I’m not usually one to clip articles out of newspapers, although I do love how much information and thought provoking topics I get from reading the Sunday NY Times. Well, there was an article in the Nov. 30th, Sunday Review edition titled “In Praise of Impracticality” and again this morning, Dec 14th, also in Sunday Review titled “Abundance Without Attachment.” Both of them resonated with me for almost the same reason….make your experiences matter more than your stuff.
In “…Impracticality” author Bill Hayes says that “Every life-altering decision I’ve ever made has seemed…misguided, misjudged or plain foolish – and ultimately turned out to be the opposite:…” He goes on to tell his story of moving to NYC with no real plans, or money, except that he wanted to be a writer and he made so many so called ‘impractical-mistakes’ but all of them led him to discover new things about his new adopted city…and about himself along the way. The article this morning on “…Attachment” by author Arthur C. Brooks details his journey to visit a hipster kind of monk in India. In asking the question of the monk, “…is economic prosperity a good or a bad thing?” the monk replied, “It’s good….There is nothing wrong with money, dude. The problem in life is attachment to money.” So, Hayes continues “….abundance without attachment.” Who doesn’t like nice things, but I think it’s saying, ‘Enjoy them, just don’t make them what makes you happy and fulfilled!’
Here’s how I think they’re somewhat related. The first says basically to make mistakes, be impractical, you’ll learn something…sure you may regret some, but basically impracticality, and I think the related spontaneity, can keep your life moving, and adventurous. The second says that some of those impractical things you’ve done can lead to great life experiences, not material things.
Okay, so where am I going with this? As an example, in the summer of 2013 I felt the need to get a place to call my own, with an extra bedroom for when the kids visited and I wanted it to be by the beach. So, keeping within my budget, I decided, against what many thought was a crazy idea, to purchase a small cottage on leased land….and I did it pretty quickly. It was adorable, had a view, two bedrooms and basically everything I needed…but you only own the building, not the land, so you’re still essentially renting. Well, not to bore you with the details, but this past summer, 13 months after buying it, I made the spontaneous, rash decision to sell that place (there was a weird real estate bubble going on in the neighborhood) and it sold before it was officially on the market and I made a profit. When I told my son he said, “But Mom, you love that place!” which was true. Buying it was impractical and selling it was a really quick decision because, although it was my home…it was a material thing…and in the end I’ll be going back to my family home, which I love…a great, impractical, spontaneous experience all around. Brooks continues the article explaining three practices, but the first is my favorite..”Collect Experiences, not things.” He goes on to back up this statement with studies that have been done on the subject to support it…so interesting. You’ll have to read the article for the other two practices.
Brooks does make note that “for those living paycheck to paycheck, a focus on money is understandable. But for those of us blessed to be above poverty, attachment to money is a means-ends confusion.” …or in other words, didn’t I make this money to get stuff? That’s the “confusion” he and the monk are trying to get us to understand. I CAN say, that even when I was young, newly employed or newly wed and didn’t have much disposable income, it was always the experiences I had that made me happier than any of the stuff. Sometimes it was even the adventure of the hunt at garage sales and flea markets to buy those things for our first home that made those “treasures” even more special. If I had to choose my favorite material “thing” it would probably be my red convertible bug. It’s fun to sing at the top of my lungs with the top down (yeah, I’m one of those weird people you see at the stop light singing away…oblivious that you’re laughing at me,) but if it was taken away tomorrow for some reason I’d be bummed, but I’d be fine….because I have a great family, great kids and great friends and that is the abundance I strive for. Traveling makes me happy and those are the experiences I treasure and remember most…whether it be the road trips the seven of us took in the station wagon when I was a kid, the Weekend Without Borders with my girlfriends, my adventures in New York City with my kids, or just being on the water with my team in the morning. I’m proud of my spontaneous, sometimes impractical spirit that allows me to enjoy “abundance without attachment.”
You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!