Removing the bloody cloak of full-time work

Published April 17, 2017   Posted in In Retirement

Early retirement has surprised me. It taught me that the things I enjoyed as I worked a full-time job are not the same things that I enjoy now – free and clear of those imprisoning shackles. Full-time work has a way of blinding us to the world.

Selfie of the wife and I at a New York wedding

For instance, I loved going to the gym when I worked a full-time job. It gave me something to focus on. It let me zone out of everything and aim my mental energies on some defining purpose. I loved it. I thought that I would love it after I flipped full-time work the bird.

But, I don’t. I mean, I still do enjoy working out, but I don’t love it. I find myself powering through my workouts so I can return home and do other things. Like blog. Or Rockstar Finance stuff. Or any of the other things that fill my life that genuinely give me joy.

Things that I had no idea ever existed before that magical day last December.

Early retirement instantly expands your world

Retiring early from full-time work taught me an important lesson: This world is full of opportunity. Full of beautiful things. Of some seriously powerful and satisfying shit that we never truly realized existed back when our minds operated behind a wall of status reports and performance reviews.

Agave cactus says, “I’m sharp!”

For many of us, our jobs define us. But even when they don’t, jobs provide the stability that we need – at least psychologically, to live a happy-enough life. When we work dependable jobs, our subconscious ignores opportunities. We think that our J.O.B. is THE opportunity that we need to live a fulfilling life. Therefore, our brains instantly attempt to make our world more simple by automatically ignoring other options.

Confirmation bias. It’s compelling beyond comprehension, and many of us don’t even realize what’s going on. I sure as hell didn’t.

But, once I removed the shackles of full-time work from my wrists, my world literally opened up right in front of me. It was like I was released from prison, but not in the United States. In this country, ex-cons are dropped off at a bus stop with a $20 in their pocket and expected to instantly become a productive member of society, not devolve back into the only thing they know – a life of crime.

…but I digress.

I know it sounds like bullshit, but I see things differently now.

My subconscious is back in action, baby!

Instead of ignoring opportunities right in front of me, I notice them. By now, I could be involved with full-time work again if I wanted to – the opportunity is everywhere. Instead, I’m working with J$ over a Rockstar Finance – on my own terms, helping a cause that I deeply believe in.

This is stuff that I never would have considered in my previous life of full-time work. I couldn’t. My mind knew that I couldn’t. I had a full-time job, and it paid the bills. It was good enough, and I was content. I didn’t love the work, but whatever…my subconscious checked out and I was left to wander aimlessly down a dusty road. No real threats from any direction. It was all just…good enough.

But once our full-time jobs are removed from our life, we begin to see everything in a whole new way. Black and white has become color. Everything is more vibrant. I am able to see our world for what it truly is. It’s a world of opportunity. Everywhere we turn.

I still remember the first workday morning after retiring early.

I crawled out of bed as I usually do. My wife left for work. And…there I was, sitting quietly at my desk. Nothing on my to-do list. All I heard were the rhythmic murmurs of breathing. The dogs were asleep.

I stared into my computer monitor, relaxed. I was free. Previously, this was the time that I would check my work email. Consultants asking other consultants for help on a project. New hire announcements. Company “wins” by capturing a new market segment. The boss wants a status report on his project. My customer has a question and needs a call.

Oh, look at that…HR has a new “anti-harassment” policy. Turns out that I can’t play grab-ass with my coworkers in the office. Well damn, who knew? And check that out, we have an All Staff meeting setup this Friday to detail the company’s impressive growth by connecting with market “influencers”. We’re all visionaries who innovate by thinking outside the box. We are pivoting in Germany. Engaging in England. Constantly adding value.

Suddenly, all of that was gone. The crushing burden shouldered by my subconscious mind was no longer there.

The goal was
no longer to just
get through another day.

Early retirement is the beginning, not the end

It is too easy to view early retirement as the culmination of productivity and “work”. It’s not…well, at least it doesn’t have to be. Ignore the obtuse narrative recited by lifers that retirement is the end.

Early retirement is the reward after completing the accumulation phase of our life. It means that the work requirement has been lifted. We now enjoy the freedom to live our lives the way we see fit – with or without work. Your opportunities for work and productivity don’t stop. And I’m not talking about hobbies, here. I’m referring to legit work. Enjoyable work.

In early retirement, opportunities expand. Without a full-time job monopolizing our precious (and limited) brain power, we’re now able to take note of our environment and make better decisions about what makes us happy. Opportunities are all over the place. For work. For happiness. Whatever. You make the call. The world is your freaking oyster.

You meet people who need help with a part of their business that you happen to know well. Your friend needs a web site designed for his mountain biking club. You had an idea for a service that matches people up with pet hamsters based on its personality that you never pursued working full-time. Genius.

The point is: Early retirement opens our world to opportunity. Those things that our minds never allowed us to consider now become possible. That’s right, start that hamster business.

It’s a wonderful feeling.

