"And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy." ~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
I recently overheard a conversation between a group of friends who were discussing the idea of going on a vacation together. One person mentioned that the financial cost was a bit out of her budget and she suggested the group choose a destination that could be just as fun but at a lower cost.
One of the other people in the group said with frustration, "Come on! Why are you always so cheap?"
This is where the conversation began to get interesting.
As it turns out, the person on a budget was a stay-at-home mom who had given up a career to raise her children. She replied, "Yes the vacation sounds like fun but we've had many great times together without spending so much money."
The frustrated person, looking more frustrated, said, "You should go back to work, or at least a part-time job, so you can have more money to do things like this."
The stay-at-home mom said, "But why would I do that? I'm already doing what I love. Earning more money would just take time away from my children. I also enjoy my free mornings when I can take a walk on the beach or go to the gym. Why would I give that up?"
I was not able to hear much more of the conversation but I was reminded of the valuable lesson taught in the Fisherman's Parable.
In the parable, a rich businessman on vacation stumbles across a poor fisherman and his child playing on a beautiful beach. The businessman tries to convince the fisherman that he could make more money if he would spend more time fishing, instead of playing around on the beach with his child.
The businessman further explained that the fisherman could work longer and harder hours to expand into a large fishing and boating business and make even more money, then ultimately retire rich and do whatever he wanted to do.
The poor fisherman replied, "But why would I do that? I'm already doing what I love."
In reality, with regard to happiness and total well-being, the "poor" fisherman is the rich one and the "rich" businessman is poor.
Part of this lesson, and the one the stay-at-home mom had obviously learned, is that work and wealth derive from love.
"It belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite." ~ Soren Kierkegaard
Another lesson here is that modern society and social conventions teach us that the best things in life are purchased with money. An example is the life-long pursuit of retirement and the so-called financial freedom.
I've written before on the irony and paradox of financial freedom. Conventional wisdom says that freedom is best obtained by financial means. But this is an illusion. This financial pursuit can take decades of time, which is often the majority of any given person's life, and it is not commonly accomplished by a career or a combination of jobs that can be considered "doing what you love." In fact, there are countless numbers of people who feel it necessary to stay in a job that don't like (or they even hate) because "the money is good."
The irony of this all-too-common scenario is that the sacrifice required for financial freedom is a form of slavery -- it is imprisonment for a majority of life for the purpose of being free for a minority of life.
Yes, money is a necessary tool for survival in the modern world. But money does not make you live. And yes it can be challenging to do what you love if "what you love" does not quite pay the bills...
But it sure is worth a try, isn't it?