Episode 85: Crossroads

11 minutes, 13 seconds Read

I explore personal updates and how to face decisions with prudence and courage.

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Rough transcript:

You’re listening to the Stoic Solutions Podcast – practical wisdom for everyday life. I’m your host, Justin Vacula with episode 85 – Crossroads – where I explore personal updates and how to face major decisions with prudence and courage.

First, a personal update and then more general discussion.

I’m returning to podcasting following a six month break during which time I have faced many decision points and reconsidered priorities. I finally completed my Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling and opted to leave my Bachelor’s-level full-time job, take on two Master’s-level part-time jobs, and ultimately quit all traditional employment in favor of multiple side-hustles including far more engagement with the wonderful world of credit cards and deals I mentioned in previous episodes.

The traditional workplace, I came to realize, was a significant strain on my daily functioning especially when I was working full-time. I opted to put more effort into side-hustles starting really small and eventually realized I was making more money outside of traditional work with more flexibility, significant opportunity for growth realized month to month, opportunity to make my own schedule, and travel/vacation at low to no cost.

Workplace managers appeared out-of-touch with their demands getting higher and higher. I found a high amount of paperwork and documentation to be unnecessary. Priorities and wants of school staff conflicted with that of mine and co-workers. Parents didn’t want to participate in the program they signed up for while their kids were struggling. Some of the children didn’t want to participate either. Work became alienating.

Co-workers were experiencing signs of burnout on my estimation. People said they wish they could travel, they wish they could do this and that, but because of work that could not. Work became more than the initial 40 hours per week with time off the clock. My sleep suffered. Stress levels were high. The commute became draining. I didn’t find time for exercise. I felt tired so much especially exhausted on weekends after work. I had to say no to many opportunities I was presented with as long as I remained working full-time. The opportunity cost of working was significant.

Stay and work in a position for a decent payrate with a possibility of growth or walk away to pursue better opportunities? With the same company, working the same position, I was offered two part-time positions. I opted to try both hoping that diversity and different locations would help, but the arguments for walking away from work remained as side-hustles got stronger and stronger and more opportunities were apparent even with better pay. I dropped down to one part-time job for about 5-10 hours a week and walked away once again as opportunities outside work became stronger and stronger.

This is not intended to be a diatribe against my former employer or any diatribe at all. I certainly won’t urge everyone to quit their jobs! Even outside of my workplaces, I heard many of the same concerns and experienced people who were burned out wishing and not doing, stagnating in the same positions for years with little hope of advancement. I increasingly became convinced that traditional employment wasn’t for me. I want to march to the beat of my own drum and make money mostly on my terms with the ability to scale up – make more money – if I put in more effort rather than settling for an hourly wage or salary which hardly, if ever, increases – one puts in 40 hours a week and even with extreme effort, the hourly is very often capped, worse yet set before they even start working. Maybe there is a unicorn position for me somewhere, but I’m not holding out hope for it. It’s now a good time to forge my own path rather than speculating on a possible good position.

I wondered – what about the people who appreciated my help, what about leaving them? Was a decision to quit too self-interested, too selfish? What about the people I really enjoyed working with? I recalled warnings during my counseling training about not believing the weight of the world rests on our shoulders – that we don’t have an exclusive toolkit with which to help for other counselors can provide sufficient help and we may not take approaches others can use which can be of more help. Other factors too, purely coincidental, like age, gender, and appearance can appear to make a difference. I can’t save the world and kids and their families will get along fine without me. Counseling, too, isn’t meant to be a lifelong experience – at least not with a particular counselor. Termination of counseling is a goal.

I, too, remembered a wonderful chapter from the Stoic author Epictetus titled ‘On the Cynic Calling’ which laments those who prescribe one path in life and lament those who do not take it, particularly those who shame men for not wanting to be fathers or husbands. Epictetus emphasizes that one is able to help humanity in many different ways, even take on a caretaker role if desired outside of one specific path or focusing the majority of attention on one or a few particular children. Others, too, will take on a traditional role as a father while those with virtue can extend their concern to a larger population manifesting virtue in different ways.

Personally, taking on a role as financial adviser, I’ve helped many people who have experienced a great amount of joy using credit card rewards, saving money, embracing a more frugal lifestyle, and traveling. They share travel experiences with family members, friends, and even travel solo when they would previously be unable to afford such trips. I share a good amount of free stuff I get and sell items I get deep discounts on further helping people save money and thus have more peace of mind.

I’m now much happier about one month away from work returning from Labor Day weekend with a travel partner – a much better experience than that of six months ago not having to rush to and from work, bargain for vacation time, and have a five-night hotel stay instead of two or three which allowed for a nice break from the usual to relax, recharge, and enjoy the moments even more.

