FIRE is amazing.
I absolutely cherish being able to live life on my terms, blissfully free of a job, boss, quotas, and drama.
But as great as it is, I think it’s only been so successful for me (thus far) because I knew something before I quit my job way back in 2014.
And I think it’s imperative that other FIRE fighters and early retirees also know this before they quit their jobs in favor of FIRE and all it offers.
If you don’t know this first, you’re going to have a hard time with your post-job life in FIRE.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say you will probably end up unhappy and depressed if you don’t have this pretty well figured out beforehand. I’ve personally talked to people who figured out the money, but didn’t figure this out, and they felt totally empty and lost.
So let’s get to figuring it out.
What you must know before you quit your job is… you.
You have to figure yourself out.
You must know who you are.
Trust me. Just knowing money won’t cut it. Your money won’t figure you out for you. Your money won’t jump out of your account, grab your hand, and make a life for you.
You should have a good idea of what you want to do, why you want to do it, where you want to do it, when you want to do it, and who you want to do it with.
This is invaluable information.
You should know your passions and interests. You should have a general sense of your purpose in life. You should know what makes you happy. You should know what you’re good at. And you should even know what you totally suck at (so you can avoid those things).
Sounds easy, right?
Well, it’s actually not.
That’s because we’re typically too busy with our jobs, daily responsibilities, and everything life throws our way to figure ourselves and our lives out.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked coaching clients what they want to do after they FIRE, only to get a blank stare.
Isn’t it enough to save and invest?
Not even close.
People have no idea who they really are, what they really want, and what they really enjoy.
And if you’re expecting FIRE to magically build a life for you, as if it will materialize out of thin air, you’re going to be sadly mistaken.
I’ve discussed at length how important it is to be true to yourself. We must live authentic lives in order to be content and happy.
But it’s nigh impossible to live in a genuine way if you don’t know what genuine really is. You can’t be true to yourself if you don’t know who you are. You can’t aim for a target if you’re not sure of what the target is.
How can you be you if you don’t know you?
Running Toward, Not Running From
FIRE should be chased with an exhaustive enthusiasm.
But simply running away from your job, without running toward something bigger and better, is a massive mistake.
It’s not enough to be financially independent and able to quit your job. Retiring early will not suffice.
If you’re suddenly able to quit your job tomorrow, what will you do with your time?
This is a very serious question that you must tackle and figure out way before FIRE is achieved.
It was my initial goal to quit my job. I only wanted to be able to retire by 40. It was pretty straightforward.
But I was only running away from my job.
I hated my job. The job was like being in jail or something.
Quitting my job, for me, was analogous to escaping prison.
I could only see these walls around me, preventing my freedom. I was told when to wake up, where to go, what tasks to perform, when to eat, when to go to bed, etc. It sucked.
And so all I could think of was how to escape prison.
That led to devising a well-crafted plan to escape. I was very confident it would work.
I would sketch out details when my boss (the warden) wasn’t looking. I would take the money he gave me after completed tasks (I can’t remember if it was stamping license plates or not), and I’d add that to my pot of money that I’d use to fund my escape plan. I’d use every day at prison as fuel for my FIRE, motivating me to dig my tunnel out of that place.
Things were working. I could tell that, even after just a few years into it, my “life sentence” was going to be cut very short.
What in the world am I going to do once I escape prison? What’s my life “on the outside” gonna look like? What will I do all day?
Fortunately, I realized pretty quickly that I wouldn’t be very happy if I quit my job without a substantial and thought-out life to run toward.
Without a meaningful life that drove me forward and gave me purpose, I’d shrivel up and be depressed.
And so I spent time before I quit my job structuring things in a way that would allow me to somewhat seamlessly slip into using up more resources in running toward something, once I was done expending resources running away from something else.
Of course, I didn’t figure it all out on Day 1.
There’s been a learning curve, experimentation, and life changes. This is, in my view, something to embrace and take advantage of.
But the life I ran toward is one where I would spend a lot more time writing, staying physically active, learning all kinds of new and interesting things, and inspiring people all over the world to running toward their own dreams.
It’s shifted a bit here and there, especially in terms of where I’m doing it from, but it’s by and large what I started to manufacture all those years ago.
It’s a life that’s been customized for and by me.
However, I was only able to customize it because I knew myself to a great degree.
I had a fairly good idea of what to look for. I knew what would more or less make me happy.
Life is like a castle. But I can’t build a life if I don’t know what bricks to look for.
I like showing up to the gym six days per week. I like being at the coffee shop for hours, every day. I enjoy writing, reading, consuming and producing content.
But someone else might use their FIRE to run toward a life full of woodworking, or becoming a chef, or fixing up and reselling old Vespas.
Whatever. The choices are practically infinite in number.
Most importantly, they’re your choices to make.
You need to take the time necessary to figure this out. And then you need to start putting the foundation in place before you quit your job so that you have something to energetically run toward once you’re no longer wasting resources running away from something else.
More Than Money
We must know that it’s not enough to be financially independent.
The money is only part of the puzzle. It’s perhaps the easiest part.
We must know ourselves just as much as we know our money.
We must be more than our money.
However, that doesn’t mean the money isn’t extremely important. I’m not saying that.
It’s obviously critical that we have enough money to FIRE. Otherwise, it’s all for naught. You can’t be FIRE without the passive income necessary to cover your bills. That’s pretty straightforward stuff.
But I like to think of my money in a very abstract way that stretches beyond its conventional limits.
And I discussed that in a recent post on thinking about what you might do with unlimited money, which this article builds on.
This way of creative thinking is, in my view, the crux of the matter.
Once you’re free to live without a job, you’re basically free of limits at all. It’s almost like you’re operating with unlimited money, for all intents and purposes as they relate to what most of us would do with our money and time.
This allows you to be more than your money. And it allows your money to be more than money.
So discard whatever norms you’re adhering to. Let go of your fears. Unleash yourself. See the limitless opportunities to run toward.
And then run.
As I stated at the outset, FIRE is amazing. It truly is.
But if you’re only concentrating on the financial aspects of FIRE, by running away from your job, you’re likely going to find yourself very disappointed with what awaits you.
Because what awaits you is nothing at all, if you’re not actually running toward something.
So get to know yourself. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with yourself. Take a long look in the mirror and figure yourself out.
Keep in mind, too, that you will (and should) change as time marches on.
The 25-year-old version of you isn’t the same as the 10-year-old version of you. And the 50-year-old version of you won’t be the same as the 30-year-old version of you.
Don’t be afraid of these changes. Embrace them. Run toward them.
What do you think? Do you think it’s important to know yourself before you quit your job? How well do you know yourself? Have you figured that person out?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re ready to become FIRE and run toward something, check out some phenomenal resources that helped me reach financial freedom at just 33 years old!