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On Work And Money

I think I have a pretty unique experience with work and money. In the decade after graduating university I only worked a “real” job for about 1.5 years. There were large parts of that time where I can say I didn’t even do anything to make money. This is because after university I was making decent money playing online poker, and could mostly work when I wanted. After I moved to Thailand that money could last me a long time, and when I didn’t feel like playing I would just live off the savings I had, sometimes for years. Then when I switched to programming I did something similar. I worked for 1.5 years at San Francisco wages, and then I moved back to Thailand and lived off the savings for years until I had to start working again.

Something that I learned during this time is that in many ways it feels better to work than not to work. I know this is a very privileged statement to be able to make, because if you’ve had to work a grueling job just to get by your whole life then you’d obviously rather do anything but that. But the truth is that it’s human nature that most people can’t do the things that are hard but good for them when there is very little outside pressure to do so. It’s really hard to stop yourself from spending too much time playing video games and watching youtube, not exercising, eating unhealthy food, not going out or being social. It’s very easy to get bored and depressed this way. And I say this as someone who considers himself to have pretty low social needs and having above average ability to motivate myself to do things. I think this is something that’s hard really understand unless you’ve actually had years of not really having to do anything.

Now it’s not like this is so terrible. I would 100% choose this over a lot of terrible jobs. But I’d say it’s not better than a decent job, even though a merely “decent” job will inevitably have some drudgery and stress. And during those times I might think, "I wish I were just rich and I could do whatever I wanted and I would just quit this job". But then what? I know what awaits is something like a black hole.

I have similar feelings about money. Sometimes I think about how much more money I could be making if I stayed in San Francisco. Or if I should be pushing to make more money somehow. Start a startup? Try to move up the company? It’s not that these things aren’t worth doing, but I don’t think it’s worth doing just for the money. Because if I were rich I honestly don’t know what I would do with the money. For the most part the things that I want fall into the following categories:

  1. I already have it.
  2. If I want it I can already afford to get it.
  3. I want it and I can’t get it but I would probably no better off if I could.

It’s clear to me that it’s possible to want something that wouldn’t actually make me happier to have it. People can want to waste all day on social media and streaming sites, do drugs, buy expensive things, have an affair, but it won’t make them happier. It mainly just momentarily makes you stop wanting that thing. Currently I’m fortunate enough to say that I make enough that I can afford any necessities, I save a decent amount for the future, and in general I feel financial secure. At this point I think more money would mainly give me more access to things that I may want but won’t necessarily make me happier.

The things that do make me happier generally don’t cost money, but instead it costs effort. Things like exercising regularly, eating healthy, maintaining a good social life, maintaining a good marriage, learning new things, getting good at things, and working on things that feel meaningful. And honestly I can’t even say that I spend that much effort trying to attain these things. So then how can I justify spending more effort than that on making more money?