My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

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

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

@mfi:

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..

spoonman
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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.

brighteye
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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.

My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
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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.

@spoonman,@brighteye:

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.

My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
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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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Ego
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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.

My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
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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!"

or

"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
-Vagabonding
-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
http://marathonswimmers.org/forum/discu ... 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.

Friction.

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.

jacob
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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:
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4241

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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!! :)

@jacob:

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 »

@jacob:

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.

spoonman
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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....

My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

@spoonman:

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!"

My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

#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.

My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

#045 10/11/2013 Landlording Adventures and Perspectives

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

Just a brief departure on my Mountains posts and my usual pyschobabbleness. (I'm chomping at the bit to write the next mountain, but i'm so excited about it my mind races too much, so haven't been able to put it all into words.)

So, I just wanted to write about some experiences with landlording in my life that has occurred just over the last few months. Now that it is over, I just wanted to share some of the mistakes and lessons i have learned.

#045 10/11/2013 Landlording Adventures and Perspectives

A few months back, around the time I broke my nose, and when I booked my trip to Vietnam,both my tenants gave notice to leave my rentals.

It was a bit of a perfect storm.

With the adoption of minimalism and voluntary simplicity, and a priority to live a 'slower' life, there had been a signifcant absense of conventional 'stress'. Everything was settling down and going great since moving into my new place. The only 'stress' I felt was the internal existential thinking I was doing and travel planning which has been reflected in my recent posts.

So when both tenants decided to leave, my tranquil life and my status quo was challenged.

I think for a landlord, any time a tenant gives notice it causes (varying levels of) anxiety. But to have both tenants leave, ie, which is the largest source of my 'passive' income, its a bit of a double whammy.

Tenants giving notice feels a little bit like losing a job or probably more accurately, losing a valuable employee. It signals there is uncertainty ahead, and means there will be 'disruption' in my regular life for the next few months.

The process , ie the rental posting/advert, the interviews, the signing, etc, is also quite similar to the job hiring process process.

For one of the rental properties, which used to be my primary residence (i will refer to this property as the PR rental), the tenant broke least after only five months of a 1 year lease.

For the other rental property owned by my corporation (I will refer to this as th CORP rental), the tenant left after 2+ years because she bought a new place.

Past Experience
I don't claim to be an expert landlord by any means.

My related experience includes having approximately six tenants over the years on various properties, owning (buying/selling) 4 different properties at different times, and being a renter while I was working in Boston for four years and 1 year in university.

Buying and selling properties gave me transferable skills on the formalities of the paper work (contracts, utilities, building/condo management, etc) , staging (cleaning, showings,etc), and the moving process among other things.

Being a renter gave me a great perspective on how it feels to be on the other side of the landlord-renter equation.

PR Rental- The Broken Lease
When my tenant broke lease after 5 months into a 1 year contract, my initial reaction was a reflexive sense of negativity. Like when someone cuts you off the road.

A contract is a contract. Shouldn't it be? Should I not lay down my Landlord Hammer on their head and at the very least squeeze some type of compensation or penalty from them?

Perhaps it is my lack of skill (I am still learning) or perhaps it is something else, but after I was able to get past the reflexive anxiety, I realized that the situation was a little more grey:

-First, this was the first time I had ever had a tenant break lease on me.
-Second, when I did examine my contract/lease with them, there wasn't anything specifically detailing the terms of a broken lease.
-Third, and most importantly, I really liked my tenant(s), a young couple from Australia.

My rental was the first place the female (primary) tenant and her boyfriend rented and lived together. They had already begun to buy all the furnishings and living items over that five months since they didn't have any of their own. IE. they were further committing to their life together. Previous to that they were living in the boyfriends fathers house.

The female tenant broke lease because she got a job offer back home in Australia that was too good to pass up. It was a great opportunity for her, and their lives together.

I though about it, and I thought about my approach and the specific situation.

What kind of landlord do I want to be? How would I turn this lemon into lemonade?

What ultimately made me relax, and not get bent out of shape, and feeling like a shafted landlord on a broken lease was remembering that the tenant came along at a perfect time for me.

