What is the correlation between money and happiness, if any?
Let’s clear up the air first and foremost, I am not, nor ever have been monetarily rich by American standards. I make the distinction between rich and monetarily rich for an important reason. Riches, wealth, whatever you want to call it are extremely subjective. The patient in the asylum who believes she is the queen of England is far more wealthy than the millionaire who sleeps three fitful hours a night and is heavily leveraged in stocks.
For the sake of this wordsplosion, I am going to assume that we’re talking about monetary riches. How important to your life satisfaction is having progressively larger numbers appear in your bank account as time moves on? I suppose the elephant in the room is asking exactly what you are sacrificing to increase those numbers.
I am not one to say that having vast sums of money makes you a good person or inherently moral. For every entrepreneur who has bootstrapped a solution that helped millions there is a fat crony and politician who extorted millions. Unfortunately, the two get conflated all too often, but that is not for us to discuss this time around.
There is certainly a cult of money worship the world over and it’s nothing new. Those who had the money ruled those without. Often without as much oppression as our Hollywood movies depict. It’s as old as pharaohs, Nebuchadnezzar, and the Medici’s. Historically, people are generally ready and willing to defer their own judgment to a rich ruling class. Perhaps we tend to view rich people as competent and more qualified than ourselves to solve complex problems. After all, they are rich and we are not, despite the ubiquitous desire to be so.
Of course, wealth distribution in the past was more on the crony side and less on the entrepreneur side. One of the most ancient rules of power is to never outshine the master, causing enterprising individuals to either be branded heretics or keep their mouths shut. Not that that happens at all these days…Anyways! Since the 17th-18th century, the government cronies of the world have faced constant revolution in their power game and concentration of wealth.
It’s hard to say exactly what unleashed the explosion of collectively repressed ideas and freedom the world over, but I think it was technology. Whether it was Gutenberg’s widely available printing press or the rediscovery of money lending leading to double entry accounting, the Renaissance happened and the world was never the same. Family’s such as the Medici began to concentrate wealth and people were happy to pledge fealty to them as they themselves became middle class from servicing the desires of the rich. Goldsmithing, painting, architecture, mathematicians, notaries, you name it, all arose to handle the requests of the rich on their own initiative (and unfortunately lineage at first). Still, there was now competition to get a contract which led to innovation. Let the cycle repeat and now here we are pocket computers and Bluetooth shoelaces.
Now, you’re thinking, “uhh, weren’t we talking about me being rich and my personal happiness?” Yes, you’re not wrong, but I had to lay some ground work for my own thoughts to jelly out.
Does money make you happy? The short answer is, no.
Having a purpose is what creates happiness. And also, not being hungry, covered in filth, cold, and lonely. But if you do things right, those should solve themselves.
It always comes back to purpose. What makes you come alive?
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
So long as you are not an insane megalomanical asshat, bent on world destruction, following your desires will benefit others. Don’t get me wrong, we all have our days, but in general, helping yourself can only help others. This is why petty jealousy is so unfounded at the core. We can only succeed when others around us succeed.
It is foolish to wish misfortune upon others as we are only ensuring it for ourselves. Just because Steve Jobs made billions doesn’t mean I lost money, quite the opposite in fact. If the barista down the corner makes $200 in tips today, she will use it to better her life by following her purpose which means exchanging with others who’s lives are then bettered. It’s a beautiful system once fully grokked.
Still, it all comes back to having a purpose. I find that the people who are often the loudest antagonists to wealth have no clear life purpose. They wander from job to job, all the while letting life happen to them, and not really having the time to think about others or what they can do for them. How do I know this? Because that was me.
I will never forget how low I felt when I checked my number account balance one time and read “$0.36 cents.” I felt like a real depressed turd which in turn made me more self-absorbed which created a spiral of darkness. It’s hard to get your head out of your ass once it’s firmly set. I wasn’t a mean or evil person and I wasn’t afraid of hard work. I was a jealous person caught without a purpose.
Here’s the thing about purpose, it doesn’t have to be correct and final. Purposes change, what’s important is having one. Even if it seems selfish, it inherently can’t be. Unless it’s murder, arson, or some other heinous power trip. But that’s not you right? Right?! Good…
Once you have a purpose, you start to collaborate with others to make it so. This often turns into a job, whether employed by others or yourself, and inevitably you are compensated for your job. Your compensation is lower the less people you help. Selling sandwiches to 300 people a day seems like a lot of help, and it is, but selling software to 10 million people that repeatedly solves their problems, makes your work more valuable in our society. I think most anyone can do either job, but most don’t make software sales their purpose. Nor should it be. You should do what makes you come alive and I guarantee you will be compensated.
However, if you do desire a boat and a mansion, but really like making sandwiches, you have to choose which is really your purpose. Or find a way to make sandwiches make you millions, of which there are plenty of people who have. I know one personally.
There are countless ways to make money and buy what comes with it. If that’s your purpose, be a lawyer or a doctor and don’t complain that you hate your job because, your real purpose was the money all along. Which is fine, but kind of boring in my opinion. I tend to lean towards problem solvers and creative types. They always keep me guessing and improving my own purpose.
Money will most certainly not make you happy if it is not your sole purpose, which I think if we’re honest with ourselves, it rarely is. Being dead broke and bitter usually means that you either don’t have a purpose or have been avoiding it. There are countless wealthy, unhappy people, so, no, large numbers in an account don’t correlate to happiness. Then again there are many more poor people who are unhappy, so there is a correlation but not a causation. Happiness is not based in wealth, but purpose.
Money just so happens to follow purpose, so go and get you some.