Wanting More From Life

I want more of this! Source: http://thetravellerworldguide.com/2014/03/3-ways-enjoy-ultimate-luxury-travel/

Everyone at some point in time, and most likely, for extended periods of time, feels like they want more from life. Indeed, I only started the Ancient Wisdom Project because I felt (and still feel) that way. It’s natural. You would have to be a robot to say you haven’t felt a deep longing for something greater than what your life is now.

So, I was excited to see Ramit Sethi’s new blog post arrive in my inbox this morning. The title of the post is 2015: The Year of More.

Now, Ramit has some high quality material on his site. His techniques and strategies for finding a new job are really excellent. In fact, I used his networking and interview techniques to get my current job.

If you’re looking to start a freelance business or get a new job, I think it’s hard to beat Ramit as an instructor.

However, philosophically, I’m beginning to disagree with him more and more.

Take his latest post for example. He starts off with a story about his childhood and how his frugal parents would take the family of 6 on a vacation. To save money, they would book a room for two at a cheap motel, sneak the 4 kids in, and then just order extra towels and cots so everyone could sleep and shower.

That’s pretty hilarious.

I also liked that he concluded he had a great childhood.

Other things I remember growing up:

  • We only ate out about once a month — when we had a coupon for the local pizza place
  • When we were at that pizza place, we would only ask my parents for 2 quarters to play video games. Anything more than that was too much
  • Our vacations were simple: road trips to visit our family in LA. That was it! 

There weren’t extravagant meals or trips, but we all had a great childhood.

Basically, on a fairly minimalist lifestyle, him and his family were able to be happy.

The second section of the post describes how he became more worldly. Specifically, he writes about how he discovered the world of high-priced luxury goods and services.

As I really started to study this world, I discovered a ton of Invisible Scripts I never knew I had. For example, my first reaction to this world was to scoff and say, “WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY!”

  • “Only snobs eat at expensive restaurants…I don’t need all that”
  • “Ugh, I would never buy a $500 coat. That’s so superficial.”
  • “Why would you pay someone to tell you how to decorate your apartment? Just get things you like.” 

And yet, people DID pay money for these things. A lot.

Guess what? They’re not all snobs or elitist asses. I learned there are reasons OTHER THAN THE ACTUAL FOOD to go to a nice restaurant. I started to learn how the bizarre worlds of fashion and art work. Mostly, I learned how much I still had to learn.

So he’s astounded that people would pay for things he previously thought were dumb or wasteful. He is also…interested.

He then describes a few insights he picked up. People that spend money aren’t stupid, the hedonic treadmill is real, and you are vulnerable to the same desire for luxury as the rich.

Guess what? It’s normal to want more and more out of life. In fact, you want more now than you wanted 10 years ago, and 10 years from now, you’ll want even more.

This is a truth that seems so obvious, yet is rarely acknowledged.

Great. I agree.

But then he makes the conclusion that it is okay to want more, and that our goal should be continue to fulfilling our desires, regardless of how superficial it is.

You have permission to want more.

Not just more money. More fun, more success, MORE

…I’m staking a claim on demanding MORE instead of LESS. If your focus is on cutting back, this site probably isn’t right for you.

But if you want more — more travel, more success, more opportunities, more fun — I can help.

Ramit is doubling down on adding positive pleasures to your life, rather than subtracting negatives. He advocates a few negative strategies like eliminating debt and dissociating yourself from toxic people. But his hook is that you can fulfill all your existing positive desires and that is what will finally make you happy.

Let’s face it: his pitch is attractive.

What seems more interesting to you: taking a job and living frugally for 10-15 years and saving 50% or more of your money and then retiring? Or building a business or getting a job that makes you hundred of thousands of dollars and lets you have a sweet luxury apartment and take awesome vacations?

Duh, it’s the latter.

But the problem is not between minimalist living and luxury living. It’s more fundamental than that.

I think what we truly want is to live a deeper, more meaningful life. This is not synonymous with happiness. The meaningful life may lead to extended periods of unhappiness.

And I think Ramit knows this. He knows that spending time with his family contributes greatly to what he calls a rich life. Having a shit-ton of money just makes that a little easier.

