Notes on Doing Something Ridiculously Difficult

snake4saleIt has been a quiet year here at Mr. Money Mustache, and for good reason. It seems like a lifetime since my life has been normal. Even as I write this, I’m thousands of miles from home in Northern British Columbia, closer to the Arctic Circle than I am to the sunny, peaceful bike and beertopia of Longmont, Colorado.

Right now, I’m accompanying my brother Wax Mannequin on one of his wild, legendary and loosely organized cross-country tours. We’ve talked about this idea for many years, but it’s the first time my life was relaxed and open enough to allow it. I’m free from work responsibilities now, with no more money worries, and a son who has grown nicely independent enough to stay busy and have fun while I’m away.

Even in these ideal conditions, it is a harsh experience compared to the pampered and organized life I’ve built for myself back home.

Wax Mannequin gets the party started in Prince George, BC.

Wax Mannequin gets the party started in Prince George, BC.

We’re traveling in a 2-door Civic which is packed with enough gear to fill out a minivan. We wake up each morning with no idea where the next meal or the next bed will be found. The distances between many of these forlorn-looking mining and forestry towns represent more driving than I usually do in a year. Everything here is more expensive and less fancy. Winter comes early, buries you deep, freezes you solid, and leaves late. Toilets are scary, sinks don’t work, countertops are messy, and there’s usually no way to make yourself a good salad.

My new studio building - peaceful space to create at last.

My new studio building project – peaceful space to create at last.

But those are just this week’s hardships. For the preceding four months, I’ve been drawn with zombie-like dedication to my back yard, where I’ve been building a studio-like structure which overlooks our property’s back alley and the park beyond. This is a long-awaited project that we sketched out before even buying the house, because the place was really missing a peaceful creative space for writing, the secret Etsy shop, music, working on bikes, and weight training. “The Studio” has been a labor of love, featuring the first time I have dug and poured my own concrete foundation and slab (with embedded radiant heating!), before going on to do the rest of it. All told, it was a couple hundred solid hours of outdoor physical labor in the hot sun that will get its own article. But for now, suffice it to say it was another blast of deliberate difficulty that kept me away from writing to you for longer than I’d like.

However the final and largest piece of hardship is one that began in January and only finished last week. Over eight full months of low-level background stress, interspersed with periods of genuine inspiration, mornings of grinding but productive computer work, and weeks of rehearsal ranging from casual to awkward and arduous. It all culminated in a keynote talk I gave on a Saturday night at the 2016 “World Domination Summit“, a feisty weekend conference of entrepreneurs and creative types in Portland, Oregon.

World Domination Summit

Typical street scene between sessions at the WDS

Public speaking is a weird animal. It reliably pops up as one of our biggest collective fears. But people do it all the time, and it’s still a big part of how we share ideas. Preachers and politicians, CEOs and activists, and more recently the popular TED and TEDx conferences have kept the art alive. For my own part, I’ve always enjoyed casually talking to (or preferably with) a group of people, but have never been badass enough to do the hard work required to produce one of the theatrical, organized productions that real speakers deliver. Reading the “wait but why” post on preparing a TED talk served to reinforce my hesitance.

Yet somehow, despite all this wise restraint I ended up saying “Yes” to exactly such a talk. A flattering invitation came from WDS founder Chris Guillebeau to speak at his cult-like summit. This is an event that generates rave reviews, inspiring videos, creative and bizarre activities, and sells out its thousands of $500+ tickets almost instantly every year. Although unpaid, the speaker gig came recommended by several trusted friends including JD Roth, who helped create the conference in its earlier years and spoke there in 2012. Although I tried my best to exercise the Power of No, some weird force inside overrode the instinct and said to me, “Come on, Mustache! Man Up for once. Are you going to say no to EVERYTHING just because it’s hard and time-consuming?”

Almost immediately, that resulting “Yes” started to haunt me. I’d lie awake with self-doubt at night, or wake up early with a desire to write an article for you, but a self-imposed obligation to work on Powerpoint slides instead. It was the most annoying kind of worry, because it was pointless: I knew I could do a good job, knew I’d enjoy giving the talk, and knew I had plenty of time. But because the deadline was long, the planning period was very long too. What had I done to my retirement?

Towards the end of that eight months, I wrote to a new friend who I learned had given a very powerful, inspiring, serious talk about surviving cancer and made it look pretty easy (the talk, not the survival).

“Let’s see what Amit says about his experience. Maybe I’m overthinking all this and should just relax and consider it a casual affair.”

