You Aren’t What You Buy

When I was in college, I bought a Rolex. In the week or so that I waited for it to come in the mail, I got really excited about the idea that I was going to have a Rolex. To me, someone who had a Rolex was a different type of person, simply because he bought a fancy watch.

The watch showed up, and it was obviously a fake. I took it to a jeweler, just in case, and he confirmed what I already knew.

But by then it was too late. In my head, I was a Rolex type of guy. So I bought another one– a real one this time.

I loved my Rolex. I held it up to my ear to hear it tick. When I was bored in class, which was most of the time, I’d watch the second hand’s precise bursts from second to second.

But I was still the same person. No one even realized I had a Rolex– or cared– except for one creepy guy at a party who also had one.

That was one of many reminders in my life that you can’t buy your way into being someone interesting. Even if we ooh and aah over someone’s new car or gadget, our subconscious isn’t fooled. Deep down we know that purchases don’t define anyone.

I eventually lost my Rolex, and it didn’t matter.

What defines us is what we do with our time, both through grand accomplishments and our mundane daily habits. For a few years I was a pickup artist. The clothes or cars I bought during that time have come and gone, and no one cares about them. The same is even true of the mansion we all lived in out in Hollywood. No one cared that we lived there. But to this day, seven or eight years after I was actively trying to pick up girls, I’m still known to a lot of people as a pickup artist. More importantly, I have skills and aspects of my character derived from that time that have changed who I am.

Last night I was at a party with some people I hadn’t seen in a while. Each one asked me about traveling. Where had I been recently? Any plans to go anywhere soon? For a couple years I traveled around the world as a nomad, and now that defines me as well. No one asked about anything I bought.

A lot of people have the equation backwards. They do boring things so that they can have enough money to purchase what they think is extraordinary, and try to stand out that way. But it doesn’t work. We all know that status symbols are just symbols, and we instinctively try to peel back that layer of a person to figure out what they’re really about.

When you find out that there’s nothing behind the Bentley, it’s a let down. When you find out a really interesting person doesn’t have a Bentley, you don’t care. Material goods don’t count.

That’s not to say that money doesn’t count, of course. I think money is great. It’s just a question of how to spend it. You can spend it on plane tickets and apartments in interesting cities, or you can spend it on Chinese-made items with luxury brand names on them. When you’re making that decision, just remember: it’s not the stuff you buy that defines you.

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And just two days ago my friend Amit was commenting that I don’t ever mention pickup anymore…

I’m on a flight to Boston right now. I hate that TVs and internet have invaded my sacred distraction-free economy-class productivity haven. I don’t use the internet or TV, but I’m distracted by the three TVs visible from my seat.

Several people have asked about the Smartwool Vibrams. No point in buying them… they take a little longer to smell bad than regular ones, but they still smell bad. Mine are getting returned.

I finished Four Hour Body. I’ll be writing a review after I try to gain 30 pounds of muscle in a month using Tim’s exact protocol.

Photo is the last photo I took of my car before selling it (and everything else) to travel.

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