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The Sweet Spot

“Success can get you to the top of a beautiful cliff,

but then propel you right over the edge of it.”

As a Mustachian, there’s a good chance that you are a bit of an overachiever. 

Maybe you fought hard to get exceptional grades in school, or perhaps you have always dominated in your career or your Ultramarathon habit or your hobbies – or maybe all of the above. 

In the big picture, this usually leads to having a “successful” life, because of this basic math:

Traditional Success
 =
How much work you do
x
How much society happens to value your work

The Nitty Gritty of Traditional Success

Now, lest the Internet Privilege Police head straight to Twitter to start writing out citations, Traditional Success is not a measure of your worthiness as a human being. We’re just talking about the old-fashioned, Smiling 1950s Man definition of success.

 And since we’re all scientists here, we could break the “Work” side of it down a bit further:

And thus, you could say that on average, doing more stuff produces more traditional success. 

But then what?

This is the point where a lot of  smart, driven, born-lucky people drive themselves up the Winding Road of Challenge and then right off the edge of the Cliff of Success. 

If you’re still on the way up, or stuck at the bottom, it is difficult to even imagine the idea of “too much success”. But it’s a real thing, and it happens much more quickly than the modern overachiever would like to admit. Observe the following cautionary tale:

Diana is the director of engineering in a Silicon Valley tech startup. The work is intense, but they are almost over the hump – the company went public last month, and she owns shares that are worth over $10 million at today’s share price. They will vest over the next five years, so she just needs to grind this out and then she will be set for life.

Sounds great, right?

Except this is Diana’s third smashing success. She was already set for life after the second company was acquired, and even before that, her first decade as a rising star at a large company had already left her with over $2 million of investments and a paid-off house in hella expensive Cupertino, California. She had more than enough to retire, twenty years ago!

To many people who are less fortunate, the present situation would still sound like great fortune, and in some ways, it is. Becoming a Director of Engineering is (usually) far better than a punch in the face.

But Diana is now 52 years old, with a collection of increasingly severe back and neck problems and a few medical prescriptions piling up. She has two grown children in their twenties, but wishes she had been able to spend more time with them as they grew up. She has all the money in the world, but still almost no free time, and this next five years is starting to look like an eternity.

What happened here?

Diana is in good company, because many of our hardest-working people fall into this same trap. They have the talent and the great work habits figured out, but they are still missing one last concept – the idea of the sweet spot.

Fig. 1: What is the ideal length of a high-end career?

Diana could have stopped after the first company, or the second, but her career success took on a momentum of its own, so she kept doubling down without stopping to consider why she was doing it – and what she was giving up in exchange.

Once you learn to see the phenomenon of the sweet spot, you will start noticing it everywhere. And it is an amazingly useful thing to start watching and fine-tuning to get the most out of your own life.

Fig.2: What is the ideal amount of Anything?

The Sweet Spot of Physical Training

When a non-runner starts running, they will see immediate benefits. In the process of going from being unable to jog across a parking lot, to being able to easily jog a brisk mile, your entire body will transform for the better. Muscles and bones get stronger, heart and lungs expand and reach out to give your body a healthy embrace, brain functioning and mood and hormones smooth out and normalize. 

Training your way up to become a two mile runner still brings great benefits – just slightly smaller. The fifth through twentieth mile turn you into a hyper efficient machine, but some people start seeing joint injuries as they rise through the ranks.

And by the time you reach the fringe world of 100-mile runners, serious injuries and surgeries are completely normal – as well as unexpected organ failures in otherwise young, healthy people. The sweet spot for daily running for maximum health is somewhere the middle.

All around us, seemingly unrelated things follow this same pattern, from career work to physical exertion to parenting strategy.

Fame and Fortune – be careful what you wish for

Fame definitely has a sweet spot. Building up a good reputation in your community can open the door to better friendships, jobs, relationships, and more fun in general.

But as that reputation expands outwards to become fame, you get the “reward” of constant coverage in gossip magazines and waking up to find photographers and news reporters on your front lawn. At the extreme end, you need to mobilize a team of armored vehicles and line your route with snipers every time you leave your well-guarded compound.

Even money, our humble and ever-willing servant is subject to this phenomenon. It certainly helps us meet our basic needs, but there is a certain point at which Mo Money can become Mo Problems. 

The first bit of monetary surplus can be fun as you can afford a nice house and good food. Then the next chunk seems fun but also causes distractions as you rack up second and third houses and ever-more elaborate possessions and vacations that take a lot of energy to keep track of.

And from there it goes downhill as tabloids start keeping track of your wealth and scrutinizing your choices, hundreds of people mail in pleas for your generosity, and you end up with a full-time job just making sure that the surplus goes to good use. This life arrangement can still be enjoyable for some people, but I would definitely not wish it upon myself.

On and on this pattern goes. A curve with a sweet spot in the middle. The optimal amount of calories to consume in a day. The volume at which you will enjoy your music most. The right brightness of light to illuminate a room. The number of friends with whom you can have a meaningful relationship.

 Why does it occur in so many places? I believe it is because this is how our brains are wired in the first place

Humans are a ridiculously adaptable creature, but we do still come with limits.

And when you respect those limits and fine-tune your life within the sweet spot for all of the main pillars for happy living, you end up with the best possible chance at living a happy, prosperous life.

The Curse Of the Overachievers – Revisited

So now you see the problem – overachievers like us tend to get really good at a few things like a career or an athletic pursuit, often specializing so much that we neglect other things like overall health or personal relationships.

And our society notices and rewards us for the success, which just reinforces the behavior, so we take things to even higher extremes, often without stopping to think about the reason behind it.

Okay, So What Now?

Once you see the pattern of the sweet spot,  it is impossible to un-see it. So it becomes pretty easy to float up and look at your entire life from above, like an outside observer.

And from up there, you can see the areas where you have enough, and places where you may have already gone overboard, and the corresponding things that you have left neglected as the price of that success. 

Over the past year I’ve been looking at my own life from this perspective, coming up with quite a few of my own diagnoses:

Money: enough. Additional windfalls don’t seem to bring me any lasting joy, but I also don’t have so much money that it makes me nervous. It’s enough to feel safe and empowered, and that’s all I need. Meanwhile, giving away money has brought me lasting happiness, without creating a feeling of shortage or regret.

Career Success (blog): It Varies. When I was really working on this MMM job in the mid-2010s, it started to take over too much of my life. Emails, opportunities, travel and public attention all reached levels where I actually started to have less fun. So I tried dialing it back, as any long-term readers will have noticed. And sure enough, life improved. But then I went too far and started feeling a loss from letting this valued hobby slip away. I’ve been trying to get back into the groove, which revealed another problem – detailed at the end of this list.

Friendships: Not Enough. I have found myself not being able to keep up with close friends, and had difficulty making or keeping plans, partly out of  feeling overwhelmed with life details in general. Still, the opportunities abound here in my local community, and the people are wonderful. So I have the opportunity to keep working at this.

Health and Fitness: Enough. Since I was about fourteen years old, eating well and getting a lot of varied exercise has always been a kind of non-negotiable pillar for me. Nothing extreme, but just very consistent. I think this has been paying off as I feel healthy every day and have never had any physical or health problems in these 30+ years since.

Parenting and Kids: Enough (an A+!) Since 2005 I made “being a Dad” my primary goal in life, quitting my career to do so. It’s the only thing I can truly say I have done the best I could at, and I’m really proud of that. But part of this success came from only having one kid – both of us parents knew we couldn’t handle any more, given the overall conditions of life back then. So for us, the sweet spot was One Child – and absolutely no regrets in that department.

Personal Projects and Daily Habits: Not Enough. I get great satisfaction from working on challenging things and making progress. But far too often, I just can’t get it together and I squander entire days on accidental distractions. Planning to go out for a day of work can lead to searching for lost sunglasses which can lead to finding a lost to-do list which can lead to opening the computer to look something up and several hours disappearing. On and on these tangents can go, often leading to me not getting my primary, happiness-creating goals for the day accomplished. 

I discovered that I have a pretty severe and textbook case of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, which gets magnified if there are any sources of stress in my life. So I’m working on that (keeping stress down and also targeting habits, diet, exercise and even trying some medication), which will hopefully improve all other areas of life as well.

What am I missing? I’m still working on thinking it all through, so this list will surely grow.

Your Turn

Your life surely has a completely different array of surpluses, shortages and sweet spots than mine. Your assignment is therefore to write them all out tonight, and see where you stand in each area, and decide what to change. Many of the changes are quite easy to make, and yet the results are nothing short of life-changing.

In the comments: what are your own areas of surplus and shortage? And what’s your plan to help restore balance to your life?

  • Sarah August 4, 2020, 5:20 pm

    I have been doing Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way book/course for the past 8 weeks. (It’s 12 weeks, and folks like Elizabeth Gilbert redo it every few years. I’m using the 25th anniversary edition now – I had a copy when it first came out in the 90’s, and I wish I’d managed to stick with it then, but college was distracting.) It’s not just for ‘artists’ – it’s for anyone who is feeling like they can’t quite listen to their inner voice, or connect dots that they do know about. There’s two main parts – 3 longhand pages written every morning (Morning Pages); and the weekly Artist Date where you take your inner child out, no duties or other company allowed, just the two of you. As you do those things, there’s a chapter per week with various themes and targeted tasks to tackle in the MPs, or outside. I’ve noticed a real uptick in my abilities to follow through – and to decide what I want to even attempt.

