Today I turn 38 and I feel totally entitled to write this paternalistic post about important life matters.
And since I’ve no kids, this time I’ll be addressing my readers as my imaginary children, or I should say my imaginary readers as my children.
Looking back, connecting the dots, and reflecting on where I stand, I found three lessons I’m glad I learned.
1. Happiness is Personal
No lifestyle is better than the other. I tried a few different lifestyles in my previous 37 years. Actually, I can say that experimenting with lifestyles is a hobby of mine.
Then I noticed that we have some natural tendency to perpetrate our lifestyle as better than others, and see others as less happy human beings. This is particularly true when people with the same lifestyle come together as a group.
Here are some examples:
- The Yogini talking about how unhappy are people that don’t practice Yoga
- The travelers talking about how unhappy are people that don’t travel
- The free men talking about how unhappy are people that work in an office
The following story was an eye-opener for me.
While traveling Colombia (2011), I visited an organization in the poorest area of Baranquilla. My contact there was a troubled couple. Between dramas, jealousy, and fights they were considering a divorce.
They inquired about my life and I decided to tactfully avoid over-excitement. I told them that I left Italy and now living and working in the Netherlands. That I lived alone and I didn’t have a wife. That I was dancing Salsa a lot and having a good time.
Their reaction left me bewildered: “Aren’t you bored?”
My life in their eyes was boring because it was not shared. Their lives, full of dramas, emotions, and community services, were not boring.
And that’s how I learned that happiness is personal and can’t be judged. You can only take care of yours.
Hence my motto: “Whatever you do every day, enjoy your lifestyle.”
2. Money is Important
I’m not talking about having money, but about our relationship with money. Unfortunately, financial education isn’t taught at school, and when I entered the workforce and turn sarariman I was left trying to figure out a very important aspect of life.
Let’s be clear: we are born to follow our virtues, dreams, passions, to explore ourselves and the World around us. Not to make money and spend money. Fuck money, except that you need money to do almost everything; unless you live out in the woods like Henry Thoreau in Walden.
You may say that money is the necessary evil, I say it is better to work out a good relationship even with unpleasant travel companions 🙂
These things helped me a lot:
- I’m Brianzolo (from Brianza, the area of Italy I’m from) and this means I’ve a natural tendency to accumulate savings;
- My family always taught me sobriety and to avoid waste;
- The book Your Money or Your Life transformed the way I see money.
I’m not rich and I don’t live off the fat of the land, but thanks to my family example and the glorious IT career (that I threw away at age 33) I was lucky to start growing my savings early in life.
And at the beginning of my 30s, due to a good bad influence and the infamous 30s life crisis, I embraced frugality (this is an article from 5 years ago!) and that set me freer than anything else.
I doubt that I would have started my own business without having a good relationship with money.
Money is important, so better learn how it work and respect it!
3. Aim not to Inspire
There’s a disturbing over-use of the word inspire and inspiring, almost as annoying as the word influencer. I hear more and more brilliant people saying that they want to inspire others.
What I learn is that inspiring others is not a goal, but a consequence. It should never be the goal of our actions.
Why? Because people are different and react differently. They are inspired by different actions and have different values.
When in 2012 I announced that I was quitting my job to make money online (super vague!) I got all sort of reactions: some folks said they admired me, others said I was ambitious, others said it was inspiring, but most said I was nuts, stupid, crazy, inconsiderate.
My favorite came from an older ex-colleague that tried to dissuade me because of the World economic crisis going on.
I guess nowadays his argument would still be the same.
Similarly, from time to time, I get messages from strangers saying that I’m inspiring because of this or that. I blush, but I know that it has to do with them and not with me; because we need and seek inspiration.
Here are the three lessons. I hope you appreciate that I spare you things like ‘family is important’, ‘friends make me happy’ or ‘traveling the world is great’.
How do you feel after reading this? Let me know in the comment, so I can have a nice birthday!