Feeling Down And Out In This Perfect World

Frowning French Bulldog On A LeashYou can’t deny how someone feels. They just do and you’ve got to accept it. Maybe the color blue looks different between two people. We’ll never know because we can only know ourselves.

I started this site as a way to deal with the agony of the financial meltdown in 2008-2009. I needed to find a way to let the pain escape in a healthy way. Drugs and booze were not an option although tempting they were.

This site has always been about introspection. To understand why we think the way we think. To understand our inconsistencies. To talk about issues that are on so many people’s minds but cannot be publicly discussed due to fear of persecution.

Since my very first post over four years ago I’ve been able to reconcile the stupidity of my multitude of financial mistakes. I’ve met many friends online who are also on uncertain paths to financial independence. We’ve shared victories and defeats, but I thought there would be more people like me who fear being alone, going broke, or being a failure to our family. Lately, I feel like I’m the only loser around.

THE PERFECT WORLD FULL OF PERFECT PEOPLE

The Best Way To Get Ahead Is To Tell Yourself Hard Truths

Beautiful lake with reflectionIs it better to tell someone what they want to hear or tell them what they should hear? I choose the latter, because sooner or later the fairy tale will end. Between the ages of 10-16 I started reading a lot about Eastern philosophies, particularly the concept of karma. I used karma as an excuse for everything!

Examples:

“If I’m meant to get into a good university, I will, so don’t worry about my studies mom and dad!”

“If I’m going to die young, I will, so let me buy the 600cc Honda CBR motorbike OK?”

“I cannot change whether I’m going to be rich or poor, so let me have some fun while I’m still alive.”

“I can’t do anything about this bully. Let fate handle him.”

“We’re either destined to be together, or not. I’m not going out of my way to woo her.”

Karma is a pretty neat way of rationalizing not having to study, be safe, work hard, fight back or go after what you want. My dad finally knocked some sense into me when I asked about the motorbike for the umpteenth time. He said, “Son, don’t be stupid. A colleague of mine just drove his motorbike into a wall and died. You want that to happen to you before your life even starts?”

“Oh, OK. Maybe I’ll stick with riding my bicycle to school then,” I remember saying. I actually did end up buying a mini-50cc replica racer motorbike without them knowing in high school. Its top speed was only about 45 mph so I figured if I did hit a wall I’d survive. Too bad it ended up getting stolen because it was sweet!

My father also said something that really deflated my enthusiasm for tennis during high school. When I didn’t win some difficult match sophomore year he consoled me by saying, “Well, I guess you’re just not good enough.” That was a zinger because I stayed after school every day during tennis season to practice for 2.5 hours. By the time I got home all I wanted to do was sleep, but I had another 3-4 hours of homework to complete. Even my hero at the time, Andre Agassi loses, so why can’t I? For about a month I didn’t do jack shit because I was depressed.

It was hard to hear “just not good enough” at the time, but the reality is I wasn’t good enough to take my game to a Division I school. It was better I spent that extra hour practicing for my SATs instead of on my backhand. I did end up getting a small scholarship to play for a Division III school, but I passed to go to a better institution.

The one thing about sports is that scores don’t lie. You are either a winner or a loser. I’d like to think I’d come to my senses on my own about not being good enough after losing one too many difficult matches, but who knows. Maybe I would have stayed in a long state of denial that would have been detrimental to my life.

At the end of the day, I think we need to know hard truths so we can focus on areas that will bring us happiness. Here are three truths I plan on reminding myself every so often to make sure I’m on track.

Do You Suffer From Apathy? Here’s How To Care Again

Swiss Flag Waving In Mountain RangeEverybody warned me about the incredibly expensive prices in Switzerland and for that reason I found things to be just fine. I caught myself saying in my head, Is that it? a number of times I opened my wallet. For example, the cost of a one way train ticket to Lucerne from Zurich was only 20 CHF (~$22 USD). Is that it? The cost per night at the Hotel Pilatus in a quaint town called Hergiswil was only 120 CFH. Is that it? Even a plate of gooey raclette was only 9.5CFH, leaving me more than good enough to get three scoops of gelato for 5 CFH afterward!