    Reply
    • Timmy Jo Given August 5, 2020, 8:42 am

      That sounds wonderful. I think I will give it a try. Thanks.

      Reply
    • Fireby35 August 17, 2020, 10:08 am

      Awesome suggestion.

      Reply
    • Dina August 31, 2020, 6:02 am

      I second this suggestion! I started writing morning pages years ago when I first discovered the book, and I still do them now, albeit 1 or 2 pages rather than 3. Does wonders for clearing my head!

      Reply
      • Don September 29, 2020, 5:52 am

        Dina,

        I am 56 and write in my journal every day. I will move to the computer eventually but writing long hand, for me atleast, gives away my personality or emotions for that period of writing. I have developed weeked prose, morning prose, anxious prose before a planned vacation etc. I have a storage locker for my books. Whats more amazing to see just how smart I was when I was younger. My sense of humor has changed and people that changed my life are all well documented. My investing journey over 30 plus years how world events turned out much different that we all expected. Each election was the end of the world and it just stays the same but the faces change, but if you read each year leading up to the book I have chronicled all of the end of the US presidential terms. Form my past writings I am assured regardless who wins in Nov it is going to be OK.

        Reply
  • GeoffH August 4, 2020, 5:24 pm

    Dammit MMM, I’m currently on 36 years of too much stress in my job – so you’re telling me I missed the Sweet Spot along the way?! I’m a couple years away from FIRE and have just reduced to working 4 days per week, so I guess it’s time to re-evaluate what the Sweet Spot needs to be in early-ish retirement – I agree about not enough time for friends in particular. Maybe we need a TED talk or something on how to be better friends as adults – kids do it just fine!

    Reply
    • Melissa August 4, 2020, 6:42 pm

      I 100% second this TED talk idea.

      Who’s rocking the adult relationship/ friendship department?

      Reply
    • racecar August 5, 2020, 7:32 am

      I think career success and lasting friendships are often at odds with one another. I live in a small town and have many lasting friendships. Most of my friends and I have been friends since grade school and have stayed in or very near our hometown. This allows us to see each other often and never get out of touch. Additionally, this small town does not offer a lot to do, so many weekends are spent just “hanging out” at one of our houses or another. We are now in our late 30s, so these get-togethers now include wives and children, who are also now forming last friendships. It’s kind of a beautiful thing.

      However, I think the cost of this, for many of us, is that there just aren’t a lot of career opportunities in the area. Some of us work in the local school districts and do well enough. A few of us are self-employed and do okay. Some of us commute to the nearest large city about an hour away each day but have the trade-off of losing 10 hours a week to the road. I feel that, for most of us, relocating would have definitely opened up more doors career-wise, but no one in our core group has been willing to leave the home town.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache August 5, 2020, 7:55 am

        That is a touching story. I am hoping that with the increased spread of remote work, people in smaller towns can start to take over some of the jobs currently stuck in the big city. Even in my own Longmont (Population about 92,000), many of the biggest incomes flow in virtually from San Francisco or New York, while the people work here from the comfort and sunshine and relatively low cost of living of a small mountainside city.

        This effect, combined with being just 13 miles from the megadollar enclave of Boulder, has made our housing prices rise so much that it is now getting pretty darned expensive. But there are literally thousands of pretty, small, undiscovered towns throughout this country that could be equally nice places to live if someone decided to just call them home and start getting some bike paths put in.

        This is definitely one of the goals of this blog – to encourage the re-adoption of small towns and spread out the wealth a bit. There is absolutely NO reason for everyone to crowd into New York just to collect a bigger paycheck!

        Reply
        • racecar August 5, 2020, 9:29 am

          A situation like you are describing would be a dream come true–for me and for my friends. I also have hopes that the silver lining of the pandemic is that it will lead to what you describe. It would be better for people, better for the environment, and better small towns like ours.

          I am a school administrator, and I truly enjoyed working from home and playing a larger role in my own children’s education. I would not mind the opportunity to do so on a more permanent basis. I probably won’t be FI until they are in high school unless this sort of shift occurs.

          Thank you for the reply. I did not my comment would be read–let alone replied to–by MMM himself.

          Reply
        • Tom August 5, 2020, 1:04 pm

          It’s taken a long time but I’m finally on the cusp of getting a 100% remote job in my field. If it does come through, we’ll be leaving the crowded Front Range of Colorado for less populated areas to the north, exchanging a VERY non-Mustachian house (where were you in 2009, darn it!) for something smaller (possibly an all-cash deal thanks to Colorado real estate appreciation) and a budget that’ll let us save about $40,o00-$50,000 a year.

          Moving to a small town and taking a job with you does work but it can take time to find one; don’t give up (and it’s easier now than it was this time last year).

          Great article, Reverend, and I don’t mind you passing the collection plate in the middle of it (especially when acting on that “collection plate” is going to save at least a few people a lot of money).

          Reply
        • rugorak August 6, 2020, 7:13 am

          The flip side of this is most people in small towns tend to shun outsiders. Sometimes deliberately and other times not.

          I live in a small town. The village in the center of the town has a population of around 1300, and the town as a whole has a population of around 5000. But it seems next to impossible to make friends as an adult specifically because I haven’t lived here all my life. I haven’t even lived in the greater region my whole life. People either are just straight unfriendly because I am an outsider, or just are in their little social bubbles that they have had since they were kids and don’t even think about adding anyone new. They don’t even think of there being anyone new since people tend not to move into the area.

          My wife and I bought our home because it has a great balance between not being too far being in the middle of nowhere, but feels like it. We have a bit of land, cannot see any other neighbors other than a barn across the street, are near a really good school, not too far from shopping, close enough that our commute isn’t horrid, but far enough the price wasn’t horrid either.

          I was lucky enough to be able to work part time from home pre-COVID. Now it looks like I might be permanently working from home. My wife’s job cannot be done remote. But neither of our jobs lend well to social interactions or friendships. So how to burst the small town bubble, even more so in the age of COVID. That is a big challenge. If that can be figured out then a lot more people would help bring that city money into small towns. I’m happy supporting my local businesses.

          Reply
          • Scott August 6, 2020, 12:39 pm

            My friend lives in Menominee, Michigan (on the UP, just on the other side of the WI/MI border). It’s the fourth largest city in the UP with a whopping 8,500 people. When he relocated there for work he joined the local Episcopal church (he’s not remotely religious, but grew up in the church) and he joined the local Rotary Club. During the pandemic he has had to scale back on these activities, but prior he really got a lot of value out of it. It provided him with a lot of volunteer and social opportunities. He got to know the community and made a couple of friends in addition to numerous acquaintances. When my wife moved to our City (years before I met her) she did a lot of activities through meetup.com (bar trivia, kickball league (we live in a bigger city)) She’s still good friends with several of the people she met through the bar trivia group.

            Anyway, I think my advice based on what’s worked for people I know is trying to find activity-based groups. Off the bat, you’re likely to meet people with at least one shared interest, so that already gives you a leg up.

            Good luck!

            Reply
          • Christian August 6, 2020, 9:47 pm

            One thing that worked for us in a similar situation was to look for hobby/sports/civic activity based groups in the locality. There are bound to be gyms, book reading or crafting groups, local sports team, kids sports that need help with coaching, non-profits needing volunteering etc.

            We don’t have kids, but if you do – that is another way of being pulled into local social circles.

            Reply
          • Dashers August 9, 2020, 3:59 am

            I can totally relate to your comment. I moved from suburbia to a small town with a population of 5000. For the first couple of years I encountered a similar response and would have happily packed up and left and not looked back. However time changes everything and now I wouldn’t consider leaving. Hang in there.

            Reply
          • Jen Hun August 11, 2020, 5:43 pm

            My mom has moved around to a couple different small towns since retiring. She has a summer home in a small town in Maine. She finds all her friends from getting out and volunteering in the community. Just an idea good luck

            Reply
        • Soltist August 6, 2020, 9:48 am

          The point about people travelling from the towns to the big cities is pretty interesting. MMM, I want to give you some points on what’s happening in Europe, if I may. Ever since certain Eastern European countries entered the European Union (or Schengen Area, in which people have freedom of movement etc.), this kind of movement is happening here as well. Where people go to New York in the US, people from Eastern Europe go to Western European countries to get a bigger paycheck. As a Dutch person with a Polish migration background, I can tell you a couple of things. I’ll try to keep it short, as I could pretty much write a blogpost about the things that are happening.

          What I see happening is that low skill labour is filled in by ‘cheap’ Eastern European workers. They’re willing to do work which most Dutch don’t want to do and faster than they do. Landlords ask high rents from these people, stories about people working for employment agencies living in small rooms with 3-4 people in small rooms paying €400+ (per person!) aren’t uncommon. The people working for employment agencies are usually the ones working in the worst conditions.

          I’m living in a city with about 45.000 inhabitants, next to ours is another city of about 35.000 inhabitants. The Netherlands is currently facing a big housing problem, as the affordable social rent places are running out. I’m not trying to pin immigration as one of the causes, it’s a rather complex problem with multiple causes. Either way, a lot of the foreign labour workers are staying, instead of going back to their place of origin.

