What started as a grand idea has morphed into a changed worldview. For decades I focused on the local community in my practice. I would speak for various organizations around the area, rarely traveling more than 50 miles. And I was happy with that.
My speaking engagements and traveling expanded during the 1990s when I entered the securities field. As memory serves, every presentation I have given outside the State of Wisconsin was for something related to securities. Until two year ago.
Two years ago I had this brainstorm to expand an area of my practice that had been an itch I had to scratch. It went horribly wrong and changed my life in ways I never expected. It was a simple idea. Swoop in on a personal finance conference, dazzle them with my usual charm, and sell an idea. It didn’t go according to plan.
My idea was accepted in a modified form. The problem arrived when I was offered an opportunity to expand my worldview like never before. Remember, I am an old farm boy from the backwoods of Wisconsin. This shit doesn’t happen around here. I was totally unprepared.
The result was this blog and a shout out by Mr. Money Mustache. I had to write this blog; I had no choice. The idea was on the back burner for years. Now I had to push forward with the project. People wanted to hear what I had to say.
And then there was the growing demand for my services and requests to speak to more groups. As I started to attend these events and communicating with many people in the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community, I started to build friendships. I missed these people when they were not around.
My world two years ago existed in a twenty mile radius between my home and family and my office. This was my home and I spent 99% of my time in this bubble. Sure, I had clients from around the country. But my clients always came to me. A few sent their stuff in electronically, but by and large these people showed back up in NE Wisconsin now and again for a sit down.
I knew all my clients personally then. If I couldn’t place the name I knew their face. These were my people and I knew them all, especially their situation.
That is no longer true. Over a third of my clients have never seen the inside of my office. I don’t know what half my clients look like; I never saw them. Everything has changed. My brainstorm of two years ago changed how I conducted business and it is a continuing learning process.
Changing the way the business operates is nothing new to me. I completely realigned my firm three times before. The fourth, and largest, reorganization of the company is in full swing currently. I think it is a fitting way to complete my career. I may never really quit; I love what I do, but I don’t know how many more times I will have the heart to fundamentally reorganize my firm as the market forces dictate. Truth is I will change with whatever life throws at me until one day I forget how to breathe. It is in my blood.
Alone in a Room
This post is coming to life in a hotel room in Gainesville, Florida. I was asked to speak at the very first Camp Mustache SE. It is an honor. Many of the folks attending have communicated with me their excitement to meet me. I find this strange. You want to see me? Hear what I have to say? Two thousand miles away from home?
Writing a blog is different. In my mind I never really connect the dots where a live human is reading what I say. I sit in a dark room and share my perspective, experience and knowledge. It is all unreal. Even emails and comments seem distant and unreal. Where I get a lump in the throat is when somebody I never met before comments on something I wrote months ago. I only vaguely remember writing it. I put so many words on paper I tend to forget what I wrote unless I go back and refresh my memory.
So here I am, alone in a hotel room (Mrs. Accountant is sleeping in the bed next to me), writing a rough draft I will edit in the morning and publish. A few hours later a group of people I have never met before in the real world will pick the Missus and me up, enjoy lunch and then head to Camp. These people are honored to see me and I can’t comprehend that. My world never allowed for such an event.
I am still early in this new phase of my career. The number of people I meet is overwhelming. I want to know (and help) each of them personally. Slowly I realize that is not possible.
There are people I only see at these events. I hear about them, and others, online or they may email me, sometimes even call. Many leave a deep impression. I am still a 10 year old boy inside, filled with the awe and wonder of the world around me. I drink in as much as I can without choking.
But this new world is so much larger than the one I came from. The bubble I lived in was cozy and comforting. I knew everyone in the bubble. The new, bigger bubble works different. The number of people I admire grows. There are so many I admire and respect.
In the past I could walk around my bubble and visit with anyone in my world any time I wanted. Now I sometimes look to the east and wonder what the Mad Fientist is doing. He lives in the UK. I don’t use his real name because he prefers privacy. I get it. I met the Mad Fientist a few times and respect him highly. He did what I never could. He retired when he was able. He knows how to let go and relax. Something you guys probably have figured out is not in my toolbox of skills. I hope I get to see him again someday.
