You can be rich the traditional way. You can have cash in the bank, assets to your name and income rolling in. You can buy whatever you want, whenever you want it. You can hire people to do chores for you and you can drive around in flashy wheels. Whatever you desire, you can purchase. You are rich because you have everything you want.
But it’s not that simple. As quoted in Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you.” Owning a nice big house isn’t as fun when you’re worrying about being broken into. Owning expensive clothes stop you playing games with your nieces and nephews, a nice garden needs hours of upkeep, fancy sunglasses get sat on.
From the Daily Stoic:
Income taxes are not the only taxes you pay in life. They are just the financial form. Everything we do has a toll attached to it. Waiting around is a tax on traveling. Rumours and gossip are the taxes that come from acquiring a public persona.
Disagreements and occasional frustration are taxes placed on even the happiest of relationships. Theft is a tax on abundance and having things that other people want.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for success and riches, but take the taxes into account, or learn to see past them. Put it into perspective. Would you rather focus on what you get to keep or what you have to give away?
There’s having everything you want, and then there’s having nothing you don’t want. Achieving the latter could change things for you right now. Those who are truly wealthy have enough, and this is sufficient. They don’t long for more. So being rich is not only about financial status or material ownership but freedom from burdens; things you don’t want or need in your life.
This isn’t about ticking milestones off your to-do list; this is about defining your “not-to-do” list. Identify the people, the possessions and the obligations that you just don’t want to be part of your existence and say no to them. Say no to drama, negativity and naysayers. Say no to that huge teddy from the theme park, or that family heirloom you don’t actually like. Free up time, room and headspace for experiences and possessions that really spark joy. Cultivate deeper relationships with your few favourite people instead of having arms-length small talk with hundreds.
If you really hate doing something, work out how you can take it out of your equation. Focus on eliminating everything at the bottom of your list alongside maximising the top. Feel like a millionaire without actually being one.
Richness comes from the elevated quality of every hour you have, so another way of being rich is having autonomy over how you spend your time. That includes: Waking up when you want to. Having time to read books, time to exercise and a short commute. Time to spend with friends but the freedom to write or work all night if you want to do that, too. There’s happiness in having the choice of whom you spend time with and whom you choose to let go, at work and at home. Having ultimate mastery over your days, weeks and years might be more attractive than being at the beck and call of a thousand customers.
What’s the trade-off you’re willing to make, and how can you have the best of both worlds?