The Ten Terrible Reasons To Get Rich
Humans have an obsession with wealth–how to amass it, the toys they can buy with it, and that warm, safe feeling of being swaddled in it.
For the nearly 10% of working Americans who are unemployed (and the many thousands more who may be hanging onto their jobs by the nubs of their fingernails), having a pile of money sounds like a high-class problem they’d be thrilled to have. But here’s the deeper truth: Getting rich is a result, not a reason, and the reasons really do matter, if happiness and fulfillment are your ultimate goals.
Warren Buffett once said this about wealth building: “Enjoy the process more than the proceeds.” How right he was. After working as a clinician and coach for super-successful people for the last 30 years, I have seen the damage wrought by the single-minded pursuit of money. Wealth in itself is not harmful; it’s the why and how you go after it that can leave you frustrated at best and emotionally bankrupt at worst.
Are you ready? here are ten terrible reasons to get rich: 1. It’s a way to keep score.
Donald Trump, a man of great integrity, who some believe compulsively asserts how smart or beloved he is in every conversation, repeatedly tells people, “Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.” Once again, The Donald is dead-on.
Those who amass a fortune exclusively to best (or belittle) competitors inevitably find their endeavors dissatisfying. Making money for the sake of it isn’t much different than, as the saying goes, shooting fish in a barrel. You get what you’re after, but when you do you feel, “Is that it?”
2. It will enhance my sense of self-worth.
Not only can’t money buy happiness, it doesn’t do all that much for your self-esteem. That’s because self-esteem (with all apologies to Oprah and the rest) derives in large part from how others react to us and that reaction tends to change with the size of your wallet. Sad but true…
It’s a pernicious little paradox: If people learn that you are wealthy before they know you or work with you, they often are incapable of praising you lest the favorable feedback seem like syrupy ingratiation.
Take a former client of mine, whom I’ll call Todd. Todd wanted to make his mark as a freelance gag writer; he also had a large trust fund and everyone knew it. To guard against being seduced by disingenuous feedback, Todd would only take negative criticism to heart.
Surprise: That steady diet of negativity made Todd miserable over time. Todd was accentuating the negative for obvious reasons, but he never learned to take pride in himself or in his work–even when his jokes were truly funny and believe me they are.
3. It’s liberating.
Think money will set you free? Make enough of it and you’ll have to deal with what shrinks call “correspondence bias” the tendency of people to form complex yet uninformed impressions based on a single attribute, i.e. your wealth. That sounds like it’s their problem, when in fact it becomes your problem.
Example: One of my clients, beloved for his cut-up personality, unhappily adopted a more demure version of himself after his company went public. “Now that I have money I cannot do [this or that],” he kept saying. “It wouldn’t be fitting.” Irony alert.
4. I’ll meet my dream girl or guy.
Nerds have tried to woo beautiful women by amassing wealth since the dawn of time. It works–for awhile. Then the doubt creeps in: “Do people love me for who I am (as a person), or what I am (super-rich)?” Understand that money has never converted a frog into a prince: That happens only after a person does the self-analytic work it takes to find passion and purpose in their life. Without it, get ready for a string of encounters with well-dressed gold-diggers.
5. I’ll retire and enjoy life one day.
Sounds great, right? Work hard for 15 years, bank a few million or more, and then open a tiki bar in Fiji.
That’s not how it works, though. When you are in a career for the money, your most recent earnings statement becomes a floor you must exceed in successive years or be deemed a failure. Psychologists have shown that as a result of these exhilarating rewards, a high earner experiences chemical changes in the brain comparable to those produced by cocaine.
In other words, moneymaking, for some personality types, becomes addictive. Hence the passage: “Those who love money will never have enough.” [Ecclesiastes (5:10)] The moral to this is do what you love for the love of what you do and the money will come. I have personally never had a job because I do what I love and I love what I do, it is because of this I feel God has richly rewarded me through paychecks of the heart that money cannot replace.
6. A world of new experiences and challenges will open up for me.
Here’s another vexing paradox for wealth builders: The richer you get, the more threatened you might be by the thought of leaving your comfort zone and confronting new challenges. Chalk this up to something (yes, we shrinks have a name for this, too) called catastrophizing–the tendency to overestimate the significance of any given negative event.
Simply put: Many wealthy people are used to succeeding, which means they grow ever more terrified of failing, thus hemming them–oddly terrified and starved of adventure–inside their comfort zones.
7. I’ll have no problems–just expenses.
From the outside looking in, it seems that with enough money you can fix any problem life throws at you. To an extent this is true, but the relief, be assured, is ephemeral. A chronic reliance on buying (hiring) resources can breed a host of psychological hiccups, the worst being a loss of self-efficacy, which left unchecked can blossom into depression.
Just as muscles weaken if not flexed on a regular basis, your ego will atrophy if you have a phalanx of assistants catering to your every need. Forfeiting control over the little things can leave you feeling faster than you can imagine incapable of wrestling with life’s simplest challenges. And that ain’t a good feeling.
8. I’ll never sweat the small stuff.
Because sycophants do their bidding at warp speed, folks with money never develop what psychologists call “frustration tolerance” that is, the ability to calm oneself during the interval between sensing a desire and becoming enraged by the thought that it might not be fulfilled.
The most common symptom of this a tantrum that only rich people can pull-off without being arrested, this is more commonly known as DYKWIA? (“Do You Know Who I Am?”) meltdown. In a word: ugly.
9. I’ll be a good provider for my family.
Sure you will as measured by your credit card bill. But if face time is any part of being a good provider (and any good shrink will tell you that it is), then get ready to fall short because everyone spells love T-I-M-E. Eighty hour work weeks don’t leave much time for Little League games, PTA meetings or anniversary dinners.
10. I’ll be safe.
Having money means you’ll eat well, have a roof over your head and be able to put your children through college. All very comforting. But safety in the sense of experiencing inner peace and general rightness with the world can’t be bought with cash, especially given that the rich aren’t exactly allowed to gripe about their inner turmoil.
It’s one thing if a laid-off teacher says, “Life sucks,” but how can someone earning eight figures say that? As my lawyer client would say: “It wouldn’t be fitting.”
Go ahead, earn all your heart desires. Just have a sense of why you’re doing it and take care of yourself along the way.
Remember, money is NOT the root of all evil, the lack of money is the root of all evil because statistically crimes are committed in the pursuit of cold hard cash. Earn with excellence with integrity as your guide.
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