Redefining Success – Young FI Guy
On this episode of The Good Life Guys Show/Podcast, we interview ace UK-based blogger Young FI Guy on redefining success. YFG has an excellent and super-informative blog on which he writes about many diverse topics. As a “weird ex-accountant” (his own words) he tends to lean towards topics that are at least somewhat related to finance.
Since he started his blog a mere one year ago, YFG has become a big name on the UK FIRE (Financial Independence / Retire Early) scene. As a genuine fan, who has read his entire blog front to back, it was a real honour to have him on the show.
Who Is Young FI Guy?
Remarkably, Young FI Guy became financially independent (and retired!) at the young age of 26!
He had always been a keen saver. So when, in his mid-twenties, he grew frustrated with the office politics, boring administrative tasks, and corporate obligations that came with his job in the finance industry, he decided to quit and take some time as a man of leisure.
The plan was to take a finite period of time off work to do some bucket-list type things that had always tickled his fancy. But what he found, was that he was much happier not working his job.
And so, with the encouragement of his wife (and a pile of personal savings that made it possible), he decided to turn his temporary job hiatus into a permanent retirement.
Redefining Success Isn’t as Hard as it Seems
Success is an amorphous term. We all need to define what success means for us, in our own lives.
Society’s notions of what constitutes success are often vague, one-size-fits-all, hallow, and over-influenced by money-hungry marketers.
Young FI Guy is a fascinating character who defines success squarely in his own terms. A warm, thoughtful and highly intelligent man, he lives according to the dictates of his own mind and heart.
YFG has a wise head on young shoulders, and a lot to teach us all. The conversation we had was wonderfully interesting and, in numerous small ways, life-changing.
The following are the big and inspirational ideas that we discussed in the context of redefining success. After each idea, we have suggested a book that would make great further reading on the specific topic.
Be Clear About Your Personal Priorities
Being clear on your priorities is a crucial first step towards fashioning a life that is optimally enjoyable and meaningful to you.
The world cannot tell you how to live, or what to care about. If you blindly follow the herd or bow to peer pressure and ape what appear to be the priorities of the masses, you will likely lead a life of frustration and sadness. The real you will remain obscured. Your truth will go untold. Your soul will go unsatisfied.
Each of us needs to examine our minds, listen to our hearts, and unearth our true priorities. What do we actually care about? What do we truly desire? What is genuinely meaningful to us? How do we want to spend our limited, finite time on planet Earth?
Nobody can have it all. Every decision involves trade-offs. By prioritizing one thing we necessarily de-prioritize countless other things. Sacrifices must be made. And they must be made deliberately.
Being honest and clear with ourselves about what matters to us and why is a foundational and crucial component in creating a successful life. So be clear about your personal priorities.
Recommended reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight
Find Joy in Everything… Even the Most Menial Of Tasks
A recurrent theme in our conversation with Young FI Guy was the shortness and preciousness of life, and the concomitant onus on each of us to remember to stop-and-smell-the-roses as much as possible.
Being alive, here and now, is the ultimate gift. The odds against you being born and existing in your specific incarnation were insurmountably vast… and yet here you are!
Sadly, most of us are so preoccupied with petty problems, trivial concerns, and illusory dramas that we fail to enjoy our day to day existence. We are trapped in silly worries and habitually oblivious of the beauty around us.
If you were diagnosed with terminal cancer today, everything would immediately look different to you. People, things, sights, sounds, and experiences that you habitually took for granted would suddenly become more precious than all the gold in Fort Knox.
We label things in life – necessary commitments and tasks, weather, other people – as ‘boring’, ‘dreary’, ‘a drag’, ‘painful’ etc. But this is simply a problem of negative thinking. We can change our framing. EVERYTHING can be enjoyable… if we decide to find the joy in everything.
Choose to be fundamentally delighted to be alive. Choose to focus on the positive and be grateful.
Work to find joy in everything… even the most menial of tasks.