Some excerpts from his response:

 I bought and read books and blog posts on public speaking, I took notes and drew themes from what I read. I watched two dozen TED talks, taking notes meticulously — minute by minute — on what I noticed the speakers did well or didn’t do well. I looked for techniques in their delivery, their speech and their body language, how they crafted their stories. I asked friends for suggestions, and attended a public speaking seminar in NYC
I rented a cheap AirBnB in the middle of nowhere (i was nomadic at the time) and spent a couple weeks by myself, storyboarding different versions of the talk every day with index cards, rearranging things, saying them out loud, timing them
Every day for two weeks, I raised my voice more than felt comfortable, practiced body language and gestures that felt exaggerated to me, and gave this talk 2-3 times in front of the camera, until I was wet with sweat. Each day, I’d review the videos, critique sections minute by minute, time each snippet or segment, and edit.  I had particularly connected with one of the instructors in the course I took in NYC, so I met with her twice so she could watch me give it and give me feedback.


So I got a bit more serious because the talk was only a month away. The slides and the script were done, so I read the whole talk into a voice recorder app on my phone, then started listening to that recording at least once every day. At night before bed. On buses and planes. While going for my early morning walks or late night adventure strolls around town. I refined awkward parts and re-recorded it six times, and gradually learned the whole 24-minute stretch like one giant set of Young MC lyrics*. Then I busted out the camera and started recording myself presenting it to the lovely, empty new studio. Refined away a few of my worst habits and kept practicing and kept worrying.

On August 10th, I finally headed out to Portland for the summit, which was as sparkly and fun as everyone says it is. I met hundreds of people, did an awkward technical rehearsal, worried a bit more, practiced a bit more, felt really confident at last, then finally showed up on the stage to do the real thing.

They blow up your face on a screen in front of 1000 people for maximum stress.

They blow up your face on a screen in front of 1000 people, and record everything**, for maximum stress.

It went incredibly well, and every bit of the hard work paid off. Those 24 minutes were a blazing laser of energy, laughter from the group of one thousand people, happiness and relief that I was really getting this shit done, and it was really going well. As I walked off the stage, I felt a glowing, lobotimized feeling that persists to this day. The part of my brain that was devoted to worrying and planning that talk just burned up like gunpowder and fell away, leaving just a relaxed quiet space.

Update: You can now watch this talk right from the convenience of my youtube channel!: https://youtu.be/8-Li_sFNc4Q

So all the hardships of the summer are just about done. Although I am writing this in the shade of an old camp trailer, sitting on a piece of plywood in the meadow of BC’s Music on the Mountain festival, I’ll be home in a week and back to real life. The anticipation of this return, to my loved ones but also to a peaceful fluffy bed, the clean countertops and hot showers and plentiful salads, is a rich experience.

Yet if I had stayed home all year and tried none of these things, the experience would have been flat and unmemorable. The year would have whizzed by with plenty of comfort and peace, but nothing to broaden my experience of what it means to be alive. I would have missed out on meeting hundreds of neat humans, absorbing half a lifetime’s worth of incredible live music and having my own “big public performance” bucket list item ticked off with a solid black checkmark.

I learned some worthwhile stuff about myself, too. Although it is reassuring to know I can produce a reasonably entertaining talk if I force myself to do it, I also found out that the time sacrifice for me greatly outweighs the reward. And I really, really dislike doing the same thing over and over again. Probably for the same reason I like to hear continuously changing music (even one song repeat in a month is too much), I really dislike repetitive practice exercises. So no more stage talks will be showing up on my calendar for now.

Although the people of Canada’s Western towns are friendly and speak fondly of their lives, I feel happier than ever with my home base in Colorado, and life is richer with that knowledge.

And as for the hard manual labor out in the hot sun – I know that I’ll be keeping that kind of difficulty in my life, forever.


Although I wrote this from the road, I’m home now and it is an amazing experience viewed with new eyes. Our boy is back in full-time school and the days are happy and productive. Life is grand again. 

* As a young lad, Young MC’s 1988 classic Stone Cold Rhymin’ was one of the first CDs I ever bought, with money earned from delivering newspapers. I played that thing so many times that every last lyric stuck in my head, and they apparently never left. I wonder if this silly presentation on financial freedom through badassity will get stuck in that same permanent file. 

Cold like a blizzard / on the mic I am a wizard with the funky fresh rhymes comin’ out of my gizzard / never sneezin’ never coughin’ I rock the mic often / hard as a rock and no sign I’m gonna soften… Ahh,  good clean fun for a middle school white boy.