          Now, back to the towns. I travel to Poland each year, the country currently has a declining population. Even though the economy has been growing steadily. On my mother’s side of the family, the towns (Nowy Wiśnicz area) are doing really well economy-wise. People have a lot of good friendships and family ties, they often stay in the area even if there isn’t much to do in the region (which means a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities). The amount of foreign license plates I see are increasing pretty much, however. This is exactly where virtual work would fit in pretty well, as you’ll have to travel for higher skilled work (to a smog city like Cracow, which is an hour away and people often do this by car).

          On the other hand, the region where my father hails from is pretty much falling apart (Dzierzkowice Commune). This is one of those poorer regions the youngsters are fleeing from. And guess what’s happening? Ukrainians cross the border and fill in the vacant labour positions the Poles are leaving behind, making the economic circle complete. In the meanwhile a lot of houses are in states of decay due to the inhabitants’ search for bigger money. Exactly what you’ve been saying.

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache August 6, 2020, 9:57 am

            Wow, that is a super interesting story, thanks for sharing!

            If we let economics work its magic, there should be some overflow of these hot employment areas, where glowing embers of entrepreneurship fly out to spark other blazes elsewhere. It gets easier as super fast internet spreads, as well as business culture acceptance of remote workers.

            In the US, the San Francisco area is one of these hot spots – people tend to build up skills there and then leave in search of more affordable living – often ending up in Boulder CO and other places. Then Boulder overflows to Longmont, and Longmont people build up fancy vanlife setups and take to the road for freeform semi-retired life.

            Reply
        • Marcia August 6, 2020, 10:36 am

          COVID really brought this thought to the forefront for us. My husband’s company is based here in CA, but they have an office outside the DC area. They recently opened an office near Denver, looking for a place – near customers, near a large airport, near some good engineering Universities, and cheaper to live than CA and DC (though it’s not actually cheap there, just cheaper than here.)

          They also have a few people who have moved for spouses and they have allowed them to stay employed but live elsewhere. My own company refused to let one guy work remotely “that won’t work”. But now here we are, a few years later, and nearly everyone is working from home for the foreseeable future. While we have no plans to move, we really really considered “summering” in small town NY, to be near family. Being crammed in a small house working with 2 kids isn’t fun, even though it’s a beautiful place. If we can work from anywhere, we can work from a cabin by the lake and spend time with cousins and grandparents.

          Alas, it didn’t seem like a great idea to do that in COVID summer, considering the age of the grandparents. But it does open up possibilities for next summer. Sure, the meetings with Asia will be at 7 pm instead of 4 pm if I do that, but it still opens up possibilities. (The major issue I see is that we aren’t “on vacation” for most of the time. Family is retired, or the cousins are on summer break, and it may be hard to get everyone used to the fact that we are supposed to be working 8 hours a day for most of the summer, minus a couple of weeks.)

          Reply
        • Ginna August 6, 2020, 1:12 pm

          The midwest is kickass! In the Omaha area, for example, the downtown 2-bedroom in Boulder home next door to me that sold for $800k would be $100k.

          Maybe that’s why Warren Buffet has stuck around. I’d take a small city in the midwest over my old life in NYC any day.

          Reply
        • Somebody August 12, 2020, 2:01 pm

          I recently got my first 90% remote job due to Covid. It forced the company that I was in the interview process with to abandon their office which opened the door for me to eliminate my 3hr daily commute. I netted a 7% salary increase and a reduction in $300+/mo worth of commuting expenses. Remote work is awesome and will spread like a wildfire. I live in a nice walkable area too so I can walk to get everything I need now.

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache August 13, 2020, 7:20 am

            What a happy story! And if you were commuting by car it was probably much more than $300/month – more like $1000 with the full spectrum of car costs all-in, or many thousands with the value of your time plus the negative health effects of sitting still and driving that much.

            I’ve been hearing so many descriptions of crazy commutes in light of this new situation where they have been removed. We may need to start railing on that issue in MMM posts again because seriously, anything over 20 minutes roundtrip (unless it’s all on foot/bike) is a crazy amount of time to sacrifice to getting nowhere.

            Reply
            • Somebody August 14, 2020, 9:27 pm

              Articles of yours about commuting are one of the main reasons I was interested in eliminating my commute in the first place. I am much happier now that I get an extra 12-15hrs a week. Now I don’t feel like I am always starved for leisure time and have more time and energy to renovate my house into a quality rental. Luckily I drove a ’04 paid in cash car beforehand so I didn’t incur the massive depreciation effects as well. Now I might drive my car once a week max.

              Reply
  • Gerard August 4, 2020, 5:28 pm

    Luckily for most of us (if we can see it), the sweet spot for many things is really really big! Low-hanging fruit is great, but even medium-hanging fruit is pretty easy and pretty awesome. Chase that high fruit, though, and before we know it we’re like a cartoon coyote dangling from a twig over a canyon.
    The problem, as you lay out, is that we get so richly rewarded on the way up that we expect the same level of reward if we go just a little higher, and it doesn’t work that way.
    Also, nice to see you posting, and thanks!

    Reply
  • Kent August 4, 2020, 5:35 pm

    Nice reflection piece. Well done. For me it is a blend of Dean Ornish’s eat well, move more, love more and stress Less… and Dan Beuttner’s The Blue Zones 9: physical activity, life purpose, stress reduction, plant based eating, moderate or no alcohol (for me it’s none), some kind of spiritual life, family and friends. I’ve also lost 50 pounds in the last few years. And I’m convinced (for me anyway) that a plant-slant to my eating has helped with keep the pounds off. I’m able to ride my bike for hours each day, and my sleep and mood are good. All in all.. still an ongoing work in progress.
    (FIRE: 7 years and I’m 61)

    Reply
    • William Muffi August 5, 2020, 5:14 am

      Hello MMM and Community ,
      Plant Based lifestyle is the future.
      It’s good for us and the Planet .
      I just finished reading SuperLife and it sealed the deal for me.
      Glad MMM is writing again.
      Stay safe stay vigilant .
      Bill

      Reply
      • Nice joy August 5, 2020, 6:17 pm

        I think mostly plant based life style can do a lot of good to this planet just like biking. I am wishing you to write about this .

        Reply
    • Leanne T. August 5, 2020, 5:22 pm

      I so agree about the importance of eating plant-based and moving your body to protect your greatest wealth, your health. What good is money and retirement if you feel lousy and can’t do anything? I’m young at 52 and I can see FIRE close in the horizon!

      Reply
    • Zach Holz September 15, 2020, 10:06 pm

      I totally agree! I’m also 50 pounds down with WFPB, never been healthier. The Blue Zones is a fantastic organization I hope to join one day, perhaps after FIRE.

      Reply
  • Chris August 4, 2020, 5:39 pm

    Whoa! This one was packed with some surprises, MMM!

    Couple notes/questions and answer to your prompt:

    – Adult Attention Deficit Disorder: That’s quite a surprise! While I’m sorry to hear about it, I’m also happy that you’re working to resolve it in the best way that you can. It sounds like the pressure of life (and the limelight) have probably made it worse from what you’ve said. While, as you suggested, you may have let the pendulum swing too far in the direction of not entertaining your hobbies (and us readers!) — sometimes it takes hitting those “guard rails” on the sides and getting shocked back into the middle (the sweet spot!).

    – On The Sweet Spot: This sounds a whole lot like the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) in action! Basically, the idea is that 80% of results come from just 20% of action (or effort). This is found in numerous areas of life: in group work, 80% of the work is often done by just 20% of the team. On and on. It’s a neat idea and as you said, it appears in all areas of life.

    – The mid-roll ad: I’ve been reading since you started (well, shortly after perhaps) and I’m pretty darn sure that’s the first mid-roll advertisement! Might be a little jarring for other longterm readers, but really, if it helps keep the blog going and defrays costs for you (and encourages some more reader engagement/writing), it’s great. Relatedly, we need to look into refinancing. :-)

    “What are your own areas of surplus and shortage? And what’s your plan to help restore balance to your life?”

    Well, we both decided to pull the early retirement trigger mid-pandemic so we’re in that transition period as of May. We went to part-time work as a sort of semi-retirement and now we’re whittling down those paid hours.

    On that note, we now have a surplus of time! While we built the life we wanted before kicking most work to the curb, we didn’t anticipate a pandemic so we have some gaps to fill. Lots of outdoor activities: river kayaking, rock climbing which are great for the summer and socially distant.

    What’s short: focusing our privilege/fortune/luck in a constructive manner. You mentioned this in the post: having money that becomes a job to giveaway. Well, hopefully, it won’t be a “job” but we are working on putting a charitable fund together leveraging FIRE principals to do so. I appreciate the reminder. Hopefully, we’ll have something to announce soon on that front! :)

    Good to see you’re writing again, Pete. Avoid the stress of Twitter, I know it hasn’t gone well lately. Focus on those things that aren’t quite so AADD damaging for you and yours!

