by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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There are a lot of things I love about my life, but one of them has to be its’ simplicity.  I have set this up by design, as I have learned through trial and error that this, for me, is the best way to live.  I want a drama free, mellow, repeatable life that has things in it that create anticipation and excitement.

I used to thrive on the chaos, the chaos of always being busy, always being in a hurry, constantly having somewhere to be.  I didn’t realize how exhausting it was until I stopped.  Only then did I learn that revving out in the red zone all the time was not the way to live.  The culture that we live in is the biggest culprit of creating this; the hustle culture, the “work to get ahead” mentality, the “he who dies with the most toys wins” approach to life is crippling a lot of people out there.  I was one of them.  I bought in, learned to trade my time for a paycheck, and lived for the times I wasn’t working, but worked to fund a lifestyle that I couldn’t actually afford.  I fell into the trap of external expression of perceived wealth, and it cost me.  It cost me to the tune of getting $70,000 in debt at one point.  Yes, you read that correctly, and this did not include a mortgage payment…

Your mindset is everything.  How you view the world and maybe more importantly your place in the world, is what can drive this behavior.  We as human are biologically programmed to want to fit into the larger group.  In our past, we had to be able to live in a “village” of people to survive, and that desire is still written into our DNA.  The problem today is, we have individual lives that each of us is responsible for, and through comparison, we measure how well we are doing.  We look at the cars we and others drive and the houses we live in and make judgements as to how well we are playing the game of life.  Let me tell you, one has nothing to do with the other.  I got to know a lot of unhappy people making six and seven figures a year, those trapped in the machine of working a job they hate to support  lifestyle that secretly they resented.  The term living paycheck to paycheck isn’t reserved for just those making minimum wage, it can extend all the way to the top of the financial food chain as well.  Crazy to think that someone who makes $10K a month or more has money issues, but it is easy to outspend your income…at any level.

The reason I lean so heavily towards simplicity is the freedom that it provides.  At any moment I could quit my job, move, take care of a loved one, take a year off to write a book, whatever.  This is a peace of  mind that no purchase can provide.  I achieved this by avoiding the traps that so many people fall into.  My wife and I don’t drive brand new cars; we don’t buy new cars and we sure as heck don’t lease new cars either.  A terrible investment, across the board.  A car is a mode of transportation, and while I am not advocating for driving the same car your entire life, I am saying if you are smarter about your choice of vehicle, you don’t have to eat a hefty car payment every month.  By going this route, you free yourself from having to make a certain amount of money every month to afford the outward expression of money.  It is a vicious cycle, and much of it simply boils own to trying to look rich before you actually are.  You want to turn heads in your new BMW and impress people you don’t even know.  Crazy.

If you live in a part of town that you can’t really afford, this is the same thing.  If you buy a new iPhone every year when they come out, another example.  This list can go on and on, the reality is that you are insecure about how you will be perceived by others, so you “shield yourself” from judgement by doing and having the things that they “cool kids” do.  I am sure most of us learn this behavior, likely from high school and partly from our family as well.  It is common, so don’t feel too bad, but what you need to do is break that cycle, and fast.  You can start today, be smarter with money, and learn to appreciate the simple things.  A great morning by my definition is walking to the coffee shop with my wife and my dog and sitting by the small lake that is there, not waiting an hour to spend over twenty dollars on scrambled eggs at some bougie brunch spot. We walk home and I make breakfast for the two of us.  We sit and talk, at the coffee shop and over breakfast, and have meaningful conversations.  We don’t practically yell at one another over house music that is too loud, or talk over a half dozen other people at the same table.

Don’t get me wrong, spending time with friends is important.  But there is a huge difference between a desire to be seen at the new cool spot in town versus hanging out with friends.  The motivation for the first example is not based on spending quality time with people who you care about, and really getting to have conversations that matter.  The first one is based far more on the “do it for the ‘gram” approach to life that so many people in this world live by.  It is the easiest form of narcissism, and unfortunately the focus of many a vapid life.  You need to have a group of three to six close friends that you really connect with, share your life and your struggles and dreams with, and then the rest of the world is just window dressing.  If you think there is a bunch of people on social media that are going to care or even notice that you didn’t go to brunch this weekend and post a bunch of pictures, you are SADLY mistaken.  Get over yourself, no one is paying that much attention to your life.  They are doing their best to get by in their life far more than they are scrutinizing what you did this weekend.  If where you hang and what you did is a criteria for being friends with someone, they are not your friend, they are going to be gone as soon as you no longer want to participate in the game they are playing, so you might as well cut them loose now.

Opt for simplicity.  I can tell you, having lived both sides of this equation, that you will likely be far happier living a simple lifestyle.  In my case, by not blowing money every weekend on bottle service, Saturday afternoons spent poolside at a resort, etc., we have set ourselves up with a largely worry-free life.  We have money in the bank, we have options to travel, change jobs, take time away from working altogether.  I just hired a speaking coach to help me leapfrog my way forward in the pursuit of my latest goal which is to be a paid public speaker.  I have done a lot of talks for free, and enjoyed every one of them.  But you know what I would enjoy even more?  Speaking to a larger audience and then cashing a check afterwards.  Now THAT is a side hustle I can get on board with.  I can pick and choose where and when I speak, I can turn down any gig that doesn’t pay enough or doesn’t fit my schedule, and of course I can decide to do any gig that may not pay because I don’t need the money, I just want it.

Living in a small house, driving cars that don’t have monthly payments (both are paid for) not owning a “showpiece” watch, having a company cell instead of my own, and many other examples of a conservative lifestyle all give us the freedom to do as we wish.  You will never see me partying in Ibiza, I will be fly fishing in Montana, out of sight of everyone.  My wife did a trip last year with some girlfriends to Mexico the same time I went fishing Colorado.  We love to travel together, but we also both have things we like to do without one another.  All of this is possible because we learned to avoid the traps of trying to keep up with those around us.  We don’t make an exorbitant amount of money, but we manage our lifestyle well, and play with the money we have.  We don’t own a ton of possessions, we create memories.  We live for experiences, and things we can share now and talk about in the future as we reminisce over a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop.

Ultimately you have to live your own life and make your own choices, but I am encouraging you to lean this direction for several reasons, all of which are going to make your overall life easier in the long run.  Don’t do it the hard way like I did, racking up credit card bills buying crap I don’t need or lavish dinners that will literally be gone by morning.  Don’t lease a car to impress your friends or make yourself feel like you are cool and that you’ve “made it”.  Wait until you can pay cash for that ride, but even so, don’t buy it brand new, be smart and let someone else take the 70% reduction in value by owning it the first two years.  And even moreso, stop playing the comparison game, no one wins when you do that.

I wish you luck in your endeavors.

 

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