Self Worth vs. Financial Worth – Notes From a Zen Workaholic


I’ve spent a lot of time this past year thinking about self worth vs. financial worth. I’d like to think I’m all enlightened, and that family, friends, fitness, and Zen-like dismissal of materialism are the primary inputs into my self worth.

But if I’m honest with myself, money comes before most of these things, and it’s inextricably linked to all of them.

If we lived in the world of my favorite book — and basically my bible — it would be all about dismissal of materialism. But even Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha was born a rich kid. He had time — and luxurious surroundings — to think about the path to enlightenment and self worth. His bandwidth wasn’t completely tapped by scrapping and fighting just to get by like it has for me and most people I’m closest to.

I’m only realizing now that four years ago — when I was at peak income AND career depression — was when I got as close as I’m ever going to get to balancing financial worth and self worth.

It was when my wife and I closed on a place deep in the Colorado mountains. I’m here now typing this post four years later. It’s a condo we rent when we’re not here to make the math work, and for the past few years we had spent a lot of time figuring out how we could do more in this region we love so much.

Because until now, this wasn’t enough. The second we got the place — which was a goal I had my entire adult life — I was already thinking about how to do more. Need a single family home, not a condo. With better view. And more room for more toys.

This is the root of the self worth vs. financial worth debate.

How much is enough?

My answer today — and I mean specifically this moment today — is that I’ve got enough.

Two decades ago, my answer was: I need those new clothes so I can be like the execs so I can earn more so I can pay off my student loans so I can buy a ring for my girlfriend so we can buy a home.

And after this Zen moment I’m having today passes, it’ll be something else.

It’s always something for everyone. And money is ALWAYS a part of it. Even if the underlying motivation for wanting or needing something is to serve family or friends or health.

But it’s moments like today I must get better at preserving. I never feel better about myself than when I accept where I am. It makes me a better family man, friend, and physically healthier/stronger.

The line between work and life has disappeared since iPhone launched almost 12 years ago, and workaholism is the new religion.

This means self worth will become even more tied to financial worth in all of our minds. We’re told all the time to crush everything we do eight days a week, and all we see is people bragging about this. It gets in all our heads, and it makes us think financial worth is the driver of self worth.

When it gets too sublime and heady for me, I revert to ridiculousness to protect myself and not take it all so seriously.

That’s why this post begins with a photo blending the sublime and ridiculous. Because it helps me to remember self worth over financial worth. I hope it helps you too.


The last time I tried to take financial goals too far

The Bullshit Lie of ‘Thank God It’s Monday’

New Year’s Housing Resolutions From A Gen X-er – 2019




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