The Incredible Power of Community

Today we have a super special guest post.  He writes for a little blog that you might have heard of, 1500 Days. If you haven’t, you really should check it out sometime.

Mr. 1500 has finally come through with his payment from our bet, oh… something like 18 months ago! Regardless, he came through, so if he ever owes you, take solace that you’ll get what you’re owed. As for the timeliness, that is a different animal.

That being said, we’re super proud to have our dear friend talk about an incredible super power that comes when you start down the path to financial independence.

And with that, we’ll let him take it away. Mr. 1500 the stage is yours…

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Jim Rohn

Towards the end of 2017, Mr. WoW said something like this to me:

Want to run a half-marathon?

My initial response was something like:

Or maybe it was this:

In case that wasn’t clear, I had less than zero interest in running a half-marathon. Much less. I’ve always been a poor athlete. In high school, just running a mile was torture. Now, at the age of 44, this crazy waffle dude was asking me if I wanted to run 13 of them? In a row?

HELL NO!

But then. I started thinking about it. I firmly believe that one of the most important things you can do in life is get out of your comfort zone. And a half-marathon was definitely out of my mine:

Half-marathons! Only slightly worse than monster truck rallies, but not as bad as head cheese!
*Also, I have nothing against yoga, but it has something against me. Or maybe the problem is me because I’m as flexible as a petrified log.

So, I said yes. About 4 months later, I completed my first half-marathon. I didn’t set the world on fire with my pace, but I ran every last, bitter, knee-aching mile. And it wouldn’t have happened without Mr. WoW’s encouragement.

I was so delirious after the half-marathon, I put a Peep in my beer. Even worse, I drank/ate the concoction.

Before I go much further, let’s take a trip down Memory Lane.

Flippant Flippers

Mrs. 1500 and I were house flippers in a past life. While this was good for the bank account balance, it wasn’t good for our happiness.

Our strategy was to buy a home, stay in it for two years while we fixed it up, and then move on. This strategy allowed us to pocket all of the capital gains.

Because we knew our stay in any home was short, we didn’t invest time in our community. We made no effort to form friendships or even talk to neighbors. Thinking back, we were probably the crazy people that all of the other neighbors whispered about. And then we found the FIRE movement.

One of the first things we did after discovering FIRE is move. We were living in a massive home of about 4,500 square feet. Retiring early and living in an oversized house weren’t reconcilable. We moved to a home about 1/3 of the size of the McMansion. It wasn’t easy going from 4 toilets down to 1, but we managed. Note: I’ve since remodeled the home and we now have 3 toilets! Such luxury!

At the same time, I resolved to be more outgoing. This wasn’t easy because as a severe introvert, interaction with new humans terrifies me. Hell, there are people I’ve known a decade that still terrify me. In any case, I’d smile and say “Hello!” to everyone I came across on my walks about town. Note: If you’re an introvert, try this sometime. Most will return the gesture. The exercise is uplifting.

At the same time, my newly hatched blog introduced me to new people as well. Back in 2013, a reader figured out that I lived in her hometown and invited our family over for dinner. We’re all good friends today. We met another family on the Mr. Money Mustache forums who we hang out with regularly. Many of the bloggers I’ve met have become good friends and I visit them in exotic places like Scotland, Vermont, Maine, Moab, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.

While I have friends who I’ve known most of my life, the ones who I see most often ones that are part of the FIRE community. I have more in common with them and they’re available at 10 am on a Tuesday to help me move something. Bonus: They never hit me up for money!

I used to think that my ring of FIRE friends was the result of a deficiency on my part. Why don’t I easily make many friends outside of the FIRE community? Why can’t I relate to my neighbor? What am I doing wrong?

Now, I’ve become comfortable in my skin because I’ve realized that I’m not much different. My neighbor who is into sports mostly hangs out with people from his sports teams. My other neighbor hangs out with people from her work. The crazy dude who lives on the corner and spends his time digging up his yard for mysterious reasons and yelling at motorists; well I don’t think he has any friends, but that’s another story.

I hang out with FIRE people because those are the ones who I resonate with. Beer, bikes and board games. I don’t feel so bad about it now.

Those Five People

What I really appreciate about the FIRE community is this:

I’m a better person because of it.

I never would have run a half-marathon if Mr. WoW wouldn’t have suggested it. I’m pretty sure that even the thought of a half-marathon would never have entered my head without him.

Thanks Mr. WoW

I have a FIRE friend who despite being 15 years my senior, kicks my ass every Wednesday on our snowshoeing adventures (I’m writing this on Friday and my legs still hurt from the 9-mile leg burner we did on Wednesday).

Always behind. Always.

At MMM HQ, I receive gentle encouragement to get my squats and deadlifts in. Sometimes, it’s not so gentle: “Get your ass out to the yard!”

And the FIRE community is considerate too.

Last year, Mrs. 1500 had a fairly invasive surgical procedure. When Miss Mazuma heard about it, she immediately volunteered to watch our girls while we were at the hospital. She had also done the same years ago when we had a travel debacle.

Here in Longmont, we have a Slack channel and if I post that I need help with something, I’ll have 3 offers within an hour. Nothing expected in return; just people helping people.

