How to Shape a Life of Money and Meaning

wealth

Happiness & Wealth

How does money figure into a happy life? Behavioral finance expert Brian Portnoy delivers an inspired answer based on the idea that wealth, truly defined, is funded contentment. It is the ability to underwrite a meaningful life.

His latest work, The Geometry of Wealth , bridges the philosophical and practical gap in managing money in our lives.

 

“Money does buy more happiness when spent wisely, especially when directed toward experiences, others, and time.” -Brian Portnoy

 

Millions are Not Ready for Retirement

You point out that millions of Americans have not saved a dime for retirement. Why is this? Will this eventually cause a crisis or is this typical and then people catch up?

The lack of retirement preparedness stems from a combination of opportunity and mindset. In the context of real wages for many Americans having not risen in more than a generation, many are barely able to make ends meet, let alone build a nest egg. Beyond that, financial illiteracy is a major problem. As a society we don’t take seriously the need to understand the many facets of saving, spending, and investing. Further, humans are generally wired with biases that undermine smart money decisions. This mix of factors is at the root of the looming retirement crisis in America. Far too many have saved far too little, and there are no obvious solutions that don’t involve quite painful decisions.

 

“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” -Epictetus

 

The Importance of Purpose

Your model is in three parts: purpose to priorities to tactics. Part one is purpose, which is not a typical starting point in many financial books. Talk about the importance of purpose in this context.

Let’s step back and ask, “What are we all trying to accomplish here?” I think an answer that mostly everyone would get behind is that we want to be happy; we want to lead a good life. Okay, fine, but how do you do that? It’s obviously a massive question, with countless angles from philosophy and religion and other domains. Money, for better or worse, is an inescapable part of the discussion. There are certain unavoidable practicalities of what we can afford and how those help to underwrite the lives we want to lead. By putting purpose first, by being thoughtful – not just once, but over time – about where we find joy, then we are much better able to have our financial decisions support that quest. This is the opposite of what many unfortunately do, which is let the desire for and experience with money determine what we do in life.

 

“True wealth is the ability to underwrite a meaningful life.” -Brian Portnoy

 

How is fulfillment and happiness related to financial well-being? Talk about the intersection of money and happiness.

Turn Your Day Job into Your Dream Job

 

Day Job to Dream Job

 

86% of the population wishes they weren’t at their job.

That’s a startling statistic shared by Kary Oberbrunner. Kary is an author, speaker, and coach who left his day job to pursue his dream job several years ago. His personal story is compelling, overcoming severe stuttering, depression, and self-injury to becoming a community and business leader.

I recently spoke with him about his work and particularly about his book, Day Job to Dream Job: Practical Steps For Turning Your Passion Into A Full-Time Gig.

 

“Sometimes stories cry out to be told in such loud voices that you write them just to shut them up.” -Stephen King

 

In our video interview, we talk about:

What it takes to pursue your life with purpose and meaning.

Kary calls people who pursue this “dream jobbers” and says only 14% of people are truly excited about their jobs.

 

Clarity. It starts with clarity. And with that clarity comes action.

 

 “Clarity attracts and confusion repels.” -Kary Oberbrunner

 

“Clarity has rough edges. Clarity is sharp. People are scared of clarity because they will either be accepted or rejected.” -Kary Oberbrunner

 

The importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.

5 Break-Through Insights that Create a Meaningful Workplace

meaning
This is a guest post by Danny Gutknecht, CEO and Co-founder of Pathways, an advisory firm that helps organizations tap their potential. His new book is Meaning at Work – And Its Hidden Language.

 

Create a Meaningful Workplace

Organizations have blundered in their attempts to provide purpose and meaning for employees. But meaning and purpose are not something that companies can provide.

Meaning is a human need that runs an operating system intrinsic to itself. No one can plot it for us; we can’t download it and install it like an app. We can’t live up to or adopt values painted on the wall.

Until we understand the principles of how meaning works for the organization and for human beings, and implement processes that will allow meaning to occur, we’ll continue to experience the churn that comes from lack of alignment.

Consider these five break-through insights that can help create a meaningful workplace:

 

1. Learn how meaning works. 

Meaning is created daily through experience and interactions we have with everything in our lives. We have an inner dialogue with our work, relationships and organizations. Our meaning is the result of how we interpret and interact with our world. When work is meaningful, we strive to improve and engage more deeply with it. When we share meaning with a group or company, each is enhanced and grows. But make no mistake: meaning can’t be given; it can only be shared.

 

2. Make meaning the key to organizational excellence, and to personal excellence.

BE Aerospace won a contract to create a product with multiple iterations in a highly regulated environment. It hired a slew of top engineers in the UK, but the flow of engineers out the door was as steady as the flow coming in. It was killing the company’s ability to deliver. By interrogating and mining the meaning of the company, it became clear that the engineers who were leaving weren’t aligned with those who were staying, even though they thought they were. The message from management in the recruiting phase missed the essence of who they were. Those who left described the work as overwhelming, with impossible challenges and unsolvable problems. The ones who were engaged and loved what they did were fulfilled by the challenge. As one employee put it, “It’s like being dropped into the ocean with no beach in sight — so you start swimming and soon you learn it’s a damn fine beach when you get there.” Because traditional job descriptions and marketing messages dominated the employment conversation, everyone missed the conversation about what mattered most.

 

3. Recruit to meaning.

Improve Your Leadership With the Mindfulness Edge

Get the Mindfulness Edge

Most of us have heard of mindfulness. These days it is all the rage in certain circles. My friend Matt Tenney is one who practices it in a way that inspires. It’s not just how he does it but also where he first learned it: in a prison cell. That’s right, my friend Matt was once behind bars where he changed his entire outlook and changed the course of his life. In fact, that dark time in his life seems to have been the best time because many people have learned from his mistakes and from what he learned through the ordeal.

