Permission denied: 10 Items I forsake myself… and 2 I never avoid

What are the items I am not allowing myself to buy?

This is a question that’s difficult to answer for me, because… well, because I am not buying myself much to begin with.

There used to be a time though when I would. I bought stuff because I thought acquiring something would solve a problem that I had. Or make me more creative.

But it’s not true. If we shift our focus away from acquiring items to fill some emptiness – towards solving the problem that created the emptiness in the first place – we can become happy, because we solve our problems for good.

Permission Denied iPhone

No new iPhones for me…

#1 – The newest iPhone with contract.

I never saw the need for having all kinds of fancy gadgets.

I would never stand in line in front of an Apple store just to buy the newest ‘big thing’. To me, that’s pure consumerism.

We are not ‘setting a trend’, because by the time the lines revolve around the block for the release date of a new item of technology, we are merely following the company’s advertising campaign extremely well.

In addition, first generation devices can still harbor a number of bugs that need to be ironed out. Therefore, it makes sense to wait until the waves from the first release have smoothened a bit.

It would be cool to have something that looks and smells new – and when it comes to design, Apple does a great job indeed – but is there a substantial improvement over the device preceding the new one? I don’t think so.

Then again, I am old school and remember the days when we scheduled a meetup for a certain time at a certain location and did not have any phones or Social Media to confirm or change plans – and we still found each other!

I even believe that the capability of navigating this world without fancy gadgets is essential to understanding what is important to us.

Sure, social media have opened new ways of storytelling – yet, to be able to tell a story we must know how to observe our surrounding. To do that, we must step out of the Social Media bubble we are in. If we do not, we will only learn to consume the stories that are told to us.

#2 – Watching sports

Permission Denied Baseball
Those summer evening are best enjoyed live

I used to have a subscription to Major League Baseball on my computer.

I wanted to learn baseball, and so I spent 2 – 3 seasons watching several games. I enjoyed being able to watch the strike zone up close and personal and admired how some pitchers threw the ball with 99 mph and pinpoint precision.

And through watching, I learnt the difference between strikes and balls, why some players are intentionally walked and that there are teams who use the speed of their players to their advantage, manufacturing runs, while other teams seemed to “wait” for two home runs to decide their games.

However, this was time-consuming like hell. One baseball game lasts about 3 – 4 hours, and there are 162 games each season, not counting spring training and the playoffs.

And the most important point: you can’t change anything! Whether you watch the game or not, you have no influence on the outcome of a game.

Therefore, while I still love baseball, I stopped watching it regularly. And I certainly won’t buy a subscription to stream the season onto my computer for more than $100.

There are lots of amateur leagues and groups playing all kinds of sports – just check in your city.

#3 – Going to the opera

Permission Denied Götterdämmerung

For a while in the past, I regularly visited the Metropolitan Opera in New York, then I was more invested in my work and I stopped going – I also had seen all the big operas I wanted to see at least once.

In addition, the Metropolitan Opera had a subscription player that would allow you to watch most of their productions on your computer for a yearly fee of $162 or so.

Tickets for one evening were around $40 per seat, so the online player would make sense when you saw at least four operas.

And that I did.

Yet, I feel that since I have lacked something since I stopped going. I need music around me. It’s always on my mind.

Therefore, going to the opera live at least once a month seems a good thing to take up again. For me, following the opera live is an investment in several areas:

  • Getting to know new people – chosing a group on and make new connections.
  • Researching the meaning of the music you are experiencing beforehand and the history of the composer, orchestra etc.
  • Enjoyment! Music is fun.

These suggestions still hold true if you join any other live music event!

#4 – Sweets and snacks.

This has one very practical reason.

I am on a low-carb diet, so I don’t want to screw it up by eating sugary treats – outside my cheat days.

But even if you are not restricting your diet, think twice before buying snacks – you could bake yourself some cookies or avoid eating them altogether when you are merley bored. I have introduced a couple of recipes before.

#5 – Elaborate mastermind groups and seminars.

Don’t get me wrong, coaching seminars and webinars are a great tool to gain more knowledge.

What they are not is a substitute for action.

Yet my impression is that this is how most of the self-help industry works. People want to learn how to build up their business or become better at dating, so they take a weekend boot camp or “business breakthrough” seminar.

