Happiness, YOLO Culture, and The Chinese Bamboo Tree

All, Bizness, Happiness, moneyz, motivation, MyFavoritez, Philosophy

edit 11/16/15: I think if you look at the infographic on Sonnet 9 here, you will see right through the fallacy of YOLO, simply in the actual regrets of the dying.


For World Happiness Day, I have this to remind you: “How you spend your days is how you spend your life”.

Meaning, that while you’re waiting or dreaming for the life you want, it’s passing you by; you’re living life right now. As John Lennon famously said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

And as I enter the dawn of my 29th year, let me tell you, three and four years can pass and leave you bewildered at how fast the time goes by. I’m reminded of a great quote that I recently read, which really encapsulated my feelings about life as of late: “..Think of life as a terminal illness, because, if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.” – Anna Quindlen

What a great paradigm; life most certainly ought to be lived with joy and passion. But I look around and I feel that modern culture has effectively debased the concept of embracing our mortality and diluted it into something vapid and hollow. I say this not because I think people are ignorant to the finite nature of life, but because I think adherence to modern ideas of what it means to live once are essentially causing people to squander their time in an attempt not to. YOLO culture, or whatever you want to call it, has watered down the objectives in life for many into two basic principles: A short-term objective of: the pursuit of fun, and a long-term objective of: the avoidance of regret. The combination of these nearsighted objectives can aptly be summarized in the oft heard rally cry of: ‘You only live once’ or perhaps more crassly in Jeffrey Lebowski’s (The Dude’s) mantra of ‘fuck it’.

Existential psychologists, such as Viktor Frankl and Rollo May held the view that an individual’s personality was constantly being governed by the choices and decisions they made in relation to the realities of life and death. Perhaps these modern ideas about pursuing fun while avoiding regret have become widespread paradigms because they provide people with a decisioning model that both excuses and validates a person’s actions in relation to both life and death.

The major fallacy with the paradigm of: ‘You only live once, have fun, you don’t ever want to be full of regret when you’re older or dying‘ is that it fails to apply any weighted logic to the integrity and intelligence of the decision itself, instead relying on the sole question of ‘Will this bring satisfaction to my life at the present day, whilst decreasing my dissatisfaction with life at some arbitrary point in the future?‘. That kind of question is akin to the logic that guides the behavior of children. The only difference being that a child is not aware of the concept of avoiding future regret.

As evidenced by the previous few paragraphs I hardly find this to be a healthy model for finding happiness in life while reconciling the truth of my mortality. When the pursuit of fun and the avoidance of regret become the chief metrics by which you assess your decisions, you essentially reduce your ability to direct your life to that of a child, and while children are often happy, as adults we have vastly different responsibilities; however, its possible that the root of the problem itself is not in this ‘YOLO logic’ but in the unevolved adolescent priorities which allow such an immature model to exist. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides an interesting model with which this might be assessed.

But digressing from my existential thoughts on the un-actualized potential of the masses, I want to return to what I am doing to find happiness.

You know, life is long. And despite the fact that we are all very likely going to die eventually (pending there is no singularity which transcends the human lifespan), we have to live in a manner which allows us to reconcile this fact. For me, that’s something I accomplish by loving as if each day were my last. For me, that brings peace to my heart. Do I believe in living each day as if it were my last? I don’t know if that’s realistic. Maybe for someone at sea, sailing the world. Maybe on your honeymoon. Maybe we get moments where we are able to live as if they are our last.

The second century Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said that: “You will find rest from vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last.” I think he meant that we should do things with the knowledge that we may never get to do them again, not that we should do things because we may never get the chance to do them again. That’s a very slight but massively important distinction that says something about the quality of the things we should do.

As adults, we have adult responsibilities, and hopefully we have adult goals (internal goals: growth and development). Because that’s what life is about. It’s about transcending who you are and growing, and reaching your full potential as a self-actualized individual.

