I’m the worst early-retirement blogger ever.
Despite attempting to quit my job in 2014, I’m still working full time and now I just applied for another full-time job.
Hopefully you’ll understand though when you see how cool this new job would be…
That’s right…the Mad Fientist is going to space (hopefully)!
NASA doesn’t hire astronauts often so when I found out that they were accepting applications again, I knew I had to give it a shot. After all, I met the qualification requirements (STEM degree, appropriate amount of professional experience, good vision, etc.) and the average age of new astronaut candidates is 34, which is exactly my age, so surely I’m a perfect fit, right?
I also have some astronaut experience. Here I am during my freshman year of college at UNC-Chapel Hill:
Generally, I don’t consider myself a very patriotic person.
I’m lucky to have been born in America and it is a great place but I cringe when I hear people regurgitate patriotic platitudes, especially when the people saying these things haven’t ever left the country and therefore don’t really have anything to compare it to.
One thing that makes me want to put on an American flag t-shirt, pound a few cheeseburgers, and scream the Star-Spangled Banner though is America’s space program.
NASA has shown what our country is capable of and it epitomizes the absolute best America has to offer.
My love for NASA grew even more when I met up with a Mad Fientist reader (and NASA employee) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas for a 2+ hour behind-the-scenes tour.
Seeing real-life astronauts in Mission Control communicating with the astronauts orbiting in the International Space Station was very inspiring.
Sitting in the flight director’s chair in Apollo’s Mission Control room and imagining what it was like during the tense times of the moon landing was incredible!
Touring NASA’s facilities definitely fueled a desire that has been building inside me over the years – a desire to play a part in NASA’s push for Mars.
What does this have to do with financial independence and early retirement?
A decade ago, I would have never considered applying to the astronaut program because back then, I was just a computer programmer and my career track and life track were pretty much set. I’d just work my way up the corporate ladder and then one day, far in the future, I’d retire.
Today, I’m standing on the precipice of a world full of unlimited possibilities. Once I finish my career as a software developer, I’ll have the time, energy, and financial backing to do anything!
It’s nice to plan to read more books, go for hikes, and learn a language when you retire but that’s stuff you can do right now if you just woke up an hour earlier.
Definitely do all those things if you want but why not also think bigger?
Being young and having the freedom to do anything is an incredible opportunity!
I’m more motivated than ever to make a meaningful impact on the world, and hopefully you feel the same, so it’s time to think about what kind of impact that will be.
Get Used to Rejection
The astronaut program is highly competitive (over 18,300 people applied to be part of the 2017 class but less than 15 will be accepted) so in all likelihood, my application will not be successful.
That’s okay though.
When you think bigger, you’ll probably experience more failure than you would if you just play it safe so the more you get used to failing, the less likely you’ll shy away from opportunities just because you’re afraid of rejection.
If my application gets denied, I can always apply again the next time they open up applications or I can think about how to use my skills to work for NASA in some other capacity on the ground.
Or I can choose to do something completely different.
I have some big plans for the Mad Fientist (more on that soon) so maybe making an impact through this site will be a better path?
I’m not sure yet what the future holds but the important thing is I’m starting to think about it now and will hopefully have some forward momentum when I eventually leave my job.
What Are You Going to Do?
If you’re reading this, you’re somewhere on the path to financial independence.
You’ve realized that you don’t have to live the life that everyone else is telling you need to live and you’re instead doing something different and much more impressive.
Hopefully the pursuit of FI has given you the same amount of confidence it has given me and it is my hope that you will use that confidence to start seeking out other big challenges that will enhance your life and the lives of others.
As Todd Tressider said in our recent podcast interview, it’s important to retire to something rather than just retire from something. Why not make the something you retire to challenging, exciting, and highly impactful?
You’ll have the opportunity to do amazing things with the freedom financial independence provides so what are you going to do?
hahaha. That’s great! I have to say though, I don’t want you to fly to mars.
Because people like you are needed down here on the good old Earth to kick some ass and show people how to achieve FI!
