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- Why Freedom Can Be Scary - August 30, 2021
Phew, what a crazy couple of weeks it’s been. I kinda knew that launching a book would be a lot of work, but I was NOT expecting this! That being said, it’s the most wonderful kind of craziness I’ve ever been through, and we’ll write about what that experience has been like in a future post.
The other day in between giving a radio interview and going on TV, Wanderer turned to me and said “Hey, remember when we used to be bloggers?” I was like “Oh yeah. Those were simpler times.”
So I’m going to TRY to kind of return to our normal posting schedule. We’re not going to be as consistent until the craziness dies down (if it ever does), but a reader recently wrote into us posing an interesting question, which I wanted to share with you all. Here goes!
I’m a relatively new reader, but I love your blog and your content, and I can’t wait to crack open the new book and give it a read.
I do have a question that I would love to hear your insight about. You often talk about the all of the burnout, health, and anxiety issues that came with your job back in the day, and when I went back and listened to your interview on the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, you guys talk about how you took on an engineering career for the finances and security, while Bryce chose it more because he actually liked it. Looking back on it now, if you could change things, would you have still spent those full 8 years of your life working in a high-stress engineering job?
Since both you and Bryce had relatively high incomes, having two high-income jobs definitely helps in fast-tracking the retirement timeline if you save and invest correctly. But did you ever consider taking a lower-paying job or pursuing your writing passions before hitting FI to save yourself from all of the health issues and stress? Since you guys already had a high savings rate and a solid investment strategy, while a reduction in household income would slow the FI timeline, I’m guessing you guys would have still hit FI pretty early.
It’s been something I’ve been wondering because I draw a lot of similarities between our situation and yours: my fiance and I are both millennial engineers – I chose engineering purely for financial and practical reasons, while my fiance actually likes engineering (but not necessarily the corporate cubicle life). I’ve consistently hated every job I’ve worked and find myself with a lot of mental and physical health issues in my current high-stress work environment. My fiance has been encouraging me to quit engineering and go for my passions, which would likely be much less lucrative than my current engineering job (assuming that I can successfully do a 180 on my career path in the first place).
We’ve done the math and it would definitely slow our FI timeline down, adding at least a few extra years onto the FI outlook, but we would still maintain around a 50% savings rate assuming we only lived off of his engineering income and I make $0 at worst case. After working towards FI for the past couple of years, we’re now facing the question of the tradeoff between accelerating the FI timeline and still enjoying life and staying healthy and sane along the way.
Sorry for the long question, and no worries if you can’t respond! You guys are a huge inspiration, and I hope one day for me and my fiance to live life fully on our terms like you guys. Thanks so much for sharing your stories, strategies, and helping the rest of us along the journey to financial independence.
Well, first of all, wecome to the blog, and thanks for buying our book 🙂 We certainly appreciate it.
Now, you pose an interesting question: Would I have done anything differently on my journey to FIRE?
Absolutely not. Look what my life looks like now! I get to travel the world, do what I love, and never have to worry about money again. I wouldn’t change anything. And the reason is…
It Takes Time To Build A New Identity
Quitting your job and working on your passion is not the gum drops and rainbows people think it is. Making it in a brand new field (unless it’s closely related to your old field) takes time, effort, and sometimes money. Doing something as a hobby is one thing, doing it professionally is another thing completely. And during that period in which you’re starting a new career up, you’re not going to get paid.
You may have to spend money on training or courses, and you’re going to be stressed. This book we have out now is our 4th fully completed manuscript. The first 2 sucked and went nowhere, our 3rd became Little Miss Evil (and was never commercially successful), and only now does writing earn enough money to be considered a proper career. It’s fun to be a successful writer, but it’s stressful as hell when you’re not.
So if I had quit my engineering job to try to be a writer, I would have simply traded one stressful job for another, only my new stressful job pays me no money.
So what I did was I worked on being a writer in parallel to my engineering job. Every evening/weekend was devoted to writing, learning how to write, attending conferences about writing, etc. That way I could put in the time and the work it takes to get better at writing while still being paid my engineering salary. By the time I hit FIRE and was ready to step into my new identity as a writer, I had already been writing for 5 years. What you’re seeing now with Quit Like a Millionaire is a result of 9 years of writing!