True happiness, like true love, is work, not leisure. It can be more amazing than you could ever imagine, but you have to invest in it. If you’re not willing to do the work, and to sacrifice for it, you cannot expect to break through those plateaus and reach your goals and dreams.

But I didn’t write this to talk about true happiness or to talk about living once or even to harp on the fallacies of conforming to dogma (the last part comes easiest for me). No, the real reason I wrote this is to talk about something bigger within the context of happiness, living once, and thinking for yourself. I wrote this to talk about sacrifice. And not sacrifice in a self-pitying way, but the type of sacrifice you have to choose to make if you really want an exceptional life.

The recipe for an unexceptional life is to think YOLO, and just never grow. And I’ve seen the outcomes that school of shortsighted and immature thought produces. It produces people who are complacent. It produces people who have immature needs and goals and who neither cultivate themselves nor create anything which lives up to their potential.

I’m reminded of the story of the Chinese Bamboo tree. The Chinese Bamboo tree must be watered every single day for nearly five years before it begins to grow beyond a small sprout. At about the fifth year, it explodes in growth, reaching up to 90 feet tall in a single season. That’s kind of how your dreams work. You have to be willing to water them and cultivate them every single day – focusing on the future with belief that it will be worth it.

The true point of my writing today is to outline a mental foundation for you for the following picture, and hopefully everything I’ve written here today helps to connect those dots for you in ways that allow you to adapt to life so that you can change the way you see life, change the way you see other people, and change the way you see success / your dreams.

farmblog

So do today what others won’t so you can have tomorrow what others can’t.

Money Does Not Equal Happiness

All, family, Happiness, moneyz, Philosophy, Timeless Truths

Three years and exactly 99 posts ago I went to wordpress.com and started this blog.

I’ve been waiting for something worthy enough for my 100th post.

Today the impetus for my centennial post arrived.

I was reading about how Crispin Glover of Back to The Future Stardom recently came out and stated that he didn’t participate in the second installment of the Back To The Future franchise because:

…he was upset with the materialistic happy ending of the first film. He didn’t like that the McFlys were happier people because they were more prosperous financially. And he felt the idea that money = happiness is BS.

He noted that he wasn’t the only person asking questions about the original ending “It had to do with money, and what the characters were doing with money … I said to Robert Zemeckis (the film’s producer) I thought it was not a good idea for our characters to have a monetary reward, because it basically makes the moral of the movie that money equals happiness”. Glover argued “the love should be the reward”, and “Zemeckis got really mad” over Glover’s questioning.

To which I completely remembered the ending and the truck that Marty Mcfly had lusted after and how happy he was finally possessing it as well as how content the family was with their outwardly prosperous life.

And I realized how much I liked that ending as a child. I wanted that truck.

I wanted my family to be happy like that, because, I believed that if we had money, we truly would be.

But now, I’m 28 and I realize that the outwardly prosperous life = happiness equation equals bullshit as much as Crispin Glover’s reasoning for not participating in the second Back To The Future is bullshit.

Anyone remember a movie Crispin Glover was in called Hot Tub Time Machine?

Well, if you have seen that movie, the irony is that it has the exact same ending as Back To The Future: they end up in an alternate timeline where everyone has money and is happy as a result.

Both of those movies have happy endings, and both endings send the same message and once again, the disempowering belief of money = happiness is sold.

The truth is that Crispin Glover wasn’t in the second Back To The Future film because as the film’s screenwriter stated, “His salary demands were unreasonable”.

Hipster armchair observations about Crispin Glover aside, you need to know that as long as you believe that prosperity equals happiness, you will be unhappy without it.

The truth is that people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be. (Thank you Abraham Lincoln for that quote).

And your beliefs are the only real barrier to your happiness.

Because the truth about money is that all too many people spend their lives chasing it, and then they end up dying and realizing that it wasn’t money that mattered.

