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On Your Path to Financial Independence, Stop and Smell the Roses

Today’s guest post comes from the young man J.D. Roth likes to refer to as the “wonderkid” Cody from Fly to FI. At 21 (he’s now 22), I believe he was the youngest attendee at Camp FI Southeast the weekend we were all there.

You may wonder how he earned that nickname. Simply, he knew all the financial independence lingo, had graduated college early, started a disc golf company, and could speak about it all more articulately than I could ever muster.

When he was called upon during an on-site recording that became Choose FI Episode 057R, he nailed it, and I figured he must have known he would be put on the spot, but I found out it was all impromptu. He’s more put together at 22 than I am at 42.

Although Cody lives in Massachusetts and is two decades my junior, I later learned we’re connected by more than just our common interests in personal finance and financial independence. One of his close friends from college is my wife’s first cousin whom I’ve known since she was about nine years old (Hi  Liv!). It’s a small world, after all.


On Your Path to Financial Independence, Stop and Smell the Roses


For the past four months, I have been slow-traveling around Australia with minimal responsibilities. This prolonged hiatus has allowed me to engage in deep self-reflection and understand my values, motives, and passions.

Consequently, I was able to retrain my mind, form steady routines, and break bad habits. I’m certainly not saying that you need a lengthy vacation to understand yourself and improve your quality of life (although I highly encourage it).

However, I do truly believe that taking a step back and understanding yourself can help you to slow down, realign your values and stop rushing through life.

Never forget to stop and smell the roses.

Caged by Society


For thousands of years, as populations grew exponentially, the need for societal structure became increasingly crucial to maintain order. This need for structure has compounded throughout the digital age with the help of technology and globalization. Now, in today’s society, nearly everything must adhere to some predetermined time structure or deadline.

  • Pay your bills on the first of the month.
  • Finish that work assignment by the end of the day.
  • Don’t take more than 30 minutes for your lunch break.
  • Respond to that email within the hour.
  • Go to the gym five times per week.
  • Attend your weekly 10:00 AM work meeting and don’t be late.


caged monkey
despite all my rage, i am still just a monkey in a cage


This list could go on forever. Like many of you, I have personally fallen victim to the constricting structure of modern society. I remember feeling like I “didn’t have time” to do anything! There are just so many things that I had to do! How was it even possible to stop and smell the roses?

Don’t Waste Your Time


I first started to make real progress when I closely analyzed what my goals and values were. If I didn’t finish (insert random task here), what would the consequences be? Often times I found that these “essential” tasks weren’t that imperative at all! Practice thinking “what’s the worst that could possibly happen?” and you will soon realize how many must-do-now tasks can wait. Please note that some tasks such as “paying your bills” should probably not wait.


Put Your Cell Phone Down


Before I started this journey of self-reflection, I would check my phone incessantly whenever a new notification came up. Anyone with a blog or online business can understand this urge. However, this was extremely unhealthy for my time management, focus, and relationships. My phone would constantly distract me from the task at hand and certainly make me less present while hanging out with my girlfriend, family, and friends. The “buzz” in my pocket had become a vice.


In order to combat this destructive habit, I designated set times to answer emails and check social media: 8:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 7:00 PM. I realized that taking a few hours instead of a few minutes to answer someone didn’t really matter much at all. The need-to-answer-now mentality was just a construct of my own false beliefs. Better yet, answering all of my emails and messages in one sitting (with my phone on airplane mode) only took a fraction of the time.

Figure out what works for you and develop a system to organize and limit your cell phone usage. You will be happier, more present, and more productive! I like to use the cell phone as an example because modern society is plagued by its accessibility, but this system can be applied to any task.




Shift Your Mindset


By nature, I am an optimizer. I constantly feel the need to utilize my time in the most optimal way. This includes coupling nearly every daily activity (e.g. working out, cooking, yard work, etc.) with an audiobook or podcast. As readers of a personal finance and life optimization blog, I’m sure many of you operate in a similar fashion!

Anyway, I used to absolutely dread laundry and cooking. I would rush through both as quickly as possible because I had convinced myself that I had better things to do with my time. It wasn’t until a few weeks into my Australian travels that I asked myself “Why do I hate doing these things so much?” The interesting thing was that it was not the activities themselves that I loathed, but instead, it was the idea of doing them.

