Happy 36th Birthday, Self!

It has been a crazy year. This is the longest I’ve gone without playing sports, and I probably miss that the most during this state of global COVID baloney.

As I write this, I’m staring out over the Pacific ocean. A “king tide” is bringing big waves and strong current, making swimming dangerous for the unwary weekend beachgoer.

Lia and the girls are swimming in the pool at the foot of the condo. Isla has been progressing aggressively with all this time in the water, shedding puddle jumper, fins, and fear of submersion to retrieve rocks from the pool bottom.

Some uncomfortable things happened this year, I think for everyone. We were all put into our own segment of the ice cube tray and frozen. I got better at cooking, and chess. Initially, I drank more, then not at all. Now occasionally – but there simply aren’t any occasions anymore.

I got my real good taste of low-level, constant, anxiety. Inexplicable difficulty taking a full breath. I tried 5MEO DMT and found that same oneness with the universe that I’d touched during last year’s hero dose.

I jumped a lot, alone. And played a lot of online chess.

I started Isla on online music lessons, and had to work through some frustration. My expectations were getting the better of me, and drifting in a potentially harmful direction where love and approval were too interwoven. I realized (with the assistance of drugs) that love needs to be its own thing, completely separate from expectation.

Through being ambushed by anxiety, I discovered how profoundly important social connection is for my mental health. I scheduled weekly hangouts (digital if need be) to guarantee that some friend time was built into my life, and it was a game-changer.

Lia and I are still waiting to hear back about vacant land we’re trying to buy on Amherst Island. It has been an emotional rollercoaster, trying to turn that dream into reality. Through learning about stoicism, I became more cautious about becoming overly hopeful.

I’ve been writing a science-fiction novel, and have joined a writer’s group for accountability and the occasional bitch-slapping. I’m a little more aware of when my ego emerges, and it’s helped me find less defensive/reactive chains of thought when navigating creative criticism and general uncertainty.

My girls continue to infuse my days with joy, parenting struggles, love and unbearable cuteness.

Lia’s getting more time to work, and kicking ass with it. She finished her Holistic Nutrition certification with honours, and is aggressively ramping up to working with paying clients.

I’m waiting for the waves to clean up so I can attempt cutbacks, airs, and other tricks way above my current skill level.

At this point, life returning to normal sounds like a dream. Just being able to get together with people again, to hug friends and shake hands with strangers, would be so satisfying. The other day, I shook hands with someone and it felt so unfamiliar, dangerous, and important.

What am I aiming for this year? The usuals: to jump higher, be less reactive and more present, and to take things less seriously. At the end of About Time, Domhnoll Gleeson’s character hits the nail on the head, by living each day as if he’d already lived it once before.

My aim is to do the same.

Happy 35th Birthday, Me!

Last year I was very goal oriented, and it got all fucked up. I did a massive dose of mushrooms and broke my own mind, then sabotaged my business.

After that I got really sad for several months and had no money. I felt like a failure as a dad, a husband, and I even questioned why my friends would want to play sports with me.

I learned as much as I could about stoicism and it changed how I think. Less “woe is me” more “I’m so lucky it isn’t way worse than it is.”

Music is very meaningful when you’re super depressed, and this was my song:

Somewhere along the way I caught a few really good bounces and business sling shotted around the black hole it had been heading for.

When it’s your birthday people ask if you feel different. This is the first time I would say “yes” and really mean it.

I just feel way luckier to be who I am and to have the life I have.

I’m more astonished than ever at how awesome my friends are. The 6 of you reading this right now, I love you so much it hurts.

Also I’m going to die sooner than I thought. Because before I half assumed I wasn’t going to die. Nope. Gonna die. Hopefully not soon, but it’ll happen. I want to do a good job of being alive while I’ve got a shot at it.

That’s about it. I have it in my calendar to read this on my next birthday. My “theme” for the year is “freedom” whatever that means.

Lately it’s meant: freedom from being so damned self-concerned. The less I focus on me (and yes I realize the irony and hypocracy of writing that in this of all articles) – the better life gets.

Still can’t dunk, but working on it.

Drawing lots.

Haven’t jerked off since November. Sorry Mom if you’re reading this.

Loving being a dad.

Probably loving winter more than I have since childhood.

More in love with Lia than ever.

Trying to learn how to lucid dream. No real progress there as of yet.

Probably a good time to stop writing. Happy 35th birthday me!

– love, you

Anything Is Possible Podcast Returns!

After 4 years, Lia and I have decided to start publishing these podcasts again! We’ve found that the forced conversation is as close to a date as we can manage these days, and so we’ll be doing these bi-weekly.

