63 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Stories

  1. Seems to me like unhappiness comes from pain, including the pain of having to work hard to make ends meet. But as long as you’re fairly pain free, happiness is automatic. You can even feel sad and be happy at the same time. Otherwise, no one would watch sad movies.

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  2. I would have to believe it varies from person to person. Speaking from my own experience, I think most of my happiness comes from nonmaterialistic stuff, but I’m not going to deny that there is some security and peace of mind when you have plenty of money. I’m your typical middle-class guy. I’ve never been too wealthy or too poor. One blessing about that is I did develop an excellent work ethic. Sometimes you see people who are born into money not be terrific about managing it.

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    1. Thanks, Pete, for your insights. I agree that there is a base level of money that is necessary for peace of mind. Once that is satisfied, we then have more control over our level of happiness through our attitude.

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  3. I think that these are two separate questions: one, will more and more money make us happier and happier (AKA when should we stop chasing money and just enjoy what we hae), and two, can money alone make us happy. I think that the Princeton study is not too far off the mark although the number may be a moving target depending on many variables. As to the second I think it’s a no brainer. BTW, there is a Coursera course: the science of well-being that you might find interesting

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  4. I think culture plays a big part in what it takes to be happy. American culture is very materialistic. People who don’t have money to buy the things that seem to make others happy won’t be very happy. People who have money to buy nice things will think they are happy. In a culture like Thailand, money does not seem to be a major driver of happiness. I think the Buddhist culture there is a big part of that. My recollection is surveys that measure happiness by country don’t rank America, the wealthiest country, not near the top. Finland ranks highly usually. Finland also drinks the most coffee according to the CNN Travel Quiz, so maybe that’s the ticket.

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    1. I think you said it well when you talked about hope and attitude! Those determine happiness alot more than money I think! You can see so many examples of very wealthy people who are truly miserable!
      Yes, money is needed, but I think there is a lot that ranks above it in determing ones happiness. Money can’t buy true friends and my happiness wouldn’t be near as high without my friends! 🙂

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      1. I thought you liked wine…
        And I’m going to have to do some calculations over the weekend. It might be worth it for me, if I could, to buy a million dollar’s worth of your best seller myself, just so you buy that beac house and let me use it. It might actually be a good investment for me… 🙂

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      2. Oh yes I think that sounds like a very smart investment!! Who needs to waste time doing calculations. I can already tell you that you should definitely do it, just take my word for it! And I will even stock the fridge with beer for you.
        Oh and yes I do like wine, and wine goes with cake! 😉

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      3. So let me get this straight – if I were to buy a million dollars worth of your book, you would give me a multimillion dollar beach house, with a lifetime supply of beer? 🙂

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      4. Whoa! How did we go from me buying a beach house FOR ME! To me buying a multimillion dollar beachhouse for you??? Sorry Mr. Accountant your figures are off! And when did I say “lifetime supply of beer!” LOL!
        Tell you what, you just buy a million dollars worth of books and we will straighten the rest out afterwards. You can trust me. 😄

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      5. Ok, I’ll counter with a more reasonable offer. For every one of your blog posts that I read, you send me a six-pack. At this point, you owe a few dozen… 🙂

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      6. Oh my gosh! You do have quite the bargaining skills don’t you! You call this reasonable?? LOL!
        First you steal my wine and now I am supposed to send you like 5 six packs each week??! Something just doesn’t seem right about this! ☺

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      7. Haha!… smacking my head…! I never said a “lifetime supply of beer!” But I shouldn’t be surprised, my words get me in trouble a lot!
        And the beach house was always MY beach house, not yours! You could visit it…. though being that it doesn’t look like you are going to buy a million copies of my book, then I don’t know how soon there will be a beach house for you to visit!

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      1. That sounds like the perfect tim e to visit those countries. We went in late January to Amsterdam, and still loved it. I can’t imagine how great it would be in the summer months!

