Stop Chasing Money and Start Chasing Richness

richness

It took me a long time to realize money would never make me happy. A trip around the world finally drilled this truth into my brain, and it has dramatically changed my life.

A Life Spent Seeking Success

I spent my early years on a high-achievement track. I’d always been a go-getter: earning good grades in school, graduating at the top of my class, and moving rapidly up the career ladder. After my wife and I graduated from Harvard, I thought we had it made.

I found a high-powered job. I worked for a major consulting firm, flying around the world to solve tough problems with top executives.

Still, something was missing.

I visited a friend at his beautiful, custom-designed home. I noticed he didn’t have a study. When I asked where he worked, he said, “Why do I need a home office? I’ve decided I’m not going to live that way. I work at the office, and I don’t bring it home.” His ability to set boundaries astounded me.

After mulling over our own blurred boundaries, my wife and I decided to leave our busy lives and “waste” our time traveling until we ran out of money. We sold everything and bought two round-the-world tickets. I’d never done something so “irresponsible” in my life.

Getting More than We Bargained For

We’d planned to visit Asia, Australia, Africa, and Europe if our money could stretch that far. But within weeks, we realized this trip was a journey. It wasn’t about ticking off countries on a map. We needed to “be” more than “be moving.”

That was just the first of many realizations. The things I learned during that short period of time have impacted the past 17 years of my life:

1. Rip up the plan.

I was a consummate planner — a worst-case scenario guy. But one of the first things we did was throw out our plans. We decided to go where our experiences took us, rather than stick to an itinerary.

Through this, I realized my idea of a career path was wrong. For years, I’d been telling myself, “If I do this, it will lead to that, which will get me to that position. Then I’ll be happy.” No one can predict what life will throw at you. It’s best to make each decision as it comes, following your heart at every turn.

2. Remain open to serendipity.

Too many good things have happened in my life to chalk them up to luck. This hit home in Thailand. I’d been reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. One morning, the book asked, “Who is someone you admire or a friend you wish you had kept in better touch with?” Later that day, we bumped into the woman I’d written about on the streets of Bangkok — a city of more than 8 million people! Life is filled with these moments. You just have to crank your mind open to see them.

3. Slow down.

During our visits to Cambodia, Nepal, and Sumatra, what struck me most was the happiness of the people we encountered. They weren’t rushing around trying to check things off their to-do lists. Whether fishing, working in a shop, weaving a blanket, or simply playing with their kids, they were deliberate, patient, and fully immersed in the moment. I realized that slowing down, while beneficial to your well-being and performance, also speeds up your most valuable insights — for yourself and your work.

4. Seek richness.

If leaving everything you know teaches you anything, it’s to wake up every morning with hope. I begin each day excited about the possibility to create something worthwhile in my relationships and my company.

We wouldn’t enjoy movies, video games, or rollercoasters without the twists or nail-biting moments, yet we somehow think our lives would be more enjoyable without surprise twists and the occasional freefall. Seeking richness means embracing the uncertainty of life with gratitude for each moment, opportunity, and mystery.

Returning Home

The thought of coming back and reengaging in a career made me nauseous at first. But I realized that with a little faith in myself, I could offer clients even more value than I’d offered at my old job. I decided to start my own company upon our return. It would be a consulting firm as well as an incubator for startup ideas. It wasn’t long before it was serving clients like AOL, MasterCard, Rosetta Stone, NPR, and Bertelsmann.

It quickly became clear I hadn’t wasted anything by traveling. Yet there was still something missing — a piece I’ve only discovered in the past few years. The companies I’d founded were primarily established to make money. Making money is important as an entrepreneur, but it’s really an outcome, a byproduct of creating something wonderful that customers will pay for.

The real magic happens when you combine a big idea with purpose and passion, so I built a new company called Glimpulse to do just that. The process of creating something from nothing is so gratifying, like creating a magnificent work of art. And that’s the real point of it all: the joy of the journey, not the relief of the destination.

Step Away to Gain Perspective

Traveling the world may seem like an extreme way to battle day-to-day drudgery. However, there’s nothing like getting away from the familiar to teach you about the richness of life. We derive meaning and understanding of how we fit into the world through people, context, and environment.

Over time, familiar environments (and people) create ingrained patterns of thinking. These entrenched patterns limit who we are, how we see ourselves, and what’s possible for us. In unfamiliar terrain, we see our own patterns and realize there are broader possibilities than we’d previously believed. For true growth, success, and fulfillment, we need to step out of our comfort zone.

