Wow, it has been quite the adventurous week here at the Headquarters. Well, not really at the Headquarters; I actually spent four days of the week in Little Rock, Arkansas for the thriving celebration of frugal living and philosophical awakening that was Camp FI South 2018.
What the Heck is That?
For those of you who don’t know (hi mom), Camp FI is a gathering of folks in the FI community designed to foster connections and growth. Of course there were lots of fellow bloggers and even a handful of podcasters, but there were also some regular people (known in the business as “Non Content Creators”) who were there to learn and share.
Whoof, that was bad pun. Anyway, thanks to the incredible generosity of fiology.com, which is run as a kind of virtual conglomeration of all things FI, your old pal the Captain was given a ticket into this madness.
As I had never attended a Camp FI, or any other FI-related gathering, or really any gathering at all (besides some questionable choices back in the day), I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I threw some random stuff into a little suitcase, said goodbye to the Headquarters Wrecking Crew (read: kids), gave the Mrs a dramatic smootch, and off I went into the unknown.
Goin’ Down South, Y’all
Arrangements had been made for me to hop in on a carpool going from the prestigious Bill and Hillary Clinton International Unreachable by Direct Flight Airport, and I made sure my as of yet unmet compatriots would be able to identify me through the crowd by donning my nicest Chicken Coop Crocs. People say you only have seconds to create a first impression, and I knew I had to go the extra mile. My name is Captain, after all.
I was met with a friendly group of folks discussing important money-related topics outside of a Starbucks in the terminal, and once the last of us had dragged our way from our planes, we set off into the torrential downpour that had apparently decided my disembarkation was a starting bell.
As we drove off into the wilderness that lies just beyond Little Rock proper, I couldn’t help but think that I was way, way out of my element. With a group of people that were way, way over my head. For four days.
Line Up, Campers!
Upon arrival, we checked in with the gracious and welcoming hosts, presented our liability waivers (seriously, what was I getting myself into?), pasted name tags on our chests, and nervously puttered around, quietly introducing ourselves to each other.
I met a lot of names I recognized that were attached to faces I did not, and was skeptically pleased when several people, some rather boisterously so, claimed to recognize me and my rantings with great pleasure. Stardom, apparently, does not come naturally to me.
As more and more people trickled in, I couldn’t help but notice the diversity of the crowd. A few folks in their late forties and early fifties, a bunch of folks in their mid twenties, and a whole host of different Southern accents. As an accent connoisseur, I found great pleasure in listening to all of the different inflections floating about.
Eventually we had enough people to where the camp could get under way, and the rest of my life began.
Let The Games Begin
I won’t go too far into detail here, but the nervousness of being in a room full of strangers was thoroughly crushed by the glee and laughter that filled the conference room. Where just a few moments ago we had been strangers, suddenly we joked together as if we had known each other for years.
Many people openly admitted to being introverts, and yet all of us opened up without question to each other, and judgement was cast aside.
After the initial large-scale icebreaker games had finished, everybody dipped into the copious drink stash that had accumulated, and then we dutifully fulfilled the requirements of the next item on the schedule. This was labeled: “Hangout, have fun, play games, campfire, make new friends.”
We obliged fully on all counts.
Getting Down to Business
The next day started with a buffet breakfast, and then it was time for the first main event. The speaker was one Doug Nordman of The Military Guide, and if you’re in the FI community and you haven’t heard the name or seen something he has posted, you’re doing a great job of burying your head in the sand.
As someone who has been retired from the military for 16 years, his was the prevailing, though certainly not the only, voice of experience and wisdom when it came to life after retirement.
He gave an impassioned speech covering the ease of FI through a military career and the importance of monetary discussions and guidance with our children, and while the military aspect didn’t apply to me it still held my riveted attention.
If you ever get a chance to talk to Doug, do it. That’s what I got out of that. He’s an incredibly approachable guy with a lot to offer, not the least of which is free surfing lessons for anyone who cares to join him at his local beach in Oahu, Hawaii. Time to work on that travel hacking!
Doug’s talk was followed by a brief respite for internalization, which was then followed by a highly driven and intelligent recent college graduate named Cody, who has a blog called Fly to FI. He also, I should point out, has recently co-created a podcast with another attendee named TJ, a blogger at Half Life Theory, that they have called Fire Below Zero. I highly recommend all resources connected with those two!
Cody’s talk, titled “A Guide to Taking Action,” may have on the surface seemed to be a cliché conference speech filled with business buzz-words and catchy clip art graphics of cartoonish business people doing businessy things. The depth it took in reality far exceeded any of my expectations.
Without getting too much into it here, I will say that Cody is enormously accomplished at his age, and his ideas of starting anything with just a simple small step to lead to greatness were, to use a wildly underperforming word for this scenario, inspiring. To briefly paraphrase, raking a lawn starts by raking the first leaf. Once you get that ball of action rolling, momentum will take over and eventual success is nearly inevitable.
