Modest Billionaire

Tuesday, December 03, 2013
From the moment we are able to breathe life into this world, we are raised by people who tell us to do well in school in order to find a good job so that we can live our life well off and wean ourselves off of the ones who watched us grow. While that is an absolutely normal thing to do, it can really distract us from the things that we already have. We wake up each day with the mentality that we need to continue to strive to do better in order to make more money so that we can spend it on luxurious things - to be able to get things that we want and do not necessarily need. I am not saying that it is a bad thing, either. In fact, I am just as much of that kind of a person as the next. However, I am doing the best that I can to change that. Here is an article that my significant other has written on the topic that really opened my eyes about it all:

You see? That's Warren Buffett and his fifty-billion dollar self eating Dairy Queen. It's not like you can't get Dairy Queen.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you want to see it, we live in an age of materialism. People always feel like they need the newest designer clothes or accessories with the brightest, most golden designer logo or pattern (or a counterfeit that looks just as good), the newest car with the shiniest rims and the biggest luxury emblem, and carbon fiber on their toilet seat. We've somehow mixed the word "budget" with the concept of terrible quality, figured out that everyone in line at Black Friday sales wants the bigger TVs instead of the smaller ones (but to hell if they're leaving without a TV in that case), and that everyone around them must know what they're buying, whether it be through a filtered Instagram photo or a long Facebook update. And of course, we assume the richest people are the same way - buy everything, but the difference is, they feel no regret at the end, and we crave that feeling.

We act like billionaires with nothing to show for it. Meanwhile there are some billionaires that purposely refuse to act like billionaires.

Except, some of the richest people aren't like that at all, really. The other day, I watched three hours of a Berkshire Hathaway financial conference in which billionaire and legendary investor Warren Buffett spoke about things related to money, of course...and then spoke about life. It was odd - this wasn't him speaking about luxury life or jet life. No, but this is Warren Buffett, arguably the greatest investor of all time, and I expected him to tell that crowd of 45,000 people about how a butterfly cut American Wagyu burger topped with London Worcestershire sauce while flying in a golden Gulfstream coming out of a private island was awesome. Warren Buffett was suppose to tell them about how his collection of Audemars Piguet watches sits in the teeth of an encased part of Gustave the crocodile. He was supposed to make them jealous!

Warren Buffett was suppose to be speaking about his extensive collection of real gold iPhones. Instead he told everyone about Dairy Queen's $5 lunch and how great it is.

...Instead, Warren Buffet spoke about the car he owns, (an 8 year old Cadillac that he drives himself), his favorite home (a modest, five bedroom house he bought for $31,500), and his favorite restaurant (Piccolo Pete's, a restaurant in Omaha where he gets the New York Cut, priced at $23.95). The man could get anything with his $58.5 billion dollars, and yet he decides to live modestly because those are the things he knows he likes. He doesn't care about how luxurious a billionaire should be, but he just wants the things he likes.

Know what you like and love it. It's really that simple.

While my bank account is doing just fine, it could only hope to be a microcosm of what Warren Buffet's is, and the way the investor carried himself absolutely resonated with me. Here society is, trying to get the absolute greatest luxury of everything, and yet, when we really think big picture, none of that stuff really matters. As Dave Ramsey said (and Will Smith popularized), "We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like." We aren't seeing the people we're trying to outdo every single second, so why do we think everyone's concerned with us when everyone's too focused on themselves?

Not many people are going to criticize you because everyone's constantly trying to focus on themselves.

The general meaning in what you're reading right now isn't to say that you should absolutely not buy something you really want or lower the quality in what you like, but to really just know what you like in that amount and love it. If you're infatuated with luxury things, that's great, but what do you really love that doesn't require a comparison or standard to something else? "Nice things" are always great, but the definition of "nice things" is completely subjective, and should never be a general standard that is worth judging others by. I've been guilty of the things I'm speaking against sometimes, but that has not made it any harder for me to just love the things I like more.

You are more likely to make a fortune on being modest than you are wanting everything all the time.

As the brilliant Leo Babatua of Zenhabits said about the subject, there will be some who say, “Sure, it’s easy to be content when you’re rich and successful," but the whole point is that certain people are rich and successful because they're modest and never feel like they need everything to validate them all the time. They just know what they like and love it, and they love what they do and work hard at it. There is no worrying about what everyone else is into, no figuring out what other people are trying to get at, there's simply self-enjoyment and feeling like you can focus more on the things you like instead of feeling like you need to own everything.

At the end of the day, luxury will never outdo the simple things.

This is how advertising gets people, right? Convince people that products and brands are their friends and they need them or else they'll be absolute failures and won't be cool. I love great advertisements, but everyone's simply selling you on something. We're smarter than that, a lot of the time - I don't expect you to believe Blake Griffin drives a Kia, but you really don't even have to want anything pushed on you in the first place. You can get what you want and block out all the people who say otherwise because of some specific reason. Just enjoy yourself.