“I don’t like drama.” My girlfriend was denying to like the very movie type I regard as the best. It just couldn’t enter my mind how could someone not like drama. Poetry, music, paintings, photography, all arts inspire a sense of condescension and compassion that are, after all, what captivates us. It is when we partake of the emotions disclosed in the verses of an uncorresponded lover, immersing ourselves in his story as if it were our own, that we truly admire the beauty of his composition. All of art share this characteristic, the attempt to convey emotions. And which works are better than those classified as drama? Which are deeper or bear a greater metaphor for our own reality?
I want to watch a movie called Poetry. It is the story of a lady that discovers she has Alzheimer’s and decides to study poetry as her awareness of the world fades away. How sad that is, and how big of an inspiration to make us see the world around us differently. We have the privilege to remember and to move forward whilst she was doomed to move increasingly and relentlessly backwards. No action movie can invite you so strongly for a review of your pre-assumed concepts. It is a mind-changing experience to have someone else’s tears streaming through your eyes. It is more than entertainment, it is the creation of fellowship in the suffering of a person.
“I just don’t like to feel sad.” Absurd! What a preposterous assertion! Sadness is an integrating part of the world, much bigger part for some than for others. Watching a drama we are having the opportunity to get the taste of what the character was going through. And then I stopped. You know, the character probably would rather not to go through the sad situation, then how wrong would it be to not want to take part in something that was wished not to exist? “Oh but we have to be aware of other people’s realities”, you may say. But the tasting of people’s pains is not a requirement for active compassion to come about. Doctors do not need to contract illnesses to be compassionate or willing to help patients. And by all means, drama is still only an entertainment genre, it will entertain the consumer and do nothing to aid those living the dramatic situation shown.
In the end I realised, as usual, that the fool was me. She was right to want her mood lifted up and not brought down by her entertainment, After all, the life we all aspire is a painless one. My girlfriend’s remarks made me realise how curious it is that we enjoy being amused by experiencing the very things we avoid. Dale Carnegie said the thing we love to talk about the most is ourselves. Maybe we are attracted by drama because it is in some way talking about us. Maybe it is because we feel identified. Maybe the tears we are crying are not the character’s but our own.
And then he said, “If you work too much you won’t have time to make money”. My dad laughed but I kept thinking about that. A month later I doubled the number of people willing to read my book in one hour and my website hit a new record of views in a single day. But nothing of that matters because today I saw an adviser to help me with my curriculum and she said it was “too broad”. My life is written in there. Maybe my whole life is too broad. Am I doomed for that? Maybe I am, but it doesn’t matter either, because one year ago I was sitting at the edge of a fountain in front of the Buckingham Palace in a beautiful sunny day with my girlfriend, we were talking about our expectations for the future, and then I told her, “I feel that it doesn’t matter where I will go to. It doesn’t matter if I will be in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, or here in the UK, I feel that I will be successful wherever I go”. Then she kissed me and nothing else mattered any more.
I don’t have a written book but I doubled the number of people willing to buy the book I’m thinking of writing. James Altucher said something pretty interesting. He said you should never work full-time, always part-time. Then you would have time to do other activities, and side activities always bring benefits to us. Actually, if these activities provide enough value to enough people you can make money with them. And this money has a potential to be much more than what you would get selling your work time to someone else. Because money comes in when you solve a problem, when you deliver value.
My book will be written in my free time (time I am not working or at University. There is no such thing as free time. Time is valuable), and I believe it will open a bunch of new doors for me. You see a lot of people who make their living with something that began as a hobby. Many of today’s huge companies started that way. Have you heard of Facebook, Digg, Youtube, Google, threadless, LinkedIn or eBay? Well, they all started as a hobby and then became a money machine. That happened because all of these hobbies created value to other people in some way.
