Making it up (as you go) & Risk.

I’m approaching the mid-point of my thirties this year.

And I have no idea what I’m doing. Still.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve accomplished a good bit. And I have a semi-idea of how to proceed to make sure the lights stay on. To make sure that I can afford to feed and clothe myself.

Went to school. Got the doctorate. Did the training after school. Got the “dream” job.

And yet,

I look into the horizon and I sometimes feel like the thing that I most need is the exact opposite of what’s in front of me.

people playing baseball
Photo by Lino Khim Medrina on Pexels.com

The older you get the more that the world tries to imply that you should avoid discomfort and risk. We look down at people who are still figuring it out publicly at an older age. The 40 year old rapper is admired by exactly zero people. And while I can’t comment on the viability of that plan, I can say that I admire people who are willing to swing wildly, enthusiastically and intently at life.

I grew up in a immigrant household, whose whole life was built on decreasing the amount of risk that was inherent in their decision to leave their home country and build stable lives in America.

They tried to decrease any tendency towards risk-taking by encouraging all of us to take “stable” jobs in “stable” industries. As we are all finding out, the future is no respecter of the past. Change is happening so fast, there is no guarantee that the stable jobs of yesteryear will continue into the next decade.

Also, somewhat unrelatedly,

Risk is a part of life.

I think this pressure to avoid risk is what slowly kills men in relationships.

I’m not advocating for unnecessary and unsafe risk. But, I am confident that men die inside if the opportunity for adventure is stolen from them.

And it may not be actively taken, it may be something that we give up because we think the people who surround us are asking us to give up that part of ourselves.

There has to be a way to ensure that adventure remains a part of our lives.

Let me speak for myself.

I know I need to find ways to challenge myself daily, weekly, yearly.

fly or fall,

OFO

Consistent effort.

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Photo by Stas Knop on Pexels.com

Today I was listening to a podcast from BiggerPockets.

The guest was talking about something that I’ve been fighting against and losing for a good portion of my adult life.

He describes the fight that we all have when we’re trying to go from Zero to One while maintaining all the machinery that keep our day-to-day lives on track.

He explained how our brains were not designed to address the important, but instead were made to ensure the urgent was taken care of.

The problem comes from the fact that the important is almost NEVER urgent.

The actions that will lead to financial security in 20 years does not feel urgent.

The workout that you should do today to stave off illness in 40 years does not feel urgent.

The schooling that you should pursue in order to have a better life in 5 years does not feel urgent.

Figuring out how to work less so you can spend more unstructured time with your children doesn’t feel urgent.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On the other hand..

The bill laying on the kitchen counter with the red writing feels urgent.

The email your boss sent you about a report due next week feels urgent.

Because of these misleading feelings – we can go our whole lives taking care of the urgent and missing the opportunity to do anything truly important.

Distractions like tv, social media, and screen time don’t help.

They distract us from our inner voice and prevent boredom from creating space for us to reflect on where we are falling short and missing the mark.

Adding to the problem is the fact that addressing the truly important often feels like wasted time. We may put in hours, weeks, months, or years of work before we see a significant change in the circumstances we are trying to affect.

He calls the urgent that fills our daily life “the whirlwind”.

Our biggest challenge to being truly effective is learning how to manage the whirlwind and make sure that daily we are accomplishing something truly important.

This has been the biggest struggle I’ve faced in the past 5 years, as what is most important get’s a lot murkier after graduation. The surrogate marker for success of schooling or certifications isn’t always the most efficient way forward. 

I’ve set goals, and tried to make my important goals tangible.

I’ve started to work on those goals, but usually give up when the whirlwind of life has made being consistent too difficult. And I usually don’t spend a-lot of time defining the actions that will make my final goal attainable. 

I’m tired of this cycle and not seeing progress.

I have to move forward this year.  By setting clear goals, defining clearer action plans and lead indicators, and finally by executing on those goals.

And I wrote today.

OFO

What not to forget.

“It is better to spend your time at funerals than at festivals. For you are going to die and it is a good thing to think about it while there is still time.” – Ecclesiastes 7:2

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When will you take your last breath?

Is it something you like to think you’ll deal with much, much, later?

I know I do.

Death itself isn’t the problem. I imagine that death as an event is probably less bothersome than a visit to the dentist in 8 out of 10 cases. What concerns me is all of the choices that lead up until the moment our hearts stop beating.

I wonder if I’m making choices with death in mind. If I recognized how omnipresent the end is, I’d probably attack life a bit differently.

What if we could see death?

What if when we were born, we could only see death as a blip on the horizon. A dark spot beside  sunsets that could just as easily have been a trick of the retina. What if by the time we were middle age we could only just make out the outline of a figure in a bowler hat and a pocket watch in the far distance. As the years rolled by the figure got closer but we really couldn’t tell if he or she was fat or slim, tall or short, walking or just standing still.

If every evening we could look at the horizon and see death, lay down and wake up the following morning, glance out the ice-frosted window, and notice that death must have taken just a step closer to us while we slept.