This mindset is harmful because going into something with an I-hate-this mentality makes enjoyment extremely difficult. Let me tell you, causing this shift in mindset is no easy task. For me, cooking was the easier of the two. I constantly tried my hand at new dishes and made a game out of it. After a few weeks, I started to really enjoy cooking my own meals.

Laundry was a bit more difficult, but forming a routine helped me to overcome my fabricated hatred. During the folding process, I would carefully organize the clothing items into categories to make them easier to put away. Meanwhile, I would indulge in a podcast or book. Forming this sort of routine and structure allowed me to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment and to overcome my biases.


Routines and Wins


As I previously highlighted, routines are a great tool to overcome a limiting thought or belief. I’m not talking about a military-esque routine where daily tasks are designated into hyper-specific time slots. Rather, forming positive habits and routines to guide your life can lead to increased happiness and a sense of accomplishment.

Every morning, I wake up, make my bed, and complete my morning workout. This might not seem like a big deal, but before I even leave my room I have already accomplished two little “wins”. I use this same strategy throughout my entire day and accumulate small “wins” whenever I can. This intentional shift to daily goal setting has been instrumental in raising my level of happiness and sense of accomplishment.

No matter how small the goal is, if you consciously aim to hit that goal, it feels great when you reach it! Mowed the lawn? Win. Finished a work assignment? Win. Brushed your teeth? Win. Learned something from a blog post? Win. By the end of the day, it’s tough to not feel like a winner from all the little wins you’ve accumulated. Build some wins into your daily routine and make it difficult to have a bad day!

What Actually Makes You Happy?


During high school and college, I used to party and drink more frequently than I’d like to admit. Was I a chronic alcoholic and party animal who shuddered at the thought of staying in on a Saturday night? Of course not. Then why did I indulge in these activities so frequently?

After careful self-analysis, I realized that my happiness stemmed from the community and social aspects of drinking and partying. I would have been equally as happy playing board games with a big group of friends (although this wasn’t quite as socially acceptable during those years).

Using this same methodology, I discovered that my happiness typically stems from something deeper than the activity’s face value. I’m not the only one. This search for happiness has been a documented trend among many early retirees. A prime example is Mr. Money Mustache, who traveled extensively in order to experience new cultures and meet new people. In the end, he realized that he had interesting people and cultures right in his hometown. He didn’t have to travel anywhere to find what he was looking for.

Discovering the source of your happiness can be eye-opening to designing your ideal lifestyle. Maybe the weekly restaurant dinners with your spouse are so enjoyable because of his/her company, not because of the restaurant itself. Once you figure this out, you can focus on spending more time with your spouse and capitalizing on your true source of happiness.

If your goal is to reduce your annual expenditure, this discovery can help tremendously. Often times, the underlying source of happiness is a lot less expensive than the face value item or activity. The effects are amazing. You can increase your level of happiness, save your money, and live more intentionally.



Key Takeaways


To review everything I’ve just discussed, let’s take a look at the key takeaways from this article.

  • Modern society has been shaped by a domineering structure in order to maintain order. However, don’t let these structural constraints confine you.
  • Organize things such as cell phone usage to optimize your time and increase productivity.
  • Identify something that you don’t enjoy doing and figure out why? Often times, the thought of doing something can be worse than the act itself. Form a structure and routine around that activity to give yourself a sense of accomplishment when you complete it.
  • Form habits and routines that accumulate small wins throughout your day. Develop a goal-setting mindset and praise yourself whenever a goal is reached.
  • Discover your true sources of happiness. Live intentionally, enjoy your life, and never forget to stop and smell the roses.

Thank you for reading. I hope that this post inspired you to take action and live a more intentional and organized life.


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[PoF: This young man is wise well beyond his years. Be sure to check out more from his Fly to FI blog, The FI Show podcast, follow him on Twitter, and follow along as he races to financial independence.]


Do you stop to smell the roses? What tips do you have to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures in life? How jealous are you that he spent nearly half-a-year in Australia? Let us know below!


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27 thoughts on “On Your Path to Financial Independence, Stop and Smell the Roses”

  1. Good read. We shouldn’t put life on hold while we work toward financial independence, we should enjoy life now as well.

