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Are you still sitting on your wallet?

When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to get my first wallet. A wallet was a sign that you had come of age; that you had some money on you; that you were someone of substance. Pulling out a wallet, rather than just crumpled banknotes, bestowed status on you.

That wallet, of course, was supposed to be just like your father’s. That was the point: you needed to show you were all grown up. The wallet needed to be made of leather and develop a musty smell over time; it needed to have enough compartments to contain notes, coins, credit cards and even, oh joy, your own business card.

Pulling out that chunky accessory in order to pay a bill or hand over a credit card – now that was something.

But there was a problem. For men, the wallet was designed to fit into the back pocket of your trousers. That’s where the real men carried it. And so, when you sat down somewhere, you actually sat right on your wallet.

I owned a procession of these wallets over the years. They were progressively more expensive and made of ever-finer leather. I sat on them for decades. One fine day a few years ago, I stopped fidgeting on my seat and pulled my wallet out of the back pocket of my jeans to look at it. And realised how stupid I had been for most of life.

Here’s what happens, men, when you place a bulky wallet in your back pocket and then sit on it. You twist your spine to adjust for the bulge on one side. Your back curves sideways. Do that every day for years and years, and you can create all sorts of back problems, even sciatica, for yourself. And if you keep making that wallet ever bulkier by putting receipts, other people’s business cards, etc into it every day…

When I had my ‘omigod’ moment, I took everything out of my wallet and laid it out. And realised how much of that stuff was just superfluous. Lots of cash notes, in today’s mobile-money world? Nope. Just enough to cater for an emergency will do. A whole bunch of credit and debit cards, carried around every day? Unnecessary. Just carry the 2-3 cards you will actually use. ID, medical card? Check. And that’s it. You can easily get by with perhaps five cards in your wallet, and just a few banknotes.

This means what? That your wallet now need not sit at the crazy place next to your butt; and that it can become thin enough to carry in your front trouser pocket; jacket pocket, even your shirt pocket if you want to be minimalist enough. Slim modern wallets do just that.

Business cards? No. Your smartphone can resolve that for you. Even your credit cards will soon be part of your virtual wallet on your phone. There is no need to sit uncomfortably on that rock in your rear pocket. Thank me later.

This should prompt a wider thought: how many other ‘butt-wallets’ do you still carry around in your life? How many other things do you do that may have made sense someday back in your past – but are outmoded, even detrimental, these days?

Often we do things because they are done by our role models; or because they are the norm for the people we know. Few of us are able to have the independence of mind to question what it placed before us or recommended to us. Bizarrely, we can carry on doing things that damage our lives without question.

At school, we impose the teaching methods of a century ago, even though our future world will not reward rote learning or submissive acceptance of old paradigms. In the workplace, we adhere zealously to people-management practices that belong to the era of steam engines.

At home we impose draconian strictness on our offspring, simply because our parents did that to us. Or we propagate senseless superstitions because they were believed by the uneducated influencers of our childhoods. More dangerously, we spread ignorant nonsense about other tribes or cultures, without ever stopping to question whether there is even an iota of truth in our utterances.

Ask yourself frequently: why am I sitting on this thing? Why do I think this behaviour is good? Does this thing I do make any sense in today’s world? Am I teaching my children to succeed in their world, or dragging them back to the world of my past?

(Sunday Nation, 12 May 2019)

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