July 3, 2008

More time for Seasteading

As many of you know, in addition to my responsibilities at TSI, I have a day job at Google.  Having two jobs has been stressful, especially with the lack of alignment in having my passions one place and my time another.  Therefore I have given notice at Google, and will be leaving at the end of July.

I will be devoting some of my extra time to increasing my hours at TSI, particularly to coordinating volunteers and revising the book, but I will also be de-stressing, traveling, and catching up on life.  After about 3-6 months of this mini-semi-vacation, I will ramp up to full-time on seasteading.  You can read more about the decision on my personal blog.

It’ll be costing me a bit financially, as I had a few more months of valuable stock options coming, but passion is way more important than money.  As Po Bronson writes in What Should I Do With My Life?:

Shouldn’t I make money first — to fund my dream? The notion that there’s an order to your working life is an almost classic assumption: Pay your dues, and then tend to your dream. I expected to find numerous examples of the truth of this path. But I didn’t find any.

Sure, I found tons of rich guys who were now giving a lot away to charity or who had bought an island. I found plenty of people who had found something meaningful and original to do after making their money. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the garden-variety fantasy: Put your calling in a lockbox, go out and make a ton of money, and then come back to the lockbox to pick up your calling where you left it.

It turns out that having the financial independence to walk away rarely triggers people to do just that. The reality is, making money is such hard work that it changes you. It takes twice as long as anyone plans for. It requires more sacrifices than anyone expects. You become so emotionally invested in that world — and psychologically adapted to it — that you don’t really want to ditch it.

I met many people who had left the money behind. But having "enough" didn’t trigger the change. It had to get personal: Something had to happen such as divorce, the death of a parent, or the recognition that the long hours were hurting one’s children. (One man, Don Linn, left investment banking after he came home from a business trip and his two-year-old son didn’t recognize him.)

The ruling assumption is that money is the shortest route to freedom. Absurdly, that strategy is cast as the "practical approach." But in truth, the opposite is true. The shortest route to the good life involves building the confidence that you can live happily within your means (whatever the means provided by the choices that are truly acceptable to you turn out to be). It’s scary to imagine living on less. But embracing your dreams is surprisingly liberating. Instilled with a sense of purpose, your spending habits naturally reorganize, because you discover that you need less.

This is an extremely threatening conclusion. It suggests that the vast majority of us aren’t just putting our dreams on ice — we’re killing them.