January 1, 2021

This is the year – 2021

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Ahh… the obligatory new year — new me blog post from a half-assed blogger. Just kidding.

While many are potentially already in bed, watching TV, or partying it up, I’m wrapping up some consultant work for a customer and closing out an invoice that is rounding out a $1500 month. That doesn’t seem like much but that is above and beyond my full-time employment.

As I sit here, T-4 Hours until the end of this crazy ass year, enjoying one of the last few beers for likely the next 60 days, watch my wife do her nails, I’m trying to reflect back on how great the year actually was — all things considered. That is kind of hard to do knowing so many didn’t have it so good. For me it’s a reminder that all the frustrations and issues I feel in the moment are fleeting and it’s the long game that really matters.

This may all come off as baggy, arrogant, or tone-deaf but that is not the intent. It is to look back on what I’ve accomplished based on my own self-inflicted struggles and potentially give some others hope for the future or motivate them based on options they have in their own life.

I’m well aware I’ve been blessed in my situation. I was working from home before it was saving lives. More on that a little later.

To set the stage, I set out 5 years ago to be financially independent by age 35. That ship left port this year. While I had good traction at the beginning of 2019, a series of events slowed things down yet again. Or at least presented themselves as good excuses.

So instead of looking forward at all the things I’d set out to do in 2021 (cause there are plenty), I figure I’d reflect back on what got me to this moment.

A lot happened in the last year and a half. We ended 2019 with quite a few changes. In true Wickman fashion, we really piled them on.

We found out much earlier in the year that we would be expecting a new baby in December. Not that we don’t know how any of that works, but it was still somewhat of a surprise; however, a big blessing to say the least.

This news caused us as a family to evaluate our finances and decide that things were going to be really tight with three kids in daycare, or I was going to have to find a new job. Things lined up where we decided a new job was in order. This was a hard reality at the time.

Then I was a 12 year federal employee with all the bells and whistles. Great leave, excellent healthcare, and ‘job security’. Leaving caused a lot of confusion for those around me as well as reservations on my part. The new opportunity before me was a good opportunity but nothing crazy. Regardless, a 30% increase. Almost the bare minimum to leave all the federal stuff behind. In April of 2019 I resigned from being a GS. The funny (more awkward than anything) thing was, I never ended up leaving that job until August 12th, 2019. The reason? The position I had accepted fell through multiple times. A situation too ridiculous to explain in this post. However, things worked out as I accepted a different job at a 30% higher salary than the previous ‘new’ position I was going to. A total of a 45% increase.

This new opportunity allowed us to evaluate our life situation even further and decide we should upgrade in home. So we did. On Halloween day 2019, we closed on our new home and moved. Just 5 weeks before new baby.

So in just 4 short months: new job -> sell home -> buy home -> move -> baby -> and BOOM… Pandemic.

Beyond the move, at the beginning of the pandemic and just before my wife was to go back to work, we decided that she wouldn’t.

I’m playing this story on 2x for brevity but you get the idea.

The new job I took was a contract-to-hire position. This is where the company that wants you either doesn’t have the time/resources to fill the position or they are unable to find quality candidates on their own. So they hire a different company to do it for them. When this happens the company that needs you pays that hiring company a ‘juice’ for finding you knowing that at the end of the term you will likely go and be an employee for them instead of stay with the hiring firm. When that happens, sometimes you get that ‘juice’ added to your salary, sometimes the company takes it back and keeps paying you what you were getting as pass-through from the hiring firm. In my case I was given the extra when I transitioned after 6 months. Just like that, another 10% increase and I’m officially working for a Fortune 100 company.

I was feeling pretty good but the reality was it was a Government contact that had a 2 year horizon. Some other nuance in there had the potential to hang on for longer but just as I transitioned to the new company, signed all the forms, the company lost the next big contract. Because of this, one other that I was working with wasn’t so lucky and didn’t get transferred. Roles started transitioning to the new contract company. Some were getting dropped. This was all the name of the game with an at-will position but I knew that going into it.

One year to the day, I changed the year on my previous letter of resignation and left for a new opportunity that started to surface in July 2020.

I wasn’t in a hurry to leave, however, this seemed like good timing and an interesting opportunity in a rapidly growing company. The riskiest move yet. To go with it, a 6% increase in salary.

Add that all up, I more than doubled my salary in exactly one year because I was willing to leave something very comfortable and ‘secure.’ I had over 650 hours of sick leave built up and over 120 hours of vacation time on the books, but it took having a new baby and my back against the wall to make the ‘hard decision’ to leave something I was really comfortable with.

Just to illustrate what I had been doing to myself all in the name of comfort I had to graph this new reality of mine. Check this out:

That there is my 13 year post collegiate career. Pretty ridiculous if you think about it. I knew in that near plateau that I was worth quite a bit more to the private sector but again — I was extremely comfortable.

Why share all of this?

I think it is important people see opportunities where they are too afraid to look.

Back at the beginning of 2019 I filed for my 3rd LLC. I started a business with the intent to hit that 35th birthday goal. Because of things like new baby on the way and a global pandemic I kept putting off pursuing what was yet again outside of my comfort zone.

These last 2 months of 2020 I’ve looked back on what I’ve done and forward to where I want to be and the answer is clear. I want to be uncomfortable. I am really enjoying what I do full-time. However, that leaves me with very little time to pursue discomfort but I’m making an effort with every spare moment I have.

This means many early mornings and staying up much later than I’d like. Even if that is only 11PM.

It’s hard to know or feel it in the moment, but all of that extra work I’ve put in outside of real work is what enabled all of this last year to happen. Showing up. Advancing my craft. Doing things without being asked or having a need to do them. I’ve built a high level of personal confidence in my craft that has enabled me to feel this way. I’m comfortable in saying I’m in the top 20% of my field.

On the outside reading this it all may seem like I got really lucky. I feel that way sometimes too. There is no doubt an element of luck was involved but I believe what Ashton Kutcher said back in 2013:

“Opportunity looks a lot like hard work.

I believe the ‘opportunity’ he is talking about here is sometimes misrepresented as ‘luck.’

For me, 2021 already has a lot of ‘opportunity’ lined up. What that means is hard work.

I finished 2020 with some traction in a side business and I don’t want to let the momentum slip. I had the business ready to go in 2019 and did nothing with it. So I’ve revamped the website, service offerings, and I am already getting some local customers and even got to do some work for an out-of-state organization.

My full-time work will still take priority in 2021 but I’m not the least bit worried about security, luck, or opportunity.

I’m going to do the cliche thing and make 2021 ‘the year’. I think you should too.

If you want to follow along, keep a lookout on my personal blog at https://rosswickman.com and if you know any small businesses in dire need of some Cloud Technology Consultation, have them head over to https://tactful.cloud. I’d greatly appreciate it.

Now go and tackle 2021.

Cover photo courtesy of: Lisa Fotios from Pexels

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