How to get rich without making more money

Post image for How to get rich without making more money

It only took about ten Christmases before I realized how quickly the new-toy feeling wears off. I knew by the time New Year’s came around, I would lose that feeling I looked forward to all year — getting up to a dazzling world of new stuff.

Then one Christmas Day I felt that same predictable boredom, the same fading of abundance, creep in by dinnertime. I had eaten more chocolate than could actually be enjoyable, and played with everything once.

I felt like I had definitely lost something substantial since that giddy first hour of the day. Obviously I didn’t own any less by that time (not counting chocolate), but it absolutely felt like I did.

Of course, no matter how I felt about my possessions at different times of day, I was always rich and rarely realized it.

The same is true for me today, probably you too. Average income across the world is about $7000 per year. But that’s just a mathematical mean. The vast majority of people make far less than that. Only about twenty percent of the world’s population lives in countries with an average income that high.

So no matter what class you are in your society, if you’re sitting in front of a computer with some blog-reading time on your hands, you probably outclass (financially anyway) a sizeable majority of people alive today, and certainly almost all of the people who are no longer alive.

But that’s just money. Wealth includes power and privilege too, and not just because you can buy more of those things. It’s reasonable to say that someone with a thousand dollars is less wealthy than someone with a thousand dollars and access to political connections, say. Ability, knowledge, and privilege all contribute to wealth.

You’re probably not doing too poorly on that front either. You’re unlikely to be reading this if you live in North Korea. All sorts of people read this blog, but statistically you probably have the right to vote, the right to protest, the right to say what you like, the right to travel, the right to practice your spiritual tradition, the means to contact your political representatives, the means to practice your chosen art, and the means to self-publish your thoughts. Extraordinary and exclusive privileges, if you have any of them. 

These are riches, if the word means anything at all, and most of history’s humans certainly did not have the level of wealth you do.

It’s unlikely, though, that you would describe yourself as rich, or particuarly that you feel rich.

An iPhone! My Kingdom for an iPhone!

High technology has given superhuman powers to almost all of us, and these are riches of the most enviable kind. Today’s technology extends privilege way further down the economic scale than ever, so that a much wider swath of people can have incredible powers. You certainly have superhuman powers if you have internet access, even if you have to walk to the library to get it.

Imagine if you could transplant your life, and all its advantages, into an iron age society. Your house or apartment gets plopped down on a hillside at the edge of a farming village. All your devices work, you get internet and cable, water and heat. Don’t worry about technical issues like where you get your electricity from, or how you’d get cell service. Assume it is freely available to you within your means, as we tend to assume today.

Outside your doors, humans who are otherwise just like you are getting along with the powers they have available to them — just like you do today. They keep warm with wood stoves, they can work only by the available light of the day, they repair their tools and clothing themselves. They aren’t lesser people by any means, but even the most privileged among them couldn’t even dream of the powers and freedoms you have within arm’s reach right at this moment.

Imagine how they would feel toward you once they learned what you’re able to do with your lot in life. What do you think they might pay for even the simplest of the advantages you have? For walls that easily keep out the worst of the weather, for an accurate timepiece, for a machine that can perform basic math functions instantly without error, or even for a glowing blue cell-phone screen to find something in the dark. Undoubtedly they would be willing to toil an extra day per month to bring these advantages home for their families. Maybe much more than that.

And those powers are nothing compared to what else you can do with your riches. What would they pay to be able to:

  • speak to someone across the sea
  • have the knowledge of thousand encyclopedias in their pocket
  • watch segments of the past (or someone else’s past) unfold in moving pictures, in real time
  • see the face or hear the voice of a dead loved one
  • heat the house without stoking a fire
  • cook food in thirty seconds
  • clean and dry their family’s clothing with ten minutes of actual work
  • suck the dirt out of a rug
  • get all their water from inside the house at whatever temperature they wish
  • access instructions on how to do almost anything that can be done by humans

These are insane powers, which most of humanity could never have dreamed of, and they’re all yours, right now. Do you really think more money will make you feel rich if you aren’t blown away by what you already have?

The rich members of past societies may or may not have had more than you in terms of monetary wealth. Yet, it is undeniable that the age you live in gives you access to powers they could never have had, or even imagined. The contents of your crummy apartment certainly would have been worth more to them than all their piles of furs and gold.

And all of this is to say nothing of the intangible privileges you have, just by being alive here and now — rights, freedoms, moral advances, literacy, public education, and modern medicine.

The Makings of Being Rich

You’d think gratitude would increase alongside advantage and privilege. If you have more to be grateful for, you become more grateful. But clearly this isn’t true.

We’ve all heard stories of tycoons who couldn’t be happy, or lottery winners that end up ruined a few years later, wishing it had never happened. I can understand the possibility that having amounts of money that seem copious to you and me might bring certain problems we’re ignorant about. But I still always find myself thinking that these people must be particularly foolish or naive not to be able to make millions of dollars work for them.

But this kind of thinking is what’s naive. We do the same thing. Almost all of us are in an extremely high percentile of material and social wealth, even if you only consider the people who are alive today.

If our standards for wealth are where we sit on that spectrum — and what other standard could we have? — then we’re certainly rich, but how often do we feel rich?

