June 9, 2014

What Would You Do, If Money Was No Object?

Personally? I'd ride my own kitten-loaded unicorn, bare chested with my rock-hard abs showing suggestively in the glare of a double rainbow over the mirror-calm lakes of Northern Scotland.

But I digress.


My friend Shacky posted an inspirational video, today, on his Facebook wall. In a nutshell, the video asks “What would you do if money was no object?” and goes on to tell you to live your life to the fullest, to pursue your wildest dreams, regardless of whether you can earn a living out of it.


Now don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate the beautiful images and the question itself, as it makes you reflect on what your own life is, on the level of satisfaction you actually get from it. But telling people to aim their whole life at a single dream goal, without any care for the unavoidable material issues, is preposterous. Unless, of course, you’re Steve Jobs, Prince Harry or that rich dotcom kid who posted misogynistic frat emails.

So instead of a video filled with sunsets, beauty shots of skyscrapers and deep-sea reef diving, which really are someone else’s idea of a dream life anyway, let me offer a couple pointers on my own process of reflection, introspection and my humble little quest for happiness. It is devoid of rainbows and unicorns, but I hope it's worth the 5 minutes you'll spend reading it.

Let me start with a couple down-to-earth, albeit disappointing facts of life.

You need money.
No matter how good you are at living a low-expense life, you still need money. Unless you take off to live a traditional life in a remote indigenous area with the help of a local tribe (in which case you still need to afford the trip(s) to get there), money is unavoidable. Deal with it. What you can do about this, however, is ask yourself what your relationship to money should be. Do you want to be its slave, chasing away every opportunity you have to make a buck, or can you determine a satisfactory level of earning and then plan what your real life should be like?

You are in The Machine.
There is a whole world out there made to make you conform. From the school system to our notion of “work” to our governments to our social pressure system, everything is built, thought and organized to create artificial material needs to solve all your worries and show you how to fulfill them through the marvelous slavery system that is credit. You can’t avoid The Machine; however, you can invest time to become a better thinker and set your own goals, your own values and your own dreams, realistically and according to what you truly aspire to. Then, you can find real ways to fulfill them. For real. As in setting foot atop the Kilimanjaro or taking off in your sailboat. Of course, this is much more work than watching a cool video of a dude surfing a huge tropical wave.

Take anything you love and turn it into a job; you’ll hate it.
Ask adventure tour guides, professional actors, top models. Are they living their dream, through their work? No matter what line of work you choose (aside very few, self-employed, client-less situations, I guess), you’ll have to deal with dimwits, self-righteous zealots, lazy poseurs or any other form of party-pooper. You’ll have people to answer to, whether superiors or clients. You'll be pulled back into The Machine in no time flat; your job title will just sound cooler.

Now with that said, I do have very, very good news, too.

Your life is a triangle
Surprise!! Your life is NOT your work. Your life functions basically like a triangle, between work/material, yes, but also love and leisure. No matter how well one of these aspects goes individually, if the two others suck, you won’t be happy. So instead of trying to skydive for a job (not that there’s anything wrong with that, though), realize that you need to aim for satisfaction in all three planes of your life. And while you’re at it, take a shortcut and realize it is almost impossible to have all three planes smooth sailing on a tranquil sea of happiness. Work on all three truthfully, however, and you’ll see more stability, more discovery, more quality time and… yes! More happiness!

Don’t know where to start? How about “What else than television / video games / internet would make me fulfilled?”, or “What kind of person(s) do I want to share my personal life with?”. And, of course, “What do I need in a job to be happy and satisfied in conjunction with the two other planes of my life?”.

Life is not a straight line.
We have a saying, in ultra running. “This, too, shall pass.” That means if you feel great right now, eventually, it will go away and you will suffer. But it also means if you suffer, it, too, will sooner or later recede and make way to feeling better again. This is true with your life, too. Our journeys are not straight patterns through existence. We make some of our own happiness and unhappiness, but we also fall victims of fate, abrupt twists and flukes. It is what we make of the situations we experience that matters, in the bigger scheme of things. And how we decide to react is based on our opinions, our values and the solidity of our various relationships. Do you start to see a pattern, here?

Life is NOT your job.
I work 9-to-5, in a gray cubicle, doing the most unimportant thing you could ever imagine. And you know what? I have some great colleagues who lead interesting lives to share great conversations with. I also benefit from an excellent salary, which provides more than enough money and free time to travel the world, enjoy many adventures and practice my favorite sport. I work 37 ½ hour weeks. Hell, I just spent almost a year travelling, paid, thanks to that job. Is this really all that bad? (Hint: it is also OK to answer yes to that question).

It is all up to you
Although in the good news department, this also means you have to tackle one of your life’s biggest challenges; becoming the artisan of your own happiness. You need to figure yourself out. You need to take a stand, and live by values that are important to you. You need to make choices, some of which won’t be easy. You’ll probably need to keep going when (most) everyone tells you you’re dumb, straying off, or plain wrong. You'll have to face doubts, maybe change your mind.

I am NO better than you.
Neither is Mrs Zen or Mister Positive, from the inspirational videos. We are one. We are all in this together. We struggle, we doubt and we face challenges all the same. Those images of perfect people living perfect lives? They don’t exist. Be yourself. Be honest. Be truthful. Extend a hand to others. Work on your your triangle. Reflect on what you want for real. Find your values. Think. There IS a recipe to happiness; it's the one YOU make.

That’s all I got, really.

Now if anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be running my second distance of the day, on my way to my Belle’s place from my work, where I decided to benefit from the gym lockers and showers they installed about two years ago. Reminiscing about past trips and epic runs with my friends. Dreaming of Italy, where I’m flying next July. Trying to smell flowers instead of exhaust fumes. Maybe catching a stranger's eye on the way and exchange smiles.

All that with a pretty decent smile on my face :)

Ça m'énerve, des fois, les pseudo-vidéos de motivation qui te promettent le bonheur absolu si tu fais la chose que tu aimes le plus au monde comme boulot, sans égard au salaire que tu peux en tirer. En plus d'être étroit et faux, ce raisonnement mène à la même place que toutes les autres "recettes" de bonheur; la déception. Le vrai bonheur, c'est à toi de le faire!


  1. Your heartfelt, simple message, as faint as a whisper, reaches out, unites, inspires the goodness of the dreams, and journey we seek.

    1. La Mariposa, the joy you bring in my life is like the warm sunshine of your beautiful home <3

  2. Well done my friend. Your wisdom is resonating deeply with me. I'll be sharing a link to this post with friends, family, and clients alike. Many thanks for you and your journey.

  3. I loved the video and your comments are food for thought. I'd like to add a few notes to all of this. Flint, you are a very, very lucky person too. Not all have this opportunity or luxury, but not to take away from your blog, which I loved. Secondly.. I, in some ways, are triple luckier than you. My job, which was one of my passions, after 35 years, I still like and enjoy. It's not my only passion, but everyday I work I wonder how lucky I am to get paid for it. And now I have found myself not only doing the work I like but for a great cause. How better can it get? We are both fortunate people.

    1. Jon, I agree, and I admire your humility in recognizing that we are lucky people. Although I do believe that part of this situation, we created through choices and values, I absolutely agree that we must appreciate the good aspects of our respective situations, and be grateful for them. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Love it! I just read it and I could hear your voice narrating it, and it makes me smile. Miss you!

    1. I miss you too, my brother! I dream that I could live closer, and go out with you in the woods to run around and shoot bows :)