Category Archives: Minimalism

Dear Grandma

by Jessica Dang

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My dear mama, you passed away earlier this month.

You had been ill for a long time, so it wasn’t unexpected. At least you were surrounded by family when it happened. Everyone dropped everything to go to your house that night. There were a lot of tears.

You lived a hard and busy life, immigrating from Vietnam to England forty years ago bringing your ten children with you. With such a big family, your house always had people coming in and out to visit, to talk about everything and nothing, to eat and drink tea until late into the night. Weddings, birthdays, and Chinese New Years have always been hectic and wonderful and full of food and laughter.

In the end though, old age took over. You got breast cancer, and eventually liver cancer and other ailments that made you so weak you needed help with everything. We all did our best to take care of you, getting you the best treatment we could, but in the end, we had to let you go.

Growing up, you didn’t have much. You married a man, my grandfather, who was from a village in the mountains near the border of China and Vietnam. You had to have ten children because you were so poor you didn’t know how many would survive until adulthood. Some actually didn’t survive—as close as we all are, there are members of our family that I would never know.

So it’s no wonder you valued money so much. Having it meant the survival of your family, which was everything to you. When you all came to England in the 1980’s to look for a better life, everyone worked hard at the few years they had at school to learn English so that they could find work. My own father, who was 14 at the time you moved here, only had a single year of education. Those first few years were all about learning to survive in a new world.

Eventually everyone found their feet. All ten children became adults, found jobs or started successful businesses and married and had children. Some even went on to have their own children and you and Grandad became great-grandparents. Ten years ago, Grandad passed away and although you were alone without him, you were never lonely with all of us being there for you.

We started with nothing but now our family has more money than we could have imagined as refugees from a mountain village. You started a dynasty, but we haven’t forgotten our roots. Although money is useful, it isn’t the most important thing. To this day every one of us would do anything to support each other.

You were a minimalist by circumstance, not by choice. You didn’t have much, but what you did have and all that mattered were things that money couldn’t buy—good health for as long as possible, a loving family, and living a full and happy life. You had everything you ever needed, and I’m glad for that.

May you rest in peace.

‘Dear Grandma’ post was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

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On Maturity — What would I tell myself if I could go back 10 years?

by Jessica Dang

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It was my 27th birthday this month. Although I don’t feel that old yet, almost every day I’m reminded of memes I don’t understand, trends I haven’t heard of, or technology I didn’t know existed. I feel a big difference between myself and ‘kids these days’. In fact, I have a brother who is 11 years younger than me, but it often feels like he’s from a different generation.

Amongst all of this change in the world, I realise there has been a lot of change within myself too. I wasn’t always so comfortable with not being up-to-date on the latest fashions and gadgets. Like most teenagers, I overcompensated for my self-confidence issues by trying in my own way to be as cool as possible. For me that meant having cool stuff like the latest iPhone or laptop to show off with. People would gather around me and it would make me feel better about myself, but only for a while. Obviously buying stuff wasn’t a long term fix for my insecurities. Those times sowed the seeds for the minimalist lifestyle I developed soon after.

As a teenager I dreaded getting older, but a decade later I’m in a much, much better place. The biggest lesson I learned is to not give a f*ck. Who cares where I live, what job I do, or whether I have the latest iPhone? No one! Or at least, no one cares nearly as much as I thought.

Realising that and being okay with it has been huge. Once I let go of other people’s expectations of me, I was free to do whatever I want—it’s unlikely people care enough to judge me for it, and even if they did, who cares! Certainly not me.

Hence living minimally to avoid debt and save up enough to be able to quit my job in my mid-twenties to start my own business. Could I have done that if I was concerned about what people thought of me? Probably not. I would have felt too self conscious to say no to spending $100 on a night out, worrying about what outfit I was wearing, or which car I was driving, or staying in a luxury hotel so that I could instagram it, instead of saving up the start up capital I needed to be free of those kinds of traps.

Two years on, I only work a couple of hours a week but earn twice as much as I did in my soul-sucking job. I have the freedom to pursue anything I want to. I can sleep/read/travel whenever I want, and thanks to not being tied to a desk all day, my health is better than ever. On top of that, I can give more to people and causes I care about, because I have more to give.

