Coming from the mindset of an earlier post about passion, I am speaking of the values that optimizes the successful triad of health, wealth, and wisdom (all part of financial independence) rather than more typical choice of comfortable or exciting escapism (all part of the rat race?) which to me suggests a lack of fulfillment in other areas.
It all started with the observation that all my expensive hobbies were a major drain on my finances (How I became financially independent in 5 years – Part I). I have always been a bit of a renaissance soul, but my job as a specialist allowed me to focus on only one thing. Even though I am one of those interdisciplinary people the research span I cover is just not quite wide enough for my taste. Therefore I spent a lot of money and time on gadget heavy hobbies such as electronics, composing, astronomy, and photography. However, I realized that the compensation for the lack of fulfillment was somehow costing me my financial independence. Therefore they had to be replaced (Using the Crowbar Maneuver to get cash fast). My first naive impulse was simply to find free alternatives. Those became system administration (linux) and geopolitics.
Already this was saving me some money. I now knew which computer to buy and which computer not to buy. More importantly I learned a few tricks that made me much more efficient at my work. In addition the department I worked at was in need of a system admin. This meant that I could get out of my teaching assistant job so I gladly accepted (see here why I didn’t enjoy teaching that much). This saved me a lot of grief: Understanding why a computer doesn’t work is easier than understanding why a student doesn’t work.
The interest in geopolitics worked out in the following way. Initially I was a member of a couple of newsgroups. I could have remained a passive lurker, but despite the school system’s decade long attempts to kill any interest I had in writing(*), I decided to write an essay and put it on my website (this was before web2.0 and before blogs became all the rage). I posted the link to the essay in the newsgroup. From there it was read by two of the big shots in the field (the kind of guys that get interviewed on PBS). This lead to an invitation to contribute to a book so I spent many evenings writing another essay. I also volunteered in a couple of places. One thing I have learned is that there is always work to be done somewhere. All it requires to stand out is being a little bit proactive. The reason it is easy to stand out is that a majority of the population is inherently passive having been thoroughly trained to sit still and wait for instructions before doing anything.
(*) I still have absolutely zero interest in poetry.
If I may digress for a while. The level of involvement is very important. For instance, my astronomy interest involved me buying a 60mm refractor and hanging around in the backyard at 2am with a pair of binoculars. This was a very passive or “consuming” expression of a hobby. A more active or “producing” approach would have been to join an astronomy club. From there on one could become the secretary or possibly volunteer to instruct newbies on intro-nights. This could maybe lead to a part time job at a planetarium or maybe a book proposal (today there are few barriers to writing and publishing an e-book, if nothing else a blog can be started in half a day, at least that was the time I spent setting up earlyretirementextreme.com). More serious hobby astronomers could get into comet hunting or variable star observations and contribute directly to the global science effort. My point is that a hobby can be carried out on several levels.
Let us consider personal finance blogging or maybe just personal finances in general. This is a valuable hobby (from the perspective of financial freedom). Even in its most passive form it does not cost much. In fact one may avoid a few mistakes. At slightly higher levels, one learns to do one’s own taxes and perhaps to invest for market returns without having to pay fund fees. (This is where I am). Getting slightly more active one can start a blog. Commit an hour a day to write a post and one can pick up an extra income within a month or two. This can be a very valuable hobby. Some bloggers have even replaced their day jobs e.g. Lazy Man and Money, Get Rich Slowly, The Simple Dollar.
For financial independence or just health, wealth, and wisdom, I think it is important to keep the following points in mind
- Pick a hobby where you can grow as a person. This means that you should get better and better with time passing through the stages of beginner, competent, master, and expert. If improvement stops, drop the hobby.
- Pick a hobby that can makes you healthier, wealthier or wiser. If the hobby does none of the three. Drop it.
- Get involved. Be productive. If you create something other people enjoy
But what about having fun? I say almost anything can be fun once you get into it if it is sufficiently challenging (except poetry of course 😛 ). If you disagree that’s your problem, it just means that you wont be having fun while getting smarter, richer, or in better shape 😉 .