It’s that time of year again. I’m not usually one to make New Years’ resolutions, because I’m already perfect the way I am! No, seriously – just ask my wife! OK, so maybe there are a few things I can work to improve. But 2018 is going to be a big year – about as big as 2017 was. Not only are we finishing up our Family Gap Year in South America, and returning to California, but we’re going to transition to a new way of life back home too. Here are my 2018 New Years resolutions (plus my year-end performance review, or how my 2017 resolutions turned out):
First, The Performance Review
Before I go off spouting a bunch of amazing resolutions that I’m really seriously absolutely going to get to work on just as soon as 2018 rings in, it would probably be best to look at my past performance. After all, past performance is a wonderful indication of future results, right? Right!
Performance reviews always make me a bit nervous, even when I have a wonderful relationship with my boss and things are clicking at work. I know, I get it. Performance reviews serve an important purpose: to diminish the spirit of the employee, to make sure she understands there’s someone on the other side of the table who makes the decisions, and to remind her that promotion decisions are 70% perception and 30% budgeting (that is it, right? right?)
Enough, on with it! Here goes – my 2017 Performance Review, conducted by myself, sitting across the table from myself. These were my 2017 New Years’ resolutions:
1. Quit Job:
Check! I walked out the door on June 6th. I have to admit, it was a bit scary at first, but my attention span is really short, and I got over it within just a couple of short weeks. Excellent work, Jojo!
2. Go to South America with no return flight:
Check! We left on June 9th. I even got my flights for free!
3. Spend quality time with kids:
Check! I’m homeschooling the kids in the mornings, and doing all kinds of fun things with them in the afternoons. Here’s a breakdown of a typical day in our pueblo. I am no longer a parent that only gets to see his kids on evenings and weekends.
4. Find my real work-life balance:
Well, I’m going to take a pass on this one (Fail!). I think I’ve found a wonderful work-life balance here in Bolivia. That is lots of life, and very little work (at least, not the kind of work where I have a boss looking over my shoulder or an employee handbook that reminds me to wash behind my ears). And yet, even though I now have a wonderful work-life balance, it’s not a permanent solution!
I haven’t found a long-term solution that will carry me through the next several years. After all, we are returning to the States. And when we do, I will be going back to the corporate world at least on a temporary or part-time basis. As we all know, in Corporate America, work-life balance is a fantasy. So, I’m not sure where that leaves me. I think I’m still searching.
One thing I did learn from many years in the corporate world is that if you don’t complete a goal by the deadline, you can always just push it out to next year! No problem! So, that’s what I’ll do here. But I do expect more from myself in the future.
5. Scratch my itch:
Check! My “itch” in this case was to take a journey. Something that will change me and my family, and give us a new outlook on life. Something where the outcome is uncertain. We’ve been having a blast on our Family Gap Year. New experiences, new foods, new sights, sounds, etc. The world is rich!
But the journey was not the travel. It turns out that the journey was taking a leap into the unknown, and coming out unscathed (so far). It proved to me that life really is too short to sit in a cubicle for forty years. While I will be going back to the dark side, I will only do it on a temporary or part-time basis. My time is too valuable to do otherwise. Fortunately, I’ve saved a massive percent of my income over the years, and I can afford to only work part-time. And that is how the journey has changed me. No more career ambition. Not even a whisper. None.
We get so caught up in our daily lives in workaholic suburbia, that we don’t realize how massively huge the world really is, and what amazing variety of wonderful life paths exist out there. And also how simply tiny of a risk it is to try a new path for a while. I kind of knew this before our journey this year, but I’m not sure it wasn’t just lip service. I don’t think I really truly understood it. I do now.
Great, How Did I Do?
