I was speaking to a couple of colleagues one day and this concept of F.I.R.E. came up from our conversation.
Intrigued and uninformed, I asked what’s F.I.R.E stand for? Well funny enough, it’s young people speak for Financially Independent Retire Early.
That concept never really sat well with me, sometimes I would think about it and even raise it in a satirical context for some gags.
Based on what I have experienced (which is limited, I’ll admit), the F.I.R.E crowd tends to be heavily invested in stocks, cryptocurrencies and the like. They usually are self-proclaimed investor savvy individuals, however not all of them are. Some just buy purely from an emotional point of view, trying to get in onto the gravy train.
This led to deeper questions in my head, why is this mindset so pervasive? Why would they even want to retire? What is financial independence in the first place?
When I think about all these things, I realised that there is a clear difference in foundational thinking about life and work. Many of us are raised with the mentality that work is something you do after you graduate from university or whatever institution you came out of, and it’s just something you have to get over/ do in order to attain the resources to do what you truly want in life like travel, have kids, own a car etc etc. Essentially a tool for you to sustain yourself without help from your parents.
Well that isn’t wrong, and yes there are many case studies out there that have proven that you can attain those things through having that mindset.
But, I sense a major flaw in this kind of approach, one that deals with the internal rather than the external. I believe that this FIRE concept sells well especially to the younger generation because people think about life not as a game, but something to get over just to attain enjoyment through retirement (assuming nothing bad happens health wise). It just seems like everyone is rushing to retirement without actually understanding the reality of retirement.
Athletes and Retirement
Many athletes face this issue, you see and hear many stories of athletes staring down the bottle or snorting lines of cocaine after retirement. Why is that so? Because, yes they have attained a high level of mastery in their respective sports, but they failed to transition over to a bigger sport which is their own lives. Retirement isn’t for everyone.
People generally think about money as a means to enjoyment, “oh I have to work hard because I want …..” But I choose to view money differently, I view it as the side reward you get from playing the game of business well. It’s a lot like going into an arcade and being able to play the game on a higher level from everyone else and winning a bigger bear than your rivals.
Why Musk and Bezos Still Work
I was just listening to a fascinating podcast about Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin. The recurring theme within the battle between these two titans is that they simply didn’t need to be involved with space exploration, the road to such an endeavour is expensive, risky and strewn with dead bodies along the way (literally). They have “f*** you” money to retire generations and generations of their families for the rest of their lives, there’s no dying need to make a profit from these businesses.
So, why are they still going at it? I believe at the core of it, explains a basal desire of joy in winning. And the game they are playing? Isn’t a game of survival, it’s a game of legacy. This game drives titans of industry to keep churning, keep moving and keep taking risks. It’s something innate in individuals like Warren Buffet that keeps them mentally sound.
Games You Play
These entrepreneurs never stop, they keep going because they know that money isn’t the goal of the game, it is actually the by-product of playing the game right. The satisfaction does not come from earning money, but the ultimate joy comes from winning at the game. Think about the times when you were young where you scored a goal or vanquished your sibling in a game of street fighter. Those same kind of emotions never go away. Sure, the games are a lot different, but the underlying joy is the same.
That’s exactly what these successful people have done! They’ve taken business and turned it into a game, a huge game that they are incredibly passionate about and fuels them to work tirelessly through the night.
When I was younger, I used to be obsessed with Call of Duty, playing through the night up till 4 am. It was a pretty hectic time in my life but I enjoyed that a ton. Although I’ve lost that passion for the video game, I’ve redirected that same passion and intensity to acquiring and honing essential skills in entrepreneurship to the point where sometimes I feel like I’m not even working, I’m flowing from one task to another just like I did when I was gunning noobs down in Call of Duty.
Is Work-Life Balance a Marketing Scam?
About 2 weeks back, there was an interesting conversation on the Up-round telegram group chat: https://t.me/upround amongst people interested in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. The topic was about work-life balance.
Dr Alex Lin, in his full controversial form, stated that work-life balance is merely an excuse for those who choose not to achieve greatness. He continued to state that if you’re in the flow, you won’t even feel the burnout. That is assuming that the objective is so strong and so clear in front of you.
Of course such a statement drew an uproar in the chat itself because many of us have been programmed to being PC (politically correct).
But, I believe mentors Edward and Anderson summed up the discussion really well. Edward mentioned that the question you should be asking is how do I come to an arena where work and play becomes one? Mentor Anderson chimed in to the discussion by saying that if work is your life and life is your work, then everything is in perfect balance!
Business is the game I’ve been summoned to play. There is no need for retirement in this game unless something terrible happens to me (I hope not). For others, you might be passionate about a different game, it could be striving to be the best teacher, doctor or salesperson. Whatever it is, when you begin to start treating work as play, everything becomes easy.
Rules of Engagement
That brings us to the next question, what are the rules of the game?
I remember during one of the ideasinc.veni classes that I took, a participant was telling everyone about how he had won a case competition or some entreprenerial competition because the judges felt that his team had clearly outlined their customer segment really well and that gave him confidence to head forward into building his business.
But what he didn’t realise was that he was basing his beliefs off someone’s idea of his customer segment. To put it bluntly like Dr Alex does, it’s like kissing the person who introduced you to your boy/girlfriend. Isn’t it more logical to get the information directly from your customer segment, that’s the best way to identify and validate your customer segment!
It’s important to understand what kind of game you’re playing and what kind of rules to abide by. By rules, I don’t mean ones written down on a piece of paper or posted online for everyone to see. These are unspoken rules that clearly govern the game and only those who are in the game know the rules. If you do not do your due diligence, there are very real consequences heading in your direction.
In the battlefield of business, there are different levels to the game, and at each level, there are sets of rules to be learnt.
Most people give up even before the game begins. But those who stay in long enough to learn the game? They thrive because they’ve learnt the rules of the game and how to manipulate them.
What are you going to do about it?
Till next week! Blessed Lunar New Year everyone!