Life Optimization

Cultivating Work With True Heart & Meaning (AKA: How To Avoid Unhealthy Workism)

The article, “Workism Is Making Americans Miserable,” made me think hard about work. After pondering it for a couple of weeks here are some thoughts:

I deeply believe that in order to find happiness & meaning in work one needs to clearly define a personal mission & make sure one’s weekly work aligns with that mission. Otherwise work is just a paycheck and there are millions of ways to make money. 

If your inner world is undefined, your outer world will be undefined & meaningless. 
And humans by default almost always strive for “more”—money, work, things, tv, social media, etc. even when it's detrimental to health & balance in one's life and even when it's meaningless. 

Again, an undefined personal life purpose leads to a life of drift & personal detriment.

I also firmly believe that balance is achieved by opposing muscles of different life areas pulling against one another. This is how you balance in a challenging yoga pose, this is how you balance a challenging life. Therefore strong work muscles must be counterbalanced by strong rejuvenation muscles.

The awesome thing about many workplaces these days, at least the ones Oh My Green has the pleasure to serve, is that they have awesome world-changing missions AND high fidelity rejuvenation built into their daily/weekly culture. This includes healthy/delicious snacks & catering, meditation, yoga & even life/career coaching so that each individual is empowered to live healthfully and empowered to define/live their purpose & values.

Furthermore, all of our customers realize that their people are their most valuable asset and by not only providing for them, but actually empowering them with their personal development they are paving the way to a place where work can be fun, fulfilling & balanced with the rest of the equally important aspects of their life including family, hobbies, physical fitness, traveling, learning, spiritual growth and all the other awesome aspects of the good life.

When I step back and look at the possibilities provided to the people at the companies we work with every week I am amazed at just how much personal care & personal development is provided. Nonetheless, we all must take it upon ourself to actually utilize these resources & build our own version of an empowered life.

So, what if you are suffering from “Workism”? What can you do? Here are 4 ways you can alchemize your work/life:

  • Discover & develop your personal mission. Then make sure this aligns with your company’s mission or find a new company that does align with it. [Here’s a short article with resources for discovering/developing your mission.]

  • Define your personal values and make sure your company respects them (or find one that does). When you consciously know what values create heart & meaning in your life and your work is aligned with them defaulting to unhealthy workism will be a rare occasion.

  • Take a vacation from work. Sign off completely. Put up an email autoresponder. Don’t fucking read a single email or take work calls during your vacation. I’m dead serious. If you are so burnt out from work you can barely think it’s going to be pretty hard to discover or develop your personal mission or reflect on your values. Often times we need to create space and/or inner silence to be able to hear our Spirit or Higher Self’s guidance on our next steps.

  • Get your financial house in order. If you can’t even afford to take a break or risk looking for a new job that actually aligns with your mission & values you’ve become a slave to your job, money has become your master and workism will be your religion. [Here is an article about me facing my own money darkness & here is a progress report on my personal finances from last year.]

  • Take 100% responsibility for your life & your work-life! Even at my own company which has a super powerful mission and lots of empowering life-enhancing benefits, generous PTO, & flexible work arrangements I see plenty of employees getting CRUSHED by workism. I personally tell everyone I can that our mission of “empowering people to live healthy & blissful lives” will NOT be personally served up on a silver platter. Each one of us will have to actively work each day and week to create our personal version of health & bliss. That means setting & holding boundaries around one’s schedule/workload, actively scheduling time off for rejuvenation, and actually taking advantage of all the benefits offered. I believe this holds true for all the tens of thousands of employees we serve at offices across the nation. No company will do all the work of creating a work/life filled with heart, meaning & balance—that is our personal responsibility.

Taking action on any one of these 5 steps will catalyze you towards a life really worth living for! In truth, taking action & taking responsibility really does cure most things. No one can do it for you. Like they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

Don’t be that horse.


END NOTES:

  • Special thanks to our Oh My Green CEO, Michael Heinrich, for sharing the “Workism” article in our company newsletter that spawned this blog post. You continue to be an incredibly empowering leader, mentor & best friend.

  • Additional deep thanks to Derek Thompson for writing the article and making me think so hard about my own work/life, my company, & the companies we serve.

  • Title photo by my dear friend & uber-talented photographer Noelle Johnson.



If Instagram is more your pace:


The Joy of Purposeful Work

Whether it’s putting in solid work for my company Oh My Green, working on closing a new exciting deal, or working on a creative project for Alchemize Life there is just so much joy & satisfaction to be found in the journey & process backed by an authentic purpose.

Old me used to be purposeless & so focused on reaching some self-centered specific goal that I would be completely unaware of all the awesomeness that was abundantly surrounding me throughout the entire process of reaching the goal. This purely self-centered focus on the end goal sabotaged my happiness. I had a limiting belief that until I reached the goal I wasn’t good enough & I could not be happy. Even after goal completion, happiness was fleeting as a new goal arose.

Now I realize two important factors: (1) we must have a purpose greater than ourselves & (2) when we have a strong personal mission the process becomes the prize. Putting in good work is a gift. There is boundless fruit in the labor when we approach it with the right mindset.

Once I developed my personal mission of “empowering people to transform” I finally had a mindset that made all work joyful & gratifying as long as it was in line with my mission.

With a strong purpose, all work becomes similar to a super amped sweaty physical workout. You know it’s hard, but going hard is fun, exhilarating & damn satisfying!

