21 Sep How Confused Optimism & Money Disillusions Can Kill Your Dreams (+ A Simple Solution)
“Why risk what you have and need for what you don’t have and don’t need?”
A few weeks ago I was seduced…
I recently had lunch with a buddy of mine who finished business school and now is about two years into his investment banking career.
As we indulged in some Chipotle, he casually mentioned the kinds of salaries some of his buddies were getting and how he was looking forward to his massive year-end payout. Mind you, these are the type of bonuses that can buy homes (or perhaps even small countries). All he had to do was put in the time and he was all but assured the golden check.
That’s when it hit me.
Suddenly I caught myself thinking of how nice it would be to have what he ‘had’. The seemingly certain paychecks, the consistency – It all sounded so freaking awesome. For a moment it felt worth trading for.
Then I remembered how our lunch started…
He explained how out of the last three weeks he’d had dinner with his wife once. He had been at the office for around 12-14 hours a day (except on weekends when he was lucky to only work 9-5). And his workout routine was about as consistent as his family dinner appearances.
Many of his friends and co-workers spent 20% more than their monthly take – despite it being enough to buy that small country. The watches, the suits, the status, the dinners, the seemingly ‘necessary’ luxuries they’d gotten used to.
All this added up – to a price I knew I wasn’t willing to pay.
The dark side is often closer than you think.
The scary thing was that for a few minutes I was envious of the life my friend described. I actually started to think that’s what I wanted.
I’ve been there many times before – every entrepreneur, Living Legend or passion pursuer has.
And that’s how fast optimism can kill your dreams.
I took the one redeeming aspect I saw in my buddy’s career (the consistent money) and my optimistic mind managed to look past everything else about it that I knew I couldn’t stand.
People do this everyday, and without knowing it their selective positivity tries to convince them their own dreams aren’t worth fighting for.
Luckily I knew how to snap out of it.
I am proud of what I do. I make a respectable living from it (still plenty of room to grow though ;). I get to help a ton of people (in areas where I feel I have unique talent) and I know there is no path I’d rather be on right now. Heck it’s a Saturday morning at 7:54am, and I am still in my sweaty running clothes because I could not wait to get to my computer to write this stuff down.
I have dinner with my wife almost every night. We take trips when we want and work on things we care about. We have time for our friends and have learned to cherish what’s important.
I love what I do.
It’s not to say that my buddy has chosen the wrong path – that’s only for him to decide. I just know enough about what matters to me to know it’s not worth it.
Doing work you love is freakin’ tough. No question about it.
Not only are we faced with the deepest and darkest fears, but on top of that we look around and everyone seems to have it figured out.
First off, they don’t.
Selective optimism is killing us.
We look at everyone around us and we only see the most enviable parts of their situation. The outward things that tend to show quite nicely – i.e. the fat paycheck, the big title, the overly liberal expense account, the secretary, the list goes on.
For some reason it’s so easy to find the things we admire about others’ lives.
Yet our outward optimism blinds us from what sucks. The long nights, the lack of freedom, the boss that treats you like you’re still in kindergarden or the work that makes you want to toss your laptop out the window.
We become so damn positive that suddenly we start thinking we want things that don’t actually matter to us, or even worse, that may cause us to tear our hair out.
It’s our own selective optimism that keeps us from pursuing our dreams.
The solution: Be optimistic with your own situation but realistic with others
Optimism can be the all powerful tool, as long as it’s not abused.
Have high hopes for yourself but stop trying to think you understand someone else’s situation. You don’t.
The paycheck is the easiest part. If you are smart, eager and willing to do whatever someone says and work your ass off, the paycheck will eventually be there.
The real challenge is: does the work required to get the paycheck make you happy?
You get this right and it’s worth even the biggest claims of fame, fortune or whatever the seduction of the day is.
There are two sides to every story.
Our natural (and very dangerous) tendency is to only see the things about others’ lives we’d like to have…especially if our own life seems challenging at the time (such as when searching for the work that matters to us). Our glasses are rosy as could be.
Be warned – you are not seeing reality.
Some of you look at me in a similar way.
I know because I get notes, comments and coaching inquires asking me to help people build what I’ve created. It’s flattering and humbling. But don’t be misled. I don’t have everything figured out either. Not even close. I have my fair share of moments where I have no idea what or how I’m going to solve the next problem. Where I panic. Where I question decisions.
We are all learning as we go. That’s the fun of it.
Stay in your own experience.
Have your own deep reasons for why you want what you want.
That way others won’t be able to throw you off.
Next time you find yourself envying those around you, ask yourself the following:
Do you need what you think you need?
I bet you could be happy on a lot less.
Do you even want what the others have?
Hard to know if you only pay attention to the good stuff.
Is it really worth the trade off?
I bet it’s not.
Beware the seduction.
If you let it control you too much, you’ll end up in the most dangerous scenario of all: doing work you don’t like to make money for things you don’t actually want or need.
Stay there long enough and escape starts to feel impossible.
That’s why Live Your Legend is here. That’s the purpose of this community – to support you in making that escape.
There is no journey more daunting than the one to doing work that matters. There’s also nothing more rewarding.
