What does wealth mean to you?

To make progress, you need clarity on your definition of wealth

Agatha from The Wealth Tribe
11 min readMay 14, 2020

My first job after uni is one that I’ll never forget. It had many perks. During the interview, the CEO didn’t ask me any questions to do with my degree, skills or work experience. It was a warm and delightful conversation that started with…

“Who is Agatha?”

At first, I thought it was a trick question. I had overprepared by googling common interview questions, watching youtube videos on how to answer the questions and doing mock interviews with my friends.

So when he asked me that, I went blank and just stared at him while giving him the “are you serious?” look. He noticed and asked me again.

“Who is Agatha?”

I went ahead and told him about my previous volunteer experiences and how these had prepared me for the job. He listened keenly, but he wasn’t impressed. When I finished, he asked

“Tell me about your childhood and family.”

In my head, I was thinking “Oh no! He didn’t just ask that. Is he ready for this conversation?!” while at the same time wondering how to answer that question without being overly emotional, giving TMI or turning the interview into a therapy session.

I spent about an hour answering this question. He listened keenly, no interruptions, sometimes he laughed because apparently I’m gifted at turning my sad stories into comedy, and he was empathetic about my journey without making me feel helpless.

When I was done, he said that mine was a powerful story and that he would call me within a day or two to inform me if I had passed the interview.

That was it. A one-question interview. I was confused as it wasn’t what I expected and hoped that I hadn’t messed up.

One of the company’s values is empathy. And they hire people who are aligned with this and their other value on creating a positive impact in the world.

On day 1, my manager told me that I was expected to be in the office between 10 am and 4 pm. I could inform the team (it was a small company) if I wanted to occasionally work from home or from a coffee shop.

I was mindblown! That’s not what they taught us in uni about work and the dynamics of the workplace. A team member told me that their key guiding principle when it comes to work is “work is not something that you go to. It’s something that you do.” Paradigm shifts!!!

As a young person, that one lesson changed me. It shifted my mindset from needing to be supervised, doing a stellar job to impress my boss or showing up early just because that’s what should be done, to being responsible and doing a stellar job for myself.

For the most part, I enjoyed my job. It was freeing. No babysitting experiences, freedom to do my job without looking over my shoulder and I felt that I was part of the company’s vision and mission. That, in my own small way, I was playing a part in steering the ship.

This responsibility for my work was the first real experience that showed me what I could accomplish if left alone to take control of my life and future.

Listening to Naval Ravikant’s podcast this week taught me that this experience has a name! It’s called the principal-agent problem. Think of the principal as the owner or founder of a business and agent as the employee.

Always think like a principal by taking more and more accountability. Always ask yourself “What would the founder do?” Think and act like the owner.

If you’re responsible and accountable long enough, it compounds. And you’ll soon be the principal.

That taste of freedom has helped me define what wealth means to me. Our environment plays a significant role in determining how we define wealth. If everybody around you defines wealth as owning a pickup truck, a plot of land and a house, you’ll end up adopting the same goals.

Exposure helps you to redefine what wealth means to you.

This is also the part where I talk about the fact that as women, society teaches us to view marriage as a financial plan. That you can be careless with your money all through as you wait to get hitched to a man who will solve all your financial problems.

I’m not opposed to marrying rich. In fact, love where the money is. But as Michelle Obama said on her Becoming documentary on Netflix ‘I don’t want to be an appendage to his success story.’ I also want to bring money to the table. And brains.

What does wealth mean to me?

My pal who’s turning 30 next month, told me that by the time she’s 34, she has to be financially secure. She challenged me to think about where I want to be financially by the time I turn 30 in a few years.

Wealth to me means freedom. Freedom to do whatever I want. And free time.

There are many aspects to this.

1. Morning alarms

Morning alarms top the list of things that I detest. It’s my biggest motivation to work hard, manage my money properly, and find new ways to increase my income streams.