It wasn’t easy getting here, but neither was it that hard to be honest. It was a series of small sacrifices and good decisions that paid off. I only wish I started started sooner. That is, if I could go back ten years and give advice to my 17 year old self, or indeed to my younger brother now, I would say, “Hey, you. Stop worrying so much about what other people think, they don’t know all the answers themselves. Breathe. If you do what you feel is the right thing, you’re going to find happiness. I promise.

‘On Maturity’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

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On Vanity — how valuable things can actually be worthless

by Jessica Dang

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Why do we buy stuff? Not everything we buy is useful, so there must be other reasons why we work so hard to buy things.

Maybe it’s because we find a sense of happiness or satisfaction when we buy something new, but we all know that that feeling soon fades (even though we almost never remember this every time we buy something new).

Why we buy stuff has less to do with the object itself than with ourselves. When we buy expensive clothes, the newest gadgets or a flashy car, it’s because we believe it will give us recognition from the people around us—we’ll ‘show’ them how successful we are so that they’ll accept us, or even love us.

Humans crave recognition. To be part of a group, or at least not be in some else’s shadow. Most people are more influenced by what other people think of them than what they actually want ourselves.

Think about it—if everyone in the world disappeared tomorrow and you were the only one left (apart from the upset you would have from losing your friends and loved ones) what would you do now that you could have anything you desired?

You could just walk into someone’s mansion, even the most beautiful castle, and have it all to yourself. You could pick and choose anyone’s finest clothing and jewellery, even put on the crown if you wanted to! Drive a Ferrari, swim in bank notes, have hundreds of iPhones. But after a while, what would happen? With no one to impress, the chances are that you’ll find somewhere more convenient and easier to maintain than a huge house, you’ll wear clothes that are more comfortable, you’ll drive something more practical and you’ll get bored of the latest gadget.

Things you thought were worth a lot won’t matter as much any more. You’re the last person on earth, there’s nothing left but to find something worthwhile to do, something that makes you happy, not anyone else.

If no one was around to validate our existence, as society has defined by how much stuff we have, we would wouldn’t actually care about it. Hardly anyone would actually choose to have their life’s purpose revolve around buying things, but so many people do exactly that every day, without stopping to question it.

We don’t have to go as far as erasing every other person on Earth. If we just cared a little less about what other people think, we’d care a little more about what we want, and what really matters to us.

‘On Vanity’ was originally published via Minimalist Meditations.

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The most important thing to minimalise in 2018

by Jessica Dang

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http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-hot-air-balloon-festival-image18811474

 

Having lived a minimalist lifestyle for nearly ten years (by my definition anyway), I don’t have a lot of things left to get rid of that I don’t use or need.

But there is one big thing that I can do with much less of this year—distractions.

I have noticed lately that I have been finding it more and more difficult to focus solely on a single task.

Whenever I sit down to do some work, whether it’s reading, writing, studying etc. I hardly last 10 or 20 minutes before I’ve got a tab open on something new, or I’ve absent mindedly moved onto something else without realising it. Before I know it, it’s 9pm and I haven’t gotten much done that day.

Distractions come in so many forms. It’s impossible to get rid of them all, but there are some major ones that would make a big difference if I were to reduce them as much as possible.

Distractions 

  1. Daily news. Given the political environment, following the news last year always made me angry/upset/confused. There’s always something bad going on in the world, and there’s a line somewhere between being informed about world events, and knowing too much that it’s just upsetting.
  2. Social media. Even though I stopped following people on my feed years ago, I ended up replacing them with news sites that used to be informative, but have degraded to pointless videos about things that don’t add value to my life.
  3. TV. Every time one show finishes, and I think I can take a break from TV, another one starts up again and I end up watching about 4-8 hours of TV a week which I can do with halving. There are many better things for me to do with an hour each day.

