Embracing the Nagging Voices of Success

Do you ever feel like you completely suck at running your own life? Because I sure do.

As luck would have it, I’m at a bit of an apex of suckiness right now. It’s Sunday night at 10:17PM, and I am behind on a whole bunch of stuff. I’ve got over 150 emails from the beloved Mustachians that may never get answered because they come in faster than I can write back. My back yard is full of power tools and wood because I’m right in the middle of building a huge fence around the yard. I didn’t have time to clean it all up before it got dark, because I got sidetracked by drinking beer with friends and watching the solar eclipse. And now there’s a chance of rain falling on all my stuff this evening. This blog has sat ignored since last Wednesday. I told the lady at the credit union that I’d send the paperwork to her for my new line of credit by tomorrow morning. And at the end of the night, I opened the fridge and realized I had completely failed to get groceries for the last few days and we’re out of almost everything. I hit such a low point on the suck scale that I actually used the CAR for this emergency grocery run – the first time in many months.

At this point, many of you are surely saying,

“Waah! Waah! Listen to the Whiny Retired Man describing the teeny-tiny hardships of his cushy life! Oh, please, get me a bucket for I am shedding so many tears that they are spoiling the finish on the Tiny Violin I am trying to play in sympathy for poor old Mr. Money Mustache!”

And you’re right – there’s no real problem with the day I described. You could re-write that first paragraph to sound like the most pleasant Sunday that has ever occurred.

The problem was that for the last four days, there has been a growing chorus of nagging voices in my head, telling me that I was falling behind on everything and I needed to work harder to catch up. (OK, not actual audible voices like you get with schizophrenia, but nagging thoughts that I like to call voices.) These voices are relentless, and the only time they let up is when I work hard enough to get ahead of the self-imposed tide of responsibilities. In fact, the reason I’m staying up all night to write to you, then get a whole bunch of other stuff done on this computer, is to silence those damned voices. So let me just grab a late-night snack and bring it up to my office, then we can figure it out together.

All right, I’m back.

I’m going to wager that a lot of this talk of the nagging voices sounds familiar to you. I’ve told a few people about them in real life, and most of them said, “Hey! That’s exactly how I feel most of the time! I thought I was the only one!”.  And after talking it over with enough people, thinking about it, and enduring the nagging for a large enough number of years, I came to realize something that has been a great revelation and relief to me, and perhaps to you too:

That constant nagging is not a sign that you suck. Quite the opposite, It’s a sign that you’re going somewhere. Those are the Nagging Voices of Success! So one of the secrets of a happier life is actually learning to appreciate and even embrace their occasionally bitchy whines.

It may sound far-fetched, until you consider how I came to this conclusion. I’ve endured the NVS for many years. I think they started in elementary school, when the concept of getting good grades and doing your homework was introduced. From that point onward, there was always something I could or should be doing. Any time spent not doing those optimal activities was technically slacking off. And whenever I was slacking off, inner nagging would ensue.

I found there were ways to game the system a little. While I was actually working hard, the voices were silent. By building up a cushion or buffer of hard work, I could even take a short break without experiencing nagging. But the NVS would always return. Another trick I learned was that by scheduling my time out in advance, to include plenty of work, but also a fair amount of play, I could trick them, since they would focus on the Work entries in my calendar while I snuck away to play. But then I would invariably deviate from my calendar and start freestyling at life again, and guess who I’d find rolling up right next to me on a skateboard, full of helpful hints? That’s right, the Nagging Voices of Success.

Through all those years, I was looking at it the wrong way – I thought that the voices were there because I really sucked and really was always behind on everything. But eventually, after far too long, I started to notice that I was actually pretty far ahead, when measured against an average person of my age. Which is not to say that I thought I was an unusually good or worthwhile person in any way. But just in the raw measurement of “Amount Of Shit Completed Thus Far”, evidence was starting to amass that I had been getting a larger than average amount of shit done. It was showing up in the form of career progression, money and material things accumulation, and innumerable projects being completed here and there around my house. Everywhere I looked, I would see something that I had spent quite a few hours on. This blog’s almost a thousand. The fence will be yet another 80. In short, all the things that I supposedly sucked at and was always being nagged about. If all this shit really was getting done at a good rate, then what was the problem? Why the nagging?

This led to a revelation: Those nagging voices aren’t a measure of your lack of self-worth or accomplishment. They are an indispensable component of a successful person! (Here we’re again narrowly defining “success” as getting a lot of shit done, sometimes leading to monetary wealth). If you didn’t have the nagging voices, you wouldn’t ever be compelled to do any of the more difficult things in life, and thus you’d never get anywhere.

Before realizing this, the only way to be happy is to be working away busily on something. It’s hard to enjoy rest. But once you realize their true intent, you can finally make friends with the voices, and just be thankful for them. They’ll still creep in and make you stay up late occasionally, as they’re doing to me right now. But it becomes a good kind of mutual understanding. I know that life is better when we have a balance of work and play, since challenge and hardship are key ingredients to happiness. But befriending the NVS may allow workaholics to shift the balance at least a few notches away from the “work” setting.

