Jedi Mind Tricks: How to Get Through the Workweek

by FI Fighter on April 18, 2014

in Career

Mindtrick

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Mind_trick

When you first discover early financial independence, it has a way of drastically altering your mindset. I kind of liken it to taking the red pill and being unplugged from The Matrix. You start seeing things in an entirely different light, and a whole new world of possibilities starts to open up again. It kind of feels like being reborn…

Getting Closer

I first pondered the thought of early FI in November 2011, and embarked on the journey full steam in 2012. It’s been over two years now, and I’m basically as dedicated today as I was back then. My excitement for early FI actually only seems to get stronger and stronger as each day goes by and the momentum continues to build. It’s like early FI is so close to becoming a reality that I can almost taste it…

And therein lies the problem. As I approach within striking distance of early FI, I’m becoming less and less dedicated to The Company. I can’t lie… I space out at work often, and everyday I question “why am I still here?

In my mind, I know for certain a much better path to take for my own life than the one society tells me I need to be on. I want financial freedom at an early age to do all the things that I have set on my bucket list. It’s an extensive list, and I’m itching to get started. I want to live many lives and YOLO it up every seven years. However, because financial freedom is still at least another year away, I have to find a way to pass the time without driving myself insane.

Still Not There

I can’t spend all day and night obsessing about early FI. That wouldn’t be healthy, and I would probably drain myself out from over-thinking everything. Yes, it’s nice to have dreams and ambition… But we also have to keep things in check and find a way to also make today enjoyable.

It’s not only about the destination; the journey getting there must also be fun and rewarding. It’s not always easy, but I’m finding a way to better balance today and tomorrow.

Here are some Jedi mind tricks I use to help me get through The Grind:

Tune Out the Noise

What makes The Grind especially tough for me is not so much the work I do, but the stupid corporate games that get played on a regular basis. For example, I just had a one-on-one conversation with the new HR lady, and I told her straight up my thoughts when she asked me for my opinion on how things were going. I basically said this, “There’s just no incentive for more senior engineers to stick around at any one company for too long. In Silicon Valley, there’s just way too many opportunities here. I can jump on LinkedIn and have a new job lined up tomorrow. If I do that, I’ll get a 20% raise and a signing bonus. If I stick around here, I’ll be lucky to see a 3% raise each year. Why should I stay long-term?”

The HR lady looked kind of surprised by my response. Thanks to the progress I’m making towards early FI, I’m much, much more of a straight-shooter and free speaker these days. 😉

At first, she dismissed my comments and got kind of defensive. She basically told me that she wasn’t my enemy but there were a lot of things that went on behind the scenes… Things that I was unaware of… and reasons why companies operate the way they do. She was trying to reassure me that The Company really did care about their employees.

I wasn’t buying any of it. I’m not naive to the rat race; I know how this game is played. When firing season commences, The Company is as heartless and cold blooded as they come. If the numbers don’t work out, no one is safe from the chopping block. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past, or how loyal and dedicated you are.

So, I just don’t care anymore. I tune out all the noise. I put in the minimum number of hours I need to get my job done, and then I’m out of the office. I don’t chat and gossip around the water coolers. I don’t try and become best buddies with the higher ups to get recognized and promoted. I skip as many meetings as I can… and I don’t keep track, nor care how the company’s products are performing in the marketplace… My co-workers all seem to care so much! But really, what does it matter how much revenue your product generates? Whether your team brings in $5MM in revenue per year, or $10MM, you’re still getting that same 2% raise! (at my company for sure)

Co-Workers to the Rescue

I don’t like discussing work related topics, but I’ll gladly make friends with any co-workers who want to talk about ANYTHING other than work. To make the day-to-day more tolerable, lately, I’ve been playing a lot of basketball at lunchtime and after work with some other younger co-workers. With these guys, it’s great… We just get together and shoot hoops. We never discuss work, and leave all that stuff off the court. Now that summer is fast approaching, I’m looking forward to all the upcoming games we’ll be playing. When the weather is nice, more and more people want to partake and be active. Who doesn’t love a game of full-court basketball?

Focus on the Big (Better) Picture

Work is just a means to an end. These days, I have more than one income stream to feed me, so I don’t stress out about work so much anymore. The big picture is I’m only still employed because I need the W-2 income to qualify for more loans to buy more rental properties. That, and the extra income helps me rapidly replenish my cash buffer.

So, whenever I stop and think about my more important side hustles, I can’t help but smile. 🙂 No matter how much bullshit I get at work, I know that I’ll only have to endure it for so much longer. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m about to leave work behind in the dust.

Plan the Next Trip

I don’t like routine and monotony. To break things up and to keep the journey more interesting, I’ve been working on spicing things up with more traveling. Thanks to travel hacking, I have a lot of upcoming trips to look forward to. I’ll be in Seattle near the end of April. I have a trip planned to Boston at the end of May. In August, I’m embarking on my round-the-world expedition. And I still need to find a way to make it out to Memphis/Dallas/Houston sometime this year. That, and I still want to somehow find time to visit my properties in Chicago and Indianapolis this year. I’m not sure if the last trip will be possible, but I hope so! With so much to look forward to, I can’t help but be in a good mood most of the time. Again, work is no longer the focal point of my life and it’s taking a backseat to bigger and better things.