** All of the talks get recorded, but released only on an unpredictable basis through Chris Guillebeau’s Vimeo feed. If you know him, put in a request to have my talk thrown up there an it might get done faster :-)

  • JC August 31, 2016, 11:55 am

    That’s exactly what FIRE is about for me — having the freedom to pursue something fulfilling, without being forced to commit to doing the same thing over and over again for years at a time. If I decide to “earn to give” for a couple of years after I am FI, as I plan, doing it with that freedom to walk away will even make work a different experience. If I quit and go volunteer abroad, I will not have locked myself into a major life decision that could end up being a mistake without a lifeline. And heck, I don’t have any interest in public speaking, but if I ever achieve MMM levels of readership and interest in what I have to say, I’d be remiss not to at least give it a shot! OK now I am really dreaming.

    Thanks MMM for another interesting post.

    • Dividend Growth Investor September 1, 2016, 9:19 am

      Yep, I agree. Early Retirement is all about growing as a person, trying different things, and learning a ton in the process. If MMM was still writing code in his cube, chances are low that he would have been able to do the trip he described or even lower that he would have done the public speaking at WDS.

      When I took a public speaking course in college, I was told that people in general have a higher fear of public speaking than of death. Either way, I am glad that putting in the hard work of preparing for the talk paid off.

      On a side note, is it possible to watch this speech anywhere? I browsed through the WDS site, but didn’t really find info on how to do that.

      • Jim Wang September 1, 2016, 12:51 pm

        Just remember, that level of freedom can be a little scary. You grew up living “on a track” – elementary school, then middle school, then high school, then (optionally) college, and then eventually you start working. You rise in the ranks, get more responsibility, until you retire.

        Then instead of a railroad track through the prairie, it’s just the prairie. And the prairie, with its wide open expanses and freedom to do *anything*… that can be very scary.

        Just be ready for it. :)

        • Hal Wald September 1, 2016, 11:16 pm

          Very insightful. I’m so entrenched in the “track” that I didn’t even think about wide open prairie. The track can be comforting, but also limiting to personal growth.

          • lurker September 2, 2016, 8:01 am

            i am so ready for my paint pony and a herd of bison to chase!!!!!!!!

      • Dividend Family Guy September 5, 2016, 8:53 pm

        I am still in my cube writing code :-( Someday I will join the ranks, someday!

    • PoF September 1, 2016, 8:00 pm

      Earning to give after reaching Financial Independence is a laudable goal, and a great use of time if you’re not dying to walk away the day you can call yourself FI.

      I’m starting the second of several “one more years” and a big reason is to build up a sizable donor advised fund before hanging up the stethoscope for the last time.

      MMM, I look forward to learning the nitty gritty details on the build of your studio / office / gym / craft structure. I hope you find the time to write to us a little more frequently now that your days as a roadie and world dominator are behind you. Well, you’ll probably never stop dominating the world.


  • The Wealthy Accountant August 31, 2016, 12:01 pm

    What an awesome story. Thank you for sharing. I kindof followed your Twitter post on your adventure north. Anytime you guys need a place to lay your head in NE Wisconsin, you know who to call. I am soft so the comfort level is pretty high too.

  • Mr Crazy Kicks August 31, 2016, 12:01 pm

    Alright, doing a tour on the road with the band! Now that I am done working we finally did a road trip through Canada up to Nova Scotia, I never realized it was more expensive than the US – especially for beer!
    That’s a fancy looking studio, I am looking forward to your article. Especially on how you did the foundation and ran the utilities for it.

    • NESailor September 1, 2016, 9:22 am

      Mega interested in the studio too. I’m daydreaming about something similar as part of my ER plan as well! It’d be a multipurpose “tiny home” to house my consulting practice, my mother during her visits, and perhaps a space to be creative from time to time.

      Interested in the nitty gritty about radiant heat, energy source etc.

    • Viren September 1, 2016, 1:45 pm

      Have you heard of this guy called Rocket Roberts? He has a wonderfully nostalgic website straight out of the 90s and wrote about building a backyard observatory for his nice telescope, I absolutely love it: http://rocketroberts.com/astro/observatory.htm

  • Joe August 31, 2016, 12:03 pm

    Happy you are back. I go through withdrawal without new articles. So much so that I read the older ones repeatedly!

    • Jmac September 1, 2016, 10:42 am

      This is true for me as well, Joe! I’m always hoping a new MMM article will pop up and end up re-reading older posts. I’m actually grateful for it, though – I end up enjoying re-absorbing the information.

  • The Green Swan August 31, 2016, 12:08 pm

    Congrats on the busy and productive summer! You should feel very proud of the successful publicly speaking engagement, it sounds daunting. I’m preparing for a best man speech this weekend and that is stressful enough! Similar to you, I’ve been voice recording myself with my phone, don’t think I’ll be pulling out a video recorder though. Wish me luck!

  • Juan August 31, 2016, 12:13 pm

    I like the introspective aspects of this post, lots of good stuff to think about. The studio looks great! Look forward to reading more about it.

