Full transcript of Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt, presents Sell your crap. Pay your debt. Do what you love at TEDxAsheville conference.
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Adam Baker – founder of Man Vs. Debt
Hello! Today I want to challenge you — I want to challenge you to answer a question. The good news for you is that this question is actually simple, the words in the question are actually simple. The bad news is, for thousands of years people have been trying to answer this very same question for themselves. People have dedicated their lives for this question, they fought for this question and sometimes they’ve given their lives in defense of this question. And the question is this: what does freedom mean to you?
I’m not taking about like a dictionary definition of freedom, right? I’m not talking about an academic or even intellectual discussion about what freedom is. I am talking about what does it mean to you? What does it mean in your own life? And I know first-hand that this very question has the potential to change your life, because this is the exact question that my wife Courtney and I asked ourselves three years ago.
It was a little bit of awkward time for us to be talking about freedom. It was the night we brought my daughter Milligan home from the hospital. As new parents we struggled for 30, 45, whatever minutes and I used try to get her to go to sleep in her new crib and after that we wandered like zombies out to the kitchen table, and as we sat down, I turned to her and said, “Honey, I need to talk to you about something,” which I’ve learned after five years of marriage that, that’s the most terrible way you can possibly start a conversation. I said I want to talk to you about freedom and you can imagine what her expression was and what her response was. I can’t repeat some of it here today.
But after we started talking more about it, we realized that the timing of the situation was actually in our favor. Because if there was one thing we were lacking at that point in our life, it was clarity. It was the ability to step back and analyze how we will live in our life. And whether that was congruent with what we really wanted. It started for us on our financial life.
Our financial life had degraded I guess you could say into a simple question. And that’s what item in our apartment do we want to upgrade next? Have you ever had this discussion? Do we need to upgrade the couch or maybe we should save up and get a new kitchen table? Should we switch locations to just get a better apartment or maybe let’s just get a flatter TV and call it a day? This was our financial life at that time.
And then it should be no surprise on what our debt looked like. We were in our young 20s and not even counting the tremendous amount of student loans we carried, we had $18,000 in consumer debt, to start off our new marriage and as new parents. We had four credit cards, we had store cards, we had two automobile loans. We had a loan for the jewelry I bought to get married. We had a loan from family. I used to joke that we were collecting loans, we had one of everything except for a mortgage. And guess what we were house shopping. It was the most hectic time in our life. I just started a new business, I was working 80 hours a week. Courtney had just graduated college. She was starting a classroom as a new teacher. I mean there couldn’t have been a more hectic time in our life. And we were shopping for a mortgage. This didn’t make sense.
And as I stepped back and was given that clarity that night from bringing Milligan home, I saw it was because that was the next item on the script that we’re living our life by, and it wasn’t a script that we chose, it was a script that chose us. It chose us because we were unwilling to answer this question for ourselves. If you’re not willing to answer this question in your life, there is somebody, a company, a person, the government, an entity that will be more than happy to answer this question for you. And you wake up one day and realize that you’re living life just based on a script. It goes a little something like this and see if you guys can relate like an elementary and middle school we’re taught how to be taught. Right, we learn how to learn better. But we go on and we go to high school when grades start to matter. And if you get good grades through high school, you get to have the privilege of going tens of thousands of dollars in debt to go to college.
In college you do a lot of stuff, and at the end of college, hopefully you get this degree, this piece of paper and with that comes the promise of job security, of a steady decent paying job. After that, with that job you can get an apartment and fill it with stuff. And if you weren’t able to attract a mate in college, you surely can now with your apartment full of stuff. Two to three years later, you may have some kids, you may get a promotion, upgrade to a house and you continue this cycle for the next 30 to 40 years of your life until you reach the promised land: retirement when all your hard work pays off.
Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with this script unless you don’t want it. And we recognize that that kitchen table that we were living life based on this default script and we did not want it. So we said: what do we want? That took some time to explore but we figured out that we wanted a clean slate. We wanted to wipe away all the crap that was in our life, that was in our apartment. All this acquisition of the next thing, the next new version. We wanted to just wipe it all away. So we were going to sell all of our stuff down to two backpacks what we can carry with us. We were going to pay off the $18,000 in consumer debt, that represented our most irresponsible spending. And we were going to spend the year back in Australia as a young family. That was our passionate goal that we set.