128 | Building Your Suit Of Armor On The Path To FI With Alan Donegan

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Why a side hustle is like a suit of armor
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Brad and Jonathan discuss leveraging the power of FI and the pursuit of FI to allow you to pursue your dreams with the ability to be free to fail with Alan Donegan.

Alan Donegan Goes To Hollywood

Many of you may already be familiar with Alan and his path to FI. After several appearances on the podcast, today he is sharing more on how to build your suit of armor.

Currently, Alan is taking a chance in Hollywood by spending several weeks to write a movie script in LA. The best part is that he doesn’t really need it to work out financially. He has the financial freedom to enjoy the process of writing a script. Although he hopes that it does get bought, he knows that it would not affect his lifestyle if it did not.

Alan’s foray into Hollywood is just his latest example of rejecting the traditional path in pursuit of his personal happiness.

What Does The Traditional Playbook Look Like?

We are all familiar with the traditional “path to success” and what it looks like. The goal of getting good grades to get a good job to retire in about 50 years is just the beginning. Many pressure you to get a bigger house and fill it with kids and pets. Finally, you can retire and die shortly thereafter.

Society has trained us to spend the money we bring in. For example, when someone wins money on a game show, the first question asked is always, “what are you going to spend it on?” The answer is never, “I will invest it wisely in a fund like VTSAX.”

I’m not totally rejecting the traditional path. What I’m saying is, are you consciously choosing it? Because I think that is the difficult thing. There is this playbook that is set out for us and that’s kind of the plan that life sets out for people. And what I want to say is it’s fine if you want to follow that plan. But are you doing it consciously?

Many people pursuing FI have realized that they do not need to follow this traditional path to achieve success. However, it takes a lot of energy to stand up to that traditional logic. At every turn, someone will ask why are you living your life differently.

How To Trust Your Own Intuition

Throughout your life, you will be told that you are wrong by people in positions of power and respect. Even if those people are completely wrong, we are expected to trust their opinion and move on. At some point, you have to stand up for yourself. Challenge the norm and build your own path.

When you need to stand up for your opinion, there are a few ways to make things go smoothly. You need to make it a comfortable way of challenging the other opinions, otherwise, you’ll never feel that you should do it.

Two easy ways to challenge the opinion of others in a respectful way include:

  • “I’m not sure if I’m right, but …”
  • “I’m not sure if that’s true, let’s check it out now with our smartphones.”

I think it’s really important to have that. A. A comfortable way of challenging something you disagree with. B. The nerve to be able to make them wait whilst you look it up. C. To go “I hope you don’t mind, but I’d rather do it now, in the moment than go away, stew about it for weeks and then come back to you weeks later.”  The combination of those three allows you to challenge things more easily.

Find ways that allow you to comfortably challenge the norm in your own environment.

Alan’s Path To FI

Alan has had a series of jobs that he did not necessarily love. Photocopier salesman, bartender, and landscape gardener are just a few of the things he has tried.

Together he and his wife have chosen to forgo buying a “proper home.” Instead, they live in a 770 square foot apartment and are perfectly happy with the choice. A larger home would set their FI date back by years. That tradeoff is just not worth it to them. A smaller living space is just one of many choices that Alan has made in the pursuit of FI.

In order to successfully pursue FI, you will have to make a series of choices that the world is not making. It will not be easy, but with some gumption, it is more than possible.

Alan’s Choices

The trigger that moved Alan to pursue FI was being fired from his last regular job. When he started looking around for a new job, he decided that there was nothing that he particularly wanted to do. So instead, he had to figure out a new path for himself.

I had to figure out what I wanted to do myself. And I stopped listening to what the world expected me to do, which was get a job. And I said, ‘I’m going to go it on my own and do things my own way.’–there’s no right way to do anything. There are people who build successful businesses…You can do it in a million different ways!…And I would challenge everyone to start thinking about how do you actually want to live your life? What do you want your life to be like? Because that’s the really interesting question. You then start to work on an answer and do things differently.

At this point, he started to build his own business. With an overwhelming amount of conflicting advice on how to start a business, he had to carefully consider his methods. Over time, he realized that there is no right or wrong way to build a business. Instead, there are different methods that work differently for everyone. Not only did he want to build his own business, but he also wanted to build a life that was different from everyone else’s.

What Do You Want Your Life To Be Like?

It can be challenging and scary to really think about that question. However, it is vital to understand what you really want out of your time on this planet.

