“For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
The path to financial independence and early retirement is long, sometimes boring, and requires sacrifice along the way. How do you stay the course? How do you stay motivated?
By focusing on the why.
Why do I want to retire early?
I briefly touch upon the answer to this question on the About Us page of this blog. My why is closely tied to the answer to the question “What will it take for me to not be filled with regret when I lie on my deathbed?”
If I can answer yes to these three questions, I believe that I will be able to die happy, or at least as happy as it is possible to be given that one is actually dying.
- Did I love well and was I well loved?
- Did I explore the Earth, this big beautiful ball spinning through space that I am so lucky to call my home, for an ever so brief moment in time?
- Did I create?
I could achieve my first goal without retiring early. I could even at least partially achieve the second goal. I may not explore as much as I would like, but I could make decent progress, possibly enough to stave off regrets.
That leaves number 3: Creation.
The need to create is what drives me to FIRE (Financial independence/Retiring Early).
What do I want to create?
I don’t know, but I really want to find out.
Maybe I’ll write a book. Maybe I’ll paint. (I: Hahahahaha. Me: What? I: Nothing *looks pointedly at my ten thumbs*). Maybe I’ll write some music (I: Stop. You’re killing me here). Maybe I’ll program an idea to life.
I don’t know.
Here is what I do know. Creating, inventing, discovering and building things is what makes us human. Creativity is what makes it fun to be human. I have a void inside me that can only be filled by creating something. I want to experience the feeling of grappling with ephemeral, squirmy as an eel, chaotic nothingness and forcing it, cajoling it into being. I want there to be something where nothing was before, and I want to be the reason it exists.
Before I die, I need to be able to point to something other than Toddler BITA with pride and say “I made that”.
Right now, all I have are desires and excuses. Early retirement is my way of getting rid of the excuses.
What does Early Retirement have to do with Creativity?
“Stress is a well-known creativity killer”, says psychologist Robert Epstein, PhD. “Time constraints are another”, he says.
When I was a child, I spent a large chunk of time reading. And if I wasn’t reading, I made up stories. My favourite thing to do was to walk around in large circles, gesticulating and making up a story (and on one special occasion, looking up from my circular meandering to see at least a score of people watching me. I had been muttering and waving my hands, oblivious of my growing audience for more than half an hour. I was eight. Yes, this is a trauma memory, thank you for asking). It took zero effort to create worlds. For better or worse my younger sibling was brought up on a diet of stories regurgitated by my imagination. I was happiest when I was telling stories and I never intended to stop.
Yet stop I did. I grew up and did what every good middle class Indian child strove to do at the time – become either a doctor or an engineer. I chose the latter. I now work fifty to sixty hour weeks. I’ve worked longer hours in the past, when I was at a startup or when a release was this close to going out the door. And I have the kind of job that allows me, encourages me, to keep thinking about the problems I’m trying to solve even when I’m not actually situated in front of a computer. I also have a toddler to care for and have fun with. I enjoy spending time with my husband. And then there is all the rest of adulting to deal with – dishes, laundry, food, cleaning, bills – all the mind-numbing repetitive tasks that scream “I’m a successful adult”.
There are those out there who do what I do, and then Lean In (not an affiliate link) for more. I am made of less stern stuff.
As I limp towards another long awaited weekend, I have neither the energy nor the inclination to create anything except m
aybe a dinner. Maybe. I have the energy and inclination to lie on the couch and watch some Netflix, and slowly vegetate. Your willpower is like a muscle. I start every day with willpower akin to Popeye’s biceps after a good can of spinach and at the end of the day all that is left of my willpower muscle is a limp noodle. I contend that if Michelangelo needed to do the dishes and fold some laundry after having attended three remarkably pointless meetings and struggled through a specification review, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would be strikingly bare.
I want to retire early. I need to retire early. I want to find out if my creative muscles have atrophied after all these years, or if I can nurse them back to life and strength. I want to create, and explore and love, or die trying.
I need to be a dolphin, mucking about in the water. Who knows what will come of that? Something good, I bet. Something worth having. And if I’m really, really lucky, maybe a worthwhile legacy.
This is my why.
What is yours?