Lessons in Badassity from a Night in Houston

almondsThe great thing about this unusual lifestyle you and I lead is that it automatically reinforces and rebuilds itself from all directions. Although Mustachianism is built on the idea of embracing hardship, it becomes so automatic that it is soon the only way you could imagine living. Because of this amazing tendency, it is often easier to live on 25% of a professional income (and save the other 75%) than it is to try to scrape by on 90% and save 10.

Everything just falls into balance once you get the basic philosophy, and today I have brought a little Story about a recent experience, which is annotated with links to all the other articles that fill in the background of what is really happening. For the full experience, you can right-click each one and open it in a new tab, then go on to catch up after you have finished this story.

Not long ago, I found myself in the semitropical metropolis of Houston on a steaming summer afternoon. It was just a flight transfer on the way to Ecuador, but this time there was some trouble in store for those of us on the plane.

The jet was pointing straight down the runway and I was looking forward to a timely departure. But instead of the excellent blast of power followed by liftoff, we just kept idling. And idling. After quite some time, the pilot crackled on to the speakers to inform us all that we had to wait out some thunderstorms. And sure enough, I saw lightning bolts here and there, shooting from a line of clouds off in the distance. The rest of the sky was clear.

This tarmac delay dragged on for two hours. The sun went down. One engine was eventually powered down. My longish limbs were folded politely into a miniature middle seat way back in the cheap section of a United Airlines plane. Stretching whatever body parts I had room to move, I pondered the consequences of this delay. I sent an email to the people I was expecting to meet at the Quito airport to let them know I’d be late. Hopefully not too late.

I really don’t like sitting still for too long, and I’ve already been up for two little walkaround breaks and a wee bit of second breakfast since I started writing this article. But there in that seat, I found myself perfectly content as I had cracked open a can of Stoicism much earlier in the day and been mentally sipping on it ever since.

“This may not be my idea of perfect comfort and convenience”, I reminded myself, “But it is infinitely nicer than starving to death (or being eaten), and indeed it is just a tiny blip in a life of incredible good fortune.

Dude, you are on your way to South America to meet an amazing group of people, an experience you earned by occasionally typing some shit into the computerThis is what you do instead of working now. Can you remind me what you are complaining about as your healthy body sits in a padded chair awaiting the takeoff of this immense flying machine?”


Reminding yourself of your blessings is an essential part of any worthwhile life philosophy, and Stoicism is just one of my own personal favorites alongside Buddhism and some of their more modern incarnations.

The flight was eventually canceled and our jet sulked back to the gate to disgorge its unhappy cargo into the terminal building. “We’re sorry folks, but the flight will run tomorrow morning at 7:00 am.” All 200 passengers immediately formed a spectacularly long line at the service desk, perhaps to request flight rebooking or a credit towards overnight accommodation.

I watched the line for a short while and noticed that it took almost a minute to process each person. A quick back of the napkin calculation told me that this could be a 3-hour wait, and it was already 10:00 in the evening. Besides the fact that I don’t do lineups, I had been up since five that morning and knew that the chance for a night’s sleep was rapidly eroding.

Luckily, technology and psychology were there to save the day. Since I had a Republic Wireless smartphone with an unlimited data plan in my pocket (no good wi-fi in Houston), I was able to confirm booking on the next morning’s flight, making that immense lineup completely optional.  Then I used the phone to find the nearest hotel, a Mariott Courtyard just a few miles away. At $115 per night, it was a bit of an unplanned expense. But thanks to the Gift of Not Worrying about Money, I paid it with glee, thankful that I had the luxury of purchasing a bit more sleep when it was most needed. Besides, everything about this trip would be fully tax deductible, thanks to the Joy of Self Employment. I headed out to find some transportation.

Bypassing the gigantic lineup at the taxi stand, I fired up the Uber application on my phone and called for a driver (I have amassed a surplus of free ride credits so all my trips under $20 are free). Since modern transportation options aren’t allowed in the taxi pickup area, I had to sprint a fair distance through the evening heat with my heavy backpack and hop over a few hedges to get to a suitable meeting point. It was sweaty work, but I viewed it as an ideal caveman workout, Mark’s Daily Apple Style. Instead of cursing the humidity, I viewed it as a positive opportunity to work on heat tolerance, which is the world’s most efficient air conditioner.

The Uber driver and I had a great conversation during our short time together and exchanged life stories and 5-star ratings. Stepping at last into the air conditioned hotel lobby to pick up my room card, I suddenly remembered that I had not eaten since lunch and there would be no chance for a real meal until arrival in Ecuador the next afternoon.

Again the solution materialized: I always travel with a big Ziploc of raw almonds (since I know the world is not my personal buffet), and there were still a few small handfuls remaining. While this would not be enough food to sustain a man for the next 15 hours, the situation would be considered exceptionally easy when judged by the standards of fasting.

Of all the badass concepts I have come across in recent years, fasting is one of the best. You simply shut your mouth and relish the feeling of mild (or strong) hunger instead of complaining about it. Suddenly, you can travel the world and do almost anything without the standard rich-world obsession of planning your next meal. Because if you lift up your shirt and inspect the area just above the belt, you’ll see that the next several meals are already pre-installed. The physiological and mental benefits of this are profoundly good. And as it goes for eating, so it goes for gorging upon modern luxuries of any type.

By the next morning, this eerie but educational vortex of hardship over Houston had cleared, and we took off into the clear sky without a hitch. Life since then has continued to be abundant yet inexpensive. Not because of superlative effort or any sort of smarts, but rather just because prioritizing experience and challenge over convenience and consumption is a natural human behavior if you let it develop.

