One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the purpose of showing his son how the poor people live so he could be thankful for his wealth.
They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.
On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?” “It was great, Dad.” “Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked. “Oh yeah” said the son. “So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.
The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.” “We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.” “Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.” “We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.” “We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.” “We buy our food, but they grow theirs.” “We have walls around our property to protect us; they have friends to protect them.”
With this the boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thanks dad for showing me how poor we are…”
I’m not going to sit here and bullishit you, I grew up in a well to do family that had enough disposable income to take trips, purchase toys, eat good food, drive nice enough cars, live in a beautiful home, and be afforded the opportunity to receive good medical care when needed.
However, none of these things contributed much to my wellbeing or happiness. What I remember most about growing up were the times out back throwing the baseball with my Pops, or baking cookies with my grandma, letting my kid sister perform manicures and pedicures on me, inventing games with my kid brother like “Don’t touch the rug,” which included a balloon, a rug, and not letting the balloon touch the rug.
I remember sitting in a field with my buddies, sneaking a few beers, just shooting the sh*t all night. To this day the best times of my life are spent doing a puzzle with a girlfriend, taking a free line dancing class, or sitting up all night talking philosophy and psychology with a friend. When it comes to determining real world wealth I think too many of us have it ass-backwards. Too much emphasis is placed on material possessions and less on the experiences we have and the ability to be in control of our time on this Earth. Simply put, most of us (myself included until recently) are confused about what it means to be wealthy. I’m not so sure it has anything to do with money as much as it has to do with what we believe money will bring us.
You might say you need the big house, the nice car, the expensive jewelry, or the nice clothes but I’m convinced it’s because of what we think it will bring us; happiness, comfort, and the ability to do what we want. Those are things you can control regardless of the amount of money you bring in.
Before we go any further together let me ask you a question…
What does being wealthy mean to you?
ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD
- If I have all the money in the world but I’m as sick as a dog can I consider myself wealthy?
- If I have all the money in the world to take lavish trips but don’t have a friend to share the experiences with let alone a good conversation can I consider myself wealthy?
- If I have all the money in the world but no time to see my kids grow up can I consider myself wealthy?
- If I have all the money in the world but hate the way that I make it can I consider myself wealthy?
- If I have all the money in the world but have never experienced a good book, a perfect wave, a conversation that lasts all night, the love of my life, the feeling of creating something of my own, or the ability to give back to a world that has given me so much can I consider myself wealthy?
Being wealthy encompasses so much more than the income that I make or the number on my bank ATM receipt. I define true wealth as the ability to meet my basic needs of shelter, food/water, and clothing. After that it becomes a component that allows me to experience the totality of all that life has to offer. It’s found in subtle experiences that I am able to have and share with others and in the ability to be in charge of life’s most precious resource; TIME.
Wealth is a balancing act between money, experiences, time, and the opportunity or the ability to make choices and direct our own life.
Try thinking about wealth like this, after you take care of your most basic fundamental needs in life what experiences create the most wealth for you?
Money is something I try to get rid of as soon as possible. I know, it sounds sort of crazy but hear me out. I figure when it’s all said and done I can’t take it with me right, it’s not going to do me a ton of good when I’m dead and gone.
There’s a great old fable about a Miser and his gold:
Once upon a time there was a Miser who used to hide his gold at the foot of a tree in his garden; but every week he used to go and dig it up and gloat over his gains. A robber, who had noticed this, went and dug up the gold and decamped with it. When the Miser next came to gloat over his treasures, he found nothing but the empty hole. He tore his hair, and raised such an outcry that all the neighbours came around him, and he told them how he used to come and visit his gold.
“Did you ever take any of it out?” Asked one of them.
“Nay,” said he, “I only came to look at it.”
“Then come again and look at the hole,” said a neighbour; “it will do you just as much good…”
The money I save serves three purposes:
- To have experiences at a later date
- To give away to those I love most
- To afford me time to spend with those I love in the future
Some of you may disagree with me but I’m not saving money for a rainy day, or for an “emergency.” I’m saving so that when I breathe my last breath my last words are “I win.”
