245 comments

Seek Not to Be Entertained

I was enjoying a walk downtown with my son recently, when I noticed something wasn’t quite right. A man was emerging from the background of other pedestrians, trying to make eye contact. We kept walking.

“Excuse Me! Gentlemen! How much are you paying for your Cable TV right now?”

I could now see that he was carrying handful of glossy flyers for one of the monthly television subscription outfits – Dish network or Comcast or whatever. The same stuff that floods my front mailbox  in far greater quantity than my ability to use it as kindling to start the woodstove on winter evenings.

“Nothing”, we both said almost in unison, “We don’t have TV.”

“No TV? What about Netflix? Hulu? TiVo? Google or Amazon? We can beat ’em – first month is FREE!”

“Nope – none of it. Sorry, we gotta go but good luck with your work today!”

The solicitor was left slightly speechless. To be fair, my last line was a slight lie just for the sake of getting out of the sales pitch. We do rent movies from Google Play occasionally, but this mildly stressful street scene made me realize two things:

  1. Fuck, when are these slimy cable TV companies going to let up on their relentless burying of our world in their misleading “first month free” marketing campaigns? The level of promotion is always inversely proportional to the underlying usefulness of the product.
  2. Man, am I really that much of a weirdo, not subscribing to any of these things that everyone else seems to use? Am I depriving my son of  a normal upbringing?

But this bit of introspection goes along very well with a few other things I’ve noticed over the course of this summer. I think of them as a contrast between Mr. Money Mustache and “normal” people, and I have been pondering them for a while, deciding if I should consider becoming more normal myself.

Should You Strive to be Normal?

Normal people seem to be on a constant quest for action and activity. They’ll plan three lunches with friends for next week, and a weekend of drinking and motorboat riding. Every night they’ll watch TV, and on special occasions they will go out for movies, concerts or dash off to the next state to catch a football game or an eclipse. A really successful normal person is almost never at home.

I can definitely relate to the desire for activity. I’m incapable of spending more than an hour on the couch or sitting at the beach. During vacations, I have to find physical work projects to keep myself happily occupied. I’ve discovered that even one day of zero productivity is bad for me: if I stop doing things, I stop wanting to do things, and pretty soon I’m just lazing around on the couch or taking 11 am naps. For me, inactivity leads to a depressive boredom.

Perhaps this is why normal people strive to keep themselves so busy. If you had a choice between “depressed naps on the couch all day” and “busy day including shopping, a lunch date, front-row Denver Broncos seats and then catching the late show at the movie theater”, you might choose the second option.

And even if you don’t have the time or the cash for a big expensive day like that, you might choose “A few hours of highly engaging strategy video games” or “Game of Thrones binge with my boyfriend” over the depressing alternative of Nothing.

Mr. Money Mustache’s Shocking Abnormality

As part of a great shared day of leisure, a friend and I recently dug out and cleared the sewer line at MMM-HQ. To relax afterwards, we upgraded the front door with a complex wi-fi enabled door lock.

Only after carefully studying normal people have I realized my own abnormality. I haven’t had TV service since 1999, and I only catch the most highly-recommended movies from friends about once a month. I love books, but only get through about one of those per month as well – there always seems to be something more pressing than sitting down on the couch to read.

I never understood the joy of watching other people play sports, can’t stand tourist attractions, don’t sit on the beach unless there’s a really big sand castle that needs to be made, don’t care about what the celebrities and politicians are doing, and while I definitely get into live music, it still only happens about once every few months in practice.

Even wholesome outdoor recreation can be hard for me: I enjoy a good hike, but I’d rather hike around as part of volunteering to build a new trail or put up a yurt on a friend’s mountain property. I tried a day of wakeboarding with friends just recently and while it was a thrill to get up on that wave and swim around in the lake, my brain was calling me back to more productive (and less beer-soaked) pursuits the next day.

Instead of all this, I seem to get satisfaction only from making stuff. Or maybe a better description would be solving problems and making improvements.

If I’m visiting your house, we’ll have a boring day if we play board games, but a great one if we rake the leaves and dig some trenches for an irrigation system. Even emptying out your closets so we can organize your stuff and maybe build in a few new shelves would rank higher than passive pursuits.

If you leave me alone for a day (unfortunately quite rare in my current family life), I’ll have a joyful time rotating between carpentry, weight training, writing, playing around with instruments in the music studio, making lists and executing tasks from them.

Ok – Fine for You, Weirdo, but what does this have to do with Me?

It’s already well-known that Mr. Money Mustache has unusual habits. They wouldn’t work for everyone. But you’ll note a few things that most of them have in common:

  • they don’t cost much to do (and some of them even generate money)
  • most of them tend to increase your physical health
  • they’re also good for your mental health and sense of life satisfaction

So, if you already have plenty of money, you should go right on ahead and continue with the more expensive entertainment options. But if you have any use for more money, it could pay very well to at least consider some of the free or profitable things.

If your health and body are already exactly where you want them, it makes sense that you might continue your convenience-based habits like driving around in a car and hiring people to do the dirty work around your house. Walking that 30 minutes a day is giving you exactly the results you want, right? If not, it would seem logical to re-evaluate that leisure time.

