Don’t Let Fun Hold You Back

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“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” — Frank Clark

I recently read an article on BudgetsAreSexy called “the Triad of Hustling”. To summarize, the Triad of Hustling is something J.Money came up with when he was on the verge of burning out. With too many projects to choose from and limited hours in the day, he decided that he was going to evaluate projects based on these 3 criteria:

1) Time
2) Money
3) Fun

If the project didn’t take up too much time, made lots of money, and was fun, he would work on it. Otherwise, forget it.

What I like about this criterion is that it let’s you find the most optimized projects. And as an Optimizer, this was right up my alley.

But when I looked at these criteria and applied them to my own passion projects, I quickly realized something I wasn’t expecting. Projects I’ve worked on the past, even though they were fun at the beginning and the end,  were aggressively NOT fun in the middle. This made me realize that instead of focusing on whether something is fun, it’s often more useful to focus on whether that project is IMPORTANT.

What do I mean by important? I mean it should provide value to someone other than yourself.


Because if you only rely on fun, you’ll get one heck of a surprise when a few months into your passion project or side gig, not only has the initial excitement worn off, you have so many problems popping up you have no idea how to whack them all. Suddenly all those fantasies of your next Pulitzer-winning novel, Grammy-winning song, or 100K/month revenue generating business go up in smoke.

This is why fun isn’t reliable when deciding on passion projects. Because fun FADES over time. As soon as the first obstacle blocks your path, your momentum stops and it’s no longer fun.

For example, if you’re trying to write a blog, it’s fun in the beginning, but once you’ve written enough words but no one is reading it, it no longer becomes fun.

Coding an app is exciting too. In the beginning. You’re designing the functionality, figuring out the flow, coding it and thinking about how you’re going to make a buttload of money. But once you start running into bugs and it’s crashing so hard you want to tear your hair out, it’s no longer fun.

Things are only fun in the beginning when everything’s easy, there are no stakes, and you haven’t run into any problems. But once you encounter that first obstacle, POOF. The fun vanishes.

So instead of asking yourself “is it fun?”, ask yourself “is it important?”

Because when you provide value to someone else, you can get through the not-so-fun parts to finish it. And once what you’re doing becomes valuable enough to receive positive feedback and/or monetary rewards, you know it’s IMPORTANT.

Find projects where you can answer “yes” to the question “does anyone actually NEED this?”

This is why sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter are so useful. You can test your product’s importance before you even build it. If it’s important enough for people to pay for it, you’ll be able to raise the amount you need to get started. If it isn’t, there’s no point.

Take a look at JLCollin’s book “The Simple Path to Wealth” for example.

Despite 3 long years of writing, re-writing, editing, having to pass through the gauntlet of multiple editors and beta readers and so much tedious hard work that most sane people would’ve given up or gone insane, JLCollins pushed through it all. Why? Not because it was fun, that’s for sure. But because his editor constantly reminded him, over and over again, how IMPORTANT this book was. So even though some parts of writing the book wasn’t fun, he still finished it because it was IMPORTANT. JLCollins didn’t enjoy writing but he enjoyed “having written” and now we all get to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

My friend, Ted, on the other hand, has been dabbling in various side gigs for years without anything to show for it. From book writing, to blogging, to guitar playing, to building apps, to creating an online business, he would work on the project for a few weeks, excitedly babble about how much fun it was in the beginning, run into his first big obstacle, come to a screeching stop, throw up his hands and give up.

This is why everyone starts off all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed because it’s so fun and obstacle-free. But the middle, that’s when things get hard, and many people give up. Expectations get dashed, the bubble pops, and the fun’s over.

But for people who realize the importance of their projects (eg, if it’s towards a cause they feel strongly about, a book that they know will help people, a business that fullfills a need), they can push past the obstacles, even when it’s no longer fun.

Of all the projects and side gigs I’ve ever worked on, the ones where I had the guts to push through all the hard parts are always the one that added value to the world in some way. The ones where I did it just to make money, because someone else was doing it, or because I thought it was fun, were all short-lived.

