4 min read
There are some things I do exclusively for money like tutoring people in stats and reporting to my day job as a data scientist. I know that money motivates me in these two areas because if I was a millionaire I would probably stop tutoring and I would definitely quit my day job.
But there are a few things I wouldn’t stop doing even if I was a millionaire like blogging, playing basketball, lifting weights, reading books, creating websites, and hosting pizza parties at my apartment. I would keep doing these things purely because they bring me joy.
The things that bring me joy might not be the same things that bring you joy. In fact, the things that bring me joy might even look dumb or meaningless to you. It’s also possible that the things that bring me joy might even look like “work” to you! But that’s okay because the things that bring me joy only need to make sense to me, not you.
This is an important realization that took a long time to sink in for me.
Contrary to what most people might think, I don’t write on this blog every day to maximize my blogging income; I write because it genuinely makes me happy each morning. I don’t drag myself to my laptop, I (metaphorically) sprint to it because I’m excited to write a post and share it.
To most people, blogging might appear to be a lot of work. To me, it’s simply fun. Whether or not anyone else thinks it looks fun doesn’t matter at all.
You Don’t Have to Appear Productive
I read a lot of posts from financial bloggers who seem worried about justifying their decision to pursue financial independence and quit their day job to their family, friends, or coworkers. They also seem concerned that they need to fill their time post-F.I. doing activities that appear “productive” to others.
Luckily, you don’t have to do that! If you want to retire at age 35 and spend six hours a day making origami art, you can do that. If you want to spend your time creating websites, working on a blog, mountain biking, starting a nonprofit, making paintings, starting a podcast, or any other activity, you don’t have to justify your reason for doing so. If it brings you joy, just do it!
As author Cheryl Strayed once said:
“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score.
Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.
You have to pay your electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.”
You shouldn’t have to worry about explaining why certain things bring you joy to your coworker Greg who thinks early retirement is dumb and who spends his time in a cubicle doing work he hates but that society deems as a completely normal and acceptable way to spend his time.
You Don’t Have to Justify What Brings You Joy
As a kid, it was completely acceptable for me to play basketball in my driveway by myself and pretend that I was playing against imaginary NBA players. I didn’t have to explain to anyone why I found this to be so fun.
Once I grew up and entered high school, this changed. I had to justify to teachers and other adults why I wanted to study a certain field in college and why I wanted to pursue a certain career path. I had to suddenly have a reason for why I wanted to do certain things in life that made sense to others.
Unfortunately, for most people, this feeling that they need to justify their reason for doing certain things carries on for most of their life. They feel that they need to explain to others why they’re taking a certain job, buying a certain house, living in a certain neighborhood, starting a certain business, etc.
But the truth is, you’re allowed to pursue a certain path in life even if it doesn’t seem to make sense to anyone else.
Joy is Unique
Some professional bodybuilders spend four to five hours each day in the gym training for competitions. To most people, this seems ridiculous. But to them, it makes complete sense. It brings them joy!
Chiako Yamamoto has dedicated her life to watering, pruning, and shaping bonsai plants. Why does she does this? Because it brings her joy and she finds it meaningful!
Why was Eddie Hall so obsessed with setting the world record for the dead lift? Because it was important to him and it made him happy!
Why does the world’s oldest billionaire continue to go to work every day? Why did Jack Lalanne lift weights regularly even in his 90s? Why does Jiro Ono keep working at his sushi restaurant even in his 90s? Why does Warren Buffet keep working at age 88? Why does Betty White keep starring in movies at age 96?
Because these people find joy in the things they do! They don’t have to justify why they like doing those things.
As physicist Richard Feyman once said:
“Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.”
If you love some activity, just do it! Screw justifying why you do it.
Whether you are on the path to financial independence or have already achieved financial independence, you don’t have to justify how you’ll spend your time once you no longer have a traditional day job. Simply fill your time with activities that bring you joy and let people think whatever they want.
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13 Replies to “The Things That Bring Me Joy Only Need to Make Sense to Me, Not You”
Such a great post, Zach. Not only are you enriching the lives of others with your blog, but you are honing your thought process for living. The tracks you are laying go both ways: behind you for others to follow, and forward into your own future. #truth
I really appreciate the kind words, Lin!
Love this advice! I tell this to anyone who’s at a crossroads that asks me what I think they should do next with their life. Just go out there and unapologetically do something that interests you. It’s the only true way to become passionate about something.
Agreed – the best way to find out what you should do next is to simply TRY a bunch of different things. The more you try, the more you’ll learn what interests you.
Preach! Completely agree. I started giving up on trying to justify my actions when people stopped liking my answers. “Why did you pick that major?” Because I like watching films and this is the only one that takes those credits. “Why did you pick your field?” Because it seemed bareable and lets me wear jeans and a t-shirt to work. Not what people were expecting. Oh well. Now I don’t even try. If I spend a whole Saturday reading in bed because that brings me immense joy and relaxation after a hard week I don’t try to justify it to anyone. I just be me. Thank you for your awesome insights as always!
So awesome to hear that you’ve reached a point where you no longer feel the need to justify all your actions to everyone around you! Also great to hear that someone out there enjoys reading in bed as much as myself. Thanks for the feedback 🙂
It really is odd how most people, probably all of us to be honest, feel a need to justify our choices and to look sideways at people whose choices are very different from our own. We just struggle to let other people be different and not let it rob our own joy. I’m sure there are a lot of deep behavioral psychology reasons for that. Maybe we fear that everyone else has a better plan that we do? Great post, it really caused me to think about why I do that myself. Great advice.
Thanks, Steve! Glad you found this article so helpful.
Heck yes. That self confidence thing is a powerful tool for happiness.
Self confidence and self awareness both make a huge difference!
Love it! Do what excites you.
Great post Zach!