Your Money or Your Life: The Stunning Implications of Redefining Work

YMOYLThis is the twenty-first part of The Simple Dollar Book Club reading of Your Money or Your Life. Want to know more?

This section is filled up with a series of nine implications for disconnecting work from wages. I thought it would be worthwhile to move slowly and examine each of the nine.

1. Redefining Work Increases Choices
When I was first in college, I didn’t have any clue what to major in. My heart pointed me towards English, mathematics, and history, but my wallet shivered in fear of these topics and I wound up going in a different direction. In a lot of ways, I regret this choice, and only long after college did I realize that the choice was really between my money and my life – and I chose the money. As with the story here, one of the things that hurt me the most was when I would define myself as a “technician” when I honestly didn’t feel like that word defined me in any way – I did technical work, but I did not define myself as a technician.

What you actually are isn’t your profession, but the thing you’re passionate about. In the section here, the person is a teacher, but happens to write computer code for money. Even though that person is currently employed as a programmer, that’s far from the definition of that person. It’s a separation of what the person actually is from how the person makes money, and it often makes it much easier to move to a lower paying job you’re passionate about. That person, when he/she gets his/her financial life in order, will likely take a pay cut and take a teaching job – thus, that person moves from being a teacher who drudges time as a coder to simply being a teacher. Which side of that coin do you think will leave the person feeling more fulfilled?

2. Redefining Work Allows You to Work from the Inside Out
This is really a critique on corporate culture, in that rather than doing work in a way that expresses who we are, we instead adapt what we do to the culture of the workplace. We bite our tongues, we fill out forms, and we play the game of the workplace instead of getting fulfilling work done. I know I’ve certainly done that in the past, and often it’s part of the reason why I come home drained – I feel like I just spent a day in meetings, exchanging small talk, filling out forms, and so on. There are very few people on earth who are fulfilled with such things. If you unlink the need for money to the job, then that stuff no longer matters – blow it off or find a new job that doesn’t fill your life with the compromises that leave you feeling uncomfortable.

3. Redefining Work Makes Life Whole Again
I know that many days, I feel a disconnect between work and home, and I often spend the commute mentally switching myself for different sets of challenges. In a way, the same is true with interacting with others outside of my immediate family – I feel sometimes as though I’m actually flipping on a switch and changing how I act in order to play a role that’s been cast for me. The truth is, though, that no matter what I’m doing, I am in fact just living my life – I put those separators in place myself.

4. Redefining Work Opens Up Novel Perspectives on Unemployment
If you live a frugal life and have a reasonable financial safety net in place to catch you in the event of a job loss, unemployment can be an opportunity for self-discovery, and maybe even a chance to follow a new path in life. The less you spend, the farther out that point where you can’t pay the bills gets, and the greater the breathing room in your life to consider new routes of earning money, perhaps ones that are more personally fulfilling.

5. Redefining Work Adds Life to Your Retirement
When I retire, I basically look at it is instead of going into the office each day and receiving a paycheck, I start receiving a retirement benefit. I’ll do this if and when I get tired of going into work, or if and when I come up with something else I’d truly rather be filling my days with. Retirement is not a shangri-la of doing nothing, at least not in my view – I see it as the point at which I have enough of a financial base to no longer worry about any connection between getting paid and what I’m doing. That, my friends, will be a great day – and it might come sooner than I originally thought.

6. Redefining Work Honors Unpaid Activity
Almost all of us work for money, but we also work around the house, work at raising children, and so on. That’s all unpaid, but we choose to do it because it’s fulfilling to us – we enjoy a clean house, so we clean it. I raise my children for free, not because it’s something I’m supposed to do, but because the time I spend with my children and wife each day is the most spiritually fulfilling part of my day. Most of the time, I wish it were the true center of my day, putting it in the central place in my life that I would like it to be, but the work-money relationship pushes that aside.

7. Redefining Work Reunites Work and Play
What’s the difference between work and play? The biggest difference is really whether or not you’re getting paid – that’s the only difference if you truly love what you do. Again, work comes back to money – a job you truly love would be like play and thus the paycheck itself really wouldn’t matter too much – you’d just be being paid to live.

8. Redefining Work Allows You to Enjoy Your Leisure More
Even when we’re on vacation, the idea of our job rests in the back of our minds, a slight weight holding us back. Once you disconnect the need for pay from the job and do the things you’re passionate about, that weight disappears and you can dive deeply into fully enjoying your leisure time. I know for some people, leisure basically just means escape, but that’s not what the word means – it means doing whatever it is that isn’t productive, but is fulfilling in some way for you. For example, I view playing on the Wii with my wife to be the definition of leisure – I don’t really use it to unwind from anything, just to enjoy spending time with my wife.

9. Redefining Work Sheds a New Light on “Right Livelihood”
“Right livelihood” is an ideal – it basically means that you spend every moment of your life in accordance with your internal sense of values – for example, if you know what you’re passionate about and can actually find ways to make money doing it, that’s right livelihood. There’s a long discussion of this, including the danger of what happens when you begin to believe that what your passion is is what you should be doing above all, even above your survival, and thus you begin to believe the world owes you a living. It doesn’t. Also, any time you’re responsible to others for the money you need to keep your projects alive, it transforms into working for money.

In a nutshell, this section is heavily leading into some of the conclusions of this book, a few of which I bet you can already guess. Many people criticize this section by saying that it just encourages people not to work and instead chase windmills – and to a point I agree with this. However, it also says that you need to make sure your basic needs are covered and that you should not expect the world to hand you a living, both of which are really key here.

Tomorrow, we’ll finish up the seventh chapter, “For Love or Money: Valuing Life Energy – Work and Income,” starting with the subheading “Step 7” and continuing until the end of the chapter. This section appears on pages 247 through 258 in my paperback version of the book.

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