As I work on my Epic Life Quest, here’s what I’ve got on my possible future achievements.
My Level 50 CharacterIn Steve Kamb’s book Level Up Your Life, he challenges you to dream big – really big – and come up with what your bio will look like when you’ve finished Level 50 of your personal Epic Quest. For example, here’s Steve’s:
“Steve Kamb, Rebel One: Living in a house on a coastline, up early with the sunrise to write articles or work on my next book. Late morning is spent at the gym training with powerlifting, gymnastics, and capoeira exercises. My afternoons are spent playing golf or music until my kids come home from school. My evenings are spent with family and/or friends, eating a home-cooked dinner outside around a fire, live music being played, and fun being had by all. When I’m not at home living my life, I’m traveling on an important mission or adventure that challenges me physically and mentally.”
Isn’t that crazy audacious? Note that he isn’t actually working in the way you or I would probably define working, but that’s the life he wants to lead. Sounds awesome. Given that Level 50 character profile, that would dictate the steps he needs to take to work his way into that life: he’s gotta come up with enough passive income to make it work.
“Brent Ozar and Erika Valencia: Each morning I wake up before dawn & Erika rise, working for a few hours on apps or to write & record training. In the winter, we’re living on an oceanfront beach, spending our mornings making sure baby sea turtles make it to sea, and our evenings at our favorite local restaurant. In the summer, we’re living in our Iceland cottage, making day trips to incredible natural sights and watching the Northern Lights at night. I have a collection of a few funky cars, and I love sharing them with others at local events. When we’re not at home living our life, we’re traveling to beautiful, relaxing locations.”
So now, how do I get there?
My Upcoming Tasks
To get there, I’ve broken up my future tasks to roughly line up with my Getting Things Done 50,000 foot goals:
- Be a fantastic partner for my loved ones.
- Be a wonderful partner for Erika.
- Be a good son and brother.
- Enjoy my time on Earth as many ways as I can.
- Be healthy enough to enjoy the experiences I love.
- Experience stuff that makes me happy.
- Retire with complete financial security.
- Measure exactly what “retire with complete financial security” means.
- Have enough assets to last through my lifetime.
Future Partner Achievements
I try to be pretty transparent: I want to share nearly everything with you, dear reader, to inspire you to be a better person and to challenge myself to fulfill my goals. However, this particular category stays mostly offline. Here’s what I’ll share:
- Vacation with Erika in Bora Bora – Erika’s always dreamed of staying at an overwater bungalow. (Scheduled for spring 2021.)
- Take Dad & Caryl on a land trip through Alaska – they really enjoyed the Alaskan cruises we’ve taken together, and I think they’d like a train/lodge/car trip even more. (Tentatively aiming for summer 2021.)
- For 5 years straight, take off one month straight per year with Erika – gradually ramping up my vacation goals. I started on this one in August 2019 when we took August off (aside from a couple of SQL Saturdays and their pre-cons, which honestly doesn’t feel like work for me – I really enjoy those.) For 2020, we’re taking March off for a meandering trip around the Ring Road in Iceland, culminating with SQL Saturday Iceland and then London for SQLBits. This one won’t be completed until 2024.
- Get my family’s handwritten holiday and birthday cards out on time for an entire year straight. I am such a selfish jerk. (Working on this for 2020.)
- Learn conversational Spanish – I know just enough to be dangerous and funny, but not enough to hold a serious conversation with a stranger. Erika’s family is from El Salvador, and I look forward to the day when we can have a relaxed conversation. (Today, they just feed me wonderful food, and hey, there’s a lot to be said for that too.)
- Vacation with Erika in Greece – neither of us have ever been, but the crisp white walls on the blue sea have always called to us.
- Get Erika a split flap display – I built a cheap projector version, but we both still want the real thing.
Future Enjoyment Stuff: Health
- Work out 3x/week for 3 months. I used to run half-marathons, but the time drain for long runs was pretty bad. Then after I broke my arm, I babied myself for a while. I didn’t realize just how bad my upper body strength was until I started with a personal trainer, and I couldn’t do a single push-up! Started & failed this one a few times since 2016.
- Get annual health exams for 3 years – including physical, eye exam, and dental exams. Boring, but it takes discipline, and it’s part of being a responsible adult. I struggle with this. (In progress: done for 2018 and 2019.)
Future Enjoyment Stuff: Experiences I Want
Things I’d like to experience before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
- Take a photography class – I enjoy photography, but I suck at it, and I should learn some basics to kick things up a notch. (I don’t ever want to buy a camera again – I’ve owned a bunch, but the best camera is the one you have with you, and the iPhone cameras are pretty doggone good.)
- Build a listening room – I love music, and I’ve got great ears for details. I really appreciate good audio, but living in an apartment, I can’t really bombard the neighbors with high volume music. Erika and I built a townhome in Houston, but at the time, we didn’t have the financial ability to include a listening room as part of the blueprint.
- Visit a Zen rock garden – I’m not really into taking care of plants myself, but I’m really intrigued by the thought of tending a public rock garden as I get older.
- Take a one-day skiing class – I have zero ambitions to be good at anything physical, but this seems like a fun achievement to unlock. Snow skiing, not water skiing.
- Ride in a go-fast boat going 100mph – I grew up with a steady diet of Miami Vice, and I’d like to experience what it’s like to pilot a boat this fast.
