered, but one of the side effects was some slovenly stewardship of resources. An exercise for June is to take a moment every day and write down one thing I don't want to leave undone that day, then make sure it gets done.

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FBeyer
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by FBeyer » Mon May 28, 2018 6:55 am

IlliniDave wrote:
Mon May 28, 2018 6:35 am
May 2018 Update

... and at that time I should be looking at an average withdrawal rate under 2% even with the heavier spend rate...
I didn't feel ready the day I asked That Women out.
I didn't feel ready the day my daughter was born.
I didn't feel ready the day she started kindergarden.
I didn't feel ready the day I applied for Nanoscience at Copenhagen U.
I didn't feel ready the day I defended my Master's thesis.
I didn't feel ready the day I started my Ph.D.
I didn't feel ready when I bought my first stocks.

And yet somehow I'm still alive and feeling good.

You're fooling yourself. You're never going to feel ready. What you need is not more money, but less fear of the future.
Why don't you sit with your fear for a minute and get familiar with it. And I'm serious. Scoop it up by the handful and feel the terror tingling down your spine until you've become accustomed to it. Then move. the. fuck. on!

Please :lol:



Here Lies IlliniDave.
His Life Wasn't Completely Awful(TM)

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave » Mon May 28, 2018 8:16 am

FBeyer wrote:
Mon May 28, 2018 6:55 am
Here Lies IlliniDave.
His Life Wasn't Completely Awful(TM)
:lol:

Greed, more than fear is driving the train right now. I'm on the steep slope of my accumulation curve wrt retirement bene's.

But yeah, in the end courage is what I'll need to break out.

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave » Sat Jun 02, 2018 10:30 am

Lately I've found myself in search of purpose. Ever since reading How to Retire Wild, Happy, and Free several years back I've kept the topic simmering on the back burner. I suppose I am a product of my times, and coming to age for the most part in the late 1970s and early 1980s I very easily fell into a conventional life roadmap: learn -> work -> accumulate with a parallel path mostly during the work segment of "family". I tend to consider that the "physical growth" phase of my journey. I did not really choose/devise it in the active sense, it was an existing template we were encouraged to follow, and all I did was not reject it.

Now I find it time to contemplate the next phase which for lack of a better term I've labeled the "spiritual fulfillment" phase. It's main differentiating characteristic is that working for financial motive will be absent. In it's place will be leisure. Leisure can be a loaded term. I mean it in the sense of doing things for enjoyment/satisfaction rather than primarily for financial gain, not in the sense of lounging on a beach or in front of a TV in endless vacation mode. I tend to think the best way to avoid the latter is to have a clearly defined purpose (or series of purposes) that keep me moving in a direction. I should be able to use the same framework (learn -> work -> accumulate) with just a recasting of what is accumulated. I don't have a sense of what that should be right now.

I recently listened to a fraction of a talk/interview Jordan Peterson gave where he mentioned the idea that what we pay attention to is what is most real. I'm not 100% sure what he meant but in context he seemed to be referring to the fact that we have to dumb down our perceptions so that we don't overload our brains with more information than they can handle. So the idea is that what we pay attention to is what we "see" most accurately. He then suggested that it might be possible to begin to ascertain one's "true purpose", or at least a deeper purpose, in the backdrop of a more mundane life trajectory (typically keeping oneself and ones family warm, fed, clothed, etc.), by taking heed of those things that jump up out of the blue as it were and grab our attention.

He didn't delve into that in great detail, but what he said did jump up and grab my attention. The sense I got was sort of like this. If I was walking on a trail somewhere thinking my normal thoughts and rounded a bend where ahead was a rabbit on one one side of the trail and directly across from it was a bear, I'd drop my thoughts, see the bear, and probably never notice the rabbit, being that I have an ongoing purpose of staying alive and as regards that purpose the bear is far more immediately important than my thoughts or the rabbit, and is what my mind will perceive with the most accuracy. Moving beyond the reptile brain most people have a rhythm in life where they are doing their basic living with an underlying purpose of caring for themselves, their family, and maybe friends and community, according to their value structure. That's certainly been the case for me, and even in the leisure phase those purposes will still be there as a backdrop.