 

“Every moment of our lives can be infused with the deepest meaning possible.” –Matt Tenney

 

Today, Matt Tenney works to develop highly effective leaders who achieve extraordinary long-term business outcomes—and live more fulfilling lives—as a result of realizing high levels of self-mastery. He is a social entrepreneur, an author, a keynote speaker, and a corporate trainer. Matt’s clients include Wells Fargo, Marriott, Keller Williams, Four Seasons, and many other companies, associations, and universities.

His first book, Serve to Be Great, is one I highly recommend. Now, his latest is all about mindfulness and how it can rewire your brain for success. It is a fascinating read, full of research to back up the many claims of the practice. I recently asked Matt about his latest book, The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence Without Adding to Your Schedule.

 

Train Your Mind for Optimal Performance

What are the key ways mindfulness can help us improve professionally and personally?

Everyone seems to agree that all successes and all failures begin in the mind. Yet very few of us take time to train the mind to function better. Most of us add knowledge through study, which can be very helpful. However, we know that a person can be very “book smart” but still have great difficulty making good decisions and/or developing and sustaining healthy relationships with other people.

Matt TenneyIt is clear that just as important as what we know is the type of mind we show up with every day. Mindfulness training provides a way to systematically develop a healthier, more effective mind, and there’s now a large body of research suggesting that mindfulness training changes the physical structure of our brains in ways that help us perform better both professionally and personally.

Perhaps most important for business, mindfulness training changes the brain in ways that enhance self-awareness and mental agility, which may be the two most important leadership skills there are. These skills reduce the degree to which we’re influenced by the biases we all have. This freedom from bias can dramatically improve our business acumen and our impact on the bottom line.

Also, self-awareness is the foundation of emotional and social intelligence, which are essential for creating and sustaining high-performance team cultures. All other things being equal, over the long term, a team with a more positive emotional climate is going to significantly outperform a team with a negative emotional climate. Mindfulness training improves our impact on the emotional climate of our teams.

Mindfulness training can also have a dramatic impact on our personal lives. The practice helps free us from unpleasant emotions like anxiety, fear, and anger and helps develop a special type of happiness that does not depend on what happens to us or what we have. We can train to develop unconditional happiness.

 

Mindfulness training results in highly refined levels of self-awareness.

 

The Biggest Mindfulness Misconception

Many people read about mindfulness and have a variety of perceptions about it. What is the biggest misconception people have about the practice?

The biggest misconception I see is that people conflate being mindful and techniques for developing mindfulness. People think engaging in mindfulness practice means we have to add to our schedules unfamiliar techniques like sitting still and watching our breath go in and out. Sitting still and watching our breath is not necessarily mindfulness practice. It is one technique, of many, that can facilitate the development of mindfulness.

To begin practicing mindfulness, you don’t need to add anything to your schedule. You just need to make and sustain a subtle inner shift during the activities you already engage in every day.

 

Study: Mindfulness training results in physical changes to the structure of the brain.

 

What’s your definition of mindfulness?

3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

Are You Fully Charged?

Are you at the top of your game?

Have more energy than you need?

Is your work meaningful?

In recent research only 11 percent of people said that they have a great deal of energy. If you want to rev up your engine, read on.

One of my very favorite authors, Tom Rath has a brand new book called Are You Fully Charged?: The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life. Tom is a researcher at Gallup who studies human behavior. You may know him from any of his five New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. From How Full Is Your Bucket? to StrengthsFinder 2.0 every one of his books inspires and challenges. We recently discussed what it takes to be fully charged at work and in life.

“The pursuit of meaning, not happiness, is what makes life worthwhile.” –Tom Rath

Maintain a Positive Attitude

You open the book with your own personal health challenge. How do you maintain such a positive attitude and strong work ethic in the face of the unknown?

I have learned it essential to focus on what you can do today that will continue to grow when you are gone. In reality, no one can say with certainty that they will live for a defined period of time. But we all have today to do something that improves the life of another human being.

You don’t even have to do anything that profound today to make a difference for someone else. The things that change people’s lives are usually an accumulation of small acts. If I have one great conversation today, do a little research or writing that contributes to something larger, or read a book to my son, those all add up in the way I think about a day where I am fully charged.

 

“The things that change people’s lives are usually an accumulation of small acts.” –Tom Rath

 

Learn the 3 Keys to a Full Charge

Three keys to a Full Charge include meaning, interactions, and energy. Are You Fully Charged?offers practical, easy steps to energize your life and become more effective. At the same time, I don’t think most of us think of our lives in these buckets. How did you develop this approach?

While I have also worked on research and books about life in a more general sense, this one focuses more on the key ingredients of a great day, for yourself and others. So I think of these three elements as little reminders of things I need to try and spend time on within a given day. As I talk about in the book’s prologue, this work has been deeply influenced by recent research suggesting that our daily experience functions very differently from our overall satisfaction with life over decades.

 

“Doing for others may be the only way to create lasting well-being.” –Tom Rath

 

Find Purpose in Your Work

FullyChargedYou say to “make work a purpose, not just a place.” What practical steps can company leaders take to make that a reality?

I think it starts by going all the way back to the fundamental compact between a person and an organization. Companies are now pretty good at quantifying the value an employee adds to their bottom line, but very few do a good job of ensuring that each person’s life is better off as a result of joining the organization.

So leaders need to spend more time helping employees to see how their daily efforts are part of something much larger that makes a difference. One way to do this is to help employees hear directly from customers and communities who are benefiting from their daily work. What matters is not just that we make a little meaningful progress each day but that each person also has a chance to see and perceive this through their own lens.

 

“Make work a purpose, not just a place.” –Tom Rath