How Chautauqua Rewired my Brain

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Tickets are being snatched up for Chautauqua in UK and Portugal this year, so if you already know what it’s about and want to sign up, click here. If not, continue reading below.

UPDATE: As of Feb 4th, Portugal is sold out.  There are still a few spots left for the UK, but they too are going fast. If you want to come, don’t wait, they’re going fast!


“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” –Jim Rohn


I’ve always been a pessimist.

People like Tony Robbins and Jim Rohn were huge mysteries to me. Whenever they talked about positive thinking and “believing in yourself” it was as if they were jabbering away in a foreign language I never understood.

Negativity, a self-defeating attitude, and a bleak outlook on life were hard-wired into my brain. A big part of that has to do with my past. After all, my parents are survivors of the Great Chinese Famine and the Cultural Revolution—which killed over 36 million people. So, understandably, they have a pretty bleak outlook on life.

As a result, I never learned to think positively. I was taught to put my head down, work hard, and never take anything for granted. In hindsight, this helped a lot in getting us through poverty. Because when you consider yourself lucky not to have Commies breaking down your door in the middle of the night, things like wearing thrift store clothes and eating expired groceries really don’t bother you.

That’s why I was able to retire and travel the world in my 30s, despite being a pessimist, because my history gave me this incredible perspective that I would’ve never had if I had grown up rich. But the downside is that I never learned to think positively.

This all changed, when I went to my first Chautauqua.

Suddenly, I understood why there were so many positive testimonials. When you put a group of exceptional people together for a week, amazing transformative things happen.

You become energized, happy, and motivated to accomplish things rather than letting all your negative thoughts take over. You start to understand what Tony and Jim were trying to tell you.

Looking back, I can’t even believe some of the accomplishments and huge strides Chautauquans have made afterwards:

  • increased salary to 6-figures and continues to get raises
  • paid off a big chunk of student debt, got a massive promotion, and constructed a solid plan to become FI
  • produced a FIRE movie 
  • started running Chautauquas
  • started a business selling customized dolls at 17-years-old, our youngest Chautauquan ever
  • sold everything to travel the world, while slashing their costs in half
  • found tax savings that not only paid for the Chautauqua, but also ended up increasing their assets in a “life-changing” one-on-one session
  • learned how to invest towards FI while living in Japan—something they did not find on any existing FI blog

I’ve been to many conferences when I was working, and afterwards, people generally forgot about it a week later and few people kept in touch. Chautauqua is the opposite. That’s when I started to notice there’s something special about the people who come to Chautauqua.

Their willingness to step out of their comfort zone, travel to a foreign country, and hang out with 25 complete strangers makes Chautauquans exceptional. This type of openness to new experiences and willingness to investing in networking and self-improvement creates the magical formula that sparks amazing accomplishments and life-long friendships.

This also explains why we’ve had reluctant spouses, who were not into FIRE, be completely turned around by the experience. Some even said it’s one of the best trips they’ve ever been on. This also explains why we have alumni attendees who come back, year after year.

We are a family.

Come join your Chautauquan family!

Case in point, just last week, I got an e-mail from past attendees about a re-occurring mastermind group session they’ve organized and an upcoming Chautauqua reunion. They are continuing to support each other and keep each other on track for financial goals as well as passion projects.

That never happened at work conferences.

In fact, if it weren’t for Chautauqua, we wouldn’t have written Quit Like a Millionaire. Remember how I said our earnings increased 4X from last year? Part of that was the book advance and it was Chautauqua that solidified our decision. After talking to the Godfather of FI and being surrounded by exceptional people, we couldn’t help but be inspired to write it, even though we knew it was going to be a PAINFUL amount of work.

And because of the inspiration and connections that Chautauqua brings, that’s what inspired us to challenge ourselves to create and pitch a TV show this year.

Chautauqua isn’t about feeling good and going on a fancy vacation. It’s about bettering yourself and accomplishing things you never thought possible. It’s also about connecting with exceptional people who get you and what you’re trying to do.

Plus, it gives you a high throughout the entire week that lasts and lasts. As Chautauqua alumni Kathy puts it:

We just floated through the week on a wave of happiness.

Before I joined the Chautauqua family, I was pretty pessimistic. It was mostly from my upbringing. I love my parents, and given their traumatizing childhoods, I don’t blame them for thinking negatively. But I’m living proof that that can be changed when you hang around positive people. They inspire you to do so many things you never thought you could.

If you had told me to pitch a TV show, the old me would’ve thought, “meh, it’ll probably fail. I don’t know anything about TV.” The new me—the better me—can’t help but give it a shot to see where it goes.