So when it comes to trying to divine a capital-P Purpose the suggestion seems to be those things (I'm thinking mainly ideas/insights) not related to mundane purpose that our subconscious allows to rise into the forefront of our perception might be considered clues where to look for a deeper purpose. Rather than just random firings/misfirings of synapses they are things our subconscious deems important enough to warrant time on the main stage--a process similar to the bear being thrust forward to monopolize perception/attention but in a less primal context. That's not terribly different than the bastardized Zen M.O. I've been cultivating where you deliberately work to set aside the cacophony inherent to day-by-day purpose to see what's left beneath it, though in a sense it is a more passive approach in that you wait for what your subconscious throws up at you rather than deliberately clearing the clutter and observing what remains.

Another way that could be expressed, maybe, is just the following of one's muse. And if that's what it winds up turning into for me that will be fine, I suppose. But a part of me wants a little more structure to it than the randomness potentially implied by muse-following. Metaphorically I'd like it to be an ascending path, rather than a simple wandering.

At the end of this entry I've expended a lot of words but really haven't gained much. But for a time I'll try to pay meta-attention to where my ongoing attention is directed and see if a pattern emerges. I hope for a fluid future, but perhaps having something to strive for guiding my initial leisure might get me on the path to something deeper and ultimately more fulfilling than setting off at random. Now I just have to find that first something and set it as a waypoint.

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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by jennypenny » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:30 pm

Living deliberately is a purpose, no?

I liked Peterson's 12 Rules for Life. I also liked his last conversation with Joe Rogan and his appearance on EconTalk. One thing I like about Peterson is he recommends only looking 3-5 years out. Good advice for those of us who are planning-obsessed and try to run every aspect of our lives through a firecalc-type simulation.

IlliniDave
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave » Sun Jun 03, 2018 7:22 am

jennypenny wrote:
Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:30 pm
Living deliberately is a purpose, no?

I liked Peterson's 12 Rules for Life. I also liked his last conversation with Joe Rogan and his appearance on EconTalk. One thing I like about Peterson is he recommends only looking 3-5 years out. Good advice for those of us who are planning-obsessed and try to run every aspect of our lives through a firecalc-type simulation.
Living deliberately could be a purpose, and at one time not long ago I saw it that way. To me though, as I've thought about it more, living deliberately (mindfully is the term I usually use) is akin to the idea of tending the process. By that I mean, looking at it a bit shallowly, say for those of us who have FI as a goal, we focus on the incremental decisions and actions: save and invest a little money every month, as much as possible approach spending decisions consciously and conscientiously, emphasize long-term decisions over short, etc. IOW, I see it not only as a purpose, but as a tool.

I've not read 12 Rules for Life yet but I think subconsciously/implicitly the idea of restricting how far forward I try to foresee is inherent to my prior post. Some of that is coming to grips with mortality: odds are my horizon is 30 years, give or take a handful, so there are fewer future iterations in the calculations to map out. Part of it is probably the habituation I've undergone in my profession. It's a bit of a caricature, but give an engineer a tool and he doesn't want to sit and navel-gaze with it, he wants to go make something with it. Much of my journey over the past several years has been one of reining in that tendency. It's fine in the office but when it seeps into life in the wide scale it fosters too much of a sense of some lack in the present (the thing that is yet unbuilt) with attendant negative emotions. So it is important to me to be better anchored in the present, both for the reasons I've discovered/mentioned over the few years of this journal, and because I believe it is the perspective from which gratitude can be tapped--appreciating what you have (present) rather than focusing on what you've lost (past) or what you're yet to acquire (future). Typically people see gratitude as a polite social response/reaction to things, sometimes as a virtue. I increasingly see it as a tool/weapon.

But as I've changed over the last few years (whether I've grown or regressed is debatable) I see more room to have a direction beyond simply being mindful. That's not to say I want to have a plan and schedule for the rest of my life. It's more like having some sort of loose trajectory which, approached mindfully, will give my subconscious opportunity to seize things and elevate them. When good ones show up, if I pay attention to them, I can reset the trajectory and go from there. 3-5 years intuitively seems like the right sort of timescale for such things. If Peterson is full of baloney in his suggestion I'm really out nothing provided I maintain a mindful and grateful approach.

