The Script Of Life

There’s a default script to life. I followed it for 3 decades. You probably followed it. You’ve heard it all before, but let’s review it again as a refresher.

First you’re born. A few years later, you start going to school. Elementary school, junior high, then high school. After that, you go to college, and balance your time between studying, sleeping through class, and binge drinking. Eventually, you graduate and get a job. You max out your 401K, maybe save a little on the side in some mutual funds. And for the next 40 years, you work your way up the corporate ladder. Meanwhile, maybe you get married and have kids.

Eventually you grow old and retire. Then you spend a few years of leisure, at least until you become too old for that. Then you die.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this script.

Unless it’s not the script you want.

I followed this script for a long time. Of course, I didn’t realize this script had been written for me, nor did I realize it was only a default script, and that I was free to re-write it.

In 5th grade, I was placed in a special class for the “gifted.” I hated it. I didn’t like my classmates because they’d rather be studying than playing baseball. My friends were all in the normal classes. I tried to quit, but my parents insisted it would be better for me and help me to get into a good college (in the 5th grade!?!).

When I graduated high school , I didn’t want to go to college. I don’t recall having any better plans, but I knew I didn’t want to go to school anymore. Eventually, I was pressured into going to college. I can’t say I regret the eventual “decision” (if you can call it that), but it certainly wasn’t what I wanted to be doing.

In college, my passion was in literature, poetry, and philosophy. But instead of following that, I followed the script my parents had set and I majored in engineering (my dad is, of course, an engineer). But for the first time, I did start to violate the script. Instead of taking the easy-A classes for my optional/elective classes, I took some very difficult literature and philosophy classes. I also took poetry and creative writing courses (although I’m not very good at either). These were the only classes I enjoyed. Maybe you can see where this is going…

After graduating, I got a good job and began my career. I worked long hours, and climbed the corporate ladder. I rose up the ladder relatively quickly, which was all part of the default script. When I got as high as I could get in a technical position, I moved into management. I never failed at anything when it came to the script.

I got married at 25 to my high school girlfriend, and at 29 we had our first kid. Right on schedule. As I’ve said before, I don’t consider myself particularly intelligent or gifted – but when it comes to the script I was the man!

So here I was, 32 years old with a wife and kid (and another on the way), a great job, a 3100 square foot house, a cool Jeep Wrangler, and plenty of money in the bank.  The only problem was: I wasn’t happy.

And so I did the only thing I knew how to do, I started searching for logical answers to my dilemma. I read some self-help books, mostly crap.  I studied philosophy and religion, and started seeing the flaws of our culture. In fact, I started to despise it.  Then one day, after finishing a book on my Kindle, I had a new recommendation from Amazon for a book called “Your Money or Your Life.”  I read the free introductory chapter, and I was hooked.  I read the entire book, then I read it again.

My life has never been the same.  For the first time, I realized that this “script” I was following was optional.  I realized I edit it, or just throw it out and write my own.  And who the hell would consciously follow someone else’s script once they realized they could write their own?  The book was mostly around achieving financial independence, but to me it was so much more. It was a magic pen that allowed me to erase the remainder of the script and write my own.

We talk about financial freedom a lot on this site, but this was a bigger and better kind of freedom, the freedom to completely control my own life.

You mean I can turn down promotions and work less?  I can retire early?  I can move into a smaller house and stop competing with my friends and neighbors in the unwritten competition of gathering stuff?

Many people voiced admiration and jealousy when reading my last post about my financial freedom and what it’s offered me, I have only this to say.  Financial independence is a great thing, and if that’s your goal, then keep your eyes on the prize.  But I first want to insist that you consider the script you’re following and whether you’re writing your own or copying someone else’s.  True freedom, and true happiness, will come when you start writing your own script.

