On Perspective

A meditation on how a stolen bike made me rich in more ways than one. 

A few years ago, back when I was still a university student, I bought a brand new road bike which I owned and loved for a couple of months before it was quietly stolen in the early hours of a grey rainy morning. There were no any security cameras, so the local police couldn’t do anything about it. I never got it back.

I was devastated. It was worth the equivalent of a few hundred dollars, which was a lot of money to me back then when I only working part-time around my studies for £8 an hour and was spending less than £20 a week on food. For months after that every time I thought about the money I wasted on a stolen bike I would kick myself for not being more careful.

I was so upset and angry that I made a vow to myself that one day I would earn enough money so that losing a few hundred dollars would never affect me so badly again.

Little did I know that over the next few years the incident would become fuel for my future growth and a valuable life lesson.

Over the following months I worked hard to finish my degree and was awarded prestigious internships in the public sector. I was offered good job opportunities at the end, but I turned them down because it wasn’t enough for me. I switched to the private sector because it paid more money. I’m not saying that the bike incident was the only reason (after all, I had been bought up by Asian immigrant parents who equated money with self-worth which took me years to get over) but I was definitely motivated by earning more money for the better part of my career.

Eventually I grew exhausted with corporate life, so I quit the conventional career path and started my own business so I could work less but still, of course, earn more money. To cut a long story short, now my investments are paying off and my business is growing every year. I’ve earned and saved enough resources in the last two or three years that I’ve noticed myself feeling more free about spending and giving money away.

So thanks to the bike thief, I made and fulfilled that promise to myself to earn enough money so that a few hundred dollars isn’t such a big deal any more. At least, it’s not worth getting so upset over because I can earn it back. But looking back now I can see that the original promise was a shallow reaction to losing money. The real question is, how can feel less stressed about money, and more happy about my life? Is it as simple as earning more?

No, the answer is more complex. Certainly earning more money helps (and I do appreciate there are people who don’t have a lot and would be horrified at the thought of working hard for something expensive and having it stolen—see above, I’ve been there) but as I get older and I naturally cycle through more things over time, I’ve also noticed myself getting less and less attached to things in general.

Whereas when I was a child the few toys and clothes I had were precious to me, nearly three decades later I’ve gone through hundreds of possessions which have come into my life, been used, and then donated or disposed of. It’s not that I’m much more wasteful than the average person (in fact as a practising minimalist I have less than most people) but it’s just a natural result of living a normal life—clothes wear down, favourite mugs break, books get read, gadgets die… eventually things get replaced. Repeat the process a few dozen times for everything I’ve ever owned and naturally one becomes less attached to each thing. Heck, I’ve even gone through another 1-2 bikes since that one was stolen (before you judge, I cycle everywhere, I don’t own a car). It hasn’t escaped my notice how extremely rich and privileged I already am to be able to live like this.

However, the most important factor is gaining an awareness of time passing, and having more important things in my life to occupy me as I grow older. My business, my health, my relationships with my partner, family and friends… they all take time and mental energy to maintain and grow but they are the things that matter to me the most. They make my life worthwhile and I would pay any amount of money to have them. It just doesn’t make sense to waste energy worrying about buying/keeping material stuff or fretting about small things that don’t matter in the long run.

All of this, I realise, is what a minimalist lifestyle is supposed to be about—not having less stuff for the sake of it, but having less because it means worrying less and enjoying more.

Minimalism gives us the freedom to separate the trivial from the vital, to let go of stuff so that we can get over one stupid stolen bike and go on to lead a a rich and meaningful life anyway.

On Wealth

Money and possessions aren’t the only measure of wealth.

Having or not having the latest smartphone, a wardrobe of designer clothes, or a shiny sports car doesn’t say much about your happiness, health, relationships, wisdom, or freedom.

How much you earn doesn’t reflect how much you enjoy life, or how much people genuinely care about you, or how much you’ve done for others.