Back to Basics

At the heart of it all, I actually do enjoy my job. Engineering isn’t exactly the easiest subject out there, so it would have been extremely tough for me to finish off school if I really did despise it. No, I really did have a strong passion for engineering in the early days of my career. Over time, I’ve lost a lot of that fire, but the work I do is still rewarding.

I get paid to solve problems. More often than not, the work I do is challenging and finding the right solution is satisfying. If I can force my mind to tune out all the noise, then the actual work I do becomes a lot more bearable. These days, more often than not, I restrict myself to only working in the engineering lab. In the lab, actual work gets done, so no corporate politics are allowed to enter! It’s a restricted area, which helps me keep my sanity. It’s also where I like to hide when I don’t feel like attending any more useless meetings. I’m 29 years old and I’ve been working as an engineer for seven years. I don’t need anyone to micromanage me!!!

Summary

The work week can be grueling, and it can be especially tough for any employee out there who doesn’t get a ton of vacation days each year. For many workers in the U.S., all we get are 2-4 weeks of vacation each year. The days off are especially scarce during the first half of the year, since the holidays don’t arrive until the end of the year. To make the week-to-week more manageable, it’s important to play Jedi mind tricks on yourself. I’ve been doing this since 2012, and it does make the journey to early FI a lot more enjoyable. I know that my true desires and true passions have to stay suppressed for just awhile longer (No, I can’t go hiking on a whim at 11:00 AM on the weekdays, no matter how nice the weather is outside… sigh)… In the meantime, I’ll make do as best I can and live each day to the fullest (as much as possible). I find that the work week is a lot more tolerable when I cut out the noise, play basketball at lunch, focus on my early FI progress, plan the next big trips, and just get back to the basics of enjoying engineering in its purest form. Work is just a means to a (short) end. Better days are just around the corner. 🙂

 

For those who are also on the journey to early FI, how do you make the workweek more tolerable? Do you also play Jedi mind tricks? What helps you the most?

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 No Nonsense LandlordNo Gravatar April 18, 2014 at 5:30 am

You have a case of senior-itis, and you are not quite a senior yet.

Keep plugging away. I have been doing the grind for a few years, even though now I don’t really have to. BUT, I seldom ask for work anymore. I can keep myself amused. I put in my bail out numbers on my site now.

The company does care about you, as long as you can work for the pay they give, and do not poison the water. Never get such a bad attitude that the company thinks your attitude will affect others. Once you start to poison the well, it’s a quick trip to the UE line.

I find that any time anyone in the office has a construction question, or a anything related to landlording, financial (i.e. 401K), needs a contractors, etc. I am on their list to talk to. Even the big bosses, 2-3 levels up.

So, I am a go to resource for anything but work. Of course, I am an expert in my field too, so I get those questions too.

Keep plugging away. The co-workers you have now will be the ones you have to grovel back to at other companies when they move on. $3K per month is not enough to live on for a long term, unless you want to just scrape the bottom.

Build up a large cushion so you have room for many options. With only $3K per month, you live overseas, or in Mississippi.

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2 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 20, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Eric,

Yes, I’ve had a case of senioritis for about 3 years now… I understand $3000/month might not be enough for some people, but I’m not going to drive myself crazy worrying about the end game numbers too much.

In a perfect world, I’ll get to $4000 or $5000. If not, I’d still be comfortable calling it quits and starting my travels. I don’t really see the point in over-analyzing everything… If the numbers don’t work out, I’ll go back to work for another year, or few years…

If I attempt early FI and fail, oh well, life goes on…

All the best!

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3 LeighNo Gravatar April 18, 2014 at 8:03 am

I’m a bit confused on the above poster’s comment that it’s impossible to live on only $3k/month. I live off of about $3.5k/month in a reasonably large city in the US in a nice two bedroom condo by myself and spending $4k/year on travel.

I ended up getting no raise this year. I’m not that concerned about it as my raises the last few years have been pretty good and my total compensation will still be around $160,000 to $190,000, which I think is pretty good. I am saving a bit less per month than I expected because property taxes and HOA dues went up quite a bit this year, plus I need to have extra income taxes withdrawn from my paycheck to cover the amount of tax I should be paying on my bonuses. Between the two of those, that works out to $300/month less than expected.

I like my job a lot more than I did last year, so I think things will go better this year.

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4 No Nonsense LandlordNo Gravatar April 18, 2014 at 7:34 pm

It is not 100% impossible, but it is difficult. If you pay rent, or have a house payment, it starts to get real tricky. Figure Uncle Sam needs a bit for his pocket too.

If inflation hits, or something goes awry, you better make sure your $3K advances with inflation. You won’t get social security, or if you do, it will be minimal unless you have 35 years under your belt.

I probably live on less than $36K per year myself, but my house is paid for, and some of my expenses are paid by my company, as a business expense.

