Stop Already! YOLO Could Be Destroying Your Life!

Base Jumper

Brace yourselves. It’s time for us to get philosophical. This is the “deep thoughts” about “shallow things” part of the program that goes beyond money and wanders into the mystical parts of the mind. This is random stuff rattling around in the lost caverns of my sub-conscious thought brought forth into blog form for all to enjoy. Enjoy!

What do you guys think about YOLO? You Only Live Once. Do you like that saying? Is it motivating to you? Did it remind you that you should go all-out that one time? Be extreme with a capital X? Base-jump from the torch of the Statue of Liberty?

Didn’t think so.

Instead, I think for us normal people, you know, those of us without GoPro’s surgically implanted on our skulls, Red Bull endorsements and millions of YouTube views, YOLO could be holding us back.  It could actually be destroying our lives!

No, no, no, no. That can’t be so. YOLO is a mindset that helps me live life to the fullest and take the big risks I need to be happy and successful in life.

Nuh-uh. It’s what made you super-size your fries and soda last Tuesday. It’s what locked you into that leased lemon sitting in your driveway. It’s why you’re wearing a legit Tim Tebow jersey, right now, Jets and Mets, both at the same time.

It’s the go-to for all your impulse buys, regrettable stunts and the arch enemy of any sort of calculated planning and dogged commitment that actually gets you anywhere in life. YOLO needs to go. #YOLO needs to go, especially.

Before I’m buried in a sea of Instagram hate-hashes, let me explain myself a little more.  Come on! You only live once… read on. I’m not even on Instagram, so I don’t really know what I’m talking about. It’s fine. Read on…

I got three big beefs

1) YOLO encourages instant gratification…

Since this pretends to be a personal finance blog, let’s start out with how YOLO affects your buying habits.

YOLO is a trance every single product marketer on planet earth wants to put you in. Paired with its close cousin, Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), marketers know it’s the best way to whip people into a shopping frenzy.

But let’s talk about one of the big buys as an example. Cars. No one is more guilty than the car companies in using YOLO to their advantage.

“Sign and drive” for that new Range Rover and you’ll be scaling boulders in Utah in no time! As if financing a brand new SUV for $929 per month is the only path to adventure.

Of course it’s not. But our YOLO mindset and the pictures of some stunt driver speeding down a mountain tells us it’s the quickest path. And we need a quick path to adventure, because our life is short. We’ve only got one life and right now it sucks. And, in our consume-now! driven culture, we’ve convinced ourselves that the “bold move” of buying a new car is probably the most socially acceptable path to get that instant adventure too.

I hear things like “Seize the moment” and “Your adventure awaits” on the commercials for these vehicles. They’re clever tag-lines with YOLO not-so-well-hidden in the background. They know YOLO is a powerful pull.

The reality, of course, is that financing that brand new SUV for $929 per month will probably end up being the exact opposite of the adventure we seek. Instead, in order to pay for the darn thing, we tie ourselves to the monotony of long commutes on endless freeways to get to a job we constantly dream about ditching for the free and open road. See the problem here?

But, Hey, I got a Range Rover so if a huge boulder somehow drops right in the middle of the left lane of the freeway… 

I’ll be stuck for hours in stalled traffic choking on the exhaust of this sh###y Honda Prelude! HONK!

2) YOLO can keep you from taking the important risks…

This may seem counter-intuitive to some, but stick with me. A YOLO mindset that seems to throw caution to the wind in favor of a care-free, happy-go-lucky lifestyle that rains designer jeans and has a weekend bender around every corner, can actually be a paralyzing factor when it comes to the really important decisions that actually lead to long-term human happiness.

Yeah, that’s right. I’m saying YOLO actually makes you more risk-averse. I’m talking about the good kinds of big risks that have long-term and far-reaching results. The risks that usually mean something to long-term success and growth as a person. Risks that may even have an impact outside the circle of your own self-importance.

It has a lot to do with the instant-gratification part and the short-term thinking attached to a YOLO mindset. But it goes deeper than that…

Let’s talk about pain.

YOLO doesn’t like pain. And if you’ve got YOLO floating around in the back of your mind, it makes it really hard to deal with pain. Especially pain that comes up-front, way before you hit paydirt. YOLO says, with “only one life” why waste time on the uncomfortable stuff that may or may not pay off? The thrill needs to come first, dammit!

Here’s the thing. Pain is a part of life. And in order to take the big, important risks in life, you usually have to face it right away. And sometimes that pain lingers for a long time before you get a whiff of the good times.

Of course, the pain doesn’t have to be physical. Maybe it’s pain from a much smaller paycheck from taking a leap into self-employment. Maybe it’s pain from being uncomfortable getting up in front of everyone talking at your local Toastmasters for the first, second, thirteenth time. Or maybe it is physical pain in the form of aching muscles from a good workout.