Minimalise by…

  1. Disabling all notifications
  2. Deleting news bookmarks from my computer and phone
  3. Turning off the colour to my iPhone so it looks boring
  4. Logging out of social media from all browsers
  5. Turning my computer off if I intend to do something else
  6. Deleting all social apps from my phone
  7. Keep a notepad to look things up later instead of doing it instantly
  8. Unsubscribing from Netflix
  9. Letting go of TV shows even though I haven’t finished them
  10. Any other 100+ ways that’s not actually difficult to do

To be replaced with…

  1. Face to face interactions. I want to spend more time connecting with people in person, including friends and family, and also I will make an effort to network more this year with people who up my game, in business, in life, emotionally, and intelligently.
  2. Learning/investing in myself. Every dollar I have ever spent on a book has been well worth it, so I attended a training workshop this month that costed a lot of money but was worth every penny. Now I’m on track to make 10x the cost of that seminar back. I’m convinced the more I learn, the more I earn.
  3. Deep work. I want to reach my goal of reading 52 books this year while making better notes so that I retain more of what I learn. I also want to spend more time writing for the both Minimal Student and Minimalist Meditations, and updating my journals on a weekly basis instead of monthly.

It all comes down to wanting to do things with intention and awareness. If I’m distracted less, I can focus more on doing all the things I want to in the time that I have.

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5 Common Myths about Minimalism

by Jessica Dang
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Throughout human history we’ve never had so much stuff in abundance that we would voluntarily choose to have any less than we can get. Given the chance, it’s in our nature to take everything we can for the sake of survival.

But in modern times, taking has gone way beyond the necessities of food and shelter, and consumerism has taken over to the point that we’re killing our own people and destroying our own planet for the sake of the latest gadgets.

Thankfully, in the last couple of years, things have turned the other way and the minimalist movement has picked up momentum.

While I’m happy that news about minimalism has become mainstream, I’m not a big fan of articles that show people sitting like monks in their bare one bedroom apartment with a toothbrush and a towel laid out in front of them.

These articles only show one type of minimalism, and in my opinion intimidates regular people for who it isn’t feasible to live under such extreme circumstances.

There is still so much misunderstanding around what minimalism actually is. Here are the top five misconceptions I hear most often:

Top 5 Myths

1. You can only have 100 [or insert number here] things or less. Don’t you dare have 101 things otherwise you’ll have to get rid of something! Only kidding, there’s no need to keep strict numbers on your possessions. Just follow the general rule of only having what you need, clear out every now and then, and you’ll be fine. The world will keep turning if you have a few more things than an arbitrary number plucked from the sky, yet people think that minimalists are obsessed with counting each sock. There are some who do, but the rest of us spend our energies actually living our best lives.

2. Your home/walls/furniture can only be white, no fun allowed. Although I’m a big fan of minimalist interior design, it’s really only a Pinterest/Tumblr hobby, not reality. Let’s look at the bigger picture. Rather than focus on the things that we don’t have, or are depriving ourselves of, let’s focus on what we do have, and which of those things give us the most joy and add value in life. This applies not just to how we decorate our homes, but also to the people, commitments and things we spend our time on/for every day.

3. You can’t want or have nice things.  Let’s be clear, cheap is different from frugal. Being cheap means buying things of low quality that you’ll have to replace after it breaks. Frugal means buying only what you need, and looking for good deals for things of good quality. Therefore, you can be frugal, but still buy expensive things because you expect it to last a long time. In any case, even if it is a nice thing, if you need it, you’re allowed to buy it! So called ‘minimalists’ might frown at your fifth pair of shoes, but if you need an extra pair because running and hiking shoes are actually different things, you can have both!

4. You need to be a young single male who likes to backpack around the world. Er, no. You’re allowed to join The Minimalist Club™* whether you’re old or young, male or female, or if you have a partner or family, even if it means you’ll have a couple more things, they’ll still let you in. Kids need clothes and toys and you can’t just wear the same two things every day because you have to look respectable at work. You can live out of an actual house if you wanted, and you don’t have to travel if it’s not your thing. We all want different things in life, and as long as you can afford those things that are useful or make you happy, you’re allowed to have them.

