Early FI – Living My Childhood Dream

by FI Fighter on August 9, 2016

in Health Updates, Post FI, Updates

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In the last post, I shared my long-standing belief with readers that time is our most precious commodity and the one that we should never lose sight of on our quest to early FI. Otherwise, why else are we doing what we’re doing?

But the concept of time is kind of abstract… it means different things to different people. Nevertheless, everyone knows that our time on this earth is indeed finite, so the only real way that we can maximize our lives is to try and stretch out as much time as possible.

However, like most things in life, it’s not just a matter of quantity… No, quality is also extremely important as well. Ideally, someone who is able to achieve the end game goal of reaching early FI will also be successful in finding a way to harness time in both quantity and quality, the best of both worlds.

How do you make sure that the time you are spending is in fact quality time? Again, the answer is different for everyone, but I’ve always believed that we were meant to live once every seven years.

After all, variety is the spice of life…

Chasing Dreams Later in Life

Those who have met me through the blog FI Fighter will have gotten to know me sometime after February 2012. Unless you know about my past history, chances are your impressions of me are that I’m this dude who hates working for the man, likes to invest and write in his spare time, and until most recently had been on a quest to reach early FI sometime in my 30s…

That about sum it up?

Sure, if we are talking about the last 4 years or so…

But like I mentioned in that YOLO post, I’ve never believed in being a one trick pony, and I strongly feel that life is just a whole heck of a lot more fun when we’re pushing ourselves constantly, taking on new challenges…

The truth is, the last 4 years have been sort of a new “phase” for me… Before all that, there were other goals and aspirations… And in the future, there will be many more to come as well…

Back in high school, one of my greatest passions was bodybuilding… You see, I grew up as a real scrawny kid (think ectomorph who really liked to sprint), weighing about a buck fifteen my freshmen year, and that obviously didn’t sit well with me in high school… Nobody likes to be picked on, and especially during those adolescent years, you’re just way more sensitive to other people’s impressions and thoughts of you… And besides, I hated studying and homework, so you know, I needed a hobby to pass the time…

Around sophomore year, I started to hit the weights pretty heavy, and I guess you could say it was love at first sight pump (if you want to learn more about the “pump” there’s a classic video of Arnold talking about it on YouTube in a way only Arnold can…). I don’t know what it was about lifting, but I just took a liken to it immediately… It made me feel empowered. I guess it’s like that saying, you’re trying to sculpt a human body with weights like a sculptor does with clay.

It’s an art…

And I always sucked at art, so this was my form of “expression”.

Anyway, I stuck with this newfound hobby of mine for about 4-5 years, and I guess at the heights of my interest, you could say I got a little obsessed with it… So, for the folks who knew me from around age 16-20, you might only remember me as that “meat head” who wanted to do nothing more than to workout at the gym everyday… At that particular stage of my life, that was basically it, really…

You could say progress came slow for me (it always does with anything I choose to do in life), but I stuck with it, and by the time I graduated high school I weighed about 150 lbs… I think at my peak, I was 160 lbs or so, which really isn’t saying much (and it was probably mostly fat, at best), but considering that I started out at only 115 lbs, I do think that I looked drastically different when I compare photos from freshmen year to senior year… I took some pride in that…

Like most things, it feels good when you’re making progress with a hobby that you have a strong passion for… I remember the days of summer when I would basically try and “leave everything in the gym”… Basically, just try and push yourself to the max and improve on all your lifts… With the Big 3 lifts, I maxed out around 235 lbs bench, 255 lbs squat, and 285 lbs deadlift… or something like that…

So, yeah, the incremental progress felt great… But you know what? As wonderful a feeling as all that was, I always kind of knew in the back of my mind that this “bliss” or “nirvana” would always be short-lived… Although I had a love affair with bodybuilding, I was too much of a pragmatist to not realize that I obviously wasn’t skilled enough to earn a living doing this type of work…

No, bodybuilding was a hobby, nothing more…

As has been well documented on this blog through the years, my main focus post high school was on school and trying to graduate with an engineering degree… With that main focus in place, bodybuilding was always relegated to the back seat, at best, and on days when I felt especially drained (due to midterms, projects, homework sets, etc.), I always accepted that my gym work would have to suffer…

I wasn’t wiling to make any compromises on my financial future… No exceptions.

