The Comfort Crisis

As with many things in life these days, it all started with an episode of the Peter Attia podcast.

In this edition, our nation’s most Badass Doctor was interviewing a guest I initially dismissed as not overly applicable to my own lifestyle. A young,excessively handsome dude who happened to be a writer with a new book out. But the headline of the episode was just intriguing enough to get me to click.

“The Comfort Crisis”

Wow, what an amazing turn of phrase, and what a concise summary of the core of this whole Mustachianism thing I’ve been trying to express for the past dozen years. 

While the news headlines cry constantly about our nationwide personal debt crisis or health crisis or any other number of things that suggest that life is so hard these days, I have always seen the opposite: on average, we Americans seem to have a problem of ridiculous overindulgence and easiness in our lives, and our main problem is not recognizing it, and the damage it does to us. 

So of course I had to click, and then listen to the whole two hour episode, and then buy the book, and then spend the past month reading and digesting it in small, meaningful chunks like the modern-day chunk of scripture-like wisdom that it is. And wow, am I glad I did so.

The author is Michael Easter, a former writer for Men’s Health magazine was also once catastrophically addicted to alcohol – and descended from a long family line of ancestors with the same affliction. 

He was lucky to catch himself from that fall in time to save his own life, and that story alone makes the book worth reading as someone who has stood by helplessly as loved ones battled with addiction. But I think his history with overindulgence in the hollow comforts of alcohol also gives him an edge on writing about the battle between comfort and hardship on the bigger stage of life in general.

So what is The Comfort Crisis about, and how can it make all of our lives better?

The best part about this book is just what a damned good writer this Easter guy is. Like many of the most fun popular science books*, it follows a split narrative which jumps back and forth to interweave the story of an insanely difficult caribou hunting trip he joined in a remote pocket of Alaska, with the appropriate bits of science, psychology and cultural commentary that help us explain and learn from each chapter of the epic shit he had just endured. This allows us to process and apply the lessons in our own lives.

For example, have you ever wondered why the type of bored, rich suburbanites who populate the board of your local Homeowner Association and whine about unacceptably tall weeds or unauthorized skateboarding on Nextdoor are so insufferable?

Why can’t they do something better with their time?

It turns out that there’s a scientific explanation for these unfortunate people, along with most of our other problems:

The tendency of humans to always scan our environment for problems, regardless of how safe and perfect that environment is.

The book cited a study in which researchers told people to look for danger, in an environment which gradually became safer and safer:

When they ran out of stuff to find they would start looking for a wider range of stuff, even if this was not conscious or intentional, because their job was to look for threats.” 

With that in mind, Levari recently conducted a series of studies to find out if the human brain searches for problems even when problems become infrequent or don’t exist.

As we experience fewer problems, we don’t become more satisfied. We just lower our threshold for what we consider a problem.

In other words, even when our lives are virtually problem free, instead of appreciating our good fortune we just start making up shit that we can complain about instead. 

And then our politicians cock their greasy, finely-tuned ears in our direction and make up policies to appease our mostly-insubstantial concerns. And they invent their own trivial “wedge” issues to get us to all bicker about our different cultures and religions, suddenly caring about things that would not have even been problems if nobody told us they were. 

And there’s America’s weakness in a nutshell, and meanwhile our strength comes entirely from the times we choose not to waste our time stooping to this level.

Meanwhile, the opposite effect holds true: people who survive in rougher environments than us end up more resilient and less prone to complaining.

In a series of recent interviews, Ukrainian people living in the war zones of their occupied country were asked “is it safe to live where you live?” and a strangely high percentage still said “Yes” – not all that different from the responses of US residents when asked the same question about their own cities.

This adaptation principle also explains why some first generation immigrants tend to build businesses and wealth while their own offspring in second and third generations are more likely to become complacent and spend it down. As an immigrant myself, I can see why this is: conditions were just slightly more harsh and less comfortable and wealthy where I grew up, so I adapted to those conditions as “normal” which made the United States seem posh and easy by comparison. Which made it easier to spend less money and accumulate more.

Tree Therapy

The trap of pointless worry is just one of the many revelations of The Comfort Crisis. It also gives insightful explanations for why spending time in Nature boosts our mental and physical health, while cubicles and car driving grind us down. 

There’s something in our biological wiring that responds instantly and powerfully to everything natural, in ways that you can’t get anywhere else.

Even placing a single plant into a hospital room will measurably improve the recovery of almost all patients from almost all ailments. So can you imagine the power of the medicine you are inhaling if you step into a real, living forest? And what if you spent several hours there, or even several days?

Later, we get lessons on our human adaptation towards the ratio of effort to reward:

It’s proven the harder you work for something, the happier you’ll be about it,”

And our bizarre natural aversion to physical exertion:

A figure that shows just how predisposed humans are to default to comfort:

2 (two).

That’s the percent of people who take the stairs when they also have the option to take an escalator.

Which is remarkable, given the absolutely insane cost this tendency imposes upon us.

Moving your body, even a bit, has enormous benefits – again to almost all people towards reducing the probability and severity of almost all diseases. So can you imagine the benefit of moving your body for several hours per day in a natural environment, and including heavy load bearing and bits of extreme exertion?

These things are not speculative pieces of alternative medicine. They are known, easily and reproducibly tested, and proven to be the most effective things we can possibly do with our time.

So why, the actual fuck, are people still sitting inside, watching Netflix, driving to work, and then driving to the doctor’s office to get deeper and deeper analysis of a neverending series of exotic and mysterious and unsolvable problems with their physical and mental health?

We should at least start with the stuff we know is essential – maximum outdoor time every day, heavy exertion including with weights, minimal time spent sitting and driving, and minimum junk food, sugar, and alcohol. You definitely don’t have to be perfect, but just understand that these are the big levers for physical and mental health.

Only then, once you reach these minimum basic things for human survival, should you expect that more exotic and niche medicines and treatments are the only course of action. 

By all means, follow your doctor’s orders and don’t just dump all of your medications down the sink because of this MMM rant. But at the same time, realize that the stuff that is hard and uncomfortable is very likely to be the stuff that improves your life the most. 

It’s all the stuff that Mr. Money Mustache has been telling you since 2012, but with more detail and less distraction. This book is a concentrated packet of advice for solid living.

