I never wanted to be like them. I just wanted to make soooo much money that they could never mess with me again.
In our society, money is a shield. It brings respect and privilege (deserved or not). We learn early on that the way to be successful is to dress for success. Dress your car, dress your house, dress your life. After all, first impressions are everything. We are basically peacocks.
If you don’t have a new car and a “nice” home, something must be wrong with you. If you have kids and don’t have these things, there is definitely something wrong with you and probably with your kids too.
If you want a good job, you need a new car. If you want to move up the ladder, you need a nice home in “the” neighborhood. You can’t socialize with the higher ups if you can’t afford the places they live and the places they go (regardless of whether or not you like pretentious waiters and stuffy clubs).
If you don’t use the same jargon, invoke the same memes, go to the right parties and vote for the same party, you are never really one of them. Groupspeak is not optional when clawing your way to the top. Click To Tweet
If asked directly most people will tell you that they don’t buy into this, but their behavior is generally the opposite.
Don’t get me wrong, I love nice things. Given a choice of 5 different tile samples, I inevitably pick the most expensive. 15 years ago I would not have thought twice about buying it, even though I couldn’t afford it. Isn’t that what equity lines are for?
On the other hand, the happiest I have ever been was living out of a van on the banks of a river mining for gold and selling nuggets to tourists. But the knowing of this did not change what I sought for myself and my family as the years went on.
I hated the masks that the people wore. I hated the insincere smiles and small talk. I hated that I knew when I left the room they would turn on a dime. I hated that everything was a game.
10 years go by and you have worked hard to buy all the stuff you were told you needed (but didn’t really care about). 20 years go by and you start caring about it. You are what you eat and you have become your stuff. 30 years later, your stuff owns you.
It’s like being a drug addict.
At first you do it because all your friends are. Then you do it because (you think) it makes you happier. Then you find yourself spending all of your time and energy making more money to pay for the stuff that isn’t making you happy. In fact, it is making you miserable.
Dr. Suess captured this really well with his book the Sneetches. One of the most profound bedtime stories every penned. I think it should be mandatory reading in school.
For those who missed it, some Sneetches had stars on their bellies and some didn’t. The Sneetches with stars on their bellies lived on the best beaches. No matter how smart or witty, the Sneetches without stars “on thares” could never, would never, go to those beaches – they didn’t look right.
An industrious entrepreneur named Professor McBean saw a niche. He brought a magnificent machine to the beach that, for a nice sum, put stars on all the Sneetches. Once stars had been applied to all the previously unstarred Sneetches, no could tell who was who. To the horror of the old starred, the newly starred over-ran the best beaches.
Professor McBean to the rescue. An endless circle of Sneetches adding and removing stars filled his coffers. In the end the Professor drove off with his star on/star off machine and all of the Sneetches money. I love Dr. Suess, perhaps the greatest philosopher of our time.
So are you hiding in your stuff?
Somewhere under all those Amazon boxes is you. The you that existed before you became a responsible member of society. Do you know where she is? Do you know what she wants? Can she exist without the boxes?
“The biggest danger is not failing to achieve the American Dream - The biggest danger is in achieving a dream you don't believe in.” - Courtney E. Martin. Click To Tweet Here is her Ted Talk on the subject