Dr. Doom — I gotta say, that smile looks… unnatural on you.

I received not one but three separate messages blasting me for my last post. The gist?  Stop hating work, you crazy pessimist, you. Turn that frown upside down and be happy!

If it was a one-off, I’d ignore it, but three means that a good number of people must have been pretty grossed out, so I feel compelled to respond a bit.

Here’s my favorite of the bunch.  (Identity withheld.)

Usually if I don't like a blog I just move on. 
But I wanted to tell you to stop THROWING 
your life away obsessing on negativity and 
misery and I hope you don't own a GUN 
because it sounds like you might go POSTAL. 
Love everything you do.  
Live in the moment and be happy -
All of the time.
And do what you love. 
Find the good in everything. 
Stop choosing to look for the bad. 
I don't think that QUITTING will help you.  
Because without your JOB, YOU will
be left with YOURSELF.
And YOU will still be ANGRY.
You don't realize it yet but you are
happier WORKING because
it distracts YOU from YOU.

Again, I’m sure that this was a direct result of publishing the Litany of Office Hate.

Sheesh.  I don’t even know where to start.  Did YOU read the preamble to the Litany?  (Also, while on the subject of reading, please browse a primer on internet capitalization protocols.)  In the intro, I explained that I don’t feel this way all of the time and certainly don’t wallow in misery or obsess on my job.  Most of the time, when I’m not at work, I don’t think about work.  I engage in activities that bring happiness and satisfaction.  Also:  most of the time I’m at work, I make the best of things.  It’s not all bad.  And I do not ignore the positives, of which there are at least two:  Paycheck, and free coffee.

So let’s set the record straight about how I feel about work.

  1. I like my core function.  I have always liked my core function. It’s critical for people to seek employment which provides enjoyment, at least on some core, functional level, because if you don’t at least get a kick out of that, you may begin to view work as intolerable instead of merely a vacuum which sucks up the majority of hours in your week.  I would never recommend staying in a job where you are actively miserable merely to reach financial independence except perhaps in extreme situations.  (For example, maybe you earn 300K a year and could achieve FI in fewer than 3 years.  This could be worth serious consideration even if your job consists of eating cockroaches.)  At any rate, I’m with you, reader(s), on this central point:  Life is too short to spend your life hating, if that’s really all you’re doing. And, as I’ve mentioned a few million times already, my current job is, in most ways, the best of my career and I do not hate it.  In fact, I had some amount of difficulty leaving it, even though I know it’s time.
  2. I have not wasted my life.  I’ve lived a happy and fulfilling life — but most of said fulfillment has come outside of work.  If you were to tell me that tomorrow the world will explode and ask if I had any serious regrets about how I’ve spent my time on the planet, my answer would be no, other than responding to this message and perhaps watching the Green Lantern movie. (Ryan Reynolds, how could you do that to us?)
  3. I’ve made an effort to quote choose to be happy endquote by moving around a bit, from employer to employer, in an attempt to find better work environments.  Most of the moves resulted in pay raises, but not happiness raises.  The systemic problems of office work resurface and grind away.  The conclusion I’ve reached is that I do not fit work — my mind unintentionally rejects the paradigm. In other words, I find these sorts of environments to be, on balance, inherently unlikable. True, this may reflect a deficiency in me, but still, this attitude doesn’t feel like something I actively choose, but rather the way I’m wired.  (Aside:  I would like to put hidden cameras on a hundred thousand random individuals who are doing paperwork — let’s say, self-reviews —  with the goal of checking to see if any of them are smiling and happy the way that people naturally are when they’re, say, splashing water on one another while swimming in the ocean.  Why can’t they — the people doing paperwork — just choose to as happy as the swimmers?  Answer:  Because self-reviews suck.  Some things are just true, and you can’t make yourself believe the opposite through sheer force of will. I’m not sure why you’d want to, to be honest.)
  4. On that note, I don’t choose to look for the bad.  When I’m at work, the bad hits me smack in the face at least a couple of times a week.  I would require a lobotomy and a full loss of analytic skills and sensory input in order to stop noticing these things.  I absolutely try to move on from these unpleasant events as quickly as possible. Resentment is no fun at all, and we all know that grudges are not healthy to hold.
  5. I’m highly satisfied with life outside of work.  I spent a lot of time supporting my family, running and hiking outdoors, being trying to be mindful, observing the world around me, and engaging in fulfilling hobbies.  It’s exciting, it’s engaging, it’s terrific, it’s freedom. How could this not be preferable to being in a cube?  Why should we deny that it is? It’s good even when it’s bad.  I just don’t write about those things all that much because this is a office-work-is-relentless-and-boring-so-FIRE blog, not a my-life-is-generally-terrific, look-at-how-happy-I-am blog.  Other bloggers already satisfy the world’s need for that second thing, OK?
  6. Although it’s an option to move to a different industry to seek greater satisfaction, it’s risky to pursue alternatives once you’re established somewhere.  The equation goes:
    1. Time away from job to get a degree for your new one = money lost.  (opportunity cost.)
    2. Degree = acquisition of debt.
    3. Degree also = loss of years when your money could be earning more money in the market (another opportunity cost).
    4. End result = Time to FI goes up by a decade or more by making the switch.
    5. Plus — There’s a risk you won’t like your new gig much, either.  I consider this to be an utterly catastrophic scenario, actually, and one I decided personally was far too great to take.

