- in Mindset
The Brazilian, The Ferrari, and Dr. Ruth
I’ll never forget that night. I was in Miami for a trade conference. My buddy John was posted to our embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I was posted to Kingston, Jamaica. And here we were, enjoying a welcome respite back in the United States after many months advancing U.S. interests in the Caribbean ;).
John suggested we meet at a hip bistro/bar around 9:00 pm for a late dinner. He said he’d bring a few friends along as well and we’d eventually go clubbing. I’m not much of a clubber, but - hey - when in Miami….
Here Comes A Whole Different Mindset
I guess John’s a man for understatement. He showed up in a cherry red Ferrari driven by a Brazilian woman in her early thirties named Daniela. She had tremendous presence. Everyone noticed as she walked in. Was it the clothes? The Ferrari she drove? Or the blond hair? I guess we’ll never know.
I ended up chatting with Daniela for most of the evening. This was my first encounter with a mindset way beyond anything I had encountered growing up in the suburbs of Denver.
Daniela was the daughter of a timber magnate in Brazil. A big-time magnate. Like oligarch magnate. She now worked in Miami as an immigration attorney, and had been married and divorced three times. Gulp. To be honest, these biographical details did not impress me that much, but I found her mindset fascinating.
“We’re Not In Kansas Anymore, Toto”
At one point during dinner, I glanced across the room and noticed Dr. Ruth Westheimer having dinner with a friend. With a chuckle, I quietly pointed out to our group that Dr. Ruth was in the house. I mean seriously. Dr. Ruth? She almost seemed like a caricature on TV in those days. Dispensing incredibly frank advice about all our sex lives. In detail. Great, graphic detail.
The Brazilian? She got up, walked over, and introduced herself to Dr. Ruth. No big deal. “Hi, Dr. Ruth. I’m Daniela. How are you doing?” They had a nice chat, and that was that. Daniela strolled back over and finished dinner with us.
At the end of the meal, we got up to head from dinner to our first club. And that’s when my friend John dropped a magnanimity bomb. “Tom,” he said. “Why don’t you join Dani in the Ferrari on the way to the club.” Wow. John. A true friend.
Superheros Don’t Compete
As we rode from one club to another, the Ferrari jerked and rumbled like a Formula One car that got lost somewhere along the way. At each club we visited, Dani would just park on the side of the street -- right in front of the entrance -- and the bouncers would whisk us straight inside. I don’t know if they knew her or just respected the supercar.
And this brings me to the heart of this post. At one point around 2:00 am, I had gotten to know Dani fairly well. I asked her what it was like to own a Ferrari. I’ll never forget her response:
“It is much more relaxing. No one competes with you when you own a Ferrari.”
I had no idea what she meant. “No one competes with you? What do you mean?”
“I used to own a top-of-the-line BMW,” she said. “With the Beemer, everyone resented me. Especially women. I got dirty looks constantly. It was close enough to their world that they saw me as competition, and they didn’t like me…. But with the Ferrari, everyone is just like, ‘Wow!’ And they smile. You are like a movie star or a superhero. They don’t compete or relate. They have fun with it.”
We rolled along silently for a bit in the Ferrari. I was gobsmacked. What a fascinating insight into human psychology.
Where Are You In The Economic Food Chain? What Do You Resent? Why?
I’ve often thought about Dani’s comment in the years since. I still don’t know if I fully understand what dynamic was at play when she moved from a Beemer to a supercar. But I do know that the shift of those around her from resentment to fun had to do with mindset.
First, where are we in the economic (and social) food chain? How do we relate to the world of money, and what do we expect? Whom do we compare ourselves to? Once Dani moved into a Ferrari, people just assumed she was waaaaay up the food chain and not someone to compare themselves to.
Similarly, what scale are we comfortable operating at in life? Why do we resent our best friend’s slightly greater success than our own, but just smile and gawk and revel in the “lifestyles of the rich and famous?” It's a matter of scale and what we can relate to.
I don’t have all the answers to these questions, but they are worth pondering. What's your mindset? What and whom do you resent? Why?
Hi, I wouldn’t resent Dani in either vehicle, since I don’t care much about cars of any kind except as a means of reliable transportation (well, Teslas are cool, but I’m not paying for one until they drop in price).
I resent bullies and blowhards making easy money, especially off my taxes, which means the vast majority of bureaucrats/politicians/administrators. I’m not a fan of conspicuous consumption, which is too hard on the earth. And how about poachers, animal and human abusers, murderers, and thieves? Shall I go on? I could, but basically, I’m against injustice. And I’m a lot of fun at parties because I don’t go on about it, but I try to donate my money and energy toward these causes.
Thanks for your comment. I can tell you bring a lot of passion and ethics to your approach to life. That’s great! And smart not to go on about it at parties…..
I have had multiple encounters over the course of my life with people who made me realize that they were relating to careers and investing from a much more powerful mindset than I was (not necessarily the Brazilian in this post, btw). In particular, successful entrepreneurs have challenged me to shift from a middle-class mindset focused on earning and saving to one of creating value as an entrepreneur. This is a totally different mindset and one that I still work on.
If I may ask, where (if anywhere) do you see limitations to your mindset as it relates to finances? Where could you step things up to a different paradigm (if you wanted to)? That was the goal of this post — to get you to question your own thinking. Not to praise the thrice-divorced Brazilian motoring around at midnight in Miami ;).
My mindset limitation is that I’m super cheap! It’s environmentally friendly, plus it’s how I was raised. But it means that I end up wasting time because I don’t want to spend $5, I wasn’t as good a friend because I worried about money (going out to dinner and they don’t pay their share? I’m seething), and it’s just plain not fun.
It’s good for saving, but not necessarily for achieving. Reading Jen Dziura at getbullish.com has helped me a lot on this. She pointed out, “Once your basic needs are taken care of, always sacrifice money now for the ability to charge more later. To me, this means not over-filling my schedule with more and more people who need to be tutored; I need to be writing books in my field, rather than dispensing information to one person at a time. Would you be able to take your career to the next level by paying your own way to conferences your job won’t pay for, flying somewhere to woo a mentor who would help you out, or putting on an event that features you as an expert?”
So that’s what I’m working on. My children will tell you I’m still a cheapskate, so it’s a work in progress. I tell them they should have seen me before.
Makes sense, and I can actually relate. A couple of questions, though. Are you cheap or just smart? Also, cheap compared to whom? Compared to all the people in North America who live paycheck to paycheck because they lack financial discipline?
Maybe your mindset challenge is your nascent “super power.” By that I mean it can be a huge strength. As I’ve mentioned before, those who hit financial independence all seem to have one trait in common: an extreme focus on value.
So maybe flip this mindset challenge into a strength—and then refine it by spending more on things that make you happy. And, of course, remember to stay focused on the BIG FINANCIAL WINS….
P.S. I used to think that hyper-frugality was a challenge for me, too, since it was a little outside the norm. But I’ve realized that minimalism and efficiency are truly core values that are part of who I am and who I want to be. Also, you can easily manage perceptions in this area so that you don’t look too strange to the rest of the world!