As a final parallel, you may have also started getting visits from the Nagging Voices of Frugality. These are the voices that question every single purchase you ever consider making. They remind you that there is Always an even better purpose for every dollar you get your hands on, and therefore they occasionally take the fun out of things that really should be splurged upon. You can fight the NVFs, or you can befriend and thank them. These little friends will ensure that you never get yourself into financial trouble for the rest of your life, and in combination with the NVS will virtually guarantee great riches eventually. Your challenge is then just learning when to pinch their beaks closed long enough to enjoy an ice cream cone or even a nice hotel from time to time, while allowing their natural power to guide you the rest of the time.

Embrace the nagging voices and prosper.

Happy Monday!

  • Devin Smith May 21, 2012, 1:18 am

    There are meds for that :) Just kidding!

  • Ken May 21, 2012, 1:19 am

    Thanks for this one. At 20 years old, it’s hard to cope with NVS and NVF, because I tend not to encounter many people with strong cases of either. Maybe this is an accurate average sampling of the human race, or maybe I’m just choosing the wrong peers. Maybe I need some peers without the voices to balance me out. Either way, I’m coming to terms with the voices and beginning to put them to good use.

    • jeff May 22, 2012, 5:37 am

      I’m 31 and have been listening to the voices off and on since starting to work at 11. I can honestly say that better things happen when you do even half of what you think you should (or what they tell you haha). The old saying “the harder I work, the luckier I get” comes to mind.

      I guarantee that there are potential friends out there who are the same – just have to find them. Try this to weed them out. Start a side business (landscape, paint, hustle, anything) and see who wants to help without any convincing

  • Marlene May 21, 2012, 1:48 am

    Thanks! this is great and timely.

  • Two9A May 21, 2012, 1:50 am

    Oh, those voices. They torment me with a constant barrage of “why don’t you tile the bathroom already”, or “hey, since you bought the windows for the porch, when are you gonna get around to building the thing?”

    But if you listen to what the voices say, they’re commenting on things you’ve done (or have assigned yourself to do): my bathroom is plumbed, and only needs tiling to finish it. The voices say the porch needs building precisely because I have the materials for it. It’s always about projects or work you’ve done to push yourself ahead, and the NVS pester you to finish it.

    Embrace them.

  • Frances May 21, 2012, 1:55 am

    Ah! As a student, with final exams looming, this makes me feel better. It will take time for me to appreciate the voices, but in the end, I hope to embrace them!

  • lucas smith May 21, 2012, 2:15 am

    Thanks for sharing! The Voices are definitely my friend as well. I would maybe add that it is important to realize that what you are “driven” by is also a search for ultimate value and meaning. So when my voices tell me I am not doing enough of one thing or another it gives me a moment to understand what my unspoken or even unknown drive is.

    Someone once shared with me that emotions and fears are a key to understanding your subconcious and understanding what motivates others. In short summary:

    Anxiety- when a goal becomes uncertain
    Anger/Frustration – when something or someone blocks a goal
    Depression – when you believe a goal has become unatainable.

    These have held 100% true in my life. So out of curiousity what you would say your goal is that feels like it is uncertain? That you make the best choices with what you have (time/money)? To be the best? Or something else?

  • MiniMe May 21, 2012, 2:47 am

    Great post!! I’ve been heading to the same conclusion about feeling guilty that I’m not doing enough. I was a reasonably able student and went to University and gained higher degrees but decided teaching was my passion rather than following my career path. I see plenty of students with more ability than I had doing so little it’s amazing. I now realise I always had those voices that would not let me drift below a certain level and I’d do any amount of work to stay there. Go the NVS!!

  • SomeYoungGuy May 21, 2012, 5:26 am

    Maybe this affects working people differently than non-working. For me, I have my little yellow post-it note showing what I need to get done in the near future (I have a separate list for longer term goals). It gives me great satisfaction to ‘X’ off tasks, but I have to balance the short term with the long term goals, and the most overdue / important with the easy but quick… I get even more satisfaction from updating the list in full at the beginning of each week. But I have never ‘not had a list’ and only then would I imagine a nagging voice of success. Incidentally, going on vacation or a long weekend only amps up the length and difficulty of ‘the list’. Maybe NVS are what I get when procrastinating (e.g. reading this blog while I’m supposed to be working), but those voices are more of a ‘you deserve a break after kicking so much ass’ and ‘surely they won’t fire a guy with such a long list of tasks’ nature…

  • George May 21, 2012, 5:33 am

    I don’t think your analysis is completely correct.

    A successful person is not someone who is always doing something to satisfy NVS. The NVS is usually anxiety and yes the best way to handle this is through action.

    However, my own experience, when you have many tasks like you describe, the best thing to do is just stop a minute and actually think. List of your tasks that need to be done and prioritize them The prioritization should be based on your personal goals, i.e. whats most important to you.

    Want do you want to achieve this year or this week? Anything that not does satisfy your most important personal goals gets less priority and but should be ignored because it is taking your time and energy away from what actually should be done.

    Somethings are just not that important and just need to be ignored. These are simply busy work. Just blindly trying to tackle every NVS during every minute of the day is not some badge of honor, its just dumb.