That’s it.  I’m always satisfied with life, I’m generally happy outside of work, and I’m generally OK even when at work.  That post was a long compilation of complaints, built up over 15 years in my industry, and I don’t feel those things every single day.  If I did, I’d be miserable and would mentally implode, which sounds pretty cool but I’m still not doing that.  Honestly I just thought it would be a little bit of fun to air it all out.  Oh, and no, I don’t own a gun.

Btw, I’m done with formal work at 37, in case you hadn’t heard.  Like, forever. And that makes me pretty ridiculously, involuntarily and authentically happy.

In other words, so far, quitting has been terrific.

Hope that clears everything up.

And to everyone else, thanks for bearing with me on this ultra-defensive post.  Won’t make it a habit.

While we’re on this topic, I’m going to assert, for the record, that it’s OK to want to retire early simply because you don’t like working.

And it’s OK to admit to yourself that you may not like any job at all.

It’s also OK to realize that you don’t the construct of work itself, i.e. the jobbyness of it.

Finally, it’s OK to realize you don’t like my blog.  If that’s the case, do us both a favor: Choose to be happy and stop reading it.

** This will be the first and last time I respond directly to troll-ish messages of this kind.  This includes comments.  In the future, they’ll go directly to the trash because that will immediately bring me a great deal of joy.  Who knows how to make himself happy?  That’s right.  It’s this guy.

— LAF.

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39 Responses to Happy.

  1. MarciaB says:

    Hey LAF, I’ve been thinking about you all weekend, knowing that last night (Sunday) was your very last “I dread Mondays” ever again in life! Way to go!

    I hope this week sails along pleasantly for you, and that Friday is a banner day. I love your blog and I think you rock.


    • livafi says:

      Hi Marcia – thanks for the warm comment. Days are dropping like flies…Pretty incredible that after all of this time I’m just about there — proof that planning and executing will get you out of this game for good. I’ll be sure to rip out a post or two about it.

  2. Charlie says:

    I gotta say.. I found your site 3 days ago – and I think I’m liking it more than MMM and ERE somehow.

    I’m pretty good about ignoring emotion to boost my savings rate – but I’m not the equation pumping drone (I mean this as a compliment) that ERE is. and I’m not the eternal optimist that MMM is (although I like his attitude – I just can’t maintain it like he can)

    There’s some weird emotional downness I have, slight depression? – maybe. I’m not sure – but I feel like it’s on a similar level as you. I think ER helps a lot. A nice multi-year goal to check my progress on daily. (I still have 4-5 years to go)

    I’m confident that the other ER bloggers have some of the ‘issues’ you’ve had. I’m glad you write about them – it makes it feel more real..

