Success in Business is Short-sighted

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So many of today’s seminars, conferences, speeches, workshops etc. are sold on the promise of ‘success in business’.

Why is success in business so widely admired in society?

Because that’s how most people become rich, I hear you answer. Which forces the question – why is being rich so desired by people in general?

Why isn’t ‘success in life’ the most popular topic for business people? Business people are already in business, so ‘success in business’ is simply more of the same. What these people really want, if they’re not enjoying what they’re doing, is a happy life. To have a happy life though, requires knowing what makes you happy in the first place and in my experience most people don’t even know how to articulate the question, let alone answer it.

What makes me happy is asking hard questions – I’m just wired that way – so I’ve investigated the subject of money and here are some of my findings.

What is it about money?

What is money anyway? Economists say that money is a medium of exchange. Money has no intrinsic value – if you were alone on a desert island with a million pounds in cash, it might make a good fire on a cold night but that’s about all.

Money is a trick, an illusion of options. When it is a medium of exchange it has huge potential because it can buy anything that is for sale within its purchasing power. The power of the money increases exponentially with all the goods and services known to you as a purchaser. On a desert island it has little potential because there is nothing to buy; on Oxford Street in London it has huge potential.

As Alfred Korzibski said, ‘The map is not the territory.’ You can look at a map of Europe, and imagine all the places you can visit. In reality you can only be in one place at any one time and what you imagine a place is like is never the same as the reality of actually being there – at least not in my experience. The map is not the place. It’s the same with a bank note. A bank note is a kind of map.

The idea of money therefore is many thousand times more powerful than the reality of money. It is a trick played by our imaginations; money promises so much but it actually delivers very little.

Our problems start here because we begin to believe money is so powerful that it can even buy intangibles such as happiness, security, friends, purpose…And when the entire consumerist structure of our society keeps telling us it can, we start to believe it. This is what keeps people in a job they hate.

And when we buy whatever it is we desire, all the alternatives that we considered buying are gone – the power of the money has been spent – literally. However that shouldn’t really matter because we have what we wanted – right? That shiny, thirsty, highly desirable, liability of a car (or whatever) is just what we needed, right? Except for this; what part of us really needed it, and what happens when a newer shinier, more desirable model appears on our neighbours’ drive?

The answer lies in one of the greatest tricks ever played on the human mind – the trick of desire.

Imagine desiring a person. When you desire someone you want something from them, even if it’s only to get to know them better, so you become nervous around them. That person now has a power over you.

So desire is about control. Desire puts someone or something else in control of your life. That car you want, that house, that job, that lottery prize—it’s controlling you.

All that money can do is increase your choices; that’s it. And option fatigue in today’s consumerist society is becoming more and more of a curse.

So having desire transforms the goal into a gaol. When we badly want something we are imprisoned by our desire for it. It holds us to ransom. So who is the gaoler? It can only be ourselves.

This is an extract from SatNav for the Soul®, an illustrated keynote presentation by Ivor Tymchak.