One of the problems with Left vs Right politics is that both sides fall into the same trap of assuming that having more stuff is the answer to all problems.
On The Left, communists / socialists want more government control over the economy so everyone can eat more beetroot, have more tractors and more pet dogs (which end up as emergency food supply under communism).
On The Right, press barons, oligarchs and Mr Burns from The Simpsons fly into Davos in their private jets to hatch plans to sell the masses more processed carbohydrates, more sofas and more shit in general…and if that means fucking them and the environment over, so be it.
Is there a better way?
At the micro level, financial independence offers individuals a set of tools, attitudes and techniques that allow you to get rich(er) whilst maybe (just maybe) becoming a better person.
And at the macro level we can combine freedom and capitalism with ethics, community spirit and environmentalism to create a wealthy society where people are free to live their best lives.
Maybe I’m being optimistic here but financial independence offers people a different way of looking at the world. One that doesn’t involve The Left always screaming for more tax & spend so The People can buy more Premier League football shirts. Or The Right trying to protect oligopoly (Big Corporations) and promote Consumerism (more shit) at the expense of the environment.
And it’s not just me. As John Lennon said:
“maybe I’m a dreamer…but I’m not the only one”.
You may remember Chloë who wrote the excellent Get Rich With Other People (Part 2) and Get Rich with Hobbies. Of my several thousand close personal friends (ahem), Chloë is my favourite left-leaning, lesbian eco-hippy. We’re different in many ways but we’re both interested in asking: what is the good life?
So today we have a guest post from Chloë on…What Makes a Great Day?
Good on you, you superstar, you deserve a treat It’s time to give yourself a reward, a luxurious experience, an amazing day…no, a Great Day! Because you’re worth it, right?
I’ve consulted the mainstream media to see what a Great Day is and they are super clear; it’s lounging in a spa in a dressing gown, sipping a morning cocktail.
You, on the couch in pyjamas, stretching out and savouring chocolates, in front of your TV.
Sinking into that couch, conquering only a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and finishing a boxset binge. Shutting your eyes for an afternoon nap and ignoring your coquettish invitation to Type 2 diabetes.
Yes, it’s rubbish. The mainstream media should be ignored.
Do you notice that the media’s image of luxurious indulgence is spookily similar to the behaviour of people on the dole that haunt the sleepless nights of right wing politicians?
- Not working? Check √
- Drinking throughout the day? Check √
- Daytime telly? Check √
- Junk Food? Check √
- Slobbing out, basically not even getting dressed? Check √
Because you’re a savvy reader, this might seem like a judgemental post. I do indeed have a viewpoint, which means I’ve made a judgement. I want to convince you that the mainstream media’s depiction of a great day is complete tripe…and tell you what really makes a Great Day.
My thought process on this started when I was having a drink in the pub with The Escape Artist one evening, and he casually delivered a conceptual Jujitsu throw, so subtle that I didn’t initially notice, but continued to think about it for weeks after.
When discussing my future plans for financial independence, he pointed out that if all I wanted to do was not work, I could just sign on for unemployment benefit right now. If I don’t mind some bureaucracy every fortnight, I could collect some small benefits*, eat the most frugal food going or collect food given out charitably.
That made me confront what I actually wanted to do with my time.
I got thinking about what I do to relax from work and what I look forward to: indulgence. All I see in discussions of what makes a good time are indulgences: a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, a sofa, take-away and Netflix. Hold up though: how do you actually feel after that? Energised and purposeful, or lazy and overspent? Weird that, isn’t it?
The adverts want you to stay still and pay them to do things for you… hmmm…
I know when I eat junk food, I don’t feel as good. If I drink too much, I get a hangover. I feel sluggish if I laze around all day. Heck, even Netflix tries to shame you with occasional checks: it asks ‘Are you still watching?’ after a few hours. If you keep going Netflix goes:
‘Seriously bro, It’s been 6 hours, don’t you need to pee?’
‘You ok hun? Come on, no-one needs this much Orange Is The New Black, it’s been crap for 3 seasons’
What I’m saying is that the whole Wall-E humans look is not something you should be aiming for.
All this indulgence is good for a brief spell, but if that’s your whole day you will not feel good. What actually makes a Great Day, one that makes you feel good, is some struggle.
Before suffering though, you want to wake up right. A good day starts the night before – you won’t have drunk to excess, eaten far too much, or stayed up until 3 am boxset bingeing like a fool.
If you didn’t sabotage yourself the night before, you’ll wake up refreshed from a full night’s sleep. Then, you get up without too much lounging:
- 30 minutes in bed with a great homemade coffee and some reading? Thumbs Up.