I’ll leave you with this:


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33 Responses to The Script Of Life

  1. spider1204 says:

    Woo for Kacey Musgraves, I’m currently starting to re-evaluate my script as well. Part of which will hopefully look more like her other song, “My House”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1VUNkukdHM

  2. EconoWiser says:

    Hi there, yeah we’ve decided to change the script as well. I’m 32 and he’s 35. We’ve started slashing our mortgage and index investing. I read a couple of your blog posts and find them very inspiring. I intend to read through your posts from the first one onwards. Thanks for the inspiration!
    EconoWiser recently posted..How Much Do You Spend On Clothing?My Profile

  3. MrMonkeyMoustache says:

    This is one of the best blog posts I’ve read.

    I can’t say there’s anything startling different from what I’ve read elsewhere, but you express the message wonderfully clearly.

    Thanks.

  4. Executioner says:

    YMOYL was an eye-opening book for me as well. I’ve thought about “the script” and its role in society, but I never came up with a succinct name like “the script” when describing it. I like it.

    This was such a good entry that I’ll overlook the fact that you tried to taint it by adding some country music at the end.
    Executioner recently posted..The Nonexistent Part-Time PositionMy Profile

    • Dude, Kacey transcends country. I’m not even a country music fan, but you have to respect this level of talent and beauty when you have the rare opportunity to stumble across it.

      You’re officially banned from this site for one week. I hope you’ll spend that time appreciating Kacey. See you in a week.

      • Executioner says:

        Oops, more than a week passed. I guess I had other stuff to keep me busy.

        I did watch your video again, though, and I even watched another couple of videos by Kacey with an open mind, per your suggestion. I don’t pretend to be a music critic, but I can’t personally agree with your statement that she “transcends” country. She reminds me of any other country/pop artist that saturates the airwaves and TV talent shows these days; she would blend right into the hazy background of country music songs that played in every grocery store and gas station and movie theater lobby and bar that oversaturated the many years of my life that I spent living in the South. I’m not sure I could pick her songs out from a playlist from a bunch of other similar artists. At least the video attached to this blog post was on topic — I will give you that.

        However, I WILL emphatically state that YMOYL transcends most PF books. And I’ll reiterate my prior statement that your article was pretty great, too.
        Executioner recently posted..The Nonexistent Part-Time PositionMy Profile

      • I’m just impressed you gave her a shot and listened to a few other songs too. That’s a respectable open mind, even if she and I couldn’t convince you of her talent.

        You are officially unbanned. :)

  5. Lucas says:

    So conformity to the worlds scripts is an ingrained part of the pressure the world puts on us. Following the worlds path of pursuit of money, accomplishment, acclaim, and self glorification is empty and meaningless and constantly demamds more and more to be “satisified”.

    Jesus lementing the world’s inability to deal with those who don’t conform themselves to the norm:

    Matthew 11
    16″But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

    But to fail to understand the larger script that underpins all of reality and that you do play a part in that leads to a crisis of meaning that a personally made script can not fill either.

    • I can’t claim I understand your comment completely. But as I see it, Jesus was the non-conformist. He defied the religious leaders and the government (which were the same people), threw away common beliefs that we should all strive for more money and power, and instead led an inspirational life worth leading.

      Whether you view Jesus as the only son of God or not, I find it hard to believe that a conscious person would argue against his general teachings. Unfortunately, his message has been long lost by most “Christian” religions.

      • Lucas says:

        Sorry should have summarized a little better. Basically i agree with non-conformity to the worlds script and the need to write your own. However your script still needs bounds based on human nature and our place in the universe (my understanding being that we are part of Gods plan for caring for the world, deligated creators, and proclaiming His message), or else you end up without meaning in the end as well.

        And yes most christian churches have moved far from Christ and added all sorts of worldy appealing aspects to their message.

  6. No Waste says:

    If you asked people why they did something or plan to do something, I wonder how many would *pause* and then say, “That’s just what you do”.

    People love to talk about hating their job and wanted to retire, but they don’t see it as a possibility because of how deep they are into a certain lifestyle.