What if by the time we were in our seventies we could make out the brand of the pocket watch and from time to time could see death leaning towards us a drunken sailor at port.

What if after years of growing comfortable with, and ignoring death we were shocked that somehow, while we weren’t paying attention, death had spent the last couple years in our homes, moving from the porch, to the living room, to the guest bathroom, and now seemed to making himself quite comfortable in the chair across from our bed.

Too tired to do much of anything, we watch him somberly as he stands up, reaching and stretching slowly, looking at his antique pocket watch critically and taking one step to the head of the bed. He’d lean over us and we’d feel his humid breath on our cheek as he breathed into our ear “It’s time.”

But we don’t.

Because, (1) that would be creepy.

And (2), that would drastically change the way  we lived day-to-day.

That’s the reality, however.

I wonder what you would change if you started being able to see death.

-OFO

 

“The Best Thing I’ve done all Week..”

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This week I got the opportunity to volunteer at a local church during vacation bible school. This was an all week vacation bible school that allowed parents a break and was targeted at both at-risk youth and neighborhood children.

I was only able to volunteer two days out of the five day camp but a couple hours into the first day I was texting a friend and telling her that this was the “best thing I had done all week”.  I meant it. I had spent the previous part of the week working at two different hospitals,  and while I enjoyed helping patients via my day to day activities, I felt a totally different type of reward from this.

The kids ranged in age from 4 year olds to 4th graders. And I loved them all.

We had bad kids (who weren’t really bad) but who had parents who didn’t reinforce boundaries or teach discipline and it really put my life into perspective. The bad kids were the kids that I was drawn to, because often they are victims of circumstance. Their parents were not prepared – financially, emotionally, or mentally for the responsiblity of having children. As a result the children suffer. They are stuck in a situation outside of their choosing and having to learn the rules for societies and success that their parents may never have entered.

It all got me to to thinking about my current focus. A little less than a month ago I stumbled upon a discovery that will save me a good sum of money every month, with no extra work, but just by making a couple adjustments to my student loan payment plan. That one adjustment will save me near the amount of money that I was hoping to gain from buying an investment property and be able to leave my second job.

I read a bible verse today that brought me up short.

Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here but for a moment more. My whole lifetime is no longer than my hand! Proud man! Frail as Breath! A shadow! And all his busy rushing ends in nothing. He heaps up riches for someone else to spend. And so, Lord, my only hope is in you.” – Psalm 39: 4-7

 

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The last couple of days have had me reflecting more and more about my purpose and legacy. One of the reasons for my creating a huge board of exciting life goals for this year was the realization that saving money wasn’t going to significantly increase my happiness and in fact, too much saving was making me miserable.

Thinking about how I’m investing my time now and ways that I can invest more time into the areas of my life bring me more happiness is the overall goal. If I can invest my time into children and change the trajectory of even one child then I’m sure I’d gain more satisfaction from that than owning another property. I’m also certain that If God wants me to own another investment property he will make a way for it to happen.

So, what’s the path forward? I’m not sure.

I’m tempted to think that the path forward is to

  1. Quit the second job.
  2. Become more efficient with my mornings (stick to a miracle morning 5x week)
  3. Volunteer with student (YBM’s) at Church or other volunteer organization.

But I’m not sure. I hope the road will make itself plain going forward.

FOF, OFO

Bigger than Financial Freedom..

 

F U Money. Wake up and Cake up Money. Freedom Money.

For a good portion of my adult life I’ve been focused on getting to the mythical but oft-talked about land of financial freedom. I’ve consumed blog posts, books, and gone to seminars that are all aimed at getting me to a place where I can live life not ever having to worry about money and cashing checks from investments would be my biggest job responsibility.

I’m not the only one it seems.

There are a lot of personal finance blogs that cater to the idea of financial freedom and helping you to achieve it. I love them all. I love reading about how people who came from not-much are able to focus and create a life of abundance. One of my favorite pastimes is scrolling through the personal finance blogosphere during commutes or downtime.

My financial journey has been an interesting one in that it has shifted and transformed as I’ve gotten older. I started with an extreme focus on expense tracking and organization. Then I started to seek opportunities to improve cash flow by searching for assets worth acquiring. The last couple of years has been somewhat frustrating as opportunities to find have dwindled significantly.

So I read this amazing post from George Tako on Medium..

This post was paradigm shifting for me. It really helped me to come to terms with the emptiness that laid behind my determination to live a life where I imagined living by the beach, drinking Pina coladas and watching checks roll in. Because, first of all, I don’t like Pina Coladas.

Second, do I really want to stop working? No.

The whole point of becoming financially independent was so that I could then, go on to discover the work that I love to do. smh. This is backwards thinking. Why not figure out how to incorporate more and more of the work I love to do into my life now. Why not figure out ways that I can help others and make money today. If I can’t solve this problem today then I must keep attacking this problem until I get to a solution that adds value to both my life and the people I’m serving.

I’m trying to make the shift from wanting the material wealth to wanting the internal changes that acquiring wealth would require from me. I think I want to be a better person. Who knew?

I am a self-improvement addict. I don’t need more money – I just need courage and the self-awareness to keep growing.

