Tyler9000's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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Tyler9000
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by Tyler9000 » Fri May 26, 2017 2:34 pm

Bonding Toxicity

Like many working professionals, I once had a pretty significant caffeine addiction. For years my delivery system of choice was diet soda, although coffee eventually took over as the primary vice. Waiting in line for the morning fix behind scores of similarly caffeinated compatriots was not simply a habit but was actually a coherent culture resulting from a common bond. You can take away our dignity, but don’t touch our caffeine! How else will we avoid headaches and have the energy to continue in our daily rat race? I think in some situations caffeine dependency and the popular social construct around it is less about the immediate energy fix and more about full submission to the stresses of professional life.

I never really kicked that caffeine habit until I also kicked the career habit, and even then it took a minor medical issue to force my hand. But now that my system has been recalibrated, the degree to which I notice the effects of caffeine on my body is pretty jarring. Did I always shake like that? And how the hell did I confuse the resulting rush far more resembling anxiety than clarity with productive rational thought? Today as I sip a homemade decaf on a lazy Friday morning, it all feels like a different world.

The other day I got an invite to a happy hour with a bunch of former coworkers, and I was happy to drop in and see how everyone was doing. It’s a good company with even better people, and I always enjoy staying in touch. But the one thing I didn’t expect from the occasion was how another addiction would be so pervasive among my friends to the point of sucker-punching me in the gut without warning. No it wasn’t caffeine, but an equally toxic combination of careerism and victimhood that serves as the primary bonding agent in so many companies today – work talk.

I know it well as I was deep in its throws for years, but only now can I really appreciate just how irrational and myopic so much work talk sounds to an outsider. From complaints about projects, bosses, and schedules to worries about competition and career growth, the degree that coworkers happily reinforce fears and stresses with a smile and a pat on the back but no real actionable advice is actually kinda remarkable to watch when you are not also part of the loop. I understand that venting against a common enemy can be a bonding activity that doesn’t automatically call for a “fix”, but the experience made me wonder how much stress is actually self-inflicted among well-meaning friends. Like chugging an energy drink after being caffeine-free for months, diving in head-first into work talk after being happily sober for a while was a real system-killer and noticeably drained me afterwards.

I never really knew just how harmful some of my motivators were until I quit them cold-turkey, and with the benefit of clear mind I don’t want to go back. That said, I still enjoy a nice cup of coffee and it’s not like I plan to plug my ears every time there's a work conversation. It’s more about avoiding the quick fix of bonding toxicity and leading an empowered life by example. Share help, not vices.

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Tyler9000
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by Tyler9000 » Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:38 pm

The Art Of Goal Weaving

I’ve always known that I have an obsessive personality. No, not in the “you’re gonna need a restraining order” sense but more in the way that I will chase down every possible angle to optimize a design solution. The focused chaos in my head is hard to slow down once it gets going.

It’s really difficult to describe how that mental process works, as when in the creative zone my thoughts are never serial and there’s no way I could map even after the fact how I draw connections between dozens of data points at once. Of course that occasionally drives process-oriented people around me a little crazy, but over time they’ve learned to trust my instincts, avoid confusing mental processing time with lack of productivity, and also to not pile more than one design task on me at a time. The space to gather seemingly unrelated information and allow the thousand independent spiders in my head to weave something beautiful is important to how I think. And I suspect that mentality is what made ERE really click for me personally – I’m naturally programmed for a web of goals.

That obsessiveness also occasionally has its downsides, though. As good as I am at building mental models and solving complex systems, I have to be especially careful about focusing too hard on the wrong target. My mantra is to always challenge assumptions, lest I eventually discover that my perfect design solved the wrong problem or simply missed the point entirely. I’m usually pretty good about that, but sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know. So every incomplete solution is also a learning process.

And I’ve learned a lot.

After optimizing savings to retire nearly three years ago and optimizing spending to maintain the freedom to stay that way, I think I’ve finally figured out that maybe I solved the wrong problem. Or perhaps more accurately, only part of the problem. Now that DW and I have a good feel for a financially independent life we’re starting to better understand the activities which offer the highest personal reward, and while our financial system is extremely robust our overall life ecosystem still feels incomplete. Long story short – retirement in suburbia is easy but is not necessarily the lifestyle we enjoy.

