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Old 07-11-2017, 11:34 AM   #61
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If it's a virus, I have it. I had the ambition to make it to the top and did. I used to think everyone was my competitor in climbing the ladder but found out otherwise. What I did learn was the stress of being the decision maker during the financial crisis was enough to make me question why I wanted the job in the first place. Most everyone else (who remained anyway), clocked out and went home. I didn't have that luxury.


Our owner and grandson of the company founder (whom I respect a great deal), told me during the worst of the crisis that his lifestyle wasn't affected at all by those serious economic events. At the time, my income was down 80% and I was losing $200,000 per year in net worth.


I got into the habit of leaving the office daily at 2:30pm because that's when the daily chest pains started and I figured I'd rather die at home than in the office. The company recovered nicely in the years since, but my ambition to make it larger and more successful left me during that time.


Currently working 10-15 hours per week and am putting myself out to pasture as quickly as I can without causing disruption in the business.
I can relate. Ran a manufacturing company with over 1000 employees for 15 years and managing thru the recession was brutal. retired at 53. Had enough of the stress.
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Old 07-11-2017, 11:49 AM   #62
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I could have written a lot of what OP has said, though I'm coming at it from almost the opposite tack. I don't think I ever had a lot of ambition--but I had parents who expected great things from me, followed by a husband I wanted to desperately to impress and keep up with. I had no great plans for my post-work future, other than to ER with DH and travel and enjoy life and beyond that, we were going to figure it out together. We were a team.

And now he's gone (died of cancer in March), and with having lost my mother four years ago, I find myself utterly adrift, without the two people who really were the engines that drove me.

But.... I am also just starting to find out what it's like to *finally* be able to just do nothing and not feel guilty about it. I used to protect my "alone time" vociferously, so that I could do nothing or very little and get away with it. And now--there's no one watching!

What I am finding out is that this all resulted in a lifetime of extreme anxiety, that is now ebbing (as long as I don't start to think about a future all alone). I'd give anything to have received this enlightenment in some way other than losing my soulmate, but it is what it is at this point.

Surprisingly, my 84-year-old dad is telling me to pull the rip cord and retire next year (at 51), because I have the means and there's no need to keep on doing it Just Because. To have heard that from him meant everything. Because he has pretty much spent the past 25 years, since he retired at 59 after achieving great things in his career, puttering through his days doing the things he wanted to do and little more.

I really appreciate this thread, because I have wanted to start a similar one, along the lines of "is it really okay to just do nothing?" The guilt remains strong.
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Old 07-11-2017, 04:14 PM   #63
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Beware. I who never volunteers can testify that doing nothing in particular requires skill and cunning. Work (now that you are not doing anything) a 'we need some volunteers to do yadda yadda' requires some effort to master without ticking some( of those you don't want to) off. It some instances it's unavoidable if you wish to stay 'free' in ER.

heh heh heh - I've a great run while it lasted. But life happens.. I shall live to love dirt and plant some trees.
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Old 07-11-2017, 04:48 PM   #64
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I have been thinking about this same issue for some time. I FIREd 11 years ago at the age of 45. Mostly because I had a chance to cash out at a great price, and also because I was tired of the stress of running a small company in a fast-changing industry. In the 15 years I owned/ran it, we changed strategy in a major way probably five times and each change was like stepping from a sinking rock onto a more stable one. All ended well, though.

I've never been one to make concrete goals and track them. Mostly, I just charged ahead in one direction until my head hit a brick wall and then turned around and charged in another.

Looking back to the days when I was working, I sometimes marvel at what I was able to accomplish. It was great fun, but also carried great stress. Now, I wonder how it was I was able to do that, and don't think I have it in me to do it again. I'm still at the age when many people would be doing what I did a time or two more.

I also sometimes think that maybe I'm not doing enough "big" things to contribute to the world. I've been pretty involved in not-for-profit work, but am currently between (unpaid) gigs.

Thinking about it, I think that there are several reasons I don't get more revved up to do more.

1) Financial Independence. The marginal utility from the next $X just isn't enough, and the risks to what I already have are too great.

2) Time away from the rat race means I'm not exposed to others who might give me a subconscious push to do more, and to "succeed" at Every Day is Saturday requires a totally different mindset.

3) I don't miss it. It's that simple. While I can look back and wonder how I was able to do what I did, I don't regret not doing it now.
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Old 07-12-2017, 02:40 PM   #65
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I really appreciate this thread, because I have wanted to start a similar one, along the lines of "is it really okay to just do nothing?" The guilt remains strong.
Thank you for sharing your story - it moved me! Just wanted to say this: fear (anxiety, guilt) are a great short term motivator, but a very poor long term one. Also, why have that in your life?

