Welcome to Unconbentional!

UNCONBENTIONALFINAL

Hello.

If you’ve found your way here, you must be someone who cares about personal finance, self-development, minimalism, and frugality. You might even be someone from the FIRE movement, looking to achieve financial independence and early retirement. If you’ve read many FIRE blogs, you should know that we’re a little weirder; unconventional, even. For instance, one of my beliefs is that people shouldn’t fully retire at all, but don’t let that dissuade you from reading us. In the three years I’ve written for Unconbentional, I’ve filled this blog with insights on money, work, happiness, goal setting, and purpose.

We might not be everyone’s cup o’ tea, but Unconbentional is the story of two Bens. There’s me, the low-earner who never intends to retire, and The Other Ben, a massively successful software engineer who will achieve FI at 33. The best way to read Unconbentional is to start at the beginning, and click through one post at a time. Though I’ve occasionally changed my viewpoints (like on this controversial article), I’ve decided to preserve the blog as a whole. Everything now is the same as when I wrote it, even if it makes me look bad. My early posts were rough, but I believe that reading this whole blog’s 77,419 words will make you more savvy with your money, and smarter about how you spend it.

We kept this up for three years, but we don’t post anymore. I hope you find value in what we’ve written here! We welcome comments – we actually read them – and if you’d like to contact us live, my Twitter remains active.

If you’d like a quick taste of Unconbentional, read this and this. If those two articles jive with your sensibilities, you’re gonna have a great time here. Thanks for visiting!

We hope to add value to your life. This blog has added value to mine.

Happy reading.

All the best,
The Bens

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Your Tribe Matters

You can_t succeed if the people around you are satisfied with mediocrity.

“You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.”
– Jim Rohn

If I were to narrow down the five people I spend the most time with, it’d be my roommates “D” and “K”, our artist friend “A”, and probably my coworkers from my day job. Ever since I’ve known them, they’ve indirectly propelled me towards greater success. This is why.

“D” is industrious, hardworking, and frugal as hell. If something broken can be fixed, he’ll do it, even if it looks like a wad of duct tape and glue after. If it’s functional, that’s enough for him. At 27, he has no debt, and a future career path very similar to Ben’s. He’s currently my closest friend.

“K” isn’t frugal, but he’s fit. He eats lean, has a 21.8 BMI – he’ll enjoy greater longevity – and he’d always rather be in a park. Thanks to him (and my coworkers who always push me), I’m now averaging 15,000 steps each day and burning 3,000 calories. Almost by accident, I’ve already lucked into ‘fit’ and ‘frugal’ just by the people who’ve moved in. It gets better.

“A” is massively frugal. She makes ethical eating choices and with that, she’s able to save on a completely different level than we do. Here are the numbers I’m able to divulge, but long story short, she’s set for retirement already. We pay attention to quantifiable happiness, seek out even more friends for our “money tribe”, and encourage each other on personal goals. She’s my main connection to Mustachianism, and she’s one of my most rewarding friendships. We’ve even hired her to make art pieces in our apartment.

As for my coworkers, they kick my ass. That’s all that needs to be said about that.

This is my tribe.

*****

You can pick and choose your tribe more than you know. If personal development is a key goal, one of the methods I used was the DRM. This sounds callous, but I evaluated some relationships recently, and started prioritizing only the ones that were healthy for me. (See: the “oxygen mask rule”.) Anything that ranked low on ‘pleasure’ and ‘purpose’ – how Paul Dolan quantifies happiness – got pushed aside. This, I feel, gave me room to grow.

I turned 30 recently, and I’m more protective of my emotional health than ever before. Consciously surrounding myself with positive influences has been a game changer for me because I used to booze heavily, and have low self-esteem. Now that I’ve removed people who were a bad fit, I attack my goals like I won’t get another chance!

This is why people find mentors. This is why people pay through the nose for life coaches. This is why people buy self-help books. On the other hand, if you know positive influences already, it only makes sense to make them part of your tribe. For one, it’s free! On top of that, building positive relationships is always a worthwhile effort.