  • The MAD Consultant August 31, 2016, 12:16 pm

    I think I’d have the same reaction to Amit’s preparation! Just reinforces the notion that practice makes perfect. Sometimes even just a little practice can make a big difference. Congrats on executing an awesome presentation.

  • KMB August 31, 2016, 12:19 pm

    So they recorded your talk, but you’re not going to let us watch it?

    • Fit Saver August 31, 2016, 12:25 pm

      I was wondering the same thing. I’ve searched youtube & google and can’t find the speech anywhere. Please post it MMM, I’m sure it’s awesome!

      • Nicster August 31, 2016, 12:54 pm

        You can find the “slide deck and un-edited audio recording” on JD Roth’s website.


        • Mr. Money Mustache August 31, 2016, 1:28 pm

          No, that’s a different thing entirely. I joined JD on stage for a casual “workshop” thingy on the Thursday of that summit, but it was a relaxing almost-no-preparation talk with only 1/4 of the audience size.

          That was lots of fun too, and people allegedly thought it was OK.. meaning it was a MUCH higher reward-to-work ratio.

          The real talk (that you see a shot from in this article) might show up on Chris G.’s Vimeo feed in a few months. But it’ll be boring for anyone who reads this blog – I wrote it as an intro to Mustachianism for what I figured would be mostly new people.

          • Nicole August 31, 2016, 4:38 pm

            Oops, sorry about that. Thanks for the clarification!

          • Apryl September 1, 2016, 3:07 pm

            I was there in the audience at WDS and can attest to everyone that you were fantastic! It was also great to meet you the night before and brainstorm ways to get a whole happy hour going during your talk… :P

            Great job and keep doing what you’re doing!

          • steve poling September 2, 2016, 6:19 am

            With practice and familiarity come productivity. Your ridiculously difficult boulder is my easily tossed pebble and vice versa.

            Reading of your talk prep I got the impression you were over-preparing and doomed to give a talk that came off “canned.” I hope you take future opportunities to give more impromptu talks. And that you won’t think the game isn’t worth the candle. You could install a new kitchen sink faster and with less angst than I did this summer.

            Locally, we have a thing called BarCampGR where I’ve given well-received talks (to smaller audiences). In one sense, I prepare for an hour prior to giving the talk. In another sense, I prepare for a year prior. After spending a year engaged in a particular passion it’s a simple hour to reduce it to 5+/-2 points and a catchy title for each point.

            This comes from practice. I was a miserable presenter in grad school, but I got better with practice. I got that practice from volunteering to teach Sunday School. And then a friend dragged me to Toastmasters. It may feel like you’ve been sentenced to a chain gang at first, but you’ll find that breaking rocks gets easier with conditioning.

  • Cody A. Ray August 31, 2016, 12:22 pm

    Sounds like you had a fabulous time. You sure you don’t want be on the celebrity speaker tour? I hear the pay can be pretty sweet, and I enjoy the thought of you going into companies to tell the employees how to stop working there. ;)

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 31, 2016, 1:31 pm

      Good point Cody, that’s one thing I should have mentioned in this post – getting a talk ready is a lot of work, but once you have it, it’s easy to do the same one all over the place, and it keeps getting better every time you do it.

      Meanwhile, there is a shortage of speakers who have interesting/useful stuff to say for, say, a large company retreat or some other supposed-to-be-inspirational event. As a result, you can get paid thousands of dollars (even five figures) for a talk if you’re somewhat well known.

      If I were back in my 20s and trying to make more money, the speaking circuit would be a good way to do it.

      • Fiscally Free August 31, 2016, 1:52 pm

        I’m not surprised by this.
        I was once at an event that included a talk by a motivational speaker and all he did was talk about how he achieved his goal of becoming a motivational speaker. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

      • casserole55 September 1, 2016, 6:49 am

        Before I retired (early thanks to MMM), I worked in public television, and I could picture you having your own public television pledge drive special. Once your book is done, that could be a really viable thing to do. That’s because you need something for the PBS stations to give as a thank you gift to people who call in to support them. 1000’s of people tune in for Suze Orman. The public television audience skews a bit old for your message, but let me know if you ever think this is something you’d like to pursue.

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher August 31, 2016, 12:22 pm

    Man, you’re crushing it, MMM!

    Mr. Picky Pincher and I had recently fallen into a bit of a rut. We just stayed at home every night and watched TV, which was not good!

    So on a whim I tried out a boot camp class for a month. It wasn’t as terrifying as you giving your speech, but it was pretty scary for me! It turned out to be fun and really useful, and I’m glad I took the plunge and tried something new.

