John Lennon’s music spoke to me before I was old enough to understand it.
John Lennon’s influence on music and the world in general is evident. 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 economic 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?
We can’t ask him, but I don’t think so.
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 no longer works for us.
That’s really what financial freedom is all about – rejecting the American Dream because we realize 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 peasants as far as I can see.”
John Lennon wasn’t a fan of capitalism. He spoke 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 about the massive duping of the working class. We’ve been tricked into thinking that it’s normal, even righteous, to sell all our time and energy to a company in exchange for a few meager material possessions and the seemingly audacious expectation that we can 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 initially 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? It’s abhorrent that people have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for education just to get a shot at a career and that they have to pay again if they don’t particularly like what they initially chose.
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 and pursue something new?
The powers that be don’t 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. I knew I didn’t want that for my life. I didn’t want to be trapped in a system of consumerism, 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, but many of his other quotes and stories get to the heart of what the FIRE movement is all about.
There’s one story often attributed to him that embodies it 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
The pursuit of happiness 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.
Most of us aren’t 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 allow ourselves to opt out and pursue the things that 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 work really all that insane? I don’t think it is.
And Lennon probably wouldn’t think so, either.
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.