I recently sat down with Peter Pychtin of North East Quadrant Consulting, and our discussion segued into one on running a business and earning money. Peter made an observation that making money is neither good or evil. I agree, it depends on what we do with it and using money to conspicuously consume is a much less useful way of spending then using for sharing and constructing and building.
Prestige, pride, vanity. We all have it in some shape, that big red sports car, the branded bags and hundred dollar sunglasses. They show others how well off we are and our rank in society. The problem is it doesn't make one iota of difference about how content we are with ourselves.
In Affluenza, Clive Hamilton writes that Australian incomes have more than tripled since the 1950's, house sizes more than doubled (with less people living in these double sized houses), real GDP (a fancy acronym for the value of the economy) has grown more than six fold, and yet relative happiness has stayed unchanged. 58 years, and we haven't gotten any happier.
The problem with pleasing other people, or buying more things is that it doesn't bring happiness. Prestige is about what other people think of us. Happiness is how we feel about ourselves. Prestige is easy to come by, your job, your wealth, your trendiness, your body, your looks, your makeup. You can buy prestige with a simple swipe of a credit card, and marketers know that, and every message being blasted in our ears is that happiness is somehow just one purchase away.
Prestige is easy to confuse with happiness, because if other people think we're happy, we must be...