    Its only when you apply intelligence and deliberate direction to your actions that you are following the path of success for acting on the right NVS.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 21, 2012, 9:19 am

      I agree with you George – that’s what I was trying to get at in the part of the article that described tricking the nagging voices by scheduling my time and priorities well.

      As others have mentioned in these comments, writing things down to get them out of your head really works. There’s no need to run around in a anxious haze trying to keep busy all day.

      This post isn’t comprehensive enough to get into the many great ways to harvest your drive to achieve things and make the most of it.

      For now, I just wanted to acknowledge the drive (which often manifests itself as this negative-feeling nagging), and point out that it is really a positive force in your life, if you understand it properly.

      • da55id May 21, 2012, 9:28 am

        I find it useful to pay attention to the pronouns used in the nagging. For instance, if it’s something like “…you… really need to get this done!”, then it may be less helpful in that it is an artifact of the embodied authority voices from our past such as mom, dad, your teacher from the fourth grade, the domineering brother or sister. Not good at all. Indicative that others are actually living our lives for us…even if they are gone.

        Alternatively “…I…really need to get this done” is closer to some of the Zen comments that indicate that it is an ego driven activity – not bad in itself, but certainly less helpful than…

        “this…needs to get done”…in this case, the activity/goal becomes the object rather than oneself.

        I was plagued with the third-person harrassment for years – and one day it occurred to me that it was unhelpful and in a sense, a form of unwitting slavery to masters who had taken up permanent residence in the cortex. Change your pronouns, change your life

      • Warped May 21, 2012, 11:12 am

        There’s a book that helped me get myself more organized, called Getting Things Done by David Allen.

        He talks a lot about getting everything into writing or a system so that you don’t worry so much about it – it’s all written down.

        Naturally, he spent a whole book and you had a paragraph or two, but the ideas mesh very well in my world.

        PS Thanks for this website – I’m an avid follower!

        • Oh Yonghao September 11, 2014, 1:26 pm

          Thanks for this book, I’ve added it to Good Reads and will check if my library has a copy.

      • fastbodyblast May 21, 2012, 8:08 pm

        Although I don’t think he “invented it”, Steven Covey’s (7 Habits), Time Management Matrix works for me:

        Actively plan to spend time on the things that aren’t urgent today but are still important, rather than putting out spot fires all the time (the urgent and important). The reason being if you are taking care of long term goals, this adds the most value and over time actually reduces the number of spot fires.

        It’s easy to constantly get caught up in the spot fires. However this usually results in keeping us where we are right now, not moving towards where you want to go.

        Stuff that is not important, whether urgent or not, should have the least time devoted.

        The nagging voices tend to cover everything – urgent, non urgent, important and not important. It really helps to work out exactly what gets you where you want to go. This makes it really easy to silence those voices by putting them in perspective.

        When I am actually being efficient…. I try to put the nagging voice into one of these categories. That way it either motivates me to do something or just as importantly, allows me to just let it go.

        It seems to me that your post is talking about exactly that – use the nagging voices as motivation to get the important stuff done, things that add value to life going forward.

  • Kristi May 21, 2012, 6:14 am

    I have a “DONE” list. I keep it next to my “TO DO” list on my computer.

    When I’m really fretting, hearing those nagging voices, I start listing out everything that used to be on my To Do list that I’ve finished lately. Even small things, like “grocery shopping.” Helps me visualize what I’ve accomplished and how much progress I’ve really made.

    • Karawynn @ Pocketmint May 22, 2012, 3:07 pm

      I do the very same thing! Not every day, but when I start to despair because I’m running as fast as I can and not keeping up, I will sit down and make a list of everything I’ve done in the past day or two. It’s usually surprisingly long. :}

  • rjack May 21, 2012, 6:24 am

    I’ll give you my radical Zen perspective on NVS. :)

    NVS or any anxious thoughts are just thoughts and as a result you can give them little weight. They are unimportant. You just need to do whatever you are doing 100%.

    Of course, this still means that you do planning, thinking, etc. However, your reaction to those thoughts really just reinforces your own ego. They are just more desires (to be worthy, successful, etc.) and desires are inexhaustible. Let them go and just do whatever needs to be done without adding more stuff/thoughts on top. If you do this, you will be more at peace.

    • Jeff May 21, 2012, 8:01 am

      I agree. This was the sentence that caught my eye:

      “These voices are relentless, and the only time they let up is when I work hard enough to get ahead of the self-imposed tide of responsibilities.”

      The key phrase being “self-imposed”. In an earlier post, MMM argued that far too often we try to find ways to make problems go away temporarily rather than addressing the root of the problem. The problem is the NVS. Staying busy makes the NVS go away temporarily, but it doesn’t address the actual problem. Why do you feel you need to stay busy? Why does inactivity make you feel like you are worth less? That seems like a pretty important problem to deal with head on.

      The Zen argument is that the NVS is a silly little monster that bullies people into checking off boxes just for the hell of it. What would happen if you didn’t build that fence? Nothing. What would happen if you didn’t write this blog post? Nothing. What would happen if you didn’t get the groceries? You’d get them tomorrow. The problem isn’t completing your tasks. The problem is often setting up tasks just to feel worthwhile.

