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I Wasn’t “Born This Way”: Risk Adversity and The Hedonic Treadmill

Embrace Risk

Even though I was born in 1965 New York City, I sure wasn’t born risk adverse or on the hedonic treadmill. I also sure wasn’t born into indebted servitude and Golden Handcuffs to the almighty Economy. Still, with blinders on and head in sand with scarcity mindset and fiscal overwhelm, I sure-footedly almost followed many lemmings in my “lost generational” cultural herd over these very treacherous cliffs. Like many many “Jonses”, I somehow ended up fearful of much risk including Mr. Market and on the Highway to Hedonic Hell. It is time to break these generational legacy chains for me, my wife, and our children.

We are all born financially illiterate, fearlessly naive, dependent, and broke. In my humble opinion my risk adversity and hedonic maladaptations were largely nurtured, not natured. I was born the eldest son of a archetypal “7to7to75” doctor dad and a traditional stay-at-home nurse mom. Not surprisingly in retrospect, my upbringing and technically excellent formal brick and mortar industrial complex education never really practically addressed my financial illiteracy. My parents dysfunctional marriage and eventual legal and financial divorce sealed the deal. I was launched from a luke warm nest up a cold, fast paced, financial creek without a paddle.

Life continually happened and I reactively reeled from rapid to funnel and whip-sawed back again. Focus on college and medical education gave way to focus on marriage and family. Failing to “meet and care for my future self” at a young age and DIY and reverse engineer my life was engineering to fail. Having no automated partitioning plan for my paychecks, especially when they got suddenly bigger, trapped me in all too common paycheck to paycheck scarcity. I was a “rich” doctor with a “poor” money mindset. Life-styling, I Rip Van Winkeled precious market time away and as my chronologic age advanced, it insidiously dislocated and inversely correlated with my arrested financial development.

Deflate Lifestyle

About 6 midlife years ago I woke up on the hedonic treadmill with a deeply visceral feeling that my life wasn’t sitting well in my stomach. I was on a burning rope and the bells and goalposts of freedom kept moving faster away from me. I solved money problems, as many of us do, by working asymptotically more. Money had become my master as I had not learned to master it. I YOLO’d and FOMO’d instead of JOMO’d as my lifestyle crept and the flames licked at my heels and smoke filled my eyes. Much like the silent killer of untreated hypertension, lifestyle inflation robbed from my future to pay for my present.

Inertia and the staus quo, once established in our neanderthal brains, are powerful forces. Mindsets in motion tend to stay in motion. Humans are not built to easily plan 40 years into their futures. In order to reach our dreams we must reduce them to healthy sustainable daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly prospective habits. We must grow from scarcity to abundance to enlightenment. We must crawl to walk to run. We must recursively pause, plan, and pivot. I have learned to embrace and manage risk and, in so doing, my time on the hedonic treadmill is nigh. My chronologic and financial ages move in synchronicity. Arm in arm with my wife and partner, I am born again and leaping from the flames and into the FIRE.


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