P.S. I hope though you’ll make it to a quick trip to the Moon at least
I heard Elon Musk say to speed up the process and make Mars earthlike he would set off a powerful nuclear bomb on the poles of Mars. This may make space travel and human relocation possible ….Interesting.
Haha, thanks. I’d definitely be okay with settling for the moon :)
Congrats I think, but I think sleeping in and Netflix binging will be my big thinking in early retirement.
This. Is. AWESOME!
I think we can all change the world, for you maybe space!
You’re already doing a good job here on earth, as the reader above referenced, but I love the thinking big.
As we get closer to FI the “why not?” Comes up more often in our house.
Since you asked… ;) My post FI vision: Bring back daily community with humans! As our houses get bigger, working hours get longer, and everyone is more focused on scheduling and”stuff” I think we’ve lost a lot of that in urban areas. So many studies point to daily community as a factor in longevity and health of humans.
I have a dream of developing a small/tiny house community in an urban area where people can feel independent but more interconnected, the way I imagine people used to in a small village. I want the houses to be affordable, efficient, and attractive, and surrounded by nature with common areas for residents to interact in their daily lives. In the land of Texas big house suburbs, SUVs, city codes and expensive urban land, this seems a little crazy at this moment, but who said “a thing always seems impossible until it’s done?”. :) Thanks for the inspiration!
This is awesome! Your comments mirrors my thoughts exactly. It’s one of my dreams to open a tiny home community here in Austin. Here’s to dreaming big (or small in this case ;) )
Look into Spur, TX if you haven’t already. It’s set to explode with tiny homes.
Yes Spur! It’s out in the middle of West Texas so I haven’t been there (I think at this point it so small and removed you’ve already gotta be FI or location independent), but what the city is doing is so cool! There’s also a guy in Luling TX who’s trying to establish the first Tiny House Town (he needs 54 registered voters to live there) by slowly building tiny houses out of all salvaged materials there. Each house looks like art! The town will be fittingly called “Salvage TX”.
You’ve heard about Community First in Austin I’m sure? It’s a slightly different community plan overall than my vision, but they are building tiny homes for homeless people! Super cool. http://mlf.org/community-first/
Yes I definitely have, Raina. Awesome project. My vision is slightly different too. My vision is slightly closer to this. http://www.fourlightshouses.com/pages/the-napoleon-complex?avad=55963_aaad5c86
The biggest hurdle is zoning of course.
That’s a fantastic plan! Where do you think you’d try to build this community? I’m sure a lot of people reading this would be interested in getting involved with something like that!
Ironically for this discussion, the home of NASA, Houston! :) Or at least that’s where we are now, maybe somewhere else after FI…?
We’re just starting to explore real estate as an additional investment vehicle (thank you Mad Fientist Paula Pant Podcast) so I still need to build my experience before starting that kind of a project, and it’s a very, long term plan…but I love having a big dream. Cheers for big dreams! :D
Curious – who maintains your website? Do you maintain it yourself or it is being managed by a contractor individual or a contractor company? It is very elegant to say the least
I manage it all myself. Glad you like it!
I will keep my fingers crossed that you get the job! I read recently on Living A FI about how LAF is becoming more confident now that he has declared FI and that seems to accord with your application to NASA. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut. I think it was my first ambition. Then I got into drawing and wanted to be a cartoonist or maybe an architect. Then I think sometime after that, I heard the words, ‘you’ll never make any money doing that’ and I stopped dreaming. I am now a banker, so you would be forgiven for thinking my soul just died somewhere along the line… But I am becoming FI at end-June and hope to be back to believing the sky (or even higher) is the limit very soon. Great blog and great article, thanks! earl
Congrats on being so close to FI, Earl!
Let me know what you eventually get up to once you leave your full-time job.
Whoohoo! I applied too (along with my husband). Hopefully we’ll all be up in space together in a few years :)
I also applied! Good luck, fellow aspiring astronaut.
Wow, so at least four Mad Fientist readers have also applied (based on these comments and an email I received)! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since MF readers are some of the smartest people on the internet, but I’m not thrilled about the additional competition, haha. Hopefully we all get accepted and we can laugh about all this while we’re floating around in orbit together :)
There’s at least one journal on the MMM forums where someone is tracking their progress through the astronaut application… you’re definitely not alone!