If you want the same results as everyone else, do the same as everyone else. If you want different results, do something different. If you want exceptional results, do something exceptional. I think all these experiences…all these people telling me things that I didn’t believe was correct and standing up to them, got me to eventually decide I’m going to do something exceptional.

For Alan, he decided that he wanted to live an exceptional life. He knew he had to make some changes.

With that, he increased his savings rate to 93% and built a series of businesses that help other people. It took time and effort, but he did things that everyone said he couldn’t do.

Experiments And Mini-Projects

In the early days, Alan was not quite sure what he wanted his business to look like. Plus, you can’t know if something will be successful or not unless you give it a try. It’s similar to picking your favorite ice cream flavor. You won’t know which one is your favorite flavor until you have tried a few different flavors.

People ask me all these questions [about the success of their business ideas] and the general answer is–You don’t know until you have a go. Do you know?…you probably won’t until you try it. So have a go at different things.

A great way to find out what works and what doesn’t is through short-term experiments. You can try out mini-projects for six months at a time to see what you enjoy doing. The experiment does not have to have a grand plan for the future, it can truly just be an experiment.

Right now, Alan is currently experimenting in LA. The experiment is fulfilling a dream of being involved in the movies. And this is the opportunity to test it. Even if he doesn’t actually like it, it will have been worth the experience. However, more risky experiments are better for people that have already built up their suit of armor.

Podcast Episode: The Side Hustle: The Unspoken Lever of FI

FI Is Your Suit Of Armor

FI allows you to go out into the world and do things that you enjoy. When you don’t have to worry about money, so many possibilities open up. You can try things and it just doesn’t matter what the world thinks. If you earn money, then that’s great. However, you don’t need the money in order to continue living your life.

For example, Alan knows that he probably would not have chosen to write a movie script if he really needed the money. With the security of FI, he knows that if his movie script doesn’t sell, then it will become a life experience, not a failure. Of course, he would like it to work out but he has nothing on the line except for his time.

In his professional life with the PopUp Business School, his FI suit of armor allows him to publish valuable content without fear of repercussions. Whether or not people listen to his advice is up to them, but he works to publish the best information available. With the goal of making the best entrepreneurial training in the world available for free, his goal is to help people find a way to earn money in a way that they enjoy.

The power of knowing that you don’t need the money changes your reality. You can do things because you want to but not because you have to. You can follow your dreams without worrying about whether or not they will pay the bills. Plus, you can just try things that most people would consider extremely risky.

How To Build Your Suit Of Armor

You’ve probably heard the blanket advice: “follow your passion.” If your passion will not earn you any money, then this advice can be dangerous without the proper safety net.

As you start to build your savings, you are also building your suit of armor. When you have some solid savings, then it might not matter to you if you don’t earn money for 6 months. With more savings, your partial armor begins to grow into a more complete state. Even partial armor starts giving you room and time to start trying different things. You might be able to start negotiating for more time off from your day job with the ability to pursue your passion in your free time.

Following your passion needs to be balanced with the need to have money to live, you do need to earn money. I am a big fan of doing something you love and I have seen so many people that make money doing something they enjoy. If you enjoy what you’re doing with 80% of your time, then you’re going to lead a fabulously happy life.

Once you have built yourself to full FI, then it wouldn’t matter whether or not your dream was your main source of income.

The closer you are to FI, the bolder you can be about pursuing your dreams. It is a similar principle to “FU money” that many of us have heard of. Of course, you may find out that your dream will actually earn you money. However, the point of your suit of armor is that it wouldn’t matter if your passion paid your bills or not.

How To Increase Your Zone Of Awareness

It is completely possible to find a job that you enjoy on your path to FI. If you want to find a job that you actually like, then you likely need to increase your zone of awareness. There are so many opportunities out there, you just have to find them.

I would challenge all of your listeners to start to get their head up. And look at what’s possible and becoming aware of what is out there. Because there are incredible jobs, incredible things [food critic, caregiver for an island, blogger, Lego Professor, etc.]…things you can do to earn money. You’ve just got to be aware of them. And I think getting your head up, searching, looking, letting people know…all of a sudden this world of possibility opens up that just wasn’t there before.

The first step to increasing your zone of awareness is to just use Google. You can find out so much through basic internet research.

The other wealth of knowledge to tap is people. Just by talking to people, you can really open up your perspectives. For example, a challenge presented in Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich Full Disclosure: We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. ,” is to take a rich man out to lunch. When Alan took that challenge, it started with a single coffee but it led to countless conversations with people in the entertainment industry. Through those conversations, Alan was able to exponentially grow his zone of awareness.