Since childhood, I have always struggled with waking up early in the morning. By the time I’m 30, or sooner if my plans work out, I don’t want to be woken up by those annoying things. Morning sleep is one of the most enjoyable experiences in my life. Top it up with a great book in a well-lit bedroom. That is a 5-star experience.

Wealth to me means enjoying my 5-star experience on a daily basis, uninterrupted. Without having to think about rushing to work, worrying about working for the next dollar, or thinking that I’m wasting time by enjoying this luxury.

I’m a night owl. I’m mega productive at night, especially after 10 pm. No matter how many books they publish on ‘the 5 am club’, it will never be for me. Please don’t recommend any, thanks.

Being good with money doesn’t mean hoarding it. It means using it as a tool to feel secure in your decisions to build a life you love. — The Financial Diet

2. Living alone

I’ve seen this argument on many platforms that encourage young people to live in shared accommodation in order to save money. True, that can be a good way to cut down on costs since rent is usually our biggest expenditure especially while living in big cities. It’s sadder when we factor in the fact that the cost of rent keeps rising in most cities.

I thrive in solitude. I am willing to pay extra to live in a quiet neighbourhood. I can’t get any meaningful, deep work done in a noisy or distracting environment. This means that I have to make trade-offs in other aspects of my life, which is why minimalism works perfectly for me.

I also want to own a home with a kitchen garden, to experience the joy of gardening while growing my food.

Wealth to me means having access to comfortable accommodation in a quiet serene neighbourhood, with hours of solitude every day. I sit in the office and fantasize about going home, to my safe space.

3. A cozy bed, towels and bathrobes

There was this one time we were in a mall with my girlfriend. We both found ourselves moving towards the white cotton bed sheets, towels and bathrobes section. We realized that we share that dream. To have access to the best there is of the three items.

4. Not having to attend some meetings

How many times have you had to sit through meetings that add absolutely no value to you? Meetings that should have been emails? Meetings that are so long and boring that you can literally count the hours of your life that are just passing by?

The worst part about this is thinking that you should leave, but sitting through it anyway because you’re afraid that you will get fired.

Being wealthy means that you can leave such meetings without fear. You have control over how much of your precious time people can waste.

I want enough money to walk out respectfully, without fear.

A taste of freedom can make you unemployable. — Naval

5. Having enough time to read

I have lived through phases where life is so busy with work that I barely have enough time to read. In such situations, I don’t fully concentrate on my book or read in a hurry, not enjoying beautifully written lines or soaking in the wisdom therein. Sometimes I will feel guilty for reading before I finish my work. I hate this.

Having ample time to read books that I enjoy especially African literature is my number one indicator that I’m doing well in life.

I want a life where I can read in a bathtub as I’m soaking in luxurious oils, read under a tree while enjoying the shade, read as I wait for the sunset… Reading is a 5-star experience that I never want to feel guilty for or negotiate.

With enough money, I can say no to people and events, just to be alone in my world and with my books.

6. Travelling

The happiest I’ve been in my life is when travelling, hiking mountains and being with nature.

Travelling and experiencing this world is our birthright. Can somebody please remind Covid-19 that we’ve had enough and we want to go outchea?

Exposure through travelling opens up your mind to bigger dreams. Before I moved to Dubai, I used to think that Teslas, Lamborghinis, Ferraris and such cars exist in movies or magazines. It was such a far off and unattainable goal. Then I realized that in this town, your neighbour will own one, plus a boat and life is business as usual.

I will feel wealthy when I can comfortably afford flight tickets to places on my bucket list without feeling like I have broken my account.

7. Just sitting, without worrying about the next meal

Growing up in poverty means that when you sit to ‘relax’, the first thing that comes to mind is the worry. Worrying about the next meal, next paycheck, debt.

I want the luxury of free time. Time to just sit and fully relax. To truly enjoy the value of deep rest and the health benefits that come with it. To just sit and reminisce about the good times. Free time to sit with my thoughts and to meditate without feeling like I’m on another person’s schedule.

The most important being free time to think. To strategize. To think about the meaning of self-actualization.

“You are not going to get rich renting out your time. You must own equity — a piece of the business — to gain your financial freedom. People seem to think that you can create wealth, and make money through work. And it’s probably not going to work. There are many reasons for that.

But the most basic is just that your inputs are very closely tied to your outputs. In almost any salaried job, even at one that’s paying a lot per hour like a lawyer, or a doctor, you’re still putting in the hours, and every hour you get paid.”

So, what that means is when you’re sleeping, you’re not earning. When you’re retired, you’re not earning. When you’re on vacation, you’re not earning. And you can’t earn non-linearly.” — Naval

8. Begging

I hate being in situations where I have beg for help, especially financial. Not managing your money properly will lead you here. You beg and sometimes tell manipulative stories to get people to loan you money. And you can literally feel your dignity leaving you.

Being wealthy to me is having enough money to preserve my dignity.

“You really don’t own anything in life. When you’re born, and you come out of your mother’s womb, and you’re kicking and screaming, and you go through your 60, 70, 80, 90 years of life, you think that you own stock and money, and this, that, and the other, but really, you don’t own anything, because it all disappears, it all goes away, and you die, and there’s nothing left. The only thing, the only thing that you own, the only thing that we can say is that you own time. You have so much time to live. … Let’s just say you have 85 years to live. That is yours … Alive time is time that’s your own. Nobody tells you what to do, nobody is commanding you how to spend it. … Taking ownership of your time means I only have this much time to live, I’d better make the most of it, I’d better make it alive time, I’d better be urgent, have a bit of an edge, be aware of each moment as it’s passing and not in a fog.” — Robert Greene

9. Building deep relationships

I want to build deep relationships based on trust with my friends and family. Truth is, this is to some extent impossible while having such busy work schedules and sitting in traffic for hours.

I want to have the kind of relationships where I don’t have to explain while asking for a million in loan from my wealthy friends.

I want to be wealthy enough to take care of my friends and family when need be. And to empower them enough to take care of me.

10. Pursue my passions

In a perfect universe, I’d be a writer who hikes and also belongs to a dance crew.

But we can’t enjoy such lives if we have to worry about the next month’s rent.

Being wealthy means having the luxury to pursue our passions without worrying about basic needs and risking our futures.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” — George Bernard Shaw

11. Choosing who to work with

We’ve all been in situations where we have to endure working with people who are cruel or have questionable integrity. People who frustrate our efforts or progress, who work extra hours to ensure we fail.

People who physically or sexually harass us in the workplace. But we can’t speak up or leave because we’re too scared of being victimized, fired or outright silenced.

We can’t quit because the bills are still waiting for us. Toxic workplaces.

I want enough money to choose who to work with. Enough wealth not to endure situations that threaten my safety and mental health. Enough money to walk out and never come back.

12. Saying no or not feeling like you have to say yes

This should have topped the list. Have you been in relationships where you have to say yes to hanging out or being with a person because you literally can’t afford to leave?

There’s also having to live with the guilt of saying yes or no.

I don’t want to ever experience this feeling again. I need to always afford to leave tables where love is no longer being served.

13. Choosing a career, a boss and curating my Job Description

I want enough money to afford the freedom to choose my job or career, to choose my boss as they’re interviewing me and to have a say in my JD. To say no to things on the JD that I feel are a waste of my time or an insult to my intelligence.

I desire a career where I can afford to outsource tasks I don’t enjoy. Having a job where I don’t have to always feel like I’m walking on eggshells.

A workplace that actually encourages creativity, because most of them will tell you that they’re looking to hire a creative person but the minute you try to voice in your ideas, they’re killed on arrival. I want to escape the fricking rat race!

Is this too much to ask? No. These are just but my desires. I’m far off from getting there, but I can bet my life on it that if I keep up with this trajectory, I will get there.

What does being wealthy mean to you? Define it. Write it down. Use it as motivation to stay focused, to pursue your dreams. To build wealth. To live your life on your own schedule.

Originally published at https://www.thewealthtribe.com on May 14, 2020.