Recently, I read the book the Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris. He makes a compelling argument that the whole concept of "retirement" is flawed. Basically working for 30 or 40 years to enjoy a fleeting moment of freedom in your dotage is stupid. He suggests that you craft your life so you can enjoy "mini-retirements" now.
The Internet and more recently our concept of "publishizing" have given us the freedom to basically live a "retirement lifestyle" for the last 10 years. The fact that most of the people who live in our neighborhood are retired is telling. We get to experience more or less the same lifestyle while we are still young.
Not to take away from anything Timothy Ferris says (most of which is really great by the way), we've been endorsing the idea of enjoying life now for a long time. In fact, the following is an excerpt from article that I wrote for our Logical Tips site a few years ago that emphasizes the point.
In the business world, it seems to be more common to get pitying stares if you have the temerity to say that you enjoy doing things other than work. They always ask sadly, "oh don't you like what you do?" Well, actually yes I do. But sheesh, do we all have to be just ecstatic about working every moment of every single day to the exclusion of all else or be labeled a failure in business?
It seems like the quest for money has eclipsed everything. Shouldn't there be joy in embarking in hobbies, activities, and interests? I don't want to have to wait until I retire to enjoy the beautiful area in which I live. If I'm spending all my leisure time worrying that "there might be a very important email" sitting on my computer here in the office, I'm probably not fully enjoying the actual moment I am living. And that's really kind of pathetic.
As I was pondering these things, I glanced at a news story citing a new study reported in the journal Science that basically concluded the old saw "money doesn't buy happiness" is true. The study showed that "those with higher incomes tend to be tenser, and spend less time on simple leisurely activities." Apparently, those with high incomes had "more chores and less fun."
I've read other similar studies that say obviously being desperately poor is extremely stressful, but once you have reached basic solvency, more money does not equal a happier life. Mostly, it just stresses you out. Realistically, as you look back over the last few months or years, what stands out? Was it the hours of being hunched over your computer answering "very important emails" or was it the vacations you took or the time you spent with your kids, friends, or even your dog? Many people have gotten to the point where they feel like they "can't" take vacations. That's just wrong.
It's sort of egotistical to think that the business world is going to somehow come to a screeching halt if you aren't answering your email or cell phone every moment of every day. Although as many people know, I do try to be responsive to email, I'm not arrogant enough to think that people are waiting desperately for my pearls of wisdom.
The rant I wrote above was inspired by an outing I took with person that was largely ruined by her constant need to check her cell phone and to periodically run home and answer email. The outing was supposed to be a fun getaway, but instead it was a joyless waste of an afternoon.
I mean let's face it, to be effective in business (or in life) sometimes you really need to step away from the computer and the day-to-day world of business. The world will go on without you. Really.
After all, as Mr. Ferris points out there's a whole lot of living you could be doing right now, instead of waiting until you retire.