Real Life Inspiration from the Good Book

In a happy coincidence, I happened to be in the middle of some hard stuff** of my own as I worked my way through The Comfort Crisis and I found the perspective quite useful and transformative to apply hot off the press. 

Working with a friend to build a cabin.

Normally somewhat of a homebody, I had embarked on a solo journey for some Carpentourism deep in the mountains of Southwestern Colorado. I had my whole life shrunk down into the new Model Y including food, bed, and the necessary tools and materials to tackle a pretty long laundry list of tasks on two different construction projects (fixing up a mini-resort property in Salida, and starting construction on a small cabin in Durango)

The trip immediately took a turn towards the dramatic as I climbed into the mountains and drove straight into the most torrential rainstorm I have ever seen, then accidentally broke a traffic law in a remote mountain town right in front of both of the local police officers ($115 fine and two points off my license), then five minutes after that had a small pebble hit my brand-new windshield which instantly spread into a crack that spans the whole thing, all before finally limping into Salida to unpack and get started on the work.

“Big deal”, I can already hear you saying, “Retired man experiences two minor incidents while taking a vacation in his luxury car.” 

And you’re right, and that is exactly my point.

My life is so stable and comfortable that even these two miniature challenges threw me off balance, and I arrived in a slightly bummed and stressed-out state. But I still knew that in the bigger picture, they are good for me if I accept them as the lessons they are rather than choosing to continue to worry about them.

As the trip went on, more things happened, almost as if The Comfort Crisis book were trying to prove a point. I drove three hours deeper into the mountains and up the steep dirt road to arrive at my second friend’s piece of land – a plot of forest in the mountains just outside of Durango.


My work days in that high desert environment in the peak of summer were hot and physically demanding. It was hard to keep my tools, and my food supply in the cooler, and myself protected from the scorching sun (and a strange neverending blizzard of tree pollen) while still getting the job done. There was no indoor plumbing and we had to be very careful with our limited water supply. And then at the end of each day I had to reshuffle everything and set my car back up as a bedroom and crawl in for the night. Alone and far from home.

But instead of feeling depressed as I experienced this constant hardship, the opposite thing was happening: I felt more alive and more badass with each passing day. I got better at being a feral forest man.

One day, my co-builder and I decided to take the afternoon off and head to the wild, remote Lemon Reservoir for some paddleboarding. We didn’t bring our phones or any other conveniences or amenities – just two boards and the minimal clothing required for swimming. And we headed out into a stiff headwind and little whitecap waves, laughing at the freedom of the experience.

Lemon Reservoir

It was hard, and slightly scary, as we got further and further from the shore. Progress was slow even with serious paddling, and we didn’t have any particular plan beyond the spirit of “let’s GO!” 

But again Michael Easter was there whispering in my ear, saying,

 “Is this difficult, Mustache? GOOOOoood! Then you’d better keep going!”

So we did. And we got way out into that lake, to a point where the water was shielded from the wind by the mountains on the other side. And it was awesome. 

We cruised over to the shore to explore a particularly scenic meadow, coated with the softest green mossy grass and exuberantly colored wildflowers, and set at an impossibly steep angle. And damn I wished that I could have taken pictures, but in a strange way this forced me to burn that spot more thoroughly into my memories using my own senses instead.

Then we headed back out into the center of the lake, set down the paddles, and just laid down on our boards to let the wind and the waves take us back towards the far end of the lake where we had started. And what a strange, serene feeling it was, floating on just a tube of air over two hundred feet of cold blue water, feeling like a jungle man with no cares and no plans and no material possessions. It could have been scary, but instead it was one of the best and most relaxed moments of my life.

Eventually, this week of forest living and exertion had to come to an end so I could get back to my own town to be a Dad again. But it ended with a final reminder of the principles of the Comfort Crisis – after so many days relatively extreme work and a relatively sparse food supply, I had grown used to a healthy background hunger. Which is yet another thing that we are meant to experience as humans – being satisfied and free from hunger all the time is neither normal nor healthy.

But when my hosts took me out on the town for a final night thank you dinner at the Mexican restaurant, the immense Burrito platter I consumed turned out to be the most delicious meal of my life.

The most delicious meal ever (and the most Immense – hand for scale)

Purposeful Hardship vs. Purposeful Spending

There has been a lot of talk directed at the FIRE community recently about how bad we are at spending our money, and how we all need to loosen up. And there’s a small amount of truth to it, as my local friends Carl and Mindy recently admitted during a grilling on the Ramit Sethi podcast.

But we also need to keep this whole idea of excessive comfort in mind, and the damage it does to the natural human condition. 

It’s great to spend money on adventures and improving yourself, being generous to others, and making the world a better place. 

But it’s also way too easy to fool yourself into thinking you “want” things that just make your life easier and easier. 

So your job is to catch yourself before this happens, and learn to keep things challenging, even as you upgrade the rest of your life experience.

In other words: buy yourself better tools, not softer chairs.


* Another great book that follows this style is Wired for Love by neruroscientist Stephanie Cacioppo – highly recommended for reading in parallel with a lover, whether new or old.

** not actually hard by reasonable human standards, but it seemed hard by my comfort addicted first world standards

  • Tina July 23, 2023, 2:02 pm

    Could you share where the restaurant is which served the tasty Mexican food? Looks wonderful!

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 23, 2023, 2:33 pm

      Yeah! It was Tequila’s Family Mexican in Bayfield.

      • Doug August 1, 2023, 8:38 pm

        Too bad it’s not in Bayfield, Ontario otherwise I’d check it out while in the area. Good vittles!

  • Chris July 23, 2023, 2:50 pm


    Excellent article. I also loved that interview, but haven’t read Easter’s book yet.

    I’m curious if you’ve read Attia’s book. I share your philosophy of being proactive with health and getting the big things right before engaging our broken healthcare system, but I may have gone too far in the other direction by avoiding primary and tertiary preventative care (and suspect you may be also). Attia’s book makes some compelling points that have caused me to change my thinking and actions I’m taking, in particular related to statins and cancer screening. If interested, here’s my review of the book and new actions I’m taking since reading it. https://www.caniretireyet.com/attia-outlive-book-review/


    • Mr. Money Mustache July 23, 2023, 3:59 pm

      Good points Chris – I have not read the full book of Outlive yet, but I’ve listened to enough of his interview/podcast summaries to get the main points.