To address that, we have been talking a lot lately about selling the house and renting a place downtown where lots of activities are within walking distance. That would definitely stretch our finances a bit, although I'm confident we can pull it off if we put our minds to it. But life has a way of presenting opportunities at just the right time if you’re paying attention, and recently my old employer called to see if I was available to help again on a project. After thinking about how it might reinforce several personal goals at once, I decided to put a chess piece back on the board and propose a new part time work arrangement that benefits us both. And what do you know – they accepted.

While there’s no rush, we’re considering using that extra income to support our downtown rental goal and even expand the desirable locations we can afford while simultaneously reducing our withdrawal rate to near zero. That puts us in a really great financial position, although it could look a little odd to outsiders. Most people who don’t know our background will probably see us as living beyond our means with a lifestyle not supported by our work income. And I imagine some prospective early retirees reading this journal might see us as splurging on a luxury while taking on unnecessary work without understanding that the decision is about so much more than income and expenses.

This particular work arrangement offers some nice non-financial perks to supplement our existing FIRE-level resources and strengthen the overall system. The projects are mentally stimulating while the part time arrangement naturally prevents me from being loaded with the truly time consuming efforts. And the side perks like full company benefits, group beer-o-clock video game meetings, access to a workshop for personal projects, and genuine friendships all make my web of goals feel all the more interesting and well-designed. What I gain from making myself perpetually available three days a week is on balance a lot more than I’m giving up, and to the extent that it may also reintroduce a few pain points I’ve decided to constructively fix them as I go rather than take the easy way out.

It’s actually kinda strange to see my mindset changing from free time and retirement cash flows to sustainable happiness where work plays a role and money is more of an afterthought, but I think that’s a sign I’m doing something right. I’m sure I’ll adjust again in the future but that’s the entire point – the web of goals is neither linear nor stagnant. All that matters is today, and the spiders in my head seem a lot happier and content to enjoy the new pattern in the afternoon sun.

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BRUTE
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by BRUTE » Sun Jul 30, 2017 3:20 pm

brute has long wondered what an end game could look like for him. most retirees, early or not, seem to figure out pretty quickly that doing nothing is boring to the point of being impossible to keep up. yet going back to 9-5 seems unfitting, at least in the long term.

some kind of "interesting part of the job only", part-time, flexible location/contracting gig seems like a good fit. brute is curious to hear how Tyler9000 will fare on his new old endeavor.

and suburbia only ever seems to work for humans that are too busy working to actually spend time in suburbia.

[edit]

brute thinks that various life-hacking plans could be put on a scale. on the one end is fat fire, or sucking it up until enough capital is acculumated to drive Lamborghinis and drink margeritas for the rest of the remaining life span, and then doing what humans are passionate about. on the other end is finding a job humans are passionate about, but not necessarily saving any money. ERE is somewhere in between, by aligning the web of goals to enable lean fire while also building up non-work ways to fill up life. the two extremes seem to have the same goal (=maximizing time spent on doing things humans love), but take different paths. the first one takes a very non-linear path (=acquiring capital doing something different until FI, then switching to full-time doing loved things), the second one a very linear path (=finding a (possibly not well-paying) job that enables doing what's loved).

it seems that many creative/professional humans actually quite enjoy parts of their work, and continue even after they wouldn't necessarily have to work for money any longer. brute thinks he's somewhat in that camp. in a way, one of brute's passions became his job, and he will probably enjoy it as a hobby even if/when he has achieved FI.

for these types of individuals, keeping at least one leg in the work/career area seems a pretty good match. it can be hard to find the same level of achievement, mastery, and creativity in a completely different domain after decades of honing and investing in a skill. brute will have to figure out where he will fall on this scale of linearity towards doing loved things.

halfmoon
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by halfmoon » Sun Jul 30, 2017 3:46 pm

Tyler9000 wrote:
Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:38 pm
All that matters is today, and the spiders in my head seem a lot happier and content to enjoy the new pattern in the afternoon sun.
Very well expressed.

Also: everything brute said makes sense. Really helps to have it laid out this way.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by classical_Liberal » Sun Jul 30, 2017 10:25 pm

Achedotes are not scientific, but they are powerful.

I've spent a good deal of time reading journals, taking time to communicate with many folks who have achieved "FI" in the ERE/FIRE sense. I learn best from communicating with others and then synthesizing models based on their achievements (unlike Tyler9000 I do not invent new wheels, rather am good at modifying the existing spokes), so this has been crucial in my transition towards ERE. A very common theme, even stronger for those who do not have young children, is a return to some form of paid employment or self employment after achieving FI/FU and taking some time off.