I had just finished up renovating the place I was moving into (ie. the <300 sq foot co-op), and I had just listed the PR condo with less than a week before the start of April. I had carried both properties for the month of March, going back and forth between the two. Carrying both properties meant double expenses for internet, fees, utilities, insurance, etc. Further the costs of the move, purchases and renovations meant the months of February and March were very high expense months.

The tenant was the first viewing for the rental and she offered to pay 4 months as a deposit.

If I were to have turned back time and asked myself

"If given the opportunity to have a really nice solid tenant, who pays you 4 months of rent as a deposit, and you have to only do one showing to find this person, but you run the risk of the tenant giving notice at 5 months with no recourse, would you have done it?"

When I re-phrase the situation to myself in this way, the answer is yes, 10 of of 10 times.

At that time especially, I was quite stressed out with things and the move in addition to my cash expenses flowing like water.

In addition, during the negotiation of the month rent rate, she had asked for $100 off the monthly rent asking price, and I countered with $30 off, including a three year rent rate freeze.

By her ending the lease, I no longer was bound to a frozen rent rate.

My tenant also broke lease with giving me two months notice, which is more than enough time to find a new tenant without missing a months rent.

So the end result of the broken lease and a new tenant:

-$30/month rent increase
-no more rent freeze for three years
-a much better written lease as well as a better communication approach in expectations

Corp Rental
The corporate owned property was more of a conventional situation, where my long term tenant left after two years when she bought a new place.

Because the rent rates in Toronto are kind of crazy right now, especially in the down town core, I was able to increase my rent $120/month (There is no rent control in Toronto for properties built after the 1990s), which was a 9% increase on the previous price.

I had to do about 8 showings to find the right tenant. I upgraded the light fixtures from really cheap ikea lights $3.99 (http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/20055751/) to something to something that looked better and more modern. I also replaced the bulbs with low watt high luminescent CFL bulbs.

My Biggest Landlording Lessons Learned

1. Craigslist is dead.
At least in Toronto it is. I was posting on Kijiji (didn't have to pay for any services or advertising to list) and Craigslist (also free) for both properties, and every single one my my replies came from Kijiji. I was also selling an old beach volleyball net at around the same time, and the same thing happened with that as well.

2. Have Mandatory Tenant Insurance.
I (now) write into the lease that tenant insurance is mandatory prior to the move in/hand off of the keys. I ask for an insurance binding letter to be emailed or delivered. An insurance binding letter is what the insurance companies generate to demonstrate proof of a policy, even before the policy starts. Tenant Insurance costs about $15-$25 a month of a tenant. This also acts somewhat as a screening process as well, as good tenants really have no problems with this, given that the insurance is really for their own benefit. I also provide them with documentation describing tenant insurance and some links on where to get some quotes.

3. Write your own lease documents.
Previous to these two tenants leaving, I always used a template document that I downloaded off the internet. It looked and felt like a lease document, which was good enough for me, and good enough for the tenant. I realized how foolish, naive and lazy this was. I rewrote the entire lease agreement to the specifics my properties and expectations. I walk through the key points in my leases to my tenants prior to signing.

4. Manage expectations.
Being as open and honest as possible about the property before the lease is signed I found to be an excellent approach.

For example, I tell my tenants before they even sign the lease, what they can except in terms of rent increase after one year. I outline the inflation in property taxes, fees, and utilities, and say that they can expect a 2%-5% increase. After one year, no one likes a rent increase but its compounded when you aren't expecting it. But if you are expecting it, and you know approximately what it will be, the impact of telling the tenant of an increase is dramatically lessened. I find that gives me greater integrity as well with my tenants, as I'm not covering up some of the less glamourous issues.

I also tell my tenants beforehand, that I will never enter their unit for any reason without giving them a proper notice. The number one thing I disliked when I was a renter, was when my landlords would do this. It made me feel small, and it made me feel the place was not my home. Just communicating this one simple statement to my tenants before hand, I think goes a long way in selling the property and myself as a landlord.