      I do go through a lot of super detailed blood tests and other different kinds of scans and screenings (one reason I love my direct primary care membership! https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2020/11/09/direct-primary-care/) and so far everything looks really good to me.

      I just clicked over and read your own blog post on the book (nice work!) and again – so far, so good. I am really prioritizing all of the things he recommends and have been for a long time. Of course, I do have the odd slip-up and “cheat day”, but overall the lifestyle he recommends just works for me and it’s what I’ve been doing since high school.

      So, we’ll see how luck plays into this – I could still get an unexpected disease or die in some other way. But at least I’m putting in a reasonable effort in the “outlive” department. And I hope more of the people reading this will do so over time too!

  • Ethan July 23, 2023, 3:20 pm

    “2 (two).

    That’s the percent of people who take the stairs when they also have the option to take an escalator.”

    I wonder what percentage do what I do, which is to always walk up the escalator if possible. I can’t stand (no pun intended) to just stand there on an escalator, but I also am bothered by the inefficiency of walking up stationary stairs next to a moving escalator.

    • Tara July 24, 2023, 5:57 am

      I am part of the 2% that take the stairs. I look at it as a free workout and a celebration of the fact that I am healthy enough to take the stairs.

      • Aaron July 24, 2023, 2:13 pm

        I wonder what percentage of people would choose to park at the top level of their work parking garage every day just so they can take the stairs up back to their car and the end of the day. That’s what I do.
        I agree with the “free exercise” point – that’s exactly how I look at it.

        • Mr. Money Mustache July 24, 2023, 2:27 pm

          Yikes Aaron, I like the spirit but that sounds like a pretty fuel-intensive way to get in a few flights of stairs!

          Why not park somewhere else, either as close to the garage entrance as you can or maybe even somewhere down the street on the “home” side of work if practical. And then still run whatever streets and staircases up/down as many times as you like?

          • FiGuy July 27, 2023, 1:40 pm

            You inspired me to walk up the 22 stories to my former office before my WFH days, on top of biking 12 miles round trip.
            Sadly I’ve grown more out of shape since WFH since I don’t have those same built in hardship options and need to find a way to start new habits.

          • Matthew Pence August 15, 2023, 7:28 am

            There’s a notion of expending energy for no purpose that makes it very difficult to mentally justify. It’s why stationary bikes are so ineffective; you pedal for miles on all sorts of simulated terrain just to go nowhere. By incorporating the top level parking into your routine, you have now provided a minor reward – that coveted hit of dopamine for exerting the effort.

        • Tara July 24, 2023, 5:16 pm

          Good for you! I worked on the 10th floor and took the stairs up to my office at least twice every day.

      • RJL August 1, 2023, 4:54 am

        Me too, cannot remember the last time I did not take the stairs. Granted, I am an overweight smoker and I need to do a lot more. But every little helps, right? RIGHT?

    • Renee July 24, 2023, 7:36 pm

      I have always taken the stairs and I still do at age 72. I don’t feel smug about it. It just makes sense to me. Everybody else can do what they want. Race you to the top, Mr. Elevator!

    • Mark Schreiner July 25, 2023, 5:21 pm

      I always take the stairs, because I dislike standing in an elevator with people.

      On another note, I am proud to report I completed today 5 years of the Maximum Mustache, and I look forward to completing it again after the next post, and each after one after that.

    • JB August 1, 2023, 7:34 am

      You just described every single resident of NYC and most of lower NY. If you’re not walking on an escalator, you’re on the tracks and the train’s coming through. People will shoulder you out of their way. I’m incapable of standing still on an escalator because of this.

  • Mr. Fireside. July 23, 2023, 6:15 pm

    Good post MMM.
    I am going to check that book out and see if they have it on audio.
    I have been wondering a lot about this recently too and like many things I switch back and forth between wondering if longevity comes from chillaxing most of the time or from doing things like what this Easter guy talks about or some magical combination of both.
    If I was a betting man I’d put my money on it being a nice combination of both.
    If we look at humans in their natural state (tribes that still exist) we’ll see they spend a lot of their time stress-free milling about the village, doing daily chores like gathering water, they hunt, fish or collect foods when they need to and work on odd projects like sharpening spears or fixing their huts and all of this is built into their daily lives. There seems to be no planning for it, it just is because it needs to be.
    I agree with you that the modern Western world is filled with comfort, no matter how often and how loud some folks complain and make it seem like the modern world is horrible, I just read a post on Reddit about how expensive cafe food is in Melbourne, gimme a break, but I do think that while our lives are comfortable, they are stressful and in particular stress related to time.
    We have two kids and we both still work. Once you consider driving to and from work, the kid’s schools, the kid’s activities like swimming lessons, instruments, and sports, your own downtime, trying to squeeze in some fitness or yoga, waking the dog, maintaining your home, visiting friends and family, appointments, grocery shopping, etc. It all starts to fill your life up and all of a sudden you find you have no bandwidth for anything else.
    It’s all about balance in the end. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Robert July 23, 2023, 6:21 pm

    Just yesterday I finally got around to some things that needed to get done and those tasks involved me being outside for around 5-6 hours in the sun (mid 90s temp).

    I built a small stand for my two bikes. I had let one bike get neglected and so I took it to the shop and got all the issues addressed and I didn’t want to leave it sitting on the ground deforming the wheels/tires. With a 4×4, a 2×4, and a 1×2 (and a couple of dozen 3″ screws) I built a stand that will hold both bikes off the ground in the garage (I need to rearrange everything in the garage and I am not ready to put them up on the wall or ceiling yet).

    That took about ~1 hour. The other ~4 hours was spent on cleaning the cars.

    I fully emptied out both vehicles, scrubbed and hosed down the all-weather mats from the one vehicle out on the driveway, vacuumed the carpeted mats from the other vehicle, then did a thorough interior detailing on both vehicles.

    Funny thing is I normally work out 5-6 days per week (weights and bike riding), so it didn’t feel like a tremendous amount of exertion. However, when I laid down to go to sleep for the night last night, I fell asleep more quickly than I have in a long time, and when I woke up this morning I felt more rested than I had in a long time.

    Even being a fairly active person, it surprised me just how much a few hours of “functional” work (as opposed to “working out”) could have a noticeable positive effect on me.