That’s a totally different question. And clearly there is no real value in being rich by any material standard, if we don’t feel rich — if we don’t feel like we have more to be grateful for than most — and of course we do. That feeling of abundance, the opposite of the feeling of lack, is what makes riches attractive to anybody.

I think it’s important to reiterate that point. No matter what material things we pursue, we’re only ever looking for certain feelings. Money is attractive to us because we believe it will come with the feelings we want: abundance, security, power. That’s all the good it can do. Stuck on a desert island with a billion in hard currency is a terrible place to be, because you’re poor in all the things that matter.

How rich we’re able to feel does depend a little on what we do have in terms of privilege and material wealth. It’s hard to achieve feelings of autonomy if you have no clothes or no home. Yet it seems to depend more on what we feel entitled to, what our peers have relative to us — and most importantly — whether we think more about what we do have than what we don’t have.

The Manhattan investment banker who only grosses $96,000 a year probably feels like a have-not when he goes out to lunch with the big dogs. But he probably feels differently about his level of wealth and privilege when he’s being asked for change outside the train station.

How rich he is depends on how rich he experiences himself to be, which is quite independent of his financial bottom line. It’s dependent on how he values what he has and how he values what he doesn’t have, which changes from moment to moment, day to day, year to year. Depending on his perspective, there is a huge range of possible levels of happiness within his means, and that’s every bit as true for you. The influence of our material holdings on our ability to experience wealth is actually quite small.

“Rich” is clearly a relative, emotional state, and your life almost certainly contains far more material (and social) advantages at your disposal than a random human life picked out of a hat. So for most of us, what we need to get rich is not more money, it’s to cultivate a shift in perspective. More money would still leave that necessary perspective shift ahead of you. Chances are you do have the makings of being rich.

If we break it down, the makings of being rich are:

1) Enough stuff to survive in relative comfort. I’m talking about the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid here: food, shelter, water, and decent health.

2) Some extra stuff, beyond the essentials of survival. Some toys, some technology, some art, some tools you could survive without. Most of us have way more than some of this.

3) Some friends. I don’t think this is optional, if you want to feel rich. Humans are highly social and I expect there are few people who can exist in a generally grateful state if they are alone in life. Luckily it is easier than ever to meet other people with like interests. Facebook.com. Meetup.com. Millions of forums worldwide. Use your superpowers here.

4) Some freedoms. Chiefly, to speak your mind and to do your own thing. This varies hugely across modern societies, but if you’re reading this you are probably near the better end of the stick. By the same token, everyone does live under some measure of political constraint, but most of us are still left with an amount of room to pursue happiness that would make most of history’s people envious. People have made rich and worthwhile lives with much worse.

5) The capacity to keep perspective when it comes to assessing a) the value of what you do have, and b) the value of what you don’t have. This is a skill and it can be developed.

Those are the makings, as far as I can see it, and for most people reading this it’s just a matter of working with the last one.

Here are a couple of ways to get better at that:

“Caveman gratitude” – Whenever you use a material posession, think of how valuable it would be to someone who didn’t live in a highly technological world. Remember that you are still only a naked animal, surrounded by a lot of stuff, and even the crappiest of that stuff confers powers that most of the past’s humans would find extraordinarily valuable. What would medieval serfs make of my “crappy” Panasonic point-and-shoot? Yet I have a mid-level Nikon DSLR, and I still salivate over the top-of-the-line stuff. Whenever you feel like a have-not, mentally drop your home and your stuff into an iron-age village and realize again that you live like a monarch with magic powers, right here in the far future.

Own fewer things, but better things – Respect your possessions. Get rid of low quality possessions. Get rid of any possession you don’t respect or use. Have a home for everything in your home, or get rid of it. If you don’t respect your lot in life materially, then you can’t feel like you have a lot worth having, and that’s what being rich amounts to.

Picture losing what’s important to you – This is one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever learned to do. We just cannot have the necessary perspective to appreciate what we have until we understand what it would mean to lose those things. Do it with your possessions, your rights, and most powerfully, do it with the people you love. Those links will explain how.

Make 2012 your year to get rich.

***

Photo by Maczter

***

{ 85 Comments }

Kelli R. A. December 26, 2011 at 10:33 am

David,

I just found your blog and started reading & love it. I will definitely be sharing this post on Twitter & on my blog (http://www.ofkells.blogspot.com) next Thankful Thursday. This was so nicely said and I completely agree.

Cheers to you,
Kelli

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 7:53 am

Thanks Kelli, I appreciate your sharing it

{ Reply }

Tobi December 26, 2011 at 11:28 am

Hello David.

I would just like to add one little thing to your list of what it means to be rich.

I’m a student at Job Corps, which is a government run program where anyone 16 to 24 can go, get a high school diploma if they need and learn a trade as well as have 3 meals a day, a place to sleep and lots of recreational activities and medical treatment all that lasts 2 years, at no charge what-so-ever (yes, it’s seriously free, God bless America.)

So we have everything on that list except… I share a dorm with 40 other girls and a room with 6 others… we don’t have a private area to change and there is literally no where we can go to just have some quiet time. In my room there are always girls bitching and gossiping about something stupid, the in the dorm is always on and anywhere that’s quite and alone is considered AWOL. There might be a bench somewhere I can sit at outside, but this is the Colorado Rockies so you can imagine how freezing it is.

