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Money Isn’t Everything And Neither is Perseverance

Two things have been on my mind: lyrics and a dear friend.  Both have to do with questions of money, fulfillment, and our search for purpose, meaning, and happiness.

A pleasant nuisance

A pleasant nuisance

Some lyrics from the song Soon Forget

Say what you want about Pearl Jam over the last 10 years, whatever the music has been, Eddie Vedder is always spot on with lyrics.

Sorry is the fool who trades his soul for a corvette.
Thinks he’ll get the girl he’ll only get the mechanic.
What’s missing? He’s living a day he’ll soon forget.

Sorry is the fool who trades his love for hi-rise rent.
Seem the more you make equals the loneliness you get.
And it’s fitting. He’s barely living a day he’ll soon forget.

Misguided perseverance is not a virtue

A friend recently said this to me about another friend of ours:

“He’s able to keep doing things he hates for a long time to make the money. I totally respect that.

We were talking about a friend of ours who has been at a job he hates for years.  Years…There don’t seem to be any changes on the horizon, but the money is pretty good and the mortgage must be paid.

Perseverance is admirable and necessary if you’re going to tackle big goals.  I believe it’s a curse if you don’t have a destination in mind.  I’m not going to cross Aerosmith and say that life’s a destination and not a journey, but we have to have some sort of plan to start with, right?  I mean, we all spend our fair share of time with our nose to the grindstone.

I’m sure as hell not going to spend years on the wrong grindstone.  Suppose I’m good at doing things I hate for years.  Years!  You know what will eventually happen?  I’ll die and they’ll write on my tombstone:

He spent most of his time on earth doing things he’d rather not have

Let’s all have a good shudder and shiver together.

True misery isn’t cured by money

My sister Megan and I were watching the Detroit Pistons in the NBA playoffs a couple of years.  Suddenly she pretended her phone was ringing.

“Oh, is this Chauncy Billups?”  Chauncy was the point guard for Detroit.  “Why yes, Chauncy, I will accept one million dollars from you,” she said, pretending to hang up the phone that had never rung.

I laughed.  What else could I do?  And yet I realized then and now how often money is on her mind.  It is the sign of success and the end of all problems.

Have you ever been miserable?  I mean dragging yourself through another day or week or year that feels like a root canal that compounds exponentially with every breath you take?  If so…if you believe you have experienced true misery and hopelessness…would money have changed things?

I can only speak for myself.  When I’ve been at my worst emotionally, mentally, and with zero hope, money never has anything to do with the solution.

Don’t forget your days

Even though I’ve been harping about reasons to keep a journal, it is possible to live unforgettable days once in a while.  The better you get at them, the more frequently they appear.

Here is how we can create days that we won’t soon forget:

  • Refuse to be bored but waste as little time as possible
  • If you’re miserable, find something you like and do it quick
  • Have goals
  • Achieve goals
  • Less time thinking about yesterday
  • Less time thinking about tomorrow
  • Have lots of conversations with good friends
  • The fewer electronic screens in your life, the better
  • Don’t stay at a job you hate forever

Money could be on that list, but I’m not putting it on mine.   When it makes it into the mix, it often floats to the top of my priorities and corrupts everything.

Whenever possible, I try to view my money the way I view my debt: just numbers on a screen somewhere.

Whatever you are doing, do it on your terms.  If you are currently enduring circumstances that you hate, know the reason why.  Don’t do it “just because.”  And let’s try not to make money a goal in itself.  That’s a hollow pursuit.

At least have this in mind, and I’ll do the same: My goal is to have enough money so that I can improve myself in this way (insert whatever you like).

My grandfather told me once that money can ruin people.  I know that it can, but it doesn’t ruin everyone. Regardless, it’s convenient for me to say “well it won’t ruin me!”  But then, I don’t have any money.

What’s the difference?  If you believe that money can affect people negatively, let’s talk about how or why it might happen in the comments.

Also, are any of you looking for new jobs to replace jobs you hate?  If so, how long until you make your move?  If not, hooray!


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  • Casey August 3, 2009, 7:42 am

    This is the kind of post that speaks to me on a Monday morning.