The technology has also gotten much better, so it looks like we’ll be able to publish these episodes to iTunes for easy subscribability.

Happy 34th Birthday, Me

I have it in my calendar to write one of these every year. Two years I wrote for 10 years out, this year I’m writing as if it’s my 34th birthday (so, one year from now).

I enjoy circling back to these entries in my journals, and on my blog, and seeing how much of it has become reality. There’s something to writing it down, almost like it gets submitted to the subconscious mind, and from there it becomes directional. Something to be drawn towards.

I’m not convinced that getting what I want is the hard part. I think it’s trickier to truly figure out what I want in the first place.

I’m also wondering if getting what I want is how happiness happens – or if it has more to do with wanting what I have. There’s a potential snag in this line of thinking:

  1. I’m not happy until that moment I get what I want or
  2. I’m embracing stagnation by not pursuing my goals

There has to be a bit of both I think, at least for me. I’m at my happiest when I’m setting little goals and achieving them. They add meaning to my days, and give me something to chase, which feels good and requires discipline. Discipline I can always have more of, and it rarley feels good to exercise it, but its fruits are tasty.

But it also clearly feels great to meditate, to let go and to trust that everything is going to turn out alright. That I don’t have to control things. And maybe that I don’t really have much of a say in my fate anyway. That last thought is a weird one, and it comes from Sam Harris’ app, Waking Up which I’ve been using as guided daily meditation. It’s been really good so far. But he says we have no free will, that we’re as much a reaction in the universe as anything else. I struggle to understand the validity of this, but it does seem as though he’s onto something. It also seems to me that if there’s even a trace of authorship in my life which I control, I’d better fucking slam that pedal to the ground and do the best I can with it.

Nobody wants to die with a full tank. Fuck that.

So where do I want to be, and what do I want to have done by my 34th birthday?

Here’s my Google Keep list:

  • Deliver on family time every day
  • Earn $10,000 in online info product sales (Publish 100 FrisbeeThrows videos/blog posts, Master the funnel, actively engage and grow community, grow email list to 1000 “true fans”)
  • 25 frisbee videos / blogs by the time we leave Ecuador
  • Bad first draft first info product for sale
  • Invest $40k
  • 5 minute breath hold
  • Lift 1000lbs between deadlift/bench/squat
  • Dunk a basketball on a 10ft rim
  • Get my first cutback surfing
  • Meditate every day
  • 3 month Duolingo streak to jack up my Spanish
  • Clear $100,000 in income
  • Hire someone to both build and maintain websites for Butter

Getting out of my own way mentally helps. I have thoughts pinned to some of these goals, old thoughts, that the goal itself is out of my reach somehow.

When I was 32, I learned some of the truth behind the Henry Ford saying “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

How do I just flip that switch though, mentally? For dunking, it was looking laterally to other guys my size and under, on YouTube, dunking basketballs like savages.

For income, it had more to do with looking at how I was spending my time and being more efficient. Putting in higher quality work on tighter time constraints. People way busier than I am do way more than I do, and are happier too. I have no excuses.

So I think the first step is going to simply be sitting with these goals, and having them solidify in my mind as “100% doable”. So doable, they begin to feel inevitable. That’s a great place to operate from.

So I’ve got my list! We’ll see how the year goes.

My Bucket List

I wrote down my bucket list a month ago, then this month I reread it.

Here’s the list of things I want to do before I die, followed by my own reflections regarding the list and my internal war with some of it’s elements…

My bucket list:

  • Build a strong family with Lia and our daughters, maintain loving, healthy, respectful relationships with each other as we all grow and change.
  • Become a grandparent – hopefully many times over!
  • Get barrelled.
  • Clear $200,000 in gross annual income.
  • Become financially independent.
  • Break the 5 minute mark on a breath hold.
  • Dunk a basketball.
  • Do stand up comedy.
  • Build/buy our dream house / land on water.
  • Teach my daughters to surf, free dive, spear fish, jiu jitsu, muay thai, soccer, volleyball, hockey, ultimate, golf, skateboarding, carpentry, code, knife throwing, climbing, canoeing, investing, business, mindfulness, goal setting/completion, music, art…
  • Leave the world a little better than it was when I arrived.

In reviewing my bucket list, I’ve realized that I’ve been holding back on going for the big goals. The most pronounced one is dunking a basketball. I initially didn’t put it on the is the list, then had to incrementally increase the goal from tennis ball to volleyball, and only now am I accepting the reality that I will one day dunk a basketball. IF I train!!

