akratic's ERE journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by Stahlmann » Sat Jun 24, 2017 6:52 am

So you aced your SATs and extracurricular activities in high school. Then you aced in your studies at one of the most prestigous universities in the world. Finally, you were able to sustain hardcore paying job in very competitive field for 1-2 years for 2-3 times for crazy amount of money.

And you are saying that you have problems with focus/procrastination/internet addiction?!

Where is the problem?
Did your parents send you to this school?
Do job offers like that lay on the ground?

What do I miss? :D

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by Noedig » Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:49 pm

Me and my brother 6000 miles away, both shamefacedly admitted to buying games in the Steam sale, which we will have time to play in maybe a decade. Games are not like wine - so this is a form of hoarding, at least for virtual goods.

How you doing akratic with your struggle against self? I interpret the long silence as a positive sign that you are out engaging with the world. Hope so.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by Allagash » Fri Jul 21, 2017 6:42 pm

In 24 years of surfing the internet one of the better forum threads I've ever read. Thanks so much akratic for your unselfishness in sharing.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic » Tue Sep 05, 2017 8:59 am

Hey guys,

Sorry for the long hiatus. When I began my ERE journey I put almost 100% of myself into it, ignoring nearly every other previous interest or hobby (aside from my partner and friends) to free up more life energy for ERE. This meant I made quick progress on ERE, but there was a hidden price which is my previous interests were ignored. Now it's the ERE forums that have been ignored to enable 100% focus elsewhere.

I don't know why I do this. It's useful sometimes when my intense focus is directed at a good target. And it's a pretty stupid strategy otherwise, as for example I derive great benefit from quick visits to these forums.

But anyway, here are the highlights of my hiatus:

- Our wedding in Maine was glorious and perfectly designed for us. That day I experienced the most powerful positive emotions of my entire life. Two big things I have done right in my life are finding the right partner and achieving FI.

- My wife is pregnant! Our son is due in 79 days! I want badly to be a good father. After seven years together we got married because we thought we were ready to have kids. It took us five months after the wedding to work up the courage to try getting pregnant, and then under two weeks to actually do it. I'm grateful for how smooth things have been up to now, and have my fingers crossed for a happy and healthy baby.

- For six months I had a new hobby: rock climbing, which had a nice combination of physical activity plus a social component that introduced me to fun nerds. I injured the inside of my fingers though, and it hasn't been the same since.

- My new hobby is the direct pursuit of wisdom. I made a new close friend who is finishing a Philosophy PhD and we regularly talk for hours about both western and eastern perspectives on how to live a good life, people we know who have shit figured out, and why we seem to get stuck in our own lives. Almost every two weeks for the past 9 months we have attended an Emotional Literacy circle, which is a group of about 8-10 people who aspire to understand their own emotions and behavior. I'm bad at this but eager to get better.

- Inexplicably I chose entrepreneurship again and have spent the bulk of my last year working on the next project. This one is signficantly more successful than my previous attempts. In the last six months the pilot of the startup I co-founded has 472 customers and $37k in revenue, with the potential to scale up to tens of thousands of more locations. We have $548k in the business checking account from investors and are at the point where we started paying ourselves $80k/yr salaries last month. However, I am deeply conflicted about whether I want to continue working on this startup. I'm not passionate about what we do, I have been unhappy working on it, I don't believe in the future of our business, I don't need a big startup exit to enable any big goals in my life, and I don't like who I am while working on it (stressed, tired, in need of support, and consumed by stuff that doesn' matter). This past week I'm thinking we should shut the business down and return what's left of the investor money, although this is difficult to say after putting in so much blood, sweat, and tears to get this far.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by SavingWithBabies » Tue Sep 05, 2017 10:59 am

Congratulations on the marriage and pregnancy! Parenthood is exciting and challenging and sometimes semi-maddening. But I have two kids (two year old and a four week old) and wouldn't change anything.

For your new business, have you considered stepping down? Typically, in this situation, my understanding is that the best thing to do is to avoid a non-longer-active founder having a lionshare of their grants/options/stock. So if you are prepared to shut it down, you might instead consider if you would be happy with say 10% of your current vested ownership and walking away. I'm assuming there are multiple founders. That lets you leave without negatively impacting the investors and/or other founders. You might consider yourself irreplaceable and that might be somewhat true however it isn't your problem to solve if you want to leave. In the future, another thing to consider, is bootstrapping without investment. It's a slower path but it can be a lot less stressful. I'm trying that on my current side business with a friend. It's going too slow in terms of growth of customers but the stress level is very low and I can juggle it with a full time job.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by C40 » Tue Sep 05, 2017 5:15 pm

Thanks for the update Akratic. I'm always interested to read what you're up to. Congrats on the marriage and coming baby.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by jennypenny » Wed Sep 06, 2017 7:17 pm

Congratulations! You sound so much happier than the last time you posted.

