It’s easy to think that early retirement will be the answer to all your problems.
After all, how could you not be happy when you don’t have to work anymore?
I’ve written about why early retirement is not a magic bullet but what if it actually makes your life worse?
On today’s episode of the Financial Independence Podcast, I interview a reader named Tony who found this to be the case.
He’s since decided to go back to the same career he retired from and is enjoying work (and life) more than ever.
During the interview, we dive into the overlooked benefits of work and the downsides of early retirement.
We also explore serious issues that aren’t talked about enough, like depression and mental health.
Huge thank you to Tony for sharing his deeply personal story with us.
- The benefits of having a job that are hard to find elsewhere
- Why early retirement won’t magically fix all your problems
- The importance of building human contact into your early retirement plan
- The dark side of having a driving passion and purpose
- Signs that you need to seek help for your mental health problems
- What it’s like going back to work after early retirement
- The Office Space Effect and how FI can make you a better (and happier) employee
- Tony’s Email
- Early Retirement Extreme on the Permaculture Podcast
- Folks, This Ain’t Normal
- Leave a review for the Financial Independence Podcast on iTunes!
On today’s show, I’m excited to talk to my buddy, Tony, who I met at a Camp Mustache a few years ago. After the camp finished, we became friends on Facebook. And I noticed at some point last year that he was posting about getting a new job. And that surprised me because he achieved financial independence. He retired early. And yet here he was looking to get back in the same career that he left.
So, I reached out to him to see what’s going on. We chatted about it a little bit. And I realized his story was one that definitely needed to be told. And it’s a very personal one. So I really appreciate that he decided to share it with everyone because it’s hard to talk about some of these things. And we dive into things like depression and mental illness and other problems that you think that financial independence could solve. But in a lot of cases, it won’t.
So, as this whole financial independence thing gets more mainstream and there’s more FIER cheerleaders out there saying, “This is the best thing ever. It’s going to fix everything. It’s the answer to all your problems,” just do some soul-searching, listen to this episode, learn from Tony’s experiences, and hopefully, have a much easier, enjoyable, fun journey to financial independence and beyond.
Without further delay, thank you so much, Tony, I really appreciate you being here.
Tony: Brandon, it’s so good to be here. I’m honored and I feel like I don’t deserve to be here. But I’m really glad to be here talking to you.
Mad Fientist: Oh no, you definitely deserve it. You have an incredibly interesting and up-and-down story that I’m excited to get into.
But before we do that, just tell everybody how we know each other. I think we met, what is it, two years ago at Camp Mustache?
Tony: Yeah, Camp Mustache in Washington State. And you and I met there after—well, I have been peeping on your blog for a couple of years at that point and really getting a lot of value out of it.
And so, yeah, you and I decided to have that lunch. And we kind of hit it off. And here we are a few years later, that was the beginning of my FI journey. So it was really an awesome event to be a part of.
Mad Fientist: So, let’s talk about that. What was your life like before you discovered this whole, crazy world?
Tony: So, I kind of became exposed to the idea of early retirement in 2012-ish through a podcast by a fellow named Paul Wheaton who’s in Montana. And he’s a—well, he’s a lot of things. He’s kind of a polymath. He interviewed Jacob Lund Fisker on his podcast which is called the Permaculture Podcast. Permies.com, it’s awesome. He has a few hundred podcast that range all over the place.
But yeah, he interviewed the guy from Early Retirement Extreme. I looked into that and just had like, “This guy’s insane!” He’s an interesting guy himself.
But the idea, that kind of planted a seed in my head of like, “Wow! This guy is living it up.” Well, he’s having a great life. I don’t even know at the time, it was like 10k a year. And I know he shaved it down even more really in the Bay Area for like 7k to 8k a year. It was a way to think creatively about how to structure your life that was introduced to me.
