Have You Found Your Tribe?

As I'm away from the blogosphere travelling the wilds of Southern Africa for a couple of weeks, I've asked a few fellow bloggers I follow to guest post. First up is an article from The Escape Artist, a UK blogger whose writing I find both edgy and fun. As you'll see from T.E.A.'s article below, we think along similar lines (though he has me beat in the humour category). Enjoy and please send the love back to T.E.A. by commenting and checking out his blog. My favourite posts include: 

Humans are amongst the most social of primates and the evidence suggests that we lived in tribes for many millennia up to the start of modern times.

It is not difficult to imagine the evolutionary basis for this. When you are all alone in the world with just a flint axe and a loin cloth, surrounded by predators and not knowing where your next meal is coming from, the world can look like a pretty scary place. Having some like minded mates (in both senses of the word) around is obviously going to be helpful from a survival and reproductive standpoint.

This helps explains why people cluster geographically in villages, towns and cities in contrast to the many other species that live on their own over dispersed territories.

It also explains why so many people feel deeply uneasy about being alone. Imagine the inconsolable modern teenage girl that has just been dumped by her boyfriend. One reason it might feel like her life has come to an end is that, for many millennia, her life actually ending might well have been the resulting outcome. Suddenly she would have been more vulnerable to sabre tooth tigers and predatory males from the next tribe.

Evolution means that she is stuck with an outdated reaction. In reality, in the modern world she is happily now free to do her own thing, stop pretending to have any interest in football and move upscale, boyfriend-wise, when she chooses. In many cases, he was a spotty loser and turning cartwheels might be a more appropriate reaction.

It’s possible to realise rationally that we are carrying a bunch of sometimes unhelpful evolutionary baggage but this realisation only takes you so far. If we are seeking to get to FI and to optimise our happiness (and that, I submit, should be our objective) then we need to find ways of living that are not just Right but also are realistically capable of implementation, given our evolutionary flaws and biases.

If you are reading this blog then it is probably because you have some interest in financial independence and freedom. Maybe all your friends and family are already interested in FI. If so, you are lucky because this is rare. More likely, given we are social primates, to walk your path to FI you are going to have to deviate from some pretty powerful social norms.

The investment in advertising, marketing etc by multinational companies is colossal and the toxic propaganda of consumerism is everywhere. You will be surrounded by peers borrowing on credit cards to buy designer toilet seats and similar nonsense.

Most people don't realise that financial independence is possible because they haven't seen examples of it around them.   The (bullshit) message from the media is that its only possible if you are a football or pop star, genius tech entrepreneur or lottery winner. 

Without a tribe of like-minded people around you, you have to realise you are operating in a hostile environment, a bit like a special forces soldier dropped behind enemy lines in the middle of jungle filled with financial predators and parasites.

I still remember very clearly in my late 20s stumbling over an American book called Invest in Yourself. It wasn't so much the content that made me sit up. This was all sensible albeit basic stuff about budgeting, reducing debt, living cheaper etc. No, it was the fact that it referenced a whole bunch of FI books, newsletters, websites and other support groups. Shit, this was a movement…a bit like Jehovah’s Witnesses but with better content and without the door-to-door selling techniques.

I do not think it is much of an exaggeration to say that in the UK, the FI movement still does not really exist on any scale. Think about that. 64 million people and only a tiny fraction that have ever heard of the FI concept. Those that have, have overwhelmingly done so via American books and websites.  Taking the message to the UK population (plus anyone in Canada or anywhere else prepared to listen) is the unmet need that The Escape Artist is trying to address.

When in 2013 I stumbled across the Mr. Money Mustache website, what I found was amazing to me. This guy was writing, with faultless logic and in detail, about stuff that I had been thinking about for years. This dude even swore like me.  Had he somehow hacked into my brain, like some nerds are able to hack into the Pentagon’s IT system?

I had a similar feeling when I found the F2P site. I remember finding F2P’s article on House - this was almost freaky for me. As a House fan, I’d watched the shows for years and made the link between the show and freedom, happiness, FI etc. but no else one in my circle (or in the press) seemed to have joined up the dots like F2P had. 

I've been intrigued by the widely varying reactions when I tell people that I am quitting my corporate job.  Some people look at me with a mixture of shock and pity. Shock because they “know” that no one can afford to quit work before their 50s or 60s. Pity because they assume I am going to starve to death – probably shot by security guards at the perimeter fence of a cat food factory that I will be trying to break into in order to find food.

Others immediately reveal themselves as fellow potential escapees.  I have no real idea what its like to be gay and to “come out” but I imagine that in some way it’s a bit like “coming out” as someone who is pursuing FI.  Some people don’t blink but other people suddenly relate to you in a completely different way. People that I had known for years just in their guise as private equity executives or whatever suddenly started quoting The Millionaire Next Door at me and you realise you have stumbled across another member of the FI Tribe.

The path to FI is so much easier now we have the Internet than before. The Internet unlocks the power of the Long Tail and allows us to connect with like-minded people globally.

Although reading stuff by like-minded FI gurus is great, I found it was not enough on its own. I found that I needed to immerse myself in the content and use a variety of media. One thing that worked really well for me was to download podcasts. 

For example, The Mad Fientist website has some great podcast interviews with people like Mr. Money Mustache, JD Roth etc. There is something powerful about hearing the actual voices of these guys in conversation. The podcast medium replicates the intimate human experience of face-to-face chatting and brings out the humour, the emphases and generally it makes it real on some basic biological level.

If, for example, you are still commuting to a corporate job you don’t like, I can’t recommend these podcasts highly enough. These kept me sane on my commuter train surrounded by the Walking Dead. The content is soothing, uses your downtime super-productively and provides an intellectual NBC suit when you know that you are going to spend your day in a bullshit-rich environment.

So I’d like to say a big Thank You to F2P for the opportunity to share some thoughts with a new set of readers.  But my primary message is aimed at those people who have always felt a sense of unease at extreme consumerism but have not yet found their “tribe”. 

If you are one of those people, I really hope this message reaches you.  If it does and it strikes a chord, you owe it to yourself to follow the white rabbit, find the resources that are out there for you and to reach out to like-minded people.

Image credit/copyright: Listen Up, Gelada Baboons by Rod Waddington / Flickr

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