Your feelings about the start up may change when the baby comes along. You may find either (1) you need something to focus on besides the baby and you want to stick with it, or (2) you want to spend all your time with the baby and decide to back out. It's hard to say which it will be since everyone reacts differently to becoming a parent.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by slowtraveler » Thu Sep 07, 2017 7:31 pm

26 pages, somehow read in the last couple of days. Wow. Gripping story. Don't know how I didn't notice through hiking and long term travel in the journals earlier.

Thanks for documenting the journey. It was inspiring and educational, reflective of more than I expected. I saw the success, the adventure, the lull-
the contrast of having it all handled becoming the challenge itself, the desire to go back somewhere with a fresh energy, the overwhelming spaciousness become drama, and still pressing on to build a satisfying life. It was fascinating.

It's nice to see the move having so much impact on your happiness and cultivating an enlivening lifestyle. Congratulations on building your family.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by Smashter » Wed Sep 13, 2017 9:03 am

Congrats! Like Felipe, I also binged your journal the past few days. Really inspiring and thought provoking. Loved it.

The pursuit of wisdom thing sounds really cool. I will be curious to see how that changes your world view. I'm sorry if I missed it somewhere, but do you also talk to a therapist? Do you think you would find value in that? I wonder how that one on one interaction compares to the emotional literacy circle. I've never heard of those, and now I want to look into them.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by akratic » Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:15 am

Well the big news is that we have a healthy and terrific 4 month old son. Becoming a parent has been a tough adjustment, and I plan to write more about that later.

The other big news is that I quit the startup right before he was born, although I guess the writing for that was already on the wall in my last post.

The thing that I most want to talk about is that I'm thinking recently about getting a 9-5 again.

When I look back at my initial decision to pursue FI, both my head and my heart were fully bought into the decision. My head loved the spreadsheets and the lifestyle growth and recognized the natural compatibility between the task and my frugal and extreme and goal oriented natures. As for my heart, I think the feeling that I had while pursing ERE looked something like this: "if I can remove money and work from my day to day concerns -- and I can -- then my life will become freaking awesome, and I will do great things with the extra time".

While I was right that I could amass the assets and lower the expenses, I'd say I was on the whole wrong about my ability to use my freedom as a springboard to do great things. I certainly do have some fond memories of the last five years, mainly times in the thick of things traveling the world, hiking the Appalachian Trail, becoming a ski bum, or early days at startups where we were full of hope for them taking off. However, these highlights were separated by funks and by long stretches of time where about all I did was play video games, watch TV, and browse the internet.

Now this is tricky to explain, because I do remember a time where my life was routine and busy, where both the adventures and the downtime would have been all I could ask for. But too much of them doesn't seem to work for me either.

Adventure for me was always an opportunity for learning and growth and mastery, to push myself and see how I would act and adapt in new situations, whereas the true adventurers around me seemed to be doing the stuff just to be doing it. Well the problem here is that the learning runs out and gets used up. It's not like I can just do thru-hikes every few years, because I already learned 90%+ of what there is to learn from doing the first one.

As for the downtime activities of video games, TV, movies, reading, and browsing the internet: I can't seem to avoid them for long stretches of time, mainly whenever 1) I have no other goals or 2) I'm recently burnt out and need to recover. I enjoy these activities while I do them, but long periods of them leave me feeling empty and useless.

Maybe another way to say this is that on my own, I seem to oscillate between:
a) 0 hours/week of work while feeling bad about myself
b) 100 hours/week of work while getting burnt out and frustrated

This is just so much worse than the ~40 hours/week of 9-5 land or school.

So, I hear you asking, why not just be productive 40 hours/week on your own. And my answer is simply that I can't. When I'm feeling tired and lazy -- and there's nothing to motivate me to work like a boss or coworkers or the need for money -- then I'm helpless, truly helpless, against the call of my laptop. Similarly, when I'm engaged in a new pursuit -- and there's nothing to reign me in, no coasting coworkers getting paid about my same salary, no finite amounts of homework that is eventually all finished, etc -- then I seem to burn so bright as to run my energy reserves all the way past zero, all the way to a place where I'm frustrated with those around me (who can't keep up) and I need months of relaxation to recover.

