You can do anything you want but you can’t do everything you want – what I’ve learned during my first week of semi-retirement.

We can do anything we want but we can’t do everything we want. I’ve heard a friend of mine say that a couple dozen times over the years. It’s usually in reference to school budgets. Sure we can do whatever we want to do, but there’s always constraints. I’ve been expecting to retire early for a while. I’m a man of many spreadsheets and I’m a firm believer in the power of slow methodical progress – Einstein wasn’t wrong when he said compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world – and progress built on top of progress can yield some really nice results. Tracking my early retirement progress throughout the last 6 or 7 years on a bunch of different spreadsheets let me see that, yes, it actually is possible to retire early. It was only until recently, maybe in the last 6 months, that I started to ask myself what the hell would I do if I was actually fully retired. More and more I would land on the answer of, well, I would do whatever I wanted. The problem is, even when you can do whatever you want, you can’t do everything you want. 

During my first week of semi-retirement I had to spend a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do. No one tells you where to go or what to work on or what goals you should try and accomplish. I stopped working full time a little earlier than my spreadsheets suggested I should so I’m still going to want to try and make some money, but how I do that is up for debate now. I’m training for a half iron man but should I really work out for 3 hours a day. I know I want to spend time investing in some longer term goals, but how much time should I allocate for that. 

In the book The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck, Mark Manson lays out a compelling arguement for the idea that we never stop having problems, the problems just look different at different points in our lives. Having to figure out how to spend my time is a nice problem to have, one I’ve been working toward having for a long time. Still, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. 

After a bunch of reflection during our week and a half following Phish around the country and during my first week of semi-retirement, I landed on 6 different themes or buckets for spending time. I recently finished reading the Book Atomic Habits and have been hearing a lot of thoughts about how to integrate habits regularly in order to accomplish larger goals. I do well with repetition and it’s easier for me to be creative when I make a habit out of scheduling time to do so. I figure if I can build a weekly rhythm for “work” then maybe some small gains could compound over time. Making high quality education predictably accessible for those that have traditionally struggled – those that reside in the margins, seems like a ridiculously lofty goal to have, but if I could spend a little time throughout the week, eventually 20 years down the road I might be able to make enough of a contribution to see some movement. 

Education is one of the three things I wrote here about that I believe are holding back zip codes like 53206 (we did a podcast about it too) and I know that helping create movement in those spaces is what I want to do, but again you can do anything, just not everything. Ill have to go into further detail about those buckets and how they play into building momentum in the future, like when I see if it actually works, but at least it’s a start. 

Overall, I’d say the first week was about a C, maybe a C+. It was ok – good not great. Most of the time I tried to cram too much into a single day and felt guilty about not accomplishing what I set out to do. Then I remembered there are still 24 hours in a day regardless of whether I have a full time job or not and I stopped trying to fill my days with as much as possible. In my second week, I’ve got a plan (on a new spreadsheet) to be more balanced within those buckets with, hopefully, more realistic expectations around what I can get done in a day. We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out.