10 Apr The Pursuit Of Happiness: Is Your Ideal Pinnacle of Wealth Defining Your Path?
A few weeks ago a very odd thing happened at this party. A billionaire entered the room and all real conversations ceased. Everyone’s energy instantly focused on the man who is revered as a tech celebrity because he had built a very, very successful corporation. People gawked. To the chagrin of his bodyguard, some tried to get close. Perhaps they believed his riches would somehow cause a gold coin to appear magically in their own pocket.
Money is a powerful life tool, but not the end all, be all. Unfortunately, it is becoming a success metric our society champions. Sadly so. When was the last time you were at a party and someone couldn’t contain their excitement because of the spontaneous conversation they just had? “I just met this guy who had the most playful wit,” or “See that woman over there in the black glasses, she has some of the best listening skills I have ever experienced. Her insightful replies were spot on!” Social currency champions money along with prestige, ego, and status. Noticing someone’s wit or listening skills go largely unnoticed. We have learned to acutely determine only if the other person is of value to our success, instead of connecting through pure curiosity or awareness.
Returning to the aforementioned billionaire, the corporation he founded conquered the tech world by using some pretty ruthless business tactics. Managers routinely screamed at employees for not achieving unrealistic quarterly sales earnings. Manufacturing was purposefully moved overseas to skew EPA regulatory laws. The company’s management designed an aggressive acquisition strategy to scoop up small companies with contrasting technologies, only to squash and then fire the employees, even though there was a promise of employee continuity.
Wall Street was in love with this business as usual methodology and so were the shareholders. All in the name of increasing the bottom line, by any means necessary. It is true, amassing large amounts of money will make you rich. An exuberant pile will make you perceived as being wealthy. Summarizing your life, does that kind of bottom line really make you wealthy?
Perhaps the thought of always having a Lear jet at your beck and call, idly waiting on the tarmac to whisk you away at a moment’s notice, is your ideal pinnacle of wealth… perhaps. One’s description of wealth really depends on the measuring stick. For many, it means the totality of cash or assets they have. For others, it is the projected perception by sporting extrinsic luxury goods such as a Rolex watch, Porsche Carrera, or Louis Vuitton handbag. The ego craves being perceived as powerful and important.
Our culture is fixated on want, and the pursuit of money is king. Forbes annually splashes ‘The Richest People on the Planet’ compilation proudly across their pages. The Dow Jones performance has now become a key part of every newscast and cable news ticker. Almost daily, we are reminded of the meteoritic rise of the new Uber or Instagram like billionaires. We gasp when we discover that a fledging start-up is now worth…how much did you say?!
Immediately following the devastating tragedy of 9/11, there was a welcoming respite to the great money chase. We as a nation were temporarily shocked into focusing on what really mattered, our intrinsic values, such as heartfelt connections and quality time. Simply connecting with a stranger in the elevator or leaving the office at a reasonable time to attend one’s daughter dance recital was important to our individual and collective bottom line. Although we were shocked into this behavioral change, it didn’t seem to last long. Old habits will return unless one consciously creates a shift. Soon it was back to business as usual.
Somehow we got it wrong, this current false mirror of riches. It can be best illustrated by a piping hot pizza pie, each slice demonstrating our values. Currently, by far the largest slice is the pursuit of cash because beyond meeting our basic needs, cash can buy and amass things that others can readily see, ultimately bolstering our sense of ego, power, and control. All the other slices are small. Short shrift is given to family, friendship, humor, creativity, compassion, giving, adventure, wellness, etc.
Jump ahead to your memorial. All of your loved ones gather to celebrate your life. Guaranteed no one will mention your resume, material acquisitions, or balance sheet. Instead, they will share who you were, not what you had. That means your character, values, action, community service, etc. It is worth pondering and reflecting on the life you want to live. What is part of your overall personal wealth portfolio is up to you. Find some quiet time to reflect. Make a list of what is really important to you. Notice how much focus you are currently placing on it and commit to an action plan to bring forth.
The citizens of the small country of Bhutan understand this. They place more importance on their Gross National Happiness index than their Gross National Product. Radical in some ways, but amazingly profound. They understand that time is a limited resource, and there is no time to waste. Hence measuring and pursuing what is truly valued is a major part of the culture’s focus. Remember, everything you focus on increases the chances of that coming to fruition. So that really begs the question, where are you focusing your energies on? What is your true return on investment? Live life on your own terms and champion what brings forth your intrinsic happiness. Your radiating smile will be contagious.