With that in mind, I strive for all my work to be purposeful & filled with meaning. And when you live a life on purpose filled with meaning... happiness & satisfaction is a natural byproduct!

So if you find yourself dreading work, unhappy & unfulfilled it may be time to develop a personal mission. If you don’t know what your personal mission is then YOUR MISSION IS TO DISCOVER & DEVELOP YOUR MISSION! This is truly one of the most awesome missions as it empowers you to use everything & all work to explore & refine your purpose. If you accept this mission you will embark on one of the greatest adventures of your life—self-discovery!

And if you already have a strong mission then I’m preaching to the choir. Like me, you probably love putting in the work just as much, if not more, than crushing the goals!

If you have a mission & feel like sharing it in the comments please do so! It is always inspiring for myself & others to hear all the awesomeness people are up to in this world!

END NOTES:

  1. This post was originally an Instagram Post last week, but I thought it was quite fitting to republish on LinkedIn. Give me a follow on IG @justindavidcarl if you would like to be inspired with daily stories of #mindset #motivation #entrepreneurship #fitness & much more!

  2. Some good resources for developing a personal mission: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Living Forward by Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy, The Fire Starter Conversations by Danielle LaPorte.



More empowering creative work from my Instagram:


Reshaping My Money Story: My First Year On The Path To Financial Independence (FI)

Discovering Financial Independence (FI) and realizing the new possibility of living it has been utterly life-changing for me. It’s like I awoke from the Matrix and realized that so much of what I did was out of social & environmental programming. Prior to FI, I was sleepwalking through many areas of my life. Drift was for real.

But with this newfound possibility of FI a whole new reality began to emerge & I was filled with new life! I discovered renewed energy, more creativity, took massive action, achieved newfound abundance & was able to live on purpose in a much deeper way!

For those of you who are reading about Financial Independence for the first time the simplest explanation I can share is that it means your assets generate more than enough income to cover your cost of living. At this point all paid work becomes optional. There are almost an infinite number of ways to achieve this. Some ways include building a massive stock portfolio, rental real estate, passive income endeavors, etc. Why is FI important? Because it empowers you to only do work that you are truly passionate about & truly lead a life of your own design without worrying over whether your chosen work/life design will cover your cost of living. [read this article for more background on my discovery of FI]

I still laugh ironically at my younger self who naively thought he was living without being influenced by outside forces. As I’ve previously written & spoken about before, no matter how hard you try you are (1) the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, (2) a product of your environment & (3) what you consume—including food, information & experiences. [read this article for more on these three related principles]

In truth, a lot of my major habits around consumption were completely out of whack with my own personal values. My top personal value is Freedom. I’ve now learned just how enslaved to mindless consumption I was since discovering FI. No wonder I was rarely satisfied with life despite the fact that most people would likely consider the outside perspective of my life fairly good & quite successful. When your living is out of sync with your true values it is virtually impossible to find any lasting happiness or peace of mind.

I discovered FI a little over a year ago. This last year has been radical in many ways. 2018 has been a fascinating discovery & rediscovery of what really has true heart & meaning to me, what is not important to me personally, and what progress & success actually mean to me.

Ultimately, this journey to FI is empowering me to radically reshape my money story into one that is filled with redemption, learning, optimization, positivity, personal power, strength, leading by example & so much more!

In this post I will share my major FI achievements, milestones & personal insights from year one on the path to FI.

FI Path Year 1 Achievements & Milestones*:

CampFI Southwest 2018 in Joshua Tree, CA

CampFI Southwest 2018 in Joshua Tree, CA

  • Got caught up from being 6-years behind on my taxes.

  • Finally paid off the last of my debt (originally $40K+ in credit card & school loans). Something I had been carrying for over 15 years.

  • Started tracking income, expenses & net worth with both Mint & Personal Capital.

  • My fiancé became my FI Wife (my official FI Life Parter).

  • Attended my first CampFI with my fiancé. 60+ people gathered together in a desert to learn, discuss all aspects of FI & play! This was one of my highlight experiences of the year! This is also where my fiancé began to discover her “Why of FI”. Plus, I got invited to be a speaker at CampFI Southwest 2019 in Joshua Tree!! [Use “JDC” to get $25 off your ticket].

  • Co-organized a monthly FI Meetup Group that met every month of 2018 and regularly had 30-60+ members show up to each event.

  • Built FI friendships that excite & empower us daily. These add massively to our life quality and I believe many of them will be lifelong flourishing relationships.

  • Started travel hacking, including taking my first all-points trip with my FI Wife.

  • Sold my Range Rover & got a Prius.

  • Started using Gas Buddy

  • Split internet bill with neighbors.

  • Had microwave repaired for $25 at local shop versus spending $100+ for a new one.

  • Started enjoying our company’s complimentary lunch (an awesome employee benefit) & started meeting with more friends who also get complimentary lunch at work. This led me to cultivating more & deeper friendships and radically reduced my monthly food bill.

  • Stopped buying so many books & instead learned to always use the Library.

  • Stopped paying to rent digital movies & tv shows unless they were free with Amazon Prime or on the family Netflix account.

  • Opted for matinee movies & just discovered $6 ticket Tuesdays at my local theater.

  • Learned to use SF Fun Cheap for weekday, weekend & holiday activities instead of paying a ton of money for events.

  • Stopped all subscriptions that were not being fully utilized.

