I think we are all striving to improve our life. But what does that really mean?
What is “life”?
When we say our “life”, what do we really mean to say?
- Our lifespan: at what age will we die? Theoretically, we can live to be 120 years old.
- Our 24-hour day: a mini-lifetime.
- The idea that we are still breathing (we are still “alive”)
I think when we say that we want to “improve our life”, what we really mean to say is:
I want to increase pleasure, and decrease pain in my life.
For example, a lot of people seek to earn more money. But what do we want the money for? We want the money to buy more material comforts — to buy more pleasures. Money to buy more delicious food, money to travel more, money to buy a bigger house, money to buy a more comfortable car, or to buy clothes and tools to look more fashionable, or perhaps to be more “productive”.
Don’t worry about proving yourself to others
We also want more money to “flex”— to show off to others that we are “successful”. We do this with external totems of success, such as expensive clothes, expensive cars, expensive tastes, etc.
We hate our jobs
Most people I know either dislike or hate their jobs. Or would prefer NOT to go into work everyday (if they had the option).
Thus, when people seek to become rich, what they really want is to no longer work for a living, which means— no longer need to go into an office everyday. So what people really want isn’t the money; they just want the freedom to NOT labor away at their “day job”.
So people seek money as a means to freedom. Thus, what we ultimately desire is freedom and control over our own lives.
Improving our life = having more freedom and control in our life
So this is my basic idea:
To improve your life, gain MORE freedom and control in your life.
How to gain more freedom and control in your life
There is a lot of talk that people want “financial independence” or “financial freedom”. But this is a silly notion, because no matter how rich you are, you will never have enough. You will never feel secure, and you will always want more money.
What I think people mean by “financial independence” is to be able to pay your rent every month, without having to show up at your day job everyday.
The easiest way to pay your rent every month:
Reduce your expenses.
How to lower your expenses
- Live in a cheaper neighborhood
- Live in a cheaper home
- Spend less money on food (seek to buy meat that only costs you $1 a pound)
- Rent a room, or perhaps live with your extended family, or live with your mom?
Of course you can increase your income — but this is often the problem:
Most people increase their lifestyle expenses (“lifestyle creep”) as they earn more money.
Don’t worry how you earn money
Ideally what we would do is this:
Increase your income, and put more money into your savings or bank account. Then, use that money in your savings and bank account and put it towards investments, which accrue “residual income” for yourself.
But this is the problem: there is a myth of “passive income”. There is no such thing as passive income. All income is active.
Even if you have investments in the bank, you still need to manage it (managing your money is active labor). Or, you need someone else to manage it (you still must manage the people who manage your money). All money comes with strings attached.
Thus my idea is this:
Don’t strive to improve your life in the distant future, by laboring away to gain “financial independence.” Instead, seek to improve your life by focusing on improving this present moment — right now!
How to improve the present moment
It don’t matter if you’re at home, driving in the car, at work, or at a coffee shop. Regardless of whatever environment you’re in right now, strive to maximize your employment of every single moment during the day.
For example if you’re stuck at work, you can either strive to find more interesting, challenging, and fun things to do at work, or perhaps you can be clever and pretend to work, and actually build up your own entrepreneurial things on the side. This is what I did when I was formerly employed— I would finish all my days work in 3 hours, then I would use the other 5 hours to work on my blog and photography career. I would research photographers, email photographers I wanted to interview, and also blog (when nobody else was watching me).
Use your time purposefully, and actively
Let us say you’re not at work, you’re at home. How can you best employ your time at home? Don’t just “Netflix and chill”— figure out how you can maximize your time at home. Or perhaps you can leave the house, and go somewhere more interesting.
Generally I find the best use of my time is:
- Produce stuff (create blog posts, go out and shoot photos, make videos, make beats, etc)
- Study/research (study cinema, study master photographers and composition, study art, study philosophy, read poetry)
- Social (spend deep engaged conversations with Cindy, friends and family, enjoy all you can eat Korean bbq)
- Workout (deadlifts at the gym, or go on pointless walks around the block)
Generally— whenever you use your attention and life in an ACTIVE and purposeful way, you will generally “improve” your life, because you will feel more control, you will feel more joy, and you will feel more empowered.
- Don’t live for the future. Instead, focus on the present moment — focus on improving the present moment, by working on something active and purposeful (right now!)
- Don’t waste or squander any of your time in an unconscious way. Don’t just pointlessly watch “entertaining” media, or sedate yourself with alcohol or drugs.
- Generally speaking, you’re happiest when you’re actively creating something, making something, or doing something with intention. Make more stuff (producerism) via photography, blogging, vlogging, and sharing things on your own website and blog.
- Recognize that “passive income” is a myth. All income is active. So don’t worry too much about how you earn money to pay your rent. Just pay the rent, keep your expenses low, and use all your free time to the maximum.
Live to the max,