It is perfectly fine to not do anything, as long as you can accept the consequences (financial or otherwise). Try to be a good and compassionate person, yes, of course. But ambition is only great as long as it works for you, not when it eats away at you.
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Old 07-12-2017, 03:01 PM   #66
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I really appreciate this thread, because I have wanted to start a similar one, along the lines of "is it really okay to just do nothing?" The guilt remains strong.
This is one of the adjustments one has to make in retirement. I had an insight to this one time shortly after retirement sitting on the back porch with a glass of wine, feeling a little guilty because I wasn't "doing anything" and had nothing scheduled for the immediate future.

It then occurred to me that all my life since kindergarten, I was "supposed" to be doing something and I hadn't had that kind of unscheduled life since I was four. I then realized that now I had reached the goal. I don't have to do anything except meet the basic responsibilities of any mature adult.

Nords wrote a great piece on this phenomenon several years ago:

The "fog of work"
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Old 07-12-2017, 03:11 PM   #67
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Thank you for sharing your story - it moved me! Just wanted to say this: fear (anxiety, guilt) are a great short term motivator, but a very poor long term one. Also, why have that in your life?

It is perfectly fine to not do anything, as long as you can accept the consequences (financial or otherwise). Try to be a good and compassionate person, yes, of course. But ambition is only great as long as it works for you, not when it eats away at you.
Thank you--and I should admit that my "nothing" is probably not truly "nothing" -- I do have a side hustle that I would probably keep at even once I quit working full time, and I'm sure I will come up with all sorts of little projects to keep myself occupied. Maybe it's just more about a slower pace, and about only doing the stuff I want to do.

However, despite my lack of ambition, I did end up with a pretty good job for the past, oh, 20 years. So I succeeded in spite of myself.
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Old 07-12-2017, 03:15 PM   #68
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Nords wrote a great piece on this phenomenon several years ago:

The "fog of work"
Thank you for this link!
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Old 07-12-2017, 09:10 PM   #69
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My favorite times are when I don't have to do anything. When I was a kid, my favorite times were vacations.

But then, I always liked school, too, and after a long time of "doing nothing," I inevitably wanted to get something done.

So it's a balance. The main thing for me is to have goals that are self-chosen, rather than a "should" or a "have to."
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Old 07-12-2017, 10:55 PM   #70
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Thank you for this link!


Yes, thank you! Loved the original post by Nords - "being" rather than "doing" is exactly what I need to focus on more. Very thought-provoking!
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Old 07-12-2017, 11:21 PM   #71
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Interesting thread and something I've given a lot of thought.

Not only has my outlook changed, but now I realize that me in 10 years will be different than me today, and I should take that into account with my plans.

Also, while not as productive as when having my own business, I'm still open to helping out, just not on a set schedule.

What I like most about retirement is time to think. And though that idea may come off as trivial, it's something that I do like to devote time.
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Old 07-13-2017, 06:20 AM   #72
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But ambition is only great as long as it works for you, not when it eats away at you.


This might be the key to this thread. Most of here had to have above average ambition to build a career or business and put aside a stash. Now we're on an ER forum, because we've either gone or are going in the opposite direction toward more personal time and freedom. It can be confusing to ourselves and maybe others. I know I wonder about how my comfort level will be 2.5 years from now when DW and I plan to have the opportunity to start living off of our portfolio. My own ambition is now running toward taking a year off to travel then semi-retirement. But will I have the _alls when the time comes to quit? Our ambition has served us well so far but we can sense the end of its usefulness coming earlier than most we know in daily life.
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Old 07-13-2017, 10:38 AM   #73
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I would say that as long as a person is happy, losing ambition isn't a problem. If it's accompanied by a more general malaise, then a visit to a doctor or therapist to help may be in order.

My ambitions have mostly been towards maximizing income while minimizing work-related expenses, so I've stayed in the technical roles rather than moving into management, with the associated pressures to "live large" and the time crunch that makes it difficult to cook for myself, etc. I recently realized that I've pretty much maxed out how high I want to go, and we're projecting FI in less than 1.5 years, so it really isn't worth it to keep striving.
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Old 07-13-2017, 12:37 PM   #74
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I haven't lost the ambition for my hobbies and the great outdoors. If I wouldn't have them I might be very depressed. I work a part time job that I only can get 90 days of work in a year. I find it a nice balance for me and kind of weans me from slowly from loosing my fire and ambition for now. I would bet with high goal setters here this is a problem for a lot of people. I'm not saying loosing ambition is bad it is our way of life for so many years to be busy.
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Old 07-13-2017, 05:22 PM   #75
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I was going to answer your post, but I found out on another thread that I'm too lazy to do so.
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Old 07-15-2017, 10:10 AM   #76
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Anyone else find that, as they get older, their drive and ambition diminishes?