A wealthy lifestyle is really built on rich habits. And it doesn’t take much of this change in attitude, to completely change your life.


Further Reading: This article in Psychology Today shows how people who can take discomfort in stride tend to have much less anxious lives.

  • JB September 22, 2014, 12:40 pm

    Good thing Uber and Lyft were approved by city council. A taxi driver would have been cranky only going a couple of miles.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 22, 2014, 3:46 pm

      Yeah, I’m really hoping for a complete replacement of the taxi industry with these more futuristic and efficient (and less corrupt) options. Bikes are still the REAL way to get around a city, but if you’re stuck somewhere as a visitor with no bike/trailer and some heavy luggage, sharing a ride in a (usually hybrid) car with the owner that is getting to keep a good share of the revenue is better than a corporate owned Mercury Grand Marquis.

      • JB September 22, 2014, 3:55 pm

        when I first saw the title I thought I had missed a meet up in Houston. Our town is pretty big and taxi only seem to want to go from the airports. They can be very lazy in town for those that don’t want to drive and non-existent in the suburbs.

        • fiveoh September 23, 2014, 12:44 pm

          I thought the same thing, had me disappointed for a minute.

      • Kyle September 24, 2014, 8:16 pm

        Same here, I don’t want to miss a Houston meet up! I’ve been working on my heat tolerance by not turning on the air conditioning in my car or home during the summer and it’s been a great experience. But now the weather is turning nice and it will be perfect for biking to a local park for a Mustachian event.
        Thanks for the great post and next time you’re in Houston and need a place to stay, hit me up! I’ll save you 115.

  • Nicola September 22, 2014, 12:45 pm

    I love the fact that you turned such a (potentially) stressful scenario into a positive – many people would struggle to do that, especially on less sleep and feeling hungry. Though, if you think about the long term and not the immediate, many trials and stressful situations are not important. Sometimes uncomfortable, but nothing major.

    An excellent post – thanks for sharing!

    • Catherine Jean Rose September 23, 2014, 6:39 pm

      Soooo glad I read this post last night. Applied MMM’s thinking to a situation this very morning.

      Attended a work conference 35 miles away from home and across the busy, traffic laden city.

      Could not believe the douchebags slamming on their gas then slamming on their brakes as we all sat in bumper to bumper traffic. My usual response would be to piss and moan and flip random people off. Today, I hummed along to the radio enjoying the sunshine and thinking about the fact that this is ONE day. One day of a long, stressful round trip commute (hour each way).

      Tomorrow, I return to my 8 mile / 12 minute commute on the frontage road, and in a few short years, my zero mile commute. I looked around feeling sorry for the clowns in their cars. Just another day for them…

  • Lance September 22, 2014, 12:57 pm

    Everyone has crap in life, but not everyone has the same attitude about it. If you think you are going to somehow be the one exception to life’s “incidents” then congratulations you are the first person in history to not have any problems…oh and by the way, watch you back because your are going to smacked in the back of the head one day. It’s good to look back and see where you have come from. We make more progress than we realize but we are always looking ahead and feel like we are always short. Life is about failure; only those that pick themselves up and keep going understand how to overcome and find success. The others sit back and complain and never live life.

  • Robin September 22, 2014, 12:58 pm

    Events like this should remind us all that even if we aren’t yet retired with 600k in the bank (like some people we know, ahem) we are all still rich because we have the opportunity to travel on a plane to a far away country and eat food paid for with money whenever we please. We don’t have to scrounge for our food on a daily basis, and we can live our lives as we choose, fly where we want to go, and not worry about where our next meal is coming from. That’s why it’s hard for me to hear people complain about getting delayed on a tarmac, aggravating as it may seem at the time. First world problems! We are already rich. Thanks for the reminder, MMM.

  • interestingreadinglist September 22, 2014, 1:00 pm

    Great to see a number of elements of your philosophy come in useful in a specific situation.

    A great way to view how to handle difficult situations or hardship is by using it as a chance to show off everything you have learnt in life so far, in how you handle it. After the initial crappy feeling of ‘oh no this has happened’ you can feel a wave of satisfaction come over you as you work out the most badass way to deal with it.

  • MustacheNorway September 22, 2014, 1:07 pm

    I can finally relate to the “Gift of not worrying about money” , it’s an awesome superpower to learn.. :)
    Really nice post of how to stay positive in an otherwise stressful situation. Thanks.

  • Brad September 22, 2014, 1:07 pm

    It is remarkable how a person’s mindset can impact every situation they encounter; you always have the choice to look at things on the bright side or take the ‘life sucks’ approach and complain endlessly.

    For many years I defaulted to the negative ‘glass half empty’ mindset, which is ridiculous considering how fortunate I am in every possible way. Since becoming truly aware of the way thoughts can lead to a new mental reality, I’ve worked hard to approach things positively. Though I’m nowhere near perfect, this has increased my overall level of happiness considerably.

    This article is a great example of your entire philosophy and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

    • Kenneth September 22, 2014, 1:59 pm

      Thoughts do not just lead to a new mental reality, but a physical reality as well. My belief is that each of us generates our own world, every bit of it, including versions of you, you, you and me. And the plants and the animals and the buildings and the floor and the gravity. When you come to a fork in the road, a version of you goes left, and a version of you goes right, generating two distinct worlds, replete with slightly different versions of your family and friends.

      What evidence do I have of this? Well for one thing, since adopting MMM thoughts and beliefs, my bank account and financial situation and physical health have improved drastically! So yes, thoughts most definitely lead to a new physical reality!