- 3 hours (aka the whole morning) in bed? Time’s up.
A Great Day starts with hardship, voluntarily taken on. In my experience, that means making the first activity some exercise, pushing yourself and struggling, getting sweaty, exhausted, red faced and undignified. That kind of workout leaves me exhausted, needing 5 minutes to recover and has me walking back on shaking legs with a big smile on my face.
Then when I get back in, my coffee tastes amazing because I’ve added 2 teaspoons of delayed gratification, the ultimate flavour enhancer. My breakfast is protein rich and will be going directly to building muscles, plus I’ve burned so many calories that I’m still able to enjoy that slightly less nutritious hash brown without sabotaging my weight goals.
Physical hardship is great for you. You’re tired briefly, then you recover with the buzz of endorphins and with the groundwork for improved fitness laid.
The next thing in your great, awesomely enjoyable day, is some work. Ideally, some work you’ve been putting off, that’s been sitting around waiting to be done. Its time to stop procrastinating and just do it.
You get cracking at that, preferred beverage in hand and you get it done, achieve something, take a load of your mind and make this a day where you finish in a better position. I’d been putting off 3 tasks because they were a devil’s triangle of:
- Being phone calls
- Being bureaucratic
- Being embarrassingly overdue.
2 of them would directly bring me money, but I put them off and the longer they’d been avoided the bigger significance they gained in my mind. After slovenly months, they were immense tasks to me, daunting and probably too much to do today. I should put them off until another day, when I’m, uh… yeah, more able to do them. Except, that day I had put them in my calendar at a set time, so when that notification came… I put them off.
Look, I know I’m terrible at this. But after pissing away another 20 minutes, I made that first call and in 8 minutes solved an issue that had blocked my LISA bonus. 8 minutes and I nabbed £1,000: not a bad rate of return, eh? The next 2 calls were similar, I was on a roll. I got a refund, then resolved a banking issue, all in under 40 minutes and I felt amazing – these terrifying tasks were paper dragons – I’m sure you can think of things you’re putting off that you could easily smash.
The fourth ingredient of a Great Day, for those of you who are counting, is again doing something with other people.
Heck, you can combine this with the exercise or the productivity, but we humans are social creatures and under the layers of modernity-incentivised isolation, we have a craving for company.
If we socialise, we check on someone else and they check on us, we give and receive encouragement. Make someone feel included and valued – we chose to spend time with them after all. They might let us know they need help, and we can help them and strengthen that bond and make things better for them. We might then be able to call on them later, should we need to.
Strengthening a social bond is doing a social good – that’s an odd way to think about meeting up for a drink with a pal, but you really have done something good there, that’s why it belongs in a Great Day. If you have a relationship, going out of your way to strengthen that too will make this a great day that continues to pay dividends in the future. We’re all about the dividends here, right?
Some of my thinking on this comes from reading Jordan Peterson, the mere mention of whose name will probably cause some people to instantly close this tab and never return. Those people almost certainly are reading too much of the same media that is telling them:
‘The World is ending! Sofa Sale Now On!’
The way I see it, Peterson is smeared and dishonestly misrepresented for putting out a simple message in non-simple ways: our lives gain meaning when we struggle to improve ourselves and encourage others to do the same.
Blaming other people and demanding their resources is pretty fashionable, but it doesn’t make for a good role model (or a Great Day). So I apply a bit of Peterson and a bit of Kant to the question of what makes a Great Day.
Run the mainstream media portrayal of indulgence through the iKant Categorical Imperativator app and you’d see a poor case for treating yourself to take-away, midday boozing and computer games. An expensive console is little consolation. If you make that your best day, you end up obese, tired and with nothing done.
Here’s the good news: a Great Day still has those indulgences, but they are both the final part of it and not a huge part at that. Having tested this for scientific purposes, I can assure you that 2 drinks feel better than 9 and that you don’t enjoy 5 hours of internet bullshit anymore than you do 1 hour.
Once you’ve had a full day by starting it early and refreshed, you can spare a few hours in the evening for treats. When you’ve pushed yourself physically, you can really enjoy that indulgent food. When you’ve been productive and accomplished something, you know you can sit back and do nothing but enjoy yourself.
When you’ve taken on responsibility and worked hard, got lots done, then you can be satisfied with yourself and reward that effort.
You finish the day better than you began it. You’ve had a Great Day.
* For the avoidance of doubt, The Escape Artist is not advocating a dole-based strategy for financial independence. I was just saying that there’s much more to financial independence than dossing off work and extreme frugality.