Does money buy happiness or just a big mansion? This funny video by blogger Victor Pride reminded me to always think differently from what Bill Cooper called “the sheeple!” And so after watching this video, think about it for a while, and ask your friends to get their reaction. You will notice the clear bias against money in our society. There’s a built-in guilt that society places on people who want money. Remember “Greed is Good!” and how that became a negative stereotype from the first Wall Street movie with Michael Douglas?
When you listen to one of his older shows, you may start to question this common falacy. Religion is not really to blame for this belief, instead I believe it’s our society’s belief in altruism. Ayn Rand was one of the biggest opponents of altruism in the history of the world. And she is still vilified about her books, interviews and opinions on helping others to your own detriment.
Do you remember the safety advice on your last flight? In case of emergency take the oxygen mask and put it on your own face first before you try to help children or anyone else like disabled people.
There are times in your life when you’ve tried to help people, and it seems it all backfired. This is really the meaning of “no good deed goes unpunished.” And I’m reminded of the failure of friendships every day as I witness how people have withdrawn into themselves either through smartphones or endless downloaded TV shows.
In high school I wrote a angry poem: Nice Guys Finished Last. It was the story of my frustration with being a nice guy, and yet being a lonely guy with no girlfriend. As I reflected upon this poem, it dawned on me that being the nice guy has nothing to do with it. It was clear that I was not being nice to myself. So if I did not respect myself, how could I expect others to do the same.
No good deed goes unpunished – this is a phrase I first heard in some self help audio interviews. The guru was so confident, he almost seemed to be full of himself. I later found out he is a multimillionaire, and I’m sure it didn’t help being rich while making lofty pronouncements.
Since I moved to China in 2013 I tried to spend 80% of my time with Chinese friends. After all I didn’t move half way around the world to meet more foreigners. In my MBA class we are 11 students from all over the world. I was helpful to them as can be being older, more experienced in business. This didn’t work out exactly as planned.
As relationships with my classmates soured, I pulled back. I tried my best to maintain some real friendships until I helped one personal financially. This reminds me of another kind of life lesson: do not mix business with pleasure. In the end I don’t regret helping this particular guy, he just reminded me that no good deed goes unpunished.
You’re far better off helping yourself become the best you can possibly be. You can lead by example, and others will follow. When you help people out of their misery, be careful. You’ve offered them a finger and they may grab your whole arm. The wise among us know that doing less is more.
In 2013 I came across this video from British philosopher Alan Watts. He is best known for his writings and speaking on Zen Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. In what starts as such a simple question, ends up as an extremely thought-provoking reflection coming back to the ‘why’ of what we do. Conceptually, Alan Watts is right on the money – we live in a world doing things we may not like doing, in order to make a living, in order to keep going on doing the things we don’t like doing.
At first I struggled to take this from concept to practice as money, whether we like it or not or agree with it, is the catalyst that drives almost all of how we live. It wasn’t until Alan Watts revealed a valuable insight about becoming ‘masters’ in what we do, so much so that we can charge a handsome fee for doing so. This follows in the same vein as Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss…” quote.
What I do believe, however, is that this video’s message represents one window in which to look through. We don’t live in a world where we must choose one thing to do to enjoy or earn a living anymore. It is becoming more apparent, even common, for the last two generations entering the workforce (Gen Y & Z) to do multiple things to fulfill that implicit need for a sense of purpose.
A call centre worker by day is a share market enthusiast by night and volunteer on the weekends. A small business owner works from home at nights, is a parent by day, and manages to study at university by distance learning. Perhaps if you do feel you are lacking ‘enjoyment’ or ‘fulfillment’ where you currently find yourself, the answer may not lie in changing what you do, but expanding to what you do.
Some ideas here were first expressed by Patrick Caldwell, HR Business Partner at BHP Billiton. I’ve refined the idea using my own experience conducting seminars at elite private schools across South Africa.