And if you already get plenty of mental work done – your to-do list is always completely checked off, tax return is always early, and you understand all your financial accounts perfectly and where the money is going – it makes sense that you’d take a break and  relax with the TV news, or perhaps the Game of Thrones or the Xbox One.

If not, it would only seem logical to shut off this stream of interruptions and open up space for something else.

But Mr. Money Mustache, I Enjoy These Things! Don’t take them away from me!

This is probably the root of the problem, and the difference between an average life and a life of deep, radiant satisfaction.

It doesn’t matter what you enjoy. It matters what’s good for you. I enjoy pumpkin cheesecake and key lime pie, but I only eat them a few times a year.

I also like salads, but let’s be honest, they are not on the same level as Pumpkin Cheesecake. My heart is beating faster just thinking about it right now. But I eat big salads twice a day.

Yet the salads deliver much, much more happiness, because they allow me to continue to run around and explore the world, climbing trees and jumping off rooftops, while the cheesecake would have me in stretch pants and an extra-wide golf cart seat.

It seems obvious when you put it in terms of food. But the same tradeoff applies with all sources of recreation and entertainment. You don’t have to be as compulsive as me, but you do have to make some changes to your habits, if you expect your life to change.

Now with all this puritan advice properly laid down, we can all relax and realize that there are no absolutes – life is a balance. There is plenty of room in life for both productive and unproductive activities. The problem is that most people have the balance tilted too far towards the latter.

So if your life needs a boost, try giving up something you enjoy, and replacing it with something that improves your life.

 

 

  • DLcygnet September 20, 2017, 12:51 pm

    Yep. Totally guilty. Housework tends to be the first thing sacrificed. Between work, dinner, and bedtime with the toddler, when 7 pm rolls around, I want to do nothing but sink into the couch with my phone/computer/tv/book/cat on lap and turn my brain off. Meanwhile, I’m still holding on to all this excess weight. Blargh. Time for a change.

    Reply
  • Westly LaFleur September 20, 2017, 1:04 pm

    It’s uncanny. People have a knack for missing the point. When deciding between two equally enjoyable alternatives, simply choose the healthier more productive one. Then turn that decision making process into a habit and voila! Long-term benefits galore.

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  • Hernan September 20, 2017, 1:11 pm

    I got rid of the TV around 1.5 years ago. My son who is in middle school sometimes asks me when are we going to get one. TV is a big distraction from real living. Most of the shows are crap! I rather be walking or thinking about something that I have read. I actually hate TV!

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  • Laurie September 20, 2017, 1:11 pm

    Wow! The first picture looks like fun. I’m guessing that’s a “don’t engage in these Vodka and Ginger Beer fueled afternoons very often” activity? :) In any case, I totally get the argument. Because I am a lazy sloth by nature, I am constantly tricking myself into doing more activity by scheduling things with other people that I can’t get out of, like running in the mornings, or tricking myself by telling myself, “I’m just going to transplant this one little flower and then go inside,” and then I inevitably stay outside gardening for a couple of hours. I’ve been engaging in some health experiments, like one cup of coffee, zero alcohol, intermittent fasting, things like that, and it is quite amazing how good you start to feel after a couple of weeks of that. And then how bad the cheesecake makes you feel when you do indulge. It’s a good reminder to get rid of temptations that might lead you to more sloth time, like cable. Or chairs and sofas. Hmm.

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  • Dianne September 20, 2017, 1:17 pm

    I appreciate the distinction between what we enjoy vs. what improves our lives.

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  • Tara September 20, 2017, 1:18 pm

    You can come to my house anytime! Oh the fun you could have! There’s non-stop entertainment in a house built in 1875.

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  • Tonya September 20, 2017, 1:20 pm

    I think the most important thing is honoring your own interests, hobbies, etc. We are quite different you and I, and that’s OK. I consider myself to be a healthy adult who loves daily exercise, but I also LOVE curling up on a Sat night and catching up with some of my favorite shows. I’m introverted so I don’t feel the need to go out on a Fri or Sat night and blow a lot of money on the bar or concerts, but I’m totally OK with Redbox or Netflix (which I still consider pretty cheap in the grand scheme of things). I don’t get bored easily just sitting alone and daydreaming. On the other hand if I were to try and build something, you’d find me probably in the fetal position from the absolute frustration I always encounter with just about anything DIY…although I must say I’m a weirdo who loves cleaning. I find it very meditative. I think the point is there are several ways to skin a cat. It doesn’t make you weird or me weird. It’s just what makes you tick. I definitely feel no need to defend my love of a good TV show. :)

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  • Holly September 20, 2017, 1:22 pm

    oh I could have written this! I just took a day off work for my birthday, and everyone was telling me to read a book, take a bath, get a haircut. I knew if I did that I would end the day depressed, so I made plans to dig out a section of my yard for a garden. When pouring rain killed that plan, I invited my sister over and we made 150 meatballs for the freezer, plus processed a mountain of zucchini and tomatoes for future use, with lots of breaks for eating and playing with babies. I ended the day tired and oh so happy.

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  • Bob. Frugal+as+dirt. September 20, 2017, 1:37 pm

    Had a friend that had an old TV with an actual tuning knob on it. He put it in his living room for his kids, and then broke the knob off while positioned on PBS. That’s all they ever had after that, the one free channel.

