Act 1: Ambition Never Dies

If you are a truly ambitious person you will never quit. I see this all the time: “I’m going to move around a lot, work super-hard, and retire at 45. This way I can buy a cottage and live out my retirement fishing on a lake.”

Not happening.

Even if you are as successful as you are dreaming, you won’t quit. At 45 you’ll look at your manager who is earning 2X your salary and you’ll think “maybe just 5 more years”.

Act 2: Money is a Drug

Cocaine addicts aren’t making it up. They actually NEED cocaine, the same was we need $5k a month to pay for our mortgage. Here is a nice little story I just wrote:


He needed it. He worked hard for years to get it. Finally he had exactly as much as he had hoped. But now that he was on top he saw the truth. He was misled! He really needed more. This wasn’t enough. What was he thinking? So he put in more time. More effort. And he got what he came for. It was amazing. An unbelievable experience… “Wouldn’t it be great to have even more?”, he thought.


Is this story about drugs or money? Read it both ways – it just works.

Act 3: A Bit of Proof

Well, not exactly proof. But I have surveyed tens of working professionals. Not a huge sample size, I know but I have worked in vastly different groups in finance and I always had these honest exchanges with coworkers and managers. Here is what I got from them:

From those in IT, risk, & sales & trading there was NO difference whatsoever in their happiness and satisfaction from life, yes even those with mortgages and families. Do you know the take home difference between an executive director in IT and one in sales & trading? Easily double, more often than not triple, yet there was no difference at all in their overall happiness.

Taking a step away from money though. I have seen people in jobs they didn’t like. Under managers they didn’t get along with. These people are not happy. They are stressed out and miserable.

Despite all of this I consistently see young people chasing money over life-style (what prompted this article).

Act 4: What is “A Happy Person”?

Is it someone who walks around smiling all of the time? That sounds a bit creepy…How about an angry person? Someone who is always frowning and huffing?Warning: Completely unprofessional opinion coming ->

I would argue that a “Happy Person” is someone who is “generally happy and content”. And yes, when someone is generally content they are easier to happiness. Being satisfied with your lot in life makes it easier to smile.

I will never forget sitting on the train with my dad. “Dad, I can’t do this anymore. I’m about to fail stochastic for the second time. I’ll get kicked out of school and lose any chance of a stable career!” His response? “How is your wife doing? Kids Ok?” He sits back and smiles.

Powerful message (from the “happiest” person I know). When all of your critical pieces are in “check” then life just has a way of working out. You will be content and happy knowing that the most important things in your life cannot be taken away from you. In most cases this means your loved ones. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can bring fake love and friends.

Start with a strong foundation. People you love. Surround yourself with them.

You will begin to feel content with life and thus have a much easier time being happy.

Act 5: Achieving Complete Bliss

We humans are programmed that more money = more gratification = more happiness. Do you know that an average investment banking analyst works until ~1AM nearly every night? What drives them to this madness?

MONEY. I bet less than 5% of them do it because they love putting together PowerPoint slides.

I remember four years ago I had a Career Coach student. I asked her point blank: “If visa and money weren’t issues, what job would you do?” Her answer blew me away. “I would work with animals.”

Animals! She is an accountant now. Not exactly herding the sheep…

Last night when I came home I was greeted by my baby girl getting on her knees bouncing up and down and clapping with glee when she saw me. This greeting made me instantly happier than the day I was given my largest annual bonus ever.

When you truly believe that this is more important to you than money your state of mind shifts from “I need money” to “I need purpose and love”.

  • Love
  • Purpose
  • State of mind

When choosing a career you should sit down and decide what will help maximize these three. If you work this out before beginning your career you will learn that working in certain “less desirable” areas actually give you a great chance at achieving bliss.