Mad Fientist: At this point, you were a software developer by trade, right? But you were not actually very focused on money. And you actually had some issues with money. You were using payday loans and
Tony: Yeah. Through my twenties, I was horrible with money, like paycheck to paycheck at best. I was never able to budget, never able to save. And all windfalls that I got unexpectedly—tax returns and stuff like that—immediately just disappeared.
And yeah, I used payday loan services pretty regularly in my early twenties. I’d get to rent being due. And I’ll be like, “Oh, I only have $300. And I need to pay $700 for rent by 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. So I guess we’ll go to the money tree and sign up for a loan.” It’s like 200% effective interest or something crazy.
And yeah, I probably did that like 10 or more times a year. And even into my late twenties, that was kind of my parachute cord. It was “Oh, shit! How did this happen… again, for the hundredth time?”
So, there was zero financial acumen in my life until—I started earning more money in my late twenties. So it became less of a problem. But that was what made it less of a problem, not my becoming more mature or anything about finances.
Mad Fientist: So, at this stage, were you happy in your career? How was life going at this point? Were you looking for a way out or was this just something that was like, “Ooh, this is going to be a good thing to pursue while I’m doing this career that I enjoy?”
Tony: I definitely wasn’t enjoying it. I wasn’t hating it, but I was certainly not looking forward to going to work in the morning.
I did have a lot of co-workers that I really loved working with. I did have a good time with them. But I certainly felt like I was not happy. I wasn’t getting fulfilled. And I wasn’t doing my best work. I didn’t know it at the time. That’s the best way I knew how to do it. I didn’t know there was a better way.
So, this kind of got me serious about lifestyle design as well. And that’s when I started thinking about maybe you don’t have to work five days a week, nine to five, or you can have a goal where you can see an end to that if you want, if that’s not working for you.
So, that certainly got me started on thinking about that and getting curious.
Mad Fientist: So, when I met you, you were also a farmer. So you’re in tech, but then you also ran a farm. So where did the whole farm come into the play?
Tony: In 2011 and ’12, my life kind of fell apart in a way. I went through a divorce with my then wife. It was very painful. It was the right thing to do. And now we’re thankfully best friends, her and I, after a lot of hard work.
And at my job, I kind of ran out of the ability to work harder. I crashed. All my adult life, I had felt the need to prove myself. And I felt the need to be needed, to be indispensible. And my job, at that time, it wasn’t technically software engineer. I was managing the operations IT in the QA department for the software company. So my job, “keep bad things from my happening” was my job in a short sentence. Keep the company running. And the stuff that makes the money, keep it up. And when things go bad, I called at three in the morning, and me and my team would fix it.
So, I just was working harder and harder on that. And eventually, I just crashed. I couldn’t work harder. My body rejected it. I would get sick. I was very sad and irritable. And my CEO at the time who was a wonderful guy, he brought me in a room after a particularly bad event where, because of doing things as fast as possible, I had caused an outage in our service that caused us about $10,000, let’s say, the company.
And he brought me into the room, and I was expecting to get fired, or at least yelled at, and he said, “Tony, I want you to be open to the idea that the solution to this, what happened, and the solution to preventing it from happening again isn’t you working harder. That’s what got us here.”
And I remember that very vividly. And I still think about that because I do have a lot of workaholic and perfectionism tendencies pretty hardwired in me. So, that got me curious about doing something different.
I read a book by a gentleman named Joel Salatin who calls himself the “lunatic farmer.” And he was awesome! I read a book by him entitled Folks, This Ain’t Normal. And when I read that book, it was like a lightning bolt of inspiration to me. I went, over night, from not knowing what I wanted to do with my life to “I’m a farmer now. Where am I going to put the chickens and ducks and pigs… on my balcony?” It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
I had constantly heard people talking about doing stuff, them applying their life to something they would do for free, loving their job, feeling passion for something greater than themselves. I have never felt that before. And this was an immediate, like I said, lightning bolt of inspiration.
That was super exciting.
