Everything Is Relative Superstar – Being Happy With What You Have

Last week was pretty busy.  I traveled to three cities and saw 10 different clients with one of my senior colleagues, Jim.  Jim, aka Superstar, is 45 years old, has his PhD in Economics, and could probably retire now if he wants to.

Jim is a great speaker who engages his clients with insightful anecdotes.  At 5 foot 5 inches tall, Jim stands more confidently than his stature would suggest.  With a staff of 30 people serving his every wishes, Jim never has to worry about not getting his way.  He’s a meticulous man with particular demands, which leads us to our little adventure.

MR. CHAIRMAN

It was the second to last meeting of the trip, and we were both quite tired.  However, this meeting was the most important.  We were seeing the biggest person at the biggest client and we had to make a good first impression.

The Chairman is an elderly gentleman with a gracious smile and a warm handshake.  We exchange salutations and sit in his well-worn office noticing the iconic pictures of him with famous industry leaders.  I could have sworn there was even a picture of him shaking hands with Nixon.

Efficiently, Mr. Chairman asks us to state our case.  Jim starts off and says, “In my 15 years covering country X, I have never been so bearish than I am right now.” Not a bad starting line, but as the observer,  I noticed Mr. Chairman look away a little with a smile.  Here Jim is, telling our client how negative he is on a particular country based on Jim’s career history, when the client’s own career history is longer than Jim’s lifetime!

The meeting went well  in the end, and Jim and I had a post-meeting chuckle.  I mentioned to Jim about his “15 year career” quip and he realized that Mr. Chairman must have thought he was just a kid, given our client’s 50 year career.  Jim promised to calibrate his intro differently next time.

YOSHINOYA’S

At this point we’re starving and Jim asks me what’s for lunch.  I mentioned we ordered sandwiches for our next meeting so not to worry.  Jim responds to me, “Sandwiches again?  I’ve been on the road for the past two weeks, and I just can’t eat another rubber chicken sandwich!”

With the lightening thinking I possess, I figure why not use the 50 minutes we have in between meetings to try out something good.  For some reason, California Japanese fast food chain “Yoshinoya” called to me, and we walked across the street.  After some Mr. Pibbs sodas, warm salads on plastic plates, and salt bowls with beef, we went to the next meeting.

In we went, and there we saw a spread of the most gourmet sandwiches we had ever seen.  We’re talking the best looking BLTs, teriyaki steak subs, and multi-layer Italians.   Jim then turns around to me and states, “If I knew you were going to take me to Yoshiwhatever, I would have gladly just passed and eaten here!” We laughed, and I just told him to go stuff his face with more food and stop complaining.

EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE, STOP WANTING MORE

Jim is a powerful and wealthy man at my firm, but compared to our client, Jim happily agrees he’s just the water boy.  Having sandwiches for lunch for the 5th time in a row sounds unappealing, but compared to the salt bowls at Yoshinoya’s, those sandwiches sure looked tasty.

We live in the richest country in the world and yet how come there is so much financial dissatisfaction among collective individuals? The reason is the never ending desire to want more.  There will always be someone richer than you.  Why are you always relating yourself to the youngest VP in your company?  Instead, why not just relate downwards, or sideways?  Better yet, stop relating.

The key is to just cut things off and be happy with what you have. The pleasure from material things is so impermanent, stop wasting your money on junk. If you cut these desires out, you’ll never worry about spending more than you make.  In time, your wealth will surpass your wildest expectations!

Related Posts:

“Controlling The Urge To Splurge”

“The Dumpster of Treasure”

“Survey Says: Get 1,300 On Your SATs and a 3.9 GP & You’re Set For Life!

Readers, do you think it’s possible to stop making comparisons with people who have more?  Is it an insurmountable task to be happy with what we have?

Keigu,

Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

Follow us on Twitter @FinancialSamurai and subscribe to our RSS feed.

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Daniel says

    The other day I bought chicken at what I thought was a decent price (I actually have no idea what I should be paying per poud, but it seemed more than reasonable to me). I got home, my roommate took a look and said, “Eh, you could do better than that.” It kind of bothered me, because as I came home all excited about having food, he really tried to bring me down. It wasn’t on purpose, but I think that when you get something you’re happy with, stop trying to make it marginally better. Had I saevd 20 cents more per pound, would I really have been that much better off?

  2. Mark says

    Hi FS,

    I definitely agree with you about spending within your means and not trying to purchase items that are way out of your price range, but I think you should always try to compare yourself on a professional level against those who are above you.

