3 min read
When I was 11 years old, I would play basketball in my driveway every day after school. The competition was fierce. Gary Payton would usually guard me. Sometimes Ron Artest. You know, the most well-known defenders in the NBA at the time.
Okay, maybe those guys weren’t actually out there guarding me, but I pretended they were. I figured I should imagine playing against the best, since I probably would some day. I had an audacious goal of playing in the NBA when I grew up.
Needless to say, that never happened because once I turned 13 I decided I would play in the MLS (Major League Soccer) instead.
When I missed the cut for the freshman soccer team, I had an important realization: professional sports might not be for me.
So, I pivoted to architecture. I had always liked designing and creating things. I could become the next Frank Lloyd Wright.
Except that goal changed too during my senior year of high school, when one of my teachers let me know just how competitive the industry could be.
That’s why, going into my freshman year of college, I chose to pursue actuarial sciences instead. But, yet again, when I learned how many grueling exams I had to take, I switched to a new major: statistics. A niche field with great job opportunities.
I figured it would give me the income necessary to buy a large house I had always craved and the six-figure salary to make my friends jealous.
It was shortly after this decision that I stumbled across Mr. Money Mustache. The concepts of financial independence and early retirement flew in the face of everything I thought I knew about life.
So, naturally I changed my mind again. I didn’t want a big house. I wanted early retirement.
I carried this goal with me into my first corporate job. It didn’t take long, though, for me to find out I hated many aspects of Corporate America – the consuming schedule, the pointless meetings, the “pretending to be busy even when I had no work to do”, and the subtle office politics.
I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of sticking it out for another 10 – 15 years in this environment just to have enough money to never work again. That was a serious time commitment.
So, I took a step back. I asked myself some questions:
“Could I achieve my dream life without early retirement?”
“Is there a faster way to gain freedom and escape cubicle land?”
I ran some numbers. It turns out, if I was willing to incorporate active work into my lifestyle, I could quit my day job much sooner. Although I would have less money in the bank, I would have the one thing I was truly after: freedom.
So, that’s where I’m at in life right now. I have a bit over $80,000 saved up. I still have a full-time corporate job, but I’m building up my side hustle income. Last month I made over $800 through blogging, dividends, and tutoring. I’m projected to make over $1,000 from these income streams this month.
I’m trying to wriggle my way out of Corporate America into a more fulfilling line of work, with potentially lower income but far more freedom.
And I have come to realize that throughout my life, one skill has helped me more than any other. It’s a skill that has allowed me to change my life philosophy and my career trajectory numerous times. It has given me freedom to move in a direction that feels right in my gut.
It is my willingness to pivot. I think of it as a superpower.
As a kid, I didn’t waste time complaining about my sub-par athletic abilities. I just accepted that professional sports wasn’t in the cards and pivoted my focus. I shifted from architecture to actuarial sciences to stats.
I pivoted from a high-income-big-house mentality to a save-money-retire-early mentality.
Now I have a save-money-quit-corporate-america mentality. I’m more open to the idea of earning money through blogging, tutoring, and freelancing than ever before. I’m beginning to see that active work can be a fulfilling part of life.
Look no further than Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet, or Jack Lalanne to see examples of men who all worked / are working into their 90’s.
I never would have arrived at this current philosophy if I hadn’t been willing to pivot constantly over the years. If I had been dead set on becoming a professional athlete, or making one million dollars, I would be in a completely different place than I am now.
I think I’m exactly where I need to be, moving towards a place that feels right, mostly because I don’t let myself become dogmatic with my views. As I acquire more life experiences and more knowledge, I try to allow myself to change my mind.
For me, life has been one big experience of pivoting directions, following my gut, and making decisions that feel right. I have no doubt I’ll continue to pivot when new information and opportunities present themselves in the future.
Being willing to pivot is a skill I’m happy to have. It gives me the freedom to pursue a path that aligns with my ever-changing interests, curiosities, and ambitions. It’s a skill I plan on always using to maximize my personal freedom, financial flexibility, and happiness.
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
Although the bulk of his net worth is invested in index funds, his favorite place to invest in individual stocks is M1 Finance, a site that allows you to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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