Then I just went all in on that. The next weekend after reading that book—I went to the farmer’s market every Saturday morning, and I had a bunch of farmers that I bought stuff from. My food budget at that time was actually more than my rent. I was at least $1500 a month. And that was with me eating out maybe three times a month. So I would just buy steaks for $38 a pound. I had enough money where I could do all these stuff. I wasn’t obviously saving any money, but man, I ate well.
And so, I just went to every farmer I had a relationship with. They were there since 2010 when I started shopping at farmer’s market, and I was like, “Let me volunteer on your farm. Let me volunteer on your farm. Let me volunteer on your farm.”
And finally, one of them said, “Well, you can’t volunteer on the farm right now, but you want to come help us tear down our farmer’s market booth today at 2:00?” And I was like, “Okay…”
And so, I did. I had a great time just talking to these people who cared about what I cared about. George was the farmer’s name. And he said, “Hey, do you want to come help us set up tomorrow morning?” So I said yes and I did that.
I kept doing that Saturday and Sunday. And that turned into me, instead of showing up to help set up, and then showing up to help tear down, I just started staying for the whole farmer’s market and helping sell all the goodies that were being produced and raised in the way that I wanted to do myself.
And that’s been maybe the most helpful thing for me in growing, has been to surround myself with people that are successfully doing what I want to emulate because they’ve gone through all of the horrible, stupid mistakes and let me be free to make exciting, new mistakes.
So, fast forward to a few months later, I’ve kind of had—for people that have seen the film Office Space—an Office Space epiphany where because I cared so much about farming, I cared so much less about work. I didn’t just start going in in my pajamas or anything like that. But I just stopped stressing out about little mistakes and even moderately large mistakes that I made because we’re all going to make mistakes all the time.
I started doing better at work. I started enjoying my job more. It ended up with me being promoted and given like a 15% raise a few months after, like six months after that change in mentality and perspective on my job.
Mad Fientist: It’s amazing, isn’t it? I was so surprised by it. But the more and more people I talk to, it’s just the same, exact story. It’s the Office Space Syndrome. I like that. I like the name of that. That’s pretty much perfect.
Tony: And I did that volunteer gig for about four months. And then, that ended. And then I was like, “Well, now what?” Well, I felt like after four months of learning from someone, I was ready to do it myself—which was totally not true. I was looking for a farm land to rent.
And then, as it happens so many times since this epiphany happened, the universe has just given me the right thing at the right time and given me what I needed even though it wasn’t necessarily what I thought I wanted.
And one of the examples of that is I connected with my cousins who owned some old family land, and they weren’t using it. And there was a house on it that had been vacant since their parents died two years prior.
And so, I connected with them. I hadn’t really had a relationship with these cousins because they were about 30 years older than me. But I connected with them. And it was just the perfect fit. They were like, “Well, this house is going to fall apart if no one is living in it and taking care of it and the land isn’t getting used. And so why don’t we work something up?”
And so, I ended up there paying like a pittance in rent. It was like $400 a month in rent for this house and this land. And so, I started a little farm.
I should say I negotiated at my job, I just said like, “I want to work 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. so I can do the farm.” And I moved out there, I got four goats, three pigs, and 25 chickens and started raising, started running a farm.
My schedule is pretty crazy. I’d wake up at 4 a.m. I do chores. I would get ready for work and leave for work about 5:30. I’d work 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. And then, I’d come home and I would farm more until it was dark. And then, I go free. And that was pretty much all I did from June until February 2014.
Mad Fientist: That sounds nuts! So, in a lot of these cases, you talked to a lot of people with these dreams. And then, the reality is a lot different than the dream. How was it for you? Was it everything you hoped it would be or was it harder?
Tony: It was! It really was everything. It was a lot like what I thought it would be. It wasn’t much harder than I thought. And the ways in which it was difficult, I kind of reveled in. It was so in line with my values that it almost seemed effortless even though I was exhausted at the end of every day.