    I know right now I shouldn’t be lavishly spending money on that beautiful M5, but in the future I sure do want to be able to have the savings and income to buy one without having to worry. As a young professional, I’m constantly analyzing both young rising stars and senior executives to see what skills and knowledge they possess. I want to know exactly how they climbed the ladder so quickly, so I can work hard and pick up the skills that made them so successful.

  3. admin says

    Daniel – Great chicken story! I know how you feel. What’s the point of nit picking on 20 cents?! That is being miserly to the extreme. He should just leave you alone and let you enjoy your meal. You should eat it in front of him and mention how tasty it is and not give him any! :)

  4. admin says

    Mark – You’re spot on regarding benchmarking yourself to several successful people around you. In the beginning, who knows what “success” is, unless it is compared to someone who you wish to be?

    Further along, you make your own rules of what success should be for you. And if u want the beaty 500hp M5, based on the 1/10th rule, all you got to do is make $750,000, and it’s yours!

  5. Craig says

    Agree, if you appreciate what you have, you will be more satisfied and less stress. Just sit back and enjoy life with who’s important to you. Don’t make it about big material items.

  6. Daniel says

    @admin
    He should also do the dishes, clean his room, and vaccuum. But maybe I’m getting off topic..

    To respond to Mark’s comment…Looking forward 5, 10, or 20 years is terrifying for me. I have absolutely no clue how much I’ll be making, althought coming out of college, I’m doing ok for myself. I can’t even fathom how much I will be making in 10 years, or even what I’ll be doing then. Will I stay on the same path or change careers completely? I guess all I can do it keep working and see where things lead me.

  7. The Genius says

    I remember when I first crossed the $100,000 barrier, I was so happy. Then 2 months later, I wanted more. 3 years later, I double my income, and then the same thing happened.

    There’s never enough! Even Bill Gates can make $1 more dollar. Great story, thnx for sharing.

  8. Mark says

    @Daniel
    Daniel, for the moment I’m pretty set about staying in my field, so I’m trying to increase my knowledge and learn more advanced concepts.

    Even if you decide to switch career paths, there are plenty of inter-related skills that most managers and executives possess. Things like improving your public speaking, communication, planning ability, and ability to multi-task are valuable assets that will help you succeed regardless of your career path.

  9. David says

    One of my favorite quotes is “The only competition worthy of a wise man is himself – Washington Allston”. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve your financial worth, physical condition, educational level, etc., as long as you are setting these goals for the right reasons.

  10. Tina Fortune says

    I stopped relating a long time ago. Happiness is a state of being. I do want to earn more. Why? Because I want to live my life the way I want, doing what I most enjoy, surrounded by those that I love admire and respect. I’m a single mom of 3 and happy. I have great kids, a great life, and a vision. I have the key you speak of “cutting things off and being happy with what we have” and I’ve opened the door. It’s a beautiful place. Great post to end the week.

    • admin says

      Hi Tina! Thanks for your thoughts and great blog you have there! To me, the most amazing people are single mothers. I don’t know how you do it, raising a family, making money, doing it all!

      I was reading somewhere that if anybody wants to know how to budget money, just speak to a single mom. I welcome you to write a guest post one day and talk about how you manage your time.

      One of the people I admire most is a single mom who’s relationship didn’t work out during her pregnancy. He was a professional sports athelete, who got into some legal troubles. She has one child, and has been a big inspiration to me. I’d love to hear more of your story.

      Have a great weekend! FS/Sam/Samurai

  11. Charlie says

    In the US we love to spend money on junk. Just look at all the crazy infomercials there are on tv. They are so good at convincing you that you need to buy their problem solving products, yet most of the time the quality isn’t poor or you use the item a few times and then end up shoving it into a closet with all other kinds of forgotten things. I like to clean the house when I’m tempted to buy more stuff as the process of picking up so many things quickly makes me happy I don’t have more things to put away or dust off!

  12. John DeFlumeri Jr says

    You have my agreement in that enough is really enough! I worked for some greedy people in my day. They always took away as much as they could, and never developed employee loyalty.

    They could have had a much easier time by being more generous.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  13. admin says

    Hi John, you bring up an interesting question I think about every so often as well. If a manager is really rich already, why not just share the wealth a little? Giving a little more to employee’s goes a loooong way towards better work ethic and loyalty.

