FIRE Gives You the Freedom to Fail Miserably

FIRE Gives You the Freedom to Fail MiserablyWho creates a headline to talk about the “freedom” to fail miserably?  That’s depressing!

This guy does – that’s who!

Most of you likely read this blog for one of two reasons – you’re striving to reach financial independence or you’re already there.

And the reasons you aim for that goal will vary… maybe you want to quit your job because you can’t stand your career anymore.  Or maybe you just want financial security to give you more choices in life.  Perhaps you want to cut your hours back so you can spend more time with your kids.

Whatever your reason, financial independence is obviously a good answer to get the ball rolling.

However, there’s another benefit financial freedom can provide that we haven’t talked about before.  And that’s the ability to – yup, you guessed it – fail miserably.

Here’s why that’s such a great benefit… when you’re no longer a slave to money, you have the ability to try new things.

That’s right – financial independence doesn’t just mean that you have a bigger stash of cash, but it also provides something even more exciting… time.

If you love your job, that’s fantastic.  Feel free to keep working until you don’t have those same feelings or physically can’t do the job anymore.

But, if you don’t have those wonderful feelings toward work, financial independence gives you an opportunity for something fun.  You now have the ability to leave your job and enter the world of early retirement.


The power of FIRE

You might be rolling your eyes, thinking, “Jim, I’m not 97 years old.  I’m not ready to just sit in a rocking chair doing crossword puzzles while I wait for Wheel of Fortune to come on.”  But here’s the thing, that’s “normal” retirement – that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about retirement for younger folks and it’s a lot different.

Most of you are already familiar with the concept of FIRE (financial independence / retire early).  And that kind of retirement, my friends, doesn’t mean that you just sit on your butt all day.

You’re young enough that almost all of you will want to do something useful with your new-found freedom.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a book, start a business, or do some kind of coaching or mentoring.

A lot of dreams we have in life get pushed off because we’re afraid of the possibility of having them fail miserably.  We’re scared because we’re dependent on that steady income to support ourselves and our loved ones.

FIRE Gives You the Freedom to Fail Miserably - The power of FIRE

But, guess what – once you’re financially independent, money isn’t an issue like it used to be.

And because of that, you can now try all kinds of different things and, if you do fail miserably, it’s not the end of the world.  When you take money out of the equation, you can now do what you’ve always wanted to without the worry of it bringing in enough dough to pay the bills.

Think about that for a minute.  Are there different hobbies in life that you’ve considered but never tried before or got to spend enough time on?

  • Carpentry
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Glass-blowing
  • Musician
  • Baking
  • Making crafts (is that called crafting or am I making that word up?)
  • Blogging
  • Graphic design
  • Car repair
  • Teaching/ Tutoring
  • Comedy
  • Web design
  • Bartending

Come on, I know there are thousands of ideas out there – don’t make me think of ’em all!

Now, here’s the coolest part of doing something you want to do… you’re probably going to make money doing it!  In fact, it’s very possible you’re going to be able to make really good money doing what you love.

A recent example that comes to mind for me is Dave from Accidental FIRE.  Dave, “accidentally” realized he was financially independent and has since semi-retired.  But recently, he started toying around with designing logos for other bloggers.  He’s really good at it, enjoys it, and he’s making a few bucks in the process.  Can you ask for anything more than that?

In essence, by doing something you’ve always wanted to do, you’re probably going to make money.  But if you don’t make a steady income with it, that’s Ok because you’re not relying on it to pay for food on your table.

Not only that, but if you try out a hobby you’ve wanted and don’t like it or get bored with it after a while, you just stop doing it.  That lack of dependence on money from a 9-5 job sure is powerful!

So far so good, right?


Failure is an option

Why I'm excited to fail miserably - Failure is an option
Failure’s not only an option, but it’s an opportunity to push forward to excel the next time!

On top of that, there will be things you try that you actually fail miserably at.  There are things that we’re enthusiastic about doing, but we just aren’t born to do.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to bartend and be the one mixing all kinds of fun drinks.  But you start doing it and realize that you just don’t want to sit there and listen to people complaining all the time.

Or you decide to try your hand at painting and you’re not a natural when it comes to it.  You have a vision in your mind but can’t put it on the canvas.

We’re not all perfect at everything we do.  Here’s my favorite part though… who cares?   You now have the choice to move onto something else or learn from it.

Failing at something shouldn’t be considered a bad thing.  Failure only exists to present an opportunity to get better at something.

No one strives for failure.  However, if you want to learn and grow, accepting the idea of falling down and getting back up is the tried and true way of making it happen.

I used to be horrible at home repairs… horrible.  Like really bad.  Anything I touched turned to @#$%.  But because of my unwillingness to easily part with a buck, over time, I got better.

I’m no Bob Villa and I know the limits of what I can take on, but I can now handle some reasonable repairs.  I don’t plan to ever do that for money because I really don’t enjoy it, but the point is that you can get better at something if you keep at it.