But even to this day, when I think back to some of my best workouts, I still kind of wonder how far I could have taken things if I didn’t allow for outside distractions to interfere… And that’s kind of the whole point of early FI, right?

Free up time so that you can indulge and embrace in the things that really make you happy…

Now that I’m retired, you could say that I’ve come full circle to that original childhood dream… You know, once I moved out here to Hong Kong, one of the first things on my “to do list” was to get a gym membership… And although it’s only been about 3 weeks or so of lifting, you could say that all those memories, feelings, passions, etc. are all coming back in full force…

Leaving the gym after a good workout, it’s like I never left in the first place… These days, no I’m not lifting anywhere near as much weight as I used to, but that really doesn’t matter to me at all… My motivations are different this time around (I just want to feel good, most important of all), but that same enjoyment and satisfaction can still be found… Really, I feel like a 5 year old again who is able to now fully embrace his favorite hobby without a a care in the world…

But this time around, I can take things as far as I want without having to “look over my shoulder” and worry about some upcoming “deadline”…

And if I get bored out of my mind?

So, what…

I can just drop everything and pursue another goal/hobby of mine…

No problemo…

And that type of freedom… it feels freekin’ awesome… So good, words cannot do justice…

But as of right now, quite frankly, nothing makes me feel as good as having a good lifting session, and then having the peace of mind to know that the only thing I have to look forward to after my workout is eating a big fat meal, followed by a deep slumber.

In fact, recently I read an interesting interview with one of the top bodybuilders in Singapore, and apparently he likes to indulge in sashimi and sushi after an intense lifting session…

So, these last few days, I’ve been busy hitting up sushi restaurants after my workouts (monkey see, monkey do!).

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And this afternoon, I might have found my favorite post-workout meal of them all! A salmon and tuna rice bowl.

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With a side order of salmon sashimi thrown in to the mix.

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Sushi One Plus, my new favorite sushi restaurant in HK! No, we aren’t talking about Tokyo level type of quality, but for the price, quality, and convenience, it’s probably the best of the five or so sushi places I’ve tried so far… And it’s located 5 minutes or so away from my gym, so you can’t beat that!

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Life is wonderful, and I’m having an absolute blast getting the opportunity to live out one of my old childhood dreams.

A Dream Deferred

What has all this recent nostalgia done to me? Well, for starters, it’s really made me appreciate the decision that I made earlier in my adult life to pursue a college degree and engineering career without hesitation, first and foremost…

If I had not gotten my priorities in order, I do not believe for one second that my life would have worked out in the manner in which it has (early FI at age 31)… And to be brutally honest with you all, if I was not in early FI right now, I don’t believe that this recent “indulgence” of an old passion of mine would even be worth talking about…

One reason why I believe I’m having such a good time now is that it’s because I “saved the best for last”. In other words, it almost feels like if you don’t pay a steep price and struggle mightily in the process to get to that final destination, the final reward just won’t taste all that sweet…

I’m grateful for all the blood, sweat, and tears I sacrificed along the way to make my current life a reality… It’s like I gave Corporate America my pound of flesh… and now I’m taking it back!

But to have never “sacrificed” or given up anything along the way? I dunno, it probably would just feel unfulfilling and altogether… too easy.

Life is weird in that respect, no?