Best of luck becoming one of the 15 or so that get selected! That would be an incredible opportunity (and something that might pull me out of early retirement! :) )
Instead of quitting I got let go from my last job as I went into early retirement. Since I was drawing unemployment, I had to apply for at least two jobs per week. I took that opportunity to dream big and apply for some totally off the wall jobs that would be interesting, exciting and educationally enriching for me. I didn’t get any of those jobs (or even get a nibble!) but it was cool to be able to not need a job and to dream about the opportunities to do something completely different than what I had done my whole adult life to generate the FIRE stash.
Wow, that’s actually a really cool thing to be forced to do. Even though you didn’t get any of the jobs, at least now you’re not sitting there thinking, “What if…”
Care to share any of the things you applied for?
Good luck – If selected, we all know you will “fience the sh*t” out of any mission of which you are a member.
My better half and I are a ways out from FI because we’ve opted for some travel and adventuring in the interim. Our savings rate is not as high as some, but we are patient and know we will arrive someday.
Plans for FI? Sail around the world and see as many species of birds as I can.
Love the Martian reference. Well played!
Haha, you’re damn right I will!
If you end up getting denied, what about applying to work at SpaceX?
That’s definitely a possibility. It’s a busy and exciting time for space exploration so there are likely a lot of opportunities I’d be interested in exploring.
Congratulations, awesome, and a great move.
Right now, leaning towards voluntary work and writing a book. Maybe teaching and/or coaching sports. Travel is in sights too.
Any idea what the book would be about, Alberto?
I can so see you out there. In fact, I’ve always seen you as out there. ;)
And who better to teach the extraterrestrials about FI???
jlcollinsnh wins for best comment
Haha, when I told my brother that I applied to the program, he made a joke about the aliens instantly accepting me after first contact, due to my large eyes, so I probably would be the best one to teach them :)
Look at the bright side- there are now companies like SpaceX, or just go to Space Camp! (I went twice.. it was cool)
I can’t believe we didn’t talk about Space Camp in Ecuador! Looks like we’ll have to get together again soon so I can hear all about it (I’ll bring the rum).
Dream big (and that’s relative of course). I’ve been slogging through my career , saving and investing (and vesting in my pension) so I can have a second career that interests and fulfills me. That career consists of being a rock and ice climbing guide. Over the past several years, I’ve taken the steps to move from recreational climber to professional climber, seeking certifications from the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA), and this past fall, I began my first paying gig. It’s everything I’d hoped it would be, and I just can’t wait to finish my current career in about 3 years and move on to my second. Without the financial security I’ve built through my first career, I would never have been able personally to take on the high satisfaction/low pay job of climbing guide. Being able to do so from a position of financial strength has allowed me to fulfill this dream of mine. I wish the same for everyone. We’d be a better country for it.
I’ll second the guiding life! In my case it will be rafting/kayaking. I worked as a whitewater rafting guide during my college years and knew that’s the life I wanted to return to eventually. I think Les worded this perfectly: “Without the financial security I’ve built through my first career, I would never have been able personally to take on the high satisfaction/low pay job of [rafting] guide. Being able to do so from a position of financial strength has allowed me to fulfill this dream of mine. I wish the same for everyone. We’d be a better country for it.”
This is my goal also, to move into the climbing guiding scene when I finish my current career. Glad to hear that it is everything that you hoped it would be!
That’s fantastic, Les!
Where are you located? I’ve always wanted to give climbing a shot so maybe I’ll utilize your services one day :)
Great post! I love expressing to people how to think beyond their limits of what they’ve done and what society tells them they can and cannot do. FIRE is part of that, and you do a good job projecting that. We also work to share this message on http://www.lifeiscomfy.com, where we’re just a family working toward FIRE and making our lives into what we want it to be, rather than simply what we’re living today, or the choices that limited us in the past.
