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Creating Freedom Through Financial Independence


Facing My Biggest Fear… And Special Content For You!

August 23, 2019

Unless you’ve been hibernating this winter, you would’ve known about the Playing with FIRE documentary coming out, and the recent Sydney Premiere.

As I was invited to be part of the Q&A session on stage after the show, this was kind of a big deal for me!  And as a super-introvert with a fear of public speaking, you might remember I was pretty much shitting myself at the thought of having to speak in front of 250-300 people!

So how did it go?  In short, very well!  Here’s the rundown of the event, and my trip overall, with some nice pictures to bring it all together 🙂



Left Perth Wednesday morning, after getting up absurdly early for a supposedly retired person!  No pictures taken here as I was too anxious to even think of it (too late to back out now?)

Landed in Sydney after lunch, just a few hours before the event.  I’ve never been to Sydney Airport before,  but for some reason I expected it to be insanely busy.  So I was pleasantly surprised when it was spacious and quiet with a relaxed vibe…



Anyway, I strolled outside and caught an Uber to my apartment for the night.  I chose to stay in Randwick as it’s only a short walk to UNSW where the event was taking place.  Cosy and clean – more than enough for me, and I even got a sneak peek at the new light rail being tested!



After grabbing some Subway from around the corner and relaxing for a bit (still mildly panicking), it was time to get ready.  So I had a shower, took a deep breath, then headed off to meet the crew!  At the pub of course…

And on the way there, I stopped to look out towards the city, over the Royal Randwick Racecourse.



The Uni grounds are enormous so I had a little trouble finding it, but then I spotted the crew heading inside.

Among them – Pat the Shuffler, Belinda (Miss Balance), Serina (Joyful Frugalista), and Kurt from Pearler (who organised the whole thing!).  And Travis Shakespeare (the film’s director), who flew in from the US, joining us soon after.

We each had a drink or two and instantly found common-ground.  Like we share the same philosophy of life and were old friends catching up.

It was great chatting and hanging out with this group of like-minded and optimistic people.  But soon enough, it was showtime!  So we continued swapping stories as we wandered towards the Law Threatre.



Let’s just say, Kurt (the organiser) was well prepared!  There was an overstocked makeshift bar with a very busy attendant!  Everything was setup, the crowd slowly moved in, and folks mingled as we had another drink before the movie began (are you sensing a theme? lol).

My nerves were settling – not sure if it was the alcohol or the positive vibes… likely a bit of both!


Playing with FIRE – The Movie!

Now, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  The Financial Independence Retire Early Movement is not exactly an easy topic to cover.  There are a lot of moving parts, various motivations, and many questions to be answered.  But I really enjoyed it.  I think Travis and the team have done a great job.

The movie was definitely entertaining.  It was fascinating to see (the couple) Scott and Taylor’s journey, as they realigned their spending with their true values.  And the emotional aspect was captured really well.  Obviously, changing your habits and lifestyle is quite simple in theory, yet not as easy in practice.

As with any major life adjustments, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns.  And changing your relationship with money is a big task.  You’re essentially questioning the values you’ve held and decisions you’ve made up until this point.  That’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight!  It’s a steady ongoing shift that occurs over time.

The couple seeks out the advice of the best among the FIRE community in the US, to learn as much as they can and put the lessons into practice.  There are plenty of ups and downs along the way.  But Scott and Taylor end up with a very respectable savings rate and looking at freedom in only around a decade.

Overall, a good watch!  Then came the Q&A session.


FIREside Chat – Q&A Session with Aussie Finance Bloggers

Now I had nowhere to hide.  It was time.  I convinced Pat to grab one last drink with me for courage (so I wasn’t the only one with a drink on stage!) and we got settled in our chairs.  This was roughly our view, but imagine those seats filled with more than 250 people looking at you! (Gulp!)



Still quietly freaking out a little at this point.  And then… Kurt got us started!  The Q&A was scheduled to go for around 30 minutes.  But it ended up going for 2 hours!

The crowd was fantastically engaged and asked tons of great questions.  And you’re in luck, because the whole thing was recorded!

Check it out below – I’m sure you guys are gonna love it!  Also, individual topics have now been split into separate mini-clips which you can find on this page!  (sorry about the first 10 seconds of background noise)



Event Afterthoughts

This was one of the biggest screenings globally so far and Travis seemed genuinely pleased with the turnout and amazed by the level of enquiries he’s had from Australia.  That shows you the growing and passionate FIRE movement we have here!

On a personal note, I’m proud of stepping outside my comfort zone and forcing myself to do something that was incredibly scary for me personally.

But I realised something unfortunate.  The perfect answer to questions comes to you the next day when you’ve had time to think about it.  But when you’re on the spot, with a couple hundred folks looking at you, it’s not so easy to come up with the goods!

Together as a panel I think we did a pretty good job, and provided plenty of food for thought.  Here’s a photo of the team (sadly Serina is missing – she had already left).


