It's a worthwhile goal to be great at something – top one percent great. Being a jack of all trades, master of none is an excuse many of us use because we aren't willing to try harder. We know this, so we settle for good enough. Good enough is good enough if you're content. But if there's something bothering you deep inside, then maybe it's because you know you can do better.
Fritz's post called Seven Days To A Great Retirement was an insightful read that warmed my heart. It's actually part two of a three part series that talks about how they decided to simplify life and live more intentionally once they became empty nesters .
Given Fritz's retirement plan is closer to the traditional retirement path, I thought it would be good to share his thoughts on how everyone can live their best retirement lives possible.
From A Good Retirement To A Great One
My wife and I realized we were Settling For Good.
We weren't doing it intentionally, but we recognized the signs. We decided to take action. Now, we're moving toward Great. It's been a heckuva a few years as we've pulled up the anchor (twice!), but we've learned some really good lessons from our two downsizing moves in 18 months. We've had some bumps along the way, but the bruises are healing and we're moving on. Toward Great.
View our story as an analogy and focus on the broader issues raised. Think about how you can apply the lessons we're learning in your own life.
Go For Great!
11 Lessons To Move Your Life From Good To Great
Here are some thoughts on going from a good retirement to a great retirement. Even if you have a fake retirement, like Sam mentioned in his 10-year anniversary retirement post, these lessons will matter for you.
Lesson 1 – Ask Yourself The Question
Stop for a minute, and ask yourself a simple question: Are you “Settling for Good” in your Life, or are you “Pursuing Great”? Regardless of your age, sex or stage of life, you need to ask yourself that question. Do you want Good? Or do you want Great?
Before you can start moving to Great, you've got to think about what “Great” means to you, and how it compares to your current life. Are you taking action now to improve your life? What areas of your life can you move to a better place?
Some examples. If you're….
- Starting To Make Money...Are you settling for “Good” Money or pursuing “Great” Money?
- Starting A Career…Do you want a have a “Good” Career or a “Great” Career?
- Getting Married...Do you want to be a “Good” or “Great” husband or wife?
- Starting A Family….Do you want to be a “Good” Parent or a “Great” Parent?
- Buying A House….Do you want a “Good” House or a “Great” House?
- Designing A Life…Do you want a “Good” Life or a “Great” Life?
The first lesson and the most important thing is to take some time to think about where you want to go. Do that before proceeding to the implementation of Lesson 2.
In our case, we decided it was time to take some action to move our upcoming retirement from Good To Great.
Lesson 2 – Think Long Term
Once you've decided on an what you're going to move from Good To Great, take the next step. First, take a breath. Then, Exhale. In this age of hyperactivity, it's hard to think much further ahead than the weekend. For Lesson 2, you need to slow down and think about the long term.
Think 5, 10, 20 years out, and imagine what “Great” looks like in your future. Identify the Gap between your current state of “Good” and your ideal state of “Great”. What steps can you take in the next 1 month, 1 year, 5 years to start budging yourself out of your “Settled” state, and begin planning the first step?
Cross The Stream
Think about the steps you could take to get from Here to There, from Good To Great. Imagine it a bit like eyeing out rocks you're going to use to get across a turbulent stream.
In our case, we recognized 7 years ago that we were drawn to the mountains of North Georgia, near the trailhead for The Appalachian Trail. We started to think about it as a potential retirement location. We were living in the City at the time but knew that's not what we wanted longer term.
Would living in the mountains help us to achieve a “Great” retirement? We decided “Yes”, and we started to dream.
Lesson 3 – Dream
Take some time to dream. This isn't something you have to have done by tomorrow (or next weekend). Take some time over the next 6-12 months to really think about what you want your life to be. Find ways to explore ideas that interest you, build experiences in the areas you're thinking about. Experiment.
In our case, we dreamt about living a retired life in the mountains. We booked a cabin rental for a week in October week via AirB-N-B. We started to explore the targeted “great” area, and we thought about where we could live, and what we could do, in retirement.
Lesson 4 – Take The First Step
After you have an idea of where you want to go, take the first step. Step on that first rock in the stream, and begin to move. Identify something you can do, anything, that will start moving you in the direction you're trying to go. It doesn't have to be big, but it has to be something. The goal is to start the ball rolling, the momentum will build later. Just take the first step.
In our case, we took a big first step. We took the plunge and bought a cabin. The Dream was to retire to a cabin, so we knew we had to own a cabin at some point for the dream to come true. The first step, done.
Lesson 5 – Be Creative
Testing out areas that you think may lead to “Great” doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Find ways to minimize the costs associated with your “trial runs”. If you want a new job, start working on your resume or try a side hustle while you're still working. We spent a lot of weekends (and weeks) at the cabin before we moved their full time. As you move through Lesson 5, find ways to reduce the expense.
