Saturday, 13 October 2012

Money Can Buy Happiness! – Part 4: Analysed Through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

If I consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, human beings have needs that evolve over time. However, considering the modern material world, we will notice that all those needs in some way or other is connected to the requirement of money.

Let us first consider the first level: Physiological. The basic needs to survive in this world would be air, food and water, followed by some other needs like sleep, sex, excretion, and such others. While air is available for every person (polluted or otherwise), food and water require money. If we do not get the food and water, the other physiological needs would have no meaning for us.

Moving up to the next level called Safety: we will find that health, home and other resources can only be obtained through money. Employment is a need at this level, and that is not only to work and be satisfied that we are working, it is for earning money. A practical observation shows that a person having money can afford better education, and thus opportunity for better employment, and therefore, such people earn more money. More the money, better the prospects. Only a few exceptional people move up the ladder with grit and determination, and then they earn more money. What happens next is that their children can afford better education with that money. In fact, health of the family means better hygiene, affordability of medical facilities and doctors. Home means money again, no money no home! The physical state of “comfort” achieves the mental state of “happiness.” (Thanks to my friend, Amit Ojha, for making me think about these two words).

Love and belonging is the next level. Friendship, family and sexual intimacy are the constituents of this level. Friendship is not created by money. But money helps in keeping pace with how we meet our friends and spend time with them. Let us be practical in our thought process and consider a situation. Your friends go to Barista to hang out and chat, you are the only person who cannot afford to. How would it feel if you are unable to pay for your coffee every time? The need for social interaction cannot be ignored. We need friends and company, and needs and aspirations grow as we fulfill each level as drawn out by Maslow. To have a family you need to get married. The world will tell you that only “love” is not enough to run a family, money is essential to provide for the necessities. In India money is one of the criteria to even get married! The richer you are, more the options you get as well!

The other two levels of Esteem and Self Actualization can only be achieved after the levels I have already discussed. So we cannot even reach these levels if not for money!

There is one catch to the aspect of money. It is related to the way a person earns the money. The ways to the means says a lot about character. Character builds the personality and image of a person. The ideals are created by the character. How a person earns money is something that is noticed and either appreciated or criticized by society.

Money is not bad, and yes, I will stick to the opinion that money can buy happiness. How we earn the money defines what kind of person we are. Some steal, some rob, some earn an honest wage. People like me want to earn honestly, but with strategy, effort and hard work. To reiterate what I had written in the first part of this series (Money Can Buy Happiness! ), it is effort which gets us the money, and then money helps us buy happiness!

What is your take on this?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Money Can Buy Happiness – Part 3: Who cares for Gandhi and Einstein today?

Do we live in the present or in the past? Ideals, thoughts, ideas evolve with progress. However, some people don't change. They are still stuck with the old school thought process. Imagine someone following the ideals of Gandhi or Einstein today without any modification based on today's world!

To check my understanding of the importance of the people who made a difference to the world, I requested my business partner, Manish Bengani, to help me.

Manish and I were waiting for our train at New Jalpaiguri railway station when we were discussing this. He took a piece of paper and a pen and walked away to interview people. His results shocked him. When asked whether they know Albert Einstein, and what he is famous for, only one out of 11 people knew the correct answer!

In another experience, courtesy Manish again and a friend of his, he found that two kids (poor and in not so good clothes, but studying in a school run by some NGO) heard about Mahatma Gandhi. But what they said was again a reflection of the thought process today, "Gandhi ek budda tha, mar gaya!" ("Gandhi was an old man, he is dead now!")

I don't think the kids meant any disrespect, they were not aware, or knew little. Manish's friend did a good thing in educating those kids about Gandhi, but it was an eye opener for us!

So what is the truth? Getting stuck with old thoughts don't allow us to move ahead. Lectures on ideals and who did what a hundred years ago don't work anymore. We need to wake up and look at things with a new light. Even Gandhi brought change, and so did Einstein. If they would have been stuck with already existing ideas and situations we wouldn't even have heard about them!

Money and happiness are correlated. The old school folks are not ready to accept it.

I remember when I was younger and my family did not have enough money. My parents ate once a day and ensured that I could get all three meals everyday. Penury isn't a happy feeling. All the optimism and belief in God and ideals of philosophical teachers did not help in killing hunger. Ask a hungry man about the importance of food. Food has to be bought, and it requires money, even if very little.

When I grew up and started earning, I could feel the difference at home. The "smiles per hour" increased. I could buy a pair of jeans at last after wearing the only pair I had for 5 years. I could pay the essential services bills on time and that meant less tension for everyone. My father felt happier as he had less pressure to earn, and my mother could pay of all the debt she had accumulated buying food on credit. I was happy to see that my sister could now get a good education.

Ideals don't feed people. Hope generated by positive thinking has to be translated into action, which in turn generates money. You can then get food and clothing. You can go to the college you want to and travel to places.

