In 100 Years All New People

Try not to worry about the little things beyond your control, because in 100 years, who knows? There will be all new people and those little things might not even matter anymore.

I just finished reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. It tries to tackle a gigantic question. How did homo sapiens evolve from an unexceptional savannah-dwelling primate to become the dominant force on the planet? Even more to the point, how did we do end up the lone survivor out of six distinct competing human species?

I’m not used to conceptualizing humans as six different species. Sure, there’s different species of bears (grizzly, black, brown, polar, etc.), but humans? There’s only one. We’re everywhere. Can’t you tell?

Of course that wasn’t always the case. As recently as 40,000 years ago, homo sapiens (translation: wise humans) coexisted with Neanderthals. 40,000 years is a drop in the bucket when you put time into perspective. In addition to the Neanderthals, there were other human species like homo erectus and homo abilis. All of these different species of humans co-existed on the planet, just like the different bears in our world today. While the other humans are gone (did we kill them?), it wasn’t really that long ago that they left.

When you think of it that way, you start to see the world in perspective. Consider the following fact: we’re not even the most successful human species. Homo erectus existed on the planet for over one million years (possibly two million). Meanwhile, homo sapiens have only been around for about 200,000 years. We need at least another 800,000 years to even equal them. How confident are you that we’ve got another 800,000 years in us?

The reality is that we are small specks of sand in the river of time. Homo sapiens could be wiped off the planet and it’s not clear that we’d even garner a memorable chapter in the history of the universe. It’s truly humbling and astonishing. Everything about the world appears to be permanent. It’s hard not to assume that this is the way people have always lived, yet even 100 years ago women couldn’t vote.

Reading Sapiens reminded me of a favorite lesson from Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff: In 100 Years, All New People. No matter how large or small the problems you face today, the truth is that in 100 years (a flash!) there will be an entire new set of humans on the planet. And this is true every 100 years. Same Earth. All new people.

When you think about life from the perspective of the history of humans or even the perspective of a single human lifetime, you realize that whatever you’re currently struggling with is not important in the grand scheme of things. With that thought, you can learn to let go of the small stuff by giving your problem its proper weight.

In 100 years, all new people.

This idea easily carries over into our investment and financial lives. Obsessively checking your investments or loan balance is a futile effort that can easily cause you to focus negative energy in a nonproductive way. Will anyone really care in 100 years if you had $1 million or $800,000 on January 1, 2017? Probably not.

Yet a lot of retirement and investment planning is focused on figuring out your “number”. There’s whole marketing campaigns and endless internet calculators that can help you figure out the “number” you need to retire. I can’t help but think this energy is misplaced.

It’s not the balance that matters; it’s the lifestyle you can achieve with the balance.

The number itself is immaterial. It’s also easy to calculate. Just take your annual expenses and multiply them by 25.

People can go broke making $1 million a year or be truly happy living on a $300,000 nest egg.

Figuring out the lifestyle you want to live – and how to achieve it – is way more challenging than simply coming up with a number. Ask any first year associate starting a new job at 29 years old after decades of education. Knowing what you want is not easy and can’t be taught. You have to learn that yourself.

So how can you learn? You probably already know what to do.

Figure out what makes you happy. Limit consumption to only those things. That doesn’t necessarily mean spending less (this isn’t a frugality blog!), but it does mean examining your purchases to make sure the money is being spent productively. I’m calling it Conscious Consumption for lack of a better phrase. It means buying quality items that bring you happiness over supposedly “cheap” items that you hate and need to be replaced frequently.

It means saving and investing the difference, not because you’re trying to achieve a number, but because you’re satisfied that what you have is Enough. The benefit of being financially independent will come in time, almost as an after thought. And from there, financial independence will allow you to design a lifestyle that fits you.

Because, remember, in 100 years, it’s all new people.

I highly recommend that you check out both Sapiens and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff from your local library.

Editor’s Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means I get paid a tiny amount of money if you choose to click through one of my links. If you do, thank you. I greatly appreciate it even if it only adds up to a couple of bucks. If you don’t, no sweat. It’s more important that you learn about finance. See my disclosure policy to learn about how I’m working to be transparent to my readers on any conflict of interest.

Joshua Holt is a former private equity M&A lawyer and the creator of Biglaw Investor. Josh couldn’t find a place where lawyers were talking about money, so he created it himself. He spends 10 minutes a month on Empower keeping track of his money and is currently looking for additional lenders to add to Biglaw Investor’s JD Mortgage service which connects readers with lenders offering special mortgages for high-income professionals.

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    Six thoughts on In 100 Years All New People

    1. Great perspective on things. I feel like this is one the things that’s important in being successful in life, just keeping that perspective. A lot of us stay in our little realm of people and it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. I know as a young lawyer, it’s easy to fall into that comparison game with other lawyers. But keep that perspective. The world’s a lot bigger than just the people in the offices around you.

      1. Keeping perspective is key. When you think about the history of the Earth and your place in it – frankly it can be a little scary – but it sure has a heck of a way of making you realize checking the market every 2 hours isn’t a good idea. Humans are just bad at understanding long time periods. We weren’t built that way.

    2. I am definitely a big fan of conscious consumption. I feel like it’s a huge waste if I am spending money on things that don’t align with my values. I really enjoyed reading the article and I will definitely need to check out the book. Thanks for sharing!!!

    3. Well you definitely succeeded in getting me interested in the book. The perspective that it’s all small stuff is so important as it erases so much stress from your life. It also relieves barriers. The stress and fear of failure causes so many people to not even try. And yet for what? No one will remember your failures in 100 years. Likely no one will remember them except you even 1 year from now.

      1. Exactly right! I’m not immune from this, but it’s kind of obvious once you sit down and think about it. Sapiens is a great read. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I still haven’t gotten over the fact that homo erectus existed for 1-2 million years and that we’ve only been around for 200,000 years. It’s just so humbling.

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