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The Happiness Advantage

One of my favourite talks which i've heard is by someone called Shawn Achor on the ‘Happiness Advantage’.

In short, most people say "I’ll be happy once I achieve some success". This could be getting a promotion at work, achieving a certain level of salary or receiving a recognition award. Once they achieve success, they then set another goal which their happiness is newly based on. This means most people are forever chasing happiness.

The ‘Happiness Advantage’ is research which shows that people who are grateful for what they have now will be happy and actually achieve more success. Essentially, instead of 'success brings happiness', the truth is that 'happiness brings success'.

What has this got to do with money and kids?

A lot of people see money as a form of success and say “I’d be happy if I had lots of money”. We need to help make sure our kids don’t grow up basing their happiness on money. Money is just a tool.

The best story which I’ve heard that sums up this concept is the Mexican Fisherman Story below:

The Mexican Fisherman Story

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, "Only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you.

You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Telling kids this story

I love this story and have told it to my girls many times.

Most young kids seem happy. Our job is to make sure they stay happy as they grow up and the world starts to put pressure on them (exams, earning money, relationships).

The key to being happy today is to make sure they are grateful for what they have. This is easier said than done. It takes practice and that is exactly what we, as parents, should be doing with our kids. We should be proactive in helping our kids realise what they have already and to be grateful for this.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want you to say “You don’t know how lucky you are to have what you have!” or “Compared to those poor kids in XYZ, you should be grateful!”. It’s more about just highlighting things like, “I’m grateful we get time to have dinner together as a family, what are you grateful for?”

By highlighting the things we are grateful for, we are programming our brains (and our kids’ brains) to search for positives. These positive thoughts drive our happiness and gives us the 'Happiness Advantage'.

Importantly, the story also helps our kids to consider what makes them happy. In most cases, people are happy when they have time with their friends and family. In order to have time in the future, our kids need to learn to save (see previous blog about ‘Mini-Retirements’).

Finally, helping our kids to be grateful for what they have, they are less likely to spend money just to impress other people (i.e. Keep up with the Jones'). This means the 'Happiness Advantage' can also help your kids become wealthy!

I hope you enjoyed this blog - it would be great if you could share with one other parent so they can start teaching their kids about money.

Have a happy week!


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