My No Cell Phone Seattle Trip

My recent Seattle trip with limited phone usage:

I just finished a four day visit to Seattle, WA where I had lived and started my software career many years ago. The events during my four day trip included planned meetings and meals with friends and old colleagues. 

Social Experiment:

When I planned this trip months ago, I thought it would be a good idea to limit my cell phone use and attempt to improve my in person communications skills. I am not a crazy active cell phone user, but I am often on call for work, and I use my cell phone for conference calls all day. I only have one social media account- twitter(@financialsombr1), which I seldom use. Send me a message to see if it still works! 

No Phone or Laptop:

For four days straight I had conversations with many different Seattle contacts in person - most importantly, my cell phone was not in any way involved in these conversations, and I also left my laptops at home. 

No Social Media:

Think about it, how many times do people communicate without messaging, facebook, linkedin, twitter, Insta, etc? My guess would be that most people communicate primarily using social media. 


With the exception of one contact who kept chasing Pokemon's on his cell phone, and another friend who at my request recommended a podcast microphone on Amazon using her phone- all of the conversations were face to face, over meals and drinks. 

The Results:

Actual Sincerity: 

As a result of this cell phone limitation I had sincere, meaningful conversations with people I had never met, as well as with people who I see every year. All of the conversations were engaging, fun and without the usual fake, superficial dialogue I often experience. It seemed as though  everyone else was also involved in my social no-phone experiment without knowing it, or perhaps they saw that I wasn't reaching for my phone, and they wanted to join in. 

Face to Face (Not Facebook):

Imagine having a weekend of meetups with no one looking on their phones, their profiles, their recent profile and chat updates, etc. I found this behavior both contagious and incredibly positive, so I continued this behavior all weekend; It actually started to feel natural just speaking with people face to face without reaching for the phone.

Listening Skills:

I have read a few books on emotional intelligence, and I had wondered how I could listen more effectively and engage in better conversations. Listening is really easy to do when you sit directly across from someone at an event, restaurant or bar when you are away from home; Not so easy when you are sitting at home reading and sending email or social media messaging. I also assumed that starting conversations with people related to your core group is easier than starting conversations with strangers. 

This last thought proved to be wrong, as I found myself communicating with new people who were also visiting Seattle, unrelated to my planned visits. For instance, I had a great conversation up high in the space needle with a couple from the mid-west who were preparing to move to Seattle just as I had done years ago. I also had a great conversation with people on the plane ride home about personal finances. 

Plane Ride Home: 

On the plane ride home I talked to a very successful but overworked young woman who is killing it with a leading software company. Although, she hadn't yet put the pieces together between the importance of her time versus money. This personal finance discussion included my favorite book and podcast recommendations, including Jonathon and Brandon's website and podcasts- this is currently my favorite financial podcast. I then discussed three starter finance principles that should be followed by everyone: 

Three Key Personal Finance Steps:

(i) -Just as your CEO has a team closely monitoring the company's finances, you must put the same effort managing your own personal portfolio, as you are are the CEO of your money.

(ii) -Create your own spreadsheet that provides a forecast of your money using a simple compound interest formula for every savings/investment account you own. Rows in the sheet represent the the bank accounts, columns represent your age. Forecast your future value and understand your net worth out to your 99th year. See my spreadsheet article here: 

(iii)- Use personal capital, mint or other tools to keep track of your accounts, these tools can also pinpoint your exact net worth, which will help you make future buying decisions, job changes and eventually your retirement date. You can download the free personal capital app here:  

Post Plane Ride: 

After our really good conversation on Personal Finance and the benefits of monitoring and understanding your own net, the young woman one the plane next to me was very grateful for the advice I provided. She told me that I should start my own podcast and she even complimented me on my clear delivery of the personal finance benefits for her specifically. Lastly, she told me that she is now going to focus on thriving in 2020 by regularly reviewing her net worth and her own personal finances. 

Her enthusiastic response enforced my thought that I could help people by sharing my financial  story and steps I used to build and monitor my own wealth. I never thought offering advice to one person could result in such an impact for both parties involved. I never would have started a conversation with a stranger without the no cell phone weekend. As it turned out, we had worked for the same company in Seattle- small world indeed.


Could I recreate this last great weekend? I think this weekend just worked out perfectly, with all events being very fun, resulting in my battery getting recharged as I started a new week at work with a renewed sense of accomplishment. I'm not sure if I can recreate this type of trip, but I am certainly going to try, and I am specifically going to limit my cell phone use. Actually I need to reduce my cell phone use, as I recently reduced my cell phone plan from unlimited to 3 gigs of data. This week should be interesting.  


Financial Sombrero