It was like an exalted exhaustion. I like to think about it like that. When you just put forth all you’ve got towards something you really believe in, there’s a bliss as part of that.
Mad Fientist: So, at this point, did you ever think about turning in the tech job because it sounds like, obviously, the farm was your passion and you had some savings at that time? Or was it just not financially possible to do that? Or did you like the balance of both worlds?
Tony: It was definitely not balanced. I wanted to get out of tech entirely. And in fact, it was kind of hard for me not to just quit a few times in 2013 which would’ve been a really bad idea I think because I would’ve been consumed even more by the farm and probably made myself sick even worse and even more often.
So, at some point in 2013/2014, I kind of was like, “Alright, I got to map out a path to not needing to work in tech.” And that was when I started. I really delved head first into the whole ERE. I read the ERE book. I think that was probably the first book I read. I read Your Money or Your Life? And then, I got into Mr. Money Mustache and Mad Fientist and JL Collins NH and all these wonderful people that have blazed the trail for us and given us the strategy and the tactics, the how and why of how to do this stuff.
So, that’s when I really started to come up with my plan to get to financial independence.
Mad Fientist: So, you decided that you want to get out of the tech world as soon as possible. You had this high income that was growing thanks to the Office Space Syndrome. And your expenses were low because of the farm situation and living situation you worked yourself into. So presumably, it was a pretty quick ramp-up towards this FI number that you had in mind.
Tony: Yeah. So I made a Google Sheet that was just like, “Alright, here’s how much I need to be happy.” And I hardly had any money at this time. I was making a fair amount. But all the money I had have been frittered away or went into the farm.
And so now I was just like, “Well, as everyone says, the numbers are easy.” The math is easy as far as plotting your course to FI. It’s simply, but it’s not—well, it’s simple, not easy. It’s not easy to implement.
So, when I had that path in front of me, I was like, “Okay, I can do this.” And I just kind of set up my life with my commute, my six to three schedule. Once I had a path that I could just keep walking towards, keep walking down the path, and I knew where I was going to be, it became so much easier to just do it.
I don’t know. A lot of people, I think, they get on their FI journey, and they spend a bunch of time and energy on it every day. I really didn’t. I just charted out my path and I just got my lifestyle organized. And I kept walking.
So, I had this stupid, little Google spreadsheet. And it had forecasted me to hit my number in end of March-ish 2017. And the company I was working for wasn’t doing so hot, and they laid off a bunch of people in August 2016. And I told my boss after that, “Hey, I’m really having a good time here. I feel like I’m doing a good job. And I don’t need this job. So if there needs to be more lay-offs, please sacrifice me instead of someone with a family that needs this job.”
And so, lo, and behold, January 2017, it was the 27th of January, I got to work and had someone come get me and say, “Hey, can you come into this room for a few minutes.” I walk into the room and they have the folder on the table and stuff.
And I had been on the other side of the table so many times laying other people off that I knew exactly what was happening. I just felt this wave of relief wash over my body. I remember it.
And I think the first thing I said to them was like, “Alright, I know this drill. And I know you’re way more nervous about this than I am. So just know that this is totally fine with me. I’m going to be very happy. And you guys, you have a hard day ahead of you.”
And I ended up with a severance package that basically gave me the number I was going to get by the end of March anyway.
Mad Fientist: So, what was that first few months of your life because, obviously, it was sooner than you’d expected. Were you mentally prepared for it?
Tony: No. I had emotionally thought—I was starting to think about “Hey, I should probably think about the transition period before the end of March… at some point before the end of March.” And obviously, I didn’t get that opportunity.
And honestly, I’m not sure it would’ve helped. But yeah, I did not get it. So the ideas I had about what early retirement would look like were that I would play a lot of video games. I have not made time for that. I played a lot of Diablo 3 and Warcraft 3 and had a great time.
