Something Sebastian Marshall said to me a long while back has really stuck with me: sleep on concrete.
Anyone who has travelled a lot has literally done this at least once. Baggage handlers go on strike and the airport shuts down? Sleep on the nice, concrete floor (if you’re lucky). Your flight is delayed and you miss the only flight of the day out? Sleep on concrete. Your bus, or cab, or friend, or whatever never shows up in some random connecting junction? Sleep on concrete. It sucks a little, you’ll definitely be sore the next day, but it’s not that bad.
Most people are used to sleeping in proper beds with proper linens and proper pillows. If you yanked these people out of their beds and forced them to sleep on concrete, they’d be pissed. Really, just the thought of the possibility of losing their comfortable bed keeps some people awake at night. Sadly, it’s usually the people with the least to lose, the ones with the cot mattress and the threadbare sheets, that are most afraid of losing it.
For this reason, Seneca, whose wealth rivaled just about anyone but Nero, the emperor he advised, set aside at least one day each month to practice poverty. He would dress in rags, abandon his estate, and live in the street. All as a reminder to himself: “Is this what I used to dread?” Seneca realized that comfort was the worst form of slavery, since the comfortable are always afraid that it will be taken away.
Of course the point isn’t about sleeping on concrete. It’s about recognizing what you really need. Once you realize that you can handle sleeping on concrete, literally or figuratively, a lot of opportunities open up. The less you need, the more risks you can take, which means you can afford to go after the bigger rewards.
The trouble is, it’s pretty hard recognize what you need until you go without it. All the hypothetical reasoning in the world doesn’t compare to actually having to sleep on concrete.