Beware unprepared exposure
When struggling to make ends meet for even the seemingly ‘basic’ things of life, we can develop a greater appreciation for what little excess we have. When there’s ample excess, or the less we consider a particular resource to be ‘required’, the less we also consider it a waste to spend on ‘small/inconsequential’ things.
With little opportunity to waste, we’re more conscious about wasting anything. Resource limitations encourages increasing resourcefulness. When there’s limitless opportunity to waste however, we become far less sensitive about the matter. 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.
Beware false necessities
When excess resources are gradually or consistently received, we are afforded more time and experience to ensure we spend it in helpful ways. We can gain the experience required to learn how to find meaningful use of the resource and as less of it is then considered to be excess, we’re less likely to gratify ourselves.
Slow, consistent growth is usually better at providing the time required to gain the experience necessary to discipline ourselves effectively. Therefore making more valuable decisions with the resource.
This gradual method helps normalise the expenditure of the new resource, which is good, however it’s not fool-proof. At the end of the day we’re still choosing to spend spend it on either edifying or gratifying things. If gratification is what’s being normalised it’s not going to do us any favours. The reality is that we too often habitualise gratification, making the unnecessary seem necessary. We insist that our sanity or capacity to function rests heavily if not primarily upon things we’ve taught ourselves to become dependant on.
Morning coffee is a great example, afternoon tea, game-time, kid-free time, a weekend away each month etc. whatever it may be. Things that we certainly appreciate and benefit from, but that we insist we’ll ‘snap’ without it. Such things however, one can easily find with some long-term perspective, are usually things that once upon a time never existed in your life at all. That which was completely absent, once introduced and frequently utilised becomes the new ‘minimum’. This is a form of dependence.
It’s much like the standard of living. Yes inflation raises the price of goods but inflation isn’t responsible for the rise in number of goods. Not only do prices go up, but the base level of life that we require to function and call our ‘minimum’ also goes up. It’s for this reason that we all likely have far more excess than we realise. The things we habitually gratify ourselves with have become so normalised they’re not identifiable as gratifying anymore. Our dependence upon them has made them necessities.
However these dangers of sudden and big or small and gradual resource acquisition don’t 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, as well as constantly review how well we’re spending what we are already receiving. The more prepared we are, the more good we can do with whatever we get and what we already have.
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 further 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’. We gain a surplus of time (as is the objective), a surplus money (assuming you continue to work despite not needing to), and a surplus flexibility etc. I believe there’s more danger here than most realise. The massive surplus boom creates more opportunity for self-destruction and more probability of the same, except where one has sufficiently prepared for that boom.
That danger doesn’t just effect us either. When it comes to measuring the cost of serious mistakes, there’s nearly always more effected stake-holders than we have considered. Usually, the more valuable the gain/resource acquisition, the more risk involved. It can be dangerous. There can be a lot of wisdom gained by measuring our current capabilities so as to be consciously aware when or if they become stressed or exceeded.
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. Even ‘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 personal progress is always directly tied to the degree of our honesty. There’s a form of dishonesty attributed to acquiring anything that you haven’t genuinely earned. Dishonest progress may look like it provides faster or superior success, however time always eventually illustrates that genuine progress truly can not outrun honesty.
Increased power (or resources) requires increased self-discipline. Much like increasing the power of a car, one shouldn’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. Stronger chassis, bigger brake discs, wider tyres, smarter computing, stiffer suspension etc. Failing to consider such things risks both the vehicle and the driver’s lives.
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 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.
There are plenty of examples of people quickly acquiring money or fame, instantly finding 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 the pursuit is a detrimental one, the lack of self-discipline can create addictions that exist for a lifetime or, as is the reality in too many cases, even end that life.
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 just can’t recover, stuck on idle, and experience a system-wide shut down. Another dangerous reality is that we all are 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 anything, such as parents, friends, employers or government etc. We must consider our own need to minimise dependence for the sake of our own stakeholders and the responsibility we have to steward over them honourably.
Only those willing to prove self-mastery can expect to benefit from financial independence.
