Never let anything get in the way of pursuing your dreams. If you do, you will regret it.
Remember that annoying kid in school who made fun of you for getting a good grade? The goal was to make you feel bad at doing well so he wouldn’t feel so terrible about himself.
I had plenty of encounters with such kids growing up at my public high school. In the end, I brushed their mockery aside and decided to be the best student possible to have as many opportunities as possible.
I thought the mockery would slow down as I got older. However, it seems to have amplified due to the internet. Most recently, I was criticized for my idea of starting and keeping a family business going to provide options for my children when they graduate from school.
Andrew from Vancouver, who is 29 with no kids said I was “obsessed.” Another guy named Li from somewhere in Asia, who is also 29 with no kids, called me “crazy” over e-mail. I’m not sure why people without kids feel like they know about the pressures parents face. But it’s a curious phenomenon I’ve observed since having my son.
Why is planning ahead and offering an idea to help other concerned parents considered obsessive and crazy? Besides, what kind of fool would sell a cash cow that is enjoyable to run in a low-interest rate environment?
In my mind, it is stupid not to plan for the future. Globalization increases competition for jobs while technology reduces the number of jobs required to produce.
Paradoxically, life is getting easier and harder at the same time. As parents, we must fight for our children until they can independently fight for themselves.
Always Keep Pursuing Your Dreams
There are a lot of dreamers who read this site looking for a better life. But due to the fear of being ridiculed, they hesitate to pursue something different. Or they are too afraid to put themselves out there for the world to judge. What a shame!
Even Andrew, my critic, decided to shut down his website after I visited it to understand where he was coming from. It’s probably a good idea because his employer would be none too pleased reading his article about how laziness was helping him reach retirement sooner.
It’s OK to be obsessed with the things you care about. It doesn’t matter how whacky your goals may be. The people criticizing you are too afraid to try themselves. They wished they had your courage. They’re fearful that one day you might succeed, making them regret their lack of effort.
I’m revisiting this topic because my energy and motivation are fading after one year into the pandemic. For example, no longer do I prepare a post the night before after a long day with the kids. Instead, I wake up later and take my sweet time. We’re almost at the pandemic finish line, yet I’m having a difficult time sprinting through.
As you grow older, there’s generally a natural decline in motivation. You’ve accumulated more wealth, achieved more goals, and are more aligned with your life philosophies. I’ve found that criticism helps recharge my motivation battery. Therefore, if you are a naysayer, I’m asking you to lob some new criticism my way! It will help prevent me from slacking off too much.
Here are five examples where I was widely panned. However, due to an unwavering desire to keep going, I was able to prove my detractors wrong. I hope at the end of the post, you share some examples of how you overcame criticism as well.
Pursuing Your Dreams By Overcoming The Naysayers
1) Getting Benched In Tennis
In 2010, there was an arrogant, overweight guy named Chris who captained a USTA 4.5 level team I was on. He seldom let me play because he thought I wasn’t good enough, even though I was beating the other starters on the team. Every time we’d get on the court for practice he would make fun of any mistakes I made.
One day, I had enough and told him to play me in a singles match or shut up. He accepted the challenge and I ended up beating him 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 on a cool evening over two-hours. The next day he went to the hospital for pneumonia and stopped playing for five months.
During the district playoffs, he decided not to put me in the lineup. He put his buddies in instead and we lost. Given I didn’t receive the playing time I thought I deserved, I joined a different team a year later. My new team and I ended up beating Chris’ team during the playoffs. No victory tasted so sweet. I credit Chris for keeping me motivated to keep practicing and keep eating right.
Today, he’s still a 4.5 level player while I’ve been bumped up to 5.0. Fight on!
2) Making Fun Of My Blogging Endeavors
Back in 2009, I told one of my work colleagues, Robert, about my new blogging endeavor. At the time, I was writing a daily investment newsletter recapping the markets and really enjoyed the process. Maybe blogging might be a natural next step for me after finance? I was hopeful.
Instead of being supportive about pursuing my dreams of doing something new, he made a funny face and started typing on an air keyboard in mockery. I was taken aback because we were at a team bonding dinner and he was my junior.
What kind of emotional dummy makes fun of a senior colleague’s hopes? Further, I was to be interviewed by the promotion committee to help determine his upcoming promotion.
Not only did he not get promoted that year or the next year, but the firm also shipped him off to NYC to a different department. The department later downsized due to the rise of electronic trading. He’s still at the same firm doing the same miserable job, but for less pay.
This site, which he made fun of, is now the best thing I’ve ever done financially. It earns at least 2X more than his job with 70% less work and 90% less stress. If I one day want to sell it and do something new, I can for a nice chunk of change. If he wants to sell himself one day, he can’t, unless he wants to try the black market for body parts.
His air keyboard mockery was one of the best fuel that has kept me going.