YOLO hate’s all this stuff. The pay-off isn’t quick enough. YOLO wants you to ditch all of it for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and back episodes of The Walking Dead and then tweet about the good life you’re livin’. #YOLO. There may be pain with YOLO, but it’s gotta come after the initial rush. #icecreamheadache.

3) YOLO is “Seize the day”… twisted by Twitter

Sun’s out. I’m ditching work today #YOLO

or maybe

Sun’s out. Ditched work today to LARP #GOT at White Castle #YOLO

I get it. #YOLO sounds good. You sound really cool when you say stuff on social media with #YOLO. And it’s much more Twitter-friendly than #STD. But you only live once really needs to stop trying to pass itself off as the same thing as seize the day.

Here’s how #STD tweet might go… if herpes didn’t exist, that is…

Sun’s out. There are about 200 sunny days a year in MN and I’m going to seize today’s opportunity at the office to work my butt off so I can save at least 50% of my income and build a pile of cash so I can pivot quickly into a position where I can do pretty much whatever, wherever, whenever I want for all of them… and the cloudy ones too #STD

(Pretend that’s 140 characters. Also, pretend you never saw “Office Space” and met “The Bobs” and never “learned the secret to actually get ahead in a corporate job is to act like a complete a-hole.” You get the idea, though.)

the bobs

Yeah. #STD is probably less exciting than #YOLO. But seize the day focuses on getting results out of each day for long-term success. Seize the day is willing to work to squeeze the juice. Seize the day has a plan. YOLO is just about what feels good right now, often completely ignoring long-term consequences.

Rather than taking what the day provides to build up great habits and make yourself better and move your life forward, YOLO seems to me like just an excuse to ditch work, cheat on that diet, cheat on your budget, or just do reckless and stupid things that don’t get you anywhere except behind bars or at best stuck running faster on the hamster-wheel of life.

I sure do want to YOLO my way out of work every time the sun’s shining down on a perfect 80-degree summer day. But if my butt belongs in a meeting with my boss and I don’t have a mattress stuffed with F-you money yet, sorry to say, this day is probably best burning my eyeballs staring at Powerpoint presentations.

That’s how my decisions over the years added up to set up my life right now. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life right now. I’m incredibly lucky how it has turned out. But the Powerpoint presentations part of it sucks. And YOLO doesn’t magically get me out of all the crappy parts of life.

Bottom Line

I get it. Impulse is needed to break up the monotony of life. Sometimes you need to throw caution to the wind and not worry about consequences so much. And, yeah, if you’re debating with yourself about something like a 400-foot rollercoaster or a tandem skydive, YOLO can get you over the hump for a legitimate thrill of a lifetime. That’s great! Use YOLO then. Use it sparingly.

The problem is YOLO is used too much as a rallying cry to shed responsibility and any sort of proper planning in favor of a cheap thrill. And too much of that business could be destroying our lives. Especially when it comes to our money.

What do you think about YOLO? Am I taking it too seriously? Let me know your thoughts below.

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  1. Love this Crispy! You make such a great point about the risk taking YOLO mindset leaving people paralyzed from being able to take more important, gainful risks. YOLO backs you into a corner, leaving you without options. Not a fun place to be, for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks MMM! I’m glad you liked the article. It just seems way more often than not #YOLO is just someone giving themselves permission to do foolish things then making themselves feel better about it by wrapping it up like it’s a “carpe diem” moment. I do it too. I don’t really use the term YOLO, but it’s there in the back of my mind when I do it. It’s just something I was thinking about as I search for ways to be more intentional in my own life.


  2. This is spot on – the way most people think of YOLO seems more like YOYO – You’re Only Young Once. I think we can still YOLO, but a little bit of legwork sets you up for more opportunities, more chances to take risks, and more chances to get lucky. You only live once, so it makes sense to set yourself up to take advantage of things that only come around once a lifetime. While being young is one of them, it’s not the ONLY thing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • YOYO! I love it! I wish I would have made that connection in the article.

      You hit it exactly. Just being a little more intentional can go a long way. With a little peak before you leap, it’s easy to see how a lot of the #YOLO decisions we make can really degrade our lives, which ultimately goes against what YOLO pretends to be all about, helping us enjoy our lives more. Thanks for the great comment, Matt!


  3. This is phenomenally funny and spot on. YOLO is way too often used as an excuse for doing something that brings happiness now at the likely sacrifice of better things down the road.

    Although, I will agree that #YOLO is more twitter-friendly than #STD, especially given the other thing STD stands for 😉


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