I remember I came across Financial Samurai’s ridiculous post on the ‘evils of early retirement‘ months ago, and dismissed it as a fluff piece meant to get a few page views. And I never bothered to go back because he just didn’t come off as a serious writer. But a guest post by Mr. Money Mustache had me perusing his site again recently.
With about half of the stuff Sam writes I find myself nodding along in agreement. The other half, I’m wondering what planet this guy is from.
On the one hand, he seems to agree that financial independence and early retirement are great goals worthy of anyone’s ambition. But on the other hand he seems to think life is not worth living unless you notch plenty of impressive achievements into your belt through hard work and dedication. This translates into, “retiring at 45 is ok, but retiring at 30 is ridiculous.” In my own mind, there is a massive inconsistency here.
He seems to think that, for life to be well-lived, it has to include some kind of one-time business success, before you can then happily retire to a life of hanging out on cruise ships. If you embark on the life of leisure without the previous success, then you’re throwing away your potential and are ‘giving up’ when you should be striving to achieve.
But where does that idea come from? It seems utterly foreign to me.
And then I discovered, what I think is, the core difference in our worldviews on his about page. Where he writes prominently, “‘Progress’ is my one word definition of happiness.”
Ahh! Well, on that count, we could not be further apart.
The desire to progress, to achieve, to change, in my mind, can only come from unhappiness. Discontent with your current position is what drives someone to take action to change their position. After all, if one was happy with his position and place, he wouldn’t have any need to try to alter it.
Progress is not a blanket good, but just a remedy for dissatisfaction.
Now, sure, I don’t sit still in a room all day contemplating the universe. In fact, I work at making progress in my own life. I make progress towards my financial status, my social status, and my understanding of the world. But I don’t do that because progress is an inherent good. I do it because security, community and knowledge are inherent goods. This relatively small amount of progress I work at is an indication of my dissatisfaction with my current state. The more progress someone feels they have to make, the greater their level of dissatisfaction.
When I think of “progress” I don’t think of happiness, quite the opposite. I think of dissatisfaction.
The end result of progress is valuable, but the progress itself is not. If I could snap my fingers and achieve my goals without having had to do any work, I would have more happiness, not less.
Happiness to me manifests itself in stillness, contemplation, fellowship and gratitude. A happy man doesn’t go in search of a challenge, or to satisfy his ego with accomplishments. He sits untroubled, unhurried, enjoying his pure existence and consciousness itself.
The ultimate achievement would be to progress to where you no longer feel any need to progress.