    Reply
  • Lynne August 4, 2020, 5:43 pm

    I expect that you’ll get hundreds of “me too” comments regarding experiencing a day frittered away in the way you describe. The computer/internet is such a distraction. I find goal setting helpful – if I find myself in the rabbit hole of the internet, I ask myself if what I am doing is contributing to my goals. Sometimes it is (searching for a new recipe to make for dinner for my family – sitting down to dinner at least 4x a week is one of my top goals), but sometimes it isn’t (click bait on thing that I didn’t know about the cast of Sex in the City). Of course, you have to remember to ask yourself the question, and time can be lost before you do that. But, as it becomes habit, you waste less and less time. It also has the added benefit of constantly refining or validating your goals.

    Reply
  • Cultivating Happiness August 4, 2020, 5:49 pm

    Very thought-provoking! For me, keeping a journal has been a very helpful way to continually reflect on whether I have the right balance in different areas of my life. I had a realization that my current role at work is the perfect level of fulfillment and space for personal interests, and pushing for the next level promotion would probably be way more stress and less joy. I’m glad I realized that and I credit the FIRE world for making me more intentional about my career choices. For me, the recipe for happiness has been enough time for sleep, exercise, journaling, meditation, healthy eating, social connection, and learning new things. I’m in that rare stretch where all of those things feel enough. I have a tendency to be neurotic about planning for the future so I am trying to catch myself on that and be fully present for this moment!

    Reply
  • Lauren Jackson Smith August 4, 2020, 5:50 pm

    With everything going on in the world the biggest shortage I feel right now is community. Especially with young kids, it’s been hard identifying the line of what is and isn’t ok in terms of hanging out with friends and just being out in the world. A close second has been getting outside and enjoying our mountains and hiking trails. We live in Colorado too and have had a hard time finding the motivation to leave the house; partly from fear but mostly due to the logistics of getting 3 kids under the age of 6 out the door. The way my husband and I are trying address it is by finding at least one other family we can cohort with so we can feel better about being around one other couple and our kids have friends they can play with. The outdoors has been a perspective shift; getting to the mountains isn’t super feasible right now but enjoying the hammock in the backyard or doing yard work is. Trying to find joy in the everyday and focus on what we have, not what we want. Sidenote: I told our intern Zach (who graduates college on Friday) to look you up and that I was giving him the best graduation gift he’d ever receive :) So glad you posted today; been missing your encouragement and humor!

    Reply
  • Mels August 4, 2020, 5:54 pm

    Thank you!!

    You are always one of my favorite writers. I wake up every day and hope for new musings. Kind of like when you favorite artists drop amazing songs. I always try to share you with people and friend. I try to explain you as awesome!!!

    If you like music I have been into Judah and the Lion Peptalks and Folk Hop and Roll albums they are awesome… and Morgan Wallen If I know me album (it might be to country bro for you but I love it)

    Thanks again =)

    Reply
  • Carrie August 4, 2020, 5:56 pm

    Interesting. Perhaps its the recovering perfectionist in me but almost anything I do in surplus causes me to fail in all things so I rarely let myself over-achieve in anything these days (except commitment to family). What i focus on is sweet spots and shortages.

    Things I bring to a sweet spot end up with processes that makes it easy to manage. My finances are in this bucket. I built a system and I stick with it. I’m currently working on a system for my health.

    Shortages require more attention and become the focus of my goals. I have to limit those to no more than 1-2 at a time. I used some tips from a book called Juggling Elephants to figure out how to focus on those and prioritize my energy. I read that book years ago and i still find it useful.

    Reply
    • Jones Loflin August 5, 2020, 7:33 am

      Carrie, thank you so much for mentioning Juggling Elephants! I’m glad you found value in it.

      Reply
      • Marcelo August 6, 2020, 12:11 pm

        MMM really does have a lot of readers! One person talks about a book and the author himself shows up!

        Reply
  • Tony W August 4, 2020, 6:06 pm

    I remember being all stressed out sitting in traffic trying to get to my next job as Cable TV Field Service Technician.
    I look over to see a homeless man pushing a cart singing a laughing without a care in the world.
    Traffic would move and I would pass him. Traffic would stop and he would pass me. After a while I wondered who was really the crazy person. LOL

    Reply
    • J Love August 6, 2020, 8:54 am

      I love this analogy/story!

      Reply
  • Alex August 4, 2020, 6:12 pm

    @mmm thank you for posting this. It’s a good time to reflect!

    Any thoughts on how to determine “enough” in less quantitative categories? I’m thinking of your example “Diana” … so much of her identity is probably wrapped into being this badass tech person and it’s hard for her to stop. Similarly, people without kids or an awesome blog to devote more time to and take pride in (or identify with) may feel like stopping whatever they are doing professionally will conflict with their life satisfaction/achievement wired brains and make them feel like underachievers rather than the self identifying overachievers they were.

    Reply
    • Cameron August 25, 2020, 6:29 pm

      Yeah, like what if Michael Jordan had decided he was good enough when he just started out playing basketball? I always wonder about this. At what point are you realising gains that are worth the effort vs simply torturing yourself by trying to be the best you can be?

      There’s a great song called We Can’t All Be Heroes that sums this stuff up… the singer basically says he’s never satisfied no matter what he does. Whatever he churns out could always be better. No one wants to listen to music or songs that are “good enough” though. Hence the internal battle.

      Reply
  • Melissa August 4, 2020, 6:30 pm

    This is great!
    Another reason why I admire your work is your conviction to say no to things that aren’t right. Like slowing down on the blog back in the day so that you could have more of the life schedule you wanted.

    I think this sweet spot idea is great and I accept the challenge to go through and do my own assessment. I think it will make a great blog post.

    Areas I will look at will include a lot of the ones you stated. Maybe with an additional travel or new adventures section. Obviously that one will not be low given covid. But it is still important to me.

    Another area that will be too high for me is worry/ stress. Lowering that to what Tim ferris call ustress ( I believe) is something I need to give more attention to.

    Reply
  • François Dugas August 4, 2020, 6:32 pm

    Thanks a lot for the authenticity. Very interesting! I must say I’m a quite balanced person in general but I improved a lot in many areas of my life after discovering and reading your blog around 2013 (ans still improving). You helped me get interested in personal finances, I learned about (and read) the 7 habits of highly effective people. Learned about stoicism (which I always praticed without knowing), about a better news ”diet”. I had the images of you punching me in the face for not taking the stairs and buying bigger and bigger pairs of pants. So I lost 50 pounds, got back in shape etc, became a much better role model for my two sons… I went kind of crazy and started telling everyone about your blog! You really changed my life and I thank you for that! (I also enjoy listening to you as guest on podcasts).

    I need to work on balancing these aspects of my life: my relation with my wife, more time spent with friends, continue learning about the world and engaging in challenging discussion *but* without trying to convince. I’m happy with health, mind, passions, family, mission/reponsibilities, and more and more with finances.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • strummin August 4, 2020, 9:28 pm

      Im with you Franciois. I told everyone and they all made fun of me. Their loss. When ever i feel lazy and glutinous I cant help but think of MMM presentation in Portland and I imagine the only think I need to hit the bottom is foley catheter and a bedpan! Cheers!

      Reply
  • Andrés August 4, 2020, 7:02 pm

    Can we call it the Mustachian Principle? :)

    It makes me remember the Pareto Principle, once you see it, you can’t unsee it

    Reply
  • Julie August 4, 2020, 7:03 pm

    Honest question: if you’ve been focused on being the best dad to your son, May I ask why you guys got divorced? The divorce really with psychological trauma to a child.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 4, 2020, 7:27 pm

      It’s not divorce itself that can affect kids, since that’s just a change in the legal status and private romantic life of the parents. It is living in a household of conflict.

      Since we were heading that way despite our best efforts, and now as two households (just a few minutes walk apart) we are harmonious and cooperative, all three of us feel life is much better now!

      Reply
      • sierracrane August 4, 2020, 11:03 pm

        100% yes! My parents should have gotten divorced when I was a young child but they waited until I was in college to “keep the family together”. Looking back I think it was much more damaging for me to grow up in a household based around a dysfunctional relationship than if they had agreed to part ways earlier and had happier separate relationships.

        Reply
      • DuckReconMajor August 5, 2020, 6:17 am

        Thank you for speaking out on this. The “traditional nuclear family is the only way to raise a child well” camp is still strangely prevalent in the 21st century. This blog has always been about fostering a sense of community, which is best for all people, including kids. Hope you’re doing well.

        Reply
      • Mels August 5, 2020, 9:39 am

        As a long time cyberverse friend and reader. I was sad and grateful when you wrote your Dad and Divorce article. I felt like a junky friend making you go through those alone.

        I often wonder is there anything that your cyber friend could do to support you. Thinking and hoping Mr. Money Mustache has a Mr. Money Mustache person in his life.

        Hopefully the next 8 year of friendship will be more balanced. I hope you don’t stress to much about the blog. Please focus on thing that make you life better. You are a great friend and human. I think we are in a busy time that we need to make piece with and forgive ourselves For being human to be able to move on.

        If there are hard time please know your friends care about you. Don’t think you have to go through it alone.

        Best,

        Mels

        Reply
      • Cuauthemoc Coronel G. August 5, 2020, 12:51 pm

        You make remembered me when I talked to my daughter (she´s in her 20´s) about our separation, she told me “hay Papá, te estabas tardando” (hey Dad, you were taking too long!!)

