Before I even start talking about how wealth is created, I think it’s important that I begin with my definition of what constitutes wealth. I tend to keep wealth and money as separate from each other. While money is the currency which you use to purchase material goods, wealth — at least for me — is a broader term that not only gives you tremendous leverage to buy material goods, but it also includes a broader range of other important aspects of life that perhaps money can’t buy.
Some of them may include your freedom to pursue whatever you want to pursue, managing your time outside of work, sustaining a meaningful life by pursuing your authentic interests, or having the leverage — both in terms of capital and labor — to create products and services for society.
So we are already beginning to diverge from the traditional view of wealth being the cash you have stored in some imaginary bank account. So after having established what wealth means in a broader sense, how do you go about creating more wealth? How do you actually become wealthy?
This is where things start to get really tricky, because each person is programmed differently to want different things from life. True wealth can only be created when you have a solid framework of reference insofar as you can define what wealth means to you. But in the interest of keeping this article more generic (while still trying to be as specific as possible), I have laid down the following principles that you can follow to build true wealth for yourself.
1. Cultivate your Specific Knowledge — To understand what specific knowledge is, we must first understand what specific knowledge isn’t. There are millions of domains out there in the world that requires specialized skills in order for those jobs to be done. Whether you’re an IT professional who writes thousands of lines of code everyday, or a simple plumber who fixes taps for a living, you are in possession of some type of a skill that you’ve decided to trade in exchange for money in today’s capitalistic market.
The problem with this approach is that there is nothing specific about writing code or fixing taps that some other human being cannot be trained to do. Honing a skill and then dedicating your life towards building a career using that skill as a bedrock will soon become a relic of the past. While it was possible in the past for our parents and grandparents to flourish having mastered one skill, it is highly unlikely to help you build wealth in today’s technology infused market. To put it shortly, if there is a skill out there in the market that someone else can be trained to do, then it no longer is specific knowledge; it’s generic knowledge.
Specific knowledge is something that only you’re uniquely good at doing which no one else can replicate. Specific knowledge is what helps you stand out from the crowd and beat the competition, precisely because there is no one competing with you. And even if someone tried to compete with you on specific knowledge, they will not only fail but fail miserably. Specific knowledge is being authentic to yourself, following your inherent curiosity, and honing the type of skills that come naturally to you which can make you irreplaceable.
Building your specific knowledge is important for two crucial reasons -
a. Information Overload: The world is already filled with a tremendous degree of free knowledge. You’re only a quick Google search away from finding information on billions of different topics at the tip of your fingers. The internet is the greatest repository of free information in the world, so why bother trying to retain information in your mind that is so easily accessible in today’s world?
If you ever meet someone who likes to boast about having a wealth of knowledge about different topics, it’s advisable to stay away from them. True knowledge isn’t cramming information related to different topics and senselessly regurgitating them; true knowledge, and especially specific knowledge, is the culmination of combining different ideas together and weaving together a worldview that is unique to yourself. Knowing a lot is not what makes you a unique individual; it’s presenting that information and mapping it onto the world to build something unique that makes you an interesting person.
This is why I have such a huge problem with our schools and colleges. These are not places where you learn and accumulate specific knowledge. In fact, these are places where you’re taught to abandon your natural curiosity in the pursuit of cramming redundant courses that are as useful to you as an air conditioner during winter.
If the true purpose of schools and colleges was education, the internet should have rendered them obsolete at least 5 years ago. I always considered college to be the greatest waste of my time, and unless you’re gaining some valuable life experience out of it, you should place as little importance to your college degree as you can, for the market is going to reward you for your specific knowledge rather than a college degree which only holds value in a socially constructed hierarchy and fails to mirror itself in the economy.
b. Freedom: The main reason I wanted to keep wealth separate from money at the beginning of this article is what we will touch upon in this section. I’m sure you’ve all heard about that guy, or that uncle, or that friend, who makes crores of rupees every month but barely has a moment to breathe? This is precisely what you want to avoid in life. We all have two lives, and the second one begins when we realize that we only have one. Given this astonishing truth, it is important for us to better manage our time.
If your job takes up 80–90 hours of your time every week, then it’s genuinely not worth doing regardless of how much money you’re being paid. Money is only going to solve all your money problems, but it will not make you happy. You’ve got to make happiness your first priority because you only get one shot at this life. People who work for money seldom realize the intrinsic freedom that is to be found by pursuing your specific knowledge. From my personal experience, cultivating my specific knowledge, which happens to be a combination of writing, technology, and being socially confident, has helped me find the type of freedom which I would have never imagined myself having 5 years ago.
Cultivating your specific knowledge means that you will genuinely be paid for what you’re naturally good at. So even if you end up stacking 80 hours worth of work in a week, it will feel like you’ve just had a much more fun week than you normally would. Freedom to do whatever it is that you want to do, whenever you want to do it, is the greatest form of leverage that you can own, and unless you’re someone who is beyond competition, beyond forgery or imitation, that kind of luxury will not be afforded to you. And needless to say, it is only by cultivating your specific knowledge can you reach that stage in your life.
Note: I plan to make an even longer post about money and wealth creation as this article is not even 30% complete in my estimation. But in the interest of keeping this short, I have decided to post only the first point.