      • Dave September 23, 2014, 7:23 am

        Kenneth, I have the same philosophy. It’s the only way I can explain how extraordinarily lucky I’ve been throughout my life.

        • lurker September 25, 2014, 5:03 pm

          and hot damn you used the word “replete” correctly…..wow!
          kudos dude and on the other shit as well.

    • The Roamer September 22, 2014, 5:11 pm

      Its so funny because I like to repeat to myself

      Mind over matter.

      Specially when it comes to pain or other discomfort,but not knowing kills me! Which I didn’t realize until recently.
      Like you said learning to respond differently takes practice and it definitely does create your reality.

      Apperantly I need to work on being OK with a discomfort and not knowing why it exists.

  • Mark Miller September 22, 2014, 1:09 pm

    You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can decide how you react to it. Will you give in to the whims of animal instinct and be a perpetually restless, hungry and unsatisfied victim? Or marvel in the glory of the free will that makes us human and choose to respond with strength and opportunism?

  • Stephen September 22, 2014, 1:13 pm

    Nice work, this reminded me of the one about the power of outrageous optimism. It is a great reminder that we are often in much better positions that we think. Even when it seems like everything is falling apart, taking the time reevaluate and look at all the positive stuff around us can help our temperament.

    One of the toughest parts for me is translating the extreme optimism to other members of my traveling party. I tend to be ok when things don’t go as expected but often feel pressure when I’m leading my friends or family. I great little article to share with people who are less than optimistic. Ok, and congrats on the Plutus Sat!

    • Carlos September 24, 2014, 9:54 am

      Stephen, I can relate when you mentioned about leading family/friends. It is exhausting to keep reminding others what they are missing because of the perspective they choose to see the world.

  • The Roamer September 22, 2014, 1:17 pm

    MMM great read and to echo something that is frequently said, the timing is impeccable.

    You see I’ve been riding high on my families recent accomplissments. Being debt free and realizing we are saving 60% of income and will likely retire in 10-14 years, all great things.

    But just the start of this month I was hit with a skin problem. Some have suggested its a bug problem. But 2 weeks in there has been no evidence but worry just exploded at the mention of a bug problem and stress has run high and sleep elusive.

    It suffice to say I was feeling pretty mad at the universe and mentioned the lack of functionality of a certain optimism gun. And the sad departure from not cleaning out my wallet (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/12/30/are-you-cleaning-out-your-own-wallet/)
    But this article again a great reminder to remember what is good. What is going right. I can at least be thankful that so far none of the children are having skin issue and in time this too will hopefully just be a disturbing but very small blip in the grand scheme of things.
    On the plus side sometimes discomfort spurs you into action. Clutter at home is finally being disposed of thanks to this issue.

  • EarlyRetirementGuy September 22, 2014, 1:18 pm

    Awesome adaptation! I always laugh when I see this sort of thing happen and people act like it’s the end of the world. No situation in a comfortable western country is so bad that you can’t solve it in the day or two. Just keep calm and process things as they happen.

    We recently had our flight from the USA to UK delayed by over 24 hours. Everyone was complaining at the airport whilst my partner and I were looking forward to the free stay in a local 5* hotel for a night with complimentary dinner. An extra day’s holiday in your beautiful country in a hotel much nicer than we would ever purchase ourselves. Thanks for the delay!

    • megak8 September 23, 2014, 1:42 pm

      No situation in a comfortable western country is so bad that you can’t solve it in the day or two? Surely, you jest… acts of terror and other man-made and natural disasters can take weeks, months, years, and tens, hundreds, thousands, or millions of dollars to recover from, if at all. Ask some property owners in LA or NJ or the Gulf of Mexico about it. One wonders how MMM would have spent his emergency fund if he was stranded in an expensive city while the US airspace was closed for a week in September 2001…try finding a place to stay when tens of millions of other air passengers are simultaneously delayed.

      • Mari September 23, 2014, 2:47 pm

        Ha. I remember being stuck on the other side of the country for 9-11. I also hail from the land of hurricanes, so yes, I know one could sit in dust and ashes crying “woe is me.” But isn’t it better to quickly figure out how to charter a bus back home when flying in an expensive tin can is out of the question? Isn’t it better to reconnect with family and crash with them for a spell until the water/ electricity comes back on line or the roads reopen or whatever. Yes, not everybody is resilient, but it is way better when YOU are.
        Oh and I was stuck in an expensive city, until I realized I could escape to the less expensive surroundings.

        • Christina September 24, 2014, 6:03 pm

          Reminds me of when my brother and his wife lived with us for 6 weeks after Katrina. It was really nice – we played so much poker:) We were so grateful his boss had advised him to evacuate when he was planning on staying in the designated safe place (military).

  • sara September 22, 2014, 1:30 pm

    One of the best things that happened to me in the past two years was the American Airlines computer outage that left me stuck over night in the Dallas Fort Worth airport. Yeah, it sucked, but I couldn’t help feeling incredibly grateful to know that it was a temporary situation, that I’d get home and be able to shower and sleep in my own bed the next day, that I had a home to go to, that I didn’t have to worry about being fired from my job because I wouldn’t be in the office the next morning (several people waiting in line with me were trying desperately to rebook because their employers would fire them if they didn’t show up on time the next morning), and that I could afford to buy another ticket if that’s what it ended up taking to get home.

    When I got home, I complained to American Airlines and got a $500 ticket voucher that I used for my next vacation.