  • Stopped getting so many professional massages (1-3 per month was my old habit; a shit ton of money) & instead learned to give myself a massage using a foam roller, tennis balls, yoga tune up balls, & a selfie-massager. Occasionally my partner and I trade-off massaging each other. This saves money AND is a massive intimacy builder!

  • Opened a Vanguard account.

  • Began investing in in Index Funds (VTSAX & others).

  • Maxed out my 401K for the second year in a row.

  • Completed a Backdoor Roth for 2017 & 2018 [see this article for a great how-to].

  • Tax loss harvested for the first time.

  • Got the Personal Capital call.

  • Grew our yearly income massively! Record earning year for the both of us!

  • Grew our Net Worth by 3.6X+!!

  • Achieved major FU Money [Freedom Unlimited]!!

  • Achieved a 90% monthly savings rate with 75-90% monthly range throughout the year!!

    • In my mind this is my crowning FI achievement (tied with discovering my FI Wife) as this means I only have another 2-5 years before I hit my FI number!!

FI Insights*:

Know your “Why of FI.” If you don’t know why you are after something it won’t be long until an obstacle arises and you give up. With a powerful “Why” you can blast through any blocks that come up (and they will come up). In one word my Why of FI is: FREEDOM!! It’s a deep why for me and probably deserves its own blog post to really get into the nitty gritty details.

FI is a Superpower. FI creates massive personal freedom. It empowers me to do what I truly want to do and avoid doing things I don’t really want to do. Personal Freedom in all that you do is like living with a Superpower.

FI is a Mindset, Philosophy & Life Optimization System. At its core, I believe FI is a mindset and way of living that guides all aspects of your life towards living in harmony with what has true heart & meaning to you at your deepest levels. It encourages us to optimize all areas of life to live in accordance with our deepest values. When we live in harmony with our True Self… Happiness is a natural byproduct!

Personal Finance & FI are a muscle. Learn & grow by doing. Confidence & strength is built through experience. If you’ve never gone to a gym a lifted weights it can be pretty scary and intimidating at first. You are weak at first AND you don’t really know what you are doing. But you keep going. Little by little you get stronger. Your understanding & knowledge of your body grows. The tools at hand to improve & strengthen your body become familiar. Your all around fitness expertise deepens. This is all done through incremental improvement.

Personal finance is the same. It’s something you can build to become incredibly strong. But you gotta start training. And you gotta keep training to keep it strong. For years I avoided taking control of my personal finances despite being great at making money because I was scared and didn’t know what to do.

Over the last few years I’ve learned that almost always the best way to learn is by doing. Sure you make mistakes along the way, but many people wiser than me claim that mistakes are the best teacher. I strongly agree with this fundamental concept.

This first year on the path to FI I hit the personal finance gym daily. Each week I got stronger. Each week I got more confident in what I was doing.

Money is energy. The better you manage it the better your life. Like all energy (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) it can be cultivated and it can be squandered. Taking the time to develop habits & systems to cultivate it will empower your life in incredible ways. You can use it to transform your life and the lives of others.

Energy flows where focus goes. Prior to discovering FI I had no idea what my savings rate was, how much money I was losing to debt interest every month, had no clue I was bleeding money left & right from unused subscriptions & non value aligned expenditures. The inefficiencies & pain around money management goes on. At work, I had no real reason to challenge myself to make more money and do even better. Hell, I didn’t even know what I was making every month. The ignorance was there because of all the money shame I had been carrying. After I faced the shame I realized had no authentic “Why” when it come to money in my life. Once I made FI my overarching focus I started optimizing my entire life—career/work, personal finances, relationships, & more. The change in 1-year has been nothing short of remarkable!

If your personal finances are strong & growing it makes healing, growing & positively transforming in all other areas of life much easier & way more fun! Money to support our basic needs (shelter, food & water) & a good standard of living empowers us to work on other life areas from a position of strength & abundance (versus a position of weakness & scarcity).

If you’re wracked with fear about how you are going to pay for next month’s rent & food that is where all your energy goes. At this level it’s pretty much impossible to focus well on any other areas of growth—i.e. relationships, fitness, health, spiritual growth, service, etc.

Once you have your personal finances strong & growing you have massive amounts of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual energy to apply to the other important areas of a life worth living for.

Build money management systems & automate as much as possible. Set up the systems and let them do the heavy lifting. Get every single bill on automatic payment (after getting rid of as many bills as possible of course). Have your company automatically max out your 401K & other retirement accounts. Automatically invest surplus income. Take the human thinking/doing out of as much of the wealth building process as possible. This is how I grew my Net Worth so drastically this past year. I set up the systems and then several months later I was like “Holy Shit!! My Stash’ has grown like those magical beans from the mythical story of Jack & The Beanstalk!”

Do everything you can to slow down and/or reset Hedonic Adaptation. Almost all humans suffer from being on a Hedonic Treadmill. Once we get the newest iThing, we are happy momentarily. But it isn’t long before a new iThing comes out, we want it, and our happiness leaps back into the future. We are once again back at “once I achieve                      then I will be happy.”

This never enough, never satisfied, satisfaction short-lived way of living pervades every area of our life—home, cars, stuff, career, relationships, fitness, etc. While one could argue that this mental state encourages us to always strive for more it is a slippery slope. Without thoughtful reflection the default thinking for most of us is “more” which is often accompanied by feelings of “not enough.”