The next speaker to take the stage, so to speak, was a money coach and podcaster extraordinaire by the name of Whitney Hansen. If you haven’t yet heard of her Money Nerds podcast, definitely give it a go. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed.
I won’t go too much into her story here, because I really want you to go and check it out for yourself. If you are an aspiring content creator, look upon her products with attention to detail, for there is much to be gained by doing so. If you are a person looking to have a more fruitful and productive life, do the same, ‘cause damn. Just, damn.
The next day, the first speaker up was Paul, who has a podcast titled Ready Investor One. His focus is real estate, and he is seriously crushing that game. His talk wasn’t really about that, however, as he had much more than real estate expertise to offer.
The exercise we as individuals did during that talk was to write down a list of our life goals, then break that its down into sections based on them being either 1-, 3-, or 5-year goals. The point of that was to realize the power of incremental progress, and how we could best utilize it. Let it be known that I subscribed to his podcast about two-thirds of the way through his talk.
Finally, the serious business was wrapped up by the incredible DocG, who writes about 47 new posts every day at diversefi.com. His was one of mind-blowing philosophical splendor, including at the center a story he invented about three brothers going down three separate roads to the same destination.
Each brother’s path was different; the eldest had a path that was straight and true, and he never varied from his end goal of completing his trek. He despised the trek, and put all of his focus and energy into getting to the end as fast as possible. When he reached the end, his joy was short-lived as he realized he had not given thought to what his purpose might be upon his arrival there.
The path of the middle brother was winding and bumpy, and he also greatly disliked the process of walking along it. He, however, was prone to distraction, and frequently strayed from it. He would eventually return feeling refreshed, but the trials of the path would inevitably drive his attention elsewhere, and so his journey was much longer than that of his older brother. He also had not thought about his life beyond the path, and so was less fulfilled by his completion than he had hoped.
The youngest of the three also had a narrow, winding path. The difference was, he took his time and learned to enjoy the process of walking along it. He frequently stopped to rest on it, and enjoyed admiring the bounties it had to offer him. His was the longest journey, and when he finally met up with his brothers at the end, he simply turned around and started walking back, for it was the journey rather than the end that motivated him.
Everything that came out of DocG’s mouth had those lucky enough to hear him shaking their heads in wonder at his depth. This is the kind of person everybody needs in their life.
Don’t Forget About Playtime!
If this experience had been nothing but sitting in a conference room hearing incredible people speak, I would have walked away satisfied that I had spent my time wisely. But it was so much more than that.
An impromptu beach volleyball game sprang up, that at one point had no less than 12 players. Skill levels varied, but enjoyment levels all ran high, and we all came away from it sweaty, covered in sand, and monumentally happy.
We also got to experience a behind-the-scenes look at a group podcast, in which the podcasters present put together a little piece and asked members of the audience who were willing (and one not so willing – Stephen) to come up and say what they had gotten out of the weekend.
More activities were peppered throughout the weekend, including canoeing (in which my esteemed roommate Mr Rethink the Rat Race and I thoroughly swamped the competition in a hastily produced race across the lake), basketball (in which our extremely non-competitive game only resulted in a 50% bleed rate), and even archery. I shall humbly provide a photo of myself in front of my target for your viewing pleasure, not because I want to show off. Definitely don’t Tweet or Pin this picture with captions like, “This is a real man”, or “I want to be like him when I grow up!” I know you really want to, but don’t. Or do, I’m not telling you how to live your life.
Wrapping it Up
I feel like I’m getting a little long-winded here, but there’s just so much to tell! I’m going to cap it off here for the sake of your eyeballs, and leave you with this thought: financial independence is a fantastic tool to help live a meaningful and fulfilling life, but don’t let the numbers blind you from the rest. Reaching your FI number is a great goal to set, but if you don’t learn to love the journey you’ll get burned out long before the end. Conversely, finding a purpose in life beyond just reaching a net worth goal is crucial for your long-term mental health.
So that’s it! Find purpose in life, learn to live the journey, and go to the next available Camp FI or Choose FI local meet up, or anything else that gets you around positive, intelligent people.
I’ll finish here with a list of links to other people and groups you need to know:
SeonwooLee.com – If you want to know anything bout travel rewards and credit cards, he’s your guy
Saving Sherpa – This guy is brilliant, hilarious, and has a ludicrously high savings rate
Eric Wyles – He talks about all kinds of pertinent stuff, no way you won’t learn something cool
Miss Mazuma – She has lots of good stuff to say and you will seriously enjoy reading it
Rethink the Rat Race – A great blog with good tips and great stories
Camp FI – Pretty sure I just wrote an entire article about this
Even Steven – Coming soon