5. You can’t get attached or sentimental about anything. Minimalism isn’t hard-core non-attachment Buddhism. You’re allowed to like the things you own, or feel sentimental about things that mean a lot to you. We’re all human after all, and we all have a favourite mug/sweater/keepsake that would make us unhappier if we lost or broke it. As long we bear in mind that although stuff will inevitably be in our lives, life is not inevitably about stuff.

If all this sounds to you like I’m making excuses for ‘non-minimalist’ habits, then you’ve still got minimalism all wrong. There aren’t any rules. People think that minimalism as a lifestyle means having less, when in fact what it really means is having more. Don’t fall for these misconceptions—do your own research and find the path that suits you.

*Unfortunately there is no such thing as The Minimalist Club™

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My Minimalist European Trip Packing List

by Jessica Dang
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By the time you read this, I might be wondering the streets of Old Town in Prague, admiring art in the museums of Vienna, or bathing in the spas of Budapest… checking cities off my List.

I’ll be mostly offline while I’m travelling, so for this month’s post we’ll take a break from the personal finance advice and go back to basics. Here’s a list of all of the things I’m taking for my minimalist trip to Europe. I’ll be carrying one backpack containing:

  1. One pair black jeans
  2. Two button shirts (that don’t need ironing)
  3. Two t-shirts
  4. Jacket
  5. Pyjamas
  6. Book (this month I’m reading Walden)
  7. Notebook and pencil (for diary entries, thoughts, ideas, sketches etc.)
  8. Sleeping eye mask and ear plugs
  9. Toothbrush and toothpaste
  10. Face wash and face cream
  11. Shampoo and bodywash
  12. Hand sanitiser
  13. Hair comb
  14. iPhone with battery and cable
  15. Power adapter

Not pictured: my iPhone which I was using to take the photo, my passport, flight/travel papers, wallet, and underwear for privacy, and the pair of shoes and socks I’ll be wearing.

That’s it! These are things I’m not taking:

  • Too many toiletries/makeup—I’m not planning to look/smell homeless, but as a tourist I doubt people will pay too much attention to what I look like. Also, coconut oil is a great multi-purpose skin moisturiser, lip balm, hair conditioner etc. which saves me having to take too many travel bottles.
  • Extra clothes—I would rather pay a few Euros for laundry/drying than carry too much around with me since I plan to do a lot of walking.
  • Gadgets/valuables—apart from my phone which I’ll be using for directions etc. I won’t be taking any other gadgets (including DSLR, see below), my watch, or jewellery or valuables that can get stolen.
  • A towel/hairdryer etc—too bulky, I’ll be staying in a mix of hostels and Airbnb which provide them.

I’ll fly with just carry on, so everything will fit in a medium sized backpack (about the size that would fit a 15 inch laptop) that weighs 6-8kg. Even though I’ll be taking very little for the trip, I’m not worried—I’ll mostly be in big cities so if I really need something, I can just buy it.

In a new exercise in mindfulness, I am deliberately not taking my DSLR so that I will spend my energy enjoying the sights in real life (gasp), rather than photographing them. If I like how something looks, instead of taking a photo and rushing off, I intend to spend an extra few minutes appreciating it in person. I might even sketch it into my notebook (I’ve been inspired lately by Leonardo da Vinci to write/draw more things down).

I could have packed more, or I could have packed less. Everyone is different, and everyone needs and likes to have different things. From my previous travels, I’ve learned what works for me and what I’m comfortable with.

Have I forgotten anything? Let me know what you think! In the meantime, check out the latest posts on Minimalist Meditations on Equanimity and on Expectations.

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Minimalist Meditations — May and June

by Jessica Dang
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The latest posts on Minimalist Meditations from May and June:

Minimalism isn’t just about having less stuff. That’s only the beginning.
—Why we get rid of things: Minimalist Meditations on Opportunity

I was 300 metres away when it happened.
—Staying strong: Minimalist Meditations on Tragedy

We all need to find our own definitions for success, discover our own self worth, and learn how to balance all the forces that pull us in different directions.
—If I were a sin: Minimalist Meditations on Greed

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A Minimalist Guide to Money and Investing — Part I

by Jessica Dang
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One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from readers is how I earn and manage money, and how I was able to create a passive income so that I could quit my job.