Now, this isn’t to say you should NEVER give up on a project (as I mention in this previous post, the trick is to figure out WHEN to quit), but too often people give up WAY TOO EARLY.

But if they were to push through the hard parts, the parts where they got hit with a shit storm of problems, they would find that the fun times actually comes roaring back. They’ll realize that once you fix the problems and get past the hard parts (and this could take anywhere from months to years), they’ve developed the skills and mastery they need to see this thing to the end, it becomes fun again.

Especially when you see the impact the project makes, it validates the importance of this project, and keeps you going.

But if the project isn’t IMPORTANT enough for them to push through the obstacles, they’ll never get there.

This is not only true for side gigs and passion projects, it’s also true for the journey to FI.

The reason why we call it a journey is because you will encounter obstacles along the way (frenemies trying to derail you because they don’t want you to get ahead of them, unexpected emergency costs, or a job loss, etc), or times in which the finish line seems a million miles away, you feel so exhausted all you want to do is give up.

At this point, stop and ask yourself, even if it’s no longer fun, is it IMPORTANT? And
why is it important?

And if your answer looks something like this:

  • Because I want to spend all the time in the world with the people I love
  • Because I want to be able to be able to financially stand on my two feet and never rely on a company or someone else to support me
  • Because I want to live a life with no regrets, follow my dreams, and show my kids they can do the same
  • Because I want to free up a position I no longer need and use my free time to help others
  • Because I want to be better at my job by having enough money so I can take risks and not worry about being fired

Then you know you’re doing it because it’s IMPORTANT, not because it’s FUN. Keep reminding yourself the IMPORTANCE of becoming FI and it’ll help you push through all those obstacles. It’ll keep you going, even during the points in the journey when it’s no longer fun.

And you once you get to the point where it becomes fun again, you’ll be grateful that you push through all the hard parts.

What do you think? Is your FI Journey important? Why?

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32 thoughts on “Don’t Let Fun Hold You Back”

  1. For some folks, the difficult parts are the fun parts in a perverse sort of way, especially in a retrospective sense.

    For example, I crossed Canada on a bike twice and there were some pretty desperately horrible moments (eg: when I got feasted on by black flies in the swamps of Northern Ontario). At the time it seemed kind of depressing – retrospectively it’s hilarious and the whole challenge was a blast.

    1. I don’t necessarily agree that the most difficult parts are the most fun but they often do make for better stories in hindsight and those stories can be fun to tell.

    2. Suffering builds Character, how about the Horsefly’s of Prince George, and McKenzie… Or Devils Club… wanna know what hell is ? Wade thru that shit in the middle of a 100 degree summer…

    3. That just means you’re insane like me and enjoy pain 🙂 Other non-insane people probably have a different definition of fun.

  2. i like to cook for my friends, high end restaurant type stuff sometimes. they tell me i’m pretty good at it and that is a fantastic reward and i really LOVE to do it. it’s fun. people have asked me why i don’t consider changing careers or doing it part time once i retire. i don’t think i will because i want it to remain how it is as a hobby and not something to be scheduled and ever dreaded.

    working a little in retirement at a wine bar or something like that? maybe. part-time or fill-in bartender is a nice social thing.

    1. The best part of FI is being able to CHOOSE to something rather than HAVE to for money. Looks like your already know what you’re going to do.

  3. This reminds me of my warcraft guild, it was fun to begin with but then there was some drama and organizational issues and it has started to become less fun. I need to keep reminding myself of the reasons why I made it to begin with, so that my friends would have a nice guild to play with after our old guild died. I put a lot more effort into it than a lot of others would as far as helping people and trying to make it something special so it can be really draining but then we’ll have a successful raid or someone will tell me “I’ve been playing for 10 years and you’re the best GM I’ve ever had” or “I’ve been playing since vanilla and I’ve never been in the guild like this before!” and it seems like it’s worth it. It might not make a difference in the scope of changing the world or anything but I do get to connect with people and make them happy and that’s worth something.

