I Made a Lot of Money, and It Made Me Very Happy

The year 2012 was (financially) my best year ever. The sum of revenue on courses, workshops, presentations, royalties, product sales, licenses, and house rental, was never before so big. And that makes me feel good.

Yes, I confess!

Money Makes Me Happy

Unfortunately, writing (and publishing) the preceding sentences also generates a storm of other feelings in my head…

I feel shame because many coaches and consultants insist that money doesn’t motivate knowledge workers in a good way. But yes, I like to peek at my bank account every now and then, just for the joy of seeing a number of digits I’ve never seen earlier in my life. And realizing I’m not supposed to be motivated this way can make me feel ashamed.

I feel guilt because I now have more money than most other people I know. And in my (Dutch) culture I’m not supposed to feel better or more successful than anyone else. In Scandinavia they call it the Law of Jante: nobody should break out of the social group. But yes, I enjoy the fact that I’ve achieved something special. And feeling unique also makes me feel guilty.

I feel anxiety because writing (and publishing) this analysis of my feelings may lead to unexpected consequences. Some readers might not like it. Some people might hate me for it. Honesty is rarely appreciated by people who prefer consensus, equality, predictability and cohesion. From the moment I click Publish on this post I will feel anxious about the replies.

But I can live with that.

The 10 Reasons I’m Happy

I feel happy, because…

The neverending quest to discover how I can successfully make more money, satisfies my need for curiosity.

The fact that the business world wants to pay for my ideas and services satisfies my need for acceptance.

I earned the money through voluntary, legal, and free trade relationships, which addresses a need for honor.

After a long time I’m finally getting the hang of marketing and networking, which satisfies my need for mastery.

Money makes the world go round, and it thus it can help me reach more people, addressing a need for power.

The more money I have the more I am free to pursue the activities I enjoy most, which is crucial for my freedom.

I am already using the money to support some friends, family, and charity, which helps my social relationships.

More money helps me acquire better tools and services, which is very beneficial for my need for security and order.

The more I earn the closer I can get to my real purpose in life, which is to be a full-time writer, or in other words, my goal.

And finally, I enjoy it when my years of hard work culminate in some recognition. In other words, my need for status.

So you see, for me money is a motivator.

From Separation to Unification

I understand, when people separate work from their life, then a focus on money (work) will probably deteriorate their quality of life. But for me, my work is part of my life. For me, doing better work means having a better life!

Therefore, money is an easy-to-measure proxy variable for all my intrinsic motivators. (There are other proxies too.) I even dare to say, when your work is your life, money is a metric that covers the whole champfrogs scale!

If you stop separating work from life, and instead see the first as an implementation of the second, you can stop separating money from motivation, and instead see one as a metric for the other.

It’s not a perfect metric, of course. You’ll need some other metrics too. Just stop blaming money for the misery of people. Instead, figure out how to integrate your work and your life. It could help you feel happy.

And the shame, guilt, and anxiety?

I suppose, during my valiant efforts to gain another digit on my bank account, I will just have to learn how to live with them.


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  • http://blog.brodzinski.com Pawel Brodzinski

    If money is your motivator and an ultimate proxy measure for all the intrinsic motivations why don’t you optimize your activities to earn simply more money?
    Actually, I think that your argument can be interpreted in completely different. By the way, doesn’t you argue that money makes you happy and not motivated? Because, personally, I always distinguish these two.

  • Linda

    Congratulations from a fellow Dutchie! The only reason my work is not my life, is that I can’t choose, and I have many, varied hobbies. So I chose to work less hours instead of making more money. To each his own! 🙂

  • Ruud

    congrats Jurgen – you have every reason to be proud of this major achievement!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/leanlooney Patrick Verheij

    Never neglect a feeling. You probably deserve what you have. Enjoy it as much as you can.

  • Ralph

    Here is a nice reference too your thougts:
    No. 4: Surround Yourself with Multimillionaires.
    I have been studying wealthy people since I was 10 years old. I read their stories and see what they went through. These are my mentors and teachers who inspire me. You can’t learn how to make money from someone who doesn’t have much. Who says, “Money won’t make you happy”? People without money. Who says, “All rich people are greedy”? People who aren’t rich. Wealthy people don’t talk like that. You need to know what people are doing to create wealth and follow their example: What do they read? How do they invest? What drives them? How do they stay motivated and excited?

    Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/7-habits-of-self-made-millionaires-2012-12

  • http://blog.brodzinski.com Pawel Brodzinski

    I didn’t expect an answer. I’m just sharing my thought that your 10 points can be interpreted in a way that rules money out of equation.
    Learning about money making techniques satisfies your curiosity.
    Appreciation from your clients fulfills the need for acceptance.
    Quality of relationships addresses the honor.
    And this is exactly how I read the post. I don’t really see money as a motivation thing there.
    I see that money makes you happy, which, for me, is something different than making you motivated.
    I may be wrong but I don’t really think you optimize your activities to suck most money out of it. My interpretation is that you use money as some sort of vanity metric yet still keep the course that isn’t determined by purely or mainly by money.
    Or you just try to be controversial 😉
    That’s my two cents.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Sorry, I don’t understand what point you’re trying to make, so I don’t know how to answer.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Thank you all for the nice feedback. It’s very encouraging. 🙂

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    I think you are entirely correct. I don’t optimize the money variable. But still, seeing what works (financially) does motivate me in some way to do more of it. Why? Because it indeed satisfies those intrinsic desires. As I said, the money is just a proxy variable.

