How Do You Keep Yourself From Becoming Who You Don’t Want to Be?

Don’t Want to BeHave you ever looked at someone and just plain thought to yourself: That’s who I don’t want to be in 20 or so years from now?

Recently I was re-reading a great book “The 4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss.  One of the thoughts that stuck with me was his conversation in Chapter 4 about how he and a friend keep trying to avoid becoming that “old, fat, bald man in the red convertible”.

To them, that was the epitome of a pathetic, wasted life.

It was their stereotype (and we all know someone like this) of a broken middle-age man making his last desperate effort to experience life when he had already wasted too much of it working long hours in the office missing out on the prime of his youth.

It was someone who waited too long to see the true value of their time.

The fat bald man symbolized everything they were trying to avoid becoming.  And when one wanted to remind the other that they were heading down that dangerous road of work-life submission, they would just say “you’re turning into the fat, bald man in a red convertible”.


How Do You Quantify Who Don’t Want to Be?

While you may or may not have a strong opinion of Ferriss’s image, I think the message behind it is what really counts.  EVERYONE has (or maybe even knows) that person they do NOT want to become later on in life.

For some people that image may be influenced by money (as it is with the over-worked stereotype from Ferriss).  For others that person may be attitude or opinion oriented.  But either way, everyone has something in mind.


The Person I Never Want to Become:

So for me, what is that image of who I don’t want to be?

It’s a person myself and a few close co-workers call “the corpse”.

Working in the automotive industry, the corpse is a person you run into quite often.  The corpse is that person who looks like the walking dead.  They can move (slowly) and can speak, but you can just tell with every action or every word that all their passion for life has been completely destroyed.

The corpse has probably worked their whole lives (probably 30, 40 or maybe even 50 years) waiting for their pension to kick in.  But then even after it has, they still continue to work because they have no real idea of what to do with themselves.  On top of that they’re afraid of how to invest or do anything income generating outside of just “more work”.

The worst part about the corpse: They’ve spent years of their lives working overtime and weekends until it became the norm; mostly on superfluous projects that added no real value to anything.  They’re never home to spend time with their family.  They frequently miss get-togethers and other one-time events.  They neglect their children, spouses, and passion.

They’ve just plain had the life beaten out of them until they are in submission.

One of the reasons I started seeking out passive income and starting this blog was to avoid the fate of the corpse.  If you’re not working towards building some sort of safety net outside your regular job, then it only increases your dependency on that paycheck every week.

Anytime I have ever wanted to learn something new about money or investigate something financial further, the image of the corpse was all I had to think about it.  That was enough to get me off my butt and working harder to try to get my family’s affairs straight.  It’s always been enough to get me on the path towards achieving financial freedom.

Readers:  Similar to Ferriss’s example, what is that image of the person you DON’T want to be?  How do you quantify this character and help yourself to avoid becoming them in the future?


Images courtesy of


  1. says

    Good post! For me, and sadly, I don’t want to become my mom. It doesn’t even have anything to do with work. It’s more about healthy living and taking care of yourself. I want to be one of those 80 year old women who is still running, dancing, traveling, trying new things, and trying to stay in tip top shape. It’s like my mom just sits around waiting to die. At least that’s the impression I sometimes get. I want to be happy and squeeze all I can out of life…so how that relates to work is, I don’t ever want to be a slave to work and become a workaholic…unless I absolutely freaking love every second of what I’m doing.

    • says

      I can completely understand your view here. My wife and I also have very similar goals to you to be “active” the older we get and remain in as great as shape as possible.

      • says

        It’s a shame when people let that happen. And the saddest part is that its 100% preventable if you can allow yourself to see it happening and then do something about it.

  2. says

    Awesome post, I definitely don’t want to be a corpse either. The person I don’t want to be is the person who has everything and then gets it taken away. That homeless guy you bring to a restaurant to give a good meal because you don’t feel comfortable giving cash. And you hear the story of, I had everything, a house, a car, a beautiful wife, beautiful kids, everything. And then I made a mistake and lost it all….I will never be that!
    Josh @ CNA Finance recently posted..Happiness & Financial HealthMy Profile

  3. says

    I’m very familiar with “the corpse,” as I work in government and there are people who serve no purpose but to take up space and wait to collect their pension. And yes, some just stay because they don’t know what else they’d do with their lives. I’ll admit that the pension is a bit of a golden handcuff…I don’t want to not take advantage of it. But I’d love to taste financial freedom before that time.
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted..Financial Decisions: Emotion vs LogicMy Profile

    • says

      I’ve met a lot of those types in government jobs myself. It’s a funny thing about the pension – my wife is a teacher and actually eligible for her pension starting at age 48. Why some people wait until age 78 to take it I’ll never understand. Perhaps like you said – they just don’t know what else to do.

  4. says


    Good post – it is often very easy to pick out people we don’t want to end up like. For me, I find that it is actually much more uplifting and inspiring to find someone I want to be like vs. someone I don’t want to be like. It turns things from passive-mode to more a active-mode of working on yourself.

    I find I can inspire myself to achieve much more if I take this positive approach vs. the negative. What do you think?
    Derek @ recently posted..Book Review – Effortless SavingsMy Profile

    • says

      There are certainly merits to both. No doubt a positive role model is someone you can look up to and try to emulate. But knowing who/what to stay away from has its place in this process too. There are a lot of times I think back to old jobs I used to have or even old job positions I used to hold at my current job. Sometimes revisiting them and seeing how bad it stinks to be in that position is enough to motivate me to keep pushing upward.

  5. says

    I’ve always said I don’t want to be the burnout, which sounds a lot like the corpse. When you just go through the motions and don’t really care, that’s what I don’t want to become. I also don’t want to work so long that I’m too old to enjoy life, and I won’t ever let myself get so out of shape that I can’t run and play with grandkids if I ever have those. Both our daughter’s grandmas are not really able to participate if we do anything that involves more than walking a few feet.

  6. says

    Great post.. When I had in the stage of becoming who I don’t want to be, was I just trying to get used of it. I just had to accept the fact that it’s for me now to become who I want to be.. But sooner, I enjoyed becoming who I don’t want to be. 😉

  7. says

    I used to be a delivery driver for an auto parts distributor, and I remember very clearly the day I decided to leave that place after four years…

    I was getting ready to go do my route, and I just stopped for a second and looked around. There were a few of the “old-timers” there all around me pulling parts and getting orders ready for delivery…

    These folks had been doing this same job at this same company for 5, 10, 20 years! They did the same job I did, but they made maybe one or two dollars more per hour than me. Some hated their job (or at least, complained all the time), and others seemed perfectly satisfied. I was like that last group…not challenged, not fulfilled, not passionate…but neutrally satisfied and complacent.

    “That’s me in 10 years? Aw hell no…”

    So I started looking for another job and left a few weeks later, determined to achieve something bigger than that. I haven’t arrived yet, but now I actually look forward to Mondays. I like having some control over my life and getting shit done haha =)
    Chris recently posted..Privacy DisclosuresMy Profile

  8. says

    Oh my, I do not want to become the corpse either! I guess the only way to prevent this is when your passion becomes your work, but of course, not everyone is fortunate enough to have this. Another way may also be to have more passive incomes so you won’t have to worry much about financial aspect of your life. Thanks for sharing this, this made me reflect on my choices in life.
    Alexis Smith recently posted..How to Become a Bail BondsmanMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge