THE 1% OF WHAT

… the price for our adventure … a few assets and a stable income stream – in exchange for a dream … into the “blind optimism of my youth” … a time when life was simply opportunity unburdened by doubt.

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We certainly love our “stuff”, the material and sentimental possessions that ebb and flow through our lives. They make our lives comfortable, convenient, ever-ready for any occasion and often serve as an outward expression of our own self-image. And so, it’s no wonder that the questions were all about our “stuff”, when Bridget and I started to share the news that we would be giving all of ours away, on the way to an open-ended adventure exploring the Pacific Northwest in a travel trailer.

We had been preparing for our escape for more than three years, reducing overhead and going deeper into a minimalist strategy of owning only what you actually use. But when it was time to actually start making the move from 800 to 200 square feet of living space, a lot of “stuff” had to go. And by “a lot” I mean practically everything!

Every stick of furniture was going. Personal closet space for every jacket, coat, shirt and pant was being reduced from nearly unlimited storage to essentially one small, half-high closet each; changing the priorities from what we might like to keep, to what will fit.

When the idea of leaving was new, answering questions about stuff reduction was easy, nothing more than an abstract notion bolstered by a minimalist mindset and various other nicely packaged principles. But the shift from fantasy to reality was not easy at all, when the stuff had to go, and I found my principles much easier to say than to follow.

It was when we were deeply into giving away, selling, swapping and donating all of the art, furniture, bikes and such, that the idea of the coveted 1% struck me, and how I was now going in the wrong direction! It was a feeling of fear, mixed in with “am I out of my mind?”. After all, isn’t the accumulation of assets, then leveraging what you own part of the proven pathway to success – even, should we dare to dream, membership into the top 1% of all wealthy people?

Um, not so much. I knew that my values went elsewhere, where money was often a secondary consideration. I knew that I had gone this route before and that I was certainly not alone, having a long association with artists, dreamers, and doers of all variety, who simply would not exist if money came first. But there I was, going through the process of reminding myself of what was truly important to me, and that the accumulation of wealth was somewhere down the list.

So if wealth wasn’t at the top of my list, doesn’t determine my personal level of “success”, then what does? And how do I stack up there? Asking myself, am I the 1% of what?

I’m sure it was a defense mechanism, reflecting on my own values and considering my relative position in comparison with my peers. But in the end, any sense of logic simply breaks down – there is no way to gauge what ultimately comes down to unmeasurable qualities like joy, happiness, and love. Hasn’t the desire for these states of mind been the impetus for this, and many other fiscally irresponsible decisions of the past? HELL YEAH!

Why else would I and hundreds of people I know, put in countless hours for their art or craft, knowing that any payday they receive may not even cover their labor? Why have others left corporate gigs to start their own businesses? And why do so many of my closest friends work 12, 14, 16 hours per day for weeks in preparation for a festival that lasts a few days?

So instead of a question, I decided to make ‘The 1% Of What‘ a proclamation, moniker and slogan for me and any like-minded person who knows that material possessions and net worth don’t define us. Sure, we would all welcome a huge windfall for our efforts, but money is not an end in itself, it is instead, an instrument for our dreams, not its answer.

So when faced with the endless stream of messages suggesting that the 1% of wealth is an American, if not worldwide ideal, proudly proclaim yourself to be The 1% Of What, an individual who dares to follow your heart.

This time around, the cost of admission, the price for our adventure, was a few assets and a stable income stream – in exchange for a dream; casting off into what I have called, “the blind optimism of my youth”, a time when life was simply opportunity unburdened by doubt.

Scary, yes; but we have never been better prepared for any circumstance that may come our way.

And to feel all of this at my age, to dare to dream, is nothing short of the top 1% of the 1% of WHAT!