    Interestingly, I had put off cleaning the cars because I hate auto detailing and I keep telling myself I should outsource since I don’t get any enjoyment from it. However, after my recent experience, I think I will keep it as something I do for myself (perhaps upping the frequency to every couple of weeks) and draw my joy from the good feeling of getting a good night’s rest and waking up so refreshed the next day.

  • Chris July 23, 2023, 6:23 pm


    Thanks for another great post. I read Outlive and plan to read The Comfort Crisis soon. Your post has inspired me to take my physical activity (and overall life challenges) to the next level . I currently lift 4 days a week, but don’t do much else. I sit too much and don’t get outside enough. I’m going to change that now. Thanks again.

  • Will July 23, 2023, 6:39 pm

    I haven’t read Easter’s book but this sounds like a similar phenomenon to the one studied by psychiatrist Anna Lembke reported in a recent two-part series of the Hidden Brain podcast on July 10th and 17th. The episodes are called “The Paradox of Pleasure” and “The Path to Enough”. Lembke argues and cites other studies to make a case that the level of comfort we’ve reached is now making us anxious and depressed, driving a country-wide addiction and mental health crisis. While alcohol and other substances are physically addicting, she describes how a host of other things can be mentally addicting and still physically change our brain, making us more anxious and depressed. In the second episode, she discusses remedies. I think this is a great companion idea, and I can’t wait to check out this episode of Dr. Attia’s podcast. 

    (I laughed out loud at a comfort crisis complaint I had as I wrote this! I had to retype Attia above three times to undo my phone’s autocorrect, and my overly comfortable brain was actually angry for moment about it. My phone, which automatically corrects the constant stream of typos I carelessly tap into the keyboard had the nerve to change a name it hadn’t seen me type before to a more common word!)

    • Janis July 23, 2023, 8:13 pm

      I’m glad you mentioned those Hidden Brain podcast episodes, Will, as I came to the comment section to do the same. I find all Hidden Brain podcasts fascinating but those two were especially relevant to our modern lives.

      • Mark Devins July 24, 2023, 6:34 am

        I just made the same comment. I didn’t see you had already mentioned. Those 2 Hidden Brain podcasts were excellent.

    • Extramedium July 27, 2023, 5:41 pm

      Just hit “download” for these episodes’ thanks!

      I listened to the audiobook of Easter’s book from my library months ago, on recommendation from a friend, and Attila’s interview. So good, I have considered purchasing the book.

      Recovering from a long bike ride in the mid-90s, I really hit a rough patch, bonking hard. I’m so exhausted, and feel so good.

  • Elizabeth July 23, 2023, 6:47 pm

    This reminds me a lot of an episode of the podcast The Hidden Brain where they examine the paradox of plenty and the path to enough.

    The idea is that your brain’s reaction to challenges like what MMM described is to produce dopamine (creating contentment/happiness) vs if you get your dopamine hits from constantly binging Netflix, etc, then your body has to produce less dopamine to recalibrate, making you less happy and more anxious. Worth a listen for some of the science behind what this article is describing.

    • Doug July 24, 2023, 6:12 am

      I had just finished that episode ( of the Hidden Brain ). It is essentially discussing the scientific basis for why too much comfort can result in unhappiness and why a certain amount of discomfort can result in happiness. And if you think about the evolutionary reason for this it becomes apparent ( you have to remember that we evolved in an emvironment where food was always in short supply).

  • Corwin July 23, 2023, 7:28 pm

    Sounds like a solid book, adding it to my reading list now.

    How would you compare “The Comfort Crisis” with “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” that you reviewed back in 2011? A more modern take?

    I think of all your blog posts, my favorite post title is “Is it Convenient? Would I Enjoy it? Wrong Question.” I can’t remember the post at all, but I remember that title.

  • Trevor July 23, 2023, 8:48 pm

    Sounds like the philosophy of Diogenes (the Cynic), who lived a simple/austere lifestyle and “took to toughening himself against nature”, “deliberately rejected common standards of material comfort”, and “maintained that all the artificial growths of society were incompatible with happiness and that morality implies a return to the simplicity of nature.” While I like his emphasis on self-sufficiency, I have mixed feelings on his other ideas, like the need for natural, uninhibited behavior, regardless of social conventions. I can see why the Cynics contempt for ease and pleasure got fashioned into the school of Stoicism. Do you think your article on that and desire is related to the Buddhist idea that the cause of suffering is desire? Or Dr. Jordan Peterson’s ideas on the dangers of your comfort zone and voluntarily facing suffering/discomfort, or optimal challenge for students learning in the zone of proximal development? If you like Attia and Huberman, you may like people they’ve done podcasts with like Peterson. Neuroscience and medicine meet psychology!

    Anyway, I agree with the main idea that we should get back to the basics and focusing on a few big wins (as Sethi likes to say for finances) by automating them into habits. So why are people still sitting inside, watching Netflix, etc.? From my personal experience, and I agree with author/blogger Mark Manson on this, living in an attention economy with modern technology makes it hard to focus and requires an “attention diet” to improve mental health (much like people require a nutritional diet to improve physical health).

    On another note, I just moved to the Colorado Springs area, so if you’re back to your own town, I may try swinging by the MMM HQ in Longmont to say hi.

  • Ann July 24, 2023, 1:40 am

    I agree with everything you say every single time. It is so OBVIOUS that you are nailing much of what ails us in the affluent west, yet I hear little of this rational common sense anywhere else. Your blog has been my companion, sounding board and reality-check since 2012 and has emboldened me to retire early, invest money, take on difficult projects in retirement and stand up to the critics around me who believe they are taking safer paths but are less healthy and more miserable. I dunno … I think people will catch on eventually. Also thanks for all the masculine energy in your writing. As a 61 year old female ‘allergic-to-physical-exertion-just-give-me-a-book’ type, I really appreciate it as I work against my own inclinations just enough to be balanced. I hope you never doubt your influence.

  • Bryan July 24, 2023, 4:20 am

    MMM, you’re always there when I need a boost. Thank You! Is it wrong that the only thing I thought of when seeing the eagle drawn on the new car is the scratches in the clear coat that’s going to leave that will need polished out. I guess I am looking for things to worry about.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 24, 2023, 12:52 pm

      Haha, yeah thanks for watching out for me Bryan, but this is definitely not a worry.

