Saturday, June 02, 2012

Money and Power


In sufficient quantities, money and power are fungible. Just ask Michael Bloomberg.

But in lower quantities, they are not. If you are the sheriff of a small town, you have a great deal of power, but even if exploit your power for money, you're not likely to become a millionaire.

If you earn $100K a year in Budapest, you're a wealthy man who can exert some real influence. If you earn $100K a year in Palo Alto, you're busy trying to conceal your poverty from your neighbors.

The sad fact is that humans are comparison engines. Absolute wealth is less important than relative wealth. Power, because it is relative to the people around you, is a more reliable source of happiness.

Of course, neither money or power is a useful goal. These extrinsic motivations are less productive than intrinsic ones like caring relationships, personal growth, and community involvement. And studies show that even those who achieve their extrinsic goals remain unhappy.

So if someone asks you, "Money or Power," the correct answer is "Neither." (Though if pressed, go for power!)

This post began as a comment on PandaWhale, which is fast becoming a go-to part of my information diet.

2 comments:

ranndino said...

I've always felt that happiness is a very subjective state that's almost entirely controlled by a person's ability to be content with what they have. I know plenty of people who are quiet happy without having that much and others who are always extremely unhappy and demanding even though they have a lot more than a person truly needs. The latter actually look down upon the former as unambitious, but perhaps their source of unhappiness is precisely that type of a mindset. I, for one, am capable of appreciating the things I have and am glad that my source of happiness isn't tied to whether some 5-star hotel adheres to my expectations of being extremely pampered. I know some well to do people who are constant creators of their own unhappiness and discontent due to constantly stressing out about things that don't matter.

Chris said...

ranndino,

The current research suggests that happiness is 50% genetic, 40% action, and only 10% based on our circumstances.

You can't become happy by gaining things.