Motivation, Money and Freedom

Some of you may recall that my personal mantra for 2015 was “Create selfless value,” and it worked out wonderfully.

I made some pretty cool stuff, I got to know a lot of people I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I think I really made a difference for a lot of folks – mostly at very little cost, but without the nagging question in my mind, ‘How will this come back to me?’

Rejecting that thread has been surprisingly freeing, and it has fundamentally changed the way I think about social capital (a topic I’ve been pretty interested in for a little while) and the way that small nudges or introductions can end up creating a lot of value.

We’re near the end of January of 2016, and I still don’t have a solid idea as to what my mantra will be for 2016, but I think part of it will be about gaining or retaining or maybe generating freedom in my own life.

That’s still a big bite. A huge topic. It’s not enough structure, but I’ll work on it. One thing I’m certainly trying to be better about is being transparent about things that are important to me – as illustrated here.

A surprising piece of feedback I’ve gotten regarding my goals for 2016 is about my goal around producing side income.

I’ve been a  fan and vocal supporter of both company creeds in general and Automattic’s creed in particular. Matt writes a little about the creed (along with its full text) here, but the relevant part is:

I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation.

The feedback I’ve received is about the apparent tension between my own goal (to produce side hustle revenue equal to 50% of my take home pay) and the above line.

I would hate to give the perception to any of you, dear readers, that my motivation to increase my income has anything to do with the money itself. Money itself is not worth anything to me – but the fact is, my family and I (like you and your family I would expect) are restrained by money in many ways.

Like a lot of young folks of my generation, I have a pretty significant student loan burden – I pay more for student loans each month than I do toward our mortgage. These two chunks of debt, student loan and home loan, represent a weight on our ability to flourish, to save for Mango’s future – Mango being the toddler that lives with the Doctor and I – to give to charities or politicians we believe in, to even pursue our interests.

In fact, I would turn this argument around – my desire to work more, to build more value and to really delight folks outside of my (awesome) job – is motivated by a desire to avoid being driven by money.

With heaps of debt, all financial decisions come with that looming burden – it becomes a weight, mentally, emotionally, creatively. It’s a problem!

I want to escape having money be a part of my motivations altogether; I want to be able to live without that concern. That there is a certain twisted irony to the fact that the pursuit of this dream involves additional money is not lost on me.

Sometimes in the chase for freedom we’re taken on paths we don’t expect. Like Walt, I contain multitudes.


2 thoughts on “Motivation, Money and Freedom

  1. Thanks for writing on this. My work at Automattic or all of my side activities I would still do if I’d won the $1.3B Powerball. If I wouldn’t do it without being paid, it probably isn’t all that worth doing.

    But, as you said, money is a fact of life in our society and there are real constraints. If our household expenses, inclusive of debt service, are X to meet modest goals and the household income is X-Y, then that leads to trouble. While reducing costs is a good step, at some point, more on the income side is needed.

    1. It’s also sort of a matter of scarcity, right? I can’t get more days with my family, I’m going to clock out eventually. Why wait until I’m retired? Better to find freedom sooner rather than later.

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