So if you try something in early retirement and aren’t good at it, you have a choice – give up and move on to something else or keep at it and try to get better at it.  The choice is yours, but it’s rare to be good at something out of the chute and practice really does make perfect!

As a side note, I’m not implying that you should wait until you’re financially independent to try new things.  Far from it.  Life is meant for you to try new things and you never know if you’ll make it long enough to be able to delve into new hobbies down the line.  Yikes, morbid!

What I am suggesting is that once you do reach FIRE, you now have more time to explore these new ideas.  Don’t pass up this opportunity in life!


Why I’m excited to fail miserably

I finally reached FIRE at the end of 2018 and I’m still coming to grips with my new freedom.  It’s weird to realize that I don’t need to go back to a job hopefully for the rest of my life.  Each day I wake up and continue to work on some things that I’ve had on the backburner for a while.

However, I’m more excited about the upcoming days than anything.  You can look at FIRE however you prefer, but there’s one beautiful point that is exciting to me… I can now pursue my dreams without the worry of money.

I can try new things and, if I fail miserably at them, the welfare of my family is not at risk.  This is tremendously appealing and opens up a whole new world.

So what are some of the things I want to do in early retirement?

    • Write a few more books – Right now, I have in mind writing a personal finance book, a children’s book, and a book of stories about my grandfather.
    • Gardening – This should be interesting because I’ve never done any gardening before and have no idea if I’ll be good at it.  I’d love to be able to grow my own vegetables and make my own salsa… we’ll see how it goes!
    • Continue blogging – Ok, this one’s a gimme.  I started Route to Retire with the intent of building it up for something to have in place as I transitioned into FIRE.  I’m still loving it, so I’ll definitely keep doing this for the foreseeable future.
    • Get better at playing the keyboard – I had some piano lessons as a kid, but I didn’t play long enough to get really good at it.  It’s something I’ve always regretted and want to master.  Maybe I’ll join a band while in Panama!
    • Learning the harmonica – Weird, right?  But I thought this would be a cool instrument that I could actually carry around for once.  Maybe something cool to play around a fire with friends at some point.
    • FIRE Gives You the Freedom to Fail Miserably - Why I'm excited to fail miserably
      Here’s an old drawing I made of Belle from Beauty and the Beast… see, I could have drawn for Disney, right?!

      Drawing – I enjoyed drawing when I was a kid… enough so that I was a Studio Art major in college for a couple of years.  I actually wanted to draw for Disney before they moved everything to computer animation.  I bailed when I decided that I didn’t want to have someone tell me what to draw and when it needed to be done by for the rest of my life.  Anyway, I was pretty good at it and I think I’d like to go back to it again.

    • Teaching – This is a weird one. I feel like I was born to teach.  I’ve never done it before, but I’m good at working with others and helping them learn.  I have a pretty good knack for breaking things down in ways that are more understandable.  I don’t know if this will turn into something or not, but I don’t want to rule it out.
    • Martial arts – This is another one I’ve done a little bit with, but never pursued for long.  I took a little bit of Taekwondo as a kid and then Isshin-ryū (a style of karate) in college.  I’d love to find a form of martial arts to master – it’s both a good form of exercise and it never hurts to know a form of self-defense.
    • Racquetball – This is my favorite sport to play.  I learned it in college and played it for years afterward.  The struggle for me has been that racquetball courts seem to be disappearing where we live.  Depending on the area where we live, I’ve noticed some courts around in Panama.  Hopefully, I’ll get an opportunity to get my game back on!
    • Coding – I took one programming class on Visual Basic 6.0 back in college (boy, everything seems to go back to my Kent State days!).  Since then, I’ve taught myself a little bit of a few different languages and have gotten various opportunities to do some small stints of programming here and there.  I love the methodical thinking in this.  I’m thinking maybe some self-taught Android development might be in order!

These are just some of the ideas I have in mind.  I’m thrilled about trying all kinds of different hobbies.  Some I’ll fail at and move on.  Others I’ll do well with, but decide it’s not something I want to continue doing.  And some, I’ll grow strong at doing and make them a regular part of my life.

Are these fun things going to bring in a ton of dough?  Some will and some likely won’t.  But regardless, they’re things I want to try my hand at so any income is actually just icing on the cake.

Financial independence gives you a fantastic opportunity to fail at different things and succeed at others.  I hope all of you get this chance in life!

Update: Hey, everyone – Tanja from Our Next Life reached out to me noting that this post had a theme similar to one of her older posts from 2017.  I don’t remember her post, but sure enough, I had even commented on it!  That said, using the same post idea was not done intentionally – I respect her work and what she does and maybe that idea had stuck in my subconscious for all this time.  I consider her a friend and this was just her reaching out as such.  Her post is very good and I thought you might want to check it out as well – Our Changing Definition of Early Retirement and the Power of the Freedom to Fail.

