Ethics: on values, money, and life goals

Sometimes it helps to write down what you want to aim for, your values, and your ethical concerns

Ethics

Life Goals are hard to define

Sometimes, it’s easier to focus on what you really want in life and what your goals and values are when you write them down. And if you have somewhere to put them on display, it’s even easier to stay accountable for them, so here we go!

Minimalism

I used to be very focused on myself. I was pretty greedy, I wanted to climb the social ladder, spend tons of money for flashy things to make people jealous, and generally wasn’t a very good person. I went into more detail on an article I wrote at the beginning of the year:

Nowadays, I try to focus on other things than myself. I value a simple life. I don’t want the chaos of living in a huge city, the proximity of millions of other human souls, or the rush to try and do tens of different activities. I value living a life of simplicity. This is why I try to live as a minimalist.

The big mansions, humongous cars, holiday houses hold no appeal to me anymore. The superfluous gadgets and technology don’t draw me in. The accumulation of wealth, of objects, of people and friends, or of shiny job titles doesn’t cast the same bright light they once did.

I’m satisfied with a flat in a small-ish city in France, with enough rooms for the various activities I want to commit to. A room for sleeping, an office for recording my videos, a kitchen to make my meals, a bathroom for, well, hygiene, and a veranda to catch some light, read, and have a few parties in the fresh air. I don’t need an extra room just in case, or to live in a house because that’s what you’re supposed to want. I don’t need a parking garage for my car, or an elevator to go up the 4 flights of stairs that lead to my flat. These are superfluous accessories to my life, and while people might want to have these conveniences, I don’t feel the need for them.

Minimalism

Not all minimalism has to look white and sad, though

The rest of the flat reflects this philosophy as well: I don’t own extra furniture that is never used, I don’t stockpile books on shelves, or decorative items that have no real meaning or purpose. The few paintings I have are all a callback to some important time in my life, or something that appeases me. My furniture is utilitarian: a couch to sit and watch a movie, a table and a few chairs to eat, a bed to sleep. They are not super fancy, or highly decorated, because that would just draw my attention to them instead of letting them fulfil their primary function.

My car is purely utilitarian: it’s a small Citroën C1, basically a super small city car. It gets me to work and back, or to the beach in a pinch, as fast as any other car model, it’s just stark white, doesn’t have thousand of sensors or features. It’s just a car, it’s inexpensive, and the things I do with it wouldn’t be enhanced if I bought a bigger, more technologically advanced, or more expensive car.

I try to apply this to my computing needs as well: don’t download thousand of applications, be tidy with your files, use a system that just fulfils what you want from it. That’s why I use elementary OS: it doesn’t get in the way, doesn’t overwhelm you with options or unused programs, it doesn’t have a flashy theme to distract you from your work. You just use it and do the task you need to do.

That’s also why I use Linux: it won’t bombard you with optional services, ads, features you’ll never need or use, it’s just what you need to work, and you can choose whatever suits your workflow to make sure you can work without distractions.

That’s what minimalism is about: when you’re at home, or working, or using a device, you try to focus on the task, not the object or the software. The important thing is the experience you’re living, the thing you’re creating, reading, watching, or enjoying, not the means by which you’re doing all of that.

It’s not that the design is unimportant, on the contrary: the design must be elegant enough, simple enough, and neutral enough to let your mind focus on what you’re doing an not on the object that lets you do the task.

Money

With minimalism comes a lot more money in the bank. If you’re freed from huge mortgages for a giant house where you won’t use every room every day, if you’re not dragged down by a monstrous car payment, if you don’t spend a third of your income buying things, objects, and gadgets, you have a lot, and I mean a LOT more money available to you.

My day job pays correctly for where I live, but I’m not well paid by any means. My YouTube activities pay some income as well, but not enough that I could just live on it. I actually make a lot less money than what I did back when I lived in Paris and spent all my income, but since I became a minimalist, I have saved in 2 years as much money as I did in the 7 years that came before.

Now this accumulation has only one goal: to allow me to be able to pick the work I want to do without any limitations or financial worry. I’m not saying I want to retire at 35 years old, because retiring isn’t a goal in itself, I simply want to be able to find a small, part time job that I enjoy, and spend the rest of my time working on my own projects and on the things that really make me happy, whether I can make money out of these things or not.

Debt

There is no such thing as good debt

In terms of money, though, I’m not willing to take any shortcut to get there. I want that money to be earned reasonably ethically, so I avoid a few avenues:

  • The stock exchange: it’s a parasitic system where you make money without creating or contributing anything. It’s all virtual, and a company’s stock value doesn’t represent anything real, while it still has an impact on the employee’s lives. I find this system repulsive, and will avoid having anything to do with it if at all possible.

  • Selling my soul or my values: I won’t accept a sponsorship from any company that I don’t believe in, or from which I don’t think the product is worth using. I declined a lot of offers for weird products, windows key resellers, gaming chairs, VPNs, and other companies. I’ll keep doing so.

My goal is to be free financially for the grind of a daily job, it’s not to profit at the detriment of other people. This means I probably lost thousands in potential revenue, but it also means that when I do enjoy my financial freedom, I won’t have a thing to regret, and it will all feel well deserved.

The environment

I love Earth. It’s a beautiful planet, and it’s the only one I’ve known, and that we’ve got for the foreseeable future. I want to keep living on it, and I want my potential future kids to be able to, as well. That’s why I respect the environment, and I’ll always tend to be as alarmed as possible about how dire the outlook might be. Better safe than sorry, I guess.

This translates into a few actions here and there. I’m definitely not a paragon of virtue regarding the environment. I use a gas powered car, because electric models are still way too expensive. I do use a lot of power to run my computer. I’m not perfect, but I’ll do what I can to make sure my contribution to environmental waste is as reduced a possible.

I’ll recycle what I can, sell or donate instead of throwing away, and I won’t buy new stuff when the old stuff still works if I can help it. If I can’t, I’ll try to find another home or another use for the older things.

Open Source

Now this one might ruffle some feathers. I love open source. It’s, in my mind, the best software development model. But I also have to acknowledge that open source software can’t cover all of my needs right now. I like gaming, and I use Steam, which is a proprietary program. The games themselves are too. I use an Nvidia GPU, which uses proprietary drivers, and I edit videos using Davinci Resolve, which is, again, not open source.

I will try to use open source software if the alternatives work for me. In these few cases, they didn’t, so I’ll use whatever works, even if it’s not free, or open source, while I wait for the world to catch up and provide some better alternatives.

I’m willing to accept some compromises if the open source alternative is mostly there. I’d rather have Microsoft Office at work than LibreOffice, because I’m more familiar with it, and I think it’s the better option, especially for spreadsheets and presentations, but LibreOffice is close enough that I’m willing to trade some comfort and some features to have the benefit of using open source software.

Quality of life

In general, all these values and objectives all feed into the same end goal: having the best quality of life I can have, without harming the way of life of other people. I aim to live the most simple life I can while still being able to indulge in the various hobbies I have. This is why I don’t work a lofty position: I used to be Chief Product Officer, and I ended up quitting, not because I didn’t like the job, or because I couldn’t do it, but because I didn’t want the overtime, the pressure, or the responsibilities.

I don’t want to sacrifice living my life and enjoying the journey for the sake of appearances, of a stuffed bank account, or because “that’s how you’re supposed to do things”. I want to dictate how my life goes, what I bring into it, and how I make use of my time, and now that it’s written down, I guess I have no choice but to keep applying these values, forever!


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