Gichuki Kahome

Why Having More Money Won’t Make You Feel Rich

How much money would you want to make monthly or annually to feel that you have *made* it in life?

100K? 200K? 500K? 6 FIGURES? SEVEN FIGURES? Think about that and have your figure at the back of your mind as you read this article.

The Farmer and The Donkey

A story is told of a farmer who purchased a donkey from his local market. The market trader told the farmer that the Donkey would work hard, rest a little and be a reliable addition to his farm.

The farmer took the Donkey home and put him straight to work. Day after day, the Donkey toiled in the fields, pulling the trailers of hay back and forth, resting a little and proving himself an excellent addition to the farm.

Eventually, the Donkey got tired. Lack of sleep and daily toil started to take its toll, and occasionally the Donkey would slow down or wobble, and hay would fall off the cart. The farmer would remind the Donkey to focus by smacking him with a long stick. One smack would do the trick, and the Donkey would refocus and continue to toil.

But over time, the Donkey grew accustomed to the stick. It would take two smacks, then three, then four, before the Donkey would respond. The Donkey grew used to the noise, pain and discomfort of the farmer’s stick, and it became a standard part of his daily toil.

Eventually, the farmer realised his stick had no real effect on the Donkey anymore. The Donkey just continued to tire, slow down and make mistakes. The farmer sat at the dinner table in the evening and tried to think of a better way to get the Donkey to stay straight and not wobble.

The following day the farmer took his stick and tied a carrot to the end of it. He fitted it to Donkey’s collar, so the carrot dangled out in front of him. The Donkey saw the carrot, imagined how tasty it would be and walked straight and true, trying to get the carrot that was just out of reach.

Eventually, the Donkey, who was not stupid, realised that however far and however straight he walked, the carrot was just out of reach and so inevitably got tired, slowed down and wobbled, tipping hay off the cart.

What is Rich To You?

When I was in my first year of university, one of our lecturers revealed how much he was paid to teach only four lessons in a week. We were all elated. I thought that was a lot of money, and so did my friends. We left the class discussing just how rich we would be if we were the ones receiving that money. We would be filthy rich.

A few years later, when I’m now earning, that money looks very little(don’t mind inflation).

I now want to earn more than that.

I have become like the farmer’s Donkey. Like the carrot tied in front of the Donkey, I believe new numbers or higher income will make me happier and bring more satisfaction in life. Like the Donkey, I imagine how tasty the big cheques would be and strive for them. I believe I’ll have made it in life when I reach that new number.

And like the Donkey realised, I’ll also realise that the big, tasty carrot in front of me is just an illusion. I will never get there. My numbers will keep changing, and it will not take a figure in income to know that I have made it in life. I will keep changing the numbers and wanting more money until I die.

You Will Never Feel Rich

Back to our question, how much money do you think you would need to make it in life or feel rich?

I thought a 6,7 figure would be the ideal number, but I was wrong.

Ex Goldman Sachs CEO and Billionaire Lloyd Blankfein proved otherwise. In an interview with the Financial Times in 2020, he claimed that he couldn’t even consider himself rich.

In his exact words,

“I can’t even say rich. I don’t feel that way. I don’t believe that way. If I bought a Ferrari, I’d be worried about getting it scratched.”

Lloyd Blankfein was worth an estimated $1.1B in 2015. He’s probably in the top 0.01% of the wealthiest people in the world but still doesn’t consider himself rich.

As Nick Maggiulli writes in his book, Just Keep Buying,

“When you regularly hang out with people like Jeff Bezos and David Geffen and look at Ray Dalio and Ken Griffin as your peers, having only $1Billion doesn’t seem like much.”

Social Comparison

My dad is a coffee farmer. When you ask him how he fared in coffee farming in a particular season, he will be quick to dismiss his produce as meagre compared to how his neighbours and other notable farmers performed. He considers himself the average coffee farmer compared to other farmers.

If you look around, you will see that we are all pointing fingers at other people who are doing better than us in various stages of life.

And as Nick concludes,

“This is why no one feels rich. Because it’s always easy to point at someone who is doing better. The trick is not to forget all the people who could be pointing at you.”

You will never think you have enough because you will always find someone who earns more than you unless you are Elon Musk, the richest man on earth.

Knowing That You’ve Got Enough

Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse-Five, and Joseph Heller, the author of Catch – 22, were once at a party in a fancy neighbourhood outside New York City.

Standing in the palatial home of some boring billionaire, Vonnegut began to needle his friend.

“Joe,” he said, “how does it feel that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel has earned in its entire history?”

“I’ve got something he can never have,” Heller replied.

“And what on earth could that be?” Vonnegut asked.

“The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”

As Ryan Holiday remarked in his book, Stillness is the Key,

“You will never feel okay by way of external accomplishments. Enough comes from the inside. It comes from stepping off the train. From seeing what you already have, what you’ve always had.

If a person can do that, they are richer than any billionaire, more powerful than any sovereign.

You may have already concluded that no figure will make you feel rich. We constantly compare ourselves with our peers, and unless you are Elon Musk, you will always find someone else to point your finger to.

And external accomplishments will never make us feel accomplished. Enough comes from inside.

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?

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