Browsed by
Month: February 2010

Tangible vs. Intangible belongings

Tangible vs. Intangible belongings

A person considers himself as important and valuable as the sum of his tangible and intangible belongings.


How much money you make, which car you drive, where you live, the clothes that you wear, the food that you eat, the places you visit. If you summed the financial value of all the tangible things in your possession, you would get a “number”, which would tell you how much you are “worth.” This is why rich people are considered more important in society – or at least looked up to, and why a homeless person may feel miserable for not having any stuff.

The problem with measuring yourself in this way is that there’s so much tangibles can do for your sense of fulfillment. If we were to think of a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being absolutely miserable, and 10 feeling very valuable, even if you are the richest man in the world, you would only get to 3 or 4 just with tangibles.


How famous you are, how powerful you are, the amount of relationships you have, how many people are you in charge of, how successful you are with the opposite sex.These intangibles that society considers high-status define how valuable we think we are.

With a decent and balanced number of material possessions and experiences, a good rating of intangibles gives a person a high degree of value. For example, if you have enough stuff to live well, time for your hobbies, a good number of strong friendships, a loving partner and are respected looked up to by your peers, chances are you consider yourself a valuable person.

The Conflict

My point behind this predictable analysis: Intangibles get in the way of people understanding each other.

If you became an 8 because you are a womanizer, you’ll consider yourself as important and worthy of people’s respect as an 8 who got there by being a famous rock star, or a respected scientist. When the ways to measure ourselves are so many, a unified way of valuation becomes impossible.

This is why people will call others arrogant, jerk, incompetent, lazy and nerd. Because the areas that they consider interesting and respectful are the ones where they themselves are considered interesting and respected.

This does not mean that we don’t see value in others. It just means that it’s hard for a regular lawyer to consider a regular doctor as valuable and interesting as him.

It means that most groups of people think they are better than others (even though some may be right).

It means that we are clueless when judging someone’s value.

But most of all, it means that you have to ignore anyone that defines your worth because they have no idea what they are talking about.

The Mistaken Goal of Happiness

The Mistaken Goal of Happiness

Happiness is the wrong goal.

If you are living your life looking for happiness, you’ll feel disappointed with the results, and here’s why:

1) There are more tangible things to look for (often not discussed in those happiness books and speeches): laughter, material possessions, sex, intellectual growth, free time, and more. These are much better symbols of happiness, joy and accomplishment than happiness itself. When we experience them, happiness becomes graspable. Those are the popular happy moments.

2) It’s hard to feel it as a whole. What usually happens is that we evaluate our life and calculate an approximate level of happiness depending on our current situation on many variables, like our jobs, relationships, achievements, and more. We define happiness as being “happy enough so far” instead of seeking sensations that are easy to describe and transmit.

3) Happiness is as imprecise and appealing as the idea of “heaven.” I’m sure that there’s some historical connection between the concept of happiness and a heavenly after-life. On a side note: writers and speakers who make money selling the promise of happiness are the priests of the XXI century.

4) If you lived most of your life happy, but you were miserable the last year, then you died miserable. Having an impact on the world and leading an exemplary, ethical life without regrets is more important than being happy, because it cannot be taken away by time and its randomness.

Here’s Betsey Stevenson on the difference between happiness and fulfillment (h/t Stephen Dodson):

“There is probably more to life than even life satisfaction. I know that sounds almost oxymoronic, but perhaps we’re missing a sense of greater purpose or fulfillment. The example I give to demonstrate the limits of happiness data is that people with children are less happy than equivalent people without children. The only explanation that I can think of is that parents are more stressed and harried so when they’re asked about happiness or life satisfaction, they’re not quite as joyous or satisfied as people without kids. But it’s hard for me to imagine that they’re all making a mistake by having children.”

To sum it up, there are bigger things in life.

Ben once asked me: “If you could be plugged to a machine that made you feel happy all the time… would you do it?”

After thinking hard about it, I realized that I would not.

For me, and I suspect for more people as well, a happy life is an uncomfortable life. In other words, predictability and lack of hardships means an unfulfilled and unhappy life (although this may change in the future since my life philosophy involves the benefits of a healthy body and mind). By overcoming discomfort, I grow as a person and find meaning of life.

Bottom line: Increasing my wisdom and passing it on to future generations is a more important goal for me than happiness. Each person may have different life objectives and value hierarchies, but I’m confident than most people don’t have happiness at the top, even if they say they do when they are hurried for an answer.

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By :