So, all this kind of makes me think… Like, the mainstream always likes to give these cliche commencement speeches on how college grads should “chase their dreams” and “pursue their passions with reckless abandon”… but I just don’t know if I believe that kind of advice is all that practical, or constructive… or in the best interest of the fresh new graduate…

We all know that this world isn’t fair… For example, I would argue that most musicians out there are way more talented than me, but we just so happen to live in a world that values things like math, science, and engineering a whole lot more (in monetary terms)… I’ve heard of “starving musicians” but I really don’t know of any “starving engineers”…

So, that’s just the cold hard truth… I mean, you can’t pick and choose these things… I’m very lucky to have grown up in a world where it was relatively easy for me to pick up a skill like programming (that I also enjoyed) and earn a $100k+ salary in the process, essentially throughout my tenure as a working engineer… But if the tables were turned and let’s say the world paid painters a whole lot more, well I would be shit out of luck… because I have just about zero artistic ability (and hardly any interest to learn)…

Regardless how fair or unfair this world is, I think it all just reinforces the importance of early FI… In my own life, I know a girl who is a remarkable singer (quite the understatement), but as she has pointed out to me before, that business is extremely cutthroat… very few artists can make it to the “big stage”, and if you aren’t mainstream, well, good luck earning enough to keep your apartment lights on… But because she has such an incredible gift, it would be such a waste if she was forced to give it up and abandon her craft altogether just because it’s hard to earn a respectable living wage off her talents…

Which makes me think back to my bodybuilding passion… Maybe she doesn’t have to give it up entirely?

A dream deferred…

When you’re young, fresh out of college and kind of naive to how the real world works, those are things you probably don’t ever want to hear… But to me, unless you have a REAL LEGITIMATE shot of earning a pro card, or winning American Idol/The Voice or something of that nature, perhaps a few years of delayed gratification wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world?

I know at least in my case, I really wouldn’t trade my engineering career for anything, especially not for a hobby like bodybuilding… In fact, even now, getting restarted with bodybuilding at age 31 doesn’t seem like that bad a deal to me… If anything, I’m just in a way better position to appreciate that hobby even more today than I ever would have been able to in my youth… As has also been well documented on this blog, I’ve struggled with chronic fatigue and burnout for many years now… Getting into a health-centric type of lifestyle now just makes things all that much sweeter for me…

I’m going to have my revenge!

And because I had to sacrifice and give up so much to get to where I am today, it’s just impossible for me to take things for granted… Right now, I’m just really cherishing every chance I get to work out… It’s a tremendous feeling… I feel so alive…

 

So, a dream deferred isn’t always such a bad thing…

 

Early FI first, and then you can chase your hobby (or hobbies!) with reckless abandon for the rest of your life…

 

As for my friend? Well, I know that she is striving hard for early FI right now, and I believe that she will get there in due time… When she does, I hope that she goes full throttle with her music, kind of like I’m doing with bodybuilding now, although I’m pursuing my hobby entirely for selfish reasons, while she actually does have a tremendous talent that needs to be shared with the rest of the world… I’m her biggest fan, by the way, and my playlist does need more music for my workout sessions!  Yup, more selfish reasons…

Anyway, for readers who are also pushing hard for early FI, I say just keep at it! Once you have early FI locked down, the world really becomes your oyster and you can do whatever it is that you want with your life… It’s great not having to answer to anybody… You can indeed get to live a new life every seven years (if you’d like)…

 

Reinventing yourself, over and over, again and again…

 

If your goal is to maximize your life and time on this planet, what more could you possibly ask for?

 

Fight On!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Midwestern Landlord August 9, 2016 at 9:33 am

For those of us that are fortunate enough to have a work or specific occupation passion, then the answer is easy. Go for it and even if it does not make a lot of money one should still be happy (as long as it meets the basics financially). Outside of that (which most of us experience) figure out a way to get ahead financially based upon your circumstance so you can have more choices down the road.

In my case it was the landlord game. Some are scared of it but have no problem with working for the man until they are 65+. To me there is a real risk to that. For one, what happens when you get laid off at 50 and can’t find another job paying close to the one that you had. No thanks. I want to have the control over my financial destiny. I can’t do that if I am relying on corporate america for a paycheck. It works real well for executives and high paying employees; not so well for the rest of the folks.

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2 FI Fighter August 9, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Midwestern Landlord,

I’m completely with you there. It’s the landlord game that made all this possible for me as well, and rental property has been the salvation for many who have wanted a way to get unplugged out of the Matrix. Relying on a single source of earned income until you are 65+ is a loser’s bet… Odds are extremely high that at some point, you will be laid off… To put all your eggs in that one basket is indeed a very dangerous thing to be doing.

