Where I work, I am often exposed to the sort of people I never thought I would ever meet, or even wanted to meet. You know the type: young, think they know everything about anything, successful because of some big break, or lucky deal, cocky, lazy, loud, and patronizing.
By far, however, one of the most annoying things I hear at least once a week, either by mouth or in an article is a version of the phrase:
“I retired at twenty-five. And how you can do it too.”
We’ve all seen or heard things like this before. There are innumerable articles about this “topic” online. Written by gurus who spent six months in India for some reason, and only drink natural root tea from the Amazon because they go back every year to pick their own roots. A few variations of the same topic are:
“Top ten tricks to do to retire before 30”
“I left the rat-race, retired at 27, and I’ve never been happier.”
“Why retiring at 32 was the best thing I ever did.”
“The five things all millionaires do to help you retire by 25!”
And on, and on.
Before I move on to the main point of this post, let’s get a few things out of the way first.
1. If the article states that it is a list, it’s going to be garbage. It won’t help you learn, it won’t help you grow. Writers like these understand that people love lists. They’re easy, they’re quick. But the purpose of the list isn’t to help you, it’s to help the publication, they only want you to click on the link, because they know you only care about the items on the list, not the content in between.
2. If the article says that EVERY millionaire does something, or there is ONE THING they all have in common, the article is garbage. This is basic statistics. Get enough millionaires in a room together, and a blind goat could find a handful that have five things in common. Do they brush their teeth before 6:00AM? Do they keep a planner? Did they start saving as a kid? Etc. This is what I like to call the “Drop out of college fallacy.” It is the assumption that because SOME successful billionaires dropped out of college, it must be the easiest and quickest path to billionaire-hood. It is not. For various reasons. And if you’re too lazy to find out what those reasons are, you’re too lazy to be a billionaire.
3. If these “five tricks” or “ten secrets” were really so effective, why isn’t the author a millionaire? Surely it must be because they are an altruistic soul who wants to help other be successful, right? No. They’re not a millionaire because tricks don’t make you rich. Hard work (and luck) does. And because writing articles like this isn’t hard work, they’re not a millionaire.
Which brings me to the main point of my post.
Am I supposed to be impressed you quit working a regular job in your mid-twenties? Is that the cool thing to do now? Is retirement suddenly a goal the rest of us can’t reach? I really don’t understand the point of these articles, when they really just boil down to some nobody stroking their ego for six pages. If the article is really meant to inspire others to join them in early retirement, then what, we have millions of twenty-somethings traveling the world with no jobs flaunting their “success”, their “eastern enlightenment” and “open-mindedness” at anyone who will listen? Oh wait… we already have that.
If the authors of these articles were as smart, clever, and intelligent as they brag, you’d think they’d be able to find a job they would WANT to work at until 65. You’d think they’d be smart enough to figure out what they actually enjoy and make that a career they enjoy. But they’re not (surprise!) Why is that? Probably because actual smart people realized a long time ago that real happiness, real joy, is found in family and relationships. And you can’t raise a family on your natural açaí berries you picked yourself in the Amazon in your twenties. (Go watch any Hallmark, or family Christmas movie)
So why do they do this? There’s probably a number of reasons, here a few of my guesses:
1. They don’t want to knuckle down to actually have a family (which is totally fine), and are finding some way to make themselves happy and validate that decision to their “followers”
2. They’re expressing the age-old frustration with Western values and capitalism by traveling the world and bringing back enlightenment for the rest of us cavemen. It’s really just the typical journey of young people trying to “discover themselves” and do so by being as controversial, and counter-culture, as possible.
3. They’re lazy, and writing an article like this makes it look like they’re not.
So, if in the end your life’s goal is to laze around on a beach every day, 24/7/365, for the next sixty years of your life, then you’re not the kind of person I want to be following. Imagine having a conversation with this person during a job interview If they ever decide to come back down off the mountaintop to join the rest of us unwashed masses.
“So, tell me about your aspirations, your goals. Where do you see yourself in, say, twenty years?”
“I want to work this job for five years, save a couple thousand dollars, and make that small sum stretch for the rest of my life as I sip rain water from the navel of a Hindu guru on top of the Himalayas.”
“….we’re done here.”
But all of this is ignoring the simple truth that we all ignore, or seem to forget when we see or read these articles:
If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.
To quote something I read recently (I apologize I don’t know who the original author is):
“Social media has created jealous behavior over illusions. Sadly, some are envious of things, relationships & lifestyles that don’t even exist.” -Unknown
If the author you follow on these blogs only makes you feel bad about your life. If they make you jealous, or depressed about what you have. If you look up at the end of the article and wish you weren’t who you are now. Then these articles are doing you no good. They are selfish “mental masturbation” for whoever wrote them, and were never intended to help you at all. Want some proof?
Where are all the articles from these people five, ten, or thirty years down the line? Where are all the amazing benefits from their early retirement? Could it be this lifestyle of laziness and greed has only seeded the fruits of divorce, poverty, and depression?
Color me shocked.
Smart people find value in what they have. And if there is no value, they create it. Only cowards and idiots run away and seek happiness on the other side of the world.