    I do feel like actually sleeping in the airport is a little bit more badass that MMM’s story, though (I considered paying for a hotel room, but since the closest hotel with openings was a 45 minute drive from the hotel, it seemed like I’d get more sleep if I just stayed there) , which may be the only time every I will be able to say that about myself.

    • JB September 22, 2014, 1:51 pm

      It is sad someone would be fired for something that is out of their controls. I say, good, they would be able to find an employer with a heart.

      • Eldred September 24, 2014, 10:03 am

        If they can find another job at ALL…

        • Matth September 25, 2014, 11:02 am

          What is this, the complainypants comment section?

          • Eldred September 25, 2014, 1:01 pm

            Not at all. But some people WOULD have to worry about a delay(even if not their fault) costing them their job…

    • Abigail September 23, 2014, 8:21 pm

      The cool thing about MMM is that he can afford the hotel , but I’m also a HUGE fan of AirBnB, and actually used it in Houston before!

      As a somewhat frequent traveler with Delta, I received over $600 in vouchers last year, a couple of free flights, and drinks. While the free flights came from using my Delta American Express card, the rest of it was just due to being flexible. Since I have family and friends scattered around the country, I would love to spend a night in a city on the route I flew most often–from Jacksonville, FL to Vegas.

      I’m very type A and get obsessed with details and schedules, but when they are interrupted or I get stuck in a line, for some reason, I feel like I’ve gotten lucky. It forces me to pause and do things I really enjoy–like read, catch up with family and friends, and even catch up on work!

    • Scoop DeVille September 25, 2014, 11:47 am

      That happened to me in 2004. The airport graciously offered to “stay open” after one plane with electrical issues caused a domino of cancellations and Starbucks stayed open late. There was no sleep because people wheeled their carry-on bags over the tile floor all night – clu-clunk, clu-clunk, clu-clunk. No need for a cushy hotel bed when the kids had a cot and I had a chair!

  • Daniel Andersen September 22, 2014, 2:00 pm

    Loving the mention of almonds! My family has a habit of bringing a bag of almonds (and sometimes Craisins mixed in) whenever we travel. When you take the time to savor each one, it can do wonders for hunger, boredom, and the need to keep a low-calorie diet.

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods September 22, 2014, 2:05 pm

    Living this frugally truly does become automatic (what more would I buy, anyway?!). And, more importantly, I’ve learned to experience and enjoy every aspect of life in a more present, focused way. Instead of feeling frustrated that I have to, say, clean my own home (the horror!) I appreciate it and actually reap personal rewards and clarity of mind from the physical labor. For me, it boils down to contentedness and simplicity–whether sitting on a delayed plane or cleaning my house, I am happy and at peace. Thank you for this!

  • Will September 22, 2014, 2:19 pm

    The best part is that while on the plane you didn’t really speak about your fellow flyers. Their behavior must not have aligned with Mustachianism. Your silence said it all.

  • EL September 22, 2014, 2:29 pm

    That is a good way to turn a bad situation into a good one. If you can just accept that life is good and better than most people who live in 3rd world countries you would come to realize that we can all be a bit more positive. It just takes some learning to adapt the good habits and stop the complaints.

  • Troy September 22, 2014, 2:55 pm

    So you can wait in line on the tarmac for hours being perfectly content, but you don’t do lineups or wait in line for hours off the tarmac. So with no choice, you are cool. But with choice, no so cool. Interesting how freedom of choice determines your response.

    And you find comparing any type of inconvienece to an opposite and completely un-equal alternative as some type of self reassurance. Sure, waiting in line is better than being eaten. Having your car stolen is better than being eaten. Watching your home burn is better than starving to death or being eaten too. Pretty much anything is better than being eaten, so kudos on the univeral all inclusive self reassurance cliche that actually reassures nothing when properly deconstructed.

    You can work on heat tolerance, and apparently the supreme joys of hunger, but you didn’t work on the benefits of total sleep deprivation. Why? I thought the point was to embrace hardship. Why not go hungry, be hot, and not sleep. And imagine being eaten. And why not fire up some racktime right on the airport floor instead of a hotel. Work on your back hardship a little, And why use Uber. Why not walk or ride a bike to this hotel? Muscle over motor right.

    • Al September 24, 2014, 12:49 pm

      Troy has chosen the convenient (and well-worn) rhetorical position of criticizing without disclosing his own thoughts on the subject. Does Troy advocate being a masochist, and believe that MMM ain’t tough enough? (Maybe MMM should walk to Ecuador!) Or does Troy sympathize with all whining, any time, anywhere, by anybody? The world may never know.

      • Greg September 20, 2016, 9:31 pm

        Troy is making an interesting point, even if you don’t immediately get it. One of his points is his thoughts on the subject don’t actually matter.

        When does someone cross over from being bald to hairy? Why draw the line there? It’s an individual interpretation, and no one response is absolutely correct to the exclusion of all others.

        Some of us, on this particular night in Houston, may have chosen to keep the $115 and sleep like a native on rock-hard floor and thus be more happy (www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/05/22/weekend-edition-what-would-the-native-americans-do/).

        But on this particular night MMM didn’t. Doesn’t mean he’s either bald or hairy… just means he knows where he draws the line and is at peace with that. Do you?

  • insourcelife September 22, 2014, 2:55 pm

    It could’ve been even more badass if you got your room on Airbnb. I still catch myself once in a while starting to complain about first world problems and try to quickly nip it in the bud. My favorite bit on this subject is “everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy” by Louis CK. Google it if you haven’t seen the video as it fits perfectly.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 22, 2014, 3:48 pm

      Yeah, If I had more than a few hours and less need for sleep, I would have found some Houston-area Mustachians to go meet up with for the night and then just crashed on a couch.

