2 years after I started work in 2006, one of my co-workers who was rather inquisitive (and intruding on my personal bubble a lot with her questions) told me about a lady friend of hers.
She shared that a lady friend of hers struggled to find a good man to get married to. Her friend, in her own opinion, has very simple wants and could not understand why it is so hard to find the right man.
She just wants her man that:
- Make $4000/mth
- Drives a simple car
- Lives in a condominium
My Co-worker was befuddled because in the realm of “simple requirements”, her friend’s requirement of the right man does not sound simple at all.
If you ask me what I was thinking back then, I am probably more concerned that I would not be able to find any mate in Singapore at that point than to debate whether that is a simple requirement or not.
How much we want have a profound impact on the way we spend our wealth and how much we need
La Pap from BullyTheBear shared this great article on Facebook (connect with me here if you haven’t!) on how the level of want we each face affects a lot on how we live our life.
The author of the article is someone who aspires for financial independence and was rather inspired by someone who already did it and her outlook on spending.
I buy whatever I want, whenever I want. The trick is that I want very little.
I think all of us who are on a path to level up financially would appreciate how a simple phrase was able to summarize many important inner thoughts in a simple sentence.
It also made me remember that episode so early in my young working career.
I like the way she puts it as a trick.
It is a trick because most of us have lost touch with it so much that we have to re-learn something very common. For many of us, we never got “triggered” to learn this.
The nature of what we want eventually will affect our wallets. The duration between when our wants spring the trap upon us also matters.
I had a want that is rather simple.
As long as:
- I do a good job managing my wealth machines
- my Pocket is filled with great long form articles for me to read any where I want, which is free
- interaction with peers, close friends and family
- fulfillment at work
- putting out something that helps others at Investment Moats
If I can that the above out, I am pretty satisfied with things. Life is seldom about happiness but more so, it is a good enough day or week.
I would think that this is “simple” and I note that not having an extravagant want have helped me build wealth immensely.
What happens when you want a lot
I saw this share on Facebook not too long ago.
I like that it deconstructs the path of destruction for many friends who went down this path of photography addiction.
For those wives who cannot understand how their husband’s little hobby can spiral out of control, this is a good read.
Then you get an entry-level DSLR. And a cheap 50mm lens and play with depth of field. And you need a tripod. And an extra battery. And memory cards. And a zoom lens. And a remote. And a flash.
Then you try a friend’s mid-level camera. Then you get a mid-level camera. And now you think what’s really holding you back are your lenses. You start looking at good glass and realize there is no sense investing in lenses that don’t work on full frame cameras, just in case you make the jump.
You make the jump. You’ve got a full frame camera. An ultra-wide zoom, a slew of fast primes, and a 70-200 f/2.8. You’ve tried the cheap primes and the mid primes and now you’ve got the expensive primes. You’ve upgraded your tripod. You have multiple flashes and umbrellas and soft boxes. You have 8 batteries and a wallet of memory cards.
Photography, when you go deep is not a simple want, and I am glad most of my friends doing it doesn’t pretend to be. I decided not to call out the female sex but they have just as decadent wants.
Your Attention and Focus Leads to your Path of Destruction
One noticeable trait in the narration was what a typical enthusiast would spend his time on:
You are a regular on classified sites and Facebook groups. The amount of selling and trading you’ve done is depressing. At least twice a year you think of dumping your whole kit to move to another system. Your insane friend sold his VW Golf to move to Leica. You thought he was crazy. Now you don’t even know anymore.
I realize the main problem faced by many is what do they do with their downtime. People in the past that slogged at work, have less time for their hobbies.
Rich business owners fell down the rabbit hole when they made it, have delegated the work to other people and have more free time.
It used to be the case we need to wait until we go home, then start our modem to surf the net. Now we do not need to!
No matter how long our bus or train ride is, our trusty 3G/4G mobile phone allows us to surf all we want!
We spend our time looking through what our friends have, what the people we aspire to have on Facebook or Instagram.
Your wants become more extravagant, without us realizing it.
You imagine the world to be what you see of your friends on Instagram and Facebook, and you think that is crazy!
Then you rationalize you don’t want so much, your needs are very simple.
But you have already slowly been poisoned and this poison is running in your veins without you realizing it.
You step down what you want, but your step down wants is more than what you wanted had you not been exposed to it.
The main problem here is we are not busy enough.
Although we say we are busy, I don’t think we are busy enough. If we are, we won’t have the time to put our attention to this stuff.
When I used to talk to my friends at Goldman Sachs, who worked him like a dog (awesome pay though), he and I both come into agreement on how much he missed the main world we lived in.
Curating Your Attention and Actions
Does that mean that Kyith is advocating I work to my death?
Not really. The solution is to be more deliberate with how you spend your time.
In my previous article on why you should curate your beliefs and values, I shared that you should focus less on the money side of things, but on improving the quality of your beliefs and values.
Improving the quality of your beliefs and values affect your wealth in a good way and it also leads to a change in your identity.
The way to do that is to be deliberate in your attention and actions.
The trick here is you need to be aware that when your attention wanders to this shopping, easy and fun stuff, it is not good for you.
You have to view yourself from a third party, have a trigger that you are doing it and pull away from it.
Correcting this is not a “one day I will decide to do it and I will switch things”
In our process to become better, it is normal that we would often not do the things that align with our core values.
That is how a real and normal life is.
