“Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony this life. Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money then you die.”
Richard Ashcroft knew exactly what he was talking about when he wrote his hit ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ back in the 90s.
This quote portrays the vicious cycle of people’s lives from all over the world.
It might be hard to accept it, but it’s true.
We perpetuate this life cycle
Money drives the world.
We talk, write and think about it every single day.
We look up to all the Zuckerberg-s and the Bloomberg-s the world has to offer. We fantasize about living a life like theirs.
Articles such as “The 20 Richest Self-Made Billionaires Under 35” send out a clear message — being a billionaire is the ultimate goal, and the younger you are to become one — the more successful you are.
It’s a monster that keeps feeding itself. Entrepreneurs, wannabe gurus, and models — all keep posting selfies on some remote island as they board a private jet. Youtubers and bloggers teach you how to earn a six-figure salary.
Media outlets and lottery agencies produce commercials to preserve this ideal. After all — who doesn’t want piles of money?
We have been surrounded by these ideals for centuries. We are so invested into it that we can’t think of a life beyond it.
But at some point we have to face the mirror and ask ourselves:
Is money our end goal?
Most people wouldn’t admit it.
“I need to make a living… I gotta pay the bills,” they’ll say.
But the narrative we live tells a different story.
The new generation is heading in the same direction
One of my friends is a middle school teacher. He believes that he has an incredible opportunity to make a positive influence on the next generation.
At the beginning of each school year he asks his students:
“What would you consider as a success for you this school year?”
Almost all students have the same answer — “getting great grades.”
Very rarely he hears unique answers like: “to learn a lot about topics that I care about” or “to have fun.”
Let’s face it. School isn’t about educating people anymore.
Forget about valuable knowledge and life skills.
The only way to succeed is to have good grades. Period.
It doesn’t even matter how you get them. The journey isn’t relevant as long as you reach the goal.
My friend isn’t satisfied with this answer.
“But why do you think high grades equal success?”
The students are confused. No one has ever asked them this question before. Nonetheless, the answer seems clear and it takes them a few seconds to reply:
“because that will help us get into a good college and then get us a good job so that we can earn a lot of money.”
Naturally, the students follow the same principle that have been pinned as important throughout their entire life.
They know that they must follow a very specific route:
You can’t blame these teenagers for believing that this is the only route to lead a successful life.
They are merely reciting what they heard from their parents and teachers.
If you won’t get good grades you’ll never get a job!
After all, it’s exactly what we’ve been told too.
Acting like a child isn’t going to get you into a good college. Having a child’s spirit just isn’t practical.
Sure, you need to put food on the table
Some people fight every day in order to make a living. To survive.
Unlike what you might think — that’s not you.
Congratulations! If you are privileged enough to have both the time and the resources to read this article — you aren’t really fighting to survive.
The majority of people (see photo on the left), at least in Europe and North America, are defined as middle-class. The average middle-class people are those who own a 3-bed house. They go on an annual vacation every summer. There’s also the upper middle-class — those who have more luxuries. They live in a bigger house, own two cars, and never miss a winter ski trip.
And of course, in every society there are a small percentage of people who are defined as upper-class. It’s the people who have the most luxury a person can possibly have. Vintage cars collections. Private swimming pool and tennis courts. A summer house. A yacht. A private jet.
Don’t feel bad if you skipped a heartbeat while reading this list — it’s how we are wired to think.
The division to classes seems so normal to us, but it’s actually twisted to the very core. We assign people into groups based on their financial status and label them as lower, middle or upper. Naturally, it’s a given that the higher you are ranked the more successful you are.
It’s exactly like those students and their grades.
Here is what we fail to realize:
It doesn’t matter what class you belong to — you always want more.
Everyone, including those in the upper class, believe that they’d finally feel happy and fulfilled if only they had just a bit more money.
It’s never quite enough.
You can’t get enough of what you never really want
Even Bezos and Buffett want to have more money than they have now.
Grasp this for a second.
The question no one dares to ask is — why?
Simple. It’s our infinite desire to upgrade and “level up.”
If it wasn’t for this urge, many of us wouldn’t have been in debt in the first place. If it wasn’t for this urge, credit card companies would have never existed.
Most of us pay for houses, cars, clothes, furniture, electronics, and vacations that we can’t really afford. Just because we want more more than we can afford. More than we currently have. More than others have.
Ultimately, our lives are like a game of Monopoly.
The goal is to accumulate as much money as possible. And then, at some point — it’s game over.
Richard Ashcroft is right. We are slaves to money, and then we die.
We can’t live without money
For the majority of us, getting enough money for our basic needs (and I mean our real basic needs) has never been easier. Survival isn’t the issue for the majority of us. It’s just the story we tell ourselves.
A nicer house, a summer vacation, an annual phone upgrade. Those aren’t basic needs. When I discuss this with people, they often say —
“What’s the point of living if you can’t afford any of those things?”
That’s the real issue.
Is this all that life has to offer?
We have to ask ourselves if it is really worth spending the majority of our time pursuing unfulfilling jobs just so that we can spend a week in Barbados.
The majority of us are leading a mediocre life just to have more money.
Simply because we don’t know any other way.
We settle. We compromise. We spend the majority of our days doing things that aren’t aligned with our passions and our values and then we reward ourselves for that suffering.
We are putting money in our children’s college funds so that they can continue to live the exact same lifestyle as we do.
In my opinion — it’s not a very successful cycle.
As long as we keep this cycle, we’ll never be able to focus on finding who we really are.
We’ll never be able to pursue our passions. To live a life worth living.
There’s only one certainty in life — death
That’s why we should all embark on an “Into The Wild” journey. We should all burn all the money we have and live somewhere far, peaceful and quiet.
Okay, relax. I’m only joking.
We don’t have to eliminate money from our lives. Money isn’t evil. Money is just money. It’s what we make of it that counts.
It can be a great and powerful tool when handled right. We just have to be in control of it and understand that it’s just a tool.
While it’s hard to ignore what everyone else does and says, we must define our own rewards. What we want to achieve in our lifetime.
From spending time with loved ones to pursuing passions — there are many ways to get fulfillment out of our lives.
Ask yourself this: where do I see myself in five years from today?
Would you like to spend less time doing the things you dislike and spend more time on the things that provide value to your life?
It is possible. And there are plenty of ways to get there.
The first step you need to take is to retrieve control over your life. That game of monopoly? Just stop playing it altogether.