There's a pretty famous, really rich guy who has written a bunch of books who is full of sh*t. Don't get me wrong. I like his books. In general, I like his content overall. He helps people in a specific way in his industry.
But he lost me with just one stupid video he posted. (No, it's not Gary Vaynerchuck who I think is great.)
The video in question was him walking through a very crowded area talking about why he's successful and why others are not. Essentially, what he said in the video, and I'm paraphrasing, is this.
"See all these people having fun, and hanging out with friends, going to brunch, and in general just loafing? Yeah, they're losers, and the reason I win, and you're going to win, is that you are going to be like me and instead of enjoying your life you're going to keep working relentlessly like me because I'm going to work now, and they're not."
At least that's how it came off to me.
My first thought? F*ck you.
My second thought? How sad.
My third thought? F*ck you, again.
Look, if you buy into that kind of thinking from the fellow I called out above, I get it. You're not a bad person for believing it, and I'm also not a bad person for thinking it's horseshit.
But one thing is for sure, it's part of a systemic problem society faces of the age old question of "Does money equal happiness?"
Because when people talk about success that's what they really mean. Getting rich.
As Mae West once said, "I've been rich, and I've been poor; believe me, rich is better." Now many of you are asking yourself, "Who is Mae West?" Exactly. I'm 48 and I'm just slightly old enough to know who she was, barely. If you don't know her, don't bother Googling it. She was famous a million years ago when your grandparents were teenagers. There are no memes to search.
But is she right? Is being rich better? I went to the Google to find out because that's how Gen X'ers like me solve life's most pressing problems.
My first hit? An article by a PH.D on Psychology Today. This little tidbit stood out in the piece.
"In 2008 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they measured brain activity while research participants were drinking wine. Regions of the brain responsible for the registering of pleasure were more active when the wine was identified as expensive as opposed to inexpensive. The punch-line: It was the same wine in both cases."
The plot thickens. We "perceive" more expensive things as better, and when we are allowed to experience those things (which most of us can't because we're not rich) they trick our brains into being happier.
Is this our fault? I don't think so, because this is how we have been brainwashed since birth. Commercialism and materialism have mutated our brains into believing that wealth and luxury are what we must have to be happy. Disagree? Well, I just found an article online that says it's true so how dare you tell me it's not.
What's Your Satiation Point?
In 2010, the Nobel prize-winning duo of economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, famously found that the satiation point for US households was about $75,000 (about $84,000 in 2016 dollars).
Hold up, Jim. What's the definition of "satiation point?" (I didn't know either. If you did, you can feel superior to me.)
Satiation point in economics is the point of maximum satisfaction or bliss point that can be achieved by a consumer. Here's a better, less egg headed explanation for those of us who don't solve complex math equations at MIT while working as the night janitor.
According to a recently released study in the burgeoning field of happiness research, the two higher-earning women are likely to report more satisfaction with their lives than the one who makes $40,000. But, perhaps surprisingly, the psychologists who conducted the study find that the one making $200,000 is probably no happier than the one making $120,000. This is because both the $120,000 and $200,000 women have incomes above $105,000, which according to their research is the point at which greater household income in the US is not associated with greater happiness. The technical term for this cutoff is the income "satiation point."
$105,000. That's the updated satiation point number in the United States of ‘Merica. That's it. Wouldn't it be easier if we just started teaching our kids in school that if you just make $105,000 you will achieve happiness? I think it might. At least we'd have something reasonable to shoot for instead of being taught to chase millions.
"Wealth is the ability to truly experience life." -- Henry David Thoreau, author, poet and philosopher (1817-1862)
The perception of happiness. This is what it all comes down to in my opinion. And the wine example from above proves my point.
Jim's hot take: Wealth creates the opportunity for more/better experiences, and it is those experiences that create the perception of being truly happy.
Think about it. If you have more money, you can experience more stuff. Fun stuff.
If you have more money, you can stop worrying about a lot of stuff.
In summary: Less worry, and more time and money to do fun stuff = perception of happiness.
Is there satisfaction in your brain when you experience something unique or previously unattainable? Of course there is. If you grew up dirt poor, you certainly took an endorphin hit the first time you were able to get on a plane and travel someplace, or the first time you were able to afford a home.
This is the same type of endorphin hit your brain produces when you win big on a slot machine in Vegas, or sadly, when you post something on social media and you get a bunch of likes on it. This is the dream we're all chasing. This is the drug that we all crave, and the one that we can't quit, because admitting otherwise would surely mean we have failed.