We have this pre-conceived idea that we should get a job and work as much as we can so we can make more money and then we can buy more things. It looks like it’s all about buying more things, or better things. But it isn’t really about that, is it? If we stop for a minute and reflect on that, we will notice that the whole idea of it all is that, supposedly, if we have more, or better, things we will have more comfort, and then we will be happier. But look around you. Do you really need more? Aren’t you comfortable at your house? I have a proposal to you. Actually, it is a dare! Why don’t you try to live with less instead of with more?
Why don’t you throw away all these credit cards that only give you headaches? You always feel bad when you use them anyway. Why don’t you try spending less than what you make. Try spending only half what you get in a month. It won’t hurt if you try, you won’t lose any money if it doesn’t work. And if it works you will be saving a lot of money, and I bet that in the end you will, in fact, feel very good.
“Happiness is not having all you want. It is wanting what you have”. If you are trying to spend less, you will start to appreciate more the things you already have and stop thinking about the things stores have to sell you. In the end, you know you don’t really need most of them anyway. Liking the things you have is a big step towards a happier life. Not only material stuff, it is the same with friends, partners, etc.
When you spend less than you get, you start saving, and saving is never bad. Tell me, how often do you hear someone coming to you and saying “I shouldn’t have saved all this money, I really regret that” or “Saving money was the worst decision I ever made”? I bet you never, ever, heard anything close to that. But on the other hand it is quite common to hear people saying “Oh I spent too much”, “Ah I shouldn’t have bought it”. No one ever regrets having saved money, people regret spending it. Moreover, when you save money, you feel more secure, because you know that in an emergency you have money to back you up at the bank.
In the beginning it can be tough, but after some time you begin to notice that, as a matter of fact, you need much less than you thought you needed to live. In a post some months ago, when I was moving from Argentina to Brazil, I wrote “my books, my guitar, my Buzz Lightyear toy, the photos and songs in my hard drive and the picture frame my girlfriend gave me. If I can take that with me I will be satisfied”. These are the things I picked as must haves from everything I have ever had in all my life. In the end, I gave my Buzz Lightyear to my brother and left the picture frame with my dad in Brazil, so he doesn’t forget me. The reality is that I needed even less than I thought. And you too.
When you become unattached to things you become grateful and enjoy much more what you have. That makes you happier and attracts all kinds of good things. For instance, look at Bruce Willis and Nicolas Cage. Bruce Willis is an unattached guy, he is confident and grateful for what he’s got. When he noticed he was going bald, he didn’t go crazy for that. He understood it was time and let his hair go. Now, Nicolas Cage is totally different. He is attached to his hair, he don’t want to lose it, he can’t accept the situation. As a result, Bruce Willis still looks pretty badass and Nicolas Cage looks, at the very least, weird with this chunk of hair coming out of the back of his head.
Once you get used to using less money you may be able to reduce the amount of hours you work every day. “But then I will get less money, and then I’ll be saving less money than before”. Yeah, that’s true. But although you will not be making as much money, you will have more time in exchange, and during this extra time you can do whatever you want. You can do things like: living. I believe people work for two reasons: 1) to make money 2) to accomplish something , to be useful to society. If you spend your whole day home you will soon be into some kind of depression. We like to conquer, to accomplish, to build, to feel needed and useful. Grandma wasn’t wrong when she said “Work ennobles the soul”. Three things give pleasure to people: birth, progress and accomplishment. When you work you have these things going on, each to a certain degree.
Now, back to working less hours, when you have more free time you can dedicate yourself to personal projects. These can be nice things that add value to people’s life in some way, or just something that makes you give birth, make progress or accomplish things. Writing a book, taking on a hobby, spending more time with your family, these are all things that can be done in your newly free time — which is not free, you are paying to have it, but just because isn’t free it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. Making these things, you are improving your life. You are more relaxed, which makes you more creative, which makes you more productive, which makes you give birth, make progress or accomplish things, which makes you happier.
But what if it doesn’t work with me? What if it goes wrong? Well, if it goes wrong you get the money you didn’t spend and do whatever you were used to doing when you used your whole salary. No side effects.