  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. I think it’s refreshing to see the younger generation of FI take charge. Learning from our previous generations, we see that we do not want to go down that same path in life. To me, the younger generation is putting the oxygen into the “FIRE” for the older generation and making it continue and grow.

    • Haha, I really like that analogy, Tim! I’d certainly like to think that I’m breathing oxygen into the FIRE. I truly think that it’s possible to design a life in which you enjoy every single day — and that’s what I intend to do!

  4. Great stuff, I recently turned 30 and always wish I was doing this stuff in my early twenties. You’re wise beyond your years!

    • Hey Todd, thank you for all the kind words! I’m literally a human sponge that takes bits and pieces of knowledge from everyone in this community. I’m basically just a song featuring every person in the FI community.

  5. Cody,

    Awesome job, man. You are wise far beyond your years, my friend. I love how you’ve taken control of your life by not letting anyone else define it. The compare culture we live in is dangerous. There’s always someone with more or better stuff; someone who seemingly has it all together. Looks can be quite deceiving.

    You offer great hope for the future. I’m sorry we missed connecting at FinCon. Hopefully, we’ll cross paths one day.

    Keep up the great work. I’m inspired and I know others are too.

    • Thanks for all the kind words, Fred! I will be at FinCon next year and make sure that we connect.

      It’s true, we have to cherish each day and take control and responsibility over our own lives. The minute you hand your life over to someone else’s decision making is the minute you’ll find yourself unhappy and unfulfilled.

  6. Having fun all along the way is the key to happiness. Do not say, “I really want to do X, as soon as I retire.” If you really want to do X, then do it now! Don’t wait for someday because someday may never happen. I wrote my book, The Doctors Guide to Stating Your Practice Right to hammer in this very concept. Start you medical career with smelling the roses in mind from the first day. Otherwise it will be as soon as I get established, then as soon as the kids are in school, then as soon as we pay off our house, then as soon as the kids leave for college, and then as soon as we retire. If you say you will do it later, you may keep that up and later never arrives. Live a good life for your entire life, not just the retirement years.

    Wealthy Doc, book that trip to Australia for next year. If you book it now, the kids will fit their schedule around it. Don’t save your dreams for later.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

    • Thanks for reading Dr. Fawcett and I’m glad that you live by these same tenets. There’s no point in shooting for “X” if you don’t know what comes afterward.

      Goal chasing can be fun, but it gets exhausting if the finish line continues to move.

  7. Definitely, one of the highlights of FinCon was getting to meet you Cody. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations and your passion for life was inescapable. What a great post! I think all too often people in the FIRE-sphere get too caught up in the numbers and the mission, that they often lose sight of the why and how they’re getting there along the way. Its always a good reminder to pause and reflect on your life in the current moment, because for the time being, that is all you have.

    • I really enjoyed meeting you at fincon as well and I totally agree with you Mrs. WoW! I think that I deserve every single day to the fullest.

      It’s mind boggling to me when people (even within the FIRE community) tell me that I need to “pay my dues” in order to enjoy life.

      What dues?!

  8. Wait a minute, Cody. You mean to tell me you don’t go to the gym 5 times per week? How in the heck do you explain them guns then?

    And it was fun running into you at FinCon! It was fun socializing that morning hung over!

    Seriously, though, great post. I’m all for optimizing your life in the most intentional way that maximizes happiness and fulfillment– just like you said!

    I am also someone who prefers not to check email often. In fact, when I am not on call… I almost always have my phone on airplane mode. Just like you, I think the sound/vibration notifications are an anxiety-provoking twitch that promotes the bad habit of constant checking your phone. And like you said, it does make me happier, more present, and more productive… and improves my relationships with real life people. Another reason I put my phone on airplane mode is because of the potential negative impact of cellular phone EMFs on our health. Cell phones in our pockets likely causes decreased sperm count, and possibly disrupts our hormones (like testosterone) and may potentially cause cancer. Putting your cell phone on airplane mode mitigates those risks.

    Btw I’m jealous of your half-year self reflection trip in Australia. I’m heading there one day…

    G’day! 🙂

    • Haha thanks for kind words Doc! It was great to meet you at FinCon as well.