I decided to visit Switzerland for three reasons: 1) I’ve never been and heard Switzerland to be one of the most beautiful and livable countries in the world, 2) To test the upper limits of what my income can comfortably afford and 3) To get firsthand experience about Swiss neutrality, which I find synonymous with apathy.

The first things that comes to people’s minds when they hear the word, “Switzerland” are chocolate, mountains, and cheese. There aren’t any sort of negative connotations about the country except for perhaps the high prices. Try the same exercise with North Korea, and you get a completely different set of nouns and adjectives. What we also don’t get from Switzerland is any feeling of emotion due to its neutrality.

EVENTUALLY WE STOP CARING OUT OF SELFISHNESS

Why Do We Discredit Other People’s Achievements?

Kid chasing pigeonsThere are two main ways of getting ahead. Do everything you can to improve your own situation or try and cut others down to come out with a stronger competitive advantage. The second way is obviously the loser way to get ahead. Anybody who employs this method will likely always be dissatisfied with what they have because they will be constantly envious of others. Everybody I’ve met who takes the second route are perpetual underperformers. I try to avoid them like the plague.

It’s probably impossible to get rid of envy. It’s also hard not to attribute our success to hard work and other people’s success to luck. As you know, the number one method to keep haters at bay is to attribute everything you’ve achieved due to luck!

It still perplexes me that in a land of cheap and easy transportation why not just take a Greyhound bus and go where life is better. The first settlers took three months to move cross country. We can do the move in a week. Perpetually complaining about the weather in the midwest isn’t going to solve the hollowing out of our great states.

We shouldn’t have to worry about other people’s finances, but sometimes I do wonder why someone would willingly drop a dumbbell on their toes and blame others for their pain.

SOME RECENT EXAMPLES OF DISSATISFATION

Celebrate Small Wins To Keep Financial Motivation Alive

Life is like a bucket of cherries. Don't each one go to waste!Building wealth is a long game. It’s sometimes very easy to get discouraged as a result. Despite a lucky investment when I was 22, I felt very little pleasure having a large savings account in my early 20s. Money degenerates to just numbers on a screen that provides no utility unless spent.

I was actually considering quitting my newfound job in San Francisco after two years in 2003 to live a vagabond lifestyle in Hawaii. Surf in the morning, massages in the afternoon, and Mai Tais in the evening can’t be that bad. Thoughts of buying a Eurovan VW to go road-tripping across the continent as I took showers at rest stops also crossed my mind.

It’s dangerous to receive a financial windfall so early in life because there’s a risk of saying fuck all to everything. You suddenly think building a sizable financial nut is so easy, when it’s clearly difficult in a short period of time. With a sudden injection of wealth, you may never achieve your potential because you simply don’t bother trying as hard.

After much deliberation and a perpetually drunk upstairs neighbor, I decided to buy my own property to “get rid” of my money. I was sick of renting and I was also unmotivated to work for money, a big problem if you work in finance! As soon as I plunked down the six figure check I felt a sense of relief. Having no money never felt so good!

Finally, I’m working for something more, I remember thinking after paying my first mortgage payment. Living in a nicer property instead of a dingy one bedroom was a reward for four years of hard work and risk taking. Slacking off was not an option because if I did I might lose my home!

Perhaps the real reason why I love property so much is not so much for the returns, but for the refocus it provides. Mortgage debt saved me from being another know-it-all kid who throws his life away at the age of 26 due to a lack of patience and perspective. A mortgage was the anchor that kept me from blowing away.

Years later at the age of 32 my enthusiasm for work once again began to fade. 10 years raced by after college but I was afraid to go out on my own because work was all I knew. The Dark Side Of Early Retirement was penned to make sure I wasn’t falling into the same trap without any purpose. When the post was published, I was immediately bashed over the head by the early retirement community if you read the comments. Little did they know my goal was to purposefully bash my own crazy thoughts to make sure I wasn’t missing anything before deciding to take the leap of faith two years later!

CELEBRATE MORE OFTEN PLEASE