      In fact, I’m personally glad that my “new” Tesla is already developing a protective shroud of scratches just like any other MMM vehicle. Otherwise, I’d be afraid to take it anywhere or put anything into it – which would make it the most useless car ever!

      Bonus: if I ended up with an EAGLE accidentally emblazoned into the hood, that would be fuckin’ awesome. But alas, pollen is way too soft and fluffy to cause this. Maybe on my eventual trip to White Sands National Monument.

      • Bryan July 24, 2023, 4:21 pm

        100% Agree on all points! Awesome!

  • Tara July 24, 2023, 6:40 am

    I’ve been looking at this problem-seeking tendency in myself lately and sure enough it is there. When I run up against something that is annoying because it’s not perfect/easy/comfortable, I ask myself, Why is that important? And the answer is, it’s not.

    My exercise regime is pretty good (I take the stairs, cycle, do yoga and hike in the woods) and I spend at least two hours a day outside. But I’ve really been slacking on diet and it shows. A couple of days before you posted this I decided to cut out sugary snacks and junk, processed food. Already I am feeling better. The other thing that is helping me a lot is meditation and tuning in to my inner voice, as well as severely limiting social media. I’m sleeping better and feel much less anxious.

    The thing that interested me about the blog post by Chris about Attia’s book Outlive was the lifespan vs. healthspan question. Nobody wants to live longer in bad condition. But I also don’t want to constantly be looking for things to worry about, so I don’t care to do blood tests, cancer screenings, etc. My plan is to eat healthy, exercise, maintain my mental health, and let nature take its course. All the people I know who have been diagnosed with cancer either spent their remaining short time in misery until they died, from the toxic treatments, or lived with impaired life quality due to the aforementioned toxic treatments. I can’t see myself going for chemotherapy and radiation, so why do the screenings. At 57, I am satisfied and don’t have any « bucket list ». I want to enjoy every day that I have and when it’s time to go, leave happy with no regrets.

    • sayonara July 30, 2023, 8:04 pm

      Ditto to your way of thinking on this, Tara!

  • carl July 24, 2023, 7:09 am

    The ultimate comfort/luxury is self-sufficiency.

  • Fabbio July 24, 2023, 7:18 am

    Great stuff as always. And a reminder to stop being a complainy pants when the mood strikes us. I’ve noticed in myself though that I swing between high levels of mental and physical exertion followed by long periods of laziness. Does anyone else go through this and how do you strike more balance between work and rest?

  • Mr Nomad July 24, 2023, 7:43 am

    Did you know in advance this WSJ article was about to be published when you wrote this? It seems we’ve raised an entire generation of young workers that want no stress (anxiety) or challenges at all in their work or personal lives.


  • Jacob July 24, 2023, 8:27 am


    “the stuff that is hard and uncomfortable is very likely to be the stuff that improves your life the most.”

    I’ve come to pursue FI because the meaninglessness and tedium of my corporate job is hard and uncomfortable so I’ve been earning, saving, and investing to eliminate this from my life. How can I know the difference between the hard and uncomfortable that is good for me and that I should stick with vs the hard and uncomfortable that I should work to avoid? How do I know that working a soul-sucking 9 to 5 until I’m 70 isn’t the hard and uncomfortable that will improve my life the most?

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 24, 2023, 12:46 pm

      That’s a really good question Jacob!

      For me, the questions that help me decide which “jobs” are worth doing for life include these ones:
      – Would I still keep doing this job for life, even if I didn’t get paid for it?
      – Does this job contribute to my physical and emotional health? (positive contact with other humans, plus physical exertion outdoors)
      – Does the job allow enough time flexibility or time off that I can also take care of myself and those around me? (8 hours of sleep with no alarm clock, time to spend with your kids or travel to take care of your aging family members, etc)

      If all these things apply, it may well be a good job regardless of how hard it is.

      If few or none of them apply, there is still good news: there are lots of jobs that DO offer these things. Especially thanks to the power of self employment.

      • Jacob July 24, 2023, 2:33 pm

        This is very helpful. Thank you!!

  • Kelly July 24, 2023, 8:29 am

    I enjoyed this read and it came at the right time in my life. But how to start? I’ve been enjoying (too much) my comfort crisis – sleeping in, drinking wine, netflixing – I used to be hardcore once, but not sure how to get it back, and even questioning IF I want it back. There is certainly something missing…an emptiness I feel that I know being uncomfortable (and comfortable with that) would fill… but it doesn’t make it easy to change the habits I’ve created.

  • Katie Camel July 24, 2023, 9:59 am

    Great post! I’m a big fan of Dr. Attia’s and agree that life in the west is far easier than most other parts of the world, but most Americans have no idea what I’m talking about when I try to explain it. People complain about poverty here, which we have, but I always tell them they haven’t seen poverty until they’ve seen it in the third world. There is absolutely nothing like it. So, yes, we do have it pretty easy here.

    One peculiar trend I’ve noticed a lot lately is how many people rely upon some chemical, whether an anxiolytic, wine, or weed, to deal with their anxiety. While I opt to run, hike, walk , or sip a hot tea to deal with anxiety or stress, it seems the majority of our population does not, hence our overwhelmingly unhealthy nation. I’m also the person who takes the steps instead of stairs or the elevator, walks when possible instead of driving, saves instead of spends, etc. — and I believe it is these little challenges that add to a greater inner strength. Things that bother others tend not to bother me.

    When I first opted into this FIRE world, I picked up endless extra shifts as others constantly questioned why. I saved and invested like crazy while simultaneously reducing my spending. Again, people noticed and asked why. What I learned, though, was how little it takes to actually make me happy. I’ve traveled the world on a budget and had a fantastic time! I didn’t need to spend much to enjoy seeing the world because enjoyment doesn’t come from a fancy hotel room — it comes from the unique experiences you gain in the world outside, just like your adventure on the lake illustrates. Those moments can’t be bought or duplicated.

    Well before the pandemic, I traveled to Jordan and slept in a hut in the desert with no connection to the outside world and maybe 2 minutes of dripping water per day. It was absolutely amazing to see how little I needed to survive during those days! And I was beyond happy! Nature’s beauty does far more to purify us than a posh hotel room, that’s for sure! That said, I’m not above a nice hotel room, but it’s not necessary to enjoy one’s self.