This acceptance is big. Overcoming my internal resistance to one of my biggest dreams represents a significant change in my forward progress. I’ve been static on that for a long time. Now I’m moving. Move on one formerly impossible big goal, and then move on the next.

I’ve been static on that for a long time. Now I’m moving. Move on one formerly impossible big goal, and then move on the next.

I’ve also been going through a restructuring of my time to forcefully prioritize time with my wife and daughters at the expense of time doing work for other people.

This has made me very happy. It has compounded the love I have for my girls, most potently with Isla. I have historically shut her out the most in order to work, and giving her my full attention has felt really good.

It is becoming clearer and clearer that earning Isla’s love is the most important thing to me, because I can see how it’s possible to miss out, even a bit, and not do as good a job as I could have, and fucking regret that.

Same goes for Lia and Lake. But right now Isla, at the stage she’s at, seems most urgent.

Following my bucket list goals to their ultimate conclusions, yes grossing $200K would feel amazing. As would attaining financial independence. But those without making an absolute success of my family would be damn near fucking meaningless.

Looking at it the other way around, I wouldn’t care much if I never grossed over $200K, it would be harder not to ever feel what financial independence feels like… but I’d be happy. I’d be SO happy. Like I am now.

Retirement Progress Report 5

This report is going to be a little wild again. Leading up to tax season we’d stopped investing the HST we had collected, and starting withholding income for tax payment to compensate for the HST we had invested over the majority of the tax year.

This effort was in hopes that we could avoid selling any of our mutual funds to pay our taxes, and instead replace the HST we’d invested earlier in the year with out-of-pocket income.

It seems to have worked. We were able to cover the HST we’d invested, successfully exposing those funds to market appreciation over the majority of the tax year. That said, appreciation currently lags at +1.61%, which is actually great (I think). It means we’re buying below normal (7%ish) growth. Just as long as the market picks up again at some point in the next 10-20 years before we need to sell!!!

One solid decision was made regarding whether to pay off the mortgage more aggressively – which was not to do it. The main reason we’d relied upon in our past deliberation over this idea is our mortgage rate of 2.92% should underperform index funds on average (7%). But this choice is vulnerable to instances like this past quarter where our portfolio lagged brutally at 1.61%… though really that doesn’t matter until we sell… I think. We’re still good as long as we never sell at 1.61%!

But the decisive reason for not paying back our mortgage more aggressively is this: we have mortgage life insurance. I think we pay a combined $12/month for this insurance, so if either of us die, the mortgage is paid off.

It would suck to pay the mortgage aggressively only for one of us to die and have the remaining (much smaller mortgage balance) forgiven, AND have no other investments. Better to sock our money into indexed mutual funds and pay the mortgage at our normal rate for the time being.

If we max out our TFSAs, and/or we renew for a higher than 7% mortgage rate… we’d probably switch tactics… and we’d likely keep the mortgage life insurance anyway.

Another trap people fall into with paying the mortgage off early is this (thanks Kyle Collins for pointing this out!): once they no longer have a mortgage to pay each month, that “extra” money starts to feel disposable. Hedonic adaptation kicks in, and most people (and I would probably do this too) simply end up spending the extra cash on silly shit every month.

Winter-long trip to Costa Rica? Fuck it! Our mortgage is paid off!

This extra cash is only useful to our long-term financial stability if invested. For this reason, in comparisons between people who invest early in mutual funds versus people who pay off their mortgage early, the investors generally end up way ahead come retirement.

It just requires too much discipline to take all the money you would normally put toward a mortgage and immediately transition into socking that cash right into index funds… especially after the marathon of paying off a house!

After all that rambling, here are our retirement figures for the quarter:

TFSA: $36,829.37 (up $12,459.54 from last report… again this is a bit blown out of proportion because we’d been sandbagging leading up to tax season)

Mortgage: $163,575.34 (down $1,782.65 from last report)

Net worth shift: + $14,242.19

NEW METRICS! 

I’m going to attempt some forecasting here. I want to bake two new and exciting metrics into these quarterly retirement reports.

Metric 1 is a percentage representing our progress toward the $800,000 retirement goal.

According to the Mr. Money Moustache equation of “multiply your annual spending by 25 to see how much you need to have invested in order to retire”, my family would be comfortable retiring on $800,000.

MMM’s “safe withdrawal rate” of 4% works out to $32,000 – which would cover our annual spending. Assuming our mortgage is paid off, we can retire once we’ve invested $800,000.

Metric 2 is the number of years remaining until we can retire, calculated based upon a $30,000/year rate of investment.

Here we go.