        Reply
      • Terry August 5, 2020, 7:02 pm

        Hello mmm
        Well, I have some thoughts on both divorce and the sweet spot! I have been divorced for over 6 years now. And I have Raised my seven children on my own the whole time. My former wife moved away and doesn’t visit often. I truly believe a 2 parent family by far the best for children, but my kids have turned out amazing so far! And I can’t take any credit. One thing I think I have done right , i have always been striving to find the perfect work life balance (sweet spot). I have basically worked part time in the last 15 years as a freelance welding contractor, but these last months have been amazing. I work out of my shop maybe 10 to 15 hours a week. I was homeschooling my kids because of covid. And then hired out 3 of them to a local shop!
        The rest I keep busy around the yard and garden. And in the kitchen. Very satisfying balance at the moment. But still not fi🙁 and it is building up much slower at this rate. Sigh

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache August 5, 2020, 8:50 pm

          Congratulations Terry – sounds like you are doing a great job with a much more challenging life than almost anyone I know, so I salute you! It is true that the money side will always be tougher in that situation, but you have so much more to show for all this work than just dollars.

          Reply
        • Josiah October 19, 2020, 9:10 pm

          Terry, I think your comment on a slow road to Financial Independence deserves more discussion.

          Oftentimes there are external factors, such as illness in the family, marital conflict, divorce, mental illness, handicaps, and I non-aligned spousal financial goals that make the road to FI slow and hard.

          Oftentimes what is talked about are the cases where two parents are working middle class jobs, healthy, have a good relationship, and are aligned on the FI goals. What happens when some of that disintegrates? Obviously, marriage counseling, personal therapy, and medical help can all be solutions, but is it possible to work towards FI while in the process of healing?

          Reply
    • late_saver August 19, 2020, 4:24 am

      Dear Julie,
      I suspect you come from a happy family. That’s great for you! But it prevents you from knowing what the daily life of a broken couple is like. I cannot picture anyone who knows it thinking “I wish I had more of that”. What children of divorced parents long for is a happy loving parental couple, NOT more of the unhappiness and lack of love that they experienced.

      As the now 30-something of divorced parents (when I was 12ish) I second MMM’s answer (and others). My life was harder before my parents’ divorce than after it, and I’m sure many people who have had to witness and endure unhealthy parent relationships for years can relate. It’s better to have two separated sane and emotionally healthy parents who can each provide love than one sick couple who is unable to.

      Just picture yourself having kids with and staying forever with someone with whom you have lost the mutual love and respect and there is no reasonable dialogue, and tension, stress, and unhappiness are constant. The kids grow up in this environment and it’s their normal, it’s their perception of marriage and relationship. One day (or more often) the kids overhear one of you saying during the usual evening fight: “I would have never stayed if it weren’t for the kids” and grow up thinking that they are to blame for the parents’ misery and FINALLY understand why both parents are so resentful towards them when they keep trying harder and harder to be a good kid, to have good grades, and in any way possible to earn their love and appreciation: because they kids are the obstacle to parents’ happiness. They grow up to the conviction (based on solid evidence provided systematically from the very folks who are supposed to love them unconditionally!) that they are unworthy of love, no matter how hard they try. Which makes them vulnerable in every aspect of the grown up life just as they were vulnerable in their childhood.

      How can this possibly be good and justify “staying together in the name of the kids”?!? Nobody can fake it for years, let alone a decade, and provide what a child really needs. And the parents do not deserve to be robbed of their happiness either and live the role of martyrs – plus this gives an extra blow and guilt to the kids when they find out.

      When in doubt, just ask the kids instead of trying to do the thinking and feeling for them. In most cases they (and often their teachers!) know things are going downhill, often even before the parents can realize or admit it.

      Reply
  • Sean August 4, 2020, 7:32 pm

    I started reading every MMM post from the beginning a few months ago, and I just got caught up yesterday. A new post this soon after accepting that I could no longer binge is a delightful surprise.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 4, 2020, 7:40 pm

      Wow, thanks for reading Sean!

      Reply
      • Sean August 4, 2020, 7:58 pm

        Thanks for writing! I’m glad you’re looking to get back into the groove!

        Reply
    • Jacob K August 5, 2020, 10:14 am

      I similarly latently discovered this blog last year after getting our debts paid off and researching personal finance blogs. Binge read whole blog over several weeks, And made a lot of changes, including refinancing our home through credible. (No hate on the ad or affiliate link as it was a good deal for us) I’m happy mustachianism is still finding people like me and you 8 years after the blog started.

      Reply
  • Reade August 4, 2020, 7:48 pm

    Awesome post!!! I like how you can put complex emotional issues into a formula, it must be the engineer in you:) This is the reason that MMM is still my favourite blog!!!

    Reply
  • Mark August 4, 2020, 7:57 pm

    Great post. I’m at a point in my career where I have more than enough to support my family’s lifestyle. However, I’m naturally competitive and I’m not sure what I’d do if another promotional opportunity comes along. I love challenging situations but not at the expense of 60 hours weeks and sacrificing time with my young kids. It feels like I’m in the sweet spot now but the temptation to want more is hard to ignore.

    Reply
  • Tim H. August 4, 2020, 8:24 pm

    The timing of this post is pretty curious.

    I discovered FIRE and your blog about 8 years ago and rearranged my life to pursue financial independence.

    Back to school, increased by income by 400%, been saving like a mad man, about to crack $250 000 net worth. From -$40 000 to +$250 000 in 8 years, given my circumstances and geographical location, makes me proud…yet my mental health has been suffering.

    I’ve been on a seemingly desperate search these past 3 months, almost causing me to quick my “good” job out of desperation.

    This past week has found me recognizing what made me happy in the past, as well as shining a spotlight on how I’ve been living against my values in pursuit of FIRE.

    Thanks for the post. The “sweet spot” mindset will help me hone in how to bring things back into balance.

    Reply
  • anni August 4, 2020, 8:48 pm

    Dang. I’ve been STRUGGLING with focus ever since my mandatory work from home began. “Hours disappearing” is a daily occurrence. How did you start with your Adult ADD if you don’t mind?

    Reply
    • Ally August 5, 2020, 5:14 pm

      The YouTube Channel “How to ADHD” has LOTS of great time management (and self care etc.) tips, I highly recommend! https://www.youtube.com/c/HowtoADHD/videos

      Reply
    • Chris August 6, 2020, 6:59 pm

      Fellow sufferer here. I had countless days like the ones MMM describes above, just going sideways with every possible distraction. I found working with a therapist helpful, especially with regards to letting go of guilt build-up around some of those ADD behaviors. [For me, my guilt ball and chain was my unfinished projects. I prioritized, finished the important ones, and let go of the rest. I felt soooo free.] In the long-term, I have found meditation to be THE life-changing habit. Over time, the habit generates mental space for you to observe your own behaviors and make choices instead of following the powerful flow of habit. If my meditation experience is typical of people with ADD, you will find meditation MUCH MORE difficult than most people say it is. But it’s worth it. It will change your life. If you don’t know where to start, get a good app (Calm, Headspace).

      I hope MMM will see this as well (I can’t remember if he meditates, but it sounds like he should start.)

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache August 7, 2020, 9:44 am

        Yes, definitely! I got into meditation at around age 15 so I am three decades into it now. I definitely helps with all things mental and physical, but it’s still only part of a balanced solution, as you have said. Outdoor exercise/work is equally powerful, which is one reason I mention it so much here as well.

        Reply
      • anni August 7, 2020, 12:11 pm

        thank you!!

        Reply
  • Dan M August 4, 2020, 9:18 pm

    Nice job Mr Money, I think you are right and I agree.

    When the lucrative sales job at a large tech reseller became all consuming I decided to walk away because I decided what good is having cash if you can’t spend it? Now I run Dan Mahoney Capital and invest in technology trends a saw in my career along with some vanguard index funds. I work at my own pace and never miss a golf chance, bike ride opportunity or a trip to see one daughter participate in equestrian events or take the other one to college.
    Thanks again for the info you provided that helped me make the move.

    Reply
  • strummin August 4, 2020, 9:21 pm

    Sweet spot: Work 3 days and could easily work twice as much and get paid twice as much but family life and fitness more important. Unfortunately I still NEED the money.
    Exercise: Never enough. Unfortunately I am wanting the 100 mile runs and i can barely get 7 in right now
    (Refinanced 15 year 2.75%) was gonna pay off next year but we are gonna live a little, invest more, glad we did!
    Family: Enough. Great balance and two kids is the sweet spot! Must say I am greatfull for both but 2 is 200% more work from a dad stand point!
    Social life: Thankful for social media but lacking big time! Covid and young kids…gonna have to be patient.

    As for divorce and kids…..they just need love and good communication from their parents. Normal does not exist.

    Thx, this was fun.

