My philosophy is mostly shaped by my military background, experiences living overseas as a child, and stoicism.
I began researching stoicism in my early twenties. I don’t remember the exact origin of my interest in the philosophy (it was likely a random quote I read somewhere), but it has stuck with me over the years.
Stoicism is FIRE AF
Several years after my interest in stoicism, I learned about the FIRE movement and early retirement, mostly through Mr. Money Mustache. It came at a time in my life when profligate spending had left me stressed out, financially insecure, and in need of change.
I will expound more on stoicism and specific lessons from the philosophy in future posts, but mainly I learned that stoicism and the FIRE lifestyle are incredibly synergistic. The key to making any lifestyle change stick is to get your mind right.
Stoicism not only helped me prepare for my FIRE journey, but it also helps sustain me through the process. When I feel the tug to return to my old ways, I can repel it by keeping a few quotes in mind.
“No evil propensity of the human heart is so powerful that it may not be subdued by discipline.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
When I’m disciplined, my life is good. When I lack discipline, my life sucks. This is related directly to the quote above. I keep my propensity to chill at bay through the use of discipline. Set your financial goals for 2018 NOW if you already haven’t. Then dig in and get ready to grind. The best-laid plans are worthless without the discipline to execute.
“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Always have a goal. Always strive to improve. Without a goal, I get dejected rather quickly. I’m sure that most of you, my readers, are the same way. Whether the goal is to hit your FIRE number and punch-out of the rat race early or to climb a mountain, the goal focuses your effort and attention. It gives you a reason to jump out of bed in the morning with a feeling of excitement. Have goals.
“Brave men rejoice in adversity, just as brave soldiers triumph in war.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
When I was 18, I became familiar with the saying “Embrace the Suck.” It’s one of my mottos that reminds me that any time I face a challenge and persevere, I come out of it a stronger person. I don’t relish troubles, but I prize the process of overcoming them.
Do you have a mountain of debt to pay off? The new skills you learn to help pay it off, the grit you have to do it hastily, and the sense of triumph you get when you see those three donuts (0.00) where the negative sign used to be are priceless. Whenever life feels overwhelming, remember this quote. See challenges for what they are: tests to make you a better person.
“Difficulties are things that show a person what they are.” – Epictetus
At West Point, we were taught that you could honestly know a person by seeing how they behave when they think no one else is looking. How you deal with adversity is how you get to honestly know yourself. You may think you know yourself, but you don’t until you’ve been tested. You have no idea how you’re going to react when sh*t hits the fan until it does.
Did you give in and buy that shiny new car even though you knew you shouldn’t? Now you know that you have to be even more careful to guard against your impulsive side.
Every time you overcome a problem or don’t, you learn more about yourself and your capabilities.
“The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.” – Marcus Aurelius
Change is inevitable. Sometimes great things happen, occasionally terrible things happen. We have no control over some of the cards life deals us. What we do have total control of, however, is how we react to the hand that fate deals us.
If we’re bitter and angry, other people pick up on that and want nothing to do with us. If we’re friendly and happy, other people want to be around us. Your attitude carries over into your daily life, whether you know it or not.
The small opportunities in front of us are influenced by our mental state. Negativity does not allow you to capitalize on an opportunity because you’re too much of a sour-puss to recognize that opportunity. Our thoughts shape our lives.
“See how many are better off than you are, but consider how many are worse.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Gratitude is one of the central tenets of stoicism. A stoic isn’t a stern-faced kill-joy. Anytime you feel envy creep into your thoughts or start feeling sorry for yourself, think of the things you’re grateful for.
“I’m not going to get to retire for another 17 years!” No, you get to retire before most people do and enjoy life. You’re blessed.
“My neighbor went on a three-month vacation, and I’m stuck in a cubicle!” Maybe your neighbor’s lifestyle is funded by debt. By grinding it out, you can take a permanent vacation when you’re still young. That poor fool spending a fortune on exotic getaways is chained to his desk.
Life could be a lot worse. For most people, it is. Gratitude for what I have rather than fear of what I don’t have is what helped me get through one of the most challenging times in my life. Be grateful for at least one thing every day.
Have a happy, grateful, prosperous, and healthy 2018!