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It’s true. They did. I was sucked in and took big sips of the kool aid, consuming way too much to keep up with Mr. and Mrs. J!

Clive in a helmet leaning out the door of a Porsche 911

Teddy Roosevelt once said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Mark Twain felt even more strongly about it, exchanging the word thief for death.

Lips, hips, cars, careers, clothing, houses, horses, holidays, friends, frequent flyer status, rewards, awards, even kid’s school grades – yeesh. This is people-powered propaganda to keep astride with the Jones’ (also see: marketing meets consumerism meets capitalism).

I raise my hand, so guilty.

My start was low-key as I grew up in the country without much affluence and certainly no influencers, before the onslaught of luxury goods, and the new product development cycle to drive market share and/or shareholder value.

But later, as I built a digital marketing business and some cashola rolled in, I was filling my emptiness with stuff and things. Dialling up the w@$ker with $400k Porsche (which I later sold for $230k, less payments etc a net loss $400k), Panerai, Patek, and a porky belly bursting my buttons to fit my indulgences. I had a whole room for the sneakers, a wine collection, a cigar collection, so much of too much nothingness. Perhaps somewhere inside me, I thought the world might end, so I had better have enough of everything (that didn’t matter)! I enjoyed the short-term high of the delivery, the unboxing, the metaphoric and literal new car smell. I think we all share that empty feeling after the box is empty and the new smell is gone. That is the direction culture pushes and pulls us.

My friend Tim Foote said something like “We go to work, earn money and buy things that look good to people who don’t care who we are,” or as Dave Ramsey put it, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

Our kids go to school where there is fierce influence to compete against each other, to achieve, and to be awarded for it. I have seen systems where every kid gets an award so others don’t feel bad when they compare themselves for not winning. I know of students who don’t like their marks being called out in class. Exchanging marks secretly is a thing. Then we spend the latter part of our lives unpacking, learning that “comparison is the thief of joy”, that working together as a team, for the betterment of our planet is the purest thing for fellow earthlings.

The Pathless Path by Paul Millerd is an exceptional book that makes you question what you’re growing, being productive or working obscene hours for. The default path, is it something you’ve been “scripted”? What happens when you achieve success based on others’ terms and still feel miserable? It’s about our unhealthy relationship with work, money, accomplishments and how to fix that. The most attention goes to people with money, degrees and power, and then you die. Paul also talks about career prestige, the choices we make to flare up your LinkedIn profile and bring heat to job chat around the career campfire. Guilty!

Who doesn’t look at their social media and think, “bugger, I wish I was like Terry”? We were recently on a trip to Europe (which I gleefully spray across my socials) and the only thing I bought was gifts. Not cured from comparison, but in past years I would have come home with a bloated suitcase, or maybe another bag. The only reason I am mentioning that is I felt the difference – better. Less empty inside because of a suitcase less full.

Back living in the country after a gluttonous city life, there’s not much comparison, well, not at mortgage-harm levels. Most of the Jones clan got booted out decades ago. Everyone drives a white Toyota LandCruiser. Wild people buy one that’s not white (ours is white, but with all the upgrades). But as we re-enter metropolitistic atmosphere of city life, I find myself emotionally excited by cars again. Pull up at traffic lights and I get a warm rush when I pull up next to Mr. and Mrs. Jones driving that shiny new black European thing. The Joneses are unavoidable unless you live in a cave or are in jail.

I recently started working with one of the fastest-growing agencies in Asia Pacific, one of the co-founders drives his beloved 2014 white station wagon. Respect! It’s the path I wish I had taken!

Anyway, I think I’ve almost learnt my lesson about comparison and consumerism. But clearly, Mr. and Mrs. Jones are still poking me in the eyeballs. We all need to close our eyes and wallets, and trim it in. I have 10% of what I had, and that’s still too much. I don’t have the answer, just something to keep your eyes on you (not the Joneses).

Five by Clive

  1. What’s right for the crew may not be right for you.
  2. Unsubscribe, don’t buy, opt-out and win!
  3. Ask yourself; Does this add value to my life goals, or my ego?
  4. The Crowds often lie, culture or trends aren’t necessarily headed in a good direction. Cut your own path!
  5. Nothing compares to you. The happiest people are too busy to compare.

Originally posted on Media Week, 21 September 2023: Five by Clive: Mr. and Mrs. Jones cost me so much money (