5. The customer is always right, even when they are not.
When a tenant asks me to do something, even when it is not my responsibility, I will generally do it for them 99% of the time. For example, my PR rental both walls are exposed concrete. The tenant during her viewing asked if I would assist her with hanging her things. I said I would, and I proactively wrote it into the lease, that as condition of her occupancy, landlord would hang the belongings of the tenant. It took me 5 hours with my hammer drill, with my tenant and her mom, directing me how and where to hang things to complete this task. But when it was all said and done, my tenant and her mother were extremely happy and my condo felt like home to them. (The ERE part of it for me was that I became a lot better at how to hang various things or various sizes and weights. It can be tricky, measuring, and making sure things are balanced right).

6. Cater to your market.
Investing in real estate is no different than investing in the stock market in that risk and return are inversely related. IE. Flipping a fixer upper in a sketchy neighbourhood the returns can be huge, but the risk is also quite big. That risk can be somewhat mitigated if you have a great skill set.

My properties, the returns aren't super high, but I would call the returns very reliable, almost like a blue chip equity. The properties are a 20 minute walk to the financial core, and the properties are close to all the benefits of an urbanist life (walking distance to groceries, public transit, parks, banks, etc). They cater to higher income young professionals in the 24-30ish range. Every single one of my tenants to date, has been female. This was not intentional on my part, it has just happened that way (for my CORP rental this time around I came very close to actually signing a male tenant, but he opted on a different property). Now that I have six of them, I begin to get a better understanding what the abstraction is, in terms of what they all look for in a property and a landlord, and I cater my 'advertising' towards that. Young female professionals are excellent, excellent tenants: clean, responsible, and independent.

7. Use social Media/digital footprint as a reference/background check.
What I have also learned is that for my prospective tenants, ie. young professional tenants in the 24-30ish range, they all have a social media/online digital footprint that can be traced or reverse engineered from their contact info (ie. email, name,etc). This helps immensely in getting a sense of the prospective tenant. For their generation, and for their aspiring careers, LinkedIn has become somewhat mandatory. For example, I never realized how many companies now use LinkedIn for the job hiring proces.

It has made the screening process easier, and much more reliable.

8. A gift is a last impression that lasts.
During the key handoff, give the tenant a a small gift. I give a gift basket of chocolates that looks a lot more expensive than it actually is. It costs about $20.

This is the last time the tenant will see you, before communication primarily goes digital (ie. email, text, phone, etc).

If the very last impression you leave with your tenant is an unexpected surprise gift, the tenant will have a lasting positive impression of you. Also, the chocolate stimulates the release of endorphins at a time when the tenant will be moving, facing some stress and transition in their life.

9. Automate the process.
Given that both my tenants for both properties left around the same time, I spent time automating the entire process. Ie. creating template welcome packages/letters, as well as template emails that has instructions for the application. In the past, most of this was done verbally and I had to scrounge around looking for pieces of information to give the tenant (ie. concierge telephone numbers, how/where to call to book elevators, etc). Now, I have all the documents ready to be delivered at different stages of the process.

10. Don't be a feudal landlord
My entire approach is to try as much as possible to not be a 'landord' in the derogatory sense. I try as much as possible to approach the relationship as much as if my tenant is my customer. I recall my first tenant I ever had and how that went down. I would squabble like a typical landlord over trivial things in terms of who's responsibility was what. I would take things too personal. The relationship would get contentious, and it made my life and my tenants life more difficult. I now approach things with win win in mind, and generally try to form a relationship of mutual respect.

---

I have to admit that went both tenants gave notice, I gave serious thoughts to selling the PR property. Toronto real estate is somewhat of in a bubble, and definitely, landlording is a lot more hands on than a dividend portfolio. I spent about a week evaluating the market and seriously considering this option.

However, now that things are done, I am glad I didn't. For the most part if I try and not treat the process begrudgingly as a nuisance, but just like a learning experience, actually, its kind of interesting, and dare I say a little fun. Meeting different tenants, learning about their lives is actually quite fascinating. Having that human contact as well, and having that friction to chase my 'dividends', and solve problems, I think makes me a better person.

All the lessons I learned above came about from the last few months, and had I not went through it, I would have been less off for it (and also $150/month poorer) ;p

My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
Posts: 267
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

Re: My_Brain_Gets_Itchy's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy »

Sorry:

Investing in real estate is no different than investing in the stock market in that risk and return are inversely related.

should read:

Investing in real estate is no different than investing in the stock market in that risk and return are strong correlated.

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