That seems like a simple question and, if you read this blog, it seems like a simple answer, too. But I don’t think it is. It is not clear to me, even after more than 12 years of writing a blog exclusively about material possessions that stuff makes you happy. Clearing the ground here, let me say that I think that there are lots of conceptions of happiness and lots of folks vastly smarter than me have written about happiness. For Jeremy Bentham happiness is sensory pleasure. For Aristotle there are a bunch of kinds of happiness, but the one that counts, eudiamonia, success or flourishing based on the use of your highest skills is important. But here, instead of falling down the rabbit hole on what IS happiness, I am going to cheap out and say that I am talking about the common, everyday understanding of happiness, the dictionary definition of happiness: a state of well-being or contentment.
So, then, does stuff make you THAT kind of happy? Again, even with a simpler conception of happiness, I am not sure. Marie Kondo will tell you that stuff is a burden, that it takes up too much physical and mental space. And I DEFINITELY agree with that. Too much of our time and too much our space, things are a definitively finite resources, are taken up by things, that, in the end, do not matter all that much. When you are dying on your deathbed, surrounded, hopefully, by doctors, whizzing and wheezing machines, and loved ones, you aren’t going to really care about that “epic mailcall” in September of 2019 when you got two new Spydercos and a Muyshondt Aeon Mk. III all in the same day. In the grand scheme of things we spend too much time and too much money and too much space on stuff that does not change our lives for the better.
But simply because the stuff doesn’t factor into our calculus of a good life in the grand scheme of things doesn’t mean that stuff fails on the happiness metric. A version of this post has been in the works for years and I couldn’t quite nail down what I wanted to say until I saw this video with David Lee and Jay Leno. In case you are unaware or outside the car universe, David Lee is better known as Ferrari Collector. His family came to the United States after the ascension of Communism in China. When they arrived Lee’s father became involved in the jewelry trade. A few decades later David took over the thriving family business and built it into a destination retail store in souther California. Hing Wa Jewelers sells jewelry and high end watches. From that foundation David has built other business and investments and has made himself and his family very wealthy. But this isn’t an aside on enterepuener propaganda that dominates some corners of social media (replete with obnoxious bullshit like “Screw everyone until you make your first billion.”).
David’s spin on his success, instead, is all about sharing the joy that wealth affords him. David has one of the finest Ferrari and car collections in the world and he uses that collection to create a place in social media where he can tell people stories about his cars, himself, his culture, and his path to success. The video above is so great because through his collecting he met Jay Leno and they formed a friendship based on the joy of the automobile. That sharing and that friendship do obviously produce happiness. And it is clear from listening to David Lee talking about his collecting strategies and the thrill of finding a yellow Ferrari F50 that his cars, his stuff, makes him happy too.
For me gear is a lot like cars for David Lee. I am not wealthy and I can’t share the joy of driving an F50 with anyone, but I do get to see a lot of gear and I have a ton of friends in the business. As a result, I feel lucky to write this blog and share stuff with people. And that joy, the joy of sharing, and the friendships that result are a real source of happiness. In case you missed my weekly YouTube post, found here, Nick came to my house and hung out for a few days. We also went on a factory tour of TRM, my second, where we again met the Halperns, who are, to use Nick’s parlance, both true gems. The trip was commemorated with a knife (as all trips should be), the gorgeous full Ti Holy Nerd in the picture above. My friendship with Nick is definitely a source of happiness that even Aristotle could recognize.
But it doesn’t end there. Though I am not in as frequent contact with them as I used to be, I still enjoy chatting with the podcast hosts—Andrew, Andrew, Aaron, and Dan. I have contacted Dan for help with Florida stuff. I still talk to Andrew Gene and revel in his insights and sense of humor. Aaron has helped with advice on business stuff and computers. I swap Christmas cards with Andrew from 555 Gear.
And like in an infomercial, there is more. I have longstanding conversations with readers over Instagram and email. Some have been reading for a decade. I consider quite a few people in the industry to be role models when it comes to creating a business from scratch. Over and over again I think of all the people I have met and I realize that gear is like alcohol (“cause of and solution to all of life’s problems?” kinda)—its social lubricant. It is a conversation starter. In the end, that is the best part of gear. It provides common ground to talk to similar people. And that, it seems to me, is a very good thing and a source of happiness.
Its not about the latest drop or the newest steel. Its not about getting a Zircuti Fat Carbon bling blade after years of waiting. Gear makes me happy because it gets the conversation started. Twelve years into the blog, I still love that conversation. And so, I think, the answer is yes, stuff can make you happy. And if you want a vignette into what that zany weekend looked like, imagine this—my maker-obsessed 7 year old watching Forged in Fire (we love it) sitting next to Nick on my couch bouncing between the two of us asking knife questions. If that doesn’t sound fun, there is something wrong with you.