I’ve heard it a million times over the course of my life, and a few weeks ago my proverbial camel’s back finally snapped. I was listening to a podcast where an empire-building entrepreneur was doling out sage advice on being successful.
“Money isn’t everything,” he started. “Be happy. Find your happiness. Inner peace is what’s important. I didn’t realize that when I was younger.”
Suddenly, I was angry.
Maybe your mansions, cars, or successful career didn’t make you happy, but your extreme wealth sure as hell made your life easier. As you hit middle age and look back, yes, you sacrificed personal happiness while you chased dreams. But you caught those dreams. Now you’re saying marriage and kids fulfill you. Of course you can meditate, exercise, eat organic food, and do yoga all day: you’re rich.
I have to ask: Do you think you’d be happy if you had a wife and kids you couldn’t provide for because you didn’t have millions of dollars in the bank?
If you cannot definitively answer “yes,” then I’m not sure your advice works for normal people. Put yourself in some imaginary shoes:
- “I just got laid off, but hey, that multi-millionaire says I should find my inner peace!”
- “I’m a struggling artist with more talent than people I see on TV, but that retired TV guy says TV isn’t everything!”
- “That talk show host says that eating healthy makes you feel better, but mac and cheese is only forty-nine cents a box…”
Money can’t buy happiness, but money takes away worry.
Worry, for the record, is a complete pain in the ass. Yes, it’s possible for someone living paycheck-to-paycheck to be happy, but it’s not as easy as just making the decision to be happy. If you’re worrying where your next meal is coming from, or if you’ll make rent next month, it’s slightly difficult to decide to “just be happy.”
My life is an odd three-way split.
Personally, I’m happy. I have family I love like nothing else; a supportive wife, and two children who are healthy. I couldn’t ask for more.
Professionally, it’s another split. When I’m actually working, I’m ecstatic. Nothing beats my job. But when I’m between jobs, when I’m sending out my CV in search of the next gig and working the business aspect … it’s horrible.
They say “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” but that’s a lie. I love what I do, but it is work, and work is rarely enjoyable.
Maybe better advice would be that life is about balance. While you, Successful Entrepreneur, were searching for your happy, you built an empire.
Don’t ignore the fact it keeps you protected as you now work on yourself. Your advice works from your reflective point of view, but that doesn’t make it all-encompassing.
Photo: Getty Images