Many of us dream of retiring early and living a life where we are not dependent on anyone financially. In fact, there is a movement dedicated to this very cause: FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) is dedicated to a program of extreme savings and investment that allows proponents to retire far earlier than traditional budgets and retirement plans would allow. They envision a situation of complete financial self-sufficiency where they do not rely on a boss/master/institution to pay a monthly check. In theory, they could spend the next year, five years, ten years, or twenty years fishing, playing golf, surfing, hiking through the Himalayas, smoking pot, or traveling around the world on a motorcycle – and they would have a sufficient flow of income to fund their activities. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Not so quick.
Financial freedom does not mean retirement. It means that you are free to choose the things you want to do. It means being active, following your passions, and filling your time with meaningful and enriching activities, In order to understand the importance of remaining active, you need to consider four reasons why a passive life can potentially be a death sentence.
1) The Brain is Not Good at Long Lapses of Idleness
You have finished writing that bestselling novel, sold your business, or been laid off with a massive golden parachute. The reality is that when these things happen, instead of being filled with excitement and anticipation, supreme unease tends to descend upon us. Why is it that we feel so flat, disoriented, and perhaps a little tearful? The human mind works in uneasy and unusual ways. We believe that once the work is done and the goal is reached, we will be content and the mind will cease its restless and persecutory questions. The problem is that our minds are not good at honoring these promises. The brain can handle lapses of relaxation and idleness for maybe a day or two, and then it will resume its worries, questions and will force us to account for ourselves. It will question whether we are worthy or not.
2) Humans are Mobile Creatures
As humans, we need to know where we are going. We do not experience any positive emotion unless we have an aim and we are making progress towards that aim. It is not so much the attainment of the goal that is satisfying, it is the process and journey towards the summit.
3) Humans are Not Adapted for Security and Utopia
If you leave people free to pursue pleasure and self-gratification, soon they will start smashing things up to give themselves something interesting to do. Sure we like a degree of security, but we also want a foot in something with a hint of uncertainty.
4) But I will travel the world, work on my golf game, master the guitar
Travel is great. Vacations are great, but the reason they are great is that they are rare and infrequent, This scarcity and novelty make the experience fresh and exciting. The logistics of travel and vacations are less exciting, but we overlook them for the abovementioned reasons, This all sounds fantastic. We see pictures of idyllic and exotic locations, and quickly romanticize how fulfilling such an experience would be. Consider, however, the realities: being forced into a confined space within a pressurised cabin for 12 hours, watching the backside of the taxi driver's bald head, the cracked wall of the cheap hotel, and the faded picture of Marilyn Monroe in the bathroom of the local restaurant. If this becomes a large part of your life, your level of frustration will soon escalate. As for golf and playing the guitar, do that every day for a week and you will be bouncing off the walls.
Financial freedom does not mean you should retire early, or retire at all! Here are a few things you can do to meaningfully fill your days: 1) Help Others
There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” For centuries, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found in helping others.
Here are four reasons why you should consider incorporating a culture of helping others into your life :
1. Experience More Pleasure – the Bible says that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
2. Help Others in Need – there is no lack of people in need in this world.
3. Bring More Meaning to Your Life – there is more to life than working and paying bills.
4. Promote Generosity in Your Children - reinforcing positive traits in your kids is always good.
2) Start a Small Business - and Discover More About Yourself in the Process
A small business is an amazing way to serve and leave an impact on the world you live in. Small businesses are the backbone of any economy. Most people start their exodus into entrepreneurship by analyzing the market to see what is out there. They then do one of two things – they either look for gaps they can fill with new ideas or they look at old businesses and find a way to improve them. Both are valid starting points, but I would propose that there is a better starting point. Instead of looking outwards, look inwards. Find what makes you unhappy, anxious, and frustrated – and then find a way to alleviate these maladies.
Jeff Bezos says you should start with the customer and work backward. You need to understand the needs and desires of the user and ensure that your product or service meets that. Many entrepreneurs start with the product or service and then work to deliver that to the market. Recall the scene in Cinderella when the ugly sisters are trying to force the glass slipper onto their fat feet. That business strategy is not going to cut it in the 21st century. You need to spend time profiling your potential customers and you need to be ultra-specific. What better place to start than the person you have known your entire life – YOURSELF.
Once you have set this up, you need to find someone great to run the business. Remember that this business is something to keep you busy and engaged - you do not set it up to overwhelm your life. You want to have the flexibility to pursue your other interests (which may or may not involve limited travel, golf, and guitar playing).
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