Imagine standing barefoot on the sand just far away enough so the water doesn’t kiss your toes. A flood of orange consumes your eyes as the sun sets over the hills. You give thanks for the moment and hope tomorrow will be just as wonderful. Such is one day out of a perfect summer.
From 1996-1999 I experienced three perfect summers. They were filled with adventure, passion, heart break and learning. I was 19-22 at the time and couldn’t be more excited to experience the world. The lack of money didn’t matter. What mattered was the thrill of the unknown.
My first summer after a year of work in 2000 became a non event. Despite having more money than ever before, I wasn’t able to spend it. Taking more than a week off a year was frowned upon for first and second year Wall St analysts. The good times as I knew them had ended.
For the next 10 years I longed to replicate those carefree, wonderful times. But when you’re doing everything you can to get promoted and make money, it’s very difficult to cut away. I came close in 2011 and 2012 when I took six weeks off to travel, but it still was not the same since the most I could leave would be for two weeks at a time.
I’VE FINALLY FOUND YOU AGAIN
After spending four weeks in NYC, Switzerland, Mallorca, and Germany as well as another 12 days back in NYC for the US Open, I’ve finally rediscovered the magic of a perfect summer.
It took a full year to take a big trip since leaving Corporate America in 2012 due to uncertainty. With the elimination of W2 income I was intensely focused on building my online business. It was over the next 12 months where I had to really see whether there was truly correlation with effort and reward. I’m glad to say such correlation exists.
As an entrepreneur, I felt like I was once again a first year analyst who had to prove myself to my boss, who so happens to be me all over again. My expectations are always set very high – most notably a goal to generate $200,000 a year in passive to semi-passive income within three years of going solo.
So what happened in the past twelve months that flicked on the green light to escape from San Francisco for six weeks in one season? Several things actually: 1) I finished writing my book on how to negotiate a separation package. The book is 100 pages long and was a bucket list item. 2) I gave everything I got to producing meaty content here and elsewhere. I’m not sure if I could have sustainably tried much harder to write content. 3) I launched the FS Forum. 4) I surveyed all of you to figure out how this site can improve, and 5) I set the wheels in motion to build a scaleable advertisement network through Yakezie.
The hardest part about building a business is the launch. Just thinking about starting a new project makes me never want to start one! More work begets more work to the point where I often wonder what have I gotten myself into.
MAKING SURE THE FINANCES ARE ON TRACK
Figuring out how to effectively generate recurring revenue online is no joking matter. The online world is competitive and fraught with exogenous risks way outside your control. For the blog, my hope is to continue having readers constantly be surprised to find out I generate a viable income stream. For the business, my goal is to make the Yakezie Network the number one personal finance network where high quality clients would like to advertise.
If I fail to achieve my revenue targets after two or three years I would probably go back to work because I frankly don’t want to just live off ~$100,000 a year in passive income. I could draw down from the nut if I needed more, but the ideal retirement withdrawal rate touches no principal. It’s no fun to cheat on your finances.
Living off $100,000 a year in an expensive city like San Francisco is not a luxury if you have to start supporting a family. And no, I’m not willing to live in the middle of nowhere just to cut costs. It obviously can be done, but I don’t want to settle since I know I have the ability and energy to generate more. If the time comes for starting a family I don’t want a silly thing like money to get in the way of harmony.
Thankfully, the hard work between June 2012 and July 2013 paid off. Google algorithmic land mines were avoided, traffic reset higher, and targets are on track. With the one year milestone out of the way, it was game on to explore!
WHAT MAKES A PERFECT SUMMER?
* People: New people can be strictly platonic friendships or unexpected passionate romances like in Eat, Pray, Love. I met a new friend who can literally sit and watch tennis with me for eight hours a day for days on end. That’s amazing because everybody thinks I’m crazy for being such a tennis nut, but not this one. Special people complete any perfect destination as we inherently want to share our experiences with others.
* New Destinations: Every perfect summer seems to have a new destination because of the adventure of exploring the unknown. My favorite destinations of the past are Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Mallorca. It’s thrilling to be constantly surprised by what’s around the corner.
* A Long Enough Duration: Once we start work, most of us never get to experience two-month long summer vacations again until retirement. Those who work in education are lucky that way. I used to think I’d get a little homesick after two weeks. That is until I took a four weeker this summer. Now two weeks seems like a breeze and there’s no need to buy a vacation property in every desirable vacation spot to avoid feeling homesick! The perfect summer from now on must contain at least four weeks of holiday. Perhaps I’ll test out 5-6 weeks at a time next year.
* Self Discovery. This is by far the biggest attribute for making a summer perfect. If you can discover something new about yourself or experience things that really shake up who you are (good or bad), then I say you’ve done something positive for the long run. This summer I discovered how I fear being alone as much as I fear being broke. Yet I haven’t been doing everything possible to develop better relationships with the people I love. Instead, much of my effort has been on becoming financially independent as quickly as possible. This will change as I work on being a nicer person who reaches out more often to friends and family. I also met new people who made me appreciate how wonderful a certain someone is. Taking someone for granted gets unfortunately easier to do the longer you are with them. This summer has taught me how to spice things up again and be OK with routine.
BACK TO SCHOOL
I used to have this silly notion that vacations are fun because of work. I can unequivocally tell you after experiencing 12 months of no work and a one month long vacation that vacations are just as incredibly amazing when you aren’t getting bulldozed in the office.
It’s very easy to take my freedom for granted now that it’s in abundance. It’s easy to take anything for granted when there’s too much. With school back in session, it’s probably a good idea to buckle down again. Going on a year-long bender is not a good idea!
The ability to unwind when you want has always been a core reason for achieving financial independence. What also matters are the takeaways for continued self improvement.
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Negotiate A Severance Package: Never quit your job, get laid off instead if you want to move on. Negotiating a severance package provided me with six years worth of living expenses to help me focus on my online media business. Check out my book, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Good-bye. It’s in its 2nd edition for 2017 with 50 more pages of great severance negotiation strategies and real life profiles.
Updated for 2017 and beyond.