      • Danny September 23, 2014, 9:23 am

        Aww man, you could have crashed on my couch! Then you could have laughed at my car-dependent lifestyle and oil industry job, finally shamed me into moving somewhere else! :P

        But seriously, there needs to be a Houston meetup. The city is great for Mustachianism – no state taxes, and some of the highest average salaries in the nation when you account for cost of living.

      • kyle September 24, 2014, 3:55 pm

        Hey MMM, it’s Kyle the photographer from FinCon this year. We briefly spoke about motorcycles. If you are ever in Atlanta, you have a place to crash! I’m a huge advocate of couch surfing and have hosted many folks :) Nice meeting you.

  • Frugal Bazooka September 22, 2014, 3:04 pm

    Interesting adventure MMM.

    I have a dilemma when I read and analyze these types of lessons within a narrative. On the one hand I agree with the sentiments whole heartedly and I appreciate that you share them like you do. I also appreciate that you are trying to teach people how to live in a way that will allow them to look at life from a more positive place. God knows there’s so much negative shit thrown at us in the media that your positive take is a welcome relief.
    But…I have to ask myself how much of life can or should we rationalize as a welcomed “hardship” and how much of the hardships should be avoided whenever possible? Are people purposefully taking on unnecessary hardships just to strengthen their stoic muscle?
    The “it’s ok when things go wrong” attitude is cool to a point, but I’m one of those people that needs to vent on a regular basis. It’s therapeutic and cathartic for me to pound the weights or do a 70 mile bike ride while picturing the bosses face on the bike trail or just spout off to my wife like a lawyer on a crack. Your story reminds me of the Seinfeld episode called “serenity now”. Kramer was having a bad day and holding in all his anger until the emotional dam bursts and he clobbers 20 of George’s new computers. All Kramer could say to charge by way of apology was….”I owe ya one buddy”.

    There’s nothing wrong with putting a positive spin on the crazy events of our life as you do, but I’m not sure it’s always healthy to chalk everything up to welcomed hardship either. Some real life hardships are too hard to spin and I can also learn some valuable lessons by recognizing what is a true hardship and what is me just being a whiny baby.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 23, 2014, 11:22 am

      I think my own answer to that would be: strategically avoid self-imposed pointless hardships (like betting everything on penny stocks or taking up wingsuit jumping), while seeking out those that are known to be beneficial (physical training, things that develop new skills). You’ll get plenty of flight delays and other things to practice your stoicism on either way.

      In general, the more chill you condition yourself to become, the less you’ll need to vent.

    • Rolo September 23, 2014, 2:52 pm

      There’s no “rationalising” about it: it’s all about your disposition–your prevailing tendency of your heart and mind–which you decide before a situation comes. You can a) get bent out of shape or b) not get bent out of shape. At least with the latter, you’ll be better able to handle whatever it is all calm, cool, and collected-like.

      I’m retired Air Force. I was happier living in a beat-up tent in a foreign country (where no less than half wanted me dead on sight) in a war zone than in peaceful Colorado in a brand new giant house filled with stuff. You can let circumstances dictate your mood or vice-versa.

      • Frugal Bazooka September 27, 2014, 10:38 am

        Here’s where I disagree. By definition, if you get a flat tire at 3am in the morning on a lonely country road across the street from the Texas Chainsaw Psychopath’s house – that would objectively be considered a mildy negative situation. I COULD adjust my disposition and say instead “I really needed a break from the monotony of driving- thank goodness I got a flat tire” and “that chainsaw guy can probably help me cut wood for a nice warm fire, what a great place to get a flat tire”, but that is clearly rationalizing. Instead the sooner I see the negative event for what it is, the sooner I can make drastic changes to improve the situation – like getting the GD spare tire on and getting back on the road.
        On the other hand, I DO think it’s appropriate to take those little everyday situations that tend to over-frustrate a overly stressed out modern human – like waiting in line at the DMV for 2 hours – and see it as an opportunity to work on learning a new language on Duolingo or catching up on reading old MMM blogs. My point is there’s nothing wrong with knowing when a situation is not negotiable in terms of being positive vs negative. Maybe I’m just not evolved enough – could be the red meat!

    • Sofie September 24, 2014, 12:06 am

      How you think about it matters. It’s not holding in anger; it’s not getting angry in the first place (or getting angry, recognizing that it’s a silly thing to be angry about, and letting it go).

      Weather was the first thing I changed my mind about. With good vs bad weather you’re unhappy just because of random chance. That’s stupid. Instead I started thinking of it as pleasant vs tough weather. Tough weather is just as fine as pleasant weather; you just need to dress properly, and feel like a badass for being out in it.