Recommended reading: The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts
Define Status In Your Own Terms
The human animal has an in-built, instinctive desire for status. We innately desire status because having high-status conferred reproductive benefits on our ancestors in our environment of evolutionary adaptation, so status-seeking was selected for.
That human beings desire status is natural and inevitable.
However, what makes a person ‘high-status’ is somewhat subjective. High-status was conferred on people for many different actions, behaviours and ways of being at different times and places in history.
In today’s world, high-status can be achieved in numerous different ways. Modern society is ultra-complex and is made up of an almost infinite number of different groups of humans, playing an infinite number of different social games.
The beauty of living in such a complex and nuanced society, and of having the knowledge and wisdom to act against our baser instincts, is that we can consciously decide what status games we want to play.
To a large extent, we can define status in our own terms. We can make an informed and conscious decision about how we want to be in the world. We can choose to define status in our own terms.
It is crucial to be able to do this because big-business interests and money-hungry marketers are extremely adept at activating our predisposition towards feeling status-anxiety in order to push us towards trying to achieve status by purchasing some product or other.
If we are blindly seeking status, unaware of the primal drives that are controlling us, we are apt to behave suboptimally in ways that hurt ourselves and others.
But if we accept our desire for status, and choose to define status on our own terms, then we can consciously seek status for achievements and ways of being that we believe in and that we have decided are good and worthy.
Recommended reading: Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton
Enjoy Work… Even If You Hate Your Job
Many of us do work we enjoy. But the majority of jobs involve many more commitments than simply the work itself. And many of these commitments are rather onerous.
A daily commute in rush hour traffic or on packed public transport, boring administrative obligations, navigating office politics, long meetings to nowhere… these unattractive aspects make many jobs, on aggregate, a pain in the ass.
Minimizing the amount of time spent performing onerous tasks is one of the main attractions of Financial Independence / Retire Early.
But retirement does not have to mean a life of pure leisure, spent lounging by a pool with a margarita in hand. A life that involves no meaningful work can be a source of depression and anxiety for many people.
Being engaged in meaningful work can be a profound source of pleasure. Getting lost in compelling work can be a joyous experience.
So whether you have achieved FI, or are still working a job that involves some amount of concomitant onerous obligations, make the most of the opportunities you get to get lost in meaningful work.
Set your life up in a way that, no matter what other commitments you may or may not have, you have regular opportunities to indulge in deeply absorbing work.
Recommended reading: Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Discover Your Core Values
Nobody can tell you what is right for you… but you. You must decipher what your own core values are about how to live, act, and be in the world.
Having a set of core values that jibe with your mind, heart, and soul gives you a compass and map that enable you to appropriately navigate the often choppy waters of life.
If you have no discernable values, or your values are vague, fluid, and changeable as London weather, then you will be vulnerable to exploitation from others. And you will tend to behave in ways that do not ultimately benefit you or the people you come into contact with.
A human who does not have clearly defined personal values is a human that is susceptible to being taken over and controlled by the malevolent steak that exists in every human heart.
If you have no core values you will tend to behave like an asshole more than is acceptable. And you will be easily pushed around and susceptible to bad influences.
Recommended reading: 12 Rules For Life by Jordan Peterson
Embrace Some Amount of Determinism
Determinism is a complex philosophical concept that has been widely debated for centuries.
Determinism is the idea that human beings’ thoughts, actions, and behaviours are determined by everything that has occurred in the universe up until the present moment. This includes a person’s genetic makeup, past experiences, and every external and internal factor imaginable.
Determinism is the opposite to free will, and it holds that human beings are ultimately not in control of, or responsible for, what they think or do in any given moment.
Some people see determinism as a depressing idea that robs people of their autonomy. They believe that determinism robs people of their motivation and makes life meaningless.
But a solid grasp of the determinism argument can be extremely freeing and can improve a person’s mood and sense of wellbeing enormously.
If you view the actions of yourself and others as ultimately determined by the state of the universe in the instant before action, then you can no longer rationally get angry at yourself or other people.
Determinism implies that we are all in the same boat, attempting to navigate life in a complex and crazy world that we have precious little control over.