Do you think money can buy happiness?

Friday, 5 October 2012

Money Can Buy Happiness – Part 2: The How?

Yuvraj Singh returned to International Cricket after recovering from a very serious illness called cancer. Everyone is talking about it, about his guts and determination, about his “never say die” attitude. True, very true. Nothing can take away what he has faced in his life and how he has been a fighter in the difficult situation that he faced.

I want to think of a different perspective about the same situation. Let us think of Ramu, the daily labourer. He is not well, goes to the doctor, does a few tests and is diagnosed with cancer. I have my doubts, thinking realistically, that Ramu can go to the USA to get the treatment for cancer.

Of course, I argued with myself on this. Ramu could be helped by an NGO, or some rich person. He may get the treatment done in his own country, even if the facilities may not be the best. Where the facilities are available it may be very expensive to get that treatment.

Then I thought of the reality. That rich man cannot sponsor everyone. What does Ramu do? Who helps him? How many people like Ramu are there in our country? How many receive the funds to get the best treatment for cancer and get cured? I couldn't argue further. The truth is the truth. We cannot change it through emotional dialogues. Ask the person who lost her family member because she could not afford the medical treatment.

Money is an interesting commodity. People have different views on money. Some say money causes sorrow, some say it brings happiness. Is it a catch 22 situation?

Some people sacrifice so much in their lives to earn money. Love, relationships and personal life may be sacrificed. Then that person has a lot of money and doesn't have a “life”. However, he enjoys many moments where money gets him what he wants. He buys the car he wanted to buy for years, and he feels proud to own it. He feels happy to sit in that car, roll up the windows, switch on the air conditioner, put on the music he loves and goes for a long drive. Happiness can come from anything; it is your mind which defines from where and how.

The idealist will say that happiness is a state of mind. You don’t need money for it. I would perhaps say to the idealist, “money buys a product for me which creates that state of mind, and lack of money creates a different state of mind, that of sorrow, and therefore money gives me both emotions depending on the situation.”

Talking to my best friend also gives me happiness. Drinking a cup of tea gives me happiness as well. These experiences also create that state of mind. However, when I meet my friend I wear some clothes and shoes, I may meet him in a cafeteria or at my home. I need money to buy those clothes; I need money to buy the coffee or tea. To be able to buy these also gives me happiness. The state of mind is created.

Let us get back to Ramu. He needs treatment. Money can get him the treatment. He can get well. He will be happy, his family will be happy. If he is not cured, if he goes through pain and dies, sorrow takes over; it is a different state of mind. Doesn't money then buy happiness?

I would like to ask a question to everyone who thinks money does not buy happiness. “Why do you work for money? Why do you want more money? Would you survive without money?”

Think of a practical and logical answer. Money cannot buy life, but it can help make your life better. Better the life gets, the happier we are. Money can get the resources to save a life as well!

Does money influence our state of mind (and, therefore, happiness)?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Money Can Buy Happiness!

"I bought a new smartphone. I was happy, very happy. My first smartphone. With Android installed I could explore the various applications which would make my life better. Wow! My Blackberry looked old to me now, it was one year old, this new Sony Xperia looked much better. Awesome!"

"The old computer table was not working for me anymore. I needed a new one. I had to match the colour with the other furniture in the room. So I bought the one which fit my criteria. It was wonderful!"

Can money buy happiness? Of course it can! It is buying happiness for people everyday. Money is not bad, it is good. Having money means more possibilities, more options. I can go to more places, buy more stuff, go to expensive restaurants and look at the menu and not the price, I can upgrade from Big Bazar to Shoppers Stop, and what not! That car I want to buy, that home that I was looking forward to.

It is a material world, and people are becoming restless and competitive and short sighted by the day. It is about now, live now, today will not return, do it now, buy it now, enjoy it now, live the moment. No matter how much we talk about becoming spiritual and enjoy the precious moments with our loved ones, it takes money to satisfy our needs. We cannot just sit in our living room and chat with family. We want to go to a restaurant. Or install an air conditioner in the living room. Maybe order some pizza to make the chatting time fun. That is quality time!

I never thought money could be so important. But then, let us face reality. It is that important. Corruption proves it so well. It is not only about the politicians, it is about the businessman who creates black money, the common man who pays a bribe, there is money buying so much everyday.

However, here is an alternative thought process about money. Where does the money come from? Does it grow on trees or fall from the sky? Well, we earn it, don't we? We earn it through hard work, effort, strategy and what not! Every month when an employee gets the salary, he/she feels happy. Because that salary has now created possibilities of getting things which are needed or desired. So if "Effort" gets us "Money" which in turn buys "Happiness", does it mean that "Effort" buys us "Happiness".

Well, I will leave it to you to decide. Now go buy some more Happiness!