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 get out of Dodge.
I thought the mockery would slow down as I got older, but it seems to have amplified due to the internet. Most recently, I was criticized for my idea of starting and keeping a business going to provide options for my son when he graduates from school. Andrew in Vancouver, who is 28 with no kids said I was obsessed, among many other things. Another guy named Li from Asia, who is also 28 with no kids, called me crazy over e-mail.
Why is planning ahead and offering an idea to help other worried parents considered obsessive and crazy? In my mind, it is stupid not to plan for the future due to globalization increasing the competition for jobs and technology taking away jobs. Andrew and Li are the same annoying kids in high school who are now adults.
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 to put themselves out there for the world to see or read. Even Andrew decided to shut down his website once I visited his site 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 unapologetically 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.
Here are four examples where I was widely panned, but due to an unwavering desire, I was able to prove my detractors wrong. I’d love to hear your stories as well.
Overcoming The Naysayers
Tennis: There was this arrogant, overweight guy named Chris 10 years ago who captained a 4.5 level team I was on. He seldom let me play because he thought I was weak, 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 a two hour time period. The next day he went to the hospital for pneumonia and stopped playing for five months.
Wanting to prove him wrong for not playing me during the playoffs where we eventually lost, I joined a different team a year later and ended up beating them during the playoffs. No victory tasted so sweet. I credit Chris for keeping me motivated to keep practicing and keep eating right.
I saw him last month after a couple years and one of the first things he told me when I asked him how things were going was, “I make $1,000 a month renting out my bottom unit on Airbnb and average 27 days a month.” Who says this to a guy he hasn’t seen in years but an insecure loser? No wonder why he’s still single at 55. He’s still a 4.5 level player today while I was bumped to 5.0 three years ago.
Blogging: I told one of my colleagues, Robert, about my new blogging endeavor back in 2009. Instead of being cool about it he made a funny face and started typing on an air keyboard in mockery. What kind of idiot makes fun of a senior colleague who will be interviewed by the promotion committee to determine his fate?
Not only did he not get promoted that year or the next year, the firm shipped him off to NYC in a different department that is being crushed due to 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 financially best thing I’ve ever done. 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. If he wants to sell himself one day, he can’t, unless he wants to try the black market for body parts.
Then there was this other blogger from Canada who kept bagging on a blogging network I started in 2010. Although it didn’t take off like I planned, it still made over $10,000 a month for a couple years and still makes $1,000 – $2,000 a month today without any work since I only post there maybe once a quarter. Meanwhile, he gave up on his site and decided to be a grocery store manager. It’s a head scratcher why he was so critical, but I wish him the best.
Ongoing criticism by random readers and the occasional blogger gets me fired up each week. It’s impossible to write posts like this one without them. So please keep it up!
Writing a severance negotiation book: When I first published, How To Engineer Your Layoff, 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.
Five years later, I’ve received dozens of personal e-mails 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 just quit with nothing. Another guy told me he not only walked away with what I’m guessing is at least one hundred thousand dollars 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.
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 opened his mind.
Although the book has not changed my financial life with only about $3,500 a month in sales, it has helped everyone who sent me a thank you e-mail, which is incredibly rewarding. Further, if there’s ever a downturn, sales for this book will take off and help even more people.
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, live a simple life, and just write. Writing is what I’ve loved to do ever since I was a middle schooler writing international pen pal letters from Malaysia.
Of course I had my naysayers. Leaving a high paying job before your highest earning years sounds foolhardy. But the funny thing is, many people in the finance industry 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’d just go 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. But 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.
Thinking about the downsides of early retirement was the catalyst for coming up with the idea to negotiate a severance. Negotiating a five year severance package enabled me to try new things without fear of financial ruin. Since leaving full-time work in 2012, I’ve been able to consult in a new industry, travel extensively, and grow this site 10X by simply being consistent.
Not a day goes by where I’m not thankful for extricating myself and my wife from the matrix. If I listened to people who told me I was stupid for leaving banking, I’d probably be incredibly unhealthy, stressed, and unhappy right now.
You Will Regret More The Things You Don’t Do
The #1 reason why more people don’t do the unorthodox is because society has a terrible way of accepting the unusual. People able to pursue freely 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 made an effort.
To all the dreamers out there who want to do something different, please go for it. Don’t let the naysayers deny your progress. As the saying goes, “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
Readers, what are some things you want to do that you’re hesitant to try? What is one thing you decided to go for despite all the naysayers? 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?