THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Financial freedom? Money can't buy happiness

I am sick of advice about how to achieve financial freedom. "Freedom from what?" I have asked some people, who I will not mention since Iím dissing them. The most common answer is that they want to be able to make decisions about their life based on what they want, not on what they can afford.

Hello? Can everyone standing in line to buy a Lear Jet please get a reality check? You do not need a plane to be happy; you need a plane to go visit the people who make you happy. A jet is not an expression of financial freedom. Itís an expression of your decision to not live near the people who mean the most to you.

I think the root of the idea of ìfinancial freedomî means freedom from having to do a job you donít like. But this thinking comes from baby boomers who felt compelled to climb ladders doing jobs that left little room for a personal life. (When I think 80s I think 80-hour week.)

Today we donít do that. Many people of ladder-climbing age today donít believe itís worth the trouble. For example, young people today are confounding human resource departments by refusing to take jobs that do not give flexibility. 

Jim Buckmaster, chief executive of Craigslist, mystified Wall St. analysts when he explained that heís not interested in building a megacompany, and he just wants to maintain Craigslist as a company that gives people what they need. Buckmaster is sticking to his values of community, personal time and flexibility, rather than compromising them to build a mega-company where he has to work insane hours dictated by someone above him.

But I think his employees are not so much mystified as just plain grateful for the down-to-earth attitude at Craigslist. And plenty of research shows that the people at Craigslist have the right attitude: that making money a career goal is like putting yourself on a hamster wheel. That's because your satisfaction with your earnings is always relative to your peers', and you cannot control how much money your peers have.

Money cannot solve big problems such as cancer or world hunger or happiness. Money solves small problems, like, can you have a big wedding, can you go on a good trip. Small problems are what people talk about when they talk about helping you get financial freedom.

But why spend your life figuring out how to get rid of small problems with money? You can work hard to make yourself a more optimistic person, and then you will be able to overcome most small problems. So letís stop talking about financial freedom and start talking about learned optimism.

Optimism is the ability to see the world in a positive light. Optimists are happier people, independent of pecking order, because they have an ability to spin everything into a positive light. For example, when something goes wrong, they focus on learning from it to do better next time instead of getting angry at themselves or at someone else.

There is no reason why everyone shouldn't attempt to think more optimistically. There are plenty of books and studies to show us how. (A good place to start is with Daniel Seligmanís book, Learned Optimism.) And donít tell me a happy outlook will squash your creativity. Part of creative production is the manic optimistic self-confidence that what you are thinking of is a great idea.

How does this relate to careers? Once you make the switch to thinking like an optimist you will have real freedom– freedom to do what will be fulfilling and accommodate your personal life instead of what will make you rich.