10 Questions with The Happy Philosopher

This is the 75th edition of our guest post series called 10 Questions. It also will be one of the last. Everything must come to an end and 10 Questions will say ‘”Good bye!” near the end of 2016. If you’ve already sent me your answers or told me that you’re going to be doing so, don’t worry; I’m still going to publish you.

Today’s 10 Questions comes from the Happy Philosopher (HP). HP’s answers are pretty great, so I’m going to abandon my practice of attempting a witty introduction and let you get right into it. Take it away HP!


Tell me about your blog and why it’s great.
My blog is a download of my brain to the internet, with an attempt to share my best ideas, random thoughts and the occasional experiment or two. My blog is about happiness and freedom and how to get there. It is great because…I’m awesome, and who wouldn’t want to peek behind the curtain and see what goes on in my brain…actually come to think of it this probably includes a lot of people.

Tell me how you’re going to change the world with your blog (dream big or don’t dream at all!).
When we go through a tough time in our lives we feel very alone. We don’t think anyone can possibly be going through the same thing, but this is simply not true. Reading blogs was one of the main tools I used to figure out what path I would take when I was burnt out. Now these blogs I read may not have changed TheWorld™ but they changed MY world completely. I’m now going to change other people’s worlds by inspiring them with my ideas and stories.

A Happy Sunset from the Happy Philosopher

A Happy Sunset from the Happy Philosopher

What goals do you have for your blog, short and long term?
I promised myself that no matter what I would post 52 ‘quality’ articles in my first year of blogging. One decent post per week and then I would reassess where I was. That’s short term.

Long term my goal is to have fun and maybe help people as a side effect. I did a couple of podcasts here and here which were really fun. I may start my own podcast, write a book, consult, speak, etc. I don’t know, as long as it is fun I will consider it.

What post are you most proud of and why?
The post I am most proud of is actually an article that I published off my blog. It is a very personal piece of writing about a good friend from medical school lost to suicide. As far as a post from my blog, this is a tough one. Maybe it’s recency bias, but I like my post Why We Ignore the Important Things in Life. Many times we just don’t see the things that really matter in life because they are unseen. Instead we focus on tangible, but ultimately much less relevant to our happiness and fulfillment.

Do you enjoy writing?
Yes, I enjoy it in the same way I enjoy difficult exercise. Sometimes it is unpleasant and maddening, but it expands my mind and helps me think deeper about issues and clarify my thoughts. It is very satisfying to hit that publish button, although at first it was absolutely terrifying. I think everyone should write, even if it is only to themselves and never published.

Writing makes me better at life.

1500 Days is about early retirement. Do you have early retirement dreams? At what age do you think you will retire?
When I was going through burnout from my career several years ago I did have early retirement dreams. It was my first instinct. Work hard and fast and get out. As my thought process has evolved though, I have come to hate the word retire because it is so emotionally loaded and ambiguous. I have financial independence and freedom dreams. I want work to be 100% optional. That is different than retiring. I will be free to ‘retire’ somewhere around 45 at my current insanely extravagant lifestyle (although probably considered deprivation by some of my peers), but I don’t know if I will. I first have to come to terms with the psychological cost of walking away from a career that I put so much time and work into. This will definitely be a topic for future blog posts.

If blogging isn’t your full-time gig, what is?
I’m a radiologist, which is a physician who sits in a dark room all day and looks at images (x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, mammograms, etc.). Occasionally I stumble out of the room squinting at the bright lights and go biopsy something or jab someone with a needle. Actually this is not even a full time gig as I am currently working half time. I am also a full-time dad, husband and philosopher so I’m kind of busy.

When you are 90 and look back on your life, what do you hope you have accomplished?
That’s a deep question and my answer will probably be different than most. I don’t feel I need to accomplish anything in the traditional way people think of accomplishments. I embrace my insignificance in this universe knowing that what I do probably doesn’t matter. Striving and grasping at things is the root of suffering, and we should all simply try to live a content life. Live simply, embrace happiness, and be kind. I guess you could say I hope to accomplish convincing others not to worry too much about accomplishing things.

How do you handle people with different views on money, ie spendy people?
I handle then as I would handle anyone, if spending time with them makes me happy I keep doing it. If they subtract happiness from my life I declutter them. I have many friends that spend much more than I do and many that spend much less, and I love them all. In fact I would probably be considered spendy by many people, and I try to be mindful that I may subconsciously pressure people to spend more than they otherwise would just by being around me! I have become very upfront and honest about my values so people know where I stand with respect to money, so it just isn’t usually an issue.

