The house you live in. The car you drive. The laptop or the phone or the tablet you are reading this on. The clothes you wear and the clothes you’ve bought but no longer wear. The ring or the watch or the necklace you proudly display.
The first date you went on. Your first kiss. The first time you had responsibility and realised that your parents didn’t actually control your life and that you could do whatever you wanted. The first time you won an award. The first time you took a chance and failed miserably in front of a big crowd.
The things we have and the things that have happened to us.
Which is more valuable?
We can find out by asking a question.
Which would you be least willing to give up? Would you trade your cherished memories just so you could keep the big house and the fast car and the fat bank account?
In Issue 16 of O Behave! we learn that for over a decade research has proved that “doing things (experiential purchases) makes people happier than having things (material purchases)”.
I think we all intuitively understand this (even if sometimes we don’t act like it) because few would trade their experiences for anything.
But this knowledge presents a problem.
I don’t own much. I don’t have a car. Or own a house. Or a TV. Or have a wardrobe of designer clothes. My laptop is seven years old. I do allow myself one extravagance though.
In 2012, I spent the summer criss-crossing the UK, working at festivals and doing eighteen hour days, four days a week. It was a seasonal job so it finished in September.
I was young with money and free time.
I was nineteen, living in a house with three friends, and I had about four grand in the bank. Not a terrific amount, but more than I’d ever had in my life. And I didn’t need (or want) to work for a month or so.
We had a fun game. Whenever one of us was going to make a big purchase, we’d all go along for the ride and encourage the person to buy what they didn’t need. Games consoles. TVs. Double beds.
We were a salesman’s dream. They didn’t even have to try. We’d be upselling harder and more effectively than they could ever imagine.
One of the first things I did, before pissing away money on clothes and drinks and other inane items, was buy books. About five hundred pounds worth. The most expensive was eighty-five pounds. A book called Supertraining by Mel Siff.
That move set the precedent.
I now have a wish list with thousands of books on it because I scour the bibliographies of all I read for more links. And at the moment I spend between one and two hundred a month. It wouldn’t be hard to spend more. Here’s the problem though.
A book is a material thing.
I don’t have a kindle so every book I buy I can hold.
I don’t intend to own much. Except books. Here’s why.
A book is an experience.
A book can change your life. Many have changed mine. Just check out (l)the classics I’ve talked about. They are but a small slice.
The rule that experiences far outweigh possessions is one that will ring true for a very long time. Except for books. Books can sit in both categories. I’ll allow Hemingway to explain why:
“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.”
They are owned twice.
The first is when you purchase them and they sit on your shelf. The second is when you interact with them and immerse yourself in them and absorb them into your experience. Like Sylar from the TV show Heroes.
When we read, we get to live many lives. And for that reason, I’m thankful I was young, had money, and made one good decision.