      Not sure where you got the notion that I don’t get in the gym too often… I’m there 5 to 6 times per week 😉

      Anyway, really glad you enjoyed the article and resonate with some of the concepts. I’ve read some stats about EMFs (although I’m no doctor) and that stuff is scary.

      Thanks again for reading!

  9. Time management is so important. In order to stay on task. Social media and your phone can definitely be a distraction.

    Funny about the phone. In Europe, you can sit at a cafe and see people actually having conversations and talking to others. Something I observed in my travels overseas. Here in the United States you see individual people by themselves either on their phones or laptops. Definitely a different culture.

    Doing things that make you happy is something we forget as we grow up. Think I read somewhere awhile back to do things you enjoyed as a kid. Some adults look for hobbies when they’re older but don’t know what to do. Thanks for the reminder.

    Good stuff here!

    • Hey Mobilehomegurl! Thanks for reading.

      I noticed that same exact thing during my time in Australia. People were less glued to their electronics and more eager to spark up a conversation with you.

      I love comment about doing what you love as a kid. Don’t let corporate America and western society beat your old passions out of you!

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  11. Like many newly red pilled FI enthusiasts I tumbled hard into it all. The wife, not so much. We were not on the same FI-page. Pulling back a little and remembering that the journey to FI can’t be skipped and that it is actually our lives was an important step for me.

    • Hey Kpeds, awesome job pulling back and learning to enjoy the journey. There’s no point in sprinting for the finish line if you can’t enjoy the race!

  12. This post was written by a 22 year old??!?!?!?

    Incredible. He has definitely earned the title of Wunderkid.

    The cell phone example of how we are tied to an object is pretty much happening in every household in America. And it does make you feel like you have to keep checking it constantly lest you have FOMO on something that really has no bearing on your life.

    I am very guilty of this, as I have often tried to multi-task 2 activities at the same time (watching TV and stuff on cell phone and end up wasting more time as I often have to rewind bits of the TV show because I missed out on some dialogue).

    Your solution of assigning only certain times to be on the cellphone is a great idea. Get it all done in one sitting rather than string it out throughout the day and be less productive.

    Kudos on the post, you are definitely wise beyond your years and your small wins approach is the way to go to bring maximum happiness into your life.

    • Hey X-ray, awesome to chat with you again (online, haha). Thanks for all the kind words!

      Time blocking had been so instrumental to my happiness and productivity. Hopefully you can take something away from this post!

  13. Very jealous! I have always wanted to go to Australia but can’t seem to block 2-3 weeks out to go. (Mostly due to my kids activities).

    I have lived by the “journey not the destination “ philosophy and have no regrets about that.

    I also waste no time. I check my email at 10 am & 2 pm (which is also break/snack time – not much has changed since elementary school).

    I learned much of this from Tim Ferriss. Folks, I believe we found the Tim Ferriss for the next generation!

    • Hey Wealthy Doc, if you want to get over to Australia, I’m sure you’ll get there!

      Awesome job with your optimization and thanks so much for the Tim Ferriss comparison!! If I could grow up to be like him that would be amazing!

  14. I really enjoyed meeting Cody at FinCon. In fact, I really enjoyed how open and honest he was about working. He had a very clear determination to define his own life and time, and didn’t accept being “young” as an excuse to have to put up with a day job – if he didn’t enjoy it.

    Much of this sounds similar to Tim Ferris optimization. While I cannot relate to all of Ferris’ ideas, I have taken up some of them myself. I am certainly trying to design an intentional life.

    Completely on board with optimizing your time. My emails are set to be pushed to my phone once every 12 hours. So, unless I have some extra time to sift through them, I just want until they arrive. Nothing has changed in terms of email needs, but now I feel more engaged and present in my every day life because I am not quite as distracted.

    I also agree its important to find what makes us happy. It’s amazing what that can do for our well-being when we feel fulfilled from tasks that actually bring us joy instead of going through the motions.


    • Hey TPP! It was awesome to meet you at FinCon as well.

      I appreciate the kind words and I’m glad to hear you are optimizing your life. Optimization and happiness seem to go hand in hand, coincidentally.


  15. If I had my act together that much at 22 I’d have been FI by 30. Good stuff here, thanks for the morning read.


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