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Does Anyone Who Is Seriously Awesome at Their Job Retire Early?

Okay, quick show of hands: Who reading this is (or was) completely amazing at your job? Good at all aspects of it, even the annoying ones? The kind of person more junior colleagues look up to, and more senior people fight over? The kind of talent where everyone who encounters you thinks, “Wow, that person is going somewhere!”?


No, seriously, this is not a rhetorical question. This is an actual question I’d really like an answer to. (Please answer in the comments!)

Because I can’t believe that everyone pursuing some form of escape from work — whether it’s full early retirement or just saving enough to be able to quit if a job is making you you crazy — hasn’t at some point had this thought:

Do I just want this because I’m bad at working? 

We have this thought all the time.

I doubt anyone we work with would say we’re bad at working. We’ve both been on a pretty fast track promotion-wise, and have many clients who refer new work our way — so the signs tell us we’re doing a lot right.

But we’re certainly not SERIOUSLY AWESOME at our jobs. There are aspects we feel genuinely bad at. We procrastinate (any other two procrastinator households out there?), we try to get out of annoying tasks, we don’t always deliver tough feedback in the best way (or at all), and sometimes we feel so stretched that we don’t deliver our best thinking or work (though we have stopped complaining, which helps a ton).

This isn’t just impostor syndrome, either — I happen to have a pretty high view of what I’m capable of (those gold stars, man!), and while Mr. ONL is on the more modest end of the spectrum, he knows what he’s good at.

On some level, we suspect that we are simply incompatible with work, at least the current ever-speeding, ever-more-demanding postmodern incarnation of work. And yes, I completely know how bratty, entitled and privileged that sounds — and is. The only defense I’d offer is that we’ve never expected anyone to help us quit our jobs — we’ve done the work ourselves of saving the money we need to make our exits. (Though we’ve had plenty of help getting into the position of being able to save aggressively.)

But all of this still has us asking the question: even though we know our why, even though we have plenty that we want to retire to, are we fundamentally doing this because we are kinda bad at work?

And if we were seriously awesome at work — good at all aspects of it, and possessing the right attitude and commitment — would early retirement even be on our radar? // Does Anyone Who Is Seriously Awesome at Their Job Retire Early?

Early retirement as this community defines it — retirement in one’s 30s or 40s or even sometimes 20s — is incredibly hard to study, because we’re still the exceedingly rare and magical unicorns of the population as a whole. Data out there on “early” retirement tends to define it as sometime in one’s 50s — still a wonderful achievement, but quite different in terms of life stage and the planning behind it than retiring a decade or two earlier.

So we can’t go out and do a survey of early retirees to ask, “Hey, were you a total rock star at your job, or did you mostly do what you had to do to collect your paycheck, make people happy and not much more?”

Which is too bad, because I am dying to know that answer. No doubt you can be very, very good at your job and still want to retire early. You can be widely admired in your career and still want to retire early. You can bring a high level of skill and commitment to your work and still want to retire early.

But can you be SERIOUSLY AWESOME at your job and still want to retire early?

Attitude Trumps Skills

I have met a lot of early retirees and aspirants since starting this blog, and it is enormously clear to me that as a whole, we are a smart bunch. I can only imagine that that translates into us being highly skilled at work. We know we are.

But while I wonder if people who are amazing at all aspects of their job would ever pursue early retirement, I also doubt that many of us are pursuing it specifically because we believe we lack skills.

To us at least, this feels less like a question of the tangible — skills — and more like a question of the intangible: the attitude we bring to our work. 

My ambition is an oft-discussed topic here, so I won’t rehash that. And Mr. ONL, while not equally striving in his tendencies, is a person of high integrity who believes it’s his imperative to deliver his best work to his employer and clients. So here we are: two smart people with strong skills who want to do well in our work for various reasons. Why on Earth do we want to retire early? It’s attitude all the way, grouped into a few themes:

Commitment — We’re total oddities to be Gen Xers who have spent nearly our entire careers with single employers, so we’re perhaps more committed to our companies and work than others. But we’re committed within boundaries: we strive to do our best work as much as possible, to make our clients happy, and to help make our companies successful. But even as long as we’ve been in our jobs, we don’t see ourselves in that bucket of who “the company” is. We see those who run the companies as being the beneficiaries, and have never pictured ourselves being in that group. I imagine that more committed people would see their work as benefiting a company they hope to one day lead or own or replicate in their own start-up.

Vision Beyond Work — We have known some incredible people whose work is world-changing, and those people likely can’t imagine not working. Can you imagine Steve Jobs not working? Malcolm Gladwell? Anna Wintour? Some people are totally okay being defined by their work, and that most often also means being consumed by it. There’s an aspect of being defined by our work that we feel now and don’t resist, but we’ve never wanted that to be the most important thing about our lives. Most of our mountain town friends don’t even really know what we do, because we’re happy not talking about it. If we had a vision for how we could change the world at work, it seems implausible that we’d be so eager to walk away.

Day-to-Day Attitude — I can’t say it has never happened, but I can’t remember a day in which I’ve woken up and bounded out of bed thinking, “Hooray! I get to go to work today!” That’s been true across every job I’ve ever had, so I don’t think it’s a position-specific attitude. Mr. ONL would say the same. And we get the Sunday Blues hard. No matter how much we love a project or value our employers, on every single workday we would rather be not working.

The Missing Data

Maybe one day we can do a real survey of early retirees and ask this and so many other questions. But for now, I’m basing this question on our sample size of two.

Even if 100 of you weigh in, that’s still a teensy sample size if we’re aiming for statistical significance. Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t weigh in (please do! I bet we’re all curious!), but that the answer to this question is to some degree unknowable.

And maybe the reason I’m even posing this question — other than to see if we’re the only ones who wonder about whether our desire to retire early is driven by feeling bad at parts of our work — is because I fervently hope that those shining stars out there don’t get the early retirement seed planted in their minds.

We desperately need innovators, researchers, visionaries. And sure, those of us who reach financial independence or retire early may still do cool, innovative work in our second acts, but the type of innovation and vision the world needs isn’t the kind achieved by dabblers or part-time entrepreneurs.

We need those people who can’t imagine themselves anywhere but at work. We need the scientists willing to spend decades studying a subject before they have that break-through. We need those people so focused on solving a problem that it keeps them up at night.

Those of us pursuing early retirement don’t need to be those people — but let’s also not encourage them to join us.

What Do YOU Think?

I bet you guys have theories. And maybe some personal refutations. Anyone want to raise your hand to proclaim, “Yes! I am all kinds of amazing and I still want to retire early!”? Or conversely, anyone want to echo our sentiment that if we were seriously awesome at our jobs, we wouldn’t be on this path? The floor is yours!

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191 replies »

  1. Very interesting question! I feel the same about work as you do, but I won’t be an early retiree since I’ll be paying off student debt until I die. I do enjoy following your blog and learning a few things though!

    • Thanks! And I seriously bet you will find ways to accelerate your debt payoff and savings — that is the definite pattern for most folks we’ve observed — so don’t lose hope about being able to retire early one day!

  2. Interesting question MS ONL.

    I think a lot of people were awesome at what they originally did… programming or sales or building things.

    Then they get promoted, or advance, or climb the greasy pole. More time starts being spent on administrivia, less time doing what the person was good at. Only now the person gets paid more.

    Rinse and repeat a couple of times and the formerly awesome person does little/none of what they used to be good at. However they make more money. They are now enterprise architects or sales directors or lead contractors (who outsource the work to subcontractors).

    I suspect many of the FIRE community who actually pull the trigger fall into this camp, as the chances of achieving FIRE from the lower salary base (albeit doing awesome work) are much lower.

    It is likely more palatable to escape from a mediocre middle management job than from doing something meaningful and rewarding!

    • Thanks! And yeah, I think there’s definitely a big aspect of what you’re talking about at play. Like the expression that we’re all “promoted to our level of incompetence.” And I also think you’re right that many of us here fall into that, because I sure as heck couldn’t have saved quickly for FIRE with my salary in the first few years of my career!

    • This comment fits my profile.. loved the job until I was promoted out of it and upwards until better pay but less joy.
      Without the salary I wouldn’t be able to achieve FI but the motivation is related to a job that lacks motivation and enjoyment rather than lack of skills.

      • Yeah, such a frequent pattern! I get why companies operate this way, of course, but given how many of us have experienced this, it’s clearly a demotivating pattern.

  3. I went from a job I hated and was terrible at to a position I like a lot better that I’m much better at. My motivation to leave has lessened greatly since I got the new job. I wouldn’t say I’m the best there ever was at this new job (totes just straight up forgot to start a meeting last week) but I certainly have an aptitude for it.

    I’ve learned a ton from it about the company, other people, and myself. I get many chances everyday to work on tackling procrastination and doing things far before they’re needed.

    But, no matter how awesome this job is…. It still means I’m cooped up inside on a beautiful spring day with yard work and other non-work things to be doing. It’s still a job I have to wake up at 430 for. And that outweighs a lot of the good that my job produces.

    • Yeah, I think there’s something about modern work expectations that are fundamentally at odds with our biology — especially since you’re rising every day before the sun. Ouch! Though I’m glad you’re enjoying your new role so much more and should have an easier time pacing yourself en route to FI this way!

  4. If y’all generate some data, it would be fun to run some R/SAS/python models and Tableau/Spotfire visualizations on it.

