Money may not buy you happiness, but it turns out the opposite is true. Not only does happiness buy money, but it’s essential and is the first step to financial freedom.
What is Financial Freedom?
There’s lots of different kinds of success out there. But today we’re going to focus on the kind with little dollar signs in front - money. Not just any money though. Happy money. Freedom money. Ten a.m. gym classes and 3 hour lunches on a Tuesday money. This kind of financial income has a name and it’s very different from the type of income many of us may be used to. It’s called: financial freedom.
“Financial freedom” means that your money is working for you even when you are not working.
The opposite of this is exchanging your time for money:
There’s nothing wrong with exchanging time for dollars. You may love your job, be great at it, and are hopefully reasonably compensated. But that is not the kind of money-making we’re talking about today.
Today’s about sitting down with your money and saying, “Look, Money, I’m going to go to the beach right now, but I’m going to need you to stay behind at home and finish up this work. It’s time you worked for me for a change instead of the other way around.”
The First Step to Financial Freedom
So what is the first step in making this kind of money? Is it making a budget? No. Is it setting up a great retirement plan? Barf. No. Is it coming up with a brilliant idea for a business? Closer, but no.
The first step in making more money is to be HAPPY.
Again, this is specific to “freedom money”. Don’t get me wrong - you can be veeeeeeerrrry unhappy and make llooooootttss of the other kind of money. Just ask those people whose boss calls them in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner because they’re soooo important and getting paid looots of money to take that call. No, you have to be smart for that kind of money, but you sure don’t have to be happy.
For financial freedom, the first step is to get on that happy train. Often, people think that if they just achieve one more goal, or come up with that one great idea, they’ll finally be happy. But it’s actually the other way around. To get to those goals, and - this is important - even to set the right goals in the first place, you’ve got to be happy first.
Why You Must Be Happy to Achieve Financial Freedom
This is not just a pep talk. I’m no Tony Robbins and the goal here isn’t that warm and fuzzies are the key to life. There are actual reasons you need to be happy to make more money:
#1: You Need People to Buy What You Are Selling
Unless your grand plan is to rob a bank, at some point you will need to persuade people to buy what you are selling. This means you need to be likeable. And how many friends did you make the last time you were pissed off or depressed? This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the T.V. show Justified:
“If you run into an asshole in the morning, you’ve run into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.” - Raylan Givens, Justified
It’s very hard to win friends and influence people when you are not in a good place. And it’s got to be genuine. Plus you never know who your next buyer may be. That means you need to be friendly not just with your buds, but also with the check-out guy at Trader Joe’s. He might buy what you’re selling one day, after all.
#2: You Need to Be Curious
Do you ever watch Shark Tank? One phrase comes up time and time again. An entrepreneur will say they used to do something how everyone else did it, but it was such a pain so one day a lightbulb went off and they said to themselves….
“There must be a better way.”
In order to think of ways to make money, you need to think about how to fill a need.
In order to find those needs, you need to ask a whole lot of “why”s. Why do we do it that way? Why is that made like that? Why can’t we do this faster? Why can’t I make that for less?
In order to ask those “why’s”, you need to be curious.
When we’re unhappy, we’re focused on ourselves. It’s natural, it’s called self-preservation. But when we’re focused on ourselves, we’re not curious.
And you have to be curious to come up with good ideas.
#3: You Need to Be Optimistic Like a Baby
If you told a baby that for the first 957 times they tried to walk, they were going to fall down, then we’d have a society full of butt scooters. (Super cute when dogs do it, not so great with a 35 year old human).
In order to make money, every time you fall down, and you will fall down, you’ve got to go right into next time saying with the utmost enthusiasm:
“It’s going to work this time.”
When I was in mathematics, I spoke to Dr. John Tate, one of the most famous mathematicians of our time. He told me that he made his biggest contributions to the field when he was young. I assumed that was because his brain was fresher, but that was not the case.
He said it was because he didn’t know what he didn’t know.
If a teacher gave him a homework problem, he didn’t know if it was easy to solve or had gone unsolved for the 300 years. It was just a problem that needed solving and he saw no reason he couldn’t do it.
While you have to mitigate risk, you need to to be constantly optimistic to build something of your own.
Alright, so you’re likeable except for the fact that you ask so many questions, and you’re as optimistic as Thomas the Train… but I’m not done yet. There are even more reasons you need to be happy to make money ...
#4: You Need to Have Energy, the Good Kind
Ever eat a big lunch and then feel like the only possible next move is a nap? That is low energy mode. You have two options at that point: you can either fight that low energy and struggle to get through your to-do’s, or you can follow that energy right to your pillow for a nice afternoon siesta.
It’s not easy to be productive when fighting an uphill battle against low energy. Likewise, there aren’t any well known entrepreneurs who spent the majority of their time napping. This puts us in a bit of a pickle.
The solution is that you have to have good, high energy more of the time. And the things that give you energy like exercising and eating right will also make you ...you guessed it...happier.
And lastly, and my personal favorite, you need to be happy before you can make money because ….
#5: You Need to Be Creative
"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - The Queen, Alice and Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
We’ve talked about being incredibly optimistic and believing it’s going to work next time. But notice I didn’t say “insanely” optimistic. That’s because the definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again but expecting a different outcome. No, unfortunately the children’s proverb “If at first you don't succeed, Try, try again” should really say,
“Try, try again, but this time try something else!”
You can make all the friends you want, be optimistic, ask everyone why, and be bouncing off the walls with excitement, but the final step to making money is…. You have to have ideas. And to have ideas, you have to be happy. You have to be playful, open, and thinking outside that box.
So there you have it. Those are the top five reasons you must be happy before you can find financial freedom.
Let’s sum this all up ...
Financial freedom means your money is working for you while you are not working. This is pretty great but if it were easy to do, we’d all be at the gym in the middle of the day or on a yacht. To come up with the plan to build your own pirate ship, you’ll need to:
- Convince people to buy what you’re selling
- Be curious and ask lots of “whys”
- Have naive optimism and pick yourself up every time you fall
- Maintain high energy and a healthy lifestyle, and
- Be creative!
And in order to do these things, the first step is to ...
Find your happy.
So how do we do this? Well, there’s lots of articles out there on the 3, 5, 7, 10 ways to be happy. And they’re all pretty much correct. For example, we really are happier when we “cultivate gratitude”. But does anyone know how to do that? Can you buy gratitude to cultivate at Home Depot?
I built Money + Happy to explore and deconstruct the systems that work to find and fund your happy.
Sign up for more of Money + Happy and join this journey with me.