      • MrCrore May 21, 2012, 8:28 am

        Agree with you Jeff/Jack.

        I think we need to control this habit of ALWAYS DOING SOMETHING !

        Sometimes its good to be just aimless and idle. There was a great essay ‘The joys of idleness’ which talked about this in depth.


        • Mr. Money Mustache May 21, 2012, 9:30 am

          Very interesting points, members of the Zen club!

          I think I will have to slightly disagree with Jeff’s contention that the NVS themselves are the problem. I think the problem only arises if you have a negative and stress-filled response to them.

          The nagging voices are usually telling me how to stay focused on the things that are really important to me.

          Take this blog, for example. I really like it. It’s alive and it has become a really interesting part of life for me, as well as friends and family and some readers too. But it takes work to keep it alive and thriving.

          I can fool myself and pretend that it will continue to deliver benefits even if I stop putting effort into it. But that is indeed self-deception. The benefits come from the work itself. Work is rewarding, and too much idleness is not rewarding.

          Here’s an even more obvious example: health. I can look in the mirror and say, “Hey, I look fine. I don’t need to exercise today”. I can repeat that process indefinitely, by continuing to stretch the definition of what constitutes “looking fine”. Eventually, I’ll end up incredibly unhealthy and unable to live an active life anymore.

          The Nagging Voices of Success, bless their hearts, will not allow these things, or any other failures in living the life that makes me so happy. So I’m very pleased to embrace them. Getting stuff done – when it’s the stuff that maintains the foundations of The Good Life, is very worthwhile!

          Just keep an eye on the goals. If your obsessions shift to more hollow things like power over others, fame, revenge, etc., then I’d agree that the voices are causing more evil than good.

          • Alfredo August 27, 2013, 7:46 am

            Exactly… it is not about “being busy”, because you can be always busy but getting nothing worthy done. Thank you, because this article was written for me… it came just in time. It revealed a truth that was trying to arise.

  • Amicable Skeptic May 21, 2012, 6:28 am

    Have you checked out the book Getting Things Done by David Allen? It’s all about devising a system to manage your NVS. The 2 step summary of his method is

    1. When you think of something to do write it down then stop thinking about it.
    2. Every day allocate a little bit of time to go over what you’ve written down and either finish the task right then, or break it down and add the detailed steps to you

    There’s a lot more nuances to it, but that’s the basic idea. I feel like this system is helpful for people who have very loud NVS who have trouble making progress on any one thing because they have a cacophony of voices nagging about tasks other than what they’re trying to focus on.

    I’m going to assume that MMM and a lot of readers have probably already heard of this system, but for those that haven’t it’s definitely worth a library check-out.

    • Wink May 21, 2012, 7:17 am

      That was my first thought, he needs GTD and learn to say no.

  • Dragline May 21, 2012, 7:17 am

    I am wary of people who hear Voices. At least the ones who admit it out loud. ;-)

    I agree with Amicable’s sentiment about writing things down — then you can feel free to forget them for awhile. Easiest way is to simply keep a journal. You’d be surprised at how much of your life you tend to forget as it goes by.

    One of the best things about the web is free journals. I use penzu, but there are others. Keep a tab open to your journal and whenever you have a thought or an experience you think is worth remembering just dump it there. Then review it every so often, like once a week or month. It sounds simple, but it leads to incredible insights into what you really care about and how to achieve it.

    And you learn what activities you have outgrown or have become merely old habits and non-productive or not worthwhile.

    • Amicable Skeptic May 21, 2012, 7:32 am

      A journal for longer entries and deeper insight sounds like an interesting parallel idea. GTD itself is a bit shorter form. I used to scrawl short notes on the backs of old business cards that I carried with me, but now that I have a smartphone I just use SimpleNote (might be switching to EverNote soon to consolidate with my wife’s list). All that being said tool doesn’t really matter, the key is just to find some way to write your thought down as soon as it starts bothering you and then feel free and happy to keep focused on what you’re doing, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be reviewing the note later when you have the time.

  • jlcollinsnh May 21, 2012, 7:52 am

    you’re right. that does sound like a great Sunday! except for the part about being out of food…

    it is remarkable to me how much “success” is driven by insecurity. maybe that’s why people securely raised in wealth tend to fritter it away.

    trick is to use that insecurity and the Voices as levers to move what you want and need to move.

    the whole wealth building point is to have plenty of money to do with your life as you choose. Some you’ll invest, some you’ll spend, some you’ll use to, finally, quiet the Voices.

  • Chris May 21, 2012, 7:56 am

    This article made me laugh! All I hear in the background of my mind lately is, “got to Refi those two houses, got to Refi those two houses.” I suspect all successfull, driven people deal with these voices.

    BTW, nice fence MMM and don’t forget to stain it!:)

  • stagleton May 21, 2012, 8:03 am

    Ive been on vacation for the last week and super antsy to get home. I’m at least 18 hours behind on home projects, not to mention regular job work. Well maybe you’re right, we should all be thankful to have something to keep pushing in the back of the head and keep us going.