    Killing the TV was the best thing we ever did for productivity in my own family.

    Reply
  • Louisa September 20, 2017, 1:57 pm

    I have a similar lifestyle as yours. I ride a bike, don’t own a TV, etc. I’m 66 and have lived this way for decades. i never had a dramatic turnaround; my husband and I seem to be wired to live simply. While I share many of your values and practices, I am put off by your sweeping generalizations about other people and your simplistic division of people into good people (those like you, in other words) and stupid people (those not like you). Can’t you espouse the lifestyle you believe in without being so scornful and righteous?

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  • Emmy September 20, 2017, 1:59 pm

    We haven’t had TV since 2003 when our oldest was about 15 months. Neither of the kids gravitate toward it (at their grandma’s, where it’s always on, they find it noisy and the advertising bizarre), they prefer to ‘do’ than to watch. When we do ‘watch’ (we can get in to the local minor league baseball games for free, work perk, and the kids like the ballet, so we see one once a year) we watch in person. We build things, garden, engage with a Lego Robotics team, play instruments, get loads of exercise, put puzzles together and have a game of monopoly in suspension nearly all the time (our oldest dominates the world $$ fund there, LOL). No one here ever complains of boredom and ‘quality’ time is not spent in a vegetative state. They’re ‘A’ students interested in medicine (oldest) and engineering (youngest). No regrets here.

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  • Antoinette September 20, 2017, 2:00 pm

    nor·mal
    ˈnôrməl/Submit
    adjective
    1.
    conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
    synonyms: usual, standard, ordinary, customary, conventional, habitual, accustomed, expected, wonted;

    You are NOT normal MMM, and for that, we all benefit. Thanks for the lessons and alternative perspectives to normal! And the reminder of how much power we have over the quality of our own living!

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  • Bike Bubba September 20, 2017, 2:11 pm

    Regarding activity and health, it’s worth noting that no less than the Mayo Clinic, in “The Mayo Clinic Diet”, names TV/screen time as one of the things to “put off” if one wishes to attain good health. Also on the list–sorry–are high sugar desserts. To put on; healthy foods and physical activity.

    What’s interesting as well to me is that as I put off the bad health choices, they don’t taste or feel so good anymore. Most desserts? Yuck, cut the sugar by a factor of five or so. TV? If I wanted a brain sucker to eat my brains, I’d take part in a sci fi movie or something. When my extended family gets together, one of the favorite things we do is…huddle in the kitchen and cook. Biggest compliment my nephew has given me (and he’s not stingy that way) was to “steal” a hot pancake I had been planning to eat.

    I’m not in perfect shape, physical or financial, but this stuff works.

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  • Chris September 20, 2017, 2:12 pm

    Thanks, good read. I think it’s easier to go to seed (as my friend calls it) which entails sitting on the couch, eating cheesy poofs and binging on Game of Thrones then it is to make a consorted effort to do something with yourself. We like to say that work is not fun but harvesting a garden or clearing out a junk drawer can give one a great deal of satisfaction. I am not a group sport person either but I do enjoy a long run at night or a hike. That only involves a decent pair of sneakers though!

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  • Norm September 20, 2017, 2:26 pm

    This is coming at a very opportune time for me. It all rang true to me because this is something I struggle with, and it sucks to admit that. After adding commute time, I spend 10 hours a day at work. Then add in the “get ready” and “cool off” portion of the day, and it’s more. (Yesterday I had a migraine and had to take a 1.5 hour nap) It helps that I bike to work in the warm months, so I always have that to look forward to, but it can get depressing when you can’t bother to think past “what can I make for dinner” and “what show should I watch” followed by the perfunctory care of pets I spend little time with.

    I do need to think of a new project because working on those is when I’m happiest. I was also thinking about how much I don’t like having people over just to talk, but helping friends out on a project at their house really gets me going. (“You have to paint the walls? Can I help??”) So I will take this entry to heart.

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  • Sara September 20, 2017, 2:29 pm

    You are doing your son a favor by spending time with him, not in front of a device.

    We have not had TV service for years. An antenna gets us a few channels, which are pointless.

    Our teenagers are busy enough with school work and after school activities that they don’t need anything else to take up their “open” time.

    I sometimes think we are not normal, but I like it. We have NEVER owned a gaming system, I can’t imagine having someone write an obituary for me that says we loved spending time together playing video games. Ugg!

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  • Michael R September 20, 2017, 2:46 pm

    Here we are now entertain us
    cause we’re stupid and contagious
    ~ Nirvana Smell Like Teen Spirit

    Thanks for speaking out against the disease.

    Reply
  • Allen Lifton September 20, 2017, 2:52 pm

    You might want to look at Seligman although there are a lot of other authors on this issue. They have termed these differences in “happiness” gratification versus pleasure. You are saying that gratification creates more “happiness” than “pleasure” which is exactly what they have shown in psychology experiments. Gratification is the “happiness” of a job well done. pleasure is enjoying sitting there and having a beer. You actually need some of both, but you need far more of the former than the latter and you’re correct that most people focus far too much on the pleasure

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  • Hcat September 20, 2017, 3:03 pm

    Mr. Mustache, are you bipolar? You probably don’t want to spend the money to be diagnosed :-)

    Reply
  • Tawcan September 20, 2017, 3:04 pm

    My wife and I have been TV free for about 7 years. When we move in together neither of us owned a TV and we just never purchased one. I certainly had my shares of phone conversations with these cable reps and they always get confused when I tell them that we don’t have a TV at home.

