246 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.

 

 

  • Mina September 21, 2017, 1:41 am

    I also use the “no TV” line, except in our case, it’s true! We work full time jobs, have a kid, have hobbies, grow our own vegetables, and also do 70% of our own house renovations. On the rare occasion we do get to sit on our arses, we will listen to the radio, drink wine and watch the logs we split burn in our woodburner. Or, y’know…TALK to each other!

    Reply
    • Amonymous February 4, 2018, 9:28 pm

      *GASP!*

      These are very odd things to be doing…… Of course, I’m kidding.

      They don’t do it like this anymore. Let’s bring it back!

      Reply
  • Mike September 21, 2017, 2:01 am

    I grew up without a TV (my intellectual parents said “it makes people stupid”), and I have to warn you, Mr Money Mustache: you are most likely making your son a bit of an outsider. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if the activities you provide for him build skills and knowledge that can be useful later in life, but just be aware that he’ll have a harder time fitting in with other kids because he’s essentially from another culture.

    Reply
    • Dharma Bum September 21, 2017, 6:38 am

      NOT knowing what happened on the Kardashians or Game of Thrones is a good thing.
      If one doesn’t fit in because of unawareness of occurrences in an artificial garbage culture, they will ultimately be better off.

      Reply
    • Linda September 22, 2017, 7:52 pm

      I grew up without a TV, and I disagree. I did sometimes go to a friend’s house to watch TV for specific shows (i.e. the original Star Trek. Yes, I’m that old) but I believe I learned to entertain myself – something I feel many younger people have no clue how to do. I think many people can’t handle it if they don’t multiple sources of instant gratification/entertainment at all times.

      I’ve had television over the years, but for about 5 years now we just don’t do it. Haven’t had cable since it wasn’t free from employer (probably 15 years ago). I confess to watching music and comedy You Tube videos sometimes, but not for the hours that TV often sucked us into before. And we’ve been FI for a year and a half now. Yay!

      I am also grateful that when I was growing up we only had dessert on special occasions. I, too, love pumpkin cheesecake (amongst other indulgences), but I don’t feel that a meal isn’t complete without something sweet.

      Reply
  • Cheryl September 21, 2017, 2:23 am

    You’d be welcome round my house anytime!

    I’ve been ramping up in my ‘about to move 4000 km’s’ preparation and have been finding that the more I do the more I want to do. I loooove sitting at the computer, but during the day it’s much more tempting, and useful, to get out and finish the shed floor or go weed somewhere. Helps that Spring is popping up here and there, but even a few months ago I had better days mentally when I was out chopping firewood than sitting inside with the fire going.

    It’s more satisfying, long term, to look at a physical thing done, than to have spent a few hours meandering through Youtube. I mean, I’ve found some great new music lately, but the shed floor has improved my carpentry skills, cleared some junk and now I have an actual floor. All good!

    Reply
  • Kmarie September 21, 2017, 2:27 am

    You strike me as most likely an ENTj or an ESTJ – I could be wrong but the type of enlightened yet physical advice you give seem to be on par with these personality types. Have you taken the test? Personality hacker is a great site with podcasts and articles on the topic ( tho you do have to give an email addy to do their test but it’s the best and takes less then ten minutes) or 16personalities also offers an easy test and quick run downs of the 16 cognitive functions that people work out of to view their world, make decisions and operate from. I am an infj thus most of your advice I apply to my life but in differing ways. As an introvert I thrive off of reading books and writing about the combined ideas from them but I also have a co pilot of harmony which can make me seem extroverted in some of my choices. Thats a quick way sample of how advice may translate to 16 different conflictive expressions…not a one size but would work for a large number of certain personalities yet we all can learn from one another… if you ever take them test let me know if my guess was way off … I firmly believe if everyone understood their main driver, co pilot and three year old process of how they operate in the world and that of others – there would be huge advances in self understanding, motivation and healing.

    Reply
  • Kkth1866 September 21, 2017, 6:10 am

    I suspect you’re leaving out a big part of the story for most people: exhaustion. I’m an academic. After nine or so hours of reading, writing, teaching, listening to lectures and language learning I am mentally very tired. On days when I work from home, I go running to burn off physical energy. On days I have to commute to campus I’m usually physically tired as well and settle for walking my dog a few miles in the evening.* I’m not a tv person in general but, honestly, I read personal finance blogs to fill that need for entertainment that doesn’t require really hard thinking. (No offense). I suspect tv serves that function for a lot of people, particularly if they have kids on top of a job. Which is not to say we should devote all of our spare time to tv but it does make sense to me why my parents spent 30 years vegging out in front of the tv at the end of the day.

