Danger of unprepared exposure
When one struggles to make ends meet for the seemingly ‘basic’ things of life, one not only has less excess but usually also has a greater appreciation for what little excess there is. Therefore, they’re less likely to waste it on personal gratification. In contrast, when there’s ample excess, or the less we consider a particular resource to be ‘required’, the less we consider it a waste to spend on ‘small/inconsequential’ things.
When there’s very little opportunity to waste, we’re very conscious about wasting anything. When there’s limitless opportunity to waste, we’re far less sensitive about the matter. Therefore the greater our surplus, the more comfortable we’re going to feel about wasting what we have, which means we’re more likely to end up gratifying ourselves.
Furthermore, when excess resources are both gradually and consistently received, we usually, with the added time such provides, find meaningful use of the resource and less of it is considered to be excess. When excess resources are received inconsistently or sporadically, we usually spend less time thinking about how we could be effectively utilising it, and as it’s unknown when such could be received again, we often seek to ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ and splurge the excess on those gratifying things that we would usually consider unaffordable.
With this understanding, it can also be appreciated that the faster the resource gain or the larger the gain, the more likely we are to gratify ourselves with it. Slow, consistent growth can give us the time to gain the experience necessary to discipline ourselves effectively, and therefore make more valuable decisions with the resource.
This does not mean we should fear or shun resource acquisition. It simply means we would be wise to prepare for it. Plan in advance how we will utilise excess resources when they become available. Such preparation should frequently take place as our resources are usually constantly fluctuating and growing, so we should prepare for each growth. The more prepared we are, the more good we can do with what we get.
Having worked in the financial services industry for decades, I regularly hear about the ‘financial independence’ or ‘financial freedom’ goal that so many of us have. It’s about being able to passively produce 100% of your required income, with no reliance on your own labour. Something that I fear too few of us appreciate is that any sudden accomplishment of this goal also means a sudden boom of ‘surplus’. Surplus time (as is the objective), surplus money (assuming you work despite not needing to), surplus flexibility etc.
There’s nearly always more effected stake-holders than we have considered, when it comes to measuring the cost of serious mistakes. It’s for this reason we try first to qualify capacity and then decide what extent of danger exists. That way we can avoid any unnecessary risk exposure. It can be dangerous. The more valuable the thing, the greater the resource increase, which means the more risk involved.
Just as we’d be wise to qualify a teenager before letting them drive, or a child before letting them handle hot kitchen appliances, or a new business manager before letting them run loose in your business, we also need to qualify ourselves before being exposed to unrestricted gratification. Good things can easily be harmful to the unprepared. Granting financial independence is such a thing. The unprepared have a significant chance of being unruly with such a weapon. Even things that are usually edifying can be gratifying or have negative effect upon someone who is unprepared.
Progress can’t outrun honesty
Our progress is always directly tied to our honesty. Dishonest progress may look like it provides superior success or accomplishments, however time continues to illustrate that genuine progress truly can’t outrun honesty.
Increased power (or resources) requires increased self-discipline. Much like increasing the power of a car, one can’t be ignorant of the effect that it has on the rest of the vehicle. The greater the increase, the greater the need for improved modifications to the rest of the vehicle. More horses might be mean more power, but such also calls for a stronger chassis, bigger brake discs, wider tyres, smarter computing, stiffer suspension etc. Putting in a massive power boost without considering things can risk not only the life of the vehicle itself but the driver as well.
Our lives are much the same. If we constantly pursue a mass increase to our power (meaning perhaps our resources or access to them) without giving honest consideration to our capacity to effectively manage such, it can easily be self-damaging. I think our new world of ‘on-demand TV’ is a fantastic example of this fact. How much of us must confess that we waste more of our lives watching TV than we want to? How many of us have ‘binged’ through seasons in a week/weekend/day, that would have previously taken us months or even years to watch. There’s something to be learned when we binge simply because we can, with too little consideration of if we should.
Such might be considered extreme, but there are plenty of examples of people who after acquiring money or fame, instantly find themselves exposed to a world of access not previously had. People, places, events, and all sorts of things that they could gratify themselves with to their heart’s content, when previously they had no access to it at all. If that thing is detrimental, the lack of self-discipline can create addictions that can exist for a lifetime or even end that life, as is the reality in too many cases.
One who lacks the self-discipline necessary to manage new exposures, can too easily gratify themselves on their excess and consume themselves to death. Gratifying oneself to death is entering a state where progress, development and capacity for life is brought so low that they can’t recover, stuck on idle, system-wide shut down. Another dangerous reality is that we’re all able to experience such things even without exposure to any new or great resource. This can happen when we allow ourselves to become overly dependant on others, such as parents, friends, employers or government etc. We must consider our own need to be independent for the sake of our own stakeholders and the responsibility we have to steward over them honourably.
We can prove that we’re worthy of what we have by ensuring we use it wisely.