Sick of the daily grind but can’t wait for FI? Try a new angle from Andy at Liberate Life

Many of us in the financial independence/retire early space want to get financial independence because we want freedom from the Man taking over all our time. However, attaining financial independence takes a long time and it’s a tough slog. Retirement Investing Today has reached the finish line in his early forties after nine years of this. RIT even asks himself is he an outlier, I would say he is. I am less of one, but I went three years with no holidays and working hard and spending as little as possible to get out in my early fifties. What you have to go through to get to being able to retire early isn’t fun before, though it is afterwards 😉

It also concerned me that a lot of the narrative on here isn’t very widely applicable to people starting their working lives now – after all I started work thirty-five years ago. I think Andy has a lot to offer this cohort, because while work has changed, it isn’t all adverse change, and some of his ideas may help play that hand better in the modern world. Andy challenged me in the narrowness of my vision regarding work – his persistence in the face of a curmudgeonly and stuck in it’s-ways Ermine can be seen in this comment thread

Getting to financial independence is about earning and saving, and it pays to get that right, both in terms of earning as much as you can and saving as much of that as you can, but I’d say that more than half the battle is getting control of your headspace, knowing what you are doing and why. The younger Ermine was called out as a spendthrift wastrel and compared to many in the PF scene he was, although he avoided the general category error that is consumer debt which dooms many to a life of wage-slavery.

Andy is offering a different take on this. More choices open up when you separate the requirement for independence from financial independence and retirement

Andy has looked at the financial independence/retire early (FI/RE) scene with fresh eyes, and he observes a lot of independence can be had before financial independence. He is an inspiring example of someone in the FI community who isn’t working in finance[ref]I have nothing against people working in finance in London. But you’re a breed apart because of the pay levels, and the rest of us need hope and inspiration too ;)[/ref] in London, but is getting freedom of self-determination and control of how he spends his days. Andy is in his early thirties and lives with his charming wife and two delightful young children in the beautiful surroundings of Devon near Dartmoor.

Andy from liberate.life with the rolling Devon countryside in the background
Andy from liberate.life with the rolling Devon countryside in the background

In particular, he is of the view that many of us miss the point in focusing on the distant goal of financial independence. You can get a lot of independence and a lot of resilience from The Man by looking at working and earning a living in a wider way.

So I decided to find out more, and visited him down in Devon, on the way to looking at some prehistoric stones on Dartmoor. The rest of this post is an interview with Andy about some of his ideas on life and work.

An Ermine interview with Andy from Liberate.life on how he separates independence from financial independence.

The title of Andy’s site says it all – his aim is to liberate life from the limitations of working for The Man on one side, while at the same time not deferring all gratification until he is as grizzled as an Ermine, because his kids will have become adults by then and he’d have missed them growing up.

Changing your thinking patterns is never easy, and a lot of how we think about money and work was set quite early on. In the interview I ask Andy about his vision of what a good life is, and he talks about how mastery of his destiny is important to him and what he has changed to get closer to that, and his different take on financial independence.

More ideas from Andy on how to liberate your life

Andy’s website liberate.life is both about the how and why, but he offers more targeted way to help you make the changes:

a free email six-part course on how to quit the rat-race in 18 months*

one on one coaching* on how to become more entrepreneurial, and how to test new business ideas so they show whether they are likely to succeed sooner rather than later.

Andy can help you liberate your life with his one-on-one course, if you are open to new ways of thinking, and have the talent and drive to make changes. He is open about the scale of the challenge and the rewards. Andy’s approach is to steadfastly challenge limiting beliefs about work and earning, so you can use your ability to add value to other people to the full. Hell, he has even got the grizzled Ermine to think about doing some kind of paid work, just for the fun of it[ref]Note: I am interested in the research field and it benefits people I care about. I am not The Returned 😉 [/ref]

He’s even more persistent in delivering the message in person. Resistance is futile – the world of work has changed, and agility and lateral thinking in the face of change are what helps get ahead now IMO.

What did I learn from Andy?

