Even worse, people oftentimes like to actually be placed in these boxes. Well, they don’t seem to mind, at least.
Is there something about being placed in a box that’s comforting? I mean, I get that boxes are good at holding stuff. Like a table that you put together. Or your dishes when you move from one home to another.
But your entire identity?
I’d argue that not only should you not want to be placed in a box or place others in boxes, but you should instead fight to stay out of a box.
In fact, I’d argue going further. Once you’re able to refrain from being boxed in or boxing others in, you’re able to actually live more than one lifetime.
It’s said life is short, right? And it is. We get maybe 80 or so years alive, if we’re lucky enough not to die early of some unfortunate disease. 80 years? That’s it? Yikes!
But as short as that is, what if you’re able to extend your one life into multiple lives?
Live More Than Once
I ran into an online comic strip animation a while back and it really resonated with me.
It discussed a concept involving the truth of one day being dead, but the falsehood of only living once. And I think there’s just a ton of insight and value in that concept.
So that animation assumes it takes seven years to master something. You can argue with that based on a variety of factors including the actual number of hours spent practicing, natural talent, and interest. But I think it’s a fair assumption with the estimate of 10,000 hours often bandied about. I can tell you that I’ve been writing consistently and intensely for four years now and I still haven’t mastered it.
If it takes you seven years to really master a skill, then you have the opportunity to live more than once by mastering multiple skills throughout your lifetime. You can become multiple versions of yourself throughout your life by taking on different identities, depending on what interest you have at that time. We can take that 80 years and divide it by seven to come up with at least eight “lifetimes” in one life (assuming you start after adulthood).
These individual lifetimes can be whatever you want them to be. The animation proposes spending a lifetime being a student (we all do that, don’t we?), then spending a lifetime being a poet, and then a builder. So on and so forth. But these individual lifetimes can cumulatively add up to a pretty interesting life in the holistic sense.
Don’t Be Afraid To Die
It seems that some people are afraid to die, as the animation deftly points out. Not in the traditional sense of passing on, but in the sense that there’s fear in potentially discovering what else you could do beyond whatever it is you currently do.
Is there an identity crisis there? Are we afraid of finding out who we really are without whatever full-time job that currently takes up most of our waking hours? What would we be doing without the spreadsheets to complete or the customers to serve? Who would you become if your boss wasn’t busy telling you who to be and what to do?
I find myself becoming bored with something after I know just about all there is to know about it. I spent approximately nine years in the auto industry, eight of them as a service advisor before quitting my full-time job last year (hopefully, for good). And I was absolutely bored and burned out the last year. I knew, deep down inside, that I was just repeating the same motions day in and out. Different day, same crap. That was around the seventh year of being a service advisor. Is there something to that?
But I did something about it. I transitioned into writing/blogging, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
Now, I could have easily stayed at the job. It’s tough to kiss a job paying me $60,000 per year or so goodbye. But I was far enough along the spectrum of freedom to jump and try something new. Even if writing didn’t work out, I knew I could try something else. Indefinitely working part-time could allow me to pay my bills and then some, so there was really no risk there. Especially when I’m a guaranteed millionaire, even if I stop investing.
I also realize that there could very well be a time when blogging won’t be as fun for me. Maybe I get burned out. Maybe I run out of ideas. Maybe I won’t be as inspired in the future. Or maybe I just lose interest at some point. If any of that happens – if I lose my passion for writing – I’ll just stop. I’ll let that lifetime die only to be reborn into a different and new lifetime. I’ve been at this for more than four years now, so maybe the clock is ticking.
But to help fight that loss of interest, I’ve branched out a bit. I wrote a best-selling book. I’m now coaching others interested in fighting for their freedom and pursuing a different path. It’s not just about diversification of income (though, that thought does often cross my mind). It’s also about diversification of lifetimes… diversification of identities, passions, and pursuits. Not only that, but one lifetime can unexpectedly lead you into another lifetime. Maybe writing transitions into coaching on a full-time basis. And maybe coaching later turns into speaking. Then maybe that leads me to a whole new cause I take up as a philanthropist. Who knows? What I do know is this: Whatever it is I do, I’ll be doing because I love to do it and want to do it.
But there’s no sense continuing on doing something just because it’s what you’ve been doing for a year or ten. If you don’t wake up wanting to do it, why do it? It’s like we let momentum take over logic and happiness. It’s almost as if because we’ve been doing something that we must then continue to do it. But that’s just not true.
Why be afraid to let an identity die off? If you’re not enjoying something as much in the the sixth or seventh year as you were when you first started out, why continue? Why not do something totally different? Why not seek a new lifetime? Why not be someone new?
Don’t Be Afraid To Live
Once you allow a lifetime to die, you have a whole new opportunity for a brand new lifetime.
How exciting is that?
And this brings me around to the value of seeking and achieving financial independence. It allows you to seek out new lifetimes without worrying about how much you might make during that lifetime.