In the past, I’ve been reluctant to share too many specifics, as it is a huge subject and I’m not a financial adviser. Furthermore, everybody’s situation is different, depending on their job, earnings, age, risk appetite, city/country and economic environment. With so many variables, there’s no way I could speak for everyone, so the best I can do is talk about my investment journey.

In these posts, I’m not going to tell you how exactly to invest (entire books have been written on this subject) or recommend one particular course of action over another. I’m not telling you what you should, or shouldn’t do. Rather, I want to share my own views on money and work, how my views on wealth have changed over the years, and how I approach investing, earning and spending now.

When I talk about ‘wealth’ in these posts, although I am discussing material and monetary wealth (something that is not often discussed by minimalists as a good thing!) I am well aware that money is not the measure of one’s worth. Please see my Minimalist Meditations on money and wealth for my views on this.

I’m going to share how I went from a full time corporate employee working 50+ hour weeks to earning the same amount of money but only working between 1-6 hours per week on a passive income, all from a minimalist’s perspective. By ‘minimalist’, I don’t mean that this post will be a simplified, dumbed-down article about investing basics. It will be about how I have applied various minimalist philosophies to my approach to investing, for example, how I’ve been able to educate myself in various types of investing so that I’m able to select the type that works for me (in this case, getting fair returns by doing as little as possible so that I have time for things that are more important).

I’m not saying that it is every minimalist’s aim to quit their job, lie on a beach, and do nothing at all. Nor am I saying that having or not having money defines minimalism in any way. You can be a minimalist in a hut, or a minimalist in a mansion. Minimalism means something different for everyone, and for me, minimalism has always meant freedom. Freedom to choose what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, where I wanted to go, and who I wanted to spend my time with. It means directing my limited resources of money, time and energy away from what people think of me (the size of my house, car, wardrobe etc.) towards things that actually matter to me, like giving to those in need, and spending time reading, creating, travelling, and with my friends and family.

Everything I’ve always wanted to say about money (almost!)

I’m going to be very frank about the subject of money here, because I think there are some hard truths in this subject. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, especially people who don’t want to admit that they are unhappy or doing anything wrong. I’ve heard a lot of excuses in my time. The worst approach I’ve heard people have is complaining how everything is stacked against them, how they’re ‘just not lucky’, or resenting people who have been successful in this way, but doing nothing about it.

I also don’t expect everyone to agree with everything that I say, which is fine too. I’m always willing to hear other people’s opinions and learn something new, but if you don’t have anything helpful or constructive to say except for poo-pooing on somebody’s else ideas, you can save your precious time and stop reading now.

If you’ve read this far and want to carry on, good for you. There is a lot I want to say, and because it is quite a complicated subject, I will break it down into multiple posts in linear steps, although life rarely works in a straight line. For the sake of easier understanding I’ll start with the basics.

This post (Part I):

  • 1—Motivation and Environment
  • 2—Mindset and Education

Future posts:

I’m going to try to fit in everything I’ve always wanted to say about money in these posts. The reason why I say ‘almost’ is that I’m sure there’ll be things I’ve forgotten and will want to add later, or edits, clarifications, and answers to readers’ comments in the future so the above post ideas are subject to change.

Before we start, I strongly recommend reading a previous post I updated recently 5 Ways to Get Rich for Free about some basic yet important ideas about money.

1—Motivation and Environment

Most people don’t just stumble upon investing. We’re not taught it at school, and it’s not a natural instinct or something that is instilled in us as children—that money can be made other than the route of school -> university -> job -> promotion(s) -> retirement = success.

There’s usually a trigger that sets people on the path of investing—usually a person, or an event. For me, my trigger was realising (over a period of a few years) that I never wanted to work in an office again. There were times when I enjoyed myself, but after a while, I felt conflict with my inner self, the person who I wanted to be. Working long hours in a meaningless corporate job felt like it went against my philosophy of minimalism, not because I owned a couple more things, but because I felt I had much less freedom. I was cash-rich, but time-poor. Even if I changed jobs, I would be subjecting myself to the same things I hated (long hours, pointless meetings, office politics etc), just with a different job title. So I quit the world of work to get my life back.