I should acknowledge I haven’t done his course, but we did talk for a long time. I’m not his target audience because it is too late for me. I had to solve the financial independence conundrum on my own. And yet it’s clear that both my limited history and the nature of leaving the workforce left large regions of limiting beliefs:

Limiting belief 1: A view that selling is a sleazy occupation and I have never done it and have no place in it

This is as a result of my limited experience- I have only ever worked for four companies, and three out of the four were very big firms. I was far removed from the front line. Selling is an essential part of making any enterprise work, and my concept of sales and marketing was a combination of Arthur Daley, Spanish boiler-room telephone sales scams and used car vendors.

Now if I look back at my career I have sold ideas and strategies to people, but if we ignore that as lost along with the career, I then looked at designs and services I have sold to people outside my main job. And discovered that because I had always conceptualised sales as the spoken word, I had ignored sales I had made through the written word – a few thousand pounds on articles (ignored because I have been reading journalists decrying the death of print for years), and also a few pieces of equipment sold because people had chased me down to buy equipment after I have published technical articles on new opportunities and techniques.

In particular, because outside work I generally influenced through the written and not the spoken word I missed that I had already been selling through widening influence in the way of writing technical articles, even if I did make my customers chase me down and articulate their requirements as a request.  I am clearly of the Ralph Waldo Emerson mousetrap school of thought here 😉 If I wanted to take this further I would carry on in that line, using influence by contributing original articles to special-interest organisations and getting sales from that. I had missed seeing all of this because selling is done verbally in my beliefs. It is theoretically possible that using social media I could expand this, although I don’t have to. I use Google to publicise my articles[ref]this blog is an exception, I don’t really know how people find this, though I am glad you do, and I tip my hat to fellow bloggers who I believe are the main route[/ref], and by choosing to specialise in niche areas it works for me. I don’t SEO or all that malarkey – write decent stuff about technology I am interested in and choose small pools. Decent writing matters. I’m never going to win the Booker prize, I am wordy and not always focused. But in these small pools I am competing with engineers, not with Shakespeare, JK Rowling or even Dan Brown. ’nuff said.

Limiting belief 2: Quite serious blind spots regarding working and earning

These came around because of the way I reached FI, running away from something rather than towards it. You shouldn’t do that generally in life, and I was saved from the boredom that afflicts many who retire to get away by the return of an inquiring mind. That exit left marks from the experience that work hurt a lot at a particular time of weakness, and this was generalised. In fact it was the absence of control that hurt, if I had been in a position to turn round to the boss who tried to shaft me and say

“Quite frankly, if that’s how you feel then you can f**k right off and stick your performance management where the sun doesn’t shine, if you want to do things in such a stupid way then be my guest and find some other sucker to cover for your failure to look ahead”

I probably would have felt fine and dandy about the whole thing. Obviously I would then still be working, arguably wasting precious time of my life to earn money I didn’t need so it’s perhaps best that it happened that way.

So I ended up with the feeling that the whole principle of selling some of my human capital for money ends up as pain, as opposed to the specific example at that specific time did. I inferred the general from the particular, and you shouldn’t really do that from one data point, it’s bad epistemology.

I am sure there are other limiting beliefs, but I’ll vouch for Andy’s tenacity in hauling those out.

So there you go, particularly for younger cohorts for whom the journey to FI looks very long and hard. As the man says – Sick of the daily grind but can’t wait for FI? Take a look.

*Disclosure – Andy contributes to the Ermine’s beer fund for signups through here, but this won’t cost you any extra. I never promote something I don’t see real value in, I scrapped Google Ads from Simple Living In Suffolk years ago when they flashed offers of Wonga et al to unsuspecting readers. Having met him, Andy seems to play a pretty straight bat, judge for yourself.

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38 thoughts on “Sick of the daily grind but can’t wait for FI? Try a new angle from Andy at Liberate Life”

  1. For sure Andy’s balanced compromise which is suited to his situation and aims will appeal to a lot of people – different strokes for different folks. My interpretation of the whole FI/RE scene/teachings is that there’s no one or correct way, everyone should do what’s optimal for their unique needs & capabilities.