And I had tons of ideas. One of the things I wanted to do ER for was so that I could build skills and learn things I wanted to know by doing them—for example, welding or working in a bike shop or an espresso stand or something like that. I want to get part-time jobs doing stuff that I wanted to learn how to do.
And for whatever reason, when I hit FI, I had all these time, I just didn’t go do them. They were ideas that sounded good. But for whatever reason, I just didn’t follow through with them. I had a lot of malaise and fatigue and what I know recognize as depression and anxiety.
And then, July and August, just continued with depression and anxiety. And the way that showed up in my life was that I was pretty irritable to be around. I wasn’t fun to be around. I was often tired, fatigued. I didn’t want to get out of bed.
And the biggest one was I stopped enjoying things that I used to love. Bike rides, hiking, cooking, all these things that I loved to do just became, at best, I was like, “Okay, this isn’t so bad.”
Mad Fientist: So, what were you thinking at this time because, obviously, if you’ve put a lot of hope into “everything is going to be fine and good after I hit FI,” and then, here you are, and it’s not good, it’s not better, it’s worse. All the things you thought you would do, you’re not doing. How was that? And were you thinking about “Did I make the right decision or what was going through your head?”
Tony: I didn’t ever regret the decision to pursue or “achieve” FI. I was in a spiral of thinking yet again that I’m doing this wrong or that I am inherently flawed in some way. I’m so spoiled. I’m so lucky in so many ways. But because of privilege and just lucky timing, and then all the hard work that I did to save so much money, I just felt like, “I have all of these stuff. I have all these free time. I live in this beautiful valley on this farm. And yet, here I am, miserable.” That was some of the lowest times I’ve ever had.
And yeah, it was like I didn’t have anything underneath that. It was like I did everything I knew how to do. I tried my hardest. I used all my skills. I got so much help from so many people. And here I am.
Another way it came out was when I explained my life to other people […], people that I’ve met at parties or whatever, I’d be hearing myself talking about my life, and I’d be like, “This sounds amazing! Why am I miserable?”
Mad Fientist: And it’s one thing when you have a job. You could always blame it on your job. Not only that, but the job is also distracting. So if you are feeling like that, then having to do a bunch of work will usually take your mind off of it.
So, missing out on that job takes away the distraction and takes away the most obvious excuse for why you’re feeling that way.
Tony: Yeah, I couldn’t blame anything. And so that just fueled the fire of self-criticism.
I guess one of the things I learned was that I was using job to manage my anxiety and depression with workaholism and perfectionism. And I actually ended up, at the urging of friends and partners and family, to go talk to a psychiatrist. And I was like, “You guys are nuts! I’m not crazy.”
But I did and I got an opinion that I didn’t like. So I went and sought someone else. And I got the same opinion. And their opinion was that I was struggling with my pretty severe anxiety and moderate depression. And what they would recommend is going on an anti-depressant, an SSRI.
And as one of them described to me I, at that point, was already doing everything they would suggest someone do. I was getting plenty of exercise. I was eating really well. I was meditating. Obviously, I didn’t have stress from work. I had family and friends around me. And yet I was struggling so much with myself.
So, I started on SSRI in August 2017. And these drugs are so weird. They’re like, “Well, take it for three weeks, then we might know if something is going on. We might know if it’s working or not.”
But anyway, I got lucky. I had a good practitioner. And we hit the jackpot the first time around, the first try. And man, September and October, I just started waking up feeling like glad to be alive—and it had been so long. I didn’t realize. When you’re in the middle of this stuff, it’s so hard to realize where you’re at. But it became so clear when I did start doing “glad to be alive” how much I’ve not had it for so long.
I would say that it’s probably been 2014 or 2015 since I have felt that lively. And yes, September and October were just such a welcome. I just felt so relieved and so much less anxious and so much less irritable. And I had more energy. I was just enjoying things that I liked. I was able to give myself some slack, you know?
