Be honest with yourself – why do you want to make A LOT of money?
Is it because you want to:
- gain acceptance from peers?
- have total autonomy over your time?
- be more attractive to the opposite sex so you can find your ideal mate?
- have really nice things?
- to travel to really epic places? (so you can post the pictures on instagram!)
- create the biggest impact possible?
- feel like you’re successful? (You’ve made it baby!)
I challenge anyone reading this to take a moment to be 100% honest with themselves and answer this question – why do you want to make a lot of money?
If people without families to support are brutally honest with themselves, BTW sadly few are, and they juxtapose their life with the answers to this question, I think there’s a lot of inefficiency going on here. And by inefficiency I mean wasted life.
Most of the things that people think require a lot of money can actually be achieved by taking a much more direct path [sans mucho dinero]…and the path I’m talking about is often more enjoyable as well as yields more certain results. Oh an P.S. –
“A lot of people spend decades chasing something that someone convinced them they should want without realizing it won’t make them happy” -Derek Sivers
But first…here’s a story:
Guy decides he wants to be a tech entrepreneur. He tells people “he likes building things” because that seems to be a publicly acceptable rationale for building a tech company…but super secretly he just sees starting a tech company as a means to generating an inordinate amount of wealth quickly in a way that’s more enjoyable than playing excel like a keyboard. He never asks himself why he wants a lot of money, but thinks the amount of optionality it will provide him will eventually propel him to happiness.
—fast forward button—
He spends 3 years working 12 hour days on his company (though tells people he’s working 90 hour weeks…12×6 = 72?). The company never hits it big, but they have a soft landing that results in a 500,000k landfall for him if he stays at the company for an additional 2 years.
For that 500k he’ll have put in a total of 5 years on top of his 70k founder’s salary.
The journey was fun, but it was also hard as hell. He’s definitely a better person for it…but is he closer to his end game? (which is happiness BTW)
- He’s locked up for 2 years and since the earnout isn’t enourmous, he doesn’t really have autonomy anytime soon.
- He has less friends because he didn’t really have time to see much of anyone while he was building his company unless they were sporting a MongoDB hoodie.
- He didn’t spend a ton of time dating during that time period and actually got worse with women due to the lack of interaction – “OMG you’re from Texas too!” (psst…no one cares)
- He doesn’t really have nicer things outside a sweet [X Ventures] Northface.
- He’s taken 10 vacation days over the past 3 years (he tells people less than a week though just to seem hard)
- He’s only volunteered twice over the past 3 years because he “never had enough time” while he was building his company. He has however made an impactful difference on display advertisers’ ability to generate a .2% higher clickthrough. Sick!
- His friend in the startup game just sold his company for $38 million. This coupled with his lack of ego diversification (success with friends, women, health etc) make him feel far from successful.
He looks in the mirror and realizes that 3 years later he’s strangely further from happiness than when he started. Crap.
Chasing money is not usually the most efficient or enjoyable route to happiness. So does it make sense to waste our lives doing things we honestly don’t love to make it so we can eventually.…uhh [insert something that will eventually make you happy here]???
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately….and then I read Derek Sivers’ awesome book “Anything You Want” which resoundingly resonated with all my hazy conclusions…
I think a better framework to establish how you spend your time when you’re young if don’t have a family to support (kids or your parents) or enourmous college debt, is to start with the end game of determining what creates enduring happiness in your life for yourself and those you care about.
Specifically, ask yourself:
How would I consistently spend my time if I didn’t have to worry about money ever? Not sure…ask yourself what activities excite and fulfill you? I’m talking about the stuff that raises the hair on your arms and leaves you walking away on your toes with a racing heart.
Then I’d ask:
What areas of my life do I wish were different in the realm of health and relationships? i.e. I want more close friends, a fulfilling relationship with a member of the opposite sex, to be healthier etc
Once you establish these things, then ask yourself how can craft a life which eventually embodies all of these things 85% of the time without a lot of money being involved in the equation. Is there a more direct path to your aspirations that supersedes obtaining massive wealth?
