License to Chill

I’ve got a license to chill.  And I believe I will. – Jimmy Buffett

What’s the right balance between charging hard and kicking back?  That’s a question that I’ve been struggling with for the past few weeks.  My ultimate goal is to create enough passive income to do whatever I want.  And I want to do a lot.  I want to travel to places steeped in history.  I want to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.  I want to pack a canoe and spend weeks paddling around and camping.  I want to learn to sail and do some island hopping or the Great American Loop.

A while ago, I came across a quote I really liked: You’ve got to earn the right to sit back and chill.  At what point, though, do you earn your license to chill?

I spent the first 3 years of my career busting my ass.  I was the go-to division officer, consistently ranked above my peers and at the top of the pack.  I operated well beyond what was expected of a first tour division officer and, through my hard work, ability to execute, and work across departments, gained the highest level of respect up, down, and across the chain and command.  All that work paid off in helping me land a second tour job that has a much more relaxed pace and an emphasis on training, which is what I enjoy doing.

While my nature won’t allow me to be a “shit bag” (an affectionate military term for a slacker, freeloader, etc), I think that I’ve earned a license to chill for a bit.  I’ll still put all the checks in the “Division Officer shall” boxes and execute any other taskers to my high personal standard.  With a charge from the Commanding Officer and a personal interest in it, I look forward to training the next group of junior officers.  I don’t intend, however, to kill myself the way I did on my first ship.

So, no, I won’t be working on those extra qualifications that are ultimately just checks in the box were I to make this Navy thing a career.  I’m not, and the only person who’d benefit from my qualifying these watches is me.  As I’m not screwing over anyone else, I’m fine letting it go.  What’s the point in chasing after a meaningless piece of paper, especially if it takes away the free time I’d rather spend reading and writing?

I’ve recently been seeing this trend extend to other areas of my life.  I think it’s a function of being on deployment and rearranging the pots on the stove.  I dove headfirst into The Miracle Morning and it’s still been a hugely beneficial change I’ve made in my life.  Now that I’ve reached some good headspace, I’ve allowed myself a bit of a license to chill with my SAVERS.

While I’ve made an effort to do yoga and meditate between my 0000-0300 and 0600-0900 watches, I don’t beat myself up if I skip a day here and there.  I’ve written in my 5 Minute Journal most days but have allowed myself to skip a day or two if I forget.  Every few days, I’ll review my affirmations on my phone.  I still read every day, so that’s been a constant.

While you could say I’m making excuses for falling off the wagon, I disagree.  Not to try and save face, but because of how I feel about missing a day versus how I used to feel.  In the past, I’d beat myself up over it.  If I couldn’t do it all, I wouldn’t do it at all.  If I missed a day of journaling, I’d stop for months before I made a Herculean effort to begin again.  Now, I simply follow the mantra I learned from the 10% Happier app and, “Simply begin again.”

The same goes for doing yoga or meditating or reading my affirmations.  At this point, thanks to that surge of focused effort I put in at the beginning, my affirmations are subconsciously engrained in my thought processes and I’m a much calmer person from my meditation practice in the past.

Going forward, my goal will be to identify the areas and projects that I want to go into overdrive to over-deliver on and produce outsized results.  Otherwise, I’ve got a license to chill.  And I do believe that I will.

Damn, I’ve Got It Good

Every day (ok, almost every day), I write in my Five Minute Journal, making note of 3 things I’m grateful for that morning and 3 awesome things that happened when I look back on my day at night.  While it’s been a practice that’s really helped me turn things around from the rut I was in last year, I liken it to focusing on individual trees of a forest.  While it’s great to appreciate the beauty of each individual tree, every so often we need to step back and appreciate the forest as a whole.  Recently, I had one of those experiences where everything came together and I was able to look at my life and recognize that, damn, I’ve got it good. Continue reading Damn, I’ve Got It Good

