To which I say: “Bah humbug!” Different strokes for different folks. According to my favorite theory in the world, the MBTI, a person’s highest values is a function of the personality type.

They are

  • Rationals: Competence and autonomy
  • Idealists: Principles and relationships
  • Guardians: Status and security
  • Artisans: Spontaneous fun and experiences

Since guardians and artisans comprise 70% of the population, popular advice is aimed in their direction: “You should get your finances in order”, “You should go to college”, “Travel more”, “Spend your twenties having fun!”

There’s also an ongoing meme war between those two factions: “You should value experience over stuff”.

I see my share of them: “I can’t imagine a retirement without traveling”, “Life is meaningless without a job [title]“, “I don’t feel safe retiring with less than 15 million dollars(*).”

(*) Seriously, I’ve seen people give numbers like that.

And then there are a lot of people just parroting this advice, thinking that life is only about either stuff or experiences, not so much relationships, principles, independence, or competence.

Wouldn’t it be fun if the conversation was dominated by Rationals and Idealists instead?

“You should value autonomy over relationships”, “Principles are more important than competence”, “I’d rather be evil than incompetent”. I can just imagine how confusing this would be if the zeitgeist changed overnight and started focusing on those issues instead.

Look, you gotta do what you gotta do according to who you are—not according to who someone else is. Discussing whether you can’t fathom a retirement that complete ignores what you find the most precious whether that’s adding to your skills, building deeper relationships, or traveling to faraway destination, is irrelevant.

What we do need to get away from is the consumerism/race aspect of all four of those:

When artisans try to one-up each other with the number of exotic destinations they have visited, when guardians one-up each other with the size of their lawns and fine awards they’ve collected, when idealists one-up each other by how authentic and personally evolved they are or how many people they’ve connected with, when rationals one-up each other with how smart they are and all the things they’re better at.

This is too common but it’s a natural competitive pecking order impulse.

The focus must be shifted. “You should value experiences over stuff” should NOT be read as “experiences are better than stuff”. Instead see it as an artisan protest over a guardian dominated culture which talks incessantly about stuff. This is similar to how this entire blog is a protest on the careerism values of the Guardians.

If one or two personality types weren’t so dominating such protests would be unnecessary.