I hope you get into the program. At 39, without a STEM degree, I’m not as likely a candidate, but would love to join you once I FIRE too!
It is so inspiring to see your post. I like you, decided to take a sabbatical and quit my job, then my reasons for entering back into the workforce was because I was extremely lonely, got antsy and wanted to do something completely different so I became a full time consultant in a completely different field as a challenge. I am extremely happy I made this decision.
I guess what I’m trying to communicate is everyone’s FI dream is a bit different and you are a great real life example of that. I can’t wait to hear more of your journey.
Kinda like people who win the lottery and still continue working because you want too, not have too:)
Great stuff! Not having to work really makes all the difference :)
How cool. All of it — the applying to go to space part, visiting NASA at the Johnson Center. And just having the cajones to apply to be an astronaut! Such a good reminder for all of us — with one of the most extreme examples possible — that’s it’s okay to be rejected, but being rejected is better than never trying in the first place. FI gives us the privilege to actually DO the things we always wanted to do as children (even if, in this case, the doing is most likely just applying). That’s what we most look forward to — doing the stuff we dreamed of as kids, maybe not as a vocation or for pay, but at least for fun!
Congrats for dreaming big, Mad Fientist. The space program is a really cool place to work. I had the opportunity to work at JSC for about 7 years as a flight controller until the space shuttle program concluded. It was the best job I have ever had. Working is mission control where people pay $20 a pop just to tour your work place is pretty awesome. The people are dedicated, passionate and intelligent.
I just couldn’t bring myself to apply for the astronaut corps-I know too many astronauts ;) but would love to someday take a private booking to space.
Best of luck in your selection.
Seems like an incredible place to work so that’s cool you had seven years there.
Looks like I owe my buddy a few more beers, since I didn’t have to pay a dime for my all-access tour!
With your type of skills and going into FI why not go work at SpaceX or one of the other competing companies. THey offer both an ability to be on the cutting edge of the future of space travel, likely have positions you could fill (including possibly astronaut), and have some very creative minds at work.
Definitely a possibility! This was my first step on this new path but I imagine there will more to come.
Good luck! They would be lucky to have you. Inspiring reminder about the real reason for pursuing FI.
Good Luck! I love that you have high aspiration and big dreams.
Harriet Tubman said “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
What are you, crazy?! Just kidding (I think) and best of luck to ya. If you become an astronaut you’ll certainly keep us updated from space right?
Oh one other thing… I went to NC State.. so that said GO WOLFPACK tonight!! That freshman pic has to be one from Halloween. I think all 4 years I was at State I traveled to Franklin St. with my buddies for the Halloweed bash. Good times.
Absolutely! I’ll be the best financial blogger of all time if I blog from space :)
Yes, that pic was from Halloween and was probably taken right before heading up to Franklin Street. Good times, indeed. Go Heels!
Being an Astronaut is AWESOME and a goal that seems out of reach.. but what the heck why not try… I to am one of the 18,300 applicants. For now, I settled for the next best thing.. working in a Commercial Spaceship Factory.
Wow, how is that?
That’s so awesome! Great message. I’m rooting for your acceptance.
Best of luck to you! The beauty of financial independence is provides options that make it easier to take chances like this with little attachment to the outcome.
Also… If the NASA Astronaut thing doesn’t work out for you..
I know you’ll have enough money saved up from your FI Journey… to become an astronaut with us…
It’s all about the options you make for yourself.
That’s so cool. Sadly, my wife is not thrilled with the idea of me going to space so paying for the privilege is definitely out of the question, haha
we just need to advance a little and when Bigelow Aerospace brings on line the B330 modules… you can take your wife with you for a weekend getaway in space… That future will soon be here!!
I [email protected] love Science!
It would be worth it for the chance to meet Elon Musk since by then, you’d probably be going on a SpaceX rocket. I guess the being in space part would be pretty cool too…
I’d honestly be happy just being the guy who makes the coffee for the people doing the important stuff. Just to be in the room when historic space exploration is happening would be incredible.
I know, right? One of my dreams has always been to see a launch in person. I’ll do it one of these days.