To make things easier, I’ve added our mortgage onto the $800,000 to represent the total amount of money yet to be invested/put toward the house. That leaves us with a target asset value of $963,575.34.

Retirement Progress = $36,829.37 / $963,575.34 = 3.8% of the way there! Pretty fucking low, but far better than 0% haha. The early years are the hardest.

Here comes the compound interest. According to the moneychimp.com compound interest calculator, if we invest $30,000 per year for 15.6 more years at 7% we’ll end up with $964,882.15.

So at our current rate, it will take Lia and me 15.6 more years to reach retirement. If this is true, our 48th birthdays will be epic!

 

 

 

Retirement Progress Report 4

I missed getting this out at the end of December, so here it is a wee bit late!

Figures:

TFSA: $24,369.83 (up $1,896.91 from last report).

Mortgage: $165,357.99 (down $1,264.85 from last report).

Net worth shift: +$3,161.76

Progress was modest these past couple months. The holiday season came with higher spending than normal, which (for us) meant less surplus made it into our investments. This is when the $200/month automatic deposits really help keep morale going. Even seeing that, between our investments and lowered mortgage debt, our net worth increased by $3,161.76 from two months ago is very encouraging. Even in slow times, we’re headed in the right direction.

Another extremely fucking cool thing happened in on the 15th of December which was that our mutual funds bought $746.91 more of themselves (in the form of “annual distributions” (mutual fund equivalent to stock dividends)). This is the mind-melting miracle of compounding played out in real fucking LIFE. To clarify, this is not a change in market value. The funds mutual funds we hold appreciated by $1,914.74 in the past 2 months, independent of the distributions paid out. The distributions are roughly 2% annually on top of any gains or losses in market value.

I’m still baffled at the reality that I have no intrinsic sense of any of this until I put one of these reports together. It helps to talk to someone and ask dumb questions until you get the comprehension you’re after. My TD lady was trying to get me to “just Google it” for most of the phone call but I persisted until I had a concrete answer. Spending 2 hours on the phone to discover that my mutual funds pay roughly 2% distributions annually mid-December as long as I’ve purchased them in time to qualify for those distributions (this period was about a day, the lady thought) is knowledge well worth the cost to obtain it.

The War of Monday: Me Vs. Myself

Only a fool wants war. But once a war starts, then it cannot be fought half-heartedly. It cannot even be fought with regret, but must be waged with a savage joy in defeating the enemy. – Derfel Cadarn (Excalibur, Bernard Cornwell)

Some things fucking suck, but we still gotta get them done. How we do these brutally painful things probably says more about us than how we do the easy stuff, the stuff we’re good at and the stuff we love.

The idea of committing to something painful and refusing to stop is well illustrated in this video of Gary V eating increasingly spicy chicken wings:

I’m always getting sucked back into my own comforts. For my family, Sunday is about comfort, taking the day slowly, and relaxing. Often we do that so well that shifting back into gear on Monday is a huge challenge. Caffeine and epic music can help grease the gears:

Then it’s a matter of getting down to the work. I’ve found that the thing I dread doing the most is the thing I should be doing. On days I’ve done well, I skip looking at emails and I go straight into doing the hardest thing. On days I don’t do so well, I end up wandering through emails and end up on chat support with an Amazon support rep trying to return a book for $8. The question I ask to determine whether I’m being productive or not is, “Does doing this activity bring me closer to where I want to be in 5 years?” If the answer is “No” the best thing to do is abandon the task and start doing something I can foresee contributing to a more successful future.

Sometimes that thing is studying a new technique or skill that will contribute to my work. Sometimes the activity is simply doing good work for a client I expect to be working for in 5 years.

Right now, the war I didn’t want is the war of Sunday Ryan vs. Monday Ryan. Monday Ryan cannot fight half-heartedly. He can’t fight with regret. He must wage war with a savage joy in defeating himself.

How To Get Depressed Because Summer’s Over

Fall is my favourite season, but I do get depressed when the daylight hours shorten. While I don’t necessarily suffer from full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder (I don’t think!) I do get a little blue when I’m getting less exposure to the sun/nature/outdoors in general.

The colder weather means going outside is more of a pain in the ass. Snow and ice force me to use footwear which needs to get put on and taken off every time I indulge in some outside time. It doesn’t sound like much of a barrier – but those little inconveniences, for me, can be the difference between hours spent outside and zero time outside for days in a row. Most of the time, I just don’t do things unless it’s really fucking easy to start doing them. “Start” is the important word here, because the activity itself can be difficult. I don’t mind exercising, I maybe even like it. But if starting it is difficult, there’s little to no chance I’m going to do it. Any of it.