Time is finite, and as a resource that can’t be reobtained, you should be obstinate about who you give it to. That having been said, you should also be a valuable tribe member for others! I hope now to build a tribe of likeminded, frugal, self-optimizers.

I think I’m off to a good start.

*****

At this current moment, frugality is what I’m trying to cultivate. I find I’m distancing myself from spendier activities, and – this is important – saying flat out ‘no’ to things I won’t enjoy. (This is strange, but in my mind, things I won’t enjoy equates to work, and do I really want to be paid nothing for my time?) Someone once told me, “If you’re not improving or enjoying yourself, you’re just wasting your fucking time.” I believe that.

Surround yourself with people with similar goals. Be friends with people better than you in the ways you want to improve. Deprioritize people holding you back. Be a beacon for others wanting to learn more from your strengths. Build your tribe.

You can’t succeed if the people around you are satisfied with mediocrity.

If this made sense to you, I’m sure you’ll find success in no time. Choose better relationships, and you’ll be better too.

Why Coworkers Don’t Talk About Their Salaries (and Why We Should)

if financial success and work is a game,

The gender wage gap is a thing. Bitches Get Riches illustrated this best when they said “This is not open to discussion” and made every word a separate link to census data and economics journals. Anyway, know it’s true, even in my past workplaces. I’m now paid $2 more per hour than my previous (female) assistant manager. Guess what: I’m not the assistant manager. Obviously, something’s going a little fucky here. That’s why I’m trying to do something about it.

Paraphrasing from a now buried tweet I once saw, “Men shouldn’t consider themselves allies unless they disclose their salary to female coworkers. This is the only way we can achieve wage equality.” I agree, and I’ve been extremely open to anyone who’s asked. I also kinda think everyone should disclose their salary to one another, for a couple of reasons. First though, let’s weigh the cons.

The main problem I hear is it might put a target on your back. Sometimes, people will think it’s unfair you’re getting paid more than them. (Spoiler alert: Sometimes, they’re right.) I’ve had coworkers go out of their way to try and sink me, but the end result of this was I actually got much better at my job. With management seeing me go above and beyond in my work, the naysayers have mostly slinked away. Besides, any misguided attempts at revenge would be a race to the bottom. Being a good dude and trying to boost them up instead is a race to the top. With this mindset, that target no longer seems so bad. It just seems like part of the game. Let’s come back to this in a second.

The other obvious problem is this results in coworkers making a snap judgment about workplace hierarchy. I don’t really think I “outrank” anyone, by the way. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all the same cubicle. We’ve already established wages aren’t objectively fair (and most of them are far too low across the board anyway), so let people think what they want, but try to boost them up too. This is actually one of the best things you can do to increase your own salary. If I’m a manager with three employees, and they’re paid $30/$30/$23, when Employee #3 asks for a raise, giving them $27 is almost a “Why the fuck not?” Here’s the sweet part: If you’ve got a great connection with your coworkers, and you’ve all been open about your salaries, Employee #3 can knowledgeably ask for more! This even makes your boss look good. Managing a team of highly paid professionals looks great on paper. Managing an unmotivated clusterfuck of minimum wage underlings? Not so hot.

Your workplace is just a game, and everyone’s in it to win. Done right, there are no losers. Your “boss” is a coworker. That’s it. They want success too. Stop comparing the extra money and focus on yourself. “How can make $3 more per hour,” not “Debbie’s a bitch for being richer.” Besides, if you’re here, you’re on your way to wealth already, partly because you’re smart enough to talk about money openly. If financial success and work is a game, you should know the rules and how other people are playing itBurying your head in the sand helps no one. Bringing down your workplace helps no one. You know what does help? Community over competition. It’s not even a competition! Go to work, boost up your team, and be open about how much you make. Any temporary feelings of inadequacy might suck now – “Ben makes HOW much?!?” – but knowledge is always good. After all, if someone is doing the same job as you, but makes $40,000 more per year, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Wouldn’t you want to look into that opportunity too? Just resist the urge to bring them down. Race to the top, y’all. Let’s all get rich together, and embrace the workplace. If you’re still working, you might as well love it.