    Anyway, I agree that stress is good for us. Apparently, even the government and military believe so because challenging our military and police with progressively more stress is how they test their stress management and resiliency as I’ve recently learned through a podcast. While I don’t always love stress, it is actually necessary. Too much, though, and we raise our cortisol levels too much and face all the health problems that entails.

    I hit my original FI number over a year ago and continue working because I like it. It is stressful at times, but my job is also meaningful. I was off all last week, enjoying my time and experiencing no stress, just fun. It seems like some stress and challenges will be a good thing — or at least I’ll remind myself of that once vacation mode wears off. ;)

  • Travis July 24, 2023, 10:12 am

    Thanks for the book review. I added it to my list of holds on Libby. I’ve been listening to some of Peter Attia’s podcasts (even got my first DEXA scan and Apo A1/B test recently!), but I missed this episode.

    Another book that might interest you:

    The Nature Fix: Why nature makes us happier, healthier, and more creative by Florence Williams

  • sayonara July 24, 2023, 10:43 am

    MMM – Thanks to you I FIRE’d from my cushy but non-purposeful real estate job in Los Angeles in April of this year and subsequently left most of my possessions behind and built a 2010 Ford Transit Connect into my new (badass and mobile) home. I’m writing this now after running a few brisk morning laps around the beautiful grassy banks of the Yosemite River in rural Montana as I took my morning “shower” in the fresh and flowing water along with the trout and the geese.

    While it’s not easy and I, too, must re-organize my van multiple times per day, calculate distances and drives to new places, locate new areas to set up and sleep each night, identify possible dangerous animals, etc., I can 100% confirm that there wasn’t a day over my 12 year career in my “luxury” business life that I woke up with as big of a smile on my face as I have these past few weeks.

    Challenge on!

  • Fritz July 24, 2023, 11:08 am

    Without a little rain, it’s hard to enjoy the sun.

    Great reminder that we should all welcome the rain from time to time. BTW, I just completed Attia’s Outlive, found it to be a very motivational read. Like your post, he encourages us to make our bodies work. Exercise defeats atrophy, and our bodies work SO much better when we challenge them with routine exercise and keep them fueled with the appropriate inputs. Love the pollen pic, btw. Looks like my cabin in Georgia when the pines explode their pollen every Spring.

  • JSD July 24, 2023, 1:05 pm

    So cool that you just posted this as I had a similar experience last week. Thanks in large part to your blog, I retired over a year ago, and stuff has been pretty chill. But I’ve been struggling with finding a new purpose and fulfillment since leaving my crazy job. Tried the full time stay at home dad thing, and that was definitely not me.

    Then a friend of mine offered me a contract to help with a short military training course that goes down a few times a year. I worked 97 hours last week, to include one exercise where we went for 26 hours straight. One day I was sprinting up and down a firearms range while wearing 30 pounds of kit and instructing tactical shooting in 90 degree heat. Then we spent another day rucking up and down some extreme terrain in a national forest. The last 26 hour day was intense, constantly moving under load while having to quickly think how to optimize the evolving scenario for the students.
    It was awesome.
    I didn’t get paid jack, but it was so fulfilling I’d do it for free. Hopefully we increased the effectiveness of the soldiers we trained, which is pretty cool.
    So weird- even though that was the most physically and mentally demanding week I’ve had since retiring, it was for sure the best.
    Now I have to figure out how to replicate this, which is a good problem to have. Thanks dude.

  • Jake July 24, 2023, 3:49 pm

    “buy yourself better tools, not softer chairs”. Added to my inspirational quotes.

    However… I like yourself, just purchased an EV, but went with the RWD Hyundai Ioniq 5. I could argue this is both a better tool and a softer chair. Loving the large EV, and the new solar system that powers it :)

  • Mary stone July 24, 2023, 3:55 pm

    Yep, I am the sole person in a 1,000+ resident subdivision who always walks <1 mile roundtrip to our HOA meetings and voting place (same spot) regardless of weather. I also bike/take bus if/when those meetings occur further away – oh the horrors- a whopping 2-3 miles round trip. My neighbors stare at me with open-jawed disbelief, horror, amazement, cautions about all the dangers and risks I'm taking. Meanwhile, hundreds of others get in the oversized, motorized, climate-controlled wheelchairs to further clog the very same roads that they endlessly whine are "a nightmare", "traffic-choked", etc. I arrive at these meetings refreshed, revived and healthier. They keep telling me it's not safe, and yet I've been doing so for 30+ years. It's hard not to mock them.

  • Ryan July 24, 2023, 5:02 pm

    Awesome, I was just thinking if MMM had heard of / listened to Peter Attia, and what your thoughts on him were.

  • Kay July 24, 2023, 5:50 pm

    I’m also a big fan of Peter Attia and Michael Easter (and recently bought a rucksack to make my daily walks more challenging).

    One thing my family did that most people find crazy is to get rid of most of our seating furniture. We ditched one couch, two armchairs, one chair-and-a-half, one upholstered ottoman, and six dining room tables. We also lowered our table and replaced our conventional beds with wool pads on the floor.

    Now we sit and sleep on the floor for the most part. It’s encouraged us to move our bodies more (lots of floor space means room for stretching and exercising) and getting down to the floor to sit or sleep (and then getting back up again) means lots of movement that strengthens our legs. My sister in particular thinks this is verging on child abuse and most of my friends just think we’re nuts. But this is a normal way to live in much of the world; we just find it odd because our culture says it’s not how it should be done.

    It was difficult at first, and sure, a nice cushy couch still feels good to me (for about five minutes), but it’s amazing how quickly you start to crave things that require more effort once you change your mindset about it.

    Here’s a link to a photo of our living room:


    • Carrie July 26, 2023, 4:07 pm

      Kay, your comment reminded me of one of my favorite people on the internet, Katy Bowman. She’s a biomechanist and her message is that we need more movement, not just “exercise”. Her home is similarly furniture-free. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend looking her up. I’m guessing you’d love her work.

