The Waiting Place

It’s been awhile since my last post, other than my usual monthly financial report.  This post took a lot of thought and introspection, and I wanted to make sure I got it right.

I woke up early about 2 weeks ago with my son, and I was reading him the Dr. Seuss classic “Oh! The Places You’ll Go.” It’s a common graduation gift, but I think the story is worthwhile for both children and adults.  As with many Dr. Suess books, this story painfully and accurately describes our culture and warns us of common human conditions.

The story talks about your future and describes the highest highs and the lowest lows.  It doesn’t pretend that life will be easy, but it also has an optimistic tone.  But the verse that stole my focus happens about half way through the book, where Suess warns the reader of the “most useless place” you could go: The Waiting Place.

You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…
for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
or a plane to go or the mail to come,
or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

Everyone is just waiting.

And so I had to ask myself the question… Am I in “the waiting place?”  After all, I’ve documented a very transparent account of my plan to retire in 2 years and start a new (retired) life.  I have the desire and the means to retire immediately, and yet I wait.

But then the good doctor goes on and reminds me…

No! That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.

Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Yes, I am that kind of a guy.  Yet, at the same time, I have to be honest with myself and admit that I’m waiting until May 2013 to retire.  I have an ethical reason to stay at my job, and there are clear financial benefits – but how do I ensure that I’m not just sitting in the waiting place for 2 years?

So I came up with a new proposal for my job.  Something new, unique, and kind of fun.  Since I lead a program where the majority of my team is in Shanghai I proposed to my director that I work a few hours in the morning with my local co-workers, then take off around lunch and I don’t return.  I don’t log in, I don’t carry my work phone.

I then log in after dinner and I work with my Shanghai team.  No guilt of leaving the office mid-day, no guilt of only working 5-6 hours per day.  It’s more efficient, gives me more quality time with my kids, and it’s different and fun.  When it popped into my mind, I instantly felt like I had escaped the waiting place.   I was no longer sitting around waiting 19 more months until retirement – I was paving a new path and doing things on my schedule!  I’ve now been doing this for a little over a week and I’m really enjoying it.

More importantly, I realized an important lesson.  Although I often talk about extreme early retirement as a goal, it’s important for me not to confuse a major milestone with a goal.  In my case, the real goal is to do things my own way (freedom), to control my own destiny, and to spend more relaxed/quality time with my family. As long as I remember my true goals, it’s far easier to stay on track.  This will be equally as important in retirement – since retirement will not guarantee these goals by itself.

My hope for anyone reading this is to make sure you have clear lifestyle goals- not early retirement, world travel, money, power, etc – but the real underlying and personally satisfying goals.  And to ensure that you are not in “the waiting place” of those goals.  Instead, somehow escape, because “you’re that kind of a guy.”

Think seriously about this.  Are you in your own personal waiting place?

(You can read Seuss’ whole story here, but I strongly suggest you visit the library so you can experience it with pictures – it’s worth it)

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15 Responses to The Waiting Place

  1. Krantcents says:

    If you don’t ask, it can not happen! All it took was asking the question, how simple.
    I am always changing things and trying to do things better. For me, it removes or reduces frustration.
    Krantcents recently posted..Small ChangesMy Profile

  2. Brandy says:

    I am in the waiting place for sure! Only x more months until this bill is paid off and then I can pay that bill off. I feel like I have been doing this forever and it is kind of boring! I have a plan and I have been working my plan and doing well, but it is still boring. I am almost free of non-mortgage debt and it feels great but I am in a slump right now where I feel like nothing is changing.

  3. Yabusame says:

    I am in ‘The Waiting Place’. I’m taking voluntary redundancy at the end of the year and so, I sit at my desk, waiting for the year to end. Will the wait be worth it? Yes, I believe so.

    I am going to be paid 15 months salary for taking VR and those funds are going to help me transition into a second career in medicine. I already have a job (part-time) lined up working in a nearby Treatment Centre. My goal is to become a Doctor, but I need medical experience before I can get on the course I want to do. One step at a time. I want Financial Independence too, but that is something I can work on at the same time.

    Brandy, I lived without debt for many years and then I bought a house. The money I’d saved went into the house as a deposit and I quickly ended up purchasing things on the credit card (after a car accident, I even bought a car on my credit card too). I realised my error back in January and as of this month I am debt-free (except the mortgage). It was a long struggle and my goal was to be debt-free before the end of the year (because of the VR mentioned above). I just wanted you to know that the pain and struggle for getting out of debt is truly worth it. I love not owing anyone money again. One thing I would recommend to you is that you get a copy of YNAB. Its budgeting software that will help you attain your financial goals. I’ve been using it since February and I wouldn’t want to live without it now.

