Episode #2 | Vicki Robin: Civilizational Survival – Your Money or Your Life
March 12, 2019
"As a human, you have many needs that have to do with time and relationships, and those needs very often get sidelined when our focus is simply on the traditional understanding of wealth."
- Vicki Robin
When it comes to the issue of civilizational survival, “Everybody wins or we all lose,” is Vicki Robin’s core message in this riveting episode. Through her “four freedoms” framework, insights on the shift away from placed-based living (and its effect on the concept of community), the upside of boundaries, and reflections on being of service to this larger project called the web of life of the human family, listeners will walk away with fresh tools to answer the question “Who am I in this society?”
About Vicki Robin
Vicki Robin is a prolific social innovator, writer, and speaker. She is the coauthor, with Joe Dominguez, of the international bestseller, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence. Widely hailed as a personal finance classic, an updated version was released to great fanfare in 2018. The book is now available in 11 languages. Dubbed the “prophet of consumption downsizers” by The New York Times, Vicki has lectured widely and appeared in hundreds of national media outlets including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” NPR’s Morning Edition, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. She helped launch many sustainability initiatives, including the New Road Map Foundation, The Simplicity Forum, the Center for a New American Dream, and more.
I first discovered Vicki Robin’s work in 1992. That was the year Your Money or Your Life was originally released and became an instant international bestseller. It was also the year I graduated from college. Devouring the book, it became a guide by which I have lived my financial life in the ensuing decades. In particular, I was struck by the notion that most of us have money because either we (or someone near and dear to us) worked, expending life energy, to earn those dollars. Therefore, when we spend those dollars, we are in effect spending life energy. As such, the process of being mindful and conscious about the way we dispense our hard-earned dollars isn’t about denying ourselves (aka the typical connotation around the word “budgeting”), but rather honoring that life energy (a process I’ve dubbed “joy-based spending”)
As our interview went on, I found myself becoming more and more energized by Vicki’s comments which went far beyond the already powerful concepts in Your Money or Your Life. Vicki shared with me that at this stage in her life, her focus is shifting more and more toward what she feels is the next chapter in her body of work: how we come together as a global community and make decisions around the use of increasingly scarce—and at times damaged—resources. My hunch is that listeners will hear a range of thought-provoking viewpoints, some of these ideas for the very first time!
Five Concepts to Remember
- The four freedoms
Per Vicki, there are four types of freedoms that we experience during our lifetime. The first two are “basic freedoms”: (1) freedom FROM oppression and (2) freedom TO have the life we want. The second two are “mature freedoms”: (3) freedom FOR a higher aim, a purpose in life, and (4) freedom WITH others who are also trying to be free. [2:00]
- Place-based living
Place-based living is the notion that in decades and centuries past, we did not move far from our place of birth. As such, there was a level of accountability embedded in the actions of our daily lives that was immediate and had lasting consequences. By contrast, today it’s much easier to “foul our nest,” leave that mess behind, move to a new place, and remake ourselves. This shift away from place-based living is beginning to impact our sense of morality, loyalty, integrity, and character. [7:00]
Vicki speaks to the differences between your job, your work, and your identity, and understanding why these distinctions are so vital. She argues that it is important to do the work to develop your purpose identity vs. your economic identity because we are much more than what we do for money. As Vicki says, we each need to “discover what kind of critter we are.” [14:30]
Vicki posits that contrary to common gut reactions, limits can be enormously freeing. For example, limits by definition push us to dig into the well of our creativity to come up with new ways to optimize what is rather than seek the easy route of solving a problem by simply bringing in “more” to the equation. For success in the future as global citizens, she argues that we need to fall in love with limits the same way we’ve fallen in love with freedom. [12:00]
Simply but, Vicki says it’s vital to recognize that we can each be of service to this larger project called the web of life for the human family. It is our work to identify in what way we will do this. Knowing the value of the concept of purpose will help us follow the breadcrumbs on the trail to our own unique answer. [18:00]
Other Major Topics
- The inherent conflict between self-interest and civilizational survival [11:00]
- Cheap thrills vs. deep thrills: what they are and why they matter [13:00]
- The importance of being prudent and mindful about the discipline of savings, no matter what your income. [21:30]
Resources Cited in the Episode
- Your Money or Your Life: Book and website
- Vicki Robin’s personal blog
- The Power of Raw, Honest Stories about Money, The New York Times interview with Vicki Robin
- “A Growing Cult of Millennials Is Obsessed with Early Retirement. This 72-year-old is Their Unlikely Inspiration”, Money
- The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
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