Moving Beyond Maslow’s Basic Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is well known to anyone who’s studied basic psychology.  Introduced in 1943, Maslow posited that there are certain needs that must be met before others can be fully realized.  Maslow divided these into different categories, which are often depicted as a pyramid.  At the bottom are physiological needs – things like air, water, food, clothing, and shelter – which are the physical requirements for survival.  Continue reading Moving Beyond Maslow’s Basic Needs

Making Friends With The Eminent Living

Our last post explored Charlie Munger’s habit of making friends with the eminent dead.  While a great practice in and of itself, it can be augment by making friends with the eminent living.  Bringing the two together often yields a result greater than the sum of its part.  We’ll explore all that, and more, in today’s post.

There are a few ways in which making friends with the eminent living can improve our lives.  The first is through learning lessons of old refined by a modern day expert; the second is by learning newly discovered lessons; and the third is from being influenced by (and maybe even being actual friends with) the eminent living.

Old Made New

While certain truths, theories, and practices stand the test of time, they often evolve to make sense in the modern time.  In some cases, somebody comes along and refines an old practice to fit today’s circumstances, but even better is when someone comes along and synthesizes several classic theories into an even better new practice.  In such cases, this new product is often greater than the sum of its parts.

An obvious example, as you might have guessed from the last post, is Charlie Munger and his partner Warren Buffett.  Both men claim Benjamin Graham and Phillip Fisher as their guides.  While Buffett has claimed he’s 85% Graham/15% Fisher, Charlie thinks he’s helped his best friend and business partner down the Fisher path a bit further and faster than he would have ventured otherwise.  Both Graham and Fisher have stood the test of time, but combining their two ideologies into a single investment strategy has resulted in Berkshire Hathaway becoming the most well-known investing firm in the world and earned both Buffett and Munger places in the argument for greatest investor of all time.

New Discoveries

What’s great about the rise of technology is the widespread access to scientific studies.  With the ability to easily distribute and spread new findings, it’s possible to learn something new nearly every day.  Within the past few decades, there has been break through research that has changed the way millions of people think.

Malcolm Gladwell rose to prominence with books like The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers.  It’s hard to talk to anyone about trying to learn a new skill or master an existing one without running into the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice theory that Gladwell exposed so many readers to.  All of a sudden, it became easier to see that child prodigies and world-renown performers, while often naturally gifted, are the product of an incredible number of hours of focused, deliberate study.  While we ourselves may not strive to reach the same heights, we can certainly learn that a commitment to continual, deliberate practice will lead to better results.

I’ve talked about Carol Dweck in the past.  Her work on the growth vs fixed mindsets was similarly groundbreaking.  By learning that, yes, we can change, grown, and develop, if we adopt a growth mindset and reject the idea of a fixed mindset, we open up so many new doors.

On the financial side, the early retirement folks have flipped traditional retirement planning on its head.  People like Jacob Fisker, J Collins, Mr. Money Mustache, and Paula Pant have helped thousands, if not millions, of people realize that there is an alternative to the retire at 65 story.

Friends with Influence

The final benefit of making friends with the eminent living is finding people who are a continual source of inspiration or motivation.  For me (and tens of thousands of others), the two that stand out are Ramit Sethi and Tim Ferriss.  Ramit, known for his NYT-best selling book I Will Teach You To Be Rich and his company of the same name, has been flipping my thinking on its head for years.  When he’s not challenging the status quo, calling bullshit on “advisors,” or producing outsized results for himself and his students, he’s calling all of us out on our own bullshit and driving us to grow and achieve.  He’s been far and away the most influential friend I’ve made among the eminent living.

Tim Ferriss made waves with the idea of mini-retirements in his own NYT-bestseller, The 4 Hour Workweek, and has followed that up with similar earth shaking waves in the form of The 4 Hour Body and The 4 Hour Chef.  Between those extremely well researched, designed, and tested books, Tim’s podcasts (which can run up to a few hours with deep diving and thoughtful interviews), and his Tim Ferriss experiment TV show, Tim’s a constant source of information.  He’s also so well connected that he’s a linchpin, constantly referring his readers to new people and ideas.  His 5-Bullet Friday emails are a great way to wind down the work week and get the creative juices flowing for the weekend.