Chautauquas have made me a better person. I guess that’s what happens when you hang out with self-made millionaires and future millionaires. You can’t help but become a better version of yourself. You can’t help but tell yourself “yes I can!” and then go out and get shit done.

From “Why bother?” to “Why not?” Finding your tribe changes everything!

So, it turns out pessimism isn’t hard-wired into your brain. Being around positive people really can change your outlook. You just have to go out there and meet them.

I’m happy to report that I’m no longer a pessimist (my vocabulary has changed from “Why bother” to “Why not?”) and I credit most of that change to Chautauquas. It has changed me for the better and it will change you too.

But don’t just take it from me, check out these posts from past attendees:


And here are the posts from the Godfather himself and my fellow speakers:

  1. JLCollins: Chautauqua 2019 – UK & Portugal – Tickets Now Available/
  2. J.D Roth: Join me in Portugal for a one-week chautauqua about money and life!
  3. Carl: Chautauqua UK: Castles, Camarasaurs, And Community
  4. Jillian: The Power of Community
  5. Scott & Taylor: Why We Love Chautauqua and You Will Too

So what are you waiting for? Come join the family in UK or Portugal this year. We’re beyond excited to see you!



Week 1 – June 8-15, 2019: JL Collins, Millennial Revolution,Alan Donegan, and Carl from Mr1500

Week 2 – June 15-22, 2019: JL Collins, Millennial Revolution, Alan Donegan, and Jillian from MontanaMoneyAdventures


We will be spending our time together in Ettington Park, a historical luxury hotel in the English Countryside just outside Stratford Upon Avon, with talks in the old Library with the secret door, 1-2-1s in the English country garden and walks around the amazing grounds.


The speakers who will be welcoming you to our Chautauqua family:

JLCollins, the Godfather of FI and bestselling author of “The Simple Path to Wealth”:
Alan Donegan, founder of Popup Business School:
Carl from 1500days (week 1):
Jillian from MontanaMoneyAdventures, who became FI at 32 with 6 kids (week2):


On Saturday we will meet you at Heathrow Airport and we will all gather at a hotel in Windsor around the corner from the Queen’s home Windsor Castle.

​On Sunday after a look around Windsor we will travel together to Stratford-Upon-Avon for the Chautauqua where you will experience a week of FI talks, amazing food and English experiences like afternoon tea, bangers and mash and spotted dick!  Staying in a old English mansion that was built in 1060 AD.

On the last Saturday we ​will return you to Heathrow or Windsor depending on your schedule.

​See here for the full week schedule

Click here to book.



Week 1 – Sept 21-28, 2019: JL Collins, Millennial Revolution, Alan Donegan, and Scott & Taylor, stars of the FIRE documentary

Week 2 – Sept 28-Oct 5, 2019: JL Collins, Millennial Revolution, Alan Donegan, and J.D Roth from GetRichSlowly


We will be staying at Douro 41 Hotel and Spa, so called because it’s located on kilometre 41 of the Douro river. It’s a contemporary hotel in harmony with the amazing natural surroundings. Inspired by the Douro wine region, it recreates the terraces that characterize and mould the slopes of the region for centuries.


JLCollins, Alan Donegan, and us from above, plus:

Scott & Taylor from the PlayingWithFIRE movie (week 1):

J.D Roth from GetRichSlowly (week 2)


On Saturday we will meet you at Porto Airport where we will all gather at a hotel in Porto and get to know each other.
​On Sunday after a look around Porto we will travel together to the Douro Valley (UNESCO World Heritage site famous wine growing region) for the Chautauqua where you will experience a week of FI talks, amazing food and Portuguese experiences like pastel de nata!  The hotel is right on the Douro river, anchored in the terrace along its banks with gorgeous views of the river and valley.

On the last Saturday we ​will return you to Porto.

​See here for the full week schedule

Sign up here (hurry, from past experience, tickets always sell out fast!).

Come join the family! Can’t wait to see you!

UPDATE: As of Feb 4th, Portugal is sold out.  There are still a few spots left for the UK, but they too are going fast. If you want to come, don’t wait, they’re going fast!

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36 thoughts on “How Chautauqua Rewired my Brain”

  1. Sounds like this is going to be a wonderful event. I might have to put a post out on DNN and share the good news momentarily on the website. Thanks for letting us know! 🙂

  2. Kristy and Bryce – thanks so much for the time you spent with me and my ‘reluctant spouse’. The time was invaluable, and I appreciate how you have continued to check in with us!

    If you are thinking of going, and have the financial means to do so, you will not be disappointed!

    The speakers are amazing, but its not just about them. The attendees are a seriously impressive bunch and you’ll connect at a level that you would not have thought possible.