I want to stress that I don’t recommend this approach to everyone, especially if you’ve got people dependent on you. At the time, my life overheads (ie. what I was spending on a day-to-day basis) was very low, which meant at the time of quitting I had enough savings to pay essential bills and food for about 18 months. I had a vague idea that I was going to use some of those savings to do something on my own, although what it was exactly, I hadn’t figured out yet. For most people, I recommend getting any side businesses or secondary income streams off the ground first, before quitting your main income source.

For me though, I knew that I could always get another job if things didn’t work out, and I could always fall back on a couple of online work-from-home jobs I used to have. So my basic needs were taken care of, but I needed to quit to have the time and energy to pursue all the other things that I had neglected while I was working. As well as start my vague business idea, I wanted to have the energy to get fit, to read, to write more, to travel, and to continue my language studies, among a lot of other things.

Your motivation for investing is important because it shapes what you decide to do, how you go about it, and how long it takes you to achieve whatever goals you have. You need to have the internal drive for it, otherwise you’ll get bored, or lazy, or both.

You are also affected by your environment. External factors such as your local economy, your job situation, and the kind of people you surround yourself with all affect what and how you do things, and the results you’ll obtain.

In my case, I didn’t want to work in an office. I hated the early mornings and long work hours, so I decided I would find a line of work that generated passive income. This means I wasn’t going to start an Etsy (not that I have the talent for it) or any other labour intensive business. I didn’t want to swap one full time job for another, and I didn’t want a job that was paid by the hour/day because that would mean I was trading my precious time for money.

I wanted to find a way of earning money that allowed me to put in an initial amount of work, but then after that income would continue to roll in, rather like someone writing a book within a few months and getting royalties for it forever. After a lot of research, I found that I lived in a city where there were huge business opportunities in property. The market was growing, with lots of young people wanting to live here, and prices to buy and rent were steadily rising. Investing in property fit my requirements—if I was able to buy a place (it is slightly capital intensive to buy an apartment but I will tell you how I did that in a future post) the rental income would continue indefinitely.

Once I had an area in mind (property investing), I could start building a foundation of knowledge…

2—Mindset and Education

With investing, if you just dive in, you’re probably going to get hurt. And it will be painful. I wasn’t stupid, so before I did anything, I spent months learning everything I could about about the practical aspects of investing, from how inflation works, what ETFs are, how to make a start-up, to the psychology of investing. I read a lot of books and information online about property, all of the monetary and legislative aspects involved, and researched the market in the city that I lived in. I lived and breathed investing, absorbing everything I could, and learned a huge amount. I’m still learning every day.

One of the most important things I learned from the book ‘Secrets of a Millionaire Mind’ by T. Harv Eker is about people’s ‘money blueprint’. Your blueprint is how you think about money, largely influenced by how you grew up. For example, if your parents have always told you that “money is the root of all evil”, or that “rich people are greedy”, you might still believe it today, and the thought subconsciously holds you back from earning too much because you don’t want to be seen as evil or greedy. Resentment towards the rich is what causes people to stay poor. (Here, I use ‘poor’ not as a derogatory term, but as a practical word to describe people who live paycheck to paycheck, but don’t want to be. I’m not making any sort of moral judgement for or against people who are ‘poor’, or ‘rich’ for that matter, but when talking about money in this context, it’s important to honestly say that there are definitely people who are poor (in monetary terms) but wish they could be more financially free.)

This resentment causes people to not do anything about their work/money situation. They go wherever the flow is taking them in their jobs, and they don’t do anything about their spending habits. They let other people influence them on what they want to buy, and their saving/investing habits may be poor or non-existent. They might even be fearful of any other type of work, such as starting their own business because it’s ‘too risky’ and they would prefer the security of a job. There isn’t anything wrong with living like this by the way, I’m all for enjoying life the way it suits you. If you love your job, good for you (honestly!). However, if you don’t enjoy working, then the constant spending on expensive things means working more than you have to, which means you’re spending half of your life unhappy, as was my case.