  5. Great question ONLs! I’ve struggled with this one too. Yes, I’m good at my job – mostly because I constantly doubt and question myself about it, and thus get better. I also truly enjoy being a leader of the 100 or so people I manage. But that responsibility comes with a mountain of stress that wears me down. My industry is going through massive changes right now, which will only increase. Deciding who to hire and who to fire, making decisions when there are no good options… ugh. For me, the decision to leave my job in the next few years is easy because of the happiness it will buy me. I don’t think we are alone in this. Who proclaimed that “working” equaled 40+ years anyway? I’ve been doing this for 22 and would have happily stopped there. I’ve never been a “live to work” guy, and have known very few of them in my life.

    • Thanks! And yeah, you are totally not alone in that thinking! The idea of retiring at 65 is still pretty new, dating back to the new deal in the 40s. And even then, most people only lived in retirement for a few years at that point, if they were lucky enough to even reach that age. (And before that, most people just worked until they died, but even living past 5o is a relatively new thing!)

  6. I honestly cannot imagine staying anywhere for more than a few years – maybe because I’ve never worked anywhere large (as in, with 100s or even 1000s of staff)?

    I’m in a bit of a slump at the mo, not so much in the sense that I dread going in but am just ovewhelmed currently. I want to do it all, I just have a ton on at the moment and naturally everything is urgent. I’m good at my job, pretty great even sometimes, but just spread very thin.

    I don’t know if you’ve read Paul Graham’s piece on the maker schedule vs the manager schedule. My job is on the creative side but I struggle to carve out blocks of time to actually create. Meetings and new random priorities popping up all over the place drive me mad and while I can cope, I think I am fundamentally unsuited to that type of environment.

    • I need to check out that piece — I hadn’t come across it. And yes, meetings are the bane of everyone’s existence, I think! It’s hard to imagine that’s what we were all designed to spend our time doing!

  7. My wife and I are (were, in my case) both considered high-flyers in our companies—we have influence up to the C-suite (in 100,000-person organizations) on occasion. When we hit a true “pick one” moment, we picked hers and I left mine.

    I loved what I did, 90% of the time. The other 10% was pointless administration. But I saw nowhere “up” that I wanted to be…I had reached the last fun job that I could see on my career path. And my terminal job wasn’t one that would exist forever.

    For us, the point of financial independence isn’t to stop. The point is to be able to choose who we answer to—whether that be just ourselves, customers of our own enterprise, or carefully-selected managers in a “real job”. That is the “position of strength” (Mr. Money Mustache) or “fortress of solitude” (The Gambler, courtesy JL Collins) from which great things can be accomplished.

  8. I don’t know the answer to your question, but my line has always been “I love my job, but I hate working!” To me, there is a difference. I really do have a great job – have worked with wonderful people, done some fun projects, have had the opportunity to travel some, and have a good salary and great benefits. What I dislike is the concept of HAVING to get up and be somewhere at a particular time, for 8+ hours a day, 40+ hours a week, day in and day out, year in and year out. This is what I don’t like and am really looking forward to hanging it all up on June 2!!!

    • Haha — that’s totally us, too! We do love our jobs, but it’s the work content itself that’s problematic. So stoked for you that you’re SO CLOSE to being done!!! Hooray!!!!!

  9. This is my first time commenting on your blog, so let me take a minute to tell you how much I enjoy your work. I feel as if you regularly produce original and thought provoking pieces that really get my brain going in the morning – so THANK YOU!

    On to your question. I’m relatively good at my job, genuinely like the people I work with and respect the company I work for. But I just do not feel compatible with work. No matter what’s going on at work and whatever amount of enjoyment I was getting out of my work the day before, getting up in the morning is difficult and I dream about a life in which I can pursue passions and projects on no one’s schedule by my own. However, my husband LOVES work. He thinks his job, or more accurately, his profession, is his calling. It revs him up. He spends time on it when he’s not actually “at work” and constantly tries to improve and grow out of sheer interest. On top of this, he is clearly VERY good at his job and is regularly validated by his peers and management about his ability and output.

    As you might imagine this makes our discussion about FIRE a bit one sided. He’s not against FIRE as he understands it’s about freedom not necessarily boring retirement, but he just doesn’t have the same drive as I do as he sincerely enjoys going to work each day and can’t imagine a happy life where he’s not doing what he’s doing. We only got married last year so I have hope that we can be similarly passionate about FIRE in the future ;), but it’s an interesting dynamic so far.

    • Thanks so much, Meg! And thanks for commenting! :-D You show the perfect distinction between great and your job and truly “seriously awesome.” Feeling that you profession is your calling is a pretty good indicator that you’re seriously awesome. And while there’s no shame in your feelings about work — you’re great at it, enjoy it, like the people, etc. — it’s not the same. So it makes total sense that you want FIRE and your husband is more ambivalent about it. Fingers crossed for you guys that you can get on the same page in the near future! But if not, there are plenty of examples in the blogs of couples where only one spouse retired, so you wouldn’t be the first!

      • Hi Meg, I’m in a similar position. I like my job, seriously HATE getting up in the morning, and long for more freedom and flexibility in my day. My husband loves his job (it has to help that he doesn’t go in until noon!), and would work at it forever if he could. I’m the one pushing for FIRE because I want options for myself to not have to work. We’re married 1.5 years, and though retirement savings was totally new for him, he’s come around to seeing the many benefits of saving. Now that some time has passed, he enjoys seeing our net worth, and I think he realized the value of saving even more as we each went through some job uncertainty this year without worry. There’s hope!

      • That’s still a pretty short period of marriage to expect to be 100% aligned on every financial or big life goal. Give it time! Sounds like you’re making great progress. ;-)

  10. I’ll admit that I’m good at my job but not great. I certainly don’t work to my full potential, but that’s sort of by design. I have no desire to move up into a management position, and if they knew how much I was capable of, that’s what they’d push me to do.

    It’s hard to be passionate about something when you’re dependent on the paycheck. And let’s face it, most of us aren’t doing anything that’s truly changing the world. If I had a job that could save/improve lives, I would find it harder to walk away once I had the means.

    • I love how you put it — if they knew what you were capable of, they’d put a lot more pressure on you. It has never occurred to me to hold back (too much of a striver, I guess), but I completely see the wisdom in that. And yeah, it’s good to remember that most of us aren’t doing brain surgery, and this stuff only matters so much. :-)

    • What she ^ said! At this point, I’m not willing to “do whatever it takes” in the hopes of getting a 10% raise. I’ll never be filthy rich, but I’m making “enough”. I want to be able to RE and afford to travel and still enjoy things we enjoy now (including helping family/friends and donating).

      I totally agree we desperately need those special people who dedicate their lives to their career: innovators, researchers, visionaries, CEO’s. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why my executive coworkers stick around beyond Early Retirement eligibility (55) and continue to work til age 60 or beyond!
      The number of years that they’ve earned well above a $200K salary, why would anyone “need” or WANT to continue working??
      Greed? Paranoid about financial security? or they just want to be filthy rich in retirement to know that they never have to give a *single thought* about having enough money even if they live to 100?

      • I suspect those coworkers of yours who work past 55 just didn’t do enough saving in their earlier years. That’s so common, and I’m sure you’ve seen those breakdowns of how easy it is for some people to believe they are “middle class” earning a quarter million or half million dollars a year. (I know, it’s a totally skewed perspective. But that could be how your coworkers have lived!)

      • Perhaps they like the daily structure? My dad retired from a very physical job that he was happy to walk away from, but sometimes I suspect he misses working.

  11. I like to think I’m pretty great at my job and have some facts to back it up. I asked to work remote and was allowed. It was supposed to be for 6 months originally, but I’ve been gone for 12 and they haven’t asked me back – probably because they know there is a good chance I’d leave if they tried to make me. People try to hold me for just their projects, etc.

    Now I’m good at my job for very particular reasons. #1 – I need money and they pay me, so I work. #2 – I want to make a high income and not live in a city, and they let me work remote as long as I continue to kick butt. #3 – It is the path of least resistance for me to my financial goals. For all these reasons I try to kick butt and will continue to do so, as long as I deem it necessary.

    Now I don’t know how this has anything to do with wanting to work for a long time. Just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean it is a passion or you enjoy it. I know plenty of people that are great at things, but gave them up just because they didn’t enjoy it anymore.

    • I think you totally hit on it: you can be great at your work, but if you don’t have that total commitment and passion, that’s not the same as folks who truly are “seriously awesome” — to me that means having all three: skills, passion, commitment. Like you, we have the skills, and we have a bit of passion and commitment, but not the total package. :-)

  12. Michael Jordan might qualify. ;)

    Personally, I don’t think anyone is good at EVERY aspect of their job. At least I’ve never met/seen that person. Everyone has shortcomings.

    I was pretty good at my jobs (earned average 8% annual increases for 28 years) and yet I had plenty to improve upon.

    • I was thinking along the same lines of high level athletes. While MJ was the best at his sport, he was the worst at retirement. He came back and won three more titles! The two I had in mind were Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson. However, both played football for the Detroit Lions at different times, so maybe they were just sick of losing all the time playing as great individuals on bad to horrible teams.

    • I think you’re probably right that everyone has some weakness at work. I think it’s more about those folks who have a total level of commitment to the work matched by high skills and inspiration.

  13. I was told by some of my co-workers that I’m doing good at my job, but based on the emails I get all the time from my boss, you’d think I was the worst employee ever. I know there is part of me that should “rise above” and find my own validation, but honestly it really gets to me. So my thought is” I better save as much as I can in case I get fired” Maybe a safety net thought, but also, kind of sad, don’t you think?

    • I know that’s totally hard. I crave external validation in addition to my innate sense of my value, so I get how tough it is when someone at work is being a jerk to you!

