Wake Up from Your Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis

I don’t know how this post is gonna go. It might be a combination of ranting and venting but in the end, I hope something good comes out of it. I guess my point is simple, why would you invest time and effort in making money for others an not do the same, if not better, for the individual(s) you should care the most, i.e YOU and YOUR FAMILY?.

Honestly, this is just nonsense. Is it because our identity is so tied to what we do to the point that we unconsciously (or not) let it be the only thing that matters in life? or is it because we see money as the root of all evil? … your guess is as good as mine but the reality is you should wake up from your identity crisis and start making some changes in your life.

Don’t get me wrong, I happen to love what I do and on top of that I happen to be very well paid; however, like I told one of my coworkers the other day, I can’t let my job (and everything around it) define who I am and be the only motivating factor behind my personal and professional development.

Why? my answer is simple … I’m an employee and as such I’m 100% dispensable. If shit hits the fan my company could decide to let everyone go and I’d be no exception to the rule. The way I see it, my company and I have an arrangement. I give them my time with the goal of delivering high-quality results to achieve business objectives and in return, I get compensated accordingly. This is a very straightforward business transaction and as such should be looked at through that lens.

If I’m sounding too cold well so be it … It’s all business

If you believe your employer cares more about you than making money then let me bring you back to earth … They do not. You’re there to positively influence the success of the business and the day you stop performing or you become a slacker your employer will decide to part ways. No matter how well you get along with people or how cool you are it’s your work and performance which will dictate the duration of the business transaction you’ve agreed to embark on with your employer.

So where am I going with this? am I pissed with my 9-5? Do I want you to be piss with your 9-5? The answer is No, I’m not upset and I don’t want you to be either. Like I said, I have a job that I happen to love and get very well paid. On top of that, I love the people and the work we do which happens to be pretty fun and challenging.  While all of these is great news, I continue to remember the advice my father gave me when I was young …

“son, when things are going great save as much as you can. Bad things happen in life and the more you can do to prepare yourself for these events the better”

Exchanging Time for a Paycheck

Having your feet on the ground is a step in the right direction (at least in my humble opinion) but you can’t beat common sense. Like I said, my employer and I have come to an agreement but It is my rightful duty to get the best valuation for my time to make sure it is a win-win situation for both parties. In the end, you’re probably taking time away from someone or things you care about so it only seems fair you should be exchanging that time for a form of income (usually a paycheck) and benefits you should maximize to the best of your ability.

But let me ask you something, what’s your purpose? what brings happiness and joy to your life? outside of work what makes you tick? Heck, if you had all the money in the world what would you do? would you still be doing what you’re doing? if so, wouldn’t it be nice to say that you do it because you want to but not because you have to?

You Need to Have a Purpose

I can assure you one thing, I don’t have all the money in the world and don’t plan to. However, I’m working really hard so that I can have options and freedom to do whatever the hell I want. It just so happens that money is the vehicle that provides those options.

If this is my objective, i.e. having options, then wouldn’t it make sense for me to learn everything I can about money?. If I want to get there sooner rather than later shouldn’t I start now instead of letting other things get in the way of my financial plan? Aside from my faith and my family what could possibly be more important? … work?

Of course, I care about work but I care more about me and my family. Work is helping me get to where I want to get but I feel I owe it to myself to care more about my own future than work

Am I wrong to think this way? does this make me a terrible employee? … honestly, I don’t think so. There’s more to life than work, therefore, why should I let my job dictate who I am or who I should be? As long as my desire to reach my personal objectives does not interfere with my ability to add value then everything should be fine.

Yes, I recognize technical/leadership training is important to make sure I succeed in my current role; however, I invest the same time and effort (if not more) in learning about topics that will help me achieve my personal goals.

As I reflect on this, I can’t avoid thinking about folks that only care about their jobs to the point they forget about their future. I wonder if these individuals have actually spent any time thinking about it in detail. Time is of the essence and the longer you wait the more time you’ll have to exchange your precious time to get to wherever it is you wanna get.