To see it from the inside would be that much better.
PS: About a decade ago, I downloaded the application too (back then you downloaded a PDF). I figured that I didn’t have a chance, so I never bothered mailing it in. So now, you must get in so that I can live vicariously through you. No pressure.
What a great move! This is by far the most remarkable thing I have read that a FI person does! And why not?!? O risk, no fun!
It is great motivation for me to read this story and to realize what the possibilities are when you FI: they are endless. The sky is the limit.
I like the way you phraze it : Get Used to Rejection. It means you are streching yourself to reach out to new challenges.
It’s only remarkable if I actually make it to the interview stage! Otherwise, it’s just a guy submitting a form on a computer :)
If you make it and come to Houston for interviews the beer is on me, afterwards of course!
Good for you!! That’s awesome! You have motivated me to take charge of my financial future and it will be life changing my family. I went from saving about 5 percent of my income for retirement to about 50 percent. Always keep us in the loop. You’ll do amazing things!
That’s fantastic, Christine! Hopefully your quality-of-life has increased right alongside your savings rate!
Sorry to have missed you on your trip to Houston! Hope you got to check out a few of our dozen-plus breweries!
I didn’t realize you were in Houston! We’ll definitely have to get together next time I’m there. Hopefully I’ll be moving there in 2017 ;)
That was an awesome post. Space and NASA fascinates me. I’m not American, but I agree with you, it’s one of the best things about the USA. Good luck, I hope you’re successful!!
Congrats & wish you the best of luck. In case you get selected, wanted to tell you before you leave that we really appreciate your efforts in helping to inform us on FI. Also, you reminded me of a funny recruitment video put together by the NASA folks at Johnson Space Center – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Sar5WT76kE.
Kudos for pursuing this dream.
Until your article and a mention on quora that becoming an astronaut is a second career thing to do, I hadn’t understood the concerns of my son (also an aspiring astronaut) as he pursues a meaningful career and life.
He’s interested in exploring space but doesn’t want to a) pin his hopes on being picked (generally the way you get to be an astronaut) and b) spend much of his youth and young adulthood pursuing this one career. He’s studied the typical career path of astronauts (generally they are PhD researchers or pilots) and he’s chosen what he thinks will be a fun route for him (flying). He’s a first-year engineering student and has gotten the grades to gain admittance to the aerospace engineering program at his college. Even though he’s young (still a teenager), he seems to understand what it could take to reach his goals and the trade-offs it takes to get there. The strategy may or may not work perfectly, but it’s helpful to at least have a plan that allows you to enjoy the journey.
Now (finally) I think I understand how to have the I-want-to-be-an-astronaut-and-then-what? conversation. Before I figured being an astronaut was enough; now I get why it isn’t for him. Hope all goes well with your plans.
I have always wanted to do so many things in my life and have the ability to do them, but they are all so different that they seem to preclude each other. One day several years ago I realized that I should choose one thing to strive for that would be fun, interesting, and the pursuit of which would keep as many doors open to me such that if I decided one day I no longer wanted to do that thing, I would still have many other options. I no longer have any intention of being a university professor, but my work toward that goal has sent me places I couldn’t have ever imagined. The same will be true of your son and anyone else who follows a dream to become an astronaut.
This is why you’re the man! Best of luck with your application!
If I go to space I’m gonna do something like this…
You couldn’t pay me to go to space! Nonetheless, you are an inspiration! I’m early on the path to FI but I’m taking this as a challenge to think bigger and put myself out there to see what I can do now instead of waiting 10-15 years to pursue my dreams (which I keep finding myself using as an excuse). Good luck with NASA!!!
I salute you, man, I’m so glad to hear from someone who applied! I myself am utterly unqualified beyond a lifelong love of Star Trek which, sadly, does not a qualification make. I hope to be able to go up in my lifetime as a passenger. ;)
Nice post; inspiring! I hope to live more closely aligned with my values: consume fewer resources by traveling less for my job, and start a larger permiculture property to produce quality food to share…..and more hops for home brew.