If you can’t take a year off, first, ask yourself, “Why not?” Be honest with yourself. In many countries, you can live on $10 a day. If travel isn’t an option, make a shift locally. Find new people to associate with, take on new interests, or locate a new house or apartment a few miles away. Breaking patterns can create a whole new outlook, a whole new world.

By stepping away from the day-to-day, you can gain real insights into your life and what will truly make you happy. It may sound counterintuitive, but don’t settle for a high-powered job doing what everyone else thinks you should do — or the “perfect” home — if you can put your heart into something you love doing and see where it takes you. It’s like a worldwide trip — but with a lot less to carry around than a backpack with all your belongings! — and it provides an equally gratifying journey.

Photo by Kara Harms

Recommend Resources

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20 thoughts on “Stop Chasing Money and Start Chasing Richness”

  1. It’s easy to focus on money and “tangible success” like having a good job, over actually being happy and leading a full life. Part of the reason is just the way people think. Many think that leading a good life is contingent on having a good salary, so instead of focusing on how to lead an amazing life the way it is, they dedicate hours upon hours trying to figure out how to get promoted.. or how to get a new job that pays better.

    I quit my first “real job” to focus more on things that will propel me towards a future that actually interests me.

  2. I’d like to travel the world one day, but now I only make enough money to live moderately comfortably. I’m in the process of buying my first house at age 50. I have a job of teaching at a community college that I enjoy. I write books, blog, and play music to satisfy my passion. I’ve learned that money is not the most important aspect of life. I’m a single dad of an eight-year-old girl and right now one goal is to build a future nest egg for her in a home.

  3. We should all know the value rather the cost of things, good points. Living it. perspective and relativity are 2 of my daily key words I say when I feel down or as if I am stuck. What I did by age 21 relative to all of my peers was light years ahead, and now I am stagnant, almost 40, chronic pain has me seeing true meaning / value of stuffs, and a rich open eyes perspective only some few ever realize, like some in thee 60’s might say they did with certain psychedelics. I do not drink smoke nor eat mushrooms any more and see more now. That job and bank balance do not define you. how you treat others … does.

  4. Paresh,

    Thank you very much for this article. It resonated with me greatly and I felt compelled to reply. I get it. It took me a while to get there but I get it.

    Although I never really chased money, I enjoyed a moderately successful career. I had a responsible job and had achieved a recognised level of authority and respectability. I was married, lived in a lovely house in a lovely village and have (still have) two wonderful children.

    However, I was not happy. Eventually, almost inevitably, my wife found another man. Then my life became about money. Or at least it did to all the people that were interested in it.

    I survived the divorce, the distortion of truth and the disruption by searching for my true self. I found it, right where it always was.

    Thanks for taking the time to write and I wish you the best in your endeavors.

    Regards,

    Lee

  5. Chasing money, richness, health, happiness etc. is a pretty good way to ensure you never arrive at your destination… unfortunately, western society puts a heavy emphasis on the trappings of success which all too often leaves us with that feeling of something missing.

    Anything of true value comes to us freely – our breath is free, love is free, ideas are free, family, friends and life itself comes freely to us. And that elusive something is free as well, but will never be found in the external world. It comes in stillness, when we allow ourselves to be quite. And once you get “it”, chasing slips away as allowing takes its place. Nice article Paresh, thanks.

    1. mahavir nautiyal

      Wonderful perspective on life. We learn little by living a cocooned life, living a sheltered life. Occasional forays into uncertainties , like birds venturing into vast space, prepares one for facing eventualities and gaining new experiences and insight. Nice blog, Paresh.

  6. It ain’t easy to quit your real job and travelling the world. Really salute your bravery in making your biggest decision in your life. With commitment, most of us were tied up with the drudgery life, waiting for paycheck by end of the month. It is suck when you are stuck in your routine life. Life should be more exciting and full of new adventures but most of us are scare of making changes.

  7. I guess I can say good for you. Having a career and a settled life isn’t for everyone and doesn’t always involve “chasing money”. Money is required to live in most cases. Traveling the world isn’t for everyone either. It’s all about balance and doing what makes you happy.

  8. I’m happy you’ve had the luxury of realizing that accumulation of wealth is empty. What a nice problem to have. To those living from paycheck to paycheck with hungry mouths to feed this is just salt in the wound. Want to trade incomes?

  9. I yearn for change! At 52 with good health at the moment, my son just finished Uni but still needs my support financial and emotionally until he finds his way, spreads his wings and flies. I’m just finishing off a Doctorate it’s taken me years to complete. I want to sell my home, put some cash aside for my boy and travel! My concern however is what happens afterwards??????

  10. “No one can predict what life will throw at you. It’s best to make each decision as it comes, following your heart at every turn.”