    * Re: commuting: yes, yes, I know. I’m married to an academic with a job in a city 90 minutes away from where I work. Since he gets subsidized housing through his job and I get subsidized transit passes, we live three blocks from his job and I’m the one who commutes.

    Reply
  • Alex September 21, 2017, 6:25 am

    Hi Mr. Money Mustache,

    Great article really insightful! I was wondering what would your advice be to a 22 year old (working full time) in terms of spending less and only spending on valuable experiences. I tend to say yes to a lot of things (esp. when they involve new experiences such as traveling, new physical activity, etc..). I feel like that’s the money well spent and the big problem is that people live expensive lifestyles (car loans, big house, netflix/hulu/cable) later on but now someone like me living at home what would your advice be?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • The Vigilante September 21, 2017, 7:22 am

    “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.”

    This is precisely where we differ, MMM. I am always at peak mental conditioning and performance, and I could never stretch another minute out of my brain without experiencing diminishing returns on that effort.

    Great post!

    Reply
  • Pellrider September 21, 2017, 7:25 am

    I do have cable TV, with rogers. Just the basic one. My spouse loves to watch games and the documentaries on TVO. I sometimes watch the news network. After starting reading MMM, my investments grew a lot. I got paid more too. so the annual income of the household is about $100,000 now. Having a good time is like cooking together or cleaning and arranging stuff in the tiny home. This year we tried veggie gardening on our balcony. Learned that eggplants are more prone to bugs. Chillies are better to grow here. Came to know that our city has free compost program. Then, compost is available at Walmart too. I got a side hustle to make over $100/month. The biggest achievement of all is I gave the wisdom to our kid ” when you have enough money to pay your bills working is more fun and you can dictate your terms” .

    Reply
  • OrangeSnapDragon September 21, 2017, 7:40 am

    Did you live this same lifestyle while you were working?

    My current job is 100% mental focus and my brain simply has to have a break by the end of the day. I do garden, walk the dog, bike, clean the house, cook dinner etc but after awhile my body is also to tired to move forward without being ready for bed. I would like to switch from TV to reading but my brain is usually shot by then so I turn to TV or youtube videos. Weekends are different though, usually once my body is tired I turn to a book or maybe an art project, but those work days can be brutal.

    Not trying to make excuses, just not sure what else I can do. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Aaron September 21, 2017, 8:16 am

    Here’s the thing – I think this is a bit of a false dichotomy. The choice isn’t between things that are good for us and things that we enjoy. That suggests that life amounts to balancing menial drudgery that’s good for you with enjoyable but decadent pleasure that’s bad for you. That mentality is pretty destructive for people, because they end up hating work because they think they must, but feeling guilty any time they pursue pleasure. It’s a recipe for depression and dysfunction.

    Instead, I would suggest the choice is between mindless, life-sapping leisure activities and meaningful, productive, enjoyable activities.

    I just finished reading Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and the dirty little secret that nobody realizes is that *we aren’t actually happy when we are being entertained*! No, really, this guy did research by giving people devices to randomly beep at different times in the day and prompt a quick survey of emotional state. The astonishing result is that people report being happy when they are in the midst of challenging, engaging, productive activities that require full attention and mental involvement. You need to be working towards a goal, ideally. When people were queried relaxing on the beach, or watching TV, or ski-boating, they actually weren’t as consistently happy, and often reported low levels of engagement.

    To me, this really supports the lifestyle choice you describe – always be working on something interesting and challenging! And don’t do it just because it’s good for you – that suggests that it isn’t fun, and that you have to use willpower to force yourself to do things that aren’t intrinsically rewarding. Do things for their own sake, and learn to love being in the midst of an awesome new challenge, because you are having fun, growing as a person, and getting something done!

    As to why people continue to believe that work is always bad and passive entertainment is always good… I can only point at 100+ years of brainwashing by advertisers, and the pervasive consumer culture to explain why people believe the exact opposite of the truth. A lot of industries would go out of business if suddenly everyone stopped demanding to be entertained during every waking moment.

    Reply
    • 9 O'Clock Shadow September 22, 2017, 9:26 am

      “You need to be working towards a goal, ideally.” Great insight Aaron. I’ve also been reading about happiness and success from Daniel Goleman as it relates to our ability to focus, and I think it integrates well will the “Flow” insights. I have checked out from our public library “Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence”. The premise is that the ability to focus our thoughts, which can improve through practice, keeps the bulk of our mental and emotional bandwidth on a desired state of mind. The desired state is a balance of challenge and reward in pursuit of a goal.

      As you’ve read, Flow is a pleasurable but expensive state of mind, and needs to be offset with rest. The “relaxing on the beach” of any other passive entertainment can be the ‘rest’ part of the equation. Maybe the challenge is not to let the passive stuff become a hedonistic groove, which is where having high level goals can help keep your awareness “above the groove”.