If you have a way to get additional income from other sources, or if you do not have to support yourself for another 50 years, it’s easier.

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5 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 20, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Eric,

Real estate is a good investment to keep up with inflation… I own two Bay Area properties right now and rents have been increasing like crazy… Sure, I may liquidate one property, but I’ll still have one…

I don’t have all the answers, and if I run into speedbumps, I’ll figure them out later. If I waited until I was 1000% sure of early FI, I would keep working for a long, long, long time… At some point, you just have to do it!

All the best!

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6 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 20, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Leigh,

You’re doing great and those numbers put most everyone else’s to shame!

Yeah, monthly expenses are something that will vary from person to person so I don’t like to talk about them in absolute terms… My take is this when it comes to someone else’s finances: I don’t know YOUR situation, so who am I do to judge or say you can or can’t do something?

I know friends who survive in San Francisco on less than $3000/month… I don’t know how, but they do…

I’m pretty frugal anyway, so I’m not too scared about coming up short in early FI. And even if I do, there are other ways to make money outside the cube!

For instance, I have this blog! Sure it doesn’t earn much of anything right now, but I’m not the type of person to limit myself 🙂

Who knows, maybe this blog can earn just enough to help me scrape by.

Cheers!

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7 JC @ Passive-Income-PursuitNo Gravatar April 18, 2014 at 9:23 am

One of the worst things about work has nothing to do with the actual job tasks and everything to do with the people around you and “office politics”. Luckily I don’t ever come across HR since I don’t work in our office and am in the field all the time, but I imagine my conversation with them would probably be very similar to yours. And your much closer to FI than myself. I can just imagine the look on her face as if it you were speaking in another language. Companies rarely show loyalty to their employees and the main goal of management is to pay you just enough to keep you from leaving.

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8 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 20, 2014 at 7:13 pm

JC,

Absolutely agree. My work is fine for the most part, it’s all the corporate politics that contaminate everything. It gets old so fast, and I’m so tired of having to deal with it… I’m too old to be playing such childish games…

Haha, yeah she was quite shocked with what I said… I don’t think she expected me to be so upfront and honest with everything…

Well, when I finally hand in my resignation letter, she’ll know that I was dead serious all along.

Companies will always look out for their own best interest. Employees need to do the same… unfortunately, when you are 100% dependent on your employer for pay, you tend me to be way too scared and passive to stand up for yourself. Passive income changes a lot of things…

Take care!

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9 JasonNo Gravatar April 18, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Wow, it’s like you’re reading my mind with this post; you must be a Jedi!

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10 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 20, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Jason,

LOL! Maybe I can also dodge bullets?!?

Cheers!

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11 JasonNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 10:40 am

Well, I would recommend AGAINST testing that out 🙂

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12 Dave @ The New York BudgetNo Gravatar April 19, 2014 at 8:19 am

It’s absolutely true that the mindset completely changes when you find the path to FI. It’s freeing in a way. It’s easier not to get stressed out by work situations, but at the same time, you question why you are there, as you mentioned. I am still working out my jedi mind tricks and doing my best to enjoy life along the way! Outside of work, I am definitely succeeding. At the job, it is taking a bit more time.

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13 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 20, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Dave,

You’re doing great! It is a lot harder to figure out the work thing… I’ve been struggling with this for 3 years or so… In a way, not knowing about early FI in the beginning years was a blessing b/c it helped me get through work with relative ease.

These days, I’m just counting down the days!

Take care!

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14 A Frugal Family's JourneyNo Gravatar April 19, 2014 at 10:10 am

I feel your pain FI Fighter. Office politics can be a real drag on your work week. For me, it has only gotten worse since the latest economic downturn. All we here is, “be thankful that you have a job!” This mentality simply breeds mediocrity because rather than incentivize people, managers are more or less using threats.

But having a plan and knowing your getting closer to FI is such great therapy! When I am having a bad day or work week, I just open up my stock portfolio or net worth report and it helps me to forget all that is bad with work.

I am a ways away but can definitely see how being close to FI can make one become more of a “straight-shooter and free speaker.” 🙂

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15 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm

AFFJ,

Yes, I definitely agree with that! Fear is a terrible motivator, and unfortunately many companies and bosses can’t figure this out. You don’t inspire people to dream big and achieve great things with fear… You just encourage them to login to LinkedIn and find another job…

Glad you are having success with the stock portfolio! It’s a great way to keep yourself motivated, and passive income is such a wonderful thing. It enhances your life and makes you less afraid. You become a much more positive person.

All the best!

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16 Done by FortyNo Gravatar April 21, 2014 at 8:38 am

I love that you guys play basketball at work. I’m a total hack and generally ruin the games I’m in, but I can see how that’d be a fantastic release. When I’m at the gym, I’m always envious of the guys who can really play while I’m plodding away on the stair climber.

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17 FI FighterNo Gravatar April 22, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Done by Forty,

haha, yeah basketball it a lot of fun, and since I haven’t played in awhile I’m a total hack as well 😉

It’s nice mixing it up with the young cats though, and it makes getting through the workday much more enjoyable. It’s all about having fun!

Take care!

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