I was living the “good life” in NYC.
I worked at an investment bank. I lived in the high-priced area of midtown, and I could see the Empire State Building from my bedroom window. I flew first-class when on my business trips. I had one of the highest salaries you could get coming out of college.
But, I was miserable.
I had a wonderful girlfriend, but one whom I felt I couldn’t marry. I had a lot of money, but no time during my 90-hour work weeks to enjoy the income. I felt completely de-humanized at a firm that seemed focused more on face-time rather than outcomes and values.
I write this because I yesterday had lunch with a friend. This person talked a lot about choices in life and whether they do, or do not, lead to happiness. It was a great lunch, for it made me think.
I’m not writing this to beat down on i-bankers. I’m not writing this because I have the answers. But, I have observed this: you’re more happy when you focus on others and not on yourself.
It’s perverse, isn’t it? You go through life hearing the popular media talk about “self actualization,” “independence,” and “blazing your own trail.” As someone who also has followed the entrepreneurial calling, I agree with those assertions. I think they are necessary for happiness, but by themselves, they are insufficient.
When I started thinking about others, rather than focusing on myself, that’s when I became happier. They say it’s “better to give than to receive.” I think that’s right.
So, during that year in NYC, I made some drastic decisions. I pulled the ripcord. I ended my relationship with my girlfriend. I quit my job. I moved to Boston. I tried hard to think about others. I went back to Church. And, gradually, over time, I became happier.
True happiness comes from self-sacrifice.