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    2. Thanks, John, for your input about Thailand and Finland – and coffee. What makes one happy does seem to be culture driven, since we tend to compare ourselves to others when we measure our happiness (it shouldn’t be that way, but I think it usually is). As I mentioned to SnapDragon, I’d move to any of the Scandinavian countries if they were warmer. Thailand has my kind of weather, and I find the Buddhist mindset appealing as well…

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  5. I think, Jim, that a lot of modern people have a weird idea of what happiness actually is. You need some money to be happy, you won’t be happy if you can’t house and feed your family and most decent people want the best for their children and try to give them educational opportunities. I think that to much money can bring great unhappiness, maybe not for the person spending all their time and energy earning the money but for their families who never see the person and when they do said person is tired and grumpy because there is nothing left to give. Splendid holidays and a lovely house can’t ever replace love and time.

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    1. Thank you, Robbie, for your thoughts about happiness. I agree that money is an important part of happiness, but people need to think of it as a means to an end, for things like you mention, food, shelter, kids, education. Once those needs are all met, then one can start focusing on other goals to enhance their level of happiness.

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  6. an interesting contrast, indeed. I am of the group who believe that once certain needs are met, and not worried about, that the amount of money needed to feel happy, are not that relevant. is life easier with more money? from a practical standpoint, yes, and it does connect one to others who may help them navigate through life with some shortcuts/privileges that come with the power of money. on the other hand, money can be a burden/curse for those who have a lot, if not ‘used well.’ it may tend to bring out the worst in people around you – yes men, people who connect with you only because of the money, fights within a family for who will ‘get your money’ once you are gone, heavy responsibility to do something worthwhile with your money, or guilt if you do not, an abuse of power that a lot of money can bring, and a lack of time and attention to the things that matter, such as family and friends. the second example shows that attitude, will, and heart can make the difference, if needs are in place, and priorities in life are considered. interesting post, jim –

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    1. Thank, Beth, for your thoughtful comments. As you point out, money does help, but when it is earned at the expense of other factors, such as family time and self-respect, then you have to question the value of that additional money…

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  7. I am supposed to be enjoying my holiday, but your intriguing post has my brain working overtime. This is an age old question. I will agree that having money enough to meet basic needs is intrinsic to happiness. It is hard to feel happy when you wondering where you next meal or place to sleep safely will come from. But once basic needs are met, I do believe happiness is a state of mind, regardless of circumstances. I have travelled the world and seen people who have much less be absolutely thrilled, happy, and enjoying the life they have. I think happiness derives from being grateful for what we do have and less focused on all our vacuous wants and desires. Every day I am given to live is a gift, and that seems to keep me happy when I choose to focus on that! Great post and research, Jim! Your post made me happy and didn’t cost a cent!

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    1. Thanks, Brad, for your insights. And it seems that happiness is a state of mind. I also think relativity plays a role. My guess is that if you took some of those people who were happy with much less than we have, and moved them to the U.S., they might start to become unhappy. And I may have to start charging for future posts…

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  8. What a lovely post, Jim. I’m not sure if you’ve ever read the short story “Marigolds” by Eugenia Collier, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Essentially, a woman living during The Depression plants marigolds in her garden. She didn’t have much, but those flowers added a spring in her step. When things get low, and out of my control, I tell myself, “Miss Lottie planted marigolds.” 🙂

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  9. Interesting discussion about these two stories. With the economy still in the middle of a recession, there will be good paying professional jobs being cut as selected corporations and local/state governments need to improve their bottom line. I am aware of an architectual firm making staff cuts because of the decline of sustainable projects.

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  10. Interesting stuff. Don’t you need enough money for security – a roof over your head, sufficient food, lack of fear – before you can enjoy the luxury of concepts such as asking whether you’re happy? Keah Brown sounds like an astonishing, and brave, woman.

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    1. You are right, Mike. I think that is perhaps why the Yale study offered a number, $75,000. At that number, you have likely been able to take care of all your basic needs. beyond that, extra money may not make you any happier. At that point, you can start to look for more intrinsic type rewards to raise your level of happiness…

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  11. I think you’re right to make the Maslow connection. Money is clearly important in helping to provide our basic needs and without it those needs may not be met. That won’t be a basis for happiness, in any long term sense. The trick, I guess, is in finding a balance between what money can give us and how the higher levels of the hierarchy can be achieved. I don’t know about you, but I’m still a work in progress!

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