Get Off the Treadmill

*I’m on a two-month blogging vacation while I backpack around Southeast Asia. Until I return, I’m posting excerpts from my book, Freedom Twenty-Five: A 21st-Century Man’s Guide To Life. If you like this post, you should buy a copy for yourself and everyone you’ve ever met in your life.*

The bare necessities of life are extraordinarily cheap. $15,000 is more than enough to comfortably feed, clothe and shelter a man for a year, with more than enough left over for entertainment.

But recent graduates will usually feel deprived on a salary three times that amount. Suddenly, it’s no longer acceptable to spend $300 a month on rent, wear ripped jeans and threadbare sweaters, not own a car, and furnish your living room by driving around in a friend’s truck on garbage day. As a student, frugality is tolerated, even celebrated. But with a diploma comes the maladaptive desire to spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on the requisite status symbols of yuppiedom.

The young men and women caught in this mindset are on track to spend the rest of their lives mired in what they perceive as poverty. Their tastes for nicer apartments, cars, clothes and other material goods will increase in lockstep with their salaries. There is no finish line in this race, although the mirage of one always seems to loom just out of reach. If only we ran a bit faster…

But running faster isn’t the solution. Stepping off the treadmill is.