I recently began reading Tim Ferris' book called "Tools of Titans" after my good friend Chris gave it to me for my birthday. Within, Ferris highlights tricks from different people he has interviewed throughout his life, mostly on his podcast "The Tim Ferris Show." I was listening to one of those podcasts episodes on a Saturday afternoon on my way back from San Marcos, where I had class as part of my graduate degree program. Now I have to admit, this podcast (both this specific episode and in general) is not my favorite, because Ferris can often times come across as a very self-absorbed douchebag. And yes, I see the irony in the fact that I am making that statement while writing a blog post that I am assuming other people will read, but here we are. In this particular episode, Ferris was answering questions his listeners had voted on via Twitter, and as I sat my cruise control to 75 and was only half listening to his answers, he said something that actually hit home with me.
"Wealth is not stuff, wealth is time."
Now, out of context, this may not make much sense. But ultimately what it boiled down to was that Ferris was pointing out how he does not value materialistic things as much as other people he might encounter in his highly successful career, but rather he enjoys the freedom his success has given him. This freedom affords him the opportunities to test the tips and tricks he writes about in "Tools of Titans." His "wealth" allows him to choose experiences over "stuff" if he so chooses. His success gives him the flexibility to do what he wants, where he wants, when he wants. My ears popped up when I heard this, because that is exactly what I want for my life.
I've typically had a hard time explaining to people that I've never really felt motivated by money. I view myself as a hard-worker, and I am notorious in all my past jobs for never being late and rarely missing work due to illness or otherwise. However, most of my childhood I was fortunate enough to have the freedom to do whatever I pleased. School came easy to me, so there was never much stress involved with grades or homework. Sports also were second nature to me, probably because of the freedom my hardworking parents allowed me to have that basically translated into me playing any and every sport I wanted, whenever I wanted, wherever I wanted. Unfortunately, this did not translate well into my adult life. Despite my youthful dreams, I was not naturally physically gifted enough to turn sports into a profession. And despite obtaining degrees with relative ease, I had no direction for what I would do with my career as I transitioned into adult life.
Picking a major for my undergrad was difficult, as I was good at a lot of things but never great at any one thing (I made the exact same score on math as I did on verbal on my SAT's - 600/600, for example). I started in psychology, and ended up with a Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Development - that to this day I have never used. I just hoped my interpersonal skills might bode well for me in that field. The goal of moving to Austin blinded me to what the next step would be once I got here, because I was sure that getting here would lead to me being happier. I succeeded in getting here, but it didn't take long for me to start asking myself "well now what?"
Since then I've had jobs in customer service, sales, marketing, and even as a photographer, but could not figure out a calling or a passion. The goal of making money has never been my endgame, it has simply been the means to an end. Whether that be to continue to live Austin, travel more, or now to pay for graduate school, it has never been the idea of "wealth" that has propelled me forward. It is that longing for freedom, the ability to work on projects I am interested in, or passionate about, and the flexibility to work on those projects when and where I feel I would be most productive and/or happy. Knowing that, my smart and loving wife helped me find a graduate degree program in a field (Mass Communications in Digital Media) that hopefully will help me end up in an environment that resembles at least some of those goals.
It seems funny that most of us work jobs we don't like simply in the pursuit of financial wealth, just so we can purchase things that we hope will distract us from the unhappiness we feel in other aspects of our life. What is the point in having a car that is so expensive you are afraid to drive it? Or that in order to afford it you have to work so much that you don't have the time to drive it? I know I am not the first person exclaiming this feeling of wanderlust and wanting flexibility to not have to "keep up with Joneses," but I feel compelled to ask the people close enough to me that took the time to read this all the way through... what is wealth to you?