    Thanks for showing that life definitely doesn’t stop during retirement. I’ve been trying to figure out how we’ll spend our early retirement, and it’s awesome to see you living it up! :)

  • Steve Divicent August 31, 2016, 12:24 pm

    Ahh the PG! There are many great places going through B.C. Canada is super expensive and we are taxed through the roof.
    Vancouver Island is a blast if you love the Ocean.

    Congratulations on your Public speaking gig. Scary business. Hardships and new adventures are what make lasting memories.

  • Kyle August 31, 2016, 12:28 pm

    All the things you could never realistically do if you were still in the nine to five grind. I checked my early retirement progress this morning and I passed my 2016 goal already, things are going a bit faster than I expected. Someday soon I’ll look back on this grind as a faded memory, hopefully experiencing a wide variety of life too.

  • TheRetirementManifesto August 31, 2016, 12:29 pm

    Badassity, defined. Take a challenge, crush it, and revel in the glow. Inspiring story, well written (as always), looking forward to the words that will flow from that awesome, hand built studio in the future!!

  • Greg Corning August 31, 2016, 12:43 pm

    Contrary to what you wrote toward the end of this essay, I do not believe that if you had stayed home your year would have been flat and unmemorable. I think you are the type of person to grow in almost any situation.

  • Linda August 31, 2016, 12:47 pm

    Holy, I was in a cold sweat just reading this and imagining the anticipation and preparation for public speaking on such a large stage. It is definitely terrifying to me. (I probably chose the wrong career in, er, communications.) I’m sure the prep could feel gut-wrenching, especially at first. There’s probably a voice in your head that says just wing it, you’ll be better fresh, avoid the awkwardness! But its a great reminder that shows how hard work is the only way to achieve real things. Embracing the uncomfortable awkwardness, battling the self doubt, and then actually pushing yourself past it… It’s a huge accomplishment.

  • The Long Haul Investor August 31, 2016, 12:59 pm

    Pretty cool accomplishments all around especially the talk. Can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to with your new space. Hope you include some ROI! Must say I’m jealous of the radiant floors already :). That’s my dream to install those one day.

  • Machinist August 31, 2016, 1:12 pm

    Great that you did this trip together with your brother!
    And this article is definitely back to the original money mustache level!
    Maybe because this major presentation is out of your head.


  • Brian August 31, 2016, 1:17 pm

    Did you bust a move?

    That’s great insight from Amit on preparing for a speech/presentation. Did you have anyone view or listen for feedback prior to your presentation? I have had a few small speaking events and my wife has been my toughest critic. I need to adopt the dry runs and review for improvement.

  • TheHappyPhilosopher August 31, 2016, 1:27 pm

    The preparation showed in the final product. It was a great talk you gave, and there were some really good ones at WDS.

    The studio looks pretty badass, are you going to write a post about the construction, hopefully with lots of pictures that will make me jealous and want to build one myself?

  • RunningWithScissors August 31, 2016, 1:35 pm

    Glad you made it home safely! It was a pleasure to host you and Wax Mannequin in Edmonton. We’re enjoying the tunes.

    Backyard studio, you say….hmmmm. Excellent idea!

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 31, 2016, 1:47 pm

      Oh yeah, I had meant to find a way to fit you guys into the story! It was a pleasure to meet you both – such a nice pair of entrepreneurial, badass, DIY, live-close-to-work Mustachians in Edmonton, who also happen to share my taste for outrageously fancy (but sensibly sized) houses :-)

      • RunningWithScissors September 1, 2016, 4:03 pm

        Squee! *blush*

        We’re still growing in our facial hair/bad-assity-ness so it was great to chat and get a few more insights. If you’re ever in Edmonton again, you know where to find us.

  • Gwen August 31, 2016, 1:35 pm

    Great job Pete! It’s certainly difficult to step out of your comfort zone and it sounded like this one went swimmingly. I can’t wait to see the post on The Studio. I’m super envious!

  • mike August 31, 2016, 1:47 pm

    Pete, you might want to rethink your position on giving speeches. I’ve seen speakers give the same speech over the years and it does not denigrate the importance of the message.

    You have an important story to tell. I’ll bet you killed it at the Portland conference.

  • FinanceSuperhero August 31, 2016, 1:49 pm

    I’m one of those rare weirdos who really enjoys public speaking. I have since I was a teenager, at which time I began competing in oratorical contests. In many ways, writing and speaking go hand in hand. It’s all about finding your voice, a message you wish to communicate with passion, and making an impact.

    I often worry that the art of public speaking will dwindle away altogether as modern technology and social media replace verbal communication. On a related note, I find that the quality of many speakers’ messages are being diminished due to a “dumb-it-down” mentality. If you listen to presidential speeches from fifty years ago and compare them to those of even the last five years, you’ll see what I mean.