You are definitely not “the worst early retirement blogger ever”! Your blog (along with JL Collins) were the two resources that really simplified the technical aspects of FIRE to allow me to get started. However, your blog has only gotten better now that you’re sharing more of your personal story. I agree that working your ass off to reach FI to just sit around and do stuff you could already do anyway is kind of a waste. Here’s hoping to hear that you made it to space and if not find out what direction you’ll go next.
PS…If that direction ever brings you back toward the ‘Burgh give me a holler. I owe you at least a couple of beers for all of the help you’ve given me on my own path to FIRE.
unrelated but i thought this was interesting
I’m usually just a reader, and not a commenter, but I had delurk for this. This is soo cool!! How awesome would that be?! What a great thing financial independence is. Good luck! I’m rooting for you!
I didn’t realize eating cheeseburgers is patriotic! :)
Good luck with your application. If you’re successful, any idea when you might experience your first lift off?
Oh hey, I’m also 34! Maybe it’s time for me to apply too…
(Although, I have motion sickness, so maybe not.) :)
I always tell my children (ages 21, 15,13); “if you achieve all your goals in life, then you haven’t set your goals high enough”. And that isn’t about “failing” to meet your goals. It’s about a philosophy in life that you should never stop setting new goals.
I’ll be retiring in 7 years in my early 50’s, and then new goals will be set (working on those now). A new career (part time of course!)? A move to tropical climates like Belize or Costa Rica during the winters (those condos can be rented out in my absence!)? I don’t know what the future brings, but with Financial Independence, I don’t feel I have to limit myself in my thinking. I used to call these “dreams”. I’ve learned to now call them “goals”.
Despite having no desire to leave this lovely planet, I need new frontiers. I found Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s book – an astronauts guide to life on earth – just what I needed to take risks and adventure in my own life. FI readers would probably love the book even though I don’t think it mentions $$ it is all about commitment and freedom.
MF, this is just awesome news… Good luck with it!
I love the whole idea of thinking big and how FI can give you the freedom to do so. I’m only about one third of the way into my journey to FI at a rough guess but am already feeling so much more confident to take on big projects or challenges… it is what life is all about in my opinion and if you fail then who cares as long as you had fun and learnt something new or about yourself?
My latest crazy idea is not quite as big as yours but I’ve applied to be on the Ninja Warrior UK TV Show… Looks like a good laugh and will be something very physically challenging to train for if I get in! I’m not really that keen on being on TV but would like to have a crack at the course to see how well I do and they don’t really speak to you much on the UK version of the show so hopefully I won’t make too much of an idiot of myself if I do make it on there… :D
Awesome post. Don’t forget to put all those rejection letters in a safe place. When SpaceX hires you as a pilot, you’ll want to stick it in the face of NASA :-)
any news on the astronaut bid?! was thinking of this post after the recent NASA Jupiter domination.
No word yet so I’m hoping that still means I have a chance!
this will be exciting if you get a chance to go! If you’re ever in central Texas and want to see some rockets hit me up!
have you heard anything back from NASA?
I have a 5yo who is currently obsessed with space and wants to be an astronaut (and a Mama, bless her) when she grows up!
Like Jessica W above, you couldn’t pay me to go into space, and I would be unbelievably nervous about my precious baby girl going into space, so I haven’t been very encouraging (I haven’t been discouraging, just not actively supportive), but I think that needs to change now. I realise her chances of becoming an astronaut are extremely small, and she’s only 5 so next week/month/year she may have a different dream, but this post has made me realise I need to be more proactive in encouraging her to follow her dreams, however unlikely (or scary) they may seem to me. I need to parent her in a way that gives her the confidence to try and to pursue whatever dreams she may have along the way. Who knows what she could achieve with the right attitude, a bit of determination and supportive parents?
Anyway, space tourism is coming, so maybe she can go into space one day, even if it’s not her chosen career path!
Probably not the intended result of this post, but thank you for helping me realise this so I can improve this aspect of my parenting!
(By the way, I love your website, blog and podcast – I’ve only recently discovered FI/RE, but I have read/listened to so much in the last few months that you feel like a friend already!)