Are you hoping to fail miserably at some point doing something new?


Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

You know you wanna share this!!

22 thoughts on “FIRE Gives You the Freedom to Fail Miserably”

  1. Great post – It seems like a luxury problem, but I think it is a real issue for people who retire early to find something to add value in the everyday life – your goals sound like you will have the days filled and then some 🙂 Best of luck and well done!

    1. So true – if you don’t retire to something, you have the potential to just wilt away. I can think of at least of couple of folks I know that were so bored in retirement that they went right back to their old job within months of leaving.

      — Jim

  2. That drawing of Belle is seriously good!!! When I was in middle school, art class was my life and I dreamed of working for Disney too!!! Looking forward to hearing about all the things you do in retirement. If you get the gardening thing down, we will want tips!!! Chris would love to have a garden at our new house as well.

  3. Thanks for the shout out Jim! It’s so true about being FI and the ability to take risks. I come from a family of blue collar workers with little education. There’s no entrepreneurs or business owners in my family. So the very thought of starting a business or taking ANY risk when I was young seemed absurd. Folks who did that to me were either crazy or had big family money so if they failed they had a safety net. I had no safety net.

    Then I became FI and built my own safety net. Now I can try these things and if they don’t work – oh well! I tried. I still have my FU money. It’s such a great place to be!

  4. The harmonica… Almost like learning to play bagpipes….

    One goal for retirement is to stay married, so unless I get a real mancave or start long haul trucking I’m afraid those are off the table…

    1. Haha, not quite as bad, but definitely up there! The good news is that if a band needs a harmonica player, I won’t have much competition from others trying for that position! 😉

      I like the goal for retirement – that should also help with the finances!

      — Jim

  5. I have changed my attitude after retirement and learned to be a bit more relaxed. This will take more time after a hectic career and stress, but I now can say, “no problem that is okay” when something goes wrong or late. I don’t consider anything as “fail miserably” since everything is an option to experiment and it works or doesn’t but I tried. Even getting lost while driving in a foreign city is exploring, not being lost.

    Good luck on your list of activities, having a list of potential goals is good.

  6. Jim,,

    Teaching love that! But an interesting area I think you’d be amazing at is mentoring! It would be absolutely great to connect via google hangouts with you for 20-30 minutes. I’m 27 years old as of yesterday #crazy and the goal this year is to hit a 6 figure net worth. All while cash flowing a wedding and staying debt free. Look forward to hearing from you and hey the worst response I can get is a no but, it was definitely worth a shot!

    P.s. I work from home so my schedule is super flexible

    1. Hi Rem – I definitely like your gusto (do people use that word?)! I’m not ready to start opening myself up to working with others just yet. However, I do have a thought and I’m going to shoot you over an email shortly.

      — Jim

  7. Jim, welcome across The Starting Line, isn’t it a great place to be?! I love the concept of not being afraid to fail. Once you’re FI, the implications of “failure” are so much less severe than when you’re dependent upon that paycheck. The pursuit of new Passions is one of the greatest joys of retirement. And, it’s good to realize that Failure Is An Option. I’m heading out to tinker around with a landscaping project I’ve been working on for a few weeks (funny how winter is the best time to do outdoor projects here in the South). Let’s see how good I am at building a railroad tie wall. What’s the worst that can happen?

  8. Couldn’t agree more Jim — The freedom to fail is a powerful thing!

    Back when I had a “working career”, I didn’t have the time to try new things and fail. I had to support a family and failure wasn’t really an option.

    Now, I try new stuff all the time — and as a result do plenty of failing! It’s pretty great — failing often never felt so great!

  9. Hey, I’m back from Thailand. It was a great trip, but it’s good to be back in the US. Life is so much easier here. I still want to live in Thailand for a while, but I’ll put that off until later. 🙂
    I like your attitude. People who pursue FIRE needs to have that positive – embrace failure outlook. We just need to learn from our failure and move on. I hope you find some good things to do for yourself and the world. Teaching sounds like a great way to give back especially since you’ll be in Panama.

    1. Hey! Welcome home, Joe! Glad you had a good trip. Do you think over time it would get easier to live in Thailand?

      I’m sure anything I would do with teaching wouldn’t be for a while, but it’s definitely something I want to explore a little more.

      — Jim

  10. Great article Jim. People should see failing as a blessing rather than a shame.

    Case in point, when my wife and I left our apartment and sold most of our belongings to travel the world full time, I ended up with plenty of extra time on my end as I did not have to go to a 9-5. This gave me plenty of time to reads, learn and practices new things. The blog we’ve started (NomadNumbers) could not have existed without having this extra mind set and since we started it without any revenue expectation it has been a pretty exciting ride so far! And who knows what else I will be picking up in the months to come.

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