Remote Work: Patrick Schulte Of Wanderer Financial On How To Successfully Navigate The Opportunities & Challenges Of Working Remotely Or From Home
An Interview With David Liu
Motivation. If you weren’t a self-starter before, then having the motivation to get to work when there aren’t co-workers around you is going to be tough.
Career development is the ongoing process of choosing, improving, developing, and advancing your career. This involves learning, making decisions, collaboration with others and knowing yourself well enough to be able to continually assess your strengths and weaknesses. This can be challenging enough when you work in an office, but what if you work remotely? How does remote work affect your career development? How do you nurture and advance your career when you are working from home and away from other colleagues? How can you help your employees do this? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “How To Advance and Enhance Your Career When You Are Working Remotely”. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pat Schulte.
Pat Schulte began his career as a commodities trading pit reporter at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. Showing great promise, he was moved to the trading floor, where, as head clerk, then broker, he was taken under the wing of a small group of successful traders who would soon become his mentors. With little to his name, he sold his car and deposited the entire $5,000 into a trading account…thankfully he never looked back, and never required another deposit. Two years later he moved to Chicago to trade in the Soybean Options pit. He stood shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other pit traders, managed his risk, and within just a couple of years had made enough profit to flee the 9–5 for good.
In search of a life of freedom and adventure, Pat spent the next 4 years sailing around the world aboard a 35-foot catamaran named Bumfuzzle. But his adventures didn’t stop there. Soon after circumnavigating the globe by boat, he drove around most of it in a VW bus, before entering, and ultimately winning, a race across America his vintage Porsche. Ready to ‘settle down’, he and his wife Ali had two children in Mexico aboard their second boat, before loading them into a vintage motorhome and travelling the world extensively once more. In 2017, the family returned to Caribbean waters, this time aboard a trawler. Pat has now been trading for a living for over twenty years. Having successfully supported his adventurous lifestyle through the trading of stocks, he and his business partner Lorin now teach others how they too can live the Wanderer Financial lifestyle.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
Around the age of sixteen, I noticed the guys on the nightly news recap of the stock market and instantly knew that was what I wanted to do. I focused on economics and finance in college, and after graduating took a foot-in-the-door job at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, where I lived at the time. Within just a couple of years, I was trading my own account and doing pretty well, so I took the next step and moved to Chicago where I traded agricultural options at the Chicago Board of Trade.
My wife and I lived downtown, enjoyed life in the city, were financially successful, and yet we still began to feel like there must be more to life. We were only 28, were we really going to do this for another 30 years? To what end?
We both decided we needed an adventure. Something completely crazy and unexpected. Something we could tell our kids and grandkids about someday. There are only so many adventures that meet that description, and we quickly zeroed in on one of the biggest of all — sailing around the world. We had never been on a sailboat before, but dreams of conquering the world’s wildest oceans to sip tropical drinks on pristine beaches sounded amazing. We went for it — sold everything we owned, bought a 35’ catamaran, and took off.
Our plan had been to sail around the world then return to our lives in Chicago, but two years in, while traveling throughout Italy, we decided we never wanted to go back to living a traditional life. Our goal shifted from a one-off adventure to a life of adventure. We completed our circumnavigation after four years and immediately took off in search of more.
We raced a 1965 Porsche across the U.S. and won. We moved into a 1958 VW bus and drove it from Alaska to Argentina, then all over Europe. We traveled across the Atlantic aboard a cargo ship. We showed up in Mexico seven months pregnant with no idea where we were headed. Had babies down there, and raised them on a sailboat in the Sea of Cortez. We drove all over the United States and Mexico in a vintage motorhome we’d restored. And for the past five years we have cruised all over the Caribbean as a family in our Grand Banks trawler. Twenty years in and we’re still not sure we’ll ever have enough time to do all the things we want to do.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
As a trader, I started out at the rather small Minneapolis Grain Exchange. After moving to Chicago, I had to establish myself all over again. If Minneapolis was the minor league, Chicago was definitely the big league. I showed up at the CBOT where there were hundreds, if not thousands of traders like me. The soybean option pit I had decided to trade in was stuffed shoulder-to-shoulder with guys yelling and screaming at each other all day long. It was exactly what I’d expected, but overwhelming just the same. I stood around the outside of the pit my first day, finding reasons to do anything other than dive in. But on day two I mustered up the courage, showed up early, found a small space that didn’t seem to be occupied, and waited for the opening bell.