      Reply
  • C L Ray September 21, 2017, 8:32 am

    Given the choice between “depressed naps on the couch all day” and “busy day including shopping, …”, I would choose the “depressed naps” option (or make it “roll around on the floor all day while occasionally petting the cat”). Having reached my financial independence, I realized that I like doing: nothing.

    I don’t like making things (I used to), and I don’t like learning things (I used to), I don’t feel a mission to improve the world and save humanity from itself. I’m not ashamed of this change in character. Today I perceive the pressure to be “busy and productive and have a life of deep, radiant satisfaction” as a lie perpetuated by mad Western societies. It is at its core a source of anxiety and unhappiness, because it perpetuates the feelings of inadequacy and ties your self-worth to others’ judgement. I suspect that maybe people who haven’t introspected much are also confusing the feeling of calm and serenity with the feeling of worthlessness and depression.

    Of course, if you’re not quite there yet, it is a very bad attitude to just enjoy looking at the ceiling (or sky). Instead you should be “thinking big”, being enthusiastic, making plans and behaving in a happy workaholic hamster fashion like Mr. Money Mustache. It’s just that after reaching your goal you no longer HAVE TO.

    Reply
  • Michelle September 21, 2017, 9:05 am

    Hey there MMM,

    You’re post is timely in my life. I’ve gotten into the habit in the evening of throwing on a netflix show to play in the background as I do dishes/cook. Last night, for whatever reason, I didn’t. I went about my chores without the laugh track and found I was much happier, and got everything done a bit faster.

    It was a good reminder that what I think makes me happy may not actually. TV doesn’t in fact relax me. As someone who grew up without TV I should have known, but we all need reminders now and then I guess.

    Do you strive for balance on a daily basis, or do you find that you have a more seasonal fluctuation in terms of productivity and relaxation?

    Cheers

    Reply
  • RH September 21, 2017, 11:32 am

    Dang…this article was an eye opener. I have been binge watching shows lately…so in the past couple hours I did the following:
    – put down some lawn seed in bare spots of the lawn
    – walked to the store and purchased 2 light bulbs that had been burnt out for 3 months
    -polished the stainless steel range hood vent for the first time in 3 years
    -cleaned the office
    -organized the closet
    -took apart a dusty box fan and cleaned it
    -swept the garage floor
    -walked the dog

    Totally feel so much better being productive versus a couch potato. It’s crazy how much free time Netflicks/Hulu can absorb!

    Reply
  • Jessica September 21, 2017, 11:35 am

    ISTP?

    Reply
  • Laurie September 21, 2017, 11:42 am

    I loved your post, MMM. I also recently read this opinion piece by David Brooks of the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/opinion/when-life-asks-for-everything.html (the comments are well worth reading as well), and in some ways your blog and his editorial are resonating in my head. The concept of community is the link. Many of your activities center around community- you seem to be a natural community builder. But, for many Americans, our belief in the importance of community is damaged, and in many places, many people don’t know how to “do” community. Some people, like you, are consciously trying to rebuild it. Participating in a community – in the real world, with human contact – would help people achieve not only more real pleasure in their lives, but also a sense of purpose and meaning.

    Reply
  • SMM September 21, 2017, 11:50 am

    I used to pay someone to mow my lawn years back and while he did that, I just watched from the window (so I didn’t do anything productive with the time and energy I saved). So now I mow my own lawn, do it fast paced to get the heart rate up and get a sense of pride! Same thing with a retaining wall project I recently did myself. I would’ve have to have paid a contractor $200-$300, but I just did it over a couple of weeks little by little (no hurry and money saved).

    Great example about the cheesecake. It’s all cause and effect; do you want something that will give you short-term or long term happiness and satisfaction :-)

    Reply
  • Stephen Paul Weber September 21, 2017, 11:56 am

    Do you have many other FIRE people in your neighbourhood? I’m wondering how you have so many people who are available during the day to go be productive with.

    Reply
  • Beckett12 September 21, 2017, 12:10 pm

    I absolutely love this article it is nice to know that I am not the only one that enjoys a project to occupy my time. I am single and have been divorced for 24 years with a grown kid out of the house. Also, having a small house to maintain there is always something to do. However when I go back to work on Monday and am asked by co-workers what did I do for the weekend and reply with things like mowed the grass, washed the car and cleaned out closets I get strange looks from them. My boss even told me one time that I needed to take a real vacation sometime and to stop spending all my time on work around the house. LOL

    Reply
  • Oldster September 21, 2017, 12:19 pm

    Your writing cracks me up. There were a couple of spew worthy lines in this post. Next time a heads up so I’m not slurping coffee when you let one rip, would be appreciated.