Listen And Learn

You need to talk to people beyond your normal area of life. Don’t ask your closest friends on ways to expand your zone of awareness because you likely already are aware of their insights. Instead, just start with a stranger and let them do the talking. Find someone in an area that interests you (or not) and see if they are willing to chat.

When you work up the nerve to ask someone to lunch for an eye-opening chat, the important thing is to let them do the talking. Listen to their answers carefully and they will be able to give you great information.

Before you head out to this chat, make sure to prepare. Start by reading their online bio, but realize that it will not tell you the whole story. Once at the meeting, start asking questions. You’ll know if you asked a good question based on the length of their pause.

Here are some good questions to start with:

  • If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
  • How did you get into this?
  • What’s the one thing that made the biggest difference in your journey?
  • If you were doing it again, what would you do differently?

Throughout the conversation, try to let them do all of the talking. Your job is to listen and learn.

Where To Start, Get Unstuck

Building a suit of FI armor can seem daunting, but many have proven that it is possible. If you aren’t sure what you should do or where to start building your suit of armor, it’s ok. Don’t over-think it. Remember, it’s not a linear journey. You don’t get results and rewards in exact measurement or timing to the energy and effort given. It is much like your investments that build and compound over time.

Some of the most exciting things and times are when you don’t know what you want to do. You’ve got to start somewhere…Start where you are. Work diligently. And you will make progress…[Your age] is no excuse to not start now. Just start!

You have to get started and continue to show up for the long-term. Showing up is a skill; and as easy as it is, many don’t. So be the one that does. Wherever you are in life, you can always make the choice to start something new. Begin to build your suit of armor and see where it leads you.

The hard truth is that there are only two options. You can start now or you can just sit on the couch. The choice is yours. Times will be hard one day. And time ticks by regardless. You won’t always be motivated to work towards your goal, but you need to find the strength to push through towards your suit of armor.

Remember, nothing will happen overnight. Your path to success will not be linear, but it is possible.

Podcast Episode: The Aggregation of Marginal Gains

PopUp Business School

PopUp Business School offers free workshops around the world to help entrepreneurs.

How to Connect with Alan

You can reach out the Alan directly through his blog- alandonagan.com.

Related Episodes

New to FI? Be sure to check out Episode 100: Welcome To The FI Community!

Why A Side Hustle Is Like A Suit Of Armor

ChooseFI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. ChooseFI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
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8 thoughts on “128 | Building Your Suit Of Armor On The Path To FI With Alan Donegan”

  1. Start where you are and don’t try to make up for lost time is the advice I always give. Don’t try to do riskier investments to “make up for lost time”–in my experience this almost bombs.

  2. “Throughout your life, you will be told that you are wrong by people in positions of power and respect. Even if those people are completely wrong, we are expected to trust their opinion and move on. At some point, you have to stand up for yourself. Challenge the norm and build your own path.”

    This is one of the most powerful statements I’ve ever heard.

  3. Enjoyed the episode! This is exactly where we are. Experimenting and building our own businesses than what we were educated for. But it is tough and I think it’s less about following the herd and doing what society expects you to (silently!), and more about how to get past your own ego and expectations. It’s hard to start from scratch at 41 even if it is your passion but having the armor of FI definitely helps and gives you the freedom to try new things. Both of us have left well paying, traditional jobs in our early forties and have retired to do things we are more passionate about. For my husband, that is about creating and teaching art and for me, it is about writing a personal finance blog. We are redefining for ourselves what success means, simplifying our everyday, traveling and living by the rules we create rather than those of societies’.

  4. Loved this episode! Lots of great takeaways! Looking at life through the lens of experimentation with an attitude of curiosity sounds way more fun and fulfilling than trying to live a perfect life.

    Btw, can someone post the link to the ChooseFI Salesforce Facebook group? Thanks!

  5. Thank you for this! I have listened to 128 and 128R twice! They came during a pivotal week for me as I researched my next move at my current job, which included learning it would cost $25K to add on to my degree. The thought of taking on that much debt made me ill.
    This episode made me shift my direction and think outside the box. After expanding my Zone of Awareness, I discovered I could add a certification (instead of a degree) for about $1K that would get me a pay bump and open up new doors for me. I could feel the stress and anxiety wash away!
    Thank you SO much for ChooseFI and the amazing guests and info you share!

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