This isn’t about money, it’s about freedom
So much of what we read on the subject of investing and financial independence is about money. How to get more of it, how to keep it growing, how to avoid losing it, how to optimize every decision and growth hack every side hustle so you end up with the biggest pot of it at the end. I can point to a thousand different places all talking about the best way to get rich, the fastest path to financial independence, etc. Even a large number of the early retirement and financial independence writers out there wallow in ways to save, the best way to earn an extra $1k, and how to maximize the affiliate marketing revenue of your blog. If you’re looking for a guide on how to get rich you’ve come to the wrong place. If you’re looking for a little more read on.
Money is a tool
Believing that money is the most important element of this journey would be like saying Leonardo’s paintbrush was the most important element of the Mona Lisa. Money is a tool, no more. No different than an artist’s paintbrush or a mason’s trowel: money enables us to build and to create. But it is not an end in itself. Money accompanies us on this journey through life, but it is not the goal.
The path to riches lies through dark woods
If your only goal is making the largest amount of cash possible, I can guide you to that path. It is well marked. Anyone with skill and dedication can reach its start. There are signs on every street corner pointing the way. The arch above that road as it leaves town is festooned with flowers every spring. It is difficult to miss from any spot in our little village. My wife and I were on that path. We know it well, all its potholes and turns, it’s hills and valleys. We left town on it many years ago to roars of applause.
However, I have a warning for you. It is a path that goes through dark woods. Once you start making your life about money, once it is your pursuit, you can easily be caught in its thorns and brambles. Left cold and surrounded by shadows as the sun sets and wolves gather. It is very easy to lose your way. We found ourselves laboring in support of causes we did not believe in and serving corporations we thought were neutral at best, plagues at worst. The allure of money is not dangerous only to those who labor in ‘normal’ jobs. Even the wealthy, even the ‘financially independent’ have to beware of its draw. For if all we do is enter yet another life of maximizing our returns and calculating our net worth, what have we gained? We will have traded one dark wood for another, and in the new one, there will be no illusion of escape.
This is about freedom
The higher purpose of this journey is about freedom, not money; money is simply the tool that enables us to find our path. A lantern in the night that guides us to the other side of the forest: to open fields, cool meadows, and peaceful villages. To a place where we have the freedom to raise our kids, to pursue art and philosophy and writing, the freedom to do our best work in the service of causes we would gladly labor for. But that freedom is paramount, not the lantern that gets us there, not the tool. Never lose sight of this. As the path meanders and grows faint, your goal is not to stare into the light of that lantern as it slowly consumes its fuel and dies. Your goal is the reach the other side.
This is about changing the world
But freedom to do what? Freedom without purpose is meaningless. What will you do once you reach the end of your own dark forest? If the goal is to simply lay on a beach sipping drinks and ordering servants around, nothing has been gained. That is a certain kind of freedom, but an empty meaningless variety. If the goal is to travel the world you’re doing a little better, but you’re still ultimately only enriching yourself, your money is just a tool in the service of your own desires.
For us, the goal is to change the world. We have managed to come through that dark wood unscathed. Now is the time to return the favor. At the edge of the forest, there is a peaceful inn where we reside. The fire is always burning in the hearth. We will have good wine and crusty bread waiting for you. There are feather beds with cool linen in quiet rooms. Come outside when you are rested and well fed. Then we can turn our hands to the real labor: slowly building this world for all our children. We have work to do.
You make good points Grizzly Dad. I think the pursuit of money is what leads a lot of high earners astray. We never have quite enough. There’s always this idea that we need to keep having more. If you’re goal is to end up with the largest bank account balance, that’s up to you. But money is a tool. You need just enough of it so that you can live how you want to live.
Glad I noticed you guys on /r/financialindependence today. This post is enough to convince me that you have thoroughly considered your philosophy and therefore your priorities, and you have emerged from those dark woods on a path I deeply respect. Which is something I can’t say about many of our fellow attorneys. Looking forward to reading more!
Thanks! Glad it made you think. It was a long road to get here, but it was worth it.
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