Working For Money Shows Poverty of Ambition

By David Hassell, CEO of 15Five

It seems like every entrepreneur is on a crusade to sell their company for millions – scratch that – billions. The recent tech startup acquisitions have earned entrepreneurs billions; it’s inflating egos and creating a skewed perception of success.

Worse yet might be following a pre-defined career path with the hopes of using your overly expensive education to make a living and score the highest salary. Cultural conditioning implores us to do so. Your parents would be proud. But is it the way to go?

Sure, taking a six figure salary is great. I have done it and so have many of my friends. But we were left with an incredible sense of emptiness – a lack of passion. Feeling like a robot quickly overtook the excitement of depositing that first paycheck.

President Obama, in his speech to the Campus Progress Annual Conference, once said, “It’s very easy to go chasing after the big house and the large salary and the nice suits and all the other things that our money culture says you should buy. But I hope you don’t. Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. And it will leave you unfulfilled.”

Take note. Even the President wants you to pursue something more than a paycheck.

Your Life Is Measured in Memories

“We do not remember days; we remember moments.” ~ Cesare Pavese

You know the guy who gave up his fast-paced job to work at a non-profit? You know that girl with a PhD who spent years trying to discover herself, only to find herself running a local book shop? These people surround us. They may not be on the cover of Forbes (yet), but they are out there . They are happy and pursuing a meaningful life. They are creating memories, collecting stories to tell their grandchildren and paving the way for a younger generation.

It reminds me of an episode of a show that only ran for two seasons, Trauma. There is this one scene where the paramedics are called to an elderly woman’s house, possibly for the last time. As the paramedic enters the old house and moves into the living room for the first time, she takes note of the many jars of sand collected from beaches from all over the world.

As the old woman catches the paramedic’s amazed eye, she quietly whispers with a smile, “I lived a good life.” This woman had no known family, no money and was on her deathbed, but pursued a life rich with travel and fond memories. That was the only thing she needed to take with her to the grave.

Money Can’t Buy You Happiness

“You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.” ~Tyler Durden, Fight Club

After a certain point, the amount of money you have is not directly correlated to happiness. A 2010 study by Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman shows that money and happiness are only correlated to a certain point. That point? $75,000 a year. After that, every dollar extra you make fails to produce any meaningful difference in your level of happiness. That means, on average, having enough money to get by is enough to make you happy.

Pursuing a life of six figure salaries and billion dollar acquisitions may work for some, but the numbers are few. If you aren’t happy with what you are doing, it’s time to step back and discover your WHY because money simply isn’t enough on its own.

It’s easy to get swept away by the idea of living a life of luxury. But what personal sacrifice does it take to get you there and is it really worth it? Don’t let the numbers on your paycheck dictate who you are or define your ambition.

Seek to be fulfilled by a career meaningful to YOU. Working for money shows a poverty of ambition. Don’t let it happen to you. Make sure your career (your “WHY”) is worthy of your life.

What do you do for a living? Is it fulfilling and ambitious?

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