    P.S. – I read the entirety of “the job experience” yesterday – (yeah, it took like 5 hours to get through it all…. slow day at work) I haven’t read that much in one day since I found MMM

    • livafi says:

      Charlie: Thanks for the detailed comment. You pegged ERE and MMM strengths perfectly. They’re both valuable and suit different needs. My take on MMM is that Pete gets ‘in character’ to write and that character just happens to be super optimistic and happy all of the time. I could be wrong — some people are simply genetically happier than others. From what I’ve read, natural chemistry counts for about 50% of your natural mood settings and is essentially unchangeable. The good news is that lifestyle choices can make the remaining 50% quite high — this is one of the reasons I advocate ER (because having choices in life — something to look forward to improves your mood, gives you a sense of control and hope) and also endorphin-spewing exercise. Cheap highs, my friend, cheap highs.

  3. Brad says:

    You are so close! I can’t wait to read your future blog posts about your post-work decompression, activities (or lack there of) and any other musings you have on your freedom.

    • livafi says:

      I can’t wait to live it. Although I have a few days left, it’s just starting to hit home that I’m essentially done. Delayed reaction belief.

  4. Oh, now you are pretending to be happy?!? Loser.

    Heh. Anyway, haterz gonna hate. Enjoy your last week. Play at least one good prank and many lousy ones (whoopie cushion?) Tell the people you like that you like them and were grateful they were part of the experience for you because you won’t get another chance with many of them. Collect emails and the like from people you want to keep in touch with (I have a “celebration lunch” with some old cow-orkers at every quarter end [next one on the 15th]) because you’ll soon come to understand it was the people that were the best part of the job, rather than the cool ‘core function’.

    And drink like 100 gallons of that free coffee cause it just became a scarce resource in your life. You should spend the week like “I’VE DRANK 35 CUPS OF COFFEE TODAY WITH HARDLY ANY SIDE EFFECTS AT ALL; WHEEEEEEEEEE!!!!” And then sucker someone with a whoopie cushion *snark*.

    Devour your prey raptor!

    • Haha great ideas FV. I’ve made many of my close friends at my various jobs over the years, even more than friends I keep in touch with from college. They are definitely the best part. 7 cups a coffee a day for the final 5 days of work will be tough, but definitely doable! The wife probably wouldn’t appreciate it though…

    • G-dog says:

      Hilarious! Thank you. Another side effect of maximizing free coffee is maximizing free water/sewage/toilet paper at work! And who knows, enough coffee and you may be able to fly home.

    • livafi says:

      Woa – Didn’t you read my comment about being ready and willing to toss remarks like this into the trash? You’re living online life on the edge, sir. 🙂 Seriously, I love that a talking dinosaur posts crazy stuff this blog.

      BTW, why stop at 100 cups? That seems like a pedestrian goal – I’m going to raise the bar on myself like a well-conditioned office drone and set it to 150. I’m doing the math on this: that’s a cup every 3.2 minutes over an 8 hour working day: Surprisingly achievable.

  5. Prob8 says:

    One of the reasons I like reading your posts is because you delve into the psychology of retiring early. The Litany post was great and, to me, was simply an aspect of the mental journey.

    Congrats on the last week of paid work! I have to say I’m more than a bit jealous. My time will come though. Until then, I hope you continue to find something to write for us FIRE hopefuls once you become a man of leisure.

    • livafi says:

      Thanks for the comment — and keep your head up, you’ll be there before you know it. Optimism isn’t quite my wheelhouse, but that being said, I absolutely believe that everyone who wants to complete this journey can do it.
      Re: future posts — I have the same hope. I have a few additional retrospective posts banging around my head (such as how I psychologically conditioned myself to spend less after a couple of years of blowing money out of every orifice) but after that, I’m just not sure yet.

  6. bilgepump100 says:

    Obviously, those three trolling emails were from your former bosses. Who else would expect office life to be filled with nothing but unicorns and rainbows?

  7. Dave Cowen says:

    I for one loved your Litany of Office Hate post. Know that for all 3 negative responses you were sent, there were other positive ones that were rooting you on, sharing in the pain, and thrilled for your upcoming FI!

  8. Amy K. says:

    Enjoy the last week. Looking forward to the chronicles of decompression. Also: I want a post on selling your house!

    • livafi says:

      Thanks Amy. Our house is under agreement now and we’re selecting a new hut to live in — there might be enough material for a post there.. Are you thinking about downsizing yourself?