  14. Hope to Prosper says

    I think it’s normal and healthy to compare and your financial standing with others. This only becomes a problem when you believe you have to meet some financial criteria in order to fit in or “belong” in the company of others. Another problem is in believing the money, status or possessions will bring you any kind of happiness, because they won’t. Happiness comes from within.

    I admire Warren Buffet, because he seems to have already figured all of this out. He lives a modest lifestyle, despite being the richest man in the world. He is a living example of integrity and ethics in business. And, he lives a very happy life, based on relationships and accomplishments that have little to do with money.

  15. admin says

    @Hope to Prosper
    Warren is the man indeed. Can’t believe he still lives in the same home as 30, or is it 50 years ago? Amazing!!

    Having money does take away one stress though, and that is having no money. Money, public speaking, moving are often highlighted as the Top stressors in people’s lives.

  16. Don@moneyreasons.com says

    Wow, what a hectic week that must have been.

    Warren in my 2nd favorite financial hero (Benjamin Franklin is my first). He’s at the point where he could buy anything, but he still follows a “keeps it simple” kind of life. One of his biggest pleasure is playing “bridge”…

    You’re right, everything is relative, there will always be someone with something that is better than what we have in some way or another. Sounds like you are going quite well though!

  17. BawldGuy says

    I’ve oft quoted the original John Rockefeller’s answer when asked, ‘How much is enough for the average man?’

    His answer? ‘Just a little bit more.’

  18. BawldGuy says

    Thanks — However, I think he was maybe the happiest in his family, down to today. I think that due to my belief in the he appeared to place on life — he enjoyed the journey, the process, startin’ with the blank page, so to speak.

    It’s like Grandma taught me about makin’ a living. Enjoy what I do more than the money it produces. Turns out she was a very wise woman.

  19. Ken says

    I do think that we have to learn contentment. Our lives will be much simpler and meaningful once we master this. It’s OK to have goals and move ahead as long as priorities are in balance.

  20. Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog says

    Very random thought after seeing the image you used… did you hear Will Ferrell is on top of Forbes’ list of Hollywood’s Most Overpaid Stars? The calculated the ROI based on how much the actor was paid compared to how much money the movie brought in.

  21. Roger says

    Good post, AF. It’s always too easy to look around at everyone who seems to have so much more than you and say, ‘Why don’t I have all that?’ My favorite way to keep it all in perspective is to look at other countries and back into history, and realize that merely by being alive in the Western world in the modern era, I’m already living a richer life than the kings and queens of the past or the heads of many Third World countries. Yes, there will always be someone richer than me, but compared to the billions (trillions, perhaps, if we add up all the souls in history) who have it worse…

  22. Kelsey says

    Great post! My boyfriend and I have had several similar discussions on being happy with what you have. I was raised in a family that made just enough money to be able to pursue the things we wanted, so long as we did so frugally (I believe our combined income was never above $80k). My parents chose to have more time at home rather than spending more time at the office in exchange for a higher paycheck. My boyfriend’s family made huge sacrifices and spent a good 20 years of their lives living in relative misery in the foreign service, all in the name of a stable paycheck and benefits. Personally, I think my family wins in the comparison of the two.

    Marc (my boyfriend) is very focused on having “a good career and salary”, whereas I’m focused on enjoying my life. I have asked him several times why he is so focused on his salary, especially since neither of us want kids and we aren’t members of the “cult of stuff”. He has yet to be able to give me a good answer, and I think your post hit the nail on the head – we’re conditioned from so early on in life to always want something more, something better, and in the process, we often overlook what we already have.
    .-= Kelsey´s last blog ..More Proof the TSA are Morons… =-.

    • admin says

      Hi Kelsey – Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I gotta tell ya, society puts A LOT of pressure on us guys to succeed in our careers and make money. As a result, it is very tough for us guys to step back and enjoy life. This is a topic I will be putting up later. It’ll be called “How To Get your Super Motivated Boyfriend To Marry You”.

      Best, Sam

  23. Kelsey says

    Yes, society definitely does! It also puts a lot of pressure on women to have kids, and I think my years of standing up for my decision not to has really helped me to see just how insidious societal pressures can be.

    Career has never been a value in my family, so I have a really difficult time comprehending how it means so much to him. To me, it seems like something requiring a lot of unnecessary sacrifice, especially when happiness can be had so many other ways.
    .-= Kelsey´s last blog ..More Proof the TSA are Morons… =-.

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