The Act Of Wanting: On Money

Last month, a friend said to me, “Not everybody wants to be the founder of a thriving business and own a Rolex.” Last week, the same friend said, “Of course we all want to be super rich. We’re just lazy.”

I’ve begun to think about what it is I usually say I want and how it is that I want it. Do I want it so that it can lift me up on a pedestal and cushion me with social status – a ticket that paves paths for me in this world? Do I want it because my wanting it is a symptom of a problem I have not yet worked through? Do I want it purely, simply because I do? Answering these questions may be a way to avoid undesirable long-term situations or even find solutions to things that pick at one’s energy. Or to prevent that disappointment or anti-climax that happens when we finally get what we think we want.

If my friend was a character in a book I was writing, I would think that –based on his usual characteristics and disposition- being rich is not something he wants. He wants nice things. He wants to be respected more than an average person ever could. He wants to be able to buy his little girl a pink tutu without thinking about his budget. He wants to go a lifetime without being shrunk by somebody in top management. But he doesn’t want to be super wealthy.

He doesn’t want to have to think about how to prevent paying large amounts of tax, how to go about life so that he incurs as few law suits as possible, how to have friends but not bring them too close because people become a liability and untrustworthy when you get to a certain level of wealth, how to keep jealous relatives from selling information they know about him, how to protect his children from kidnappers, how to talk as cunningly as possible since honesty comes at a high premium for certain people, hiring a trustworthy chauffeur to drive him around because he’s on the phone all day and is probably too tired to drive, how to budget his time so stringently that he gets the best out of his 24 hours, how to check if he has anyone in his life who would still love him if he lost all his money, how not to lose all his money, having a large or even decent-sized workforce under him knowing that they’re a crisis or a few bad decisions away from losing their livelihoods and it’s up to him to make sure that doesn’t happen, never spending nearly enough time with his children… And all the problems and stress that could possibly arise from owning and controlling a large amount of wealth. What (I’m guessing) he really wants is to be special and for everyone to know it.

I’m sure there are happy rich people out there, with loving families and friends. But it could easily go the other way. The thing is, certain types of people like to constantly deal with large amounts of stress. If you’re one of those people, then chances are you’ll do well as an ultra-wealthy member of society. If you’re laid back or sensitive or above a particular degree of empathetic, these things might have to be sacrificed in favour of a more logical, obsessively driven version of you – if your goal is solely to make ocean loads of money.

We don’t tend to look at the nitty-gritties of what we want. Every time I got myself into a situation I thought I wanted to be in but loathed by the end, I figured out that I didn’t want to be there in the first place. Somewhere in my heart of hearts, I knew that I would rather be in my element – or even just comfortable – than fight this particular battle. But I looked at all the approval I’d get from doing that thing and dived in based on those societal rewards. But the day-to-day of The Thing is what gets you or misses you.

If you don’t generally enjoy being what you say you want to be on a routine day, you will suffer. If you don’t thrive being what you say you want to be in the middle of a crisis, it was never meant for you. And you’ve invested more time play-acting a role that doesn’t fit you and less time perfecting the role that would have made you. Yes, doing what you’re meant to be doing can involve pain and suffering but all the trouble tends to feel worth it. That’s the mark of alignment or lack thereof.

That said, if my friend was a character in a book of mine, I’d give him a heartbeat. I’d give him a passion that makes his heart race every time he’s investing himself in it. If it was women, I’d give him plenty of adventures with women and make him a painter (cliché but let’s go with it, okay) –who likes to paint all kinds of women from different cultures and walks of life- or a poet who ends up making a lot of money from his hard-won talent. If it was money, I’d make him a ruthless capitalist. If it was fatherhood, he’d come up with a controversial but very potent system of raising kids who were the best versions of themselves –and he’d accidentally make money from his system. If it was being respected, he’d be a walking, talking version of How To Make Friends and Influence People –and he’d end up making a lot of money that way. Material wealth would be a byproduct of him getting what he really wants. If it was comfort and family life, he’d have a steady 9-to-5 and a few rental properties just for back up; he’d go to church on Sundays (maybe), take his sons fishing some Saturdays and try not to hardcore cheat with his work-wife on Mondays. Or he would live a self-sustaining, minimalist existence and have the kind of friends Seneca would have appreciated. And he’d absolutely love his life. In all of these cases, money is not the central element, with a human life revolving around it.

If my friend was a character in my book, I’d give him the courage to go after what he really wanted and to be content with it in a world that commercialises the concept of a good life.

Copyright ©️ 2020 Tebogo Ndlovu

Thank You To All The Crazy People


Disclaimer: I’m not a professional mind person. These are a few things I’ve realised lately or tell myself from time to time.

I have learned most of the useful things I know from crazy people. Crazy in quotes. These are people who were ridiculed for being who they were at some point, only to find –when they went out into the world- that someone needed their crazy. And that the label ‘crazy’ only applied when they were in their previous environment. In the new environment, they were embraced and learned to cultivate their crazy into a gift that keeps on giving. These people could be, to you – your favourite aunty, singer, writer, CEO, pet that could not be tamed. The empathy they bring into your life when they do what they do, when that song hits the right chord –for example- could be what keeps you going when times are tough and what helps you celebrate good times. All because this stranger gets you.