What I mean is, I used to have lots of dreams and goals for myself. I read motivational books, strived to really do something with my life, dreamed big (not in conventional ways, but my own version), worked hard in my career, and was pretty goal-oriented. But as I've gotten older (55 now), I find a lot of that stuff has just dropped away.

Also, feeling like I've done a lot of hard work in my life, and I just want to take it easy.

Anyhow, just wondering if others have noticed this diminished drive or ambition, as they've gotten older or shifted into retirement or semi-retirement?
I love the thread title...

I'm 56 years old, and I don't think my drive or ambition has diminished-- only my capacity.

I still read the motivational books (although with more cynicism & skepticism) and I still have a To-Do list. We still travel to explore new places or revisit favorites. I still enjoy coaching, mentoring, whatever buzzword we're calling it now. But these days my ambition is more directed toward appreciating life around me than to more achievements (or more money).

Part of that is the physical limit of accumulated damage and a longer recovery time. (A good night's sleep just doesn't do it anymore.) Maybe there's some incipient arthritis which makes me appreciate the value of being over doing. Or maybe it's the surfer lifestyle-- if I'd surfed during my working days then I'm pretty sure I'd've missed a lot of morning musters.

I'm also experienced enough to know not to schedule every minute of my day because it'll just raise my stress level when unexpected opportunities or problems pop up.

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It then occurred to me that all my life since kindergarten, I was "supposed" to be doing something and I hadn't had that kind of unscheduled life since I was four. I then realized that now I had reached the goal. I don't have to do anything except meet the basic responsibilities of any mature adult.

Nords wrote a great piece on this phenomenon several years ago:

The "fog of work"
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Thank you for this link!
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Yes, thank you! Loved the original post by Nords - "being" rather than "doing" is exactly what I need to focus on more. Very thought-provoking!
Thanks, Walt & Scuba!

"Unscheduled life": exactly.
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Old 07-16-2017, 09:59 AM   #77
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In my late 50s, I'm in better shape than I've been since my early 30s, and am ambitious about a number of personal goals. Outdoors, travel, home, extended family.

They seem to be crowding out working for a living a couple of years sooner that I would have preferred, though.
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Old 07-16-2017, 10:09 AM   #78
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At work (I still work part-time), I just come in and do the job, but that's about it. I don't strive to improve. I don't strive for excellence (lol). I keep my professional face intact, but underneath I'm not particularly motivated.
How can you call that "lack of ambition?"

When I got RIF'd from MegaCorp at 58, without a real plan for FIRE at that time, I never worked again by choice. Just stopped. Friends called to tell me about opportunities. My resume was still on several employment sites and drew a number of calls. But I was just "done."

Now that's lack of ambition........
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Old 07-17-2017, 09:14 AM   #79
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Anyhow, just wondering if others have noticed this diminished drive or ambition, as they've gotten older or shifted into retirement or semi-retirement?
I'm not sure if it's exactly that, but rather, as we go through life, there's always the "music" of expectations and we all have some natural propensity to "dance" to it. With the wisdom of age and the ability to step away into a quiet zone, we need to choose our own beat...something we've never done before. When we realize we're not dancing, what does that feel like? I think we need to select our own music rather than stand still in silence. But how do you know what to play when you've never had a choice?
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One more factor that has contributed to my lack of ambition has been reading simplicity literature, which has helped to detach me from the modern drive to acquire, to define myself by my work or possessions, keep up with the Joneses, etc. I've also read some books extolling the virtues of leisure, taking it easy, etc. So all of that has helped to free me from social programming about what I "should" be doing or accomplishing.
Any suggestions on what has been most enlightening?

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"We’re constantly told to lean in to work, to push harder and achieve more. We’re given the impression that these are the things that we need to go after in order to have a good life.....If this sounds like a life strategy you should strongly reconsider, you are absolutely correct, and Dr Waldinger has the data to back him up."
Leaning into relationships is "where it's at"!
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Old 07-17-2017, 09:33 AM   #80
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I'm also experienced enough to know not to schedule every minute of my day because it'll just raise my stress level when unexpected opportunities or problems pop up.
<snip>
"Unscheduled life": exactly.
Thanks for the "fog" piece Nords. Yes I think "being" is a welcome perspective and schedule should be kept to being-related events. We also run a joint calendar so that there are no surprises between us.

Of course there are still "doing" activities but we try to spread them out.

(A good friend who is retired in Mexico describes making potato salad to take to a pot-luck dinner:
Day 1 - Buy potatoes
Day 2 - Peel potatoes
Day 3 - Buy or check mayo/other additions
Day 4 - Cook potatoes.
It is a nice idea to keep "doing" in check.)
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