    A while ago my parents and my brother actually suggested that a TV would be a good idea, now we have kids. But we continue our daily lives without owning a TV or having Netflix or any online streaming services.

    Our kids are still young so TV doesn’t matter for them. It’s kinda funny that for the longest time my wife and I and my son had no idea what Paw Patrol is.

    How does your son feel about having no TV at home and most of his school friends have TV?

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  • Dharma Bum September 20, 2017, 3:17 pm

    WOW! What a GREAT POST! I love this topic! I have been preaching this “don’t seek entertainment” philosophy to my kids and friends for years now.
    We cut the cable TV cord 2 years ago (directly as a result of advice from this very blog), to both set an example to our peers and children, and because we realized that we were throwing out money. Cable television is total shit. It is unadulterated garbage, pure and simple. Ashameful waste if time.
    We now selectively and occasionally stream the odd movie or series that comes highly recommended by respected friends or colleagues.
    As far as going out for dinners or drinking, fugghedaboudit. We cook our own feasts, using plenty of fresh food (fish and meat – smoked, roasted, or grilled – on one of my many basic wood-fired or charcoal outdoor cookers/smokers/barbecues), and salads and vegetables (drenched in olive oil, sesame oil, and homemade dressings).
    We hang out in our back yard by the fire pit, listening to free Spotify, and sipping cheap Bota Box wine.
    I am learning how to do all kinds of home repairs and maintenance from watching instructional You Tube videos.
    I’m building a shed. I’m installing an under-deck water drainage canopy. I’m renovating a couple of bathrooms.
    Since I took Mr. Money Mustache’s advice and finally RETIRED (yesssssss!!!!), I am finally living life with great satisfaction.
    You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have fun.
    Thanks for this life-changing blog, and thanks for this post in particular. It is really self-affirming and it helps justify my existence (not that I need to, or care that much…but it’s fun to show the “unconverted” that I am not alone in my thinking). Kind of like an “I toldjya so, stupid”.
    Mister Money Mustache has freed me.
    Freedom is the key to happiness!
    Thanks Pete!
    Love,
    Dharma Bum
    aka: Howie from Toronto

    Reply
  • babytuckoo September 20, 2017, 3:25 pm

    Nice Post. Activate mind, activate body = better life and health overall. Throw in some nature and it’s a nice balance on mood. Simple yes, but priceless. The philosophy has been known for thousands of years. Unfortunately, modern life gets in the way. It’s good to know it and look backwards!

    Reply
  • Cindy in the South September 20, 2017, 3:29 pm

    I do not have a tv, even though my aunt offered me one. I am not going to pay for the electricity to run it, and tv bores me anyway. However, I will happily read for hours, and sit and watch the waves on the beach (provided that it is a work conference and the room, gas, and food are all paid for in advance…lol)….

    Reply
    • Cindy in the South September 20, 2017, 3:30 pm

      and paid for…not by me….

      Reply
  • Sean September 20, 2017, 3:40 pm

    I have never paid for cable in the past 23 years since I moved out, and yes, lived without TV for multiples of years. Cable is a big fat waste of money, no argument there.
    I have a different take on internet, Netflix and streaming movies, etc, in that the cost is minimal, and I love good film. Would my life be richer if I went for yet another bicycle ride instead of watching “Mister Nobody” with Jared Leto on Netflix? No, the opposite, actually. (Have you seen this film? Absolutely amazing and well shot, it was quite the topic of discussion at our device free family dinner. )
    So, are you depriving your family. No.
    Are you enriching the by getting rid of Netflix and most streaming? No.

    People will pay a LOT of money to be entertained, and most of the time it isn’t worth it. The event cost is directly proportional to the amount of imagination and “work” the payee has to put into it.
    Mountain biking is pretty much free, but involves a lot of “work”.
    Your readers are already past the point of paying big bucks to be “entertained”.
    I would say that Netflix is a pretty minor cost in the grand scheme of things, especially in our communal household of 4 adults. It amounts to $2.40 per person.
    We also splurge on Google Play Music, but I have to say, discovering new bands and supporting artists for the princely sum of $3.50 per person per month is fine with me. I haven’t been this into music since 2001, and I’m paying in a year the equivalent of 2 CD’s back in the day
    (FWIW- did you know Google pays artists 5X what Apple music does per play?)
    So this comes to a princely sum of $5.90.
    I’m all about going for walks, doing wood working projects and the such, but I think there is some semblance of balance here.
    Last Saturday I spent hours hand cutting threads onto bicycle spokes to lace a new tubeless rim to a hub I got for free with BIKOS points. This was a therapeutic, meditative, learning experience that cost me almost nothing, but I did also watch an episode of Ozark before bed. Does this make ME weird?
    I don’t think so.

    Reply
    • Jason September 21, 2017, 8:50 am

      > It amounts to $2.40 per person.