All My Failures Weren’t Failures At All

screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-10-48-50-pm

It all started when I noticed the performers weren’t getting ID’d.

I was at a bar on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive and I was 18, desperate to drink with my 19-year-old friends. We were all out on the town to support my friend M as he did standup comedy. He wasn’t very good yet, but showbiz kids stick together. I ordered an appy and settled in.

Every night featured about seven performers. Pretty much all of them were terrible. They were the entertainment for the night though, so the bar treated them with respect. There were occasional free drinks, and I guess they gave them the benefit of the doubt and assumed they were all 19+. I wanted in on that. I waved the emcee over.

“Hey, can I sign up for next week?”

“Uh, have you done this before?”

“No, but I’m pretty sure I can do what they’re doing.”

“Do you have any material?”

“No, not yet, but I’ll come up with something.”

After ten minutes of needling, he reluctantly gave me a slot. I’d invite my friends too, I thought to myself. They’ve been laughing at my dumb jokes for years. I walked home that night performing for an imaginary crowd. Surely, I was hilarious. This wasn’t even about the drinking anymore. When I was 18, I was about 80% hubris.

*****

I’ll spare you my jokes.

I was 18 at the time, and thought I was WAY funnier than I was. At best, my comedy stylings could be described as “bad”, and at worst, “probably somewhat racist against Koreans”. I was just another terrible performer. I got my drinks though, and I even went up four more times that summer and recycled the same shitty material for new crowds. Only once did I get great laughs. All the other times, I bombed hard. I gave it up, of course, but something started that summer. I learned the confidence I needed to go up in front of strangers and actually speak! Not just that, but FAILING my comedy show so many times made me realize the worst I could do was just piss people off for 10 minutes, and they’d forget all about me afterward. I was putting myself out there, and it was up to them whether they liked me or not. If they did, they’d pay attention – great! – and if they didn’t, they’d just ignore me, and that was fine. The end result was the same: I GOT MY DRINKS!

Even better than that was suddenly losing my fear of public speaking. I’ve now been invited to photo clubs, high schools, and industry events like 20Summit to speak about entrepreneurship and photography. I accept whenever I can. Because my business sense is better than my comedy, I’ve yet to have a bad experience. My failure at comedy led to success as a public speaker!

This is only one example, but I’ve failed at stuff a LOT. I once tried screenwriting. That led to film school, and I don’t even work on film sets anymore. I once tried drumming for a band. Over a decade later, I still struggle with a proper paradiddle. I once tried community theatre. The group imploded after only two productions. I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, and I’ve tried, and I learned a fuckton. Nowadays, I don’t see all those as failures anymore. Rather, they’re all TEMPORARY SUCCESSES that inform my CURRENT GOALS.

Screenwriting taught me how to take a written idea and translate it visually. Drumming for a band taught me how to work and collaborate creatively in a group dynamic. Community theatre taught me how to market my art locally, and how to drum up business for something that people don’t even need. IT WAS ALL USEFUL.

There’s something I want you to take from all this: Try – and fail – often. Seriously. Fail all the fucking time. Fail so spectacularly that insurance companies get involved. Fail, then fail again, then fail again. Try everything you’ve ever wanted to do. Don’t give a shit if you fail. I can guarantee you you’ll learn SOMETHING from it, and it WILL inform your future success. You’re not even failing. You’re taking small, measurable steps toward your next success. The modern day master is a jack of all trades. Anything more complicated can be looked up on YouTube. Hell, I’m trying to be a personal finance blogger. Have you seen how much fucking debt I’m in?!?

What have you always been afraid of trying/failing? Tell us in the comments.