Peterson and I are about the same age and probably have roughly similar backgrounds, which is why I readily relate to some of the things he says, I believe. One that's stuck with me in the week I've listened to his ideas is that our actions will tilt the world around us a little towards the good, or a little towards the bad. It's far from a new or original idea on his part, but hearing it in the context in which he emphasizes it caused it to stand out to me. I suppose it takes an amount of faith to buy into that idea, maybe even naivete, but lacking proof to the contrary I'd rather my sum total show up on the positive side of the ledger in the end. And it is tough to admit, but part of it is a reinvigoration of my youthful rebelliousness. Being squarely in the center of the cross hairs of a surging, caustic, even potentially violent, political movement makes tilting the game board to the good a little more urgent and a little more biased towards self-interest.

Sorry for the wordy deluge, but I guess since it's my journal topic it's not too much of a stretch to anticipate an amount of tolerance. :D

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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave » Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:54 am

The Purpose of Safety Margin is to Render the Forecast Unnecessary

I took that from the "Psychology of Money" blog linked in another thread. I get grief for being (arguably) over-cautious in my planning. I feel bad about it because I think it sometimes threatens the plans of others, a conclusion I draw from the occasional angry-sounding reactions I get (not so much here as in other settings). The underlying accusation is that I'll cause people to give up too many years of their life to work and drudgery in order to achieve low "SWRs" and/or commit the unspeakable folly of dying with a lot of money. All I can say to that is I'm doing what I want and am happy to do. I share what I do or think simply to offer a perspective, not to encourage people to follow my lead. My situation and theirs are different. My temperament and theirs are different. I admire people who will take the leap of faith sooner rather than later. That I won't leap until I'm good and ready is not a commentary on what others do or don't do. I've considered withdrawing from all such discussions but that seems like a petty response. Despite the occasional critic I think most people who take note of what I say are competent enough to think things through for themselves. With that said, here I go again ...

A few years back I was big on running Monte Carlo analyses, but after enough of them and enough parametric analysis with them I wasn't learning anything new. So I reverted to a simpler scheme where I just look at a small number of discrete scenarios that lay out a nominal course based on an observation that if the median result trends upward then Monte Carlo-predicted odds of shortfall are manageably low. My baseline assumptions are conservative, but not outright pessimistic. I use a 2.5% real return estimate for a generic 60/40 portfolio, assume that SS will be 77% of what is "promised", a similar figure for the retirement annuity I'll get from my employer, and average spending that is 38% above my historic average. Right now all that combines to give me along-term average withdrawal rate of about 1% (there are other assumptions about savings rates and stash growth in the interim that contribute to that). That's a pretty good starting point--it gives me approximately median income after-tax funding with a fairly light burden on the stash.

An advantage to my situation is that once I start SS the combination of it and the retirement annuity cover the anticipated spending and the only spending I'll do out of the stash is paying the taxes on RMDs*. So it's really only a window of about the first 15 years where I'll be spending out of the stash for basic living for the assumed profile.

Even a cautious person should feel pretty good about that.

Sometimes I toggle the spending and retirement annuity/SS knobs to reflect historic average spending and payments equal to the full amount of what is shown as the currently estimated benefit, respectively. Doing one or the other gives an anticipated average withdrawal rate of under 0.5%. Doing both gives an anticipated average withdrawal rate of 0.03%. All the money I would need to withdraw from the stash would sum up equal to 0.7% of the initial value of the stash. In other words, I'd essentially be financially independent ... from the stash!**

Once I got there I started to think, "What would it take to make the converse true?" The converse being what would it take to be completely independent of the external income sources. The short, first-order answer to that is 3-7 more years working. That's a bridge too far so double redundancy, or whatever you'd call it where I could live the anticipated lifestyle with either/or reliance on the resource types, is out of the question.

I'm really attracted to the idea of 0% WR though. The biggest intellectual insight I came up with in the realm of retirement planning is that a withdrawal rate has both a numerator and a denominator. Yes, it's basic arithmetic but it's very easy to lose sight and focus almost exclusively on the denominator. And 0% is only achievable using the numerator.

I find myself in the same position where I started this journal a few years back: motivated to look at ways to tighten up my money habits. I probably won't change my plan so I'll continue to show a ~1% WR as my official estimate***, but in the background I'll continue to reassess things and take it as a challenge. So for a while I'm going to bring the focus of what I record here back to spending and resource conservation.