Left to right: Kurt (Pearler), Travis (PWF Director), Miss Balance, Myself, Pat the Shuffler.

Thanks to everyone for their support.  For everyone who came on the night.  To Travis and the team for making the film.  And to Kurt for organising the event.

Thanks to Miss Balance for her behind the scenes encouragement.  And to Serina for spreading the word through her Money magazine article, and being a great panel member – volunteering to go first while most of us were still trying to find an answer.  And to Pat for saving me when I went blank and forgot the term ‘positive skew’!  (if you’re curious, I wrote about positive skew in this post)

It was so great to meet everyone – I really enjoyed it!  And turns out that spare underwear wasn’t needed in the end 😉


The Day After

Still on a high from the event, the next morning I sat down with Kurt for some caffeine at a nearby cafe.  Side note: the cafe culture is so pronounced in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, even on weekdays, I wonder if anyone has time for work!


We had a great discussion about the event and all things FI, including the mindset and attitudes behind people’s desire for Financial Independence.  In fact, he surveyed the crowd before the event, which showed an overwhelming majority stating ‘freedom’ as their main reason for pursuing FI.

Then, I had to go check-out of my apartment and head to the airport soon after.  Bye-bye Sydney.  I’ll be back someday!



By the way, Kurt (and Pearler) are working on a stockbroking platform aimed at making investing as easy as possible for the FIRE community.

Costs will be similar to Selfwealth and there’ll be a built-in FI calculator and even an option for automatic direct debit investing in ETFs and LICs (that could be a game changer in my view).  Pearler is expecting to take its first customers later this year.  I’ll keep you guys posted.


Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this post and that you get lots of value from the Q&A session.  If nothing else, I’m sure sharing my internal terror about speaking and being in front of a big crowd has amused you!

Personally it was great to meet folks in person that I’ve known online for quite some time.  And to do something scary that I can be proud of.

It’s important to remember that facing a fear we have rarely turns into the worst nightmare we envision!  Instead, it leaves us with a sense of accomplishment and a realisation that we are capable of more than we think.

I understand the movie is going to be publicly released in the near future on content platforms such as iTunes and Vimeo.  That makes it easily accessible for so many people, which is fantastic.  I’m sure it’ll be popular!

Finally, it’s great to see the FIRE spreading, as we bring an increasing number of people along for the ride, in the quest for financial freedom and a more grounded, sustainable and happier way of life.

Now over to you – what’s the main reason behind your desire for Financial Independence?  Please share with me below in the comments…


35 Replies to “Facing My Biggest Fear… And Special Content For You!”

  1. Thanks very much for the report back SMA! That was an excellent read!

    I am sorry I wasn’t there, but reading (and watching) that made me feel like I could capture a bit of it. It’s great to see the community building in such a supportive and grass-roots way!

    Maybe a Perth Playing with Fire session sometime? 🙂

    1. Cheers mate, glad you enjoyed it! Yeah it’s definitely good to see some real life gatherings/events taking place which can only serve to spread the message further.
      I don’t think there’s going to be any more events before the doco goes public, but I’d be happy to go along to a Perth event.

  2. Hey Dave – sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you. We live in Coogee, just a stroll to Randwick from our place. Next time I hope. Good on ya for getting up in front of the crowd. It’s like anything else: the more of it you do, the better you get and the less you care about nerves and you have fun instead.

    Cheers – Scott

    1. ” an over-stocked makeshift bar with a very busy attendant.” Hahahaha!! I love it Dave. Sounds like my kind of event ???????? Wish I could have made it. Maybe next time…

      1. Dave,
        I thought you did a fantastic job in your answers in the q&a. You were authentic, thoughtful and genuine and I had no idea you were nervous. You looked relaxed and were knowledgeable against some very challenging questions. Congratulations!!

      2. Haha it was certainly well catered and created a relaxed atmosphere! That’s the whole vibe of FI in the end, doing things however you like 😉

    2. Nice area Scott! We used to own a unit in Bondi actually (fun fact). Thanks for the support mate! Hopefully next time I do something like that it’s a little less daunting 🙂

  3. Hi Dave,

    Your story is so interesting and inspiring that cannot be kept secret, I hope this experience takes you to speak in front of many people, I’m convinced that many people have a lot to learn from you.

    I didn’t notice you being nervous. I can give you tips for next time 😉

    Cheers Alex

    1. Cheers for the kind words Alex! Good to see I fooled everyone about the nerves 😉

      Feel free to email any tips through my contact page – advice welcome!

  4. Hey Dave, I was there and you did a great job in the Q and A session. Good to put a face to a name. I am one of those people just getting started and it was great to see so many young people there just starting out as well. I got a lot out of the night, so thank you!