This trend is so prevalent in our communities I now consider it an absolute part of my "plan", although it's not really a plan in the sense I know who, what, when, where, or how. Simply that It'll happen, the "why" isn't too relevant (although I have many theories). I truly believe none of us should overwork too long in any profession/job that ceases to bring us pleasure once even modicum of FU money is achieved. For the normal consumer public this information/advice could be very dangerous, but for those of us on an ERE path, I think it is insight that will save time and hardship.

Good luck on the new, new, (new?) arrangement Tyler9000! I hope it brings you joy!

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FBeyer
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by FBeyer » Mon Jul 31, 2017 12:06 am

Tyler9000 wrote:
Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:38 pm
The Art Of Goal Weaving
...And I imagine some prospective early retirees reading this journal might see us as...
The renaissance man knows not the difference between work and leisure.

All I'm reading is that you're learning about yourself and you're finding net-benefit solutions to what you learn. I always get a bit miffed when people equate FI with unemployed. I have no idea why economic freedom must equal never accepting pay for something you have voluntarily chosen to do.


I'm very happy for you. It sounds very much like the exact kind of gig I'd like to set up.

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Tyler9000
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by Tyler9000 » Mon Jul 31, 2017 10:09 pm

BRUTE wrote:
Sun Jul 30, 2017 3:20 pm
and suburbia only ever seems to work for humans that are too busy working to actually spend time in suburbia.
I read that line to my wife and she got a big kick out of it. So true. It's interesting how your perception changes once the place you call home changes from retreat to headquarters.

And I definitely appreciate the supportive words from everyone. It's funny how easy it is to get so absolute about FIRE and in the process lose track of what actually makes you happy. I don't pretend to have it all figured out or anything, but I've definitely learned the importance of cutting yourself some slack and charting your own path. Don't be so married to work that you can't quit, and don't be so married to FI that you can't work. Just find the right balance and be yourself.

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BRUTE
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by BRUTE » Mon Jul 31, 2017 11:39 pm

brute scores with Tyler9000's wife. zing!

slowtraveler
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by slowtraveler » Mon Jul 31, 2017 11:48 pm

Inspiring journal. Read the whole thing and I'm happy I did.

I'm noticing my own walls of "never work again once ERE" melting away. I'll definitely take my sabbatical but it's refreshing to see work take on an enlivening rather than a trapping energy. It's rare these days.

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Tyler9000
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by Tyler9000 » Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:51 pm

Sticks and Carrots

I still have a vivid memory of my dad’s 40th birthday. My mom made a big deal out of decorating the house, and we even put up an “over the hill” banner on the garage door for him to discover when he got home from work. But lost in the general birthday excitement for a kid my age was any perception of whether my dad actually enjoyed all of the public attention. Well, I recently celebrated my 40th birthday and if his was anything like mine there were probably some mixed emotions involved.

The week started with a sense of life satisfaction that you generally don’t hear about at 40. While most people are hitting their mid-life crisis full speed at that age, I was just settling into my latest work/life arrangement with a general feeling of happiness and balance. Between appreciating just how blessed we are these days, DW and I decided to have a little flexible-weekday fun and go on a short hike on a local park trail.

August in Texas can get insanely hot, so we were smart about it and hit the trail in the morning to be done before noon like we’ve done before. We had a great time. After heading home for lunch, I started to feel a little sick. Fast forward a few hours and I was lying on the bathroom floor with paramedics hovering over me making sure I was still conscious and coherent. Long story short, I had a pretty severe case of heat exhaustion and while I was ultimately fine it was the worst I have ever felt. Needless to say, while I still don’t feel my age mentally the event was the stick that beat the physical reality into me. I’m not an invulnerable kid anymore, and lying on the floor miserable and helpless while strangers make sure you aren’t dying from a morning walk is a pretty effective wake-up call. Welcome to 40!

The birthday itself was low-key, as perhaps because of my little medical adventure I wasn’t in the mood to be showered with attention. I drove up to have lunch with family and play a few arcade games with my brothers, and armed with a directive to have no embarrassing public shows of birthday affection I had a really good time. I also specifically said no gifts were necessary, and was happy to see the family embrace that and simply enjoy the time together.

But that’s not to say I didn’t have a gift on the mind. While getting into the habit of commuting again, I realized I might finally want to upgrade my car to one I’ve been eyeing for a while now. I admit that dropping two Jacobs on a brand new unneeded vehicle upgrade is just about the least ERE thing I can think of, but with the new sustainable work situation (that easily covers our low expenses) combined with our rock solid financial position (FI-level investments that can also cover all expenses if needed) I’ve found my mindset finally shifting from one of scarcity to one of abundance. When your biggest goals are no longer measured in financial metrics your priorities change. It’s not like I’m suddenly a frivolous spender by any stretch of the imagination, but occasionally springing for a well-considered “happy” purchase now feels like progress rather than a setback.

