Focusing on what matters

I finished the Steve Jobs biography yesterday and from beginning to end, I loved this book– something that I mentioned in my previous post. Some of that enjoyment comes from the fact that the book highlights what Steve Jobs was really like and the culture that he created at Apple.

I knew generally about the philosophy of Jobs prior to reading the book. He believed in doing a few things and doing them exceedingly well– which is demonstrated in his streamlining the Apple product suite when he returned to the company following the NeXT acquisition. He thought some things mattered and other things didn’t. For example: he was known for wearing a black turtleneck and jeans to work. Everyday. He was fanatical about perfection and felt the devil was in the details. For example– not in the book so this is an exclusive!– when the Apple store was being built in SF he actually asked that some of the concrete on the sidewalk be re-set b/c he wanted the lines on the sidewalk to match up to the lines of the doorway. Check it out the next time you’re there.

Jobs was portrayed in the book as being totally excessive with regards to his consumption. In addition to not spending much on personal attire, he was very rigid in his eating style– to the point that he very likely had an eating disorder which I believe in the book is more than hinted at as impacting his body’s ability to recuperate. Jobs was definitely on the excessive end in all regards so I wouldn’t go so far as to support some of the manic ways that he lived his life.

However, being unemployed and having the luxury to live at home while I search for a job has had some impact on how I view money and consumption and discipline. And I’m really digging some of the things that Jobs believed in as it pertains to my life now and moving forward.

I’m generally a very frugal person. I am first generation Chinese-American and so I think I possess a lot of the mindset and doctrines of that condition. For example: you pay off your credit card balance at the end of the month. Every month. You NEVER let a balance go from one period to the next b/c there’s no reason to incure a 13%+ interest charge. When the economy started going south and when stories of people’s debt started coming to light (mainly on CNBC) I was ASTONISHED at the balances people had on their credit cards. The philosophy implied in that practice, I guess, is a mindfulness that you shouldn’t be buying what you can’t afford– even if that payment is delayed by one month.

Now, I will full-out say that at present, I am living at my parents’ rent free until I can sort out my career. They also provide me with my consumables so I don’t pay anything for the food that I eat. I will admit this all. However, on top of that, I find that I really don’t have any other costs, which I think was a revelation. When you’re busy paying for this and paying for that, it’s easy to disregard where your money is going exactly especially when things like autopay make it so darn easy to ignore money issues. But when you have to stop and be accountable b/c you don’t have income, there’s a moment of honesty, I think, that you have to address and I think this is something that will stay with me for some time and for that, I am really thankful.

By no means was I formerly a shopaholic. And even if I did purchase things, I bought them at discount stores like Marshalls and TJMaxx. Or on sale– never paying full price. But what I think I was doing– leading to just a lot of “stuff”– is that I bought things that were kinda ok or nice enough. And inevitably, when you have a lot of stuff (this is relevant to any situation where there are a lot of options) the 80/20 rule occurs: that you will end up wearing 20% of your stuff 80% of the time. Which is definitely true for me.

So, now having the time to address these affairs, I have been trying to purge my wardrobe of things that I don’t love. I have already given away 2-3 garbage bags of stuff and it feels really good. I have also been actively avoiding mindlessly buying things. When I am out shopping (I tend to go looking at stuff just to ease that internal desire), I make the decision to buy/not to buy something by asking a simple question “Do I love this?” And if the answer is no, then that’s that– I don’t need more mediocre stuff gumming up my living space. And I feel perfectly fine leaving a store not having purchased anything.

I recently had a birthday and my parents gave me a check as a gift. I left it in the lucky lycee envelope and literally just checked it for the sake of this post. So they gave me $1000. Yay. So, if I wanted to: I could run off and blow that money on things. I could get a designer purse. I could, I dunno, get a jump on a fall wardrobe. But I would love to save this and use it when I need to. This could probably be food costs for 3-6 months when I’m living on my own. I think. I really do– assuming about $40 a week on groceries for a single person. And yeah, I know it sounds nuts and totally boring– but I really feel happy with the idea of using money only for what it needs to be used for. I think some of that comes from controlling my internal anxiety about the state of the economy and rising housing pricing (rent and purchase) in the SF Bay Area.

But I didn’t not buy myself something. I’ve become really boring about how I dress and I really appreciate simplicity in dress. White shirt, skinny jeans, a scarf, simple flats– I could wear this everyday. So I have been really admiring how KEDS have been coming back (prompted by the popularity of TOMS I think) but I can’t really justify spending $40 on a pair of canvas shoes (although I admittedly am on my 2nd pair of TOMS). So for my birthday, I bought myself a red pair of faux KEDS from Payless for $15. Yeah– it’s random and maybe not impressive. But honestly: I feel so happy about this purchase. It was thought out. It was cheap and I love the idea of red shoes so much.

As an aside, it totally reminds me of this print of an orphan getting a new pair of shoes from the Red Cross that I happened across at some point last year and that I LOVE. I love this little boy’s absolute joy.

So that’s it from me. I’ll probably talk more about money and my changing feelings on it in the future. For now, I gotta prep for a series of phone interviews I have coming up.

— DOA

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One response to “Focusing on what matters

  1. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.I will remember to bookmark your blog and will come back in the future. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great posts, have a nice day!

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