    There is no “normal”. Everyone finds their own level in this life and we make our associations accordingly. You are fortunate to have found a place where you can both contribute to the betterment of society as a whole, and find personal satisfaction in the process. I hope everyone who reads you realizes that they do not have to be Pete, to be happy like Pete. Each should find her own bliss, and not let the expectations of others, or the need to be “normal”, get in the way.

    Reply
  • Wade September 21, 2017, 12:19 pm

    I’ve been learning Norwegian and Swedish (just for fun). I do like reading. Walks. Bike rides. Pulling weeds. Organizing. De-cluttering. Washing our own cars. Vacuuming our own cars. Listening to the Twins on an AM radio. Listening to music I already own.

    It takes concerted effort to “do something” that does not “cost something”. Driving somewhere, admission fees, dining out, paying for drinks out when I have a fridge full of delicious items.

    Doing “nothing” that costs “nothing” and does no harm is quite hard. One positive change is I watch no news. Blissful ignorance. If I do see something, it is a should shrug and move on.

    I do still watch some select TV shows. We have long, cold winters. Can’t be perfect.

    Reply
  • Em September 21, 2017, 1:02 pm

    It’s unfortunate I think to assume you can’t enjoy stuff that’s good for you. There is almost always a way to hack things you like to make them useful, and things you don’t enjoy but that are good for you to make them more enjoyable. In fact I think it’s necessary, often. Only so many hours in a day. I have friends whose hobbies are basically home maintenance/remodeling and yard stuff. Which is awesome, if that’s your thing. I take care of those things but I’ll be damned if I actually enjoy it. I mean, I do everything i can to make it enjoyable and since I’ve gotten better at it, enjoy it more, but don’t think I’m ever going to love it. I like art – reading, good TV shows, museums, performances, etc., and it’s honestly where I find a lot of meaning. I agree it’s good to be thoughtful about how you spend your time and all too easy to waste time nowadays. But never give up everything you enjoy, and don’t convince yourself it’s wrong to do things you enjoy sometimes. I found myself at age 40 and just with no reason to get up every day. Gave myself some grace to do things I enjoy more, and I feel like I have my life back now, and everything is better.

    Reply
  • Lan Mandragoran September 21, 2017, 1:11 pm

    Good post! Some mentality things to think about for sure. It’s not really how I’m wired though to just never do “nothing box” things. I like goofing around and doing little, and think your a bit crazy :). My brother is exactly like this though, he can’t sit still and must be doing projects at all time. It’s kinda awesome, and I’m a bit jealous of the attitude/predisposition.

    For me an occasional good day is everything productive being done, nothing important or urgent going on, going on bike rides, reading fantasy books, playing video games, playing piano, or watching a new movie ^^. I also recognize it’s pretty unproductive stuff… generally… so pretty much… dont partake. There are some obvious downsides to this way of thinking however, but I have trouble not feeling so.

    Even things like playing the piano which I love kinda sadly falls into the category of…. well it’s not helping my future, why am i doing it when I have so much I should be doing to secure what I really want. Freeedommmmmmm!!!!! ( in mel gibson’s voice ;-P )

    Reply
  • Jim Mcg September 21, 2017, 1:23 pm

    I don’t watch too much TV, but I feel like a bit of a snob when I tell people this (writing that makes me wonder why I tell them!) It’s not that I don’t like it, or appreciate it, and I don’t know what makes me think that reading books or listening to podcasts is more worthy, but I do! Trouble is a lot of social chit chat is based around what people watch, be that Game of Thrones or some sporting event, and it’s fun being able to join in the discussion. Meanwhile books are a very personal thing in terms of appeal – I could never enter a worthwhile debate about Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, for example, although I did try to read them. They just left me cold with no opinion one way or another about them. I might think that reading books and listening to podcasts gives me more to talk about but sometimes, standing on the fringe of a heated pub conversation about the weekend’s football, I wonder if that’s really true?

    Reply
  • Retiredfornow September 21, 2017, 2:30 pm

    Been reading your blog for a while now. Good stuff, thought provoking. I’m 52, trying out retirement for the first time. I played a bit better offense for longer, balanced by a bit more spendy lifestyle as I traveled for a living. Same basic principles though – paid off house, no debt, cook most meals ourselves, not into fancy clothes or trendy nightspots. Might have enough set aside, so why not give it a go. Your blog helped put the choice into perspective.

    I’m finding simple things like power washing and painting the house trim oddly satisfying. Showing up for my son’s soccer game on a Tuesday afternoon is so much more rewarding than pro sports on TV. We have great conversations after his games, often less about who won and more about life lessons. So far I’m seeing many possibilities and little bordom. You’re right, getting up and doing something constructive is the key.

