I believe a key aspect of having a happy and successful early retirement is to build out, maintain, and enjoy a passion, or set of passions, that allows you to remain a productive member of society.
The idea that you’re going to retire, let alone early, and then just resign yourself to sitting around on a rocking chair or some other position of indefinite leisure – it’s silly.
If you quit your job and then do almost nothing, you’ll almost surely be miserable and depressed.
While quitting your job is an admirable goal to have, and it’s indeed the reason most of us aspire to become financially independent in the first place, continuing to work in some form or fashion is pretty much necessary, in my experience, to maintaining a purposeful and meaningful life.
If we don’t feel purposeful, we don’t feel necessary. And if we don’t feel necessary, we become depressed.
Having a “side hustle” in FIRE is crucial for reasons far beyond whatever income it could generate.
While extra income, on top of whatever passive income you already earn to fund your lifestyle, is certainly not a bad thing, it’s the underlying purpose that is the real driver behind the value of a side hustle (or set of side hustles).
Giving your life meaning makes FIRE the complete package. Without meaning, we feel lost. To have meaning, we must engage in activities we’re passionate about, which will fulfill our driving purpose.
However, the issue that a lot of people run into with developing a side hustle isn’t so much in terms of generating a side income from whatever it is they end up doing; the problem arises when it comes time to build out a side hustle in the first place, for a lot of people just can’t seem to figure out what their true passion is.
I believe asking and answering one simple question can solve this for you.
A Side Hustle Should Be About Passion First And Foremost
Let me get something out of the way, first.
Whatever it is you do in your post-job life, it should be a passion first and foremost.
There’s that old adage about doing what you love and never working a day in your life.
Well, most people have a hard time swallowing that pill because we need to make money to pay our bills and go about our lives.
Fortunately, FIRE solves the money angle. If you have enough passive income to cover your basic bills in life, you don’t need to worry about whether or not whatever it is you’re spending time on will pan out in terms of income.
Taking away that pressure not only alleviates the stress that comes with trying to make sure something makes money, but you also find that the reduction in pressure makes it so that you have a clearer path toward success with your passion.
That’s because your barometer for success is no longer tied to the amount of money it will or won’t make.
It’s all about whether or not you feel like a happy, meaningful, and productive member of your species.
Whatever side hustle you take on should always be about the passion first and foremost. It should be about enjoyment.
When you frame it in this way, you’ll almost always find that the money will come as a byproduct of that passion. It’s when you’re truly passionate about something with every fiber of your being that you can add the most value. And when you add value, value comes back around to you. It’s like an equation the universe must equalize.
Said another way, it’s when you stop worrying about the money that the money comes the easiest.
But in order to not worry about money, we must have it at least partially solved.
Well, that’s why FIRE is so valuable.
However, even once you have money figured out, figuring out your passion may prove to be more difficult than you anticipate.
My Favorite Question To Ask People
I have a question that I love to ask people. It usually comes out of me when I first meet them, almost out of a sense of genuine curiosity.
And I believe this question can help almost anyone solve the quandary of finding and developing their true passion (or passions) in life, which then allows them to build that out into a side hustle that can lead to a much more successful (financial and otherwise) early retirement.
You need to ask yourself this question.
You then need to take some time to reflect on it and answer it honestly.
Don’t worry about what others may think about your answer. This answer should align well with who you are deep down inside. The answer should score pretty high on your internal scorecard.
This is the question:
What would you do with unlimited money?
Just think about what your everyday life would look like if you had unlimited money and no longer needed to concentrate on earning money.
Money is this huge barrier in our lives. I’d argue it exists more as a mental block than it does in any real, practical sense, for abundance in the 21st century makes it so that the basics in life (think that which is near the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) are cheap and readily available for most people in advanced societies.
Too many people select what they do based on the remuneration it will provide them, enjoyment be damned.
This question eliminates the money barrier from the equation.
Once that barrier is eliminated, especially within the context of nearing or achieving FIRE, it should be about what does and doesn’t make you happy. It should be about purpose and meaning. It should be about living an autonomous and passionate life that’s full of growth, authenticity, and pleasurable moments.
Whatever we choose to spend our time on as it relates to our work/side hustle will factor into this in a very large and direct way.
The projects you seek to take on once you quit your job (or even before you quit your job, as a side hustle should start to be developed way before you hand in your resignation) will likely suck up a lot of your resources (time, energy, skills, etc.). It’s important that these projects are aligned well with what you’re absolutely passionate about.
Once you’re able to answer this question fairly accurately, and once you figure out a way to make it happen in your life, you need to repeat this process over and again by setting up a routine that gains you the most possible exposure to it.
