How Wealthy Are You?

Recently a tweet from entrepreneur Sahil Bloom caught my attention. He examines overall wealth and explains how the sole pursuit of financial wealth can rob you of the others. I agree with him and have been living my life in a way that emphasizes non-financial wealth. If you really knew me, you would know I have not received a W-2 or 1099 since 2009 and have supported myself by teaching yoga, facilitating workshops, managing investments, and living humbly.

Financial wealth is an alluring benchmark for success. Net Worth = Assets – Liabilities and offers a simple scoreboard for success. People assume financial wealth creates happiness – but a critical point known for decades is that while net worth and income are scientifically correlated with happiness—it is only up to a baseline level that’s most likely lower than you think. In the US, that number is approximately $75,000 per year, with many variables based on geography and other factors. Read more about the famous 2010 Princeton Study here. Once you are above this baseline, you get no more incremental happiness. Sahil posits:  If your goal is happiness or a good life:

(1) Focus on getting above this baseline

(2) Focus on other drivers of happiness

To summarize, there are five types of wealth:

• Financial (money)

• Social (relationships)

• Physical (health)

• Mental (health, spirituality)

• Time (freedom)

Social Wealth consists of meaningful relationships. Sahil’s advice, which I like, is to build a T-shaped web of connectivity, which is both broad and deep. This means cultivating deep relationships but also embracing weaker and more broad ties. This has been my primary focus over the past few years – and I feel incredibly wealthy. I’ve tied this wealth to my career passions (facilitating groups), so it is constantly growing.

Physical Wealth is possibly the most critical but under-appreciated type of wealth as it’s essential to enjoy the other forms of wealth fully. Exercise, sleep, and nutrition are key. I feel this is an area I neglected the past couple of years since my cancer diagnosis. This month I signed up for Orangetheory Fitness, which offers one-hour high-intensity training classes, and it feels delicious to feel strong and fit again. When asked what my fitness goal was, I said, To feel and look good naked, a line borrowed from the classic movie American Beauty.

Mental Wealth includes mental health, wisdom, mindfulness, spirituality, and faith. This is a vast category, one I may have personally separated mental and spiritual into separate wealth categories, but let’s roll with it. Mental fitness is treating your brain like a muscle, flexing it through learning, reading, writing, conversing, etc. Best to do this daily! And the spiritual component can be met in several ways – through the formal or informal practice of deepening one’s relationship to ones one spirit and the world that lies beyond the physical. This, for me, was my primary pursuit for much of the past decade, and its pursuit and accumulation of wealth is one of the main reasons I was able to get through my cancer diagnosis so quickly and psychologically unscathed.

Time Wealth is interesting – when you’re young, you’re a time billionaire, and many of us forget to realize this precious asset until it’s too late. Sahil says to Treat time as your ultimate currency—it’s all you have, and you can never get it back. So NEVER let the pursuit of financial wealth rob you of your time wealth.

I’m curious what you, dear reader, make of these distinctions. I notice Sahil does not discuss sexuality, as is the usual mainstream trend. I’ve been pondering if I would make a separate category or acknowledge it as part of mental, physical, and social wealth. Thanks for reading!


As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I’ve been looking at my relationship to time. Marc recently sent me The Secret Pulse of Time, a nice popular science reference to my own observations. I’m about halfway through it and recommend it if you’re looking for something intellectually stimulating.

Let’s face it, you will never escape being a slave to some form of clock or schedule unless you move into a cave and pursue the rest of your life in solitude. However, acquiescing to the clock does not necessarily imply turning over control.  Being in this moment means being present with your boExploding Clock copydy, your emotions, your thoughts and your spirit. This week I have been packing up my  belongings, cleaning my house and working on the many things that need to get done before one leaves the country for a year. Its easy to daydream about where I may be in a month (beaches of Thailand, top of Mt Fuji maybe?), but when I find myself doing this I am no longer present. I am using my memory to create thoughts about a future that doesn’t yet exist. So for now I’ll just go back to packing- as monotonous as it is, its great practice for daily life.  When I am in fact climbing Mt Fuji, do I want to be thinking about my credit card bill or what I’m having for dinner in 3 days?  No!  I just want to be climbing Mt Fuji. 🙂

I’m also looking at time from a more holistic, life-long perspective. I’ve always been an ambitious, successful person. Often this means doing things faster than your peers. But where does this actually take us? You will accumulate more possessions, maybe have some high status or fancy title, and hopefully you win the game of life.  There is one major flaw with this – you have no idea how long you will live!  I put off travelling for years because I wanted to earn some more money, gain some more safety, etc.  I let the ends justify the means.  Its different now, while I will of course still make future plans and set goals for myself, I will constantly remind myself of the present. If that means a day spent idly sitting on a park bench or dropping everything for a friend in need, so be it. A day is wasted only if you aren’t present and cultivating awareness. Not if you simply are not doing what you planned.