Getting in the Arena of our own Financial Independence


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt.

TR was a native New Yorker who served as president of the US from 1901-1909.  His call to action was to get in the arena of our own life and live to the fullest knowing that mistakes will be made along the way.  To get in our own  arena because life will move forward whether or not we chose to participate.

Logically, I think we all know that.  Yet so many of us (including me) allow fear to keep us from trying … from doing. I saw a quote the other day that said, “Today is the youngest you will ever be.

Wow, I thought to myself.  It made me pause and think.  I kept repeating to myself …. TODAY … today is the youngest I will ever be again.   How true and scary at the same time, I thought to myself.

Then the question became, how do I want to spend today? Followed by … What am I grateful for?  What do I want more (less) of in my life?

Really, for me, I am a big fan of little things, that is to say, little moments. Little moments like, singing along to that perfect song on my way to work. Having dinner, at the dining room table, with family. Sharing a silly joke. Enjoying a cup of coffee during “me” time.

For me, life is lived in these little moments … in between the big ones. Big moments, in life, are few and far, but little ones are daily and so often taken for granted.

Little moments cost little to nothing and require little to no effort.  Little moments acknowledge the now with appreciation.  Like right now, as I write this post, I am very much appreciating air conditioning cause it is hot today. lol. 🙂 Thank you to the inventor of air conditioning. 😀

How am I going to tie this to financial independence? At some point each of us stops and thinks about retirement, early or otherwise.

What does retirement mean to you?  What do you want your legacy to be?  These are very personal questions.

Will mistakes be made on this path? Yes, everyone of us have made mistakes and no doubt will make a few more as we move forward.

At 15, I went to my dad and asked if I could get a job.  He said to me, “You have your whole life ahead of you… take this summer off.  Why do you want to work anyway?”  I told him, “I want to work to make my own money and pay for my own life.”

While he didn't agree, he did sign a document giving me permission to take a paycheck job.  With that I applied for my first job – working at a nearby hotel, babysitting kids who's family came to town on vacation.

True to being 15, I spent my entire paycheck as soon as I would get it… on what I couldn't tell you.  Later in life, my mom mentioned a few times the importance of paying yourself first.  My dad would talk about the 50/25/25 rule… 50% living expenses, 25% dining out and fun, 25% savings (pay yourself first).

I didn't listen to any of that or understood what it really meant until my early 40's. Years wasted, decades really and probably my biggest financial mistake – not paying myself first.  I am showing up late to my own arena and have spent every moment since making up for that.

I made a conscious decision to “take my blinders off” and put shame & embarrassment aside.  I decided to learn from my mistakes, forgive and move forward.  After all, being human, we are all bound to make (plenty of) mistakes.

The road to financial independence starts when we make that conscious decision to “get in the arena”.  It starts when we leave shame and embarrassment behind.  It starts when we know we will make mistakes and decide to learn from them.

TR's speech about getting into the arena fits so perfectly with the FIRE movement.  Getting into our own arena of financial independence.  After all, what is life without this basic freedom?

I started this post with a quote and would like to close with one from Michelle Obama.

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world's problems at once but don't ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” ~ Michelle Obama

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