      • Amy K. (RelaxedGal on the MMM forums) says:

        Not planning to downsize, just nosey! I saw your comment on Chemgeek’s High Cost of MA housing MMM forum thread and was wondering how the process had gone for you. Our friends who have sold finally got all those little projects done and wished they’d done them years prior, so they could enjoy them. We just did a bunch of work on the house last summer and the summer before and commented “It’s like we’re going to sell the house!” but we plan to be here another 5-forever years.

      • livafi says:

        Oh okay, that makes sense as an area of interest — projects and preparation. We did have a few things to do. I’ll start slopping the details together to see if I can get a workable post. Won’t be for a few weeks, though, as my brain is still mostly thinking about leaving work, so I’m dumping that stuff out first. And thanks for dropping your handle, I see you on the forums all the time, cool.

  9. Lynne says:

    I hate the “you can choose to be happy ALL THE TIME” extremists. It’s a great tactic for abusers – you’re unhappy about something they did or said? Well, that’s your own fault not theirs. You should choose to be happy and then it wouldn’t bother you. (What really gets me about this is that *yes*, I’m responsible for my own happiness, and I really believe in that – but that is about feeling empowered to make changes in my life. Some people twist this idea into a justification for mistreating others and feeling all superior and victim-blamey about it.)

    Usually I am a pretty happy and positive person, but seriously, life is not all sunshine and rainbows, and you’re allowed to feel what you really feel. People who don’t seem to agree with that really set off my spidey sense.

    • G-dog says:

      Good point, it can be a tactic of abusers. But usually it is just irritating.
      New for list:
      I hate people who tell me how to feel.

    • livafi says:

      This comment really resonated with me. You’re exactly right — the accusations make you feel as though there’s something wrong with you for, say, not being perfectly happy after something tragic — or worse, violent — occurs. Negativity is a powerful signal, actually: Your brain is saying: “This thing right here, this event that’s making you feel bad — let’s fix this. Let’s come up with a plan to put a stop to this.” The feeling can potentially motivate you to take action, to make improvements. And that’s healthy.
      My personal solution to office negativity is (obvious!) FIRE.

  10. Jennifer says:

    After reading your post today, I had to go back and re-read your Litany of Hate post because I could remember laughing out loud repeatedly when reading it the first time so I couldn’t imagine what anyone took offense at. Yep, I was right. Did it again re-reading it. It was hilarious. Anyone who has ever worked in an office could probably add to that list. I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to follow in your footsteps (litany of hate and all) in just under four short months. 🙂 Things to hate at work slap me in the face daily. 🙂

    • G-dog says:

      Jennifer -what is your target date? Mine is July 2 (get those 1000 hours in to count as a year of service!)

    • livafi says:

      Thanks for the comment — and yeah, quite a few folks did add to that list. It’s an impressive wall of hate at this point, completely adorable. I’m just baffled by people who can’t seem to grasp that just because you recognize you’re lucky and well off doesn’t mean you don’t register grievances or irritations. Humans are able to hold both thoughts our heads at the same time.
      Recommendation for work: A hateguard face mask to soften the blows.

  11. LAF,

    It sounds like the detractors need to have a glass of “Shut the Fuck Up!” Your posts are great and it sounds like those emailing you are the ones who need to work out their own issues. Many people have similar thoughts. If fact, right now as I type there is some dumbass zombie hanging around outside my office trying to get me to make eye contact so he can come in uninvited and waste some of my time. The nerves of some of these dipshits.

    Keep the posts coming raw and unapologetic.


    • livafi says:

      Word up, MDP. Have you thought about producing and marketing said beverage after you’re done working? Could be a good semi-retirement. Offer delivery services to your ex-CWs in the office for a small additional fee.

      Hope you took care of that zombie, shaun-of-the-dead style.

  12. SpreadsheetMan says:

    It was probably evil muppet Bert 🙂

    Seriously LAF, this is a terrific blog. I’m in my last few years before pulling the rip-cord and some of the topics on here have been very helpful to me (especially the SWR and depression series). Your tone translates really well to the UK too where a lot of US blogs are too earnest or radiantly optimistic for our taste. We’re a bit more world-weary and cynical 😉

    The employment history series is brilliant and darkly hilarious, should be required reading for anyone considering a career in Technology of any sort.