Gratifying hungers which used to be difficult to give into, due to a lack of availability, can suddenly become limitlessly accessible. Appreciating the aforementioned topic of differentiating ‘function’ and ‘excess’: the former is usually utilised with a greater degree of responsibility and care so as to not be wasted while the latter is usually much more frivolously spent.
Beforehand you would be required to work for days or weeks or months or years in order to afford the gratification of a particular hunger, which process in and of itself provided the time and experience to better evaluate the worth of the hunger, keeping it in much more long-term perspectives and in turn increasing your desire to not WASTE those resources you’ve worked so hard for even if they might be considered excess. The work and lengthy amount of time helps you value the cost and therefore you are wiser with expenditure.
The longer one goes without having to work, in order to feed their hungers, the easier it is to forget their cost, and in turn settle for more gratifying methods. Expenditure becomes more appetite management than money management, therefore it’s more important for an individual to prepare themselves by way of self-mastery than it is for them to prepare themselves by way of finance-mastery, should they pursue financial independence.
Financial independence is not for all, even if they want it. It’s not even for all those who want to edify their world with it. It is only for those who adequately prepare to be sufficiently self-restrained. Those who have trained, practised and proved they’re ready and capable of managing that capacity for gratification.
The individual who pursues financial independence believing he can bypass the self-mastery training, pursues his own demise. Having said that, it’s MOST likely that any individual who created financial independence for themselves through honest hard work, is increasingly likely to have already learned the principles required for sufficient self-mastery as to not gratify themselves to death (or at least one would hope so).
Those who try to shortcut their way there, however, are MUCH more likely to fail the self-mastery test, and when finally having cheated their way to what they want, consume it upon their lusts to the demise of their own welfare. Even those who wouldn’t be considered cheaters or dishonest to any extent but nonetheless acquired vast amounts of finances through quick or easy means have too high a possibility of suffering the same fate.
Your limited resources are likely the only harness protecting you from falling into the abyss of your own self-indulgence.
Have you ever heard the term “Lotto losers”? Individuals who regret having won the lottery due to the series of experiences that followed. Some become completely miserable, some become more broke than they were beforehand, some have their families torn apart and some even fall into all of these categories and worse.
It’s obvious that winning the lottery doesn’t have to be a bad thing, most genuinely expect it could only be a good thing. The reality too underappreciated is that quick/mass acquisition of resources by the unprepared creates too great a surplus to exercise sufficient self-discipline with and in turn leads to too great a probability of heavy waste and serious self-gratification.
Ask any random ten people what the top five things they’d spend lottery winnings on and determine for yourself how likely the average Joe and Jane are going to dedicate themselves to a gratifying to edifying end.
One would only be better off with financial independence if they could and were prepared to achieve more edifying good with it they could without it. Considering the fact that “edifying good” isn’t solely based on or requisite of financial resources, we would all be wise to thoroughly review if we would achieve more edifying good with financial independence or if we wouldn’t.
We need remember also that financial independence isn’t the only success in life and is just one example for illustrative purposes. Anything we want in life falls into the same category: If we are not prepared to edify ourselves with the accomplishment/acquisition of the success we too likely to gratify ourselves upon it resulting in us being better off having not acquired it in the first place. The greater the success the greater the preparations for edification that are required.
At the end of the day people get what they want. When they spend all day wanting gratification more than they want edification, any excess that comes along is highly likely to be used for purpose. Ironically enough, such means their function decreases and they have less excess to spend on gratifying things in the future and they’ve done themselves a disservice no matter how you look at it.
Most of us have sufficient excess already to bakery our way into diabetes, binge-series our way into social isolation, selfie our way into narcissism, scratchie our way into gambling, blame our way into hatred and so on. Excess is dangerous when gratified, but we usually restrain ourselves due to how little we feel we have. Unrestrained excess therefore is extremely dangerous. We can’t afford to be ignorant of the damage our gratification causes ourselves, or even more importantly, others.
We can prove that we’re worthy of what we have by ensuring we use it wisely.