Did you grow up with money? How did your money situation growing up influence you?
Great question! I think we tend to ignore how our upbringing influences our habits and attitudes towards money. I grew up middle class. We had enough and I never felt deprived of anything, but there was not money to just be thrown around. I had plenty of stuff, but it wasn’t the top of the line coolest stuff. I was vaguely aware of this. There were times of mild and chronic financial stress. I knew money was tight so instinctively I didn’t really ask for much. I started mowing lawns and shoveling snow as early as I could for extra spending money. I think my childhood experiences made me naturally frugal and efficient with my money.

Did your parents teach you about money as a kid? How so?
Not really. I learned from observation. My parents didn’t have a great deal of financial sophistication, but were by no means terrible with money either. I guess they were about average. My grandfather was quite frugal (some may also call him cheap) and I considered him quite rich (he had a Cadillac after all!). I quickly made the association between his frugality and the fact that he had a high degree of financial freedom, and I think this influenced me as much or more than my parents.

A Happy Cow, picture also courtesy of the Happy Philosopher

A Happy Cow, picture also courtesy of the Happy Philosopher

What is your favorite style of beer – and what is your favorite beer in that style?
I tend to like the porters and stouts, but this can change with my mood. Sadly one of the best beers I’ve ever tasted I can’t remember the name of the brewery. It was a chocolate stout brewed somewhere in Colorado, which includes a lot of beers. I’m thinking a month long road trip is in order where I can drive around the state and sample them all to try and determine which one it was.

We notice a lot of frugal people are into board games – what is your favorite?
I love board games! My all-time favorite is Axis and Allies, but this takes so darn long to finish I haven’t really played it in many years. A really fun, fast and chaotic game I recently learned is called Small World by a company called Days of Wonder.

What is the best thing you’ve read lately?
I recently read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi which is the best thing I’ve read this year. It is about a young neurosurgeon’s reflection on being diagnosed with terminal cancer while he was still in training. It is beautifully written and layered with rich philosophy.

What do you do for exercise?
The backbone of my exercise these days is from daily vigorous walking which serves as exercise, meditation and reflection all at once. I do a few pushups, kettlebell swings and yoga now and then for strength and flexibility. I also ride my bike often when the weather is nice. I occasionally run, but only when getting ready for races or being chased by wildlife like yellow jackets and grizzly bears. I’m currently training for my next race primarily by playing video games. As I age I’m realizing that mobility and flexibility play a huge role in physical well-being so my current project is to transform my robot like stiff body into a supple ninja gymnast. You’re welcome for that image.

Thank you, Happy Philosopher, for sharing with us today. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, or over at TheHappyPhilosopher.com.

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25 Responses to 10 Questions with The Happy Philosopher

  1. “Reading blogs was one of the main tools I used to figure out what path I would take when I was burnt out. ” — I can relate to that sentiment. The FI blogosphere has definitely helped me clarify what I want and what I don’t want! It’s all about choices and trying to work towards a scenario where there are no regrets at the end.

  2. I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi as well and it was a terrific read. It really puts life into perspective when you read it.

    BTW…I love the visual image of you trying to “transform my robot like stiff body into a supple ninja gymnast.” I have a dream of one day trying out for American Ninja Warrior but I know that I need to get my ninja gymanstics on 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!!!
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Achieving Financial Freedom Is Like Building Your Super Bowl Winning TeamMy Profile

  3. Count me as another Porter fan. I’m curious, there seems to be a disproportionate number of doctor finance bloggers. Any theories on why it might be common? What was your financial motivation?

    • There are quite a few physician authored finance blogs, and I’m not sure why this is. I’ve heard it said when we write we are really writing to ourselves, trying to figure out things that we are struggling with. Physicians are notoriously horrible with money so maybe this reflects that sentiment. It’s weird though – physicians only represent about 0.3% of the United States population.

      In the back of my mind I thought maybe someday my blog may make a few dollars, but my motivation was not financial. I wanted to get better at writing, challenge myself with something new and give back to the blogging community that gave me so much when I needed it. Practicing medicine is BY FAR the most efficient way for me to earn income.
      TheHappyPhilosopher recently posted…Dangers of Relying on the 4% Rule in Early Retirement ScenariosMy Profile

  4. I like that you put fun in the forefront when you think about blog goals. You really do have to love blogging to be succesful at it, and it’s all about having a blast along the way. 🙂 By many standards we also live an extravagant life that seems deprived by American standards.

