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Rekindling the Eye of the Tiger – Escaping Mediocrity

We all know that life’s got its highs and lows. When you’re riding one of those highs, life can’t get any better.

You feel that all your hard work has paid off and you’re sitting on top of the world.

But when those lows come, they can be like a sucker punch that takes you completely by surprise. Occasionally, those times can make you feel there’s no way out either.

In this post, from Route to Retire, our intrepid poster takes a look at how to escape the mediocrity we sometimes find ourselves in and rekindle that “eye of the tiger” feeling.

As someone who tends to have higher-than-high and lower-than-low temperaments in life, I sometimes have a hard time in those lows. Unfortunately, life’s not always a bowl of cherries so you gotta push your way through the bad times to get back to the good. The key is to be able to step back and realize that the lows are just a blip in life’s radar.

Funny enough, for probably close to a decade now, my life has taken a similar track to that of the stock market. Up until last year, my life was primarily a healthy bull market. I discovered the financial independence community, made goals and crushed them (both financial and personal), and continued to reap life’s rewards because of these things and others. It was an incredible run for sure.

But then things changed for us last year and once we moved back to Ohio and got settled in, life was like a market crash. Last fall, I felt lost, confused, and completely unsure of myself. It was like I suddenly lost my way in life.

I’m not gonna lie – it was incredibly hard. It took me months to get past that slump and the winter weather blues didn’t help either. Although I’m not completely back to where I want to be yet, I’m ready. It’s time to get back the eye of the tiger in life again.

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A Good Bull Run of Highs

Life’s been good to me over the years and I certainly can’t complain. I don’t believe that luck or your background can wholeheartedly make or break your success in life, but I do think they can play a part. Moreso than that though, I believe you still need to have a clear vision of where you want to be (call them goals if you want) and the ambition and determination to make your life into what you want it to be.

For years, Lisa and I lived the normal family ideal. I bought a cheap house in a bad neighborhood that we lived in for a few years to fix up and rent out. We worked hard like most folks and eventually, we were able to buy a nice house in a good suburban area. We had two nice cars, a beautiful baby, great neighbors, and plenty of electronics and toys floating around. I had a nice stable job as a Systems Engineer that paid good money, especially once I was promoted to SE manager.

Life was good and I don’t regret it one bit… but something was off. Eventually, I didn’t enjoy my job anymore and I was having a hard time being there rather than being with my family. I wanted to be more of a part of my daughter’s life growing up.

Probably around 2014, I discovered the FIRE movement (thanks, Joe @ Retire by 40!). This became a game changer and the eye of the tiger in my life. I realized that it was a possibility to make the changes needed in life to make it a reality.

When I had that dream to work toward financial independence and retiring early, things were running full steam ahead. Then we took it further and found new adventure and invigoration by moving to Boquete, Panama, starring in a House Hunters International episode, and even staying in a lodge in the middle of the jungle!

It was exciting and everything seemed possible – heck I even trained for and hiked up a volcano in Panama just to see if I could do it (I did!).

I’m not saying that every day was something adventurous, but it was like living the dream. Even just taking a walk in the beautiful town of Boquete with the perfect 75° weather every day, the palm trees all around, and so many friendly people saying “good morning” (or “buenas tardes”) was surreal. I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself, “wow, this is actually our life.”

 

What Caused the Crash

After almost three years of living in Panama, we moved back to the U.S. for a couple of reasons that I’ve gone into before. It wasn’t something I was thrilled about but it seemed to be the best decision at the time.

So we moved back to Ohio in the spring of 2022 and that in and of itself was its own little adventure: a bus ride to Costa Rica, almost two weeks in Mexico, and then once we got back, a trip to North Carolina to get our new furniture. We didn’t even have time to get unpacked before I headed off to a fishing trip of a lifetime in northern Quebec and then we did a week-long cruise in October.

Look, I can’t make this stuff up. It truly was like living a dream… until it all stopped. We were finally settled in and then reality set in as well. No more living in another country many call paradise along with the regular adventures we were having and all the friendly people we were meeting. We’re back in Ohio for the foreseeable future.

And don’t get me wrong – Ohio’s great for what it is. The park system here is unbelievable, the zoo is great, and of course, it’s where many of our friends and family live.

That said, we went from a spacious 3-bedroom, 3-bath condo in a resort on a golf course with a river and palm trees all around to a tiny 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment in a building built in the 1970s in a somewhat decent neighborhood. Our weather changed from 75° every day to a wildcard of weather that most of the year ends up being too hot or cold for my taste.

And with that change, our cost of living increased as well. We shouldn’t have a problem with continuing our life of early retirement but it’s absolutely tighter now and we might need to be a little more judicious in the number of vacations we take each year.

So, this isn’t the end of the world by any means but it’s still like getting hit with some solid jabs in a boxing match. It stings but you’re far from out of the fight.

The bigger problem was that as the colder weather of winter started knocking at the door, I floundered. I hate the cold and essentially stopped leaving the apartment for the most part. After all, this was essentially my first winter here in Ohio since retiring at the end of 2018 that I didn’t need to leave. I’m not working (s)and I’ve got my own workout equipment here in the apartment. I also walk about 1.3 miles through the halls here almost every day for more exercise.

During the past several months, I probably only left the apartment once or sometimes twice a week at most for errands or to visit with friends. I will say that it gave me a chance to catch up on all the movies and shows that have been on my list to watch for years, which was nice.

I think the idea was fair… however, being cooped up in this small apartment during the winter has its own set of problems. I started to get the blues and really lost my way in life. I felt like I had lost my sense of purpose and was back to running through the motions of life every day instead of living the life I wanted to live.

