Sometimes readers email me to say that it can’t be easy coming up with original content every week…but it would be nice if I could at least try.
It’s true that The Escape Artist is not above spreading The Butter of Creativity over The Toast of Repetition with a follow up post or two.
So The Escape Artist is back once again in the guise of a music critic from the NME…armed with earnest prose, tortuous metaphors and psycho-babble to review more classic songs about financial independence.
And if you didn’t, I’m sorry.
Great Escape (Mike Dignam)
This catchy little ditty from 2013 was offered up by The Fire Starter. Obviously the title is bang on point, as are pretty much all the lyrics. This is a great song for anyone who has accumulated enough and just needs a little motivational push past their fear to jump off the cliff.
Someday soon I’ll travel to find me…and this abyss ain’t as dark as I feared.
Mike Dignam reminds us that the clock is ticking and it would be great to travel the world whilst we are still young enough to fully experience it. He also recognises the power of habit and the advantage of getting out before we become totally institutionalised.
So I’m gonna pack my things and go…travel the world before I’m old…if you want to leave then go while you can…before you get stuck…before you become another cog in that working machine
All I wanna do (Sheryl Crow)
If you are ever at work wishing you were in the pub (or indeed anywhere else) how about this one from Sheryl Crow. Sheryl (to her friends) reminds us that whilst most of the world is at work, there are always some people having fun. Why shouldn’t that be us?
All I wanna do is have some fun…I gotta feeling I’m not the only one…all I wanna do is have some fun…until the sun comes up over Santa Monica boulevard
Sheryl reminds us that we might still need some structure in our lives after financial independence to avoid unproductive distractions…
I like a good beer buzz early in the morning
…but we’re all adults here and I think Sheryl makes a good case for freedom and taking responsibility for our choices.
Sisters are doing it for themselves (Eurythmics featuring Aretha Franklin)
A lot of guys are unwittingly acting as Walking Wallets and working on faulty assumptions about their role as breadwinners.
Don’t get me wrong, The Escape Artist is all for men working to provide for their family. But what I don’t agree with is the unspoken and patronising assumption that women are weak creatures that need to be protected from the workplace.
On the contrary, in some ways women are better equipped with the emotional intelligence to deal with the modern office environment, its politics and political correctness. After all, if you can deal with the pain of childbirth, I’m guessing anything after that is a walk in the park.
I don’t understand why some guys try to stop their wife / girlfriend from working (they may see a stay at home spouse as a status symbol for their reflected glory) or just assume it’s not an option.
I’m not saying all men think that way. But I am suggesting that a lot of us still have blind spots when it comes to sexual equality and work. And I am suggesting that sisters are more than capable of doing it for themselves.
Freedom 90 (George Michael)
It turns out that George Michael was all along a hidden guru of financial independence. It’s almost like Mr Money Mustache was operating undercover in Britain in the 1980s and 1990s. Who knew?
In Young Guns, Michael highlights the dangers of poor mate choice in the context of financial independence. In Wham Rap, Michael notes the downside of working a job you don’t enjoy.
In Freedom, George Michael publicly illustrates the advantage of having Fuck You Money. Freedom tells Michael’s side of the story of why he left Sony, the record label that had helped propel him to success. Michael reflects on the fame and financial benefits that he got in his early 20s, but that he now wants something different from life.
Michael tells his story with due respect to Sony. He is not bitter towards his former employer nor trying to bring down the capitalist system, he just wants the freedom to do the work he loves.
All we have to see, is that I don’t belong to you and you don’t belong to me.
Back on the Chain Gang (Pretenders)
The Pretenders were drawing an analogy between consumerism and convicts working in The Prison Camp….before The Escape Artist was even out of school! This classic from 1982 highlights the downsides of commuting, indentured servitude and the mass media.
Now, The Escape Artist is all in favour of upper body exercise and good biceps. There is nothing wrong with hard work, manual labour or being outdoors. Its just that quality time with a sledgehammer should be voluntary exercise rather than compulsory work in The Prison Camp to service our mortgages and credit card debt.
The Boss (James Brown)
This song is a reminder that its possible to get too wrapped up in accumulating money or status and that getting to the top in any sphere of life requires hard work and sacrifice. Ask any sports star, lawyer or CEO. Even if we have the ability, we still have to decide whether we are prepared to pay the price needed to become a high earner.
This is forgotten in earnest debates about income inequality where people sometimes overlook the possibility (I put it no stronger than that) that median earners might be getting the better deal. At least once income tax plus national insurance at 47% for high earners, health, happiness and free time are taken into account.
As the Godfather of Soul reminds us, you pay a cost to be The Boss.
Superstition (Stevie Wonder)
We humans are hard wired to make mental short cuts and avoid effortful thinking where possible. This leads us to believe in superstitions that we pick up from the other monkeys in the human tribe.
Daniel Kahneman won a Nobel prize for discovering and illustrating many of the quirks and imperfections of human thinking (see book here).
Kahneman shows that we have 2 decision making systems. 1) an ancient hardwired reptile brain for dealing instinctively with threats and opportunities…this is how we feel fear and greed. 2) a more recently evolved human capacity for logical thought. To get to FI, we need to use this second system a bit more.
As soul legend, philosopher and all round good guy Stevie Wonder puts it:
When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer…superstition ain’t the way.
Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell)
The Escape Artist is an environmentalist and would like to see all shopping malls, drive-thru french fry vendors, theme parks and suburban sprawl torn down and returned to nature.
There is simply no need for most of that shit to exist any more. The Escape Artist almost never steps inside a shop these days because i) I don’t buy much stuff and ii) I have friendly helpers that bring it to my door (they are called postmen).
I’m sorry to have to report that the whole construction of a society based on cars, convenience, passive entertainment and sedentary lifestyles has been a bit of a clusterfuck.
Joni Mitchell absolutely nails it in the lyrics:
They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum and charged the people a dollar and a half just to see them…they paved paradise, put up a parking lot
Bullet in the Head (Rage against The Machine)
This shouty anti-advertising belter was suggested by a reader, thereby expanding The Escape Artist’s musical repertoire. So thank you to Underscored!
Advertising is not some ineffective background noise that we screen out, its created by smart people that understand and target our weak spots. So respect your enemy and remove it from your life.
This song won’t be to everyone’s taste and does include some swearing. But personally I think the swearing adds colour and emphasis to a benign message.
Busy Earning (Jungle)
But, in my book, saving a million pounds in fees is a pretty good return for half an hour’s work filling out a form to move his portfolio away from the clutches of a financial adviser.
Keith wonders how anyone could afford to retire early. This is partly because he always ends up paying a price premium for convenience and speed. Money is leaking out of Keith’s life like blood spurting from an arterial wound and he has no idea how much is enough.
Keith is busy. Being busy is a badge of pride at the office. It’s reassuring for Keith to feel that he is in demand. And being busy is a great distraction from thinking about what we really want in life.
In short, Keith is busy earning to the exclusion of everything else. But what’s the point of holding down a high paid job if you’re too busy earning to get rich or have fun?