I’m a huge Star Wars nerd and many of my favorite quotes come from the Jedi Master, Yoda. My personal favorite is the following:
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.”
When I think about my debt free life, I often change that quote to read: “Spending matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my spending, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not.” While I’m not a huge fan of judging people in any form, I am not naive enough to believe that we don’t judge each other. The usual yardstick that we use to judge someone is their spending. We look at their cars, their clothes, their Rolexes, their homes and their “stuff.” I am well aware that, if I were to be judged solely by spending measures I would be found wanting in every department. My clothes are not designer, my car is old. My home is small by many standards, my watch is my grandfathers’ old Timex. If you judge me by my spending, I am no one.
But look a little deeper and you’ll see a whole different person. You’ll see someone who has lived a life full of incredible experiences. You’ll see someone who gives to charity and accomplishes much in her life. You’ll see someone who wins awards and who is making great progress in her career. You’ll see someone who is almost at a point in her life where she can choose to retire or keep working. I may not spend on outward signs of accomplishment, but in terms of quality of life I would argue that I am better off than many people who prefer to be judged by their stuff.
But successful people spend, right? They own things that show how successful they are, right? The saying, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” was coined because we expect people to outwardly demonstrate their level of success by wearing and owning expensive stuff. Those of us to choose to forego that type of consumption are often judged harshly and, many times, incorrectly. Even though I can now afford some of those status symbols, I choose to focus my spending on experiences like travel. Rather than spending time shopping for the latest fashion, I choose to spend my time working on new projects and searching out new opportunities. Does this make me less successful than someone who wears a Rolex? I doubt it. In fact, if that Rolex created debt for that person then I likely am far more successful, in strict terms of money, than that person.
So please, just as you would not judge Yoda’s power by his size, don’t judge my (or anyone else’s) level of success by my spending. In terms of monetary “power” I have much more than my outward spending would indicate. Don’t look at my Timex watch and my older car and decide that I’m not worth anything. Don’t look at my smaller house and decide that there’s no point in getting to know me. Look beyond the spending and see the person inside. I may not show outward signs of success, but that’s also a big reason why I’m debt free which is a level of success that not many attain.