    By the way, while I’ve been relaxing/partying here in London, I’ve been disappointed with the number of posts in the last week! hehe, ;-)

  • ET May 21, 2012, 8:27 am

    Interesting reading.

    So glad I bailed on “normalcy”, career, and most of the norms of society before the voices. Never heard them, never will.

  • Mr Mark May 21, 2012, 8:49 am

    Throwing yourself a pity party & wailing certainly doesn’t work!

    Prioritisation, and focus on what really needs doing that’s in line with your values and goals.

    But sometimes do I find having ‘The Fear’ of an imminent deadline great for getting inspired, super-productive and creative!

  • Joe @ Retire By 40 May 21, 2012, 10:01 am

    I have a lot of NVS too. For me, I think it’s better to get them done in my own time. I need to slow down and take it easy for a bit. Maybe a couple years of ignoring NVS will do me some good. There are just too many things to do.

  • Gen Y Finance Journey May 21, 2012, 10:14 am

    Funny, I’ve always thought of them as the Nagging Voices of Anxiety. :)

  • Aspiring Yogini May 21, 2012, 11:03 am

    I think it is important to acknowledge that NVS will still be piping up when a person may have maximized their physical, mental and emotional limits. A person focused intently on those voices and pushing those limits may end up with a cold or flu, burnout, accidents, mental illness and other awful things. It is great to embrace NVS if one is getting good results, but I see so many people taking on more than is humanly possible and ending up in real trouble.

    I had a 19 year old student in one of my college courses who was always late for class and his performance was consistently poor. I watched him rush to all his classes late and often unprepared. After the semester ended, I read in the paper that he was speeding and lost control of his car, rolled it several times, was thrown from the car (no seat belt) and died. This affected me deeply because I felt that he died the way that he lived. I learned that not only was he a full-time student, but he was also managing a pizza restaurant. Now, I always let students know when I think that they may be at their limit. I hope that my NVS helps them stay healthy and balanced so that they can discern when they need to tune out the other NVS that tells them they can do it and have it all at the same time!

  • kris May 21, 2012, 11:30 am

    Yeah I have those voices too, they are pretty much the only thing keeping me from procrastinating too long.

  • shanendoah@the dog ate my wallet May 21, 2012, 11:42 am

    I’m actually a procrastinator, so my voices are often telling me that I can knock that out in less time than I think, or that I don’t really need a full night’s sleep…
    At the same time, learning to deal with those voices and still get stuff done has turned me into an expert at prioritization and setting my own deadlines.
    The voices that I’m dealing with most right now are the NVF. C and I have more money than we’ve ever had before, partly due to us finally getting our financial lives in order and then in big part to an inheritence from his mother. It’s not a lot of money, just more than we’ve had sitting around before. We talk a lot about what we’d like to do with the money, how it meets our goals, etc, but also how that we should take some of it and spend it on something fun, something really just for ourselves, but then, we just can’t bring ourselves to spend it that way. The converstaion generally goes like this:
    Person 1: Hey, I’ve just noticed this activity that I think you, Person 2, would really like to do. Do you want to?
    Person 2: You’re right, that could be fun. But I don’t need to do that, and there’s just other things I’d like to spend the money on right now.
    Instead, the money stays in the account for boring things like home improvement.

  • Lindsey May 21, 2012, 11:56 am

    I am thankful that I hear those voices. They have kept me on track and from frittering away my life. Sure, sometimes they overwhelm me, but that is usually a sign that I have seriously slacked off. They also keep me from watching television, with a form of what keeps me from over spending. DO you really need this XXX? Do you really want to waste the finite number of hours of your life watching XXX? I think the voices are what encouraged me to lead an early life that brought me to a place where my middle aged self can afford to travel half the year, work as I want, and have the time to pursue things I love like gardening and reading and volunteering at Hospice. Yippie for the voices!

    • stagleton May 21, 2012, 5:17 pm

      How many hours do you spend watching XXX? Sorry, couldnt resist. I’m sure this comment won’t be approved :-)

  • Mr. Risky Startup May 21, 2012, 11:58 am

    Wait a minute! You are retired – what is this talk about “my office”.

    Excuse me, but should you not rename that room to reflect your retired status? Maybe we can all vote. Here are some suggestions:

    1. Moustache Lounge
    2. Internet (and Bingo) Room (like they have at the retirement homes :)
    3. Occasional Office
    4. Moustache HQ
    5. Rusty Years Recreation Room


    • Mr. Money Mustache May 21, 2012, 1:21 pm

      Shit! Thanks for pointing that out Mr. Risky Startup. The Internet Retirement Police are crawling all over these days and we must tread carefully. You’re right – I was doing the writing last night from my Golf Club Storage room, where I keep an extra computer that is 99% dedicated to playing video games. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

      Right now, I’m sitting on the living room couch with my feet up, which SHOULD be safe from IRP infiltration, but I can’t be sure, because of the inconvenient fact that this blog has started earning money, meaning it has therefore become “work”.

