Something better than money !?

Money is the gasoline of life. We need it to buy all of life’s necessities, and more. Whether you love it or hate it, you will probably agree that there is no doing without it.

So, it stands to reason that almost all of us(save perhaps the chronically apathetic) strive to make a comfortable amount of it.

This collective pursuit of money seems to have its own merits. People learn not to depend on others, there is more personal space. The power to live ones dreams comes into ones own hands. Money gets us our most prized possession, freedom.

The flip side

This life style seems to lead to some problems as well. The pursuit for money leads many to loneliness. I saw this evident in New York, the seat of money. People appeared more lonely than I had seen anywhere else.

A strong focus on money also takes many away from doing what they really love doing, because they don’t think it can make them money. An overwhelming number of people get into just a few professions that supposedly make a lot of money. Many of these people don’t have an aptitude or inclination for their professions. There is a lot of competition, stress and disillusionment.

Once a person has enough money for all necessities, some basic comforts and a few luxuries, the pursuit of money increasingly seems to yield less and less satisfaction. One needs to do more and still more for the same amount of fulfillment. Purposelessness and meaninglessness creep in.

Why does this happen? Why does money not keep providing happiness? For answers, I suppose one has to ask even deeper, more fundamental questions.

What exactly is money? We all know that it is powerful, but exactly how powerful is it? Are there other, more satisfying alternatives?

For all our focus on it, I think a lot of us have a distorted idea of money.

What is money?

When we think of money, most of us think of the amount of currency we have stored in our bank accounts and as cash with us. Some may also include what they think are their assets – house, car, gold, valuables etc etc.

If you think of it, currency is only a piece of paper or a small lump of some metal. It has value only because we all, as a society, have agree upon it.

It is a means for exchanging value, no more. It is a convenient, mutually agreed upon way for people to show they have given something of value to society, and are taking back value commensurate to what they gave.

Is money the only means of exchanging value?

In a household, we don’t charge for our tasks, we do them because we know that other family members also do something. This exchange may not be immediate. The other person may not be doing something at the very instant you are doing something. But you have faith that he/she will do it, in time.

I’d like to share a personal example…

When I came back to India from the US, an acquaintance gave me his motorcycle to use for a few months. Here is something to observe, I did not pay my friend any money. To rent such a motorcycle, for those many months, would have cost a considerable amount. But my friend gave it to me for free, out of goodwill. He reads my blog and likes it a lot. It was his way of expressing his gratitude and satisfaction. There was value exchanged, but no money was involved. Notice also that no one demanded any compensations.

Value can be exchanged through good will as well.

Money Vs Goodwill

The thing with focusing on accumulating luxuries is, our material needs are not really as many. Beyond basic necessities and a few comforts, money cannot add more to life. With our focus on money, we ignore some other serious needs we have. One such is the need to be a contributing member of society. Contributing, helping others makes us happy. Yes, you read that right, it is not a sacrifice to contribute. To help others, to make others happy, is a deep, inherent need. It is actually selfish to be selfless.

When material comforts start to provide less and less satisfaction, when they lead to loneliness, realize that you need to make the lives of others better, to feel better yourself.

And, as we have seen, good will is a way of exchanging value too. It doesn’t quite work the same way as paper money does, it is not ‘give this, get that’. But it provides deeper and more meaningful satisfaction. It provides deeper connection with others, it gives us the satisfaction of providing something that people genuinely like and appreciate, and it satiates that ancient, most basic of our needs, the need to belong.

Until next time…

Image credit: Carlos Porto


  • December 23, 2011 - 10:56 am | Permalink

    Hi Rahul,
    I couldn’t agree more about what you wrote here about money.

    We might have often observed that when we help someone ( with no money involved in the process), it gives us a real satisfaction than if we helped a person by giving some money.

    This proves that humans are made to help each other by nature. Money is unnatural.
    Naveen Kulkarni recently posted..Release

    • Rahul
      December 25, 2011 - 11:04 am | Permalink

      That is an an interesting thought Naveen. I read there is a Chinese saying to the effect – ‘Give a man money and you feed him once, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a life time.’
      Understanding what is the basic problem a person has, and helping him/her resolve that, is, I find, more satisfying than just giving money and moving on.
      Thanks for adding to the post. :)

  • Kunal
    December 23, 2011 - 11:03 am | Permalink

    Yep, i agree. But Rahul, there is one thing that I ve learnt being unemployed for a while that “It’s all abt the money” :-). There is some amount of goodwill also that counts but it does not last forever. You kinda lose your respect in the society, among your family and so on. It is especially true if you had been earning a handsome package and now you are not….I might have been biased while reading this article but i guess that s the human psychology.

    • Rahul
      December 25, 2011 - 11:19 am | Permalink

      To each his own Kunal. I hope your journey leads you to happiness.
      Just a thought – As far as I know, good will acts in a lot of ways like money. You don’t just create it once and use it forever. You create it, use it up, then create it again to use again. So yes, just like money, it does not last forever. You have to continuously recreate it.
      I have a couple of questions that you may want to ask yourself, Who is it that is really not respecting you, your family or you? And which one bothers you more?
      When you try to follow your heart and leave the crowd, a lot of people, your family members included, will tell you its all wrong. If they believed that your path is right, they would have themselves been on it, wouldn’t they? So to expect them to support you is, pardon me, foolishness. You have to show courage on this path, you have to be your own strength. In the long run, you set a clear, unmistakable and inspiring example that makes others rethink and re evaluate their own values. If you can’t stand to do all this, there is always the option of going back to the security of the crowd, do a soulless job that you don’t feel excited about, and think what could have been, had you shown courage.

  • December 27, 2011 - 11:14 am | Permalink

    Hey Rahul,

    To me money is energy that magnifies what you already are.
    It makes life easier but challenges (some call them problems) don’t really fade; they change in quality though.
    Ironic though many people drive after more money not realizing all they want is peace; just peace of mind.

    thank you for the share!


    • Rahul
      December 27, 2011 - 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Hi Akos,
      I agree, problems don’t fade away with money. Challenges are always there, for everyone. Just there type changes from time to time, person to person.
      I am glad you dropped by. Thanks for sharing your ideas. :)

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