Folks like Ramit and Tim, and the people and inspiration you find through their networks, help us find new and better ways to live our lives and achieve what we set out to do because they go through, experiment, and test so much more than we’re capable of ourselves.  Learning from their experience, and all the experience they’re able to tap into through who they known, is priceless.  So much of the positive changes I’ve recently made, as well as the things that were already going well in my life, I can trace back to either something I learned from Ramit or Tim directly, or from a product or person I found through them.

Conclusion

It’s often touted that we’re the product of the 5 people we spend the most time with.  While that’s certainly true of our group of friends in real life, with all the technology and information available to us in this day and age, it’s also easier than ever to hang out with some of the best and brightest among the eminent living.  Spend more time learning from them, and you’ll find you life improving in so many new ways.

Making Friends With The Eminent Dead

Charlie Munger speaks often about making friends among the eminent dead:

“That sounds funny, making friends among the eminent dead, but if you go through life making friends with the eminent dead who had the right ideas, I think it will work better in life and work better in education. It’s way better than just giving the basic concepts.”

In a world where so few people read books (recent research shows that the median number of books read by Americans over the age of 16 last year was 6), so much wisdom is left untapped in the pages of authors from the past.  Although we’re all unique in our own ways, we all go through similar experiences: we’ll all live, we’ll have relationships with other humans, we’ll suffer, we’ll strive for and hopefully find relief, we’ll grieve, we’ll celebrate, we’ll struggle, we’ll succeed or fail, we’ll grow stronger or wither away, and, eventually, we’ll all die.

There are almost endless ways to approach any and all of these situations and living a fulfilling life is about finding what works best for you.  Some things will come easy and others will be a struggle.  We may be lucky enough to find a soulmate early on in life and know that we’ll spend the rest of our days building a beautiful life with that person.  But maybe we have no idea what we want to do for a career.  Or, the career hotshot may be killing it on her way up the ladder and loving every moment she spends at work, but struggles to find and maintain a relationship.

The CEO who seemingly has it all together – tall, handsome, athletic, well-educated, and wildly successful – may be struggling with mental or emotional problems.  Meanwhile that introverted, shy guy in IT may be able to solve a problem that’s long plagued the firm.  Point being, some stuff is easy and some stuff is hard.  When we encounter areas of our lives that challenge us, seemingly beyond our capabilities, it’s easy to think that we’re all alone and the walls are closing in with no way out.

Luckily, though, with just a few hours’ investment, we can glean a lifetime’s worth of wisdom from someone who has come before us and made it through that very problem we’re facing, or at least something similar.  We may find an example where the person emerged victorious and find comfort knowing that the seemingly impossible can in fact be done.  Or we may find that someone failed miserably, but because they were willing to share their lessons learned, we’re able to avoid the same fate.  Plus, we can see that they came out the other end alive.

Munger has certainly benefitted from his impressive peer group of the eminent dead.  He credits such men as Adam Smith as forming the foundation of his knowledge – knowledge that he put to use to found one of the top law firms in the country before becoming even more widely known for his investing prowess.  By looking to history to find those who had the right ideas, Munger was able to learn from their experience, avoid their mistakes, and go on to achieve greater things.  He is living proof of Newton’s declaration: said, if I have done great things, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.

If it’s good enough for Munger, it’s good enough for me.  There are certain historical figures that have stood the test of time, providing a beacon of light to follow for those who choose to seek it out.  For me, I’m always enraptured by American colonial figures, especially the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin.  Going back further, I’ve learned that a lot of my personality is rooted in the very ideas embodied by the Stoics.  As such, I’ve greatly enjoyed the insights found in the writings of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.