Determinism allows you to relax and accept yourself, the situations you find yourself in, and other people.
It allows you to relax your grip and go with the flow, doing your best to be good, but knowing that achieving perfection is never really possible – for you or anybody else.
Recommended reading: Free Will by Sam Harris
Strive To Improve… But Accept Who You Are
Relating to determinism is the idea that you are who you are, and that unconditionally accepting yourself is crucial to cultivating lasting happiness.
We can certainly improve aspects of ourselves – becoming healthier, wealthier, and more mentally healthy – but much of who we are, in our core, is cemented by biology and forces totally outside of our control.
Some degree of change is possible. But a life spent feverishly trying to totally overhaul every aspect of who and what we are is a life of unnecessary stress, strain and pain.
Every human that has ever lived is riddled with flaws and imperfections (despite what people’s Instagram pages would attempt to have you believe!).
You are just another flawed, imperfectable human. You must totally accept this fact. And enjoy being fluid and flawed.
Keep the Serenity Prayer in the forefront of your mind…
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Recommended reading: A Guide To Rational Living by Albert Ellis
Sleep As Much As You Can
Sleep is crucial to good health. Consistent good sleep is a wonder drug that will improve and maximise our performance and functioning in every area, both physical and mental.
Sleep is of such vital importance to the human animal that it must be included in any attempt at redefining success.
Surely optimal mental and physical wellbeing has to be a crucial component of a successful life. If you are running on empty, sailing at half mast, grinding your gears and failing to get anywhere near your potential, success will remain out of reach.
Sleep is the foundation of good mental and physical health. Sadly, too many people are unaware of just how important sleep is, and so they sacrifice it in order to work longer hours or watch an hour or two more TV.
Developing a suitable sleeping schedule, and prioritizing feasting on deep, glorious slumber for at least 8 hours every night is all-important.
Recommended reading: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
Writing is a fundamental tool in redefining success.
There is nothing more effective than regular writing for formulating and solidifying ideas. We often don’t really know what we desire, think, or believe until we sit down and write about it.
Writing is wonderful at opening our eyes to what we don’t yet know. Writing forces us to organise our thoughts.
Journaling is an extremely effective form of self-administered therapy. Writing improves the sharpness of your mind and the lucidity of your thinking. It improves your vocabulary and makes you an all-round better communicator.
Writing is a fundamentally human practice that has powerful and multitudinous benefits.
Recommended reading: The Sense Of Style by Steven Pinker
Bear Your Mortality In Mind
Death can be a depressing topic for many (or most) people. Most of us in Western society are guilty of burying our head in the sand when it comes to the FACT of our own mortality.
But many other societies in different geographical locations, at different times in history, and under different spiritual and philosophical norms had a much closer, more accepting and more open relationship to death.
The Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome recommended keeping your mortality firmly at the forefront of your consciousness, in order to more fully appreciate the life you currently had.
Buddhist and Hindu societies believe in multiple lives and see each death as an opportunity to start afresh.
In the West, we deny and run from death. Many of us are in deep denial about our mortality.
The tragedy of this is that death ends up catching us unawares. Many of us are totally unprepared for death. We do not have our emotional house in order. We have not said “I love you” to our loved ones in way too long. We believe there will always be another chance. We believe we can make amends in a future that has no end. But our futures will not last forever. One day we will see our loved ones for the last time.
Another huge benefit of always bearing our mortality in mind is that we can thoroughly and fully enjoy the experience of being alive here and now. When we accept that our lives are finite and could end at any moment, we can grasp the incredible preciousness of every second of life.
An integral part of redefining success is to stop denying and avoiding thoughts about death. Bear your mortality (and the mortality of every other person in the world) in mind in order to fully appreciate your life and every single person in it!
These are the big ideas that we discussed in this episode of the Good Life Guys Show/Podcast.
Young FI Guy – Redefining Success is one of the most enjoyable episodes we have recorded to date.
YFG shared so much wisdom and food for thought. It was wonderful to chat about these profound topics with such an original and exciting young writer and thinker.