      One thing I always do is consider subscription/renewing costs on either a yearly term or whatever the expected lifespan is. You don’t re-evaluate your Netflix subscription *every* month, do you? Marketers chose monthly (or even weekly!) costs to fool you. Every year, I revisit “Is it worth paying $130 for another year of Netflix?” For a 2 year cell phone contract, it’s not a “$55/month phone”, it’s a a 2-year amortized $1320 phone. Even still, I agree with your point overall.

      Reply
  • Vik September 20, 2017, 3:41 pm

    I love my daily naps. They’ve never made me feel depressed or like an underachiever. ;)

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  • Carl September 20, 2017, 4:01 pm

    TV in moderate doses can be quite pleasant. But I would rather buy a TV series on DVD than have cable. Cable creates a “use it or waste it” mentality, which results in watching more than optimal. The thought of scheduling my life around a TV schedule horrifies me these days. And I will not suffer commercials.

    But watching some classic TV (pre 1970) without commercials now and then can be surprisingly entertaining. It’s amazing how much better a TV show can be without commercials. And if TV watching is sufficiently spaced, one is far more easily entertained.

    (Hint: the complete DVD set of 1960s Batman is an excellent investment. The humor that went over my head as a kid is delightful as an adult. [Donald Trump got his campaign strategy from the Penguin.] And the gentle political incorrectness is refreshing. But this is entertainment to be stretched over more than a year, not binge watched!)

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  • Angelle Conant September 20, 2017, 4:01 pm

    I think it’s all about balance. I was just reading “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher, and in it she writes “In today’s culture – where our self-worth is tied to our net worth, and we base our worthiness on our level of productivity – spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. In fact, for many of us it sounds like an anxiety attack waiting to happen.” This is from her Chapter entitled: ‘Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth.’ It’s all about research that shows how crucial play and rest are to the human mind and body. Of course, in another chapter she talks about ‘Cultivating Meaningful Work.’
    So it’s all really about balance in my opinion. Yes, our society is obsessed with entertainment and instant gratification but it’s also obsessed with being productive and proving our worth through accomplishments and achievements. But the research shows that play is just as crucial as meaningful work and what play looks like for one person is not always the same for someone else. In that way, I find it’s important not to demonize and alienate others in their choice of play. It’s not “Us – the wise, productive Mustachians” vs “Them – the dumb, useless masses.” It’s my opinion that we are all in this together and shame and judgement are not the best tools to bring people into the fold.

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  • Kyle September 20, 2017, 4:10 pm

    Great post MMM! I like you emphasis on activities that are not only good for your bank account, but also for your health. A person’s health is probably more important that their well-being than their bank account because without your health, what is the money for?

    To be truthful, I do enjoy baking some sweet treats during my free time (Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies anyone?). But only after a long walk or a session of squats and deadlifts.

    Reply
  • Mr. FWP September 20, 2017, 4:17 pm

    Yes, we get the same responses! I haven’t had cable in years, and maybe a decade: it’s never worth it to me. Now, we use the library for movies and don’t pay anything for entertainment. I convinced my wife to make the leap, and she loves it – we’ve never looked back. (The salad analogy is right on.)

    Now, people think we’re weird, but we’re actually far more engaged and active in the outside world, including with friends. My wife went through a season or two where we watched more things, but it’s really an escape and not that fruitful – we never looked back and said, “man, we’re happy we watched TV!” But we look back at other times, without much entertainment, and are pleased with how we’ve used our time.

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  • Shelley M September 20, 2017, 4:23 pm

    After having children, my husband and I cut the cord and found that we actually started having time to talk to each other again. It felt so incredibly GOOD to stop paying for cable…it was a relationship enhancing, waist slimming, budget boosting, electricity saving move. Over the years, we have allowed DVDs (free from library), a little Youtube, and an occasional football game (Go Michigan!) via old-fashioned antennae to creep back into our lives for weekend enjoyment, but we always do find that we live better when we limit the tube. I do not feel like our 2 kids are deprived whatsoever. In fact, they are complemented for their creativity and attention spans…possible connection? We also don’t miss the commercials which would badger us incessantly with all the “stuff” we needed to go buy. Complete agreement -cutting the cord can be a big time life booster!

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  • Umami September 20, 2017, 4:25 pm

    This post echoes a lot of thoughts I’ve had as well, and some of my internal struggles over what I do for entertainment.

    Something I’ve come to understand as a TV lover and former TV addict is that being mindful about even unproductive/passive/purely indulgent activities like TV can go a long way. If TV’s your thing, then actually consciously pick the shows and episodes you want to watch. None of this “turn on the TV and watch whatever’s on” or “one episode of Netflix Show X turns into binge-watching a whole season and then half of Show Y”. I used to do this until I realized that I wasn’t even enjoying it anymore, I was watching just to watch something, or because everyone was talking about it even if I wasn’t all that interested. This can be applied to anything else, call it conscious entertainment consumption or whatever, and I’m still working on my own consumption!

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  • Amy September 20, 2017, 4:32 pm

    I just realized TODAY that it has officially been a year since I gave up my car. I set out for a 2 month trial, and voila, here we are. I can certainly say that this has improved and simplified my life. Plus, I often walk 5+ miles a day! Thank you for your post today, I take it as a challenge to see what I give up next…

    Thank you!