So I would like to add:

The right and privilege of privacy! I guess that would go under “Some Freedoms” but next time you’re in your very own bathroom don’t forget to appreciate it. I’m sure you won’t :)

Wonderful article for the Holidays, Merry (late) Christmas :)

{ Reply }

Adolfo Brandes December 26, 2011 at 11:57 am

Nice one, Tobi. Specially since privacy was at least supposedly more easily accessible to Mr. Caveman than to ourselves. One of the greatest achievements of my life so far has been to procure an apartment all to myself. Another one is the (in my mind) right to work in a quiet environment. Because of these two things (and all the others in David’s post), I consider myself to be a rich man.

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 7:57 am

Yes, privacy is a huge difference-maker. I would put it under “Some freedoms” like you say. But that freedom is certainly achievable for you, isn’t it? You are free to pursue the freedom of privacy, and you have a lot to enjoy in the mean time :)

{ Reply }

Tobi December 29, 2011 at 11:52 am

I suppose Job Corps is part of the pursuit of privacy because I will be able to get a job and move out of my parents house, then I can have a place to myself. But, things have to get worse before they can get better, right?

{ Reply }

Emilia January 1, 2012 at 8:03 am

One thing I think our society does wrong is to perpetuate the idea that we should have it all. Yes, you have to work for the ability to have your own apartment, your own car etc… Your feelings are dictated by where you put your mental focus. If you focus on how crappy things are then you will be frustrated and unhappy. Focus on what a great opportunity you have, daydream about moving out, it’s just a matter of effort on your part.

Adolfo Brandes December 26, 2011 at 11:52 am

You know a blog is good when you take at least one useful thing out of every post. This time, it was meetup.com. Thanks, David!

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 7:58 am

Have fun :)

{ Reply }

Zack December 26, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Well done, David. I really learned a lot from this blog and I can’t wait to put it into practice! Quick, unrelated questions though. I’ve been reading up on the power of the “Here and Now,” and have some questions for you.
1. Do you believe that you are not your mind? That is to say, is your mind only a small part of your sense of self, or is your mind all you are?
2. If you believe the mind is only a fraction of what you truly are, do you live your life like it? If so, what’s it like?

Thanks :)

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 8:03 am

Those are huge questions Zack. I’ll try to give you my brief take.

1. I believe there are two ways of perceiving yourself. The first way is to see yourself as your mind, or as the ego. This is how most of us operate almost all the time. The other way is to recognize the ego as a transient collection of thoughts that couldn’t be you. No such temporal content is you, and so the only thing that’s left to be “you” is the consciousness that is perceiving it. I think that’s a more accurate way to think of oneself but our culture reinforces the former way.

2. Generally not. We’re highly conditioned to identify with our egos, and it’s the normal way to talk about ourselves. I try to cultivate moments in which I am not identified with my personality or my body or any of the other transient “stuff” that makes up the ego at any given time.

{ Reply }

Emilia January 1, 2012 at 8:05 am

Love your answers :D

{ Reply }

EcoCatLady December 26, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Another brilliant post. As one who has practiced voluntary simplicity for 20 years now, I find myself being shocked by what most Americans view to be “essential” in terms of money, housing, and possessions. I also can’t escape the sensation that I’m surrounded by people who have more money than they know what to do with, yet the vast majority of them don’t really seem to be happy.

I guess I would add one more thing to your list… and that is time. I have found it to be the most valuable commodity that I own, and one that I am very reluctant to barter away, no matter what the price.

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 8:05 am

Yes good point. Time is probably the greatest freedom. Most of us do have an abundance of it, but we commit it to other pursuits very quickly. I think time is one of the bigger incentives people have for wanting heaps of money — it would give a person some real time, if they wanted it.

{ Reply }

EcoCatLady January 2, 2012 at 9:35 pm

True… but I think this is another area where we’ve all been “sold a bill of goods.” If you learn to live with less stuff, and fewer expenses, you really don’t need much money at all to live like a king.

{ Reply }

Noch Noch December 26, 2011 at 8:52 pm

somestimes in our search and craving for more, and making money, we lose sight of whats important, and that we are indeed rich with all the possessions. i always think we should give back to society somehow. and try to stop indulging in material goods. guilty as charged. 2012 perhaps I’ll be “richer” after all this turmoil of depression, ill health and realizing that life is so much more than title and a career
Noch Noch

{ Reply }

David December 26, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I agree that we don’t actually pursue possessions, but rather feelings. For me, the specific feeling I find myself desiring is the feeling of “I can do whatever I want.” When I find myself wishing I was “richer” it’s not so much the money I want, but the ability to say, “I’m going golfing today instead of going to work,” or “I’m going out to eat tonight cause I’m not in the mood to cook.”

{ Reply }

mark steele December 27, 2011 at 10:43 am

David–you CAN decide to go play golf instead of going to work ANY DAY YOU WANT. There will be consequences. Likely in your case, you’ll just have to work that night late, or harder the next day…but you are “rich.” You can do that.

When a conventionally “rich” person does it there are consequences too. Maybe to you his or her consequences will seem less onerous, but even they don’t get off scot free.

….well, you live in frigid Canada, so you can’t knock off any day you want to hit the links. In fact, for nine months out of the year, I’ll bet this whole complaint is a straw man in fact. :)

;; Mark

{ Reply }

Joe C December 27, 2011 at 7:57 am

The only value I find in this life is what each individual being
gives to everything. Nothing is inherently valuable! Your iron age society would
not find your modern lifestyle to be anything but sorcery, and of no value to them except in the negative. Your life (and theirs )is valuable only so far as you find its usefulness to you
(selfishness?) and thereby create its intrinsic worth.