There are two young ladies who impressed the hell out of me when I was in Seattle last year. Gwen writes Fiery Millennials. She will be here at Camp. It will be good to see her again. For some reason she sticks in my mind. She is a character and reads this blog so don’t let it get to your head, young lady. She is kind of like a daughter in my mind.
Another young lady is Elizabeth. She plays harp and has an awesome heart. I doubt we’ll ever meet again. She is talented and will go far. In the modern world of technology I can watch from a distance and smile. It will have to be enough.
I gaze to the southwest a lot too. There are a few folks in Colorado who changed my life and I admire them. When my eyes refocus further, I see Hawaii. There lives a retired military guy. He is one of the wisest men I ever met. In a sort of weird way he is like a surrogate father. His praise is important to me. He could not attend Camp Mustache SE. Maybe next time.
I could go on listing person after person. I would miss someone no matter how hard I tried to be all inclusive so don’t feel bad if I did not mention you.
In a Small World
Months ago I wrote a post on working with me and my firm. I really thought if I said I would charge for my time people would flip me off and walk away. Remember, I am some guy from Wisconsin they never meet in the real world and I asked them to pay just to talk to me. That does not happen in my bubble.
True to form, I am a slow learner. As Camp Mustache SE approaches I have my hands full. I was asked to do at least one podcast (my fading memory from old age prevents me from recalling if I have one or two podcasts I am supposed to do) and two of the four other speakers want to pay for a consultation with me. All the proceeds go to charity.
Once again I had this great idea. My idea was to offer 10 one-hour consultations for $100, all money going to a charity chosen by those paying the fee. I didn’t expect the 10 slots to fill. They did. At least nine I am aware of.
This excites and scares me. I am excited to raise money for charity doing something I enjoy doing. It scares me because of the people who want the consultation. Remember Gwen from Fiery Millennials? She is in. A few more I also know from previous conferences. Then there is the real mind-blower? Two of the four other speakers have asked for a consultation. I don’t know them personally and they are important people. They must be. They are speaking at the Camp and they have blogs that blow this one away.
None of This is Real
There was a time I understood the world I lived in. It has grown so huge I can no longer say that. I sit here writing in the dark to an unreal world I know doesn’t exist. Do I exist? Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk seem to think not. Hawking discovered the event horizon of a black hole contains the inverse square of information as contained inside the black hole itself. This means there is a high likelihood our universe in a holographic projection. There is no other reason for the event horizon, a point in space that does not exist, to contain this exact amount of information unless it is a holograph. The event horizon is just a place where light cannot break free of the black hole’s gravity. There is no object there! Just an invisible line where a holograph of the black hole’s information is projected.
Elon Musk thinks we are a computer simulation. This jives nicely with the holograph theory. Musk believes the only way any of this can be real is if we are the first intelligent species ever to reach this point in technology because soon we will create just such computer simulations. It is unlikely we are the first.
I don’t know the answer. This holographic projection and computer simulation is feeling mighty small lately. Life was so much easier to understand in a bubble of a twenty mile radius.
Tomorrow I will meet old friends and make new friends. I am eager to meet with Pete again and look forward to meeting J.D. Roth for the first time. The world is expanding. None of it will seem real. It is all a dream, I tell myself. I would have noticed sooner if this were all real. And some of these people want what I have to offer. Yes, I am a 10 year old boy trying to understand a world around him bigger than life.
I had it all figured out two years ago. I really did. Money filled the index funds, the business kept adding to the pile and my team did most of the work. I read and studied most days when I came in if I came in at all. It was awesome! Then I ventured outside my bubble and learned a valuable lesson or three. They put an airport just outside my old bubble, waiting for the day when I wandered a bit too far for my health. The kind lady at the counter told me the airport was for traveling. Traveling? I said. I don’t want to go anywhere. Where would I travel to?