3) Writing A Severance Negotiation Book
When I first published, How To Engineer Your Layoff in 2012, I heard an endless cacophony of doubters from readers and other bloggers who said the idea was stupid. The most frequent things mentioned were, “why would anybody pay you to get laid off,” and “that sounds sketchy and not something I’d do to my company.”
Today, I still hear the doubters even though quitting your job and leaving your colleagues in a bind is selfish. It is dumb to not try and negotiate a severance from a job you planned to quit anyway.
Nine years later, I’ve received countless personal e-mails from readers telling me how the book helped liberate them from a bad job situation. One woman told me this summer she walked away with a $65,000 severance, when she would have been fine quitting with nothing.
Another guy told me he not only walked away with over $100,000 in severance because he was a co-founder of the company that got acquired, he also sent me a glowing article an online publication wrote about his transition to angel investing. Nice work Eric!
One doubter confessed he was let go with only two months of severance after eight years of work. I had to break it to him that his two months of severance was not severance, but mandatory WARN Act pay. He sadly got zero severance and would have known this had he read my book.
Although the book is not a runaway bestseller given how niche it is, it has helped everyone who has sent me a thank you e-mail, which is incredibly rewarding.
The Inside Scoop On How One Man Negotiated His Freedom (a reader’s story)
How To Negotiate A Severance As A High-Performing Employee (the detailed story of how I helped my wife negotiate a six figure severance at 34 as well)
4) Seeking Early Retirement
The natural transition after negotiating a severance is to take some time off, find a new job, change industries, start a business, or retire. I decided to permanently leave corporate America at 34 and focus on my writing. Writing is what I’ve loved to do ever since I was a middle schooler writing international pen pal letters while living in Malaysia.
Of course I had my doubters. Leaving a high-paying job before your highest earning years sounds foolhardy. But the funny thing is, many people in the finance industry back then wanted out as well. They just didn’t have the courage or the plan to leave. If I later realized I needed more money, I could have just gone back to work.
Given it was my financial well-being I was putting at risk, I was my biggest naysayer. You can see every early retirement stone I turned over in the post, The Dark Side Of Early Retirement.
However, thanks to publishing this post two years before making a move, I was able to face my fears and gain some perspective from hundreds of people who had made the same move.
If Andrew and Li were around back in 2010, they’d probably also think this amount of planning was obsessive and crazy. But this amount of self-reflection is what gave me the courage to change my life for the better.
Thinking about the negatives of early retirement was the catalyst for coming up with the idea to negotiate a severance. Negotiating a severance package that paid for five to six years of living expenses enabled me to try new things without fear of financial ruin.
Not a day goes by where I’m not thankful for extricating myself and my wife from the matrix. If I had listened to people who told me I would be stupid to leave banking, I’d probably be incredibly unhealthy, stressed, and unhappy right now.
Related post: How A Couple Can Retire Early
5) Overcoming The Internet Retirement Police
About 18 months after I retired from the finance world, I no longer said I was retired. It felt stupid and disingenuous to say so. I wanted to consult part-time for a couple of fintech startups in San Francisco to see what all the fuss was about.
After getting my taste of what the startup world was like for a couple of years, I set my sights on becoming a teacher. I’ve always enjoyed mentoring kids and young adults. When a high school tennis coaching position opened up for $1,100/month I decided to interview for the position.
After two years of coaching, we won the Northern California Sectionals championship for our division. This was the first time in the school’s 50-year history. It was a proud moment and a wonderful feeling being a part of the teaching community.
After winning, I sent out a tweet wondering if there were other teachers who wanted to share their financial journey story on Financial Samurai. My goal was to help bring more awareness and respect to the teaching community since we were relatively underpaid. In the tweet, I also mentioned I was a teacher.
This is when the Internet Retirement Police (IRP) tried to bash down my door and say that I wasn’t a teacher. They tried to pigeonhole me as something else, even after two years of coaching. In the end, I utilized their criticism to write more interesting posts and win another Northern California Sectionals championship the next year.
I’m not sure why people feel the need to tell others who they are and what they should do. But I’m appreciative of their criticism because it enabled me to become a nice part of the school’s history. Maybe, when my boy turns 13 and is applying to high schools, my school might look upon him favorably given he’s already a part of the family.
You Will Regret More Of The Things You Don’t Do
The #1 reason why more people don’t do the unorthodox is that society has a terrible way of accepting the unusual. People who are able to freely pursue their interests are the luckiest people on Earth.
Conversely, people who not only don’t pursue their interests, but also try to take others down, are the saddest people who will forever wonder why they never tried.
To all the dreamers out there who want to do something different, please go for it! Don’t let the naysayers deny your progress. Be unapologetically fierce about pursuing your dreams!
If you don’t, you will be filled with regret for not having tried.
Readers, what makes you stop pursuing your dreams? Given many things today were once whacky and new, why don’t more people experiment with different things? What became of those annoying kids in grade school who made you feel bad about your efforts? Why is pursuing your dreams so hard?