Note that I'm not suggesting anyone else try to imitate any of this. I'm just an odd fellow in a one of an infinite number of possible current situations playing around with the possibilities.

*Assumes modest inflation and relatively normal life expectancy
**That's a bit of an oversimplification, there are bevies of black swans that could blow it up.
***Actually, ~1.6% is the number I'll likely show. My spreadsheet spits out an anticipated average withdrawal rate through age 70 (~1.6%) and through age 80 (~1%), for the nominal assumptions, and the former is the one I've generally emphasized.

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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by SavingWithBabies » Sun Jun 10, 2018 8:56 pm

I'm glad you don't get much pushback here for pointing out the risk some take. When I lowered my goal, you chimed in and I did take it to heart. I didn't raise my goal but I have been thinking about it. I wrote more about that in my journal after reading your post here. I appreciate your chiming in with your take on things.

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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by wolf » Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:20 am

Hi IlliniDave. I really enjoy reading your journal posts. You express so many thoughts with many aspects and therefore your posts are very insightful. Thank you for that! Although I rarely comment your posts, I gotta say that I am a follower of your journey.

I got a question about your SWR calculation. Do you include your real estate value? If you already wrote about it, I am sorry. I really have to read your journal from the beginning. That will fill an evening. I start today 😀

Wish you the best for the upcoming months! Take care!

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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave » Mon Jun 11, 2018 6:47 pm

wolf wrote:
Mon Jun 11, 2018 11:20 am
I got a question about your SWR calculation. Do you include your real estate value? If you already wrote about it, I am sorry. I really have to read your journal from the beginning. That will fill an evening. I start today 😀
Thanks, wolf. I'm glad you find this now rather longish thread worthwhile.

The short answer to your question is, no, I do not include real estate in withdrawal rate calculations, or anything really except computing an estimate for net worth. Only a very small fraction is income-producing so for the most part I consider real estate assets but not investments.

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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by IlliniDave » Sat Jun 16, 2018 9:43 am

Right Now isn't Good Enough

Facts and science and math are fun--I make my living on their coattails. But stories are the most deeply innate form of human understanding, expression, and communication, I believe. I've sat in countless meetings where an enthusiastic engineer or scientist presented a technical finding/answer and couldn't help telling the tale of why the answer was sought and how they went about overcoming challenges while getting it. Clearly the story of the answer is almost as important as the answer to them. Managers (often the less effective ones) sometimes force the story out through rigidly dictating a Background/Discussion/Conclusion/Path Forward format. That is understandable to a degree. "Facts" often need context to be meaningful. For many years I worked under a VP (a really good one) who frequently interrupted a rambling storyteller with things like, "So, is that a 'Yes'?" I don't like meetings and tend to get impatient when it's clear they grow longer than the amount of information exchanged requires, so once I answered a yes/no question from this VP with a simple "Yes". Silence fell over the room until finally the VP chuckled and said, "Okay, care to elaborate on that, iDave." Even he wanted the story in the end. What we call objective truth is, for us, not totally distinct from stories.

I read something once by a guy named Jerry Cleaver who presented a bare bones story template. His emphasis was applying it to dramatic fiction. To paraphrase, you start with a need/desire and an obstacle to fulfilling/achieving it. You then act to overcome the obstacle. If you fail to overcome the obstacle you adapt and act again to overcome it (or give up). If you overcome the obstacle and achieve the goal (or give up) you move on to the next need/desire. Most "stories" are pretty uninteresting (I was hungry and didn't have any food in the house so I drove to the deli down the street and bought a sandwich then ate it). Others can be quite compelling. As the need/desire increases in intensity while the obstacle becomes increasing formidable the story gets "better". That's the standard recipe for good fiction but it's part of life too. Contrast the trip to the deli with the many stories of 19-year-old Midwestern kids who received draft notices in early 1942.

Life is basically a series of these stories. Most lean towards the pedestrian. Some are standalone, others weave together into larger stories. I suppose on some level they all combine to a single life story.

It's easy to see why sharing stories is a good evolutionary strategy. They are templates for problem solving. Knowing how others successfully overcame a threat, or failed for that matter, more often than not would give you at least a slight edge should you face the same threat in the future, or give you ideas to avoid it altogether. By telling your stories you pass along some of what you've learned and make a contribution. Since we can think abstractly we can extract the problem solving process from the stories and apply it to unrelated situations. I'd argue the scientific method is one such story abstraction. We can also abstract successful principles from the grit of real stories. None of this is new--teaching stories (e.g., fables) have been crafted/collected for centuries, not to mention the act of keeping history itself.