    BNL, congratulations on evaluating your own position and making worthwhile change. I bet the wife and kids love having Dad at home in the afternoons.
    Yabusame recently posted..WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY – InvictusMy Profile

  4. m741 says:

    I’d also say I’m in the waiting place. I’m zeroing in on targets, getting close to reducing expenses, and now it’s just a matter of waiting and accumulating savings.

    Unfortunately, there’s little I can do about that, right now. I can’t reorganize my schedule and it would tough for me to change jobs at the moment. So I’ve got a different coping mechanism.

    Thanks for the relevant poem. You never want to get too comfortable with where you’re at.

  5. Shawn says:

    I admire your tactics to transform your wait. Although I have changed parts of my situation, others are definitely in wait mode. Your story inspires me to manipulate what milestones I can and wait a bit for the goals. Reinforcing the milestone/goal difference is huge.

  6. Years ago, my plan was to join the Peace Corps. It sometimes takes a substantial amount of time from when you’re accepted in to the program to when you go to your destination. It was during that waiting period that I realized I felt my life was on hold- not until I actually went into the Peace Corps, but until I got back, over 2 years in the future.
    It made me take a hard look at myself. I realized that was not the attitude I should be going in with, so I dropped out, and I made decisions to restart my life.
    I still wonder sometimes what it would have been like if I’d gone in and served my two years. At the same time, I am very happy with the life I have now, and I know that I made that life for myself, by choosing not to wait.
    shanendoah@The Dog Ate My Wallet recently posted..Monday Round-UpMy Profile

  7. That’s a great idea. I think the whole team can benefit from the change to flexible hours.
    I’m in a bit of a waiting place too, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. As long as I have a goal that I’m working toward, waiting is tolerable.
    retirebyforty recently posted..3 Lessons From The Occupy Portland Camp ClearingMy Profile

  8. [...] those contemplating a big move, via Brave New Life: The Waiting Place (Dr. Seuss will hit you straight between the eyes [...]

  9. Amateur Hour says:

    Congratulations BNL

    I was in a similar situation about two years ago. I was working for a Hong Kong-based manufacturing company in their U.S. sales office. My day was basically broken up into major time slots of activity – late morning until early afternoon, when I would be working directly with U.S. clients, and then later in the evening, when I would discuss plans and issues with the Hong Kong and China teams. This left a long break in the middle of the day with little to do. I was also living in a city that was far from my family. I wasn’t happy, but I liked the job, it paid well, and I was learning a lot.

    Eventually, I presented a plan to the company owner that I would relocate to an area that was close to many of our core customers and work from home. The upside to the company was that I could spend more face time without clients. The upside to me was being able to work from home, effectively taking advantage of the long break in the afternoon to take care of personal stuff, and it also happened to be much closer to my family. Win-Win.

    It took me a long time to work up the courage to make this suggestion, as I was worried about how they would take the idea, but it went over very smoothly. Looking back on it, even if they had opposed the idea, I would have lost nothing in the attempt.
    Amateur Hour recently posted..Don’t Break the ChainMy Profile

    • Amateur Hour says:

      Correction – I meant to say that the upside to the company was that I could spend more time WITH clients, not without. …and that’s why one should proof-read before hitting “submit.”
      Amateur Hour recently posted..Don’t Break the ChainMy Profile

    • That’s a great example of improving one’s situation by not limiting options to the norm.

      When I think about how I’ve saved up far more than my corporate peers, how I’ve led hugely successful projects, and how I’ve been promoted at high rates within my corporate life, it all comes back to that one thing: I don’t limit my options to what others do or have done.

      It’s not about being a non-comformist, it’s about maximizing options and taking the best one. Sometimes the best option is “the norm” but often it’s not.

      By the way – just read your blog. I enjoyed it, hope you’ll keep it up (the blog, and your commitment to improving your life)

  10. NJ says:

    I was thinking of this story tonite and Googled this great line to see if there are many more people out there in the same state of mind.

    I make good money doing uninteresting work. It allows me time with family and a good amount of freedom. Yet I have the persistent feeling that I am stuck in the waiting place. I kind of feel like the guy leaning against the tree watching the guy fishing in the picture. He is just waiting for the big hit to come along so he can leave but he seems relatively content where he is at the moment. We see the picture and think this sap could be doing better things with his time, but he is oblivious to his options.

    Being comfortable has made me risk sensitive to change and now I am stuck in this never changing attitude and setting. I appreciate reading other people’s examples of moving forward. Hopefully I too can come up with a way out of here soon.

  11. Stefan Sween says:

    It’s in fact a wonderful and helpful piece of information. I’m happy that you simply shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date such as this. Thanks for sharing.

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