For the everyday folks, the more income streams you have setup, the better off you will be in the long run. It’s ideal to be able to do something you love and get paid big bucks for it… Some people are successful and can attain that, but for most of us, we aren’t that fortunate to ever come across that perfect storm. So, I think whether it’s early FI or pretirement, a reasonable compromise can be reached that helps us secure our financial future but while at the same time do something we love for a living, irregardless of pay.

I’m simply sharing my own experience, but I do feel oddly enough that all the delayed gratification I put into place is only making me enjoy the new adventures that much more.

All the best!

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3 SavvyFinancialLatina August 9, 2016 at 10:17 am

I’m definitely working towards FI. Working for the man is not what I want to do till I’m 50.

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4 FI Fighter August 9, 2016 at 2:26 pm

SavvyFinancialLatina,

I sure hope you won’t have to! Keep at it and your dreams will become a reality. 🙂

Best wishes!

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5 The Money Commando August 9, 2016 at 10:19 am

Your point about not enjoying something unless it’s earned is right on. I think there’s a HUGE difference between working, saving, and investing to hit financial independence/early retirement vs. inheriting a trust fund and never needing to work. You’ve EARNED your time off, which means you can enjoy it. Every day is, in a way, a testament to the hard work you put in and the good choices you made.

I would imagine it would be much less fulfilling to have never accomplished anything and not be working.

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6 FI Fighter August 9, 2016 at 2:31 pm

TMC,

Most definitely! The hustle and grind to victory is what makes everything taste so sweet in the end… Inheriting a fortune or trust, I can’t imagine it provides the same satisfaction but for those who are fortunate enough to find themselves in that type of situation, more power to you. We don’t get to pick and choose these types of things, so if good luck finds its way to you, embrace it with a smile…

But I think we should always be striving to accomplish something in life… You don’t really know what you’re made of until you’ve overcome adversity.

Take care!

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7 mike August 9, 2016 at 11:15 am

I wonder where arnold schwarzenegger would be right now if he didn’t follow his passion of body building because there was no glory or commercial interest in body building at the time. He would be In Austria farming sheep. Not to say that herding sheep isn’t a respectable career but it would seem he prefers the life he has now much better.

For most people, things will not be “handed” to them. Sacrifice and hardwork is paramount. When I was in the amazon I met an extremely poor farmer who had the largest smile on his face. Was he FI? I doubt it otherwise he wouldn’t be working from sun up to sun down. Was he happier than any american I ever met? Absolutely.

If you have $1,000,000 and live like a pauper because you enjoy the simple things in life and live off of $25k/year. I see very little difference than a musician living off $25k giving lessons or a teacher or performer or whatever, who wakes up every day happy and lives the same standard of life as a frugal millionaire.

You are correct that she is forced into a lower income bracket and her lifestyle will need to reflect that. Once she decides she values a higher quality of life over her passions then she will pursue something she doesn’t enjoy to make more money. I do not discount someone who pursues their passion over making money their end game. I think it takes courage to put your passions first. The people who do are the ones who usually master their craft and own businesses or climb the top of the ladders because they can do what they do without ware because they love it.

If you love to teach, would you hate your life if you were a professor at a university? Would you gripe and complain day in and day out. Even if you only made the same salary you made today with your passive income?

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8 FI Fighter August 9, 2016 at 2:38 pm

Mike,

Arnold’s story is very inspiring and he is most definitely one of the very few who was able to shoot for the stars and accomplish (shatter) his goals in the process. I certainly don’t mean to take away anything from anyone who chooses to pursue their passions early in life with full force, but for every Arnold you’ve got a million other people who fall well short of that type of success…

Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to decide if we want to attempt beating the odds and doing something extraordinary… I know for myself, I never possessed any kind of skill or gift that was great enough where I could do such a thing… For me, the pragmatic thing to do was to focus on a career that would pay well and provide me the “safety net” I needed to get through life relatively comfortably…

Would you say I took a more conservative approach towards life? Absolutely I did, but again, it’s because I placed that limitation and ceiling upon myself… If someone thinks they can do better, they should go with their gut instincts, heart, and make it happen!