Imagine if those people –all of them- never existed or never tried to come out of their shell. Imagine that you are one of those people to someone out there. This is the importance of trying.

If there is something you feel compelled right from deep down in your core to do, do it. Yes, there’s some self-actualisation that goes on there when you are doing it, this unparalleled satisfaction. But it seems there is more to it than that. What you manage to salvage from your talents may be the thing that saves someone else’s life or shows them that there is more to life than survival. We are examples to each other – in success, in mediocrity, in distress – what you are doing means something to someone else’s existence. If you are withholding a gift or talent the world or even just one individual out there needs, run away from it all you can, it will still haunt you.

There may be a great deal to be learned from taking the great leap forward into becoming the best you that ever was –as cliché as that sounds (clichés are clichés for a reason), for example:

  • You can always invent your own normal.

People have different thresholds of pain, pleasure, respect, etc. And that’s what makes them interesting. That’s what forges friendships between certain people, attracts narcissists to certain people, gets certain people pregnant. Normal is not set in stone. There are things that people insist are normal which you don’t see a lot of when you look around. Either that or normal clearly isn’t working. Try to think of a few. So whose version of impossible-normal are you trying to fit yourself into? As long as your normal doesn’t kill or grieve someone else, you really are free to rebuild your world as you see fit. And if your normal grieves someone, take stock of if their grief is actually coming from their own insecurities. Do they have a valid point? Is it both? If it’s both, maybe take the valid point and keep it moving. Also, you will offend people along the way. But with time, you realise when to say you’re sorry and when to drop the mic and walk away or when to be silent. Don’t be ashamed of the trial and error along the way. Think about the rewards and let them push you forward –because you can’t go back to the way you were once you’ve even lost some people because of changes you made. Those losses have to count for something, so you have to keep going.

I for one would like to die having seen what my best life looked like – ‘normal’ or not.

  • You will not be telling your kids one day that they should stick with the safe path and forget about pursuing their own dreams.

A parent who lived their best life becomes the ultimate example to their child. A parent who never gave themselves a chance and regrets that *is in danger of* becoming the opposite of what the child wants to be when they grow up. Children are smart. They see more than we give them credit for. Our insecurities, regrets, anger and resentment manifest themselves to children in all kinds of ways and lessons. And if you are not being true to yourself, it becomes a whole entire mood in the depths of your soul then sprouts into a version of you that you’ll be shocked to discover. You’ll be the one scoffing at your colleague who is pursuing that risky side gig and secretly wishing that they fail so as to prove what you’ve always known: that people should just sit down and stay in their lanes. You will do this with people you love, as well: your children, your siblings, your best friend – because you don’t want anyone making you feel like you should have tried or tried harder. If you’re truly happy with yourself, you won’t be bothered by other people’s endeavours. But if you never tried, you’ll find yourself telling your kid that they’ll fail and make a fool of themselves. (Whether the kid is actually good at what they are trying to do is beside the point and nobody’s business if they are willing to support themselves through their struggles and will bear the consequences of their own actions. At least they’re trying at something (hopefully legal).)

  • You are setting yourself up for life to pleasantly surprise you.

Nothing can be learned from doing nothing when you wanted to try something. But when you do act, your actions can lead to unexpected discoveries and opportunities. Life seems to open up to you and present you with gifts and amazing people you didn’t even ask for – and also gets more interesting with time as you rediscover your curiosities.

“It’s the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.” – Westlife, The Rose

  • You weed out people who keep you limited.

There are people in your life, you know you should have gotten rid of ages ago. Making changes to how you live your life organically takes these people away from your sphere of influence. Your activities change, so does your interest in doing the things you used to do with them. Also, you weed out the versions of you that used to keep you limited. There will be things you just cannot do anymore –like putting off achieving the goals of a particular project, self-destructive behaviour such as being messy where you could have resolved a dispute amicably and being tardy. At this point, you would be working from a mentality of someone who is sick and tired of being discontented. And you know what happens once you reach that point.

  • You ensure that you’re taken care of in hard times.

How many of us found themselves in the middle of a lockdown wishing we had pursued that passion project that could be making us money by now? That’s the thing with making sure you pursue what your self said you should be pursuing when they said you should be pursuing it. It’s not just so you can sleep well at night. With time, it actually gives back to you and becomes the thing that keeps you when you need help. Because you care that much more, you tend to do well. Even just in terms of keeping your reputation: when you have a career you love, you make sure you do right by it and so it builds value in your name –so that whenever you need a new opportunity, your reputation goes before you and secures you one. What happened there is you tried harder and longer than you would have for a job you don’t really care about, and that comes with certain rewards.

But this is not just about your life’s work. This is also about the standard you allow your life to operate at and how that standard sets you up to accept good or bad treatment from people and come out at the top or bottom when certain circumstances hit, or to be the one who is prone to thrive in most situations and has discernment enough to repel bad treatment. You may think you’re fine with your current expectations but have they paid off? Have they been good for you?

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