    Thanks for doing your part, even once, to keep the art of public speaking alive, MMM. Who cares if it’s not really your thing? You bettered yourself, experienced something new, and probably inspired a ton of people to do new and awesome things with your lives. I think the stress and sacrifice was well-worth the contribution you made.

  • Jonathan August 31, 2016, 1:51 pm

    As I was reading Amit’s comments, I noticed my cortisol levels rising. Then, I read “Fuck.” Exactly what I was thinking. Love it. Keep up the badassity.

    Also, when’s this talk of your gonna hit the interwebz?

    • The Vigilante September 11, 2016, 8:50 am

      You know what they say: a well-timed fuck is one of the many keys to happiness.

  • Kyung August 31, 2016, 2:14 pm

    No wonder it’s been quiet around the blog. Congrats on pushing yourself, can’t wait to see the result of all that work. I’d also like to hear about M,Jr. going back to full-time school when you get the chance!

  • Joel Farris August 31, 2016, 2:15 pm

    Your son’s back in full-time school? I’d love to hear more about that decision. (A followup to this: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/02/16/if-i-ran-the-school-things-would-be-different/)

    We are on the fence about the matter in our family so we’ve definitely enjoyed reading about what you’ve learned.

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 31, 2016, 2:20 pm

      Yeah – to sum it up for now, we had a great couple years of homeschooling but we all felt he would benefit from another year of more normal schooling.

      Also, our local school (Go Central Elementary!) has really advanced over these past two years. When my son had the opportunity to be in the “dream team” 5th grade class with a particularly great teacher this year, we all jumped at it.

      • Joel Farris September 1, 2016, 1:00 am

        Makes perfect sense! Thanks for sharing.

      • MarylandJeff September 1, 2016, 1:11 pm

        I, too, was wondering about the decision to go back to “regular” school. I have wavered on homeschooling, myself. As much as I would love to have my little boy at home with me all day, I think he’s happier at school than he would be as a homeschooler. There’s things I can give him and things I can’t. We laugh and have fun, but he has a different kind of fun/experience when he’s hanging with school buds.

        Glad to hear he’s in a good place there at Central ES.

      • The Money Commando September 1, 2016, 1:32 pm

        MMM – now that you’re no longer homeschooling your son you just freed up 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Given that you already had lots of time to do badass things (build a studio, write blog articles, prepare a speech), what are you doing with the additional 40 hours a week you now have?

        And are these hours more productive than weekend/nighttime hours, since you are completely free to work on whatever you want with less family interruptions, or is there a declining marginal utility to additional free time?

        • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2016, 2:12 pm

          Oh yeah, I’m very aware and excited about all this new free time! Last time he was in school, I was able to build this whole house over the course of the school year (along with some help from hiring a few friends).

          Realistically, I was able to scrape about 1-2 hours of uninterrupted free time out of each day when my boy was home, whereas now I have the full 6 hour school day. Being a morning/day person, these are the most valuable possible hours. I’m using the time to write, build stuff, work on music stuff, and exercise more. It’s a great life balance.

  • steven August 31, 2016, 2:45 pm

    Ha! I can totally relate! I totally stressed out over my TEDx talk and felt the giddy relief when it was done. Unfortunately, preparation does make a difference (another example where making it look easy takes a lot of hard work…). Congratulations on doing this hard thing and hope you will do a future blog post giving us a link to the video.

  • Grinder August 31, 2016, 2:54 pm

    Sharing this fun satirical look at TED talks and there ilk that ironically contains some great tips on public speaking.



  • Keicha August 31, 2016, 3:08 pm

    I love what you said about broadening your experience about what it means to be alive. You aptly express what I tried to explain to a new acquaintance recently about why I’m visiting India next year. He just didn’t understood why I would want to leave my very comfortable, middle-class existence to go volunteer and tour an impoverished country.

    Part of me is terrified about the work and the uncomfortable conditions and situations I know I’ll encounter while there. Yet I also know from similar past travel experiences that my life will be expanded and enriched by what I experience there, making my life at home in Utah seem all the sweeter. Thanks for another thought-provoking, entertaining post.

  • Frank August 31, 2016, 4:24 pm

    Nice job on the presentation Pete. I absolutely hated public speaking but had to do a lot of it in my 30 year career. What was worse, in coming to the US from the UK in 1997 meant that people had a hard time understanding my accent, so when presenting “over here” it made the fear much worse.

    But good for you, you did it and found the buzz that many of us have.. I,e that strange feeling that it wasn’t THAT bad and kind of a dopamine rush.. Soo… you end up doing it again an again and then you HAVE to do it to keep the addiction going! I would loved to have been there (PDX is 80 miles North of where I live) but I was on a 7 week tour of SE ASia at the time.. and well 500 bucks?..