WEALTH, ACCORDING TO THE WEALTHY
If you frequent the site you know I’m an avid reader, I love the new school wisdom stuff but essentially all of it is regurgitated truths passed down from some of the wisest persons to grace this planet. A few weeks ago I was kicking around some ideas with my friend Sean, discussing some of our favorite writers, philosophers, and influential persons. I was telling him about John D. Rockefeller’s biography Titan and the topic of wealth came up as he was reading some Andrew Carnegie stuff. He recommended I check out some of Benjamin Franklin’s views on the topic, I was literally blown away… ok, not literally, that would be amazing.
- Find the true value in things: What purpose do your purchases serve? A car gets you from A to B regardless of what make or model, a home provides shelter regardless of how big it is, and the clothes you wear provide protection regardless of who makes them. If it puts you in debt it’s not worth it.
- Become self-sufficient: Learn skills that will afford you the opportunity to do work on your own. It will provide you with tremendous self-worth and save you some money from having to pay someone else.
- Invest in yourself: In your health, self-education, personal relationships, and any other interest you may have. Spend as much time doing this now and share your knowledge and experiences with others.
- Surround yourself with friends that have the same values: It’s often said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Surround yourself with those that you trust, challenge you, and bring out the best in you.
- Never compromise your integrity for money: Don’t sacrifice who you are and who you want to be in exchange for a dollar.
- Money is not the real currency; TIME is: The more wealth you acquire the more passions you should be able to pursue. If you’re working more just to earn more and never get to fully enjoy it can you really be wealthy?
- Become absolutely and positively diligent: Would you take a million dollars in 30 days or double a penny everyday for 30 days? Patience and steady efforts, it’s always worth chasing your dreams.
- Money is only a means to an end: To serve something bigger than yourself.
What happens after you’ve mastered these 8 essentials is that wealth becomes a measurement of how well you manage your time. You know you’re truly wealthy when you have control over the course of your day. You will be wealthier than you ever have been when you have the ability to spend the majority of your time doing the things and spending the time with what and who you love most.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOUR JOB AND WEALTH
Most of us have a job simply because it pays well and when we seek advice about wealth and careers we’re asking people who are not financially independent themselves.
Instead of looking at your job as a source of income how about looking at it as a way to learn new skills, have new experiences, and build strong relationships? To me, simply viewing your career as a source of income is taking a lot of the enjoyment out of the work that you do. It blinds you from the relationships you can build and the skills you can learn to apply immediately or down the road.
If you are currently in a career you are struggling with and not fully enjoying take time out to see if you are only viewing it as a way to make money versus a way to add value to your life
Try connecting with coworkers by heading out for drinks, or having them over for a dinner, or inviting them to a fitness class.
Take on tasks that challenge you or require you to learn new skills. There is something known as the endowment effect which describes how we overvalue stuff. One way in which we overvalue things is when we have put some skill or work behind its creation. For example; how do you feel when you buy a bar stool versus when you put it together yourself after buying it from Ikea? The idea is to participate, get creative, use your skills.
A high income does not equal financial independence. If you make one million dollars from your job but lose your job what then? One way wealth can be measured is by how long you can maintain your standard of living. Spending less than you make and creating multiple revenue streams are ways to create financial independence.
Mo’money, mo’problems. I want to be clear, wanting to earn a lot of money is not a bad thing; hell I want to earn more right now the problem lies in what happens when we actually do start making more money. Instead of using it for more experiences or to find more time it goes towards the pursuit of more material desires that don’t contribute as much to overall happiness. We start to chase money because it leads to conventional achievements that many of us relate to success, wealth, and prestige; the promotion, the big house, the fancy cars with rims. They’re symbols that are often related to wealth that actually don’t have too much to do with it.
Have you seen that AT&T commercial with the little girls saying “we want more, we want more.” It’s sort of like that, the more money that comes in the more stuff we want to accumulate versus actually enjoying the opportunity to create more experiences. For example, a nice new R8 would be pretty damn sweet but the fact remains it still just gets you from point A to point B the same way a motorcycle or Yaris would. Instead you could take your family to Hawaii, get some snorkeling in, cliff diving, and have an experience that everyone would remember for a lifetime… hmmmmmmmmm.
Purpose, autonomy, mastery, and creativity are a must. To find wealth in the work that you do a certain amount of income will only get you so far, you have to see value in the work that you are doing.
