2017 Challenges

I don’t really feel passionate about making change* this year. I know that doesn’t really roll off the tongue for a wannabe self improvement blogger. Maybe I’m getting a little soft, or maybe I do not have quite as much discontent that needs to be addressed. But for some reason, I don’t have the strong internal desire to make drastic life change this year. Similarly to how I felt the previous six months, I’m prepping for a lot of new commitment and life change as-is. I certainly have plenty of minor goals and things I want to accomplish, but I’m not really looking to make a ton of personal lifestyle changes. The upcoming activities of life will be sufficient for me to scratch the itch of progress.

I enjoy thinking through personal goals while trying to design the next few months and years of my life. I also enjoy the end of a year and prospecting of a new one. I often think through five to six key areas of life and brainstorm where I want to make progress. However, this year, I’m moving to a less complex set of goals, challenges, and resolutions. This year will be conceptually much simpler than many before it. I won’t be making lots of different major changes- I’ll only be working toward one or two big ones. I prefer to think of it as focused. Instead of doing lots of different life experiments and making incremental change, we will simply be working through a few major goals with focus. I think an apt example would be someone working five different jobs to make ends meet. While possibly commendable, sometimes it may make more sense to work a single job and concentrate one’s efforts there. With that in mind, the focus of this year will simply be renovating our home and making our family relationships stronger. Continue reading 2017 Challenges

It’s Finished

I remember thinking six months ago about how simple my life would be right now. I was about to enter one of the most exciting and challenging six month stretches of my life. I was switching jobs into a new industry after working with my previous employer for 10 years. I was finishing my my doctoral program. We were getting our house ready to sell and searching for a new one. We even bought a new (to us) car and traveled for several weeks.

The anticipation and stress was intriguing but I enjoyed the challenge. I remember thinking, “Oh, how simple life will be when this phase of life finishes.” Well, it’s finished. But, life doesn’t really feel like it has slowed down very much. I seem to have a pretty consistent level of stress despite the excitement in and around my life. My brain likes to think ahead and anticipate changes or challenges if the current set of stressors are not enough. I finished my 12th and final year of college. We sold our house and bought a fancy (*soon to be) new one. I moved into the field of financial planning full time and have learned a lot! We returned our electric car and reverted back to gasoline. I’ve even switched from coffee to espresso. I’ve settled in after traveling quite a bit and kids are a few months older than they were before. 2016 was a fun year. (Picture: My awesome parents at my graduation) Continue reading It’s Finished

Turning My Hobby Into My Job

When I was a kid I told people I wanted to be an architect. I think it was mainly because I played with lots of Legos and people told me I should build or design stuff for a living. As I approached the end of high school, I leaned more toward engineering and medicine mostly just following in the footsteps of my family. At some point after my first year in college, I realized I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I stepped back to get a generalized degree in business. After graduation, I spent a little time overseas working and traveling eventually settling into grad school learning about economics.

Ifinancen high school I remember thinking economics was the most boring subject on Earth. I equated it with graphs, charts, and equilibriums that had little bearing on my day to day life. When it came to graduate school I couldn’t decide between an MBA program or Law school. Looking back, I think I was really just buying time to figure out what I wanted to do in life. Ironically, I chose to go with economics based primarily on the fact that they offered the best assistantship and stipend. It wasn’t until I really studied microeconomics and behavioral economics that I realized that learning how incentives work and how decisions are made is extremely valuable. Continue reading Turning My Hobby Into My Job

Justifying the Choices We Make

Do you ever make decisions outside the norm that you have to justify? Have you ever tried to explain a life choice you’ve made but failed to convey the “Why” behind the choice in the time frame given to explain? We are constantly making decisions about the way we choose to live our life. There are times when we make choices we know are correct for certain situations but have a hard time articulating why they are so. Often, we’re unclear the exact reasons why we make choices but we clearly know in our gut that they are right for our life. It can be hard to verbally (or internally) justify the choices we make. 