    Incidently it was 3 years ago you told me I was done working.. I took a few contract since then but have finally pulled the plug for good..:)


  • Lucas August 31, 2016, 5:05 pm

    Thanks for the interesting story, and it’s always a pleasant feeling when going away reaffirms that you’re happier with your home situation than ever. On that thought, as one Canuck to an ex-Canuck, I was wondering if you would mind answering honestly, was moving to the States one of the best moves of your life?

  • Joe August 31, 2016, 6:48 pm

    This sentence from the post really stuck with me: “The part of my brain that was devoted to worrying and planning that talk just burned up like gunpowder and fell away, leaving just a relaxed quiet space.”
    This describes so well the countless times I get twisted up in my own tangled ball of anxiety, only to find that actually doing the thing is awesome, or at least no big deal, and that all that worrying about doing the thing was a big waste of energy.

  • Gerard August 31, 2016, 7:06 pm

    I remember touring through PG! Super nice people, and moose burgers.
    Also, glad to see you back, and that your relative radio silence these past months has been a by-product of useful and rewarding work.

  • Rick August 31, 2016, 7:08 pm

    Good for you MMM! Public speaking is a huge hurtle for almost all of us. My third job at my current company required public speaking once a month infront of 50-80 new people. I’m glad I had that job as once I was forced into the situation I learned just how much fun it is and the thrills of the rush you get when you’re killing it. Cheers!

  • Bill August 31, 2016, 8:33 pm

    The last talk I did, I prepared the hour before. I teach at university sometimes, so the public speaking bugaboo has worn off completely. So consider doing a few more and see if it doesn’t get better.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2016, 2:29 pm

      You’re probably right, but so far I view the “scripted performance” talk as very different from a casual one.

      I talk to casual groups pretty often with no preparation, but for whatever reason, people expect TED/WDS talks to be these word-for-word dramatic productions that are more like a 30-minute play or poem recital.

      Now, really good speakers, possibly including yourself, can do even the dramatic stuff without much prep (as long as they already have the slides or the general flow worked out). But usually TED speakers are plucked from real life (scientists or people with odd stories to tell, rather than politicians or actors), which means a lot of them start from pretty low levels of experience.

      • Bill September 4, 2016, 8:16 pm

        No, I’ll admit I could be a better speaker if I prepared more, and of course i would for something big lIke a TED talk. I was speaking mainly to the anxiety factor. I decided a long time ago that I am just not important enough to get all worked up about what people think of me. They don’t.

  • Ali August 31, 2016, 8:39 pm

    Sweet post!! As I am from northern British Columbia, this one held a special place in my heart! Indeed, it can be a bit of a difficult place to live, but I am waiting for the day I get to be buried in snow again! I’ve been a reader since January of this year, I’ve paid off $10, 000 of debt (!) and all around, have become less of an absolute idiot. So I thank you!
    Also, great tips on public speaking. I have to speak in public in November, and I will definitely take note of what you did.

  • Frugal Bazooka August 31, 2016, 11:29 pm

    Wow, you spent a lot of psychic energy on that speech and it sounds like it paid off – congrats. As I was reading your post your preparation reminded me of the thousands of hours that I’ve spent practicing various instruments in anticipation of playing a couple of 4 minute songs on a stage or in a studio. One of the great ironies of creative and artistic endeavors is the hours and hours of monotonous and mind numbing repetition that must be accomplished to be able to unleash multiple layers of creativity. I would speculate that irony is one of the reasons so many artists seem to be fucking insane.

  • Jon Sharpe September 1, 2016, 4:02 am

    What an awesome summer! Nothing like getting out of your comfort zone to make you appreciate coming back home, right? That studio looks awesome and I am looking forward to reading more about how you built it and how you will be putting it to good use. And, of course, congrats on the big talk!

  • Jessica September 1, 2016, 6:47 am

    I was really looking forward to your speech at WDS and you delivered. It was great! We really made us laugh, but you also had a compelling message that made an impression on my husband. I’ve been trying to convince him for awhile now to think like a mustachian, but he’s not been interested. Hearing your talk really inspired him to rethink our lifestyle and consider new options for our future. It was a wonderful speech, thank you.

  • Josh September 1, 2016, 6:52 am

    I don’t know how this happens, but there seems to be some quantum entanglement between us on projects. Only I have no idea what I am doing, but I am trying to build a similar looking fancy shed garage at low cost. I’m succeeded on the low cost part), but the building, particularly the fancy details are really straining me. Rainscreen siding , metal shed roof trim… I am guessing that this is your design? What resources do you use to find these materials and details ? Surely it isn’t anyone or anything that is normalized to big-box automated picking lists and vinyl siding..