When at a crossroads, we’re to carefully consider all options and make a prudent decision rather than engage in hasty decisions we may later regret. We wonder how we can use our strengths in different areas of life taking on different roles rather than restricting ourselves to just one job or path. We ask other questions: Can we find meaning in our work? Can we exist in an environment which isn’t conducive to virtue? Am I using my time well? Is much accomplished at the end of the day? Am I wanted here? Is the work making a difference?

One of the recurring themes I first noticed in Stoicism was that of playing roles well and transferring our virtue or character strengths, our skills, to excel no matter what situation we find ourselves in. Stoic authors recognized the fragility of life, that so much has changed, is changing, and will change. We see new opportunity and perhaps feel a calling to take on new role, rise to the occasion, rather than sitting on the sidelines and not growing, settling for less, and convincing ourselves that we can’t change things. Much of life is outside our control, but our reactions to events and our interpretations are not. So many continue not to thrive, but merely exist, in the same-old same-old even outside the workplace: bad relationships, marriages, locations. Many meet yearly or even more with family members they don’t like. People just go along with the usual never speaking up, never disputing, always being agreeable.

I’m sick of doing so many things I don’t want to do. I don’t want to miss great opportunities while I’m still in good health, young age, and good mental capacity. I’m willing to take calculated risks and, if they don’t pan out for some reason, I can fall back on traditional employment and the master’s degree. The Stoic should firmly state and be happy with the statement: ‘I made good decisions, things didn’t work out, but that’s okay. I made a great effort, but the result was outside my control.’ We do not experience ruin when one area of life goes downhill, but rather look to rebuild, learn, grow, and get through possible intense emotions the best we can.

It pays not to put all hopes on one ship, all of our eggs in one basket, for excellence in many areas in life, life in general even, will get us through some difficult times. Difficult decisions, hardship, conflict, and the like are inevitable – what will you do at a crossroads? Let us not allow life to pass us by later facing regrets and being like those who wish they had done something but passed on the opportunity time and time again. Appreciate being at crossroads for you recognize opportunities for growth rather than thinking a situation is hopeless and you’re stuck.

People call me lucky or privileged to be able to walk away from work. Perhaps there is an element of chance, but calling me lucky or privileged really underestimates the hard work I put in to make self-employment possible. I constantly tell others they, too, can benefit from the world of credit cards and deals, starting small, and building up when appropriate and if possible. I also exercise humility knowing that I’m not self-made, I didn’t do this on my own, but rather with the help of several websites, online communities, podcasts, chat with now friends, and research has helped tremendously.

What are some tips I have for others? Embrace a frugal lifestyle and you’ll come out ahead. Stop using cash, debit cards, and junky credit cards for everyday spending when you can instead get great credit cards which give nice perks and a good return on spend particularly from reaching multiple sign-up bonuses or minimum spend requirements. Getting one or two cards is better than none. Why not maximize your everyday spend by getting a 10-15% return on your money and more benefits through using good credit cards?

Be responsible with spending, pay off balances in full, and take advantage of great offers from banks. Don’t overspend. Open bank accounts and get bonuses. Stop spending so much on stuff you don’t need. Make food at home instead of eating out and even worse getting food delivery. Install phone apps which give return on spend. Stop buying soda and alcohol. Use shopping portals for online purchases to get cashback. There’s so much everyone can do to make and save money even if still working a traditional job.

It’s amazing to me that people don’t want to put in the small effort to make a few thousand dollars a year – and I’m talking pretty low scale here — especially when they’re trading their time for money at low-paying dead-end jobs. They lament not being able to travel, but can travel round-trip to Greece for Stoicon 2019 and stay for five nights with just two credit card signup bonuses – I’ll be there! They complain, but don’t take action to improve being their own worst enemies. I really wish I knew much of what I know now years ago.

Thanks for listening and stay tuned for more content. In coming weeks, I hope to release online content with a focus on credit cards and finance as previously mentioned and, as usual, more episodes of this Stoic Solutions Podcast. Up to now, I’ve been doing free consultations by phone and online in addition to meeting locals in-person.

Visit my website at stoicsolutionspodcast.com where you can email me; connect with me on social media; find past episodes; and join my Discord chat server for interactive discussion. Support my work through Patreon, Paypal, the Cash App, and referral links by visiting the donate tab on my website.

Podcast music, used with permission, is brought to you by Phil Giordana’s symphonic metal group Fairyland from their album ‘Score to a New Beginning.’ John Bartmann offered free consultation and audio edits for episodes 51-63. Thanks to generous patrons and fans of this podcast who help support my work. Have a great day.

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