Getting the goalpost to stop moving


Sorry I’m 2 days late this week! Monday (when I usually publish this newsletter) was Singapore’s National Day, so I took the day off and went kayaking in the mangroves in Pulau Ubin.

This week I want to share something from the king of money psychology, Morgan Housel.

Getting the Goalpost to Stop Moving
There aren’t many iron laws of money. But here’s one, and perhaps the most important: If expectations grow faster than income you’ll never be happy with your money. One of…
Getting the Goalpost to Stop Moving
There aren’t many iron laws of money. But here’s one, and perhaps the most important: If expectations grow faster than income you’ll never be happy with your money. One of…

The examples in this post are America-centric, but I think the principle is universal – Your fulfilment/happiness/satisfaction is relative. Your wellbeing is dependent on how you compare yourself to others and your own expectations.

In 2004 the New York Times interviewed Stephen Hawking, the late scientist whose motor-neuron disease left him paralyzed and unable to talk since age 21.

“Are you always this cheerful?” the Times asked.

“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21,” Hawking said. “Everything since then has been a bonus,” he replied.

If an abjectly terrible situation can be offset with low expectations, the opposite is true.

Not long after the Times interviewed Hawking it interviewed Gary Kremen, who founded Match.com. At the time Kremen was 43 years old and worth $10 million. That put him in the top half of 1% in the country, and probably the top 1,000th of 1% in the world. In Silicon Valley, it made him just another guy. “You’re nobody here at $10 million,” he said. The Times wrote: “He logs 60- to 80-hour workweeks because he does not think he has nearly enough money to ease up.”

The point here isn’t to say Hawking has the clarity of a monk or that Kremen was out of touch. Just that all happiness has its roots in expectations.

Getting the Goalpost to Stop Moving, Morgan Housel

The post also explains why post-war America felt like an amazing time to so many from the country. Answer: income inequality was at its lowest and the middle class was at its largest.

Phrased differently, Americans felt they could actually keep up with the Joneses and that made them feel really good about themselves.

Incidentally, this is why I suggest finding new friends if you’re feeling pressured to earn more money to keep up appearances. I talk about this in my previous post, Wrong ideas about work.

I genuinely believe it’s easier to change friend groups to one that’s more aligned with your monetary values, than it is to change jobs and career trajectories. This is probably an unpopular suggestion, but I stand by it.

Seeya next Monday,

Lesley

Subscribe for a single weekly idea on the concept of Enough.

Sent on Mondays.

Thanks for subscribing.

Built with Newsletter Glue

Leave a Reply