    Cheers Mr Money Mustache

    Reply
    • Ted August 8, 2020, 5:10 am

      Thanks, MMM. There are so many choices and tradeoffs in life, and it’s important to keep one’s values and priorities front and center rather than getting swept along. I appreciate how you encourage people not to be stuck in the rat race and offer specific ideas to improve their health, communities and environment.
      Sweet spot: I’m 39 and not going to retire anytime soon, but I enjoy being a teacher. It’s mostly rewarding and I try to work very hard, but not let it consume me. It pays enough. I enjoy summers and holidays off. Sort of like being retired for 1/4 of the year. I intentionally don’t have a smartphone, so I don’t bring work with me wherever I go.
      Exercise: enough. With 3 young kids, the key is the early start. Lots of 5am lifts and runs. Had an online weightlifting competition with friends during these COVID times, which was fun, but obviously not as fun as actually connecting in person. Biking is also my primary mode of transportation, which has a ton of benefits, including exercise.
      Family: 3 kids (6, 2, 1). Busy! The third kid was the impetus for taking on a bunch of debt (minivan, bigger house, solar panels while we were at it). I love my wife and kids dearly, so I’m happy with it all.
      Friends/community: The young family obviously makes it harder to find time to do other stuff. During the school year, I’m doubly busy and tired. Teaching online from home while taking care of kids during COVID- yikes! I regret not taking on a more active role in civic affairs and on following through on ideas for side projects. Gotta set goals and carve out time. I’ve been mostly maintaining existing friendships, not making new ones, but going on camping trips and having big sleepovers with friends and their young families is pretty sweet!
      Thanks again, MMM.

      Reply
  • Jess August 5, 2020, 12:04 am

    One sweet spot I’ve been thinking about: attention to personal finance! Pay no attention and you’re not going to operate efficiently. Get the basics down, don’t inflate your lifestyle, and automate, with some goal check-ins = the sweet spot. Once I’m past that, there’s diminishing rewards and I should probably focus my attention elsewhere. Not to mention it can lead to unnecessary stress when you’re already in a good enough position not to worry!

    Great post. As someone pretty new in my engineering career, the tech job example is something I definitely have to be wary of!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 5, 2020, 8:04 am

      This is a good point – frugality itself has a sweet spot, and I sometimes see people going too far.

      For example, a six-figure family with rapidly growing investment accounts agonizing about how to fit the kids and camping supplies into a rusty 1996 Honda Civic sedan. If you want to stay super-frugal but not be that far on the fringe, why not just take one paycheck and get a 2012 Prius with a huge hatchback and enjoy a bit of a win/win situation?

      Reply
      • mcmurr August 11, 2020, 3:09 am

        Oh boy… you just outed our Honda. But that thing gets 44 mpg, and parts are cheap! Once we saw (many years ago) your post on snow tires vs AWD–and we haven’t looked back on upgrading. Personally, I think the bondo smoothed out real well where I cut the rot out of the wheelwells and the paint matched out real well. You definitely can’t see any difference unless you are up close–say fifty feet away. The other physicians I work with just shake their heads.

        The kids started growing though, and their knees in the pushing into my seat back, so it might be time to reconsider.

        I was an early follower of this post, and you have catalyzed some serious changes in my life. I have greatly identified with your weird sense of humor and candor. You have really put yourself out there over the years (ups and downs), and what you identify as ‘shortcomings’ helps remind us that none of us is perfect, but we can still be content. Don’t SHOULD on yourself.

        Be well, and thanks.

        Reply
  • Kiev August 5, 2020, 12:06 am

    I am following MMM since about 5 years. We are getting FI in the next year. My sweet spot for work will be a 4 day week. If there is pressure at work I can work 5 days, if not I can take accumulated days off. This way I would increase my vacation days. In Germany, we have 30 days for vacation. This way I will have about 50 days. I know that this is luxury in comparison to the US. I will use the free time to clean up the house, buy groceries and do activities such as riding my racing bike for some hours. So I am getting more free time using as quality time with my family. Then I will see what the future sweet spot will be. In the past I was searching for something I would like to do after hitting FI. Now I am relaxed. I have some hobbies to spend some time with. If I am getting enough of that I will search for new activities. I could buy a 3D printer, I could do a course at school (programming robotor), I can create a small business with something of my interest. There are many possibilities. A journal is a very good tool to remind you what you planned to do to keep going in the right direction.

    Thanks for all MMM posts! I would like to go one day to the US and walk parts of the AT, travel the west coast with my family. I would like to pass by Boulder and visit MMM Co working place if possible.

    Reply
    • RobRdam August 9, 2020, 1:50 pm

      Hello Kiev,
      I understand that you will reduce your working hours to 4 days a week next year, when you reach FI. Why not reduce them today, and reap the benefits you expect? It will take longer to reach full FI when working 4 days, but it seems you’re enjoying the work, and will even more when you do it 4 days a week!

      Reply
  • Andrea Norberg August 5, 2020, 12:32 am

    +1 on Francois comment. MMM changed my life and the lives of my kids due to…us changi g in accordance to MMM credo.

    Reply
    • Andreas August 11, 2020, 8:09 am

      Wonder if our kids will come here and also be thankful to MMM? I would like to think so. My future FI will with time become their FI. Wouldn´t that be awesome?

      Just love MMM, the one and only blog/anything read related that I binged until it was done. My bible for sure.
      About 50-60% to FI, could probably go “semi-FI” tomorrow if I had the guts. Thanks Pete/MMM!

      Reply
  • MikeM August 5, 2020, 1:36 am

    For me, it gets down to one word, Enough.
    When you have Enough of something, stop. You are at the sweet spot.
    Money, exercise WHY.
    ‘Great opportunity ‘- thanks, but I have Enough.

    More is never better.

    Reply
  • Steve August 5, 2020, 2:07 am

    There is a strong correlation between high achievers and ADD. Thanks for being open and helping to break the stigma.

    Reply
  • Joe August 5, 2020, 4:52 am

    I really appreciate the article.For the last couple of years I have been really focused on “being successful” and it worked out quite well so far. Running laps in the rat race can really make you forget that you are not really making any steps forward.

    Now, with my first child on the way and job-related anxiety and panic attacks getting more frequent, I start to wonder about the real and actual cost of it all (not only opportunity cost of spending most of the time working and not doing stuff I love with preople I love, but also the psychological and physical cost).

    I guess it is a step in the right direction if you see not only the immediate financial impact of saying “yes” to an financial opportunity but also realize that there are actual, naked costs that comes with it. I personally am working on climbing the psychological barrier to actually saying “no” – easier said than done so far.

    Reply
  • Hoedje August 5, 2020, 5:10 am

    Thanks MMM! It also reminds me of the 7 habits, where Stephen Covey also covers this. However, this is a new angle to look at it. I find it difficult to balance between the different roles (or demands) in life. My biggest challenge is letting go of work. I’m now in the fourth year of starting a business (but also in previous jobs), I always get a feeling of guilt when I’m not working and something that I perceive as being urgent or important is coming up. I wish I could learn to let go more.

    This is also one of my main motivations for striving to be FI. Hopefully, at that point I’ll be getting better at letting go of work. Or more likely, just completely not work for a while.

    Reply
  • Michelle August 5, 2020, 5:17 am

    I’m enjoying the fact you have started writing more again.

    For me, you nailed this one with this sentence;

    “Once you see the pattern of the sweet spot, it is impossible to un-see it”

    I’ve used this approach for pretty much all my life it seems, all be it intuitively to start with and then with a bit more thought behind it later on. Just one of those things that’s really obvious once you do it.

    The best “trick” or whatever you want to call it though for me is in getting faster in knowing when you are out of balance. It’s another of those ‘the more you do it, the better you get’ things.

    So many people seem to struggle with knowing what ‘enough’ is for them. Defn a life skill so many can benefit from & I hope this encourages others it is worth learning – and more importantly – practising!

    Cheers.

    Reply
  • Class 228 August 5, 2020, 5:26 am

    My morning dose of Jocko + MMM = Balance.

    Reply
    • AKM August 7, 2020, 9:39 am

      Ha ha — Love me some Jocko AND some MMM. Glad I’m not the only one!

      Reply
      • Class 228 August 9, 2020, 5:09 am

        Hooyah AKM.

        Reply
  • Robil August 5, 2020, 5:37 am

    Thanks for sharing, it was a thought provokoing reading.

    With regard to ADD and overachievers, I was thinking about the philosophical work done N.N. Taleb, which I personally find very refreshing. His books are fun to read, and his insight is not matched easily. Would recommend Antifragile to start with, for long mornings, afternoons and evenings…

    Reply
    • Carrie Willard August 6, 2020, 8:41 am

      Taleb, along with MMM, is one of my favorite writers. His ideas are always percolating in my mind 🙌🏽

      Reply
  • Robert Walker August 5, 2020, 7:00 am

    Another way to look at things for some people is how I rank things. I am beyond work. I planned to have enough to be comfortable when I was old. I did not count on inheritance. Inheritance happened. Now I just don’t worry about money. I worry about eating too much ice cream. I try to write enough times that my strength builds up and I write more. But my club members are older and ride further.

    I give myself tasks. A lot of them are frustrating. Some become adventures. Then there is the computer game. There could be two computer games. I can go back to Minecraft. The games are not frustrating. Anytime I’m frustrated I will go back to a game Pretty quickly the frustration evaporates. I can go back to routine mundane tasks. Mow, wash dishes, read mail. I go to the frustrating things first. I can always drop them and go back to a game. There may not actually be a sweet spot. The game is too easy. Frustrating things are too frustrating. But I slide back-and-forth between the two. I mow my grass in sections. I use an electric battery powered mower. I like to run out of charge. I put the battery on the charger. I go back into the house and cool off.

