Sunday, August 09, 2015

Independence Day

Today is my Independence Day! A year ago today I woke up for the first time post school, post university and post work. Stages of life are often a preparation for something else. My goal was to take each day as it comes. To enjoy it for it's own sake, and add a little flow. Barring a day in the air heading down under, I have written every day. I have also received 48 guest posts from friends, family, colleagues and people that I have met through social media. 

Despite declaring independence, I should say I am not ridiculously wealthy. Talking about money seems dirty, but since the first thing most people ask me about when I say what I am doing is money, it seems I exist in the chink of our financial privacy armoury. So I will be open. I have 'made' £4.11 in the last year. The '' are because Google only pays out when you reach £10. So I have not yet been able to purchase a celebratory Dine In For Two. I also got £50 for covering a Yoga lesson for a friend. 5 people each gave me £10 for corporate organised after work yoga lesson. All my other yoga teaching was on a volunteer basis.

Most writers aren't JK Rowling. Most tennis players aren't Roger Federer. In reality, if you want to pursue your passion there is no reason you should be paid well for it just because you or others think you are good at it. Pay isn't determined by value, effort, knowledge, skill, talent or any of the essential characteristics that we believe form 'who we are'/'what we are worth'. For something to pay, it has to be monetised. For something to be monetised, it has to be quantified. There has to be a limited amount of it. There have to be people who want it. There have to be people who want it but can't get it. That is how it works. A good idea isn't enough.

But that doesn't have to determine how we live. You can separate your passion from livelihood. I live off marshmallows. I work for flow rather than money. I can only do this because I created a muse. I saved aggressively and invested the money in things that were productive. This means my money earns an income and I live off it. The real trick wasn't in fact about how much, it was about how little. There are two important things to living a sustainable lifestyle. The one is how much comes in - how much you are being paid, either by your salary or your capital. The other is how much goes out. My trick is that I think most of us are cultural billionaires. You can cut back dramatically on how much goes out and benefit from our shared wealth. Shared wealth often isn't limited and there is enough to go round. It can't be monetised. It is priceless.

I know I am very privileged. The portion of my wealth that is financial is minuscule compared to the social capital I have got through luck. The language I speak, the colour of my skin, my sexual orientation, my gender and now my red passport, give me a big foot up in the world. What I am doing is not risky. I have a buffer of wonderful friends for anything life can throw at me. Education provides wonderful insurance. If my money disappears, I may not be able to get the job I want, but I am confident I will be able to get a job. That confidence is priceless.

The things I enjoy are pretty cheap. I love spending time with friends. This can be near free if you walk along a river rather than going out for dinner. I enjoy reading. In the UK at least, this is incredibly good value for money. Add the free content, interaction and ideas now available online and again there is plenty to go around. Priceless and free. If your tastes include healthy eating, a healthy lifestyle, time to relax and time to reflect - go live at an Ashram. You really don't need bundles of cash to live an amazing life. You need bundles of cash if you really want stuff there isn't enough of.

My key point is that it is very often a choice. Often we feel trapped by things we are working towards. Most of us are not trapped. I do think poverty is a trap. I do think poor mental health can be a trap. For the rest of us, if we are not comparing ourselves to others - independence is a choice. You can't have everything but there are more amazing things, people and experiences available within your means to fill several lifetimes. Independence is the realisation that you can walk away from any individual thing if you wanted to. It is a mindset. You are not a slave. 

You can be independent and earn a salary. You can be a slave and be a billionaire. You can be comfortably retired but still not independent. Some people can't choose. Most can.
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