  14. This is my first time commenting, in part because my early retirement won’t be until I’m in my mid -50’s or later. A big part of that is that I work at a nonprofit organization that I believe does amazing work and because I have the perfect job for me. Despite suffering from imposter syndrome, I have figured out that I’m really good at what I do and while I do a lot of teaching other people (most of whom are up the ladder from me by quite a bit), I have evidence daily that I have a rare touch for the technical and artistic skills that it requires and I feel fulfilled. I have passed up opportunities for promotion several times because it would take me away from the aspects of my work that I adore, and while I do want to retire in about 8-10 years, I’m not willing to give up my unique situation in order to achieve FI earlier than I will.
    I would probably be happy as a clam to do this particular job until I drop dead, but I do have visions of more travel and sleeping in, especially as I know my husband, who is 9 years older than I am, is really wanting to retire. (We live in a very expensive area, San Francisco, so we can’t really afford retirement until we can move to a more reasonable area, and that is the one big negative with my job- it’s so specialized that I wouldn’t be able to move and continue doing what I love so much – which is why I am trying to learn from you all in the FIRE community- because if I could pull off the Mr. retiring while I still work for as long as I’m still having fun, then that would be a really sweet deal in my opinion!

    • Thanks for commenting! And I hope you know you are still very much welcome here — retiring in your 50s is still AMAZING! It’s so awesome that you’ve found a position so well-suited to you, and at which you excel and derive meaning and fulfillment. You’re one of the lucky ones, as I’m sure you know! And as a former expensive city person, I can say we feel 100% glad we moved to a slightly cheaper area to retire — it’s a big relief to know that our baseline costs are now so much lower, plus we have the mountain beauty to boot!

  15. I am very average at my job as a senior finance manager. I am very grateful that I somehow managed to get promoted and even more surprising, earn over six figures. I just simply lack the ambition to get ahead. Also, between taxes and already having FI money, I see even less reward in the extra effort it would take me to move up from here.

    My solution? I did the honorable thing and most profitable thing, first I asked to get promoted to a Director, and when that was denied or delayed or whatever the current excuse is from my employer, I asked to be laid off with severance. Much to my delight, my employer has agreed and I am waiting to see what they come back with.

    I have to wonder if their fast agreement to lay me off isn’t a clue as to how they perceive me, or they are tired of me complaining, which I have tried to minimize to only complaining about pay and title and not the actual work. Who knows? I don’t care, I am interested in FIRE and this is a fantastic way to go out.

    There are two types of workers, “superstars” and “everyone else,” a VP here told me. He said you DON’T want many superstars on your staff, because they are never happy and they will leave. He told me he prefers B players because they will stick around and continue to work, and at this company we need people to do implementations and serve the customers, so having a resolving staff does neither of these goals.

    I am still working now, but hope to be leaving soon. In the meantime, I’ll continue to be average.

    • You’re my hero for getting a paid severance! We’re still deciding if we want to try to ask for that, but leaning no for a bunch of reasons. And the superstars vs. everyone else dichotomy is an interesting one — along with the idea that the superstars are the unhappy ones!

      • If you’d like help on how to ask for a severance, feel free to private message me. I’d be happy to assist. It was much easier than I ever thought was possible.

      • Okay, thanks! We also have Sam’s (Financial Samurai) book about it. It’s not top of mind just yet, but I’m sure we’ll be thinking about the question more this summer.

  16. Well, I’m not pursuing early retirement unless you count 55, so its hard to see what I mean to the numbers. That being said in terms of my job its an interesting question. I was an ok manager in my last position. But in my current position as a program manager and technical expert I’m considered one of maybe 2 people in my S&P 500 company with my particular knowledge and skillset. Is that because I’m great at my current job? I personally believe its because most of my peers set the bar so low I can crawl over it. I view myself as passable. Not sure that says what my employer other then I’m a firm believer in being the big fish in the small pond and I choose my roles and companies to reflect that.

    • 55 absolutely still counts, and gives you a decade more freedom than most people. Celebrate that! And your example points out such a funny thing: it’s all relative. You could seem totally awesome at your job in a place where the culture has low expectations, and you might be mediocre comparatively elsewhere. (I think this is true for all of us, by the way — big fish in a small pond vs. small fish in a big pond.)

  17. I am good at my job, I have expertise born of experience that is in rare demand and I am flattered (though not interested because at 51 I can’t commit to pouring myself into a multi-year commitment of 70 hour weeks) in the recruitment opportunities I get each month. ESI Money (above) knows of my situation and though I know I will miss what I do when you have reached FIRE power why wait?

    So yes I might be the rare person who enjoys his work but will retire anyway, time can never be recovered. Be brave and stick to your plan, consult on your terms if you like, there are opportunities to mix retirement and work if you like but if you truly have FIRE power use it. Work should never define you

    • I love your attitude, and it’s good to hear from someone awesome at your job who still wants to FIRE. That said, the fact that you don’t want to be defined by your job is a telling distinction, and may separate you from the types of folks I’m talking about — the folks who think of little beside work and seem to work all the time. It sounds like you have healthy boundaries (which is good!), but that’s slightly different. Either way, I’m so glad you’re putting your FIRE plans into motion!

  18. Do you need to have the right attitude / be insanely motivated in order to be seriously awesome at your job, though? It sounds like you have a very stringent definition of “seriously awesome” if you don’t include yourself in that category. 😉

    In fact, with that definition, what, maybe 0.01% of people are good at every aspect of work? I work with lots of smart, hard-working people that I admire, but none of them are good at *everything* I their job description.

    • I probably do — I’m thinking of the true standouts who are both totally skilled and totally committed. Hence the “seriously” qualifier. ;-) I’d say it’s closer to 1% than 0.1%, but either way, we’re talking tiny fractions.

  19. I think I’m incompatible with most forms of work. Capable, sure. Talented, sometimes. But the structure just doesn’t fit.

    Mr. Mt on the other hand is one of the exceptions. Absolutely awesome at his work. And extremely passionate about it. The only reason he left is that it doesn’t fit our life right now. Adopting 3 a sibling group of special need kids and having two bio kids was more than I could handle alone while he was gone all the time. He tried to go part time, but his employer was trying to get rid of all the part time spots, so it wasn’t an option. It was a hard call for him to leave. (Not for me, at all!) And once all our kids are grown he might go back because he feels so called to the work and knows he has so much to offer. (He did just get recruited for a board position which he accepted) But I think he is the exception. =)

    • Hear, hear! I’m glad you got Mr. Montana to quit even though he didn’t want to. You need the support with the kids, and now you guys have this awesome life!

  20. I think you are looking for something that doesn’t exist. No one is perfect at all aspects their job. We all have faults and have areas to work on to improve or things we just don’t like…I have yet to find someone who loves doing time tracking for example.

    Also I think you are looking at the question wrong, what is the common item driving most of us to FIRE? We all love our independence and most corporate jobs are about conforming. That creates a degree of tension that just won’t go away.

    Oddly enough, I think the fact we seek independence also means we are willing to speak up more and thus do a better job for the company. Think what would happen in a company with all conforming staff…nothing would change or innovate. I point out what could be improved and provide ideas for it. Sometimes they accept them and other times they don’t.

    Thanks for writing. I enjoy your thought provoking posts.

    • I love your point about FIRE types being think-outside-the-box types who are likely some of the most important thinkers in our companies. I think that’s true! And so even if we’re not always the very top performers (though we certainly could be!), our presence will be missed in our companies in other ways.

  21. I was actually referred to as “The Superstar” at work just a few years ago. While I wasn’t awesome at everything and also a big procrastinator, I completed my work independently and delivered good results. Over the past few years, I think my employer has become a bit confused. They’ve noticed my declining motivation to go above and beyond the standard expectations and don’t understand why I’m not killing myself to move up. I haven’t quite “checked out,” but my priorities and focus have shifted in a big way. With no long-term goals for my current career, I’m only putting in a bit more than the minimum, so I can work on side-hustling to pay off debt and build something that can bring in a little bit of income during semi-retirement.

    • I can see how that would be confusing to your employer! Do you use your kids as an excuse, or is it just an unspoken level of confusion? I’m glad you haven’t checked out, only because that makes the time pass so much more slowly and drudgerously, but I’m also glad you are making more time for your family and what’s important!

      • It has been discussed, in a very general and circular way. I mention family and often blame it on my current phase of life. I’ve been really trying to find a way to apply my education and experience to some sort of side hustle, so it doesn’t all “go to waste,” but it’s definitely still a work in progress.

      • I get all of that! I like how Sam at Financial Samurai put it: It is a waste to work for fewer years than you were in school. (Obviously some can work fewer, and good for them, but not true for us.) But I feel like after I’ve hit that education-matching number, then I’m free to not worry about whether I use my education or not. :-)

  22. Interesting & thought provoking article once again ONL. I think that many people want to retire early because they hate they job ( and my opinion is totally based on a scientific study too ;-))

    In my case, a few years ago I hated my job, which was driving me to really go into FIRE mode. For some strange reason, working 80 hours/week is not as much fun after a few years.

    Then I found another job that I hated less, and then I found another one that was much better.

    As a result, I no longer want to just retire at all costs.

    Or perhaps, my increased level of dividend income/net worth has made me care less ;-)

    • Thanks! :-) And yeah, unless you are one of those rare unicorns who loves nothing but working, 80 hours a week gets old fast. It’s so heartening to hear that you have found more job enjoyment and therefore feel less ER urgency. And YES, I definitely think having an adequate stockpile of FU money makes everything work-related seem less important. :-)

  23. I was awesome at work when I first started. However, I couldn’t adapt to the work requirement as I got more senior. I didn’t like working and it degraded my production.
    By the end, I was not good at my work and it was time to go. Motivation is a big factor.

