As many of you probably know, I’m the author of The Old Money Book, and a fairly vocal proponent of financial independence, family, the work ethic, and generally what many would consider “traditional values”. I think a healthy marriage and living within your means are good ideas. I don’t care for conspicuous consumption. In a world of continuous online self-promotion and over-the-top bling, I’m Tweed Man in the corner, quietly working on my next book, trying to get one of my songs published, trying to get a film made, trying to keep my neck warm with a 30 year old scarf. (Which works just fine, thank you very much.)
Many people would assume that I’d fall in line with the status quo, be a champion of the establishment, and dutifully follow corporate policy or parrot the party line.
Not so. I have real issues with authority. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do, and I structure my life in order to be as self-reliant as possible, and to keep my choices as much my own as possible (my working definition of ‘freedom’.) I am, for the most part, blissfully unconcerned of the opinions of others, and have little need for approval. I don’t do things that are illegal, so government agencies have no reason to bother me. I don’t call attention to myself in the way I dress, so nobody really can tell how much money I do or don’t have. I guard my privacy, as much as an author promoting his books can, with aggressive diligence. If I ever wore an article of clothing with writing on it, the writing would most likely read, “Don’t Tread On Me.”
I don’t trust people in power for a second. Power, as has been said, corrupts. I don’t trust popular opinion in the least. There is often tyranny in the majority. I don’t pick a lot of cotton in the insights of ‘experts’ on any particular subject or the proclamations of ‘pundits’ and their views on the world.
I realize that I might be categorized as one of those two as a result of offering my opinions and insights into the culture of Old Money, and I’m equally suspicious of my own authority as it relates to that subject, or anything for that matter. What do I know, really? French philosopher Michel de Montaigne famously said, “All that I know is that I know nothing. And I’m not even sure about that.”
During my short life, I’ve discovered that the most dogmatic people are often the most well-intentioned, and the most wrong. The more perspective and information we have, the more inconclusive an issue can be, and the farther off any real solution. Still, we must endeavor to improve our own lives and our world, but there are a million shades of grey out there, and we must acknowledge the complexities and contradictions of the human condition. We must be passionate in our beliefs, but we must be circumspect in assessing their validity.
So read my books and this blog with an eagerness to learn and grow, but weigh whatever I say with your own experience. I may be dead wrong about a lot of things. Don’t cut me any slack. And be suspicious of every kind of authority.
The best way to live your life is to let the final decision about what is right, wrong, beneficial or harmful, truthful or deceitful, lie with you and you alone. Be slow to form your opinions, slower to share them, less confident about their absolute veracity, and open to changing them. Be patient when others are vocal and adamant about their positions. Listen and gravitate to those who offer their opinions quietly, moderately, and within a framework of historical context and polite consideration.
Find or formulate a half dozen principles that you can live by and apply them as often as you can to situations in your life. Find one or two that you’re willing to fight and die for. Don’t bother drawing a line in the sand for others to see. Just stand on a rock and hold your ground.
And if anything I write helps, great. Just don’t consider me an authority. I bristle at the word.