What is your “why”? What is the dream that motivates you to work relentlessly toward your goals? Today’s post is all about ours, and about crafting a life that fires you up.
Living in a ski town, we’re around a lot of slang that I’m sure sounds silly to those who aren’t used to it.
It’s getting spicy out there, bro. Yeah buddy! Watch out for the death cookies. Send it! It’s just dust on crust. Let’s slarve it up! It’s gaper city out there.
While we giggle to ourselves when we use lots of the slang, some of it we even use now without realizing it. Though we’ll never say “schralp the gnarl” any way but ironically.
My favorite slang is the word “stoke.” We’re all familiar with “being stoked,” an attitude that we try to cultivate all the time, and that comes from stoking a fire, which is a nice fit for our FIRE community. But in ski towns, “the stoke” is also a noun, something you feel, something you feed. Big storm headed our way, promising to dump lots of powder goodies? You can bet the stoke is high. The stoke becomes this palpable thing, almost like a living being, or at least like The Force. The stoke is strong with this one.
And the stoke pretty well sums up our attitude to life and early retirement: we want to craft a life that keeps the stoke high. Not just later, but now.
Defining What We’re Opting In To
It’s easy to think of early retirement as all about the escape. But then what? We don’t want any part of our life to be defined solely by absence, by its lack of something, in our case the lack of work. We want our lives to be defined by presence, to be lived in the affirmative, the ultimate opt-in to what fires us up and makes us launch out of bed in the morning.
To us, that’s the real privilege of early retirement, and it’s why we sock away our paychecks instead of booking round-the-world tickets and packing our bags now. So that we don’t live our lives by accident, by default, or because we let the days drift by without noticing, without really grabbing a hold of them and squeezing out every drop of life.
One of the questions we get most often is how to stay patient when FIRE is still a ways off. We’re not perfect at this (see this recent post on how we’re trying hard to quell our impatience), but here’s our very best tip:
Don’t wait for early retirement to start living the life that feeds your stoke. Build that stoke now.
Sure, you’ll have a lot more time to do the things you want to do and to spend with the people you care about once you reach financial freedom. And if you have debt, it may feel like every moment not spent working or hustling is keeping you trapped underneath that debt. But not giving yourself some time to do what feeds your soul steals joy from your life.
Find Balance with Small Stoke and Big Stoke
It’s sort of weird to say we’re not booking a RTW ticket so that we can save longer and then immediately turn around and tell you not to wait for your high-stoke life to begin. But it’s a question of trade-offs. If we follow all of our dreams now, eventually we’ll have to work again, and it will be much harder to do so with a big gap in our resumes. But if we wait just a little longer, and save just a little more, then we can follow our dreams permanently. That feels like a good trade-off to us.
Instead, let yourself dream big about what you want to do once you reach your goals – what we call the big stoke. Our big stoke is our endless winter dream, being able to follow the snow all over the western hemisphere in a small RV for maybe a whole year. Being able to bag every mountain to calls to us. Hiking the long trails like the CDT and PCT. Spending a summer in Alaska with no wifi or 4G. Writing books and making documentaries. Serving nonprofits in our community in a substantial way. But we can put that stuff off a little longer to hit our financial goals.
In the meantime, we’re focusing on the small stoke, the bursts of fun and fulfillment that keep us going, that make the stress and grind of work tolerable. That’s why we’re happy about having just wrapped up a spendy month, with travel all over to see the ballet, Elton John in Vegas and Coachella in the SoCal desert. (And seriously, if you’re a music fan, the recent death of Prince, following on the heels of Bowie, should be a reminder to all of us not to wait. If there’s someone you’ve always wanted to see, don’t assume you can see them later. We’re super bummed that we never got to see either of them.) Sure, that money could have gone into our FIRE fund, but we think it was better spent giving us a ton of joy in the present. Getting out into the world and experiencing things we love all feed the small stoke, which keeps us moving toward the big stoke.
And small stoke doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be taking hikes on the weekend, going out and taking pictures of the hidden corners and alleyways and gardens in your neighborhood, painting a picture, snuggling your kids or your pets, having your own one-person dance party with the windows drawn. Whatever brings you happiness, even in small doses.
Future You Is Still You
That phrase, “future you is still you,” comes courtesy of the very wise Maggie at Northern Expenditure. I think about it all the time. At some point next year, we’ll quit our jobs, and on the day we quit, we’ll go to bed. The next day, we’ll wake up, and we’ll be retired, but we’ll still be the same people. We won’t magically be faster runners, stronger climbers, more disciplined meditators, or less lazy versions of ourselves. We’ll still be us.
So planning a big stoke that requires us to be different people means we’re relegating that stoke to the realm of dreams. And we want our big stoke to be firmly rooted in reality. So we’re making a conscious effort to do two things: 1.) Plan a big stoke that ties into what we already do in real life, and 2.) Making changes now to prepare us for the things we want to do that are outside our comfort zone.
We already love camping and skiing, so planning for ski camping fits our actual selves well. Same for world travel. I’ve got my travel minimalism routine down, and am ready to hit the road at a moment’s notice. And we’re pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone by making an effort to ski more backcountry, instead of taking the easy way up the hill on the chairlift. The ski season’s over now, and so heading into summer, I’m determined to get more comfortable on a mountain bike, which is Mr. ONL’s preferred biking style. (I feel at home on a road bike.) And outside of the sporty stuff, I want to write more in retirement, and so I’m extra focused on keeping up the discipline of two to three posts a week here, as well as beginning to do some workshop writing outside of the blog.
How Do You Keep Your Stoke High?
What’s your big stoke in the future, and your small stoke that keeps you going now? If you’ve been focused on the big stoke only, what are some ways you can build some small stoke into your life, too? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments!