I recently got a flood of traffic to Cracking The Happiness Code thanks to an article I published on TinyBuddha.com. They poured unabated over the railings of my modest little website and flooded my servers – a torrential downpour of attention.
Many of these new readers decided to get in touch, and to answer the question I ask all new email subscribers: “What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now?”
The answer was overwhelmingly centered on a single topic: Money issues.
I guess I should have seen it coming: That writing a blog about happiness would inevitably drift towards the realm of money like a rowboat caught in the tide. The topic has such incredible gravity that, despite my disinterest in teaching people how to make money, I can’t possibly ignore the fact that it’s a central issue in so many lives, and often a big cause of unhappiness.
This is why I’ve found myself with the moral impetus to focus more on financial matters with my “No Money, No Problem” series.
But I also feel like I need to address why exactly I won’t be teaching people how to make more money (and what I’ll be doing instead – that I believe will better serve you!). Because goodness knows I have the sexy, playboy, free-wheeling, traveling-the-world cred to do so.
I have a macroscopic view of the world in my mind. I see us as an interconnected web of individuals spanning the whole globe. I want to do as much as I can to help improve our global state of affairs, and a lot of money making advice misses the bigger picture.
For instance, all advice about how to get a job is, on a grand scale, completely pointless. Even though there are a ton of hurting individuals looking for work – I’ve read many of their stories on About.com – job advice can’t solve the problem.
Say, for example, there are 100 unemployed people trying to get 1 job. We teach the least likely candidate how to write a killer resume and interview like a pro, and s/he gets hired. All we’ve done is shuffle the deck. One out, another in.
Obviously, this has potentially huge implications for the 2 people involved, the would-be employee that gets beaten out by a surprising new candidate, and said candidate. But it doesn’t change the fact that 99 people don’t get hired.
Same with all the make money online people. Teaching blogging to bloggers who want to make money teaching blogging to other bloggers is a giant pyramid scheme with nobody in particular at the top. The money that has to feed this system has to come from somewhere – our wallets – and it’s not a sustainable solution. Even if we do something real and useful, such as starting a blog about cake, teaching knitting techniques, or discussing skiing hotspots, such a thing doesn’t scale. We always need 10, or 100, or 1000 people feeding into this system for each person that earns a livable wage from it.
Sustainability and scalability are the keys.
That doesn’t mean all the advice about how to make more money is bad – it’s just not the solution I’m going to share. If you want the other kind, read Ramit Sethi’s blog I Will Teach You to Be Rich. You’ll be pounded by promotional messages, but he’s at least giving sound, actionable advice most of the time.
I feel that my solution to the money problem is much more elegant:
Maximize what we’re getting out of what we already have before trying to get more. It’s sustainable and scalable. Everyone can do it. And that’s literally true, not some marketing BS.
It’s like when we learned to ride our first bicycle: Our parents didn’t immediately pop us onto a professional motocross motorcycle. We probably started on a tricycle, then moved to a bike with training wheels, and finally took those training wheels off.
Most of us are financial 5 year olds, and yet we’re asking for keys to Evel Knieval’s doomsbringer.
You’ve probably heard the horrifying statistic about how something like 95% of lottery winners end up with the same amount of money they had before winning within 10 years.
There’s a reason mom and dad keep the keys to the Lamborghini on the top shelf, and this is it.
How then? How, how how can we do that: Maximize what we’ve already got?
Like most things we want to change, the answer is simple, but almost nobody does it because it’s not what we want to hear:
Start with the Income Limit. Why? Because it forces us to get really freakin’ specific about what we want, which is the only way to end the cycle of trying to earn more money to outrun our fear of not having enough.
It’s easier to say “I don’t know, so I’m going to just keep earning just in case I figure it out.”
Wrong answer. That attitude underlies a large part of our financial struggles.
For instance, I was able to spend 1 year traveling the world because I knew I didn’t care about going shopping, staying in fancy hotels, or any other prestigious nonsense. It was easy – EASY – for me to spend in 1 year what the average North American makes in 2 months, doing something most people dream of doing “if only they had the money.”
It’s not about fancy tactics, it’s about taking 20-30 minutes each day to slow the heck down, spend some quality time with that fabulous, sexy brain of yours, and figure stuff out.
All this stuff I write about minimizing, clearing your email, waking up early – all that stuff is to give us the mental space to do THAT, because it’s our unwillingness to really engage our own minds in this way that stops us from getting what we want – not a lack of time or money or creativity. Those are just symptoms or excuses.
So step 1: Stop thinking about how you can get more things – money, time, whatever and how what you have isn’t enough. Start thinking about how you can use what you have more effectively. Be creative. Give yourself the time and space to explore new ideas. You don’t have to sell all your stuff and travel – that’s just one option amongst many.
Read the income limit and set yours. If you want different results, you’ve gotta act differently, and this will do the trick!
In the end, nobody cares more about improving your financial situation than you, and despite what all the marketing messages we get pummeled with are saying, there’s no magic trick that’s going to suddenly solve everything.
Step 2: Educate yourself and empower your financial decisions. I recommend the website Get Rich Slowly.org.
And stay tuned, because there’s plenty more to come.