Today I’ve been thinking all day about a good question from The Four-Hour Workweek:
“What would you do, day to day, if you had $100 million in the bank?”
The point isn’t to ponder what you’d spend your money on if you had lots of money. The point is to consider what you’d do with your time if money wasn’t scarce. (Sub-point: Your time is always a scarce resource.)
It’s not the first time I’ve asked myself this question, but this time I asked it at the beginning of a 30-minute walk, so I had some time and the right context to think about it for a while instead of finding something shiny to distract myself, as I must have done the previous times.
I didn’t have a good answer, and that made me very sad.
It’s easy to tell you what I’d do with a lot of money. I’d pay off the mortgage. I’d fix the house up or buy a new and better one. Settle all our debts and establish a comfortable, leisurely lifestyle.
More leisure: I’d spend lots of time with my family. We’d travel a ton. We’d eat out a lot, wherever seemed fun and/or interesting. We love that. I’d spend a bunch of my time reading, seeing shows, going to the movies, watching TV, playing video games.
But then what? Would I get bored with all that? Eventually? Quickly, even? It sounds exciting from this side of it, but I suspect that it wouldn’t be fulfilling. I can even imagine that I’d start to get depressed, having everything I could want but ending up bumming around all the time, consuming. (Double depressing: Getting everything you thought you wanted, seeing that it doesn’t make you happy long-term, and trying to live and grapple with that fact. At least you’d be able to afford a good therapist.)
I considered whether I’d start a software company. Do the job I do now in some form, but own the place. We’d do things my way, and I’d either show the world a thing or two or end up bailing myself out when it turned out I was full of it.
Nah. Probably not.
I considered whether I’d start to dig into investing. How to save and grow $100 million is an interesting problem. It might be the kind of problem I could geek out about once I start to research it.
Meh. Not generating much enthusiasm.
I considered whether I’d write fiction. That’s something I’ve always thought about trying. But my behavior to date suggests it’s something I’d like to have done but maybe not something I’d like to do. (Although part of writing here on this blog is to help me find out how much I actually like writing, and I’m learning that I do like it. At least non-fiction, so far. And autobiography, apparently.)
Would I do more speaking? No, probably not. I like it, but I mostly think of it as a means to an end, a way to strengthen and diversify my skill set as a software professional.
Wait: Am I a software professional just for the money?
No, I don’t think so. I love programming. That’s a big factor. And I’m sure it shows that I enjoy a number of other factors related to the software business.
But without the money being a factor, would I do something else? Yeah, I very well might. Shit. And I don’t know what that something else would be.
So: This line of thinking was terribly upsetting.
Well, I didn’t know. It was terribly upsetting. But after some more reflection, a happier thought: When you take away money as a factor, there is still stuff I care about. My family and my friends, foremost. And thinking about them made me realize what else there is: They live in this world, and this world is fucked in a variety of ways. Cultural, governmental, environmental, economic, et cetera. Large ways and small ways. Give me all the money in the world and I’ll still care about that stuff.
So what? Am I going to save the world now? Run for city council or go work for a green startup or something? No. Maybe. I don’t know. Get off my back. I still have a mortgage to pay.