      • Frugal Bazooka September 24, 2014, 1:14 am

        I agree that changing the way you perceive many things in our world is important to being a more creative and successful person. I think where I draw the line is the idea of pretending something negative is actually a positive thing. There is an objective truth about the world around us and I’m ok with some of that truth being shitty. It actually motivates me even more to overcome the obstacles that life throws in my way. I don’t need to change the way I feel about 2 weeks of crappy overcast rain. I have already analyzed the fact that there is a positive side to it (helps produce more food without wasting reservoir water) and a negative side (I like the sun better).
        I also believe that I can better solve serious problems by fully accepting that they are real and serious and need more attention than the other much less serious problems that humans often get hung up on. I think what most people have a problem with is being able to tell which are real and which are the ones they blow out of proportion because of the media or how they were brought up. Imagine how boring art and music would be if every artist changed their perception about the problems of their life by randomly reconfiguring the negatives into positives… ; )

  • the zennonite September 22, 2014, 3:05 pm

    I love this post. Like Siddhartha you found that you can do pretty much what you want when you can say: “I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

  • Emily September 22, 2014, 3:26 pm

    I was stuck in Houston earlier this year myself when the last leg of my flight home from Bangkok was cancelled due to weather. I found myself in a three and an half hour line which contained some of the most stranded, but hilarious people I had ever met. The gentleman in front of me loaned me his fully charged brick to get some juice back in my smart phone, which I used to book a $70 nearby hotel room. When I got up to the counter to rebook my flight, the customer service rep – who was understandably exhausted – was so pleased she wouldn’t have to search for a room for me, she gave me several meal vouchers for my dinner and lunch the next day. I grabbed what I could to eat, taking my time to enjoy the free meal, so much so that when I went out to the hotel’s shuttle van, I found it completely full with riders. This was of no cause for concern for the driver who offered me the space on the floor between the passenger and driver’s seat so I wouldn’t have to wait for him to come back and get me. This could have all been so distressing, and maybe I was cool with it because it happened on my trip back from vacation, but I found myself just feeling blessed to have had the experience. The best part was getting to see how everyone else handled it, as we joked and inched along in the line, there were no attitudes or angry words, just people coping with life’s little stresses.

  • TheBreeze September 22, 2014, 3:27 pm

    I give you the very relevant speech by the late David Foster Wallace:


    • Al September 25, 2014, 2:49 pm

      Thanks for that Youtube post! The Louis C.K. post above is also spot on.

  • Mike September 22, 2014, 3:32 pm

    Refreshing. I was expecting the bitching to commence. A fantastic attitude MMM. It really is how one looks at life’s situations.

    As many know, Bill Gates donated $50MM to fight ebola. I’m sure in comments after an article about it, there are people bitching.

    Inspiring to see you walk the walk MMM. Thanks Bud.

  • RN September 22, 2014, 3:46 pm

    I have a Republic Wireless phone and plan, mostly because I read about this great way to save money on this blog. However, when trying to use Uber with the Republic Wireless phone, I was unable to receive text messages from Uber, thereby making it impossible to use the app. I later found out that this is because Republic service cannot process “Short Code” text messages which Uber apparently uses. Anyway, I found it interesting that you could use Uber with your Republic phone. Have you ever experienced issues with it? Thanks.

  • lurker September 22, 2014, 4:23 pm

    great post. Houston is my birthplace so I know well the humidity you were dashing through….all we bring to the day is our attitude and our energy….and you have the best of both…well played oh wise one….well played.
    oh and I had to laugh at the preinstalled meals above my belt….so true…so true

  • Holly September 22, 2014, 5:08 pm

    We talked to our taxi driver about Lyft and Uber when in New Orleans last weekend. At first, he sounded upset about the transition. He complained that the big taxi lobbies were shelling out big cash to keep them out of the city and he said that he found the whole situation quite stressful. But then he changed his tune and started talking about how much easier it might be for him to work for Uber or Lyft vs. the big taxi company. Apparently, driving a taxi is expensive due to insurance and compliance costs, and he could avoid much of it by using his taxi for rideshares. I believe that many taxi drivers will adopt this “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude once they realize what the benefits are.

    • Abigail September 23, 2014, 8:28 pm

      One of the more surreal experiences of my life was having a Washington, D.C. taxi driver enthusiastically direct me to Uber. I flagged him down on an awkward corner by the bus station and it was a short trip, plus he was new to the city. I think he was excited to have someone to pick clueless passengers up in a GPS-pinpointed site, or maybe he was hoping to make the switch himself!

      I have heard that cabbies have to be on call 24 hours a day for a shift, while Uber drivers have much more control.

      D.C. was the first time I used it, so we had fun tossing the word back and forth (with a bit of a language barrier). Uber? Uber? I was so confused till a friend explained it to me the next day!

      Best moment of my life in a long time was opening the app and finding out they’re in Beijing. Priceless for a new resident of this great city, where taxi drivers speak no English (understandably). You can put in the destination point now, too, more of the drivers speak English, and they’re even piloting a People’s Uber option here.

  • LeisureFreak Tommy September 22, 2014, 5:51 pm

    I have spent many nights like that but like you, having the “Gift of not worrying about money” makes it so much more tolerable. Living a frugal life and reaching FI makes me feel truly blessed. When you aren’t trapped with the masses in the commute traffic it is easier to enjoy the ride.

  • Lumbermom September 22, 2014, 6:12 pm

    What a wonderful story of Applied Badassity. I too have a badass in Houston story. But it is as different from MMM’s as it could be. It involves couchsurfing, a steak dinner, a rental car and a $79. plane fare from Buffalo to Houston. But the common thread of both experiences was that we both considered what was important to each of us and carried through with that. While MMM placed a high priority on a quick and comfortable place to sleep; I placed a much higher importance on eating.

    This, in my mind, is not an article about how one person uses Mustachism to thrive in less than ideal circumstances in Houston. It is so much more than that. It is about training oneself to think. And prioritize. Every day. It is learning to recognize that which is really important to oneself for oneself. And then being able to apply these lessons quickly when you are stuck in a strange city late on a very humid night. I think many people follow the crowd because it is too hard to think through from beginning to end, the risks and benefits of any other course of action. Following the herd provides the safe default that allows people the luxury of mental inactivity. I believe that like physical inactivity, mental inactivity has a cost. Both to the wallet and the brain.

