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.

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?

Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing

Lessons in Waiting

Years ago, I remember taking a personality test as part of a leadership class.  The instructor looked up at me and started to explain the results.  She was laughing as she explained my patience level, which was exactly zero on the chart.  Full of positive energy and spin, she showed how patience and a sense of urgency are flip sides of the same trait.  I may not have any patience, but the good news is that I was driven and was full of urgency.

Waiting is not one of my best skills.  If there is a long wait for a table at a restaurant, it is unlikely I will stay.

The best moments are the ones happening right now. -Jeff Goins

Picking up my friend Jeff Goins’ book, The In-Between, I was not even through the introduction when I realized how convicting this book was to me.

“We all want to live meaningful lives full of experiences we can be proud of.  We all want a great story to tell our grandchildren. But many of us fail to recognize that the best moments are the ones happening right now.”

Ahem.  I put the book down, picked up my highlighter, and then read on.

“Maybe the good stuff isn’t ahead of or behind us.  Maybe it’s somewhere in between—right in the midst of this moment, here and now.”

Jeff’s powerful message hits me squarely in the midst of my busyness.

After a few weeks of contemplating the book, I reached out to Jeff to talk about his latest book.

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Jeff, we are all so busy.  Everyone seems to be rushing to get somewhere and do something.  You look at that time differently.  What made you pause and look at the “in-between”?

The birth of my son, Aiden. When he was born, everything seemed to slow down. But the irony was that whenever I spent some time away, due to a work trip or something, I ended up missing a lot. During the time that I was gone, my son had learned something new, some new expression or saying. And I realized that when I miss even a moment, I miss a lot–with Aiden, and with the rest of my life, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

So I wrote this book about the moments we tend to miss, about the times in between the milestones in our lives — and how those just might be the most important parts of life.

The subtitle of the book is Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing.  Again, that’s counter to what we learn.  Usually we want to let go of tension.  You want us to embrace it.  What do you mean and how do you do it?

Tension is inevitable. It’s part of our lives. Either, we learn to embrace it or deny its reality. But the fact that there are slower, less exciting times of life is a reality; what we do with those times is what makes our lives interesting… or not.