  • Camilla July 24, 2023, 5:57 pm

    This hit my inbox yesterday after my self-imposed email cutoff time, so I read it this morning, and I kept thinking about it all day. I don’t have your carpentry bad-assery, here’s where it stood out in my own life: We have just under an acre, and most of it is yard. I have a fancy zero-turn mower, which, objectively, makes mowing go pretty quickly, but it is the chore I dread the most. We also have a battery-powered push mower because that just under an acre is almost all hills and there are some places the zero-turn just can’t go. I find mowing with the push mower much less onerous, even though it is more work. I feel more satisfied and I have a greater feeling of Getting Something Done. This is also why I prefer to hang my laundry out to dry and use hedge shears instead of a powered hedge-trimmer. Time outside + exertion (did I mention hills?) + deliberate hardship = satisfied tired at the end of the day.

  • Renee July 24, 2023, 7:44 pm

    This is what my partner and I have been saying for YEARS. I wish I had written the book but it would have been maybe 5 pages long because the truth isn’t long. It’s short. Americans by and large are crybabies. No I wasn’t born in the depression but my dad was and so we were raised on DIY and be handy. My mom and dad were artists but all our extended family were farmers. This is the way. Now we find people, by and large, don’t know how to do things. They whine and pay large sums of money for other people to do things. And then they complain about EVERYthing when everything is really quite good. Or could be good if they would just wake up! Yeah, WOKE. There. I’ve said it. I haven’t read this guy’s book. I’ll go get it from the LIBRARY because the library is free and awesome. If the book turns out to be really good I will share it with everybody I can. And I’ll remember as I share it that people are entrenched in their ways of doing things and that they probably won’t change just because I say so. I’m 72 years old btw but that doesn’t mean much except I hope I have learned from my existence.

  • goldeneve July 25, 2023, 3:40 am

    It helps when you have like-minded people in your circle of friends. I do have three friends who embrace life with less comfort but with a lot of passion and realness. Unfortunately two of them live abroad and I don’t get to be around them as much as I would like to learn from each other and bounce off ideas etc. A lot of people I know (and like) are what we in my native language endearingly (using a diminutive) call: “little luxury horses” (translation from the Dutch word: “luxe-paardje”). It is fine, but it’s not that for-filling a life as the lovely suffering I like to do with the aforementioned like-minded friends.
    Thanks for posting the article.

  • Mert July 25, 2023, 4:40 am

    Golden. You need to write more often. Brilliant piece.

  • Holly July 25, 2023, 11:59 am

    I had to look up what “ruck” (from the video) meant… funny that one definition is persons following the vanguard!

  • Trevor R July 25, 2023, 8:18 pm

    One thing this article did leave me wondering, can you provide more details MMM regarding your car camping setup? I love the savings to be had when things can be multi-purpose so I was intruigued. The old Pontiac Aztek was an interesting idea in that it had the whole camping thing built in, but I wondered what kind of hacks you did for your setup? I’m not a Tesla person, but maybe there are some general tips you can share? Or maybe you just simply went open hatch. Being positioned in Australia, that’s not a great option — for a lot of reasons. :)

  • Daniel Albararn July 26, 2023, 7:25 pm

    I think therapists (psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, doctors in general) should start asking: Do you exercise or make demanding physical activity, outdoors, in contact with nature preferably? Sure, many people who never exercise are happy, and is not an infalible solution, but many people with all kinds of physical and emotional ailments would benefit a lot from exercise. The most miserable period in my life was in my late 2os when I was a smoker, sedentary, soda-drinker, with bad sleep habits. Now in my 40s I consider myself a happy person; doing exercise, mainly outdoors, has been the key.
    Another issue : though “suffering” in comfortable situations is ridiculous, being happy even in awful conditions is also odd, a kind of conformism I reject. For example, in my country (Mexico), many people don´t see the ugliness, noise and dirt of their neighborhood, or they perceive it and say “So, what´s the problem?”. That´s another extreme we should avoid.

  • Anonymous July 27, 2023, 10:27 am

    Great article, I’ve been following this blog for years but have never commented before. I thought I’d share, as I have always felt that I have the perfect job for the younger mustachians out there looking for ways to challenge themselves in this vein while building wealth. An Interagency Hotshot Crew is a group of 20 wildland firefighters that travel across the western U.S., Alaska, and sometimes Canada to work on large wildfires. It is almost exclusively hard manual labor for long hours over difficult terrain and conditions. It will push most young folks past what they thought they were capable of, and a dedication to physical fitness is a requirement of the job. Spending months with the same group of like minded people doing difficult things with a sense of purpose builds strong comradery and incredible friendships. You get to see many of the most beautiful parts of the country, and experience the impressive power of the natural world. You are basically living for free half of the year, as your meals are provided and you sleep on the ground. I can still remember the first time I ate a low-grade steak over a campfire after working 16 hours, it was the most delicious meal I’ve ever had. “Hunger is the best seasoning”, as one of my crewmembers liked to put it. After a long season (1000 + hours of overtime), newer folks get the entire winter off. If you leverage your free time and fire checks wisely, you can drastically improve your situation while staying debt free. I was able to finish college, do some travelling, and build my house, all while saving money. It’s definitely not for everyone, and I don’t know if I would recommend it for a long career as the schedule doesn’t lend itself to a very balanced lifestyle. But for someone in their 20s looking to challenge themselves, I’ve always felt it is an amazing job.

    Thanks for all the writing, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this blog from start to finish and it has definitely added value to my life.

  • Dave July 27, 2023, 10:44 am

    That’s an interesting evolutionary viewpoint on HOAs and NextDoor. Never doubt Darwin!

    I live a comfortable predator-free life here in Colorado (coincidentally, I’m also a Canadian expat computer engineer) and really try not to let the unimportant stuff get to me. It’s not always easy, and some days are just grumpy for stupid reasons (like your road-trip incidents), but I do my best to steer my attitude in a more positive direction.

    Like many of the other cool kids in Boulders, I enjoy the challenge of running ultramarathons. I don’t do this to feel special; lots of people do them here, and the finisher rate for even a mountainous 100-miler is pretty high. It’s more that it is a challenge that gets me out of the house (yay outdoors!) and puts me in a place of discomfort that I would normally never have to face. The problem-solving I need to do 12 or 20 hours into a race is good for the mind in much the same way that crosswords are great for my 93-year-old dad.

    Needing to artificially create challenges for ourselves is necessary, but also a privilege. We all need to be grateful for this privilege and remember it when we are in the dumps over our first-world problems.