Mad Fientist: What would you say to people that may be in a similar situation. Like you said, it’s really hard to realize you’re in that situation. The same with me when I was in the hardcore savings mode and we’re isolated in Vermont for two years. I had no idea that what it had got to. It was only when I came out of it that I realized how bad it got.
So, what would you say to people, especially people like you and me who are pinning all their hopes on this end goal of FI and that was just going to solve everything?
Tony: So, here’s the reality checks that helped me. It was kind of like I said. If you can explain your life to somebody, and it sounds to you when you’re speaking it like a totally different life than the one you’re living, that might be a sign that you’re—I mean I like to call my depression and anxiety “brain tubies.” But that might be a sign that you’re struggling with brain tubies. And that’s one big one.
The other one is if you have activities that you used to love, enjoy reliably, that used to give some juice to your life, and now they’re just perfunctory, or they don’t give you joy anymore, they just make your life manageable, endurable, that’s a sign.
And again, if you just find that you’re enduring your life, that’s not how humans are built to experience life.
And that doesn’t mean that you have brain tubies. It might mean that you’re working too much and you’re working too hard, you’re not giving your body what it needs as far as food, rest and exercise… there’s myriads of reasons that this might be happening. It’s not guaranteed that you’re going to have some kind of brain tubies or whatever…
Mad Fientist: But if you get to the state where you’ve eliminated all those other things that could potentially be helpful if you did them, and then you’re still at that position, then that’s probably… yeah…
Tony: If I get on my soap box for three seconds and just the stigmatism about mental illness in our culture is so tragic to me. I just think of all the people that are either not here because they had to escape via suicide, or they’re charging and enduring their way through life without getting help, it really—
I won’t go on about it because I’ll start crying. It is so tragic to me. And the fact that we treat mental illness like some character flaw and expect people to do the mental and emotional equivalence of like running a marathon on a broken leg… you know?
So, that’s my PSA that I’ll just get out there about. Talk! Be honest when you’re not okay. Don’t say everything is fine.
Mad Fientist: That’s why I’m so thankful that you decided to come on because, yeah, that was incredibly helpful. So I really, really appreciate you talking with me so honestly and openly. So, I’m sure the audience does as well.
And so, around this time is when you decided to actually go back to work, is that right?
Tony: Yeah! And that was part of—so when I started feeling better about stuff, thanks to my medication, I was like, “Alright, let’s try to stabilize our life a little bit more and just go back to what was last working for me” like that old saying, “When something goes wrong, stop the boat.” Get back to a place where you can make a decision.
And so, I ended up getting a part-time job in October. I had reached out to some friends that I had worked with, co-workers that I’ve worked with at my last job that I got laid off from. And they were at this little start-up in Seattle. I went in and had a visit with them. And I was like, “Hey, what are you guys up to? I’m looking to maybe start working again. But I only want to work part-time. So let’s see if we can make something that’s a good fit.”
And it ended up that they did seem like a good fit. So I started working in October doing software development as an individual contributor rather than a manager. Now, I work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. And it’s wonderful! It’s even better than the Office Space experience I had before I think because of a few things.
One, I know if it stops being fun, I can just stop. And two, it’s helped me really appreciate the good stuff about working which is mostly about being around other people. I love working on hard problems with people I respect. That’s a drug, and I’m addicted to it.
And it’s also good fun to do something you’re good at. It’s really important to me. And it’s so nice. It feels almost effortless. To get into flow is lovely.
So, that started in October, and I’m really glad I did that.
Mad Fientist: When you were making that decision, was it a hard decision to make or was it obvious like, “Okay, I missed these things about the job, and now I can potentially get those things while still maintaining all the other good stuff about early retirement and fill those voids that I actually am missing not that I’ve stepped away and realized that I’m missing them”?
So, was it a pretty easy decision?
