Money doesn’t buy Happiness: Lesson learned in Mumbai Traffic

Mumbai Traffic

One hectic night, I was on my way back from office at around 10:15 PM in my Office-Bus. From my window-seat I saw a well-dressed guy in his Audi A6, perhaps with full AC and a latest iPhone laying casually on side seat. Due to heavy traffic all the vehicles were moving very slowly. I saw the guy in Audi stretching his neck to get a sight of crowd at nearby petrol pump. The petrol pump had a big waiting line. He looked very frustrated and it was very clear on his face.

Just next to that Audi was an ordinary “Sabji wala”(greengrocer) pushing his almost empty Trolley. He was talking to someone on his cheap non-smartphone held in one and pushing the trolley with another. I don’t know who he was talking to but he was happy with a constant smile stamped on his face.

This scene made a huge impact on me. Here is this smart guy driving an Audi, who perhaps worked the whole day in an Air Conditioned office, on a comfortable rotating chair with comfy cushions. Still, at the end of the day he is frustrated. Right next to him is this guy who sold vegetables perhaps standing all the day in open, talking on a cheap almost-extinct non-smartphone while pushing his trolley in this traffic. But at the end of the day this Sabji wala is Happier than the guy in Audi just beside him! How?

Money, Success and Happiness

Let me tell you a little truth about me. Before this experience I use to think that I will consider myself successful when I would be capable enough to buy an Audi. I irrationally linked Money with Success and Happiness. But this experience in the traffic made me realize that if I am not happy today traveling in a Bus, there is no guarantee that I will be happy traveling tomorrow in an Audi.

Parameters of Happiness

Think of a simple mathematical equation: (I failed in mathematics 5 times during my grad, so please let me know if something is silly with the equation 😛 )

y = 2x + z

We know that the variable ‘y’ depends on parameters ‘x’ and ‘z’ according to this equation. In simple words, the output ‘y’ will change as per the changes in input ‘x’ and ‘z’. In the same way everyone has a different Happiness Equation with different parameters on which their happiness depends, i.e., changing those parameters will change the happiness. A perk of being a conscious species is that those parameters that define our happiness are in our own hands.

Not only this, we can also decide how much weight those parameters can have. Lets take one example:

Happiness = 10 (Money) + 2 (Friends) + 2 (Family)

Perhaps this was my approx happiness equation before this experience in Mumbai traffic. The equation says that I weighted money factor (10) much more than the Friends and Family factors (2). But looking at the frustrated guy in Audi and the happy guy pushing his Trolley made me realize that at the end of the day if I don’t have any one to share my success with then there is no meaning of that success.

Balance your Happiness Equation

We are free to choose the parameters in our happiness equation. Those parameters could be something that is permanent or temporary, something that is in our hand or something out of our control.

For example, I see a lot of people who get affected by act of others. If you allow “act of other people” to get into your happiness equation then you will end up being unhappy most of the time. Gossiping about others and thinking what others are doing.

Rather you could choose your happiness to depend on something that is in your hand. I have a friend who is always happy (comparatively). Whenever I post some depressive or serious update on Facebook he comments “Just be happy yar”. He is always content, and his happiness equation contains mainly traveling and friends, both are in his control.

Imagine if Steve Jobs weighted Money more in his Happiness Equation. In such case his decision would have been different when he got fired from Apple. He sold all his Apple shares when he was fired from his own company in 1985 except for one share (which he retained, so that he’d receive the company’s annual report), and started NeXT. He was able to do this because he parameterized his happiness equation with something more permanent like Passion instead of something temporary like Money.

Quick Points

Money doesn’t buy Happiness Happiness Equation: You are free to choose the parameters affecting your happiness equation Choose Parameters wisely: You want something Permanent and Controllable to affect your happiness or want something Temporary and Uncontrollable to affect your happiness? Choice is yours. Keep Rocking \m/

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