    • livafi says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed Evil Bert — I loved doing the images for him, flipping his eyebrows around to make him look perpetually pissed. Muppet anger is so, so good.
      BTW, I watch a lot of BBC shows wtih my wife: IT Crowd, Dr. Who, Father Ted. Awesome stuff.
      >> world-weary and cynical
      Yeah, that about sums up how I perceive the world most of the time. I would just add that many people mistake cold analysis and truth for cynicism. Cynicism is intentionally focusing the bad side of things: The glass is half empty. Analysis is simply pointing out what is wrong: I need to drink a full glass of water in order to live today, but there’s only half remaining.

  13. DMM says:

    @LAF Yea I would recommend not getting into extended internet arguments. Total waste of time.

    The last third of that commenter’s message is extremely disrespectful, when they advocate not quitting. I don’t know if they realize that. But that is exactly what I would expect from someone who is happy in the toxic office/bureaucracy environment.

    For the record enjoy your blog, and I enjoyed the Office Hate post.

    -Anonymous Bureaucrat #0001483209532

    • livafi says:

      Yep, no more arguments from me. I will not be replacing workplace disagreements with internet-bickering to fill future hours in my ER life. That sounds like a bad swap.

      I doubt the person who sent that message realized much at all other than “This rant makes me uncomfortably aware of some things I also may not like about my job so I will combat it by pretending that I actually really really like these things that this poster finds disagreeable. There is something wrong with the poster, but not with perfect, perfect me! Nothing to see here! I’m super duper well adjusted and perpetually blissful, so long as I don’t run out of oxycodone..”

      I’ll stop there 🙂

  14. Steve says:

    I work in IT as a project manager and I basically agree with everything on this post and your previous post. I even like my job as far as jobs go but I would rather not be freaken working.

    I also have 3 kids and won’t be able to fire for at least another say 5 years at an age of 47 but I am definitely going to do exactly what you have done. Leave with no intention of coming back.

  15. Paul says:


  16. Schaefer Light says:

    “Plus — There’s a risk you won’t like your new gig much, either. I consider this to be an utterly catastrophic scenario, actually, and one I decided personally was far too great to take.”

    This is my biggest fear and ultimately the reason I haven’t spent much time looking for a new job. I don’t think there’s a job out there that I’d like to have. Well, professional golfer might be nice but I’m definitely not qualified for that one.

  17. I did not think I could love your blog any more than I already did. I was wrong. It almost makes me want to improperly engage the caps key and shout with joy. I think after I play catch-up (or ketchup, if you catch the reference), I’m going to start from the beginning and read you all over again.

    By the way, I did #6 and ended up living #1, enjoying a steady diet of crunchy cockroaches with prickly legs. If I had just stayed the course, I might be splashing someone in the ocean right now.

  18. Edward says:

    Gross, gross, gross, gross!!! That message of happiness that somebody sent you gave me the heebie-jeebies all over. The damn cult of happiness infecting everything is driving me mental. This dude is a programmer. Do you want an optimist in charge of your secure bank transactions? What about designing car safety systems and child seats? What about nuclear power plants?
    Pessimists, skeptics, and those who are thorough are getting the short end of the stick lately. They’ve even proven that many places prefer to hire “team players” with “good attitudes” lately instead of those more qualified and it all results in their systems falling apart. Happy, optimists always overestimate their own abilities and hope for the best instead of filling in holes and thorough planning. I agree–be who you are. Would you rather have a beer with Johnny Rotten or Bobby McFerrin? Stay frosty! Stay Doom. Plot and laugh with Skeletor. Sit down, listen, and read the lyrics to Garbage’s “Only Happy When It Rains”. It’s an amazing song!

  19. cura debt says:

    You are right about ignoring those who bash you. Who cares? This is your life anyway. I think anyone would be envious to someone who retires early. Who wouldn’t want to right?

    Great read. You inspire those who want to live their dreams.

  20. Ron Cameron says:

    “…because that will immediately bring me a great deal of joy” – If only everyone could grasp that concept!

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