    Reply
  • Isaak Brown September 20, 2017, 4:34 pm

    Glad you posted this, Pete, but partially so I can disagree with it :)

    I genuinely feel like one of the biggest accomplishments for myself in the last year was being happy and non-productive. That is, I wasn’t creating much, I was spending a lot of time hiking, cooking, and reading. For a big chunk of it, I was very unhappy about my lack of motivation. But the most powerful part of those recent months was finding gratitude and appreciation during it.

    At first, I had that depressed feeling you talked about. I tried to get rid of it by being productive, but it didn’t work. I kept trying more things – get a job? Fix more bikes? Exercise more? But it felt like I was fighting something and the dissatisfied feeling didn’t seem to go away even with more activity.

    12 years or so of vipassana meditation has taught me that resistance is suffering. So I spent a lot of this year intentionally appreciating being “nonproductive”. I was wildly inefficient and took a long time doing basic stuff, like cooking and cleaning and lounging. Sometimes I felt depressed, but sometimes I felt relaxed and spacious and grateful.

    Then I bought a business in July and suddenly got back to being pretty busy.

    But what’s interesting is that in the moments of nonproductivity (hours now instead of days) I still find myself somewhat depressed, frustrated, bored, and discouraged. So even though my “productivity” has gone way up, I still get bored and cranky in the low-energy periods. But I don’t believe the solution is just to be more and more productive – instead to be more and more accepting of “seasons” of nonproductivity as they arise and fall.

    However, one point is the audience you’re addressing may be in a different situation. I think you’re writing to folks who aren’t at all consciously choosing how productive they are, and who are seeking a kick in the pants.

    So, as an addendum I’ll just say: for some of you out there, you don’t need to be more productive. Sometimes being proudly “nonproductive” (maybe, “alternatively productive”:) is a badass journey in itself.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 20, 2017, 5:00 pm

      Great story Isaak and thanks for the perspective. I totally agree – being happy, satisfied, content is the real point. And indeed, it’s possible to have all of these things even without any money or a functional body. But it takes more skill.

      Plus, many people are TOO productive – those who keep running a giant company even when they hate the work and never get a chance to balance their lives. They would get a boost by forcing themselves to stop earning $10,000 per hour managing people.

      So in articles like this, I try to suggest that people make changes to address any obvious deficiencies in life. Just because it’s easier to get to those more enlightened states happiness if you’re not stressed over the basics.

      Reply
      • Dharma Bum September 21, 2017, 6:32 am

        Depression is a complex phenomenon. It affects many people in different ways and for different reasons. Physical activity and the feeling of productivity may be helpful, but not necessarily so. Some people need medication, others just need meditation.

        Nevertheless, I believe that we all need to find our own equilibrium as far as the right balance between activity and inactivity, and productive activity vs non-productive activity is concerned.
        We don’t need to do things to prove to others that we are better than they are. We need to do the things that improve our own lives and states of mind. These things usually involve physical activity, mental activity, and some form of new skill learning on a fairly regular basis. Either way, it does not need to cost much money. After all, the whole point is to continually do stuff (or not do stuff) in order to be happy and free while maintaining financial independence.

        Reply
    • Garwick September 20, 2017, 9:29 pm

      It is about active productive or passive productive. If we always try to figure out what to do in making us feel productive or killing boring time, we will turn out feeling empliness. However if we empty ourselves, then at the right moment our heart makes us want to do something.

      Reply
    • Hastings creek farm September 20, 2017, 11:45 pm

      I too am genetically programmed to err on the side of constant productivity. Meditation and getting comfortable with down time has been my challenge. It’s made me a better parent, children can create terrible inefficiencies in one’s life, you’ve got to be comfortable in the moment with them, regardless of progress. I

      I know you embrace technology, so this observation may not resonate with you, I think virtual living will be the demise of humankind. When I hear the words “zombie apocolypse”, I look around me and it’s already here. People, young and old, are glued to their handheld devices, as if their life depended on it. I can’t imagine how to rein it in, but in the meantime, people’s real lives are being left unlived.

      Reply
  • Dave September 20, 2017, 5:03 pm

    Culture has value. Music, books, arts, film, and yes, even television. There are examples of all of them that have enormous value (and there are examples of all of them with very little value). I have enjoyed some of the TV shows I’ve binged as much as I’ve enjoyed some of the best live concerts I’ve been to and they all weave together to enhance the way I connect with the world.

    It IS all a balance. I like to think about some of my favorite parts of great movies or shows while I’m on my long bike rides (gotta have something to think about), and I like to plan my next bike route while I watch a show.

    Also: audiobooks. They enable you to read while you do other productive stuff. It’s awesome.

    Reply
  • Sonya September 20, 2017, 5:07 pm

    Nice post, I couldn’t help but notice your amazing headline photo. Who was that ridiculously talented photographer that captured the essence of the Moscow Mule madness at #stashmont so vividly??? 🤔

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 21, 2017, 8:13 am

      Aha! Our bartender didn’t tell me who he got the picture from. Image credit: Sonya.

