Inspiration, motivation, meaning, fulfillment – the stuff we would buy if it were for sale. Even though pharmaceuticals, sporting events, books, massage, sex, make-up, children, and virtual reality video games are indeed for sale, inspiration is not really able to be purchased directly. You have to grow it in the garden of your mind & soul. Mark S. Albion offers some sage advice: “There is a big difference between more sales or money and more happiness or fulfillment. The kind of growth that seems the most important to people is the kind of growth you can’t count.”
When I started writing this blog, I didn’t intend it to be so replete with Mark S. Albion quotes. However, as you may know, I find my quotes on The Wisdom Archive by just entering a keyword or the name of an author. I had a keyword in mind which I knew was part of a quote by Albion, a former Harvard M.B.A. program and author of Making a Living, Making a Life. When I looked his name up, most of his dozen or so quotes seemed to be related to this topic. Anyone who counsels not making money one’s god is going to be quotable in my opinion! So, long story short, I will focus almost exclusively on Mark’s quotes for this blog. He tries to separate (theoretically) inspiration from materialism, so he should fit the bill.
When it comes to the pursuit of inspiration, here is a tried-and-true hallmark: be careful chasing money. “Greed can blind you from making the right decision,” Mark notes. I have a lot of experience with this feeling, because I have been up and I have been down. “Rich is better,” as they say. That is a truism, I suppose. However, the ability to pay bills and maybe take a vacation and avoid crippling debt is the apex; it is probably false to believe that the mountain rises ever-higher and that more climbing will make one happier. It is an illusion, in fact. This might seem wrong, because, well, it’s an illusion. We tend to believe it. The search for greater wealth feels like the pursuit of more power, happiness, lovability, security, fulfillment, and yes, inspiration. And true, a raise feels great. An inheritance is a singular joy (well, the death aside!). However, we always tend to sink back to where we started, emotionally – eventually. Perhaps that is because money can’t buy happiness. That is a truism I believe. It boosts mood to encounter more money than expected, or have some kind of windfall or financial success, but unless you’re Scrooge McDuck, you can’t swim in a pool of dollar bills and find that enriching. The novelty would wear off quickly. You’d be right back where you started – and have to put all that money back in the bank. It just wouldn’t pay off, so to speak. To some degree money buys things and services and adventures, but it’s still the thing which money buys that we are in pursuit of. Could we cut out the middleman and cut right to the actual stimulus? Love, friendship, some travel, books, sunsets, adoptable pets, exercise, sleep, movies and culinary delights are free (or almost free), for example. Mediation not only does not cost anything, you probably save money when you are just sitting still! “The miracle is this – the more we share, the more we have”
Perhaps even more succinctly, Albion reports that, for him, “heroes are the people who have made money and then used it as a platform for service.” That is a superlative concept I found in Making a Living, Making a Life. Few of us are the type of ascetic or quintessential “wise man” who can find inspiration from pouring over texts, writing, praying, meditating, and so on. Most of us are in the midst of our culture, and if it is Western (or the West’s amplification – The United States), then we need money. For 99.5% of us, that means a job. Ideally, a fulfilling career. Mark is saying that some of us pursue financial and materialistic reward – for the purposes of paying off student debt, “keeping up with the Joneses,” or just getting all of our needs and most of our wants met. And that is all well and good. However, it can be a trap. The love of money beckons us all with varying degrees of stridence, and the Siren-song of riches ensnares many a man (I say “man” not just because it somehow sounds better in the context of Sirens, but also because I do believe a man is more likely to be engrossed in work and competition and the pursuit money than a woman would. I think it is highly correlated with testosterone, and childbirth often is equally- or more enthralling to women than is money. In the end, I think Albion is counseling us to go ahead and secure our financial existence and our retirement, but if one wants to rise to the top in the ethical sense of the word – to really find inspiration – one must then transcend the search for riches and cultivate within themselves the quest for deeper and greater satisfaction by pursuing non-monetary-based goals. The things money can’t buy, as it were.
