The Tax on Pain

Why Self-Work Is An Underrated Key to Wealth

“Rich is more a factor of discipline than how much money you make.”

~ Scott Galloway

That quote’s always stuck with me. On of my favorites from Prof G. In his video on wealth creation and management as a part of his “algebra of happiness” series, he argues that someone who makes 60k but only spends 40k on their ranch, groceries, and the occasional vacation, while someone who makes 3 mil but spends all of it across houses, jets, and alimony is poor. I can’t disagree.

Regardless of your income or views on wealth, we all have vices. Next question.

Almost anything can become addictive and detrimental to well-being, and while I argue that some addictions shouldn’t exist (another topic entirely), one thing no one can deny is their impact on our wallets. Very few vices (save pornography and self-harm) are completely free, and 2 years of working through my own shit while living financially independently in New York has shown me just how expensive our copes can be.

When I first moved, I had a lot of trouble adjusting to living by myself in a city still ridden in a pandemic. I could barely cook and had some sort of sweet (mostly insomnia cookies) or pizza nearly every night to fall asleep, spending nearly $100 a week on sugar and dough. Scaled out over a year and that’s almost $5k on numbing loneliness.

After kicking my sweet tooth, I turned my attention to my physical health. I’ve had lifelong muscle imbalances as a result of my childhood fight or flight (sleep related) and scoliosis that makes walking uncomfortable, not to mention running, lifting, or playing ball. At the time, I thought this discomfort was because I’d been exercising wrong my entire life, so I joined the nicest gym in my area and hired a personal trainer. Over the next three months I spent $3000 on a membership and lessons and didn’t improve a single thing. If anything, all the heavy squats and deadlifts I did reinforced my imbalances and put me in more pain. If I kept that up I’d push $10,000 in a year on a Band-Aid.

After stopping exercise altogether (which had slowly been becoming compulsive and not productive) for a few months in February to really focus on my mental health, I honed in on my porn addiction and realized it was a form of shame-inducing self-harm carried over from a childhood trauma response. To prove to myself how serious I was about beating it, I spent $4500 on a neuroscience-based recovery program and started attending sex addicts anonymous. Imagine if I fell in love with an OnlyFans girl. I’d be flat broke.

On top that all, my tonsil surgery cost me $2.5k and I spent $1000 plus in therapy in the year I attended before stopping 6 weeks ago. I also took a $1000 5-day vacation by myself to Florida last summer (by far the most miserable experience of my life) thinking I needed a break from New York.

Despite living quite cheaply by New York City standards (I barely drink, take Ubers, eat out much, or buy nice things that often), I’m still nearly $10,000 deep on emotional salves since I moved. That’s probably enough to feed a family for six months. Fucking blows my mind.

I know I’m not alone with this either.

  • I’ve heard stories of guys dropping $500 on a table and bottle service at a club in one night to impress some girls.
  • Girls who need Louis bags and Prada shoes, spending their entire weekend spending $500+ shopping on Fifth Avenue or in West Village.
  • Serial travelers who can’t seem to sit still or enjoy where they are, spending thousands on vacations every few months.
  • People who refuse to be a normal person and take the subway (even during safe hours) and spend hundreds a week on Ubers.
  • Add this on top of already ridiculous rent prices and it’s clear why in order to live in New York, you need to make a lot of money.

Funny enough, journaling is free, meditating is free, feeling is free.

In the end, they can often remove the need to spend money on things that are bandaids and prevent you from needing to work so damn hard to afford your crutches. It’s a lot easier to live simply once you prove to yourself that you can flourish with less because you don’t need as many external things to fulfill you.

So try it — if not for your soul, for your wallet.



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Carter Owen

Carter Owen

Aspiring author and humble observer of human behavior writing from NYC — sharing my journey and what I’m learning along the way. Think more, feel better.