Skydivers are a peculiar bunch. I mean, you have to be a little nuts to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, right?
Well, FIRE* seekers are also a little weird. After all, you have to be a bit odd to believe you can save your way to early retirement without living the life of a pauper.
*FIRE = financially independent, retired early
Aside from their membership in the non-conformity club, these two groups have a lot in common.
My suspicions were first confirmed at FinCon, a financial bloggers’ conference I attended in October of this year. Based on past years’ attendance, I knew that it attracts a high percentage of FIRE seekers & FIRE folks. It seemed the perfect place to deliver a short presentation on this very topic (see below). As I got started, I couldn’t resist asking a question I hadn’t prepped ahead of time: I asked the audience how many skydivers there were in the room. At least thirty hands went up in a crowd of a few hundred people.
Wow! And as non-scientific as this poll was, I couldn’t help but shout out “I knew it!”
As far as I’m concerned, that’s A LOT of overlap compared to the general population (given 500K (0.14%) of the US population gives skydiving a shot each year).
Are you curious about what these groups have in common? If so, keep reading! Some of it might even surprise you.
10 Things Skydivers & FIRE Seekers Have in Common
- Are a bunch of non-conformists
- Take leaps of faith
- Consider the risk/reward tradeoffs
- Know life is not like the movies
- Are patient
- Have a clear sense of purpose
- Have a sense of humour
- Like to have fun
- Value community
- Want more
I explore each of these below.
OK, ok, this won’t come as a shocker but it’s still worth mentioning. In order to do something that seems extreme, we have to be comfortable with making others uncomfortable. It’s a fact: not everyone likes to see others push themselves in extreme ways, especially when it doesn’t fit the norm. And when has jumping out of planes and/or saving over 50%+ of our yearly income ever been normal?
2. Leaps of Faith
The folks in these two groups also have to be OK with making themselves uncomfortable. Not only do they need to be alright with it, but they even seek discomfort because they know that stepping outside the almighty comfort zone, is what makes life exciting. For the skydiver, it’s stretching his/her skills and abilities to the next level. For FIRE seekers, it’s deviating ever more from the norm when it comes to how they spend, save and invest.
3. Risk/Reward Tradeoffs
That’s right. Members of these groups are not wreckless. They weigh risk vs reward and make informed decision. Despite what many might think, a lot of thought and planning goes into each activity. Both the skydiver and the FIRE seeker considers health and wellness, comfort and safety when evaluating the tradeoffs involved. They go into their respective endeavours with their eyes wide open.
Case in point: I started really thinking about risk aversion and skydiving when my husband asked me why I would jump out of a perfectly good airplane, yet I was reluctant to go hot air ballooning with him.
My answer? I’ll take a perfectly good airplane, a parachute and a reserve anytime instead of hot air ballooning. In a hot air balloon, you’re standing in a wicker basket suspended under a single balloon, you’re at the mercy of the wind, and you’re mere feet away from a fire ball while surrounded by propane tanks. I’ll take a 200 Km/h freefall over that any day.
4. Not Like the Movies
Hollywood does these two groups a huge disservice. If we believe the movies, getting rich and jumping involves nothing but addrenaline-pumping action with a healthy dose of recklessness. It’s intense, it’s sexy, it’s a never-ending thrill ride. NOT!
Both pursuits involve a lot of preparation, learning & applying, and patience. No one wants to be around all the preparation and micro-decisions these people make on a regular basis. To the spectators, it’s only the thrilling end result that’s worth witnessing. The rest, though crucial to success, is just too boring to watch.
FIRE seekers regularly make decisions about their earning and fixed & variable expenses that amount to big savings over the long term, such as decisions regarding:
- Earning/borrowing/saving (or lack thereof)
- Housing, utilities
- Health care
- Food, clothing and other essentials
- Differentiating between need and want
Skydivers also make a lot of decisions that make the sport safe and fun:
- Ensuring the weather and wind conditions are very good for diving
- Maintaining the plane and equipment and packing the gear properly to ensure it will function as expected
- Practicing their skills on the ground to ensure they can perform when the time comes
- Briefing and debriefing to understand what went well and what can be improved for future jumps
As the previous point hints at, there’s a whole lot of patience involved in both pursuits. For the skydiver, it can mean a whole lot of sitting and waiting for the right weather conditions to be able to jump safely. And this can sometimes mean waiting for days in order to practice the sport.
For the FIRE seeker, it means years of patience, continuously making the right daily decisions that will take him/her closer to the ultimate goal of financial independence. And these small daily decisions need to happen consistently. For years.
An overarching sense of purpose is what leads to long-term success in either pursuit. Each person seeking FIRE status or ever greater heights in the sport of skydiving is an individual with their own reasons and goals for doing what they’re doing. These are what fuels their desire to keep striving. How else would they be able to cultivate the stick-to-it-iveness required to keep going when it seems so much easier to quit.
Without a clear sense of “why” members of these two groups do what they do, there’s no way they would stick with it.
It’s true! Though these two groups of individuals are known for their focus and attention, they also tend to have a well-developed sense of humour. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise because having a sense of humour—being able to laugh at ourselves and at any given situation—is strongly associated with grit, making it possible to stay the course when times are tough.
It makes sense. Humour is a relief valve. It’s a way of reducing the tension that makes it difficult to focus or refocus. Yup, that’s right, not only does a little goofiness from time to time not hurt, it can be critical to success.
8. Have Fun
OK. I don’t know too many groups of people who don’t like to have fun. That said, anyone who doesn’t enjoy saving and investing isn’t likely to be very successful in pursuing FIRE status. The same can be said for skydiving: if you don’t like jumping out of planes, it’s probably not for you.
At it’s core, any activity—or at least some aspect of it—has to be fun and rewarding enough to keep us going. Afer all, we are driven by emotion and enjoyment & interest are powerful drivers of performance.
A sense of belonging is SO important. Everyone wants to find their tribe(s), the people who make weird & quirky seem normal. And the more fringe the activity, the stronger the ties to the tribe tend to be because the shared experience is that much more unique. The tribe speaks a common language. The tribe gets what its members are about. The tribe is us and we’re it, at least in that part of our shared experience. And members of the tribe often get as much of a thrill from it as they do from what brings them together.
10. Want More
Why do we seek what we seek? When we’re doing something that’s not required of us, why do we do it? Because we’re seeking more. FIRE seekers want more out of life. So do skydivers.
Both groups want to feel free, though they achieve it in different ways:
- Skydivers want the freedom of freefall, a feeling like no other
- FIRE seekers want to be able to live life on their own terms, also a feeling like no other
And with that, a few final wishes for members of these tribes:
- To my fellow skydivers, I wish you blue skies.
- To my fellow FIRE’d folks, I wish you green money.
And to any other unconventional types, I wish you more of the stuff that feeds your purpose.
There you have it. Have I convinced you? Let me know in the comments below.