Recently, I was reminded about a neat way to let yourself off the hook for doing something you want to do without feeling guilty. If you can learn to minimize guilt you can be more happy and free.
In November 2021, Elon was thinking of offloading 10% of his Tesla shares at near an all-time high ($1,100+/share). He knew the company's valuation was getting ahead of itself but he couldn't be seen as abandoning ship.
As a result, Elon conducted a Twitter poll and asked his millions of followers whether he should sell 10% of his stake to help him pay taxes. The Twitter poll said “yes,” so he sold without having to suffer the ire of existing shareholders. He could now say Twitter made him sell. Smart!
In another move, Elon told his employees in a letter to stop “phoning it in” and spend a minimum of 40 hours a week in the office. He wrote, “If you don't show up, we will assume you have resigned.”
A couple of days later, Elon proclaimed he had a “super bad feeling” about the economy and announced he planned to lay off ~10% of his workforce. By sending out the letter first, he reduces criticism that a man of his fortune could be so cruel as to lay people off when things are still relatively good.
Now, Elon can deflect the blame to those employees who refused to return to work. They fired themselves! It is a brilliant judo move of using someone else's force against them for your benefit. Elon went on to say a couple days later Tesla's total headcount will increase over the next 12 months.
Guilt Minimization Framework To Do More Of What You Want
Being able to reduce guilt is an important skill to help you move forward and live a lighter, happier life.
Corporations hire consulting firms like McKinsey to give management permission to downsize their workforce. Most working Americans who don't pay federal income taxes. Yet, they are able to minimize guilt and continue not paying while consuming resources. Impressive!
Therefore, it's worth thinking about how you can use judo moves to help you manage your work stress and family life as well.
Here are three examples of how I was able to minimize guilt and be more free.
1) Breaking My Commitment To Record Podcasts
At one point last year, I got tired of recording new podcast episodes on Apple. But I would have felt bad for stopping because I had made a commitment not to quit for the year. So I asked in one episode for listeners to leave positive reviews to keep me motivated. And the positive reviews came rolling in, which kept me going. There was no financial motivation because I don't have sponsors.
But this year, I again started to lose motivation. This time, instead of asking for some encouragement again, I stopped asking at the end of each episode. The positive reviews stopped and it provided me a guilt-free reason to stop recording as often. The freedom from ever-more self-imposed responsibility felt wonderful!
2) Publishing Weekly Newsletters
Publishing three posts a week on Financial Samurai and publishing a free weekly newsletter is not easy, but it's doable because I enjoy writing. It's what I've been doing since 2009. Hence, not getting regularly compensated for my work is not a big deal since I'd be writing regardless. There's always something exciting going on every week!
But if ever there should come a time I don't feel like writing, all I have to do is pull up a nasty comment or e-mail and it'll immediately free me from the guilt of taking a break. Further, I'm always willing to refund disgruntled readers what they've paid to read an article or newsletter. Wink wink.
Yes, it might be much more lucrative if I started a paid monthly newsletter like some of my peers. $10 a month times even just 2,500 subscribers (~5% of current subscribers) is a nice $25,000 a month in supplemental income. Toro sashimi and sake for dinner every night! But Nah.
So long as enough readers are supportive of my once-in-a-blue-moon creative endeavors, such as purchasing hard copies of Buy This, Not That, the newsletter will continue to be free as it has been for years. Giving away a minimum of $120 a year in value per person with a free newsletter feels great.
And if there is a lack of support in buying my book, which I think will be the best personal finance book on the market, then I'll adjust accordingly. I'm more than happy to take a break from writing to spend more time with family.
Thankfully, the community has been supportive so far as BTNT is doing well on the New Releases chart! Click the graphic to pick up a hard copy from Amazon today.
3) Making deals with our kids
Finally, we can learn how to minimize guilt and deflect blame by observing our kids. Example, mommy scolds little Johnny for eating the whole donut and little Johnny replies, “But daddy said I could eat it all.”
And when it's time to tell my daughter to stop watching a show on the iPad, all I have to do is say, “Mommy says it's all done time,” so she doesn't associate me with the no-fun police! Just kidding. Maybe. Hmmm.
As a parent, I just want my kids to always be happy. So I feel guilty taking away their fun things. But in the long run, not having things too good is a positive.
The Sense Of Responsibility Is Strong In Us
You know how the force is strong in some of us? Well, the same goes for a strong sense of responsibility in some of us too. Some of us are just riddled with guilt if we don't do something. We feel like we will let people down when most people won't mind or really care.
This sense of guilt must be an evolutionary trait that helps increases humankind's chance of survival. And for those with a weak sense of guilt, like fathers who abandon their young children, then their chances of survival are lower.
If you think about it, the source of all stress in life is giving too big of a crap about anything. Imagine not caring at all about what people thought or whether your project was a hit or not. You'd have much less anxiety, less repressed anger, and much more happiness!
Learn judo moves to minimize guilt and live a better life.
For more nuanced personal finance content, join 50,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. To get my posts in your inbox as soon as they are published, sign up here.