Dying with $0


Hey friends,

Bill Perkins’ book Die with Zero starts by telling the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper. It goes something like this:

The Ant worked all summer long to store food for the winter. But the happy-go-lucky Grasshopper spent that same time playing around and having fun. So when winter finally arrived, the Ant survived, while the Grasshopper starved to death.

Moral of the story: work hard, be consistent, and save up instead of lazing around. But, asks our trusty guide Bill Perkins, is this always correct? Sure, saving up some food (i.e. money) is a pretty good idea. But does the Ant ever get to play during its short life?

Bill reckons that most of us stay in Ant Mode for way too long, optimising our lives for work+saving money even once we’re financially secure – either because it feels safer or because we feel it’s ‘the right thing to do’. But Bill argues that the minute we’re financially secure, we should start focusing on our quality of life, not our bank balance.

His big premise is that we should aim to have $0 in our bank account, give or take, by the time we die. More than that, and we’ve lived suboptimally. Why?

Because money isn’t an end in itself. The point of life is to accumulate fulfilling experiences. In an ideal world, we’d simply trade our life energy for fulfilling experiences. That’d be sick. In the real world though, we have the intermediary of needing to make money to survive, and then have those experiences. So we have to trade our life energy – in the form of work – for money. Here’s the process:

Life Energy → Work → Money → Access to Fulfilling Experiences

So any money that we haven’t converted into fulfilling experiences (or given away) by the time we die represents wasted life energy. Pouring life energy into making money when you’re financially secure makes zero sense: you already have access to all the fulfilling experiences you need (except maybe owning a $75M yacht).

I fall into this trap all the time. When I was in Pakistan recently, I had 19:00-21:00 blocked out in my calendar for a script-read with the team. At the same time, all my cousins were going out to dinner at a fast food place. Initially, I thought ‘OK, I’ll skip dinner and do the table read; that’s better for the business.” But then I saw Die with Zero sitting on my desk and I thought, hold on – what the hell am I doing?

So I snapped out of Ant Mode, cancelled the meeting, and went to have some wholesome fun.

I hope this was useful – have a great week!

xx Ali

PS: Thanks to Paul Millerd and Nat Eliason for the book recommendation. 🙏

PPS: Die with Zero is mainly aimed at people who’ve made some disposable income and are thinking, ‘OK, what’s the point of making this money?’ For anyone struggling to make ends meet or getting their hustle on, I’d recommend The Millionnaire Fast Lane instead.

PPS: But what about the kids? This is the most common objection to the whole ‘die with $0’ thing. But it’s a ridiculous notion that we should donate money to our kids on our deathbeds. That’d make the average age of inheritance 60, and when you’re 60, a big windfall isn’t that helpful. But when you’re 25-35, that big windfall is ridiculously helpful. So give money to your kids while you’re still alive. The same thing goes for charity – people are dying in the world now, so give your money away sooner rather than later.

❤️ My Favourite Things

📚 Book – Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux. It’s been super interesting so far. Laloux describes how civilisations evolved to have different organisational structures throughout history. He then points out that a bunch of modern-day organisations use the exact same models (eg Strong Leader, Meritocratic Hierarchy, Shared Power). It’s got me thinking if I can move my business away from having a hierarchy (with managers setting goals and objectives) and towards a Shared Power model where people are more self-managing.

🧠 Online Course – Nat Eliason’s DeFi Orientation. I’m hoping to understand what DeFi actually is. I’ve been doing a deep dive into the world of crypto and NFTs, but if someone asked me, “what is decentralised finance?” I’d have no freaking idea. I took Nat’s Roam course back in 2020, and he’s a great communicator. PSA: if a creator friend makes something you want, support them by paying the full price instead of asking for a discount.

🎬 YouTube Video – Colin & Samir’s Interview with Jack Conte. A pretty inspiring talk about how Jack Conte built Patreon, plus a discussion about the future of the creator economy. Cool to hear from one of the big dogs in the space.

💬 Deep Dive Quote – E8 with Krissy Cela: “If you automatically doubt what you want to do, or you put fear as your main driving emotion to what you’re doing, you’re setting yourself up to fail.”

✍️ Quote of the Week

The false game is to give legitimacy to the notion that there is a hierarchy of importance among human beings.

From A Master’s Secret Whispers by Kapil Gupta. Resurfaced using Readwise.

🚀 Learn How to Start Your Own Successful Side-Hustle

In the creator era, no one wants to do just one thing. People like to experiment which gives them the creative freedom to explore new projects and take some risks which is always thrilling. Starting your own side-hustle is likely the easiest and the most risk-free way to tap into the creator economy and explore your passion alongside a regular job and other everyday responsibilities.

So, if that sounds like something that you’d want to explore, starting with my Starting a Successful Side-Hustle Skillshare class is one of the easiest ways to do so. It’s completely free to get started and you’ll learn what side-hustle to launch and how to actually make time for it. Plus, once you’re there, you can make use of other content that’s on the platform with no obligations. Enjoy!

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