We’ve discussed motivation a little bit together on this site and I’ve also written a tad over here about it. One of my favorite books (I feel like I say that a lot, there’s just so many) Drive, by Daniel Pink discusses motivation primarily in the work place but the concepts can be applied universally. Traditionally, motivation is done through a carrot and sticks approach, someone holds a reward in front of you, in the case of the work place a bonus, financial incentives, etc… and dangles it just out of reach; but oh so close that you can almost grab it. The problem is extrinsic motivators only work so much or for so long (1). If you really want to stay motivated towards improving your wealth intrinsic motivation is where it’s at, and even more importantly simple rules and a clear destination are needed.
- Simplify the task at hand by removing if/then stipulations. Whether it is diet related, exercise, work, relationships, leave no grey areas. Make it black and white and easy to understand. If you’re doing the Paleo thing you know that grains, legumes, and dairy are off-limits.
- You come up with the plan. You may need some help getting the guidelines set but when it comes down to it, all of us need to feel like we are in control of our own lives.
- Measure progress. You have to feel like you are continually getting better, results are the most motivating factor of all. Measure them often and in numerous ways. The scale is not the end all be all and neither is the compensation you receive from finishing a project.
- It has to be bigger than you. Whatever it is you’ve got up your sleeve it has to have purpose. It has to serve a greater purpose than just you alone. You may think losing 15 pounds is a goal of yours but maybe it’s a goal for your family as well. If you lose those 15 you can be more active with your kids, you’re more likely to be around longer, your sex drive goes up…. YOWZAH! The point is it benefits more than just you.
I repeat myself a lot on this site but there’s good reason for it, consistency, repetition, and practice produce results. Saying one thing and then moving on to the next doesn’t do you or me a ton of good. Whatever it is you’re striving for is within your reach if you are willing to work for it; but instead of just working harder and hoping for the best, how about you start working smarter and anticipating success?
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WEALTH AND YOUR HAPPINESS
In a study conducted by Elizabeth Dunn, Dan Gilbert, and Timothy Wilson titled If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right, It was found that the relationship between money and happiness is relatively weak. It has also been shown time and time again that levels of happiness do not increase past an income of 75,000 per year. Instead, what created more happiness was the following:
- Spend money on “experiences” such as travel, concerts and sporting events rather than goods; in one study examined, 57% of survey participants reported gaining greatest happiness from experiential purchases compared to 34% from material goods.
- Give money to others via charities, personal relations, or political donations, rather than using it solely on oneself; not only do people self-report being happier but “the emotional rewards of prosocial spending are also detectable at the neural level.”
- Spend small amounts of money on many small, temporary pleasures rather than less often on larger ones. The authors find that “not only are the small pleasures of daily life an important source of happiness, but unfettered access to peak experiences may actually be counterproductive.”
- Don’t spend the money on “extended warranties and other forms of overpriced insurance”; indeed, “research suggests that the warranties may be unnecessary for happiness and the return policies may actually undermine it.” Hedging against future regret or disappointment can deprive one of the “emotional benefit of commitment.”
- Switch from the mentality of “consume now, pay later” to “pay now, consume later,” because “research shows that thinking about future events triggers stronger emotions than thinking about the same events in the past.”
- Think carefully about the day-to-day consequences, particularly the negative ones, of a purchase before you commit to it: “Over time, psychological distress is predicted better by the hassles and ‘uplifts’ of daily life than by more major life events.”
- Avoid buying things because they are comparatively better from a monetary perspective: “Comparison shopping may lead people to seek out products that provide the ‘best deal’” rather than the greatest happiness.
- Ask previous consumers their opinions before purchasing: “Research suggests that the best way to predict how much we will enjoy an experience is to see how much someone else enjoyed it.” adapted from journalistresource.org
This study and these results strengthened a concept known as the hedonic treadmill. It refers to the natural ability of human beings to return to base-line levels of happiness despite significant positive or negative life changing events. According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness, you keep working just to stay in the same place.
Finding true wealth is difficult because everything around you is trying to convince you to worship money, billboards, commercials, and influential figures. The more you have the happier, more successful, and more highly regarded you become. It’s true, wealth does have ties to your income up until a certain point. Instead of focusing on more, more, more – I’ll be concentrating on creating new experiences, eliminating the access trash from my life, and spending as much time with the ones I love most.
Wealth… get some!
Photo credit – Money