    A concrete example would be families who are living paycheck-to-paycheck that have many things they HAVE to get done, including nails and hair, or never have a food plan so they resort to eating out 50% of the time.
    No Waste recently posted..The Problem With Inherited WealthMy Profile

  7. Until I stumbled upon MMM’s blog I was an unhappy consumer. It didn’t appear that there was any option other than consumerism. But after reading his blog I understood that there are so many options out there and there are people doing it already! That helped myself and my wife become more comfortable with the idea of following a different script. Until then we didn’t believe anything else was possible (or safe).
    GamingYourFinances recently posted..A story about high risk investingMy Profile

    • Just remember that MMM’s “script” is his. You are free to follow that, or tweak it as you please.

      That’s definitely not a knock on MMM, he’s been a great reminder to me of many things I do want, and if more people follow his script the world will be a better place.

  8. Thank for this post and for sharing that song, which is hilarious and awesome. If you save yourself for marriage you’re a bore…if you don’t save yourself for marriage you’re a (w)hor…rible person.

    I spent a couple minutes this morning wondering exactly whose script it is that I’m on. My guess is that it’s a little shared…bits borrowed from others with my own spin on it. It’s different from the norm, but it’s hard to say it’s entirely my own. Hmmm.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Budget PornMy Profile

    • I spent a couple minutes this morning wondering exactly whose script it is that I’m on. My guess is that it’s a little shared…bits borrowed from others with my own spin on it. It’s different from the norm, but it’s hard to say it’s entirely my own.

      That’s exactly the point! Well done.

  9. Joe says:

    Hey, nice post. Probably my favorite post on BNL. So many people are trapped in their career without any options. They don’t realize that you can find your own way too.
    Life is short and everyone need to find their own happiness.
    Joe recently posted..How To Prioritize Your Investments For Financial IndependenceMy Profile

  10. glenn says:

    Great advise.

    I’ve been on the on again and off again road for more than 10 years now. Made a bunch of money at the turn of the century, but then proceeded to make a lot of mistakes and bad decisions. Though I did get married and had one kid too in the process. It’s all been a great road, with no regrets, but it took my coming aboard the ‘frugal living’ boat, and the DYI ship to finally get to where I’m content and more or less financially independent. And that book was one of the important links in the chain.

    And how cool is it you put up that video of Kacey! She’s new on the scene, but wow, what a debut. Hope she has staying power.

  11. I was reading this post on my walk to the gym this morning, and haven’t stopped thinking about it all day. It really struck a chord. I know exactly whose script I’ve been on (my parents’ script for me) and they even talked me into just accepting two job offers I really would’ve preferred to negotiate because they were afraid that since I’m a woman, that might be too strong and the offer may be rescinded. It’s about time I stop reading their script and start writing my own.

    I love your posts and hope you continue to put those philosophy and creative writing courses to good use :)
    G.B. @ In Budgets We Trust recently posted..What Emergency Funds are ForMy Profile

  12. Shawn says:

    As usual, your post stirred intense searching and reflection.
    My original script was driven by material want having grown up a very poor child and young adult. Those conditions drove me to “overachieve” and secure financially what I thought was happiness. Consumerism and the rat race that accompanied it proved very destructive. It took a while, but I found the answers and plotted my own change of script. The ERE book was my epiphany but the change was supported by reading things from people like you on the web. Taking real control of my life has been more satisfying than anything else I have done in my adult life.

    • The ERE book was also very influential for me. I only stumbled upon it and the associated blog after YMOYL, but it proved to be a nerdier version of the same philosophy – which worked for me as a nerdy engineer.

      Taking real control of my life has been more satisfying than anything else I have done in my adult life.

      Yes! Way more rewarding than having a nicer car than your neighbors.

  13. Nodaclu says:

    The one thing I’ll warn against is this: if you’re going to go off script, you’d better have something to replace it with.

    I was painfully aware of the script from about age 16 on, and rebelled against it. But I didn’t have anything to replace it with. So I ended up drifting from living space to living space, and job to job, for 27 years. I didn’t finish college. I struggled to earn a good living, and most of all, without the script, I struggled for direction.

    Only now, at age 43, have I come to re-accept a portion of the script. Since I’m just past the midway point of my “work life” and I have a negative net worth, I have little choice now but to work until normal retirement age.

    But without incorporating some “non-script” ideas that I’ve slowly developed over the years, I’d be looking at working until the day I die instead of just the next 17-20 years.