You will be challenged. It will be tempting. The grass will look greener.
Just remember: It’s usually not worth it.
The only path worth walking is the one you create for yourself.
The grass is never greener than it is on the path to doing things that make you come alive.
When in doubt, just keep walking.
But what if the money’s a real problem? – Here’s a solution.
In last month’s ask the reader post, one of your biggest pain points was money: “my expenses are too high”, “I won’t be able to pay my mortgage or car payment”, “I can’t make enough money doing work I love” and so the list went on…
I respect how big of a topic this is and I want to help.
There’s no question, money’s powerful, money’s influential and money can be downright seductive. But, contrary to common sense, the pursuit of it is the very thing that can keep you from your dreams. The things people do to get more of it blow my mind – either through big-salaried jobs doing work they hate or through getting deep into debt to feel like they have more to spend.
One of the biggest reasons people don’t pursue their dreams is because of money.
Either they think they need too much of it or their debt’s taken up all their breathing room.
For many of us, doing work we love does not start at finding your passion and figuring out how the hell to make money from it.
It starts long before – with getting yourself out of the consumption and debt-filled hole you and society have buried yourself in. Only when those fears of survival are dealt with, will our mind have the energy to find the creativity and courage to live on passion.
Money fears and challenges are passion killers.
Clear them out and sky’s the limit.
Time to get started!
Images courtesy of Shandi-lee & steve_steady64
RamonPosted at 07:55h, 21 September
Scott, good post. I agree that you have to be free of debt and at a certain point in life to have creativity. If you are worrying about paying the bills and all the other stuff you do not have time to think. First you need to make room in the “closet” to let other things in.
ScottPosted at 05:26h, 24 September
Making room is HUGE Ramon. Gotta walk before you can run…
CandicePosted at 08:12h, 21 September
The trick is to realize that it IS possible to dig out of that deep hole of debt. I’m in the process of doing it right now.
I have friends who envy my work-from-home/homeschool-the-kids lifestyle. And I occasionally wish I had a nicer purse, or car, or family vacation. There are definitely trade-offs, and while I expect to have those nicer material things one day, they aren’t my top priority right now.
Good luck to everyone who jumps into You Vs Debt!
ScottPosted at 05:28h, 24 September
The fact that those ‘nice’ things are not high priorities right now is the very thing that will allow them to come along later. Funny how that works. Congrats on tackling the debt.
Henrie MPosted at 09:20h, 21 September
Wow, great post. It is really easy to stop focusing on your goals and dreams when someone dangles an attractive alternative in front of you. The quality time with friends and family, and rich life experiences shouldn’t be put off til all the money issues are worked out. You’ll just never have enough security to enjoy life if you always put living second.
ScottPosted at 05:29h, 24 September
Put living first. I love it Henrie!
HughPosted at 09:53h, 21 September
“The grass is greener, but the water bill is higher.” I’ve always loved that quote. Goes along with your message here quite well I think.
Scott, I’m glad to have read this so I know I’m not the only one who occasionally gets seduced by my banker friends’ salaries, first class travel, etc. Some of my friends in that situation love their jobs, but the truth is, when I have real, down to earth conversations with them, most actually don’t. But they have to pretend to like it to justify (to themselves and to others) the hours and servitude that they put in.
ScottPosted at 05:30h, 24 September
I have experienced those same conversations at leaset a dozen times Hugh. Important to keep in mind.
Love that quote!
Rachel DenningPosted at 11:50h, 21 September
I love your message here (as usual). We’ve gone through this process many times.
We live a very simple life, and sometimes I have that occasional envy of wishing I could have what ‘they’ have.
But then I realize the trade-off, and I’m not willing to make it. We spend almost all of our time together as a family (my husband and 5 kids – yesterday we hiked 5 miles together in Capitol Reef National Park).
We have freedom to go wherever and whenever we want to go, because of the way we’ve designed our life.
We don’t (currently) make a whole lot of money, but we rich in lifestyle- we’re doing what we are crazy passionate about, and WE LOVE IT!
That’s what matters most to us.
(Oh, and we met up with Adam Baker – he’s awesome, and his course will totally rock!)
ScottPosted at 05:32h, 24 September
That’s what I call rich Rachel! Nicely done.
Greg GPosted at 13:52h, 21 September
Glad you saw better of it, Scott. I really like your ideas and many posts and look forward to each one, but I found this one intriguing on many levels.
When I look at what’s wrong with America one of the main things is the ever growing income inequality and the shrinking middle class and increasing poverty. The super-rich and wealthy are making exponentially more than the rest of us and it continues to increase. The fact your friend can get a bonus (above and beyond salary, mind you) that can buy a house in cash or a small country tells you how badly this country is skewed. And it’s mostly people making money off of money, not actually producing or creating anything and not creating employment opportunities for others.
We are rapidly becoming a Third World country. I know as I work in international disaster management and I’ve been to many of them.
The US has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country in the industrialized world. During the Bush years, the wealthiest 400 Americans saw their wealth increase by some $400 billion and are collectively worth over $1.3 trillion. That’s 400 people! Today, the top one percent owns more wealth than the bottom 90% and earns more income than the bottom 50%. Meanwhile, a record-breaking 50 million Americans have no health insurance and nearly 44 million Americans live below the poverty line.
