I just spent a week with family – mostly my sister’s boys and their wives and kids.

I was sitting in my sister’s living room, watching the grandnieces and grandnephew play (ages 2, 4, and 6) with rambunctious glee… and I realized that all the adults were reading books.

No TV blaring. No radio jangling.

In fact, we’d just finished playing some guitars together and having an intense discussion about world affairs. You know… like really intelligent people enjoy doing.

Not everyone was reading great literature, of course. There were volumes of happy trash being devoured, along with some really good stuff. But I was kinda stunned, just the same.

This was a room full of very educated people. Three are teachers, one is a school shrink, another runs a program for troubled youth. All were involved with written stories. All deeply involved, too.

No one wanted to talk about marketing B.S. Or ways to get rich. Or systems to get ahead. These were family-oriented people, content with doing their jobs well and living their lives as fully as possible within their means.

I felt a little… humbled.

I don’t apologize for my entrepreneurial DNA. Unlike most of the rest of my family, I chafed at authority, and desperately needed to find my own path.

However, as I hang out with more and more of the elite “winners” in the online marketing world… I am becoming acutely aware of how little I am driven by the desire for money.

Not that there’s anything wrong with making money. But throughout my career, I’ve felt out of place among the guys for whom business success was the ONLY thing that mattered.

I honestly do not “get” people who need piles of cash to justify their existence. And I am often offended by gratuitous displays of wealth. The path I took veered away from the glistening skyline of power and fame that most of my colleagues were attracted to.

I like having lots of dough, don’t get me wrong. But long ago, I figured out what “enough” was, and I’ve not sacrificed my other lifelong interests to build my pile bigger than my humble little self can handle.

We used to call it “F*** You Money,” to be honest.

True independence comes when you are no longer desperate for whatever your current client is offering you. You can walk away and not worry about the consequences if he turns out to be an ass. Or if the deal seems squirrelly.

You don’t need his money… because you’ve got enough stashed away.

It’s a stash you put aside and never touch unless you absolutely need to. If you die without ever dipping into it, you’ve won.

The psychological juice behind knowing you don’t “need” anyone’s money is staggering.

The size of your FYM stash, of course, is dependent on what you feel you “need” – in cold, hard, liquid cash – to be confident you’ve got enough to tide you over until circumstances change.

For me, it’s not a huge amount. Enough moolah to survive for a year or so with no other income. Being frugal, I could stretch it out for much longer. And still have fun, and still indulge in things I love.

But the key thing is… it’s your support system. It’s not an investment.

However… once you get a taste of business success, it’s easy to be lured into living each day FOR that business. You put off other pursuits, you start to obsess on projects, you become… boring.

You’ve suddenly got 20 times your basic FYM, and yet still get up each day focused on bringing in more.

I’ve been lucky. I don’t need lots of money to have a great time. So much of life’s best adventures are actually dirt-cheap.

I’m seeing a group of old college buddies this weekend, for example. None are “successful,” according to any measure a businessman would use. And yet, all are happy. All are good friends, and I cherish the time we get to spend together.

They don’t envy my success. And they don’t treat me differently. (To them, I’m still the nutcase I was 30 years ago at the university. And I embrace that character with gusto.)

All this gets me thinking about what “true” wealth is.

Being broke sucks. No getting around that. But somewhere between being broke and being stupid-rich, with 12 cars and three homes and more boats than you can count… is a sweet spot where many people live in near-bliss. Minus the expensive toys.

I think, by now, you know what I’m getting at.

It’s sappy, yes. It’s all about love and living well with what you have.

Ambition can be a curse. I’m very lucky to be ambitious… but also to be lazily moderate about pursuing what I want. I’ve done most of what I set out to do at this point in life. The goals remaining on my master-list are good ones, and I hope I’m around for another half-century to knock them off, too.

But, more urgently, I am reminded of how amazingly “rich” my family and friends are who sink their teeth into life without driving ambitions.

Sometimes, playing with your grandniece on the old swing set at the park is enough wealth to last an eternity.

There’s been a big shake-up in the economy. As with any shake-up, there are lots of opportunities to profit. If you have ambitions, this could be your year to break out. When you do, though… keep a little Zen awareness in your brain about what truly counts in life.

You can’t take your FYM with you when you die. But you can’t tell me that the love you generate and receive doesn’t travel to the Other Side.

[Ed. Note: John Carlton is an expert copywriter, a pioneer in online marketing, and a teacher of killer sales copy. He knows marketing inside and out. Discover how to get your hands on the kick-ass secrets of the world’s smartest, happiest, and wealthiest marketers.]

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John Carlton

John Carlton slyly refers to himself as "the most ripped-off copywriter on the Web", and almost no one on the inside of the online entrepreneurial world disagrees. His sales copy has been stalked for decades by many of the best marketers both online and offline… and they freely admit using John's ads as templates for their own breakthrough pitches.

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