    The panels some kind of fiber cement, Mineret? Are they on top of aluminum strapping? What are those fasteners? I’ve recently (maybe 90%) given up on the cheap-hidden-fastener-gapped-rainscreen idea. (Instead going fiber cement plank (bottom) / cedar deck (top) shiplap, you know the other Dwell exterior) Are those panels just butting up against an aluminum corner (how is that attached) ? What is the slope of that roof, looks < 2:12 ? Any issues there? What is the roof detail on the eves / rakes ? What is your plan for the soffit? LoL, forgive my neediness, but I've gotten only one type of feedback so far: Why aren't you building that [nasty ass] vinyl sided kit garage!

  • Mr. PIE September 1, 2016, 7:53 am

    “Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable”. A phrase that seems to apply to your summer, in many ways.
    Whether through the tight space of a small car or the mind games of a big public talk or the backache of laying a foundation. Huh, laying a foundation – guess you started that some time ago with the blog….still standing strong….

    Certainly look forward to the talk being available for the wider community to see.

  • MarciaB September 1, 2016, 8:23 am

    As an Oregonian it is fun for me to see you in a plaid untucked shirt, looking just like one of the locals!

  • DLcygnet September 1, 2016, 10:27 am

    Oh thank goodness! I thought you had decided to quit blogging just when I had found your site. Sounds like you’ve had a very busy summer. Is it worth shelling out $500 to attend the summit or should the rest of us just aspire to attend for free using the same technique? Favorite presentation/activity while you were there (besides your own)?

  • Justin September 1, 2016, 10:39 am

    You can’t appreciate the luxuries of your everyday life of relative comfort without experiencing a little struggle and strife occasionally. Sounds like an enriching past few months!

    So the kiddo is back in traditional school now? I’m curious about your take on the home school experience and what led you back (assuming “full time” = traditional school). We’ve considered homeschooling so we can have more freedom in our travel schedule (summertime only traveling means suboptimal weather, lots of crowds, and higher costs). But the kids are doing so well in traditional school that I think it would be selfish to pull them out just so we could bum around [insert city/state/country/continent here].

  • Rachel September 1, 2016, 11:28 am

    As a Portlander, I sure wish I’d have known you’d be in town! I’m a big fan of your blog and all your badass philosophies. I’d love to chat in person someday. Next time around, I guess!

  • Seth September 1, 2016, 11:29 am

    “Yet if I had stayed home all year and tried none of these things, the experience would have been flat and unmemorable. The year would have whizzed by with plenty of comfort and peace, but nothing to broaden my experience of what it means to be alive. I would have missed out on meeting hundreds of neat humans, absorbing half a lifetime’s worth of incredible live music and having my own “big public performance” bucket list item ticked off with a solid black checkmark.”

    This is so powerful. A wonderful piece of writing that really resonates with me.

  • MRH September 1, 2016, 12:54 pm

    Great blog post. I can’t believe you’re Wax Mannequin’s brother. It’s like worlds colliding. Somehow it’s perfect. Big fan of both of you guys! (and of course Young MC)

  • Jay September 1, 2016, 1:38 pm

    I saw you man at WDS – you were AWESOME. Inspiring and you seemed SOO comfortable up there. It’s so eye opening to hear that you had some anxiety leading up to it – which is normal – and so in line with the WDS theme that none of us are alone in how we feel – at times for money, career, relationships – we all feel stuck sometimes, reluctant to change – but just like you showed, we can “jump” and there will be others there to catch you (or at least pick you up if you fall). Thanks for sharing your inspiration. – Jay in Seattle

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2016, 2:01 pm

      Wow, thanks Jay! The odd part is that I WAS comfortable on the stage – many people say always happens that way. It’s just the preparation was boring, and during the times I was not preparing I’d sometimes feel anxious that I should be preparing more :-)

  • Moshen September 1, 2016, 2:38 pm

    I laughed out loud when I read about your public speaking experience, since I’m just beginning my bout of preparation for a high-stakes one-hour talk in 6 weeks in front of 500 people. I plan to practice, practice, practice – and thanks for the suggestion to video myself as well.

  • Margit Van Schaick September 1, 2016, 5:52 pm

    Love how you’re taking advantage of the increased opportunity to learn new things/expand experiences that being FI affords. It takes courage to to try new things, yet so often it’s really worthwhile. I hope to remain brave enough to continue trying to live my life like that. I’m 76, and I believe it is that goal that has resulted in my remaining resilient, hopeful, and generally happy. Love reading and thinking about your posts!


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