Way back when MySpace was the dominant social network, I was a recent college graduate, a high demand Macromedia Flash designer at one of those hip new dot-com start-ups, proud owner of a fancy new car and 2000 sqft home, and in love with buying stuff on credit. As far as society was concerned, I had made it. 20 years old and I was living the dream. I’m not going to lie, it felt pretty damn good… for awhile.
Six months into my dream I was presented an opportunity. A dear high school friend and Japanese foreign exchange student had also recently graduated from college and was required to return to Japan to formally apply for U.S. citizenship. This friend presented me a trip of a lifetime that only required my purchase of a plane ticket and 4 weeks of adventure.
Now here’s where I would love to tell you a tale of life changing experiences that molded me into the person I am today. But as I am sure you guessed, I missed the opportunity because of my “dream”. I couldn’t just up and leave my job for 4 weeks, they would never allow that. I had responsibilities. I had obligations. I had stuff.
Long story short, I continued working and fell into your typical safe routine. Just after the anniversary of the missed Japan trip the start-up went bust, the real estate market crashed, the car got old, and who the hell knows what happened to all the stuff purchased on the credit cards. I guess it wasn’t all bad, I did get to experience that very trip via my friend’s MySpace page.
Wanting stuff and the overwhelming fear of losing it continued to plague me for several more years until one day I was blessed with a wonderful gift. Something I didn’t appreciate at the time, but was lucky to receive; I was fired. And I deserved it. I had gotten complacent, arrogant, and a little too mouthy with the founding partners. Turns out I wasn’t that important and they wouldn’t burst into flames in my absence.
It wasn’t that my ideas were wrong, they were just presented poorly and I hadn’t earned the right to be that blunt. I was just a worker. Just a cog in the machine. So, thrust into a very uncomfortable place, I came to realize that I would never be happy in a “stable” job for long and maybe I didn’t need so much stuff. It was time to put up or shut up. I had always boasted my own ideas and had strong opinions on just about everything. If I was so smart what was stopping me from giving it a try. Well, two things really…
Stuff is awesome! Beautiful homes with all the furnishings, flashy cars that scream “My butt is warmer than yours”, fancy clothes that just make you feel good, and of course all the pampering you can imagine. You know what, you deserve it. All of it. But, you do have to ask yourself, is it worth it if you are a slave to it, trapped doing something you don’t enjoy?
If stuff does turn out to be unimportant to you, then a whole new world of opportunities will become possible. If your consumption lessens then so does your need for money, making way for savings. And savings is freedom. Freedom to walk away from a high paying job. Freedom to start a new venture. Freedom to do nothing at all until you are ready to do something. So that’s what I did, I ditched the stuff and started living for the opportunities, knowing…
Nothing ruins an opportunity quicker than a necessary job.
Fear is not awesome. It will cripple your ability to honestly focus on something you have a genuine passion for. Focus IS key. If you can’t do what needs to be done to cultivate any activity — that makes it more than a hobby — how do you ever expect it to grow into something that can sustain your livelihood? Doing something “on the side” is a guaranteed way to never succeed at it. Don’t get me wrong, there are some that can and have achieved this, but odds are you’re not that person. I’m not.
From my experience the majority of fear is as a direct result of stuff. The thought of giving up or even worse losing your stuff is traumatizing and will keep you doing something that just doesn’t fulfill. Even if you have the discipline to say no to stuff you still need to survive. The basics of life have to be met, so I had to ask myself, “how bad can it get, really.” Everyone is in different situations, but for me, I was able to save money because I said no to stuff, I’m smart enough not to run face first into a wall, and motivated enough to make money if I have to. Of course this is easier said than done but I urge you to remember to…
Trust in your ability to earn, make wise choices, and most importantly don’t worry about something that hasn’t happened yet.
It’s been four years (July 2010) since I turned in my corporate security badge, shaved my head to grow my hair for Locks of Love, and threw caution to the wind to give it a try. There have been some wins and losses and I have even gotten some new stuff in the process. But, more importantly, I have done some stuff. I got married, had a baby, helped cultivate a user experience agency, and co-founded one of those hip dot-com start-ups. Although I haven’t found independent wealth yet, I have been able to do what I want, when I want, without ending up homeless, hungry, or even worse complacent, and THAT, feels pretty damn good.