That’s what 18-year-old Erik Grankvist did right after graduating high school in 2019. With only a few simple tools and no prior construction experience, Grankvist set out into the vast Swedish wilderness to realize his dream of building a secluded log cabin by hand — all by himself.

With no construction crew or complex machinery, Grankvist chopped down trees, built a stone foundation, and stacked logs on top of one another to create his humble off-the-grid home. The entire project is documented on Grankvist’s YouTube channel, where viewers can find several videos of his journey — from braving the Swedish winter to learning how to throw axes.

I must admit that when I first heard about Grankvist’s project, my initial thought was: “But what about college?” Did this man have any long-term plans for his future that didn’t involve building a log cabin? What about building a steady career path? Did he consider constructing a reliable retirement fund? 

But as these questions were running through my mind, another one struck me: “Why does it matter?”

Why do we so often measure success by amount of schooling or the perceived longevity of a stable career path? If building a log cabin alone in the middle of a Swedish forest will make you happy, then why wouldn’t you pursue that over a 9-5, even if it might mean you make less money in the long run? Who’s telling you that pursuing such a project isn’t the “right” choice? Happiness, success, and what ultimately brings you peace is a deeply personal matter, and the pursuit of those things shouldn’t be dictated or influenced by a money-minded, often greed-based world. 

Now, I can’t say that I know the specifics of Grankvist’s personal life, financial situation, or career path; he could have a perfectly stable, well-paying job that he manages to work in conjunction with his off-the-grid project. But that’s besides the point. Even if he doesn’t, he is still completely dedicating himself to and actualizing his dream. How many of us can honestly say that we’re doing the same? What does the trivial acquisition of wealth matter if it stops you from fulfilling a lifelong goal? Why would you pursue a career for the money if it requires you to spend most of your time doing something you don’t like?

Obviously, I can’t overlook the fact that in our current society, some amount of money is needed for basic needs and comforts. It’s just the world we live in. But most people shoot for luxurious or comfortable lifestyles well above this minimum requirement.  Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this; it’s a personal decision. A lot of people are happy and comfortable in materialism. It’s just that far too often, this decision is seen as an unbreakable norm, or the only true career choice. But pursuit of a lucrative career shouldn’t come at the expense of  sacrificing or diluting a dream — or even just weakening our dedication to something that is personally important. 

We choose jobs or education paths that we think will make us happy in the long run, but in doing so, we overlook activities and passions that make us happy in the present. Having lots of money in retirement would make anybody happy, but if you spend decades miserable to accrue that wealth, was it worth it? In fact, such activities don’t just constitute present-moment happiness. Commitment to a passion or even something that brings you peace is an invaluable long-term investment. 

Grankvist will have that log cabin for the rest of his life. Even if his retirement fund is slightly smaller because he dedicated a great deal of time to this project — who cares? He’ll be an old man sitting by the fire in his cabin, enjoying the satisfaction that comes from years of hard work. He spent his time on something that he’s proud of. Even if the financial inheritance he passes down to his children is not as large as it would have been had he not pursued this dream, they’ll still be inheriting the fruits of their father’s labor in an arguably much more personal and meaningful manner.

Besides, the fulfillment of a dream and the acquisition of great wealth are obviously not always mutually exclusive — if you really want to become a famous movie star, that’s amazing. Go for it. But vast financial success shouldn’t determine whether or not you pursue that dream. If tapping trees on a maple farm for a living brings you peace, then that’s amazing, too.

I know it’s easy to talk a big game. It’s not as easy to drop out of school and pursue your wildest fantasy full-time. But regardless of your dream, you don’t necessarily have to. What matters is that you never lose sight of what is truly important to you and where your passions lie, even if you can’t put everything else on hold. So, in the midst of the rat race, tree by tree, don’t forget to build your log cabin.

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