    Feel free to reach out if you have questions you’d like to ask an attendee.

    1. Firecracker, Wanderer, Mr and Mrs Chaos, We look forward to experiencing what all of you described and experienced with previous Chautauquas. We will be going to UK-C Wk#2. Happy journeys on the FI path!

    2. Thanks, Mr. Chaos! Chautauqua wouldn’t have been the same without you guys. Really enjoyed chatting and hanging out and can’t wait to see you guys somewhere in the world! Give Mrs. Chaos a hug for us!

  3. Thanks for the shout out Kristy! As past attendees we HIGHLY recommend anyone that can afford to take a week off to just do it!

    When we arrived at our Chautauqua in 2017 we met wonderful, authentic & inspiring people. When we left we started some of the strongest relationships we ever made – light years away from the ones we made at a traditional work seminar.

    My girlfriend (now wife) was the one convincing me to go. We heard about that FI/RE thing but she was still the one wondering if this wasn’t a fad. By having a few 1-1 time with the speakers during the week (JL Collins & Kristy/Bryce in particular) she got the nudge she needed to pass over her fears. Less than a year later we sold everything to travel the world and could not be happier. And as Kristy said, this help us cut our cost of spending in half ( thanks to the magic of geo-arbitrage.

    Trust us attending a Chautauqua is SO worth it and you will be glad you decided to sign up for it!

    As for us, after visiting Canada & Mexico in 2018 ( we plan to slow travel Europe and South East Asia in 2019.

    1. You guys rocks! I knew there was something special about Chautauquans and you proved it 🙂 Hope we can see each other in Europe sometime this year!

  4. Every year I want to go, but it never seems to work out. We’re actually headed to Portugal this year…but not at that time.

    Some day!

    I like your take on how the right group of people have changed pessimism to optimism. I might need to head to one of these FI meetups…

  5. Question-Could part of the arrangements another time include arrangements for caregivers? MB aged 2 1/3 would have to come with. Marshmellow dad is a reluctant spouse, but I am approaching a milestone birthday……..our vacation time is precious and I want to make sure that we could all attend.

    Thanks for considering,

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, TM. I understand your challenge with leaving MB (now I can picture her in my head because of your e-mail. She’s so cute :))–some of our attendees struggled with the same thing, but have found that the adult-only event really allows the strongest bonding and the most transformative experience. Hope you can find a way to come!

  6. We were lucky enough to grab 2 spots for UK part 1. Stoked after reading this post. Looking forward to the event!

  7. I calculated the price to go to the event and part of me wants to save and invest but I may actually pull the trigger on this trip. Sounds like a blast

    1. If you can make the finances work, we would love to have you Ed! Promise you will have a blast (and make lots of valuable connections!)

  8. $8000.00 CDN for one week for a couple? (4600 pound sterling).

    That is a f*ck ton of money.

    I’d like to see your “this is how much we spent at Chautauqua” post. Prob will be about 10 grand including perks and extras?

    Reminds me of a climate change conference I got invited to (but did not go).

    Everyone arrived on private jets. Carbon footprints were huge. Limos and chauffeured tours were the order of the day.

    I thought you guys were budget travel specialists?

    $8000.00 CDN per week seems a bit steep.

    1. Never said Chautauqua was meant to be cheap. If you actually read the post I said it’s not a fancy vacation, it’s meant to create connections and for self-improvement. For many people it’s a bucket list item and a once-in-a lifetime experience.

      Doesn’t look like this is the event for you. I suggest checking out the many other less expensive events in the FI community or starting your own.

      1. I read it.

        25 people staying in a lux hotel in Warwickshire, West Midlands. Have fun in Nuneaton. Shakespeare was born near where you will be staying. The hotel is not actually that old. It dates from the mid 1800’s. The original building has been replaced with the one you are going to be living in.

        $8000.00 per week + expenses is nuts.

        If Tony Robbins was going to be speaking there, it would not be worth that much.

        You can stay in that area in an Air bnb for a fraction of that cost, particularly at this time of the year. All the tourists go there in the summer.

        10K for a week. Yeah, maybe.

        If I am spending 10K for a week somewhere, it better be tropical, there better be free booze and there better be quite a few famous folks putting on sold out shows.

        25 FI dudes? Yeah, I’ll pass…….

      2. Oh and as I said in my other post, TV is dead.

        If you produce a TV show, no one will watch it.

        You need to stream. Youtube would probably be the best bet. Other than that, talk to Amazon Prime or Netflix.

        No one watches TV anymore. Everyone streams.