  24. I recently retired at age 57, perhaps not “early” by some standards, but still 10 years before the retirement age of 67 for Social Security full benefits. Throughout my career I have built and maintained a reputation for excellence and high performance standards, which enabled my career growth into upper management. With rare exceptions, I enjoyed going to work every day, making a difference, raising the bar, mentoring and helping my colleagues, and of course, contributing to the growth of the company and its bottom line.
    All that comes at a cost, in stress, health and work/life balance. I have put a lot of time and enthusiasm into life at work, right up to my last day at the office. I am looking forward to redirecting that same time and enthusiasm to life at home, mental and physical fitness, personal hobbies, and family activities.
    In a sense, it is “work hard, play hard” but with a wider timeline. My 30+ years of working hard are behind me, and I hope I have another 30 years of playing hard ahead of me.

    • 57 is still early, and so awesome! Congrats!!! And I’m envious that you liked going to work every day — I’m sure you know how rare that is! Sending you best wishes to make those 30 years of playing hard amazing!

  25. I would qualify as Seriously Awesome at my job in all regards….

    For me, there will be two inhibitors to continuing working:

    I am unwilling to provide the time commitment required to move one more level up the ladder (one below the executives). The time to money exchange is unacceptable to me, I have money.

    I am unwilling to accept work that chooses my geographic location or Inhibits my ability to take 2-3 months off.

    Will I ever fully retire? Who knows, I have clients clamoring to hire me constantly. Will only do it on my terms and with ownership.

    • I see you as Seriously Awesome but with that caveat (and it’s not a bad caveat). I applaud you setting boundaries and not wanting to move up, but I would guess that folks you work for see that as a lack of commitment, at least a little bit. That’s not bad, but it does signal that you’re focused on your own quality of life over work, which therefore makes sense that you’re in the FIRE camp at least a little bit. :-)

      • I’ve been soft with those conversations about not wanting the next level up, it wasn’t until this year I even responded “I may not want that role”. I still put in the time/energy to be at the top of my current role against 50-100 peers.

        I may also go to a former leader who’s now in the C-Suite about one of the more remote/support roles I could do, but have been afraid to because but I’ll permanently remove myself from the executive bench and might have to face his disappointment.

      • I completely get that dilemma, but ultimately you need to push for what you want, not from what a supervisor or the company want from you. If that’s a remote assignment, go for it. I bet your old leader will get over the disappointment. :-)

  26. That’s currently my whole issue. I am not very good at work, and I am capable of being much, much better. I think if I achieve ‘work greatness’ I would still retire. It’s working on someone else’s timeline, and all the inside time that kills me.

    However, i am trying, (actually starting, then sputtering, starting again, sputtering again, and you get the picture) to get great at work. While I think I will still want to leave, it will make the journey until then so much more enjoyable!

    • I totally agree with that thinking — if you bring an attitude of resistance to your work, it will just make you feel miserable and impatient. Instead, giving it all you’ve got and really committing to it, at least in the short term, makes the work so much more enjoyable, and makes the time fly by. I love that you’re thinking about this!

  27. What is even more interesting to me is are the people who are really good at their work the people we want to encourage to exit early? On one hand, it reduces burnout. Isn’t a shorter burst of quality, dedication, etc., better than letting someone fizzle out? On the other hand, am I really OK living in world where I tell the best doctors, nurses, firefighters, teachers to leave early?

    I think that’s why I find it so reassuring when people who pursue FIRE talk about continuing to work or create or volunteer.

    • I think what concerns me is hearing FIRErs talk about doing the minimum at work to get the paycheck and reach FI — we should instead be giving it all we’ve got and doing our best to make an impact in that condensed window. And then after we quit, we can focus on service and innovation that makes an even bigger impact. But don’t phone it in while you’re working! :-)

  28. First, this is by far my favorite FI blog. I find your posts very thought provoking. I now know there are people wondering the same things as me.

    I’ve always pondered whether I should be doing a job I’m awesome at but hate (note: one with a good salary) or a job that I’m not awesome at but love (note: one that does not pay well). I believe that’s the key switch for me when I hit FI – moving from something I don’t like doing to something I enjoy doing whether I’m good at it or not. Right now, the job I dislike provides me the salary to hit FI earlier. I look at it this way, if you found out you were awesome at scrubbing tile in your bath tub, would you want to do that the rest of your working life? Being awesome at something doesn’t mean you enjoy that task. And if it doesn’t make you happy, then you need to consider other options.

    • Thanks for saying that, Rich! :-D That means a ton. And you’re so right about awesomeness not necessarily equaling passion for it. I think in my mind the distinction with “seriously awesome” is that it’s a combined state of being awesome at the work, loving it and feeling totally committed to it — which is a very high bar indeed!

  29. Haha, you are so good at putting a blog post together about some sorta subconscious musing on my part. I have experienced that feeling that “if I was good at my job, I wouldn’t want to quit.” There’s an aspect of feeling like a slacker (not a failure, but a slacker) for quitting, and being a slacker has never been my M.O. I’ve always been the striver, the worker, the dedicated employee. For the most part, I’m good at what I do.

    I think there is a big process of mentally coming to terms with I’m a striver AND I want early retirement. That I’m good at what I do, AND I don’t want to do it until I’m old. Although this doesn’t apply to you, I found turning 50 (I’m 52) seriously freeing. Past 50, for some reason, in my mind allows you to have the best of both worlds: I’m a striver, and good at my job, and gotten a return on my education (2 post-grad degrees), AND I’m done. :-) My goal is being done by 2020 (when I’m 55), so that’s hardly even early-retired by this community’s standards!

    I do think where you live is going to have a big impact on your mental approach to being early retired. If you were living in Boston, or in NY, where everyone’s striving, I think you would feel like the odd duck. However, living in a mountain town, the focus is not on work, it’s on living a high quality athletic life and being outside. So once you guys retire, you will fit in with your community, whereas right now, you are outliers by having a high paying, high commitment job.

    I live in a fairly bustling town in Colorado’s front range, but even there, there is a big proportion of people who have an alternative approach to a full time job (although I suspect many of them are trust funders, lol). So I think that helps facilitate ability to feel OK with being dedicated to work but also dedicated to life outside of work as well.

    • Mind meld! :-) I totally see what you mean — at 50 you’ve put in a lot more career years and can have zero doubt that you’ve had a “real” and full career and made your mark. It’s harder to know that after a shorter career. And so true about where we live — that will make a huge difference in not making us feel like slacker weirdos!

  30. I had two thoughts, both related to football (stick with me).

    My first thought was Barry Sanders. He retired early and he was perhaps the best ever when he did. It’s a unique circumstance, but as you say, early retirement is a rare and magical unicorn thing. He gave up millions of dollars (which was easier, because he had earned millions of dollars).

    My second thought was Tom Brady. He’s old for his position, but he’s still playing awesome. No one would have batted an eye if he retired years ago. When asked about how long he wants to play a few weeks ago he said:

    “I have the answers to the test now. You can’t surprise me on defense. I’ve seen it all. I’ve processed 261 games, I’ve played them all. It’s an incredibly hard sport, but because the processes are right and are in place, for anyone with experience in their job, it’s not as hard as it used to be. There was a time when quarterbacking was really hard for me because you didn’t know what to do. Now I really know what to do, I don’t want to stop now. This is when it’s really enjoyable to go out.”

    Personally, I started to look into early retirement because my wife is eligible for military retirement at age 44. Does anyone want to work 20+ years more than their spouse? Perhaps, but you’d really have to love that job, right?

    I tend to think I was awesome at my job, but my focus became less and less about software engineering and more and more about financial freedom. I think the later impacted the former. (Or I just got a lot worse from software engineering burnout.)

    • Oh man, this is a total game theory rabbit hole for me! I’ll try not to go down it, but I think when a football player retires is a hard calculus to make. Once you have enough, you don’t need to play much longer, but you might want to. In Barry Sanders’ case, as a running back, he had to know he had the most wear and tear of any NFL position, and so it might be better to go out on top than to risk an injury that might debilitate him for life (or maybe he was ahead of the curve in recognizing the dangers of head injuries). For Brady, he’s in a position of less wear and tear (especially with his O-line protecting him), and his game-to-game risk of sustaining a life-ruining injury is far lower. So he has a more privileged option of sticking with it until he feels done. What do you think about that? ;-)

      • I didn’t think I’d get reasonable football player analysis ;-).

        I don’t think Sander’s retirement in 1999 was related to CTE. It wasn’t a blip on the radar at the time and his son, born in 1994, is a running back currently. I agree that Brady is at a position of relative safety (he even talks about the best way to fall to avoid injury).

        Let’s not get into the rabbit hole of football injuries.

        I think it is generally accepted that Barry Sanders retired because he was sick of losing. Being awesome at his job couldn’t seem to make up for the weekly disappointment the organization’s failure (sorry Detroit fans).

        I think Brady’s “happiness quotient” is vastly different because his team wins. Gold stars all around ;-)! He not only “knows all the answers” on the field, but he makes off-field decisions, such as accepting less pay, to help his team win.

        To circle back to the topic of the article, I think overall happiness is a key factor. Maybe it isn’t about being awesome, but being happy?

