Core Concepts · · 4 min read

Creative Independence vs. Financial Independence

For the last eight years or so, I’ve been fixated on financial independence.

The idea of having enough financial resources that you can have total freedom over your time is so alluring…it’s hard not to be fixated on financial independence once the idea is introduced to you.

And as the years have passed, the path has gotten more clear! I see how I could reasonably achieve that!

But at the same time, as those same years have passed, things often feel harder before they get easier. Every new point of growth comes with new challenges to navigate (both internal and external).

I wrote about this in my latest issue of Life In Progress, but to be honest, I’m spending more time at the keyboard than ever before. The business is doing better than ever, but there a lot of not-so-passive elements that require a lot of time and attention!

And when feelings of burnout creep in…I’m reminded of the story of the fisherman and the businessman.

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small village.

As he sat, he saw a fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish.The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman. “I have a graduate degree in business. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to New York, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”

The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

The fisherman asks, “And after that?”The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”

There are a lot of ways to find financial independence. And they don’t all require more hours to achieve…

But a lot of well-meaning people (like me!) find themselves trapped working more than ever to build a future where they work less – what if we just started there?

And to complicate things further, what happens if you do achieve financial independence? Typically, that goal is actually in service to the real goals:

  1. Choice
  2. Expression

Choice meaning total agency around how we spend our time, when we spend our time, who we spend it with, etc.

Expression is the more interesting bit to me, because it’s non-obvious and often not explicitly said. But I think we aspire to financial independence because the choices we want to make involve expressing our thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and desires!

We want to have the freedom to be ourselves and spend our time doing the things WE want to do. To create what we want to create and share that with people who will appreciate it – even if it’s just the people close to us.

I call that creative independence. The ability to express ourselves in the ways that we want without the need for external validation or approval. To make the things that WE want to make on our own terms without compromise.

To me, our culture is fixated on financial independence but what we really want is that creative independence. We want to have control over our lives and our relationship with the world around us.

I don’t think you necessarily need financial independence to experience creative independence.

I’ve talked to a lot of folks on Creative Elements who have created amazing projects that they are super proud of, very fulfilled by, and often even have financial upside. And a lot of those same people did so while working a full-time job – and have no plans to leave that job!

It’s completely possible to find creative independence and not only be supported by an employer, but empowered, enabled, or rewarded.

I’ve always worried my work would have a side effect of shaming people into feeling like they had to be a self-supported entrepreneur or business owner to be “successful” as a creator…and that’s not the case.

My goal is to help you find creative independence. There are many paths there, and most of them are long, winding, and difficult.

You’ll need commitment, resilience, ambition, and patience to get there…and you’ll be tested often! As I’ve walked that same path, the only reason I’m still standing is because of friends, loved ones, and other companions by my side…

And I want to be that companion for YOU on your journey to creative independence.

With everything I make (my writing, my podcast, my workshops, and more) my goal is to help shorten the path and provide some encouragement along the way.

So I’m excited to share that I’ve changed the name of my newsletter to Creative Companion. Every week, I’ll be here by your side helping you towards creative independence – whatever that looks like for you.

I’d love to hear if this idea of creative independence resonates with you.

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