debateUndoubtedly, when you take a position outside the status quo, you will be forced to explain your set of choices on a irregular (or regular depending on how divergent the choice) basis to those following the crowd. If you choose to live debt free, retire early, or live a simple life you will be asked about why. If you choose to follow a religion (or not to follow one), live by specific philosophical principles, or make any unique life choices- you will certainly be asked to justify your position. Especially if you regularly interact with people that share different views than you do. Even if you just eat a little differently than your peers you will be asked to defend your reasoning. Continue reading Justifying the Choices We Make

Taking the Next Step Forward

My life has changed a lot since I started writing here, pretending to be a simple economist. I’ve started school, finished school, traveled a bit, started a new job, had two kids, bought a house, paid it off, moved around town, and moved into a new career. I’ve read a lot, learned a little, and live a life that often feels completely different than the simple one that I started this journey down. I’m pretty happy with where life sits right now. Its a neat place. There are a few little things I’d like to wrap up and finish, but I’m moving into a season where the biggest life decisions (what to ‘do’, where to live, how many kids to have, who to marry) cede themselves to refining decisions and spending time with the people most important in my life.

walker-1208261_1280I’ve done a lot less reflection recently and its starting to get the better of me. I’ve been in consumption mode and my life is changing because of it. The biggest change has been a movement in career. Although I am now doing what I love, I’m still in learning mode and I’m faced with new challenges and demands daily. I was good enough at my old job that most days I could just get my work done without a lot of new thinking or mental stress. When I finish most days at my current job, I’m often running low on mental energy. In fact, the other day I even struggled with a basic conversation about explaining the benefits of a simple life because I haven’t spent the time to mentally organize my thoughts given the new season of life I’ve entered. I haven’t spent the time to have the conversations with my family and wife about what our next big goals are and the steps to get there. I’m entering a new stage of life and I need to decide what’s next. Continue reading Taking the Next Step Forward

I Should Be Doing Something Else

Do you ever have the thought: I Should Be Doing Something Else? It’s a classic dilemma. I get that feeling when I have an unfinished task that requires attention. It’s similar to the notion about being at work and thinking about your kids, spouse, or what you should be doing with your life; then, thinking about work when you should be relaxing, vacationing, sleeping, or enjoying your kids or family. If you have a knowledge type job or manage others, there is certainly the tendency to have your mind going in the background thinking through the endless possibilities of things that need to be done.

typewriter-801921_1280When we have a list of things that need to be done, whether written or simply in our head, we often feel internal guilt about not doing the “Things that need to be done”. It doesn’t always motivate us to actually do the urgent things but certainly makes doing any thing else less enjoyable. Another personal example is this: I enjoy reading, especially novels, non-fiction, and most long form content. However, when I was taking college classes, especially those that suggested (or demanded) lots of textbook reading, I always felt guilty if I read something other than the textbook in my free time. A rational person would simply say, finish reading your text, then you can relax and read whatever you want. However, instead of doing the rational thing, I would simply avoid reading all together. For some reason, other activities that didn’t compete as directly with the mental space dedicated to reading for class, were easily accomplished on my to-do list. Continue reading I Should Be Doing Something Else

I Don’t Want to Read the Book

“I don’t want to read the book, just tell me what to do.” I’m an avid reader. I spend a large majority of my day reading for work, research, or pleasure. I almost always enjoy reading the book. If you are like me, you probably enjoy reading too. I’m a bit unique in the fact that I almost exclusively read non-fiction. But I enjoy a detailed and carefully informed argument about a topic. Most non-fiction books are just that. Especially the business, lifestyle design, personal finance, or self-help variety. To some extent, long form essays or blogs are similar as well. I actually enjoy reading the details and gaining context to understanding the ‘why’ behind a set of recommendations or suggested actions. Especially when it comes to life change.

