‘Less is More’: The most important lesson of my 20's
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”
- Leonardo Da Vinci
As a 21 year old, I bought into the myth that to be a successful business person, you have to look the part.
And so, most of my graduate level pay check went towards my own entertainment. I remember one weekend, a friend and I flew to Melbourne and put ourselves up in a luxury apartment flat in the heart of the city. We went out both nights to the most exclusive clubs in town. And spent both days shopping for clothes, shoes and accessories. This was my ideal holiday. Our flight back to Brisbane (home at the time) was on the Sunday night. On the way to the airport, we didn’t expect being stuck in a traffic jam moving at 10km/hour the whole way. Needless to say, we missed our flight. Yet, I remember being cool as a cucumber as I pulled out my debit card to pay $500 to get us on the next flight. Today, this story makes me cringe at the realisation of how much money I must have pissed away doing things that are plain and simply, unnecessary.
Two years later, I finally had enough money saved up to buy the car I wanted to drive since I was 17. A slick two-door convertible Mercedes SLK 250. It was everything I had been working so hard for these past few years. So I decided to cash in my life’s savings on it. I recall driving with the top down, smiling at the thought of being the only 23 year old in my own convertible. Yes, I was turning into a douche-bag.
Now approaching 27 years of age, I figured it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the biggest paradigm shift I’ve had in the past six years: Minimalism. The path to this discovery began three years ago when I traded my Benz for two suitcases and a one-way ticket overseas.
2014: In Chicago with nothing but a couple of suitcases. Weirdly liberating.
The following are three benefits I’ve experienced since embracing an optimal minimal lifestyle:
My need for “stuff” came from my own insecurities. There was definitely a need to impress people — family and friends. Moreover, there was a need to live up to my own expectations. Television and media shaped my expectations as a high school or uni student as to what my life should look like in my 20’s. This included nice cars, watches, clothes and cuff-links.
Today, I no longer want to be the egotistical Harvey Spectar persona, which never suited me in the first place. As a result, I have less insecurities and more confidence and lasting contentment. I’m quite happy to wear a plain v-neck and some jeans to work, and will only suit up for a client meeting or special occasion. This means suiting up has still got it’s novelty, and I don’t need to go out and buy a new suits and other accessories at every opportunity.
The punch-line — I’m more than comfortable being a nice guy, a team player, with a killer work ethic. The bravado that I do have is no longer intended to cover up my insecurities, but to exhibit confidence.
The biggest value in not having expensive taste which may take weeks / months / years to satisfy, is being able to enjoy the process of day-to-day life.
Best selling author, Tim Ferriss refers to this as optimal minimalism. As an example, a nice car by definition would generally cost upwards of £20,000. You can get a perfectly good car to serve the same purpose at 10% of that price OR just ride Uber. I haven’t owned a car in three years and don’t plan to till the time I absolutely need to (realistically, that is when I have kids). In the meantime, the cost of a car plus maintenance, fuel, registration and insurance, would comfortably buy me 5 to 10 years worth of Uber trips. Instead, I can spend more on myself and be fulfilled every day.
Eating a better chocolate every now and again might cost you an extra £10. While buying a better car for the same purpose will cost an extra £10,000 plus maintenance. Optimal minimalism says, the Swiss Lindt 80% cocoa dark chocolate is a no-brainer.
The Bigger Picture
Arguably the biggest perk of a minimalist lifestyle is significantly reduced stress. With less clutter comes less issues like, which tie should I wear to work today? Do these shoes go with this outfit? These are questions that add up throughout the day and occupy the space we need concentrate on more important things. When you’re not sweating the small stuff, you can draw your attention to the big picture. I believe this shift has an under-rated impact on our financial future. I think we can all agree that spending on fitness, education, gifts for loved ones, are far better investments than getting wasted week after week, shopping, and buying stuff you don’t need.
Someone recently asked me what I would do if I had £25 million. If they had asked me 5 years ago I’d probably say I’d buy a Bugatti or something stupid. My response now is to start by giving back to my parents — probably buy them a trip to come and visit me in London. Then, I’d probably take a short holiday with my girlfriend to the Bahamas. And finally I’d probably make some minor lifestyle upgrades — I spend too much time cleaning my apartment, so I might bring in a professional cleaner once a week. My current apartment doesn’t have a dishwasher or a dryer — and I hate doing the dishes and laundry. So, I’d probably move to an apartment with a dishwasher and a dryer. Finally I’d like to invest the rest in start-ups that I like, and perhaps buy a small sporting team that’s struggling and help them win a premiership.
In his book The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss tells the story of his friend who is the son of a famous billionaire and has 10 mansion properties to his name. How does it feel to be a wealthy property tycoon? Ask him and he’ll tell you it’s mostly stressful. He is constantly having to fix things that are broken or need attention He doesn’t live in either of these properties and just has maids and gardeners in each. He feels like he’s working for them!
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I’m not saying I’m becoming a monk, nor am I frugal or lazy. On the contrary, I’m far more ambitious and hard-working than ever before. The only difference is that my end goal is not to buy a Rolex watch, a fancy car or a house on the hills. Rather, it is to have a lasting impact, and financial freedom along the way. No-one actually cares about the car Mark Zuckerberg drives or the house Bill Gates lives in, we only care about their legacy — Food for thought.
P.S. Have you read my book yet?
In it, I discuss the attitudes and other soft skills of 45 thriving millennials.