Religion, cars, politics, attitudes, and philosophies – from a very early age, I have found myself fascinated by what people believe.
Our world offers many different things, issues, controversies, and concerns to believe in, thought processes, perspectives, and rationalizations, and naturally, people presume that the collection of their beliefs can loosely be considered “the truth“.
It’s just human nature. As a child, I questioned this apparent madness.
My parents took me to church as a kid – a Presbyterian church with a certain interpretation of the Bible and all that comes with the whole idea of Christianity and a belief in God.
I knew others who attended a more strict Baptist church with their own unique interpretation of this religion. And then, there were Lutherans. And Protestant Catholics. Jews. Arabs. Buddhists. Atheists.
The list goes on and on.
We choose our own truths
Warning, kid logic: If our Presbyterian church offered “THE” religion, why would people choose another church? No, scratch that. Here’s the more important question:
Why do other churches even exist?
They all can’t be “right”! I asked myself why I am learning a particular interpretation of religion when there is no guarantee that this one is the right version.
Maybe Protestant Catholics have their finger on the right version. Maybe the Buddhists do. And who knows how much has been “lost in translation” in the Bible. Maybe those words aren’t even truly the words of God. For the love of all things small and furry, why are we all doing this?!?
(Being a kid was great, wasn’t it?) 🙂
And naturally, politics is no different. Democrats and Republicans battle it out as if their political philosophy is THE solution to all worldly problems.
Others believe that we should let one of the third parties have a chance at running this country and screwing the preverbal pooch under their political philosophy. There is capitalism. Socialism. Communism.
Like religion, the list of political “truths” is virtually never-ending, and they all can’t be right.
People swear by (or at!) their Ford trucks. Or Chevy Trucks. Or Honda. Or BMW. “What’s the best car out there?” Like so many other of life’s questions, the answer is “It depends on who you ask“.
Our collection of “truths”
Generally, people establish their belief in “truths” on their own experiences in life. Some of the time, our system of beliefs is built off of what we read online, or are taught in school, or were told to us by a trusted friend.
Other times, our beliefs are simply what we want to believe outside of experiences or so-called “empirical evidence”.
And, sometimes we see something once and immediately draw deep and long-lasting conclusions that assume our personal experience is indicative of reality throughout history. It’s always been that way, I guess.
We get treated poorly in City A, and automatically, City A has “mean people”. We had an awesome experience at Car Dealership B, and as a result, Car Dealership B is a super cool place to do business.
In truth ( <- see what I did, there? ), our beliefs are very much the truth…the truth for us. They may or may not be the truth for someone else. After all, each of us holds a very different belief structure based on our own experiences, wants and desires, biases and pre-dispositions.
For example, I have been told time and time again (sometimes with numbers, charts and fancy graphics) that American cars are the worst; the worst crash test ratings, the worst gas mileage, the worst reliability, the worst everything.
But, my family and I have owned American cars all of our lives, and they have performed flawlessly the large majority of the time.
The “truth” of the inferiority of American cars simply is not true for me. The American cars that I have owned have never appeared inferior to my neighbor’s foreign cars. Both cars move occupants from Point A to Point B.
Both cars provide comfort. So, what gives?
Most people mean well, but their version of the truth is only as deep as their own experiences, readings and personal desires.
Then again, so is yours. So is mine.
Having confidence in our own truths
It is easy to care about what other people think of us.
But remember that their version of the truth is probably very, very different than yours. If you care about other people’s truths, then you may not care enough about your own. You may constantly doubt yourself or look over your shoulder to make sure nobody is snickering at you.
That is no way to live your life.
In the early retirement community, we deal with this every day. Someone sees one of us driving down the road in our 20-year old hoopty of a vehicle, and they might assume that we are poor and horrible managers of our money.
After all, their version of the truth states that if you make good money, you will spend it on a nicer car.
Big houses. Nice cars. Expensive wrist watches. The truth is if you’re smart enough to make money, you’ll buy expensive things. Therefore, possessing expensive things makes you smart.
See? See how easy it is to design a set of “truths” that, if believed, makes life just a little bit easier to figure out?
And we are still worried about what other people think of us?
Ignoring other people’s truths ultimately comes down to one important element: confidence. Having confidence in yourself and the decisions that you make each and every day makes other people’s version of the truth relatively meaningless.
After all, it’s their version, not yours.
We have already made the decision that living a normal life isn’t for us – at least, “normal” in the way that our present society defines it (it’s society’s truth!). Retiring at 60 just does not sound all that much fun to us. Driving around expensive cars no longer appeals to our better judgment. Big houses and expensive things do not bring lifelong happiness.
This philosophy wreaks havoc with other people’s beliefs. And that’s okay.
The rejection of other “truths” in our lives by building a solid level of confidence in our own is the key to keeping a big, giant grin on your face each and every day.
Let that Mercedes driver think that you are poor and uneducated. After all, you will be giving your ’84 Corolla a carwash at 10am on Monday morning while that Mercedes driver is still working for a living.
Ignoring any and all advice?
In my stalwart, head-long, full-speed, barreling out of control attempt at arguing the point of other people’s truths, I am not telling you to immediately ignore every single bit of advice, ever, from any person who ever offers it to you.
Nor am I arguing their truths to be “wrong”.
Nay. I believe that we are all in the position to learn something from almost anyone. If someone gives you advice, take it. That does not mean altering your version of the truth so it matches theirs, of course.
But, considering other truths might help you to better design your own.
For example, at one point in my life, I believed a certain collection of truths about society that enabled spending on stupid stuff. I felt okay about this spending at the time because everything was budgeted for and I was not living paycheck to paycheck. I did not have credit card debt. It appeared as if I was doing everything “right”.
So great, let’s spend some cash!
Now, I realize that my truths back then totally sucked. I fell into early retirement almost by accident, and the philosophy grew on me. My truths began to change because I was willing to accept the possibility that maybe – just maybe – my truths may not have been in my best interest.
Imagine that – admitting that the way I lived my life for so many years may not have been the most productive.
And so, confidence in our set of beliefs is absolutely critical to achieving our goals, but a complete rejection of anything and everything that does not fall neatly in line with them makes us, well, closed-minded and stagnant.
That’s MY version of THE TRUTH.
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.