old booksBut most people are not like me. Most people do not enjoy reading like I do. Well, maybe they enjoy reading their Facebook feed, but any long-form non-fiction is akin to pulling teeth. Trying to get someone else to read a 1,000 word blog post or even a short essay about a topic of interest can be surprisingly hard with some individuals. Most people don’t want to read the book. Continue reading I Don’t Want to Read the Book

Less Information, More Reflection

I’m addicted to new information. I enjoy listening to podcasts, reading plenty of non-fiction books, watching documentaries, perusing other blogs, following TED/YouTube series, and studying academic publications. In addition, I really enjoy meeting and learning from people who are a little older and a little wiser than myself. In essence, I find myself on the constant lookout for new information. Due to the nature of my employment, I must follow economic and financial (and sometimes political) news as well. I’m constantly bombarding myself with new data.

IMG_3724[1]I still find myself searching for more information when, often, I already have enough. I simply need to step back, reflect on it, and take action. I don’t really need to read more about the nuances of financial planning at this point. I need to spend more time reflecting on the choices I’ve made over the last six months and see if they align with my long term goals. I don’t need to read more about simplifying my life or organizing something a little better. I need to take inventory to see if I’m actually keeping everything organized and following simplistic principles. I need to spend much more time in reflection and less time consuming new information. (Picture is a nice little sticky note that covers up the second tab of my browser when I’m tempted to get distracted) Continue reading Less Information, More Reflection

From Tiny House to McMansion

Is 2,328 square feet crazy for four relatively small people? 3,500 sf? Can a wannabe minimalist own a huge house? Are the two mutually exclusive?

Well, we did it. We traded in the tiny house and bought a McMansion. Well, actually, we didn’t. We haven’t actually moved. We haven’t listed our current home. And we haven’t found the mythical “forever house”. But, I’ve noticed that my mindset has already started to drift. Things I previously considered off limits are now “affordable” and “convenient”. An extra bedroom, sure. Houses for our cars, why not? Commuting to work with traffic- everyone else doesn’t seem to mind. I’m amazed at how far my mind has traveled in the last few months. Maybe it’s time for me to get out the catheter and bedpan.

house6In turns out, a lot of people think like us. Family friendly, in-town, walkable, Ivy-league preschool district, open floor plan, park-friendly, and affordable*. These are the buzzwords of many young professionals and young families are striving to achieve in housing. However, I’ve learned first hand that the combination (especially the affordable* part) seems to be a bit of a mythical proposition in many different areas of the country. Our town is relatively small and the limited number of homes that meet the previously mentioned qualifications are sadly few and far between. However, if you strike the whole in-town/walkable part, the outskirts and suburbs have a plethora of options to meet the needs of discerning parents. So, if somethings got to give- what will it be? Continue reading From Tiny House to McMansion

Reducing The Need For Willpower

There was a bowl of chocolate covered almonds sitting out in the kitchen. Throughout the day, every time I would go to grab a drink, grab a snack, or get something for anyone in the household, the little bowl of treats called my name. I really like dark chocolate covered almonds (or nuts of any kind). On a normal day, I don’t really eat any sweets. If I do, it’s typically a small nibble after dinner. In fact, we try not to keep many unhealthy things in our household because I know my willpower is weak when I’m hungry and ready-to-eat treats are around.

choco nutsI think everyone has some type of change they would like to make in their life. Throughout the years we often think in terms of resolutions or goals. While I still participate in the practice of thinking through areas of self-improvement, I’ve come to the conclusion that systems work a lot better than willpower. In fact, most people concentrate on the goals they would like to meet and the mental power it takes to ‘deny oneself’. However, I think we rely too much on our own will power when we would actually be better served by putting ourselves in a position to succeed in making needed changes. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was easy to make significant changes in our life? What if it was easier to eat healthier, work out more, have more time and waste less money. Too often, our lives are simply designed to fail. We spend more time dreaming about the results of our resolutions, but spend entirely too little time on the systems that make our goals succeed. We need better systems in place to reduce the need for willpower. Continue reading Reducing The Need For Willpower