Recently, as I read through my usual Sunday edition of the New York Times, an interesting advice column caught my eye. A teacher had written in asking for advice on how to approach his good friend about something that was really bothering him. He went on to explain that he had recently brought home a rescue dog and had hired a trainer to teach him how to train the new pet. Around the same time, he explained, he learned that his best friend, a hedge fund manager, also brought home a dog. He, however, had purchased an expensive purebred and then sent him away to a doggy boot camp for two weeks, proudly announcing he will be a “turnkey” dog when he gets it back.
It was clear this teacher vehemently “disapproved” of his friend’s choices, and that he felt it was his job to set his friend straight, only he wasn’t sure how to go about it. To this teacher buying a purebred (as opposed to a rescue) and sending the dog away to be trained (not training the dog himself) seemed gluttonous, had an air of excess, and arrogance about it that he took offense to. So much so that he seemed sure the New York Times would validate his feelings…would “side” with him.
The columnist response seemed to be in the right ballpark but in the end left a lot to be desired. He said there’d be only two ways to proceed: 1) Take action! Quit teaching, go to business school, get a job in finance, and then put in the long hours that his friend surely did, to make the kind of money he is making now, or 2) Accept it! Recognize that he and his friend made different choices, which led them to follow different career paths that earn very different levels of income.
Maybe not terrible advice but a few important points were left out. If you’re feeling as though money is interfering with you and your friendships consider the following…
1) Happiness Has Nothing to Do with Money
The issue this teacher is having with his best friend has very little to do with money. In fact, I think the columnist missed the mark a bit by assuming money is the root of the problem. The reason being no matter how much moremoney, or more stuff someone has, if they are not happy, no amount of money is going to to change that! It’s not money that gives us a sense of fulfillment in our lives. In fact it’s precisely the opposite! It’s the intangibles…things like love & friendship, being of service to others, feeling a sense of achievement, taking pride in ones work, contributing to something larger, etc., regardless of a paycheck!
2) Take a Look at Your Career
What made you choose your career? Was it how much you could make, or did you instead take into account your skills and interests? If you were really lucky, you embarked on a career that you were passionate about. Of course, you needed a job to support yourself, but money for the sake of money is meaningless! A job that you feel good going to everyday is priceless!
3) Life Is a Shared Experience
Ever heard the expression more money, more problems? It’s true that your friend may have more money but chances are it also means he/she has a lot more stress too, and a lot less time for the people they care about! People are social by nature, and connecting with others is a natural way to feel good! Imagine you suddenly have millions of dollars – enough to afford a private jet. You get on your jet to fly somewhere but then realize you are alone! No friends, no family, no one you love is aboard that plane with you. You have the money and the jet, but to have it, you had to give up the relationships you value most!
4) Money Can’t Buy Friendship
If the teacher and hedge fund manager first met as kids, money and social standing did not factor into why they became friends. In fact, there is never a time in life where true friendships are formed based on money. Close friends are hard to come by. That’s because what binds people together, what makes them true friends, is more powerful than money. Good friendships survive disagreements, different lifestyles, and conflicts. Happiness doesn’t come from sitting on a private jet, but rather from talking to your best friend about things that matter more – your life, your friends, and your common interests.
5) How Much Friends Make Has Nothing to Do With You
It seems likely that all of us have friends who are struggling financially. And, it’s also likely that we have friends who earn more. But, to put it bluntly, how much any of them make is none of our business – and it’s irrelevant to a friendship.
6) Thinking About a Friend’s Wealth Could Ruin the Relationship
Think about your wealthier friend’s bank account long enough and you’ll soon start to resent him for it. The feeling you’d have is called envy and it’s dangerous. People who feel envy end up putting down those they envy in an attempt to enhance their own sense of self-worth. But this path soon leads to full blown jealousy, which is a horribly destructive emotion for your friendship…but more importantly for you!
Here’s another way of looking at friendship. If you lose your phone, you go replace it. If you lose a good friend, good luck getting that back or finding his replacement. If that teacher looks at the situation differently, he’ll realize he might have an opportunity to get more time with his buddy walking their new dogs together. Or, he can watch his envy turn into jealousy and walk the dog alone.
About the Author
Jim Perlmutter is the COO and Cofounder of MYND MVMT. MYND MVMT uses an integrated, health & wellness model where mindfulness, nutrition, fitness, and long term goal attainment are built into the rehabilitation process. Mind Mvmt specializes in the treatment & recovery of depression, anxiety, substance use & abuse, behavioral addictions, and working with those who struggle to feel fulfilled in their lives.