Financial Freedom Is Costing You Your Life

Financial Freedom?

Mexican Boat

I love money.  It is a powerful tool for getting lots of things done.  And it provides that all so valuable financial freedom.  But I’ve learned that it’s not the only kind of financial freedom there is.

For instance, take the popular parable about “The Tourist & The Fisherman.” It goes something like this – an American businessman visits Mexico and sees a lone fisherman bringing in his catch for the day. Confident of his ability to help people grow their business, no matter how small, he strolls over to the fisherman and smugly points out that if the man worked longer hours and sacrificed time with his family, he could buy a boat, hire people, catch more fish and go on to build a large fishing business from which he could retire from or sell in 50 years in order to spend more time with his family and truly living his life.

The fisherman thinks about it and says, “Isn’t that what I’m doing now?” What the fisherman knows that the businessman doesn’t, is that what he is doing now is enough to support his family and give him the lifestyle that he wants. In other words, he doesn’t have to wait 50 years, have a heart attack and four ulcers to realize what’s important to him.

He is happy with his life now.  Instead of working harder and harder to make more money so he can pursue happiness, he has made happiness his priority and by default, lives a rich life.

If you are like most entrepreneurs, you want to start your own business because of the freedom it offers. Heck, we all do! Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that dream, or the dream of winning the lottery. Having your own business gives us the ability to do what we want, when we want it. At least, that’s what we think when we first start dreaming the dream.


Reality Sets In

Customer Is Boss

When you start out in any business you think you’re going to be the person in charge. It’s heady stuff! It doesn’t take long before you realize the customers are the true bosses. They tell us what to do and when we need to do it.

Our dreams of flexibility and doing what we want will fade away. Our personal little fantasy of the four-hour workweek gets lost in the shadow of doing what the market demands that we do. In order to make a lot of money we start dancing to someone else’s tune, just the thing we were trying to escape. And when we aren’t serving clients, we’re working our butts off to find more clients to tell us what to do. Needless to say, it’s not exactly the comfortable paradise we had imagined.


Spinning Your Wheels

Burning Rubber

The fairy tale vision of starting a business in order to have freedom turns into a something that resembles more of a Stephen King remake of the sitcom of “The Office.” Just like the businessman offering advice to the fisherman, you actually believe you can work like mad now, so that you can have “financial freedom” later. And then, when that happens, you believe you will be successful and be able to do what you want.

This might work. You could work like crazy until you have a lot of money, so that you can do what you want, but it’s like winning the Powerball lottery — it can happen, but it’s rare that it does. Yet a lot of fools still keep playing, believing they’re the next big winner!

The “work now, play later” belief system of the financial freedom dream, is it a trap. Or perhaps even more of a bad habit. You do more to get more, which results in a perpetual loop of doing more and more so that “one day” you will have the freedom (financial freedom) because, after all, that is all we know how to do. When it comes down to it, all you really know how to do is continuously work for more and more.

Unfortunately, I know people who have been caught up in this cycle for years, even decades. They keep working themselves to the bone, yet their dream of financial freedom is farther away than ever.


Happiness Rules

Hand drawn big smile

I think we can all learn an important lesson from the old story of The Mexican Fisherman – namely that when we say we want “freedom,” what we really want is happiness. And while money seems like it has the potential to bring happiness, it doesn’t.

What money has is the ability to amplify your core desires. When you have more money, and you are already happy, you can grow that happiness. But the reverse is true, too. If you are angry, depressed, or unhappy, money is not going to do much to help. In fact, it can lead you down a path of disaster. Just think of all those overnight celebrity success stories about people who are unhappy at their core. They get the money, or financial freedom, that they desire…and what happens? Two words: Lindsay Lohan.


11 thoughts on “Financial Freedom Is Costing You Your Life”

  1. Thanks Mike. This is a great reminder for someone like me who is just getting going on my entrepreneurial adventure. I already see others in the trap and I want to avoid it. Having also had a family bereavement it’s brought it home that we only get one go at this life and you have to enjoy the journey and make sure you create the time to spend with the people you love. Wow, pouring my heart out on a Tuesday morning and no alcohol involved! 😉

    1. Well, maybe you had a small glass of Pinot. All kidding aside Jenny…. thank you for sharing. It always amazes me to hear the lessons we learn from the biggest challenges and dark periods in our life. I am so humbled that you shared that, and that it has opened your eyes to the true nature of business (perhaps, life).
      You have me curious. What is the business that you are starting? Or is that still to be determined?

