The secret to financial freedom in today’s economic crisis isn’t found in some get-rich-quick scheme or through social media charlatans trying to sell you their latest courses. The truth is the most essential principles about building wealth can be learned from the 2000-year-old philosophy of Stoicism.
Whether you want to be as rich as Elon Musk or just have enough to not worry about money anymore, by the end of this video, you’ll understand what the philosophy of Stoicism teaches us about how to get rich. But also why becoming rich might not be what you truly desire.
How often do you come across someone on social media claiming they have the answers to all your financial problems? People claim to be expert investors, successful entrepreneurs, and economic visionaries. If you’re like me, you want to roll your eyes at these get-rich-quick schemes, but a part of you still considers it, even if just for a moment.
The reason we pause and think even when we don’t believe these fake gurus is that we all want to be rich.
You might be struggling with debt, looking for a way out, or just generally unhappy about your financial situation.
You might be dreaming of lavish vacations and a penthouse with a nice view. Whatever it is, society has conditioned us to want to be rich because there’s not much we can do without money.
So, how do we go about making it?
The most fundamental principle of Stoicism is to focus on what you can control. We don’t always have control over what happens to us, but we do have control over how we react to those things.
This simple idea of regulating our emotions when it comes to money could be the key to the financial freedom we desire.
Let’s take Warren Buffet, for example. He’s currently worth $77 billion but still lives in the house he bought 59 years ago for $31,500. As he grew wealthier, he didn’t let emotion and impulse lead him toward buying expensive things he didn’t need to show off to people he didn’t care about.
He was able to stay grounded and not let the money control him. He maintained control over his finances.
The path to wealth is not a straight line. It’s filled with challenging situations and a lot of obstacles. To succeed, you need to learn to embrace discomfort and forge ahead even when things get tough.
Stoicism teaches us to embrace discomfort by making ourselves uncomfortable before life does it for us. This is called voluntary discomfort. The Stoics of the past would take a few days to wear rags and eat nothing but potatoes. The idea is that if you know you can survive on the bare minimum, discomfort doesn’t faze you as much.
You don’t have to throw away all your clothes to practice voluntary discomfort. Simple things like taking cold showers or purposely eating bland food can teach you how to be uncomfortable. Not only will this prepare you for when things inevitably don’t go your way, but it can also increase your gratitude.
Another way to embrace discomfort is to think of the worst-case scenario and accept it as a real possibility. This will help you realize that even if the worst does happen, you’ll still be okay.
The lack of money is already riddled with discomfort. Whether it’s the embarrassment when you can’t join your friends for a meal at a fancy restaurant or when you can’t find a job that pays you what you know you’re worth, it seems that money can drive disappointment left and right.
If you’re prepared for that disappointment, you’ll find a new sense of freedom from the hold money has on you.
Once you break free from that hold, you’ll be more inclined to take measured risks. Risk-taking can be uncomfortable and scary, mainly because it comes with the possibility, or likelihood, of failure. But once you accept that failure is always possible, you can push yourself to be more entrepreneurial and innovative. Just look at the top of the Forbes list. It’s filled with people who are willing to take huge risks. Elon Musk made reusable rockets when people thought it was impossible. Mark Zuckerberg entered into a market with big players and wasn’t scared to compete. And Jeff Bezos popularized online shopping at a time when people thought the internet was just a fad.
Failure doesn’t have to be scary. Stoics believe it’s an opportunity for growth. How we respond to failure shapes our resilience. It teaches us about who we are and who we can become.
To adopt this sentiment, we have to learn to disconnect the journey to financial freedom from the ultimate result. We need to stay present.
Instead of thinking about how big a specific investment might grow in five years or how amazing it must be to own a fancy car, focus on the values, actions, and habits that will guide you toward financial success.
The Stoics stress four important values: wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. We can apply these principles to our financial freedom journey.
Wisdom helps us stay resourceful along the way, educating ourselves and allowing us to weigh the risk vs. reward of certain decisions we want to make.
Courage allows us to take those risks, whether it’s asking for a promotion, switching jobs, or trusting an experienced advisor to help you grow your wealth.
Temperance refers to the self-control we have to find when spending money, knowing that while rewards are important, so is being frugal.