    The only thing keeping my at my desk is that the company is paying for grad school. But should that really be a reason? Other companies pay for grad school as well. In fact I could even get a job as a student researcher that would pay for school. So obviously thats not the only reason…

    Maybe I’m just scared. Not only is it a lousy job market, but fear of failing is what drives me and quiting for some strange reason feels like failure.

    Thanks fot the post. This topic has been on my mind a lot.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 3, 2009, 8:40 am

      @Casey. Yeah, knowing that you shouldn’t be scared of something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t scare you. I’m having a hard time living a lot of what I said in this article, although I do believe it all. Family changes things. The economy changes things. Ultimately, I still believe that there are workaround for everything, but the fear is very real.

  • Kathy Casey August 3, 2009, 7:53 am

    I have a good friend, (I’ll call her Joanne), she recently got her life together – and I am so very proud of her. Her problems began with her back. Severe pain eventually led her to surgery, which eventually led her to a “pain-management” specialist. Fast forward eight years….EIGHT YEARS. During this time Joanne and her husband built a small company into a very large and profitable company. She had access to the kind of money that would make most of us very, very happy and satisfied. Bigger and better houses, cars, wardrobes, etc. This money also did two other things for her. It allowed her the freedom to Doctor Shop for her “pain-management” and it opened her up to a bevy of loosers and users. It happened gradually to the point that none of us saw it until it was crazy! (For the record, I only see her a few times a year.) We had no idea that Joanne was shopping for pill perscriptions from several different doctors – none of whom consulted the other. (Micheal Jackson, anyone?) When it came time for intervention, we (the real friends) were all astonished to realize just how much medication she was taking on a daily basis. Uppers, downers, oxy, xanax, you name it: insane amounts of narcotics! Let’s just say – Micheal had nothing on her! MONEY! Money is how she did it and Money is how she was enabled to do it. She would go on wild shopping sprees with all of her looser “friends” and they loved her “crazy -spirit”. They liked it so much, that no one said anything to her about her drug taking. And so it went on & on. Like I said, Joanne, went to rehab and got herself together…but she’s still grappling with how it all went wrong. I like money as much as the next gal…but I can tell you, sometimes it leads people down some very slippery slopes.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 3, 2009, 8:43 am

      Kathy, wow. Not sure why, but that reminds me of a story my brother told me. He’s in sales and was working in some Ritzy neighborhoods. He said that he often got inside of a luxurious house to find it nearly unfurnished inside–at least, compared to the outside. And that some very rich people were having to be very careful with their money because they had about as much disposable income as I do, given our spending habits and lifestyles.

      This is such an easy conversation to get snooty in, so I’ll stop. I don’t believe being a pauper gives any moral superiority, and to be honest, whenever I think “I don’t want money to ruin me,” I also think, “But I’d like to prove that it couldn’t!”

  • Casey August 3, 2009, 8:07 am

    You know Kathy, I can honestly say that the times in my life I look back at most fondly were the times when I was the poorest.

    It really had nothing to do with the number attached to my bank account, it had everything to do with the fact that I was out there living my life exactly how I wanted it lived. Myself included, I think we let money twist us and change us into people we don’t really intend on-being.

  • Kathy Casey August 3, 2009, 8:35 am

    You are so right. It leads me back to a quote that a very wise friend of mine posted on his blog…I think his name is Josh something-or-another….any way….

    “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Kurt Vonnegut

    Money has the ability to make people pretend in very different ways. Maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to being a “starving artist”. I pretend to be starving: at the same time I’m always working hard at selling more art….is it for the money? Not yet…right now, it’s because it allows me to do what I love, which in turn, allows me to be part of the art-scene that I love….or in Vonnegut’s terms….it allows me to pretend to be an artist. If I every start to get rich of my art (HA!) then I may have to re-think the whole thing.

  • Kathy Casey August 3, 2009, 8:48 am

    P.S. Josh…
    You may be a twitter addict – too early for an intervention – however, you did start your post reply with: @Casey.

  • Casey August 3, 2009, 8:56 am

    Kathy, your quote-fu is strong. I think I need to book mark the Vonnegut quote post, or maybe print it off.