    I can’t agree – you sometimes have to make your own fate rather than just wait for fate, as it comes.

    Just my 02cents.

  11. Thank you for sharing your story, Paresh! I’m often on the fence when I hear stories about Ivy League educated folks who decide to step our of their unfulfilling lives in order to do something unprecedented (usually traveling, philanthropy, brave/risky entrepreneurial endeavors)… as one of the other comments stated – what a nice problem to have, right? Many of us are clinging to our unhappiness only because we are living paycheck to paycheck and trying to support families, etc. We can’t even consider taking risks for fear we will lose whatever little we have. We spend our lives saying “I wish I could…” and “One day I would like to…”

    But here is another way of considering Paresh’s message… his story isn’t a challenge to all of us to quit our jobs, risk our kids’ futures and run to South East Asia to find a different kind of happiness. The parable in his story is to find your OWN way of chasing richness. Instead of coming home FROM the job you hate, come home TO the things you love. Ripping up the plan, slowing down and remaining open are practices we can all engage in no matter where we are in life. Try not to compare yourself to others, or look on their stories with cynicism – challenge yourself to find fulfillment according to your own circumstances.

  12. What a wonderful post Paresh. Thanks. It is so important for us to be aware and question. Our culture defines success so narrowly, by money alone. But, what about passion, joy, fulfillment? these are certainly part of the picture to. Without them no amount of money, prefect jobs, or stuff will make us happy.

  13. Money is essential but it truly is not everything.

    I was thankful that I was dealt with hardships during my younger times. Come to think about, I’ve grown a lot out of it. Though I may not be anywhere near where I hope I would be, I am taking each step one pace at a time.

    Thank you for writing this. It has kept me reminded to what really matters in life.
    I hope you well on your venture.

    Cheers

  14. We often hear about people who become high successful in a certain area only to find emptiness in their lives. I’ve heard about this and read about this too many times.

    Why is then that people keep heading down this route? Do we really not learn from our mistakes? Why are people scared to follow their passions?

  15. After losing my job last year, & then starting (& failing) at a business, I really realized how little I can live on & what my core happiness depends on. It didn’t take me a trip around the world, but I came to the same conclusions.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

  16. I love the concept of reframing the search for wealth to richness. What this says to me is enjoy quality not quantity.

    want to quote you on my own blog, but I can’t see you name in the title…” I realized that slowing down, while beneficial to your well-being and performance, also speeds up your most valuable insights — for yourself and your work.” So profound.

    It’s true that not everyone can leave their job and travel the world but I’m sure there are ways on a small budget to accomplish the same thing. It only takes slowing down and treating each moment, each encounter with another, and each experience as a unique and precious gift. We must look with a traveler’s eye. Thank you for this beautiful post. My morning is already looking brighter.

  17. Great article Paresh. Thanks for sharing. I’ve recently left the corporate world behind for very similar reasons.

    Achievement addiction is toxic and saps all happiness from the present moment. Not to say that one shouldn’t achieve but hanging our happiness on completion of tasks or lack thereof is an epidemic and it really sux.

    Thanks for a beautifully written article. I wish you all the success imaginable with Glimpulse.

  18. Great article!

    I kind of went the opposite way! At 18 I dropped out of college and began a large on-off stint of travel, it was a lot of fun and it really is the best way of life a human can ask for or experience.

    After about 10 years of chaotic fun, what you call serindipity happened and I just landed on my feet. Started working on oil rigs due to language skills I’d picked up in indonesia, and now enjoy 6 months a year off with very comfortable money (although money was NEVER my object, freedom was).

    I really feel you when you talk about the people in Asia, although o would note that having lived in indonesia for 7 years, your view is perhaps a little inexperienced on this and I guarantee any one of them would pack it in and chase 100k a year in a heartbeat. A lot of people here suffer in ways we can’t imagine because of a lack of basic resources, yet as you say, remain extremely happy. Something we can all learn!

    Anyway, thanks for writing this it resonated with me a lot. Just be who you are and everything will come good!

  19. I’d say that money IS important – we need it to survive and that is why some stay at a job that doesn’t make them completely happy (and this may be also down to what kind of a boss and co-workers you have). Having a lot of money gives you the freedom of choice – you can do whatever you really want – and it gives you a piece of mind because you don’t have to worry when your next paycheck is coming.

    Quite often people who strive for more money start neglecting relationships with people around them and that can lead to feeling empty, unhappy, … so I’d say that you need to nurture your relationships because when you are older, you will want to reminisce about the good old times and have someone to share these memories with (and also create new ones). So basically you need to find a balance between your work and your social life.

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