So, that’s it with the performance review. Don’t worry about all the paperwork, we’ll just skip it. It turns out I accomplished four of my five resolutions from 2017, and the only one I didn’t complete can easily be pushed out. So far, so good! So now that I’ve established some credence, let’s see what’s in store for 2018:
My 2018 New Years Resolutions
2018 is going to be another big year for us. We have five months (or so) left in Bolivia, and then we go back to restart our lives. The kids will be in middle school for the first time. My wife will attempt to re-start her home business. And I will gingerly probe a new relationship with Corporate America. Here are my hopes and goals – my 2018 New Years resolutions:
1. Get A Job
It’s time to shape up, get my act together, and finally start doing something worthwhile with my life, amiright? Yes, it’s time to get a job. But, it’s not going to be just any job. It’s going to be temporary or part-time. No commitments from me! One thing I’ve learned from our Family Gap Year is that full-time employee gigs truly are overrated. And so are things like career paths and promotions.
Free time, however… that is WAY WAY underrated. So, my goal is to move on to part-time early retirement – or more likely, temp work that will allow me to continue taking long breaks from the corporate world when I’m fed up, or just between projects.
But, for now, I think I’ll be ready to tiptoe back, delicately, into the corporate world. In 2018, I resolve to get a job – for a bit.
2. Don’t Make Too Much Money
One of the beautiful things about temporary or part-time work is that you don’t make very much money. That’s a wonderful thing, because if you can keep your income sort of lowish, you get massive benefits. Like for example, as long as my wife and I don’t make more than about $60k per year, we’ll pay zero income taxes, we’ll get free healthcare, and we’ll even avoid the university tax and get massive discounts for our kids’ college when that time comes. These benefits go a long way, financially.
$60k per year is actually a ton of money. Not only is it above the U.S. median household income, but it’s within the global 1% too. In other words, we can still make more money than about 99% of the rest of the world, and still enjoy these massive benefits. So, I definitely don’t want to make too much money.
Fortunately, I’ve spent a decade saving a massive percent of my income, and we now have a beautiful nest egg. Thus our plan moving forward is to just cover our living costs while our nest egg continues to grow untouched. $50k or $60k should be more than enough.
For 2018, I resolve not to make too much money.
3. Keep My Eye On The Prize
When you’re knee deep in the corporate weeds, it can be tough to keep your eye on the prize. You’re surrounded by people who think about things like career, promotions, and what the CEO thinks of you. That’s an unhealthy environment, in my opinion. We are social creatures, and when we’re surrounded by people with certain values, we tend to internalize those same values.
If I’m back in the corporate world, even temporarily or part-time, I could easily get sucked back into the careerism. I don’t want to sacrifice my time, my family, or my freedom just to be a team player. Those things are way more important. There is no “team” in I. I need to keep my eye on the prize.
Keeping my eye on the prize also means not forgetting the lessons I’ve learned in Bolivia. Like that most of the world is way more frugal than you can imagine, and that happiness has nothing to do with how much you spend. Also that living on $10,000 is perfectly normal. And that a big fat chunk of America is a global one-percenter, even though they don’t realize it. A few small sacrifices to keep it frugal in America are nothing.
My 2018 New Years resolution: Keep my eye on the prize.
4. No Regrets
My last 2018 new years resolution is to have no regrets. I’ve been talking a lot about my transition back into the working world. But, I don’t want to jump the gun. We’re going to spend the first half of 2018 on our Family Gap Year in Bolivia. We still have five (or six) months left, and I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. This is a special opportunity for me, my wife, and my kids to learn, spend time together, experience, and explore. And it’s not going to happen again.
So, I don’t want to bull forward into re-establishing our lives in California. California will always be there, and so will work. My final 2018 new years resolution is to take full advantage of our final five (or six) months in Bolivia, and do my best to leave no regrets behind.
Once again, this is a big year ahead. And once again, it’s going to make my head spin a bit. But, I think 2018 will be better than 2017 for me and my family. Leaving Bolivia will be bittersweet, and returning to California will bittersweet too. But, there will be no leaps into the unknown like 2017, and I think that will make it less stressful as a result. I will be proud of what we’ve done, proud of my kids for what they’ve done, and I will be sure of my path forward. That’s a nice thing. There will be no thinking about “what if”. At least not this year.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year, and I hope you can chase your dreams too.