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May 2019 update – making FIRE friends and major life revelations
An April update might be conspicuously missing, but let’s just move along shall we? 🙂
While I’ve been a bit absent on the blog and the online FI space, in May I had the opportunity to hang out with some real-life people from the FIRE community thanks to the excellent Financial Independence Week Europe (FIWE) conference in Budapest organised by Mr and Mrs W from What Life Could Be.
As my first FIRE meetup, I honestly had no idea what to expect. But based on the description of the event and reading about Mr and Mrs W’s environmental activism, I had a feeling that the folks gathered there would be talking about much more than optimising investment strategies.
What I found was a community deeply inspiring, and committed to finding meaning and creating impact. While a handful of presentations were about investments, making money and how to reach FIRE (which were all very good by the way), there was plenty of emphasis on happiness, personal development, and living a life of meaning (ikigai seemed to be the word de jour).
After the main conference wrapped up and we were a smaller group, I was involved in so many solutions-oriented conversations about how to make a positive impact on the world, how to take on some of the world’s greatest challenges (single-use plastic and climate breakdown were very popular topics), and sustainable investing.
Key FIWE takeaways
Throughout the conference I was making notes on what I needed to research further, and wrote down key action points. But the last session of FIWE actually got us thinking about our key takeaways as a group. We were asked to fill out handouts listing some of our smaller actions/goals (e.g. mine included re-starting meditation), and then what we could pursue as larger goals.
We then left these handouts on our tables, and went around the room reading others’, writing our names down if we thought we could help that person fulfil a particular goal. I loved this exercise because it helped us connect further, and know who to reach out to as accountability partners, mentors, or advisors.
So, what are my main takeaways and revelations from FIWE?
I need to do some deep thinking regarding impact
This one is not so much an action step or tangible goal, but a realisation that I’m paralysed in my thinking on how to solve the world’s biggest problems (a topic deeply important to me). Having spent the last four years working for an organisation that typically rips apart mainstream solutions to environmental damage and the climate crisis (“because we need to overthrow capitalism first”), I’ve grown rather cynical, disillusioned, disenchanted – and yes, paralysed.
On the one hand, I believe systemic change is needed to tackle exploitation, extractivism, environmental destruction, inequality and insidious corporate power. On the other hand, we don’t have the luxury of time to make these radical changes before everything, everywhere, goes to shit with climate breakdown.
As someone (albeit reluctantly) invested in the capitalist system because of my investments, I want to find a way through this mental impasse and really dedicate more time to reading and thinking about this topic. You would think with a relevant Masters and 10+ years experience in the field I would be an expert, but like I said, my last job kinda messed me up.
And as I work through this at an intellectual level, I should really be doing more in my direct sphere of influence as well – perhaps volunteering or organising at a community level and going to more protests (which I love anyway).
I should dial down the freelancing and go back to my career
I’m grateful for the freelancing gigs I’ve secured over the past few months, but while they’ve brought me some money, and helped me get a taste of digital nomadism, they don’t bring me much satisfaction or meaning.
I’ve spent years working hard to get myself into senior NGO positions where I can really see the investment of my time and efforts pay off. Something about the freelancing I’ve been doing makes me feel like I’m at the bottom of the pile again and not contributing in a meaningful way. This need to feel important and do important things is definitely my ego talking, but I’m glad it’s something I’ve realised about myself.
Going back to full-time work was on the cards after this mini-retirement anyway, but the value of this became clearer during the conference because I realised it is in this area where I can make the biggest contribution, and get paid properly for my efforts in return.
I’ve quit one gig already. It was the best paid one, and involved environmental and climate issues, but it meant spending time a lot of time on social media, which I really hate doing so… buh bye!
I need to continue on my entrepreneurial journey
Among the attendees were many entrepreneurs, several of which have used entrepreneurship to already reach FIRE and live life by their design. It really drove home the idea that entrepreneurship catalyses the path to financial freedom. While I might want to go back to working in a regular job this autumn, who knows whether I’ll change my mind again? Building my own business gives me options, and it helps me skill up in other areas.
Since I wrote about developing an entrepreneurial mindset last year, I’ve got my small Etsy shop up and running. This was a great starter project, but I’m looking to go bigger than that. If I can somehow combine impact with entrepreneurship then all the better, but I think that will come further down the line.
As you can see, FIWE was really instrumental in helping me clarify some of my thoughts and focus on what to do next. It was also tons of fun, with great company, food, and drink – so I definitely hope to go to the one next year!
I’m also looking forward to my first London FIRE meetup: the Playing With Fire premiere in June 🙂
The rest of May
After FIWE wrapped up, I had a couple more weeks of travelling Europe with my partner – plenty of time to continue thinking, while indulging in some more delicious food and beer. We hit up Bratislava and Prague (and bought some cheap antique wedding rings while there), before spending some time in my partner’s German hometown.
As this is in theory a monthly update, I should touch upon my goals, but let’s just say everything is ticking along with German learning, exercise, matched betting, and my new hobby, growing vegetables!
How was May for you? I would love to read any comments below!