If you want a quick way to derail your life and sell your soul, then focus on riches. If, however, you want a fulfilling life then you should be aware: a focus on wealth is dangerous. Instead, focus on something else.
Money Can Buy Happiness
We’ve all heard the saying that money can’t buy happiness. Even Bob. He just wasn’t paying attention, but he heard it.
Research has found that… well, that’s not true.
The fact is that money can buy happiness. More accurately, the lack of money can make life miserable. Researchers found that the reported happiness of people increased as their income did, up to a point – basically a living wage. After that, the amount of money had no real impact on their happiness.
It’s understandable that people are so focused on money. It can buy things we want and it can bring us a level of security. Unfortunately, if we’re not careful, we can begin to focus too much on the things we want and become too afraid of a lack of money. When we do we become obsessed with it.
The thing is, a focus on wealth is dangerous. If we’re not careful, it can cause our lives to spin out of control even as we look like we have it all together.
A Focus on Wealth Is Dangerous
It doesn’t take long to look at people who became so focused on money that the love of wealth took them over.
We know that arsonists burned down huge swathes of the Amazon rainforest in order to make room for cattle ranchers to make some cash. We see politicians bend over backward to support people they said would destroy everything they stood for. We see key people in the NRA who used to stand for sensible gun ownership gut the organization after focusing instead on nothing more than personal enrichment.
It’s not just personal destruction; it’s often bigger than that. People often focus so much on maximizing profit they don’t see the cost behind the scenes, using sweatshops and even slave labor to keep costs low. Instead of making sure everyone gets a piece of the pie, they begin hoarding happiness and keeping it all for themselves.
Sadly we become so desensitized, we would rather buy a $1 candy bar that is cheap because the cocoa is harvested by child labor than buy a $3 candy bar where everyone involved in making the candy bar is of age and makes a living wage.
Do we really care about that $2? The better question is why do we care more about $2 than child labor? That’s why the focus on wealth is dangerous: we are willing to let go of everything else in order to make our pockets fatter. There’s a better way, and it’s ironically best seen in a man named Price.
The CEO Who Got an Earful
Dan Price started his own company in 2004. He was an entrepreneur who was living the dream. He had a million dollar salary, a growing company, and, with his long hair and beard, he had a countenance that was reminiscent of Jesus himself.
He thought everything was great, until one day in 2011 where one of his employees let him know the truth:
Haley was a 32-year-old phone tech earning about $35,000 a year, and he was in a sour mood. Price had noticed it, and when he spotted Haley outside on a smoking break, he approached. “Seems like something’s bothering you,” he said. “What’s on your mind?”
“You’re ripping me off,” Haley told him.
The fact is that Dan was underpaying his employees. Sure he was paying them market rates, but the market rates weren’t enough to live on.
Price was angry and bewildered. He felt it unfair and untrue. But the more he wrestled with this, the more he couldn’t escape the reality: Haley was right. Price found that a focus on wealth is dangerous. There was a better approach.
A Focus on What’s Important
Price used the research that showed that being paid less than a living wage negatively impacted happiness to make changes. Over three years he phased in changes to everyone’s salary. Everyone made at least the minimum: $70,000. Everyone.
He only cut one salary. His own. He reduced it from $1M to $70,000.
What’s he’s found is that he’s happier. His life has more purpose. The people that actually make his business function are happier. Additionally, he’s seen some major things happen to his business and his employees:
A focus on wealth is dangerous. Money is a tool to accomplish our goals. We shouldn’t be focused on a lavish lifestyle or being rich. We should be focused on living free of debt and paying the people we do business with a fair wage, regardless if we employee them, buy goods or services from them, or just enjoy the services they provide in the products we purchase.
We should be focused on making the world better not making our wallets fatter. A focus on wealth is dangerous. A focus on people – that’s really the only thing that matters.