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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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