When I was in college it seemed like everybody smoked cigarettes; Marlboro Lights, Parliaments, Chesterfields. I knew this guy that used to walk into the liquor store across the street and just say, “Give me your cheapest pack,” and then he’d walk out with some off brand that had been manufactured in the Philippines that he paid $1.97 for and tasted like burning tar.
I’d be sitting outside of the dorms and my friend would smoke his last Filipino Light and he would turn to the guy next to him and say, “Can I bum a smoke?” and the guy would just shrug his shoulders and say, “Sorry, man. I’ve only got three left,” and this would be an acceptable answer in the Smoker’s Community. It was tantamount to saying, “If I had more, I’d give you one but I only have three left.”
The Smoker’s Paradigm: If I had more I would gladly throw them around but now that they are a rare commodity, I want to desperately clutch them to my chest and horde them all to myself.
Fair enough. They are yours and yours to do with as you see fit; to share, to squander, to horde, to trade, to invest like Prison Money but… that’s enough about cigarettes for a bit. Let’s talk about Real World Money and how it slowly creeps into our lives, infects us and causes cancer just like that Prison Currency does.
Let’s talk about how Money can be an addiction and control you and how it’s so very difficult to Quit.
Go to the bank, get a loan, buy a car, drive it to high school, graduate, get a loan for college, go to college, get a job to pay your loans, live in a small apartment because you can’t afford a house because you have loans so get another loan to buy a house with a garage to park your car in, work 50 hours a week to pay off your loans. Sign up for credit cards, buy stuff for your house, so much stuff, so much awesome stuff; 40″ flat screen TV, Blu-Ray player, iPad, iPod, iPhone. How about iPoor? How about uPoor?
Work more, pay the loans, both the bank and the credit card, work more, job sucks but you’re stuck there because of the loans, car is busted. Get it fixed. Car is busted again, sell it for less than a tenth of what you paid. Get another loan, buy a new, nicer car. Something big. Something spacious. Something fancy and glossy with a DVD player inside and seats that warm up. Work more. Pay for insurance. Don’t get sick. Don’t use your insurance. Get sick, pay your deductibles. Never use your insurance. Throw your money in the fire.
Have a baby. Pay the hospital. Pay your insurance. Go to work. Miss baby rolling over, first steps and first words because most of your time is, realistically, spent at that job you have. It’s statistics and odds, folks. You are more likely to miss these moments because you spend more time at a job you hate than with a child you love. Have another baby. Buy a new house. Fix the new house. Take out another loan for the bigger house and the bigger car. Hate your job. Swim in debt. Backstroke in it. Hold your breath because you are drowning.
What if there was another way? What if there was a way to be free of money? What if money lost its stickiness and its bond over us? What if the rope snapped and suddenly we were just floating in space and happy and, like Art Alexakis says, “Everything is Wonderful Now…”
What are we doing, going to jobs that we hate everyday? Why do we choose this for ourselves? Now, wait… I know how this sounds. This sounds like I’m saying, “Stop going to work and be free, you hippy,” but I’m not. I’m just asking… “Isn’t there a better way? Can’t we have the job we want? Can’t we work less and live more?” I’m asking us to look at the box we’ve built. I’m asking us to stand on a tall ladder and look down on the box that we (humanity) have built and I’m asking each of us to examine the individual coffin that we’re in. That 40 hour work week isn’t a thing that is imposed on us. It’s a thing that we impose on ourselves. There are no rules. There is no Guide Book to being an adult.
I’m asking each of us to say, “Why?” I’m asking each of us to ask ourselves what our price is. What are we worth?
Our days are not endless and innumerable. Our days on this Earth are finite and they have a very real number tacked onto them and every time that sun sets, that’s one more stone that’s taken out of the pile and when that pile of stones is gone, so are you. Someday that sun is going to drop below the horizon and the shadows on the ground are going to grow and grow and grow until the darkness ultimately consumes them and then… what?
When I am asked if I want a certain job, the first question I typically ask is, “What is the rate?” and that’s not me asking, “How much money will you pay me to do that job?” it’s me saying, “I have X amount of days on this planet and you are approaching me and asking to purchase one of them. What do you think one day of my life is worth?” How much will you pay me to sit in an office instead of with my family?
What is that answer to you, specifically? $70? $150? $500?
My number is very high because I place great value on my life and my time and my family.
What is your number? You see it in your head? Do you see what you are worth? The numeric equivalent of one day of your life. Stare at it. Hold it in place. Now… would that number change if you knew you only had a week left to live? Would your personal stock, so to speak, rise, in that final week? Would you stop saying yes to Burger King paying you $70 a day and start saying, “I’m worth more than this. My time on this planet is valuable.” Or maybe you would make a bigger statement. Maybe you would say, “There is no price you could pay me to work at Burger King because I don’t want to work at Burger King for the last week of my life.”
If you knew you had a week left to live… what would you do? You’d probably quit your job altogether. Fair enough. But what would you do if you knew you had three years left to live and you knew that it was imperative for you to have a job? After all, one must survive and eat and pay rent.
What job… would you choose for your final three years of life? And if that job is different than the job you have now… what are you doing in the drop-dead horrible line of work you’re currently in? No excuses.
Never say, “But at least I have a job” because that is nothing more than you settling for less and you are worth more than that. You, and I am speaking to you, reader, are worth more than any sentence that begins with, “But at least…” because you are not a “least”.
Imagine, if you were a smoker and imagine, If you knew you had three cigarettes left… what would you do? Clutch them to your chest and savor the drag of each one, smoking them down to the butt until the smoke burned your throat and the heat singed your fingertips.
Look at your life. Every day is just a cigarette in a pack and everyday, one of those cigarettes is going away and if you keep saying yes to that guy that wants to bum one for free then pretty soon you’re going to be desperately wishing you had more, wondering where all your days went.
Life is too short to be in a line of work that does not motivate you. You are so blessed to live in America where you can do any job you want if only you can pay the cost of motivation. That’s it. How badly do you want something? How badly do you want happiness? How badly do you want freedom? Total freedom?
Your days on this planet are yours and yours to do with as you see fit; to share, to squander, to horde, to trade, to invest.
Remember, the only thing more valuable than your money, is your time.
Your time is pearls.
Don’t throw it to the swine.