- Ride in a glider – I’ve never wanted to fly a small plane: the angry noise and failure rate doesn’t inspire me. However, Tom Roush’s post about flying a glider sounds like a hell of an experience.
- Learn Ikebana – the Japanese art of arranging flowers. Something about this just really calls to me ever since I saw Anthony Bourdain show it in his Tokyo show.
- Volunteer for 3 days a week for one month at a pet shelter – Erika and I have agreed that we’re not going to get another dog because it’s a lot of commitment and travel restrictions, but I’m sure I’ll want animal time again.
Car-based stuff, which I threw into their own group because I wanna balance out my life with the above stuff and the below stuff:
- Attend high performance driving training – I suck at driving fast, even in video games. I’m not one of those guys who goes fast on public roads, but I’d love to have the confidence to attack a track and not feel like Hellen Keller at the wheel. Now that I’ve bought a 911, I’m thinking the Porsche Experience Center in LA makes sense.
- Learn to drift – sure, I can slide around on the snow, but I would love to be able to just knock out a lurid slide on dry pavement on a moment’s notice.
- Ride in a ‘Ring Taxi – The Nürburgring is a famously difficult race track in Germany that I don’t have the slightest chance of ever learning, but I’d love to ride along with a driver who knows it well.
Future Enjoyment Stuff: Places I Want to Visit
I’ve been so absurdly lucky to have had jobs that required international travel, so I’ve been able to cross off a lot of amazing destinations. There’s still a few left, though.
- See the Northern Lights – I saw ’em when I did the Chicago-Mac sailboat race and in our 2019 Iceland trip, but neither were really fantastic viewings.
- Drive around Iceland’s Ring Road – a trip around the 828-mile Route 1 wrapping around the country. We tried it in March 2020, but had to stop short due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Take a true first class flight – because the Emirates first class suites sure look different than the business class flights I usually take.
- Tour Italy – we’d love to drive through the Tuscan countryside and see the museums in Florence.
- Visit Germany – I did spend a few days here in 2008 while working for Quest Software, but that wasn’t good enough. I really liked what I saw, and I’d love to take a nice, slow journey through the country. Erika’s really interested in ordering a custom Porsche and taking European delivery.
- Visit the Grand Canyon – I’ve seen it from airplanes, but I’d like to see it closer. Maybe a helicopter tour.
- See a major mountain range – the Alps, Himalayas, whatever. I don’t want to climb a mountain, mind you, I just want to see one for scale.
- See a near-24-hour-day – as a fan of Arctic Circle stuff, this one intrigues me.
- See a near-24-hour-night – see above.
- Set foot on Antarctica – broken into a separate category from the below because even this is hard enough, but doable on a long cruise.
Future Work/Retirement Achievements
I debated a lot about ordering the groups of tasks in this page, and sometimes I rearrange it. I think putting retirement first sends a bad message, but the reality is that I want to make sure my family is taken care of, and that starts with financial security. Therefore, these tasks are important even though they’re at the bottom of the page.
- Be gone for 3 months in one year – regular readers will know that vacations are really important to me, and that I’ve worked remotely for a long time. I’m gradually taking it up a level: in 2019, I was “gone” for 2 months of the year. For me, being “gone” means that I’m away from home, and I’m mostly on vacation. I still do work before Erika wakes up each morning – email, write, learn – but when I’m “gone,” I’m not available for client work (because I’m often in places with odd schedules or sketchy Internet.) The hard part of this is making it work while not sacrificing income – the company’s still at $2M/year in top line revenue, but just barely. Gradually, as I get older and segue into retirement, this goal will transition into a combination of being “gone” and just flat out not working for longer periods of time. (That’s probably a decade away though.) This was originally scheduled for 2020, but pushing it to 2021 since travel is basically off the plate for the rest of 2020.
- Outsource my online store management – we sell about a million dollars a year of online training and services, and I’m still managing WordPress and WooCommerce myself – and doing a pretty poor job of it. I don’t bring value to this task, and if I’m going to be away from the computer for extended periods of time, then I need someone else managing the customer support.
- Have $1mm in liquid assets – and almost unthinkably, achievements for $2mm and $3mm.
- Own a home with zero debt – I’ve been living the Dave Ramsey way for over a decade, only buying things I can pay cash for. This is the next logical step, but it’s not on the near-term horizon just because Erika and I like to move around a lot, seeing different cities in the US, so apartments are a lot more convenient with the unpredictable real estate market. A couple related goals:
- Own a home in Mexico where we can hear the ocean
- Own a summer home (like San Diego or Telluride) – look, if we’re sketching out big goals, let’s go big
- Measure exactly what “retire with complete financial security” means – set an exact dollar amount that I need to have in order to stop working full time. There are financial professionals who do this for you, but it’s not top priority for me right now because I gotta focus on execution for a while longer.
- Retire – and this one’s a little tricky. I really, really love what I do, and I do what I love. To me, the concept of retirement is a little vague because I’d do a lot of this stuff for free. Right now, my definition of retirement is not taking any new clients, and having the financial knowledge that my complete future is taken care of. I’m not there yet.
These aren’t my only goals – there are private revenue and profitability metrics that I don’t share here. (I just don’t want you thinking, “Hey, why’s this guy counting blog posts but not tracking his expenses per year?”)