Thespian, I am not. Creative, nope-not that either. Mathematical and logical-yes, that is me. Yet somehow, about 10 years ago I realized the story of my life had been divided into three acts just like a play.
Act 1 school – The painful hours, days and months sitting in classrooms watching the clock was agonizing. This could be where I developed my fixation to control my own schetchle. I developed other skills in school, such as understanding how to get an A (highest level of graded achievement) in the easiest most efficient manner. Optimizing and efficiency will serve you well in life. I set my school goal, usually at 91% and determined the requirements for achievement. I figure out the assignments required and points possible, I strategically calculated what questions may be on the tests (often what the teacher talked about-with a couple sneaky, dig-deeper-into-the-book items) and grabbed the main points of the chapters (often first sentence of each paragraph). I did fine in school. I made the Dean’s list most semesters in college with just enough effort. TIP: I learned early on in college, “go real hard through the first exam to baseline with an A from the beginning of the semester, since it’s easier to maintain an A, than try and pull a B or C up to an A. So, start early, then cruise. Sound familiar? “Compounding” anyone?
Act 2 work– Now this is where my level of effort changed quite a bit. I was no longer scored against a standard 100 point scale. I knew I was compared to my peers on each project and for each annual review. I grew up being pushed towards being a perfectionist on tasks—the skill of not having to go back and fix/redo something. Rework not only wasted/doubled my time, but would surely irritate an employer or worse, upset a customer. Being a great employee allows you to maximize your earning potential. Increase your human capital.
I continued my setting-a-goal-and-reaching-it mentality month after month which served me well. In 18 years in corporate America, I went through at least 6+ Reductions In Force (layoffs). Usually, someone in my pod of 4 cubes or the neighboring cubes would disappear one day. Towards the end of my corporate life (2008-2014) the RIFs claimed more, in 2014 we lost two out of four people in a pod of four cubes through job elimination/shuffling. I was never laid off, but worse for me, I was not able to self-nominate myself for a voluntary exit/layoff package because I was one of about 20 out of 300+ employees deemed critical. Strangely, I had no super special tech skill! I just believe that I was always customer focused, I always said ”yes, I’ll take care of that,” and more importantly, I resolved many issues before they ever reached my boss or bosses boss. Proactive and near perfection each day.
Yes, I loved my job. Yes, it was easy to love working from home for years, working with people across the world every day, and most importantly, the last 3+ years of work were of my own accord (FI). I hit my “number” years before RE and worked only because I wanted to, not because I had to. Financial Independence at each level (no debt, then emergency fund, then after “the number”) is so amazingly freeing. You should try it.
Act 3 not working – This has been the best, and hopefully will be the longest Act in my life. I called it “not working” (or “no longer in corp. America”) because it seems more accurate than “retired.” Somehow, both my wife and I still seem to stumble into some working opportunities. Often a couple days a week to do some consulting or teaching when we aren’t traveling. It’s actually less than part-time of partial-time—a couple days per week, a couple weeks per month. The point is, we own our schetchle, we choose to do any amount of work, we definitely don’t mind our skill based part-time “playchecks.” Some special purchases or projects have been funded just by working a little—trading a little labor. “Work optional” is probably a great description for FIRE for some people, especially younger people.
If you think of life in phases or play Acts, you may be better able to handle the ups and downs you will face in the dramatic script that is your life. Make goals, track your progress towards your goals, manage the pitfalls, and succeed. I wish you the best in all the new goals you will be setting and attaining in your future. Driven people NEVER stop setting goals.