The great thing about this unusual lifestyle you and I lead is that it automatically reinforces and rebuilds itself from all directions. Although Mustachianism is built on the idea of embracing hardship, it becomes so automatic that it is soon the only way you could imagine living. Because of this amazing tendency, it is often easier to live on 25% of a professional income (and save the other 75%) than it is to try to scrape by on 90% and save 10.
Everything just falls into balance once you get the basic philosophy, and today I have brought a little Story about a recent experience, which is annotated with links to all the other articles that fill in the background of what is really happening. For the full experience, you can right-click each one and open it in a new tab, then go on to catch up after you have finished this story.
Not long ago, I found myself in the semitropical metropolis of Houston on a steaming summer afternoon. It was just a flight transfer on the way to Ecuador, but this time there was some trouble in store for those of us on the plane.
The jet was pointing straight down the runway and I was looking forward to a timely departure. But instead of the excellent blast of power followed by liftoff, we just kept idling. And idling. After quite some time, the pilot crackled on to the speakers to inform us all that we had to wait out some thunderstorms. And sure enough, I saw lightning bolts here and there, shooting from a line of clouds off in the distance. The rest of the sky was clear.
This tarmac delay dragged on for two hours. The sun went down. One engine was eventually powered down. My longish limbs were folded politely into a miniature middle seat way back in the cheap section of a United Airlines plane. Stretching whatever body parts I had room to move, I pondered the consequences of this delay. I sent an email to the people I was expecting to meet at the Quito airport to let them know I’d be late. Hopefully not too late.
I really don’t like sitting still for too long, and I’ve already been up for two little walkaround breaks and a wee bit of second breakfast since I started writing this article. But there in that seat, I found myself perfectly content as I had cracked open a can of Stoicism much earlier in the day and been mentally sipping on it ever since.
Dude, you are on your way to South America to meet an amazing group of people, an experience you earned by occasionally typing some shit into the computer. This is what you do instead of working now. Can you remind me what you are complaining about as your healthy body sits in a padded chair awaiting the takeoff of this immense flying machine?”
Reminding yourself of your blessings is an essential part of any worthwhile life philosophy, and Stoicism is just one of my own personal favorites alongside Buddhism and some of their more modern incarnations.
The flight was eventually canceled and our jet sulked back to the gate to disgorge its unhappy cargo into the terminal building. “We’re sorry folks, but the flight will run tomorrow morning at 7:00 am.” All 200 passengers immediately formed a spectacularly long line at the service desk, perhaps to request flight rebooking or a credit towards overnight accommodation.
I watched the line for a short while and noticed that it took almost a minute to process each person. A quick back of the napkin calculation told me that this could be a 3-hour wait, and it was already 10:00 in the evening. Besides the fact that I don’t do lineups, I had been up since five that morning and knew that the chance for a night’s sleep was rapidly eroding.
Luckily, technology and psychology were there to save the day. Since I had a Republic Wireless smartphone with an unlimited data plan in my pocket (no good wi-fi in Houston), I was able to confirm booking on the next morning’s flight, making that immense lineup completely optional. Then I used the phone to find the nearest hotel, a Mariott Courtyard just a few miles away. At $115 per night, it was a bit of an unplanned expense. But thanks to the Gift of Not Worrying about Money, I paid it with glee, thankful that I had the luxury of purchasing a bit more sleep when it was most needed. Besides, everything about this trip would be fully tax deductible, thanks to the Joy of Self Employment. I headed out to find some transportation.
Bypassing the gigantic lineup at the taxi stand, I fired up the Uber application on my phone and called for a driver (I have amassed a surplus of free ride credits so all my trips under $20 are free). Since modern transportation options aren’t allowed in the taxi pickup area, I had to sprint a fair distance through the evening heat with my heavy backpack and hop over a few hedges to get to a suitable meeting point. It was sweaty work, but I viewed it as an ideal caveman workout, Mark’s Daily Apple Style. Instead of cursing the humidity, I viewed it as a positive opportunity to work on heat tolerance, which is the world’s most efficient air conditioner.
The Uber driver and I had a great conversation during our short time together and exchanged life stories and 5-star ratings. Stepping at last into the air conditioned hotel lobby to pick up my room card, I suddenly remembered that I had not eaten since lunch and there would be no chance for a real meal until arrival in Ecuador the next afternoon.
Again the solution materialized: I always travel with a big Ziploc of raw almonds (since I know the world is not my personal buffet), and there were still a few small handfuls remaining. While this would not be enough food to sustain a man for the next 15 hours, the situation would be considered exceptionally easy when judged by the standards of fasting.
Of all the badass concepts I have come across in recent years, fasting is one of the best. You simply shut your mouth and relish the feeling of mild (or strong) hunger instead of complaining about it. Suddenly, you can travel the world and do almost anything without the standard rich-world obsession of planning your next meal. Because if you lift up your shirt and inspect the area just above the belt, you’ll see that the next several meals are already pre-installed. The physiological and mental benefits of this are profoundly good. And as it goes for eating, so it goes for gorging upon modern luxuries of any type.
By the next morning, this eerie but educational vortex of hardship over Houston had cleared, and we took off into the clear sky without a hitch. Life since then has continued to be abundant yet inexpensive. Not because of superlative effort or any sort of smarts, but rather just because prioritizing experience and challenge over convenience and consumption is a natural human behavior if you let it develop.
A wealthy lifestyle is really built on rich habits. And it doesn’t take much of this change in attitude, to completely change your life.
Further Reading: This article in Psychology Today shows how people who can take discomfort in stride tend to have much less anxious lives.