  • Jorgen

    Don’t forget that you’re fulfilling a critical social function here too. I’m assuming you’re paying a rather princely sum of money back to the Dutch government in the form of taxes so I don’t think you have anything to be ashamed of, Jurgen.

  • http://www.cygnismedia.com/quick-tour IT development company

    I don’t think money is substitute of your happiness because sometime you have lot of money and many other luxuries but you haven’t got a happy by these things.

  • http://www.cygnismedia.com/quick-tour IT development company

    I don’t think money is substitute of your happiness because sometime you have lot of money and many other luxuries but you haven’t got a happy by these things.

  • Mahadevan(Mahi)

    Why not look at it as clean money which is a healthy side effect of value created for a larger beneficial purpose by applying principles of intrinsic motivation at an individual level?
    Hope this reduces your anxiety levels ! 🙂

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Good point, regrettably. 😎

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Indeed, it’s not a substitute. It’s a proxy variable. That’s different.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Great, thanks! 🙂

  • atilla

    How about you giving me a free traning course will be held in Turkey in 29-30 January 2013 🙂

  • http://profile.typepad.com/mjviljanen Mjviljanen

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the same thing in the last year or so (even though I only make a fraction of what I guess you must earn).
    The main thing that bothers me is that I make a lot more than e.g. nurses or teachers or firemen etc. And since those people continuously help others and some of them actually save lives on a daily basis, me helping my customers make money doesn’t seem that noble in comparison – and yet I’m rewarded better (financially) than them. So I do get a bad conscience about that, and even feel guilty sometimes. (One way of making myself feel better about it is donating blood, i.e. quite literally giving something of mine to help others.)
    Still, I also have the same positive feelings that you listed. I especially cherish my freedom, and money is definitely a good proxy for achieving that. In this sense, I guess one could say that money isn’t really a good thing, but lack of money definitely is a bad thing. Being able to cover my living expenses and not having to think too much about what kind of food I can afford definitely makes me less stressed than I would be if I had to be counting dimes to make sure I can eat for the whole week.
    In general I think money is a very easy to metric because it’s so easy to measure (just like you wrote) and thus it makes me feel good when I make more money than I did before – because that is a clear sign of improvement. But I’ve also noticed that money starts to lose its meaning when there’s “enough” of it. (Whatever that means depends on the person.) For example for me, finding a 20€ bill on the ground would mean pretty much nothing, since it wouldn’t enable me to do anything more than I can already do. It would take a lot more than that to make a difference in my life. For someone else that 20€ might mean whether they can afford to eat today or not. In a way, I think money can make one blind and it all just becomes abstract numbers that one wants to see grow more and more, without it making any tangible difference anymore.
    Anyway, back to your situation after all this ranting… 🙂 I think you probably have made the world a better place for some people last year, so I don’t think it’s wrong to enjoy the benefits it has brought you. And paying your taxes and giving to charity does help others to enjoy them too.

  • Jean-Francois

    Don’t be ashamed to feel proud about this. The more money I make, the more trips I can do with my wife and daughter, the more options I have when I retire etc.
    Money isn’t my only motivation but I have to admit that it’s pretty high on the list. It doesn’t mean I’ll do anything for it and that I’m a bad person. It means I know what I’m worth in the current market and try to make the most of it.
    I Hope you and I make even more money in 2013.
    Cheers !

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p017c354dfd16970b Michael Malinak

    I have to say that your post embodies two of the most important things to look for in knowledge workers:
    honesty and conviction
    Thanks for taking the time to write this.

  • Adam S.

    Congrats Jurgen!
    There is really no reason to be ashamed of making money. It gives you freedom to pursue what you think is important for you. Also enables you to pursue things that without money would be hard to accomplish.
    If you feel shame spend some of your hard earned money on building your self esteem.

  • http://maxtoroq.blogspot.com/ Max Toro

    You are so self-centered, no wonder you see money as motivator. People that achieve truly remarkable things are not motivated by money.

  • http://lmsgoncalves.com Luis Goncalves

    Self-centered or not I am sure he achieved something remarkable as you said 🙂
    The man was considered to be on the TOP 10 of the guys with more influence in the Agile Community!!!
    For me that is a pretty dam good achievement 🙂 As you can see there are people that achieve truly remarkable things using money as motivator 😉
    Best Regards 😉

  • http://davenicolette.wordpress.com Dave Nicolette

    Glad to hear you had a good year in 2012. You deserve it.
    To say money isn’t the primary motivator for knowledge workers is not the same saying it’s completely unimportant. It’s a necessary evil or, as you put it, a “proxy variable.”
    Keep up the good work!

  • Magnus Siverbrant

    If there is a clear connection between the money you make and the quality of the work you do it is great motivation. The problem is knowing if this is the case and knowing what you did that payed off. Income in a company usually is a product of things done over a long period of time.

  • Radu Davidescu

    Congrats Jurgen,
    I’m proud that I personally meet and know a person that made an important change (for him and for others) in this complex world.
    Karma, skill, trial and error, black swans, … everything enters in the “success blender”!
    Regarding money, I think pilling is a motivator factor and not the number in some account.
    Answer to this question: let’s say that at the end of 2013 you’ll have half of your money that you have now (it’s not important why), but still this half it’s a lot more than you had at the start of 2012. You’ll still be happy?!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Yes, I would still be happy. 🙂

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Why do you believe I am self-centered?
    And what does self-centered have to do with money?

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