Is it really more tragic to die young?

As some of you may know, before having kids, I used to be a weekend warrior and spent a lot of time outdoors enjoying various activities like rock climbing, kayaking, hiking, skiing, and mountaineering. Rock climbing certainly taught me a few things about financial independence. 

Because of my love of the outdoors, I also enjoy watching outdoor movies and documentaries. For example, Mrs. T and I really enjoyed watching Free Solo, Fine Lines, Into the Wild, Everest, The Dawn Wall, etc.

Recently I came across The Alpinist trailer and it really caught my eyes. 

The Alpinist is a climbing documentary about the free-spirited 23-year-old Canadian climber Marc-André Leclerc, who made some of the boldest solo ascents in history. Marc-André was free soloing (i.e. climbing without a rope) the Chief in Squamish regularly when living there.

Rock climbing was just a start for Marc-André. He was climbing alpine routes consisting of rock, snow, and ice with no cameras, no rope, no cellphone, minimum supplies, and no margin for error. 

It was nerve-wracking watching him soloing famous mountain peaks like Mount Robson’s Emperor Face and the winter ascent of Torre Egger in Patagonia in the documentary. Although I knew he successfully climbed these peaks, I was amazed at all the technical moves and techniques involved throughout. 

Marc-André Leclerc died at the age of 25 doing what he loved. On March 5th, 2018, he and his climbing partner, Ryan Johnson successfully ascended a new route on the north face of the Mendenhall Towers in Juneau, Alaska. The two never returned to their base camp. 

After a few days of search and rescue, the search team discovered ropes at the bottom of the climbers’ descent route. It was assumed the climbers were struck by an avalanche, falling rock, or cornice from above and got buried in the glacier. 

Their bodies were never recovered.

What’s better and what’s worse?

After watching the movie, Mrs. T and I had one of our philosophical discussions.

What’s better and what’s worse? 

Is it better to die young doing what you love and enjoy? 

Or is it better to live a long life and do things that you don’t entirely love and enjoy? 

I’m sure some people would look at Marc-André’s life and say he was doing it wrong and had too many crazy adventures. In their eyes, Marc-André was risking his life, not caring for those who loved him, living on the edge all the time, and paying the ultimate price with his own life. 

The same people may then look at the typical 9-5 job and think that’s the right way to live. Retire at 65 then enjoy the fruit of one’s labour. That is the norm.

Is it more tragic to die young while living life to the fullest, doing what you love, living a simple life, not caring about the materialistic things in life like fancy cars, McMansions, brand name clothes, and the latest gadgets? 

Or is it more tragic to spend your life doing nothing you want, working at a 9-5 job you don’t like, not doing anything exciting at all, ending in this loop for 40 or so years before retiring and finally enjoying your life? 

But life is not just a series of black or white decisions. Life is complex and complicated. My examples above are on the extreme ends and it is typically not healthy to live on either extreme.

For me, I think It comes down to what you value most. For some, it’s enjoying outdoor adventures. For some, it’s travelling and exploring different countries. For some, it’s eating out and enjoying different types of restaurants and exquisite foods. For some, it’s owning brand-name clothes or having the latest gadgets. 

What I value may be completely different than what you value. It’s not wrong that we value different things, it is a personal preference. It’s totally OK to be different. 

Unfortunately, as humans, we have a tendency to jump to conclusions and judge people without having all the information. Just because one is doing things differently than you are, it doesn’t mean they are wrong. 

We need to learn to be more accepting, to be more tolerant of others, and to be open to other belief systems.

I certainly am not perfect in this regard. It’s a lifelong learning process. 

Financial Independence Retire Early… aka FIRE

Many people see FIRE as the green pill, the escape route, the way to happiness

I believe that’s the wrong way to approach FIRE.

At its core, FIRE is a lifestyle. It is about making small changes and optimizing your life so you can do what you truly enjoy doing. 

If you enjoy working at the same job, FIRE relieves you from the need of relying on that paycheque every two weeks. You can still enjoy your job, but now you’re working because you choose to, not because you have to. 

FIRE is not about “retiring early.” It’s unfortunate that so many people focus on the retire early aspect. FIRE is about working on your own terms and creating a lifestyle that you want and wish for. It’s not about not being tied down to a specific way of living. Instead, it’s about having flexibility and designing your own ways of living, your own life.   

Just because one is on the FIRE journey doesn’t make one a better person. Again, it is about personal preferences. It is entirely possible that one decides not to pursue FIRE because they are happy with what they are doing and have. FIRE does not define success in life! 

There are simply too many fallacies in thinking that financial independence retire early is the only way.

It is not the case.

So stop thinking and caring about what other people think and what other people care about. All of that is just auxiliary BS. 

Ignorance is bliss. 

Create your own life. It is your own life, not someone else’s. 

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15 thoughts on “Is it really more tragic to die young?”

  1. I enjoyed reading this through! I think you are very insightful to understand we are all different all have different values and goals! I used to think, C’mon there would be a many ( groups of people ) that have the same values and goals… But I have learned truly, we are all different in many respects. For me I had an uncle that sold his retail business retired at age 47! I thought wow, I’d like to do that. Then I had a goal to retire at age 55, got to 55 then decided to work a couple years longer. I was in IT at a large corporation… We have 2 great kids in thier 30’s now, well along into great careers. I worked so much during those years 50+ hour weeks and my wife did part time in nursing focusing on the kids. I managed to coach our kids many years of hockey and baseball…. Busy times. 75 percent of the years I truly loved my job. The last year’s it was more of a grind. We lived within our means and we’re great savers. Looking back was great for all. Make sure kids are taken care of, have post-secondary education if they wish. Take care if your $, and when retired go at your own pace and enjoy your hobbies and fruits of all that hard work ( that has worked for us ).

    • Thank you Brad. I think the key is that we are all different and all have different value. That’s why personal finance is personal. It’s not a one size fits all solution.

  2. I must have the coolest parents. They had no complaints when I quit my job and backpacked around the world….with no smartphone. Whatever the financial sacrifice, it was worth it!

  3. You need to adjust your lifestyle to your reality. My wife and I decided to have four children. She wanted to be a stay at home mom and look after the kids full time. As a CPA we were able to do this. It meant giving up my motorcycle riding and limiting some of my more dangerous hobbies. It was a “price” I was willing to pay. No regrets.

  4. Sounds like you’re feeling regret working so much same job for so many years. Do you really want to look back on your life and say your job is your purpose for 30+ years?

  5. I think it’s almost always more tragic to die young. If you died young not able to or not knowing what you want then you could conceivably make amends later in life.

    An unfulfilled 65+ year old, who has never enjoyed their life, is unlikely to make the necessary changes to put him/her moving in the right direction. I see people close to retirement age that have no hobbies outside of work and so they get sick or die on the job. Sometimes they have done a poor job managing finances and have to work as a necessity. Of course, there are some people that are unable to retire due to bad luck.

  6. I enjoyed this read. I too, watch extreme adventure documentaries on Netflix. When it’s over, I always weigh the same scenario over in my head. Are they crazy to follow their passion, or not? I am always in awe of their accomplishments and commitments.
    What ever makes you happy. I would not want to be their mother!


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