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John Lennon’s music spoke to me before I was even old enough to understand it. So, in honor of what would have been his 80th birthday, I decided to write a special blog post honoring him and his influence on my life. John Lennon’s influence on music and the world in general is obvious. But he’s also an inspiration to the financial independence movement.
John Lennon’s Influence on the FIRE Movement
I know what you are thinking. Lennon was at best a socialist – how could he have inspired a movement so engrained in capitalism? Seeking financial independence is all about using the financial system we have to make our lives better, and don’t we preach that very opportunity as an immense benefit of capitalism? Wouldn’t Lennon have hated the entire concept?
I don’t really think so. Obviously, it’s not exactly what he was advocating for, but I think he would have celebrated individuals choosing to opt out of a society that is no longer working for us, however we can manage that. And in my opinion, that’s really what financial freedom is all about – rejecting the American Dream because we realized it’s nothing more than propaganda designed to keep us participating in the insidious work culture that the majority of people celebrate.
And nothing illustrates this better than a Lennon song – Working Class Hero.
Working Class Hero
“You think you’re so clever and classless and free. But you’re still F@#*ing peasant as far as I can see”
John Lennon wasn’t a fan of capitalism. He spoke out against the systems that keep us trapped in menial jobs, toiling for scraps while the rich got richer over fifty years ago.
The song “Working Class Hero” was all about how the working class has been duped. We’ve been duped into thinking that it’s normal, even righteous, to sell all of our time and energy to a company in exchange for a few meager material possessions and the seemingly audacious expectation that we be allowed to pay for basic living expenses.
It opens with a scathing review of childhood as rushed, schooling as torture, and society as functionless. Although I don’t agree with all of his statements (I’m a big fan of education!) he has a point with some of it. Perhaps the system wasn’t as bad when the song was originally written, but it was like he was seeing into the future with how bad things would actually get.
Then They Expect You to Choose a Career
“They torture and scare you for 20 odd years, and then they expect you to pick a career”
Could Lennon have predicted the outrageous costs of college education? I think its abhorrent that people have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for an education just to get a shot at a career, and that they have to pay again if it turns out that they don’t particularly like that career. How is an 18-year old supposed to know what they want to do for the next forty years of their lives? Why is it so expensive to change gears, to pursue something new?
The powers that be don’t actually care whether people are happy or not. They care that people are productive for as long as possible. Learning a skill at age 18 that you can do for the next 60 years is the best way to achieve sustained productivity. It has nothing to do with living a fulfilling life. If it did, education wouldn’t be prohibitively expensive.
I Don’t Want to be a Working Class Hero
I knew, from the moment I first heard this song, that I didn’t want to be a working-class hero. Although I didn’t discover the Financial Independence Movement until many years later, the words always resonated with me. I knew I didn’t want that for my life. I didn’t want to be trapped in a system of consumerism and debt and misery. The financial independence movement gave me a way out, while using the system against itself.
John Lennon’s Influence Outside of Working Class Hero
Most of Lennon’s political work is geared towards the anti-war effort and his ideal of communism rather than making fixes to capitalism, so much of it doesn’t really apply to the financial independence movement. However, that doesn’t mean that some of his other quotes and stories don’t apply as well.
There’s one story that’s often attributed to him that I think embodies the FIRE movement more than anything.
When Lennon was in school, the teacher gave them an assignment to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up. The other children wrote things like “fireman” and “teacher”, but John wrote “happy”. The teacher told him he didn’t understand the assignment, and Lennon replied “You don’t understand life”.
The Drive to Be Happy
And I think that really encapsulates the FIRE movement. We want to be happy, and we’ve realized that the propaganda of the American Dream isn’t where we will find it. Happiness doesn’t come from working a meaningless job for forty years and filling your free time with stuff.
Happiness comes from following your dreams, pursuing your passions, and living the life you want to live for you, not for society’s expectations. The financial independence movement is all about opting out of being a worker and opting into being happy.
Working With What We Have
But this is where we part ways with Lennon. He tried to change the world. He imagined a world where no one would ever work for material possessions, and everyone would live together in harmonious happiness.
I don’t think most of us are that idealistic. Although I’m sure a lot of us want to see changes in the world, we also recognize that we have to work with what we have. We opt into the system to work as hard as we can and make as much money as we can for a few years to give ourselves the opportunity to opt out and pursue the things that really matter to us. For some folks that means travel, for others it means spending time with family. There’s no wrong way to pursue passion fire.
One Last Quote
And to further show John Lennon’s influence on the fire movement, I’ll leave you with one final quote.
“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”
People think that those of us pursuing financial independence are insane for wanting to opt out of the system. But like Lennon said – are we really the crazy ones? Is wanting to opt out of a system that doesn’t actually work really all that insane? I don’t think it is. And Lennon probably wouldn’t think so either.
Who Influenced You?
John Lennon influenced me to pursue financial independence before I knew it was a thing. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now.
Is there an artist that spoke to you in the same way? I’d love to hear about it!
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.