Tony: Oh, yeah. I felt a slight twinge of shame about like, “Oh, I’m a fraud. Oh, I couldn’t do early retirement.” I felt a little ashamed there. But thankfully, largely because of therapy and other stuff, I just felt less of an attachment to that identity, so I could give it up.
So yeah, I had no qualms about it.
Mad Fientist: And that’s what it’s all about. I think people get so hung up on the early retirement part, but the whole point is happiness. So if you step away from work and realize that you’re missing a lot of these things, and the easiest and best way to get those things is to get another job—a full-time job, even a part-time job or whatever—there’s no shame in that.
The whole point is happiness. And a job can give you a lot of things that you can’t do just on your own. So even making a big impact on the world, working for a big corporation, maybe that will give you more leverage than you doing something on your own. And there’s no shame in that.
Tony: No, no. It’s been really great. I don’t know, this whole Office Space Syndrome phenomenon sounds like an illness. But I so appreciate the people I work with as humans now. I’m like making the most of the time I have there rather than like grinding through it. And I enjoy it so much more. And people enjoy being around me so much more. And so the relationships, everything about it, is so much more juicy. It’s really lovely.
Mad Fientist: That’s fantastic. I’m really happy to hear it.
So, it’s great you were able to pick up another job in the same industry. Now, maybe for someone who’s not in a high demand field like tech, that might not be so easy. So, maybe could you talk a little bit more about the things that you were missing and the things that your job has now fulfilled just to give people an idea of they’re maybe in a similar situation, they can maybe appreciate their current situation before they make a big change that they may not be able to unwind?
Tony: Yeah, I can talk about that.
So, the big thing—like the biggest thing—that I was missing was human connection. After I retired, I kind of built my own lifestyle that didn’t include a lot of habitual human contact that was not at work. And so that was a big. I think if I was going to do something different, the biggest part of it would be building human contact into your daily—not daily routine, but definitely your weekly routine.
Mad Fientist: Or some sort of forced human contact because I’m probably really similar to you where if I didn’t have a reason or some other motivation to do it, I just wouldn’t do it, because it’s obviously the easier choice and the more comfortable choice.
Mad Fientist: So yeah, that’s a good point.
Tony: Right, yes, exactly. Plus, most of the people in our age group, they work 9 to 5, Mondays through Friday. So even days when I wanted to be social with people, it was like, “Uh… well… what am I going to do? All my friends are at work,” that kind of thing. So, yeah, that was a big one.
And then, the other one I kind of alluded to earlier was like it’s really fulfilling to work on something you’re good at doing. So, I think me especially and a lot of people I’m sure, we like to learn new things and do things that are difficult. And a big part of that is failing over and over again. And that can get fatiguing after a while.
So, I think just doing something that you’re competent at is its own reward in a lot of ways. And then, I’d also say that working on hard problems with other people that you respect is totally a drug. It’s just a—I don’t know, there’s something juicy about that. Maybe it’s part of just human brain wiring or maybe it’s just people like me and you that really need that. But those are the big—
And then, obviously, the money doesn’t hurt. I just view it as like a bounty now. It’s like I don’t need to worry about taking care of my needs. I know they’re taken care of. It’s kind of the Office Space thing. When I go to work now, it’s like I don’t need to be there, so I better have a good time. So why not make it the most fun that I can?
And that’s totally infectious. Being around that kind of energy, it’s fun to be around that kind of person that’s trying to make the best of something.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, absolutely. And obviously, everyone else is probably stuck there in the complete opposite. And yeah, you’re right. People can feel that, can tell. And it’s no wonder you get promotions because you’re a whole different species pretty much in the workplace.
Tony: Yes, it’s really totally different than before I found a path to FI when it was just the grind.
I want to just qualify this. Not every day is a good day at work even now. I still have annoying days when I’m irritable or nothing goes right and I’m like, “Argh!” like I’m glad to get home. So it’s not magic. But it’s so much better.
