Today being Labor Day makes it an interesting day to think about money. I’ve noticed my post “An essay on money” gets almost the most number of hits of all my posts so I re-read it periodically.
(Speaking of money, today is the also the last day to get the early discount on my awesome seminar on September 21 and 22 — “Leadership Through Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence” so sign up now and save money!)
My mom pointed out we never went on welfare when she read that essay, just that they gave the food out on our block without checking because the neighborhood was so poor. We loved the food I now wouldn’t touch because the bread was so sweet and white and the bologna so salty. I remember loving the welfare peanut butter our neighbors had because it was as sweet as the candy peanut butter cups and my parents wouldn’t let us get sweetened peanut butter.
I’ll leave aside exploring how our government got around to giving poor people unhealthy food to support corporations taking over the nation’s farms.
Meanwhile my father had tenure as a Professor at a university and an Ivy League background, not that a young college professor is rolling in dough. But his house was in a solid middle-class neighborhood.
A longtime college friend who made enough to retire in his thirties remarked once to me “Josh, you’ve never made money a major decision point.” I hadn’t thought of it that way. I prefer to choose based on what I want to do. That’s led to an odd mix of things like traveling the world, but going on limited budgets, though in recent years that’s changed to delivering enough value to others they pay my way. Or things like getting a top-tier MBA, but then not making anywhere near typical income of my peers.
The benefit of choosing based on non-money values has served me well. I’ve had time and freedom to do what I want. Business school — a place that for many means more bump in salary than personal growth — started a process of learning leadership, emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and the value of emotions and relationships. That process has led to discovering and increasing the now most important things in my life — my relationships, including with myself.
I believe this process has made me a more effective leader and more attractive person, including to myself, and richer. With the (still modest but) growing demand of my seminars, teaching, and writing, I expect I’ll continue being able to live by what I consider important. If you live for money then people with more money will be able to control you to achieve their interests, which don’t necessarily align with yours. They’ll get you racing other rats.
What’s made it possible to choose freely without needing to consider money so much, especially living in what many people erroneously call one of the most expensive neighborhoods in New York City, and therefore the world?
- Having a great education means when I’ve worked full-time I’ve made decent money.
- Not increasing my spending when my earning increases.
- Buying an apartment.
- Paying off my mortgage as soon as I could when I started making money instead of increasing my spending.
- Learning to socialize without spending money. I can’t believe what people spend in bars sometimes, while I’m enjoying myself as much and meeting as many people.
- Co-founding a company and continually contributing value to it.
- Learning to enjoy things that don’t cost much — exercise, writing, meditation, socializing with friends, etc.
- Not having a car.
- Not feeling the need to impress people. Nothing beats being able to have a good time together to get people to like you.
- Knowing my values and not accepting Madison Avenue’s or anyone else’s.
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