Going your own way: The minimalist option

Minimalism is bantered about as a Buddhist “Zen” type of philosophy. But if you take the time to think it through and realize what it truly means, you’ll soon realize that it is the key to happiness in life. Setting yourself free from the shackles of corporate employment allows you to spend your life on you, your loved ones, and (as it just so happens) it may be the key to riches. You owe it to yourself to have a more thorough and deeper understand of minimalism.

Minimalists or “Galtists” do not hate work as much as they hate authority. So much so that they are willing to minimize their lives, thereby lessening their need for employment and, consequently, minimizing the time they need to “suffer” working under an authority. They value their time and freedom above all else and couldn’t care less about a mortgage, a car, or other standard staples in life. As long as they’re not answering to some boss or clocking in at the factory, they are happy.

Because of this, their “job” isn’t to make money but rather to minimize their spending. However, to what extent they pursue this depends on the individual. At some basic level, everybody is a minimalist. Nobody likes work and we’d prefer never to work again if given the choice. Therefore, we may downsize our house or cut out the cable to make ends meet and avoid taking another job. However, true “minimalists” go to the extreme: living in trailers, generating their own electricity, and getting by on less than $5,000 a year. What extremity of minimalism you might wish to achieve depends on your own personality. But somewhere between “cutting back on sushi” and “living in a trailer using car batteries for electricity” is a happy medium that may suit a lot of people.

There are a lot of “minimalist” jobs out there where you have to answer to an “authority,” but you rarely see their face. Being a security guard is a perfect example. You rarely see your boss. You rarely tolerate office politics. As long as you show up on time and are sober, you are allowed to be left alone for eight hours a night, permitted to work on your hobbies or just goof around on the Internet. A truck driver is another example. Bar some minor office work up front, you can just drive around the country, looking at its beautiful landscape, listening to the radio or your thoughts. There are other jobs that minimize your face-time with authority, but the larger point is that you can find jobs conducive to a minimalist mindset. That added income can be the difference between a life of living in a cheap studio apartment or out of a van down by the river.

Another approach is to “suffer” working a real job for a certain amount of time, only until you save up enough money or have a side business going that allows you to never work again. If your expenses are minimal, say, $7,000 a year, and over the course of a decade you manage to save $140,000, you have 20 years’ worth of savings. This, of course, requires that you spend some time in the real world, but if you can tough it out and adhere to strict fiscal discipline, you could retire well before most of your debt-laden peers.

However, a cynical though poignant question to ask is: Why have a job at all? Setting morality aside, with such minimal spending it is possible just to get by on the government dole. Matter of fact, it’s almost impossible not to. In having such minimal spending, you need an equally little amount of income. Such little income almost guarantees that you will receive more in tax benefits, refunds, tax credits, and general government services than what you paid in. Matter of fact, half of all Americans do not pay federal income taxes, as they are heavily subsidized by the rich, mathematically making most of us default economic parasites. Therefore, the issue of whether you should be “moral” and work hard is moot and academic, especially if you’re deciding to “go Galt.” You are already living off the system. It is merely up to your own personal moral code as to whether you want to engage in work to make yourself feel better about it.

Moral debates aside, though, there is one final huge and often unforeseen benefit to minimalist living: you stand a much higher chance of becoming rich, even more so than the most obedient and ass-kissing of MBAs.

Understand that what makes people rich is not being the good little corporate man or being the good little obedient wage slave. It’s ideas and innovation that make people rich. Ideas and innovation most normal corporate cogs have not the time nor the energy to dream up, let alone pursue, as they finally pull into their driveway after a ten-hour workday and two-hour commute, creative and conscious as zombies. However, the exact opposite can be said of minimalists or Galtists. If anything, these people have plenty of time on their hands to dream. And not just dream but think through. And not just think through but actually pursue.

Take Douglas Adams, for instance, author of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. He came up with the idea while working as a security guard.

Have you heard of Harry Potter? The boy would never have existed had its author, J.K. Rowling, not benefited from the British taxpayers’ generosity financing her bills and writing career as she collected welfare.

And your fancy little Apple doodad wouldn’t exist if Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were working on Testing Procedure Specification (TPS) reports at Initech instead of tinkering in their garage.

Authors and anecdotes aside, the truth is that if you’re constantly occupied with a 9-to-5, mind-numbing job, you won’t have the time, energy, or desire to pursue any dreams you might have. But if you are a minimalist, working barely 10 hours per week, the human mind will find something else to do with the remaining 30. And usually what it picks isn’t mind-numbing or boring, but your hobby, your interest, and your passion. And in being your passion, it will inspire you to dedicate even more time to it than you would a normal job, thereby ensuring its uniqueness and quality. And it is high-quality, unique things that act as a lightning rod to riches.

There is no guarantee, of course, that you will make it rich sitting inside your studio apartment, drinking Weasel whiskey, smoking cigarettes, contemplating the next great work of fiction or “Angry Birds” app for smartphones. But it is a guarantee that you stand better chances of becoming a millionaire than the mass-produced MBA slaving away 80 hours a week, hoping for that promotion, as his employer secretly files for bankruptcy.

This article has been a free excerpt from the “Career” chapter of Bachelor Pad Economics. For more wisdom like this, with a lot more detail, consider giving it a read.—Eds.

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