“We have four billion people on this planet who aren’t getting two meals a day. None of us, no matter what our resources are, can cure that problem, but each of us can make a difference. Pick your spot where you want to make a difference.”For centuries our wise elders, the prophets, have been trying to talk sense into us. Every spiritual tradition encourages compassion and good works, inner awareness and outward generosity” Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery, against ignorance, or injustice and violence. Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and 32 year old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal. ‘Give me a place to stand,’ said Archimedes, ‘and I will move the world.’ These men moved the world, and so can we all.” A calling is when a deep gladness in your heart meets a deep need in the world”
“I see so many career paths where you head off to corporate America until you can’t stand it, then do what you wanted to do, often something smaller, in the first place. Why not focus at the start on achieving a life of working and living in a place you belong, doing work that matters with people you care about?” There Mark is noting that the quintessential path of a lawyer is problematic for many. Forgive me if you studied law – I think law has its place for sure – but I imagine that those who became an attorney wanted significance, power, prestige, challenge, and professionalism. They studied this trade very hard, accrued probably $30,000 x 3 years in debt (plus perhaps undergrad), and will spend a long time paying off $100,000 in debt to our greedy banks and government. It will probably be upwards of $150,000 when all is said and done. That is a high price to pay. At least it is a fulfilling and inspirational career, right? Wrong. This page provides some theoretical answers as to why the career isn’t a particularly happy life for 90% of lawyers.
Let me leave you with this: inspiration is about values + emotion. It’s based on finding out what uniquely moves you, and pursuing those things rather than getting distracted. It’s finding your bliss and making it a high priority. It’s doing the right thing and serving. If money were no object – if you had a “money tree” – what would you do with your life? I mean, after the six-week vacation and after the new car and the granite countertops and paying off debt and so on. When you were waking up two years later. If you could do anything you wanted within reason, would you want to make more and more money? Would that really drive you? If yes, ask yourself what it is about accumulating capital that is so alluring to you. Is it competitiveness? Security? Power? What? Then ask yourself what that power is trying to achieve. I believe things such as success and power are meant to achieve something more substantial, something more fundamental. It is usually about self-esteem, fulfillment, and joy. We think power will bring us joy; we tend to feel that more possessions will help us enter flow, Nirvana, bliss – whatever you call it – and for a time it might. But we always come back to our base, our set point. That is why the rich are not much happier than the other social classes. Eventually one adapts to being wealthy and then issues such as what return one is getting in the market or trying to find a replacement for your maid or dealing with the fact that Aspen has no good hotels left for the week your spouse is off work take the fore. Rich people have rich people’s problems, they don’t have an utter absence of them. It’s just a fact. So if you had money, what then? Would it be raising children? Adopting foster children? Reading? Hang gliding? Volunteering? Writing a book? Traveling to Paris? Do yourself a favor and find out what that thing is now and see if you can spend more time in that zone even if you’re only making $50,000 a year. Tip: $75,000 is the amount that psychologists say is the sweet spot: less income creates unmet needs, and more income has diminishing returns. There is no need to make $150,000 to be happy. Then, you’re simply going to have to spend a Saturday at the Audi dealership rather than the Honda one.
If you are looking for inspiration from centuries of thinkers centered on timeless values, look no further than here. If finding inspirational quotes is what you’re after, you came to the right place – the Wisdom Archive is second to none. Yes, in the spirit of this blog, the quotes are free (and the book costs oh, probably, three or four cents a minute). I guarantee you I’m not getting rich off of selling a book for $18 and making $10 in profit. I scratched your back, so scratch mine – help me pay for the expense that went into self-publishing all three of my wonderful books. I think it feels great to have a paper book in my hands, but there are also e-books. Finally, I spoke with Jan Phillips about finding fulfillment and we believe it is inextricably tied to the ethical life. Listen to the unique interview here: https://www.valuesofthewise.com/category/dialogues/ (second from the bottom).