SportsLizard Entrepreneur Blog

Friday, May 18, 2007

Success and happiness - myths all over the place

One of the common traits among entrepreneurs is that we take the bull by the horns - we want to control our own destiny and carve our own niche. While that's great, I think we need to make sure we're doing it for the right reasons. If you find yourself saying "I'll be happy when I become a millionaire/sell 10,000 parts/have a 50 person company/go public" then you might want to take a step back and look in the mirror. Do you look down on people who work menial jobs and think "man what a waste, at least I'm living life to the fullest"? Or do you feel alone and think that your business is how you are going to "show the world"? Come on, don't lie...whether you mean it or not that those thoughts have crossed your mind...they've certainly crossed mine.

Over the last few years there's been a wave of happiness studies, and guess what? They all come to the same conclusion: once basic needs are met (food, water, shelter, plus a little more) money has no correlation to happiness. I'll say that again - money has no correlation to happiness. So if you're in it for the money, you won't be happy (and you probably won't have much success anyway). That's why there are miserable rich people and there are happy rich people, just like there are miserable grocery store clerks and happy garbage men.

Don't believe me? Read this interview with author Penelope Trunk (and this one too) on Guy Kawasaki's blog:
Question: How much money does it take to be happy?

Answer: It takes about $40,000. It does not matter how many kids you have or what city you live in - that's splitting hairs because peoples' happiness levels are largely based on their level of optimism and the quality of their relationships. So as long as you have enough money for food and shelter, your optimism level kicks in to dictate how happy you are.

You'll be happier if you have a job you like.

The correlation between your happiness and your job is overrated. The most important factors, by far, are your optimism levels and your personal relationships. If you are a pessimist, a great job can't overcome that. (Think of the jerks at the top.) And if you have great friends and family, you can probably be happy even if you hate your job (imagine a garbage collector who's in love).

The glass ceiling still exists.

The glass ceiling is over, not because people crashed through, but because people are not looking up. Life above the glass ceiling is 100-hour weeks, working for someone else, and no time for friends and family. And it's not only women who are saying no to the ladder up: Men are as well. People want to customize success for themselves, not climb someone else rungs. So if no one is climbing to the top, the glass ceiling isn't keeping anyone down.

And also Check out this study presented in Men's Health:

But maybe it's not about big things, after all. We often stake our happiness on things that we know, deep down, will quickly leave us feeling empty -- acquiring the next big promotion, the slick new car, the hot date. We act as if all hangs on, say, our team winning this Saturday's big football game. But real life is not a vacuum in which a single event (acquiring the job of your dreams or the house you always wanted) changes everything.

Saturday afternoon comes and goes, says Harvard researcher Daniel T. Gilbert, Ph.D., and all the emotions stirred up by the game get "pushed, pulled, dampened, exacerbated, and otherwise altered by postgame pizza, late-night parties, and next-day hangovers.

"The surgeon can't afford to feel happy during a demanding operation, or a musician while playing a challenging score," writes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who first proposed the concept of "flow." "Only after the task is completed do we have the leisure to look back on what has happened, and then we are flooded with gratitude for the excellence of that experience -- then, in retrospect, we are happy."

The key to happiness, Csikszentmihalyi suggests, is figuring out what gives you that feeling of flow. For me, it happens when I'm writing, or rowing a boat. For you? Sailing a catamaran, or cooking Thai food, or even revising a profit-and-loss statement are all equally legitimate contenders.

Our happiness depends finally on other people and on the strength of our connections to them. This may be hard to swallow. We like to think, after all, that we're rugged individualists. But it turns out, when we get back down from the mountaintop, that we are still social primates with a physiological, intellectual, and emotional need for companionship.

Makes you think huh? If you're miserable being an entrepreneur than don't do it any more. I'm fifty times happier than I was working a shorter work week because I spend all day doing stuff I love with people I love, and it gives me purpose and meets an inherent need I have to push myself. Accomplishing great things (or trying to accomplish them) with people I genuinely like being with is when I'm at my happiest. But if you'll be happier working 40 hour weeks and spending the rest of your time with friends, family, and hobbies, then freaking do it. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that if you aren't happy, find a way to do what will make you happy :)


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