Sunday, April 08, 2007

Coffee Talk


This past week, for me at least, seems to have been all about money. First Sam Zell buys the Chicago Tribune Co., then you have Kerkorian offer $4.5 Billion for Chrysler, and then you have the multiple reports and stories about how badly the music industry is struggling (see the Music Minute below). It was last Saturday in the "Watch List" that I posted a New York Times article on the widening of the income gap. Money is always up for discussion, but it seems like a very relevant topic lately. Also this week my seven year old daughter wrote as persausive essay on "Why all children should be rich". In her essay she proposed that all children should be rich because then they will be able to buy houses and clothes, and every one will be happy. Now I suppose that I can only look at this issue from one side (the side without the money), but as I reflect on my life, money has never brought me happiness. When I think of money these are the words that come to my mind: pressure, survival, provider, flaw system of trade, and so on. I am sure that if Sam Zell was asked what words came to mind when he thought on money, the words would be completely different. Yet, as the costs good seems to rise without control, while my opinion of the value of money seems to decrease at the same rate.

"It may be that today gold has become the exclusive ruler of life, but the time will come when man will again bow down to a higher god. Many things today owe their existence solely to the longing for money and wealth, but there is very little among them whose non-existence would leave humanity any the poorer. " - Adolf Hitler

Basically, the beauty of this country is the ability to reach the heights of Sam Zell, or struggle for art like so many writers, musicians, and artists. You can be driven by passion, driven by money, or by any other number things, but the point is you have the freedom to choose what makes you happy.

Question: What drives you on a daily basis, and what makes you truly happy? Are they the same, and how does your opinion of money factor in? Talk amongst yourselves...


Dan said...

Wow, that's some topic. My "extended" take is this...

Money was always just a way in which we put a value on goods and services. I think over the past few centuries it has changed a lot with the creation of banking systems like the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve System. Money is no longer backed by anything tangible (i.e. gold or silver). It's backed by the faith that we will pay back our debt. Our debt vs. the gross domestic product. So we have to work, just to keep our money worth something.

What does this have to do with happiness in my need to like what you get paid for. And you need to get a fair wage for it. Happiness is whatever you make of it, and money is whatever you make of it. For a comparison, let me talk about arranged marriages. Are those two people happy? Maybe not the idea of not picking your spouse, but do most of the arranged marriages work and are they happy? The answer is yes. Divorce rates are down in arranged marriages vs. regular courting marriages. Why? Because any good marriage takes a lot of work if you want to be happy.

In fact, happiness takes a lot of work. Watch the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" and you'll get the idea. Nothing comes for free. Everything has a cost. If you chose to relax, you lose out on getting work done. If you work, you lose out on your definition of relaxation. The thing about happiness is, you need a good combination of both. You need a work/life balance. However you cut it, whether it's work for 50 years at something you hate to enjoy 20 years of retirement when you can do whatever you want every day, or if you want to do nothing every day and scrape by, you can do either. That's choice and that's what the US is all about.

So do you think people in 3rd world countries are happy? Probably so. Would they like to have better homes, roads, food, medical attention, etc? Yes. But in order to have all of that, the community would need to work together to build all of that. Work hard to bring that to their area in the 3rd world. Utilize resources, labor, etc. Work to create a better happiness.

One thing that is a pervailing problem in my opinion is that more and more people in the US and other parts of the world have this idea that something is owed to them. For whatever reason, they feel they need a leg up vs. everyone else and everything needs to be fair and equal regardless of the quality or quantity of work they do.

I see it a lot in children of rich parents. I don't know if it's because the US became a financial and military superpower since WWII and there has been a lot of expansion and growth in the level of wealth per capita to a very comfortable level for a majority of families, or if it's because of the Vietnam War and Cold War eras in which peace, love and the rise of communism have been prevalent. Probably both. But that doesn't change history.

Everyone is most happy, when they have their optimum level of the hierarchy of needs and so do those around them. Success in what people like to work on is also a big contributing factor. Nobody wants to fail at everything they do, that creates the exact opposite affect.

So how can you give someone the equality and the fairness of their choices on work/life balance. You can't have the most expensive house and do nothing for it. It's impossible. Everyone thinks they can. That's why the gamble, and play the lottery. People will always want something for nothing, but the reality is, you can't. Except maybe diseases and air to breath. Everything else costs something.

So what makes me happy?

Spending time with my wife, family, friends, receiving recognition and praise of a job well done from those around me either at work, home or from God, participating in sports, watching tv (mostly sports), learning, having people depend on me and my work to help them reach their goals of happiness, building a better future for myself and my family, love, truth, honesty, humility, forgiveness, humbleness, and of course...this blog!

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