This line of thinking has changed the world in ways that many people would argue is bad, and in a general sense, I would agree. But fear not, things are changing.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 25% of people with college degrees don't have a job and don't want one.
Why? Has the pursuit of happiness become so unattainable that they have just given up? And if so, maybe that's progress? It's a real argument that I just made up.
If you're a Star Trek The Next Generation (TNG) fan as I am, you know about the futuristic storyline of a future world where human beings finally woke up one day and decided to pursue things other than money or power, and instead focus on self-improvement and exploration and the betterment of the world. You can read all about this one specific episode here.
In the first season TNG episode "The Neutral Zone", the Enterprise happens upon and picks up three cryogenically-frozen humans floating out in space. These people are from only a few decades in our future, and thus in the Enterprise's time are three hundred years out of date. They understandably find it a bit difficult to blend in. When asked what is different about life in the 24th century, Capt. Picard explains that the very meaning of life has fundamentally shifted:
A lot has changed in the past three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We've eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We've grown out of our infancy.
Picard explains that in his time, focusing on accumulating wealth and possessions is no longer the norm. In fact, in his future, "things" like money are viewed pejoratively. According to Picard, we are now living in humanity's "infancy", and struggling to escape it. For him, our present must seem as barbaric as the Middle Ages do to us.
Are we seeing the very beginning of that happening now?
Why are there so many young people in the world who don't want to work, and don't want a mortgage, or a job, or car payments/insurance, etc...
Stop with the, "they're just lazy, Jim" stuff. That's not it.
An entire generation, the Baby Boomers, who were taught to value possessions over experiences, and religion over logic, are about to disappear off this planet and will be replaced by a new generation of humans that have different ideas about how they want to live their lives and how they want the world to work. Oh, and how they perceive happiness.
There's no stopping it. Eventually, it's just going to happen. Trust me. Star Trek is never wrong.
If You Want To Be Happy in 2020, Just Eat Some Mushrooms
I read this and said, wow. Here's the summary. A successful corporate woman with a six-figure salary who admittedly was brought up to play the game of "go to school, get a job where you make a ton of money and pay your taxes", decided to take some mushrooms one day with a shamen and six hours later decided to change her entire life. During her trip, she got clarity on her big idea and has never been happier.
Guided by a shaman (who denounces the title of shaman, as shamans do), I was led through a six-hour sound meditation with nothing but an eye mask, hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms, and an open mind. In complete darkness with melodic sounds of gongs and sound bowls enveloping my senses, I surrendered to the psychedelic trip that would ultimately be the push I needed to leave my job.
During my journey in some other parallel dimension, I had an out of body experience, as one does. I was suddenly transported into a scene that resembled The Last Supper, except there were women decadently dressed in white gowns around the table. One of the women came up to me, radiating in light, and passed me a chalice. She looked me in the eye and said: "You have to stop giving your power away. You have a big job to do. We are passing this responsibility off to you."
As if I was the last in the relay to carry the baton home, I got the download loud and clear: It was time. I have a calling, and I needed to actualize it.
When the ceremony was over, I had an overwhelming sense of "knowing." To this day, I still can't quite put it into words, but it's a feeling that I have a mission that's bigger than me. It's that very feeling that gets me through the hard days — when I don't know how I'm going to make rent, or when I feel the anxiety of not being able to fill my boot camps, when I question if I'm crazy for leaving a secure paycheck. That's been the hardest part of it all — to have a deep internal trust, even amidst the external chaos and challenges.
Now here's the even more interesting part of this story, as if the mushrooms/shamen part wasn't enough. She follows up her argument with the realization of this.
Instead of my default, fear-based thinking of all the reasons why I couldn't do something, I started to get in the habit of asking myself a different question: Why the fuck not.
And there we have it. Why, the, fuck, not?
This is what's stopping you from living the life you want and being happy. It's just fear. You know it, I know it. I'll spare you the motivational diatribe about overcoming your fears and "just go out there and crush it" because well, that's played out. In my experience you are either going to figure out a way to overcome your fear and be happy, or you're not.
But maybe you just need to eat some mushrooms in 2020 to get it done? Think about it.
So what have we learned here today? Can money really buy happiness? Or is it just the perception of happiness? And can you change your mindset and become happy by taking psychedelics?
What's your take? Now is the time you need to text me and talk with me about it.
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