Real Happiness: How Low-Cost Wine Becomes Undrinkable

business_wine_stoicismSome insightfully challenging observations from Jacob Henricson:

You would think that making a lot of money and having a lot of power makes you less more independent, less vulnerable. But often exact opposite happens.

As your income and prestige grow, you develop more expensive tastes. A modest-sized house is no longer enough. Wine at a low price slowly becomes undrinkable. Before you know it you have become dependent on an income which is much higher than what you would get from most available jobs. And it is much more painful to step down from a privileged position than it is enjoyable to climb up. You are creating a trap for yourself.

Epictetus provocatively asks: “Who is your master?” And immediately he answers: “Whoever has authority over anything that you’re anxious to gain or to avoid.”

Your boss, your shareholders, your customers become more important than friends and relatives: Your spouse, your children, your parents. They will have to wait because first you have to please the people that control your income and your social status.

Why did we choose to climb to the top in the first place? For many it’s a combination of having an exciting challenge at work, and providing for our families. But asked which is most important, most people would say their families.

Dependency can make us do things we rather wouldn’t. We are often pressured to stand behind things we do not believe in. Budgets are cut in half while we are still expected to deliver the same results or better. We know that it will put unreasonable pressure on our staff. But what to do? Most managers will challenge the decision, but few are ready to back up their challenges with concrete action (such as resigning) and will ultimately bow to the decision and embrace it as their own.

When you tell lies – especially to yourself – you become enmeshed in a system you deplore. You can no longer blame your boss or your colleagues for the way things turn out.

Jacob has been experimenting with a personal policy of telling no lies ever, no matter how small. With an absolute truthfulness policy: “It has made my life more cumbersome short term as I have to think through my answers carefully. Instead of saying ”I can’t join the dinner tonight because I’m not feeling well”, I have to take the time to explain that I need some time with my wife and kids, or that I simply do not feel up to it, in a friendly way. But little by little it has proven to be a fantastic way of getting respect and sleeping well at night. I do not have to keep track of what I said to whom, and I am never afraid of being called out with a white lie.”

And above all, Jacob has been met with respect: “Sometimes I have been blunter to people than I would have before, but, in the end, it seems that the people around me value me more as a man of my word, meaning what they hear from me is truthful, straight from my heart. That has made me decide to make the experiment permanent, and recommend it to everybody else in the world.”