    Josh, I think your are right, family and the economy does make the stakes seem a lot higher. This may sound stupidly simple, but there is alot of unhappiness out there, and I think its because people are doing things that don’t make them happy. If we all started doing things we liked a lot more, then we would be a much happier and more content society, but we are too scared to go out there and take the time to search and find what those things that make us happy really are.

    On abirighter note: We still on for working through hell this weekend?

    • Josh Hanagarne August 3, 2009, 9:04 am

      Casey, yes! Absolutely. I’ll send you an email this afternoon after I talk to James and we’ll set something up for Saturday.

  • Katherine August 3, 2009, 10:02 am

    Money can do amazing things, no doubt. But remember the immortal words of Dolly Levi to Horace Vandergelder…”and on those cold winter nights, Horace, you can snuggle up to your CASH REGISTER!”
    It’s money stress that causes people to choose things that may not be in their best interest.

    My father in law worked for a newspaper in circulation all his life and hated it…why? Because his wife could not leave the town her mother lives in. So you see, we have choices that bring on other choices. It affects so many for so long.

    I read Jack Nicholas told Tiger Woods…”find a girl, have a family…you can only polish those trophies for so long” (or words to that effect). Being determined, strong willed, and competent in your field doesn’t guarantee happiness or fulfillment.

    I guess it’s like the stock market…diversify.

    You are all younger than I and at a different place. My husband and I have worked over 35 years together and have a wonderful family. But retirement is not the same option as before. Not just money, but the worry of health problems that will eat up all our saved money. So does my husband now continue to work for a company that has been bought out, not the integrity of the original company at all, not the best products any more, etc. because he has the “golden handcuffs” on? And no health insurance benefits for retirement? With a “do not compete” clause saying if he continues in this field after leaving the company he will lose his pension?

    It’s discouraging. It’s not what we planned.

  • TheWordWire August 3, 2009, 1:03 pm

    I visited Hawaii with my Dad when I was about 17. He told me something I didn’t fully appreciate at the time: It’s possible to be miserable in paradise, or deliriously happy someplace you’d never expect — What matters is the people in your life. He’s right, of course, and I’ll never forget that conversation.

    Paradise is an easy metaphor for money. It certainly matters, but not as much as other things. I’m in career limbo myself right now, and struggle to find balance between figuring out what work will make me happy and pursuing a career path based on earning potential. I’m still holding out hope I’ll find both — Thanks for an inspiring post!

    • Josh Hanagarne August 3, 2009, 2:22 pm

      @WordWire. What careers are you in limbo between? Money isn’t everything, but it certainly isn’t nothing:) I’d love to hear what you’re looking for and where you’re hoping to live. I still monitor job boards out of habit from when I was a job coach.

  • Jessica Marie August 3, 2009, 7:54 pm

    I think it’s important to have a balance. Money isn’t everything but it still important. I remember hearing a lottery winner once say that he wished that he had won a smaller amount of money. He wanted enough to be comfortable and provide for his family and future but not so much that he didn’t know who his friends were or why someone was taking an interest in him. With millions, he was never really sure why he was liked. I think it’s all about balance. You need shelter, clothing, food, and other necessities (like internet access to read Josh’s blog) but do you really need 4 cars, a boat, and a house with 12 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, and a bowling alley in the basement? While I don’t have lots of money, I have a job I love and enough money to provide for the basics plus a little extra.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 3, 2009, 7:58 pm

      @Jessica. Very thoughtful response, thank you. I’m flattered that this blog is right up there with clothing and food. They need a new pyramid of needs, I guess:)

  • William Spiritdancer August 10, 2009, 2:51 am

    I dunno, I once had a job that paid a lot of money and no meaning. So I quit ten years ago to do what I love (film making) and make a difference (dream Power). So now I have lots of meaning in my life and I sometimes get to do what I love but now I have no money. Now I am so far down the rabbit hole that I spend most of my days worrying about how I am going to pay my bills (I have a big family) and no time for joy or meaning. I feel trapped because I can’t go back to the old way (too far in the new way) but I don’t know how to make a decent income (enough to pay the bills) and do my so called calling. By the way can some one comment who actually likes having money? I wish people would stop pretending they don’t have it when they really do. Seems like every rich person I meet claims they don’t have any money somehow. By the way Josh, I read your “why me” (I Heard Blogging Was Dead. I’m Glad I Didn’t Listen) article on problogger (that’s how I found you) and I think the reason it’s you is because you’re a good writer.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 10, 2009, 7:37 am