      Reply
      • Sonya September 21, 2017, 11:56 am

        Many would have been unhappy returning from #stashmont to a list of household items needing attention. I find them exciting and challenging–especially if they require little to no money to fix! So far, I’ve fixed the freezer, leaking toilet, a laundry room quandary, and repaired door thresholds….and I just spent the morning putting bike lights, locks and water bottle holders on our bikes so we can get the most out of them AND be safer on the road!💪🏽🛠🔩 All of this while trying to start a business that I love!👩🏽‍🔧 Thanks MMM for hosting #stashmont and inspiring me to up the North family bike game from leisure-only to exercise incorporated into our daily routine.🚴🏼🚴🏽‍♀️🚴🏽‍♀️🚴🏽‍♀️🚴🏼

        Reply
  • Dan Revie September 20, 2017, 5:37 pm

    Normal is a distribution curve, we are all on it as some point, there are no abnormal people.

    I find watching sport with my friends and family a strong bonding experience that complements participating in it too. I find the more I participate in a sport, i.e. surfing, the more I enjoy watching professionals do it too. It is also inspirational for youths to have role models outside of the family unit, and kids love to have a champion to cheer on an motivate them. Whilst the physical aspect may be absent whilst watching a football game, there is a huge benefit to the psychological components of development, bonding, camaraderie and happiness that these activities bring. There is a huge cost-benefit association with time well spent together that forms part of being healthy, wealthy and wise.

    Not all healthy pursuits need to be physically engrossing, or drain-clearing!

    Reply
  • midwestMustachian September 20, 2017, 5:55 pm

    Any chance we can get a “how-to” post on clearing the sewer line??

    Would love any home-maintenance DIY posts as I try to enter the mustachian realm of constant productivity whilst renovating my 1920s duplex. Sure, there’s lots of “how-to” videos/articles online, but none of them come with your patented combo of hands-on wisdom and swearing :)

    Reply
  • Pablo September 20, 2017, 7:05 pm

    Thanks again MMM! This post really resonates with me. You are a kindred spirit. I was thinking I was really weird until I started reading your blog. I raised two boys here in the Las Vegas area. We haven’t had TV since 92. Instead we hiked and climbed out at Red Rock canyon and built mountain bike trails. I too have always felt the need to be productive and do physical things. We lived in several houses during remodels and survived the Vegas housing bust.
    Learning new skills and the desire to “do it myself ” has led me to the edge of FI. I have always been a Mustachian, but having a role model like you articulate the philosophy has truly been life changing! Thank you and keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • PedalsforPennies September 20, 2017, 8:24 pm

    I try to be abnormal, which you sir have mastered. I was under the spell of TV for many years, but have since broken free. I don’t understand how anyone has the time to watch, I have far to much to do, the vast majority by choice. I thought sports would be the hardest part to miss, but after I stopped watching, I found how little joy they would actually bring. I was either watching a game I didn’t really care about, or angry that my team wasn’t playing better. Its far better to just go outside, something will come up that is productive and entertaining! Thanks for making abnormal normal!

    Reply
  • EnjoyIt September 20, 2017, 8:24 pm

    You make me so angry at myself. Now to finish reading all my other blog and forums before I get up and do something useful. Sigh.

    Reply
  • SocraticGadfly September 20, 2017, 8:37 pm

    You had me until you said you don’t really like to hike just for hiking’s sake.

    Reply
  • Marco Zuniga September 20, 2017, 9:19 pm

    I was just about to buy a PS4 but thank God I ran across this blog today. MMM, do you ever record any events or videos of family outings? Would you find it a waste of time in doing so? After all watching a recent vacation video could last an hour or so. Just curious because I’m contemplating buying a a device (PS4, Roku) to stream my 360 videos I record of family vacations.

    Reply
  • TomPadre September 20, 2017, 9:57 pm

    What should millennials do to be productive? Assuming we’re retired or on the path thereof, but don’t have wealth/geostationarity to own a home or buy a worthwhile business.

    My millennial friend who is richer than me, but not retired felt this article came off condescending. I immediately thought, “look at Mr. Fancypants, making so much money from blogging and a luckily-timed baby-boomer tech career that he can easily afford commercial real estate. I’d fix a sewer pipe, or do a “productive” physical project if I had real estate.”

    I don’t want to own a home to live in until I’m not going to move around. I’m trying to buy a quadplex to start landlording and making income, but can’t get traditional bank loans because retired = no loans, no debt, so when banks look at me, they’re like, “WTF, your debt-to-income ratio is UNDEFINED!”

    I could buy businesses and do other productive work to make them more valuable, and then either collect the dividends, or flip them. But again, lack the capital to do so.

    Basically, I’m a lazy, think-y person. When I do engage, I work very, very hard, like I did to reach retirement. But now, I’m in an awful grey zone where I don’t have much meaningful work to do. Moment-to-moment, there’s no obvious action to take to earn money or significantly change the world. I’m frustrated that I don’t have clear valuable actions to take. I’d take more meaningful actions, but I find that so many people cling to blatantly false beliefs, and it makes living with them and doing stuff for them less meaningful. I either want to found a multi-billion-dollar company, with people smarter and harder-working than me who make me grow, or not work any boring, meaningless jobs for “the man” at all, and just tend to my physical health while pondering stuff and enjoying life.

