Ownership - 40 Things I've Learnt in 40 Years

Ownership - 40 Things I've Learnt in 40 Years

It's amusing to watch kids even in pre-school fight over toys crying, "It's mine, it's mine!" tugging at whatever toy both got their attention and their right of ownership. Due to some very interesting socialization process, we teach kids a sense of ownership. It's my toy; my bed; my mummy; my whatever it is. As adults, we extend that to people as well.

I am - as you might imagine - very much into the finer things in life. I've always been. I've always been about exclusivity and being unique. Even as a boy, my mother always knew to get me something that was different from whatever she got for my brothers. It had to be mine - I wouldn't be caught dead in anything that could be mistaken for someone else's!

But a strange thing happened to me as I grew up. Years ago, I woke up one day to find that my car had been broken into in the driveway of my house. The stereo was taken and some other bits and bobs that I can't remember. I felt violated and angry, and also, very vulnerable. Reflecting on the events of the day and my emotions in response, I realized that these things taken away from me were just stuff. Yes, I was upset and feeling vulnerable, but it was because someone else had taken my stuff. Although the gaping hole where my car stereo had been ripped out reminded me of the atrocious act (yes, I'm being dramatic!), I made my peace when I disconnected myself from my ownership of the physical object. I had to let go.

My friend Ken Goldstein puts it very well in his new book "The Way of The Nerd": "Ownership attaches an emotion and an expectation. Expectation leads to conflict in most every situation".

We consider our romantic partners as 'ours' and so a breakup is so much more painful not because of the fact that we loved (and probably still love) them, but because we feel they had no right to take away what we considered ours. And this is amplified if a third party was involved. We cannot claim ownership of the people in our life.

A thought that brings the concept of ownership sharply into focus is that we cannot lose something we do not own. But even more importantly, no one will steal something you do not own. It's like a reverse self-fulfilling prophecy: if you don't own it, no one will steal it. Isn't that freeing? For me, it makes me sleep easier at night without fearing that my stuff will be taken. The stuff is replaceable. For the stuff I paid for, I paid for the use of it while I'm here. I came into this world kicking and screaming and with absolutely nothing - not even the clothes on my back. And I will leave without any of it as well.

I like my fine stuff. But I own none of it.