    While I’m really starting to get comfortable with the new found freedom my parents, siblings and friends don’t know what to make of my retirement. I’ve worked since I was 14, no one can believe I’m walking away. I may decide to do something for profit or pay, when it makes sense and on my own terms. Pete, how long did it take before the questions about when are you going to go get a job stop and any doubts about the choice mostly fell away?

    Thanks

    Reply
  • Michelle September 21, 2017, 2:49 pm

    Bought an old house and had to tell the electricians repeatedly that I did not want tv. They only got it when I said, “I haven’t had tv since Happy Days.” At least it’s more common now but for 20 years people would BUG OUT when I mentioned I didn’t have tv. I would have never learned to play guitar if, as a youngster, I had tv (or the Internet). My old house is on the beach. I love sitting on the sand listening to the ocean. But now I have an old house to fix up. Now I get the BUGGED OUT stare from men (always men) who tell me (and my partner) how we can’t possibly rip out the old carpet ourselves or use a hand truck to bring the new IKEA bed from the dock to our house or best one yet – that I need to hire someone to put the IKEA bed together! “You’re really going to deal with ALL THOSE SCREWS?” I was asked recently. Yeah, I am and I’m going to love every minute of it. Call me a weirdo.

    Reply
  • WantNotToWantNOt September 21, 2017, 4:51 pm

    Ah, the BOOB TUBE. My SO and I are Boomers and we jerked our cable in 1997. What a relief that was. No more temptation for mindlessness. Instead we read books by the cartload, see live theater, and attend concerts.

    Television is a medium that makes everything into Entertainment. For a really thought-provoking look into how this works, read the 1985 classic book by Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Everything he wrote then has become even truer now, when all of the serious aspects of our public life (ahem, politics in particular) have been debased into entertainment. No need to participate in that, if one is conscious.

    TV is a medium that sells you. That’s right, you are the product sold to the advertisers. Eyes on the page. Fear sells and if it bleeds, it leads because your fear will keep your attention focused on the screen.

    So, good on you, MMM. Who needs all that junk food for the mind. Life is short and every moment should be of high quality. Not thrown away on junk.

    Thanks for a fine essay on television, McDonalds for the Mind.

    Reply
  • Eliza September 21, 2017, 9:51 pm

    I was talking to a colleague once about gender stereotypes and she was right on board until I mentioned that my husband doesn’t watch sport on TV or go to games. She then asked if he was a *real* man. So apparently not watching tv is one thing, but not watching sport is so abnormal it strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a man.

    Reply
  • Deb B September 22, 2017, 6:02 am

    While striving for balance in work/leisure/self-care I have discovered “entertainment” literally eats away precious time from the to do list. I enjoy personal productivity to accomplish every project jotted down, yet, can’t do this every single day due to unexpected interruptions from “life”. I admit my plate is full and juggling the demands of self employment, marriage, an adult daughter with a disability, and a new puppy is feat of time management. I’m blessed to be my own boss. I enjoy reading this blog as it’s good to know how others strive for frugality, common sense, and sanity. :)

    Reply
  • Brendan September 22, 2017, 10:52 am

    As a Mustachian in Las Vegas, “seek not to be entertained” has a special irony to it. I glance up from my desk and can see the planes lined up all day and night, making their descent into McCarran to unload their cargo of entertainment seeking DST’s (dumb stupid tourists). Not meaning to be derogatory; whenever I’m visiting somewhere else, I consider myself a DST. We mustachians aren’t normal, but normal is boring. Normal is the average American praying that Social Security isn’t cut when they retire because they have virtually nothing in a 401k account. Normal is taking out a credit card to pay for an upcoming wedding like a friend just did, but is absolutely adamant that she gets her Direct TV at $150+ per month right away (as if it were a utility!). Thanks but I’ll buck the trend and ship off $1,000 bucks a month to my various direct stock purchase plans which give me back an ever growing waterfall of dividends every 90 days instead.

    Reply
  • JoeO September 22, 2017, 11:07 am

    My doctor told me his elderly patients who play bridge or take up bridge late in life seem to exhibit less dementia

    Reply
  • Tanner Jacobi September 22, 2017, 12:58 pm

    A solid course of action. However, I think it’s disingenuous to say that becoming productive just hasn’t occurred to most folks–the industry peddling self-improvement is massive. If simply swapping out a unproductive timeslot with a productive on could do the trick, we would all be Mustachian already. Personally, I’ve been trying self-improvement for maybe 7 years now, and using various methods including what was supposed to be a scientifically fail-proof one, and today I am no closer to being Mustachian than any other consumer sucka–despite following this blog all this time.

