What Would You Do if You Were Rich?


Let’s do a thought experiment. I did this several years ago and it changed my idea of being rich and the overall pursuit of wealth.

I got it from an old post by the blogger, Mr. Money Mustache. In the article, he says he would do “absolutely nothing differently,” if he had more money. When I read that for the first time, I thought, “yeah right.”

Back then, I was out of grad school for a year, was in debt, had recently started a business, paid myself about $15,000 in salary, and did not have any savings like Mustache. I was desperately trying to earn more money so I could have more freedom… But to do what with that money and freedom?

That was something I didn’t figure out for years. But I’m glad I kept thinking about this concept of “what would you do if you had more money?” It helped me to avoid chasing money too much. 

As I started to build my career and began to earn more, I realized that you don’t have to make a mistake to learn a lesson. You don’t always need to learn things “the hard way.” You can think things through. 

Take a concept like this one. How many of us assume we need to have more money to be happy? And the one important habit I learned over time is to question everything.

The power of thinking things through…and through

When you’re thinking about certain things you wish you had, pretend like you’re having a conversation with someone who asks you, “and then what?” The other person asks you that until you reach the core of the matter. 

Here’s what it might look like if you think you need to have more money.

  • Someone: “What would you do if you made a million bucks a year?”
  • You: “I would probably buy a new house.”
  • Someone: “And then what?”
  • You: “Go on a vacation.”
  • Someone: “And then what?”
  • You: “Buy something for my partner and family.”
  • Someone: “And then what?”
  • You: “Finally pursue my passion project!”
  • Someone: “And then what?”
  • You: “Uhhmmm…Other than that, probably do the same things I’m doing now?”

If you really think about it, when we have more money, we think about spending it first. And then we always come back to the usual: Living life. 

Sure, if you have more money you don’t have to worry about paying the bills and getting by. That’s a big deal. But you don’t need to be a millionaire to do those things.

When we think things through and get to the bottom of our desires, we figure out that we primarily want to get rich so we can spend it on things. Some people might spend it on travel, others on luxury. 

But once you’re done spending, you still have to do what all other happy people do: Wake up, spend your day in a meaningful way, and enjoy yourself.

The idea of having a lot of money always sounds better in our heads. As Mustache wrote:

“Strangely enough, even though the money sounds exciting in my fantasies, they always end up back in the same place – with me tucking away all the extra cash somewhere useful and then going right back to exactly the lifestyle the MMM family is currently enjoying.”

If you enjoy your simple lifestyle, why change it? Why sacrifice your time, energy, and sanity for the potential of earning more money? 

Everyone has a talent or passion

In the imaginary exchange I shared earlier, I mentioned working on your passion project. 

From my experience, people who chase money usually do it because they don’t have another meaningful goal to pursue. They lack a worthy pursuit. So they fill that void with a pursuit of money. 

That’s how I describe myself before I discovered writing. In my teens and twenties, I always had this sense that every person had a certain talent or interest in something.

The problem is that most people don’t know. That’s how I looked at my life too. I made it my objective to figure out what I actually love to do with my life.

I would often say to my friends, “I might have a talent for rock climbing. But if I never try climbing a rock, I might die not knowing what I was good at.”

Do you enjoy your lifestyle?

It comes down to your lifestyle. When you know what you really love to do, you focus on doing that thing as much as you can. That’s why I was always fascinated by people who were obsessed with sports.

I loved watching documentaries about climbing and other extreme sports. I saw these people who lived for the sport they practiced. I remember reading about a guy who would do manual labor all winter long on a farm, sleep there, do nothing else, and take all the money he earned to surf all summer long. 

That guy lived like that for I don’t know how many years, but it was a long time. I remember being impressed by that. I thought, “Wow, this guy really loves surfing.” 

And that’s a good way to live. When you love a certain lifestyle so much that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to have it. The reality is that we do need money to make that happen.

That’s why I’m a proponent of investing, building businesses, and maximizing your earnings potential. And you can achieve that by doing something you love. 

What matters is that we make our life decisions based on the lifestyle we want to have. Not based on external factors like being famous, having status, or having a certain amount of money.

As Seneca once wrote:

“For the wise man does not consider himself unworthy of any gifts from Fortune’s hands: he does not love wealth but he would rather have it; he does not admit into his heart but into his home; and what wealth is his he does not reject but keeps, wishing it to supply greater scope for him to practice his virtue.”

So, give this thought experiment a try. What would you do if you were rich?

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