The truth about money is that it is as important to your happiness as you let it be.

And trust me and everyone who has ever lay dying when I tell you that there are much more important stops on your pursuit of real and true happiness than the pursuit of things.

Money doesn’t buy your time back. It won’t bring your family back. And it sure as hell won’t bring you true happiness.

I’m not making a case for a spartan life. I enjoy money. I’ve had the luxury of being rich and poor. And trust me, as it is said, rich is better.

But I stopped trading things that truly matter to me in exchange for the pursuit of money. And to me, that was the lesson that has made my life what it is today.

Unfortunately, it’s a lesson I can’t teach. You have to figure it out for yourself.

But the beautiful thing is that you know what matters to you; as with all matters of the heart, you already have the right answers.

But alas, so many of us are caught in the trap of judging ourselves and others based on the standards that society has programmed us to keep score with – money being the chief metric among these.

My advice on money is to figure out the real worth that money actually brings to your life.

How much comfort do you need? How much freedom do you need? How much choice and control do you need?

I’m not saying you have to stop there, but the truth is, the real return of money stops at a certain point – and the danger begins when you start sacrificing the things that really matter in order to acquire an arbitrary and intangible sense of worth that you have bestowed onto money.

And maybe you have no liquidity and your bank ledger is constantly dipping into the red – then the real question in this case is, have you sacrificed your sense of self-worth and inner peace as a result?

Because the truth about money is that it comes and goes, and like love, it comes a lot easier when you don’t attach your self-worth to it.

That’s a big gamble to make. Don’t attach who you are to what you have.

Einstein said that all he needed to be happy was ‘chair, a desk, and an apple’.

I think we all need to determine what our chair, desk, and apple are.

My personal and semi satirical-twist on this is that all I need to be happy is a pizza and a box of wine.

Now, I am not a wino, but if I had a pizza and a box of wine, I’m pretty sure I could manage to have a great afternoon.

If I truly was to equate how much money I needed to experience inner peace and lasting happiness, I would probably take a good look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in relation to how much money effects meeting my basic physiological and safety needs.

Beyond that, I would use Maslow’s model to examine my personal beliefs about money in relation to my sense of Love/Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization and use this as a guide to determine how much money I need in order to reach my peak potential in life.

My goals in life involve having a large family and providing them with the things that money affords that I did not have access to.

However, in my personal journey, I have been extremely fortunate to have come from my unique background and in the course of my 28 years to have discovered on my own what money and happiness really means to me.

The intangibles, the things I write about that have so much more worth than money ever could.

Because the intangible truth is that happiness is independent from circumstance.

If you do not understand this, I implore you to read the Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning.

Seriously, invest in yourself and your future generations. These works are the real deal.

If you are unhappy because of a lack of prosperity I’d advise you to stop comparing yourself to other people and to reexamine your heroes.

If you are still hellbent on pursuing prosperity as a means to happiness, by all means, go ahead. I’ve been down that road. It’s like being a mouse in a cage, running on that wheel. It leads to the same place you are now.

Money is just a means – to what end is your choice.

You can use it to help yourself and others, or you can use it to separate yourself from others by judging those with it or without it – yourself included.

It’s just money.

Figure out what it means to you and you’ll figure out your relationship with it.

Figure out what you will use it for and don’t be used for it.

Figure out how money relates to your personal happiness, and whether it’s real needs that are the limiting factor to your well-being, or whether it’s just your beliefs about money that are holding you down mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Figure out what matters to you. You only have so much time.

Figure out how you are keeping score in life.

Money is just security, and if you are fortunate – a bit of freedom and autonomy as well – but real freedom and autonomy arises from your beliefs, and real security comes from who you are.

Don’t believe the lie that money equals happiness.

Meaning equals happiness.

Find meaning in your experiences, in your beliefs, in your relationships, and in the present moment.

The life of money-making is one undertaken under compulsion, and wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else. – Aristotle