The negative side of this never satisfied style of living is that it leads us to be unhappy with our actual present moment life because we are stuck with attitude of never-enough-wanting more-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-once-I-reach-this-future-thing/event-THEN-I-will-be-happy-mentality. The only place that we actually live is in the present. From present moment to present moment.

The key is to strive for growth in all areas which includes planning for the future while simultaneously living in the present. Otherwise, if you are are just focused on your future happiness, you will create unhappiness in your present.

An awesome yoga teacher of mine recently shared this amazing quote with our class that really brought this paradox into focus for me. It goes like this:

“If your happiness is in the future then that is where it will remain.”

By practicing FI & using Negative Visualization you are often able to avoid Hedonic Adaptation or at least slow it down significantly. These practices bring you powerfully into the abundance of your present moment. The result is greater satisfaction with what you have and this leads naturally to higher levels of joy & gratitude for your actual life in the present moment no matter how close or far you are from your goals. [Negative Visualization is a stoic mental technique that empowers you to combat Hedonic Adaptation & be grateful for exactly what you have & where you are at in life. Read this short Instagram Micro Blog for deeper understanding.]

Frugality makes doing things even more creative, fun & valuable. I learned this from my regular reading of Mr. Money Mustache (aka MMM). When you take the mental energy & time to figure out how to do things for free or frugally you end up getting super creative & end up having way more fun during the process than if you had just taken the easy/lazy route & spent hard-earned money. Adding intention into what you are doing (versus mindless consumption) makes you value it more too. Again, when you value what you have, life is filled with greater gratitude & satisfaction.

Infrequency & intermittent abstinence heightens satisfaction. Now when I do spend money on something like getting a professional massage it feels wildly decadent & delicious. By foregoing extravagant things a majority of the time it makes me deeply appreciate them at a much deeper level when I do partake. It literally encourages me to more deeply value my monetary investment & accompanying experience. When you have something every day or every week/month you speed up your Hedonic Adaptation. When I got massages all the time I was constantly comparing each experience against all the others. I.E. “This massage wasn’t nearly as good as the one I had last week.” Compare this with: “Holy sweet Buddha! I haven’t had the luxury of a massage in several months and this just feels sublime!” In the first example there is virtually no satisfaction for the experience. In the second example I’m experiencing divinity.

What I really love to do costs little to nothing. Learning, reading, creative endeavors, fitness in numerous forms, movement, nature, spiritual communion, spending time w/ people I love & admire, etc. As a Life Alchemist pretty much all my pursuits involve healing, growing & transforming in one form or another. With a FI Mindset most of it can be done by spending little to nothing.

Long term goals drive daily energy & focus. Once I solidified FI as my 3-year overarching goal everything came into sharp focus. Suddenly I knew exactly what I needed to do each day, week, month, & year. This clarity gave me massive energy, drive & focus. I became a man on FIRE!!

FI empowered me to fall deeply back in love with my career & work: Through my discovery of FI and my commitment to getting on the path I realized at the deepest level just how incredibly luck I am—I have a career I love AND I get to do work that I deeply believe in! [I am a founding team member of a Stanford Startup—Oh My Green.]

Helping to build & lead a Stanford Startup was & is one of my biggest lifetime dreams. For the longest awhile I took it for granted. Then I discovered FI & strategies for combating Hedonic Adaptation and I fell deeply back in love with what I get to do each & every week.

Additionally, my Stanford Startup dream is propelling me along at a fast clip to reach my FI. Wait!! I can be living a major life dream & building towards FI?! Life is truly grand!!

FU Money makes work even more fun: With FU Money & the power of FI behind me I get to play full out at work! I can push past boundaries & limiting beliefs with abandon. This led me to have a record breaking year at work. No longer am I playing small or playing cautiously because I am worried about making mistakes and losing my job or my company going under. In truth, I no longer need my job for basic survival. This empowers me to become the best I can be at the fastest speed possible. Plus, there is even more work/FI synergy at hand: I lead sales for my company so the more I grow, the more my company grows!

Community is key. Leverage the hive mind. Life is lived through the people in our life. We are not meant to undertake this journey alone. And the best way to go far is to go together. A digital community is great, but an In Real Life (IRL) community is even better! Either find or create a local FI community like I did and/or visit some of the major FI Meetups & Events around the world like CampFI, Chautauqua, FinCon, etc. I regularly find new strategies & inspiration for my path to FI through my local community & those I met at CampFI.

No matter where you live or what your income you can optimize your expenses & avoid lifestyle creep. I live in one of the highest costs of living places in the world (Menlo Park/Silicon Valley). Through intelligent & strategic design I have optimized & continue to optimize my expenses.

No only have I slashed my living costs, I also avoid lifestyle creep (aka lifestyle inflation). The fact is that as most people increase their income from all sources they also increase their spending on all sources. Some people want fancy cars, restaurants & bigger/nicer homes, etc. I want freedom first.

For the record, I pass no judgement on fancy cars, homes, meals, etc. I am just optimizing for my freedom first. That is my order of personal preference.

Also, for the record: I do live a somewhat unconventional life from what many might consider normal living in Silicon Valley but two important ideas come to mind: (1) I’ve always believed myself to be somewhat of a contrarian & (2) if you can live like no one else now, then you can live like no one else later. As a self-diagnosed rebel with a cause, both of these come naturally to me.

Instead of “Working Years Until Retirement” I prefer:

“Working Years Until All Paid Work Becomes Optional.”