Shortly after the open, the biggest broker in the pit yelled out for a quote. I scanned my sheet and yelled out, “quarter bid!” But I was slow, and my quarter bid came a split second after the other traders around me had yelled out, “Eighth!” I was the high bid, which was fine, but when the broker looked at me you could almost see the mischievous gleam in his eye. “Two hundred!” he screamed in my face. This was a big trade. Way more than I would have wanted to trade. But in that instant, I knew it was a test. Go big or go home. I could tell him I only wanted twenty, and he would then have to look elsewhere to fill the other 180 contracts, but if I did that, I would guarantee my position on the bottom of his list of traders to look to.
Without a word, I looked at my trading card and began scratching out the trade — 200. Nothing else was said. I spent the rest of the day working to hedge that position, but from that day forward I was always in the mix with the top traders in the pit, and that broker never hesitated to look to me when he needed to get a trade done.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I began trading in Chicago, I hired a clerk to stand in the bottom of the pit and relay orders to the futures pit for me. As an options trader, we would often make a big option trade then immediately hedge that position with futures. One day the market was going crazy, I made a big trade to buy a bunch of call options, then turned to my clerk and yelled out for him to buy 100 futures contracts, then I kept trading. A few minutes later he collected my trading cards and started tallying up my current position, which was the other part of his job. He looked up at me with his eyes as big as saucers, and because it was still hectic and loud he screamed at me, “You said BUY 100, not SELL!”
The correct hedge for buying call options is to sell futures, yet in the heat of the moment, I’d told him the opposite. Within a split-second, we both realized how lucky I’d been. The futures had rallied a penny, meaning the mistake was $5,000 in my favor. We quickly reversed the position to get squared away and booked the profit.
I learned a couple of lessons from that error. One, always double-check your work. Buying instead of selling, or mistakenly trading puts instead of calls, are the most common beginner’s mistakes I see in trading. Just slowing down for a second can eliminate a lot of errors.
Two, most importantly, always hire and surround yourself with smart, competent people.
Three, when those people do something great, reward them. Catching that mistake ended with a fat cash bonus for my clerk the next day, and that reward also ensured that he would continue to be eagle-eyed for ways to help me out in the future.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
Remember that you are working to live, not living to work. That goes for both you and your employees. Having the correct balance will make everyone do better. Give employees time off, consider a four-day week, and do the same for yourself. We all love a three-day weekend.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?
To me, working remotely means having the ability to not just choose my work environment, but to choose my life’s environment. I live and work from my boat, so the benefits of remote work are immediate and obvious. All I have to do is lift my eyes from my computer screen and look out the windows in every direction. I’m an American tapping away at a keyboard while looking out at the crystal blue waters of Aruba. In a few weeks, I may be in Panama. In a few months, Costa Rica.
A big benefit for my entire family is how much time we spend outdoors. Because we aren’t spending the bulk of the day at a desk in an office or school we are free to jump in the water, or take a walk on the beach, or simply sit outdoors and enjoy the fresh air. It’s a much healthier lifestyle than just about any other we would likely be living if not for this opportunity.
Raising my children. That’s a huge benefit to me. Because of remote work I am able to be home, and for our family, that means keeping our kids out of traditional schools. The benefits to them of homeschool/unschool/boatschool (whatever term is being used at the moment) is a by-product of my ability to work from anywhere.
In general, I live a lower stress life. I don’t wake up to a clock. I don’t have to rush kids out the door to the school bus. I don’t have to commute to an office. I don’t have to deal with the distraction of co-workers popping their head in for a chat.
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
Motivation. If you weren’t a self-starter before, then having the motivation to get to work when there aren’t co-workers around you is going to be tough.
Internet connectivity, even in this day and age, remains a problem. The true digital nomad will struggle at times to be online when they are expected to be.
Time zones. Being remote, you might not even be in the same time zone, or even the same day for that matter, as co-workers or customers.