Don’t jump out of one identity that pays well just because you don’t like it. You have to work on your new identity, and that’s going to take time.
Your Passion May Not Be Your Passion
And also, there’s the very real and scary danger of finding out that what you thought was your passion really isn’t.
It’s easy to confuse something you’re passionate about with something you enjoy.
Imagine going out with a friend to a nice pizza restaurant. As you’re eating, your friend is raving about how much they love pizza, how they would eat it every day if they could, and that their passionate about pizza. Then you ask whether they’d ever open up a pizza restaurant themselves. Oh God no, they reply. That’s too much work.
This person is not passionate about pizza. They enjoy it, and that’s fine, but there’s a very big difference between those words.
The theory behind the whole “Follow Your Passion” movement is that someone who’s truly passionate about something will do it day and night, work a bajillion hours following that passion, but because it’s their passion it won’t feel like work to them. That means that they will naturally outwork other people who are in that field, and therefore rise to the top of that field.
The problem is, lots of people think they’re passionate about something until they actually do it. Every identity has things that are fun about it, and things that suck. Take our pizza enthusiast. It’s fun to eat great pizza, sure. It might even be fun running a beloved pizza restaurant. But is it fun slaving away in a hot kitchen? Is it fun running a team of kitchen staff? Is it fun doing tax returns for a pizza business? Probably not. But a person truly passionate about pizza will do it anyway because for them the good parts outweigh the bad.
That’s how I am with writing. I was willing to sacrifice my evenings and weekend for years on end, writing into a black hole with no idea if anything I wrote would ever see the light of day because I love it. I would do it for free, and for many years I did do it for free. I was willing to push through the hundreds of rejection letters, the tedious monotony of editing and re-editing, the negotiating contracts with lawyers and agents because for me, the good outweighed the bad. I was even willing to learn a completely new skill, which was how to market a book, a skill I have ZERO interest in because if I did, then meant maybe this book would succeed where the last one failed. And if this book succeeded, that would mean I’d get to keep writing as a career.
Now, can you imagine how terrifying it would be if you quit your job to follow your passion and you found out you actually didn’t like it? That would be an existential nightmare, because you’ve just left your old identity behind when you quit! If it turns out your new identity wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, then what are you?
Working on your passion NOW, while you’re still working, will tell you. If that’s really your passion, you should enjoy doing it even if you don’t get paid, even if it means giving up your free time. So try doing exactly that. You’ll find out super fast.
Find Your Passion, FIRE With Confidence
The only caveat to all of this is if your career is starting to cause serious health issues. We know a couple who’s stress level was so high that he wound up in the hospital. They were most of the way to their FI number (I’d say 85%) and they were asking whether they should pull the trigger early and to them I said yes. If your health is in danger, absolutely get out now and figure the money situation out later. Money’s no good to you if you’re dead.
But if you’re not in that situation, don’t quit your job to follow your passion. Follow your passion NOW.
Before you’re fully FI, all paths are stressful to some extent because you need the money to live, and if you’re relying on your passion to fund your path to FI, that’s a surefire path to stress. In your old job, yes you were stressed, but at least you’ve already put in the hard work of turning it into a well-paying career. If the choice was stress + money, or stress + no money, then choose stress + money.
But it’s crucial to start working on your passion before you hit FIRE. If you find out it’s not really your passion, then great. At least now you know and you won’t be jumping into a dangerous situation with rose-coloured glasses. And if you find out it IS your passion, even better! You’ll be able to start working towards building that passion into an identity strong enough for you to step into once you retire.
We talk to a lot of couples who are approaching FIRE and are worried about what they’re going to do afterwards. Mr. Money Mustache calls this “The Wall of Fear,” and it comes from being worried about letting go of one identity without knowing what new identity to step into.
And the great thing about FIRE is that once you hit your FI number, money is no longer a concern for you. It doesn’t matter that it may take a few years to explore your passions, you now have the time and the money to do it.
But as I like to tell people, don’t wait until you FIRE to explore your passions. Do it now, because if you manage to find your passion early, and put in the time and energy it takes to get good enough at that passion while you’re still working, then when you FIRE, you’ll be able to step directly from one identity into another. There will be no Wall of Fear because you’ll be able to FIRE with Confidence.
What do you guys think? Do you think it makes sense to quit your job to follow your passion? I have some opinions, let’s hear yours!
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