Also, people who are not financially literate may think that the only way to earn money is by working a ‘normal’ job, which is simply not true. We live in an amazing world now where there is so much money to be made, and you don’t have to have a lot to start with. People with closed mindsets think that any other way of earning money apart from working is ‘risky’ or at least, so complicated that they could never understand it, so they don’t try. Confusingly, some of these people who are so scared of risk would happily buy lottery tickets. The worst I’ve heard are people who think that investing is in some way ‘cheating’, and that one doesn’t contribute to the economy if they don’t ‘work’ for 9 hours a day. To that, I would say that there are a lot of people who have more to contribute to the world than paper-pushing.

On the other hand, people can have a mindset that money is abundant, and is there for anyone to earn if they have the openness to identify the opportunities, the creativity and tenacity to pursue them, and perseverance when things get difficult. I admit this isn’t the most natural mindset, it’s usually learned out of necessity. My immigrant parents who didn’t go to school didn’t have a choice but to earn money with their own bare hands, literally. They missed out on learning how to read but at least they were never conditioned to follow societal conventions about work. They hustled and worked hard, and did everything themselves until they got to the comfortable lifestyle they have now. I was lucky enough to go to school and college, but it took me years to learn this lesson.

Lest you think I come from a place of privilege, I would like to share that apart from the hustling mindset, I wasn’t given anything above and beyond what most kids my age got (in fact, I would argue with my background I had a lot less) but I have always worked extremely hard. Because of our family’s poorer financial situation while I was growing up, I was always looking out for ways to make money. I started my own eBay wholesale business when I was 15, and have always managed to support myself so that I didn’t have to rely on my parents’ small amount of money. During college, while other students were partying or spending their loans on holidays, I had two jobs and never allowed myself to get into debt.

I am not saying that all you have to do is change your mindset, and you’ll automatically become rich. I know it’s not that easy. You can’t just dream about it and be a bit brave and you’ll be a millionaire. People who truly live in poverty face huge obstacles that aren’t just up to them to ‘think’ their way out of.

But for the majority of people, it’s essential that they have the right mindset because first they have to believe that it is possible for them to be rich, at least then, they can try to do it.

As with anything, it’s it would be almost impossible to accomplish if they didn’t think it was doable from the beginning. 

The good news is that your mindset is not set. You can learn to change, for better or for worse. Being rich or poor isn’t a dichotomy, it’s a spectrum that you can move along at different times in your life. Poor people don’t have to stay poor, and rich people don’t necessarily stay rich. People can become rich by work, inheritance, or winning the lottery, or lose it by spending above their means, getting into huge debts, or gambling it away.

Whatever your mindset is right now, without the appropriate one, you’ll never be financially free. That’s fine for some people, but that’s not how I want to live my life. I want to be free so that I can choose what I want to do with my time. Your mindset is your choice. You can choose to be rich. 

The other points I want to briefly make are:

  • There are a lot of things about money that we are told that are simply opinion, not fact.
  • If more people stopped to question their assumptions about work and money, they would be much better off.
  • Environment plays a role, but I believe that you decide whether or not you will be rich.
  • Investing means ‘using money to make money’, and you don’t need a lot to begin with. In fact, you can start with $10, so there are hardly any excuses.
  • People overestimate the risks, and underestimate the potential benefits.
  • Money doesn’t make you good or bad, it magnifies who you are—if you are already greedy, you’ll be greedier with more money. If you’re already generous, more money would make you more generous.
  • Having money isn’t the aim, having freedom is.

So I adjusted my mindset and went about educating myself about the world of investing. I learned about the different options available, and the risk/reward profiles and advantages and disadvantages of each method. See below for some resources. Knowing the basics, I was able to draw up simple calculations and work out whether or not my business would be profitable. From my research, I identified that there was money to be made, now it was just a matter of going after it…

This post will continue next time with:

In the meantime, please let me know what you think of this topic. You can comment below, or contact me on Twitter or Facebook.

