November 19, 2006

Accepting (and Enjoying?) Wealth Stratification

So I grew up not well to do, was below the poverty line for most of my military career, was suicidally depressed by the time I rose above that, and then took a few years to get out of debt because I invested sooooooo heavily in learning (partly due to being passionate and partly due to depression and me realizing that knowledge is the root of happiness).

A while ago I wrote a post about the concept of deserving wealth, which went something like this

So a friend of mine, who lived in many ways a similar path, but is far older and wiser, recently told me that it can be hard for people who were traditionally poor to accept that they deserve and should live an active healthy and full life.

I can think of many occasions when things were going well for me that I ended up doing dumb self destructive things.

Recently I was flown out for an interesting high paying consulting position. They flew me out business class, and even had a person holding up my name at the airport. The hotel they put me up in was a 5 star hotel with private villas. I then got to talk to some deans at schools about creating college courses. Quite amazing, considering that I have never went to college and only began learning my subject less than 4 years ago.

I just got back to the sweet hotel, had an amazing meal, and then turned on comedy central, where the comedian on tv is one who personally insulted me last time I was in NYC. I of course loved that :)

Right now I feel I am getting more than I deserve, but it is an irrelevant and quite dumb worldview. To feel anything is deserved is at best presumptuous, depressing, and / or self destructive. Who helped set up your expectations? Why did they guide you in that way? How do they benefit from that guidance or behavior?

When you view the world in terms of do I deserve what I have it only sets you up for disappointment.

  • If you are doing worse than you feel you deserve then you would not appreciate what you have.
  • If you are doing better than you feel you deserve then you might isolate yourself from your environment or set yourself up for self destructive behavior that puts your experience more in-line with what you feel you deserve.

The mind is limitless, so viewing the world through expectations needs to be taken with a grain of salt. I guess the point is, that no matter what you experience in life the key to being happy is to appreciate the additional perspective and opportunity each situation offers you.

I wrote that about 6 months ago, and great things have only happened at a faster and faster rate since then.

But I still sorta grew to resent money because how many people struggle with it and knowing that it doesn't make you happy (directly at least). All money is is a form of stored labor or a proxy for certain TYPES of opportunity.

My friend John K recently pointed me at another sweet article from Paul Graham which helped put wealth stratification in better perspective. It reads:

I think there are three reasons we treat making money as different: the misleading model of wealth we learn as children; the disreputable way in which, till recently, most fortunes were accumulated; and the worry that great variations in income are somehow bad for society. As far as I can tell, the first is mistaken, the second outdated, and the third empirically false. Could it be that, in a modern democracy, variation in income is actually a sign of health?


You get paid by doing or making something people want, and those who make more money are often simply better at doing what people want.


With the rise of the middle class, wealth stopped being a zero-sum game. Jobs and Wozniak didn't have to make us poor to make themselves rich. Quite the opposite: they created things that made our lives materially richer. They had to, or we wouldn't have paid for them.

So if you can read markets well enough to influence them and people reward you for it, there really is no reason to feel seeds of insecurity / guilt / self-doubt / wrongdoing / etc. etc. etc. just because you are successful.

If you follow your passions you should be successful and you should help others do both. Wealth is just a rough proxy for how much you helped other people, and a means and freedom to be able to leverage yourself to be able to do more of it going forward.

Value based systems are such a hard thing for me to conquer because I have been changing so fast and had so many screwed up value systems baked into my core view of the world for so many years of my life.

Thanks a ton for that link John :)

Now I have to finish updating my ebook so I can go hang out with Giovanna. I need to view my ebook not as something preventing me from seeing Giovanna, but something that enables that opportunity...which it sorta does on multiple levels since it funded all my other income streams and she found me by buying my ebook :)

Posted at November 19, 2006 5:26 PM
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