Arguably the greatest statesman of the 20th century, Winston Churchill is a goldmine of wisdom and learning.  A study of his life yields lessons on various topics, from building a career, seeking adventure, leading through crisis and criticism, and maintaining a loving and enduring relationship through it all.  Who wouldn’t want to learn from such a man?

No matter what you’re facing in life, it’s worth it to turn to those from history who’ve gone through the same.  Sometimes, that’ll be during a difficult time and you’ll be looking for any sign of better things to come or a light at the end of the tunnel.  Even better, though, is to seek out this wisdom ahead of time, so we’ll be prepared to face things as they come.  Regardless, be like Charlie and make friends with the eminent dead who’ve been proven right over the course of history.  You’ll be much better off for it.

Investing in Myself

I’ve long been a DIYer, and often a cheap one at that.  My thought has often been, if I can do it myself or get it for free on my own, why would I pay for it?  I’ve read thousands of books and spent hours online researching and watching how-to videos.  In many regards, it’s helped me immensely, and I’ve been able to reach my goals through my own blood, sweat, and tears.

In studying successful people over the past few years, though, it’s become more and more clear how big of a role valuable advisors play in achieving extraordinary levels of success.  Sure, I have had several mentors along the way who have helped me out for various reasons, but as I look to level up in all areas of my life, I’m understanding more clearly the value of investing money and time into my own development, whether that be financial, physical, mental, or emotional. Continue reading Investing in Myself

Lucky and Good

The phrase, “I’d rather be lucky than good” gets thrown around quite a bit.  We’ll all hear it and typically nod in agreement.  Who doesn’t like a little bit of luck on their side?  Why not be lucky and good?

I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.  – Thomas Jefferson

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity  – Seneca

If we set our focus on the process instead of the results, we’ll set ourselves up to make better decisions and, as a result, find far more luck and success.  If we instead rely on dumb luck – or worse, think we’re actually making good decisions when we’re using a flawed process – we’re setting ourselves up for a lifetime of avoidable failures and needless disappointments.

Continue reading Lucky and Good

Sorry I’m Not Sorry (A Rant)

Warning: I’m about to go on a rant.  I think it a rather reasonable one, but it’s something that has long gnawed at me and I’m hoping that getting it out of my system will help bring some calm.  At first glance, it may sound like unwarranted whining, but I implore you to read to the end and see if I don’t make some sense.

It all starts out innocently enough with a simple remark.  On the nicer end, it’s something like: “Oh you’re so smart/lucky/fortunate, I wish I was like that.”  On the bitter end, it’s more snarky: “Must be easy being so smart/lucky/fortunate/privileged/whatever.”  While in real life, I try and graciously respond with a soft smile and something along the lines of, “Oh, you know, I stuck with it for a while and things finally clicked,” what I often really want to say is this: <sarcasm laced rant> Continue reading Sorry I’m Not Sorry (A Rant)

The Most Valuable Card In My Wallet

I have 6 credit cards, each with their own perks and rewards programs that I take full advantage of and each paid off in full every month.  I’ve racked up tens of thousands of point for flights, hotel stays, upgrades, gift cards, or cash back.  The most valuable card in my wallet, though, is my humble library card.

I’ve been a proud library card carrier since I was five years old.  One of the first things I did when I moved to DC and then San Diego was apply for a library card.  In my 25 years on earth so far, the library has opened the door to thousands of books that have expanded my mind and taken me to places previously unimaginable.  The best part is it’s all been for free (save some late fines and a lost book fee). Continue reading The Most Valuable Card In My Wallet

My Personal Finance System

Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons. – Woody Allen

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy you a jet ski.  Have you ever seen anyone sad on a jet ski? – Kenny Powers

I have financial goals.  We all do.  Maybe it’s paying off credit card or student loan debt or maybe you’re trying to save up for a down payment on your first house.  My goal is to build up a collection of assets that pumps out cash for me regardless of how I spend my day.  I plan to do that through real estate investing, so my goal is to save up money for the down payment on the next rental property. Continue reading My Personal Finance System

Incremental Improvements = Compounding Results