    A minority will prefer the extreme – deprivation for a few years in exchange for total freedom when they get out of the tunnel, but most [even some that want to rush] will find that too harsh or not have the option because their earning power wont allow such a short accumulation period. All the different options to get to the same aim are just different tools in the kit to build a free future – everyone should see what works best for them. For most aspects of life, there’s a spectrum. If people are too inflexible on this point, it’s ironically comparable to the blinkered approach of the conventional route through working life based on the now dying 20th century model.

    As you alluded, every new generation limbering up to make this decision as they face the start of their working lives is going to find it harder [what with the cost of labour in relentless decline generally] & as such will have to be creative in finding alternatives. Unless they catch a lucky break, like inheriting a life-changing amount, they just wont have the ‘earn high, spend as little as possible for a few years’ option anyway. So people are going to have to culturally reset and learn to think for themselves again; it’ll be a painful and major shock for most …..as they’ve been infantilised via conditioning from birth by the system of econo-social control until now.

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    1. Some areas will favour the extreme – if you are part of the finance set you need to go for it, because that’s no country for old men. But thinking for yourself is never a bad thing, even if I never did enough of that as a young pup!

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  2. What with cost of labour in relentless decline.. from that i take it you haven’t tried to hire a builder/painter/spark recently.

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    1. hehe – re the painting – I’ve almost come to the point where I’m prepared to do the job myself, ‘coz it’s not good to have the piss taken!

      Still, we’ve taken back control. Obviously this will get easier with time!

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      1. manual labour can be very therapeutic if you’re in the right frame of mind. If you’re not it can be a swear-fest..

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      2. Indeed – I loosened the head of my splitting maul last week. Which was good to have noticed, since we do this as a group, so a flying axe-head wouldn’t really be welcome. So satisfying up to that point 😉

        I was thinking of going smarter and getting a splitting axe and try to learn the twist on contact routine, ease back on the brute force and ignorance approach. And maybe go upmarket a little on the axe at ~£50 as opposed to ~£20 on the splitting maul, since I can’t see how to repair the loose joint.

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      3. thats the exact same maul i have after snapping an even cheaper toolstation jobby. I’ve smashed through a sizeable cherry tree stump with it and its still going strong, but I’ll have to keep a close eye on it by the sound of things..

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      4. >Which was good to have noticed, since we do this as a group, so a flying axe-head wouldn’t really be welcome.

        Done that. Hacking at a tree stump with a cheap axe. Big overhead blows, then suddenly notice no head on the axe when I brought the handle down. Does one look up? I opted to dive to the side assuming the head was vertically above me. Sprawled on my side there was a thud on the ground roughly where I had been standing.

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      5. certainly worth a crack, if that fails you could always cut out the fibreglass handle from the metal head and replace with a nice wood-handle. good practice for the old carpentry skills?

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      6. I too succumbed to the allure of the selfsame cheap Screwfix maul, and broke it after some fair to moderate use. The handle failed inside the head and I couldn’t figure how to remove the head without destroying the whole thing. Binned it in the end rather than risk an incoming hunk of metal landing on my head.

        I think it was a good lesson for me in ‘buy cheap, buy twice’.

        The Gransfors looks an object of beauty. I seem to recall they’re the tool of choice for Ray Mears.

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      7. “manual labour can be very therapeutic if you’re in the right frame of mind. If you’re not it can be a swear-fest..”

        Hmm, yes, you’re right – just hope it’s the former and not the latter when I replace the springs, dampers and all the suspension bushes on my MR2 over the next week or so, especially when much of it’s probably not been touched in it’s 22 years by the looks of it 😉

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      8. “hehe – re the painting – I’ve almost come to the point where I’m prepared to do the job myself”

        I HAVE come to that point personally. My parents’ place recently needed the outside woodwork doing. It’s one of a number of jobs I’ll happily do myself these days because 1) it’s not rocket-science and 2) you just know that paying someone else will result in either a not-so-cheap shoddy job or a damned big bill for a proper one. After you’ve factored in that it’s paid for out of tax-paid hard-earned cash, and his bill has to allow for him covering HIS tax bill, cost-of-living, etc it’s an awful lot of money for a not-so-difficult job, isn’t it ?