This Is What It Should Be Like

I often think that humanity has lost its way. Humans are social animals that thrive on the company of others. But now, many of us live in silos, mostly detached. I wonder if bad consumer behavior is a result of our isolation? Are we unhappy and filling a void through mindless consumerism?

One of the most common questions that I’m asked from the press is this or some derivation of it:

How does one get to FIRE?

My response is this:

You’re asking the wrong question.

The real question is this:

How does one live a happy, meaningful life?

The answer is to live simply, but also give generously. Find a level of Enough that makes you happy and stick with it. Buying things doesn’t result in long term happiness. The shiny car or big house may impress some, but are those the people you want to be impressing? No. Don’t get into that race because it never ends and is unwinnable.

Realize that your tribe is far more important to happiness. Be there for your community and it will be there for you. Hang out on your front porch and say “Hi!” to everyone who walks by. Invite them over for dinner.

And if you’re living well, FIRE will just be one of the happy side-effects. (It was for me! I didn’t know about any of this until 2012 and I’m retired now, despite my McMansion McMistake.)

Another happy side-effect is that you’ll pick up some great friends along the way. And one of those friends may make you do something you never thought you were capable of; like run a half-marathon.

11 Comments

  • Better Late Than Never? - 1500 Days to Freedom February 27, 2019 at 5:28 am

    […] write a guest post for his tasty, Michelin 3-star-rated, Waffles on Wednesday blog. I finally got it finished a couple of weeks […]

    Reply
  • Carl February 27, 2019 at 5:30 am

    Thanks Mr. WoW for having me! If I ever write another post for you, I’ll get it down on time. Ha, who am I kidding???

    Reply
  • freddy smidlap February 27, 2019 at 5:44 am

    you’re guesting it up all over the joint these days, carl. i don’t know any financial independence folks near buffalo. maybe they all have the sense to avoid this high tax ripoff state. i have met the nicest people from all walks of life walking my dog around town. we sit on our front porch all the time and invite people we know up for vino if they pass by.

    Reply
    • Carl February 27, 2019 at 7:02 am

      “we sit on our front porch all the time and invite people we know up for vino if they pass by.”

      You paint a pretty picture Freddy.

      Reply
  • My Sons Father February 27, 2019 at 6:34 am

    Love the quote at the beginning, I use it regularly. I look at is as a two way street, surround yourself with a community that inspires you to be better AND be open to change and receptive to influences.

    Reply
    • Carl February 27, 2019 at 7:08 am

      Yep, that’s an awesome quote.

      “be open to change and receptive to influences”

      Love it. Once you close your mind, you stop learning. And we should always be learning.

      Reply
  • Michelle @ FrugalityandFreedom February 27, 2019 at 5:39 pm

    Good guest post, Carl! I know what you mean about the struggle to build community while moving from place to place. As much as I love solo travel and exploring new cities on this one-year USA mini-retirement, I do have moments of missing the connection to a local neighbourhood.

    However, the FIRE community has filled this void wonderfully for me, both online and at in-person events such as Camp FI, FinCon, and the upcoming Camp Mustache. I also feel comfortable in reaching out to ChooseFI local groups and the “friends I haven’t yet met” when I arrive in new cities; in fact, I’ve organised or attended meetups with those groups in six cities in the last six months. I’ve still found ways to help or be helped by the extended network of my FIRE community friends on the road, such as assisting a CampFI attendee through housesitting right now, plus being hosted by a ChooseFI fan during a recent trip to LA. I’m definitely pleased to be involved in this community, which is really adding positively to my trip and life overall!

    Reply
    • Carl February 28, 2019 at 6:59 am

      “I also feel comfortable in reaching out to ChooseFI local groups and the “friends I haven’t yet met” when I arrive in new cities; in fact, I’ve organised or attended meetups with those groups in six cities in the last six months.”

      This is one of my favorite parts of the community. There is a built-in network of great people everywhere you go. You never feel alone.

      Reply
  • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials February 28, 2019 at 3:29 am

    Ok, hold on. I get the half-marathon thing and I get the yoga. But MONSTER TRUCK RALLIES? Really? I went to one last year and it was dope*

    *Only with hearing protection and frequent fresh air breaks to avoid all the fumes

    Reply
    • Carl February 28, 2019 at 6:52 am

      Gwen! I never associated you with monster trucks. My Little Pony (from our recent Twitter conversations) wasn’t surprising, but this is a surprise. You have many, many layers…

      Reply
  • Nomads With a Vision February 28, 2019 at 10:07 am

    Glad you survived the half marathon, Carl! Next time you need to have them set up a rail with a nice craft beer that stays just out of reach like the rabbit they use for dog races. You’ll crush the competition! I’m just glad that the Waffles haven’t challenged me. I get out of breath running around the block.

    I’m really glad you brought up the importance of community. My favorite thing about the FIRE movement is the community that it provides. I’ve found most members to be passionate, inspired and generous. My wife and I are headed to FinCon this year to mostly skip the lectures and just hang out with you guys! Although, like Gwen, I wonder who doesn’t like fire-breathing trucks crushing tiny cars?

    Reply

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