This article has been sitting in my drafts for a few months now with nothing more than three names: Heimo Korth, Chris McCandless and Jim Dutcher. What do these three random names have in common? I couldn’t put my finger on it. But there was an elusive idea there that I couldn’t just quite catch. That is until Mr Whymances sent me a video on Ikigai. Then it all fell into place.
What is Ikigai?
To put it simply, it refers to the reason you get out of bed every morning and makes life worth living. Ikigai originates from a Japanese concept. You can read more about the background of the concept here and the video below posted by The Big Think with Rob Bell explains it quite well.
Who the heck are these three people mentioned?
I came across Heimo Korth through a Vice documentary. Despite growing up in a regular US suburb, he decided to become a hunter/trapper in his 20s. He moved up to Alaska and eventually married and raised a family living this lifestyle in remote Alaskan wilderness.
I’m not encouraging (or discouraging) living off the land like that. What fascinates me was how he completely changed how he lived. Being a hunter/trapper out in the wilderness IS his Ikigai. And it’s not like he was born in that way of life. He had to learn EVERYTHING to have it. If this happens to catch your interest, there’s also a book on Heimo Korth and another series, The Last Alaskans, based on the remaining families living
For those who know the story of Chris McClandless, you know the story ends tragically. This is not a spoiler, it’s everything before the end that’s fascinating. In short, he shuns society of sorts and travels across the US before making his way to Alaska. I’ve been fascinated and admired his ability to acknowledge traditional society wasn’t working for him and having the courage to forge his own path.
Jim Dutcher is a nature cinematographer. I first became aware of him though his film Living With Wolves. Over six years, he created a wolf pack as true as possible to what is out in the wild and captured the social nuances through film. I’m a nature lover and enjoyed this film. Aside from that though, I admire how he devoted his life work to his passion, first being nature and then specifically become wolf ambassadors.
What do they all have in common?
At the root of it all, these three people have found a way to live life on their terms. At least as much as they can. What attracted me to all these stories was their passion, courage to follow what got them out of bed and creativity to forge a life that was unique and satisfying to them.
There’s a myriad of others stories that have fascinated me and I’ve come to admire, but those are the first three that got me started. If you want to know more, or who else, I’d be happy to send a list.
How Is This Relevant To Personal Finance?
I’ve mentioned it before, but money is a means to an end to accomplish what you want and personal finance is a set of tools to get you there financially. Whatever your financial reality, it’s a moot point without passion or a goal you’re striving towards.
Despite money being a means to an end, sometimes your main goal at the moment is financially motived. Especially if it’s eliminating debt or increasing your emergency fund, this reduces stress and puts you in a better position to concentrate on your passion working towards what gets you up in the morning.
Largely, financial goals concentrate on paving the way financially towards something you want to do, or free up mental energy and time to devote to your passion in what is otherwise trapped in stress and depleting your energy.
Forms of Ikigai
I think it’s worth noting that what gets you up in the morning DOESN’T have to be your main job that supports you. Sure it’s great if it is, but we’re often are told ‘follow your dreams’ or ‘do what you love and then it’s not work.’ I’m certainly not saying you should stay in a job you hate, makes you miserable or has a toxic work environment. Simply I’m saying that we’re often taught growing up that our jobs should one of our big sources of passion and satisfaction. So when it’s not, we grow dissatisfied and think we’re doing something wrong. That might not be the case at all. There are totally different options to have Ikigai…
Passion hobbies: A hobby that you’re deeply passionate about, that you do in your own time, that isn’t a main source of income, or makes no income at all may be what gets you up in the morning. I know for a friend of mine, it’s all about travel. That’s their motivation to earn a high salary and keeps costs low, so they have more money to travel.
FIRE: For some, attaining financial independence is their main motivation and reason to get up and go to work in the morning. It might be that they want out of a situation or simply want the security of not relying on any employer to pay for their survival. I won’t get into that you need to be working towards something after FIRE, as there are other articles that have touched on that.
Community Involvement: Another option might be creating or contributing to some sort of community. Feeling useful and a sense of belonging is important to everyone. Even if this isn’t directly related to a subject you’re passionate about, being involved and making a difference for someone else can become the reason you get up in the morning.
So there you have it. Your word of the day: Ikigai! It’s become one of my favourite words. It’s such an important concept, I can’t believe we don’t have an equivalent in english. Or maybe we do?
On an unrelated note, this post has become a milestone with it being the 25th post! This blog is a passion project of mine. To celebrate, next week’s post will break the usual topics and I’ll get into 5 random topics about me for a bit of fun. So if you have any suggestions, let me know!
Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Whether it’s related to Ikigai, random facts you want to know or thought tangents!