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.

Lifestyle Design
Lifestyle design is pretty easy when you are a single male with little responsibility outside yourself. Its pretty easy to design a life that maximizes your own happiness when you are the one in charge. It changes a little when you find someone special to spend your life with. But often, the one you pick tends to enjoy a similar type of life so the change is exciting. Life changes further when you add little munchkins to the equation and the happiness you experience becomes an aggregate (or reflection of) the entire household you manage. Trying to weigh your own personal desires with the ones of those around you gets a little more complicated.

For example, the simple task of choosing where to live gets trickier. How important are school districts? How important is it to be next to work? Friends? Neighborhoods? Do I prioritize myself, my wife, or my kids? And how are decisions managed when what is best for me may not be the absolute best for everyone in my household?. The pros and cons list gets trickier the more people you add to the equation.

Changing Jobs
This will get its whole post in the coming weeks. One of the biggest “Next Steps” I’ve taken was to switch industries and fulfill a position with a small (but rapidly growing) company. I took a significant pay cut to make the jump and forwent a nice six figure financial package to take something for half the pay and long-term potential. I feel like I could be in an episode of Silicon Valley minus the whole tech theme. What comes next will be interesting to see. Our company is growing like crazy and I get to be at the forefront of helping people and employers make better decisions with their money. It really is a neat way to leverage my favorite things and make people’s lives better. But it has been a big transition I’m excited to write about while it is still fresh. I’ll have it figured out by this time next year, but I’m looking forward to documenting the process.

Getting Complicated
I’m still trying to figure out what the next goal should be. The first is simply to make it to Christmas. We’ll be buying a new house, a different car, I’ll be finished with my dragging dissertation, and I’ll be through with many of my initial work projects and learning curve. The first goal is simply to finish. The next goal is to figure out the rest of my life. What are the next 2, 5, or 20 years going to look like? Will things stay simple? Will they get more complex? Will I remain on the path to early financial freedom or will my lifestyle inflate to the point where I become the guy I wrote about years ago. If there is one thing I need to do, it is to think through where I want to be and direct my life in that direction; rather than let it happen through social pressure or unwanted marketing, and influence where we go from here.

On Writing
I haven’t been publishing very much over the past few months. I’ve been writing ideas, but I haven’t spent much time in the reflection or the editorial process. I don’t really like that part of the process even though it may be the most valuable. I’ve realized that the value in writing is organizing my thoughts. It is in having a clear and coherent thesis of why I’m doing what I do and why I make the decisions that I do. It forces me to clarify my thoughts and make them articulatable. And by doing that, it gives me confidence to discuss the value in the choices that I make and evaluate upcoming new ones. It helps give clarity for the direction of our family, gives accountability towards making progress to our goals and gives us the power to help others see our perspectives, especially when it is slightly different from traditional societal expectations. Life continues to be an evolutionary process and I’m looking forward to taking the next steps.

2 thoughts on “Taking the Next Step Forward

  1. Some big changes for you!

    Life is interesting how it pans out isn’t it? 🙂
    Good luck all your endeavours, the work switch sounds like a big move, kudos for taking a risk on doing something new

  2. I just made some big changes too, and have been pondering (probably more like worrying) about some of these things as well. One of the things that hit me, and it sounds like you as well is that i don’t want to delay living an intentional and meaningful life now for 5-10 years to hit FI. Now that doesn’t mean that i think intentional and meaningful means i have to spend a lot of money, but it does require a lot of the mental energy i was putting into managing finances to be directed towards my family, friends, new land/property and new work. So the worry is if i change my focus will i still get to the other goals i had. Anyway thanks for sharing, and enjoy hearing your thoughts as you organize them 🙂