A conversation I had with my girlfriend after she shared this good article with me.
Two top quotes:
I used to be embarrassed by my lack of drive, until I realised that the strange moral value we place on overwork is sapping our lives of joy.
But those forced by socioeconomic circumstances aren’t the people I’m talking about when I criticise a culture of glorifying overwork. What I object to is the inverse of working for necessity: our culture of lionising additional, unnecessary work; all those hours of elective, yet somehow expected, overtime.
Why do people glorify work, and is it OK to be idle?
This is an important question for us FIers for two reasons.
First, some people think FIRE is just an excuse to be lazy and being lazy is not OK.
Second, on the other end of the spectrum but sipping from the same poisoned chalice, the impression given by some of the early retired is that they did so by working 80 hour weeks and that they sort of retired to be better capitalists (creating a start-up, generating passive income through questionable online businesses, micro-managing their personal lives).
The latter doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it’s still likely to cause a bit of anxiety for potential early retirees/FIers who just want a quiet life.
The fact is, very many jobs are unfulfilling – see the bullshit jobs theory by David Graeber. I don’t think it’s any more virtuous to want to work really hard at one of those jobs forever than it is to take a supposedly unambitious job*.
Especially if the unambitious job is taken in conjunction with frugally working out what makes you really happy, so that you can maximise the value of what might be quite a low income by spending it on what really matters to you.
Personally, I think most people need a bit of structure in their life. That can be provided in combination with financial independence through a light touch part-time job or even regular volunteering for a charity.
Someone who achieves that level of balance in their life will probably be happier and contribute more to society than someone who works themselves to the bone and chucks the proceeds at commodities that are bad for the planet.
*as it happens this doesn’t describe me; I enjoy my current job and I’ve always felt quite a strong inner ambition that I can’t quite explain. I just don’t happen to think that makes me a better person.