And justice, the one that can elude some of us, is how we pay it forward when we get good luck and our investments pay off. Whether it’s by helping to set up your family and friends, giving to charity, or simply educating others about how you got to where you are.
The Stoics lived by the phrase “carpe diem,” which means “seize the day.” To remain present while delaying gratification. Focusing on the present also allows us to tune out distractions that might take us off course. For almost everyone, wealth comes from hard work, and if we can learn to immerse ourselves in deep work, we’re more likely to reach our goals and enjoy the journey of getting there.
Being present, though, doesn’t mean acting on impulse. Stoicism tells us just the opposite.
Controlling our impulses and relying on reason is an essential stoic principle.
These days, it’s easy to get caught up in material things, thinking that a pair of jeans or a new cell phone will make us happy. Then, when we can’t afford whatever that thing is that we’re dreaming of, we get upset. But material things don’t really bring us happiness. They give us a hit of dopamine that makes us think we’re happy. But that chemical release quickly fades, and we’re right back where we started from. Resisting the impulse to buy something or feeling bad about being unable to is critical when it comes to financial freedom.
If you really want something, make it a special treat as a reward for a goal. Plan a nice dinner after graduation or a dinner to celebrate a successful meeting at work.
When making purchases, wait a few weeks to be sure you really want the item and you don’t just want the feeling of getting something new. By doing this, you take the impulsive nature out of the purchase and let the actual pleasure of the material thing sit with you.
Nelson Mandela famously lived by Stoic principles that helped guide his leadership style. After he was released from prison and was elected President of South Africa, people expected him to execute those who wrongfully imprisoned him.
Instead, he focused on resetting his country and rebuilding unity. He processed his negative emotions and kept his perspective on his ultimate goal. To create a better South Africa for everyone. Not revenge.
Similarly, when you think about what your financial goals are, you need to keep your emotions out of it. Getting mad at yourself when a stock you invested in suddenly drops won’t change the stock’s value. Don’t cry over spilled milk; just learn your lesson and move on to the next investment.
Markets are irrational. Jobs come and go – often for reasons beyond our control. The only thing we can do is keep a level head.
This takes discipline. Because it’s easy to feel emotional about money, it’s easy to equate our self-worth to how much money we have. Compromising our peace of mind because of money and a desire to be rich isn’t going to make us more money. It’ll only make us unhappier and less likely to keep working hard for what we want.
If we find self-control on our journey towards financial success, we’ll also find freedom from being defined by our wealth. And with that freedom, we can make clearer decisions and feel more open to possibilities.
Just as we harness our emotions in order to approach money with a level-headed attitude, we also need to stop trying tocontrol the things we can’t change.
We can’t change world events, recessions, or inflation. Natural disasters happen, and people get divorced. The reality is that we don’t have control over most of what happens to us.
The skill of accepting this reality is one of the most essential principles of Stoic philosophy. It teaches us not to judge ourselves by metrics we can’t control. Instead, evaluate your work and success on the effort you put into a particular goal, not the outcome.
By redirecting what we value when we’re working toward financial freedom, we can lead happier lives and alleviate a lot of the stress of not having money.
Because making money is never entirely within our control. We can educate ourselves so that we are eligible for better jobs. We can study things we don’t know in order to make thought-out financial decisions. We can put our ego aside and ask for help if we don’t understand something. But the money itself, the wealth we dream of, is not something we can predict or plan for.
By using the guidelines laid out by the Stoic philosophers thousands of years ago, you can create a new roadmap for yourself. Then, hopefully, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
It may not be megayachts or chests full of diamonds, but it’ll feel better than those things. Because what you’ll find is freedom. Financial freedom.
And when you get there, you’ll still have these principles to continue to live by. Because being rich, whatever that looks like for you, also comes with temptation. The temptation to spend money on things just because you can. But you’d be wise to remember that things don’t make us happier. Budgets are still necessary.
Stoicism’s teachings can, in fact, lead you to riches without having to attempt some get-rich-quick scheme. But what it actually teaches us is that getting rich isn’t really the goal. Freedom, happiness, and contentment are. Because freedom is a way of life, a journey without an end. Rich, however, is just a destination. ‘Rich’ can disappear at a moment’s notice. Freedom will remain.
And if what you’re looking for is happiness, watch this video next to find out a no-BS guide on how to buy happiness with money.