  2. I have fallen into this trap myself. Working more to get more stuff, working more to get more stuff. It brings a person down pretty quick. I am digging my way out of my mess this year to give my family and myself true financial peace. We tend to buy things to impress other people we don’t really even like or know with money we don’t have.
    My main focus is taking care of my family, as a business owner my focus is to take care of my customers and employees. I can only do that by taking care of my business and being fiscally responsible in all I do. It is amazing when you focus on what truly matters and not on the new fancy things your business will grow and your family will prosper.
    I have realized I don’t “need” many things to be happy. The things I need most are my family and friends. I can’t buy those.

  3. I actually had a J-O-B once that had me working so hard I ended up with diverticulitis (at the ripe old age of 37!) Sure I was making six figures, but I was so exhausted I didn’t have time to enjoy it. All I wanted to do was collapse on the couch at the end of the day with a glass of wine. My relationships suffered. My gardening suffered. And my creativity almost died. Thankfully, I saw my way out of that hot mess and decided that if I was going to kill myself, it would be for ME. Six years later, I’m still here and while I don’t always get to buy whatever the heck I want, I have everything I need PLUS a loving relationship. And I keep my hours to 40 or less per week (mostly). I don’t plan to EVER retire, cuz baby THIS is the good life right here!

  4. Wow Mike! Reading this makes me wonder where I’d be if I had followed my father’s advice to get a job and not follow my entrepreneurial dream. He was a butcher and owned his own meat market for a bit. However, after the 80+ hours a week, all the headaches and the time away from home, he sold the business and went to work for someone else.
    Little did I know how much of an impact his experience with self-employment was. Just before his death, I overheard one of his closest friends ask him what he would have done differently if he could. My dad’s response, “Spend more time with my kids and family.”
    So that’s my answer to why I do what I do. Money’s great, but if you don’t have anybody or any life left to spent it on, no dollars amount is worth it right?

  5. Superb post Mike! Making the decision to start your own “thing”, whatever that may be, is a huge decision. I am glad I made the jump myself and I do get caught in the trap of wondering if it ally worth it. When I question this, it ALWAYS comes down to one thing – money! When I doubt the solopreneur path I am on the first damn thing that pops into my mind is “why did I give up the steady salary?” But as Tea mentions below, I hated what I was dong so the money did not really matter. Now I love what I am doing and YES IT IS FREAKING HARD some days and months when I do not see my bank account on the plus side. But I always have to remember how miserable I was every morning and how nasty of a person, husband, and father I was when I was making that steady paycheck. I am happy to be that fisherman as I know I can fish, catch fish, enjoy the fish, and survive. Thank you and I look forward to working you as a contestant in Prosperity’s Kitchen!

  6. Thank you Mike! You helped me make an important decision (that has long bothered me) on the future development of my business. Now I have decided that further decisions will be passed through a filter: “Will I get satisfaction/happiness from this?”

  7. That’s the most well written summary of my beliefs I’ve ever come across.
    After a few successful bricks and mortar business ventures I don’t ‘need’ more.
    However it’s important to have goals, have a reason to get up in the morning and keep learning. Money is a useful indicator but doesn’t have to be my only reward, so new business opportunities are always enticing.
    What I do notice though is when money isn’t the motivator it’s easier to give up when the going gets hard.
    The trick is to check myself from time to time, to know if what I’m planning to be involved in is life affirming or life spoiling.
    The ego can be a big nuisance.

  8. I love what I read in this article. I skipped trying hard to become an auditor after i obtained my accounting degree because i knew the stress from 80 hour weeks were not worth it to me. However, I havent been employed as an accounts payable specialist for four years. I only worked a few part time jobs the past year Im screwed becamuse of the unemployment gap. Im depressed and cant find work. I havent had a girlfriend in seven years. Everyne w has a career and either a beloved significant other oro wife. I f3eel trapped at 31 & i dont know what to do about. im grateful that i can live with my parents and have food on the table but that is all. help!

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