Who Challenges You?

Are You Intimidated?

20160228_174305Our side hustle is to teach a rock climbing class at a local university.  The wall is only a few years old and the university is small, so there are few people there who even have a moderate interest in climbing.  I’ve struggled in gaining much traction in building interest and developing a local climbing community as I had hoped when starting.

One day last year I walked in and saw this kid on the wall who was absolutely amazing.  I introduced myself and we started talking.  As I got to know him, I found out he was into climbing, HARDCORE.  I’ve had the good fortune to climb with and learn from some really good climbers over the years.  This kid is easily in the top 2-3 people I’ve had the opportunity to climb with in terms of both ability and boldness.

Like a junior high girl overcome with puppy love, I began to pursue him hard.  I asked him to work for us at the wall.  I envisioned a valuable employee who could help teach the new climbers and get them interested.  He could help set new and challenging climbing routes.  A bit selfishly, I saw someone to help us become better climbers.  He accepted and has been all that was expected.

Imagine my surprise then when one of my students recently asked me, “Doesn’t it intimidate you to have him working for you?”  I looked at the student puzzled for a moment and then it clicked.  He was politely telling me that this student is a much better climber than either of us.

I have always been completely aware that the kid at the gym is a far superior climber to me.  However, I don’t think it ever even occurred to me that this was a bad thing or something to be intimidated about.

Part of my personality is to love to teach and help others.  I’ve been blessed with amazing parents and grandparents, teachers, coaches and professional and adventure mentors throughout my life.  I feel that I have a duty to pay that forward.  It is a big reason that I teach the class, mentor interns during clinical rotations in my professional practice, and write this blog.

However, I am very aware when I am the smartest person in any room and feel the need to get out of those situations pretty quickly.  I try to always surround myself with people better than me.  I am constantly seeking people and ideas to push me and better myself.  Iron sharpens iron.

Do You Want The Truth?

This rather innocent comment by my student really got me thinking.  I guess we are pretty different in going out of our way looking for ideas and people that challenge us.

We live in a society where every kid gets a trophy.  We’re all equally the best.

If we’re conservative we watch Fox News and if we’re liberal we watch MSNBC.  We want to hear what we want to hear.  The truth is secondary.

If our politicians say something, no matter how stupid or how long ago, they will double and triple down on it.  Being a “flip-flopper” is a bad thing.  Better to be wrong consistently than to admit they don’t know everything and are evolving and learning.

Very few people seek out truth.  Very few people want to really learn.  It is much easier to give the appearance that we already have all the answers than to show vulnerability.

Who and What Challenges You?

I have been drawn to the F.I.R.E. community because so many people are looking at problems and approaching life in different ways.  One of the things that I love about this community is that we as a whole are much more interested in learning, growing and finding truth, even if we expose our weaknesses and vulnerability along the way from time to time.  This community challenges me.

More than anything else we write about here from savings rates to investing to tax strategies, how we think differently is why we are all on this path to financial independence.  I think it is vital that we all continue to find people and ideas that continue to challenge us to learn and grow.

Here are some other things that currently challenge us:

  • We’ve been exploring the ideas of essentialism and minimalism.  Essentialism has challenged us to question the idea that we can do, be and have everything right now.  Minimalism has made us question what we really want and what is important.  While we are not yet essentialists or minimalists by any means, exploring these philosophies is making us much more appreciative of where we are and what we already have.
  • Being good parents.  We find that we are constantly struggling to find the right balance of providing our daughter with the attention and love that she needs and desires, while finding time to maintain and achieve other things that we value.  We also both are getting a crash course in patience, which neither of us have in great supply.  Trying to be good parents is our top priority in life at this point, but it definitely requires constant effort and learning.
  • We’ve been exploring our faith from a fresh place, trying to dissociate all of the negatives we’ve associated with religion in the past.  We’re trying to read and discuss one chapter of the bible daily.  This document is thousands of years old and from a culture completely different from the one we live in.  However, the stories and lessons within contain great truth that remains relevant in this day and age.  It has exposed how little we as society learn and change over many generations.
  • We’ve been working on radically changing Mrs. EE’s diet, exercise routine and general perception of what healthy has been for her entire adult life in response to some recent medical symptoms.  This is a great challenge for her as she is drastically changing many habits, routines and beliefs she has maintained for a long time.  This is also a challenge for me as I try to balance my roles of husband and health care professional as I try to support and help her on the path.
  • After hearing people talking about giving things up for lent, I am currently challenging myself to not complain or say anything negative at  or about work for the next 40 days.  I’m trying to address my recently growing frustration and dissatisfaction with my job and develop a more positive attitude.
  • We regularly listen to The Tim Ferris Podcast where he interviews people who are extremely successful in many areas of life.  We try to learn not only from what makes others successful, but also what trade-offs are involved and where these people struggle.  I also enjoy listening to TED talks and Freakonomics podcasts for new and interesting ideas and unique perspectives on the world.
  • We have been having lengthy discussions about the first few years of our early retirement.  What do we really want our lives to look like?  Where do we want to live?  Do we want to continue to work?  How much?  Doing what?  What do we want for our child?