      @William. Great points. It’s convenient to say that money doesn’t matter to you when you don’t have any. I can personally say I know several very wealthy people who do what they love and love to have money. I can’t speak for how they’ve managed it, but they’re certainly out there. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

  • William Spiritdancer August 10, 2009, 3:06 am

    You know I have been thinking about this money thing a lot. And I know I live it (not having it) everyday. I don’t have it and just talk about not having it. I mean I really don’t have it! Eviction, hunger, divorce, alienated children. These are all very real fears for me. But I’ve been thinking about what money really is. I think it is suffering. I think this is why doing what we love and money don’t really mix. This is also why people expect us to suffer in one form or another for it. I mean why do we trade? usually it’s because we hate doing something so we trade it. If I have a restaurant and hate washing dishes then I PAY someone else to do it. The thing is, no one likes doing dishes. So the money equals the suffering or hard work of doing the dishes. If I struggle to cut fire wood and you struggle to catch fish. We can trade struggle for struggle. I donno, seems like struggle is just part of the equation. I used to live in low income housing thinking that the low rent would bring me peace and I could finally focus on what I love to do etc. But instead the stress of rent was replaced by the stress of gangs, drugs, shootings etc. But as for the struggle aspect, one thing I have discovered is that if you can slow down and do it as it comes or on your own time, you can do almost anything with peace. In fact you could say that the slower you do something the more peaceful or joyful it can be. The problem is that in our society there are all these deadlines, companies love them. Rent every month, mortgage payments every month. Sales quotas every month. These deadlines, produce stress and force us to meet them in a pressured (fearful) state. That translates to pressure at work to produce enough income in 30 days etc. So now we can’t slow down or take it on our own time (or it’s own time as some would say) inevitability you will bump up against your boss or your wife saying “where is it!”. Did/do native tribes have these pressures? Maybe they didn’t have deadlines like rent but they had to worry about bears and wolves and the tribe next door. Plus everyday they had the deadline of more food. So I dunno.

  • Beth L. Gainer August 15, 2009, 3:37 pm

    This posting resonates with me, Josh, because I had careers I hated. I had the money, but it wasn’t worth it. Luckily, I’m aware of my own need to be happy — and I refused to stay stuck in dead-end, miserable jobs and live in misery.

    As you know, I’m a breast cancer survivor, and it took this disease to really drive home the importance of being happy and healthy above all else. Within a year of my last chemo treatment, I got out of a bad job, bad marriage, and dumped bad friends.

    I got a second chance, and I know the fragility of life. Life is too precious to get wrapped up in the external trappings of money. I know people who judge themselves and others by their material possessions and think that success is measured by salary and material things.

    Success, to me, is defined by one’s character and contribution to the world and one’s striving to be at peace with oneself. Happiness is in enjoying life. Nickelback has a great song about this, but I forgot the name.

    I can honestly say that I’m happy; happiness is a choice, and money cannot buy it.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 15, 2009, 6:24 pm

      Beth, congratulations on knowing how to cut away the things that hold you back. I’m happy that you’re happy and I agree that proactivity is key.

  • Debbie Ferm December 9, 2009, 6:54 pm

    The claim that people do not want money makes me mental. I think the more appropriate argument here would be that you CAN be happy and successful in life even if you don’t have a lot of money. That is something I can get behind.

    The argument that money itself will make you miserable is as silly as the one where money itself will make you happy.

    I’m enjoying making my way through your posts, Josh. Quite soon you will have no more money concerns because you will be selling gazillions of books:)

    • Josh Hanagarne December 9, 2009, 7:42 pm

      Debbie, part of me wants to believe that I don’t want money. It’s convenient to say that when I don’t have a whole lot. I agree, and I don’t believe there’s any moral superiority to being a pauper:)

      I’ve known rich people who are very down to earth and I’ve known entry level custodians who have a king’s sense of entitlement.

      Gazillions, huh? Here’s hoping!