My Mini-retirement

A few years ago, I read The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. The book tickles my get-rich fancies by defining a new category of rich, aptly named the “New Rich.” While few get to be as wealthy as Daddy Warbucks, no one really needs that level of opulence and control. Anyone can become one of the New Rich by earning enough to live comfortably while gaining control over your schedule. Okay, sign me up.

One of the key ideas of the book is to take mini-retirements throughout your career, rather than the traditional approach of saving it all up for the end. You never know if you’ll make it to 65, let alone whether you’ll be healthy enough at that point to enjoy yourself. Lots of people work too hard and drop dead in the first year of retirement. So the advice is to arrange a few breaks along the way.

Tim claims to have coined the phrase “mini-retirement,” and the first time I came across it was in his book, so I believe him. Of course, he earned himself a mini-retirement by writing about them. Smart guy.

So that notion had been bubbling in my brain for a while, along with a growing list of feature ideas for StoryTime (my game platform for interactive fiction), and the fact that my oldest child is a high-school senior and heading off to college soon. Then I took a course last August on how to build an online business, the kind of business that could, eventually, be automated and free up my time, just like Tim talks about in his book.

I have written about the circumstances surrounding my decision to finally make my move, so I won’t repeat that part of the story. Go read about it if you need to catch up. Then come back to find out how this turns out.

Right, as I was saying, I finally decided to take my first mini-retirement, or pre-tirement. It’s not that I can afford to stop working forever, especially with my first born heading off to college and two more in her wake. On the other hand, I had saved enough to afford at least a few months of schedule freedom. So I spent a few care-free months working on StoryTime.

In that time, I got to go on hockey trips without having to ask for days off, to chaperone a couple of school field trips, and to exercise in my living room in the middle of the day five days a week. I kept to a reasonable 6- to 8-hour work day of blogging and coding, and I was able to reach a milestone in StoryTime in early April, a week before tax day.

I also managed to achieve the other thing retired people do, which is to annoy my spouse by being home all of the time. Oops. Guess I didn’t realize that chiming in on every little decision and squabble (between the kids, or one of them and my wife) could be aggravating. Or that using my newfound free time to help with all of the kids’ activities would deprive her of much-needed, non-spousal, social interaction.

I thought I was being helpful. Well, now I know. Time to dial it back a bit.

For the past month, I have been working on the next phase of pre-tirement, called employing-myself-to-see-if-I-can-get-paid-for-providing-what-I-want-to-offer-the-world. Hmm, it might be easier to say that I am starting a company or that I’m bootstrapping a start-up. That’s what I’m attempting, anyway, although it sounds like such a long shot.

No matter, for the last month I have been busy creating an online course to teach beginners how to design a game. The course is called “Design a Game.” Creative name, right? I am following the sage advice of my business advisor, Ramit Sethi, from that course I took in August. He says not to get fancy with course titles. I agree, since I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone.

While I am a big fan of quick deadlines, this is somewhat new to me, so I am being lenient with myself. Also, we’re heading into a busy time of spring hockey, graduation and vacations. Ahhh, pre-tired life is nice. So I’m not quite ready to turn up the heat on the business.

That means you still have plenty of time to sign up for my course before it’s launched to the world. Why not do it now? That way, you’ll know the moment it’s ready. I’m thinking about a one-time discount for people who are subscribed at the launch. Show me your interest by signing up.

Not sure if you want to design games? Sure, that makes sense. Most people just want to play them. I’m looking for people who are bored or frustrated at their day job and want to have some creative fun in their free time. Or anybody who wants to get a start creating games. Eventually this will lead to another course on programming games. Look for that later in the year.

As for my mini-retirement, I’ll say I’m in transition between that and my next paying gig. Whether I can make enough “by myself” is a question to be answered over the summer. If not, I’ll return to corporate life and look for a nice cubicle to park myself in while I earn a steady paycheck.

My bet, though, is on building a profitable business around games that will last many years and make lots of people happy. Maybe in 5 years I’ll be able to take another mini-retirement, just in time to see my son graduate high school.

Here’s to the dream!


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