I can’t honestly start this post off by saying money has never been a motive of mine. When I was younger, money was a motive. I wanted to make more of it, so I could buy things. Money was not talked about as it is today. There were no podcasts on finances. Only people older than your Dad were talking about it. What we did have was the beginning of what MTV and the influence rap music was having on us. It was all about money and getting it any way possible. After maxing out a credit card and slaving to get it paid off, I had learned my lesson. I did not like being a slave to anything. What took me many more years to learn was how to actually save money. There always seemed to be something I wanted and I never had enough money to have what I wanted and save money at the same time.
In my early 20’s, one of my businesses required me to work long hours. It was a lot to have on your shoulders. The retail space is hard but stack two online businesses on top of that, plus some freelance work and it was too much for one person to handle. What I didn’t mind at the time was not having much overhead. I worked my butt off and was able to keep, I mean spend most of the money myself. I had an HD TV before you could even watch anything in HD. Stupid stuff like that. I had became a slave to something else, my business. There are many other ways to lose some or all of your freedom and I have experienced some of those as well.
Later in my 20’s, before meeting the woman I am now married to, I decided that I wanted freedom over money. Everybody I knew was working long hard hours so they could have their weekends to do whatever they wanted. Some of them even had jobs that required them to be on call over the weekends. I could not imagine having to live the rest of my life unable to get away from work. Some of my friends were getting married, having kids and getting divorced over things like time and money. If I had gotten married during my earlier 20’s, I am sure I would have ended up divorced pretty fast as well.
Thankfully I have had a few people in my life who had led their lives in a way that I felt I wanted to model mine after. Around this time I had also started reading books by authors that were talking about creating freedom in your own life. I liked that idea. I wanted freedom in my life, freedom from what ends up holding most people down. I saw certain jobs and financial responsibilities as things that would tie me down and prevent me from experiencing the freedom I really wanted.
In 2005 I decided not to continue with a business I started and had been running for just over four years. I knew that having set hours I had to be open to the public would limit my freedom. Having to be available every day to prepare and ship orders was also limiting my potential freedom. This is when I decided to start programming and designing for the web full time. My office was my laptop and I could work from anywhere with an internet connection, and I did just that.
We live in a society where money is the motive. Most people are after more money regardless of what comes attached to it. People will take $5.00 more an hour and trade that for time they could be spending with their spouse and children. It’s quite sad and it’s what I would have done when I was younger.
Freedom is my motive
Finding freedom does not mean you don’t care about money and it doesn’t mean you are not going to work hard. Freedom takes money. You need money to survive in this world so money has to be at least part of it. I just don’t let it lead my decisions anymore. Doing this has led me to be able to say no to work I don’t want to do and only take on as much work as I want to have on my plate at any given time.
Freedom has also became more expensive as I have a wife and three kids who I want to take part in this freedom. Cost of living has increased as well. These things are a reality and each of them effects freedom.
When I was 26 I changed my mindset. I no longer sought after money for the sake of having it. I used it as a tool for creating what I wanted. I had learned in my earlier 20’s that buying “stuff” did nothing for me other than fill space. I used money to buy a camera which helped me create even more freedom because I was able to get paid as much to take pictures as I was getting paid to write code. The difference was the time. I could earn in one day taking photos what would take me a week to earn programming. This created extra freedom. Photography became a passion of mine that I still use to create freedom in my life.
Now I am working on finding new ways to create more freedom. My kids are starting school so I won’t want to work as many weekends as I used to. I photograph far less weddings than I did before and have found ways to use my camera during the week by doing commercial work instead. I have invested some of the money I have made over the years in new ways to potentially help create more freedom. Some have worked, while others have not. It is a process. As long as I am learning and failing forward, I do not count it as a loss.
Though I have not yet reached the level of freedom I would like to have, I am closer than I could have ever imagined being at age 35. I do go to work every day during the week, but it’s to my own office. I schedule my own appointments which means I never miss anything my kids are involved in. I am not looking for financial independence which would mean I no longer needing to work at all. That would drive me crazy. I need to create. I always have to be working on something. That will never stop.
My goal by age 40 is to have enough freedom to be able to be involved in the sports or events my children choose to take part in. I have that now but my kids are young and are not involved in much yet. I also want to spend more time with my wife. With young children, this has been tough, but as they get older, I want to get back to dating my wife more often.
To achieve the freedom I desire, by the year 2020 I need to be able to produce enough to have the life we want financially on about 25 or less hours of work per week. There are 168 hours in a week, if possible I only want to spend 20 of those hours doing work tasks that require me being away from my family or personal activities. With some downsizing, I could do that now, but I would prefer not to if at all possible.
I had an interesting conversation with a couple of people at a conference over breakfast a few months back. Both of these people were very work oriented and professional. Their goals were to run a company or oversee large portions of business. They seemed to want not only the money that often comes with being a business leader but the power. It is apparent that this is what they were led to believe is achievement. When discussing my plans they were very surprised at the fact that my plans were to create more freedom from work. Most people associate making time for family and personal activities as a sacrifice. If I have to take time away from my family to work, I see that as the sacrifice. I limit myself by taking time away from my family and personal growth. I see my marriage and my children as my legacy, not the amount of business accolades I am able to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, I love to create, and I love business. I just won’t let it trump my true legacy, which is my family.
Sometimes I allow myself to get into a mindset where I feel limited. Should I have tried to get a job at a tech startup or taken one of the job offers I had years ago? All of these situations would have required trading a lot of freedom for money, which I am glad I ran from. Most developers work crazy long hours, but for what?
To me, freedom is the ability to make choices without any outside influence. I was born with freewill and I don’t intend to sell that off for some sort of gain that is not forever lasting. It is easy to get caught up in the business world and of course I think it would be cool to start a company that would end up getting acquired for millions. Being known for my business savvy would be a fantastic achievement. I just never want to forget that my family comes way before that.
God gave me a heart that desired to father children and I won’t trade that for anything. Now that I have three small children, I know that being a dad was and is my ultimate calling. They depend on me wholly and I don’t want them to ever think they can’t. I was also blessed with a fantastic wife who is an amazing mother to my children. I am already so fortunate. No amount of money could bring me more satisfaction than what I get from the smiles on their faces.
At times I do end up limiting myself by taking on too much work or saying yes too to many things but I rarely leave the house before my kids are up and I am always home for dinner. My goals are set and I can see them getting closer. Freedom is the motive because freedom gives me more time for the things I love most.