Achieve for your own sake

Are you a snob? Do you know one? Obviously the word is not very complimentary. In order to know exactly what it means, we first have to explore why people achieve success.

There are two kinds of achievers out there. The first does it for the sake of achievement, and the only person he needs to impress is himself. He will always accomplish more, because his energy is focused on getting the job done right. It doesn’t occur to him to worry about what others think. If he is successful, it follows that others will notice and perhaps even benefit from it.

The second accomplishes things in order to impress others. He doesn’t see himself as worthy unless others approve of him or unless he feels superior. The only way he knows how to measure his superiority is with money. And this is where snobbery comes in. ‘I have more than you. Therefore I’m better.’ The mistaken idea is that one’s character is quantitative (how much I have), rather than qualitative (is what I have good and does it make me happy?).

Some who produce and/or acquire wealth are rightly called snobs because they want to feel superior, and need to know that you know it. For these people, achievement for their own pleasure and satisfaction isn’t enough. They have to feel and look superior. ‘Oh, you don’t have that kind of car? You live in that neighborhood? How can you stand it?’ Saying these things elevates their standing in their own minds.

These people are called selfish because it appears that they think too much of themselves. But we have to look deeper: If they really thought all that much of themselves, they wouldn’t need to prove it. They wouldn’t waste time with people they deemed inferior. People who have genuine self-esteem don’t waste their time with people they don’t respect and admire. They might have friends with varying amounts of material possessions, but they’ll always have friends they value and admire. And it would never occur to them to make these people feel inferior.

Achievement and fulfillment are the meanings of life. Money is relevant, of course, but it’s not an end in itself. One should never be ashamed because he or she has money, but should also not consider it proof of superiority. After all, money can come from sources unrelated to achievement, like marriage or inheritance. So virtue is not automatically bestowed by money alone.

Virtue comes from living a life of self-fulfillment and personal happiness. And money is not necessarily the primary measure of these things. If your life is purposeful, then you’ll be able to take care of yourself. ‘Do what you love, and the money will follow’ is very often true.

Create your own sense of purpose — one that makes you happy — and any wealth you acquire will add to that happiness rather than be the source of it. A happy person knows how to enjoy the money he or she has.

Of course, we’d be fooling ourselves if we didn’t admit that it’s better to have more money than less. People love to hear themselves prattle on that money isn’t important or that it doesn’t matter. Well, for those of us who like to come in from the rain or get from one place to another, it sure helps with the mortgage, the rent and the car payment. But that money, by itself, doesn’t translate into more happiness. What the money buys is choices. Choices are a good thing, but just because you have options doesn’t mean you’ll use them well. The world is full of miserable people — some with money and some without. Happiness stems from many sources, and though money obviously helps, great wealth isn’t the complete answer.

The attitudes people hold about money tend to be black and white, and are often off the mark. Either money is evil (a good excuse to make low-achievers feel better about themselves), or it is absolutely necessary to be anyone of significance. In fact, the truth lies in between. Leading a meaningful and purposeful life, defined by the attainment of meaningful goals, will bring happiness. The money that often follows can surely help subsidize that happiness, but it can never be the happiness itself.