To Become Rich, Don’t Go Broke

Basic money idea:

Rather than worrying about getting “rich”, better to focus on NOT going broke!

Money will not destroy boredom

Why does everyone want to become richer?

I think everyone wants to be richer because they think that having MORE money will lead them to having MORE happiness, MORE power, and MORE pleasure.

This is kind of true, and kind of not true.

Having more money won’t make you “more” happy

“Not having money ain’t everything — but not having it is.”

Kanye West

First of all, being BROKE ain’t fun. Having grown up poor, I can personally attest to this.

But earning more money didn’t “increase” my happiness. Once I was able to earn enough money NOT to worry about being homeless at the end of the month, earning MORE money didn’t bring me more happiness.

In praise of self-employment

yellow black white

However, I have discovered that gaining money didn’t make me “happier”. For myself, the best thing with money was being able to become my own boss (earning money, via self-employment).

To me, being self-employed and living an ascetic lifestyle is a trillion times better than being employed by a company and being a trillionaire.

For myself, freedom over my time and my life is of the supreme importance. For myself, I simply need enough money to pay rent and feed myself my ‘egg snacks‘, drink coffee, and have a wifi connection. Otherwise, I am happy — this is sufficient for me to create my artwork.

Thus as an entrepreneur, the first goal ain’t to become rich; the goal is to pay rent and NOT go broke!

What is ‘rich’?

meat steak

So this is the question:

When we call someone “rich” — do we mean to say that they have a lot of commas and zeros in their bank account, or do we mean to say that they go out and buy a bunch of shit all the time?

I think that when we judge whether someone is “rich” or not, we are actually thinking about how much money they have in the bank account.

How to accumulate more money in your bank account

Haptic Magazine Issue #1

So — how do you accumulate more commas and zeros in your bank account?

This is the formula:

Have income coming in, and keep your expenses to the bare minimum.

And this is the thing — to speed up your money-bank-account accumulation, you can preferably:

Increase the amount of income you have coming in, and continue to live pauper-style (ascetic lifestyle).

And what is the point of saving up money anyways? To be frank, it is just a game at this point. Just ask yourself:

Do I have more fun see the money accumulate in my bank account, or do I have more fun spending it?

You can use this to make most of your financial life decisions.

NOT spending money is harder than earning money

I can personally attest in my personal life:

NOT spending money is 1000x harder than earning money.

For myself, it is relatively “easy” for me to earn money by teaching workshops and selling products.

But NOT spending money is insanely hard for me. I think the reason is because I generally want to spend money on tools (equipment, cameras, devices) which I think will make me more productive-happy, or make me more motivated and inspired.

My substance-creation tools. Osaka, 2018
My substance-creation tools. Osaka, 2018

Furthermore, I never learned the skill of saving money. My dad would gamble away our rent money, and my mom was barely paying rent every month. Thus, the ethos of saving money didn’t exist to me growing up.

The only way I learned how to save money was via Cindy whose mom taught the family entrepreneurship early on, and the importance of living more lean.

Soon, Cindy taught me the secret:

Make saving money (or not using it) into a fun game. See how lean you can live– see how much you can maximize your joy for the smallest amount of money possible.

To me, this line of thinking was a game-changer, because living a more ascetic (frugal) lifestyle wasn’t about self-flagellation or self-denial. Rather, it was a fun game — life was more interesting, fun, and challenging when you could figure out:

How great could I live my life, with the minimum money possible?

Strategies to save money

This led us to many strategies such as:

  1. Stay with friends, family, or crash on couches as often possible when traveling. Whenever I travel somewhere that we don’t know anybody, then stay at the cheapest AirB&B or hotel.
  2. Make it a fun game to see how cheaply you can feed yourself (I subsist mostly on eggs– I will eat 8-12 whole eggs a day, and I usually prefer to eat cheaper cuts of meat like ground beef/pork or pork loin/belly)
  3. Own just one of everything: I wear the same all-black outfit everyday, the same pair of shoes everyday, and use the same devices everyday. I don’t need multiple of the same thing — just one. This prevents me from buying more stuff, and accumulating more.

When are you the happiest?

I think it is also the realization that I’m happiest when I’m creating; NOT when I’m spending money.

This means, earning money doesn’t “add” positive happiness to my life. And it is also the realization that things which are more expensive are not necessarily “better” than things which don’t cost as much (for example, the RICOH GR II or Fujifilm XF10 are two of the best cameras that exist, which both cost only around $500 USD).

RICOH GR II. Kyoto, 2017

Also realizing that most technology is over-hyped and over-rated; most technology has tiny incremental upgrades (5-10%); and won’t make that much of a massive difference in your life.

Avoid bankruptcy

To become rich is to NOT go broke.

My personal rule (learned from Nassim Taleb) is this:

Never put more than 10% of your savings into one investment.

This means you will never go broke (bankrupt). No matter the potential of becoming super super rich, no investment (in my eyes) is worth the potentiality of 100% bankruptcy (losing literally all of your life savings, to see your bank account go to $0).

Also to avoid gambling (how my dad impoverished my family, and prevented my mom from accumulating any savings). I don’t think that gambling in itself is evil or a vice, but if gambling makes you go broke, obviously that is bad.

How to live BELOW your means

Treat money as a “creative constraint”. Put LIMITS on what you decide to spend on anything; and treat it like a fun game. It is easy to spend a lot of money and to be honest, not that fun. It is more fun to use your money in a way to get more “bang for the buck”, and use your money in a more creative way– in a way to be ‘extremely resourceful‘ (and in-fact is SUPERIOR, because it leads you to actually, truly INNOVATE!)

Thus, limits -> innovation.

So perhaps also with money:

Monetary limits -> innovation in your life.


  1. Live MORE with LESS money.
  2. Use money in a fun, ‘creative constraint’ way– to get more “bang for the buck” (treat this as a game)
  3. Being broke will cause you to be unhappy, but being rich won’t lead you to being happy.
  4. No matter how much money you have in the bank, this alone won’t give you peace of mind. Peace of mind comes from mental training; stoic philosophy has helped me.
  5. Living an ascetic lifestyle is sexy.

Stack that cheddar,


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