tl;dr;

Once you find your passion, you really don’t need much else except the time to pursue it. So I sold everything I owned except for clothes, my car, and the few things I needed to pursue my passion (coding and self improvement). Luckily my passions are cheap and don’t require a lot of space. I “bought” time by quitting my job (I think people call it a sabbatical).

The finances and materials

It won’t last for too long (maybe a little over 2 years). I’ll burn through my life savings eventually if I don’t earn some income. But for now, it’s a risk I’m fine taking. I’m married, and still am the “bread winner” of the two of us (I’m just using my savings to “win the bread” as opposed to grinding away at a 9-5).

I’ve been saving for the past 7 years, with zero debt, and live well below my means. And I worked my ass off in college and graduated without taking on loans, I didn’t buy a huge house, massive tv, or expensive car. When your total year’s expenses are under $35k a year, you can last a while…living in Texas helps too (low cost of living).

My personal belongings fits in a backpack and a small corner of the apartment.

As for what I own (or maybe more accurately what owns me):

Edit: Just to make sure things don’t get blown out of proportion. Just because I sold all of my worldy possesions doesn’t mean I’d impose that kind of lifestyle onto my wife. We do have a sofa set in the living room, a bed with dresser, and a 46 inch flat screen hooked up to Apple TV.

Goals

Set into some kind baseline routine and have some goals that you want to pursue. Here are some of mine:

Lessons learned when rebooting and on the sabbatical (so far)

Get rid of stuff, stop trading comfort for happiness

I had way too much stuff to keep up with… I sold it, donated it, or threw it away… and it’s the best feeling in the world. Gaming consoles from the past 3 generations, massive desktop computer with dual screens, nice speakers, home entertainment system (we got rid of all the surround sound gadgets and bluray player, but kept the TV), big apartment (we moved into a one bed room), tech gadgets, oversized furniture (large living room set replaced with a sofa and love seat, massive bedroom set replaced with a bed and dresser), cable tv with 300+ channels (replaced with Apple TV), XBOX360, PS3, Wii, games, games and more games, steam account for more games. All. Gone.

You’ll miss some of the things you gave up

When you put all your time into 2 or 3 things you’re really passionate about, you miss out on the 15 - 20 things that interested you. I miss gaming, watching marathons of old TV shows, watching the NBA (cable is good for a few things), and many other things.

Quality over quantity is a very true statement. Looking at “all the stuff” you have and seeing the value of each thing helps with the “sting” of getting rid of everything else. It isn’t easy, and I’m sure that I sold a lot of things that were well under what I could have gotten for them if I sold them online. But it’s done, and I’ve convinced myself that I’m better off because of it ;-).

It takes time to get started

First thing I realized when rebooting was that it takes a while to get into a routine of any kind. I was still trying to find out how I wanted to pursue my passion. I wanted to hack on a computer all day, but didn’t know what exactly I was going to work on…decide on a few things that’ll keep you engaged for the first couple of months. You may find that you spend the first month spending time on things like insurance, taxes, spring cleaning and other chores that will keep you from doing what you want. So plan ahead and prepare these things in advance.

Don’t disappear into a cave

Go outside. It’s important to still interact with people (those who share your passion and those who don’t). I joined a crossfit gym that holds me accountable if I don’t show up and go to co-work locations a couple times a week to be around other developers. Twitter and Github have been great avenues to stay connected with other devs. Definitely take advantage of those kinds of social media. The #pairwithme hash tag on twitter is a good place to start interacting with other developers.

6 hour “work” day

Even working on things I really love, I find that I have only 6 hours of mental energy to code. I’ll code 7 days a week, but only 6 hours a day. There are those times where an idea or new project has me in front of the computer for many hours straight, but then the high I get goes away and I go back to my 6 hour a day routine. The rest of the time I spend doing other things: going to local usergroups, reading books, chores, artsy stuff, siestas, reading about code, etc. I try to avoid “turn my brain off” things like Netflix, and Hulu (still spend a few hours a week in front of things like that).

Mix things up to avoid burnout

I feel like I’m juggling so much. But it keeps things interesting. I don’t have any hard deadlines for the things I’m working on. So I’ll work on my budgeting app a couple of days, Oak MVC and NSpec some other days, write on my blog, present in person or over the internet, do nothing, watch some rails casts…the list goes on. Regardless, it keeps me from burning out on any one specific project.

Some people just won’t be as passionate as you are

Speaking specifically about software development:

The first thing I tried was visiting local colleges and connecting with professors to see if I could find a graduating seniors and mentor them in the craft. I emailed and called a few professors. I received the canned “check out our tutoring center” responses or no replies at all. I pursued that for a few weeks, but was met with general apathy and complacency.

You’ll see apathy and complacency more and more if you start looking for it. It’s important to be empathetic at those times (everyone has some “bigger” responsibility that needs tending too). It’s okay that someone is making a living off of development even though they don’t have a passion for it. It’s okay that there are those who come to work in a large corporations, do next to nothing, and get paid well for it (pretty nice retirement plan if you ask me). You really wont gain anything from berating them. It’ll only leave both parties resentful… and you have better things to spend your time on.

Side note: If you know any developers fresh out of college, I’d be happy to mentor them. Contact info on the site.

Some people wont understand why you’re doing it, I don’t understand it myself yet

My passion is coding, learning, building creative stuff, and mastery. It’s been mentioned a number of times that I can follow my passion and still work (make money). I could get a job doing ruby, I could find remote work and contribute to OSS and get paid for it, I could become an iOS developer, or do NodeJS full time. There will be employers out there that will look at my time off and the work I’ve done and say “yea, I saw you worked on all this stuff, but you don’t have any real world experience per se”. I don’t have all the answers to these hard questions. My friends and the employers may be right. But for now, I get to wake up, go to a brutal work out session, come home, and work on whatever I want to work on.

You can do it too

You don’t have to quit your job (especially if you love what you do). But, think about what you actually are passionate about. Think deeply about it. Find those few things (and relationships) and get rid of the rest. Just start by getting rid of something, one thing (lots of things), anything. Open your junk closet and set a match to it (figuratively speaking). How did it feel? Now get rid of bigger things and spend more time on what matters.

Next Up: Rebooting Life Part 2



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Also, I've spent the three years fighting the uphill battle of getting noticed in the App Store. I've decided to write some words about it in book format.

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14 July 2013