    2. I wonder about this. I love millennial revolution but something is fishy. Are you, Firecracker, getting commission on this? Whose keeping the massive profit from putting this on? I spent $1500usd in Spain and Portugal for a month! So the margin on this must be massive. I lost about a third in my trust in MR after seeing so much about Chatauqua on this site. I’m all for MR making more money, but I just went believe them with value add this and exclusivity that.

      1. From Jim Collins:

        Chautauqua is absolutely a for-profit business.
        Alan and Katie (the organizers) work extremely hard pulling these together and we want them to be very well paid for their efforts. I believe in people getting paid for their work.
        As for the speakers, we cover all their costs during the event and give them $1000 in travel expenses. If they travel-hack their way to our destination for less, they get to keep the balance. If they spend more, it is on them. We also pay them a small stipend for their services.

        Chautauqua happens every year, and as long as we’re invited to be speakers we will promote it every year. If it’s not good fit for you, there are other, less expensive/awesome events you can attend.

  9. My point I’m trying to get at is the purpose of this blog seems to be to tell people that you can retire on $1,000,000.00 in ETFs and travel the world.

    That however is clearly not true. $1,000,000.00 in ETFs will generate about $40,000 per year in cash flow, at a 4% return, in good years. In bad years, the cash flow will be negative.

    You guys are spending, conservatively, about $90,000 per year (I’ve done the math). So you are already at double what your portfolio could generate in the best of years.

    Then you go and state that you’re attending an $8000.00 per week seminar, which works out to 10 weeks of spending at your stated $40,000 per year spending cap (which means you would then, following this $8000.00 per week seminar, have to live for 10 weeks completely for free).

    What I’m saying is, either money is falling from the sky onto you guys, or you are not retired.

    Retired means not working. You seem to be running businesses, called “side hustles”, as opposed to full retirement. Some of those businesses seem to include selling a concept known as “FIRE” (which seems to be the proposal that you can live off of ETFs without working, and you need about a million Canadian Dollars in ETFs to do that).

    I don’t think that either of you are retired.

    At any rate, enjoy your $8000.00 per week seminar.

  10. And how in the world do you do that (spend $40K per year) when you spend 8K for a one week seminar, and based on your travel posts, you spend an average of $200.00 per day when you are visiting someplace?

    As I said before, one week at $8000.00 is the equivalent of 10 weeks at $769.00 per week, which is what you would need to spend on an aggregate level to achieve $40,000 per year ($40,000 / 52 weeks in a year is $769.00 per week).

    When you post for example that you spent an average of $172.00 per day when you were in Finland, again, that blows the bank. $172.00 per day is $62,780.00 per year. And that is one of your cheaper trips.

    Your math is not adding up.

    1. Oh I see where your confusion is coming from. I’m speaking at Chautauqua, not going as an attendee. As a speaker, I need to prepare a talk and work with attendees on one-on-one sessions to analyze their finances. As a result, the organizers cover my travel expenses and costs of being there.

  11. Hey as a fellow Chinese who grew up in Canada, how prevalent is FIRE among Asians?
    You know in Chinese culture displays of wealth are open, especially in Vancouver. Big homes, cars, fashion, gadgets…

    Many of my Chinese friends are caught up in it..they don’t have a concept of saving or planning for the future. In the photo of Chautaqua you guys are the only Asians!

    1. Yeah, I hear you. Our culture is not a fan of the stock market and are in love with housing. When I told my parents we were doing this, they were not fans. But time proved that FIRE was the best thing that we ever did–completely transformed our lives. My parent have now been turned around on the idea and my Dad is even investing in index funds in our investment workshop!

      I don’t know exactly what percentage of the FIRE community are Chinese, but I do know the attendees that came to Chautauqua last year represented a decent percentage.

      Hang in there! Just because many of your friends are caught up with housing and fancy things doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Seek out other FIRE enthusiasts as friends and your life and finances will be better for it. Do you want to come to Chautuqua with us?

  12. Yeah I am glad to have found your blog and other liked minded FIRE blogs..funny thing is I did business in university but they never talked anything about this.

    Many of the old timer Chinese have done extremely well with real estate if they bought a house here 20-30 years ago like my parents. But until you actually sell and cash out it is only a paper gain.

    I will consider coming to Chautuqua but it is quite expensive for me so I will have to see if it is in the budget. Keep up the good spirit there!

      1. Wow, you sound like someone who has a lot of friends. Don’t ever come to Chautauqua–it’s way better without you.

    1. No worries. I understand that Chautauqua is expensive and not everyone can afford it. Good news is you can still find your tribe online and through local meetups 🙂 We are here to support each other. Whenever you need a pep talk to stay strong and not get dragged into the housing craze, just let me know.

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