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: