Striving to Let Go and Be a Better Person

Striving to Let Go and Be a Better PersonWell, tomorrow is the big day… we’re finally flying out and moving to Panama!  And with that, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about change and my plans to be a better person.

That’s right – who woulda thunk I could be any more of a better person than I already am?!  Well, guess what – even people like little old me have a little breathing room to improve on in our lives!


Striving to let go

So let’s start on the side of letting things go…

I’m a planner and a worker and always have been.  Organization is my middle name.  When a trip or event is being scheduled with friends or family, I’ve generally been the one to coordinate the plans.

I analyze and then over-analyze every detail to get everything – and I mean everything – lined up as close to perfect as possible.  That’s not just the flights or hotels or rental cars, but the details on possible itinerary ideas, costs, specials and discounts, places to eat, etc.

Yeah, I sound like a fun guy, right?

But here’s something weird – over the last year or so, I’ve noticed that slowly changing.  I’ve started to step back a little more on this stuff…  on purpose nonetheless.

My wife, Lisa, stepped up to the plate to fill in on my lax behavior.  When the group texts are going on with the planning, I used to be the one leading the pack to get all the details ironed out.

Now, I generally ignore my phone and all the countless messages in the chain until later on.  Lisa fills me in and makes a lot of the decisions on our behalf.

So what gives?

Am I slacking?

Did I lose my edge?

I really don’t think so.  In fact, I think I’ve become more focused on life in general.  But I’ve noticed that my priorities are changing and in a good way.


What’s bothering me?

I tear up a lot.  I watch sad movies, I cry.  I hear sad stories from others, I cry.  Hell, I can even watch a touching commercial and start crying.

Yeah, I’m not afraid to say it.  Feel free to make fun of me in the comments.

The thing that gets me the most though is when terrible things happen in this world.  Like most everyone, it rips me up inside to see news stories about bad things happening to kids, rapes, murders, terrorist attacks, and other garbage.

It seems like there’s too much evil in the world.  It’s also why I don’t watch and barely read the news anymore.

But one facet that always seems to weigh on my mind is homelessness.  It tears me up seeing homeless people on the street with no place to go.  And I hate it even more that it might not be legit and could be a scam artists posing as a beggar asking for money… scum!

My mind starts to wander and I start thinking “if only…”

Most folks are good, there’s just a small percentage of evil in this world.  If only these few bad apples weren’t around, this world would be a better place.

If only there was a way to eliminate the filth from the world.

If only.

We jump to judging people even though we don’t know their background.  Most of us are fortunate that we grew up in a semi-normal environment (yes, all families are insane, but you know what I’m saying).

Unfortunately, we live in a complex world.  We live in a world where we have war.  But not “simply” war for one’s principles, but war because it helps the rich get richer.  It helps strong countries pump their chests and flaunt their power in order to keep pushing others down.

Bad things happen.  That’s life, right?  So what can I do about it?


Aiming to be a better person

I feel like we’ve now reached a plateau where we can make some decisions in life we’ve never been able to make before.

It’s not because we’re rich (we’re not), but rather that we now have time on our side since I retired from my IT career.

And I absolutely don’t want to squander it away.

I’m now able to spend more time than ever before focused solely on my wife and daughter.  I can’t even explain how freeing and wonderful that is.  But soon I want to take some of my time and move to the next level of giving back.  I want to let go of all the pressures of things that don’t matter and tune in on the things that do.

I’ve never really been able to give back to others in ways I should.  My wife, Lisa, worked at Make-A-Wish for several years and loved the opportunity to help give special moments to kids that needed it.  I’ve never done anything like that.

Then there’s the other side of things.  Physician on FIRE started a Donor Advised Fund years ago to help give back.  This is a fantastic way to give financially and give yourself some good tax breaks along the way.

However, although we’re now FIRE, I failed to allocate charity as a line item in our budget.  Yes, I’m a horrible person, but that can change as we start bringing in more income through sources like this blog and other projects.

But I think what I’d like to do is start helping those in need directly.  Maybe it’s working in a soup kitchen to start with or something of that nature.

Eventually, though, I’d like to take it a step further and become more of a humanitarian.  I don’t know what exactly that’ll mean yet, but I just feel like I need to be doing something.

We’re in such a fortunate position to not have to work.  And then there are so many folks out there who don’t even know where they’re getting their next meal from or where they’re going to sleep.  It bothers me tremendously.

In a capitalistic society, there will always be a subset of people who are rich and a subset who are poor.  It’s just the way it works, unfortunately.  But that doesn’t mean that we should be ignoring those less fortunate than us.

Right now, this is all talk.

It’s just me thinking about what I really want, although “the proof is in the pudding” (what the hell does that even mean?!).  Once we get settled in Panama, I hope to start small and begin to do something that actually matters in life.

I don’t want to be remembered as the guy who was able to quit his job and retire at 43 (though that’s not too shabby of a thought to be known for!).  I’d rather be remembered for being someone who made a difference… someone who was leading the way in helping others.

And the only way to make a difference is to actually do it and make a difference.