I just worry that his readers are going to become overly focused on trivial desires. Ramit is big on not feeling guilty about your superficial desires. But I think guilt is an underrated feeling. Guilt is often your brain’s way of saying “hey dummy, maybe you shouldn’t have done that.” Guilt can prevent you from making bad decisions.

So when Ramit says that you shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting more, that you should embrace wanting more, I fear that he is eliminating an important warning system that will help people make better decisions. There is a reason thousands of year of religious and philosophical teachings rail against excessive worldly ambition and the fanatic pursuit of wealth: they are distractions.

Again, I’m not against trying to improve your material circumstances; I think that can be a spiritual experience in its own right.

However, the better approach to “wanting more” can be found in Epicurus’ teachings about desire and the good life.

Some desires are (1) natural and necessary, others (2) natural but not necessary, still others (3) neither natural nor necessary but generated by senseless whims. – Epicurus

Attempting to satisfy desires that are “natural and necessary” should be our primary focus. Everything else is likely to lead to chronic dissatisfaction.

*Note, Ramit is not the anti-Epicurus, and in fact, has adopted several very Epicurean principles. For example, Conscious Spending is something Epicurus would agree to, except Epicurus would just be far more strict about it.

  • Less_Antman

    I find both the early retirement and wish fulfillment approaches to happiness to be far too complicated and exhausting. Young children lack autonomy, mastery, and purpose, aren’t financially independent, and have little capacity to fulfill their wishes, yet still manage to be happy if their basic needs are met because they aren’t smart enough to complicate the matter. Same for my dogs.

    Financial independence is nice and luxury travel is nice: I have nothing against goals pursued in the spirit of play. But I think the punchline to ANY “pursuit of happiness” theory is that happiness is most present when you are not pursuing something.

    I can’t wait for you to try a little Taoism (which IS different from Buddhism).

    • Not complicating things is a good strategy for happiness, though I hope we find something more meaningful than the happiness a dog experiences.

      Stay tuned for Taoism month. I have posts queued up.

      Also, already have the Chase Ink Plus ;). Just signed up for 3 Alaskan Airline cards.

      • Less_Antman

        I wasn’t suggesting you live on kibble and water. But is it possible that the search for “meaning” is an obstacle and not the path? You can still pursue goals in the spirit of play, as I do with the miles and points game. Anyway, I’m really enjoying your site and journey down the circular path. It really brings back memories of my own studies when I was your age. You may not find the answer you’re seeking where I did, with Taoism, but I’m still interested in your reaction to it.

        It sounds like you’re hitting some of the good point sites (my favs are Doctor of Credit, Travel Is Free, and Frequent Miler), but make sure you’ve signed up for Award Wallet and have a system for tracking progress toward meeting signing bonuses. I’m not a fan of MS or churning: my libertarian instinct is to be a good customer for good companies, so I picked up the best cards from the companies with the highest ratings for customer satisfaction (Amex, Discover, Chase, Barclaycard) and plan to give them my spending business for the rest of my life. Or at least my current life. 😉

        • I’m very much attracted to the “spirit of play” mindset. I caught some of that in my Hinduism and Taoism month (posts coming soon).

          I have the slightly evil libertarian instinct when it comes to churning. I do the MS, and then if the cards are good for everyday spend I will use them. If not, I keep them in a drawer. I’m funding my upcoming Europe trip this way.

  • Magicub

    let’s see how the advice to get new job turns out, i tried Headspace and that’s been great so far

    • His job search advice is really very good, especially his material on networking and interviewing.

      Glad you liked headspace! A friend had recommended that to me.

  • no matter how you look at it, sneaking kids into a motel room is highly unethical and cheating.

  • I highly recommend the book “To Have or To Be” by Erich Fromm. Quote from description of book on Amazon – “His thesis is that two modes of existence struggle for the spirit of humankind: the having mode, which concentrates on material possessions, power, and aggression, and is the basis of the universal evils of greed,
    envy, and violence; and the being mode, which is based on love, the pleasure of sharing, and in productive activity.” I have read it twice already and will probably read it again at some point.

    • Thanks for the rec! I like the dichotomy. You might like David Brook’s new book “The Road to Character” which discusses “resume virtues” vs. “euology virtues.”

      • Looks interesting! I put it on my wishlist of books.