    1. Hey thanks for coming Dominic, and for your support! Great to hear you got value from it. And totally agree with you – it’s awesome to see so many newbies like yourself joining the FI scene 🙂

    1. Oh that’s a shame, I would’ve liked to watch that! Was there similar audience questions, or different?

  5. Hi Dave, I attended and it was a great event although I had to leave about 90 minutes into the Q&A as it was getting late (yep, still employed…). The movie was excellent, as was the panel discussion – the answers to the questions showed immense depth on the panel. Whilst is was great to put faces to names, it reinforced just how much thought goes into your posts, not to mention the effort (2 days to draft, edit & publish a post!). It was amusing to see Travis’ surprise at the dividend yield of the ASX200 (albeit at the expense of growth compared to the US markets). My thanks go to the organisers and panel members. Congratulations to all involved.

    1. Thanks JD! Haha yeah it was getting late – I can’t believe people stayed that long, since they would’ve had to work and probably not even had dinner!
      I’m sure it doesn’t have to take 2 days, but I’m a slow writer and tend to fluff around editing a lot lol. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for coming.

    1. Haha I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened. Might take about 5-10 yrs, but it’ll come!

  6. You did a great job Dave, you wouldn’t have known you were so nervous without reading your post prior to the show. You came across as knowledgable and self assured. I think very much you seemed in person how you come across on your blog. So it gave your writing a great sense of genuineness and honesty.

    I thought the rest of the panel also did a great job and the discussion was fantastic. There was a definite sense of like mindedness through the whole room. I think once you see FIRE you just can’t unseen it.

    Well done conquering your fears and it was great to meet you too.

    1. “Once you see FIRE you just can’t unsee it.” – this is such a great line. Do you mind if I quote you at some point in time SJ?

      And thank you for coming along!

    2. Thanks SJ, I really appreciate that! And thanks for coming to say hello 🙂

      It’s great to get feedback like that mate, very encouraging. The whole event was a winner I think, we had some excellent questions!

      I also love that line… once you see FIRE you can’t unsee it – very true!

  7. Loved the movie and the Q & A and to put a face to your blogs, you looked and sounded very relaxed so well done for facing your fear and doing it anyway. I brought my son who really enjoyed it too and hopefully it will give him a good grounding and motivation to get ahead because currently he’s spending all he earns!

    Look forward to reaching out next year when we’re over your way for a coffee/beer, your posts on converting property to shares to retire earlier finally won my partner (another Dave) over and he realised through reading your story how similar it was to ours, and that we don’t have to keep going but can retire at our leisure so thank you.

    1. Thanks very much! And well done for bringing your son along – best parent ever!! Great to show him another path in life than the standard work/spend treadmill.

      That’s excellent, great to hear the posts helped. Sadly I think there are lots of people in the same situation and aren’t sure what to do next. Hopefully those posts get shared with people who need to see it! Look forward to hearing from you 🙂

  8. Was great to have you here for the event Dave. Thanks again for putting in the hard yards to get over here.
    I reckon having you, Pat, Travis, Belinda and Serina help haul in the drinks at the start added an extra level of authenticity to the show! ????

    1. No worries Kurt, thanks for supporting me and setting it up! Oh and letting us drink on stage 😉

      Haha people probably thought we were staff or something. Fantastic job on the catering by the way!

  9. I was looking for some reviews on the Sydney event, and this post is just what I’m looking for. Thank you.

    It is unfortunate that I missed this event. Maybe next time. I could get to meet like-minded people in the community. Kudos to the organizers and panel members.

    1. No worries! It was a great event, full of positive likeminded people, so definitely worth going if there’s something similar another time.

  10. Hi mate,

    I went to the evening and stayed up well past my bedtime for the Q&A!

    You did a fantastic job and spoke extremely well- i hope you’ve got the confidence now to do more events as i would love to see you speak again!

  11. Dear Dave, it was a pleasure to meet you, and the amount of questions from the audience directed at you and your experience is testimony to both what you have achieved, and your confidence in answering questions. Sorry I ran off at the end – recovering from a cold and needed to get home and get some rest!

    Looking forward to chatting with you soon.

    Best wishes,

    Serina aka The Joyful Frugalista

    1. Hey Serina, thanks! It was great meeting you too, you really kept the conversation going when some of us were lost for words 😉
      Take care and talk to you soon!

  12. Good evening .
    Might l suggest the Fire community explain/push the idea the that an adoption of a Fire lifestyle would , and does , help the world to become much much greener than it is .
    Thanks , and take it NOT TOO easy !
    Best wishes , Ramon .

    1. Yes, good point Ramon. I haven’t written exclusively about that, but you’ll see plenty of snippets about things like this throughout the blog, including in my post on the FIRE philosophy (we understand and care about the impact our choices have on the world)

  13. I’ve watched the entire chat session video – some great content in there.
    Well done on going outside your comfort zone to pass on your knowledge and experience to others! I’m not sure I could’ve done it – public speaking terrifies me too. Glad you had some friends to support you! You didn’t really look or sound nervous at all.
    Hubby and I are going to watch the doco at some point too – looking forward to it! It sounds awesome.

    1. Haha thanks! It was definitely made easier by there being a few of us doing it and it also helped provide more viewpoints. Still scary though!

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