We’re curious to hear what and who challenge you?  Do you agree that this desire to push, challenge and improve yourself is a key personality trait to achieving financial independence and early retirement?  Share your thoughts.

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12 comments on Who Challenges You?

  1. I agree with you regarding being challenged by trying to be a good parent. It is a hard thing to balance work, home life, and still doing things for yourself. My wife and I are still trying to figure out how to bring that balance but it definitely can be challenging.

    I also am challenged by the FIRE community daily. Just seeing the great things that people are doing helps give a little more push to keep working on our plan and working towards our goals.

    1. Being a good parent is very demanding. My daughter definitely is the driving force to figure out how to FIRE. There are simply not enough hours in the days to be the type of parent I want to be and maintain interests and relationships important to me while also being a good professional. If we were not this close already, I think we would consider a different route to FI.

  2. There is actually a lot of research about the topic you are touching on 🙂 Dr Dweck has conducted extensive research on success and has found that your mindset makes a huge difference on how you do in life.

    Apparently there are two kinds of mindsets, the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. People with fixed mindset think that intelligence, skills and talents are inherent and you can’t improve those very much. In this mindset you constantly have to prove yourself and show people around you that you are talented, intelligent and skillful enough. Thus a person that is “better” that you, like the kid you hired, is seen as a threat because his skills can prove that you are not very good after all.

    In contrast there is another way of looking life which is called the growth mindset. Person with growth mindset knows anyone can improve in different areas of life substantially, if they are willing to learn and work hard. If this is your underlying though,then the person that is doing “better” is not a sign of your inferiority but an inspiration for you to grow! This is exactly what I enjoy about the personal finance community, you have many inspiring people around you and you are encouraged to learn from one another!

  3. Yes I find being a parent really challenging, especially the challenge of getting them to be independent (even small things like getting them to put their lunch in their bag) and not doing things for them.
    The PF community does challenge me, in a positive way. I like to learn how other people are solving the same problem I am trying to solve. I have to be careful not to ‘copy’ their strategy or get depressed because our savings rate is not >70%, but instead look at some of the ideas and see if they are suitable for us.
    I like to think I’m challenging my past self to learn and grow.

    1. Good for you for not trying to simply copy what others are doing or get caught up in comparisons. I think as we start figuring things out it is easy to idolize others and assume they’ve got it all figured out. I think any of us who are being honest have our doubts, fears,weaknesses and insecurities.

  4. You mention 2 real challenges to me

    1- being a good father and husband: this is a challenge as you need to balance me-time, husband time and father time. This is not an easy task. Next to that, as the kids grow older, they discover new things in life, learn how to influence you and develop new needs and emotional skills.
    Our goal is to develop them into independent responsible adults. This requires them to make mistakes, do things at their pace. I need to be patient for that (a skill I develop fast these days)

    2- live a more healthy life: this includes doing more sports,less soda (big failure for now) and a better mixed diet. A good thing: my wife is fully into this and I get to ride along with her

    1. AT,

      It seems that being a good parent and spouse are one that we all struggle with. I know that FIRE won’t magically make these challenges go away, but I do think they are the biggest reason to push hard to FIRE or at least develop a lifestyle that allows you to avoid a traditional lifestyle that revolves around a 40 hour work week. Having time and flexibility in our schedules gives us a big advantage over those that don’t have that option and in ER we will have even more time to spend as we choose. As I think about it, the same can be said for your health. It is difficult to find the time to cook healthy meals while working. It is much easier to grab less healthy prepared food. The same can be said for finding time for exercise. Where do you take that time from?

      1. Yes agree, I can’t wait that long so decided to do it now. I work part-time (essentially school hours) so I can have time now with the kids. Husband is a teacher so covers the school holidays. Yes it has slowed down the goal but got to balance now and the future.

        1. Agree that you can’t get so focused on the destination that you lose site of what is important while on the journey.

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