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This past weekend I attended Camp FI South in Little Rock, Arkansas. For those of you unfamiliar with Camp FI, it is an amazing series of camps all around the country organized by Stephen Baughier. In 2018, there were a total of six camps: two in Florida (Camp FI Southeast), one in Virginia (Camp FI Mid Atlantic), one in California (Camp FI Southwest), one in Minnesota (Camp FI Midwest), and one in Arkansas (Camp FI South).
Cocoon to Butterfly
As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I attended Camp FI Southeast (Week 1) in early January of 2018. This event literally transformed my life. The people that I met at that first camp inspired me to share my voice in this community. Since then, I’ve started this blog, launched the FIRE Below Zero podcast and formed hundreds of connections.
In the eight months between my first Camp FI and this past weekend, I have developed tremendously. Not only have I gained countless technical skills from my new ventures, but my mindset has transformed and my confidence has grown. Back in January at Camp FI Southeast, I sat in awe, taking vigorous notes as some of my favorites in the financial independence community shared their knowledge and expertise.
This past weekend, I WAS a speaker! I was fortunate enough to share MY knowledge and expertise with a room full of eager listeners. I spoke about the power of taking action and how accumulating skills can lead to a blindingly bright future. If you want to check out my speech, you can watch it in the FIRE Below Zero Facebook Group!
Kicking it Off
Well, that’s enough about me, because I am nothing without this amazing community of people.
In order to get to Little Rock, Arkansas, I had to fly from Boston –> Chicago –> Little Rock. As I sat in my seat bumpin’ the new Eminem album, I received this Facebook message from Doc G of Diversefi.com.
We sat together and chatted for the entire plane ride. I honestly don’t know how he does what he does (a full-time physician who publishes a new blog post daily), but he is truly a genuine and inspirational guy. (P.S. this guy literally talks in blog posts… it’s crazy!)
Once we arrived in Little Rock, we got picked up by our friend Paul Thompson of Ready Investor One who I met earlier this year at CampFI Southeast. Everyone was starving so we went and grabbed some real southern food at a nearby BBQ smokehouse. I knew the food couldn’t be too healthy considering the fact that it came out in .3 seconds, but it was delicious.
After lunch, we ran to the store to grab some snacks and I bought a ‘premium’ $12 handle of vodka. Gotta stay FI 🙂 With a car packed full of snacks and booze, we made our way to the camp.
It was around 2:00 PM when we finally arrived. We entered the main lounge area and I immediately saw some familiar faces and some soon-to-become friends. It was a bit rainy so we mainly hung inside and chatted with other attendees. At around 3:00 PM, I finally got to meet a very special online friend!
Despite our awesome chemistry and rippling muscles, my co-host TJ from Half Life Theory and I had never actually met in person! We hit it off big time and I had a great time meeting the man behind the microphone.
The rest of the afternoon and night consisted of great conversations, new friends, and heavy drinking (Oh, maybe that was just me…)
Despite a slight hangover, I still managed to get up at 7:00, workout, and get to the main hall for breakfast at 8:00. The first presentation began at 9:00 and was delivered by none other than Nords!
Doug Nordman (Nords) of The Military Guide gave the first speech on Saturday morning. I had heard him speak previously at Camp FI Southeast so I knew it would be good. Nords is a veteran both in the literal armed forces sense and in financial independence realm. He achieved FI in 2002 after serving in the Navy for 20 years.
My main takeaway from his speech was that your savings rate is everything. Nords highlights all of the mistakes he made during his financial journey, yet he was still able to retire much earlier than his peers due to his unwavering 40%+ savings rate. He is an inspiration to the community and a true testament to the principles of financial independence. This stuff actually works!
After the veteran Nords finished his presentation, I was up! I had a big act to follow, but fortunately, the feedback I received about my speech was overwhelmingly positive. Maybe they were all lying, who knows! Anyway, you can check it out for yourself in the FIRE Below Zero Facebook Group.
Breakout Sessions and Volleyball
After our lunch break, the group split into two breakout sessions. One session was focused on real estate and the other was focused on side hustles. Since my speech focused heavily on side hustles and entrepreneurship, I was “voluntold” to run the side hustle session.
It always amazes me how many brilliant ideas come out of those mastermind-type meetings. After everyone shared their current ventures and new ideas, I was ready to quit my job and start five new side hustles!
Even though talking about side hustles and entrepreneurship was fun and all, I needed to get up and exercise a bit. So naturally, we rallied together between 10-15 people and got an intense volleyball game going. Halfway through the game, it started to downpour, but do you think that stopped us from playing for another hour… Nope! (I may or may not have unleashed my inner Misty May in the last game)
The third presentation was given by Whitney Hansen a.k.a. “Money Nerd”.
She had us write down our “perfect day” and then challenged us to take steps toward that goal. Surprisingly, my “perfect day” didn’t involve that many tweaks (besides quitting my day job of course). Most of the perfect days around the room involved relaxing, spending time with family, and personal development. All things within reach!