Photo Credit: Mr.Money Mustache

Choose a keystone metric of success: I decided to focus on my Monthly Savings Rate as the overarching metric that I would use to measure my success on the path to FI. This was inspired by the life-alchemizing article “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement.” I will probably always attribute that article to my FI Awakening. After reading & internalizing that article I realized that Freedom Unlimited (the ability to only do work that you love in an amount of time that you feel is healthy & fun) was totally within my grasp and the timeline to it was purely a product of my ability to maximize this one metric!

This resulted in me getting my savings rate to 90% by the end of my first year on the path to FI. And this means I only have another 2-5 years until I reach my version of FI!! Knowing I am so close is incredibly empowering, energizing, & exciting!!

The reason this metric is so empowering is because it is in your control! It is a function of your monthly take-home-pay minus your monthly expenses. [See this article for more background on how to calculate it.]

Monthly expenses are completely in our control. We can optimize for less expensive housing, more efficient cars & commuting, eating at home more, not buying random shit we don’t really need, doing fun & creative things that are free or frugal, etc.

On the other side of the equation we can always work towards making more money through raises, commission based work, a new job with better compensation, side hustles, etc.

Ultimately, as the business management luminary Peter Drucker said,

“What gets measured gets managed.”

By using this one metric as my definition of success I was able to quickly become a man on FIRE!!

Understand & leverage the power of compounding marginal gains. Saving on internet & phone bills, reducing one’s cost of car ownership, keeping rent/mortgage as low as possible, & reducing costs wherever one can is incredibly powerful. It is amazingly powerful on both sides of the FI equation. As you reduce your annual cost of living you need less to hit your FI number AND your savings rate goes up because your monthly net take home (income minus expenses) increases, thus empowering one to save & invest more at a faster rate. This allows us to take greater advantage of what Einstein deemed the 8th wonder of the world—Compound Interest!

Keep an internal locus of control. Focus your mind & energy only on what you can control and/or have a significant level of influence over. We cannot control whether the stock market goes up or down. However, we can control our monthly expenses and we can significantly increase our monthly income through numerous ways—raises & commissions for high performance at work, acquiring rental real estate, developing side hustles, etc. I first learned about this concept from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. I further ingrained it into my consciousness by reading this article from MMM, this article from Get Rich Slowly, and studying Stoicism (that seems to be its origin). [this is my favorite book on stoicism]

FI & FU Money give us massive personal power. #FIFU empowers us to avoid worrying about financial disaster. By having FU Money you are not worried about losing your job, a recession, or some other catastrophe the Universe throws your way. With your Freedom Unlimited fund you are good to roll with the punches and can take a playful approach in all that you do in life. Being on the path to FI means you have your cost of living under control so no matter what happens you will come out okay or great. This dynamic empowers you to operate from a position of STRENGTH versus a position of FEAR.

Mentally & emotionally, when you have a FIFU plan in place, the worry associated with wondering about your job security or if your startup is going to make it begins to fade away. Even if disaster strikes you have a well-managed Stash (and maybe some side-hustles) that will empower you to weather any storm. Worry starts to transform into increasing optimism as you begin to realize that with FIFU & flexibility you can handle anything. Like I mentioned before, FI is a superpower.

The Happiness of Pursuit. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey you are on and who you are on the journey with. In one my favorite books, “The Obstacle Is The Way,” the author taught me this idea that has fundamentally changed my approach to life. That idea is:

“The process is the prize.”
— Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is The Way

I’d add to it and say that the process & the people are the prize. Whether it’s growing a Stanford startup, growing my muscles, growing my relationship with my partner or growing my Stash’ so I can reach FI the real treasure is the journey itself and the people I am on the journey with.

This adventure that I am on is why I love my job/career so much—I work with brilliant, vibrant souls doing work that empowers me to learn & grow while living out my personal mission. Meaningful work creates a meaningful life.

On the home front, I have so much fun figuring out this FI Adventure with my FI Wife! Learning & growing together is one of the best aspects of a great relationship.

Plus, I have all these other real & virtual friends across the world with similar overarching life goals, interests & personal values. Interacting with them weekly brings life to my life!

The journey of life is just so wildly fun when you’re rolling with a powerful crew who excite & teach you new awesome stuff all the time!

There are infinite paths to FI and we each can find the way that is personally fun & exciting: I am and have always been a bit of an extremist. My Life Partner is quite a bit more balanced. When I first discovered FI I went on a rampage cutting as much non-essential spending as possible. I cut my spending to the bone in very short order. I dumbly expected my partner to follow. When she didn’t I nagged her about it. This led to bickering and breakdowns in our relationship. I stubbornly learned that her path to FI is going to be different than mine AND we can still do it together!

Now she lets me be as extreme FI as I want and I let her take her own journey. The ironic part is that as soon as I stopped worrying about her path to FI and stopped putting pressure on her she started surprising me regularly with her own FI super moves.

What we’ve since discovered is that we place different values on different things. Shocking, right? Sure, we have plenty of overlap, but we also have some key differences. Eating out is one of them. Ever since I was young I’ve severely disliked spending my money on dining out. It always felt like wastefully eating my money. I did it for much of life because I thought I had to live up to other people’s standards, but most of the time I would be left feeling like I had just done something that didn’t sit right with my true self. Now that I’ve embraced FI I realized I can be the frugal weirdo who rarely goes out to eat on his own dime. That doesn’t mean I won’t eat for free at my work or another friend’s company lunch as they are job benefits (one of the many great benefits of working in Silicon Valley). And though I enjoy great food my mindset has always been “I eat to live.”