    My workshop is too full. I set up sawhorses in the yard. I use large hats and sunscreen. I never have to sweep the sawdust. The major workshop periods are early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Those are also the major bicycling times

    Campaigning for good politicians is between 5 PM and 7 PM It is now done by telephone. I watch close caption TV. I listen to Spotify between telephone calls. It is easier than doorknocking

    Because I can self assigned my task, I orbit very close to the Sweet Spot.

    Reply
    • Andreas August 12, 2020, 12:07 am

      Glad to hear your story! This would be my “ideal” life once FI.

      Btw “I am beyond work” is an excellent title for a blog or something.

      Reply
  • Jim Grey August 5, 2020, 7:04 am

    I have a tech career sort of like Diana. I say sort of because while I’ve tried the startup route, I’ve never hit that brass ring with the good payout. I’ve got a nice salary as an engineering leader. I’ve also had some unfortunate events in my life that have left me without enough savings to let me step away from my career if I wanted to. I’m about to turn 53; time’s a wasting, I’ve got to get on it. I hope to create my sweet spot soon.

    Reply
  • Tina August 5, 2020, 7:18 am

    I accepted that I was puttin in “too much” at my job about a year and a half ago when I was so stressed about being
    totallydisconnected from a big project (traveled to Costa Rica without an international phone) that I ended up sick for the entire week I was away – no bueno! I decided then and there it was time to scale back at work; plus, I knew I was within 3-4 years of my retirment.

    I’ve always been that overacheiver at work, which has helped me rise to the level (and pay) I’m at and will help me leave before I’m 40. However, scaling back in the same environment that I have created aaself-brand of getting things done quicker and better than most others, working long hours, ALWAYS being available, taking on extra assignments, etc, etc, etc almost takes more focus and concentration than doing the work!
    I still do my job and do it better than most, but I don’t need to do 3 other jobs in addition to mine – scaling back doesn’t equal becoming a lazy douchebag!

    still have long days and weeks here and there, but it’s due to necessity arather than e finding extra work to do or doing someone else’s work. Knowing I’m on my way out, rather than looking for that next promotion, I’m looking for ways to create habits withithe hactivitiesI isay I’ll e doing in my retirement. I’ve started a part time job serving/bartending (something I’ve wanted to try ever since watching Bryan Flanigan in Cocktail!) at a small locally owned grill a short walk away. I’m taking my first backcountry backpacking trip THIS WEWEEKEND – a trip my brother and I have talked about for over a decade! I have also realized, I typically don’t HAVEo rush thrands anall in one trip d if I do them in smaller chunks, I cahave plenty of time to get them done via bike rather than making them an excuse to drive I

    I may not be at the sweet spot yet, butthe awareness and questioning the value I get out of x is leading me to take action on that list of “someday I will…..” and I imagine will help me settle into which of those things will get more time and energy in my upcoming retirement and which will be checked off as “tried that, don’t need to do it again!”.

    Reply
  • Flip August 5, 2020, 7:29 am

    Happy this morning to find a new post after a bit of hiatus from MMM. Hopefully the summer of Pete is coming to a nice conclusion where we may occasionally find a few more posts for the rest of the year.

    I myself almost rolled off edge of Cliff of Success. Not so long ago I was offered to become the managing director of my company. Year’s prior that’s where I wanted to end up and I was working too hard to be ready once the opportunity opened up. Then our baby boy was born two years ago and somehow I stumbled into MMM during paternity leave (vacation days). I don’t give myself an A+ just yet for parenting – that grade goes to the wife but it’s an area I strive to improve.

    On a side note; as somebody who’s read all the posts, the Mid-Roll punched me right in the feelings and gave me a good laugh.

    Reply
  • Denise August 5, 2020, 8:02 am

    The issue here is one of diminishing returns. If I lose a certain amount of weight I look great. A little more and I look a bit better but not THAT much better and considering the investment I have to make in keeping my wieght at a certain level, it becomes not really worth it.

    Reply
    • Liz August 8, 2020, 9:14 am

      Denise, I love your example – very apt! The law of diminishing returns seems to apply to so many areas of life, and is an idea I keep returning to as I try to adopt more MMM principles and habits.

      Also would like to echo others here on the benefits of plant-based living: a win-win on so many fronts.

      Thanks to MMM for your insights and inspiration. Very happy to see this new post!

      Reply
  • George August 5, 2020, 8:24 am

    Several millions saved in some years as the sweet spot? Is it just me, or is this a digit more than what we talked about in the past?
    I hope the MMM lifestyle didn’t inflate to levels making this amount of stash necessary.
    Nonetheless, thanks for the post!

    Reply
    • Quez August 7, 2020, 5:50 am

      I’m always puzzled with this millions notion too and it gets to my nerves because I live in a country where becoming FI at 30 is nearly impossible. The medium salary is around 1000€ but a decent house in my city is never less than 200000€-250000€. So I’m now 45yo and unless I win the lottery, it feels impossible to reach the 1 million dollar flag. On the other hand I can see becoming F.I. and living very frugally with 200000€ on funds. But again, it can be nerve wracking too.

      Reply
    • Timothy Kukler August 26, 2020, 6:11 am

      Agreed; 1M was always my goal FIRE spot / Goal and to have him mention several millions was somewhat flooring to me. ~Boston, MA

      Reply
      • Sean August 26, 2020, 9:33 am

        I think MMM was using the multi million dollar savings with a paid off house to emphasize that his example person “Diana” had way overshot the sweet spot .

        Reply
  • Drea August 5, 2020, 8:55 am

    Funny, I’m mustacian because I’m the opposite of the person described at the beginning of the article :D
    I’m a low energy, fairly lazy person who looks for the most logical, ‘easiest’ route to my goals. Mustcianism, stoicism, and other philosophies (like Primal living) all appeal to me because I’m lazy and only have the energy to do things that make sense.

    Reply
    • Penny August 6, 2020, 8:05 am

      Same here!
      I’ve always thought of myself as a lazy person because I refused to work hard for grades or put in the long hours at work. I’ve recently started to realise that this isn’t lazy, it’s just logical. If there’s no obvious benefit in doing something, why would I give up my private time to do it? Somehow this seems to have worked out pretty well, and despite getting pretty poor grades at school, and what most people would consider a “fun” degree, I feel like I’m not doing too bad for myself.
      Part of this is that I’ve made my name at work (and regularly get promoted for it) by automating everything, so that it’s incredibly efficient and I don’t have to do anything manually. This frees up huge amounts of my time to focus on projects that provide more value, or are just more interesting.
      It’s weird… being lazy means that I get so much more done!

      Reply
      • Drea August 14, 2020, 8:25 am

        <3 <3 <3 we're soul twins! I do/have done the exact same things :D

        Reply
  • Timmy Jo Given August 5, 2020, 8:57 am

    Agreed. Diminishing returns. Since the pandemic, I have not been “working” but have never worked harder in my life running the rural homestead and all which that entails: garden, yard, house, de-cluttering, re-purposing, budget, meals from scratch, and on and on. Rather than slaving for $10/hour (out there in the local depressed economy), I believe I am SAVING $10/hour. (My husband works full-time to support us.)

    To the Sweet Spot: I always carry a gnawing inside myself whenever I experience the opportunity cost of not doing the above (running my homestead). In other words, every hour I am out in the world working in the workplace is an hour that I am not running my home. The opportunity cost is too great. I see no point in working “out there”. My husband is nearing retirement, and I am 60 years old. Perhaps after the pandemic is over, I will find something “out there”, but at the moment, it does not seem necessary. We do not need to support car payments nor credit card purchases and are nearing debt-free status. We live quite frugally and happily.

    Reply
  • PalmaOnFIRE August 5, 2020, 9:16 am

    Good that you’re back MMM, missed your posts. Just wanted to mention that this sweet spot of yours that you are talking about is a big thing in Swedish culture and even have its own word – “Lagom”. Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagom
    That said, its not like people in Sweden are not overachieving anyway, but maybe not as much. I believe we all should apply this more to all sides of our life, to much of anything often ruins it. “Lagom” is best. ;-)
    Wish you all a really nice summer!

    Reply
  • F.I. Grind August 5, 2020, 9:43 am

    MMM… Thank you for another classic post…. with all the distractions in the world, thanks for keeping this post strictly about financial independence and happiness. You the man!

    Reply
  • KarlH August 5, 2020, 9:43 am

    I think that this provided a lot of food for thought for me. Unfortunately, there are some circular patterns I see in my own behaviors where “Health” can often be correlated with health insurance, which keeps us in the burned out career for far longer than we want to be. I find that I have been in the clown car for so much of the career that I have little time for the friendships, fitness, and personal projects I would like to spend more of my time on. Likewise, “providing” has been confused with parenting for way too many years.

    The recent shut downs allowed me some time to spend with our youngest, and I can actually say I know what all her subjects are in school for the first time. As she starts her sophomore year, I am asking myself why I don’t know whether her older brother took chemistry or not. As the numbers are finally working out for me, I am planning to FIRE myself and spend a lot more time as a parent, and hopefully rekindle some of those overdue projects, walk a lot more, and catch up on the friendships I have been missing.

    Reply
  • Gene August 5, 2020, 10:48 am

    Great blog post MMM! The “Health and Fitness” category is the most important and should have the highest overall priority. The others won’t matter much or will be hard to achieve for an unhealthy person. For example, how can you be a good parent if you don’t feel well. A good diet, regular exercise, and healthy mental hygiene provide a basis for meaningful success in the other categories.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 5, 2020, 11:50 am

      I agree, and proactive health maintenance is still mostly overlooked in our culture.