        Anyway, after a fortnight (had to wait on the weather a couple of times, ESPECIALLY the topcoat) of sanding, treating, filling, more sanding, two coats of undercoat and a final topcoat it looks as it should, and I’m quite sure it’s weatherproof and will LAST. Cost ? A few brushes, sheets of sand paper and probably about a hundred quids worth of Dulux Weathershield (used the same on my place about eight years ago and it STILL looks good). I simply dare not think what a “professional” would’ve charged for the job done to the same standard.

        I wood treated a nice new greenhouse not long ago for the cost of a tin of Barrettine – can’t remember what the supplier wanted to charge for doing that before installation but it was another jaw-dropper ! Sod that.

        I mean, how much can it cost (particularly when it’s still in bits in their factory without the glass installed yet) ? Insane.

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      9. yes i’ve done a bit, but taking intricate old windows back to the wood before repainting is *seriously* time consuming and tedious. emulsion on walls is, in comparison, a joy – as it is so quick and non-fiddly

        I’ve had to outsource on occasions for this reason

        the other approach is the divide and conquer, where you do a little bit, i.e. one window at a time, to make it more bearable

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      10. PS 8 years for exterior paint is good going – you’ve done well there. must have been a good job 😉 weathershield is well worth the extra few quid

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      11. Sure, agree about the windows – it was mostly eaves, soffits and gable end stuff that really needed the attention in truth. Indoor painting’s a breeze by comparison – can roller 90 odd percent of it very quickly and evenly too.

        I used to live in an old white rendered house (that old Tyrolean textured stuff where they flick mortar onto the walls to create the finish). I swear you could paint the Forth Bridge with what that used to cost ! That deep texture just used to eat paint. Nice and cool during a summer heatwave … and bloody freezing in the winter. Nope, never again, sorry 😉

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  3. Rgd-> “Quite frankly, if that’s how you feel then you can f**k right off and stick your performance management where the sun doesn’t shine, if you want to do things in such a stupid way then be my guest and find some other sucker to cover for your failure to look ahead” – Not FI myself yet, but enough stashed to happily take some time out which makes this sort of response much easier to wield. My last PM review, whilst not all bad, had some criticisms too which my response was that I am just too old to change 🙂 Not what they expected to hear I guess, but damn it made me feel good. So I say to all those gunning for FI: you don’t have to have reached FI to start reaping the benefits, having a goodly stash allows you to behave with more ‘honesty’ and makes the experience easier. Good luck!

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    1. That reminds me of that lovely 1950’s bank advert A Man With Savings. In particular

      A man with savings can afford to resign from his job, if his principles so dictate.

      I think they’s been overtaken by events when they continue

      A man who can afford to quit is much more useful to his company, and therefore more promotable. He can afford to give his company the benefits of his most candid judgements

      but what the heck, it’s a nice idea, and has a fair grain of truth 😉

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      1. “A man who can afford to quit is much more useful to his company, and therefore more promotable. He can afford to give his company the benefits of his most candid judgements”

        I think, as we’ve established in comments on here in the past, “most candid judgements” are not always welcome, especially when it’s seriously at odds with the majority-held (sometimes glaringly wrong, often politically aligned) judgements being expressed elsewhere 😉

        Positive, adj: Mistaken at the top of one’s voice
        — acknowledgement to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary

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    2. “My last PM review, whilst not all bad, had some criticisms too which my response was that I am just too old to change”

      I found I was in danger of taking on the persona of one or two of the characters out of “Drop the Dead Donkey” by the end. You just know when it’s time to quit, don’t you ? 😉

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  4. “He can afford to give his company the benefits of his most candid judgements” – timely indeed, tommorrow I send out some performance test results of a system we have been working on for 6mths +, basically its not up to the job , fundamentally flawed at an architectural level, its going to have to be canned, I could try and massage the results, but what the hey.