I hope to continually craft a work-life that speaks to my soul.

Fly or Fall

OFO

 

[picture from San Francisco Marina Playground]

View at Medium.com

Professor Time..

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Today I sat on the beach for a couple of hours watching the waves pulse against and fall away from the accumulation of seashells, sand, and tourists. 

I’d gotten the opportunity to step away from the ho-hum and accompany my cousin to a mini-vacation that was stuck right in the midst of one of the busy weeks; full of obligation, guilt at being unable to attend to them all, and unease about if any of these things were moving me closer to the life I wanted.

On the way up we bounced the beach ball of conversation onto a couple of different topics. We started with how we were each, everyday, chipping away at the life we were given. We were constantly becoming. Constantly creating habits that would either make our sculptures more beautiful or letting the chisel slip and create details that we did not want in the final product.

We talked about how being comfortable could be a type of ambition anesthesia that allows time to slip away unnoticed, not capitalized on, and unappreciated. I started to think about what creature comforts I needed to remove from my life in order to give myself the nudge towards doing something different. Was it Netflix? Facebook? My Television? Tinder?

I watched the waves build, crest, and then crash into the beach. They reached as far as they could then reluctantly were drawn back into the ocean, never to be seen again in exactly the same form. 

I realized that my time here on earth was very similar. My time was very much like the waves. I don’t know when I might be asked to return back to the ocean. I don’t know what rocks I may crash against. However, I do know that I have some choice as to what I want to pursue while I have time.

What came to me while I was watching the waves lick at the beach, was that I wanted to create as much as I could while I could. I want to leave my mark in as many realms as I am interested in. I don’t want to waste any more time.

Practically this translates into a desire to create something new everyday..An essay, a piece of music, a new muscle, a skill, something that is additive. Ideally this is something that I can look at the next day and feel that exhalation of satisfaction in putting my heart, and nerve and sinew to the tasks of building something new.

Even if it’s a sandcastle on the beach.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

 

 

Ladder’s on the Right Wall

This month has been a very interesting one. One filled with a message that I seem hell-bent on ignoring. I’ve written before about my tendency to use money as a yardstick. This leads to a temptation to bury myself in my work due to it’s easy availability of meaning.

  • Work = Value created for somebody.
  • Work = helping other people
  • Work = More money
  • More money = More Freedom

Work is a win-win-WIN. Until it’s not.

One of my correlated interests due to my obsession with financial freedom is perusing personal finance website and poring over other people’s thoughts on finances, investing, and smart ways to tackle financial planning. As a result I follow a couple people in the blogosphere who pontificate on making smart financial decisions and ways to structure back-door Roth’s or use HSA’s as no-tax retirement accounts.

One of the people I follow was  a young doctor who was in her residency but had managed, through levels of hard work I can’t even begin to imagine, managed to graduate medical school with no debt, purchase a home, and fully fund her retirement while also raising a child. To say I was impressed by her achievements were a understatement. All this was accomplished before her 32nd birthday.

Recently, I learned that she had passed. Possibly (unconfirmed), due to suicide.

For some reason, this death, although I did not know her personally, shook me.

I think, because, she was so far ahead of me in soo many ways. Although, she was younger, I looked up to her. Her work ethic and accomplishments were in many ways- a blueprint for the life I wanted.

So her death (and it’s rumored cause), naturally, threw a monkey wrench into my mental model. The biggest question to be born from it all is, am I living my best life today? If my life was to end today, would I be happy with the way I’ve been spending my days?

I think this has even been on my mind even more due to a couple conversation’s with some people who have known me for  a little while.

  • One conversation with a former roommate. He asked me if I still made music, because he knew how happy it used to make me as a student. I used to get noise complaints weekly (yep – I was that neighbor) because I would spend hours crafting music simply for the joy of creating. My answer to him: No.
  • A friend of mine about a month ago not believing that I made music. Then daring me to create some right that second. I started and lost myself in the process. I looked up an hour later. Happier, although I didn’t earn any money, move forward on any goals, or create value for anyone but me.

It’s really also made me stop and look at the why of why I’m doing the things I’m doing. The last couple of months I’ve been working extra because my car was acting up in late December. I threw myself into work in order to be able to buy my next car with cash. However, the closer I got to my goal, the more tempting it was to move the goal post just a bit further so I could afford a car that was just a bit nicer, had just a bit more horsepower or just a bit nicer rims.

After this event, I started to wonder about the wisdom of working harder to afford a more expensive car, that would mainly serve to shuttle me to work. I was about to willingly  enter into a bit of a nonsensical vicious circle-jerk.

This death, as unfortunate as it was, has helped to pause my automatic decision making. It’s helping me (And I really do struggle) with pausing my knee-jerk reaction to solve problems with more effort, more hours pounding away at a problem, and to take a moment to consider surrendering control to God.

To ponder relaxing and happiness as goals worthy of achievement unto themselves.

To try to re-frame my relationship with money and  work.

“To work to serve. To work to learn. That money is a tool” – DWM

Fly or Fall.

OFO