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There are days when recurring theme just hits you upside the head over and over. Today, everywhere I turned people and events reminded me of the concept of happiness vs. money.It began as soon as I woke up. I rolled out of bed and staggered to my hotel room door to find my complimentary copy of USA Today sitting on the floor outside the threshold.I bent over to grab the paper and as I stood up, a nice lady was walking by. She looked at me, smiled big and said, “Good morning!” I was still a bit out of it, but I managed a raspy, “good morning” in return.I thought, “Weird. She seemed really happy to see me.” When I walked into the bathroom and looked up at the mirror, I figured out why.She wasn’t happy – she was laughing at my bed head. I couldn’t help but think to myself that I looked like Kramer from Seinfeld if he put on 60 or 70 extra pounds. I laughed, too. 

Happy Faces Across America

When I looked at the front page of USA today, I saw a map of the United States entirely covered by little yellow smiley faces. The headline was If Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness, What Does?To summarize, apparently America is taking a cue from many other nations by beginning to include happiness as one of the criteria in judging how well the country is doing. Traditionally here in the U.S.  we use financial indicators (like the GDP) to gauge our health, but it looks like happiness may work itself in there as a real factor, too.I find it interesting that as one of the “rich” countries, we come in pretty low on the happiness rankings that were included in the article. We were number 11.The top three were Denmark, Finland, and Norway.(Note to self: are blonde-ish people happier?? Google later.)The good old US-of-A was number 11 – just above Costa Rica and just below Ireland.Ireland?IREland???They named IRE after that country – and they’re happier than us?Notre Dame’s logo is a scowling Irish guy looking for someone to punch for cryin’ out loud! All poor-losership aside, the article is an interesting read. You can find it here

A Good Interview

I’m in St. Louis this week interviewing some people for a sales management position we have open in the area. In one particular interview, I asked the candidate why she was looking to make a change right now.The young woman I was interviewing answered, “You know, I do pretty well. My sales are good and I have a lot of freedom to do things my own way. But I don’t feel challenged anymore. I know no one loves their job all the time, but when I wake up in the morning I should look forward to it more often than not. I should be happy to do my job most days.”I think she’s right. Let’s face it. Even if you work for yourself or in your dream job, there are days that just flat out blow. But most days you really should be able to wake up and look forward to something in your day that gets you excited.Have you ever known someone in a high paying job who just loathed what they did? Have you ever met a cabbie or a waitress in a diner who are just beaming all the time even though they may not be raking in the dough?Happy is big. 

Money And Happiness Are Not Enemies Or Companions

It might look as if I’m trying to say money and happiness don’t go together. I’m not. I’m also not saying that they do go together. I’m saying that they don’t always have to be related.Confused?Happiness is no more attached to money than it is to puppies. Puppies make us happy (when they’re not chewing up our shoes or defecating on our carpets) but we don’t measure happiness by the number of puppies people own – so why do we do that with money? 

When Money Might Mean Happiness

Take a look at this post from Ash Ambirge over at The Middle Finger Project. In particular, the second half of the post does a great job pointing out that while cashing in is a wonderful thing, the real gold is work that feels good.When your income is directly tied to how well you perform on any particular project, money and happiness can go together.Commissioned salespeople and freelancers for instance get paid on a job by job basis. They also get paid in direct proportion to the quality of work they do on each individual job.Think about it this way…If a salaried person has an unproductive day, they still get paid 1/356th of their annual salary for that day. If they have a bad week, they still get paid 1/52nd of their annual salary.When a freelancer, commissioned salesperson, or self-employed person has an unproductive day, they earn diddly. Conversely, every single time one of these people does get paid, it is a direct result of them having done a specific task really, really well.It’s not just pay, it’s instant positive reinforcement. It builds confidence and tells that person they’re doing it right. 

Don’t Count On One To Bring You The Other

Stop trying to mentally force money and happiness together. Sometimes they will come together and sometimes they will not.Chasing money as a tactic to acquire happiness won’t always work, and neither will chasing happiness as a tactic to acquire money. But if you can find ways to bring things that make you happy into your work, you will eventually find a rewarding mix of the two. How about you?Do you think money buys happiness?Do you think happiness makes money appear?Share your thoughts.

Monopoly guy photo credit: duluthquism
Irish Hooters photo credit: Ryan Leighty