How Much Money Do You Need?
What comes next after making millions of dollars.
My Christmas the year before last, was undoubtedly the worst I’ve ever had, despite having spent it on one of the most beautiful islands imaginable — Bali. My laptop had burned out on the eve of Christmas, and because New years was right around the corner, all the repair shops were closed; the only thing I could do, was wait.
If all the work you do is online, and having access to a laptop is the bread and butter to your livelihood, you’d easily feel the despair I had felt. The only choices I had were to pack up and leave immediately for China where I hoped repair shops would still be open, or stay in Bali indefinitely, until my laptop had been fixed.
I chose the latter — not because I was willing to wait, but because I simply couldn’t afford the last-minute sky-high flight prices. I might’ve had I been able to work, but ironically, that wasn’t the case. So I stayed on the island, relaxing the best I could — convincing myself that this was the very vacation I had planned to take years ago, but never did.
But the truth was, I couldn’t relax at all. I felt lost without my laptop — it was all I could think about: the amount of work that I still needed to finish, the amount of work I could’ve done, the amount of money I would’ve made as a result; if it was supposed to be a vacation, it certainly didn’t feel like it.
Fast forward to a little over a year, I’m back in Bali once again. And this time, while nothing has happened to my laptop thus far (fingers crossed), I’ve instead taken initiative to step away from work more frequently.
There are days when I simply don’t work and instead choose to read, edit and film videos, meditate and relax. It isn’t because I’ve become incredibly successful to not have to work anymore since the past year, but because I simply choose not to.
I have bills to pay just like everyone else; some months, I’m barely able to even make rent, due to the volatility of a freelancing career, but I limit how much I work because I’ve realized that you don’t actually need as much as you think to be happy.
When you travel regularly every 30 to 90 days, there’s a hard limit to the amount of things you can bring. If it’s too heavy, or can’t fit in the suitcase, I won’t bring it. If it’s not something I’ll use frequently or can’t increase quality of life significantly, I won’t bring it. And as much as these limits apply to things I already own, they apply even more to the things I want to buy.
Do I really need that extra shirt? Do I really need that new camera lens? Do I really need a cover for my Kindle?
I don’t, and because I no longer require as much, I also don’t find the need to work as much either.
And that’s the thing most people don’t realize: the more money you make, the more expansive your lifestyle becomes, because along with it are all of the tangible possessions you buy. Which is to really say, we work not for the sake of survival, but for the sake of maintaining our ever-expanding lifestyle.
There’s a reason why studies suggest that the correlation between wealth and happiness diminishes after $75,000 a year. Money is important for a better life, especially if it’s something you’re severely lacking but beyond what is required for a decent life with minimal financial obligations, it starts to become meaningless:
“Wealth doesn’t guarantee you happiness, but it may predispose you to experiencing different forms of it — for example, whether you delight in yourself versus in your friends and relationships. These findings suggest that lower-income individuals have devised ways to cope, to find meaning, joy and happiness in their lives despite their relatively less favorable circumstances.” — Paul Piff, PhD, UCI
Which brings to me to one of my favorite stories about a fisherman off the coast of Mexico:
An American businessman was one day traveling along the coast of Mexico when he sees a fisherman pull up on the shore in his small boat with several large tunas. The American looks at the fish and complements the fisherman for the quality of it, asking how long it took to catch.
“Not too long — only a short while,” the fisherman responded.
“Why don’t you stay longer and catch more fish then?” the American asked.
The fisherman responded, saying that it was already enough to support his family’s immediate needs to which the American asked, “but then what do you do with the rest of your time?”
“I sleep late, fish for a while, play with my children, take walks with my wife, and drink wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”
When the American heard that, he sneered: “I am a Harvard MBA and can help you. If you spend more time fishing, you’ll be able to soon afford a bigger boat, and with the bigger boat, you’ll eventually be able to buy several boats — and one day, you’ll even have a fleet of boats. With the amount of fish you’d catch, you can then sell directly to the processor and even open your own cannery. And when you grow big enough, you can even control the product, processing and distribution, and expand beyond Mexico to LA, and eventually even New York where you’ll run your entire enterprise.”
The fisherman asked, “But how long will all this take?”
“But then what?” asked the Mexican fisherman.
“That’s the best part! When you’ve expanded enough, you can announce an IPO to begin selling your company stock to the public and become very rich — you’d make millions!”
“Millions — then what?”
The American said, “Then you’d retire. Move to a small village on a coast somewhere where you’d sleep late, fish for a while, play with your kids, take walks with your wife, and drink wine and play guitar with your amigos.”
Sometimes the things we work for are the things that are already in front of us.
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