Tomorrow is a big day for my wife. At 6:00 p.m. she is going to have her first ever in-class driving lesson and she is freaked out. At 27 years old, she has decided that she wants to drive, something that she’s been able to avoid up until this point. What changed her mind was a very interesting job opportunity that happens to be 20 km out of the city that I am unwilling to drive her to daily. This opportunity, along with her dislike of her current job has gotten her to face her fears and attempt something new. So far, she has had her license for over a month and has yet to get behind the wheel of a car (she thinks she will somehow roll it in a parking lot).
I was never afraid to drive, but a few years ago I faced one of the things that just really got me into a cold sweat – public speaking. I think many people have a similar fear, but I didn’t realize I had a problem with public speaking until I attempted to give a best-man’s speech at a friend’s wedding. Needless to say, it did not go over well (I was told I stood there, said “umm” a lot and rubbed my head). This event was both embarrassing, as well as eye-opening. For the next couple of years, I avoided speaking in public.
Avoidance of my problem bothered me, I prefer to meet weaknesses head on. Eventually, I joined Toastmaster’s. With Toastmasters, I was “forced” to give short 30-45 second speeches at first on chosen topics and eventually I went on to give a few longer speeches.
Eventually, what I learned (and also what I hope my wife learns) is confidence. I learned that public speaking was not scary, I learned how to prepare my thoughts into something others could understand, I watched other people successfully and unsuccessfully give speeches, which was a great chance to learn. Two years ago I gave another best-man speech at my brother’s wedding which went over much better, and at my own wedding I surprised people (most of whom had seen me speak at that first awkward wedding) by giving a humourous and well-done 10 minute speech in front of around 150 people.
The same philosophy can be applied to early retirement. Taking a leap by retiring decades before everyone else is scary. There are probably a lot of people who doubt it can be done, who assume you will end up broke in old age and have to go back to the workforce. In order to combat this fear, you have to meet it head on:
Are you afraid of running out of money? Then have your calculations checked by someone – provide them with your assumptions and estimates and see if your math works out.
Do you worry you’ll have nothing to do without work? Take a leave of absence for a year and see if you run out of things to do – leave the door open to go back to work if you’re bored at the end of it.
I’ve found that worrying about things that you can control is counterproductive – educating myself, asking questions and meeting challenges allows me to sleep better at night.
Have you had fears in the past that you have overcome? Do you have concerns about your retirement that is forcing you to sit on the fence instead of leaving the workforce?