The Daily Stoic for today, January the 25th, “The Only Prize”:
“What’s left to be prized? This, I think—to limit our action or inaction to only what’s in keeping with the needs of our own preparation . . . it’s what the exertions of education and teaching are all about—here is the thing to be prized! If you hold this firmly, you’ll stop trying to get yourself all the other things. . . . If you don’t, you won’t be free, self-sufficient, or liberated from passion, but necessarily full of envy, jealousy, and suspicion for any who have the power to take them, and you’ll plot against those who do have what you prize. . . . But by having some self-respect for your own mind and prizing it, you will please yourself and be in better harmony with your fellow human beings, and more in tune with the gods—praising everything they have set in order and allotted you.”
—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 6.16.2b–4a
On past Tuesday’s Daily Stoic, I discussed on the truth about money. While I can’t agree with Seneca completely on this one -I think that money, while not bringing happiness per se, can mean freedom and having time to enjoy life- I think that we must live a humble, balanced life.
Simply put: I don’t want to be rich.
For me, money is nothing but a necessary evil. My goal is having enough money to not care about it, and being able to focus on what’s really important in my life. Note that you don’t need a lot of money for that.
Does that mean that I wouldn’t like to have a Porsche? or a 300 m2 loft in Manhattan?
Yes, that’s right.
Live With Less
There isn’t much that I feel I need
A solid soul and the blood I bleed
— Animal Collective: My Girls, from the Merriweather Post Pavilion album.
On the contrary, getting rid of my stuff was one of the best decisions of my life.
I am a big fan of The Minimalists. Their way of seeing things has always resonated with me. If you don’t know them, check out their website. When I started to know more about the digital nomad movement and the less is more philosophy, suddenly all pieces started to fall into place for me.
Today, I don’t own a car, and I am happy about it. Owning a Porsche would be a problem for me.
It will be an expensive possession to care about. It will also tie me to a steady location. Besides, not having to drive has brought nothing but joy to my life.
Why would I give up that just to brag about my expensive car?
I travel the world with what I carry in my suitcase. I live the laptop life. Everything I need to work is in my bag. I live in a beautiful apartment and I don’t even need to worry about paying the utility bills.
I wouldn’t change that for the most amazing loft of New York.
The more you have, the more expensive your lifestyle is, the more you are a slave of it, and the more you need to work to sustain it.
The Only Prize. Is It Worth It?
Every time you buy something, ask yourself if you really, positively need it. A very good technique to easily find it out is translating the cost of what you are about to buy to a monthly subscription.
For example: I use an iPhone. Being an iOS developer, I need to change it every now and then. My old iPhone 6 was going slow and lacking some features that I needed to test for a customer’s app. Thus, I decided to buy a new one.
Obviously, even though the iPhone 8 was more than enough for what I needed, the most desirable choice was the iPhone X.
Apple is smart and their marketing strategy is brilliant. They know how to make you feel like you need to purchase the top-of-the-line iPhone. Buying the iPhone 8 feels like going for the poor man’s option, right?
However, the iPhone X was twelve hundred euros. That, translated to a monthly fee, was 100€ a month.
100 euros a month.
Do you really need all the features of the iPhone X -basically, those animojis and the faceID gimmick- to justify that expense?
For me, it was ridiculous. I bought the cheapest iPhone 8, and it seemed like a robbery too. If I wasn’t an iPhone developer, I would have stuck to my 100€ Android phone.
You don’t need to go to something as expensive as the iPhone. Think about those 120€ Adidas shoes you are about to buy. That’s 10€ a month for a whole year. Do you really need them to be Adidas?
While money is a necessary evil, in my opinion it shouldn’t be our goal in life. For me, living a decluttered life, with less stuff to care about, has brought me peace of mind and a kind of happiness no material possession can bring. That’s what today’s Daily Stoic, “The Only Prize” is all about.
Thus, I completely agree with the stoic philosophy here. More things make you less free, more dependent and ultimately a slave. Leading a expensive lifestyle forces you to sustain it. I don’t want that in my life. Think about that before doing your next expensive purchase.