Thoreau once wrote: “The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”
To me, quiet desperation means living lives we’re not happy with. We don’t love our lives. In fact, we’re downright unhappy. If you stop and think about this for a minute, you’ll see that Thoreau is 100% correct. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and here’s why I believe this happens:
We have all been programmed to live average lives. This programming has come from our grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, teachers, priests, ministers, movies, TV, and our friends. Without realizing it, we have automatically adopted ideas and beliefs about how to live from our environment. These ideas and beliefs may actually lead us to live miserable lives.
Here’s a quick list of some of the ideas and beliefs we’ve been taught:
1. Go to school so you can get a good job. Save 15% of your paycheck in your 401k plan. Diversify your 401k investments. Save $1,000,000 and you’ll be able retire at 65.
2. Get to work early, stay late and work your ass off so you can get a good raise. Making more money is always better than having more time.
3. If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded with job security.
4. Follow the “food pyramid” recommended by the USDA and you’ll live a long healthy life. Remember, moderation is the key and it’s best to consume six smaller meals a day: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner.
5. When you don’t feel well, go to your doctor. Your doctor will prescribe medication. Take these “magic” pills and all of your aches and pains will go away forever.
6. To maintain a healthy body weight, do 45-minutes of cardio every day.
7. Buy the products and services you see advertised in the movies, TV, and the Internet. These things will always make your life better with three easy payments.
8. Take one nice vacation each summer with your family, if you can get permission from your employer.
9. Get your kids involved in as many extra curricular activities as you possibly can so they can get into the best colleges. The best colleges will help them get the best jobs so they can live good lives.
10. Always compare yourself to the Jones family, because you’ll get more approval from society if you have nicer cars, a larger home, and more toys than they do.
This is just a tiny fraction of our programming. There is a great deal more, but this will be enough for now.
Let’s take a second and think about where all of these ideas and beliefs (programming) have taken us?
- According to a survey from GOBBankingrates.com, one out of every three Americans has absolutely nothing saved for retirement, 56% have less than $10,000 saved. The average 50 year old has just $60,000 saved for retirement.
- More than two-thirds (68.8%) of American adults are considered to be overweight or obese. Three out of every four men are overweight. One-third (31.2%) of children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese.
- According to a study by the Mayo Clinic, seven out of ten Americans take at least one prescription drug. In 2013, it was estimated that the average American spends $1,370 annually on prescriptions. This cost has actually risen dramatically since 2013 and is expected to escalate further.
- The average college graduate in 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt for degrees in which they cannot find suitable employment. Sadly, these loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Many young adults aren’t able to make the minimum monthly principal and interest payments and their outstanding loan balance increases each year.
- According to a Gallup poll, adults employed full time report working an average of 47 hours per week, which equates to nearly six days of labor each week. This average was reported from a Gallup survey in 2015. In 1960, only 20% of mothers worked. Today, 70 percent of American children live in households where both parents are employed.
- The average American under the age of 65 is earning $46,409 a year, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. Since the U.S. has no legally mandated annual leave, the average U.S. worker only has an average of 13 vacation and/or sick days each year.
- The average U.S. consumer holds two bank-issued credit cards and carries a total balance of $5,551, according to Experian’s recent State of Credit report.
- Americans currently average 6.8 hours of sleep each night. This average is down from almost 8 hours of sleep in 1942. Sixty-eight percent (164 million) Americans struggle with sleep each week. Forty one percent of these adults have taken some type of sleep aid.
- 75% of American adults experience moderate to high levels of stress according to the American Psychological Association. These adults report that stress has a negative impact on their mental and physical health. The three main areas causing stress are money, work and family responsibilities. Stress is also a top health concern for U.S. teens between 9th and 12th grades.
- Various estimates peg the divorce rate between 40 and 50% for married couples in the United States.
Life certainly is good, isn’t it? Let’s paint a picture of the average 50-year-old American man:
He works 47 hours a week at a job he doesn’t enjoy. He makes approximately $46,409 a year, which works out to be around $19.74 per hour. His spouse, if he is still married, also works full-time. If he is lucky, he gets 10 days of vacation and 3 sick days each year. More than likely, he is 30 lbs. overweight. He sleeps an average of 6.8 hours a night and uses sleeping pills. He has about $60,000 saved in his retirement account. He has $5,551 in credit card debt from buying stuff he doesn’t need. He takes one, or more, prescribed medications. He feels high levels of stress on a daily basis over work, money, and family responsibilities. His children have $37,000 in student loan debt. More than likely, they have moved back home after graduating, because they can’t find a full-time job for their degree and can’t afford to live on their own.
Does this average 50-year old love his life, or is he living a life of quiet desperation?
I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but what we’ve been taught to do as adults doesn’t seem to be working very well. We have serious issues in every area of our lives including our finances, our health, and our marriages.
Isn’t this a little scary?
The crazy part is we’ve been programed to live this way. Who profits from how we’ve been taught to live? Let’s see….
Our employers profit from our labor. We trade away an average of 47 hours a week of our precious lives to make money for the businesses that employ us. The financial community profits from our 401k contributions. The longer the more and we work we save, the more they make off of our labor. The food industry makes billions off of the processed food packed onto the shelves of our local grocery stores.
Our doctors profit from all of our health problems. Every time we go see him or her, they get to send another bill to our insurance companies. This doesn’t count all of the kickbacks they get from the drug companies for pushing prescriptions. The drug companies make billions on all the medications we take due to our obesity, stress, and poor health.
The colleges and student loan companies’ profit immensely from the loans they peddle to our children for degrees which do not provide stable income. The president of a small private college in Georgia makes $9.6 million a year. The annual cost to attend this college is $52,000 and the majority of students graduate with significant student loan debt. They are funding this person’s salary.
Does this make any sense?
The ideas we’ve been taught about how to live a good life seem to actually create “not so good” lives. We are overworked, stressed out, sick, tired, fat, and we really have no significant savings for all of our labor.
We’re teaching our children the same ideas. We are literally programming them to have these exact same results. Let’s stop this right now. Let’s think accurately. Let’s make better decisions for our lives and the lives of our children.
A better plan might be to do the exact opposite of what we’ve been taught.
Start your own business. Use the income from your business to buy income producing assets. As your business grows, learn how to use systems to reduce the amount of hours you work. Since you control your schedule, you can exercise every day. You can also take vacations whenever you want. You don’t need anyone’s permission. You can work 20 hours a week, or 40 hours a week. You get to decide. You can make as much, or as little money as you want.
Moderation isn’t the key to success in any area of our lives. We don’t need six meals a day. One or two is better. We don’t even have to balance our protein, carbs, and fats. We can just eat protein and fat. More importantly, food is our medicine. Before running to the doctor, see if you can improve your health through the foods you eat and don’t eat. Keep experimenting with nutrition and exercise to reduce your prescription medications.
Exercise and calorie counting doesn’t lead to long-term weight loss. What we eat and when we eat does. Doing 45-minutes of cardio every day won’t keep you skinny. It will do many other things for you, but fat loss isn’t one of them.
Be very careful of any and all advertising. Reduce and minimize as much of it as you can. Products we see on TV won’t make our lives better. Friends, family, experiences, time, freedom, and health are the keys to happiness.
Instead of trying to get your kids into the best colleges, it might be better to help them start the best businesses. Use their college savings to buy income producing real estate that will provide them with cashflow for life.
And last but not least, fuck the Joneses. They’re broke, sick, tired, fat, and they work too much.