I used to have one of those suspension workout systems that you brace in a doorway and use the straps to do various exercises. It lived in its box, and that box lived somewhere in my closet. I never used it, and it wasn’t practical to keep in a doorway because every time I opened the door the thing would fall out and scare the shit out of me. So now I have a pull-up bar above the stairs leading to the basement (where our only washroom is). I drink lots of coffees and so I walk under the pull-up bar many times a day. I do maybe 8 pull ups a day, every other day, if that. But the difference between 8 and 0 isn’t 8. It’s fucking infinity. You can’t multiply anything by 0 to get 8. And that’s because 0 is the most worthless number in the world. People live and die by 0s. If you smoke more than 0 cigarettes, you’ll probably fucking die of lung cancer because once in a while you get drunk and smoke a pack of cigarettes and do irreversible damage to your already shitty lungs. You do that a few times a year, for your whole life, then you retire and smoke more out of sheer boredom and yep, you die of lung cancer. I don’t smoke but the above story certainly applies to me for drinking. There’s a blog post on here about me only drinking one beer or some bullshit, and I solemnly swear to you that that nonsense is over. I like to drink, and when the stars align for a night on the town, I drink like I mean it.

Zero to one kid is another infinite difference. If you have zero kids, you’re going to be pretty fucked when you get too old to take care of yourself (unless the future supplies us with free robots to change us when we shit ourselves). No amount of paid nurses will ever do as good a job of a genetically obligated successor at giving a fuck about your senile ass when dementia turns you into a wrinkled puppet for the hedonistic spirits to play inappropriate and very public sexual pranks with.

I got a bit lost there, let’s get back to talking about why fall makes me fucking miserable. I believe my daily happiness depends in large part on the inclusion of (in no particular order):

  1. Exercise
  2. Spending ANY amount of time outside, other than “none” (huge boost to happiness if I can absorb some sunlight into my skin and eyes)
  3. Experiencing the sensation (even the illusory sensation) of “progress” in something (anything) … (this is why I’m always cutting and stacking firewood)
    stacks of firewood in my backyard
  4. Socializing / spending time with other humans
  5. Not being hungover (this factor is definitely increasing with age, and impacts several days at a time) / getting quality sleep

The above checklist seems pretty attainable right? It should be easy to do ALL of those things EVERY DAY if it means damn near guaranteed happiness every day. But no. I get “busy” with some bullshit on the computer and before I know it I’m redlining stress hormones and haven’t taken a real breath since waking up. I’m tense. I’m irritable. The sun has just set, it’s 5pm, and I’m depressed. So I go to volleyball and get drunk after and don’t sleep well and that fucks me for the whole next day.

Anyway this post is probably less useful than it is satirical, and I hope I made you laugh. And please, don’t feel bad for me. This isn’t me complaining, it’s just me writing openly. Today I’m happy because I actually respected my checklist. I even got some sun on my face while taking a piss in the backyard (to avoid the pull-up bar) and I got to spend lots of one-on-one time with Isla (Lia’s away for a girl’s weekend). You can’t really get too depressed when an ass-naked 2-year-old is tearing circles around the dinner table, tiny fists full of peanuts, belting out wheels on the bus for the 5000th time.

 

Retirement Progress Report 2

So things have changed quite a bit since we last looked at the Lowe family retirement strategy. They’ve simplified. Mainly, I realized that it made very little sense to have such a big “Rainy Day” fund ($20k) and not have that money invested and compounding. So now we have $5k ready for emergencies and the rest gets invested.

The last few months we’ve worked hard to spend less frivolously, and to invest more aggressively.

Here are the figures:

TFSA (self-directed TD Waterhouse WebBroker account): $15,194.46

Up $9,127.46 since last report.

This is our main investing account comprised of 3 low MER TD E-Series mutual funds (TDB900, TBD905, TDB902). We’re 1 month ahead of schedule for our goal of $20k invested for the year, averaging $3,042.49 invested every month.

This quarter we invested 42% of our net income. To help free up money for investing, we’ve also been selling thousands of dollars worth of shit we no longer use via Kijiji. Guitars, a motorcycle, electronics, old paintball guns, roller blades, it adds up!

Mortgage: $168,381.87 ($1,496.13 lower than last report)

We haven’t paid down our mortgage any quicker than we had been prior to the last report. Our current interest rate of 2.92% is below what is expected to be earned investing in indexed mutual funds (8%). If we renew in a couple years with a significantly higher interest rate (anything over 8%) it will make far more sense to pay down the mortgage more aggressively and stop purchasing mutual funds altogether.

That’s all for this report, see y’all in October!