Examples Of Following Passions
Warren Buffett, for all intents and purposes, has unlimited money.
Yet he chooses to get up each morning and drive down to Berkshire Hathaway headquarters, where he spends hours upon hours reading.
He’ll take a call here and there. There are the numbers that come in from the numerous businesses Berkshire Hathaway owns as subsidiaries.
He’ll occasionally look at an investment for the common stock portfolio.
He likes to eat breakfast and lunch at McDonald’s.
He drives a Cadillac to/from his dated house in a nondescript neighborhood in Omaha.
99% of his money is going to be given away to various philanthropic causes.
Bill Gates, for all intents and purposes, has unlimited money.
Yet he spends almost all of his time on his philanthropic organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
He and his wife travel the world, produce content, take part in interviews, and use their platform (which obviously includes a massive fortune) to lift people out of poverty, improve healthcare and education, and generally ameliorate the human condition.
They do all of that that while also encouraging other billionaires to give more, via the Giving Pledge that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett founded in 2009.
Most of his money will be given away to various philanthropic causes.
Money Isn’t About Luxury Or Glamour; Money Is About Eliminating Basic Worries
I believe that having money, even an unlimited amount of it, isn’t really about being able to buy more stuff. It’s not about adding luxury to your life or somehow spending more money.
It’s really about eliminating basic worries from your life, like how you’ll be able to pay the rent or how you’ll be able to afford dinner tonight.
It’s addition through subtraction. Money makes you happier once you know you have enough of it to secure your basics in life. Beyond that, it’s superfluous.
And then you’re free to unleash your inner potential, which should be where your passions come into play.
Studying extremely wealthy people has shown me that they live fairly mundane lives, really.
The main difference between everyday people and extremely wealthy people is often the simple ability to follow passions and make a difference via a larger platform.
Wealthy people don’t have “jobs”. They have “passions” and “purposes”. And they work on these passions and purposes with fervent dedication. If anything, extremely wealthy people work harder and longer than most others with day jobs.
If our basic reason for existence is to better the human condition and move our species forward, extremely wealthy people are able to do this in a much more profound manner.
Jeff Bezos, for example, believes the best way to do this is to move a lot of heavy industry into outer space, rezoning Earth for residential only.
Elon Musk is aiming to make us an interplanetary species by eventually setting up shop over on Mars.
These guys have passions. BIG passions.
But that doesn’t mean all of this can’t be scaled down into a platform that makes sense for regular people like us.
I once asked myself that very same question I posed earlier.
What would I do with unlimited money?
Well, I would be living my life almost exactly the same as I do now.
Other than giving a lot more money away via philanthropy (or perhaps even founding my own organization), I wouldn’t change much at all.
I’d still consume and produce a prodigious amount of content, do a lot of critical thinking, take time to philosophically muse, eat the same food, walk pretty much everywhere, own almost nothing that can’t fit inside of two small bags, wake up with no alarm clock, spend time with the same people I currently spend time with, and generally do as I do now.
My life is set up to drive value in and out of it. It’s set up to maximize the time I spend on passionate pursuits, while minimizing the time I spend around pursuits or people that make me unhappy. More money – even an unlimited amount of it – wouldn’t change any of that.
If I ever ask myself this question and come up with an answer that’s different from the life I’m currently living, I’ll change my life so as to better align it with what that new answer looks like.
As it sits, my passive income, mostly derived from the five-figure and growing dividend income my FIRE Fund generates on my behalf, covers my lifestyle; however, I still pursue passions in my life for the value proposition.
I think it’s incredibly valuable and insightful to ask yourself this very simple question.
Once you really take the time to think about your answer, you’ll find that the answer is not “Buy 10 mansions” or “Buy 10 red Ferraris”.
You’ll instead come to find the answer is something far more mundane, accessible, and repeatable.
Furthermore, it’s highly likely that the answer can and will end up making you money, because it’s precisely when you stop chasing money that it stops running away from you. It’s once you actually sit down, work, and add maximum value (because you’re inserting yourself into the best possible situation) that the most amount of value comes back around to you.
I discussed the importance of setting up a side hustle in my newest best-selling book: 5 Steps To Retire In 5 Years.
But I wanted to take the time today to show how a simple question could allow you to more easily home in on what your true passion is, and how finding it could lead to making more money, reaching FIRE faster, and enjoying FIRE far more.
What do you think? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Are you already living out your answer?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re looking to become financially independent and develop out your own set of passions, check out some amazing resources that helped me become financially free at 33!