It’s very sad indeed. And shameful. Thanks for thinking better of it Scott.
ScottPosted at 05:35h, 24 September
Insightful stats Greg. I really don’t have a problem with people making massive amounts of money for doing something really well. What I do have an issue with is when they do something for the money and hate the work. I see it happen much too often to not speak up.
Do what lights you on fire and find a way to really help people and I doubt one will go starving…
Greg GPosted at 07:53h, 26 September
Thanks for your response, Scott. I agree to a certain extent and think that greed has become a modus operandi. If 400 Americans have 1.3 trillion dollars while 44 million Americans live in poverty then something is wrong, and these people making massive amounts of money may truly enjoy their work, but that doesn’t make WHAT they are doing right. You should read “Free Lunch” by David Cay Johnston. It will open your eyes. The playing field is not level.
We could also say that bank robbers and robber barons may really like their work and are really good at it. The excellent documentary “Inside Job” highlights all the unethical financial machinations behind the 2008 global financial crash basically showed how the financial industry built up this house of cards on worthless mortgage backed securities until it all collapsed in a heap…and then got bailed out by the Government and the Fed. And no one goes to prison. Sounds like they’re really good at what they do.
Anyway, thanks for bringing this topic up because I think you’re right there are a lot of people that are enticed by the big money and subsequently give up a lot of their lives, their values, their morals and perhaps other “quality of life” aspects of their lives.
One needs to be able to look in the mirror every morning without remorse or question.
Executive XPosted at 03:00h, 22 September
I like the idea that finances should fuel your dreams (versus hold you back). Maintaining that mindset can keep you on the path to following your passion and away from the trap of the golden handcuffs.
ScottPosted at 05:37h, 24 September
MaheshPosted at 07:43h, 24 September
Scott, Great post…one thing you may want to write about in a future post is the nature of ‘want’ that fuels the debt itself…the need for the ‘McMansion’, that fancier car, the 90″ screen when 32″ would do just fine, etc., is so insidious and damaging, especially to kids growing up today. Most of the joyous things you write about require nothing more than comfortable shoes and imagination and that sure doesn’t add to debt. Obviously we have serious economic issues in the country, but this is one of the components that’s actually in our control!
ScottPosted at 17:44h, 05 October
You said it Mahesh! Could not agree more. My good friend Leo Babauta dedicates most of his site zenhabits.net to this. We need so much less than we think to be happy. In fact, less is often what makes us even happier.
I saw a documentary on Happiness recently that had a wild stat about the average impoverished man living in an African country (I’m forgetting which one right now) was happier than the average middle aged american. Then they showed a picture of the African man in his house on a rainy day with holes in his tin roof of his one-room house with his family around. His smile was ear to ear. Makes you think.
Here’s a post I wrote a while back about it: The Curse of Too Much: Why Most People Never Live Their Dreams and What to Do About It.
The power of less is more powerful than most realize.
Julio E. Peironcely (@peyron)Posted at 03:37h, 28 September
From the point of view of a European, I am always amazed that all the advice Americans give in roder to become richer starts (and many times is the main message) with get rid of your debt. Unfortunately, in the last 10 years we, Europeans, have been using credit more intensively to purchase those items that satisfy our ego: an Audi A4, tropical holidays, apartment by the beach,…, you name it.
I like the sentence “doing work you don’t like to make money for things you don’t actually want or need”, it reflects our society very accurately.
Looking forward to more actionable posts on how to monetize our passions.
Keep it up Scott!!
ScottPosted at 17:45h, 05 October
It’s scary to think how much energy is put towards that Julio.
Can’t wait to share some actionable passion posts and tools–lot’s coming!
EricPosted at 06:41h, 02 October
Scott Dinsmore: “I love what I do.”
ScottPosted at 17:46h, 05 October
You are the man Eric. Always have been. Always will be.
BrandiPosted at 07:15h, 26 July
Omg, I can so relate to this. All this time I was being overly optimistic and I didn’t know this was damaging but I felt the negative consequences. I tend to do when it comes to others. I always see their bright side, harder to see mine. Thanks for helping me focus my intention: Be optimistic with myself, realistic with others. Man! This is helping already! Thanks for this! 🙂
brandPosted at 23:41h, 22 December
We just couldnt leave your website before letting you know that we really enjoyed the useful information you offer to your visitors Will be back often to check up on new posts
Thomas AndrewsPosted at 23:13h, 06 June
It’s rather sad that I cannot agree with you. Consistent money, in all honors, it’s always been like no money consistently and NEVER being paid for any overtime. As for increasing bills and the cost of living, those eat up any optimism, because you know that as a skilled professional, you will never earn more money than a service sector employee flipping hamburgers. I don’t think one of those fat cats you mention has to even worry about ending up out on the street. Education does absolutely nothing to help a person these days. It only puts you in debt so that you can be extorted and oppressed. As for going on holidays? That is where you have to use the word NEVER. Never this, never that, and just about never anything at all. Isn’t that a resplendent form of optimism to have?