Finance

Gold helicopters and mink underpants: I’m rich, and you could be too

Ian Whitworth /

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Scene Change co-founder and Motivation for Sceptics blogger Ian Whitworth. Source: Supplied.

I’m rich.

Apologies for that boastful opening, but I’ve been rich for quite a while. It’s awesome fun, you should definitely try it.

Right now you’re thinking: ‘Ah this is a dummy opener, he’s about to say he’s rich in the love of his family and friends, the greatest wealth of all.’

No, I am not about to say that, this is not the place to come for that kind of sappy fridge-magnet wisdom. I’m talking about sweet cash. And material possessions. Damn, it makes me happy, and I don’t care if you think I’m as shallow as a birdbath.

Want to know how to get rich like me? No, you’re too smart to fall for that kind of basement-level clickbait. This is surely leading to some kind of day trading ‘opportunity’ that could be yours for five easy payments of $999 a month. Are you sure you want to keep reading?

Okay, I’ll let you in on the secret.

The secret of richness

It all comes down to your definition of being rich. Here’s mine: it’s when you reach that point when you don’t have to worry about money all the time.

You can do that with much less money than you’d imagine. You do need to get yourself in a situation where you’re in control, so you can’t have your nice comfy existence snatched away by an employer firing you, or by losing your one big client.

My god, it’s a massive leap from when I was worried about money all the time, and I’m really grateful for that. Worrying about money takes up large parts of your brain all the time. Once that burden is lifted, you can think of all sorts of interesting things.

Once you get to that no-worries point, it’s up to you whether you behave like a well-balanced, disciplined human being, or like a Love Island contestant who just won the lottery. Without wanting to get all Barefoot Investor, it comes from realising the easiest way to make a dollar is just to not spend it on an escalating lifestyle and stupid success props like thousand-dollar shoes you wear twice. And instead, to spend it on stuff that makes money, or at least doesn’t depreciate.

Prestige products do not make you look good. They are designed to suit people much better looking than you or I.

You think you look like this.

But actually, you look like this.

You don’t need a gold helicopter and a valet to launder your mink underpants. My business partners and I live in modest houses and don’t drive sports cars because we’re just not that interested in it, and we’d rather spend the money on our ongoing business experiments. We’re in this for the adventures, the plotting and the scheming, as much as the ability to pay the bills.

I’m not saying our way is the only way. I’m delighted if you can buy a $100 million harborfront house because if you’ve earned that money then you can spend it however the hell you want. But just the thought of having to manage all those gardeners gives me a headache. And the neighbourly vibe in a given suburb is inversely proportional to real estate value. Above a certain value, neighbours only communicate through their lawyers.

Start your own business

Beyond not spending the money, starting your own business really helps. On a basic level, it takes the cap off how much money you can make. More importantly, it clarifies the way you look at finances. Because by the time you get there, you know how hard it is to actually get and keep money. It’s non-stop highs and lows, and you never quite know when a low is around the corner.

So you can’t snap out of cost-control mode after years of it being second nature. My business partners will go into battle over some $17 overcharge, not because we need $17, but because screw you for trying to overcharge us. I just put a new battery in my three-year-old iPhone 7 because it’s fine and phones are all the same now. If we successfully took our business to IPO I would still send my kids into the supermarket to buy snacks for the movies because those $12 boxes of popcorn and $6 waters can fuck right off.

I assume you have to inherit your money to get that sort of entitled, DGAF approach to business and life expenses.

Beware the lifestyle ratchet

When you’re on a salary, the cashflow is much more dependable. You work hard so you can get a raise, then when you get it, you celebrate by ratcheting your spending habits up so you’re actually no better off. You just have more rooms in your success house that need to be furnished and cleaned.

If you keep your living costs low, you can just make decisions without fear because your prestige car repayments or school fees aren’t threatened. Paradoxically, you make a lot more money if you’re not scared about losing it. Because business success is largely about your ability to make a decision without agonising over it for months or years, and without needing to call in a PwC report to tell you what to do.

Modest living costs are like some amazing force field as you head out onto the business battlefield: the bullets and explosions just bounce off while you wander around in a relaxed state of mind.

Don’t forget where you came from

While being rich is cool, it’s easy to forget what it was like before. Rich people quickly start thinking everyone feels like them.

You see it when they talk about motivation at work: ‘The money isn’t important. There are so many other levels of experience, peer recognition and self-actualisation that outweigh remuneration.’

Anyone who says this is absolutely loaded and has completely forgotten what it was like when the money was really fucking important.

Try that cosmic chat with a single parent raising kids on a casual cafe wage, living in fear of opening her credit card statement and discovering the five-year-old clocked up $3000 of in-app purchases when she gave him the phone to stop the screaming from the back seat.* Try telling the young trainee tradie who has no choice but to drive to work, while the motorway tolls take the first two hours of their wage each day.

The money is life-or-death important for them. If they’re your staff or customers, don’t be patronising them with your rich-person Dalai Lama routine.

The visualisation trap

Visualising successful ‘future you’ is an essential technique, even for professional sceptics. But by definition it’s much easier to picture visual things. So you see yourself at the Ferrari dealership picking up the keys from some fawning sales manager. Or checking into the presidential suite with your matching Louis Vuitton luggage. Those are vivid, sexy-ass images.

The real pleasures of getting there are much harder to picture. How do you visualise coming up with a new idea for your business and then the next day you just make it happen? Rather than spending fruitless months trying to shepherd it through layers of committees and vice-presidents, each adding their own shitty modifications until it’s a pitiful shadow of its original self?

How do you picture finding someone young and promising, recognising their potential where others didn’t, coaching them in secret ninja skills, giving them the freedom to try and fail, and then five years on they’re running some part of your business better than you could do it?

Or indeed, the pleasure of being able to spend half of each Monday writing strange musings on business-y things, because you find it a more interesting hobby than, say, golf. I’m not rich like people on rich lists, but what I do have is control over my own time and zero outside interference. I’m a freakin’ mogul in terms of freedom to do what the hell I like. Often that’s something to do with the businesses, but that’s my choice and I love it.

These are abstract pleasures are hard to visualise. (‘Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. I want you to see yourself sitting on a couch with a laptop for six hours writing lines and then deleting them. Wooo yeah that could be your future!’)

Yet for most of us, these are the things that make business life a completely thrilling design-your-own-reality experience. You should give it a shot.

*This is a true story. In-app purchases in kids games are an absolute evil scam. They should be outlawed and punishable by heavy fines.

This article was first published on Motivation for Sceptics. Read the original article.

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Ian Whitworth

Ian Whitworth is a reformed branding and advertising creative director turned entrepreneur, who co-founded corporate audiovisual company Scene Change.

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