In our case, we really didn't want the expense of a second home. We were on track for an early retirement, and spending the extra cash was something we wanted to avoid. We experimented with renting our cabin out, perfected the process through trial & error, and ended up with a nice “rental income” side business which totally paid for 5 years of cabin expenses.
We were building equity, and not spending a dime. We were also able to enjoy the cabin any time we wanted to since we were managing the rental schedule and simply blocked out weeks and weekends we wanted to use for ourselves.
Sam here. And for me, constantly being creative has been a huge motivator and blessing in my retirement. From 2020 to 2022, I wrote a new personal finance book called, Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom.
Now, when I look back during the pandemic period, I will feel proud that I didn't waste my time. Instead, I took advantage of more solitude by creating a book that will help potentially millions get their finances right. I truly believe BTNT will be the best personal finance book you'll ever read.
Lesson 6 – Downsize & Simplify
No matter what area you're focusing on, find a way to simplify / declutter / dowsize that area of your life. Strip the thing back to it's bare essentials, the thing that makes it Great. There's a big movement underway of folks moving their lives to the basics that matter to them.
You don't have to “Go Minimialist”, but realize that “more” is not always the best way to “Great”. Sometimes less is a better path. Think about it in your life, and apply where it makes sense.
In our case, we literally downsized, and sold 30 years worth of belongings in 24 hours. From first-hand experience, I can tell you that really felt good, and was a major step on our move To Great.
Lesson 7 – Be Patient
It can take a lot of steps to get across the stream. Have the patience to hop from rock to rock, and realize you're working toward longer term dreams. Sometimes it takes longer than you'd like to get there, but take comfort in the fact that you're moving in the right direction and you're making progress, however slowly, toward your goal.
In our case, it took us 32 years of work to achieve Financial Independence. We waited 5 years after buying the cabin before we could position ourselves to make the move from The City. Play long ball. Be patient.
Lesson 8 – Enjoy The Journey
Recognize it's a long journey, and don't pin all of your life's dreams on the eventual goal. Live a little along the way, and enjoy each day you're given. Don't put off everything for tomorrow, but don't do everything today. Have some balance, but carve out time for fun on your way down the road.
In our case, we knew we wanted to retire earlier than “normal”, but we also wanted our life to be “Great” as we were living it. We were intentional about taking nice vacations every year with our daughter (now 22 and recently married, we'll never regret those memories we built). We traveled the world (thank you, frequent flier miles), and probably sacrificed a few more years of work for the experience. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Lesson 9 – Expect Some Lumps Along The Way
Expect your feet to get a little wet as you cross the stream. You're going to slip on a few rocks. Expect it, and wear some nice wool socks. Be prepared for the lumps, and don't let them knock you off track (See Lesson 10).
After we completed our “Downsize #1 and became 100% Debt Free!!, we revisited our “Good to Great” strategy and re-evaluated our situation (see Lesson 11). Now that we were living full time in our dream retirement, we noticing some things that “weren't Great” for our longer term retirement lifestyle dreams. We had to once again decide if we were going to settle for Good, or if we were going to go for Great. We chose Great (again) and made a plan to move once more if we were able to find a “Great Cabin”. We put together our list of criteria, and started our new search.
It was inconvenient, it was a “lump along the way”. That's ok, it's part of the process, and we'll be closer to Great as a result.
Lesson 10 – Adapt, & Overcome
Remain flexible, and realize that your plan's going to change. Be prepared for it, and meet the challenges with a longer term view on your direction to “Great”. It's ok to sidestep every now and again, and it won't hurt you to suffer a few staggers back. The important thing is that you're always leaning forward, and you know the general direction you're trying to go.
In our case, we adapted and made the move to buy a second retirement cabin. We found a Great place, and made the purchase. After we moved from our “Good” to our “Great” cabin, we put our “Good” cabin on the market. We got an offer, and we accepted. Things were going great until I got this email from the buyer, which ultimately led to the sale falling apart. The house is back on the market, and we're continuing to adapt & overcome.
Lesson 11 – Repeat #1
The move to “Great” is a never-ending process. Continue to challenge your situation in life, and check-in from time to time to make sure you're moving forward on your journey to Great.
In our case, we're getting closer to retirement. We're spending a lot of time thinkng about how we're going to spend our newfound Freedom doing the things that matter the most to us. We're continually modifying the plan, and we're working our way across the stream. I suspect we'll be doing it until the day we die.
Go For A Great Retirement
Life is like a car with no reverse. You can't change the miles you've already driven, but you can change the miles ahead. Figure out what you want from your life. Decide to pursue Great.
Look for ways to apply the 11 Lessons above, and take your first step on that stone in the stream.
Decide to start your journey toward Great.
Your life will be better as a result.
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