For others, like my partner, food is an experience. And when shared with others its value is magnified. I can totally respect this. Understanding and respecting one another’s personal values is another key part of a great relationship.

I now encourage my partner to eat out with her friends and family as often as she pleases. In return, she empowers me to eat at home as much as I want. It works great for us! We both get to live our values with no judgement on the other’s actions & decision.

For the record: Even after being on the path to FI I do occasionally go out to eat and pay for it. I recently had Dim Sum with some of my Stanford Classmates, paid for my fiancé & I to eat it, and had a truly divine experience I’ll never forget (review insight about infrequency above).

Teamwork makes the dream work: Getting on page with your Life Partner and family is absolutely crucial to making the path to FI actually work. Same goes with your friends. I am still learning how to share my FI Path with my Life Partner, my family, & my non-FI friends & colleagues but so far everyone who know is on board with me being on this journey and they often make suggestions and/or create opportunities for me to fully live my FI Path! What is really awesome is that the more you team up the faster you go and the more fun you have!

Constantly Fuel the FIRE (blogs, books, podcasts, meetups, events, etc): Like anything worthwhile it takes constant cultivating to keep it alive in your life. This past year I fed my path to FI daily by reading at least one MMM article per day and listening to at least one episode of ChooseFI or The Mad Fientist each week.

Through my reading/listening program I was constantly reprogramming my mind every single day to think with a FI mindset.

I then doubled down with FI empowering books & regularly meeting with other FI people in real life through my monthly FI Meetup and attending my first CampFI with my fiancé.

More than a year later I am still keeping these cultivation habits alive daily, weekly, & monthly. Remember, you are what you consume. This includes information & experiences. So consume with empowering intent!

It’s never too late to get on the Path to FI. I started in my mid-30s, but I’ve personally met & read about many who got started in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s & beyond! They say the best to time to plant a tree is yesterday, but the second best time is today!

FI is a journey not a destination so make it as FUN as possible: I cannot emphasize just how important this one is! FI can be a very long journey and if you are miserable and not having fun while on it then you are literally wasting your life! And if you are miserable on the path to FI you will likely be miserable when you are FI.

So, don’t frugal yourself into a corner by avoiding all things that cost money. Some things and some experiences are worth every dollar you spend on them. The key is to become a Valuist—one who spends money on stuff (things & experiences) that adds real value to one’s life while optimizing for the best price.

Deep down I believe Life & FI are a game and they are meant to be played to maximize FUN! I am doing everything in my power to make this journey as fun as possible and recruiting everyone around me to have fun too whether they are on the FI Path or not. [BTW: Fun is probably tied for first for my top personal value if you haven’t figured that out yet.]

RE is optional. Traditionally F-I-R-E stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. A lot of people balk at the thought of retiring early. And in some sense I do too. I love to work, create & build out dreams. Hence, I’ve redefined what FIRE means to me. In my mind the RE is optional. As mentioned above I’m absolutely in love with my job & my career. Plus, as a founding team member of my company (employee #4) I plan to live out this Stanford Startup dream at least until we (1) go public, (2) get acquired or (3) go out of business. I’m doing everything I can to help us reach option one! I plan to continue working with our awesome company after going public as I’m having loads of fun, constantly learning/growing & I deeply believe in what we are doing

Be the Lighthouse. Be the Lantern Bearer. Be the Captain of your ship. We are all on different parts on the Path of Life and the Path to FI. Many still struggle with personal finances whether it’s dealing with debt or taxes, managing cash flow & expenses, earning & saving more, ad infinitum.

We all have to room grow in Life & FI. Nonetheless, you may be further along than someone you know well. By sharing your journey you serve another on their journey. By sharing what you are learning you can empower your family, your friends, your colleagues, your community & your world!!

We are all in this together remember? There is nothing more valuable to those struggling & lost in the dark than a bright shining beacon of light. Be that light!

And remember, even with a lighthouse or lantern we all must put in the individual work to reach it and to carry it forward for others when we get there. Gods help those who help themselves. Don’t expect someone else to row your boat and don’t row someone else’s boat. Teach them to row their own boat through the darkness towards the light. Same concept as the parable of giving a man a fish to feed him for a day versus teaching him to fish so that he can eat for a lifetime. The best way to do this is by leading by example & sharing openly about what has & has not worked for you.

Be the Lighthouse. Be the Lantern Bearer. Be the Captain of your ship.


FI Year 2 & Beyond:

Some current & future FI goals include:

  • Have massive amounts of fun on the path to FI with my FI Wife (my #1 goal).

  • Serve as a FI leading example to family & friends.

  • Continue to build my IRL & online FI community.

  • Maintain 80-90%+ savings rate.

  • Automate more.

  • Take more trips with points.

  • Reduce monthly cellphone bill.

  • Get an estate plan in place for both parents.

  • Develop additional side hustle that generates $500+/month.

  • Explore other investment strategies (real estate, peer-to-peer, etc)

  • Reach my FI in 2-5 years.

Now that I’ve completely reshaped my money story from one of victimhood to one of ever-increasing growth & victory the future is bright & full of possibility! I’m thoroughly enjoying the new money story I tell about myself, TO MYSELF, & to others!

