Not Sexy - Spending Your Time On Maintenance
I believe human beings like to build things. They like to create, invent, do for the first time, and subsequently brag about it. That kind of stuff is just cool. For example the typical jock who "almost went pro" in college bragging about doing something really rad on the field a couple times. Or the fisherman who caught a fish one time that was, "Thiiis big, man" while holding his hands up. Or building a race car with 1000 horsepower and getting a sub 9 second quarter mile out of it! So sweet!
But therein lies the problem, and the lesser or never told story behind all those above achievements. That jock who almost made it? Did he mention he spent all his time in the gym and on the field every day to even come close? Maybe took some performance enhancing drugs and let his school work slide a little bit? Never part of the conversation. The fisherman: did he mention how he got up at 3am every weekend for 3 months and went out to hang in a dingy boat, alone and quiet, just to catch that one record fish? Didn't think so. What about the race car driver? Likely tons of trial and error and calculations and building/rebuilding went into that damn car just to get it to run right for the first time, and 1 year later it would actually be what it was intended. Afterwards, it will sit in the garage and be sold for much less than what he put into it. You can never recoup a reasonable dollar per hour figure on those vehicles (Editors note - sometimes you can't even recoup a dollar per hour figure when you're trying to make a flip! - DDon). Likely after being out of the circuit for a few years, the car will likely never be ran on the track again. The real, raw, true story isn't sexy nor is it cool, it's just plain old fashioned work and dissapointment on a grand scale.
"Geez DDave, did you have a bad weekend or what? Those couple paragraphs above make me want to never talk to anybody about their accomplishments ever again."
Yes, well eventually I will get to the point. The point may be a little tarnished, and you may not feel like doing a victory lap. But maybe you will spend more time on what is important. That fisherman guy above? He loved every minute of sitting in that boat. That beefcake jock? He enjoyed taking steroids and being the man on the field. Race car guy? You better believe after a day of working on his dream car he felt like he really accomplished something.
The journey itself is what is important. Yeah, I have seen the movie Click too, but trust me, this article will not parrot that theme.
The point I want to make in this article is this: The journey is what is important, and it doesn't have to end. Any one of my original examples could have continued their own stories and still be living the dream if they wanted. The jock could still be playing for a team and working hard, the fisherman could be fishing, the race car driver could still be improving his vehicle and doing even better things with the next one. But they aren't. They had so much fun doing these things the first time, so why stop?
The answer is simple - maintenance sucks. Doing the same thing once you have "peaked" in some way is really hard. Sometimes you are just over it. For instance last year when I got my super awesome six pack detailed in the following articles:
This year, I do arguably have a six pack on certain days, but I am likely well into the 15% body fat range. Why did I let my sub-13% level go? because I felt tired and was having issues performing well at work and, to be frank, maintenance work sucks. Doing HIIT and special exercise routines just to maintain what I already have is kind of boring. I am now down to 2-3 days of normal body part split with occasional HIIT work, and I feel like I'm in great shape with improved strength, bigger arms, and better overall well being. Since I spend most of my time wearing clothes the only people who are losing on this are my ego and my PhD girlfriend. And I really don't think that either one minds that much.
Imagine if you could make maintenance work fun and rewarding. Then you could keep everything that is important to you, and still feel good about it! This is what I consider financially sustainable behavior. Look at the following examples that I have personally embarked on in the last 3 months:
- Instead of buying a new car, I am fixing the old one and just driving it anyways, even though it is ugly! I really want a new car though but I won't give in - my ego will have to suffer on this one for a bit.
- Instead of ignoring my truck, I replaced the intake manifold and got some new rims and fixed a few things on it. Now it is like 200% more fun to drive and more reliable for only a couple hundred bucks. Compare that to any other thing that I would rather be doing than working on an old truck, I guarantee it will be more expensive.
- Selling junk around the house on Craigslist. In the last few months I have sold at least 3 things on my property on Craigslist or eBay. In reality I would have no use for them. Was it exciting listing these pieces and shipping and dealing with buyer texts and phone calls? No, it really wasn't. But the payback is twofold: Money and extra space around the house! How can you argue with that knowing what real estate costs these days space is at a premium! Much too high to keep junk or stuff you don't use around.
- Instead of buying a new watch, I replaced the battery in an old one. Yes, some people will buy a watch in lieu of spending 3 minutes and less than a dollar to replace a battery. What a strange world we live in.
- I changed my own oil on a couple cars. Yeah I don't make anything substantial on this, but I do have the peace of mind knowing it's done right, with the best oil and filter available, all for the same price a shop would charge for whatever they feel like using.
- Dancing with the girlfriend and making dinner instead of going out for both. This reduces date night from easily 80$ and an hour of driving to costing ~20$ for healthy, delicious food and no driving at all!
Overall this is a much more efficient mode of running that I usually am interested in. It feels good, but only after you start to reap the benefits. My credit card bill is super low this month compared to earlier in the year. I seem to have more free time and time to work on things around the house. I may even have more energy! This last one has yet to be determined but I think I can feel it.
Maintenance is the most difficult thing for human beings to do. If you can convince yourself to do just that your life will become wildly efficient and you will enjoy it more after some initial investment. After all, who doesn't want a good running truck and a clean clutter-free yard and house without spending any money? It feels good. Pretty darn good actually.