Why, you might ask, have I posted this ridiculous picture of myself on my supposedly serious blog?
Do I need some attention?
Have I decided to turn Screw the System into a health and fitness blog?
Have I lost my mind?
None of the above.
While I appreciate that there are thousands of guys on the internet with more photo worthy physiques, I wanted to let you know that I keep myself in shape. I play tennis twice a week for about 3 hours in total; I lift weights twice a week for about an hour and half and I also go on one 5 kilometre run.
I’m telling you this so you know that the intention behind the photo is less about showing off and more about making a point. My body is a symbol of defiance. I’m flexing my muscles at the system and telling it, ‘I won’t let you control my time or set my agenda.’
I do this at a price. Over the years, dedicating approximately 5 hours a week to athletic pursuits has damaged my potential earnings. I recently calculated that I would be $100,000 richer had I not exercised at all over the last 11 years and instead, used this time to see clients and build my business (apologies if you thought the $100,000 in the title referred to some newfound surgery or pill that transforms fat to muscle!).
Let’s put this into perspective, $100,000 is nothing to be sneezed at. It’s a deposit on a home (in some countries it is a home). It’s one of those flash cars we’re taught to value so highly. It’s money I could invest to make myself richer.
So, instead of ‘enriching’ my life in one of the above manners, why would I choose to spend time punishing my body through physical exercise?
BECAUSE I LOVE IT!!!!
Since I was a small child, there was little that gave me quite such a thrill as chasing after a ball or competing against other kids to see who was the stronger or more skilful. However, when I got to the age of around 21 or 22, I realised that all of this was supposed to stop. It was kids’ stuff. What was considered more responsible, the path to getting ahead and the generally accepted thing to do, was spending 50 plus hours a week building a career you weren’t passionate about – Free time either didn’t exist or was to be spent getting blindingly drunk in the correct, socially accepted way of having fun.
I’ve never been one for walking the system’s path though. Why should I give up something I love to conform to society’s notion of the correct allocation of time and a proper appreciation for material worth?
It’s a question I now throw at you!
Some people might see the $100,000 figure and think I’ve made a crazy choice. To hear that I absolutely do, on occasions, refuse to take on extra paid work so that I can go and play tennis may be beyond comprehension to those of you more materially inclined. However, there is method to my madness. There are very good reasons why I consider my athletic pursuits well worth the $100,000 hit (and even more!). I will share them now.
Clearly, exceptional health is a great payoff of following an exercise regime. While some of my peers are starting to experience the onset of the ageing process, I don’t feel a day older than 18. Physically, there’s little I can’t do and I live each day with the energy and enthusiasm of someone wanting to change the world.
This is only a side benefit, though, compared to the main prize of enjoying my life NOW! The system influences us to work and work and work and then one day, probably when you’re too old to appreciate it, you can relax and have fun. Problem is, you’re so burnt out from living such a stressful life, and so dependent on an organisation for daily structure, that you don’t have the energy to enjoy your retirement, nor the wherewithal to know how to spend all this newfound time.
So why wait?
Retire now! Or at least retire from the excesses of the 9 to 5 culture we get shoved down our throats.
Sure, it’s more than likely that you’ll earn less money but you’ll have more time to actually live.
This is something I’ve learned to appreciate on a Monday morning – when most of London’s inhabitants are stuck in sweltering tube carriages or offices – while I’m out in the sunshine, in the middle of summer, thrashing tennis balls up and down a court engaged in an activity that I find utterly absorbing.
Of course, you may hate tennis and abhor any kind of physical activity. However, I would be truly surprised if you had no unpaid interests that make you come alive.
Do you spend enough time doing them?
Are you sacrificing your enjoyment NOW for some crazy notion of reward at the end of your life?
If so, you could be making a big mistake. Research shows that engaging in playful activities can have all kinds of benefits for your brain – increased adaptability, antidote to depression and improved brain function (there’s a great TED Talk on the subject if you click here).
Whatever your passions and interests are, I’m hoping my little story has convinced you of their worth. The system wants to take everything from us and make us believe that life is one long list of obligations, duties and standards to which we should conform. However, making time for the pursuits that are important to you, even if there is no material value in doing so, reconnects you with who you truly are and brings back some of the joy into living. Who knows, spend enough time doing them and you may be able to turn it into a lucrative career . . .
Know a friend that spends way too long working and neglects the things they used to love doing? Email them a link to this article and help them reconnect with their sense of adventure.
And please, tell me about some of your acts of defiance in the comments section below. What activities do you refuse to give up despite societal pressure to be a serious, respectable citizen?