  • debt debs September 22, 2014, 6:21 pm

    When I’m in situations like that I can’t control, I almost see it as an adventure. And if you think about an extreme, it could be so much worse. I’m sure that attitude has many health benefits as well.

  • Al September 22, 2014, 6:37 pm

    As Shakespeare wrote,

    “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

    I remember losing a day of a long awaited romantic weekend to Chicago due to a tornado in the area. As I grimly prepared to to go to a Moxies near an airport hotel in beautiful Mississauga, I slapped some sense into myself with the realization that I would not be prepared for real hardship if I couldn’t handle a change in plans.

  • Three Wolf Moon September 22, 2014, 7:18 pm

    Good tale of badassity MMM, I too carry a bag of homemade trail mix (mostly almonds) on trips. I guess your BAQ (badassity quotient) dropped down a bit on your return trip – the twitter comment I read about your flight being cancelled was oozing so much sarcasm I had to wipe it off my screen!

  • Joshua Sheats September 22, 2014, 7:31 pm

    I will applaud your stoic attitude choices but I must confess that perhaps you are growing a bit soft in your old age…I was hoping for a MMM self-filmed music video of “Money, Money, Money!” similar in scope to the guy who was stuck overnight in Las Vegas.

    I would have awarded bonus points to see a picture of you stretched out on the carpet behind the airport counter, blisfully enjoying the opportunity to sleep on concrete so you would properly appreciate your pillowy mountain of a bed at home.


    • JB September 22, 2014, 8:00 pm

      I ‘think” the airport might actually close and security would make some people leave. It is a big airport. IAH isn’t a 24 hour airport like Vegas.

  • Catherine Jean Rose September 22, 2014, 7:47 pm

    BRAVO. I must continue to reinforce this way of thinking and model this positive behavior for my kids. Good stuff.

    Couldn’t the Uber driver have picked you up as if he were your brother or dad or best friend at passenger pickup outside baggage claim? Who is really regulating that?

    • JB September 22, 2014, 7:59 pm

      The City is supposed to be regulating it, but it does seem silly since nobody really knows who is picking you up .

  • Adam September 22, 2014, 9:44 pm

    I find that I can handle one-time annoyances like what MMM faced with a dash of optimism and gratitude. However, if you have a long daily commute to work you’re living in that nightmare every. single. day. I can’t imagine what it would take for me to accept sitting in traffic every morning and afternoon when I could be doing something much more productive and enjoyable. Living closer to work and not being a car clown gives you more hours each day and gets you that much closer to FI by cutting transportation costs.

  • Paula September 22, 2014, 11:51 pm

    thank you for reminding me to hitch up my shirt and look at my waist next time I’m hungry. ‘

    I should be good for a couple of months.

  • Bill September 23, 2014, 5:58 am

    “Pre-installed” meals. Perhaps the best use of an adjective ever!

    • Kathy Abell September 25, 2014, 12:58 am

      re: “Because if you lift up your shirt and inspect the area just above the belt, you’ll see that the next several meals are already pre-installed.”

      The most hilarious sentence I’ve read for a long time!

  • Aldo September 23, 2014, 7:36 am

    Great stuff Mr. MM. I usually embrace everything that is a vacation/trip with gusto. Lines at the airport, slow or no Wi-Fi at the hotel, or long lines at the car rental place because I know that I’m on vacation and I’m not at work. However, I have to admit that your situation would’ve gotten me a little (very) upset. I thought I had patient person, but I see that you have me beat by a mile. Good for you.

    The only thing I would have to disagree with you is the fasting. I get so cranky when I don’t eat. Maybe is because I’ve never tried fasting by choice.

    • Miss Fit September 23, 2014, 12:56 pm

      I used to have that problem before I cut out sugar and dairy. I’m not as strict as I was for a while, and I’ve also mostly eliminated gluten, but I still don’t get mood swings dictated by food intake. Everybody’s bodies are different, so what works for one may not work for another, but it has done wonders for me!

  • Ann Stanley September 23, 2014, 7:50 am

    Ha Ha! LOVE this post! The other day I arranged to tutor a student at my house but forgot and got it into my head that it was to be at hers which is quite a way from mine. I had two hours to kill between the previous appointment and hers. I spent this in a cafe, feeling really tired, wishing I were at home so that I could sleep, and spending eighteen dollars on tea, fruit salad and cake to justify taking up the seat. When I finally arrived at the student’s house and pressed the intercom I remembered that the arrangement was to meet at my house a half hour drive away. I contacted the father, assured him that I would be there in half an hour and hit the freeway, berating myself for the money I’d wasted and the sleep I could have had. But then I got some perspective, based on my philosophy that ‘in life everything is always fine’ and told myself that I was driving along a freeway on a sunny afternoon, in the middle of a self-employed life to work for one hour on a job that I enjoy. I didn’t have the mountain of correction I would have had if I was still a high school teacher and I was facing a completely empty Monday morning the next day rather than one full of demands and compromises. Nothing to complain about.

  • Even Steven September 23, 2014, 9:12 am

    I have been in that line before and it’s an unwelcoming stressful wait. My immediate thought on your situation was thank goodness he has f*** you money to avoid this mess. Certainly running a successful blog has it’s perks with Uber and Republic Wireless, but more importantly it’s a message to cut your expenses to be “living right”.

    Although I always kind of joke that MMM doesn’t take taxis, someone gives them there bike and cart, so he can carry them and the whole family of 8 around, did I mention it’s 110 degrees, raining, and it’s uphill both ways.