In other words we must feel we are worth what we have! Otherwise all
the mental gymnastics that assign value to independent things like
cellphones or money will leave one feeling less than fulfilled and even
more unworthy. Look at most lottery winners, or as simple as the after
Christmas blues.

I would make a broad assumption that most peasants from the Iron age society felt less than
worthy of of their daily bread, or they would have revolted against their rulers quicker.
Likewise today the ghetto dwellers around the world would move out in
mass if they felt worthy of their thoughts and lives.

This is a gross oversimplification, because we feel the pull of unworthiness in every
phase of our lives and try to deal with it in many ways. A whole culture of
psychological babble speak has grown up around us to help with this
problem of valuing our life.

It is a tricky gambit to stand up for what you truly believe, because it will
bring you satisfaction or destruction, depending on the truth and
conviction (intimate value you have assigned) of your belief, and possibly
both. Thus we reach whether it is worth standing up for and the ultimate
assignation of value. The values we hold cannot be over estimated as the source of all individual problems and misery, or success and happiness.

It would seem to me that simplifying our life would be of the first order to
deal with our dilemma, instead of allowing ourselves to be trapped in an
ubiquitous rat race almost unknowingly.

I think all value must start with acknowledging we are alive and worthy as human beings with our own selfish desires and the ability to find rational virtuous means to happiness.

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

I agree with your conclusions here, and I’m saying the same thing in a different way. It is our patterns of thinking that keep us from happiness, not often our material lot in life.

{ Reply }

Michele Kendzie December 27, 2011 at 8:01 am

Well said! I’ve long known that money does not equal happiness. You explained it very well! Happy New Year!

{ Reply }

Padmafox December 27, 2011 at 8:26 am

It seems to me that your iron age folk would only really be interested in the benefits of modern medicine, especial antibiotics, and in a modern sewage system. The rest of the stuff can come later.

I like the idea of having a home for all your stuff tho, but seeing as we live in an economic system that thrives on making us feel we never have enough, I feel that there may be rather more fundamental issues at stake here.

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 8:12 am

I think they would totally dig the iPhone 4s

{ Reply }

LunaJune December 27, 2011 at 9:59 am

David such a wonderful post to read after an abundant weekend overflowing with love, food, gratitude. I am sooooo rich in so many areas thanks for the reminder of all the extra places to see that richness.
My father taught me very early in life that richness did not come from money, in his stories across time, from his time to time before him to see the riches surrounding me that I did not have to work for…to use them with gratitude and thanks, to stop and smell the roses of ingenuity and see how much they had worked to give the world the things we take for granted .
thanks for always making us think

I am rich beyond my wildest dreams :~)

{ Reply }

David Lynch December 27, 2011 at 10:24 am

I’ve been thinking a lot about the mania leading up to Christmas – and yes, I love it. Stocking up for a big feast, getting the last presents, all that prep. For me, it all led up to a great Christmas Eve with family and friends around the bonfire, eating eggplant casserole and homemade caramels, performing songs by the firelight, laughing and joking.

This could have been accomplished without all the prep I made. I overstocked, to be honest. I wonder if there isn’t some past life memory of needing to prepare for harsh winters in previous centuries – back when adequate harvests and stocking up was serious business. I love seeing cords and cords of firewood neatly stacked, a larder full of food, a refrigerator bursting at the seams.

These things served people well in past centuries, but with modern conveniences, they aren’t nearly as necessary now. Yet I cling to those practices of stocking up, prepping for a long stretch of time when I can’t restock. And nowadays, the stores barely close for holidays. But they still market those messages about making sure you have everything you need – and then some – especially for the holidays.

“Enough” is a much smaller quantity than it used to be – yet I still act on primordial memories and instincts. Hopefully in this case, awareness is the first step toward change.

{ Reply }

mark steele December 27, 2011 at 10:49 am

My ONLY Christmas present this year from my wife was a gorgeous 8″ tall bronze statue of Manjushree. I did not feel deflated after one hour. In fact, he’s still giving me joy every time I look his way days later. I expect if I’m ever foolish enough to stop feeling grateful for my life, just as it is, he’ll be swinging his great sword to lop off my head instantaneously. That would cut through MY ignorance quick enough!

{ Reply }

Chris Walter December 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Perspective. I really do think that is what matters most. I’m living with a family in San Pedro La Laguna and I’d be surprised if half the people in the town made 7K a year.

But because the family i’m staying with has everything they need, they’re happy. The dad, Pedro was just telling me last night how much he loves his life. Even if he does three different jobs and sometimes only sleeps 3-4 hours a night. I think he loves the drama and his kids are all going to college down the way. What’s not to love :)

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 8:18 am

Hi Chris. That’s fantastic. Sounds like Pedro has that fifth kind of riches which a lot of us lack most of the time.

{ Reply }

gustavo December 27, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Do you really need to feel rich to be happy, David?

Sorry if I’m out of context. Yours is a great analysis, though. It is easier to be happy if you nail points 1, 4 and 5.

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 8:20 am

Not exactly, but I think a feeling of lack does spoil happiness. All I’m saying is that have-not feeling almost always has much more to do with perspective than with material wealth.

