I’m a simple person. I like to distill things down into simple terms about simple concepts. Over-complicating life just doesn’t appeal to me. The stuff I live by is as fundamental as it is straight-forward. And, frankly, easy to pronounce.
Today, I’m distilling my life down to simple and straight-forward statements based on my own life experiences, biases and all kinds of psychological shit that I’m probably not even aware of, but it’s there.
6 simple statements that define my life
1. We eat healthy, but we rarely eat organic
My wife and I eat epically healthy, but we also aren’t fanatical about eating organic foods. While there are foods that are probably better for your health if produced in an organic way (like leafy greens, for example), the majority of our food isn’t organic.
Why? A couple reasons.
As the Huffington Post reported, organic foods are more costly and laborious across the entire supply chain for several reasons:
- Organic foods are not as abundant
- Production costs for organic foods are typically higher because of greater labor inputs per unit of output and because a greater diversity of enterprises means economies of scale cannot be achieved
- Post-harvest handling of relatively small quantities of organic foods results in higher costs because of the mandatory segregation of organic and conventional produce, especially for processing and transportation
- Marketing and the distribution chain for organic products is relatively inefficient and costs are higher because of relatively small volumes
Here is a bar chart from the Huffington Post on organic price premiums:
But, is buying organic worth it? For some things, maybe. But, it’s a hotly contested issue. Reported in the same Huffington Post article:
“Indeed, there’s some evidence that organic labels may not always be reliable. A major issue, experts say, is a lack of a robust monitoring system to keep track of whether products that say they’re organic really are.”
“The jury, however, is still out as to whether or not the pesticides found in conventional foods are present in large enough quantities to actually make a difference to human health.”
In fact, a 2012 study found no definitive link between organic foods and health.
“The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
So did this study.
Regardless of whether or not organic foods really make a significant difference to our health, or use ethical means of production, we take a much more simple approach to eating: We don’t put a bunch of crap in our stomach. We almost never eat fast food. Meat is a luxury. Cheese is a treat I only allow myself sparingly. We shop at farmers markets when we can and regular grocery stores every other time and wash our fruits and veggies before consuming them.
Basic foodstuff. And, we’ve never felt more active and healthy in our lives. Of course, the financial independence thing might have something to do with that, too.
2. We don’t always choose what we like, but we can usually control how we [re]act
Quick, what’s your favorite color? Mine’s red – like, a darker red, but not maroon.
Several years ago, something interesting occurred to me. I didn’t actually pick my favorite color, did I? It’s not like I sat down one day and said, “You know, Steve, I think that red is going to be my new favorite color.” Yeah, that never happened.
The same philosophy applies with anything else in life, too. I didn’t consciously choose my favorite car, either (Corvette). Or type of humor I find funny (Jim Carrey – like, Dumb ‘n Dumber style). Or virtually any other of my “favorites”.
They are what they are. I’m naturally good at most sports, too. Born with it.
There’s a lot in life that we didn’t choose. Our upbringing is a major part of life that none of us got to select before slipping into this world. It happened the way it happened and that’s it.
But, I’m a strong believer in the power of choice. There are exceptions, but most of us possess an incredibly powerful ability to make choices that can improve our lives. Naturally, our life circumstances will heavily impact those choices and how easy they are to make, but more times than not, we have a choice.
Readers of the popular book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (<– affiliate link!) may recognize one of those habits in all this. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react through the power of choice.
3. I don’t watch the news, sitcoms or virtually any television outside of sporting events
In the interest of full disclosure, I was a huge Seinfeld junky back in the 90s. In fact, I’ve seen and can recite virtually every line of every Seinfeld episode ever filmed. Trust me when I say that I come from a solid foundation of TV watching.
I also had 24-hour news on almost every day. It was an addiction. Sometimes it just served as background noise, but usually, my mind was focused just enough on such-and-such talking head to distract me from what I was doing. It was relentless. And, it wasn’t improving my life.
After moving into our Airstream over two years ago, I haven’t watched an ounce of television aside from live sporting events. We do stream from Netflix and HGTV, and I’ve been known to enjoy lunch in front of YouTube, but as far as traditional television is concerned, we do none of it. In fact, we no longer even own a TV.
And, we haven’t missed it. Like, not even a little bit. After we buy a house, I’d be surprised if we subscribe to cable or satellite TV. We may buy a television, but we’ll use it along with an HD antenna for over the air television for sports and to watch Netflix and other streaming services.
The more I ask around, the more people are doing this very same thing, too. I’m surprised cable and satellite services are still in business.
4. Confidence is a virtue I admire, but arrogance is what’ll get you banned from my life
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m an extremely confident person. I’m proud of the decisions we’ve made to completely change our life and I’m not afraid to tell our story to anyone who asks. I’m an open book, and damn proud.
However, I don’t admire those who are arrogant. There’s a very fine line between confidence and arrogance, and for a lot of people, it’s easy to cross. Those who are opinionated and feel obligated to let everybody else know what they think? Yeah, kinda annoying. Or, those folks who discuss their opinion as if it was fact? Super not cool. Not around me, please.
It’s okay to let me know what you think. I value other people’s informed opinions because it forces me to confront my own. I’ll never learn a damn thing if everyone constantly agreed with me. I get it, differing opinions are good. But, talking to me like your opinion IS THE TRUTH will get you banned from my life. Shut out.
I’ll treat you like I treated that pack of coyotes that used to hang out behind our Tucson home before we moved into the Airstream. You can hang out from a distance, but the moment you get close to me, I’m pointing and yelling.
5. We become better and more intelligent people through our failures, not our successes
Failures have a way of humbling us. They force us to reflect on the situation, as well as ourselves, to determine where we F’ed up. We retrace our steps and analyze where we stumbled off the path to righteousness. We admit to ourselves that, well, we messed up. The pooch has been screwed, and we did the screwing.
And, it’s this process that teaches us about ourselves. About confidence. About picking our asses up from off the ground and trying again. And again.
I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my life. More mistakes than I can possibly count. I blew money on stupid stuff. I was brash and over-confident. I did way too much ass-kissing in a previous life than I was comfortable with, all to get ahead in corporate America.
Hi, I’m Steve. And, mistakes were made. But, those mistakes were instrumental in making me a better person.
And in theory, I won’t make those same mistakes again. In theory…
I know what driving around in a loud sports car and the fastest bike on the road is like, so I no longer have that urge.
I know what it’s like to eat every meal out and live like a rockstar.
I’ve been the person who buys himself everything he wants, almost without hesitation. Been there, done that.
Throughout all these mistakes, the urge to live like a badass superstar has come and gone. Hopefully, for good.
But, I keep asking myself: If I hadn’t made those mistakes in a previous life, would I be more likely to make them in a later one?
6. Money is an enabler – of good things and bad
They say that money is the root cause of all evil, but I wholly disagree. While money can be used to fund evil deeds, it can also help to support incredible good. The Gates Foundation, run by billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, is a prime example. The Gates Foundation has made a tremendous impact in impoverished nations, way more than most third world nation governments could ever dream of doing for their own people.
When your mind (and heart) are in the right place, money has an incredible impact. It’s potential is damn near limitless, and it can literally save lives, improve living conditions and give people an amazing amount of purpose.
In and of itself, money is nothing but an inanimate object. It’s capable of doing almost nothing on its own. It just sits there, accumulating. Without the required use of human brains, money does not mean much.
Money is an enabler, nothing more. With money, people can do incredible amounts of good and incredible amounts of bad. That decision is entirely left up to us.
What say you? What’s one phrase that best describes how you live your life?
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.