Is my work done? Heck no! This is a lifelong practice and I’m excited & grateful to be on the lifelong journey—continuously growing stronger & wiser! This empowers me to not only serve myself, but to also serve others at the same damn time! How awesome is that?! It’s like having your cake, eating it, and still being in awesome shape!

I’d love to hear from readers about your Money Story & your path to FI as I’m always looking for thoughtful reflections, new strategies, ideas & insights! I’m also open to new goals & areas for exploration! Please comment below or drop me a note on one of my socials!

With love & alchemy,

Justin David Carl—aka Mr. Money Alchemist (MMA)**

End Notes:

*Good chance there are more achievements, milestones & insights, but I’m still mentally reviewing the first year. I will update the article with additional ones as they are mentally recognized.

**I’m officially claiming the nickname “Mr. Money Alchemist (MMA)” in homage to Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) as he has been such a massive & awesome empowering influence in my life & continues to be every single day.




Follow my Instagram (pictures below) for loads of empowering content or interact with me on Facebook & LinkedIn.


Optimizing Life: A Foolproof System For Continuous Improvement

At some level, everyone wants a better & more optimized life. Yet, it is so easy to get lost in the hustle & bustle. Many of us find ourselves just trying to survive the work-week (traditional or entrepreneurial). I know this has often been the case for me.

Instead of overly worrying about my life improvement process I focus on a simple system that consistently moves me in the direction of a life that is continuously improving. 

My life optimization system is composed of three related principles:

  1. You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
  2. You are a product of your environment.
  3. You are what you consume.

 

1. You Are The Average Of The 5 People You Spend The Most Time With

This is a quote by Jim Rohn, a pioneer in the field of personal development. Tony Robbins got his start working under him as well.

They've done studies that show our fitness level & net worth is highly correlated to those we spend the most time with. If we take a deep look at our own life we will realize that this principle applies to just about every area of our life. Regular weekly activities are highly informed by those we spend the most time with. We tend to pick up all sorts of behaviors of those we spend time with. Ultimately, good & bad habits are built & reinforced by those we are around.

This is awesome & scary at the same time. 

How many of the life-enhancing activities & habits that you regularly participate in are related to those you hang out with often?

On the flip side, how many of the destructive things you do are accepted & encouraged by the people you spend the most time with?

Seriously, take a few minutes and deeply think about this.

 

2. You Are A Product Of Your Environment

Again, massive research has been done on this. Our environments are a huge influence on our product of being. 

Different environments attract & produce different types of people. The environments in which we spend the most time almost always include the people that we actually spend the most time with (work, home, community, extracurricular activities, etc).

Our environments also dictate our activity & behavior. People who spend time at the gym tend to exercise, those who attend church pray, those who go to the library read, those who go to the bar drink, so on & so forth.

Take a moment and think about what kind of behavior your regular environments encourage.

 

3. You Are What You Consume

This one is really powerful. And can be really disturbing when we look at it in a detailed manner. 

Our consumption includes food & information. This includes all types of media--books, blogs, news, television, movies, music, auditory programs, video games, etc. Furthermore, information is picked up through conversations, environments & all types of experiences.

At some level, everything we ingest into our body and mind is programming us for better or worse. This holds true no matter which of our physical senses it enters into our domain of existence. Taste, touch, sight, sound & smell are all viable access points for consumption programming.

Think about this. What are you consuming on a regular basis?

Now that we've taken a moment to analyze these three related fundamentals let's look at...

 

How To Implement These Life Optimization Principles

  1. Self-checking: Regularly ask yourself how you are doing in each area.
    • Are the people I am spending the most time with calling forth the highest best version of myself?
    • Do the places I spend the most time encourage continuous growth & improvement?
    • Does the food & information I consume naturally lead me to grow in positive ways or am I slowly poisoning my body & mind?
  2. Work: Optimize your income generating field of endeavor.
    • Typically we spend the most time with the people we work with. We spend the largest majority of our time in our work environment. And we consume a majority of our weekly intake of food & information at and around work. 
  3. People: Pick your life-partner & friends wisely.
    • Tons of ultra-successful people credit their good fortune to picking an amazing significant other.
    • Same goes for friends. Successful, smart, happy, inspired & growth-minded people choose to spend time with people who facilitate these qualities naturally.
  4. Communities, Environments, Personal Interests & Hobbies: Choose groups, people, places & activities that foster growth.
    • Humans are built for connection & community. A lot of what we think, say & do come from the communities, personal interests & hobbies we are involved in (both online & in real life).

 

How To Hack The System

What if you're reading this and you realize that the 5 people you spend the most time with are showing a strong indication of actually being detrimental to your personal growth, health & fitness, personal finances, etc? In other words, what if the people you spend the most time with are ensuring a shitty life?!

Or what if after pondering these related principles you realize that your work environment & other environments you regularly frequent are contributing to a path to nowhere? Or worse, are leading to a steady decline?!

And what if your consumption (food, information, & otherwise) is killing your life?!

Here are a few ways to quickly hack the system:

 

Lifehack #1

Focus on what you are consuming. The easiest hack for this system is to immediately up the quality of content you are ingesting on a regular basis. It is a crucial step you can take & the first key to transforming your life at any time.

When you are commuting to & from work what are you doing? Are you listening to the fear-inducing news? Or maybe radio & music that is telling you to spend money to achieve happiness, buy more shit, do more drugs, sleep around, etc?

Instead of poisoning your mind you can listen to life-empowering audiobooks, audio programs & podcasts during your work commute.