We would just need to be conscious enough to pull ourselves back from time to time so that when we look back years later, most of what we do align with our beliefs and values.
We Should Be Busy for the Right Reasons
If we go down the path of being very deliberate in curating our attention, it would often lead to an intense focus on our work or a side business that we are currently doing.
Some of our family members would be worried that we are spending far too much of our time working, and not taking care of other aspects of our lives. So they would encourage us to live a little more.
I used to not like that kind of comment from family members when I was younger. Here is why.
It has been shown that you gain satisfaction when you achieve accomplishment. And there are ways that you can achieve accomplishment again and again.
When you do the work that you think you ought to be doing, challenging and achieving some outcome, you gain accomplishment.
That was a reason I stayed on in this boring work. To others, it is boring, but I have a different metric for it.
The same thing when it comes to building wealth.
It is a profound game in that not doing well means losses over the long run.
When we are seeing the results over time when we minimize our mistakes, do more things right, and our wealth grows, it keeps us on the path because that in itself is an accomplishment.
And that brings satisfaction.
I realize accomplishments and satisfaction is often associated with deep work in different areas.
While the example I used looks negative on photography as a hobby, I believe going deep into studying the art of photography can bring immense satisfaction as well.
Here is what he says:
Since it was originally published, my post seems to have spoken to lots of fellow photographers. Photography often starts as a hobby and quickly gets out of hand; it can be expensive, but of course it doesn’t have to be. If people are happy with their kit, I think that is awesome. Sometimes I am happy, too. But I also love staying on top of technology and seeing what’s next.
For all my purchasing, I’ve tried to be mostly level-headed about it, attempting only to buy gear that I know can help me create better images or work faster. I do a lot of research and testing, and only buy when I know it will fill a void.
Of course, I think some folks believe gear will magically make their photos better. It won’t. However, once you ramp up your skills and techniques, and gain experience, gear can make your photos better because you are able to leverage the benefits of that new gear.
Wanting a Lot is a Good Thing if We Can Curate Our Wants Well
The counterpoint to wanting too little is that sometimes it also depends on the kind of things you want.
If something gives us an immense level of happiness, that something is worth a lot to us.
However, we often are not very connected with our inner self, which caused us to be not very frank when evaluating if something gives us real satisfaction.
Sometimes we were not able to provide deep satisfaction because we cannot comprehend what makes us satisfied. I learn that for most people, it is best to only want a few things more than others. You have to curate those are meaningful things that you want.
A career would be one, having good and meaningful relationships are some other.
Would want a lot, even if it is good, cost a lot? Maybe. Even good things in life cost a fair bit if there are extreme benefits.
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Monday 21st of February 2022
Actually the desires or wants of stuff, things, experiences, processes etc *may* lead to new opportunities, increased income or new streams of income.
The key, as you've highlighted, is practising mindfulness (self-aware) and deliberate in your curation of attention (effort) & resources (time, money, energy, bandwidth).
E.g. Having a visceral desire for *bling* *bling* doesn't necessarily mean a death spiral of handbags, shoes & jewellery. It can also mean a successful career in luxury merchandising & haute couture.
Saturday 26th of February 2022
This is true as well.
Sunday 20th of February 2022
"You step down what you want, but your step down wants is more than what you wanted had you not been exposed to it." - When I read about entrepreneurs (how successful I don't know) and how they 'found a need and fulfilled it', I wonder if staying away from social media and not wanting things/experiences stifles my potential to find these entrepreneurial opportunities.
But then again, when have I ever pursued anything when there WERE ideas. Maybe it's the fear of losing all I've accumulated.
Early Retirement SG
Thursday 15th of December 2016
Hi Kyith, My goodness!! Totally can relate to "I buy whatever I want, whenever I want. The trick is that I want very little." I even have a post about that! So totally agree that most of us keep upgrading our toys and as we get deeper into a hobby or activity, it just keeps building up til you never realize that the expense builds up.
Friday 16th of December 2016
hi Early Retirement SG, that is a very unconscious way of living and what the author put out is a very conscious explanation. sometimes we practice it but couldnt put it to words. you and the author did a good job doing that.
thanks for visiting, i may link to some of your stuff.
Monday 12th of December 2016
Another wonderful article Kyith!
That lady friend example which talks about looking for a "simple" guy earning SGD 4,000 per month, drive a car and living in a condo is quite "cute".
Obviously (at least to me), the maths does not gelled up at all.
When i was earning SGD 5,000 per month more than a decade ago, i still find going to restaurant only once per week; Taxi transport for me was a clear no no!
Living in Condo, you got to be kidding; no one can afford that with my kind of salary - i was staying in my parent's 3 room flat.
And with all these summed up together, i could only afford a saving of just SGD 1,000 per month.
In any case, your article really bang the table hard and should get most of us (at least me) thinking why what we have been all doing are so wrong....
Jared - SMOL
Sunday 11th of December 2016
Good Sunday morning Kyith and Andy!
Refreshing post and comment!
Interesting departure from the "crass" fixation on accumulation of money ;)
Got Values and Philosophy some more! Finally something for those of us who are right-brained!
And of course I appreciate giving investing the craftsmanship nod.
Investing and trading are indeed boring.
You either look at screens, chart patterns, mountains of annual reports, or rows of spreadsheets...
How fun is that?
But for those of us investing/trading to achieve, its not work :)
Sunday 11th of December 2016
I agree its looking too much from the money angle. that is what my friends said of me. At least I am upfront about it!