In his book, The Simple Path to Wealth, JL Collins shares a parable:
“Two close boyhood friends grow up and go their separate ways. One becomes a humble monk, the other a rich and powerful minister to the king.
Years later they meet up again.
As they catch up, the minister (in his fine robes) takes pity on the thin, shabby monk. Seeking to help, he says: ‘You know, if you could learn to cater to the king you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.’
To which the monk replies: ‘If you could learn to live on rice and beans you wouldn’t have to cater to the king.'”
There’s so much wisdom in this story about financial freedom, desires, and happiness.
It’s striking that the minister “takes pity” on the monk—as if the monk didn’t choose the life he lives.
Most of modern life is pulling us to the life of the minister. Specific brands of clothes, a fancy car, and a huge house.
Society tells us we need these things to be successful or happy.
I can’t help but think of Tyler Durden in Fight Club when he says:
“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.”
I was asked recently about the definition of happiness. I’ve thought about this a lot. I don’t have the answer—I just have my answer.
To me, happiness is being present and knowing what is enough. And then striving to be secure enough to not be swayed by outside pressures as to what is a life of fulfillment. Then giving yourself a break knowing you’ll always be swayed by others in some way or another. That’s ok. It’s all part of living in a connected world.
Don’t let the quest for perfection be an impediment to your progress.
Collins’ parable highlights the difference between being rich and living a rich life. Being rich is a standard set by society. Living a rich life is wholly personal to you. Nobody can decide what a rich life means to you—that makes it both a scary and powerful concept.
A friend of mine shared a picture with me that sums it up better than my words ever could:
When used intentionally, money can help facilitate a richer life. But a never-ending desire for it can destroy you. At some point, you have to say, “I’m good. I’ve made it.” That doesn’t mean you stop progressing or striving for more. More knowledge and understanding. More experiences with those you love. More of a positive impact on those around you.
These are things to never stop shooting for. But money, things, or status? There has to be an endpoint. Otherwise, you’ll go mad. That game never ends.
Author, Ryan Holiday, said it best when he wrote:
“There are two ways to be wealthy—to get everything you want or to want everything you have.”
You could replace the word wealthy with financially free and that statement may be even more true.
The goal is not necessarily to become a monk. But it’s easy to see the monk is far freer than the minister.
It’s critical to spend more time getting intentional about what happiness is to you. That may or may not include more money. But the point is that it’s something decided by you—not something defined by others.
When it comes to being rich or living a rich life, pick the rich life.
Here’s to making money matter!