      Check out the following criticisms leveled by a member of the IRP just recently on fool.com (100% of them grossly inaccurate I might note):


      • Mr. Risky Startup May 21, 2012, 1:55 pm

        If this comment appears twice – sorry. My first attempt failed somehow.

        You are typical Canadian – giving voice to those who question you, not just those who agree with you. This guy obviously did not bother reading your earlier posts. In my mind, your situation can be described as “Doesn’t have to work, but if he does, he can pick what he wants to do” – which is probably decent definition for FI.

        Dude that post that comment had another one – something about how you “do not have to waste time visiting Czechs Republic because all they have are few castles around Prague and good beer”. First, I am sure MMM will be offended by minimizing importance of beer (and they do have best beer in the world – called Plzen), but saying that about that beautiful country shows his ignorance. It is like me saying that visiting his native Texas is useless because all they have are some cowboys and good steaks.

        Lastly, would you mind sharing how much you make off your site? Web page WorthOfWeb.com have you pegged at $12 per month, but that must be dead wrong. They have one of my sites showing worth more than yours, yet I get maybe 10 visitors per day. Feel free to keep it secret is you want, not a big deal.

        Happy Victoria Day – it is on these Canadian holidays that do not have US counterparts that I get to feel like you. Markets are open, US news are going full speed but I get to chill with my family. :)

        • Mr. Money Mustache May 22, 2012, 10:22 am

          Hey Risky!

          Yeah, I think I am going to share more details on the positive earnings surprise regarding this website in the near future, since it is relevant to the many other bloggers and potential online entrepreneurs who are here these days. And writers too – this Internet thing is really bringing democracy back to publishing and allowing people to write whatever they want, letting the people of the world decide how much they like it. No publishers or big media companies required!

          I had never heard of worthofweb.com, and they don’t seem to disclose how they do their calculations. But I think you made a typo, check this out: http://www.worthofweb.com/website-value/mrmoneymustache.com

          That’s totally wrong too, but on the high side. For example, it says we’re hitting this place up for almost 363,000 pageviews per day. That’s way off: it has been in the 15,000 range recently and yesterday rocked the town with 20 grand.

          In general, I believe those website calculators are approximately useless. The only part that I agree with is where it says this blog is worth about $841,000. Nobody else would pay that much for it if I wanted to sell, but that’s about how much fun I’m personally having, being Mr. Money Mustache :-)

          • jlcollinsnh May 22, 2012, 11:38 am

            just ran my own site thru the calculator and, like yours, the results are way off. on the high side. my real numbers aren’t even close and the revenue is -0-

            Still, I wouldn’t sell it for the $9257 they claim it’s worth, but then nobody is offering. :)

          • Mr. Risky Startup May 22, 2012, 1:39 pm

            Wow, apologies. English is my third language picked up recently without formal education. And, Canadians make it even harder by adding “O’s” everywhere (or from the other perspective, Americans are simplifying their English). So, I spelled it Moustache – Canadian style.

            How do you measure your page-views? I find that different counters have vastly different results for the very same pages. For example, I use Weebly for some of my pages, and their numbers are almost 300% higher than numbers from Google Adwords. Even between Google Adwords and Google AdSense there is major discrepancy.

            For WorthOfWeb, they have a place where you can provide feedback and more accurate results (see your page and slide down)

            As for the site value, as they say – if can you save one family (from being slave to the banks), $800K sounds like a bargain…

            While I managed to cure myself from consumerism and get on the path to freedom on my own, your site, among others, helps me stick to the course. All situations are different, but I use you as my measuring stick – I am nowhere near your level, and spending $2K per month in Canada will not give you same level of living standard as you have, but by comparison, I am catching up.

            Being financially independent, or in my case, being less financially dependent on my job, allowed my wife and me to spend way more time with our son (wife retired at 36 and I cut my hours from 80 to 40).

            Thanks for spending your free time to help others exchange ideas and support each other.

      • Matt (Semper Fi) August 7, 2016, 12:12 pm

        Mr.MM, I’m not entirely sure why the commenter on Fool meant when he said that a 4% withdrawal rate on your ‘stache would never last for 50 years. If you only use the dividends, and never touch the nest egg, shouldn’t your ‘stache last well beyond 50 years, or at least as long as the stock market, and the concept of dividends and compounding interest, exists? Does the commenter really have a point, or is this a case of ignorance, jealousy, and/or douche-baggery?

    • Mr. Risky Startup May 21, 2012, 2:09 pm

      I hate to reply to my own post, but I just had a new name idea for the room where you care for your Moustache…

      How about BARBERSHOP?

  • fruplicity May 21, 2012, 12:28 pm

    This article really resonates with me right now… It’s my second message today to just slow down, deep breathe, and remember what’s important. The first clue was a story I just discovered but some here may already know, the Mayonnaise jar and the coffee…

  • Virginia May 21, 2012, 1:13 pm

    I love the way MMM writes. This sentence cracked me up.

    “But then I would invariably deviate from my calendar and start freestyling at life again, and guess who I’d find rolling up right next to me on a skateboard, full of helpful hints? That’s right, the Nagging Voices of Success.”