I’m sure it wasn’t her intention, but Whitney’s talk reaaaaaaally had me considering quitting my job on the following Tuesday. Thanks Whitney 🙂
Into the Night
After dinner, we all sat around drinking and sharing stories and experiences. I was amazed and enraptured by many of the other campers’ stories (I won’t spoil here… tune in for future podcast episodes).
We played the ‘Exploding Kittens‘ and ‘Disturbed Friends‘ and things started to get wild… don’t worry those are just board/card games. I had to call it quits after my 20th vodka soda because Seonwoo had to re-explain the rules to me four times.
I managed to power through a hangover and make it to the main hall at 8:30 for breakfast. The first presentation of the day began at 9:00 and featured real estate expert Paul Thompson.
On Friday, Paul told me that he wouldn’t say the words ‘real estate’ once during his presentation. He might have said it once or twice – but overall, his focus was on something bigger. His main message was “be somebody worth talking about”.
In order to achieve this status, he challenged us to channel our energy and focus on the big picture things – the things that really mattered. This exercise certainly helped me because I’m always spreading my energy thin over dozens of projects and side hustles. As I start to implement this tactic, I’ll let you readers know how things go!
After a brief snack break and intermission, Doc G was up. His presentation illustrated the hundreds of path to FI and challenged the audience to recognize the path that he or she was on. He shared an anecdote about three brothers and their life journeys. The eldest brother raced to the finish line and put his nose to the grindstone to reach the end as soon as possible. The middle brother persevered, but took breaks and eventually finished the journey. The youngest brother took his time, enjoyed the process and finished his journey last.
Doc compared these three brothers to the many paths to financial independence. After some thought, I reasoned that I was most similar to the youngest brother. I want to live and enjoy my life TODAY through Cash Flow FI. I don’t need a massive investment nest egg to achieve happiness.
Breakout Sessions and Basketball
After lunch, we had two new breakout sessions: ‘Life after FI’ and ‘Travel hacking’. I chose to sit in on Life after FI since I had already talked about travel hacking extensively in private conversations. It was interesting to hear about other peoples’ goals, dreams, and passions. Something that particularly struck me was what Marge Nordman said. She explained that it was okay to “just be” – just exist and be happy, spend precious time with family and friends, or just hangout all day!
Although I’m extremely goal-driven and milestone-oriented at this stage in my life, perhaps at one point I can “just be”.
Once again, too much deep thought and reflection had me itching to get some exercise, and before I knew it I was in the middle of a “casual” two-on-two basketball game. By “casual” I mean that two of the players were bleeding before the third point was even scored. The FI community isn’t competitive though… right?
Podcasting and Boating
Since we had four podcasters in one place, we did what all podcasters do best… record! We started off with sort of a roundtable between myself, TJ, Whitney Hansen, and Paul Thompson. Next, we crowdsourced information from the other attendees. I really enjoyed recording these episodes, but that’s about all I can say right now. You’ll have to hear them for yourself once they’re released!
After the recording session was over, a few of us decided to take a “relaxing” cruise in the rowboats. I don’t think five minutes passed before an intense rowing race ensued inclusive of bashing, boat pushing, and exhaustion. What a “relaxing” cruise!
Into the Night
After dinner, we shared some more interesting conversations and then made our way into the main room to watch some questionable YouTube videos (a twisted sense of humor seems to be a common theme in the FI community… Choo choo!).
About half an hour into my ab workout (aka laughing from these videos), we rallied the troops and headed to “the slide” – which was a huge 60ft. corrugated pipe down a hill that shot the unexpecting rider out at approximately 20mph. I immediately realized that my all-white outfit was a mistake after my first go… I was covered in mud. Nevertheless, I headed back up for a second run.
After ruining my clothes beyond repair, we headed back to camp and lit a fire. The fire lasted for an hour or so, and then we decided to head back inside to play ‘Disturbed Friends‘. As the night progressed and more drinks were consumed, ‘Disturbed Friends’ was no longer enough. Fortunately, someone brought ‘Fear Pong‘ which combined Beer Pong with interesting dares. Needless to say, it was a wild night!
Unfortunately, Monday was the last day of Camp. After breakfast, we headed up to the Archery field for 9:00. The mood quickly went from casual to hyper-competitive (noticing a theme?) – and eventually we were creating a scoring system and challenging opponents. I was out there lookin’ like Legolas… no big deal.
After archery was over, many of the friends I made over the long weekend began to depart and we said our goodbyes.
With the remaining gang, I led a round of disc golf and showed everyone how the game was played. People were oddly surprised that I was good at the sport, despite owning a disc golf company 🙂
At noon, the remaining campers sat around the table for one final lunch. We hung around and chatted until 2:00 and then I headed off to the airport to close out an amazing weekend.
Every time I attend one these events, I am blown away by the people I meet. Despite the varying ages, backgrounds, and experiences I was able to connect with everyone on an individual level. It’s so refreshing to hang out with people who really “get it” – people who understand what financial independence means and how to live a life of intentionality.
FI is truly a superpower and I’m so fortunate to have fallen into the toxic waste. You can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be at future Camp FI events. See you all there!
Bonus: Here’e a list of all the bloggers/podcasters/content creators that showed up!
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