There is debilitating bipolar in my family. For most of my life I believed that I dodged that genetic bullet, as I navigated unscathed some situations that most people find stressful -- like MIT. But the truth is that stuff like MIT played exclusively to my strengths in math, analysis, etc while constantly doling out achievable and measurable goals and projects at the perfect rate: fast enough to keep me engaged but slow enough to not burn out. In contrast, for the most part my FI life has played to my weaknesses. I struggle with balance. I struggle to regulate my effort level and output. I struggle with the ugly side of humanity on display by cornered, stressed, and desperate co-founders of failing companies. I struggle to do anything at all while depressed, and I struggle to go less than 100 mph while manic.

This is not to say I'm full on bipolar and need serious drugs like lithium. Rather, if we see bipolar as a spectrum, then certainly I'm at least a litle bit on it. And FI has made it worse. The long funks look an awful lot like depression, and the bursts of incredible energy and productivity look an awful lot like mania.

I wanted to become financially independent because I thought the money and freedom would serve me, but recently it feels quite the opposite. And it's not just a self diagnosis of mild bipolar that has me thinking this way. I also believe becoming FI has made it increasingly difficult to relate to the average person.

As an example, my wife and I sometimes attend a New Parents Group, where kids aged 0-12 months play in a circle while parents talk about the highs and lows of the past week. A typical mom might rant about how her husband is working 70 hours a week to make money for the family, but the apartment is still too small for the three of them, and neither the exhausted mom who has been with a newborn all day nor the exhausted dad who has been working all day has the strength to make it through another sleepless night of crying from their daughter. Meanwhile here's my wife and I *both* attending an optional activity from 1pm - 2:30pm on a weekday. One or both of us have been to this weekly group about 12 times now, and while there are some stay at home dads, not once has both parents of another kid shown up together.

Although my family and close friends know that I'm financially independent, I rarely evangelize or get into it with strangers. Strangers and acquaintances (like at the New Parents Group) sometimes pry, however, and in doing so seem to just about bend over backwards to assume the worst. I can almost see the gears spinning in their head while they conclude that I have some hidden trust fund or income stream from my parents or the government, or that my wife is supporting me, or just about any explanation other than that I earned my freedom myself. I can see the story they are spinning to themselves through the questions they ask, but they almost never come right out with it, and I find these exchanges exhausting.

My freedom seems almost impossible to accept for others, which is I guess part of the relating problem, but my struggles are also so strange. While a typical parent might have time or money problems, my problems are more like this: "I spent the last 21 days straight literally doing nothing but hanging out with my wife or baby or playing video games or watching TV, and I'm feeling really unproductive about that (but I can't seem to stop, so I'm thinking about programming a custom wifi router that intelligently controls my internet access)". This is too outrageous for me to share with a typical stressed out parent, so I say almost nothing. Meanwhile I can't relate to their money or being busy problems either.

It's not like having a job that I don't need is going to overnight fix all this stuff. But it is starting to seem preferable, at least to my head, who can see how the external structure benefits me, or the easy feelings of productivity, and at least appearing on the surface to be a little more like a normal person with a job and a boss and all that. My hope for myself if I do go back to a 9-5 world is that I do it with a little more appreciation for the side benefits of having a job: for getting doled out challenging enough to be interesting yet tractable enough to be solvable problems to solve, for being surrounded by a community of smart people that I didn't need to assemble myself, and for the push towards working just the right amount each week: neither so extreme that I burn out, nor so lazy that I feel unproductive and alienated.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by fips » Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:14 pm

Thank you very much for sharing!
Awesome and elaborate post as ususal.
Congrats on the newborn!