      Mainly because of planning cities based around cars so that exercise has become something that you now need willpower to achieve, rather than something that happens automatically every time you get groceries or meet up with friends (thing we are naturally drawn to do even without willpower).

      Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque August 9, 2020, 11:00 am

        I really feel like chiming in on this one.
        With the summer off and everything closed, I’ve been doing a *lot* of yard work (cutting down dead trees, burning them off, hacking away at a half-acre of thorny, weedy plants etc.) and the difference it makes to my health/fitness/energy levels is impressive.
        This was the sort of automatic fitness benefit that our ancestors got automatically, because they spent their whole days outside doing manual labour.
        Now that it’s raining, today, I have to go down into the basement and intentionally lift some weights and work my abs.

        Reply
        • Gavint August 9, 2020, 12:05 pm

          Now I’ll chime in here – this goes back to the point of the sweet spot. I’m a landscaper and arborist, and worked myself into a mini-burnout due to the insane amount of work that came in this spring. It is definitely possible to have too much manual labour in your life! I’ve since made changes and things are improving.

          Reply
          • Andreas August 12, 2020, 5:24 am

            Yes also lets not forget that those that worked outside with only their muscles worked themselves to death in their 30´s because of waaay to much hard work. It is not only for deskclerks.

            Goes without saying I assume, but anyway. Middle road, or sweet spot is enough :)

            Reply
  • Mace Kochenderfer August 5, 2020, 10:51 am

    Two years ago, I sold/merged my business in NM to a company out of Seattle. My family relocated to Gunbarrel, CO (on the outskirts of Boulder) for the improvement of our quality of life and better opportunities for not only my wife and me but for my kiddos as well as they will soon enough begin their own journeys. My new job was to develop and build out a division for them on a national level. After two months, I walked away from the company because I was sold a bill of goods that clearly they had no intention in honoring and other writing on the wall were sending up warning signs. Two months after I left, they declared bankruptcy and shut their doors. I learned a valuable lesson.

    Unintentionally, I had abandoned my employees, friends and client base. So here I was, unemployed in the most beautiful (and expensive) town I’ve ever lived. Being unemployed for the first time in 30 years and not having a professional (or personal) reputation locally, I was at a loss. Actually, “shell-shocked” is a better description and it took several months for me to shake it all off and start again.

    Fortunately, I’d been an aggressive saver my entire life. Yes, since I got my first $5 bill in a birthday card I’ve always saved for a few big rewards rather than small, fleeting little rewards. Because of this, we’ve been fortunate to enjoy several family adventures, healthy food and some nice material things. To be sure, I’m still frugal and don’t spend money on things that are impressive to others (nice clothes, new cars, etc.). I spend my money on things that are important to me (home theater, hearing aids, etc. Lol… Maybe there’s a connection to the home theater and my need for hearing aids?). To be sure, there is a difference between being frugal and being cheap. If you don’t know the difference, then that is another discussion for another day.

    My point here today is to continue to encourage others to be frugal because none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. Spending money wisely and saving or investing the rest (there is a difference) has allowed me to take some needed time off, get grounded and start another business that allows me to have flexibility in how I spend my days and how well I’ve slept at night.

    Despite the initial trials and tribulations that began in August of 2018, my wife and I are stronger because of the experience and have few regrets. We played the dice and lost that roll. But the Universe, Jah, God, Yahweh or Vishnu seems to have had my back the whole time and we’re happier now than ever.

    Reply
  • Robert August 5, 2020, 11:05 am

    MMM: Here’s where I came out

    Money: Enough
    Career Success: Enough
    Friendships: Not Enough
    Health and Fitness: Enough
    Personal Projects/Daily Habits: Not Enough

    I agree with another commenter that Friendships/Personal Projects and Career Success are at odds with each other. I was just over the sweet spot on money by working 16 years, but to get that career success I moved twice with the company in my final five years then moved again for early retirement. Kids have unfortunately have not come into the fold for us and are now unlikely, which makes the friendship thing challenging when we’re the kidless retirees and most couples around us both work and have 2-3 kids in the house.

    It’s interesting the push and pull between each of these areas of happiness. Thanks for opening up in this one!

    Reply
  • KM August 5, 2020, 12:51 pm

    I get the idea your making, but you might be coming down on Ultra Marathon running a bit hard. I will go take another look at the research. Does seem similar to how some people only want to thru hike a long trail like AT, PCT, CDT and somehow section hiking is failure.

    Reply
    • Marcia August 5, 2020, 4:50 pm

      I know some ultra-marathoners, and registered for one this year (but the “baby” version, aka 10 miles, aka, not an ultra).

      I think it falls into the category of excessive, but fine for some people. Some people can qualify for Boston, some can’t. Some can do ultras with very little injury, others can’t.

      Reply
    • Dawn August 7, 2020, 4:40 am

      Haha, I liked the article but thought this aspect was a bit rough too (as a biased ultrarunner). I take the point that training often goes well beyond the fitness sweet spot, but haven’t yet heard of serious health issues being widespread. It can also have benefits around day to day sanity and personal insights.

      Reply
      • Kevin Brown August 8, 2020, 3:13 pm

        Agree! Let us know what you find KM. It also becomes multivariate, passing the sweet spot for health and fitness might mean getting to the sweet spot of challenging yourself, building self-confidence and plain ole just doing things that are hard (pillar of happiness).

        Reply
        • KM August 10, 2020, 9:42 am

          My review on the health impact of Ultra Marathon running turned up results similar to FIRE. There are click bait articles both for and against, many of which read like Suzzie Orman’s piece on FIRE. A search of reddit (running, advanced running, ultramarathon) did not prove useful. I did notice, as I started to read research papers and medical studies, the words “may” and “probably” appear more often.

          Here are my conclusions, which at best I would say “may” be right.

          The fringe world of 100-mile runners, serious injuries and surgeries are completely normal (false) – as well as unexpected organ failures in otherwise young, healthy people (false). The sweet spot for daily running for maximum health is somewhere the middle.(true)

          Running a 100-mile race (or any exertion over 24 hours) is bad for your health in the short term. This is based on medical tests run and the studies appeared to have proper sample sizes. The side effects appear to be reversible within a few days. This is assuming proper training and no pre existing conditions. According to reddit, with improper training you can enjoy pissing blood.

          Long term impact is still unclear to me. A medical test can detect higher markers for heart damage in some Ultra Marathon runners. This does not guarantee higher risk of heart attack, as other changes to the heart may offset the risk. To many variables and the studies lack sample size. There is enough information to convince me that serious injuries, surgeries, and organ failure are not completely normal. Again assuming proper training and no other pre existing risk factors.

          If you are considering Ultra Marathon running, I suggest performing your own research. If the source lacks references, I suggest looking elsewhere. Something like this

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5992463/#:~:text=An%20ultra%2Dmarathon%20leads%20to,lead%20to%20exercise%2Dassociated%20hyponatremia.

          If you just ran a marathon and plan on running a 100 mile race in < 6 months, reddit says enjoy the pissing blood!

          Reply
  • Sean Merron August 5, 2020, 1:13 pm

    Hey Pete – long time no talk my friend! What’s your views on Christianity? I struggled with similar issues for many years as a former non-believer and being an avid factual, research-minded, overachiever. Honestly, I was building the wrong habits on a hamster wheel for happiness until I discovered the unhappiest people are those chasing happiness and faith was the escape and brought me peace. Anyways, I know as a former non-believe how weird this stuff sounds to others and I even have a hard time myself talking about it to others, just like talking about early retirement so maybe it’s better to hear from a former atheist. YouTube “lee strobel case for christ” and checkout his message and let me know if you ever want to talk about it. Good luck my friend and thanks again for everything you’ve done!

    Reply
    • Ruth McKeague August 6, 2020, 9:14 am

      I had the same thought as I read this post – which is truly excellent. Another great Christian apologist is Ravi Zacharias, who passed away only a few weeks ago. He bridges East and West in a way that mght resonate with MMM.

      Reply
    • Quez August 7, 2020, 7:21 am

      Why do people have to always sneak religion and/or football on everything? You are trying to imply that the atheists don’t see some things that only the religious believers see (although there are a myriad of religions, each one with their own rules and gods and etc.). For me, as an atheist I think the opposite is true: religious believers see more things than there really exist and it bugs me that they are always trying to convert others into their own religion.

      Reply
      • Lex August 7, 2020, 10:52 pm

        Quez… relax. No one is trying to convert anyone here. Two people simply implied that faith/religion has helped them find happiness. You have gone down a different path and that is fine. Happiness can be found in many places. Please don’t jump to conclusions.

        Reply
        • Ruth McKeague August 13, 2020, 9:48 am

          Thank you, Lex. No sneaking, no derogatory implications, and no efforts at converting here. Just a sharing of personal response.

          Reply
  • Ben Gilbertson August 5, 2020, 1:15 pm

    Hi
    Off subject for this tread and on diet and health I would recommend reading ‘The Fast 800’ by Doctor Michael Mosley-it has certainly changed my life. (I have no financial interest in this – just trying to pass my good luck on!)

    Reply

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