    Reply
  • FIRECracker September 22, 2017, 11:22 pm

    Why sit around watching shows on Netflix? Why sit around playing boardgames with friends, even if it’s not “productive”?

    The simple answer is “because I can”. I’m juggling multiple passion projects in retirement, but one of my favourite things to do is waste time. Take a nap, watch netflix, go chill out in a Hungary spa, stuff my face with an obscene amount of food, go lie on a beach and do absolutely nothing for hours, those are the moments I live for. And guess what? I have you to thank for the awesome privilege of being able to waste so much time without feeling any guilt what-so-ever. Because of your blog, JLCollins, MadFientist and all the other FIRE blogs I consumed on my way to FI, I now have all the time in the world to waste.

    And guess what? Even though I waste so much time now, I’m still accomplishing WAY more than than when I was working. That’s the power of being able to do what you love and still have enough time leftover to waste however you want.

    Back when I was working I hoarded my free time like Fat Albert hoards cake. I banned myself from watching TV, gave up reading, and even limited the length of my bathroom breaks, because I simply couldn’t spare a single precious minute. I was miserable.

    Not anymore!

    So thanks for being my inspiration and see you in Chautauqua Ecuador! Now excuse me while I go fall asleep in a puddle of my own drool…

    Reply
  • Married to a Swabian September 23, 2017, 5:57 am

    Great post – Amen, MMM! Having lived in Germany for four years and being married to a wonderful woman from Stuttgart for 27 years, we can advise the MMM community that there is a whole culture of frugal, hard working people in southern Germany! We could set up tours, for all to experience “total immersion” in this culture! ;) A Swabian, as the Stuttgarters are known, would on average much prefer tinkering with something to make it work, or build their house, than sit around watching TV (soccer excepted) or being endlessly entertained. They poke fun at our culture of Disney, princesses and Hollywood. We’ve been without cable TV for most of the last 5 years and don’t miss it. Have to pay $70 for Internet (insane), but no cell phone contracts ( Tracfone for about $30/month) or TV.

    Reply
  • Fireby35 September 23, 2017, 7:56 am

    “The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” ~Carlos Casteneda – Journey to Ixtlan.

    It’s a book you should read on your once a month opportunity.

    Reply
  • CrazyDogLady September 24, 2017, 3:50 pm

    OMFG! I’m NOT WEIRD! My ex husband screamed at me during our divorce that he was pissed with me, because I didn’t want to sit down and watch something for hours on end, or play computer games for hours on end. I just felt so BLAH after doing that. I want to do things to improve my quality of life. Like you, I’m not a person to just aimlessly wander around, unless I’m heading to a scenic spot. I take the dogs for walks. I like to live in a clean house, so I’ll clean that. If weather allows it, I’ll weed the yard. My kids wanted separate rooms, so I spent 4 days decluttering their toys (lots got donated) and painting their rooms. That made me feel GREAT! Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy an episode of Downton Abbey or Dr. Thorne, or whatever else. But I’d rather do something that gives me a sense of accomplishment, and THEN sit down and relax.

    And yes, I’d kill for some icecream right now, but I know it’s not good for me, so I’ll get some water instead.

    Reply
  • Liesbet September 24, 2017, 5:52 pm

    All very recognizable, from the not having TV to enjoying free activities and exercise in nature to the need of being productive. Except for the reading a book part. I only seem to be able to read a book over a four-month time span. :-) Life is all about choices. I have been “abnormal” my whole life, MMM normal at the same time, and happy about it. Inspiring others with blog posts is part of the fun, but, as you said, people are different and most like the “vicariously living through…” experience, while comfortably sitting on the couch. By the way, eating healthy is not as hard as it seems, when you stick to it and – surprisingly – it does make you feel happy and your own body encourages you to keep up with it.

    Reply
  • ZJ Thorne September 25, 2017, 7:13 am

    Developing my relationships and my skills and allowing my body adequate rest are important to health. My friends who are now home-owners love it when we all come over and help dig a trench for new drainage, but they also use their house for hosting and keeping our community together. I think both are lovely.

    Reply
  • Jessi September 25, 2017, 9:06 am

    You had me until you dissed board games. Board games are awesome. I also don’t think they are passive pursuits. A good game night it one of my favorite ways to engage with my friends. I don’t see it as very likely that they will come over and organize my closet or dig up my lawn as a get together. Sure, if we needed help, they would fill in.

    We did have the experience in Costco where one of the presenters came up and asked us how much we paid for TV. When we said nothing, he actually said “Oh, I guess I can’t guarantee you a lower rate then.”

    Reply
  • MKE September 25, 2017, 1:50 pm

    The ideas are correct here, but I disagree with the diagnosis of the “normal” life. Ever seen the movie “Wall-E?” That is the life most people strive for. They have little to do, little to think, and seek even less. The goal of the typical person is to live as little as possible.

