Why I Need to Be A Dolphin

Why I want to Retire Early: To Create

“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.why do i want to retire early willpower is a muscle

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?


16 thoughts on “Why I Need to Be A Dolphin”

  1. I think creative muscles might atrophy a bit, but they’ll still be there whenever you go looking for them.

    I was worried that college destroyed my love of pleasure reading, but a few years later I’m back in the swing of things and I’ve already read 55 books this year!

    And this blog seems like a great outlet for your creativity already! I’m really digging your writing 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Ellie. 55 books! That sounds like the very definition of a fantastic year. I love reading and don’t get the chance to read anywhere as much as I’d like to, so colour me green.

  2. Sounds like a lot of the same reasons I quit my job. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I wanted the free time to be creative and find out. In the past few months I have learned a lot about myself and had opportunities to go on some really cool adventures and create a blog. There is still a lot I want to do, like some painting, and music as well – maybe not for the public.

    Don’t forget to enjoy the journey, FIRE will come quicker than you think 🙂

    Based on the title of this post, the first thing that came to my mind was this South Park episode 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJH5AR0CuRI

    1. Hahahhaha. I had forgotten all about that SouthPark episode.

      I can’t wait to be where you are (though a small part of me is also afraid. What if get there and then it turns out that I have not a single creative fiber in my being? Ugh). I hope you share your art and music with your friends in the blogosphere. I for one promise not to laugh (people who live in giant glass castles……….).

  3. Oh, I hear you! After many years of chaos and excessive hours of work, I’ve recently gotten my life calmed down enough that I was able to start up some creative projects, including starting a website and a volunteer project. If it reassures you at all, I’ve found that, while the technical portion of my creative abilities has declined, the idea generation portion has been amazing!

    When you get to FI, I bet you’ll be incredibly productive in whatever creative endeavor you take up 🙂

    1. That is indeed good to hear. Thank you for your supportive and positive feedback, and also for taking the time to read and comment.

  4. That dolphin quote is one of my favorites in that series. That’s what i love about Douglas Adams, he could phrase things in such a simple yet profound way.

    I have been fairly creative throughout life, but less so now that the kids are around. I think with them being a bit older and able to play on their own, it opens up some more free time to go back to woodworking type of creative, and even music playing. I play the banjo primarily, but can also strum guitar, mostly just chords, and am very, very, slowly trying to work on elarning the dobro-acoustic slide guitar. I also have a dulcimer that’s fun to strum on, it’s actually pretty easy to play, I just keep forgetting to put time into it, lol.

    I recently bought some colored pencils to start drawing more. I’m not good at drawing, but I like it. And since I like impressionist styles more than “photograph” replication of something, it works well with my lack of skill. 🙂 Although trying to get my brain trained as to see how to create a nice impressionistic image of something is difficult. i know what I want it to look like, but it rarely comes out that way. Hahahaha…

    1. “I think with them being a bit older and able to play on their own”. I am awaiting this phase quite eagerly myself. You play a lot of instruments Mr. SSC. You are lucky to be blessed with the ability to make music.

      I understand what you mean about art that looks like a photograph – that isn’t the kind of art that moves me. I also know all about drawing something that looks completely like something else. Pictionary, in my experience, is a game fraught with frustration and cursing and asking “do you have eyeballs in your head or buttons? Of _course_ that is a leaping dog. What do you mean airplane? It looks nothing like an airplane”.

  5. This is a very interesting post. The need to create is sometimes overlooked but the feeling that goes along with “I made that” can’t be replicated. For us, since we don’t have a legacy of children to leave behind, Mr. Groovy especially feels like he wants to create things. For me, I need to get back to my creativity. I used to sing but haven’t in a long time. Two years ago I started teaching myself piano but I got frustrated with the course/method I was using. I found another course I purchased which I haven’t started yet. I want to begin when I feel like I can keep the commitment and for some reason right now, that is difficult. Maybe it’s because we’re just feeling our way through our “schedule” – if there is such a thing, now that we’re in retirement.

    1. “the feeling that goes along with “I made that” can’t be replicated” Yes, that pretty much hits the nail on the head.

      I feel that the “legacy of children” is cheating, really. It is a fall back position, one that we parents use to pardon ourselves for not having created anything else. It is so hard to say how much a parent can actually take credit for the greatness of their child – their goodness, yes, easily – their greatness, their contributions to society, I don’t know if a parent can seriously lay claim to those things except in the most existential sort of way (You exist because I made you and hence nothing you achieved would have been achieved if you had not been born).

      I hope you and Mr. Groovy find your creative groove (sorry, couldn’t resist). Making music is a beautiful thing and I am a little bit envious of those who can do it.

  6. Girl. You’re crazy. First off, don’t downplay creating life. That is huge!!! Secondly, this here blog, YOU created it! You have followers, made friends, and have future plans because of what you have accomplished here. That ain’t nothing! But it totally get what you’re saying. I struggle with my purpose in terms of lag act. What wil I create that I leave behind. What tangible item can I connect to my life that says I was here. I have no idea…but, like you, I can’t wait to see what comes of it.

    1. You are always so positive Miss Mazuma! You see the best in everything.

      “I can’t wait to see what comes of it.” The feeling is such a weird blend of expectation and fear.

  7. I hear you – I also work long/off hours in IT and have three kids, so I know (very well!) the feeling of coming home and just wanting to do nothing for a while. But I do try to be creative, and help my kids be creative, especially on the weekends. I usually deliberatly don’t plan a ton of activities so we can sit back and do those fun creative things that we enjoy. When I retire I do want to pick up piano again-I played when I was a kid and always enjoyed it. In the meantime I paint and create things with/for my kids. And occasionally for myself. 🙂

    1. I feel a bit ashamed of my whinging now. Stop making me look bad CMO by managing to find time to create with three kids in tow, and a demanding job to boot!

  8. I love the philosophical idea behind the dolphin analogy. It also reminds me of the Mexican fisherman and businessman analogy kind of too.

    Ultimately we only have one life to do what we want to do, so I want to spend as much of that as possible doing what I want to do, what what I HAVE to do. So retiring early will allow me to do that, and to retire early we have to save and invest etc. 🙂 I want to spend as much time with Jasmin (my wife) and our future family as possible.


    1. I hadn’t heard the Mexican fisherman story before. I looked it up and enjoyed it, thanks. Spending time with the people that matter most is one of the best ‘whys’ for FIRE.

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