      • Yeah, I was kidding on the CTE stuff, but Barry still knew a running back’s career is the shortest of all. ;-) And I think being sick of losing is a totally legit reason to retire! I think if he’d been in another position, he could have lobbied harder for a trade, but he likely knew he didn’t have enough good years left to make it worthwhile… oh geez, here I go with the football again. (This will all make so much more sense when we unmask ourselves soon!) ;-) And as for the article itself, YES, I think happiness is the key. But, two people in the same job can be happy or unhappy doing exactly the same things in the same place for the same people, and I think a lot of that difference is how good they are at it. :-)

  31. I never felt like I was all that great at my job. Sure, I was competent, but nowhere near an expert. I could never kick the thought that “there’s gotta be more to life than this.” Now that I’ve quit working full time, I’m beginning to freelance in stuff I feel much better suited towards. I just don’t think I was meant to be an employee at a regular job.

    • Glad we’re not the only ones who feel ill-suited to traditional careers! And so glad that you’re getting more enjoyment out of your new freelance approach. (Also, Hi! How are you guys??)

      • We’re good. I know, it’s been a long time. I’ve been taking a bit of a break from things. I’m continually surprised at how busy I’ve been. After 8 months of freedom, I can’t imagine going back to the daily grind!

      • I’m glad you’re taking a break and settling into your new life abroad. Just miss chatting! :-) And we can’t wait to join you in escaping the daily grind — so soon for us now, too!

  32. This comment isn’t meant to offend at all, but I think you’re right. People who are seriously awesome at their jobs don’t retire early. That’s because to be seriously awesome, you must truly love what you’re doing. People don’t quit what they love because they have enough money. High ranking executives, entrepreneurs, and world-savers tend to continue working.

    That’s not to say, you don’t work hard or you hate your job. You’re probably quite good. Just not 1%er material. I ended having to quit the data science job because I wasn’t 1% material either, at least not at this point in my life.

    Also, I still contend that a lot of early retirees are actually taking sabbaticals. You will continue to work and probably get paid at some point.

    • I agree with that — to be that level of awesome requires total body, mind and soul commitment, and it’s hard to imagine that any of us pursuing FIRE have that. Of course we all do good or great work and are surely valued, but it’s not the same! (And of course we’ll still work in the future — just not in anything as remotely demanding or constricting!)

  33. This is a tough cookie to crumble. For me, I really do struggle with this . . . not that I’m awesome . . . but my job is awesome. A professor ~ if you love learning and love going to school and love seeing kids (they keep you young) . . . why wouldn’t you keep working in this job? Add on top of that the autonomy and freedom . . . that said, I completely understand this job isn’t the norm (and it’s increasingly losing its luster), but I do ask myself this question all of the time . . . why retire. (I just wish someone would tell me what to do.) lol ;)

    • Would it help if I tell you what to do? ;-) Just kidding. I think you know deep down which thing means more to you — the love and satisfaction of your job, or freedom — and you should do that!

  34. Ok, this is an interesting one… I’ll start with this – I don’t actually believe that the two of you aren’t “seriously awesome” at your jobs, but we can unpack that later. :) I am very confident that I kick butt at my job, both in my own performance and efficiency and managing my team. I don’t mean to sound arrogant or egotistical. I have a very objective type of employment where I bring in gross revenues and know what my net revenue is and then when you factor in all the costs of doing business and the efficiency at which I and my team works, hands down, I have the best performing team at my company. My personal top line revenue isn’t the highest but my personal bottom line is. So, boom! All that being said, I’m done. I’m burnt out and I feel like there is more to life than crushing it in my chosen industry. The 24/7/365 ability to hunt me down has worn me out though I loved it for a long time because it gave me the freedom to work when I want to work and to be untethered to an office. It feels really good to walk away while I’m at the top of my game. If I let this go on much longer, I wouldn’t be at the top and I wouldn’t leave with the same level of integrity, satisfaction or peace. That’s part of the reason why it’s fun telling people I’m retiring. Many people think I’m crazy. One of my teammates told me a few days ago that he thought I was kidding and though it’s been nearly a year since I’ve revealed my plan, he didn’t believe it. He says he will believe it when he sees it. The weird part is, that I had my best year ever last year when I was fully committed to walking away in June 2017 in the fall of 2015. It’s like once I fully emotionally detached from the money, it made it easier to make more money. I totally had a “I don’t give an eff if you do business with me or not”, attitude and being that way made people want to do more business with me. I don’t fully understand it.

    • I’m not saying we suck at our jobs. ;-) And I love that you’re staying so committed to doing the best job possible up until the end. That’s exactly how I feel, and it’s why I bristle when people say we should give fewer Fs in our waning days. That’s just not us! And yeah, same here in terms of best year when we were most committed to leaving!

  35. One final thought too – my team displays a lot of comradery within our team and between other teams and has a collaborative bent. Though we are in a competitive type job, we revel in one another’s successes, aren’t high maintenance and treat all the support staff who help us be successful with high levels of respect. I’m just as proud of helping to create that type of environment as the objective measures of success.

  36. Interesting question and great comments thus far. I’d say I’m good at my job, but amazing, no, cause I sure as heck don’t love it. I currently (and have in the past) worked with some engineers, who seem to be pretty awesome at their jobs and love what they do, who are still working well into their 60’s without plans to retire anytime soon. Personally, I don’t get it.

  37. J Money shared a great article today that speaks to your question. ( At age 27, Warren Buffet was thinking of retiring because he could! Clearly, he’s not someone who is bad at work.

    I think we also need to define what you mean by work. Sure you guys are giving up your corporate jobs, but you’ll still work. This blog is work. Doing repairs and maintenance on your homes is work. Marriage and relationships, in general, are work. If you decide to have a baby at some point… that will be work, too!

    I think culturally, we’re too quick to judge paid work as being the only valid type of work there is (which sucks for stay at home moms).

    Now that said, I do think that there are people that genuinely love the “paid” work that they do, and would do it even if they had all the money in the world. I think it’s driven by meaning rather than being good at working. For example, rescuing dogs is work, but it’s the kind of work that I would do for free because it’s meaningful and pays me in ways that money never could.

    Interesting discussion!

    • Great point about culturally only valuing paid work — I hadn’t thought about how that would feel to SAH parents. I think in our case we talk about not working anymore because (other than the home maintenance type stuff) we only want to do projects that are fun, and therefore don’t feel like “work,” not in the paid or unpaid sense, but just something that requires an undesired amount of effort, or something we’d rather not do. ;-)

  38. Hmmm. I don’t think it comes down to being GOOD at what you do. You could be good at tying shoelaces, but it’s not what you love to do. It’s much different if you love what you do. It’s hard to turn away from something that gives you satisfaction and meaning. For me, I’m actually really good at what I do and I enjoy it, but I don’t want to do it forever. FIRE is the next big frontier of life without mandatory work to survive.

    • I love that way of framing it — how good you are at something is less important than how committed to it and passionate you are about it. That’s totally our hang-up. We’re good at our jobs, but just don’t feel that burning passion.

      • I agree with mrspickypincher – I see a distinction between aptitude and interest. I’m really good at my job and do invest quite a bit of energy on self improvement at work because I like what I do, and I like how I can positively impact others.

        That said, my interest in my career is within the context of needing to work. In the context of “what would I most enjoy doing at this very moment?” it would be a different answer.

        Have you read When Breath Becomes Air? It’s obviously (sadly) not about early retirement, but it is interesting to read how he chose to spend his limited remaining time on earth (and it’s just a beautiful book).

      • Thanks for that book recommendation! I will add it to my library list. And it sounds like you have a super grounded perspective on it all. It is a bit of a pet peeve for me when people en route to FI completely check out at work or just do the minimum, so I admire that you stay invested and continue to work on improving your skills!

  39. Interesting question. I’m ridiculous good at my previous job position. In fact, after I made the switch to the current position, my position was replaced by 3 people. I think I’m pretty good at my current position too. I love what I do at work and it’s super interesting and challenging. But there are days where it’s a bit stressful than what I want. Why I want to reach FI? So I can work because I choose to, not because I have to. When I have that flexibility I’m no longer tied to the job. That’s where the power lies.

  40. I am seriously awesome at my job. I don’t say it enough but after 15 years of education and 15 years of practice, I rock 99% of the time. I am turning opportunities away all the time because I just don’t have time. However, if I won the lottery, I would be the first one out the door (ok, I probably would still work a little, like 1-2 days a week because I love it). I would scale back not because I don’t love my job, but because there are other things I want to rock at.
    Our retirement goal isn’t “early” we are look at early 50s to retire (my husband will have an awesome pension, plus our savings will give us a very comfortable retirement at this time. Also, my family has the longevity gene so I expect to have at least 40 years in retirement and if genes are an indication 35 of those being active and doing what I want).

    • So awesome that you’re a true rock star at work! And I think your answer is telling, that even if you won the lottery, you wouldn’t quit altogether, you’d still work 1 or 2 days a week. That’s the mark of a true seriously awesome worker — total commitment even if you have zero need for the money.

  41. I would say that I am one step below a ‘rockstar’. I have had my current position for a little over 2 years. With that said, I also got the position 8-10 years younger than most people in our industry. I rose quickly in the ranks. Just to give you an idea. I am 27. The other 3 people with my position are 50, 58, and 63.

    I am good (maybe great) at my job and have the potential to move even higher with in this company or else where. However, I hate working for the man and see my strong performance as a means to an end. Office life drains me; I hate ‘work place politics’.

    And honestly…. once you do not need money, why work on something you don’t care about? I rather spend time pursuing goals and activists I enjoy.

