How much money do you need to be happy and not worry about money anymore? I’ve asked this question many times over the past several years, and the answers have ranged from about $35,000 to $500,000 gross a year, depending on where you live and what you are used to. The range is wide enough range where you can drive a herd of skinny elephants through!
I hypothesize the ideal income for maximum happiness is around $200,000 gross a year instead of the ~$75,000 a year some researchers suggest. $200,000 a year is a level where you can make enough to do practically anything you want, in any city in the world, and still save some money left over. $200,000 a year is right below the threshold where the government starts going after you for more taxes, and right under the level where you start being viewed as an “evil rich person.”
Of course it would be nice to make $500,000 a year, or millions a year, but I posit that anything more than $200,000 a year won’t make you happier in your day-to-day life. The income might give you more freedom, but it can also make you sadder. What do you think?
HOW FOCUSING ON MAKING MORE MONEY WILL MAKE YOU LESS HAPPY
When I first started writing online, I was fascinated by everything from Google Adsense to the daily metrics of my site. It was a little addicting to see the dollars flow in and the readership grow. But, a funny thing happened after a couple months. The addiction turned more into frustration as the readers and income wasn’t growing at the rate that I thought it should. I became impatient, and somewhat delusional to think that I deserved more than my two months of writing was currently attracting. In other words, I was growing unhappy with my progress.
I began to think how writing online was the poorest hourly wage occupation in the world. It was also very lonely writing in the beginning since there’s always a disconnect between the quality of writing, and the amount of readership you have in the beginning. I’m sure if JD traveling down in South America with his millions writes a post consisting of three words: “What’s up guys?!” on Get Rich Slowly, he’ll probably get 100 comments! So instead of focusing on money and metrics, I made a promise not to check my metrics for at least a month and just focus on the writing and commenting on other sites. All I had was my Alexa toolbar, and that was good enough for me.
Over the next month, I felt amazingly free! I wrote because I had something to say, and I visited other sites because of their writing and my desire to get to know other people online better. One month of not checking metrics turned into two months, until about 4 months later, I started the Yakezie Challenge. The only metric that was by my side the entire way was Alexa, where my rank had already fallen to about 78,000 in December, 2010. It’s not a perfect metric by any means, it’s just the easiest to check given it updates everyday and I don’t have to click anything once the toolbar is installed.
I now check my income and readership stats about once a week mainly because advertisers ask. Also, I want to see if there are referring sites so I can hop over and give thanks. I still don’t want to focus on money, because I fear money will corrupt the writing and my attitude. Money is a nice addition and a necessary addition for survival, but the friendships created and the discussions that ensue after a post is written are worth so much more!
THE BASICS OF HAPPINESS
Memories. Health. Friendships. Love. Wealth. Family. What more is there?
Memories: Going back to the college diner where you had your first date, and ordering the baked spaghetti. That’s my choice of fine dining. Happiness is also simple things from the past that don’t cost much at all – old CD’s, action figures, a bouncy ball.
Health: Endorphins from physical exercise is intoxicating. Runners have the term, “runners high” for a reason. There’s nothing better than spending 2 hours running up a sweat on the tennis court and hitting a topspin backhand down the line. Oh, such a rare feat nowadays for my crickity shoulder. Soaking in a hot tub or taking an afternoon nap after a good work out is heaven. We’re in better physical shape as a result of more activity and hopefully, our health will remain high for as long as we live.
Career: Finding an occupation you like and doing it well to the point of maximum potential is incredibly rewarding. There are thousands of things out there one can do. We owe it to ourselves to find that thing we love to do. Happiest are those who would do their job for free.
Love: Coming home to someone, or having that last call with a person who knows you more than you know yourself. You could be broke, and still find unlimited amount of ways to spend time with each other and be happy. You’d rather be poor, than to ever lose him or her.
Wealth: You need enough to meet your basic needs, but after a certain amount of income or accumulated wealth, your happiness plateaus. As we discussed in the very beginning, the income range is quite wide.
Family: Your family, or the family you’ve nurtured in your activities. I count on my real life family for support and advice, and I’ve made a resolution for the past several years to see them more often. Being a part of the Yakezie Network is a great feeling given we all have a common bond. We know someone always has our back, and we will always have theirs.
THE THEORY OF UNHAPPINESS
Everybody has some level of happiness in the six points above. If all levels of happiness are the same for all people, then I’m not sure anybody would truly be unhappy, because I believe people are inherently optimistic. Being optimistic is a necessity for survival. And being happy is one important attribute to moving forward. Like attracts like and it’s important to believe in yourself.