Lack of social interaction. I’ve got my family, so that helps, but for many people, remote work can be extremely isolating.
Believe it or not, overwork. It’s harder to set boundaries for your time when you are at home, versus the set schedule of an office environment.
Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?
I enjoy my work, so motivation isn’t too hard, but there are plenty of times I could easily be convinced to do something more fun. Sometimes I find it’s best to set a clear goal for myself. Something that, once finished, I’ll be free to take a break and go do that fun thing.
I always travel with at least two different wireless carriers. I’ve found Google Fi to be a quite useful addition to a country’s local carrier.
Being a trader, I am very much tied to New York time, which is rarely the time zone I’m actually in. This can actually be a good thing. I prefer to work earlier in the morning and have my afternoons free. To accomplish this I will often choose where I want to travel/live based in large part on the time zone there.
My business has a daily live chat for our subscribers. We check-in from all over the world, sharing pictures, stories about our day, and also, of course, discussing the stock market.
While working remotely frees you up to work when you choose throughout the day, that can also lead quickly to working too much. Find a way to track the hours you’ve logged, and set a limit.
Do you have any suggestions specifically for people who work at home? What are a few ways to be most productive when you work at home?
Routine. My wife and I start our morning out on the top deck of our boat overlooking the world around us while having coffee. No kids, no distractions. We talk about life, our day ahead, and who needs to do what in order to get everything done. With the day’s expectations set we can dive straight into the workday.
Consider hiring an assistant. If you find that you have trouble juggling all the balls that are in the air, like keeping track of deadlines, what needs to be done next to keep a project moving forward, or even just getting out a quick reply to a simple customer email, an assistant might be what you need. I’m lucky, my wife is a detail-oriented person who is infinitely more organized than both my business partner and I. She is on the payroll and handles a myriad of miscellaneous things that need to be done in the background so that we can focus on the work that we do best. For some people, having an assistant — even if that means a remote assistant — can cost far less than he/she is worth to you in terms of increased focus and productivity.
Noise-cancelling headphones. My family knows that when the headphones go on that means life on the boat just got too rambunctious for me. Headphones on, I’m in the work zone.
Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?
I’m not a phone or e-mail guy, so Slack chats for our team have become de facto. Having everyone set their notification schedule is a good way to create boundaries. While Slack can be good for quick communication, it can lead to constant interruption. Overcommunication can be problematic, too. You want individuals to be able to make decisions and move on. Waiting for approval of a Slack message can be frustrating and grind everything to a halt. Be clear about what decisions need to pass through someone else, and what can be made on the fly.
What do you suggest can be done to create an empowering work culture and team culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?
Identify what you want your culture to be, from the outset. My business is about financially empowering people to get out and lead an adventurous life. Everyone at Wanderer should reflect that. When we are all of the same mindset, striving for the same goals, it is much easier to move forward together.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would encourage everyone to achieve at least one major bucket list goal as early on in life as possible.
I’ve always been a big believer in pretiring. The idea is that you don’t have to work from 18–65 non-stop. I believe people would be happier, healthier, and more productive if they could achieve some of their bucket list items as they go through their adult years. Not the little bucket list items, but the big ones. Sail around the world, bicycle across Europe, thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, live in Paris, or whatever the individual case may be. I think these are the things that people should be working towards repeatedly throughout their lives.
Somehow, we’ve been taught to focus on achieving happiness only at retirement, while ignoring, or at least not giving enough attention to, our happiness during our earlier adult lives. It’s my contention that achieving those goals earlier and more often will lead to a more fulfilling and happy life later on.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
I had this one hanging up on my boat as I sailed around the world, and over time I’ve been able to use it as a reminder in many different situations. It not only reminds me to be the bold chance taker, but also to avoid being the critic.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I run www.wandererfinancial.com which has become a gathering place for hundreds of world travelers and digital nomads. At Wanderer Financial, we take the mystery out of trading so you can make better investment decisions on the path to financial and location independence.
I’ve also been blogging about my travels from the very beginning back in 2003. If you want to see what living and working on the high seas or the roads of the world is like, you can check me out at www.bumfuzzle.com.
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.