And They Lived Happily Ever After

I sense that (at least for myself) there's more to it. Archetypal stories often end just before "and they lived happily ever after." I often view retirement as "and I lived happily ever after". My shameless appropriation of certain items of Zen philosophy is part of that. I desire a mindful and tranquil existence with the attraction being a fuller sense of living each moment. It sounds lovely after several decades of turning the crank and watching sausage fall out of the grinder, more than half of which is being ground for some unspecific day in the future.

I'm starting to realize there is part of me that is bucking that vision in favor of finding some sort of larger meaning or purpose. I've written about that recently. It's the kind of seeds that get planted when you spend the final nine days next to the hospice bed of someone meaningful to you. I'm considering the possibility that story is deeper than I previously thought, going beyond being an effective way of communicating and preserving experience/wisdom after the fact--that there is some deep programming in humans to be stories. That part of the reason for living is to contribute story to our social structure and its consciousness, and it's somewhat compulsive. In other words, stopping at "and I lived happily ever after" might not yield the fuller sense of being alive I am after. I've always intellectually understood why many of my soon-to-be peers fervently pursue travel, or take on other new challenges that often seem like only slight variants of the one just completed, rather than "retirement". Now I have a more visceral "gut" kinship with those outlooks.

Retirement is in some sense the removal of insufficient money as an obstacle, so that subplot will be resolved. My new way of viewing the upcoming Phase III of my life is, "What story will it be?" I've already got some elements in place to get me started. I want a mindful, contemplative, and tranquil life. The obstacle is an innate compulsion to exist in a story of at least some minimum value. It in turn probably means finding yet another "obstacle" to direct my actions towards overcoming, though not necessarily. It certainly doesn't have the makings of a compelling story, but it keeps me living with some purpose, albeit potentially one that's more artifice than genuine.

So for all this meandering of words I'm in a position that boils down to a question I formulated years ago: how can I maintain some sort of meaning/purpose to life after tapping out of the the fray in favor of life with a good dose of (hopefully happy) solitude. Perhaps viewing it from the perspective of story will energize my creativity to a higher degree. For the last few years it was something I knew I would have to figure out eventually because it was important, but at the time it wasn't urgent. As I get nearer the jumping off point that is changing. It's an age-old thing, but maybe seeking a purpose along the path I've chosen is enough of a purpose. That seems like a cop out though.

It's ironic maybe, but I feel like I should want more.

suomalainen
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by suomalainen » Sat Jun 16, 2018 11:10 pm

IlliniDave wrote:
Sat Jun 16, 2018 9:43 am
So for all this meandering of words I'm in a position that boils down to a question I formulated years ago: how can I maintain some sort of meaning/purpose to life after tapping out of the the fray in favor of life with a good dose of (hopefully happy) solitude. Perhaps viewing it from the perspective of story will energize my creativity to a higher degree. For the last few years it was something I knew I would have to figure out eventually because it was important, but at the time it wasn't urgent. As I get nearer the jumping off point that is changing. It's an age-old thing, but maybe seeking a purpose along the path I've chosen is enough of a purpose. That seems like a cop out though.

It's ironic maybe, but I feel like I should want more.
"Maintaining" meaning/purpose presupposes that the "fray" offers/offered you some meaning/purpose. As Bill Waterson said in his graduation speech,
To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble.
You have always written your own story. It's just most of the time, it sounds like you've adopted the story line from another's perspective (as is the case for most people, most of the time, methinks). Best of luck as you break free from that tether and...view the story you're writing free from the spectacles imposed by culture.

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Seppia
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Re: A Journey of Mindfulness--the Remaking of Life in Midstream.

Post by Seppia » Sat Jun 16, 2018 11:30 pm

What a great post thanks Dave.
My two cents: you seem like a resourceful, smart guy. It may take some time to adjust to a different "life" but you will figure it out once you're there.

One of the most distinctive traits of humans is our adaptability. We adjust to about everything.
You'll be an educated, healthy man with solid financial resources and many tools. You'll be ok

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