I have had the unique pleasure of living in a very nice five bedroom house in a small town outside Monrovia, California. It was lovely. It had a Bacheldor fireplace, and three mature oak trees, an Avocado grove, and an 85 year old wysteria. I've lived in a couple of large old homes in Palo Alto, California, and I've lived for a short time in a dirt floored house in Nepal, and in a trailer turned modular home in LaBufadora, Mexico. I've stayed with friends in their 30 million dollar homes, and stayed with friends in their trailers.
Today, I had the unique pleasure of skiing with a very insightful guy, and I was trying to explain why I don't think that the container that you live in is what defines your wealth. I was stumbling around my words, and this is what he said.
"I've spent time in the Motel 6 and in the presidential suite at a five star hotel. I've had some of the best nights of my life in the Motel Six and some of the worst nights in the five star hotel. Ive also had some of the best nights at the five star, and some of the worst at the Motel 6. Money doesn't determine that. Money is neutral."
Its true. When I was in Nepal, I realized one afternoon that I was happy. There was a dirt floor, a picnic table, and a stove with an open fire that vented through a hole in the ceiling. We had one deck of cards and some paper and pen to play with. It was enough.
I vowed that I would remember that when I came back to LA, because I was ashamed of how attached I'd become to my comforts, to the amount of money it took to live "Tollerably" in Pasadena. And of course, over time, it waned.
But one thing I knew was that I wasn't happy. Things were good, our business was good, our kids were good, but the house, the container, the money didn't make me happy.
I think wealth comes from what is inside the container. And I've finally had a chance to test this theory. That living frugally, with less stuff, less toys, no TV, but with dedication to the thing that feeds my soul, and sharing this passion for the outdoors with my family, makes me wealthy.
I see it in action with Mike. He made a bold decision when he left his hometown of Redlodge. He lives a frugal existence, choosing not to have a huge mortgage, and to save his money for things like ski passes and a canoe, trips in sea kayaks, camping weekends. Because of this, he is richer then most people I've met who have all the material needs they could want.
Don't get me wrong. Money makes it easier to facilitate living your dream. But I contend that its not the first thing, nor the most important thing to have in order to live your dream.
There is something to the lessons that we teach our children when we have to make a choice, no cable bill, no television, good food, skiing in the back yard and swimming every day. The money goes to the swim center, not to the cable bill. The kdis grow strong and independant, able to make healthy choices in their lives. The kids, in the absence of television, bond to each other, and to their family, thinking creatively every night for something to do all together, rather than defaulting to screen time.
Its true, the new tailgate's hinge didn't match, so I am still without a window in my truck. I've gotten two paychecks now, so I'm starting to climb out of the financial hole I lived in for so long. But part of those paychecks, no matter how small they are, belong to the wealth of my family. And that wealth begins with the connection of the people living in the container, not in getting a nicer container.
So we save it, and we spend it on new skis for Bodhi, a new winter coat with a hood for Ethan, new snow boots for both of them, so they are equipped to make the strong choice to go play outside, even if its wet and cold. In making this choice, they learn that they have more choice than they thought! More options, they play together, they play with me, they play with their grandma, they play with other kids that make the same choice, to be and live and exist in their world outside.
Suddenly, I'm rich. And so is Mike. Someday, we'll have money, too. Until then, I'm wealthy with love.