    In a few moments, I will be riding to work. I leave early because I have to pass a block lined with the monstrous SUVs of bored suburban moms sitting around idling. The moms start lining up about 40 minutes before school is let out, and the frenzy hits about 20 to 25 minutes before. What kind of life is that? What kind of example is that? It’s a competition to see who can piss away more of their precious time. This happens every day!

    People are NOT busy, and they do not seek to stay busy, They want to be, as Roger Waters said, “Amused to Death.”

    Their goal: live as little as possible, strive to do less, and teach your kids to avoid living. Depressing, but true.

    Reply
  • Oliver Chapman September 27, 2017, 8:34 am

    Good points, I haven’t had a TV in a few years now, although I do watch a bit on my laptop. But I definitely spend plenty of time working on projects, this year has seen a new shed and cafe racer motorbike amongst other things.

    I once heard the term psychic entropy when reading the book flow and have never forgotten it. Since then I always think about how often the things we like to do, actually waste our brain power and takeaway from us in the long-term.

    I coined my term psychic hypertrophy and now try to focus on things that help me grow and develop, like how weight training makes my muscles grow. Reading and trying new skills and experiences makes me grow as a whole.

    At the time I don’t always feel like doing it, but as time goes on I know i’m building new better neural pathways so I will enjoy those things more and grow even more.

    So as you say, i’m not always entertained, but in the long-term i’m definitely satisfied.

    Reply
  • jenny from the north October 1, 2017, 2:27 pm

    Ok this is the cynical me responding. Most of the activities you shun make for great photo ops to to post on social media. Here I am at the foot ball game holding a giant beer, etc. Most of the activities you prefer don’t make for as good content, although the pic of you two dealing with the sewer pipe might prove me wrong. My point is, I thing the drive to always be doing something interesting (and photogenic) started about the same time social media took off. No point wasting time doing things that won’t make for great pictures to post for everyone to see and envy your exciting life, right? Cynical switch off now. Maybe others really do enjoy rushing from one pricy activity to another?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 2, 2017, 8:30 am

      Interesting theory Jenny, I like it.

      One of the recommendations of this blog is to stay mostly off of social media as well, because it’s just another form of entertainment if you use it daily (or multiple times like many of us). But it can also work both ways: Mustachians like to share pictures of their anti-consumption or badass activities just as much as consumers like to post pictures of Disney trips and new cars sitting in the driveway.

      Reply
      • Kevin Coleman October 2, 2017, 1:10 pm

        Stay off of social media, unless it results in redirect links to my blog!

        ;P

        Reply
  • Kevin Coleman October 2, 2017, 1:08 pm

    To each their own. I think everyone has different preferences for what they get entertainment out of. For me it’s playing video games, watching my favorite tv shows, etc… If I was in your shoes, where you can do whatever you want, and not held down by a job, I probably would do something different. But after a day of working, why would I want to then dig ditches and do more work? I think that what happens when you are retired is you would get too bored not doing “work” still.

    My grandpa is a great example. When he worked, he would work 48 hours a week at a glass manufacturing plant. He would come home, do a little chores, and watch sports, the news, and some tv shows. Now that he is retired, he probably spends a good 6 hours a day on projects like that. But what is that? It’s around a 40 hour work week. It’s not like he is better than all those people watching TV or anything. It’s just watching TV 14 hours a day gets really old fast. And you don’t get to do that if you have a full time job anyways.

    Reply
  • C Epperson October 3, 2017, 6:57 pm

    Just a simple thank you for writing this. I don’t feel quite as alone now. Seriously, I sometimes think my husband and I are the only ones in our entire city who aren’t pursuing constant entertainment. I think a little of it goes a long way.

    Reply
  • Ali October 5, 2017, 7:57 am

    I just spent my day off patching the side of my house getting ready for painting and thought to myself at the end of it “What a lovely relaxing day!!” I seriously have the best days when I can do a house project, but man I become a couch potato by the evening.

    Reply
  • jdog October 5, 2017, 9:48 am

    Most people seem on the verge of being set off all day long. Road rage, getting pissy at waitresses and baristas because your order’s not right, yelling at sales people in stores because they won’t give you the sale price from two weeks ago and most people are overweight and look weak due to a lack of strenuous physical activity. The overconsumption of food, alcohol and abuse of prescription pills is staggering. My theory is that people are buckling under the pressure of chasing society’s ideal of the good life.

    Reply
  • Joey Graziano October 10, 2017, 12:00 pm

    Love this post! This has actually inspired me to create a new weekend side hustle. I am not a Carpenter, but I do enjoy yard work.

