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July 7, 2011

My wife and I once got stuck in Hawaii for 4 days and had to buy some cheap clothes at an ABC store.   I bought a cheesy shirt that had Hawaiian proverbs on the back and one of them read, “There are two ways of getting rich, make more or desire less.”

The second aspect of that phrase (desiring less) was foreign to me.  When we think about getting ahead in life our brains typically fixate on making more or doing more not about doing or desiring less.  It is called the rat race.  People rarely get a pay raise without bumping up in lifestyle too.  It doesn’t really matter if you are a mechanic at Jiffy Lube or a doctor at Cedar-Sinai, a good chunk of people are in debt, have too many bills, and get divorced and see their assets drop by half.  The rat race is a cycle that never stops because our eyes are bigger than our pocketbooks.

I had a professor at the University of Missouri who was a quirky guy.  His name was Mel and he owned pretty much all of east campus housing and also wrote our textbook for his class on consumerism.  I remember it so vividly, he stood in front of our class and in a daring sort of way told us he didn’t think any of us had the guts to live below our means, even for a season.

Obviously he was banking on reverse psychology but his taunt still does its work on me today. Issues of identity, vanity, practicality, and plain social acceptability stand in the way of people living lives where their answer to happiness and success doesn’t end with the word more.  Sure, there are tons of people who struggle and need to make more money or have more space in their cars or apartments but what about the middle and upper classes?  Is more still the thing to go after? What if we pursued meaning instead of more?  What about pursuing assets that help people instead of liabilities that make us feel good.

Just for a moment think about what it would look like if you were to live below your means.  Think about what you would give up and also what ways you would get ahead?  I am not talking about cutting cable to save $29.99/mo.  Think and dream bigger.  Who would you serve better if you weren’t saddled by a mortgage?  How would your relationships change if you didn’t work the extra 10 hours each week at work?

Allow your mind to wander through different possibilities and ask yourself at the end,

Is the key to my happiness still more?

Do I have the guts to live below my means?

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 7, 2011 8:02 pm

    Convicting stuff – “what if we pursued meaning instead of more?” I wonder how different the world would look? I wonder what it would do to our entire economic structure? I hope I have the guts…

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