Designing our “Best Life” with help from Montana Money Adventures Mentoring Questions

One of the biggest “Aha!” moments for me came from finding Jillian from Montana Money Adventures, initially while listening to her podcast on ChooseFI and then reading her article “Big Family Minimalism,” on Cait Flander’s website. I signed up for her email list in order to gain access to her awesome Resource Library, which contains mentoring questions and “Let’s Chat Worksheets.” These are pages of guided discussion and questions that can really challenge us to address what our true goals and passions are, instead of simply following the path of least resistance and hoping we end up somewhere decent.

This idea of intentionally designing the life I want started during my 3rd year of training when I realized that I wasn’t doing ANY of the stuff I enjoyed and was suffering from severe burnout as a result. After a few years of pondering these topics on my own, I was ecstatic to find Jillian’s excellent guidance. Answering these questions is HARD! Josh and I have been working through them together, and we can only do a few questions at a time before we are a little worn out mentally, and it takes us a few days to complete a worksheet. Nevertheless, going through the worksheets together has been a wonderful exercise for our relationship; it has gotten us communicating about these ambitious big goals and deeper motivations, and it has definitely helped us understand one another better. We will often be mulling over the same question and, lo and behold, come up with the same answers. It’s also amazing to hear him come up with a totally different answer than mine, as I then have something entirely new to consider. I definitely recommend these resources to any individual or couple who is interested in mindfully constructing their lives and purposely cultivating relationships, careers, possessions, time-management skills, etc.

I contacted Jillian by email to ask her permission to post the worksheets completed with our answers, and she graciously agreed. If you find value in these posts, please head over to her website  and sign up for her email list, so that you can have access to her entire resource library. She never sends emails that aren’t very insightful and beneficial.

We decided to start our mentoring questions with the worksheet titled, “Highlight Reel.” The following is our completed worksheet…
What were the most significant moments from the last year?

Joy graduating general surgery residency.

Esmé being born.

Starting our website and podcast.

Starting research year.

Joy taking time to spend with the girls, having a real maternity leave with this one.

Finding FI information

Interviewing for jobs together.

What are our best memories from the last 10 years?

Eddy being born.

Esme being born.

Trip to Big Sur.

Matching at Mayo.

Music festivals together.

10 year anniversary

Choosing our sub-specialties—being liberated from pressure of doing cardiac/peds neurosurgery

Family vacation to smoky mountains

Family get-togethers in Nashville

Watching Archer on maternity leave with Eddy (seriously one of the most fun memories I have. We watched two episodes every night and laughed our heads off).

Camping trips

Duluth trip

Joy-trip to Ukraine and Guatemala

Joy-trip to ACS 2017 meeting global surgery sessions

What do we wish we would have done in the last 10 years?

Travel more for global health projects

Gotten an MPH or MBA during residency

Been more active in global surgery world instead of putting it on hold for training

Gone on more family vacations

Decided to do trauma earlier, let cardiac go earlier, not let myself become burned out

More date nights

What are our most significant achievements? What are we most proud of?

Beautiful girls. Toddler who is very sweet, affectionate, and confident.

Breastfeeding for 2.5 years.

Strong marriage through all of education and training challenges and parenting. Staying best friends and supporting one another.

Couples matching at Mayo.

Both of us succeeding through specialty training.

Living below our means during training despite needing SO MUCH childcare.

What would be amazing to see happen in the NEXT five or ten years?

Significant involvement in high-impact global surgery projects focused on alleviating suffering.

Network of folks working toward the same goal.

Girls traveling with us frequently and understanding our mission.

Spending down time near our extended families (hopefully moving closer to home)

Financial independence with funds for early mini-retirement.

Indie Docs having regular post and reaching anyone who might find it helpful (easily visible).

Financial highlights:

What are a few money goals we would love to hit? In five years? Ten years? Twenty years?

5-years: Debts paid, Financial independence with enough $$ for mini-retirement, couple of investment properties to maintain income while overseas, kids college funds fully-funded.

10-years: Enough money to give away generously to projects we believe in, passive income to sustain personal finances and giving and Indie Docs ventures.