The pursuit of wealth itself isn’t necessarily bad. It can be a noble path if it is earned by creating value, enriching others, or if wealth is used to benefit the greater good.

But look at any millionaire or billionaire and you’ll see that having a lot of money doesn’t automatically mean your life will be more fulfilled. If money comes at the cost of living the life you want (instead of the life others want you to want), then it is a high price to pay.

Your net worth is not your self worth. Your bank balance has little do with what your true value is, or how rich you really are.

There is so much abundance in the world, the ones who are really wealthy are the ones who make the most of it.

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On Money

There are two ways to be rich—to get everything you want, or to want everything you have.

It doesn’t matter how much money or how many possessions you’re talking about, the same rule applies to everyone.

Believe it or not, there are people who earn $100k salaries but live pay check to pay check (I have met them). These are people who are deeply unhappy even though they can afford to buy anything they want. What they don’t realise is that it’s not about how much you have, it’s about how much you appreciate what you already have.

The key here is gratitude. This part of minimalism is often forgotten about. You’re not getting rid of stuff because it looks neater, or because it’s fashionable. You do it because:

  1. With fewer things, you appreciate each thing more.
  2. You don’t spend as much time and energy working to buy more things, instead you use your resources on things that matter.

There is nothing wrong with working or having money. Money is a tool for freedom, and for people to do great things. It is not the root of all evil, rather it’s a magnifier that makes you more of who you are. If you’re already unhappy and selfish, you’ll be more unhappy and selfish with lots of money. If you’re content and kind, you’ll be more content and kind with lots of money.

So, you want to be rich? Good news, there is such thing as a ‘get rich quick scheme’. The secret is to be grateful for everything you already have. You’ll be richer than any millionaire.

Published by Jessica Dang via Minimalist Meditations | rss | tw | fb | g+

On Abundance

It seems like a contradiction, but having an abundant mindset is essential for living a minimalist lifestyle.

The reason why most people buy and keep too much stuff is because they’re scared.

They’re afraid that if they don’t buy something they’re missing out, and if they throw something away there won’t be a chance to have it again.

They have a mindset based on scarcity so they take whatever they can, and they hoard money or clothes or whatever they have in case it runs out, or in case they need it in the future.

But if you thought that there was plenty to go around, you wouldn’t mind having only what you actually needed, because you know you could always get more if you had to.

Which leads us to a beautiful paradox—in order to be comfortable with living with less, you have to believe that the world is full of abundance.

You can always earn more money, buy more furniture, or replace winter sweaters. Be generous with what you have. There will always be more. If you don’t need it, it’s okay to let it go.

Published by Jessica Dang via Minimalist Meditations | rss | tw | fb | g+

Welcome

Welcome to Minimalist Meditations.

You may be a reader from my 7 year old blog, Minimal Student, or perhaps you are a brand new reader who happened to stumble upon here. Either way, I’m glad you’ve found this corner of the Internet.

Minimalist Meditations is a project that I have been incubating for a long time. I loved writing for my original blog, Minimal Student, which I started at the beginning of my minimalist journey when I was actually a student. Over the past few years, it has built a strong community of readers, and I’m pleased to announce the next stage of the journeythis new site, Minimalist Meditations.

I have changed a lot over the years, and so have the topics I like to write about. You can find out more on my About page. The short version is that I’m no longer a student, and I wanted to grow the blog to include readers who aren’t necessarily students either.

Over the next few months, I will be rebranding the original blog and social media to redirect here, where I will be writing more often. I intend to cover a variety of topics that have become more and more relevant to me since I was a student, such as work, money, time, relationships and more—all with a minimalist perspective of course.

I will publish some of the original Meditations from Minimal Student, along with new posts in the next few weeks, which I hope will give you food for thought. You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email.

If you have any comments or suggestions, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below, or get in touch with me via Twitter or Facebook.

Here’s to many more happy years of minimalism.

All the best,

J