Comparisons: The problem lies when you see someone with a better career, a nicer home, and a more loving family. This person also has a ton of friends and makes more money in a year than you will make in 10 years. To top it off he might even have the body of Adonis! Those bastards! You’ve seen people like this before and you can’t help but admire and envy. Why them, not me? But most people keep their envy to themselves. We all have some various levels of envy.
A bad situation: Imagine if you had no job, or a job that paid you peanuts with a belligerent boss. A horrible situation, especially if you see an equally capable colleague get praised and promoted. Meanwhile, you just broke up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, or haven’t had a significant other for a very long time. A depressing situation, especially since you have friends who’ve moved on to get married and have a family. Finally, due to a lack of income and companionship, you get into debt and no longer desire to stay in shape and eat your heart out.
If all these things occurred, you would naturally be very unhappy. Your insecurities start manifesting itself in further self-doubt and your self-esteem goes out the window. How come nobody loves me? Why can’t I get a job or a better paying job? Why don’t more people visit my site and love what I write? Am I that much of a loser?
We can manifest our personal insecurities into the hatred and jealousy of others. For a moment, it helps us forget the pain we have. To make us feel better we can: 1) Try and bring others down to our level, or 2) Try and work hard to better ourselves. It’s easier to try to bring others down in the beginning, but it usually never solves one’s own problems in the long run. Always control what you can control, because the world will pass you by if you don’t.
HOW CAN WE HELP THE SAD?
We’ll all cross that bitter dark cloud of a person at some point in our lives. The only way we can help is through empathy, compassion, and understanding. We’ve all had our dark moments before, and it is those who attack who are in their darkest moments. They are screaming for help and attention, and we should be compassionate enough to give it to them.
We might feel offended by their attacks at first, but once we understand their situation, we no longer feel insulted. All you’ve got to do is take the time to listent to what’s bothering them. I guarantee you something in their lives is causing a significant amount of sadness. It’s important not to show pity, as pity enrages. It’s really about true empathy where we offer to help out in whatever area they are hurting, that matters most.
If they insult us at work, we should ask to take some work off their hands to make their lives better. If they insult our writing, we can ask for their honest feedback and see if we can write something for them. If they hate us for our wealth, perhaps we can share with them some suggestions on how to increase their own wealth.
Whenever we are attacked, criticized, or insulted, we should welcome their feedback and try and do the opposite by offering a helping hand.
FOR THOSE WHO ARE UPSET AND WANT TO CHANGE
1) Believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will. Your lack of self-esteem will permeate in everything you do. Those who believe in themselves carry a certain charisma that makes employers want to hire you. Your confidence will make people want to follow you, and men and women want to romantically be with you. The greatest asset you have is not your job, not your money, not even your family or friends for that matter. The greatest asset is you.
2) Reduce your tendency to compare. There will always be someone smarter, wealthier, better-looking, more successful, and happier than you. If all you do is compare yourself to them, you will sooner or later become miserable with yourself. Instead, change your mindset and try and figure out what made them successful. Seek their advice and mentorship instead of bashing them. Those who are successful believe there is enough room for many, not just a few.
3) Understand that very few examples of success comes easy. Know that the people you aspire to become (or hate), have put in countless of hours and perhaps plenty of their own capital to get to where they are. All you’re seeing are the fruits of their labor, and not what goes on behind the scenes. It’s easy to poo poo people’s achievements, and attribute their success to luck. But luck tends to happen to those who work the hardest. And if there isn’t hard work, then consider chalking up someone’s good fortune to good karma.
4) Realize your faults in order to improve. Everybody has faults. There’s a reason you might not be liked by your colleagues. Maybe you’re just not very nice and team oriented? There’s a reason why my site doesn’t receive more visits. It’s probably because I don’t write daily and market as much as I should. There’s a reason why no woman wants to be with you. Perhaps brushing your teeth and flossing once in a while might help? If we don’t recognize our faults, we will never improve.
5) Stop digging once you’re in a hole. You can either ride a rocket ship and participate in a virtuous cycle, or you can continue to dig and find yourself in a negative cycle. Most people forgive and move on. But first, you’ve got to forgive yourself and climb out of the hole like the insect you’ve become. The flood of rain will eventually come, burying you in the process.
Readers, have you ever been attacked by someone you barely know? Why do you think they attacked you, and what did you do since you do not know them well? Did you try and find a resolution, or did you just move on? Is it possible to reach out and help someone, despite them wronging you?
Do you believe in the power of positive thinking? What are your suggestions on how to help the unhappy?
Photo: The happy wild parrot of Telegraph Hill. About 20 of them were eating cherry blossom petals, so I dropped my tennis bag, laid under the tree and marveled. SD