Would You Rather Be…?

I’m currently reading Bad Blood, the fascinating, yet depressing, inside look at the story of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes.

While I plan to offer a more in-depth review of the book when I finish it, I found one question posed in the book to be intriguing.

A group of Theranos employees was having lunch, and they were discussing the relatively low IQ of some of the world’s top soccer players. One of the employees then asked if you would rather be “rich and dumb” or “smart and poor”.

The engineers in the group unanimously answered “smart and poor”, while the other employees replied with “rich and dumb”.

All of the employees responding to the question were in their mid-to-late twenties, and all of them had a good education behind them. One of the engineers noted to the author of the book how he was struck how clearly the line drawn between the two groups of employees was.

So it got me thinking about how I would answer the question.

Ideally, I’d be rich and smart, but unfortunately, that was not one of the options.

I have to admit I’m torn. On the one hand, it would be nice to be rich so you wouldn’t have to deal with financial stress. But on the other hand, there are certainly advantages to being smart vs. dumb.

However, after some thought, I think I’d go with the smart and poor option.

Smart seems to suggest that you will always be in a learning mode, wanting to constantly improve yourself. That ties in perfectly with what I wrote about in yesterday’s blog about Augustine:

Always be dissatisfied with what you are, if you want to arrive at what you are not yet. Because whenever you are satisfied with yourself, there you have stuck. If, though, you say, “That’s enough, that’s the lot,” then you’ve even perished. Always add some more, always keep on walking, always forge ahead.

And while poor is a somewhat nebulous term, it doesn’t take much to be happy.

Angus Deaton’s and Daniel Kahneman’s research indicated that a person’s day to day happiness (emotional well-being) increases as people earn more money, but only up to $75,000. After that level of income is reached, additional money has no measurable increase in day-to-day contentment.

And even if you don’t hit that $75,000, if you’re smart, you’ll learn to live within your means.

But if you’re dumb, there might be no amount of money that could satisfy you.

And maybe if you’re really smart, you’ll find a way to have those dumb, rich people share their wealth with you. They may not even know what you’re doing…

*image from YouTube

2 thoughts on “Would You Rather Be…?

  1. you would LOVE the Yale Mooc on Happiness. The professor discusses the $75,000 threshold for happiness with incomes but there is so much more to it. Mostly comparisons with coworker salaries as reference points. It is why CEO salaries are so out of whack… comparing CEOs to OTHER CEOs drives the outrageousness and myth that their services are actually “worth” obscene amounts. Research shows they SHOULD be happier with lower pay packages, but also explains why they are not. It is all about comparison traps.

    The Yale prof uses this cartoon that illustrates what research shows is a very real human need to use “reference points” to get what we think is “fair” pay.


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