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  5. Excellent article, as always. Been massively into FI for 2 years, but have always lived a (relatively) frugal life anyway. Am 44 now and lately much more leaning towards life a la Andy. Am much helped by an earning spouse and no kids, now or ever. Have always been slightly disappointed by the way the FI scene has been a little dominated by high-earners and possible redundancy payouts. Andy makes some great points. Don’t worry Ermine, yours is still my favourite blog!

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  6. hey ermine, where are these other blogs of yours about technical stuff and making things? I’d like to take a look..

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  7. I’ve read many of the posts on Andy’s blog in recent days. It seems a very nice way to try and live your life but it also seems only applicable to those with a certain skill-set and/or character. Perhaps I’m already too old (in my early 40s) and set in my ways to understand. As someone who has worked for almost twenty years in the City, a person’s employment value tends to be defined in terms of specialized knowledge and skills rather than as a generalist. In London, New York, and Singapore, I’m worth a hefty sum, anywhere else I’m not even qualified to stack shelves. My better half is similar, a specialized lawyer. Freelancing isn’t realistic.

    We tried to move out of London a few years ago, trying to get that magical work-life balance thing with two young children. My partner found it impossible to find part-time work in a regional town at any level of compensation that was worth getting out of bed for. I was part of a start-up firm, with offices in the town and back in London. I found being essentially self-employed incredibly stressful. Work and home, which has been always totally separate, became intertwined. The success/failure of the business had an impact on our home life, something that never mattered in London. There I could just get another job, while in the regional town there was simply nothing else to do. I was also earning less; not seeing my savings rack up as fast was incredibly stressful. Schooling was difficult given a very poor selection of private schools. I had achieved a shorter commute at the expense of a longer commute for my 4 and 6 year old! We ran back to London after two years. Thank god we had only rented in the town and not sold the London house.

    Bottom-line is that for me work and home life need to be completely discrete; one cannot impact the other. Moreover, I’ve realized there is simply no half-way point between work and retirement.

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    1. I’d agree that my personality helps me to live the way I do. However, the real secret is our willingness to live on ~£3k per month for a family of 4.

      It’s pretty easy for 2 adults, each of whom are well-educated and skilled to generate this amount (+ adequate pension savings) in far less than 20 hours each per week without it intruding on our home life at all. I literally could spend half of my week not even thinking about work if I chose to.

      If you need, for example, 7 grand a month, I can’t think of a low-stress solution which will work. So, no private schools for our young uns I’m afraid! Just lots of mum and/or dad being at home whenever they need us.

      > Freelancing isn’t realistic

      Well, that precludes the most obvious option. Check out this guest post I did for TFS for a detailed discussion of the ‘but I can’t freelance’ argument: http://thefirestarter.co.uk/living-free-now-likes/

      So, in summary, if you’re clever enough to be capable of making 6 figures, willing to think outside the box and happy living a moderately frugal life, there categorically is a half-way point between working as a full-time employee and being completely retired. The solution might not be to your liking, but it absolutely does exist.

      It’s important to point this out, lest we inadvertently deter anybody from entertaining the idea of following my model (which might really improve their life).

      I accept that whereas I see 60 hour per week corporate wage slavery to be one type of poverty, you may feel the same about my choice to live like neither of us can earn more than £30k per year. Unto each his own though.

      Thanks for your kind words about the blog!

      Good luck with your FI journey.

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  8. I used to have a well-paid boss who complained that the corporate vice tightened every year to get more work out of people for less pay. [conveniently ignoring his part in the system] He’d come to hate his job & since it took up such a large % of his life, by extension his lifestyle too….. yet didn’t see or acknowledge that if he hadn’t chosen to live in a listed home full of similarly overpriced decorations & send his precious, special snowflakes to the best private schools, then he could already have been free.

