Recently I replayed Far Cry 3, a first-person shooter set on a tropical and paradise-like island that’s riddled with deadly animals and modern-day pirates. The story is mostly carried by the game’s main antagonist, Vaas Montenegro. As the drugged-up leader of the pirates, he often shares his words of wisdom with the player. And it’s one of his sayings that got me thinking.
(Potential spoilers below, so if you still want to play Far Cry 3 you better sit this post out.)
During one of the key scenes of the game, Vaas asks the player if he knows what insanity is:
Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is? Insanity is doing the exact… same fucking thing… over and over again, expecting… shit to change.
Even though Vaas’ words hold a certain truth, it’s easy to misconstrue them. One of my friends, for example, uses the saying as a way to evade doing things he rather wouldn’t do. While it’s true that you shouldn’t become a present-day Sisyphus, there’s no reason to apply the logic explained by Vaas in the service of avoidance.
And it’s not just my friend that does this. Since joining the financial independence community about a year and a half ago, first by lurking anonymously and later on by taking up a more active role through this blog, I’ve noticed many people grabbing on to the insanity saying as a way to rationalise their behaviour.
More specifically, I’ve read the explanations and justifications below as to why financial independence is not for them or how they try to tackle their financial woes:
- “I tried saving 10% of my paycheck, but after failing three months in a row I gave up.”
- “The stock market whiped out all my May savings, so why bother?”
- “I’ve opened up another credit line to consolidate my credit cards, so now I’m sure to get out of debt.”
What’s most striking about these rationalisations is that people actually seem to believe that they are doing things differently from before and should thus be rewarded with a different and better outcome. I call it The Complain Game.
Trying to save 10% isn’t actually changing how you go about your business, just like feeling defeated by an outside force like the stock market doesn’t fall within the definition of insanity. And could someone explain to me how consolidating your debt isn’t exactly the same as not combining multiple credit lines? In the end you’re still up to your eyeballs in debt!
The missing link in the examples above is perseverance.
Perseverance, being persistent in doing something despite difficulties or a possible delay in achieving success, should never be confused with futile repetition. That’s especially the case when you set a clear objective and conjure up a plan to work toward that goal, which is what financial independence is all about.
Although I’ve been doing great at saving a large portion of my salaried income, I admit that it’s not easy for everyone to do so. However, when you can’t even move the needle in the right direction after three months, there’s a high chance you haven’t actually changed your spending pattern at all, but merely continue doing the same thing over and over in the hopes of saving more.
At that point, you’re basically still like the cavemen in Plato’s Allegory: day-in day-out they gawk at reality’s reflections on the cave’s walls instead of doing something drastically different to define their own reality.
However, it’s difficult change your mindset, but if you want to become financially free you have to persevere in saving as much as possible and investing that money for the long-run. Persistency and consistency are the only factors with an impact on your financial freedom that are fully and reliably within your own control.
So get out of your comfort zone and try something unlike anything you’ve done before to make your own financial independence happen! Don’t be afraid to feel like a fish out of water, you can determine your own life to focus on what makes you happy. I’m sure you’ll make truly beautiful things happen when you persevere and keep at it.
Besides, what’s worse than getting up every morning to go to work, so you can provide yourself with enough money to pay for a relaxing downtime as to recharge your batteries, just to go back to the office again? To me, that’s the definition of insanity: mindlessly going to work without your situation ever changing for the better.
I’d rather build my own Win for Life and make time my own again. How about you?