(6 minute read)
When you’re the only sane person, you look like the only insane person. –Criss Jami
How Strong is Your Will to be Weird?
If you are going to succeed at living a simple, rich life your will to be weird is going to have to be rock solid.
Here’s why. Everything about our culture tells us we must fit in. It is as if there is a script written for every American citizen. It goes something like this: get good grades in high school, get a college degree, get a great job, buy a house, car, more clothes than you can wear, furniture and a lot of other stuff you can’t pay for, get married, have kids, heap up a massive amount of debt while doing all this, work more, buy more, work more, buy more, work till you die.
We spend our entire lives working for who? To get what? To rest when? Why? All because our culture tells us to. Those of us who want to squash this script have our work cut out for us.
To derail this train takes guts, effort, and a deep-seated willingness to be weird.
Here are just a few ways you’re going to have to be weird to live a simple, rich life:
- Never confuse busyness with value. There was a time when I was in high demand. There were days I would get caught in the parking lot on the way to my office by someone with a request or demand of my time and efforts. Most days I had trouble finding an opportunity to escape to the bathroom and even there I may hear a whisper. “Jamie, is that you?” Yes, it can get that despicable. The culture where I worked bred this environment. It was a badge of honor to work overtime. People noticed the time stamp on your emails; the more obnoxious the hour the more praiseworthy it seemed. Yet, I didn’t accomplish much of anything under these conditions. Later, an acquisition made my “importance” diminish. There were less meetings, less emails, less phone calls, less of everything except progress. It was during this time I was able to contribute the greatest value to the company. I had time to focus my skills and talents on my work. The irony is, there was no praise, no promotion, and no pay increase to go with my contribution. What’s the bottom line? Well, less, because being weird often doesn’t pay well.
- Be willing to wait. We live in a culture of instant gratification. Lost is the value in waiting. The best way I know to help you see the value in waiting is to tell you to watch a dog perform the “wait” command. My dog Mosie is a champ at waiting. Holding a treat, you give the “wait” command. Her eyes track away. As the treat moves closer, her intensity rises, her eyes are bright, aware, excited, anticipating the release. She freezes in suspense. “Okay,” she grasps the treat in her teeth, sheer joy on her face. Contrast this with the complete apathy she portrays when you walk up to her and hand her a treat and you will have the value of waiting embedded in your mind forever. Waiting provides even more advantage than increased pleasure in anticipation. It can also cause you to make fewer mistakes. It can help prevent compulsive spending, leading to better financial decisions. It can also aid in maintaining healthy relationships by eliminating frenzied responses. It is true, waiting is worth it.
- Refuse to buy stuff you cannot pay for. The simplest way to prevent this is to not make purchases on credit. There are no great deals when it comes to credit. The rule is, “Pay now, or pay more later.”
- Expect a rainy day. It amazes me how many people live as though nothing bad will ever happen to them. No job loss, no health loss, nothing will ever break, or get stolen. This is not reality. I heard a commercial from a company selling insurance for home appliances declaring that something as simple as a washing machine going bunk could, “Ruin your chances of a summer vacation.” What? Are you kidding me? If your washing machine breaks and you have to buy another this should have no impact whatsoever on your summer vacation prospects. Why? Because if you can’t afford to fix or buy a new washing machine at any point you have no business even planning for a summer vacation other than to spend some quality time at home.
- Appreciate basic mathematics. It was the weirdo’s in school who liked math. Well, we all need to be weird when it comes to understanding basic financial mathematics. Gain an understanding of interest rate calculations. Including compound interest, variable rate, adjustable rate, balloon payments and other forms. Also learn to recognize inflation in all forms. Inflation isn’t as simple as seeing the price of gas go up. It can crop up in many forms such as the size of the container shrinking, the serving size increasing, increases in shipping rates, and decrease in the value of coupons, all while the price remains steady.
- Do without. Here are a few unnecessary expenses that will not only save you money but will increase your quality of life. Cable TV, expensive vacations, movies, concerts, eating out, toys, electronics, and sporting events. Eliminating these expenses will provide more time and money for more important priorities. Priorities such as eating healthier, exercising, continuing to educate your mind, and family time. Who knows you might even learn to play again.
- Identify with your character traits not your external circumstances. Our society tends to identify us by what our job title is, the town we live in, whether married or single, how many kids we have, what model of car we drive, and a host of other external circumstances. The reality of course is, none of these make us who we are. Rather focus on character traits such as honesty, tenacity, contentment, and integrity. Traits like these are what make us who we are, not a silly car that we owe more for than it is worth.
- Relish in the simple things of life. Those days when something super exciting happens are scarce. Even rarer are those big moments in life such as weddings, and graduations. Even if you are just one of those who lives for the weekend you are still throwing away 70% of your life. Learn to enjoy simple things like hugs, rain, and a warm shower.
- Seek to lead a quiet life. When I see stories of people leaving their children in hot cars, forgetting to turn the oven off, or neglecting their dog I don’t wonder how this happens. We can be so busy and stressed with the urgent we forget about something or someone of paramount importance. I used to grocery shop using what I called the “speed shopping” method. Once a week I had 15-20 minutes to buy a week worth of groceries. I would fly down one isle after another, jogging while tossing items into the cart. This is no way to live. Our lives overflowed with good activities. We weren’t wasting time by any means. Opportunities to do healthy, wholesome activities abounded. It was too much of a good thing. Sometimes we even need to cut out some good activities in life so that our lives can be quiet and we are sure to have time for the important.
- Set your priorities and refuse to compromise. I read an article of late entitled something like, “12 Phrases You Will Never Hear Successful People Say.” While some of the suggestions were good such as, “I can’t,” others were disturbing. In particular, “That’s too early,” and, “that’s too late,” got my attention. The article referred to work related meeting times or late social networking meetings with “important” people. If you have set your family as a priority there is a time when it is too early or too late to be having a work meeting or a social networking event. If you have set something as a priority by default it is important to you. Don’t let others trivialize the important. Set your priorities and stick to them.
You’re going to look a bit weird to others for the actions you take and the priorities you set. Assure yourself the sacrifices you make, such as cable TV, or a work promotion, pale in comparison to the benefits of the choices you have made. Go ahead and be a bit weird. Leading a simple, yet rich life is worth it.
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