    For me at least, the script alone didn’t work, and trying to build a completely new script on my own didn’t work either.

    Only by combining pieces of both was I able to finally find a path that works for me…just before it was too late. :)

  14. BNL,

    Agreed. I decided to do this recently by telling my boss straight up that I wasn’t happy and wasn’t going to continue doing what I was doing. Those words left me without my cush job.

    I chose not to get another one, at least for now, and instead follow my own path. I’m now taking the time and using the energy to build my own income, independent of a job. It may or may not work, but either way, I took my own path because I believed that was better than that other path.

    If I can help it, I’ll never have to follow that default path again. Great thoughts.
    Kraig – Young Cheap Living recently posted..Are You Saving for a House, Car or Vacation or Are You Saving for More?My Profile

  15. Paulkim says:

    Hi, thanks for writing such a beautiful article, i would really appreciate the way you write ….:)
    Paulkim recently posted..Pros & Cons of Buying Annuities!My Profile

  16. Very few people figure out that there is another path out there. It’s mind-expanding once you realize there is another way, though. So glad I figured it out before it was too late!
    Pretired Nick recently posted..Pretirement story: Making the move to MexicoMy Profile

  17. Squire says:

    Nice post. The thing about it (tanget to your reply to one of the comments above) is that you can follow almost any- or well, at least a lot of- scripts for a good amount of time, and make decent progress in the script. At first, it will reinforce itself that way and you’ll be thinking, as you say “Wow, I’m great at this.” And then it ends up like that time you get too invested into a game of checkers and suddenly realize it’s just a game- and not even a good one at that. But for some scripts you have such an investment in the script that you try and try to ‘tweak’ the script. It’s funny how a lot of those seeking FI (me at least) first find a “elminate this small frequent expense to afford a large infrequent one instead.” Then some time later you realize it’s the same script- like forgoing the candy bar to pig out at Thanksgiving- the weight never changes. Then you’re staring that BLN vision in the face and the script writing can really begin. Now how to get the signifigant others to help write/live it? :)

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  20. Mr Sunny says:

    Wow! I haven’t been on this site for a while, and then I come back to your last 2 awesome posts of changing the script and retirement. I am currently in that path at 27 yrs old, and tinkering around what I should do. I resigned from my nice cushy corporate job and decided to be a truck driver for a while. Decided it wasn’t for me. So I went back home and decided what was next. I always wanted to live in downtown where UM is, so I moved there for a few months and here I am having a blast. It is SOOOO nice to have leisurely days. I can finally consciously work on myself, read, stroll around downtown, lounge at Sbux. Feels great! Whereas before, work took up most of my time. I was thinking about it even when I was NOT at work. Anyway, I think I figured out what to do next. Thank you for posting.

  21. [...] no magic pill, no scientific textbook, and no script.  It’s up to you to make it [...]

  22. Love this post. I read it…then I read it again. YMOYL is a book I keep coming back to as well. My life “script” has been different. I was trained as an orchestral musician, so the script is : practice, practice, practice some more, win a job (or go broke and quit), then spend the rest of your life playing in an orchestra. Not HORRIBLE, but there are alternate scripts…it is just that no one let me know this…I had to find it out by myself (especially since there was no INTERNET or great blog posts like this in college. Can you imagine if we had all of this throughout-provoking material at our fingertips while in school??? This would have blown my mind. Thanks, and good luck on the redesign!
    Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce recently posted..The Problem with DesireMy Profile

  23. swinger home says:

    Magnificent issues here. I’m really satisfied to view your article. Many thanks exactly what looking onward to feel anyone. Will you be sure to lower us a postal mail?

  24. I can definitely relate to this article. I too lived the default script and only recently managed to pry myself away from it to pursue that makes me happy. Life is to short to be acted up and you need to take the bulls by the horn and try to make your own destiny. It’s definitely hard but it’s much more rewarding to fail using your own script than to succeed with someone else’s. Great post.
    Shobir @ Find Some Money recently posted..Day 8 – Establish an Emergency Fund, Savings Account & Investment AccountMy Profile

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