{ Reply }

nrhatch December 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Perspective is key. Being wealthy is not about getting ALL that we want . . . it’s about wanting what we already have.

Happiness is NEVER in things . . . it is in us. (Or it’s not.)

Thanks for all your insights this year, David. Enjoy the tail-end of 2011 as it bows out and 2012 gets ready to burst onto the stage!

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 8:20 am

Thanks Nancy, you too

{ Reply }

Steph in Berkeley December 27, 2011 at 1:21 pm

two comments.

1. this is inspired writing. thanks for the perspective.
2. great photo. very different from others. very real.

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 8:22 am

At first I thought you wrote, “1. This is insipid writing…”

I love the photo because it reminds us how well-equipped the typical middle-classer is for dealing with the world, at least on the material level. So we can’t blame a material shortfall for not having a feeling of wealth. That little assortment of tools can do incredible things.

{ Reply }

Steph in Berkeley January 4, 2012 at 1:26 am

ha ha… i meant i love the different photo of you on the right of the page. but the photo of the stuff is also brilliant.

and no more of the paranoia dyslexia, ey?

{ Reply }

David January 6, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Ah

Michael December 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm

An amazing post, and much I can learn from.
I agree with what you’ve said. I’ve always thought that in order to truly appreciate new possessions, you must first be more than content with what you already have.

{ Reply }

Nitya December 27, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Thanks David. I think your blog showed great insight and was beautifully expressed. There is nothing more I could possible add. I intend to print it out and show it to my friends who are not on your mailing list.

I don’t want to sound fawning, as I really hate comments that are simply congratulatory, but this time it is my only possible response.

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 8:24 am

Aw thanks Nitya. Let me say I appreciate your comments, you keep my on my toes.

{ Reply }

Lea December 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I’m currently exercising your second tip. I have a few esstential things, but great things.

{ Reply }

Char Tutor 4 Psych December 27, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Insightful article David and Merry Safe festive season!

I keep things simple, some say too simple, yet I am content with my life and find myself not stressed about things that they are.

And yes, whenever I am bitching about wireless drop outs or something not-going-to plan, I tend to remind myself to be grateful to even have such a situation to whinge about.

{ Reply }

David December 28, 2011 at 8:25 am

Merry Safe Festive Season to you too Char :)

{ Reply }

Vale Villa December 27, 2011 at 7:52 pm

wow…absolutely fantastic to end this 2011. i really admire your thinking-feeling-communicating process. I also write a blog in spanish to help people being better human beings. Exactly the same call that u honour. You have inspired my writing and my thinking. I am bilingual luckily. All my gratitude for you, helping me to be aware of all the richness i have and sometimes (most of the time) take for grantes. a big big hug.

{ Reply }

Joe December 27, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Have you seen this guy? http://hcsoftware.sourceforge.net/jason-rohrer/simpleLife.html

An absolute paragon of minimalistic living. It’s almost scary..

{ Reply }

Vilx- December 29, 2011 at 2:56 am

Interesting, but it seems like he gave up on it in the end.

{ Reply }

Vilx- December 29, 2011 at 3:06 am

Hi, David!

I’ve been having the same thoughts too for some time now. Imagining how it would be if I could display all the miraculous things we have today to someone even a few hundread years old. Heck, even people from 1900 would be astounded by today’s world.

But this morning another idea hit me: while it might seem like we have an abundance of miraculous things around us, most of which our forefathers had to do without, the world has also changed since the days of our forefathers.

That precise timepiece that would have sold for heaps of gold if 1400? Try doing without one in our world where things happen by the minutes and meetings get scheduled every hour! A mobile phone? A car? Same thing. Etc. If you want to keep up with everyone, you have to have the right tools for the job. And the things we do today are nothing short of miraculous and unimaginable compared to what our forefathers did. And I think it’s good that we do them, it’s a sign of progress.

What I want to say is – perhaps you undervalue the stuff you have. Indeed it might seem like lot of it is redundant (and no doubt some is) – but try living with nothing but the basics, and you will find that you have to take a step back in what you can do too.

That said, the rest of your points I agree with, and the general idea of the post too.

{ Reply }

Dee Brun December 29, 2011 at 7:14 am

Hello…Just found your blog via the Twittersphere…and this was a great 1st post to read…Perspective is always key…
My gift this year sucked ass…but my family is healthy, I have great friends..a warm house , full fridge and WINE…

What more could I need…

Cheers and Merry Christmas…

{ Reply }

Samit December 30, 2011 at 11:09 am

Articles like these is why i like raptitude.com. I love articles like these which changes your perspective of life.

{ Reply }

Maia January 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Hi David,
your article is so true. Some people in some of the poorest societies consider themselves lucky and are content with what they have – shelter, food, warmth, water and their communities, whereas we in the West with all our possessions are never content and keep wanting to get more things to make us happier, but they never do, but the consumerist society we live also encourages this.
A lot of children of rich parents end up ruining their life with drugs and are in depression because essentially they have all they want and so they are depressed because they do not know what goals to set themselves, so in a way I guess we are lucky to to be mega rich :-)

{ Reply }

Lori Perkins January 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Great piece. I’ve been saying for a while that this is the time of Less is More. We live a wonderful life. Let’s make it better.