    I relate to NVS but I always associated it with being slightly OCD.

  • lurker May 21, 2012, 1:20 pm

    I vote for Mustache Lounge. My advice is to crank the Allman brothers…and do not answer email. buzz kill.

  • lurker May 21, 2012, 2:02 pm

    and never ever leave your tools out in the rain. ever. ever.

  • Poor Student May 21, 2012, 3:14 pm

    I hear a lot of voices in my head, but one of them is a psychiatrist and says it is completely normal so I haven’t got it checked out yet.

  • Bakari Kafele May 21, 2012, 3:43 pm

    I for one was glad you went a few days without posting.
    I had a bunch of stuff I needed to do (one of which was going to the park and looking at the eclipse – but others of which were work and projects) and I wouldn’t have had time to read them.

    • Mr. Risky Startup May 21, 2012, 4:05 pm

      Wow. That’s some moustache (if that is your real pic)! You are making MMM look bad. LOL!

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 22, 2012, 7:22 pm

      Wow, great! I’ve heard the same thing from other people – I write too much, and they can’t keep up with the blog. Luckily I’ll be taking it very easy for the next few months – my son gets out of school for the summer in three more days. Then the annual summer trip to Canada begins on June 23rd. People will have lots of time to recover from Money Mustache overdose during the summer. Maybe :-)

  • pachipres May 21, 2012, 5:23 pm

    Hi MMM, it is funny how you are posting this article now. After reading your article on how you so creatively built that back carrier for your car, I felt this “completely suck at running my life” feeling. I thought to myself, that MMM can do everything right-save money so well he can retire so young, have rental houses, build stuff. It was good to hear you are human too! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Katie May 21, 2012, 6:56 pm

    Wow, just what I needed to read this week! Thank you. Now, back to my to do list!

  • andrew May 21, 2012, 9:25 pm

    Great article, Mr. ‘stache. The voices from within, and without, can often be a pesky pain in the ass.

    The ones from within can be useful, and it sounds like you’ve been able to harness their power to maintain good habits and be productive.

    The voices from without are another matter. Recently Leo posted a great article about dealing with the voices from without: http://mnmlist.com/everyone-else/

  • vern May 21, 2012, 11:40 pm

    Is that a ‘good neighbor fence’ MMM?

  • Vanna May 22, 2012, 3:49 pm

    My favorite line from these comments is ‘change your pronouns, change your life’. It reminds me of point at which your child stops handing you things and realizes that you are not the sink or the garbage can and they can get up and put the thing away themselves.

    For me, taking pen to paper is the moment where the separation happens. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will get done today or even next week. But, it leaves my brain immediately and I can move on.

    I think in general, the voices stagnate your creativity. The list is me yelling Shut Up! I’ll do it when I’m damn good and ready prompting those pesky NVSs to run away with their tales between their legs.

  • J.D. May 24, 2012, 7:24 am

    Wow, this is EXACTLY how I’ve felt recently. I’ve had this project at work nagging over me, along with taking on the largest project to my car I’ve ever done: changing the timing belt and the oil seal behind it. Both projects were challenging, and took much longer than I thought. I finally got the car put back together, then moved on to a berm that’s been nagging at me in the front yard. I finally silenced them for now by getting those two projects done. I’m sure it’ll start hitting me up again this weekend for some other stuff that’s been in the back of my mind…

  • Monevator May 25, 2012, 12:45 pm

    We appear to be sharing the same brain MMM. This is spooky!

    You better not be doing any scientific experiments or voodoo shit on me. ;)

  • zoë May 25, 2012, 2:25 pm

    This post could not have come at a better time. The nagging voice, I know it helps me be successful but sometimes it’s hard to remember that. It’s great to hear it from someone else (especially when that someone else is successful :)

    Thanks! Hope you have a smashing weekend.


  • Omar May 29, 2012, 10:04 pm

    Thank you for this post!

    This is exactly how I felt last year. The nagging voices are definitely powerful. I thought about this for a long time and actually went so far to create a little nagging voice in my iPhone. His name is reminderHead : ) He’ll be in the app store soon I hope.

  • Shilpan June 12, 2012, 9:52 pm

    Doing something just for the sake of doing it is as insane as keeping a dying person alive on morphine. It’s good not to do anything for a certain time in a day just to observe and think about the surrounding. Best way to silence nagging voice is to tell your subconscious that you are doing well, really well..

  • Miki December 26, 2012, 11:15 am

    This is an awesome post! I have these voices all the time and I always assumed it just highlighted my own laziness and inability to budget time. Great to know that it is actually an important element of being a successful and productive individual. Thank you!! :-)

  • Alex in Virginia March 9, 2013, 6:37 am

    I’ve only gone through half the comments, but I just “had” to jump in with my two-cents worth.

    For decades — literally — I’ve taken control of the NVS and channelled them to my benefit using 2 tools that my wife has never stopped making fun of. These tools are a set of to-do lists and what I call my weekly “MBO” — but it’s just a weekly time schedule sheet. My payoffs are that I get a lot of things done, I get “NVS-authorized” free time, and I keep the NVS nagging to a minimum because I have basically struck a deal with them: so much time for you, so much time for me.