Right off the bat, I see at least three aspects:

1) Lack of healthy moderation
2) Lack of structure (daily schedule with balance)
3) Lack of a relatable group of people ("I spent the last 21 days straight literally doing nothing but hanging out with my wife or baby or playing video games or watching TV, and I'm feeling really unproductive about that (but I can't seem to stop, so I'm thinking about programming a custom wifi router that intelligently controls my internet access)" :lol: and :| )

When considering to pick up another 9-5, you could explore other avenues besides "regular" jobs that fit your capabilities:
- [as a choice of job:] doing research at 50% / 75% / 100% at university or other institutes
- [as a choice of job:] finding an engaging way for you to support others
- [not necessarily as a job, but could be:] becoming top 1%/5% in a discipline you like

PS: By the way, this was your 666th post. Coincidence? I think not :twisted: ;)
Last edited by fips on Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by wolf » Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:22 pm

Also congratulations to your newborn! And thank you for sharing those FI related thoughts and feelings.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by SavingWithBabies » Mon Mar 05, 2018 12:51 pm

I can relate to your post particularly in moderation and schedules. I'd also congratulate you on the newborn. For me, with our first child, I had a long period of sleep deprivation. It resulted in me acting on my logical thoughts much more than I would normally do so. I actually ended up getting fired from a job. I don't think I was in the wrong. It was a really silly situation. But it was interesting to go through and I have no regrets about any of it. I was right but if I had been less sleep deprived, I would have exited more gracefully as being right didn't matter.

But the bigger thing about a newborn is that they need schedules. At first, it doesn't seem like it. But they really do. And when they start sleeping through the night, that whole bedtime routine becomes really important. I still struggle with all of this. My wife definitely leads the charge and I sometimes find myself not being fully helpful (and then feeling bad about that).

The moderation aspect is really interesting to me.

I too struggle with wasting too much time on recreational reading or distracting websites. I blocked them in my hosts file for a while and I found that really effective. Now I have them blocked on my main computer most of the time and a laptop I can go use that doesn't have anything blocked (or an iPad).

When I got my current side business off the ground, I spent 6 months going at it full time (I wasn't working a day job). While that was a good way to get it bootstrapped into existing, it's sometimes been hard to work on it since then in small increments. I'd say for the most part I've done a good job but sometimes I can't work on it for weeks or months.

But when I do work on it, I have a hard time putting in X hours instead of getting feature Y done. So I'll push myself to stay up late working on something that I could more productively accomplish if I just put in X hours for N days instead of one long day and then having to recover from it for a couple of days afterwards. And having disrupted my schedule which overflows to not aligning well with my families schedule.

So you might think about the future schedule of your family and how that might impact you. Maybe it will be helpful? Kids without good schedules, particularly bedtime routines, can become poor sleepers which can really make your life miserable. So you might find a schedule forced upon you via children.

One thought on working -- you might consider working for a consulting company. Ideally one where your engagements with a client would be on the shorter term (like say 2-9 months). If you haven't done that kind of work, it can help round off caring about a lot of things that ultimately you can't do anything about and shouldn't really care about (like the examples of inefficiencies you mentioned -- slackers/not being paid as much/etc).

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by jacob » Tue Mar 06, 2018 9:26 am

akratic wrote:
Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:15 am
Adventure for me was always an opportunity for learning and growth and mastery, to push myself and see how I would act and adapt in new situations, whereas the true adventurers around me seemed to be doing the stuff just to be doing it. Well the problem here is that the learning runs out and gets used up. It's not like I can just do thru-hikes every few years, because I already learned 90%+ of what there is to learn from doing the first one.
That's the problem with doing vs learning. Most people are in the doing-camp and the world seems to have been designed with the doing-camp in mind. Those are the ones who are conveniently comfortably doing the same couple of things for a lifetime. Maybe physics and playing the piano. I'm also in the learning camp, so I usually take a clockwise spin, starting with arousal at the top and then moving around until I hit boredom.


Of all the things I've tried, I've found no exceptions to the spin-rule. FI is crucial here, because it allows an exit before ending up in apathy which is a depressing place to be.

I think it's possible (for many) to remain at the top, somewhere between anxiety and control by regular promotion. The problem with this is that the only type of promotion often available [in the real world] is into management. Many people like management, but I do not. In the school system, you got promoted to the next grade, from 101 to 202, but that kind of promotion gets used up in the real world because you max out. There's nothing beyond a doctorate, just more of the same, unless you switch into sales or management.

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by 2Birds1Stone » Mon Mar 19, 2018 5:20 pm

5 hours of reading and I made it through all 26 pages.....what an incredible story with an outcome (thus far) that is far from what I expected to read.

Hoping the future updates are more frequent than once a year ;)

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Re: akratic's ERE journal

Post by C40 » Mon Mar 19, 2018 8:41 pm

Hi Akratic. I appreciate your self-reflection and sharing.

What kind of job are you thinking about getting?

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