{ Reply }

claudia January 4, 2012 at 8:43 pm

dear david ~
may i chime in here w/ one of my favorite quotes on this topic:

“Nothing is enough to the man for whom enough is too little.”
Epicurus ~ Greek Philosopher

much stuff makes me nervous. so i have given away much of what i don’t need anymore or have extras … good towels, linens, clothing, stationary/paper-goods, cook ware, fabric , even unused pencils, … all in ship-shape, nothing shabby.
in 2006 i have been in south dakota and learned of the ghastly economic situation on the pine ridge reservation (as i recall: approx 70% unemployment, high incidences of domestic violence, drug/alcohol abuse etc) – and people sleep on the floor for lack of a bed/mattress/bedding.
so i have shipped a lot of USPS parcels to an address there and was assured that all items are being used well.

my friends are wonderful regarding gift: years ago i asked that if they decide on gifts, to please consider those which don’t take up space, i.e. they are gone after usage:
special fragrant candles,
nice shower gel or other body-care products
a bottle of fine bubbles (sparkling wine or champagne)
lovely stationary
gift certificate of a hairdresser or spa visit,….
well, you get the idea.
i don’t need another vase, or set of oyster forks.
it feels sooo much freer to travel and live so much lighter, having less stuff.
well, you wrote well about that before. thank you.

richness is an inside job. even when i had no or very little money, i never felt poor. (and believe, as an immigrant, i had plenty of times with very little money)
there was always birdsong, a wonderful nature sight (even in metro areas, where i live), … we are offered so much on this planet. and so much we take for granted.
i quit complaining when i realized that about 6 billion people would probably trade places with me, no question asked, within seconds, just by realizing the location where i am living (western coast USA).
i have hot clean water coming out of a shower; my mattress is better and more enduring that the mattress a king and queen slept on just a 100 years ago; my shoes are more comfy and weather equipped than the shoes available for the richest person also a 100 years ago (guesstimating time here :-)
stuff really does not make happy.
yet money helps getting better services (healthcare for e.g.) or finding&enjoying ease and comfort; helps to rent places in better neighborhoods, etc

well, enough said …. i shall close with this quote again:

“Nothing is enough to the man for whom enough is too little.”
Epicurus ~ Greek Philosopher

VERY best wishes to you and your readers.
Salute !

{ Reply }

David January 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Really appreciate these thoughts Claudia. Epicurus was so right on. Experiences are all that count. Physical items are useless except for the experiences they can create.

{ Reply }

christine January 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm

All your thoughts and insights have been very interesting and helpful…exercising your freewill is wealth also….religious persons like nuns and monks have renounced this wealth through the vow of obedience…..

{ Reply }

Benedict January 9, 2012 at 11:19 am

such a brilliant post David! I showed it to my little brother, and we had a really interesting conversation about how almost all of us in the developed world are so privileged. extremely inspiring. all your articles seem to be must-reads, so thank you!

{ Reply }

Breanna Chanson January 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Wow, this is a topic that has been on the forefront of my mind for the past 6 months. It all came to a head when I was sitting in Starbucks one day people watching. I quickly started to feel sick as I watched people shove their cards in the cashier’s face in a manic “I need my coffee now and I don’t care how much it costs sort of way”, order a venti white mocha with extra whip and caramel drizzle, all the while staring longingly at the pastry case with a look of “that’s so unfair that I can’t have that lemon bar in there”. They’d get their incredibly amazing dessert drink that they get once a day and walk away dejected that life is so unfair that they can’t have everything they want because a good body and lemon bars are conflicting wants. Of course I have to say that I had just gone through the same routine and it made me so disgusted to realize how unbelievably ungrateful we are. This I say as I sit in my comfy chair with my expensive coffee by my side, typing on my very own Macbook pro, in my warm apartment… all while not really noticing any of the previously mentioned things until I decided they would make a good addition to my comment. I have since spent 6 months trying to figure out what the morally right thing to do is in regards to our wealth. Which is a question that just leads to an endless array of other questions, all with very non-black and white sort of answers (if not just more questions) lying behind them. Until I find the absolute guru level of truth on this, I’m content to read blogs such as http://www.richworldproblems.com to laugh and be reminded that my “problems” really aren’t so bad and I am really lucky… even if I don’t get the lemon bar today (or ever). I figure that at the very least, my wealth is doing absolutely no good for anyone at all if I am not at least recognizing it, enjoying it, and attempting to be thankful for it (the issue of sharing it is still on the end with many questions). Thank you so much for approaching this issue in such a wonderful, thought provoking way. My sincerest gratitude.

{ Reply }

David January 12, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I know, funny how Starbucks seems to be the go-to symbol for that casual ingratitude we suffer from. I just got out of my daily five-dollar coffee habit.

Jeez, just looking at that last sentence I feel awful. It’s a waste of so much more than money.

{ Reply }

Anthony B January 15, 2012 at 10:55 am

Thank you for this post! I was thinking about these things just the other day (with more of an emphasis on the Poorest of the Poor) and I have to say you’ve given the richness mindset a great treatment. I found your blog through ProBlogger.com, very glad I did!

{ Reply }

WendyLavigne January 16, 2012 at 10:34 am

Hi David, this is a very interesting article… I enjoyed reading this and I learned so much from you… Please keep on posting interesting and informative blogs like this.