    Complaining might be ineffective as an agent of change, but it’s popularity lies in it’s availability to all & ease of use. Courage lies in standing up to social pressure and refusing to go with the herd – if outlying individuals hadn’t ever existed, we wouldn’t have had any of the revolutionary inventions that make life today comfortable [in 1st-world countries] at a level incomparable in our entire history as a species. Possible vilification & ostracism is the price – that’s why few accept picking up that baton…..

    Alternatives certainly exist everywhere on the spectrum of lifestyle choices – just because others don’t seem to be doing something different doesn’t mean it can’t be done – only that they aren’t willing or capable of flexibility. You have to free your mind first & then the body will follow…….

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  9. @gravytrain – hedonic adaptation. If you’re happy then no prob. If not you need to have a think about reversing it as thats whats got you locked up. It is not a nailed on reqt to ring fence half a mill to send your kid to harvard (maybe you were trolling with that comment?)

    @andy you look mighty familiar. Racking my brains as to what the context may have been??

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    1. Ooh, not sure. Tech industry? I went to Uni of York – is that it?

      I’d be (pleasantly) surprised if it had anything to do with any of my music projects 🙂

      Other than that, do you walk around Exeter city centre a lot?

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  10. OOT – I m the other end of the spectrum w.r.t work/home, i.e.

    “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

    — Lawrence Pearsall Jacks

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    1. > He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing.

      But is this not the same as financial independence? I’m not as handy with Venn diagrams as Andy, but it is clear that the totality of all the interesting stuff in the world is not the same as the stuff in the world you can make money from. The latter also includes a lot of not interesting stuff, from cleaning toilets to writing minutes of meetings.

      As such only when you have eliminated “I need to make money out of this” can you afford such aristocratic nonchalance to pursue your vision of excellence. Although it took a long time for me to jump to it, discovering that intellectual freedom was one of the greatest hidden prizes of reaching FI.

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  11. Not sure about that. I was just drawing out the contrast with the idea that work and home (leisure?) should be immiscible liquids

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  12. @ermine reread your comment and i think the answers no, its not necessarily the same as FI. Isnt that the whole thrust of LL?

    Granted that quote is pretentious and has all the hallmarks of a trustafarian writing it. But theres a grain in it.

    Its saying live intentionally and have a crack at the upper echelons of maslow i.e. same as andy in this post. Even if you never make it its a worth aiming for. FI is but one means to that end, by no means the only one.

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    1. But Andy isn’t LPJ, so a disparity isn’t an issue for either? Interesting fellow, well both of them but I’d never come across LPJ before. Interesting quote from wikipedia

      “The mechanical mind has a passion for control—of everything except itself. Beyond the control it has won over the forces of nature it would now win control over the forces of society of stating the problem and producing the solution, with social machinery to correspond.”

      Which is arguably a superset of the case Andy made in his last post. I’ve been watching the Power of Myth interviews with Joseph Campbell, he of the Hero’s Journey and he makes the similar case on the scale of the individual in terms of the conscious ego trying to gain control, which can results in the forces of the subconscious mind being suppressed until the content wells up and breaks out, often in an uncontrolled manner.

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  13. Nice interview ermine 🙂
    Your voice didn’t sound anything like I thought it would, haha.

    As you are probably aware of I’m all for Andy’s model of FI, in fact it was one of my original routes (Freelancing) although I hadn’t gotten anywhere near to creating such a coherent plan (or executing it) and then writing about it as he has. As life turned out I’m just doing 73% (up from 66% earlier in the year) of a full time job which is no where near his 33% of course but at least I’m heading in the right direction on average.

    Once next summer is done with – I’ll have about 8 weeks off work over June, July and August due to the way my shift pattern works out, so I definitely want to sample how that goes before making any rash decisions! – I may start to re-evaluate whether I do finally want to quit working for the man and branch out on my own with some sort of freelance/business of my own. If I’m happy with work and the situation (and they are too!) then no reason not to stay on.

    As others have said there are many tools in the FI box and I am all for people just using the ones that work best for them, but Andy’s methods definitely resonate with me far more than either extreme frugality or working so hard you practically kill yourself for 7-10 years!!!

    Cheers

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