048 | The Happy Philosopher | The Happiest Man in the Room

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In this podcast we discussion the pursuit of happiness with Jeff from The Happy Philosopher including how he reached a burn out point in his job as a radiologist and how his focus on happiness helped him find a path forward.

1500 days
In Today’s Podcast we cover:

  • A discussion with Jeff from The Happy Philosopher
  • An introduction to Jeff’s background story
  • Jeff found himself burned out about four years into his full-time profession and he was stressed out and anxious and just not happy
  • He reached a breaking point where he discussed with his wife his plan for five more years of work
  • He had shortened his “prison sentence” but hadn’t made his “cell any more comfortable” (we discussed suicide in the episode and Jeff asked that we include a phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)
  • He couldn’t wait five years to be happy – he had to experiment now to find that happiness
  • Was there something about his job that led him to this breaking point or was it that he hadn’t found what made him happy?
  • Early Retirement Extreme was mind-blowing for him intellectually and led him to FI
  • How medical professionals can feel “trapped” in their job because of sunk costs
  • Did Jeff experience lifestyle inflation once he became a full-time physician?
  • What did Jeff’s path out of burnout look like?
  • How Jeff’s consumption of news led to much of his stress
  • What else has Jeff cut out of his life?
  • Happiness through subtraction
  • Decluttering and getting rid of the negatives in your life
  • Cutting down on commitments that aren’t necessary in our jobs and lives
  • How Jeff pursued a job sharing part-time work during his peak earning years
  • The Marginal Utility of Money and how your spending impacts your happiness
  • The concept of trading your time for money
  • How does Jeff approach how to spend money in his own life?
  • The concept of utility versus value
  • The importance of gratitude and how happiness is a skill
  • Make a conscious decision to place a space between stimulus and response
  • Hot Seat Questions
  • Jeff suggests you experiment with cutting out alcohol entirely from your life for a set period of time as an experiment (Jeff also wanted us to mention:  “Anyone who is a heavy drinker should probably consult with a doctor or someone familiar with alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal before quitting cold turkey.”)

Links from the show:

Books Mentioned in the Show:

3 thoughts on “048 | The Happy Philosopher | The Happiest Man in the Room

  1. This one really did pull together a lot of the philosophical underpinnings of what ChooseFI is about — and its really more about the “Choose” than it is about the “FI”, as the “FI” mechanism simply creates space for more and better choices.

    We heard Viktor Frankl: “Between Stimulus and Response there is a Space . . .”

    We heard about “via negativa” as Nassim Taleb calls it: Improvement in Quality of Life by subtraction is really a major key — lever if you prefer — to everything in the modern world, simply because we are constantly bombarded by whatever every other lemming is doing and our human “default setting” is to mimic the habits of those around us. As a personal aside, DW and I made a pact post-Labor Day to make serious cutbacks on alcohol (like by about 80-90%), and its been a great decision on many levels.

    I also liked the reference to Entropy. Someone recently posted a chart in the FB group about repairing things that said “Repair is a War on Entropy.” I actually think Life is a War on Entropy in that things/skills/relationships not used or not tended to have a natural tendency to decay. I was thinking about this while reading Ray Dalio’s new book “Principles”. He says Life is all about Evolution. I thought — that sounds wrong, or rather an incomplete picture, because Entropy is the bigger picture. Evolution — in fact all biological processes and personal action decisions — are a fight against the Entropy of the universe that all individual beings eventually lose, but information/ideas can survive if properly tended and preserved.

    Now couple Via Negativa and Entropy and that Space between Stimulus and Response and you can see that what you are Choosing is which things are allowed or pushed towards decay and which ones are put up or evolved against the natural drive towards decay/Entropy. Or you can not choose and take the Lemming route of preserving things/habits/relationships/ideas against Entropy that do not in fact make you feel fulfilled — and then wondering why/how that happened.

    Great show and a great way to start the week!

  2. I enjoyed this episode. As a physician myself the idea of burnout resonates. I want to underscore the importance of having an outlet (be it a hobby, side hustle or whatever) that you would do even if not getting paid while pursuing FI. There needs to be something for the 5 to 10 years while still working that you will have as a basis once you hit FI to expand on. For me (and most of us it seems) it’s blogging. For my partner it’s YouTube. What is it for the rest of you?

  3. @Frank – Thanks for the great comment. Entropy is a fascinating topic, and we could have probably talked for hours just on that subject. To expand on your thoughts, the more complex our lives the more we have to battle entropy. There is no way around the laws of thermodynamics. By cutting out the negative things in our lives that increase disorder, we have more energy to put towards the things than matter, the things that make up happy.

    @Gawayne – Glad you enjoyed listening to me ramble! I think burnout resonates with most physicians, it’s just not socially acceptable to talk about in a meaningful and constructive way. One of the reasons I tell my story is so others in my situation feel less guilt, less shame, etc. Burnout is a rough place to be psychologically. I agree that having outside interests from medicine are important, but not enough. When I burned out, I did have outside interests, I just had not room for them – no energy. You are right though, there has to be something important to us outside our career so we can flourish when we eventually let go of it.

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