  • Mathieu September 23, 2014, 10:24 am

    Hey – don’t know if anyone brought this up, and not to complain of course, but is it just me or the only way to get to the latest blog post is to follow the “read all the posts from the beginning of time” link? The classic blog view stops at the “how to carry major appliances on a bike” post from July.

    I really admire you actually walking off airport to get to your ride. These places are so big and their layouts make no sense to me. I don’t have good orientation at all. That’s another MMM like skill I should be developing.

    • mary w September 23, 2014, 11:14 am

      From the basic blog view try hitting “refresh”.

      • Mathieu September 24, 2014, 6:29 am

        OMG this is embarassing. I must have assumed I’d done it already!

  • Marc September 23, 2014, 11:32 am

    Great Post!

    now we only need free and fast wifi at all airports. If i would have done all of this with my german mobile i would have to pay another 50 $ or even more in data roaming :-(
    I hope you got some miles from UA for this one!

    Keep the posts coming!!

  • Jengod September 23, 2014, 12:03 pm

    At our house we call this whole approach “radical contentment.” Thanks for reminding us about the power of fasting and that if you think you need dietary fat you can always let you body eat the stores you have on hand. Another reminder how plentifully we live here in the US is a week or two of the pantry diet–just use up foods you have on hand instead of buying new, which mostly serves to fill our desire for novelty and amusement. Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. MM.

  • Frugal Paragon September 23, 2014, 12:03 pm

    Awesome story! I was really influenced by the book Complaint-Free World. It’s not actually that well-written a book, but I love the premise: If we just all stopped bitching about stuff, we would all be happier. Complaining pretty much ever helps anyone do anything.

  • Edward September 23, 2014, 12:07 pm

    I’ve been stranded at a few airports in the past few years. Instead of griping I always think, “Great–an unplanned adventure!! I could be stuck in London, England over Christmas but there’s nothing I can personally do to stop the rain and get the planes up in the sky, so let the exploring begin. There has to be a cozy pub near this unplanned hotel somewhere.” And there was–with a roaring fire and one of the best fish and chips meals of my life with a few pints of local brew to wash it down. I got to the airport early the next morning and they got me all the way home to North Bay, Ontario, Canada by noon on the 24th. A massive distance displaying our amazing human technological capabilities. My ancestors would have had to taken a boat for months and then a several day journey by horsedrawn buggy up to the wilderness. …So, what would worrying, anxiety, anger have accomplished in this scenario? Nothing at all! It was a insanely, luxurious sidetrip of pampering and food.

  • RapmasterD September 23, 2014, 12:12 pm

    a) Great reframing. Well done!

    b) Another thought. You really don’t want to take off into severe thunderstorms…from Houston of all places. Being blown to bits because your amazing jet hits wind shear is probably not one of the greater ways to go.

    c) I’m going 90 days booze free. Does that count as a blast o’ stoicism?

  • Melissa September 23, 2014, 1:09 pm

    Love, love, L O V E this. I may print it out and hang it up somewhere.

  • Amy K September 23, 2014, 1:11 pm

    Reminds me of that time we were vacationing in Florida and (Horrors!) had to spend an extra 3 days at the hotel because Boston was snowed in. An extra 3 days of sun in Florida while the snow melted back home? Yes please!

    Or that time we missed our connection in Detroit and got re-booked to the next morning. We spent the night at my mother-in-law’s, cancelled the re-book and instead rented a car, spent the next day with my father-in-law who was diagnosed the week before with cancer, and drove the rest of the way to our destination. A shorter time at our destination but a needed stop at an emotionally tender point.

  • megak8 September 23, 2014, 1:26 pm

    Hmm, this post almost exactly describes the same thing that I and thousands of other US travelers experienced on 6/11/14, when major storms delayed or cancelled hundreds of flights to the eastern US. So I don’t think any thing that MMM did here was bad ass. In many ways, my experience was better – extra hotel points earned, paid for by my employer and customers, 2 hearty meals at an airport hotel, time to catch up on some personal business, and the best part of all – automatic rebooking without one nanasecord of effort on my part. 2 months later, I had a huge sense of gratitude that I was in STL in June, not August – it was just 2 months later when STL’s proximity to Ferguson became apparent.
    In the future, you can be better armed and equipped to handle these kinds of light delays with flyersrights.org.

    • Señor Stubble September 23, 2014, 2:47 pm

      Since MMM was very tired, renting a hotel, taking a cab and eating almonds probably felt like it was just as bad-ass as he usually is. Everything is relative. I do admire that he can pass the time pleasantly by typing some shit about a normal day doing normal things, and make money off it to boot.

  • Kelly September 23, 2014, 2:26 pm

    Wonderful example of gratitude and the reality of our situations in this country. Though you reference Buddhism, there is also a Biblical verse that comes to mind “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength”- Philippians 4:11-12

    I’m not trying to Tim Tebow MMM forums (not that there’s anything with it), so whether your idea of “Him” is the same as mine, I do not know, nor need to know. I simply appreciate the reminder that we are blessed in this country and oftentimes get frustrated by something as small as a slow internet connection or long line in a Starbucks. It also goes to show this concept is ancient and we’ve forgotten it too easily in our microwave society of “now, now, now!”

    Thanks for the inspiration (and tips when it comes to a layover in Houston- pack almonds, running shoes, and wear light clothing).

  • K September 23, 2014, 3:23 pm


    I am going to use this next time I’m in this kind of a jamb (and I have been before, and I was not a happy camper). Thanks for being optimist and real and encouraging the grumps like me to see the better side of things!!!


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