I have recently become absolutely obsessed with Bill Watterson’s (the Calvin and Hobbes guy) commencement address to Kenyon college in 1990 (proving yet again that I am hopelessly behind the times).
He titles it ‘Some thoughts on the real world from one who glimpsed it and fled”.
He is officially my new favourite person (#apologiestomylifepartner).
I’ve been reading it every morning, because it reminds me of a few things that I so often forget.
It’s surprising how hard we’ll work when the work is done for ourselves.
It seemed the more artistic training that I got… the less I made things for fun. The more I worked, the less I thought about the kind of art that I actually wanted to make.
Doesn’t that seem a little backwards?
It blows me away when I fall into a project that I’m doing just for the pure joy of it. The minutes become hours, and before I know it I’ve missed three meals and I can’t wipe the grin off my face.
Seems like there should be a lesson in there somewhere….
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a cartoonist, it’s how important playing is to creativity and happiness.
Being creative for a living can get a bit tricky, because a certain amount of ‘play’ is really really helpful for the quality of your work. Well, I don’t know about you, but it’s really important for my work. It’s so hard for me to ‘give myself a break’ to stretch my brain in other ways… but every time I do, it pays off hugely.
Selling out is usually more of a matter of buying in.
I love this. It wraps it all up in a big package. Selling out doesn’t have any specific guidelines… it simply means buying in to someone else’s idea of what’s important.
It can be so easy to get sucked into other people’s ideas of ‘success’ or ‘happiness’… but then you’re selling out your own.
Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it afford him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential – as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.
How amazing is the quote. Seriously?
I know it’s a big block of text, but if you skipped it… go back and read it again.
I try to read it every week. It is one of the fundamental principles that I live my life by.
To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.
Something about that sentence got me quite teary the first time I read it.
I think it’s the permission that it gives. The permission to try to figure out what you want to make your life about. What you want to invest your resources in, and what return you’re looking for on that investment.
The dollars and sense of it all
What does it have to do with money? Well… everything.
This is why personal finance jumped from being an ideal curiosity of mine to a full blown passion.
It’s not about more, it’s not about excess (unless that’s what you want), it’s about building a life according to your own definitions. It’s about not “buying in” to the narrative around you. It’s about being the main character in your own story.
Money is one of the tools that you can use to build that life, but it doesn’t just happen. It’s hard to ‘invent your own life’s meaning’. It means swimming upstream when everyone else is swimming down.
You need a plan. A firm idea of what it is you’re trying to build, and after that… a whole ton of discipline to make sure that your daily resources are going exactly where they need to, where you want them to.
But how will you pay the bills?
All that flowery talk is nice, but what about the real world?… what about getting through every day?… how will you pay the bills?
That’s the thing… it doesn’t matter.
It does matter that you pay them… seriously… bills gotta get paid. But it doesn’t matter how. You can market yourself as an artist, or you can take a job that may seem ‘undemanding’ because it “affords you the time to fulfill other interests and activities”.
Your life doesn’t have to be about how you make money. The source doesn’t have to matter (although you do need to make some).
What your life could be about is just how you choose to spend that money.
Making a home for your family. Building a business you love. Traveling the world. Playing. Working.
Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?
Financial Planner/Opera Singer
Money never came naturally to me. In fact… I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be ‘financially out of control’.
And honestly, I still get stressed about money… that doesn’t stop… the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.
And those tools are what’s made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.