The car is a carrot for years of responsible living, and after many weeks of internal debate I ultimately decided to take a bite. No regrets – it makes me smile every time I hop in, is actually a bit more practical than my previous car, and is a welcome addition to my personal life system. And when the bank account quickly recovered simply from part-time work and passive investment income, it finally sunk in that all of that internal debate was healthy but unnecessary. Robust systems enable new flexibility, and ours is in a good place.

From lying barely conscious on the cool tile floor to gleefully cruising the hill country on a sunny Monday afternoon, turning 40 has been quite the adventure. I'm not sure I can handle this level of activity every year, but the things I've learned have certainly brought an extra bit of clarity to my life outlook. Whether the motivator is positive or negative, you learn something new every day.
Last edited by Tyler9000 on Mon Oct 30, 2017 1:13 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Seppia
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by Seppia » Sun Oct 29, 2017 3:57 am

Congrats and happy birthday!
Always great reading you, be it your site or your diary.
You left out the most important information though: what car is it?
:)

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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by wolf » Sun Oct 29, 2017 5:25 am

Thank you Tyler9000 for your inspirational journal. I have read it from the very beginning and just finished it now. I made some notes and think about them. I am turning 35 this year. So I am quite interested in your thoughts of an 40 yo.

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Tyler9000
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by Tyler9000 » Sun Oct 29, 2017 11:27 am

Seppia wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 3:57 am
You left out the most important information though: what car is it?
:D

I got a gray VW GTI Sport. If you're ever at a point where you're looking for a car that is not only practical but also high quality and super fun to drive, I definitely recommend taking one for a test drive.

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Seppia
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by Seppia » Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:15 pm

My company car is a Quattro Audi A3 with turbo Diesel engine and 190hp, so basically the exact same car :)

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jennypenny
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by jennypenny » Sun Oct 29, 2017 6:43 pm

I'm glad you're ok!

Forty is so much fun. Wait until you start getting the 'at your age ...' comments when you have a medical issue. ;)

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Eureka
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by Eureka » Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:41 am

Scary to read about your heat exhaustion adventure. Glad you had access to the right medical assistance and that everything went so well with your recovery.

Any meassures you now take to prevent such things from happening again?

ffj
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by ffj » Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:49 am

So did you get to go woop-woop on the way to the hospital in the ambulance? :D Happy to hear it was only heat exhaustion, not to minimize your experience, but it could have been much worse.

Forty is a good time, especially when you are pushing fifty, haha. And especially when you've got your shit together like yourself. Enjoy.

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cmonkey
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by cmonkey » Mon Oct 30, 2017 9:55 am

Haha, my work buddy that got me my new job has that exact car. We took a roadtrip in it across Iowa a couple weeks ago and I will never be the same again....have fun with that!

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Tyler9000
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by Tyler9000 » Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:28 am

ffj wrote:
Mon Oct 30, 2017 7:49 am
So did you get to go woop-woop on the way to the hospital in the ambulance? :D Happy to hear it was only heat exhaustion, not to minimize your experience, but it could have been much worse.
No minimization felt. I also don't want to be a drama queen about it. Honestly it was more embarrassing than anything.

I've been wiped out by heat before but this was not normal. Once I started vomiting, had trouble putting two words together, and thought I was going to pass out DW decided to call the professionals and I'm glad she did. Luckily my core temperature never got high enough to necessitate an ambulance ride, but they were able to give me something for the nausea to help me keep fluids down and stuck around until I was back mentally. I can only imagine what a full heat stroke must do to you.

Eureka wrote:
Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:41 am
Any meassures you now take to prevent such things from happening again?
The main thing is just being really careful and not taking anything for granted. I'm a lot more smart about not putting myself in an overheated situation, and I also pay close attention to subtle early symptoms.

@Seppia & Cmonkey -- Yeah, the GTI rocks. It's built on the same platform as the A3 but without the luxury price point. I'm also happy to report that the A/C works really well. ;)

ffj
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Re: Tyler9000's Journal

Post by ffj » Mon Oct 30, 2017 3:16 pm

That was my inarticulate way of saying I'm glad you are fine. God I suck at this.

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