My point was simply that the conservative route doesn’t necessarily have to be “wrong” either… Again, just using myself as a datapoint, I’m finding that all that sacrifice and “misery” I had to endure for close to a decade has made life taste so much sweeter, now that I’ve overcome all those obstacles and challenges that I faced in my engineering life… With hindsight and recollection, I don’t think I would have changed anything, and I actually feel like all that was a blessing in disguise, if you will… Having experienced what I did, I can’t take life for granted anymore…

Anyway, those are just my thoughts… If someone can find true happiness without ever needing a big pay day or the security of early FI, then that’s wonderful and my hats off to them… It really isn’t easy to do b/c life oftentimes kicks you in the face… and as we all know, unfortunately, money often makes the world go round… I can’t lie and say having a strong financial foundation doesn’t drastically alter my day-to-day thoughts, sense of well being, actions, etc…

In a perfect world, we can have it all… I’m seeing first-hand, the deferred dream thing isn’t actually so bad…

Cheers!

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9 Midwestern Landlord August 9, 2016 at 7:58 pm

Jay,

I’m beginning to think that you do possess a skill / gift for finding undervalued investment opportunities. Going from dividend stocks to real estate investing (undervalued at the time) to precious metal stocks (undervalued) is pretty compelling to me. It appears that you were far from an expert initially but became educated and created an action plan. The results are impressive. Down the line when you find another compelling opportunity I will be hard pressed not to invest along with you if even on small scale. I will wait until a sector is really hated and at the bottom. As you have said and I agree with, we must all due our own due diligence before investing.

And I agree with you. Money does not buy you happiness but it does buy you peace of find. There is nothing fun about not having enough resources to take care of the basics.

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10 Investment Hunting August 10, 2016 at 12:24 pm

The sushi looks amazing. Keep eating that ad stay true to your workout schedule and you’ll be a rock. So happy that you’ve gotten back into something you enjoy doing. Sure beats working for the man.

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11 Evan @ Building Income Investments August 10, 2016 at 1:39 pm

I used to lift heavy as well, around the same time as you too – probably from freshman year HS till the end of college. Took off for a while then discovered crossfit – LOVE IT! If you can look past the negative cult like aspects it really is just an awesome time. Gives you the team aspect with lifting and dropping some heavy stuff.

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12 Alex August 10, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Being a contrarian investor do you think that uranium will be next it seems it’s at a 52 week low but also a 5 year low seems so beaten up people might look there next

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13 Joe August 12, 2016 at 6:44 am

It’s great to hear that you’re having a good time. HK sounds like a blast.
I used to be into working too, but never as serious as you. It’s a lot harder to work out now with a kid. Scheduling is tough. Anyway, enjoy your work out. 🙂

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14 John August 16, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Never knew you lifted FI. Next time you are back in the Bay Area let us meet up and swap finance stories between sets. My email address is in the comment

I told my parents that I am thinking of FI and they asked me what will I do all day. I said “everyday will be just like the weekend. Get up, gym, eat and then figure out what to do the rest of the day” 😀

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15 theFIREstarter August 21, 2016 at 12:27 am

Interesting theory mate.

My dream was electronic music when I was in my late teens and there is still that creative part of me that wants to produce something. At the moment blogging is kind of doing the trick for me there but I dare say I won’t fire up the (music) keyboard again in a few years time when I’m hopefully fully FI. At the moment I’m playing on a slightly different keyboard though 🙂

For the record I did a relatively useless degree (music tech) so got into the software engineering game by learning it on the job which severely impaired my earning ability for the first 5 or so years of my career. But I don’t regret not doing a computer science or similar degree for one minute. I chased the dream briefly but quickly realised that making money out of it wasn’t going to be easy so switched away, a bit like you did with the weightlifting, but there’s no reason why I can’t pick it up again anytime just for fun

Cheers!

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