    Like right now, I have no “productive” steps to take. Just talking to friends, thinking about this article, and wondering what I “should” be doing with my time.

    Reply
    • becabeca October 5, 2017, 6:29 pm

      I recently retired and spent the first month of retirement visiting family, finally helping them with all their house projects, yard projects, health projects, and financial health projects that I never had enough time to properly focus on while working. Just being in town and available, you’d be surprised at how you many projects you can help with. Even houses that seem totally done always have some little issue to be optimized. I was busy every single day, and there’s still lots of things I wasn’t able to get to in the month, so I plan to do this again in a few months.

      My second month of retirement I spent trying to optimize my own household. I organized my tools/workbench/garage, fixed little things around the house that haven’t ever worked quite right, consolidated 401ks and HSAs from old jobs, consolidated my various insurance policies, installed some upgrades on our old car to quell spousal pressure to buy a newer car, picked out a new primary care physician and did all my preventative tests and screenings that I’d been putting off, went through 10 years of paperwork and organized the essentials into a tidy filing cabinet. There’s still lots more on my household to do list, but I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished so far.

      I’m now in month 3. This month I’m focusing on one person I really care about to drastically improve their quality of life. This is my sister, who has a debilitating auto-immune condition. Over the years, I’ve kept up on the latest research around it, and Fecal Microbiota Transfer (FMT) has floated to the top as the most promising treatment. Unfortunately, this is not yet FDA approved here in the U.S. for her condition (but it is being done for her condition in the U.K. and Australia). So, this month I’ve been getting all sorts of medical tests to clear me as her donor, and in a week I will fly to stay with her for a few weeks for the procedure.

      I hope to keep my productivity up by improving the lives of the people around me. I think if I just rinse and repeat my first 3 months of retirement, I’ll accomplish exactly that.

      Reply
  • ChrisW September 20, 2017, 10:24 pm

    I love making things too. I knit, sew and do some art. I also love to challenge myself by trying new things like improv and drumming. I don’t think it is because of puritan values, but it is just way more fun. One of the most fun parties I went to was when we all painted the outside of a friend’s house. Doing that made me feel so much more full inside and connected with my friends.

    Reply
  • Christie September 20, 2017, 10:49 pm

    My 15 year old thanks me several times a year for not introducing her to television until she was almost 10. She doesn’t consume much media of any kind and she now has complete control to do what she chooses with regards to media.

    Reply
  • IslandLiving September 20, 2017, 11:03 pm

    We sold our TV 10 months ago and never looked back. When people talk about Game of Thrones, NFL-game this, we tell them we haven’t watched it….. or anything for that matter. And it ALWAYS feels good. We get more sleep, we cook meals together, we talk, we brainstorm about the future.

    Everything in this blog post rings true — it is not enough to just be busy — WHAT ARE YOU BUSY ABOUT?
    We all get the same 24 hours in a day, what are you going to do with that time?

    Watching other people get paid wild amounts of cash to throw a ball to another person — I’ve never understood it. I don’t have enough hours in a day to get everything done I”m shooting for — much less watch other people living their lives?

    (My husband and I are mini-Moustachians now more than ever – and living in Hawaii at the same time — thank you for inspiring us MMM!)

    Reply
  • Kristen September 20, 2017, 11:33 pm

    Wow. Thanks. You just made a difference in my life, MMM. Truly, thx.

    Reply
  • Jeremy September 20, 2017, 11:50 pm

    Always funny to read, great article!

    What’s even better / worse ( i love the ironies in life ) is that when i got to the end of the comments, i see an ad enticing me to become a car clown in a shiny new Buick! My 14 year old car and 18 year old bicycle are getting nervous ;).

    I, as well, keep a list of common things that i see that just make no sense to me in this world. Doing so always makes me feel like a weirdo but it’s fun to keep tract of these things. Years later, with perspective, sometimes i find that what i noticed was truly just weird but other things i come to understand why people do them even if they don’t bring true happiness or satisfaction to the person. That’s the fun part for me, trying to understand why.

    I’m glad there are folks out there like you Pete who are helping people actually change. I’m just enjoying the watching and examining of the craziness that is our culture and our world. Maybe someday I’ll do something with these thoughts… Until than it’s just amusing.

    Reply
  • Joe September 20, 2017, 11:52 pm

    Okay, that’s an awesome picture of Will.

    Reply
  • Mrs. S September 21, 2017, 1:13 am

    How much of this need to move is related to age? I would have though I would get lazier as I advance in years. As a lazy person who hates to lift a finger when lazing, I have of late started enjoying things which a few years ago would have turned me off.
    Watching Youtube videos and reading still consumes a lot of our free time but so does cooking and my new love for growing some food. And we have recently developed a new addiction to various pnp board games which allow is to build and play a new game every few weeks.
    On vacations however we are the most restless bunch and prefer public transport and walking to any private mode of transport. We love cycling to see the huge monument rather than hiring someone for cheap to ferry us around.

    However many times the urge to be normal raises its ahead. We itch to go out and do something. We have tamed it enough to use it for our grocery shopping trips or to sell some thing from the house or the other.

    Reply

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