Unsuccessfully but Refreshingly trying to climb the local waterfall

“MMM, are you still alive?”
– somebody on Twitter

Holy Shit! I just realized that the last time I wrote a blog post for you was on April 18th, and now it’s late July. That’s an entire quarter of a year that I have let this wonderful, golden field of interesting opportunities and people sit untended.

 How could Mr. Money Mustache, a reliable stalwart of bossy financial advice since 2011 and usually good for at least one post per month, have drifted so far from his original dedication? It’s a question that earnest fans have been asking, and that I have even started asking myself.

When you break out of any habit, it can be hard to get back into it: the psychological barriers start to stack up and the pressure rises and you find yourself waiting for more and more unattainably perfect conditions that, surprise surprise, never really come.

If it’s a workout habit that you have broken, you might tell yourself,

“Oh, I just need to get over this injury or this cold… And then my Mom is visiting next week but after that I’ll be ready to get back to the gym.“

With my blog-writing hobby I make excuses like,

“Oh, now that it has been so long, I have to wait until I have something really interesting or worthwhile to say.

And yeah okay, maybe I have a few articles like that in the drafts folder, but those ones take a lot of thinking and focus to write, so I’d better wait until I am feeling really smart and focused to crack into that subject.”

But in both cases, the correct solution is just to say,

“Fuck it. I am going to just do something towards my goal, no matter how tiny.”

To get back in shape, you just need to start with at least a few pushups, which you can do right now on the floor of your office or kitchen. To resurrect the MMM Blog, Mustache just has to type some shit into the computer, and heck, why not just an easy breezy article telling you about some of the interesting things I’ve been doing in lieu of blogging?

Some stories from a real life of early retirement, which may be more relevant than plain old financial analysis and reader case studies anyway. And once we’re all caught up in life, maybe it’ll be easier to keep in touch on a more regular basis henceforth.

So in fairly rapidfire format, here’s what I’ve been up to this spring and summer:

1) Renovating The Shit Out of Our New Two-House Compound

We found the previous shower had been leaking for years and creating the most interesting scene of decay. We tore out and rebuilt the whole area, and cut in a nice window for good measure.

You may recall that back in January, I teamed up with a friend to buy the house next door, with cash, at a below-market price. Once she moved in, we realized that it needed even more renovations than we originally planned. So I’ve had a joyful time tearing down walls, framing in new windows and doors, reworking the floorplan and changing the wall surfaces, as well as fixing the shoddy plumbing and electrical work that was found along the way.

On my own house right next door, I’ve been going just a bit wild with metalworking, making all sorts of fences and decks and even a “Juliet Balcony” which features a fireman pole allowing me to slide quickly down from my master bedroom to the ground where we have a shared hot tub between our properties – in case of Hot Tub Emergencies, of course.

Cutting a giant hole in the back of my house (in February!), adding a sliding door where there was previously only a silly little shitty window, then many fun, casual days of metalworking. The last pic is my side deck, which I built mostly out of wood but also features lots of metal and a fun little outdoor kitchen including coffee machine and induction cooktop!

2) Working on a Pretty Big Documentary Project

Hmmm.. something seems different about the HQ kitchen.

I have said for years that I would never do it, but somehow a very persuasive filmmaker who has made some documentaries that I really respect, roped me into helping out with a probably-pretty-big documentary.

I did a casting call in March and found a couple that I am now coaching and working with throughout 2021. The film company doesn’t want me to talk about it much until they are ready to announce it, but suffice it to say that it is taking a lot of my time and energy, which comes out of what would otherwise be my blog-writing time budget.

However, this is the good kind of hardship – forcing me to experience things I wouldn’t otherwise get to do, and the end result will be reaching a lot more people than I could by just writing on this website alone. My fingers are crossed that it will come out the way I hope!

3) Switching 120,000 Underserved MMM Email Subscribers over for Better Newsletters

Easier signups, and better eventual emails.

Since the beginning, I’ve mostly ignored the fact that I sorta have a list of email subscribers, with predictable lackluster results. People were able to subscribe and unsubscribe themselves automatically, and the only thing it got them was an automated mailing of any new blog articles on the day that I posted them. The emails were poorly formatted, people who had non-gmail addresses often had trouble subscribing, and many probably wondered why I couldn’t make it work better.

Thankfully, a mini-crisis happened that has forced me to do the work to solve this problem, at last: Google announced that they were shutting down the aging Feedburner email service, so all of the old-school bloggers like me who were still using it were forced to migrate to a more modern platform.

I did some research, and in the end I decided to go with a higher-end option called ConvertKit, which is one of the most popular email services. It can do a lot more cool stuff, and I have taken advantage of this to create an automated (and free of course) “MMM Boot Camp” email series that people can sign up for. 

It’s just a curated feed of some of my most useful articles (about 35 out of the 500), which automatically go out to people once per week until they have graduated, so you’d think it would be pretty easy for me to create this.

But as I read through my old stuff, of course I realized that much of it was crappy and outdated so I ended up partially rewriting every one of those 35 posts as I went through, which took some time. The good news is, the updated versions are here on the website as well, so the work should benefit anyone who happens to read them in the future.

4) Having lots of Fun Times (and Hard Times) In Real Life

Just another cool sunset/storm in my back yard, taken during the traditional Evening Walk.

I’ve had a series of wonderful visitors who came and stayed at my house, sometimes for a week or more. Friends and I have hosted some big events at the HQ Coworking space, which left me both energized and drained at the same time. Then I got Strep Throat in mid-July, which knocked me out for the count for a full week or more – even well after the antibiotics worked their magic, I have still been having some ups and downs with energy. 

And then of course there’s the heat – I am always more energetic in cool weather (The typical 50 degree sunny days of a Colorado winter are some of my favorite for outdoor work in t-shirt and jeans). So the summer season here is always a challenge for me, with an endless procession of cloudless 95 degree desert days making me resent the very Sun I normally worship so much. I’ve been taking refuge indoor more than I should, hiding in my air conditioned house and making excuses and accomplishing less because of it. At least this has led me to the keyboard today, to write this blog post.

5) “Cutting the Pipe” at HQ and Installing a Giant Fancy Heat Pump system.

I had fun working alongside my co-owner Mr. 1500 for this work. Everything was easy about this install … except rebuilding some of the filthy century-old ductwork we found once we took out the old furnace.

Since I first bought the building in 2017, the MMM-HQ coworking space has been limping along with a clunky decades-old gas furnace, a gas water heater that was about 20 years overdue to spring a leak, no central air conditioning at all, and very high utility bills due to the way our local gas company charges commercial customers.

When you combine these irritants and contrast them with the fact that we happen to have a glorious DIY solar electric array on the rooftop that makes a surplus of power, you can see why I would be itching to tear out all the gas appliances, cancel the service account permanently, and install all-electric replacements that are more efficient and will also save an estimated shit-ton of money each year.

I’ll save the full details of this for my very next blog article, but as a spoiler: we found and successfully installed a unit that should be able to cool and heat our building year-round, is very DIY-friendly, and cost only about $4000 to buy. It should prove to be a great annual return on investment, and I am excited to start installing these things on all of my properties and those of any friends who are doing upgrades.

And with that, I’d say we are all caught up.

In the comments: what have YOU been up to these past 3 months? And what subjects do you think we should be covering here on MMM in the next three?

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