As long time readers of my site know, my first introduction to the concept of early retirement –, even the possibility of it — came from reading about Benjamin Franklin. For those who don’t know, Ben is the first American to retire early at the age of 42 through an immense work ethic and a radical approach to frugality. “Rather go to bed supperless than wake up in debt,” is just one example. The true inspiration came from his answering the question: what does early retirement open the door to?
I was lucky to have the full picture presented to me from the beginning. As I mentioned in my 2 Rules to Avoid the Dark Side of Frugality article on Monday, there are elements to pursuing financial independence that can be damaging to our long term health. Ben Franklin demonstrated a life of giving back to his community, before and after reaching financial independence.
I came across a section from a book I was reading recently by George Leonard called Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment. The section did a better job than I ever could at describing what early retirement opens the door to.
As the book’s title suggests, it is about mastery — gaining knowledge to the point of developing an intuitive feel for what must come next.
Pursuing financial independence is not always an easy path, but it is much easier when we have a clear picture of what lies ahead.
I trust this section will inspire you in much the same way it inspired me.
What Does Early Retirement Open the Door To?
“What is interesting to note, is that many masters who come to possess this high level intuitive power seem to become younger in mind and spirit in the passing years. Something that should be encouraging to us all. They do not need to expend a great deal of energy in order to understand phenomenon and can think creatively with increasing speed.
Unless debilitated by disease, they can maintain their spontaneity and mental fluidity well into their 70’s and beyond.
The quintessence of this phenomenon would have to be Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin had always been an acute observer of natural phenomena but these powers only increased with the years.
In his 70’s and on into his 80’s, he continued with a series of speculations that are now considered uncannily ahead of his time.
Including advanced ideas on health and medicine, weather, physics, geophysics, evolution, the use of aircraft for military and commercial purposes, and more.
As he aged he applied his renowned inventions to his growing physical weaknesses.
Trying to improve his eyesight and quality of life, he invented bifocals. Unable to reach books, he invented an extendable mechanical arm. Needing copies of his own work, and not wanting to leave his house, he invented a rolling press that could make an accurate copy of a document in less than two minutes.
In his last years, he had insights into politics and the future of America that made people think of him as Seer, as someone with magical abilities.
William Pierce, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, met Franklin near the end of his life. “Doctor Franklin is well known to be the greatest philosopher of the present age, all the operations of nature he seems to understand. He is 82 years old and possess an activity of mind equal to a youth of 25 years of age.”
It is interesting to speculate what depths of understanding such masters could have reached if they had lived even longer.
Perhaps in the future, with life expectancy increasing, we will witness examples of the Benjamin Franklin variety stretching to even more advanced ages.”
What are you hoping early retirement will do for your life? Are you like me, and not 100% sure, but just look forward to having more time and energy to devote exclusively to your hobbies and passions?