Friday 12 August 2016

Life, Little Ones, and the Pursuit of Happiness

I am in the middle of one of those strange periods of life where time seem to flow at a different rate. My son, James, was born a week ago, and since then the days have been filled with nappies, laundry, and vain attempts to keep the house clean. Sleep has become a rare and precious commodity to be seized whenever it can be found.

The combination of sleep deprivation and lots of mindless tasks can take the brain in strange directions. For whatever reason, I have been thinking a lot about my personal happiness. Obviously, watching my family grow has been a major source of happiness (although, in truth, I think the true benefit of a family is to be found in the increase in ‘joy’ which is not exactly the same thing).

With personal free time set to become increasingly scarce, it is going to be important that I use what time I do have on things that make me happy. So, in a spare moment, I quickly jotted down the activities that bring me the most happiness: reading, writing, cycling, painting, exploring, wealth building.

There are others, of course, but these are the big ones. Having determined this, I thought it might be beneficial to set myself some goals. These goals aren’t there to provide pressure on my life. I’m putting no particular time limit on them (though I suspect they will take about two years), and there is no reward for success or failure. They are just there as reminders, gentle nudges to keep me doing the things I love, instead of getting distracted by other little projects that take time but give little happiness.

So here are my goals.

1) Read 100 books
2) Write 100,000 words
3) Cycle 2,000 miles
4) Paint 100 miniatures
5) Explore 20 new places
6) Invest £10,000
7) Reduce my Mortgage by £10,000

It’s a pretty mighty list for a man with two small children and a full-time job, but since everything I accomplish from the list is its own reward, it’s not overly daunting!

The easiest two to accomplish will probably be the reading and the cycling. I can’t stop myself from reading. I take a book everywhere and if ever the least bit of boredom starts to creep in, I pull it out. I can’t really imagine life without reading. A lot of the cycling will be achieved through my commute to work. I do hope to make some more interesting journeys as well, but any time spent on the bike is good time.

The writing number is pretty massive, but a lot of that will be taking up with Frostgrave material that has already been commissioned. Add in this blog and a few other projects, and I think it will come tumbling down pretty fast.

Painting miniatures may prove the hardest. Although I love it, it is the hardest to get myself to do. Since I have no permanent painting station, every session involves set-up and clean-up time, meaning I have to have a good chunk of time to devote to it to make it worthwhile. Still, if I can get on a roll, it will happen.

Exploring is an interesting one. I have often thought I’m a bit like Bilbo Baggins. I love my home comforts, my books, my comfy chair...but I’m also drawn by the lure of adventure, by a constant wondering of what is just over yonder hill. It is a strange compulsion that has led me to immigrate to the UK, and one that is always gnawing at me. I find huge satisfaction from seeing new places, I just have a bit of trouble motivating myself to do it. So, this goal is about going to new places. This can be as simple as the next village over if I’ve never been there, or a whole new country. The key though is that I have to have time to explore it. At least half a day of wandering and taking it in.

Finally, money. My personal relationship to money has changed greatly over the last couple of years. I’ve never been hugely motivated to accumulate money, because I was never much interested in most of the things that it could buy. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I began to realize that money can actually buy time. That is money can free me from working and give me more time to – well, to accomplish all of the other things on this list of goals! So, I’ve got two financial goals. One to increase my investments, and the other to decrease my debt. Essentially these are the same thing – a general increase in wealth, but it is more fun to attempt them separately.

Those numbers may look big to some people, and they are, but I’ve got a few things on my side. About a year and a half ago, my wife and I changed our lifestyle so that we could survive on one salary so that she could stay home with the kid(s). We had more or less achieved this when Frostgrave launched. Although Frostgrave doesn’t come close to replacing her lost salary, it did give us a good boost to the income. Having already accepted we would live on one salary, this money became ‘extra’, and has mostly gone to saving towards eventual financial independence.

Also, a bit of good news for us mortgage holders; interest rates have just dropped by a quarter of a point. Since my mortgage rate tracks the prime lending rate, it also dropped a quarter point. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you are talking 'house cost numbers' it makes a difference.

Mainly though, after my success with the Debt War, I’ve come to realize that wealth accumulation is partly a state of mind. In order to build wealth, you first have to believe it is possible. After you do that, it is just a matter of figuring out how to do it. I actually think, for most people, that first step is harder than the second.

So, seven goals in an attempt at greater personal happiness. We’ll see how I get on, and if it has the desired effect.

After this blog, I’ve only got 99,000 words left to write!


  1. Congratulations and good luck with that list

  2. Congratulations on the children and family, a success no matter what else happens. The rest just makes life easier and more rewarding and good luck with that also.

  3. This is off topic at this busy time in your life but I've followed you blog for a long time and I share your love of Greek mythology and back in March you alluded to a Greek side project any more info.

    1. Good memory, Garm. I hope to address that in my next post!

  4. The very best of luck enjoy your family while you can. Increasingly my motto is do more of the things you enjoy.😀

  5. Congratulations!
    Be prepared to re-set some of those goals. Parent is a thoroughly rewarding completely amazing time suck.

    If you run out of time for hobbies, don't sell stuff off - put it away. As the kids grow up you will get time (and energy!) back and you will be able to enjoy your toys again - they'll wait for you.

  6. Congratulations on the new edition to the family. Best of luck with your goals and remember train them well they will be your future gaming buddies :)

  7. Many best wishes on the birth of your future warga...oops, young son. I just could not help but notice the way his little hands are clenched so as to be able to hold gaming dice and how he seems to be staring off to the gaming table.
    may he have a long, happy and prosperous life filled with joy. And if he loves toy soldiers that would be a pleasant bonus, too.

  8. Great post, so pleased for you Joe. Seems to have been a great couple of years for you!

  9. Congratulations and welcome to James.

  10. Investing is something I do myself and I strongly recommend adding the book The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham to your reading list [Endorsement and incite about author by some guy named Warren Buffett ]. The book has relevant information even if you have an investment advisor.

    If your curious about managing your own investment account and don't want to risk losing everything in the stock market, virtual stock market games could be worth a look. I have heard good things about the ones offered by (realistic) and (informative).


  11. Thanks, I'll check out that book.