Vincent van Gogh spent most of his life destitute. The one woman he loved rejected him. Almost everyone who saw his paintings found very little value in them. He would often trade those very paintings to sympathetic familes in Holland and in France in exchange for a night or two sleeping in their barn and a meal or two (yes, paintings worth tens of millions of dollars today).
In fact, the only reason he had the materials with which to paint at all was due to his brother Theo, who wasn’t exactly well off himself but who always found a way to send his brother a bit of money for more paint supplies.
The letters that Vincent van Gogh shared with his brother make for some stunning reading. They depict a person struggling deeply with self doubt. They depict a man struggling with physical and mental ailments. They also depict a person with passion and drive and a sense that he was doing the right thing, even if the people around him didn’t believe in him.
Why am I mentioning his life story here? I think there are several vital lessons that anyone can take away from it.
Don’t make choices just to please other people. Don’t buy stuff just because other people want you to buy stuff. Don’t spend money just because other people want you to spend money. Let them spend their own money if they want.
Make your own decisions and don’t feel bad about making a different choice than the crowd around you. If you find that your values are deviating from that crowd, don’t be afraid to start seeking new people to spend your time with, or accept that you’re not going to be in sync with your existing crowd on everything and just maximize what you do have in common.
Life is a long haul. The people that succeed are the people that keep going and going and going towards their goal or towards whatever drives them. If you want to find financial success, you need to be willing to accept that it won’t happen tomorrow or the day after that.
For most people’s financial situations, it will take years to find real success. The same is true for career situations, entrepreneurial situations, and even relationship situations. A Band-Aid quick fix solution is rarely the one that will build long term success.
Doubting yourself is normal. Everyone doubts themselves. Even people who seem extremely confident are often just wearing a public face. There will be times where you feel as though you’re not doing the right thing.
When you feel that way, return to the things that caused you to choose this path in the first place. For me, it’s a small handful of personal finance books. For you, it could be anything. Go back to the basics and you’ll begin to feel the confidence and motivation again.
You don’t need lots of material stuff to have a successful life. Yes, van Gogh’s example is an extreme one, but there’s still something to be learned there. He didn’t live a life filled with possessions, yet he lived a life that changed the world. Why do you need a lot of possessions?
Challenge yourself to live with fewer possessions rather than more possessions. Owning things not only drains your money, but it drains your time and spreads out your focus.