Throughout history and around the world, men and women have always sought status and recognition. But in the modern era, the yardstick is almost always the same: economic success.
More bluntly, money.
The benefits of money and status are obvious: freedom, resources, comfort, time, attention, and deference. A lack of status, on the other hand — even if it is only perceived — can lead to sadness, anxiety, and even depression.
Our capitalist system thrives on the pursuit of status. Entrepreneurs take elaborate risks in the pursuit of great rewards. Consumers buy superfluous products — especially luxury brands — they believe confer prestige. The pursuit of status motivates us to develop our talents, work hard, demonstrate excellence, and achieve worthy goals.
In today’s increasingly affluent society, however, our ideas about what are “essential” constantly change.
For example, consider the percentage of Americans who believed the following items were necessities in 1970:
If these were nonessential to Americans 45 years ago, why do hundreds of millions consider them necessities today?
It’s not just that these things make our lives easier and more comfortable. Many folks would feel embarrassed or ashamed to be without them.
Our sense of happiness is based on comparing ourselves to others. Unfortunately, that is a guaranteed recipe for unhappiness.
The problem with making economic success the foundation of personal happiness is that a) you cannot control the economy and b) most companies eventually fail. Needless to say, this undermines job security and financial well-being.
While life will always be uncertain, there is a simple and effective cure for status anxiety: changing the way you think.
Every time we feel satisfied with what we have, however little that may be, we can count ourselves rich.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau insisted there are two ways to make a man wealthier: Give him more money or curb his desires. Or, as Socrates declared as he passed the expensive goods on sale in the Athens agora, “How many things I can do without!”
As for other people’s opinions, whether you get the recognition you believe you deserve is out of your control. But if you haven’t done anything that deserves contempt or disrespect, what difference does it make what someone else thinks?
An obsessive pursuit of status may not just be a waste of time. It could be a waste of a life.
About the Author: Alex Green is the author of excellent books like, The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters, and Beyond Wealth, that show you how to lead a “rich” life during trying economic times.
How to Find the Big Money Idea
By Mary Ellen Tribby
Everyone has plenty of ‘ideas.’ In fact, you may have a great idea right now that you’ve been itching to get started on. But, wait!
The real problem isn’t coming up with a great idea. It is recognizing when you have a good one. My friend, Joe Polish, calls these “Elegant Ideas”. I call them “Big Money Ideas”. Because all it takes is one good idea and you can make a fortune.
So, how do you know when you have that one good idea? You know, the kind that you can start or grow a business around. First, you come up with lots of ideas and sift through them to find the best one. That’s the first step in coming up with great ideas – brainstorming.
To help get you started, answer the following questions:
Idea Brainstorming Made Easy
1. What are my hobbies and interests?
2. What are some of my life experiences and achievements?
3. What problems, big or small, have I solved in my life?
You may be thinking, “Gosh, that’s cute, that’s quaint. I would love nothing more than to have hobbies and interests. But, I work so hard that I don’t have time for any of that.” If so, let me ask you, “What would you like to do if you did have more time?”
Maybe you don’t get to these things right now. But, don’t limit yourself by not thinking of them. You might be saying, “I would love to have my own business and one of my favorite hobbies are kites. I love flying and building kites, and I would love to teach others how to do the same. I would love to do an inbox magazine (yes, the exact business model we use here at Working Moms Only.com) on everything about kites.
“But who would want that?” Well the answer is that plenty of people would want to ready that. Did you know that hundreds of thousands of people search on the term “building kites” each month? That’s right. So go ahead… put down every idea you have to start out. Later I’ll tell exactly how you can determine whether your idea might make a good business or not.
Your Life Experiences are Worth Big Money
When you think about your life experiences and achievements, don’t overlook anything. No matter how simple or obvious you may think it might be it constitutes as a worthy experience. Did you raise children, start a business, stay married for 50 years, plan your own wedding, learn a complicated software program, home school your kids, or fly airplanes?
Whatever you did, that’s something someone else would want to know about, so put that down too. These are all good life experiences and achievements. You don’t have to have climbed Mount Everest. Just think about the little victories in life.
I knew a student who started a business that, literally, explained how to get your child into an Ivy League school. She had gone through every step of this with her own child – from teaching the right way to study for the SAT test to preparing for the in-person interviews. Because she had already gone through that process, she wrote her first special report and sold it online. Later, she turned her idea into a working business.
Now think about some significant problems you might have solved in your life. Did you lose weight, help a loved one through an illness, find a great job, rebuild your home after a natural disaster, survive bankruptcy, or start over after divorce?
Maybe you just know how to solve seemingly minor problems like getting rid of rodents from your house or garden. There may be some painful memories, but those areas in life where people feel the most distressed is where you can make the most money. Plus, you can help the most people by doing the most good.
Turn the Negative into a Positive
Often times when people have been beaten down by life they may feel negative and say, “What? Are you kidding me? I don’t have time for hobbies and interests. Life experience? Achievements? I haven’t been able to do anything and that’s why I’m so frustrated. Problems big or small? I’ve got problems, but I haven’t solved them.”
I knew a woman who kept resisting these ideas of writing down her hobbies or achievements. Finally, I asked her, “Who is someone in your life that you really respect? Somebody in your life that you truly admire and love?” After much thinking, she finally told me about her friend, Cindy.
Then I said, “Okay, tell me something about Cindy, what are her hobbies and her interests? What are some of Cindy’s life experiences and achievements? And, what problems big or small has Cindy solved?”
Suddenly this lady started going through this exercise by thinking about other people in her life. Just by going through this exercise, she soon realized that ideas are limitless.
While you may not always like to give your friends credit, you probably know some pretty smart people. You might know somebody who is a really good salesperson, realtor, or mortgage broker who has survived this most recent down turn, and are still making money despite all of that.
Maybe you know someone who got divorced or lost one hundred pounds. What process did they go through and what is their life like now? As a matter of fact, most people have already forgotten their great ideas until they make a conscious effort to recall them.
Ultimately, most businesses are about someone else, so it doesn’t always have to be about you too. When this lady started thinking about her friend, Cindy, she started thinking, “You know what? I’ve done something like that as well!”
So try to get out of your own head and think of someone else. Often, that can get you thinking a lot bigger. Pretty soon, you will have several ideas to choose from.
And, that will be the first step in starting your own business.