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34 responses to “Removing the bloody cloak of full-time work”

  1. Steve, glad to see you enjoying your new expanded horizons in early retirement. I remember the first week when I stepped out into early retirement and it felt strange. But, it was only because I wasn’t used to it. Now, I can’t imagine living without it. You get to create the opportunities that align with your own values and spend as much time as you want with family and friends as you like. Life without the need for money is a life worth living. 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Amen to that, Michael. I can’t imagine being restricted by the confines of a full-time job any more either, and I’ve only been free for a couple of months! 🙂

  2. I have to admit most days/weeks I am just trying to make it until Friday when I can choose to do what I want with my time. Most weekends I don’t even get to choose that 🙂 I am running diligently towards FIRE and hope I can get there sooner rather than later 🙂

  3. You know, they often say in order for retirement to be successful you have to retire too something. It’s a bit clichéd but I’ve seen more then one person not live but a few months after retirement. In each case they had no ailments before hand. The key seems to be without something to drive you, some goal or reason, we end up aimless. That doesn’t seem to do well for peoples health. Those opportunities each represent paths, now you just have to pick the ones that are right. From what I’ve seen of your blogging and rockstarfinance work you appear to have chosen opportunities driving towards some passions. I suspect itll be a long and interesting one.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks FTF. It’s very true, retiring TO something is so much more important than retiring FROM something – especially if you actually liked your job before you quit. Early retirement isn’t the time to just “do nothing”. It’s a time to do exactly what you want until you get tired of it. Then, on to something else!

  4. DadsDollarsDebts says:

    Removing the cloak sounds great. I always get the Sunday dread (as Earn Save Invest recently described it) and it is even worse when I know I am going to be on call the next day. The uncertainty of what may walk through the hospital door never gets easier for me.

    Enjoy the time and the ability to choose your path! Enjoy the beginning!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the comment, Dads. Yeah, I know what the Sunday Dread feels like too…though now, the dread has actually turned into excitement.

  5. Ah, you retirees are all the same – get a job and get back to work!

    Just kidding – I’m so envious, I could just throw up! 🙂 I can’t wait until I set my own priorities and chase the opportunities I want and not be stuck with just the evenings and weekends for it. Congrats again!

    — Jim

  6. Joe says:

    Sounds like you’re really enjoying early retirement. That’s awesome. It’s really great that you can work on whatever you want. Early retirement really is full of opportunities. People who complain about retirement just need to be more open minded about them.

    • Steve says:

      Yup – and maybe those who complain about retirement should go back to work if they can…you know, if retirement is really that bad. 😉

  7. Rachel M says:

    Re: hamsters. Is your idea to match a person to a hamster or more hamster to hamster ala for rodents? JK. I loved the exuberance of your post. My husband and I are on the cusp of FIRE. I have dropped down to three days a week. As I sit here on a Monday morning having just finished my yoga, all I can say is yes. This girl is (almost) on FIRE!

  8. tntcomfort says:

    Well said, thanks for your perspective from the other side! I can see the other side from where I sit (days away from retirement) and the grass appears to be greener, it is nice to get some confirmation that indeed it is.


    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the comment, Troy. It’s nice over here. It’s still “life” – chore still exist. Things don’t always work out. But, having eight to 10 of the most productive hours of my day back under my control has been absolutely amazing.

  9. Bill says:

    Congratulations! The key to living well is to do what you want to do. I worked for nearly 32 years and still am working. I like what I do and I would only slightly change my career if I had to do it over again. I would be in the same field – computer science. I tinker around with open source software on my spare time, yes, on weekends, and I contribute to open source for free. So in four years I will start taking social security distributions at 62 ($1955 per month is not bad) though it is only a supplement and I saved up,$2,000,000 on my own already. I will still get paid for software work past 62 though. I love it! I don’t really like the word “retire,” because it is misconstrued as meaning “not working,” “out to the pasture.” I just like the idea of doing things on my own terms.

    • Steve says:

      There is a lot to be said for doing things on your own terms, Bill. Good on you for understanding what makes you happy. I generally enjoy software work enough to do it on my own, but not nearly enough to do it as a full-time job working for a big corporation. 🙂

  10. Mr. Tako says:

    I totally agree about the expanded horizons Steve. The stuff I do today I never would have dreamed of doing before early retirement….

    Frankly, I believe people shouldn’t plan what happens after early retirement too much. It’s really going to be a process of discovery — discovering who you really are after all the dumbassery of work is done.

    • Steve says:

      I totally agree, people shouldn’t plan too much. My wife is the planner in the family, but even she is letting things just happen now as well. Of course if it were up to me, we’d plan basically nothing. That’s probably a bit extreme, but whatevs. Works for me! 🙂

  11. mamafishsaves says:

    “A happy-enough life” gave me the chills. It took realizing that I was compromising on things in my life that weren’t worth compromising on for me to discover and pursue FIRE. Can’t wait to remove the shackles and be open to find true, complete happiness. Keep enjoying your freedom!

  12. After reading this, my main question is…


  13. “It’s a wonderful feeling.” So great to hear that. Sounds like in your case, when one door closes many open, congrats! Truly happy for you and love hearing about your new found freedom and the joy it’s bringing you.

  14. “Full-time work has a way of blinding us to the world.” – Indeed it does!

  15. Mrs Groovy says:

    The Sunday Dread has disappeared for us too. And never, ever, again seeing an email addressed to “All Staff” is awesome. I’m happy for you that various opportunities are finding you. Plenty more of that to come.

  16. “I could be involved with full-time work again if I wanted to – the opportunity is everywhere” – it’s crazy, isn’t it? I get job offers every week – and I am not looking at all right now! Thanks for sharing the updates – it sounds transformative. What I love is that you are surprised by it too. I would have thought after reading lots of PF blogs that the “aha’s” would have been pretty well covered. It shows how personal all of our journey’s truly are!

  17. Ms. Montana says:

    It’s been 18 months for us and an absolutely crazy experience. I honestly never would have guessed. So many cool things open up. The biggest disappointment is that I still don’t have unlimited time. I still have to be picky about how I spent our time, because there are WAY more amazing options than hours in the day.

    • Steve says:

      That’s so true. Ms. Montana. So much to do out there, and even after you’re retired, it is still very wise to be ruthless with how you manage your time. 🙂

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