Can We Stop Gushing Over Our Self-Affirming Financial Bullshit?

Did the title make you uncomfortable or defensive? Good.

It’s probably not new news to you that everything likes to read things that simply back up what they already think and do. Finances are no different. We like to confirm we have all the answers, and we like to be on the right track. Sure, there are little tweaks here and there to our lives but not too much to really shake things up.

But here’s the problem: reading more about what you already know and believe in won’t do you any good. In fact, it’s a waste of your time. What’s the point of simply listen to someone agree with you for 1,000 words? So you can use it to defend yourself against others that disagree with you?

An Example from Get Rich Slowly

A little over a week ago, Joe from Retire by 40 wrote a post (we’ll call it Post #1) about leaving his six-figure corporate job to pursue something else. Joe sorta framed his post to make it sound like he was following a problogger pipe dream, but I don’t think that’s how he intended it. Joe also left out important details about how his wife works and will continue to do so by her own choice and desire, which you can read about on his blog. The way I read his GRS post: he’s excited to do quit his job and leave his boring corporate life behind him.

But the overal feedback: incredible disdain from the GRS community. Some people hated this post and seemed to disagree with everything Joe mentioned, too. Just take a look at some of the comments. I have to wonder what extreme comments were filtered out beyond what’s shown.

Flash forward to one week later – Post #2: A reader named “Knot Theory” had his (I’m assuming it’s a he, but not sure) story published, which is essentially a post about how he quit a job that he hated, took a boring job instead, and has never been happier since.

And the commenters? Couldn’t love it enough! People were singing the praises in the comments, with one reader calling it “one the bests posts read til date.”

Okay, I’ll give you that the two posts had slightly different tones and were written in different ways, but did each really deserve the comments that they got?

Why the lovefest for Post #2 but not #1?

Post #2 had a feel-good tone for how you don’t have to love your job to be happy in life. I’m cool with that (although I have a hard time feeling as awesome about it as some of the commenters do).

But I think post #1 is as much of a feel-good story to me as is post #2. They were both about giving up something the writer hates and moving on to a life that’s happier and hopefully more fruitful.

What it looks like to me: readers love the second post SO much more because it’s what they identify with. These commenters are plugging along at the 9-5 (and either are or are hoping to make six figures), and it doesn’t fly in the face of their plan in life.

To me, it’s simple why it came out this way: we love hearing that the path we’ve chosen is the right one and the best one. We love these little stories that we can point to and say “I knew I was doing the right thing!” It’s music to the ears.

At the same time, it’s often frustrating and even annoying to hear about people that disagree with how you approach things.

You can look at both ends of any two-sided debate and find plenty of support that you can read and just agree with. If we’re talking the nine-to-fiver vs. the entrepreneur, there’s plenty of material out there to tell you that you can be happy and successful on either path.

For the worker-bees, their life and belief is some variation of “Just show up for work, put in your time, invest in a retirement plan, and you’ll have it made when the time comes. Being an entrepreneur is very risky, and most people fail and go bankrupt.”

For the entrepreneurial-minded, there are plenty of people, blogs, and books that will go the other way and say “Showing up at a 9-5 every day until your 65 is no way to live. It’s a boring life. There’s so much more potential for both happiness and wealth if you strike on your own.”

We can find support and successes on both sides within the blogosphere, not to mention in stories throughout the media. Neither is right and neither is wrong.

A Lesson: Be willing to listen to the other side without calling them wrong

Look, I feel just as uncomfortable and annoyed watching Fox News as every left-winger does. But does that mean I should just spend my whole life criticizing Fox News and just watching the Daily Show? I’m not that close-minded, and I hope others aren’t, either.

From reading this blog, you can probably guess that I align more with Joe and post #1. It’s certainly motivational to read articles like these to get me moving in the direction I want to go. But I don’t think that post #2 is stupid, and I can get a lot out of reading that as well.

Does quitting my job and giving up on finding a career I might like make me nervous? Hell yes!! Because of that, it’s interesting and informative to listen to both sides.

Sometimes the “other” side can make solid points and even be right from time to time. Just accept it.

Do you find yourself reading a lot of articles and posts that simply agree with what you already believe?

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photo from:  thivierr

Comments

  1. I try to branch out and learn something when I read articles and posts. If it’s the 10th person that week to talk about how to make a budget, and I’ve read the previous 9 articles hoping to gain some insight in the different ways to do it, I won’t read it. It’s more of a time wasting thing than an affirmation thing.

    •  @addvodka That makes sense. I just wonder why so many people feel the need to comment and say “Yes, I agree with you” on the second article. Perhaps it’s inspiring, but I didn’t think it was that amazing.

  2. I think the other part of it is jealousy.  They look at Joe, giving up a job with a salary that they’d die for, and are jealous because he already had what they desire.  And if it’s something that they desire, it can’t be bad, right?  So, he gets chastized because he dares take control of his finances and find a way to pursue something else that he wants to do.