{ Reply }

Joel January 19, 2012 at 4:51 am

Catchy title that’s for sure. Made me to click on it immediately while was searching on google.

{ Reply }

Arjee January 20, 2012 at 10:14 am

Please keep on posting interesting and informative blogs like this.I enjoyed reading this and I learned so much from you…

{ Reply }

Tana January 24, 2012 at 9:54 am

Selling stocks might be a good way to earn a few extra dollars, but how much would you have to make in addition to what you’re earning now to make a difference?

{ Reply }

meagan barrett February 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm

the key to happiness? want what you have…

{ Reply }

SusieR February 9, 2012 at 5:20 am

David – this article is magical. It changed everything for me this morning when I read it. I suddenly feel immensely rich. And grateful. Thanks so much for writing it.

{ Reply }

Charles Green February 9, 2012 at 10:24 am

You are absolutely right money does not necessarily bring happiness. It is with the right intention and how you use you use the money that increases your happinesss.

{ Reply }

Gina February 17, 2012 at 5:35 am

Good post. Some parts are hard to understand for me, non-native english though… Do you know any good translate plugin for WordPress?

{ Reply }

Dan Snavely February 26, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Thank you again David for another thought-provoking post.

Material things will never completely satisfy because they consist of a picture that many host in their minds that says that ‘richness’ is found externally. Never so.

It is only when we can tap into the richness that is in our heart can we truly feel rich.

We primarily crave external riches because someone or some government or some advertiser has told us that some ‘thing’ is necessary to make us feel something that we believe that we are not. And they can do that because instead of richness, most people are focused on what they think is a missing-ness.

Yet until one realizes what kind of extraordinary and unique creation that they are, they will continue to chase after whatever trinkets are in vogue. And that would also involve making endless comparisons to others to see if they’ve amassed more trinkets than they have.

When one can understand that they are missing nothing and can share their ‘richness’ with those that reciprocate in kind, that is when they can say with certainty, ‘I am rich.’

{ Reply }

Clara March 15, 2012 at 7:22 am

I like your blog’s graphic design – is it custom made, or some public template? Where can I download it from?

{ Reply }

Michael Vaughn March 18, 2012 at 11:51 pm

I just had the privilege of reading this post – in full. Powerful!

Thank you.

{ Reply }

Deryll April 3, 2012 at 7:39 am

Do you have, or used to have another blog, David? I’m sure I have read post on similiar topic long time ago, but this one is far more comprehensive!

{ Reply }

Mike July 16, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Nice place to visit. Is it possible to add your blog to Feedreader? You would really help me to keep being updated with your posts! Thanks a lot!

{ Reply }

Anne September 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm

My cousin shared a great story with us over the holidays. In her new home in Ecuador, she lives on the side of a hill in a village, as you describe. Her family lives simply, but they do have a small car and an oven, thing like that. Anyway, during her Christmas shopping in the US, one of the gifts she picked up was a crank flashlight for a neighbor that has no electricity but loves to read. The joy we all imagined that gift would give him, to be able to read at night made all of us smile. We talked about all our gadgets and how we take them for granted. This post was a wonderful reminder to put ourselves in that position when we’re feeling like we don’t have enough. Thank you for sharing!

{ Reply }

Jenna November 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm

You are a beautiful person, David.

{ Reply }

David November 18, 2012 at 11:23 am
Apache November 22, 2012 at 9:01 pm

You know I’ve decided to major in philosophy for my time spent in college. I originally was focused on psychology, and although I am not passionate about it the way I am about studying the philosophy of things, I did start to realize that there was a huge disconnect between materialism and happiness. When I look at times I’ve been truly happy and content, its been from events taking place with myself or with others. Some say it would be wise to worry about securing myself financially before worrying about excess such as philosophical thought. But I can’t help be see it differently, that the most important thing is to understand. Every day I find more to be amazed by. Some of the things I am struck by I didn’t notice before, some of the things I didn’t realized I was allowed to contemplate. But the joy I have found through embracing the act of thought is priceless. Anyways, not sure where I’m going with this post.. but I do want to let you know I really enjoy reading your posts your an incredible writer and have so much to say. Thank you for your time!

{ Reply }

Beata December 19, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Hello David,
I let you know I read your writing when I feel down and need extra push to carry on. I generally agree with your thought and give me extra energie but this one is a little bit different. I don’t want to be a millionair I just really want those basic stuff what you are talking about but I am afraid without having enough money and being richer in money vise I can not have them. I wish sometimes I could not have that many choice and knowing so many things about the world. It might sound strange but I think those peolpe who does not know anything about a big life just doing what their parents have thought them are happier. But because I have learned, seen and experienced those technical stuff I could not go back. Because off the interener and books I have left my home country and wanted to do a better life in England. Well found jobs doing a really difficult career but found my love. Now we just want to start our family but no shelter( renting with other peolpe) no freedom, no basic stuff really we do not have anything only one laptop where I can listen our national christmas songs while baking gingerbread. ine Iphone each where we can speak for free each others ( due to long hours hardly see each others) or I can speak to my mum via Skype while am going to work. If I had not had my phone I would not able to speak my friends every week and laugh or cry with them. In my opinion if once you know the world and you owned all those gadgets and electricity, gas, running water etc. you can not turn back. that is our part now as it was the steam train for our grands.

