It’s been a bit of a slug-fest at work. These last few weeks have brought on a heavy dose of 11th hour drama that’s quite typical in the world of software delivery at large corporations. When you get close to the finish line and the customer discovers “this isn’t what I wanted”, all of a sudden, collegiality flies out the window, and emotions take over.
In my case, being among the leaders on the delivery side of the equation, I find myself defending my team way too much. If everyone took a step back, they’d realize it’s a process problem, not a people problem. Have you ever heard that one before?
Part of my job is to play mediator and sometimes I feel like a WWF referee. That’s okay by me. But sometimes, I can literally feel my blood pressure rising on those conference calls. And that’s when I remember that it’s okay to want to retire early.
Reminding myself why early retirement is a good thing
Over the years my job has fluctuated between periods of slowness and boredom, and periods of mass hysteria and weekend-marathon testing calls. Part of what makes the field of software delivery so appealing is the decent pay. But that comes with the trade-off of high stress.
Unlike jobs where you have a steady flow of work and the outputs are within a high level of control, software delivery ebbs and flows. Some projects can wrap up within six months or less with no issues. Other projects can last three years or even longer and burn you out with ease.
It was while I was working on a three plus year monster that I planted my flag on a five-year early retirement goal. That was three years ago. Ticktock! With 27 months to go, I’m reminding myself of the following, all over again…
I can reduce my stress when I retire early, right?
Stress reduction is a huge expectation with early retirement. When you retire, you are in control of your schedule. You are your own boss and the agenda is yours to create. Certainly you can’t expect 100% of your stress to melt away. Stress is a key part of life. The game is to find ways to control it, so it doesn’t overcome you.
Remember the Danes and their way of life summed up by the term Hygge (pronounced, “hoo-guh”)? The ability to enjoy the simple things in life is made much easier by eliminating as many of the worries, stressors, and “clouds” that hang over your head day after day: a bad job, high debt, poor health, stressed relationships, and poor-performing sports teams…
Easier said than done. I don’t for a minute believe the Danes are impervious to the same trials and issues we face in the U.S. However, they have come up with a superior way of managing their lives, at a societal level that we could all learn from. Early retirement will bias one to Hygge, foregoing excess consumption and all the bullshit that comes with a “normal” American life.
I can work on fun projects when I retire early?
With early retirement, the work I do is for the most part, the work I enjoy. Even the tasks and projects I don’t necessarily choose are things I can do with a little joy in my heart. Whether it’s mowing the lawn, folding laundry, repairing a broken toy, or cooking dinner.
Some chores are simply chores, and that’s also just a part of life. I don’t mind that. And I think when you consider for a moment that early retirees in the U.S. are probably the most envied demographic on the planet, there’s really nothing to whine about.
Taking a random day off recently to focus on blog-writing at a coffee shop has been way more fun than dreaded conference calls at the office. No contest.
Just yesterday, I found myself the last one in the office and didn’t get home until 8:15. The comical part about that is the lights get turned off at 7 on the dot. Had to stay on that war room bridge though. Jeeeesus.
I can still pay my bills and make money when I retire early? How do I swing that again?
Contrary to what most believe, early retirement actually frees-up a good many of us to pursue things we’re passionate about. This newfound freedom often contributes much more meaningfully to society, and perhaps even to the economy, than our cube jobs ever did.
Do you have a charitable cause you’d like to pursue with more vigor (and time?) Is there an invention waiting to be refined in your workshop? And yet, our uninformed society assumes that early retirees are just off spewing jet fuel pollution on exorbitant travel, sipping pina coladas on random beaches somewhere.
I fully intend to keep making money after retiring early. There’s a property management company idea dangling out there. I may get a real estate agent’s license and dabble in flipping houses. Regardless, I’ll be doing something of value. Just don’t expect me to be hanging out in any cubical, especially when the lights go out.
Compare and contrast
We have a tendency as a species to gravitate to what’s comfortable and easy. Some have observed an (unproven) phenomenon where convicts wind up back in jail because it’s a community and an existence they’ve grown accustomed to. I wouldn’t go so far as to compare that situation with a cubical one, but part of me wants to.
Stop and compare:
- I could be taking a walk around the lake in autumn, appreciating the fall colors. Or, I could be sitting on a conference call in my cube.
- I could be at a coffee shop I biked to, writing up blog posts or maybe even the beginnings of a book. Or, I could be sitting on a conference call in my cube.
- Maybe I’m picking up my kids from school and hearing about their day while I get dinner ready? Or, I could be sitting on a conference call in my cube, and some nights missing dinner and bed-time “goodnights” like last night.
- Maybe I’m planning a three or four-week hiatus to go hiking and exploring? Or, I could be scrounging for a week off here or there, trying not to feel guilty about leaving work behind.
Convinced? I sure as heck am.