  • Dharma Bum July 28, 2023, 7:57 am

    Excellent and timely post.
    I often find myself feeling frustrated and miserable while in ‘the throes” of completing an uncomfortable and challenging task.
    Recently, I built a deck and a gazebo (with my self-taught, limited carpentry and construction “skills”), during a weeklong heat wave. A lot of errors, re-works, cuts, bug bites, sprains, and strains made me regret the undertaking.
    Somehow, I persevered and completed the task.
    The sense of accomplishment, pride, and satisfaction I felt at the end of this project was immense and unparalleled.
    I realized that the alternative was sitting around inside an air conditioned house, getting nothing done.
    It’s true that hard work, facing challenges, ‘suffering”, and pushing your own limits yields tremendous benefits in mental health, physical health, self esteem, and…..wouldn’t ya know it?…Happiness.

  • Doug August 1, 2023, 8:59 pm

    Wow, this guy Michael Easter is right on! I agree that in our Western society a lot of us are spoiled and look for trivial things to complain about, and populists take advantage of it. Remember the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? One line I remember in the movie is he said that life goes by fast, and if you don’t stop and look around you might miss it. I’m 62 years old now and find rather than complain about what you don’t have, make the most of what you do have. Also, get your ass out and do things. My age hasn’t stopped me from getting out biking a lot, about 1160 Km this year to date. Neither has it stopped me from trying out fun things like kayaking, flyboarding, wakeboarding, stand up paddleboarding, skiing, and other fun things.

    MMM mentioned and then at the end of each day I had to reshuffle everything and set my car back up as a bedroom and crawl in for the night. I’ve been known to do that, as well as tenting and otherwise roughing it. Beats the hell out sitting around watching rubbish on TV.

  • Jon D. August 3, 2023, 1:45 pm

    You don’t need to post my comment on this article, because it’s unrelated, but I can’t believe you haven’t done any articles on the BROMPTON bicycle. It’s engineering bliss, and unlocks many mustachian loopholes. I got one on clearance recently and I can’t stop thinking about how much of a “hack” this bike is.

  • Bryan August 4, 2023, 4:55 am

    Hey MMM, me again. It’s probably a long shot but I was wondering if you would do a case study on me or a private email exchange as I just hung up the Full Time Work Towel. I’m sure these days you are extremely busy but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Thank you so much for all that you have done. You are like Morpheus in “The Matrix”, you have set me free :-)

  • Kade Katrak August 6, 2023, 7:11 pm

    Hi, I was just wondering if you’ve ever tried monk fasting (one 36 hour water only fast once a week).

    I got into it to lose weight, but have decided to keep doing it once in a normal BMI range for many of the reasons you discuss in this article. It’s good to find ourselves compelled to go without for a little while. It seems like it would fit right in with your other posts on hedonic adaptation.

    Thanks for your posts over the years. I’m not pursuing FIRE (just Coast FI) but they’ve still helped set me on a good financial course.

  • JD August 6, 2023, 9:58 pm

    Interesting conversation. One thing I didn’t see anyone mention is the fact that humans, like virtually all other mammals, are hard-wired to do as little as possible outside of the necessities (finding food, shelter, fornicating, fighting enemies) because energy expended on activities not related to those necessary for survival may just cost one their survival, at least in the “old days” of the jungle. The same evolutionary factors that make our bodies not want to shed fat or what to eat (sweet, not bitter) are in play when deciding whether to take the stairs or the escalator. It’s highly likely that without the default of lazy that most of what makes up civilization wouldn’t exist, since virtually everything we’ve ever invented beyond ensuring basic survival has been to reduce energy expenditure. Why walk when you can drive? Why forage when you can farm? ETC.

    So the human animal has to consciously make the decision to do that which goes against his/her basic instincts.

  • Daniel August 10, 2023, 1:01 pm

    A great book about it: “Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest and Health”, by Daniel E. Lieberman.

  • Ainhoa Indurain August 14, 2023, 3:55 am

    I would be curious to understand how looking for any little problem compares to wanting to improve the world. My problem with “don’t complain, life is good” is that it often comes from privileged white conservative boomers who use it against working more for women’s or lgbtq rights.
    For example, I am vegan, and this comes with discomfort. I believe it is a way to make the world better. I will be happy to point out why I think it’s better to change to a vegan lifestyle. Some people though, will say that things are good, or I see things that are minuscule. I don’t see this as part of comfort, but actually people who don’t want to change are in their bubble of conformity.
    Anyway, maybe I will read the book :D

  • Mr.Joe August 17, 2023, 7:02 am

    Thanks for another game changing post and recommendation! Just finished the book and the number of insights I have gotten so far is already helping me in some key areas that I have been struggling with.
    Thanks again!

  • DST77 August 17, 2023, 5:28 pm

    working from home is making me soft

  • Lisa August 19, 2023, 9:26 pm

    One way to keep perspective about problems is to put your skills to work for someone with real problems. I do pro bono legal work for asylum seekers and wow, my yard may have weeds but their families are trapped in Kabul or they’ve been beaten up by Chavista thugs in Venezuela or … something that’s a real problem, that I have real skills to help with. It’s good for me and I recommend it.

  • Joel McPeak August 22, 2023, 8:57 am


    It strikes me that as you move further away from needing to worry about money that your posts become more focused on well-being and finding joy and peace in life, almost like you are moving higher and higher to the tip-top of the needs triangle. I love to see that for you. For those of us that are still working and growing our MMs, I would love to see a post from you on how you are thinking about the current economic outlook and whether you are pivoting things around in your portfolio. If I sat down to lunch with you, that would be a question I would ask. Also curious: do you still manage your own portfolio or use at FA? I’m getting to the point where I’m thinking about it. I don’t know if I want all the responsibility of protecting what I’ve saved so far. Thanks!

  • Kevin August 23, 2023, 1:18 pm

    Can’t recommend Easter’s book enough. I also discovered him on Attia’s podcast. It’s one of the few books in life that I read, then immediately thought “I’m going to re-read this very soon.”

  • James A September 2, 2023, 7:06 am

    I really enjoyed this post and the podcast you linked. I have tried rucking once and it was a lot of fun. Walked from Brooklyn to Chinatown. Planning to try it again with some additional weight in the near future.


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