Mad Fientist: So, I want to just ask you a few things about moving on from the farm dream. I know people struggle giving up their career because their identity is tied to that. But I would think that something as powerful and as big of a part of your life for so many years that would be maybe even harder to let go off especially since that’s something that you chose, whereas a career, some people may feel they’re just working because they have to, and yet their identity still gets tied into that, I met you and it was apparent you were a farmer very early on. We chatted about it almost instantly. So has that been difficult?
Tony: The hard part about that was asking the question to myself. It was really tough to even get past the assumption that that might be something I would even ask, that it could be true, that I would not be a farmer anymore. I’d say that was like 95% of the difficult, was just asking the question honestly and being willing to hear whatever answer was true. And once I had that answer, it was like 5% just to carry that difficult truth forwards.
I think I probably waited too long to ask that question. And so, by the time I did, by carrying that out, that was actually like a relief.
I guess I feel a tiny twinge of shame or lack of identity like, “Oh no! People aren’t going to think like Tony, the Farmer” or whatever like one of the feathers on my cap is gone. That’s there a little bit, but not nearly as much as I would’ve guessed.
And I’d also say to people that feel that they need to have some kind of passion and purpose in their life, be careful what you wish for. I went through this journey, and it cuts both ways.
When I was basically working over a hundred hours a week between my job and the farm and driving myself into exhaustion and illness and not able to get out of bed for days at a time, there’s a cost there. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making the world a better place and making your place in it the best you can. You didn’t do life wrong if you weren’t possessed of some overriding purpose.
Mad Fientist: That’s great. And yeah, thank you so much for doing this. This is I think going to help a lot of people. And I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this. I know I personally can. That’s why I was really excited to get you on the show.
I usually ask all of my guests if you had one piece of advice for someone on the path of financial independence, what would that be.
Tony: Yeah, if I had to pick one thing that I would have people ask themselves or prepare for, it would be building human connection into their life after they retire. And that might mean volunteering at helping kids or elderly people, just being around people that you can talk to really. And it almost doesn’t matter what venue that’s in. It might be going on MeetUp.com and meeting some hiking buddies, it might be volunteering.
Whatever human connection means to you, make that automatic.
And it’s going to be different for everybody. Some people are really gregarious by nature. But I think for people like you and me, that’s a requirement for a fulfilling life in my life, to have meaningful human connection.
So, that would be my one piece of advice. Figure out what that’s going to look like for you.
Mad Fientist: That’s great advice. And I’m thinking of maybe going back to school next year just to force myself to get out and socialize more and just do it in a way that at least I’m learning something. And I’m interested in—so yeah, like I said before, being forced to do it because, otherwise, I’ll just get stuck on my computer, hang out with Jill or whatever.
So yeah, no, I think that’s fantastic advice. And it’s not been shared before on the show. And it’s not even something I have focused on. But after leaving my job, I realized how important it is.
Tony: We’re humans. And humans, we’re a social animal. And it is part of our survival, drive. It’s built into our genes that have been honed through evolution.
Mad Fientist: Absolutely! So Tony, if anyone wants to get in touch, obviously, you don’t have a blog or anything. Maybe they’d either go to the comment section or if there’s any way to get in touch, you’re welcome to share it now.
Tony: Sure! Yeah, so if you want to talk to me, send me an email. And that email would be—I’ll give you one of my Google accounts. It’s [email protected]
Mad Fientist: I’ll put a link to that in the show notes.
Tony: Okay, yeah.
Mad Fientist: I just appreciate it so much. And I’m sure the audience does as well. So thank you so much for being on the show. This has been great. Hopefully, we can get together at some point again. It’s been a few years since I’ve been at Camp Mustache. But hopefully, maybe one of these upcoming ones, get up into the Pacific Northwest and hopefully catch up some more because this has been graet.
Tony: I look forward to it, Brandon. Thanks so much for having me on.
Mad Fientist: Alright, buddy. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.
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