10 Things Being Broke in My 20s Taught Me

10 Things Being Broke in My 20s Taught Me
Sebastian Dillon
By Sebastian Dillon
November 10, 2014
I believe everyone needs to experience a point in their lives where they have no money. It really brings profound changes in your life and teaches you important lessons you can’t learn anywhere else. Coming from humble beginnings myself, here are 10 important lessons I’ve learned from my time being one broke bastard.

Who’s worth your time

As you reach the top, you’ll find that more and more people want to be your friend and be associated with you in some way. When you’re at rock bottom, no one wants anything to do with you unless you’re useful or beneficial to them in some way — except for those who truly love you and value you as a person. You’ll discover that the ones who stick by your side when you can do no good for them are the ones worth keeping around in your life forever.

People are wasteful

When you have too much of something, you value it less. One common occurrence I find with most rich people I know, regardless of their upbringing, is that they all don’t seem to like taking home food when there are leftovers after eating out. It’s the complete opposite when it comes to who you might call my “less financially able” friends, who will sometimes even take other people’s leftovers to make a full meal the next day. With that notion in mind, you can imagine how wasteful people can naturally get with everything in their daily lives when they start making money.


No matter how unrealistic it is, everyone loves to believe in the idea of “overnight success.” Being on the bottom makes you understand that it takes a lot of time, effort and failure in order to finally see some glimmer of success. The only problem is, so many people can’t internalize this fact, which is why not everyone sees success.

You ain’t shit

Confidence is great, but confidence with nothing to back it up is purely a facade you set up for yourself to make you feel better. Being broke teaches that you won’t be of value to the world unless you create that value yourself —  once you build it, you treasure it so much more because of all the work you put in. One of the toughest things to do when you’re at the top is to stay grounded and have a good sense of humility, but you can never truly understand this unless you’ve suffered the challenges of starting from the bottom.

You’re overpaying for everything

It’s a fact of reality — if people can upsell you, they’ll for sure do it. For places where people have higher income, everything will be more expensive. For places where people have lower income, things are cheaper — this is basic economics. Even if you have money and you know this, you’ll still pay more for everything out of sheer convenience, but you’ll probably never learn this unless you’ve been broke and see that you can actually get a lot of daily necessities for super cheap or even free (i.e dollar store and free condoms at a school clinic)!

You can’t do it alone

No matter who you are, you need quality people around you in order to be successful. Everyone that’s been successful to date hasn’t been alone in their success. Steve Jobs had a loyal team during Apple’s early days, and even when he hit rock bottom after getting forced out of his company to start NeXT, he had six other Apple employees that left with him because they supported what he believed in. Being broke teaches you that you can’t have an ego if you want success — if you want to reach the top, you’ll need other people to make the climb with you.

Life isn’t fair

Some people are born with money and some people are born fearing every day of their lives. This is a truth that we all have to live with. However, even though we can’t pick the cards dealt to us, we have full control of how we can use that hand to the best of our advantage. After all, you don’t need great cards to win in poker, and you sure as hell don’t need to have a great beginning in order to win in life.

Everyone is a slave to money

Money is the easiest (if not the ONLY) solution to everything for most people. You need it to pay your bills, you need it to eat, travel, etc. You’ll recognize when you’re broke that everything most people do in their daily lives is because of money. They scramble out of bed in the morning to bust their ass at work in order to pay for a place they can scramble out of bed in the morning from to go to work. Everything and everyone has a price. The reason why people love money is the fact that you can tell people to “f*ck off” when you’re asked to do something. Money isn’t happiness, but it sure as hell is freedom.

How to use your brain

When you have money, it’s easy to just use it in order to solve everyday problems, however, this can be dangerous in the long run because you don’t allow your mind to think creatively. Being broke allows you to open your mind and think of better solutions aside from just money. In a 2013 talk at Stanford University, Jack Ma explained:

“A lot of entrepreneurs didn’t make it not because they don’t have money, but because they had too much money. Because when you try to solve problems with money, that is when your real problems start. I believe that money could not solve all problems. Money is just an important tactic in problem solving. So, when people say, ‘I have money, so I can do this.’ That is the start of their failure.”

You don’t need money in order to be happy

While changing my money situation wasn’t within my control when I was broke, I realized one important thing I had control over: my emotions. Whether I chose to feel happy or not every day when I woke up was entirely up to me. That’s something no lack of money can ever take away from someone. At the end of the day, I was grateful for my loyal friends and family around me and the fact that I had a shot at life to make the whole thing count.
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