In this short article I give my views on money, power and influence. Which should you live for?
According to behavioral science, money makes Americans happier up to a gross annual income of $60,000. Beyond that, money does not make you happier unless you spend it on others. Money has a fail-safe device: the law of diminishing returns. The more you work for money, the less you earn. The car that is twice as luxury costs ten times as much, not twice as much. The lives of billionaires may be twenty times as exciting as the lives of millionaires, but not 1,000 times as exciting. Letting money work for you is more lucrative than working for money. The promise of wealth fools you into working for money, in the benefit of those who let money work for them.
Money buys consumer goods, luxury lifestyles or even people and political parties, but not necessarily power. Real power stems from organized violence, or in other words, you don’t have power unless you direct an army of will-less soldiers who are prepared to die for your command. Power secures natural resources, usually in the form of energy, and in our time notably oil. With few exceptions, even the most successful entrepreneurs and CEOs never come close to true power. The rare possibility for a common man to seize power is to rally the people, an event which almost always happens out of resentment, not love. Some men and women do succeed, but most of you will spend entire lives working for powerful people without ever having power yourself.
Influence is not the same thing as seducing, fooling or abusing people — those are the behaviors of little men. Influence means to wake up with an idea for a billion dollar start-up company, to think it through and iron out the details, and then to tell the smartest people you know about it. They may run off with your ideas and turn a fortune, but they will not remember you when they do. They will beat their chests with fist-pumping pride while they wonder where the world would be without their creative genius. But this is true influence, the greatest joy that you can ever hope to attain on Earth: to inspire others to build the world you dreamed of.