    Oh god. Axis and Allies. That game = war in our household. It gets vicious! And funnily enough the Axis Powers always seem to win…
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…Picky Nikki Tries Hello FreshMy Profile

  5. It’s great to see my pals team up. Great interview, fellas!

    Back when I refused to run (“I only run when the cops give chase,” I would say), I was a vigorous walker. After walking a 5k, 10k, half and then full marathon, I gave in and started running.

    Great work on the first year of The Happy Philosopher!

    PhysicianOnFIRE recently posted…Christopher Guest Post: Johnny K. JohnsonMy Profile

  6. Mrs. BITA says:

    “I embrace my insignificance in this universe knowing that what I do probably doesn’t matter.” I know this, but I fail utterly at embracing it. I feel compelled to do something, make something, or I fear that I will be a big fat regret filled balloon at 90, that sadly goes pop as I breathe my last.
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…Is there Spare Change in your Couch?My Profile

  7. Great interview. The line “I embrace my insignificance in this universe knowing that what I do probably doesn’t matter. ” has earned you a new admirer Mr. Happy Philospher. It takes both huge maturity and enormous self-reflection to say it. We are nothing but a speck of dust passing through the vast sands of time. Enjoyed reading this and your recent posts.
    Ten Factorial Rocks recently posted…Financial Independence is Mandatory, Retiring Early is OptionalMy Profile

  8. Love it! Trying to expand my list of new blogs to read. There are SO many good blogs but interviews like this give a quick look into ones I think I could connect with. Heading there now 😉
    Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions recently posted…Make Smarter Decisions – Saturday Share Day, 2017 – Week #1My Profile

    • Thank you Vicki, glad you enjoyed my ramblings 🙂

      I love discovering new blogs through interviews and ‘best of’ round ups. I’ve found some really great blogs this way that I would have otherwise missed.

  9. Mr. RIP says:

    Yes, finally someone seeking happiness instead of FIRE!
    Nice story and nice post. And yet another blog to binge read 🙂

  10. Steve from Arkansas says:

    I read your favorite or most impactful blogs cited. One thing that might be of some comfort is that medical doctors are not particularly a high risk group for suicide based on the statistics I was able to find. They are about the same as other high IQ professionals, engineers, architects, etc. Far less likely to make that decision than blue collar agricultural, forestry or maintenance workers. I’ve had two friends end their lives that way, one only a month ago. It is wrenching and awful of course and never easily explained. I’m an engineer by the way and also lost one of my 30 classmates to suicide prior to his graduation. I missed my friend jumping from a bridge last month by perhaps one minute as I returned from an out of town trip and passed his abandoned vehicle at the top of the bridge. Had I been a minute earlier, might I have persuaded him to not….that’s a haunting question for me.

    • Suicide is a tough topic, and one close to my heart. Physicians do have a very high suicide rate. The best estimates are an increase of 1.4 to 2.3 times the baseline rate. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/806779-overview. Additionally there are very strong incentives for medical schools, residency programs and hospitals to under report physician suicide and call them ‘accidents’ instead. My guess is the true rate is higher than the official rate. I’ve lost 2 classmates to suicide…and I’m not really that old (relatively speaking). Sadly the demographics of suicide are changing. In the last 15 years there has been an increase overall, but women are increasing much faster and catching up with men. I’m very sorry to hear about your friends, that must have been a terrible experience. No easy or comforting answers with suicide…
      TheHappyPhilosopher recently posted…The Power of Love and FearMy Profile

  11. Oh no one of the last 10 Question blog post? Sad Panda.

    Thanks Happy Philosopher for sharing! I totally agree with “Reading blogs was one of the main tools I used to figure out what path I would take when I was burnt out.” I use this all the time when I’m feeling dead and burnt out. Reading what others are doing is both inspiring and a personal challenge not to give up. I recently just had a blog hiatus for a bit and catching up on other’s FI blogs has been very motivational. Now I need to see if there is a direct correlation to reading more blogs vs more inspiration. lol

    Thanks for the post!
    Wallet Squirrel
    Wallet Squirrel recently posted…Income Report – November, 2016My Profile

  12. Eric says:

    Maybe Odell Milk Chocolate Stout? That’s a great beer and perhaps the most famous chocolate stout made in Colorado.

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