Be a better person through leadership

I look at people like Bill and Melinda Gates who founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.  It strives to reduce inequity in the world.  They do so many amazing things to help others with their focus on:

  • Extreme poverty throughout the world
  • Poor health in developing countries
  • The failures of America’s education system

And they move ahead full steam making huge strides.  Not only that, but they’re reported to be the largest private foundation in the world ($50.7 billion in assets!).

Here’s a guy who was known to squash others in the world as he grew Microsoft into its dominance in taking over the world.  He could have just taken his money and spent the rest of his life on a yacht cruising around the world.

Instead, he’s using his money and influence for good… he’s like a super-villain that turned into a superhero!

When I see people like this, I start to wonder, “Why can’t I do this?”  Ok, he had a lot more money and connections to get it started and make it successful, but the key is that he did get it started.

I might not be able to do something this incredible, but I want to find a way to help others as best I can.  And just because it’ll start out small doesn’t mean I won’t be able to grow it into something bigger.

On top of that, I can’t seem to shake this feeling that I’m supposed to be doing something big… like really big.  I’ve actually had dreams about this since I was a kid.

There’s a nagging thought I should be leading the way for something.  I’ve never really known what that “something” actually is, but maybe that’s part of my desire to be a better person.

Very convoluted, right?  What the heck am I saying with this?

I wish I knew the answer, but I don’t.  I just know I have a great opportunity to make some changes in my life that can help others.  And maybe this idea of leading the way might be a part of it.

Maybe, I need to start a foundation to help change the world.  Or perhaps it would be better to be an advocate for a cause that’s already rolling strong.  There are so many different ideas and choices I can be doing.

I have a lot of thinking to do!

But one thing at a time.  I need a little bit of time to get settled into this foreign country first.  After that, it’s time to get off my butt and do something good for others… time to be a better person.

Wish me luck!


It’s hard to argue that striving to be a better person is a worthwhile goal in life and I’m open to ideas big and small… talk to me!


Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

14 thoughts on “Striving to Let Go and Be a Better Person”

  1. Hi Jim!
    I haven’t commented in awhile, but certainly followed your posts and wish you and your family the best for the new adventures in Panama! I feel a kinship in timing as me and my daughter are headed to California now for a few months – different kind of adventure and alas about the opposite of FIRE/frugal, but oh well 😉
    Agree that “letting go” does often have a synergy with, not only getting happier in life, but also becoming a better person.
    Take care! Change is good!

  2. Ironic your adventure begins tomorrow as so does mine. I was downsized yesterday so I have the opportunity to see where I’m at and what lies ahead. It is exciting and a little scary but in a good way. I feel free.

    We didn’t start the fire…. Billy Joel

    “Let it go”!reminds me of Frozen which makes me want to yak?

    Good luck and enjoy the ride!

  3. I’m envious of your adventure. I do snivel at the term “giving back” – it isn’t like you took something you did not deserve. I prefer just a simple “giving”. Financial freedom allows us to do more good, for sure.

    We opened a Fidelity Charitable account last year – it was a way to take advantage of tax deductibility by bundling contributions into a single tax year – using appreciated stock. So we don’t pay cap gains tax on the stock and still get above the standard deduction threshold for a given year. We’ll do another exchange this year – and then our regular charitable contributions for the next 7 or 8 years will be made from the fidelity account (after our income drops and taxes are less important). It is a nice way to set up your giving legacy – even if you don’t have $50B (yet). And it helps with cash flow.

    Best wished in Panama. A man, a hat, something like that.

    1. That’s a good point on the semantics, Kev – I do feel like I owe it to others based on the position I’m in, but you’re right, “giving” might be the better choice word.

      Wow, that’s really cool on the Fidelity Charitable account. I hope to be in a position where we have some more breathing room down the line and can do something similar as well.

      Thanks for the wishes!

  4. I am excited for you, Jim.

    God calls us to himself and also toward good works.

    Maybe your new adventure will lead you closer to the creator and He will guide your path.

    Make good, buddy.

  5. Jim, You’re definitely on to something. My wife started a non-profit earlier this year to free dogs from a life on a chain (we provide free fencing to low-income families who keep their dog on a chain), and it’s been a very rewarding effort for both of us. Find a way to give back, you’ll be better for it.

    For now, tho…WOW, TOMORROW!! I can’t believe the time has finally come. Seems like only yesterday we shared a dinner in Cleveland and talked about the dream. The dream is about to become a reality. Enjoy!!

  6. I rarely donate. My heart has hardened over the years.
    I think the problem is that we went through hard times when I was young and nobody helped. We figured it out and improve our lives. You can’t depend on other people to help you.
    Anyway, I’d like to help more someday. My father in law uses his Social Security benefits as a donation fund. If it all works out, we plan to do the same. For now, I just give occasionally.
    Have a safe flight!

    1. So sorry to hear that, Joe – you’ve definitely worked hard to overcome the adversity from your past. I think that’s really cool to be in a position to be able to do that with SS benefits like your father-in-law… cool idea!

  7. Nothing wrong with giving back, whether that be your money or your time!

    Mrs. Tako and I try to do most of our giving (time and/or money) to our local community. We give locally.
    It’s a place we understand and know what the problems are here. We can’t fix all of the problems, but if you don’t try nothing will happen, right?

    Best of luck in Panama!

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