    This deal works like this. For a weekday morning: 1 hour for house chores, 1-1.5 hours of investments management, and 2.5 – 3 hours of physical labor (which can be anything from sweeping floors to a carpentry project). That gets me to 12:30pm. Lunch! And then 4 full hours of ME-ME-ME time: watch a movie, take a hike, cruise the MMM blog, read a book… whatever. At 5pm, I’m recharged and ready for 2 hours of “administration” (that is, paperwork like paying bills, tracking accounts, etc). At 7pm I go on full free-range mode. If I want to do more, I do. If I want to be lazy, I can. The deal’s the deal.

    Sure works for me!

    Alex in Virginia

    PS — Oh. Those various work time blocks get fed things to do from… (drumroll plese)… the to-do lists!

  • Viki May 22, 2013, 11:00 am

    My husband and I had a argument last night about getting more stuff done versus resting and not working on stuff past 9 pmt versus “you’re always working!” versus “how can we move forward if we don’t do this stuff?”

    I don’t mean a job type of work, I mean just keep-our-life-rolling work like laundry, and household chores, and getting ready for our move by selling / giving away / pitching stuff, and since we’re busy double-income professionals with one kid, that also means planning our time ahead.

    Anyway, this article sums up what powers me and how I tick (in terms of “why I’m always doing stuff”) so I sent it to my husband. Because he does agree I get a lot of shit done. But I can drive him crazy while I do it.

  • Sonya B June 9, 2013, 10:03 pm

    Yep, I have them too. After finishing my PhD in math I decided, hey, maybe they’re a good thing.

    A very important lesson here is that the voices will ultimately make you work hard on whatever your hobby or profession is. So if you hate your work, the voices will make you do things you hate, and you won’t be happy. Being a successful person who’s also happy requires that you choose what you do carefully, IMHO.

  • Nina July 5, 2013, 9:54 am

    And I thought I was the only one having these voices…
    It’s like the nagging “do your taxes now” even if the deadline is still more than three month away.
    The worst thing about the voices is that they keep me awake at night because my over-active brain is sorting through all the points of the to do list.
    Maybe I need to write them down, like I used to do.

  • Sara Rose September 13, 2014, 5:26 pm

    I found MMM only two weeks ago and have been working through the posts since then, so this is a very late comment (over 2 years late). I still thought I would chime in because I love this post. It reminded me of a type of psychological theory called Internal Family Systems (IFS) and it seems that MMM has stumbled upon one of the basic principles of the theory; we all have “parts” of us (NVS for example) that come out at certain times and a part will speak up because it wants to be helpful to us. Even when those parts are obnoxious and we want them to go away or in the worst case scenario, lead us to doing unhealthy things, it’s best to befriend them and try to understand what they are trying to do for us. I will resist the urge to nerd out and go any deeper into the theory than that. I just thought other readers might find it interesting that there is a theory that addresses this type of mind chatter.

  • Consumer2frugaler March 13, 2015, 1:26 pm

    MMM, while the voices can be good, I think too often for the average person, they’re debilitating.

    One of the greatest and most life changing books I’ve read in my life is called “Feeling Good: A New Mood Therapy”, by David Burns.

    In reading this book, I learned that the voice isn’t me; rather it’s my subconscious trying to lead me, and most often astray. Now, I have the ability to separate myself from this voice and listen to its madness at times and when first learning how, I would chuckle out loud at some of the things it would produce.

    You’re correct. At times it pushes me properly and guides me on the right path and to the right decision and at those times, one can acknowledge it and action; however, to lead a calmer, more zen life, one is best to learn to only let their mind talk when they want to let it think. It is a tool to be used, not a voice to control.

    Specifically for avoiding consumerism, of you’re able to ignore the voice saying “I want, I want and train it to say ‘that’s a bad idea'” then you’re much better off.

    Combine recognition of the voice and shut down of what I refer to as ‘the Little Guy’ with some meditation and Heart Rate Variability work and you’re going to lead a much calmer and happier life and likely be able to stick to a MMM lifestyle more easily as you’ll avoid the constant desires and cravings that push you to consume.

  • Katharina March 31, 2015, 7:22 pm

    Is it only me who associated this article with symptoms of depression? It really doesn’t sound good, I mean it! And if you decided to start to look at this problem in more positive way – it doesn’t mean that you solved the problem. Come on, dude, you are so inspiring and successful guy – and you live with this hell in your head??

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 31, 2015, 7:41 pm

      I think it’s just you Katharina – I am a ridiculously happy person ;-)

      Ask other driven people (some of them chimed in in the comments) – this is very common among people who tend to work hard. Since being motivated to create is highly associated with happiness (unless you cross the line to being a workaholic), I wouldn’t worry too much about people with a little NVS in the head.

      • Katharina April 1, 2015, 4:49 pm

        OK, if it is just “little NVS in the head” – than I don’t worry about you! ))

  • Bee December 4, 2015, 6:18 pm

    There is nothing worse than nagging voices while on holiday! Especially when you know you have been working hard and you deserve a break.


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