    Hope that helps

    • I’m totally with you on not working beyond reaching your “enough” point. And it sounds like your ARE great at your job, but maybe don’t quite hit the seriously awesome bar only because you aren’t totally committed to the idea of working for your company or in your field forever, don’t want to be defined by your work, etc. And that’s not a bad thing! It’s probably the far healthier way to be.

  42. I do not make a link between being good at the job or not and FI. I want the FI part. Why? My job is not my life, it is a subset. With FI, i can give it the weight that i want at any stage in my life. And that can mean having a job and being good at my job for a certain amount of time.

    There are more dimensions than only good and bad, there is do you like the setting or not is it in line with your values,and many many more.

    I do know people that are awesome at their job, like the setting and can not imagine to so something else. I read about a guy that was awesome at his job and quit because he did not feel happy. All sorts exists.

    I see no link between wanting FI and being bad at your job. Most people I read about do a great job. I would tend to support the hypothesis that people that want FI are good at the job.

    For me, the real point to understand is what pushes people to want FI.

    • Thanks for sharing that perspective! I’m thinking well beyond just good at a job, but I take your point nonetheless. You can be amazing at a job and still want to do something else with your life if that work doesn’t make you happy or if you don’t want to define yourself by it.

  43. I’m looking to achieve early retirement and I do believe I am good at what I do. I do believe my company think I’m better at my job than I actually am.
    As an aside I do sometime jump out of bed looking forward to going to work, BUT, it’s the little things that put me off work; logging expenses and other meaningless admin tasks. If they (work) paid somebody to do this for me I’d probaby consider staying a little longer.

    • That’s always a nice problem to have, when your employer sees you as more valuable than you do! ;-) And as for the admin tasks at work, have you told them that you’re looking to leave but would stay if you could get help with that stuff? If you’re that valued, they might do it!

  44. I think I’m pretty good at my job. What I do used to be done by 3 people. I’m very efficient and I don’t make too many mistakes. I don’t give it my “all”, though. I’ve found that after years of doing that, it’s really not worth it, at least not at my company. There’s another woman that’s been there much longer than me that does give it her all – works all hours of day and night, constantly stresses out – and honestly I think she’s less appreciated than I am. People just take her for granted. She’s my cautionary anti-role model.

    More than anything, though, I just feel emotionally incompatible with the work environment. I hate the politics. I often find myself rolling my eyes when people freak out about things, because so often it’s obvious that they’re playing it up to impress their superiors. I resent it when people are rude as heck, in the name of “doing business”. So many games are played. I’ve realized that I would never choose to spend time with most of these people. Something I look forward to a lot in FIRE is being able to choose the company I keep more. And I definitely won’t miss the meetings.

    BTW – I think you should take some surveys! These informal polls have come up before and there’s no one collecting data from the small FIRE community. I’ll bet most of us would find survey results really fascinating and they’d definitely start some interesting conversations. :)

    • Oh, it’s soooo helpful to have a cautionary anti-role model! She’s doing you a favor. :-) I’ve had similar folks in my career, and it’s just as helpful as having good role models, I think. And amen to not missing those meetings! I’ll add the survey idea to my post-ER list. :-)

  45. When I started my first job as a management consultant after business school, I had no clue what I was doing. I was put in situations where I felt very uncomfortable about my role, the industry, or what I was supposed to do. But I LOVE it. While I was stressed most of the time, I learned alot and grew tremendously.

    Now 15 years later, I’ve steadily climbed-up the latter at a megacorp. I’ve ran a business with full P&L responsibility and recently took on a functional role with a c-title. I’m not saying I’m awesome at my job, but I have absolute command of what I need to do. I can solve almost any issue. I’m confident I have one of the largest breadth of knowledge in my industry. And I get paid well — more than 10x my annual spending. But I’m bored, and that’s why I’m considering early retirement.

    • Congrats on having an awesome career trajectory! That’s gotta be a great feeling, and good validation whether you stay at it or not. Not to dissuade you from aiming for FIRE, but I don’t think boredom means you need to peace out necessarily. It could just mean you need to explore another career path. Is that something you’ve considered?

      • I’m still trying to figure that out. :) Part of my OMY syndrome is not knowing what I’d do afterward. Before I got on this crazy roller coaster, I wanted to just wander the world aimlessly but I don’t think I can pull that off with my wife’s wishes to live in our sururban bubble.

  46. I’m horrible at working full-time. I mean, just plain bad. I suck at getting myself to give two $hits about their work, customer problems or just about anything. My mind was always elsewhere. I was never the best programmer around. Anyone could probably code me under the table. I was *good enough*, but that’s okay. I only needed to be good enough to bring in an insane salary for what I did.

    I’m not sure that I’d still be working if I were a better software developer. I could have been better at it…cared more. But, I just couldn’t. I am The Suck at working full-time, and I’m not all that upset over it, either.

    I’d rather be hiking. :)

  47. Life is short, way too short to be at work with people you like or admire or love, but who don’t seem to take the work or role or responsibility as seriously as you do. Each day there’s something that irks about the way things are done, the things that are missed, not done properly, and sometimes not even adequately, let alone legitimately. The person with the glib words and shiny surface get to float to the top and clog up the flow of fresh and new.
    It doesn’t matter how good you are, how hard you work at getting it done right and proper, if you work with other people, if you work within organisations where the most important issue is the bottom line, you will reach the stage of ‘get me out of here’ – and some of us do just that. It can be hard to look back though, and think: what if I tried to do this, or that, or …
    We can’t change the world, but we can be examples by making choices for the benefit of life, family, friends, community, rather than the concept of capitalist consumerism to make the world bigger and better and higher and faster and …

    • I totally understand all of this frustration! What’s been interesting to me has been meeting people over the years who truly can look past all that stuff and stay focused on the big picture — those I’d call the visionaries. And they are the ones who I have a tough time seeing walking way — but it’s a genuine question for me of whether that’s true!

  48. I think it just comes down to what you value in life. For some, that may be to feel needed and important in society. For others like myself, retirement is just not an option because we really enjoy our work!

  49. My mil retired in her 50s and her employer begged her to stay on. (She still does some part time work for another employer for ~10k/year, so she’s not completely retired).

  50. I think I’m pretty great at my job and have gotten the external validation to back it up from both companies I worked for. Maybe not super awesome, but definitely great. :) I tend to go above and beyond what I’m asked and I am passionate about my work. Even getting put into a situation I have little experience with like my last megacorp position I came in and rocked it even though I got almost no satisfaction from working that position.

    That ultimately led me to leave and when I did, I had more than a few opportunities to choose from. I chose the one that I hoped I’d get the most satisfaction from, which was working in a business unit looking for oil and drilling wells. Based on my resume and experience, I got an excellent sign on bonus, 30% base salary raise, same 4 weeks of vacation, better bonus targets and retention compensation. Since being at my current company I’ve gotten multiple spot bonuses, above target bonuses when they’ve been given out, lol, and high retention bonuses. For instance this past year I got a 4% raise, 29% bonus (which was above target) and a 34% retention bonus… I also get consistently high performance rankings. :)

    All of this comes with a 40 hr/week schedule and being able to leave work at work when I leave at 3:30/45pm each day and especially on my fridays off. Yep, I also picked this place because they also offered a 9/80 schedule (every other friday off).

    This isn’t to brag, but to point out that I will probably get more retention bonuses between now and 2019, or 2020 which means I will have more financial reason to stay and yet I am willing and excited to walk away from it all. It’s excellent compensation, excellent schedule and I love what I do 70% of the time. The other 30%, I just like 20% of it, and only dislike about 10% of it, but I don’t hate any of it, nor do I dislike any of the people I work with.

    I feel like I am great at my job, get noticed by others and mgmt for being great at what I do, and I’m still willing to walk away voluntarily. I ask myself, “Am I crazy leaving all of this $$ on the table and really cushy setup when I could just work 5 more years and we’d be even more set? I’d still only be turning 45. That’s still pretty damn early?”

    Even with all of that, at least 1-2 days a week I look out of my window and think, “It’d be a nice morning to be sitting on the porch playing banjo. Or on the water in a kayak, or anywhere but in an office.”

    I’m fortunate that I am in such a great position and have such a sweet gig and enjoy all the people I work with, but there are still other things I’d rather be doing most days of the week. :)

    • Yeah yeah, we already know, you have the sweetest gig ever. ;-) Hahahaha. I still can’t believe that you get all that while IGNORING YOUR CELL PHONE after 5 pm. Like, what?????? I don’t care how amazing I am at my job, I earn those six figures by being constantly reachable. Same for Mr. ONL. But glad someone is getting the cushy gig you have, and glad it’s a nice person like you! :-)

      • Thanks, and see, even with such a cushy gig that I really like doing and do well, I still would be fine switching to a non-working role. It’s rare that I feel like I want to stay working longer. Although, it did come up that “Hey, even if i worked another 5 years I could still retire by 45… Imagine how much cushier our savings could be?” Then I remember all the days I wished I could be outside doing anything else and think, Nope, I’m good with 2 more years.

  51. One thing I have learned is – just because you are good at your job doesn’t mean you LIKE it. I am great at my job. I know the regulations inside and out, I am a consistent performer, I get things done on time but mostly EARLY, I am a team player, reliable, and receive consistent performance comments about my ‘great initiative’. And still… I sometimes feel like I am bad at my job and even worse, I don’t like my job most of the time. It’s not natural to sit at a desk or computer 40 hours a week without natural sunlight. It’s depressing. So, yes I think even people who are awesome at their jobs long to retire early.

