It was 22 years ago last week, during the annual high school basketball County Tourney. I was a freshman in high school, trying to sit with the cool kids in the student section, with one eye on the basketball games and one eye on the cheerleaders. Back in middle school, I’d been on the basketball teams in 6th and 7th grades. But I didn’t get a lot of playing time, and my seat back in those days was at the far end of the bench. Partially obscured by the cheerleaders.
It was in middle school that I learned all the cheers. I can’t spell the word “aggressive” to this day without chanting “Be Aggressive, B-E Aggressive” to myself inside my own head. And I’d always had school spirit and a booming voice, so during that high school tournament, I was there all 4 nights, cheering on our girls and boys basketball teams, myself being louder than some of the other teams’ whole cheering sections.
At the conclusion of the tournament, the cheerleading coaches came up to me. Our school was a small farm school, so we definitely didn’t have a co-ed squad. I was perplexed, wondering why they wanted to talk to little ol’ freshman Josh. They would congratulate me on my enthusiasm and unbridled school spirit. They wanted me to be a part of the squad – as the school mascot!
I wound up accepting their offer and was the school mascot for basketball games during my Freshman, Sophomore and Junior seasons. The boys team would go on to play in the State Championship game during my Junior year, which meant I got to be on the floor of Conseco Fieldhouse, where the Indiana Pacers play! This, despite me being the tallest kid in the school. Our MASCOT was the same height as our starting Center! 😊
And so began a lifetime of being a superfan. Please don’t get me wrong, I do not put this out there to make anyone think I’m a “fanatic” about things. I try to be supportive, cheerful, and encouraging. I become known for being the guy who is always there to support my team, my friends.
I’ve written quite a bit about being a fan of the work from others in the personal finance and Financial Independence community. I’ve listened to every episode of ChooseFI, Afford Anything, Bigger Pockets Money, Fire Drill, The FI Show, and many other podcasts. And since these shows are hosted by some people I consider my friends, and they often interview other people that are my friends, I continue to listen to every one, each week.
I was a huge superfan of the Playing With FIRE documentary, traveling to screenings in San Diego, Atlanta, Tampa, Richmond Virginia, and caught another one during FinCon in Washington DC. I was a Kickstarter backer, listened to the audiobook, and read the accompanying paperback that Scott Rieckens signed for me at the San Diego premiere. I had a chance to talk with Scott and his wife Taylor after the showing in San Diego, at an after-party in Atlanta, saw Scott again in Richmond, and talked with them both at FinCon. I joined the FI community after the bulk of the film was recorded, but I like to think I am a part of the film since so many of my friends are shown in it!
And I have become a superfan for courses and conferences that my friends are involved with hosting. Even though I don’t need some of the introductory courses in investing and personal finance at this stage in my life, I am so incredibly happy to support my friends by buying a seat or a coaching slot and allowing them to give those to a stranger. They win, another person wins, and I get to have a huge smile on my face knowing I made a difference. I’ll never attend some of these conferences for women or minorities, but someone will get to go because I’ve supported the amazing friends who make these possible.
I did get to take advantage of being the superfan for FinCon 2019 in Washington DC. I’d signed up to volunteer for four 2-hour slots during FinCon in Orlando, but wound up working 8 of them. When FinCon organizers reached out about speakers, I thought maybe there was another way I could get involved, more along the lines of being Volunteer Coordinator, and that was exactly what they’d had in mind for me. This gave me an opportunity to get my ticket price refunded, have my lodging covered, and get paid for my time during the conference. And that, in turn, allowed me to give back even further – supporting the Plutus Foundation by sponsoring an award category, and being a VIP donor for the ChooseFI International Foundation kickoff event.
Most recently, I attended CampFI SE Week 2, near Gainesville Florida this past weekend. I’d attended the same weekend last year, and knew a couple people already from attending FinCon in Orlando (Brad Barrett, Jillian Johnsrud, Nick True, and had briefly met Chad Carson).
This time around, I knew almost half of the attendees, and even more of them knew me (or knew OF ME) which seems ridiculous to say out loud. 9 of us returned from CampFI SE Week 2 2019, 3 others came from the 30 attendees at Adventures to FI Retreat in Montana, plus friends from FinCon, personal finance Twitter, and local meetups in Florida. Being a superfan and supporting this community had made me a known commodity in the FI world. And I could not be more excited to continue to be a part of it.