    1. Don’t you dare quit, Mr. Tako! I will come over and drag you back to blogging myself. How else are we supposed to learn all those money saving tips and understand what’s going on with Mr. Market? Damn straight it’s important!

  4. Great food for thought, FIRECracker!

    My favourite part was this: “What do I mean by important? I mean it should provide value to someone other than yourself.” It is awesome to be in a position to provide value to others, regardless of the subject (blogging, volunteering, a career you love, etc.).

    I’d like to add one more point, too: Consider joy, rather than fun. Whereas as fun and happiness are emotions, joy is a state of mind and a deliberate choice. If what you’re doing is important to others, it becomes easy to find joy in the situation, even if you’re going through a distinctly un-fun period!

    1. Interesting! I never thought of joy as a deliberate choice before. Finding joy in the situation will definitely get you through the “un-fun” parts.

  5. Remember the 3 P’s of time ethics

    1. Productive – what you do, should at least produce something, and if not it should be

    2. Purposeful – save the world, feed the orphans… else

    3. Positive – read a self help book, help somebody, learn an instrument

    I made this up a while back, thought it kinda fits here..

  6. Running marathons “for fun” isn’t really very much fun. Doing it for a new PR is even less fun. It’s downright painful. Yet, I did them. I persisted. It wasn’t important to anyone else but me. I wanted to test my mettle, see what’s under the hood, prove my manliness – all that stuff.

    I learned something about myself and I’m better off for it.

    1. That’s great! I’m glad you found a way to push through the tough, even painful parts. It takes a special type of person to have that much mental toughness.

    1. Read “Drive” back when I was working and loved it! He has a way of explaining exactly what motivates us in a way that’s easy to digest.

  7. Because every day I cry at work is one day too many.

    Because I realize that what I am passionate about is not going to pay me enough to support my family, so I need a passive income so that I can get on to do what I feel is my calling.

    Because people can’t follow the crazy efficiency requirements that corporations have, and I am tired of trying to fill what they feel is 1FTE.

    1. Those are very important reasons for FI. I was exactly where you were, so I completely understand where you are coming from. Use it to drive you. You won’t regret it.

      1. Very close. Maximum of 95 months, unless I push my way to a raise and promotion. Or I settle for an earlier early retirement. By end of 2018 I will be close enough, but in the sweet spot but a bare minimum.

  8. Very cool to see my book used as an example in this post. I am honored!

    For me, there was nothing fun about the process of writing it. Shear drudgery, although there were moments of satisfaction as it came together.

    There were many times I put it down in disgust and swore off continuing.

    So, yeah, not fun. But it is wonderful to have it done and out. I like, as you point out, having written.

    The fact that it exists at all, as I describe in the Acknowledgments, is largely due to my editor Tim and his relentless commitment to the project and efforts in dragging me back.

    Of course once it was finished he entered a monastery.

  9. We’ve had this discussion bunches of times. As someone mentioned above, a marathon isn’t fun. It’s awful. But, it’s fun to have said you are done, and there are definitely parts that suck.

    I think it comes down to enjoying the process. And understanding that there are good and bad, but those will pass.

    Yes, there is a distinct difference in knowing when to stop and when to push through. Like now… I think i’m done.

  10. Very timely post. Rebuilding my smoking wreck of a career and cleaning up an investment property after tenants have finished trashing it are not FUN right now, but they both need to be done so that in a few years’ time I will have time to spend on what is IMPORTANT.

  11. Boy I needed this post right about now. I have a lot of ideas and things that I want to pursue in the new year. Over the past few weeks, I have been super jazzed up about them and ready to conquer the world. Then the past couple of days, I have reconsidered if it is even a good idea in the first place. Would it be worth the time/ effort/ stress/ commitment? By using the “is it important” theory, I should be able to delineate what I should and shouldn’t focus on. Thanks for the enlightening!

  12. J money does have an interesting blog. I sometimes look across the web for certain blogs with certain type of content and I have to admit your online personality is very humbling and friendly which is why I support you blogging contribute to it often. okay.

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