This Is Not Who We Want To Be

by Frost on January 26, 2012

*I’m on a two-month blogging vacation while I backpack around Southeast Asia. Until I return, I’m posting excerpts from my book, Freedom Twenty-Five: A 21st-Century Man’s Guide To Life. If you like this post, you should buy a copy for yourself and everyone you’ve ever met in your life.*   

Here’s a story about a friend of mine. He’s a successful guy, a few years older than me. Good job, MBA from a top school. Works hard and does quite well for himself. By any conventional measure of late-20s career success, he is in the top 1% of his peers.

Last week, I told him about how I had just quit my job to travel the world. His response, like many others, was: “Wow, I wish I could do that!”

I replied (as I always do) “You can. It’s a lot easier than most people think.”

But then he explained to me why, in fact, he couldn’t:

– He just put 20% down on a really nice condo. Selling it would cost him 5-10% of the list price in realtor fees and moving expenses.

– He’s locked into a lease on his new BMW, with major penalties for getting out early.

– He’s spent a ton on nice furniture, from which he could recover maybe half of what he paid.

– His company financed his MBA, and he’s obligated to keep working there for another two years, or he’ll have to repay the tuition and a generous signing bonus.

– He’s still paying off his undergraduate student loans.

If you were to look at his paycheck, the clothes he wears, and the lifestyle he leads, you might be deceived into thinking: “This guy is rich!

But from another perspective, he is extremely poor. He is a slave. He does not have the freedom (in the short term) to do anything except exactly what he’s doing right now. He can’t quit. He can’t travel. He can’t make any major purchases. He is trapped by his own success, pinned down in a life that – from what I can see – isn’t really making him that happy.

The problem he and so many others have, is that they are trying to fill the spiritual hole in their lives with material goods. When you’re young, lost, and wondering if this is all there is to life, it’s easy to turn toward reckless consumerism as a way to fill the void. And that’s how you wind up a 20-something guy with a 6-figure income who can’t afford to go out for a beer after work with his friends unless it’s one of those special months where he gets three paychecks.

This is not who we want to be.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Gaurav February 7, 2012 at 10:07 am

I just want to make a point here just in case people think of it otherwise. The problem in this case is with the person himself – not with working in a fancy job. The problem is that this guy has tied himself down way too much. One can still work for a top notch firm while having paid off your student loans, not buying a fancy car, house, furniture, $200 shirts, business class flights for personal trips, super expensive hotels on vacations and Hampton summer houses.

Doing that is potentially very rewarding, both in the long and the short term.

Calpuleque February 1, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Great post. Really got me thinking about a lot of stuff and what it really means to be free. All of these items are just weighing us down
Keep it coming man

jon bon van dame January 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Excellent article! This is exactly the situation my friend is in… Almost everything except he has a Mercedes instead of bmw and house instead of condo. In less than 2 years my frriends dreams have changed, not out of want but out of necessity, he tied himself down without realizing it. New promotion means he HAS to work there at least 2 more years. After that he bought the house.

Ive come to a conclusion, the easiest way to prevent yourself from tying yourself down is to move. Literally up and go, it takes about 2 years for someone to “settle down” in a new town. AS long as you dont buy a house, car, or knock someone up, youll have the freedom to do as you wish should you have a bigger picture goal or should your desires change.

Having said that I am currently following my own advice and moving to another city.

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