What Are NOT Experiences? Exploring Experiences vs Things

What Are NOT Experiences? Exploring Experiences vs Things

In short, most things are not experiences, as they are not capable of being an experience on their own and usually require some participation and quite often they are not actually required to be owned to have an experience.

  • You can create great memories in a home - but a home is a thing.
  • You can feel great in a new dress/suit - but a dress/suit is a thing.
  • You can race around in a car - but a car is a thing.

You are the experience. When you are 100 years old and remembering your life, you’ll remember things and places, but the memories of WHAT you did will be what defines your life.

  • You’ll remember what you did in that home.
  • You’ll remember where you went in that dress/suit.
  • You’ll remember racing the car.

No matter how much you love your things, they don’t actually do much without you or provide long term value. Even if they provide confidence or emotional security when you wear or use or own them, those are temporary conditions that could have been achieved by other means. You could rent a home, borrow a dress/suit, lease a car, etc., and have the same or similar experiences.

An easy way to remember is this - You can have experiences with things, but things themselves are not experiences. This will be an important differentiator that you will need to remember as you follow the path to building experiential wealth and are tasked with making choices between things and experiences.  

A lot of things that are not experiences are also usually things we have learned to covet for the sake of owning or having or measuring our social status. Most of the time you can identify them by the amount of time they provide happiness on their own. New clothes, gear and gadgets are generally not going to bring long lasting happiness.

We would be remiss if we didn’t discuss money here as that is what the majority of people are working for, striving or wishing to have more of, or complaining about not having enough.

Money is not an experience. Money is important. Money helps us feel safe and allows us to focus on things beyond our most basic necessities. It is a necessary part of life. But money on it’s own is definitely not an experience.

In fact, money doesn’t seem to improve people’s overall life fulfillment once they have enough to avoid the bill collectors and guarantee survival for themselves and the ones they love. But we’ll talk about that aspect later. Right now we’ll focus on why it’s not an experience.

Beyond covering your basic needs, the more money you have, the more your desire increases. We achieve temporary happiness when our desires are met. Therefore we spend our money on things and spend our time on work to make more money, which takes away from time with family, friends, experiences, etc.

This is generally a failed approach, and a vicious cycle, as money isn’t your most precious asset. Time is your most precious asset. We know you’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again in this book lots of times. But it’s important to always remember when making decisions about how to spend your time and what to invest in.

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

"Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences." One study conducted by Gilovich even showed that if people have an experience they say negatively impacted their happiness, once they have the chance to talk about it, their assessment of that experience goes up.

Gilovich attributes this to the fact that something that might have been stressful or scary in the past can become a funny story to tell at a party or be looked back on as an invaluable character-building experience. Things do not do that.

Of course there are things that in obtaining them, that in itself can be an experience, like buying a new car or buying your first home. Those are great goals to have and those Things you are obtaining with those experiences can also be stores of wealth (and risk! fun!). While used as a store of wealth may not be a bad idea in the long run, it’s important to make sure you are not sacrificing your most precious asset to obtain and continue to pay for any of those things if they aren’t actually necessary in your life. Time.

For an Experiential Billionaire, things that cost too much time for not enough long term experiential value and are not Experiences worth seeking. There’s nothing wrong with buying things you need for activities you become passionate about and do frequently (we love our bikes, kayaks, etc.) as that can enhance your experience and make good financial sense, you just need to make sure before you fill up your life with closets and garages and houses full of things you bought because you wanted them and then only used them once. Which is an easy trap to fall into because the entire consumer goods industry is trying to get you to do just that. It’s just important to remember that money is NOT a requirement to leading a successful, rewarding and regret free life full of wonderful experiences.