Whether you’re working on paying down debt, increasing the gap between your income and expenses, paying yourself first by saving and investing … ask yourself this question: do you spend the same amount of time making sure you’re improving efficiencies around all aspects of your financial strategy or are you putting things off because you just don’t have time to think about anything else outside of work?.

An Identity Crisis

If you think I’m obsessed with making money let me stop you right there cause I’m not. Instead, I’m obsessed with the idea of having options to do whatever I want. This concept is so powerful; however, is only possible if you have FU money. The beauty of having FU money is that you’re essentially freeing yourself from HAVING to do something to WANTING to do something. The video below summarizes Jim’s point of having FU money from an interesting perspective.

Whether you continue to work or not, that’s up to you; however, the fundamental differentiator for you is the switch from a NEED to a WANT. This is pretty cool in my mind but it brings up a few questions.

  1. If your decision is to retire early what are you gonna do afterward?
  2. Have you put a plan in place so that you’re in a position to RETIRE TO something instead of RETIRING FROM something?
  3. What will your purpose be once you reach FIRE (Financial Independence / Retire Early)?
  4. If you were at a bar and somebody engaged in a conversation how would you introduce yourself?
  5. Will you be able to emotionally detach yourself from the work you’ve been doing for probably 10+ years?

As I continue to write this post, I find it somewhat difficult to answer these questions; however, I would like to highlight two key takeaways:

  • Planning is critical … figure out what brings happiness to your life and lay the foundation to retire to that new chapter of your life.
  • Your job does not define who you are … Yes, you might be an engineer, lawyer, etc, that does blah, blah, blah, but beyond that, you’re probably a father/mother, husband/wife, somebody’s brother/sister, a volunteer, somebody who enjoys the outdoors, music, personal finance, etc.

Today, I was having a beer with one of my buddies at work and we were actually talking about the second bullet. He’s also passionate about PF and reaching FI so I asked him: how would you introduce yourself if someone came over to say hi? He thought about it for a second and immediately felled compelled to say what he does for a living. When he finished, I asked him, but isn’t it true that you’re a father of two amazing girls, husband of a wife that enjoys the outdoors as much as you do and the son of a couple that worked hard to set values so that you could become the person you are today?

By the time I finished he was speechless.Eventually, he broke the silence and said it was an interesting perspective he had never thought about.

We kept talking about the WHY behind this bond between what we do and who we are and our hypothesis (right or wrong) is centered around our family and how we are brought up when growing up as well as the impact of the society we live in.

As I think about how our society influences our behaviors, it is pretty clear a correlation exists between the way you answer the question of what do you do for a living aka who you are, and the timing in terms of your stage in life. Below is my recollection of what I did and who I was based on what I thought was expected of me at every given point in time.

Age 15-18: I attend high school and I would like to study Mechanical Engineering

Age 18-24: I’m a freshman/sophomore/junior/senior in Mechanical Engineering

Age: 24-27: I’m an engineer at company X in charge of blah

Age: 27-28: I’m a grad student in Petroleum Engineering

Age 29-35: I’m a production/reservoir engineer for company Y

Final Thoughts

  • Defining who we are is intimately related to the expectations society has from every one of us. Like it or not, that’s our reality.
  • Going to school, getting a degree, joining the workforce and retiring at age 65 seems to be the typical path; however, the word “typical” has no place in the world of personal finance and more specifically the Financial Independence (FI) community.
  • Before you reach FI/FIRE I encourage you to have a plan in place around the next chapter of your life.
  • Whether you retire early or not having options gives you more power than you might think.
  • Make an effort to wake up form your identity crisis so that you can feel confident about retiring to something that brings joy to your life.
  • Detach yourself from what you do for a living. Work is just one aspect of your life and definitely not the most important one for sure.
  • I’m a person of faith, a husband of an amazing woman, a father of two incredible boys, someone who values family, relationships and who believes that we should focus on the things we can control and influence the things we can’t to the best of our ability.

So let me ask you something how do you introduce yourself to others?  … Until next time JJ.


    1. Ana, thanks for sharing the link to the video which by the way I found it to be very thought-provoking. Purpose is key but I like your comments on autonomy and mastery. It seems you’re doing a great job working on the latter in the context of your photography business. Thanks again for stopping by.

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