On that seminar, the sky is the limit!

They see initial results on that weekend and a couple of days after it, because they are pumped up. Then reality sets in and brings a lot of hard work with very few results, as always when you learn something new.

Luckily, there is another seminar waiting to further improve your skills!

And people shell out a lot of money again, hoping that this time they will really crush it.

And the weekend is amazing, yet a few months later, they are back at square one. I know because I have been guilty of that too in the past.

You don’t improve as much, you are not keeping up a systematic learning habit, and then at one point, it becomes attractive to think about a “clean restart” rather than dealing with your problems directly.

But I believe you have to directly tackle your problems. Coaches can push you back on track, but if you are not proceeding on the track yourself, any seminar will be wasted.

That is the reason why I won’t spend a lot of money to visit business or self-improvement seminars.

#6 – Advertisements

From time to time I am thinking whether I should increase the reach of this blog with paid ads.

For example, Facebook has a great way to target any specific type of customer, so we’d gain new visitors and/or subscribers that I would not have been able to reach yet.

On the other hand, is not a commercial niche site that exists to sell a specific set of products. I want to grow my audience – that is YOU! – organically by providing help and inspiration.

I believe getting into contact with you and incorporating the feedback you are giving me is a great way to do that.

If a friend talks about a website he is visiting or mentions a blog in one of the discussion boards I am following, I am much more likely to visit and stay on that site than if I click on an ad banner.

#7 – The subscription to a luxury gym.

Joining an expensive gym has its advantages and can even be very motivating.

It looks nicer and has usually more amenities. The fact that you spend more money may even motivate you further.

On the other hand, if you work out in a gym that has only a few basic machines, you can focus much more on the training itself. Simple weight lifting and basic bodyweight exercises are all you need to build your body. In his book “Education of a Bodybuilder”, Arnold Schwarzenegger even advocates doing basic calisthenics for half a year at home before you join a gym!

#8 – A TV.

Not sure whether I really deny myself permission to buy it.

I could have upgraded my old TV and “just” paid $100 – $200/month for a television/internet/phone contract.

But such an entertainment contract would not do anything for me; it would get me hooked up to the silver screen for hours of my life. Just wasted consuming stories that I could have gotten from books.

Since I haven’t owned a TV for years, I feel no desire for it anymore. I can stream or watch Netflix all the time, although I am getting rid of that desire as well.

#9 – Technological gadgets.

Permission Denied Awesom-o
The best robot in the world


There are people who always buy the newest stuff.

They need to have the most recent version on anything. They are collectors, and what they collect is novelty.

Unfortunately sometimes it’s status as well. Whoever has the newest gadget is the new “cool kid” on the block… until the gadget is outdated a few weeks later.

A gadget deprecates in value almost as fast as a new car once you drive it off the seller’s lot.

On the other hand, the initial idea to be up to date is not too bad.

But for me, rather than being a mindlessly triggered consumer who can not wait another month for getting the newest gadgets, it makes sense to jump on new networks and technology that are just coming up.

Because when you are one of the first users on an emerging technology platform, you have maximum influence when the platform grows.

For example, in the beginning of my PhD thesis in Carl-Philipp Heisenberg’s group in Dresden (Germany), the lab was small and just growing. As a result, we had maximum influence on the decisions that led to further growth and development of that lab.

#10 – Foods that are out of season.

While you can theoretically buy grapefruits in summer and peaches in winter, I normally stick to fruit that is available during a specific season. It is cheaper that way, and I do associate certain fruits with a specific time of the year.

For example, oranges are something specific for the winter. Likewise, the time that nectarines and peaches appear on the shelves, I somehow know it’s summer,

What I am NEVER denying myself permission to buy

#1 – Books.

I will never forget what a friend told me once: money spent on books is never wasted.

I always see that as true. If in doubt, I’ll buy the book.

#2 – Inviting someone for food or coffee.

Once again, it is the joy of giving that makes me happy to begin with.

And I also believe that time or money spent on others is never wasted.

Even if the other person proves to be a “bad investment”, you have gotten yourself rid of longer pain down the road!

If you want to check out “Become an Idea Machine”, you can do so here.

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