    • What’s interesting in your story is that you’re awesome at your job BUT you also feel fundamentally mismatched with modern work, which I think is a key difference from those who are “seriously awesome” (those who can’t imagine doing anything but work, who are fine being consumed by it, etc.). But all of that said, you get nothing but sympathy from me on the lack of natural light, and the unnaturalness of sitting at a computer for 40+ hours a week! This madness is NOT good for us.

      • Reading through the comments (which have been super interesting), I’m perplexed by your definition of “seriously awesome.” To me it sounds like the way you’re defining it suggests a person with a very singular priority in life, which likely assumes ruling out having a balanced personal life, never mind early retirement. “Obsessed with work” does not equal “seriously awesome” in my mind.

      • Totally fair point! And I’m not setting the bar as high as “obsessed with work” (which feels inherently unhealthy, and just weird), but more like passionate and fired up about work, coupled with an extremely high skill level.

  52. I’m seriously awesome at my job but that doesn’t mean I want to do it forever!! In fact, every day I go to work I want to do it less and less. And I really LOVE my job, but I LOVE my life even more. I have always been very sure to not make my job my life as many other Flight Attendants have. They moved closer to the airport, work with their friends, and hang out with coworkers after hours…a lot of people do that, I guess. But not me! I have few friends that work for the airline because I never wanted to cross that work/life boundary. I am fortunate to have a job that when I walk off the plane the whole job stays there until I get back on again. I don’t bring work home. Although I love it, I can’t wait to leave it…even just if it is temporary. I don’t plan to quit when I reach FI but I do plan to slow down…waaaaayyy down. :)

    • That’s such an important difference — and a healthy one too! — that you don’t bring work home with you. It’s so awesome that you have that separation, and that you’ve worked hard to maintain it!

  53. The best survey would be to find people who are Seriously Awesome at their jobs and get their thoughts on early retirement.

    It would be really interesting to see real statistics on the FIRE community. What percent of the population are they? What do they have in common?

    I like my job, I’m good at it, it demands ~40 hrs most weeks. Given that, it seems optimal to spend my days in a money-producing manner to maximize happiness. My husband has a similar career that is a bit more consuming but that he loves. That means FIRE isn’t a consuming goal for me – but I still save as much as I can for the future. Situations change and FI is freedom and no one was ever sad to have the option to RE.

    • Maybe doing these surveys will be one of my post-retirement projects! ;-) And I think you guys are being smart — if you enjoy your work and at least in your case it’s not too consuming, then no need to leave those jobs — but it is ALWAYS smart to have a solid back-up plan. ;-)

  54. I loved my job and I was good at it but ultimately time with family and not having to be there won out! I completely agree with the premise that if you are good you end up getting promoted to management positions even when management is not your thing. Most professions have this path. Never made any sense to me.

    • Yeah, the promotion to management thing is a puzzle. Because of course every organization needs managers, and where else are they supposed to get them? You don’t want managers who don’t understand the stuff that the people under them do. But that does mean promoting people out of their positions of strength often times.

  55. I WAS seriously awesome at my job, for about the first five or six years of my career at my law firm. My performance reviews were over the top superlative, clients adored me, partners got in line to work with me, and younger associates and staff looked up to me. Words like “superstar” and “go-getter” routinely were thrown around about me. Yes, I was working long and crazy hours, but being a lawyer was still new and exciting, the work was mostly pretty interesting and glamorous, my husband and I didn’t have kids yet, and we lived downtown close to my office…so I didn’t mind the hard work much.

    Then, a few things happened. I took more and more of my vacation, and every time we traveled I was reminded what I was missing (sometimes you honestly don’t remember/realize how great it is to have time off until you do it). We bought a house a short commute away from my office, so I had a lot more incentive to work from home and not stay late at my desk. We went through some family health crises and realized life is short and that spending quality time with loved ones and friends is incredibly important. We got serious about starting a family. And I discovered Mr. Money Mustache and the FIRE concept and community. All of these things converged within a year of each other, and worked a significant shift in my attitude about work and my career. I started leaving the office promptly at 6 every day and working from home when I could. I carefully avoided working with problem partners and certain demanding clients I knew would be difficult to manage. I stopped stressing out about whether a partner or client would email me after hours expecting an immediate response, and checked email less neurotically at home. I stopped going to each and every event/conference/reception for “getting ahead” purposes. I still did excellent, top quality work, but learned to delegate more and became a better manager. And when we had our kid, I started working a reduced time schedule that gave me one day off a week (in theory at least). It’s been an awesome 2-3 years after making those changes, and now we’re about a year away from pulling the plug and starting our FIRE adventures.

    But I think if you asked my younger self, “Hey, would you like to retire early, like in your 40s or even 30s?” I would have said “Hell no! I love my work! What would I do with myself all day?? And anyway there’s no way I could save up enough money to be able to afford to do that!” I think people who are seriously awesome at what they do often are really absorbed in it, and it defines their identity to the exclusion of other things. But I think there are lots of people who meet the “seriously awesome” test but may not love what they’re doing more than anything else they could be doing with their time. That’s the bucket I fell into when I made those changes a couple years ago — yes, I rocked my job, but I realized I wouldn’t be showing up for work if I had a choice. I love a LOT of things – and being a lawyer is sometimes one of them, but more often I feel that I love being a mom, wife, sister, friend, citizen of my community and the world, athlete, creator, reader, traveler, writer, etc. The problem, I think, is that our society often doesn’t allow one to be “seriously awesome” at a job/career AND have time to fulfill other interests and desires in a meaningful way — at least the part of the legal profession I’ve known over the past 5-10 years.

    Thank you for a really thought provoking post! (And also congrats on being pretty damn awesome at your jobs – while also realizing there’s so much more to life.)

    • Sorry I somehow missed your comment on the first pass! :-/ I think you hit on something SUPER important, which is the societal expectation that we choose ONE thing to really focus on in life, especially if we expect to be seriously awesome at it. Sure, we can be defined by many things if we are okay being mediocre at them all, per society’s rules, but not if we want to achieve greatness. And I think many of us have had the thought process evolution that you did — we start out fired up about our careers, and we love feeling great at what we do, but along the line we realize that the trade-off is that we have to exclude more and more other things to live that greatness. And we realize that’s not what we want, that life is too short. If there was room for BOTH — to be great at our work AND be defined by other relationships, other activities, there might be more of an opportunity for more of us to stay in our careers in some capacity instead of feeling like it’s all or nothing one way or the other.

  56. Can you be awesome at your job and still hate it and want to retire early? Absolutely!

    Time, stress, constant demands, working extra hours, hiring, firing, turnover, working with remote teams. What if I’m super awesome at all those things but don’t want to do that?

    All I want is nothing to do…(Cold Beer and Remote Control by Indigo Girls)

    • I think you can be great at the skills of your job with no passion, but I think if you genuinely hate it, then you’re not pouring your full heart into it the way you would if you were SERIOUSLY AWESOME at it. And that’s not a bad thing! If anything, it means that you are more likely to have some healthy limits around work!

  57. Wait, I’m just realizing that Elephant Eater and I both independently jumped to Barry Sanders within minutes of each other. That’s strange, right?

    I’m not sure that Sanders could have lobbied harder for a trade. His quotes in an authorized book seemed to make it clear that it was about organizational failure:

    On the unmasking… I’m going to blow your cover ;-). Jenkies, you two are the caretakers of the amusement park! I knew it all along.

    I know you have some plans for your “second act”, but here’s a suggestion: Dos Equis commercials could use some gender neutrality. You have my vote for being “most interesting.”

    • We would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!

      I won’t argue with you anymore about Barry Sanders, because you clearly know far more than I do. And totally flattered by the Dos Equis note. ;-)

  58. What a great question! While I wouldn’t put myself in the pool of “I’m purely awesome at every aspect of my job”, I’d like to think I fit in with most FIRE folks in being good at what I do. But I’m certainly not passionate about it, and I think that’s what it really comes down to. I think the Steve Jobs and Malcolm Gladwells of the world have an innate passion for their line of work and regardless of if they are utterly awesome at every aspect of it, that passion is what keeps them going. I think if the passion isn’t there, that’s what drives us to retire early so we can really pursue what DOES make us jump out of bed each day :)

    • I totally suspect you’re right that most of us FIRE folks are very good at what we do! And I think the passion piece you mentioned is SO key. I’d posit, too, that we can’t be seriously awesome without that passion, because the “seriously” is taking it all to the nth degree. :-)

  59. Interesting post. I work in HR and everyone I talk with thinks they are an awsome employee. But in all seriousness, I am a good employee. I use all of my PTO days, but have called out sick 5 times in 20 years. I have made a steady climb up the corporate ladder, but I am not a hero. I am respected by my peers and the C-titles. In 20 years I have never had a negative review. I don’t have the type of pride to say I am awsome. If I did, my close work friends would quickly humble me. Anyway, I just want to reach (FI), so I can live a life on my own terms. There might be some work, but I love having the option to walk away from any situation that is not paletable .

    • Haha! Like everyone is an excellent driver. ;-) And it sounds like you have a great perspective on all of it, plus the right reasons to walk away. Congrats on having had a great career that you can proud to be walk away from!

  60. I think I’m good at what I do, but less and less excited about doing what it takes to stay good. There are always new drugs, new types of studies, new procedures, etc. and endless hours of continuing education and expensive exams are required. At some point, it would be nice to jump off the (non-compensated) treadmill, especially knowing that half of the new stuff will turn out to be harmful.

    • Gosh, what a bleak way to think about it! Imagine if all doctors said, “Well, we think this is the best current treatment, but there’s a 50/50 chance it’s actually bad for you.” :-/ I can totally see why you could reasonably run out of energy to stay current and would rather just get off the ride altogether!

