That may sound funny when you read it aloud, and the first thought that rolls through your head afterwards might be something along the lines of “duh”, but let’s dig a little deeper. If you are not familiar with famous psychologist Abraham Maslow Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, you may wish to familiarize yourself with this. It is still considered to be a highly accurate look at how we humans rank the needs of life. These are the things that motivate action from all of us, starting with the most basic of needs like food and shelter. As one may imagine, someone who is on the verge of starvation is not overly concerned with self realization at that point in time.
So, let’s start at the bottom of the pyramid and work our way up as we go through this blog. The first thing you have to have is air, you can’t live more than three minutes without air. Next is water, and three days without it is about all you’ll get. You can go three weeks without food if absolutely necessary, but it certainly wouldn’t be any fun. You need shelter to hide you from the cold or the heat as well as clothing to do the same. This is baseline stuff, obviously, and I think it is safe to say that no one reading this blog has these issues to the fullest extent. Not having that Hermes purse or those new Jordans does not constitute a lack of unmet needs, those things are wants, so don’t get it twisted. But once you have some level of these very basic needs covered, anything else is a bonus. While this is a very Stoic way of looking at things, I believe it to be very true. The sooner you can realize that you don’t need much, and what you have is good enough, the sooner you will be free from the awful clutches of society’s ever-changing “norms”.
Next on the list are things like safety, employment, health and a few others. This next level is showing movement towards the things in life that are still “must-haves” but not to the same level as air and water. Not everyone gets to like their job, we all know that. But some do, and the rest tolerate what they do to make money to pay bills and secure the things listed so far. These are basic physical needs that, without them, your emotional well-being would be in jeopardy. The next level of the hierarchy makes that leap into the realm of things that are more focused on your emotional and intellectual health. These things include family, a sense of belonging to a community, love and intimacy.
If it appears to you that we are moving away from the things that money solves as problems, you are correct. Without money, the only thing listed so far that you can be guaranteed of is air. Everything else costs money; water, food, shelter, clothing, etc. all require you to have money to resolve these needs. Skipping ahead to the top two levels of the Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, you see things like respect, self-esteem, recognition and at the very top level, becoming everything that you have the potential to be in life. These things are typically associated with money, but do not necessarily require money to achieve.
Circling back to the title of the blog, I firmly believe this statement:
Money only solves Money Problems
Once you have a little bit of money to cover the basic needs, you no longer have to worry about starving or being homeless. If you manage your money well and/or make more money than you “need”, life gets easier. Believe me when I tell you, money does not make you a better person in any way, shape or form. In fact, sometimes it makes things worse. You can indulge a lot of bad habits when you have money to burn. I have friends that are multimillionaires, successful in business or sports, and one that inherited a ton of money. No one becomes a better version of themselves without some real focused effort to do so, and money rarely has anything to do with that. Once you can pay your bills, put food on the table and things like this, you are elevating yourself within the socioeconomic ranks. But it is going to take some work to learn how to elevate yourself as a human being.
Once you start making money in a job, you have the opportunity to improve your life at the level of the basic needs. You can move into a better place, in a better zip code, and stop eating Top Ramen at every meal. Things are looking up, money is solving some problems. Gain a little more leeway in terms of money and you can save and invest, and starting planning for the future instead of living day by day. All of these things are signs of progress, which is great, but this is about to take a left turn, please signal accordingly.
In most cases, money will solve your money problems to this level, but if you really want to continue your journey up the Hierarchy, you’ll have to start looking inward to see what gaps you have, the flaws you need to fix and the weaknesses that you own. If you are really looking to hit the next level of human existence, most find this comes in the form of service to others in some way. You do not have to reject the material trappings of the world and become a monk, but you do need to understand that just writing a check to a charity, while needed and appreciated, is taking the easy way out. You need to give a piece of yourself to really level up.
What I am really getting at in this blog is your inherent responsibility to improve as a human being, not just make more money. As I titled this, money only solves money problems, so what are you going to do about the rest? Things like your view of the world, your self esteem, how you treat others, and what legacy are you leaving behind? And don’t scoff at the legacy thing, having kids is enough to “qualify” you for a legacy. You are teaching them how to be a better person, hopefully anyway. You are setting them up with skills to be successful in the world, and ideally contribute to society in some positive manner. If you need a good place to start, I will give you one:
Money does not solve all of your problems
Some of the richest people in the world are not happy or emotionally satisfied. Do you think Kanye West is leaping out of bed every morning, greeting the world with a smile on his face? I doubt, he rarely smiles anyway from what I can tell. In fact, if you click on this hyperlink, I am pretty sure EVERY picture of Kanye looks like this. For some, the burden for achievement can be used to their advantage, but does that make them happy and well-adjusted human beings? In fact, that can be a driving factor in reaching the heights of success. Dan Gable, the most famous collegiate wrestler, who went on to win an Olympic gold WITHOUT SURRENDERING A SINGLE POINT THE ENTIRE OLYMPICSwould not have been that accomplished without a very tragic family death and a lot of pain and suffering that he had to deal with. He used that pain as fuel to achieve, but I don’t gather that he has lived a happy life despite his successes. I think it is a safe assumption that he would trade all of his wins and accolades to have his sister back. I have a close friend who lives in the nicest zip code in our state, in a large house on a hilltop.
It would appear he “has it all”, but that isn’t the case. Some of that money came from a successful medical practice his father had established, but after a tragic accident forced him to retire, the insurance money barely paid the bills for a long time. It wasn’t until a hard fought, drawn out lawsuit garnered a settlement that helped his family not worry about money issues. If you think he wouldn’t trade it all for one more day of “normal” with his dad, you are effen crazy. Having money doesn’t make you happy, it just improves the quality of the basics you have access to.
Take it from someone who grew up with somewhat humble beginnings and has been lucky enough to achieve many of the things he’s wanted to achieve thus far in life, money isn’t everything, and it is certainly not the key to happiness. Again, once you have the basics covered, the rest is all gravy in the sense that the thread count in your bed sheets in four digits instead of two. Lying on a beach in the Caribbean sounds great, and it is, but the affects of this wear off quickly. What will last, and fill your soul as a person, is reaching your potential to the fullest and to help others. For most, it takes the majority of their lifetime to figure this out. I just saved you a lot of wasted time, so get to work.
What will really bring you a sense of happiness and fulfillment is to look within and start to work on making yourself into everything you can be. The top of the hierarchy pyramid is self actualization, and that should be your goal, Once you get a taste of how THAT makes you feel, money will never have the same intoxicating affect it used to. This is a long and winding road to travel, but in my opinion, the views are better from here any anywhere you could buy your way to. Please remember to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for others to follow during your journey, as they will benefit from your inner work and progress as well.