Here’s the thing though, I can get knocked down, but I’m always going to get back up. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

 

Eye of the Tiger

I’m a big fan of the Rocky movies and the Creed movies that followed. I like movies where you’re rooting for the underdog. Ok, that’s part of it – honestly, I’ll watch any Stallone movie with some good violence in it!

So I’m looking forward to seeing the new Creed III movie once it starts streaming. To get ready though, it’s critical that I watch all the Rocky and Creed movies again first, right? Ok, maybe not, but I’m doing it anyway!

I just finished watching Rocky III with Mr. T as Clubber Lang – not the best of the series but still fun nonetheless. Regardless, at one point Rocky loses his mojo and Apollo Creed gives Rocky a speech about getting that hunger back… the eye of the tiger…

Look, man, when you beat me, I hurt all over and I didn’t wanna know from nothin’ or nobody – not even my kids. Hell, every fighter knows that hurt, and we get sick inside trying to live with it, so don’t back off now. Make it right for yourself or you’ll be sorry you didn’t.

We held the greatest title in the whole world, babe. You lost that fight, Rock, for all the wrong reasons. You lost your edge. All right, I know your manager dying had you all messed up inside, but the truth is you didn’t look hungry.

Now when we fought, you had that eye of the tiger, man, the edge. And now you gotta get it back, and the way to get it back is to go back to the beginning. You know what I mean?

Heh-heh, maybe we could win it back together.

Eye of the tiger, man.

— Apollo Creed “Eye of the Tiger” Speech — Rocky III

Now, I hate to compare life to a Rocky movie, but sometimes you just gotta take your cues where you can get ’em! In this case, that’s my problem – I lost that hunger, that eye of the tiger.

When we started on our journey to financial independence, I had that hunger and drive. I knew what I wanted and went after it fiercely because it was going to happen no matter what. We saved aggressively, cut costs everywhere we could, bought rental properties, and I continued to learn everything I could about other ways to optimize. I had the eye of the tiger.

Once we reached financial independence though, I started to become a little more complacent. We had sold the rental house earlier but we sold the duplex, too, just because the market was so good. True, we could probably make a little more over the long haul by keeping it, but REITs are less hassle, give more diversification, and the liquidity factor is so much greater.

There are several areas like this where I just aimed for simplifying versus maximizing every dollar I could. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I feel like I lost the eye of the tiger.

This goes for other areas of life, too. I’ve talked several times before about how I have a hard time with balance in life. I want to do it all and I want to do it all right now.

But I also want to spend more time with my family – that’s one of the biggest reasons why I strove for financial freedom in the first place.

So here’s the deal – we’re not moving back to Panama, Mexico, or any other adventurous place for the foreseeable future. That could change, but for now, it is what it is. We’re probably staying in Ohio for now as well. That could also change at some point (Tennessee or the Carolinas, anyone?!), but there aren’t any definitive plans in place right now.

Guess I’ll just have to suck up living here in the winter for now. Maybe next year we can try to travel a little bit more during that time of the year.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading some books to try to get that eye of the tiger back in life in finding my path and some adventure. I’ve read two books on the subject and I’m currently reading a third:

I have one more I plan to read as well and then I’ll put together a post about these soon. Figuring this out has also led me to build a spreadsheet that’s a mashup of a bucket list, a passions list, and a list of things I want to learn/try. I’ll be sharing this with you as well soon.

After hitting what you might call rock bottom last fall, I’ve been determined to rebuild better… stronger… faster.

Anyway, I’ve learned that one of the things I especially want to be toying with right now is programming. I took a class back in college in Visual Basic 6 (yeah, that was a long time ago!), but I loved it and tinkered with it on and off for a few years after that. I enjoy the challenge, the problem-solving, and having something to show for the hard work.

So I’m starting to bring back the eye of the tiger by putting my attention toward something I want to be doing. A couple of weeks ago, I started learning Kotlin, which is a programming language that can be used to build Android apps. I’ve started with the Android Basics with Compose course by the Google Developers team as well as a couple of other resources. I’ll likely explore other courses like the Kotlin Bootcamp for Programmers through Udacity, too.

I’ve had a vision for an app idea in my head for years now and I think it would be great to make it come to fruition. It’ll be hard work but something I find enjoyable and I’ll have a finished product for the world when it’s done. If it’s helpful for other folks, that’s a bonus. And if I make a few bucks off of it, too, well, that’s another bonus, though not the motivation for making it happen.

So what am I telling you? I’m telling you that I’m back in the game. You might see a missed week of posting here and there (like last week) while I open up my life to doing other things – starting with Kotlin. I’ll also be delving more into other challenges, adventures, and bucket list items that I’ve realized are important to do while I still can.

You can’t let life pass you by with the monotony that is too easily instilled in each of us. Take control, figure out what you want out of life, and make it happen. You’re the only one who can do it.

Eye of the tiger, baby… eye of the tiger!

Plan well, take action, and live your best life!

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

 



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2 thoughts on “Rekindling the Eye of the Tiger – Escaping Mediocrity”

  1. You got this! As someone who grew up in Buffalo but has lived in North Carolina, the gloomy weather of the Midwest definitely takes a toll on you. And, by the way, lots of transplants in the Raleigh-Durham area and very kid-focused! With a wonderful, easy to navigate airport…should you ever think about another US based location. (And much more affordable than a lot of the northeast, at least.)

    Reply
    • That’s funny, KB – that’s an area that comes up regularly in our conversations as possible places to move to. In the meantime, I’m in a much better place now and we’ve since made some huge plans to move out of our apartment soon. We bought an RV travel trailer and plan to put our stuff in storage and do a 9-month road trip starting this fall… that’ll at least show next winter a thing or two! 😉

      Reply

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