One of my favorite comic strips of all time is Calvin and Hobbes, the story of a precocious 6-year old kid and his stuffed animal tiger – seen as a stuffed tiger to everyone else, but very much alive when viewed through Calvin’s eyes.
It’s a comic that really spoke to me from the moment I first discovered it as a kid – a combination of funny, heartwarming, meaningful, and just generally good stories. Even though it was just a newspaper comic strip, it was really much deeper than that, with strong storytelling that could rival any book. Looking back, it’s a comic strip that I think a lot of people would benefit from reading today.
In the pantheon of Calvin and Hobbes stories and jokes, perhaps my favorite comes from this collection:
In this particular scene, Hobbes stumbles upon Calvin digging a hole in the ground, looking for buried treasure. When asked if he’s found anything, Calvin tells Hobbes that he’s found “a few dirty rocks, a weird root, and some disgusting grubs.”
“On your first try??” says a surprised Hobbes.
“There’s treasure everywhere!” Calvin proclaims.
It’s a wonderful moment. And Calvin’s proclamation that there’s treasure everywhere is one that I’ve tried to adopt as my own theme in life, especially as I’ve stepped off the traditional path and gone my own way. I think there’s a lot of power in looking at the world in this way, seeing the treasure that is all around us.
A Mindset Shift
When it comes to mindset, I think there’s a natural tendency for many of us to think in worst-case scenarios. We’re often taught to play things safe, and if we do anything out of the ordinary, there’s no shortage of people who will step in to tell us all of the bad stuff that can happen. I think this often makes us forget about all of the opportunities that are out there. We make our decisions, not from a place of abundance and optimism, but rather from a place of fear and scarcity.
I know this because that’s exactly what I did. Back when I graduated from college in 2009, the world was in a tailspin. With no apparent options, I made the decision to study for the LSAT and go to law school. It wasn’t that I wanted to become a lawyer. It was just something that seemed like a safe thing to do and I’d never opened my mind to the idea that there were other ways to make a living beyond just the traditional path of going to school, getting a good job, and working there for 30 years.
When I found myself unhappy with my job and career path, my solution wasn’t to find something else to do. Instead, I decided to aim for financial independence, telling myself that I just needed to grit through my working career until I could quit and do something else.
And even when I decided that waiting wasn’t the right move for me, I still held myself back. A lot of things held me back from making the jump to full-time self-employment, but perhaps the biggest thing was the fear I had of all the worst-case scenarios for me.
And what was my worst-case scenario? I’m not even really sure, but I think somewhere in my head, the thought was that I’d make no money and have no way to get a job to support myself.
When you say it out loud, it’s sort of a ridiculous thing to think. I’d been figuring out ways to make money for a while. Why would I suddenly forget how to do that? And the idea that a healthy 30-something wouldn’t be able to ever get a job again isn’t even realistic.
And yet, this is how a lot of us think – telling ourselves about the worst-case scenarios and forgetting about what is more likely to happen. I think we have a sense that opportunity is out there, but most of us seem to work out of a position of fear, rather than whatever the opposite of fear would be. I know that I’m constantly having to remind myself of the positives that are out there, rather than the negatives.
That’s why I think Calvin’s proclamation that “there’s treasure everywhere” is worth keeping in mind.
There Really Is Treasure Everywhere
It turns out there are so many paths people can take and an infinite number of ways to make money to support yourself. And if you don’t have debt and don’t need a lot of money to support your lifestyle, you can do almost anything you want. There really is treasure everywhere!
Sometimes it’s literal, physical treasure – like the year I found over $1,000 worth of stuff in a dumpster in my apartment building
Other times, it’s just realizing there are creative ways to earn income. Think of things like my scooter charging gigs, food deliveries, or walking dogs. In today’s world, our phones make it possible for us to find treasure all around us. Years ago, if you told me that I could make money from people reading my blog, I’d never have understood how.
And other times, companies are just giving treasure away – think of travel hacking or taking advantage of bank account bonuses. I haven’t paid for a flight in three years thanks to taking advantage of credit card rewards. And as I write this, I literally made $500 just by going into a bank and opening up a checking account.
I’ve had some strange career moves over the years, but none has been more strange than my most recent move of leaving the practice of law completely to try my hand at my own thing. I spent three years in law school and five years as a practicing attorney. From the outside looking in, it looks like I threw all of that away for nothing.
But treasure really can be found everywhere, even in unlikely places. And if we believe that, then we have the power to live life on our terms, rather than the terms other people set for us.
It’s A Magical World
Calvin and Hobbes ended its run on one of the best notes – with a white, snow-covered landscape and Calvin’s line of “It’s a Magical World Hobbes, ol’ buddy. Let’s go exploring.”
There’s so much stuff out there. Things that we can’t even imagine. We really do have to remind ourselves about all of the opportunities out there and that we can grab those opportunities if we really try. I know I’ve found a way to do that right now, doing things that make me happy and that keeps my sense of adventure alive.
The important thing is setting yourself up so that the world is open for you to explore. If you trap yourself, you’ll never have those opportunities. That means doing the basic financial things right – things like saving money and living on less than you earn. Pay off your debt. Put some money away. If you do that, you’ll find the world really opens up to you.
The world is full of opportunity – more than we’ve ever had in history. Calvin’s words are true – there really is treasure everywhere. We just have to be willing to look for it.