    • I agree. It goes back to how we tend to complain most about not having money and speak often about how poor we are and then 5 seconds later we witness someone with lots of money and we say things like, “must be nice for them!” or “they have all the money and need to share it with us” instead of having a positive attitude about it and feel happy for someone who has achieved financial success.

  3. enemyofdebt says:

    I read that article too and was annoyed by the the negativity. Some were essentially calling him stupid for ever considering such a thing. As someone who has quit his job, stays at home with his kids, started a printing company, and is about to go to Hawaii for 13 weeks my wife and I are MUCH MUCH happier with the decisions we’ve made. My wife just reduced her hours to 24 (she’s a nurse) and we both get to spend so much time with our kids now as well as with each other. We used to pass each other at the front door but since becoming debt free have been able to completely change everything. We don’t make as much as we once did when we were getting out of debt — yet — but we’re focusing more on living the life we want rather than living the life someone else says we should based on their own perceptions and beliefs.
     
    With so many people out their that hate their job I was surprised by the comments but perhaps you guys are right. It could be about jealousy. If Joe only made 40K a year I wonder if anyone would have flinched. It’s actually sad. Money isn’t everything. It’s only a tool that allows us to make different decisions. Making 6 figures for 15+ years and then giving it up is awesome in my opinion. It means money isn’t all he cares about. That’s just my humble opinion. 😀

    •  @enemyofdebt I definitely think the “six-figure income” part influenced the comments, and a lot of people like to say things like “it’s crazy to give that up – especially in this economy.” It doesn’t seem fair to make it all about the money, though.

      •  @Jeffrey Trull Agree completely that it was the six figure income that was hard for people to swallow. If he had given up a job making $50k I think people would have been more supportive.

  4. I’ve pretty much stopped reading GRS because any time there is a unique or original article on there, the comments just get nasty.
     
    That place is populated by “average people” and I’m looking to be more than average. I don’t find their criticisms all that helpful and personally it makes angry to be surrounded by all that negativity!

  5. I’m hoping Joe really takes the leap of faith.  He’s written about it a lot, and now is talking himself out of it, it seems.  Do it Joe!  No flip flopping, just straight forward!  We will root for you!  Sam

  6. Those people would never admit it, but it’s jealousy. I can’t remember which comedian said it, but his point was: if you get cancer and tell people, they are secretly happy. Many people want bad things to happen to others, and they HATE it when good things happen too.

  7. financiallyc says:

    I like the way you’ve always been grounded Jeffrey. Keep it real and honest.

  8. MilkThePigeon says:

    Jeffrey —
    I was nodding along as I read this. And I think you pretty much are 100% right.. people living mediocre lives try to stick together with other people with mediocre lives — because anything more is threatening. 
     
    I personally don’t read GRS so I can’t comment, but I think people sometimes love that self-assurance and justification that what they are doing is the right way.  I think it all comes down to “knowing” and confidence — some people require a lot of external support and need to say “See! Told you so.”
     
    Other people say “Just watch me…” and could care less about how many other likeminded average people they can commiserate with.
     
    And i’m sure there’s plenty of jealously/envy going on. He had a six figure salary and dropped it to do something more closely aligned to what he enjoys.
     
    Speaking of which, when are you planning on taking off yourself?

    •  @MilkThePigeon Great points! You’re right – pleasing others and listening to their opinions becomes less and less important, especially when you stop to consider what their own beliefs and motivations are.
       
      I’m jetting out of New Haven on May 31, but I don’t know where to yet! Will you be around for Chris Guillebeau’s book tour stop in NYC on May 8?

  9. There’s a saying I came across awhile ago – people don’t mind you being happy, as long as its in a way they think you should be happy. Frankly that post hit waves because no one else considered it as a viable way for them to be happy – therefore no one else would be either.
     
    People love to say “me too!” and be a part of some bigger group of whatever. JD went opposite to that somehow. No, he didn’t mean to, but that’s how they all took it.

  10. SmallBudgetBigDreams says:

    I think people tend to surround themselves with other people who make them feel good. The problem with this is groupthink. Everyone’s patting each other on the back and nobody is thinking “outside of the box”. Although it’s uncomfortable and not always fun, I’d much rather be surrounded with smart thinkers who challenge me and make me grow, then a group of people who reaffirm how “great” I am.

  11. People don’t want to or a cant relate to someone who does something DIFFERENT.  Different will quickly become wrong.  Its like telling your parents you want to travel the world instead of going to college.  Some parents will get it others will think they failed.  People like relating to those who are in the same boat. 

  12. I’m impressed that you managed to write an entire post on confirmation bias, and yet those two words don’t appear anywhere in it. 

  13. I try to branch out and learn something when I read articles and posts. If it’s the 10th person that week to talk about how to build a budget, and I’ve read the previous 9 content items planning on gain some insight in the different methods to do it, I won’t read it. it’s more of a time wasting thing than an affirmation thing.

  14. there is a saying I came across awhile ago – people don’t mind you being happy, as long as its in a way they think you really should be happy. Frankly that post hit waves because no one else considered it as a viable way for them to be happy – therefore nobody else would be either.

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