Your Imagination is Making you Broke

July 20, 2016 — 2 Comments

Imagine how great it would be… you have your own personal jet that flies you anywhere you’d like. You can get tickets to the toughest venues, and most of your stress comes from deciding which summer house to visit (Hamptons or Aspen). Imagine…

No, WAIT, stop imagining that!

It’s our imaginations that are making us broke! We imagine living a life we can’t afford, but then we actually buy things that we can’t afford. That’s why people are house poor, or car poor or going out to eat poor. They want to see themselves in this lifestyle.

Note: this thought originated from the father of Economics, Adam Smith – so don’t blame me if you don’t like it!

In one of my favorite books, How the Scots Invented the Modern World, the author Arthur Herman presents many ideas of great philosophers from the Scottish enlightenment, and I think this is one of the most powerful passages in the book. In fact, I’ve reread it three nights in a row because it struck such a powerful chord with me. Here goes:

And here imagination turns out to be the driving wheel of that system as well. Our imagination, the inner picture of ourselves being as rich and comfortable as the Duke of Argyll or Bill Gages, spurs on our efforts, focusing and directing our energies toward a single purpose. “It is this deception”, (Adam) Smith adds, which rouses and keeps in continual motion the industry of mankind. it is this which first prompted them to cultivate the ground, to build houses, to found cities and commonwealths…”

This “deception”, as Smith called it, is major driver of our career ambitions as well. We want to leave a lasting mark on society and one of the easiest ways to do it is by becoming rich and famous. Or it might be the reason so many people willingly throw their current lives away in hopes of “making it to the top”.

I was well on the way after graduating college. I wanted to be a big, powerful CEO of a global company. In the first few years after I graduated, I worked tirelessly in this pursuit and small rewards starting coming. A promotion here and a raise there made me feel like I was on track to becoming what I wanted. But then, only five to seven years in, I found my career ambition waning, and I wanted out.

My deception was possibly identified as I realized what it would take to make it to the top. I realized I wanted to live my life now instead of sacrificing current time to chase bigger dreams that would only take me further away from what I wanted now – a lifestyle where I could enjoy my time and time with friends and family, and make a difference to others.

In the beginning, my imagination fed my ambition which in turn, fed my consumerism. I went $50,000 in debt two years out of school, and I felt like I was working just to pay for my crap and continue living the concept of the company store – even if it was through my own choosing.

I get it, we need jobs and we need careers. There are families to feed and babies to clothe. Also, some people really need the career pursuit to feel successful in life. But don’t make bad financial decisions that continue you down a path you don’t want to go. Don’t let a picture of success painted by society or the movies deter your way of life. Think about what’s most important to you and ask yourself if you’re working towards it, or if your deception is pushing you in the wrong direction.

As you might know, I quit my job a month ago and my wife is quitting soon as well. We hope to set off in a month or so for another adventure. We couldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for making sacrifices and saving and investing hardcore over the last 10 years. Maybe our imagination to travel with complete freedom will one day make us broke, but we’re willing to take the risk!

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2 responses to Your Imagination is Making you Broke

  1. That’s a very I interrsting point of view. I do see a lot of people living their life like that, trying to project a certain image, for many reasons. That’s never been my thing. I guess I’m just to practical. 🙂

  2. Dan — I think we all have priorities about what we want to do with our money. For you and your wife the goal is to travel and you’ve saved for that. For others it might be a new car (and I know how you feel about cars). The important thing is can you afford your dream? If you can’t now, can you make enough money over time so that you can actually live the dream? Maybe we need to adjust our dreams to fit our ability to pay. That’s the hard part.

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