Know the book audience I doubled? It went from one person to two. Know the website visiting record I talked about? It was 20 people. It’s kind of pathetic. But these things didn’t look so bad when you didn’t know the numbers. Maybe I will never be widely known. But what is wrong with being anonymous? A thousand visitors would be awesome, but the lack of them don’t make it bad. Writing relaxes me, makes me more creative, more productive, happier. And that’s the whole point of everything.
“At your age they are graduated”. That gave me the chills at the moment. After finishing High School I spent a year doing absolutely nothing and then I left Brazil and studied Engineering for three years in Argentina, then I quit and started again from zero the following year, which is this one, here in England. I learnt a bit about music and learnt to play some three or four classical songs in the piano, just enough to impress an amateur. I learnt a bit of acoustic guitar and studied theology for two years before quitting. I learnt something of public speaking and some people even think I can sing. I read a bunch of books on many different subjects, from economics and philosophy to raising children and building self-confidence, but acquired deep knowledge on almost nothing. In the end, I am not graduated, I have no experience whatsoever in any job and I am not even specially great at anything. Until leaving Argentina, I was at least the son of someone in evidence, now I am just another immigrant trying not to run out of money.
But again, I am not even graduated yet. They have it all planned, and have also loads of discipline. Studying to be the best, always playing to win. They are the heads of society, leaders of the world, commanders of this era. They are the top 1%. Prepared from the crib, always eager for more. The new breakthrough is just some effort away. Everyone admires them and everyone wants to read their books. They are true leaders, opinion formers. And I am not even graduated yet. What have I got on them?
Well, I will tell you what makes me special too. My difference from other folks is that I have something very few people have in this world. Something that is getting harder and harder to find. Something so rare that, even at the top 1%, only a few can afford. I have enough.I’m happy with what I have got. Enough doesn’t mean I don’t want anything else, it means that the things I want in the future, I want them in the future. It makes no sense being sad in the present because I don’t have something I expect to have in the future.
If you go to the “About” page of this blog you will see the following quote from James Altucher:
“There are a lot of time travellers. People who live in the past, people who live in the future. But if you can live right now, then you can do anything.”
He is completely right. If you only think about the future, you are not living your life. Because you are never here, you spend every moment in somewhere else, and when you get to the place you are dreaming of right now you will already be dreaming of some other place. Then you never live, you are always trying to skip to the next scene.
I spent almost a year doing everything on my reach to see my girlfriend (who lived in a different country) again, then last week I got here. Saturday we went to the cinema. We were there, watching a movie, I was holding her hand. At that moment I was thinking “What comes next? what are we going to do next week? How to have a great valentines day next Thursday?”. Then I stopped. I stopped and realized that all I have waited and fought for for the last year was right there at my side. It was happening, was happening at that moment, that was the second I had waited for. But we are so used to focusing on what comes next that we miss what is happening right now.
Happiness is not having all you want, it is wanting what you have.
Those people at the top 1% of society at my age were certainly much better prepared than I am. I am not even graduated yet. But they were better prepared for what? Is the preparation I need for my life the same as they needed for theirs? And if it is, should I be sad because of that? Let me give you shocking statistics: 99% of society are not at the top 1%. 99% are not super special. you don’t have to stand out to be happy. You should try to be the best , but if you can’t what’s the use of being miserable because of that?
I am not half as qualified as many people around the world, and maybe I will never be, I don’t have millions at the bank, I don’t date a super model, I’m not famous and my hobbies aren’t extreme or super interesting. But I am amazed by the things I learn in my books, I am grateful for the money I get, enchanted by the songs I can play on the piano and completely convinced that the hottest super model out there ain’t got nothing on my girlfriend.
That’s the secret. Love people around you, be grateful for what you have, stop comparing to other people and have a terrible memory. Stop trying to have it all and start trying to make all you have enough.