Here is some commentary on what I perceive to be a more direct and guaranteed way to arrive at happiness reviewing the common aspirations people want money for listed above:
How to achieve the things people want a lot of money for…without a lot of money.
Is it because you want to gain acceptance from peers?
- Become a really cool, interesting person whose constantly enjoyable to be around because they live a life they love…not because they have bottle service on the reg or a nice car.
It is because you want total autonomy over your time?
- Find a career that is already what you’d consistently be doing if you had total autonomy or build a small side business that manifests your passion which you can eventually go full time on
Is it because you want to be more attractive to the opposite sex so you can find your ideal mate?
- Work on becoming a really cool, interesting person who embodies attractive qualities. I’m not talking about having a six-pack, I’m talking about becoming someone with strong moral fiber, a zeal for life, and complete comfort in who they are and what they’re all about. Our behavior and personality is malleable if we choose to accept the challenge of shaping it.
Is it because you want really nice things?
- Ok you need money for this…but in my experience this is leads to a hollow, fleeting happiness.
Is it because you want to travel?
- You can travel pretty cheaply in across the world if you’re resourceful. The barrier to entry to traveling for extended periods of time is far lower than you think, especially if you know how to make $$ online. If you have 10k right now you can pack in more travel in the next year than most people will dream of in a lifetime.
Is it because you want to create the biggest impact possible?
- Does this sound familiar? “If I’m super rich, I can create a bigger impact ipso facto I should just focus on starting a huge company right now!” Be real - is this a self-fabricated rationalization to justify action rooted in more selfish desires (it’s okay if it is). The focus of this post is on an efficient path to happiness, not moral high ground. Just know what really motivates you and own it.
- Starting a multi-national company is only one way to achieve impact that a small subset of people can accomplish. Note* take a look at what true impact these people achieve and ask yourself if that’s really the impact you’d find fulfilling – “I created sooo many jobs…and toxic waste!”
- If impact vs. personal gratification is really your desire, you can probably already start guaranteeing impact today through volunteering, creating some type of group or organization, or helping fuel an existing rocket-ship that’s in direct alignment with your passion. For most people*, starting to focus on creating the impact your passionate about today and building upon that will probably yield a greater amount of fulfilling impact over the course of a lifetime than gunning for uncertain success that you hope you will be able to channel toward a mission you’re passionate about “one day”.
Is it because you think it will make you feel like you’re successful? (You’ve made it baby!)
- Money alone is a hollow surrogate for success. This is why you need to redefine how you measure it. Look deeply at what will truly make you feel successful and run towards accomplishing those things and becoming that person. I personally believe “feeling success” is much more about becoming the person you want to be vs. accomplishing specific things. If you become the person you want to be, the accomplishments will follow.
The Purpose of This Post
- The goal of this post is to spark introspection around what makes you happy and why you want money.
- Then to prompt you to ask yourself if you can already achieve those things without an inordinate amount of money…hint – you probably can.
- Then ask yourself if you’re spending your time in the optimal way.
*I do not think your sole intention in life should just to be happy. I think it should be to be a productive member of society by leaving the world and those you interact with better than you found them. Because happiness fosters continuity in our work and life – I do think if you can derive happiness in a productive work life, you’re more likely to achieve an optimal output.
If you’re interested in this type of stuff and by stuff I mean your precious life, I encourage you to come check out the New York Personal Development Meetup. We’ll be posting a new one soon.
As for me, I’m still trying to figure this out. Though I’ve never had a ton of money, I’ve also never been incrementally more happy with a deeper pocket – so this is merely a hypothetical rant. Still, I figured others could potentially benefit from someone else’s perspective by stating what’s going on in my head after calibrating my thoughts with Derek’s book. Long-live authenticity!