Want to become a poet for seven years? Might be a tough go if you have a big mortgage and no passive income. But if you’re able to embrace frugality, save a good chunk of your capital every month, invest intelligently, and slowly become more free every single day, the possible lifetimes you can live open wide up. Who cares how much money you might make writing poems when you’re already comfortably paying your bills?
Even better, the skills that you learn in one lifetime can add value to the next lifetime. For instance, the good habits that allow you to save and invest in the first place can carry on for the rest of your life. That means a little income goes a long way, no matter what you end up doing. And if you’re the type of person who’s driven enough to achieve financial independence quite early in life, then you’re probably the type of person who adds value almost everywhere you go. And that value has a way of coming back around to you. Hard work rarely goes unrewarded. Thus, active income will likely flow your way even if you’re not looking for it.
Moreover, there’s a big difference in working hard at something you truly enjoy and working hard at something you do just for the money. And I believe others pick up on that difference. So not only is it likely that you can actually make more money doing something you enjoy, but the process will be a lot more fun.
Getting back to the poet example, maybe you become so great at writing poems that you publish a book – out of love, not for money. And the royalties from that book allow you to pursue a whole new lifetime. Then maybe you play around with fixing stuff until you become so good at it that other people want to hire you to start fixing their stuff. Perhaps you then do that for a year or two before getting tired of it. Then it’s on to a new lifetime.
So you can see that even if you think the passive income might be a bit tight when contemplating trying new things, it’s probably not as tight as you think it is. If you’re a driven person who works hard and achieves something as amazing as financial independence a decade or three before most people are retiring off of Social Security checks and modest 401(k) savings, you’re the kind of person who’s going to go on and do amazing things in any lifetime you pursue, assuming you have an interest there. You’re going to add value. And value is going to come back around to you.
Not only that, but at some point money just ceases to really matter at all. Do it right and you’ll end up with far more money than you could ever spend, which puts you in a great position to live one more lifetime near the end of your long life: a philanthropist. Actually, because money will likely be of little concern early in your life, it’s possible to volunteer your time for many lifetimes. Find a cause. Improve the world. Be the change you really wish to see.
Don’t be afraid to live. Embrace whatever interests you have at the moment. Change is good. It allows us to see things we couldn’t see before, become a person we never were, and form new relationships that otherwise would have been impossible.
Don’t Box Yourself In And Don’t Box Others In
I’ll occasionally read a review of something – a movie, an album, or a book – and there will sometimes be criticism related to change.
“This band doesn’t sound like they did 10 years ago.”
“This actor isn’t the same guy he used to be.”
“Yeah, this was good. But it wasn’t like that thing I read/saw/listened to X years ago.”
“That athlete isn’t as fast/strong/good as he/she used to be.”
It’s almost as if people want to be stuck in a moment, in time. And they want others to stay stuck in time as well. People want to define others and let themselves be defined. I’m not quite sure why that is. Of course a band sounds different a decade later. Who wants to create the same songs over and over again forever? Likewise, who wants to sit at the same desk and deal with the same problems for most of their life?
I look at a lot of well-respected and well-known celebrities across the spectrum of fame (be it athletes, actors, musicians, etc.) and I see a lot of lifetimes among them.
Take Michael Jordan, for example. He certainly mastered basketball, right? But he’s been doing other stuff nearly as long as he was a professional basketball player. Stuff like running a professional sports team and other various businesses, golfing, traveling, and lending his image and likeness for sponsorship deals. He even took a year off from basketball during his prime to give baseball a run. That lifetime didn’t work out, but you’ve got to give the guy credit for trying it out.
And that’s the point. Fear of failure shouldn’t hold you back from trying new lifetimes. It’s fear of missing out, the fear of regret, that should instead inspire you to potentially try too many lifetimes. Jordan retired from professional basketball, twice, when he could have easily kept on playing and making a ton of money. But he is more than just a basketball player. And I think I’m more than a service advisor, a writer, an investor, or whatever else I might want to try out in the future.
Michael Jordan can try out multiple lifetimes concurrently due to his vast wealth and resources, but there’s nothing stopping you from trying to be a world-class golfer, or starting your own business, or traveling… all on a smaller scale than Jordan, obviously (and not simultaneously). But the key is to first move yourself up far enough along that freedom spectrum, or become financially independent altogether. Without some element of freedom, the fear of “not making it” will creep in. We all need to pay bills. But lower those bills enough and increase your passive income enough, and that fear disappears.
I think we all have the potential to live more than one lifetime. Or even three or four lifetimes. There’s no reason you can’t spend five years being a philosopher before taking a decade to then master carpentry… or music. Then maybe you move on to protecting wildlife. Or perhaps you spend the first ten years out of college dedicated to your career before downshifting to being a stay-at-home parent. The possibilities are almost endless. But don’t box yourself (or others) in. And don’t be afraid to die. Or live.
I leave you with a quote by Pablo Picasso, who was, at various times throughout his life, a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet, and playwright:
I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
What do you think? Can we live more than one lifetime? What kind of lifetimes do you want to live?
Thanks for reading.
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