{ Reply }

Tom Perkins January 25, 2013 at 5:58 pm

You fundamentally don’t understand statistics.

{ Reply }

David January 25, 2013 at 6:20 pm

That’s definitely possible. I take it you’re referring to this paragraph:

Average income across the world is about $7000 per year. But that’s just a mathematical mean. The vast majority of people make far less than that. Only about twenty percent of the world’s population lives in countries with an average income that high.

If any of those four statements are untrue, please enlighten us Tom Perkins.

I just wanted to make sure that “average” is not taken to mean “typical”, and also that it doesn’t get confused with median income. Even if the numbers are off by quite a bit, the principle behind the article is still true.

{ Reply }

Guy H January 29, 2013 at 6:47 pm

I grew up in affluence, my father was an executive and had a chauffeur, all high level execs in UK had them. A few years ago was living large and then lost it all. Sold my car, had no cash, no home. Lived with friends until I got a job. I have a $1500 car which is better than the $600 car I had and not as nice as the Suburu Outback I sold when I crashed.

I love cameras and “wanted” the new Pentax K5, my ex-wifes boyfriend sold me his Pentax Kr for $450 and let me pay over a few months. Love it. The K5 wouldn’t make me happier. The Kr takes great pictures.

I live in a house sit situation, pay reduced rent for looking after a place and its cats.

I practice gratitude every day and include things like I have food, I have a roof over my head.

One thing I have learned that some things make a difference in life. Having car where I live makes life easier, it’s cold and there is no public transportation. The difference between having a good used Camry and $70K BMW 7 series is minimal. Both get you from A to B with ease and safety. Same with travel, if you travel somewhere and walk on a beautiful beech, that is the value, whether you are in a 2 star or 5 star hotel doesn’t make any difference to the beech. So some basics help, having time and not having to work for money to pay bills is the greatest gift. Working on that one. The guy that has $3 K a month and doesn’t have to work and lives a simple life style is more free than the guy that makes $600,000 a year and works 70 hours a week. Of course each and to his own.

Anyway life is interesting, I have ridden in Jags and Daimlers and owned nice cars and rusted out cars, flown on private jets and lived on couches of my friends when I was broke. Main thing is to enjoy the simple things and be happy.

{ Reply }

mike crosby February 21, 2013 at 11:47 am

David, I know I’m late to the ballgame, but I just had to respond. What a wonderful post you created. I got in touch with your blog via the MMM blogroll.

So much to think about with your post, but also where a commenter mentioned, Do you have to be rich to be happy.

That itself is so much food for thought, but as you point out, if we have the right perspective, we are indeed rich beyond our wildest dreams. Just our health alone and being alive makes us fabulously rich.

Thank you again David for such a great post and Epicurus’s saying about “Enough” is one of my favorites too.

{ Reply }

Jeremy March 27, 2013 at 10:36 pm

I’ve visited many different countries, and without question the people in the poorest are the most generous and most grateful for what they have.

In the relatively wealthy countries, the US especially, people seem focused on more, more, more, forgetting that they are already in the top 1%.

The contrast makes it clear that beyond access to the basic necessities of life, attitude is everything

{ Reply }

Shailendra Saiwal May 19, 2013 at 8:47 am

Thanks for including a fountain pen in the pic.

{ Reply }

MKC August 6, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Sorry for my English.
Great post… Perhaps “sense of humor” can contribute too….

{ Reply }

Diogo August 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Great post! I read a quote that connects well here: I measure my richness by the amount of things that I can let go.

Most of us learned to equate things with happiness and we built an internal belief that having more will make us happier and fulfill our internal void. None of which is true.

The thing is, that although we enjoy material and technological richness, it seems we are poor in regards to the time available for ourselves and our family. There are so many commitments, so much to take care of and deal with that we often just don’t have the precious thing there is : time. We all have limited amounts of it and as you have beautifully written, we sell I away

{ Reply }

Kathryn Rydz August 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm

EVERYONE needs a slap in the face everyday to stop and look around. The lyrics in U2′s “Beautiful Day” do that, as well as what’s written here. “What you don’t have, you don’t need it now, what you don’t know, you can feel it somehow.” If you can’t look around at what you have TODAY, and feel grateful, satisfied, and content, then what you dream of or what you think of getting for tomorrow, just isn’t going to do it for you either. It does require a lot of discipline though, and that is what a lot of us lack. We should all visit a poor country once in our lifetimes, and see how they live. Some have no shoes, not even 1 pair, and we have a closet full. No pillow, no blanket, etc. etc. Thanks for the slap in my face today…I sure needed it.

{ Reply }

illuminati August 27, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Join the Illuminati cult online today and get instant sum of 1million dollars with a free home any where you choose to live in the world and also get 2500 dollars monthly as a salary… If you are interested please kindly fill the following information to this email below
{iluminatifortherich@gmail.com}..
Full name……………..
Country…………………
State of origin………….
Date of birth……………..
Sex………. ………………….
Phone………………………….
Address………………………..
Email Address……………….
Tell us little about yourself…
No dirty game, no human blood sacrifice contact us today for more information
+2348163980759, OR iluminatifortherich@gmail.com

{ Reply }

Leave a Comment

{ 10 Trackbacks }


Raptitude is an independent blog by . Some links on this page may be affiliate links, which means I might earn a commission if you buy certain things I link to. In such cases the cost to the visitor remains the same.