This same thought-thread can be applied to all types of commutes and mindless activities where you can add in auditory learning/programming without negatively affecting your performance. This includes things like chores (cleaning, laundry, yard work, going to the grocery store, etc) and certain types of repetitive activities & exercise where you don't require music for motivation or have to keep track of performance metrics (reps, sets, times, etc).

During your free time you should definitely be reading books & blogs that empower & transform your life. Additionally, it pays to think this through with your viewing habits. What you regularly view informs your programming just as much as what you read & listen to. TV, movies, internet videos, public performances, etc.

Wise-minds actively curate their social media feeds so the content actually enhances their life. [here are my socials in case you need some instant reprogramming: Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter]

Even the experiences we consume program us.

Seriously! Think hard about what you are putting into your consciousness at all times.

Life-enhancing curated reading, listening, viewing, & experiencing is one of the most powerful habits you can cultivate in your life!

In disguise, this is a radical hack to create a virtual powerhouse group of people you spend the most time with. Want better friends to hang out with? Find the people you admire (or envy) and consume their content. Get inside their head & hang out with them virtually every day. Go to their workshops in person & consume experiences that can literally transform your life.

You can consciously & proactively manufacture a virtual group of friends that truly empower you to live a life worth living on your own terms.

This hack can be done quickly & easily without suddenly cutting people out of your life, quitting your job, or doing any major re-hauling of your day-to-day life.

This habit will then lead you to naturally seek out and connect with other people in your physical environment that are on similar growth paths.

 

Lifehack #2

Proactively manage how, where & with whom you spend your free time. After you have consciously redirected what you are regularly consuming the next step is to take a deep look at what exactly you do in your free time.

Even at work we have free time. What do you during your lunch break or other downtime periods at work? Are you having life-enhancing conversations, starting a personal finance interest group, learning from a colleague who is further along in a particular area of life, sharing articles that act as catalysts for positive transformation?

Or are you staying comfortable?

Proactively seek out interactions & experiences with people at work who will encourage you to grow. Even the worst workplaces have diamonds to be mined. Career development programs, training programs, etc. In the least there are at leas few colleagues who are kick-ass in some endeavor if you dig. Explore the edges at work. 

Outside of work how do you spend your time? If you're not consuming empowering content you better be spending the time doing something that is actually improving your life. This means getting involved in activities and communities that are aligned with your goals & values (current or aspirational). Proactively seek out experiences that will force you to grow whether you are ready to or not.

Find people who are interested in or working on things that you know you're into. Having trouble finding those people? Join a local Meetup group that is aligned with a life-enhancing interest. Other ideas include a local yoga studio, Crossfit community, dance crew, book club or any group that fosters growth. This can include a place of worship or anything else that brings together people with common interests, goals & aspirations.

Want to really supercharge your transformation? Do something wild like a weeklong Vision Quest or attend a weekend workshop like the Landmark Forum. Both of those can be pretty intense, but there are loads of workshops out there covering all avenues of life. 1440 Multiversity has a ton of them throughout the year and it can be just the personal investment you need to make a major shift in your life.

When you consciously spend your free time doing life-enhancing activities & hanging with empowering groups your life will optimize itself. And when you program these into your daily/weekly/monthly/yearly life you will naturally develop friends that reinforce the habits & behavior you want to build, hypergrowth your learning & you will be consistently challenged to grow in positive ways.

 

Lifehack #3

Change your everyday environment. This can include where you live and/or where you work. This can seem dramatic and challenging but it works.

When I was stuck in life & lost working in Hollywood Nightlife I had no idea what to do next but I knew if I went back to Stanford University I would be in a place that would force me to figure it out.

Was the transition easy? Hell no! It was godawful scary! Not to mention I was addicted to the money, social power, & the lifestyle of a career in nightlife. However, when I got honest with myself I knew it was not leading me towards the life I wanted. It was fun while it lasted, but deep down I felt I had more to give to this world. So, I took action in the face of fear. This is the definition of courage. And wow! Did it pay-off!

This major leap of faith led to my current career in wellness/tech and a work environment that has countless benefits such as a strong emphasis on all aspects of wellness--healthy eating, regular meditation, exercise, learning & personal development, and more.

Again, most of us spend more of our life energy with the people at work than with anyone else in our life, including our family. We also consume a majority of our daily life's food, information & experiences at and around work. This is why I cannot emphasize enough just how paramount it is to consciously choose the best possible place to live & work. Then double-down and proactively lobby & take action to make your community & company culture as life-enhancing as possible.

 

Conclusion: Build The System & Then Let It Do Heavy Lifting

In the beginning, it can take a bit of effort to redesign your life to optimize your growth. You may need to change daily habits, discover new activities, find new friends, find another career/company or even move to a new home. Nonetheless, I guarantee you it will be worth it! I know from personal experience.

Once you've proactively designed your life to automatically create positive change, transformation & ongoing growth it becomes a simple matter of minor maintenance. It's like you have this mini magical optimization machine tucked into your pocket & it's constantly pulling forth your highest best most authentic Self. And all it needs is the occasional winding to stay on track.

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl 🌒

P.S. This article encompasses one of the major systems of my personal life optimization program, but as a lifelong Seeker I am always looking for additional tools, systems, ideas, etc. Got anything to add? Please shoot me a message or leave me a comment below (at the very bottom)!

Related: Books That Have Radically Transformed My Life