“And finally, monsieur, a wafer thin mint”, Maitre D
Introduction to the introduction:
So I’ve been thinking about this series of posts for a while now. I often feel like everywhere I go, every conversation or interaction I have, that this topic is the elephant in the room. Often the elephant is standing on peoples necks, shitting elephant shit on peoples shoulders or trunk punching people in the testicles/uterus, but for some reason I seem to be the only person aware of this cheeky grey menace.
I think money, how you use it, and spending the largest part of your life working by default without making a conscious well informed decision to do so is the most important topic in your life, but nobody talks about it. Not making a conscious decision is in fact making a decision, a decision to be someone who makes bad decisions. In terms of extreme ramblings, this will definitely be one…**
So, what do you think of when you think of money?
Do you think of fast cars, fast women/men and champagne?
Or do you perhaps think of a faith based medium of exchange that has no intrinsic value of its own?
Or do you think of it as special paper tokens that you exchange large portions of your life for?
All of the above are kind of true. Money can be exchanged for all kinds of hedonic pleasures or short term thrills. Fiat currency is perhaps the largest example of species wide group think, a cultural construct that only has meaning because everyone else believes it does. Money is in fact the result of expending large portions of the finite time that you have here on this earth in what we call employment.
Out of the three examples above, it’s the third one that has weighed on me the most over the last few years.
I’ve had a reasonably unique experience compared to my peer group. At the age of 34 I’ve had a total of 3 years off work in two big juicy lumps. During this time off I did whatever it was that I wanted to do. Such as travel, fishing, surfing, camping, growing a ginger beard, designing things, building things, demolishing things, reading things, learning things etc. When you have that amount of time off work your time is quickly filled up with things you want to do and enjoy doing. After about 3 months you start to wonder about how you ever had the time for full time employment in the first place.
Contrast this with how you feel when you get back to work. Going from having 7 days a week, 365 days a year to fill with any number of activities that you choose, to being an employee for 5 days a week, commuting to your place of employment at the beginning and end of each day, having an hour of sunlight if you are lucky to do non employment related things before having to cook, eat, clean, go to sleep and do it all again the next day. Only having a wafer thin 2 days a week to do things that you choose uninterrupted by commuting and employment.
To put this in context, here are some examples of how much time I spend in employment related activities vs time I spend in activities of my own choosing:
Time at work: 8:30 am until generally 5:30 pm – 9 hours per work day
Time commuting to work (by bicycle): 45 minutes each way – 1.5 hours per work day
Total hours per week: 52.5
Time spent mountain biking per week: 3 hours per week
5.7% of the time I spend at work I spend mountain biking on the weekend
Time spent surfing per fortnight: 3 hours per fortnight
2.8% of the time I spend at work I spend surfing
Time spent fishing per fortnight: 5 hours per fortnight
4.7% of the time I spend at work I spend fishing
Time spent having sex per week: 10 minutes per week
0.03% of the time I spend at work I spend having the sex!!!
(Ok, perhaps the last example was exaggerated for the sake of my rambling. It’s probably closer to 15 or maybe even 16 minutes.)
Thought of in this context, it is clear that money is a direct result of a bargain you strike with your employer to hand over a very large portion of your life in exchange for special paper tokens you can exchange with people for other things.
So what do people generally do with these paper tokens that they’ve exchanged very large parts of their finite life for? Is it treated like the precious non-renewable resource that it is? (your life is of course not renewable) or is It treated like a renewable resource that will be around forever and can be fritted away on the next thing that takes your fancy?
Referring to the graph above, mostly it’s the second one. Most people live in a world of expensive take away coffees, brand new cars, shoes, handbags, designer clothes and mega mortgages.
We’re continuously told via advertising and our peers that you should spoil yourself, you’ve worked hard, and you deserve it.
But what is so obvious and yet hides in plain sight is that there is of course a counter party to every single transaction. Every overpriced take away coffee has a counter party on the other side that is entering into the transaction only because they think this transaction will be beneficial to them, and by inversion, probably negative for you. Across the counter at the car dealership, hand bag store or mortgage broker is a suit wearing vampire that wants to suck your finite life force straight from your veins via a proxy we call money, while all you’re interested in is getting the right photo of you smoothing out that sold sign on the real estate for-sale sign and smiling just right for your Instagram followers. #sold #nesting #Ididntevendosimpleyear8mathematicsbeforedecidingtoenterintothismountainoflifecripplingdebt #yolo
So what should you do with these paper tokens that you’ve exchanged large parts of your life for?
I’ll ramble about that in the next post.