Resources 

They don’t teach you about money at school. I wish they did, a lot of people would be much happier, and would have much healthier attitudes towards money. I’m not a millionaire (yet) but I would have certainly become ‘richer’ earlier and more quickly if I started earlier. Instead of just complaining about it, I went about changing my views, and therefore my life. Here are some of the best books I read that helped me get there:

Secrets Of The Millionaire Mind: Think Rich to Get Rich

As I mentioned above, this book taught me that making money was all in your mindset. It’s hard to believe, but how we think about money can hold us back from making it, or push us to find ways to make it even though the odds seem slim. It also talks about how different mindsets aren’t necessarily right or wrong, but work in different ways, and in some cases even complement each other, as in the case of couples/partners. I recommend this book to people who think that becoming a millionaire is impossible without winning the lottery.

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! 

This book taught me the basics of liabilities vs. assets. If you don’t know what these mean, you need to start with this book. A lot of things that people are taught about money, like how home ownership is the most important thing in the world has ruined them financially. At the very least, people would have been much better off if they could distinguish between buying things that put money in their pocket, or cost them their long term future. That’s the difference between people who stay poor or become rich. That’s not to say that you can never buy your own home or a nice car if you wanted to, but people do this when they can only just about afford it, and therefore they don’t or can’t invest, which if they did, a few years later they could buy their house ten times over.

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

If you want to be the best, you have to learn from the best. It might sound cliché, but if Warren Buffet is the most successful investor in the world, wouldn’t you like to know how did he did it? This is the most detailed biography of his life published, it’s a very long read and perhaps you don’t learn a lot as much about how to invest as much as you learn about what investing really means. Warren Buffet delivered newspapers as a boy, and had to borrow money to get his business started, but he never doubted he could be rich. Then he made billions.

Blogs: I recommend checking out Afford Anything and Financial Samurai (I read every post).

More resources to come in future posts, enjoy!

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Minimalist Meditations — March and April

by Jessica Dang
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The latest posts on Minimalist Meditations from March and April:

How do you keep going when things get difficult? If you don’t have a good answer, you won’t last long.”
—Find your reason: Minimalist Meditations on Why

“You can own 1,000 or 10,000 things, so long as everything contributes to your life in a meaningful way.
—Debunking the biggest minimalism myth: Minimalist Meditations on Quality

“There are two ways to be rich—to get everything you want, or to want everything you have.
—There is such thing as a get rich quick scheme: Minimalist Meditations on Money

“Your net worth is not your self worth. Your bank balance has little do with what your true value is, or how rich you really are.
—When money costs too much: Minimalist Meditations on Wealth

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Minimalism and the Pursuit of Perfection

by Jessica Dang
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If you could see the WordPress dashboard for this blog, you’ll find hundreds of crappy drafts. For every post published, I have at least 5-10 drafts that will never see the light of day.

It takes a lot of brainstorming, bad ideas, poking, prodding, and feet dragging to get a single post out. Most of all, it takes time. In fact, I wrote the original idea for this post in 2011. You can imagine how my book is going.

But by being persistent, something eventually comes out of it. If you’re lucky, it might even be good. Sure, there are posts that aren’t as popular as others, but that’s okay, because there are as many posts that exceeded my expectations.

There are two types of pursuits—you either have to get perfect results, or you don’t. If you’re building a bridge, it needs to be precise. Fortunately, most things fall in to the latter type. It’s better to try and get something done, than not doing anything at all because it can’t be perfect.

There’s no such thing as perfection. Art, business, science, life…everything is one big experiment. Sometimes you’ll get something wrong a hundred times before you get it right once. Nobody learned to walk without falling.

Minimalism is the same. Doing a little bit is better than none. You don’t ‘become minimalist’ overnight, or even over a couple of months or years. There’s no final, perfect goal. It’s a continuous practice of shifting your mindset and making the best decisions you can. You’re allowed to have lapses. There are no rules, so who’s to judge you?

Embrace the struggle. Anything worth doing is difficult. The discomfort weeds out the wannabes. The hardship is what makes it an accomplishment. As Roosevelt said,

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Book I’m reading now: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life — Anne Lamott

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