  61. I think the majority of our visionaries and creators will be the ones who aren’t trapped in a “job” but rather working on passionate areas to them. Much like you probably have plans for in the future away from your societal cloaked typical job.

    I was awesome at my job and was always at the front of the pack I personally felt. I am walking away at the point I was excelling an making the most money I ever made but it didn’t feel right. That is the difference for all of us, we see life not work.

    You can always go back, you can always stay, you will always have the ability to decide what is best for you in the moment so rock whatever feels right.

    • This isn’t directly responding to your points, which are great ones, but I think we’re at an interesting moment in history, economically speaking, because the full-time job and traditional career are both in flux right now. Your point about the innovators not having “jobs” feels more true now than in the past. Steve Jobs still built a company, and so did Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc. But now as we shift toward the gig economy, I do wonder if more of those guys (and I hope lots more women!) will be able to innovate from outside the normal career boundaries.

  62. Oh I’m h*cking awesome at my job. My boss sings my praises to anyone who will listen, and even to those who aren’t listening, I have near complete autonomy because my judgment is unquestioned, and this came by proving myself repeatedly under seriously adverse conditions for years. I’m not perfect, and I dot need to be. One of the primary definitions of awesome at my job involves a willingness to make mistakes and fix them, a flexibility to try new things and willingness to fail because you’re trying new things. But then also the other definition is succeeding most of the time and I do that too.

    But because I’ve become so confident in how awesome I am at my professional traditional job, I also developed greater than average confidence in myself in general – grit in all parts of my life makes most things seem easier and that’s actually what pushes me to try for the harder goals of FIRE or anything like it. Staying here and making the rest of my life be about this job would be easy. Finding a new path that doesn’t involve a near round the clock investment of my time and attention to stay at the top of my field is a better challenge and a happier way to continue reinforcing to myself that I’m still viable as a learning and thinking person.

    • This is a totally different perspective, which I appreciate — I hadn’t thought of ER as a higher level challenge than being great at working, and therefore a more worthy goal than work greatness — and of course a happier goal!

  63. I am exceptionally good at my job. It’s a difficult thing to actually say that, but I have never gotten anything less than glowing feedback from any of my higher-ups. I was/am actually on track to become a partner before age 30, and the initial impetus for trying to build substantial savings was so that I could buy into the partnership in cash. However, as many have already mentioned, I came to realize that the work I would be doing as a partner would NOT be the things that I am good at or that I enjoy about my job. I COULD do them, and do them well, but I wouldn’t enjoy them. And if I had that much money at my disposal, why wouldn’t I use it to allow myself to do the things I truly do enjoy? So I’ve come to the conclusion that when I feel secure enough financially, I am going to negotiate with my bosses to go to part-time (likely for part of the year, I am an accountant so our work definitely has busy periods and slow periods, I would try to work a maximum of 7 months out of the year and would prefer 5). If they don’t agree, then I can retire early, and if they do, I get to keep doing what I’m good at AND have way more freedom. Win-win.

    I think that early retirement generally appeals to those of us who aren’t defined by our jobs. Yes, I like what I do and I’m good at it, but it is far from the only thing I enjoy or am passionate about. I also set very defined work-life boundaries (my work emails do not come through to my phone, I don’t check my work email at home, I work from 7:30 am – 3:30 pm so that I have time in the evenings to do other things I enjoy, and I don’t stay late unless there is a valid reason [i.e. I would do it to meet a filing deadline, I wouldn’t do it just to have people see me stay late]), which allows me to really develop and maintain an identity outside of what I do for a living. There are just so many other things I like to do and want to spend my time doing, which is a common refrain among FIRErs, I think.

    • That’s super insightful of you to look ahead and know that you wouldn’t love what’s required of you at the next level. I sincerely hope they let you go part-time once you reach your comfort number!

  64. What a great thought provoking article. Have been mulling over why I am still w*rking for quite sometime now and trying to clarify why I am stuck in OMY syndrome.

    After a few times of having portfolio gains greatly exceed our income from w*rk, it has become more and more difficult to put up with the banality of a j*b. I was great at what I did for my first career and I was 110% all-in employee. Can’t say I was the brightest bulb in the pack, but I could easily outperform my peers through smarts, creative thinking, and learning from others’ mistakes. I decided a career change might help reignite a passion for w*rk. Get a doctorate, go to w*rk with really smart folks in a university, it will be great!!! Only it is not. W*rking at a university is like a bad Star Trek alternate universe episode. You never know if you are dealing with the good Kirk or the bad Kirk. Surely cutting-edge research will be engaging??? Not really. Just another thing to check off for the tenure process. Plus, the peer review process for getting published rewards mediocrity.

    In reality, taking a 5 year “sabbatical” to pursue a terminal degree just proved that I didn’t need to w*rk any more. Our net worth doubled during that period even without a breadwinner, and I became accustomed to w*rking odd hours that did not really conform to the standard w*rk week during the final 3 years which focused on a dissertation. While I found the w*rk engaging, I discovered that what was considered an “intellectual contribution” worthy of an academic publication was generally underwhelming.

    Thankfully, and perhaps mercifully, the Spring semester is coming to a crashing end. A few weeks of respite may recharge my batteries. More likely, the summer break will just give me more time to contemplate what I have known for a while — it is time to move on.

    • Thanks! This is just a guess, but I could also see how you could feel pressure to work longer after having invested a lot more in your schooling, timewise, than most of us do. Financial samurai talks about working at least as long as you were in school, and I do think there is something about that number that feels powerful in terms of our obligation to ourselves and to those who supported our education. But if you are financially set, then you have all the power to decide what you really want. Good luck with your decision!

  65. If you look at the external markers of career progression and success, I was a superstar in my field. I also loved my job, and used to be the person who said that I would never retire. I am a visionary/creator/builder, and my job gave me the autonomy to design projects and programs, intellectual challenge, the opportunity to mentor others, and some flexibility around the hours of work (although with my drive to achieve, I always worked really long hours). As with any job, there were annoying aspects, politics, and stressful elements. But, on the whole, I felt passion for the work, and believed that I was contributing something worthwhile to society. . . . Until I reached the senior executive level, and ended up working crazy long hours on organizational goals that I mostly did not find meaningful. I burned out.

    Although I could have gone back to my former role, I have decided to retire. There are so many other things in life that I want to do and have been deferring. In retirement, I still will work independently on some projects for the fun of it (for free!). But my time allocation and focus will be completely under my control. I don’t need the salary, and those dollars can go to fund some other rising young superstar’s career.

    • Dr Sock

      I could have written your post. I am pulling the cord on my senior exec job in January 2018 ( new tax year) just before I turn 52. Good luck to you, I can’t wait to FIRE myself

    • That sounds just like us, except for the saying you never wanted to retire! ;-) It’s interesting how many of us share these tales of loving our work until we become senior executives, and then it loses much of its meaning. Be careful what you wish for, eh? (Given that most people aspire to reach those levels, and then when we reach them, they’re not what we expected.)

      • It seems like an entire thread of comments disappeared from your blog on this subject after my posts about the lesson I learned in college from Dr Tyree. Was there a flood of negativity as a result of those observations about work and play and the time value of money? You guys know my email address so if you would like to just communicate privately feel free to reach out. If for some reason my perspective hit a negative chord with your followers I don’t apologize for sharing my thoughts on FIRE and what has driven my approach for the past nearly three decades that allowed me to reach my goal is year.



      • Ah – the problem of the phone as interface to the interweb 😄

        I love what you are doing and the thoughts your followers share. Keep it up.

        Unscientific of course if done as a simple survey but I would be interested to know where the FIRE types fall on the Myers Briggs

        I am an ENTP

      • Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying. :-) And I’ve read somewhere that it’s a high percentage of INTJs — a lot of certainty lovers among us (the “Js”), and I’m ENTJ myself.

  66. I think you hit it precisely with your company and not you being the beneficiaries of your hard work. They will absolutely replace you when you leave and the company will be fine without you. If this was a passion of yours, I think it would feel different. But yes, the on-demand total life-domination of modern work is just not good for humans.

    I am not amazing at my business, but I still want to do it in “retirement.” It is a passion of mine and I will continue to get better with experience. I also won’t allow it to overwork me. I will be the beneficiary of my hard work, but I will also want a reasonable life. The job I do for pay right now is just drudgery. I would leave it in a heartbeat, if I could.

    • Yeah, it’s hard to know because it’s not an all-consuming passion of mine, though I do enjoy it! And I love how you’re thinking about continuing your passion work in retirement — working hard at it but not letting it overwork you. That sounds ideal. :-)

  67. Really enjoyed your post. I am able to retire right now at 55 yrs with 25 yrs service. I look for all kinds of reasons not to but am so anxious to get on with the best years of my life! I intend to post your link on my website if that’s ok.

    Thank u again!

  68. The answer to the question is ‘yes’ for some people depending on what is important to them. Some people like the power and money and don’t want to let it go. In my case, I wanted the freedom to do what I wanted. The hard part is leaving when you are making more money than you ever thought you would make. When you are making more each year than you made the first 15 years you worked, it’s tempting to stay. But if you really want the freedom to sleep in and do whatever sounds fun, you should pull the plug as soon as possible. The bottom line is when you can do it and live the way you want to live, then you should do it regardless of your age, how good you are at your job and what you are making.

    • I’d add to your answer the importance of living not just a more enjoyable life, but also a meaningful life. If you’re quitting to just do whatever is fun and not what’s aligned to a sense of purpose or meaning, you won’t necessarily be happier. But if you pull the plug to pursue things that give your life meaning, then great!