Wealth has little to do with money.
We’ve been led to believe that you are wealthy if you can afford certain luxuries or hang out in a hot tub with Jeff Bezos and his bikini babes. That’s so wrong.
Naval Ravikant once said “the purpose of wealth is freedom.” Here’s what that means and how to apply to your life.
The greatest threat to your success
Because I thought financial wealth mattered, I turned to the banking industry for big dollars and a corner office.
I eventually found the big dollars but I lost a part of myself in the process.
At any point a customer or senior leader could blow up my day. They could demand I do something and I couldn’t say no. One Christmas I even canceled my holidays because a leader needed an audit done.
Only I could do it. So I missed time with my family.
Shortly after, my grandmother died. I felt terrible. It was our last Christmas together and I traded it for a compliance audit and many cups of bad instant coffee.
My friend Justin Welsh once said, “The greatest threat to your success is relying on someone else for it.”
It’s a reminder I never forget. When we rely on someone else for our success, we outsource our freedom. All it takes is one black swan or a period of randomness we could never predict to destroy us.
It’s why solopreneurship and entrepreneurship often come with higher levels of freedom. Naysayers think it’s because of the possibility of making more money. But it’s not.
The point is when you control your income and pay yourself each month, you’re in control. You determine how much money you make and what freedom that can buy you.
The illusion that discipline equals freedom is misguided
The American Dream wrongly teaches us that if we just show up for enough days we will get everything we want.
That means we need to be disciplined. We need to show up to a job we may not love and push through because it’ll eventually equal some form of wealth, freedom, or feeling of achievement.
We trade the present for a mythical future built on a fake promise.
This mindset makes us think good behavior and compliance will earn us rewards. It makes fulfillment, meaning, and purpose seem like a game of patience. Like you suddenly stumble across this aha-moment or overnight success then all the suffering is worth it.
If you think about this idea for long enough you’ll see it’s littered with flaws. Once you understand this false promise it makes sense why people reach midlife and their lives blow up like a nuke landed on their front lawn.
Discipline isn’t freedom.
You need discipline when you hate doing what you do each day. When you do work you truly love there’s no need for discipline.
Instead, obsession drives you. The work is what you’d be doing even on your day off, or if you had $50M in your bank account.
Obsession leads to true wealth — that’s what it means to be free.
Freedom is stolen through 1000s of small paper cuts
You don’t lose your freedom overnight.
It’s a slow process. First you try to fit in at school. Then you get to university and choose a career path you hope pays off with no data to know for sure.
That comes with a big fat load of debt (unless you’re a trust fund baby). Once you enter the workforce you then start to slowly binge on credit card, car, and home loan debt.
Before you know it, life looks completely different and something feels off. You’re not stuck in a prison the way a murderer is.
But you don’t feel free either.
The hard thing about freedom is it’s not black and white. It takes courage and self-awareness to go deep and know if you’re truly free.
Spoiler: most of us aren’t.
A sure-fire sign freedom is missing
There are two ways to live:
- Be chosen
- Do the choosing
Option one means you’re not free. Option two means you are. To do the choosing, though, you need some level of money. Because without money you constantly have to think about money.
And if your mind is full of thoughts about money all day long then it can’t be free to think, imagine, and create because it’s stuck in survival mode.
I love this alternative description of wealth from controversial figure Nassim Taleb:
You are rich (wealthy) if and only if money you refuse tastes better than money you accept.
Get back in the driver’s seat of your life and do the choosing.
Money fuels wealth but it’s not the ultimate goal
Wealth creates freedom that looks like this:
- Overseas travel whenever you want
- Work done at your pace and at whatever time you want
- More time with family
When you hear ‘wealth’ though you’ll probably assume it has to be millions of dollars. That’s the case if you let consumerism and The American Dream run your life.
If you’re willing to stop buying dumb stuff, stay away from debt, and get pleasure from non-material objects, the number is much lower.
I know a woman who earns $75,000 a year and is wealthy. She works three days a week and has made sure her biggest cost — housing — is modest. Because she spends more time away from home than in her home, she doesn’t need a big home. Smart.
The number for true wealth is lower than you think.
If I had to boil down how to unlock wealth and access personal freedom into a single sentence, it’d come down to this:
Wealth is a mindset.
How you think about life and what you do and don’t need matters. And if you can realize that obsession is more powerful than misguided discipline, you’ll become unstoppable and access the good life.