    On that note, I decided to combine healthy calorie killing habits with a side hustle and discovered that this tactic grants me extra money and a great physique as a consequence.

    Example: I started offering raking services for a few families in my neighborhood. I charged $30 per half acre of land (Which is normally the average suburb sized lot where I live).

    Originally, I wanted an excuse to binge read a few audio books over the holiday weekend. And listening to these books while I make hundreds of extra dollars raking leaves kept the wifey happy and me super healthy. Not to mention the knowledge I gained by listening to audio books.

    :::: Down the road benefits ::::
    Since I live a debt free life this extra money will go directly into the retirement fund. My side hustles have already enabled me to max out my ROTH IRAs, while also keeping my body fat lower than 11%. So I don’t need to pay for a gym membership. I may do a similar experiment with snow shoveling.

    Everyone’s situation is different, but perhaps my little experiment helped someone think a little outside of the box.

    Reply
  • Ian! October 24, 2017, 10:00 pm

    Loved this post and find it inspiring! I can certainly relate to the special rush of wholesome satisfaction that one gets from solving problems or completing physically + mentally demanding projects. It’s so easy to get distracted from these endeavors by more sedentary diversions — for me it’s usually YouTube, Amazon, The Atlantic, etc.

    On this topic … *** QUESTION *** for the wisdom of the crowd:
    The last few years my wife and I have loved embracing the MMM ethic with house projects — designing and building stuff, learning how to maintain things, and so on. *HOWEVER* since neither of us have any kind of construction background, we are often starting from scratch for each new project in terms of learning. This usually therefore requires a ton of research on the internet — for the right methods, figuring out which problems to solve, pricing things out, buying the right materials and products, and making sure we’re getting the job done just right.

    Easy example: I need to replace our 1970s-era outdoor water spigots. I don’t have any serious experience with plumbing fixtures yet, even though this is a pretty easy project. I also need to do some soldering for this project. Never done that before either! So there’s a load of reading / YouTube watching there, just to get going. [Again, this is a pedestrian example — quite obviously, some of our aspirations are a lot more complicated]

    Anyway, the PROBLEM with all this is … as soon as I start researching, I start to feel trapped in the sedentary vortex of distraction / dissatisfaction / depression / malaise that MMM describes in this very article!

    So there’s a bit of a catch-22 there. I know that if I want to live a satisfying life and also achieve lots of rewarding things, I have to get off my ass and knock out a few projects. But in order to do a good job with these projects, I have to sit on my ass and learn a thing or two!

    I know this is totally 1st-world-problems, but …. how do you all get around this quagmire?

    Reply
  • Dave May 27, 2018, 3:22 am

    I built a house from the ground up and during the few times I tried to watch TV, I was always thinking about all the stuff I had to do to finish the house so it was never really enjoyable. That carried over even after I finished. I watch TV now mostly to improve my French language skills since I live abroad. Started with English subtitles, then French subtitles, then no subtitles. Your brain has to work about 10 times as hard to process the information and I’m continually writing down phrases and looking them up so I can use them during conversations throughout the week. Mildly entertaining depending on the program, but mostly educational.

    Reply
  • Mark June 16, 2018, 10:54 pm

    When it comes to entertainment, I would really like to know Pete’s and other mustachians’ view on video-games, because for years I have a love-hate relationship with them. Thnaks!

    Reply
  • George N July 7, 2018, 1:49 pm

    Perhaps I’m a tad sensitive, but I detect a slightly puritanical streak here. For me, the primary motivation for aspiring to FIRE was precisely so I could… dnothing, whenever and howsoever it pleased me. Staying busy 24/7 making porches, bookshelves, and digging irrigation ditches isn’t my cup of tea. If it’s yours, then great!

    You can own a car and not be paunchy and out of shape. You can watch a handful of movies a week and not be glued to the TV set all day long. More than that: spending a few hours a day reading a book (‘sitting on the couch’, if you prefer) is absolutely essential to my mental well-being.

    Most of the time, I’m not being productive at all (aside from two months a year volunteering at a hospital in Ghana). Most of the time, I’m taking long walks in the woods, usually alone, but occasionally accompanied by my wife or son. Most of the time, I’m meeting friends in cafes for long, idle conversations, many of which lead nowhere and accomplish nothing, or I’m playing basketball in an old man hoops league. None of these activities are ‘productive’ by the strict metrics of MMM.

    I own a car, watch sports on TV, make almost nothing with my hands, and spend a lot of time ‘sitting on the couch’ reading novels and non-fiction. And yet I was able to retire at age 43 using most of the cost-saving measures described in this blog. Now that I’m retired, I have more time than ever in which to do nothing. I consider this paradise.

    Reply

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