In the past few days I have been busy behind the scenes writing emails to the “applicants”. I decided to change the name from “apprentice” to “applicant” (or how about suppliant, haha 🙂 ) to avoid confusion between this program and that of a TV show run by a guy with much better hair than I’ve have, ever had, or ever will have. The people I’ve been emailing with have various reasons for pursuing this. Some have work-related health problems, some want to run the numbers and be more committed to them, some need to work on individual expenses or figure out interesting situations (like location independence). They come from 3 different countries. Here’s an intro from SillySneakers.

I am a 32 year-old chick who lives in Seattle. I frame the choices in my life based on the “deathbed perspective”–regardless of whether the choice is related to a career path, or a travel plan, or a relationship, I analyze how I would view the choice from my deathbed. Will a particular choice be something that I remember and something that contributes to the quality of my life?

Ever since I was a youngster, I have sought out the wisdom of elders. I believe that we learn a lot from life experiences, and I would just assume leverage the wisdom of those who already lived lives chocked full of time and experience. There’s nothing like being in your 30s with the wisdom of someone in their 90s. In my search for wisdom, I am constantly reminded of a number of reappearing themes: work should not define who you are, life should be lived to the fullest, no day should be taken for granted, a simple life is a richer life, to name a few.

In processing and applying the wisdom that I have learned, I am slowly (but surely) formulating the life I want to live. I know that I do not want for my job to define who I am or how I spend my life. Success for me is not career-driven, whatsoever. Rather, I define success as spending my life in my own way. My goal is to become financially independent and to retire early. This is not to say that I never intend to ever “work” another day in my life; I’d like to establish enough of a savings so that I can quit my full-time job. I’d like to work on my own schedule, just during the winter months, so that I can enjoy the beautiful summers in the Pacific Northwest. I’d like to earn enough each year to cover the bills (mortgage/rent, food, insurance). Meanwhile, my savings will be accumulating for my later “true retirement” years.

I work at a large company in the city and earn a six-figure salary. Until recently, I worked a very demanding job. The work commitment eventually became too much. I wasn’t finding the time to do the things that I love to do—rock climb, backpack, and bike. And on the rare occasions when I was able to find the time, I was too exhausted from work to fully enjoy those activities. I had a health scare last month. As is the case for many folks, this health scare was the impetus for me to leave behind my job and start living the life I want to live. Realizing that my body was internalizing a lot of the stress, and realizing that I was actively killing myself each day by working in my job, I decided to make a career move. My new job is less stressful, involves less of a work commitment, will allow me to take multi-month sabbaticals (biking in Thailand, here I come!), and (surprisingly) pays more.

Recently I stumbled upon the ERE website. I have become an avid follower. The site has exposed me to other great resources–ideas, blogs, and books–that have helped provide me with the tools that I need to achieve early retirement. But I realize that having the tools should not be mistaken for the actual growth. Being an apprentice would enable me to actively focus on the applying the tools. As Helen and Scott Nearing have said, “Theory guides; practice determines.”