20-years: Solidly funded full-retirement accounts, high-impact projects that are self-sustaining and more projects that we are investing in.

Do we have a net-worth goal?

Sorta. Arbitrary “fat-FIRE goal” of $3-3.5 million. Highly subject to change.

Passive income goal?

$3000/month or enough to just tread water when we are out of the country or not working (don’t really know about this number specifically )

Is our goal to pay off our home?

Yes

Certain amount or percentage donated or in a donor-advised fun?

Would like to eventually be able to donate all income.

Certain size inheritance to pass on?

Enough to fund kids retirement so they are able to pursue whatever career they are most passionate about.

Lifestyle Highlights

Any health/physical highlights that seem exciting to you?

Staying healthy and energetic, being able to do certain body weight exercises like pull-ups and pistol squats, and increasing flexibility to stay injury-free (for Joy).

General fitness, daily exercise would be a win (for Josh). 

Any relationship highlights you want to add?

We want to be more intentional about doing fun and exciting things together, being more affectionate, having deeper conversations.

Get to work together on passion projects.

Travel goals?

Definitely want to be traveling regularly to sites of our global surgery projects.

Also would like some fun adventure travel to unplug and recharge.

Work highlights you would love to hit? Certain position/rank/awards/contribution?

Become confident and experienced surgeons.

Don’t care about rank or position.

Would like our practices to be impactful for local community.

If I’m running a private practice, would like to be maximizing impact and using smart financial strategies and tax strategies to run the business successfully.

It would be a huge bonus to be able to get back into academic medicine within the sphere of global health so we can be 100% into global neurosurgery and global trauma surgery AND teach residents AND publish high-impact projects that lead to real progress in these areas.

What would a highlight in your schedule be? In 10 years, about what would you like to be able to look back and say, “We always made time for…”

Time for family and each other. Want to have time to indulge in play activities in the evenings, take our time with meals and housework without feeling like we are rushing through the daily routine. Time to travel. Time for birthdays and special occasions with cousins.

Are there any highlights you want to create from your hobbies?

Start white-water kayaking and more “glamping” adventures in the mountains, time outdoors. 

Impact Highlights?

What kind of impact do we want to leave in the world?

Alleviate suffering for a lot of people permanently, sustainably.

Create some new trauma systems where there aren’t any currently.

Improve the resilience of current trauma systems in settings of disasters.

Happy and generous, empathetic kids and grandkids

Create some training programs for neurosurgery, trauma and general surgery.

How would we finish these sentences?

The world is better because I…

Used my training to impact communities.

Paid attention to what people need.

Used my income to help people.

Told the stories of hard-working humanitarians.

Tried to help.

People around me are better because I …

Worked on my weaknesses.

Tried to become kinder, more thoughtful, and generous.

Don’t allow myself to become over-extended and grouchy, not exist in “survival mode” which makes us just try to make it through the day and through interactions with others. Make sure each interaction is dealt with thoughtfully and mindfully paying attention to that person. Treat people as people and not a task on the list.

When my time on this earth is done, how do I want each of these people to describe my contribution: Spouse, kids, extended family, coworkers, community members, customers, friends?

This section is pretty personal and unique for each individual, so I just left this set of questions here for you to ponder on your own. 

For Conversation:

What’s your “most important” and what is “the rest”?

(Joy) My most important is having a happy marriage, making sure Josh feels loved and cherished, loving my two girls and keeping them safe and healthy, and having a career that feels like a calling. For me, “the rest” is academic prestige, stuff like cars and a fancy house, yuppy vacations.

(Josh) Most important: Caring for the poor. If I get to the end of my life and haven’t done that, I’ll think I haven’t done the thing that was really important.

What kinds of things do you want on your highlight reel?

Joyful and hard work that made a lot of people’s lives better. Generous giving of our time, money, and energy.

By creating more financial freedom, what would that make possible?

The main thing that having financial freedom would make possible would be control over our schedule so that we can travel and work overseas. We would also be able to choose any job or assignment that was a good fit for us, and we would be able to give generously to causes that we were passionate about.