8 Reasons Rich People Hate Their Lives

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A young woman discovers in college that she is driven by a burning desire to succeed. She starts a business, struggles, goes through some lean years.

Eventually her hard work begins to pay off. She has a good year. Then, a great year. The year after that blows the doors off.

She gets everything she’s worked so hard for. The prestigious client list. The Armani wardrobe. The BMW. The gorgeous house in the most expensive part of town. The money pours in, almost effortlessly. More money than she ever dreamed she could have.

How do you fill in the end of this story?

Most of us end this one with:

But the more she succeeded, the less fulfilled she became. She shortchanged all of her personal relationships. The harder she worked, the less happy she became. Finally, she realized that her success was hollow. But by now she was addicted to the high income, and it was too late to turn back.

But what if we could write a better ending?

Early on, she refused to become a captive of her business. Even in the tough times, she took six weeks of vacation a year, knowing that when she made time for herself, she became an ever-sharper businessperson.

As the business became more successful, she traveled the world with her family and friends. She was profoundly grateful never to have had a “normal” job, which would have made it hard to spend serious time with her family.

The harder she worked, the happier she became. She launched a foundation to help kids from poor backgrounds create businesses of their own. She became a serious painter. She went back to school and earned a master’s in philosophy.

Everything she did to nurture her life seemed to strengthen her business. She was terribly grateful to have caught that initial spark early, and to have acted on it.

The first story makes a better made-for-TV movie

It feeds our stereotypes. It reinforces our fear of success. It reassures us that we were right never to act on those dreams we had.

The second story is a lot more enjoyable to live.

Both stories are realistic.

If you choose to create a business, large or small, you get to write the story. You decide where you’ll put your focus, what you’ll spend your time and attention on.

I’d love to help you write a better story

These two stories fascinate me. I’ve known both of these women. I’ve watched them work, watched what they struggle with and what seems to come easily to them.

I’ve made an obsessive study of what makes some successful people love their lives, and what makes some utterly miserable.

This obsession, like most of my obsessions, ended up as an extended piece of writing, which I’d like to share with you. It’s called The 8 Reasons Rich People Hate Their Lives (PDF).

The report explores some questions that fascinate me:

  • Why taking ethical shortcuts won’t just make you hate yourself, it can also tank your business.
  • Why improving your weaknesses is a loser’s game.
  • How being driven by your ideals can wreck your life, and what to focus on instead.
  • Why some multi-millionaires are still poor, and how you can become wealthy no matter what your income.
  • The reason so many smart and talented people are miserable, and the simple mindset shift that would make them happy again.
  • How to deal with the loneliness that success can bring.
  • Why a wise entrepreneur puts family and friends first.
  • The self-destructive behavior that’s as dangerous as driving drunk, and why it can destroy your business and your life.

The report could just as easily be called The 8 Reasons (Some) Rich People Love Their Lives. Because that’s the part that really interests me.

How to play the whole game to win — not just the financial part, but the living part as well.

If this is a topic that interests you, I hope you’ll check out the report. It’s totally free, you don’t even have to leave your email address. And if you find the report valuable, please share it with people you care about.

Rather than writing your business story as a sappy melodrama, let’s write something for you that’s a lot more satisfying, a lot more appealing, and a lot more fun.

Download The 8 Reasons Rich People Hate Their Lives.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and co-founder of Inside the Third Tribe.

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  1. Now that’s an ebook that definitely interests me. It’s so difficult to balance hard work and family. If you’re not careful, your story can end up like the first one. That’s not the ending I want to my story.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome resource!

  2. My whole basis of life is the second story. Thanks for the validation ;-) and the great e-book.

  3. Rock on with this.

    I see so many people believing that being rich is going to be their dream life – and then they get a bit of money and realize it’s not the solution. Being wealthy or famous can be TOUGH.

    The solution, surprisingly, isn’t in your wallet. You tell ‘em.

  4. Nice summary there. You’ve presented in a short, simple form, many of the book-length lessons in Dan Pink’s work.

    Dan McAdams’ “The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By” has some validation for your ideas based on systematic narrative psychology research, but also some cautions.

    Of your 8 items, I think the hardest to practice is getting off the ‘hedonic treadmill.’ As early as 1899, Thorstein Veblen observed, in ‘The Theory of the Leisure Class’ that most people find it impossible to retrench to simpler lifestypes once they’ve expanded…

    Venkat

  5. Awesome, thanks for sharing. I remember a few months back (maybe a year ago now??) that it made major headlines when a multi millionaire found his lifestyle to be less than fulfilling, so he gave it all away and is living a simple life now.

    For me, happiness is creating experiences and helping others.

  6. “Why some multi-millionaires are still poor, and how you can become wealthy no matter what your income.”

    I know why I actually wrote last year about an actuall millionaire attorney who is miserable
    TRUE story My discussion with a miserable millionaire

    I worked with some of the most famous and rich people in the world. Money does not equate happiness.

  7. *Click*. Downloaded.

    Nevermind the rich people part – I’m really interested in living my life, rather than just working it away, and I’m looking forward to reading about how to balance just that. I think the biggest reason I decided to go into business for myself was because of the idea that Copyblogger and many other blogs in this particular circle pass around – that your work should be supplementing your life, not the other way around.

    Granted, it’s been a lot of hard work so far, but I think it’ll be worth it! Just making the decision to step on this path was a surge of confidence, knowing that not only *could* I do it, I *would* do it.

    To summarize – I’m looking forward to reading this, Sonia. :)

  8. To me the most enjoyable part is working toward the goal… you got to love what you do and make the actual work fun.

    I think fear of success is probably the biggest fear, yet many people don’t realize they even have it.

  9. My friend, who certainly is not rich, fears that if he succeeds his job will give him The Golden Handcuffs.

    He doesn’t even know what Golden Handcuffs are, but it scares him right now.

    Thanks for letting us know we can write our own stories.
    I’m in the middle of delivering an e-course right now (The 7 Myths of the Entertainment Industry) that pounds on the “control” trigger, letting my audience know that they can do things their own way and succeed.

  10. @Venkat, I love Pink, but also really love Martin Seligman (who has some wise advice on the hedonic treadmill), Carol Dweck, and a handful of other particularly good writers or thinkers in the positive psychology movement. If you haven’t picked up Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis, I bet you would enjoy it. I’ll pick up the McAdams, thanks for the recommendation.

    @Darren, me too — in fact, I spent five years selling to (and covertly studying) rich people when I worked for a luxury travel club.

  11. @Venkat, oh, I almost forgot another one that doesn’t really have much in the way of advice, but I think you would love the writing — Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

    @Hashim, very cool, I can see how this would be a big message for your niche! Entertainment is one of those industries that tends to swallow people whole, but some do manage to decide to play the game differently.

  12. This is SO GOOD!! As someone who built my first 4 million dollar company 14 yrs ago but lost my health, nearly died (seriously!), and lost allot of years… it wasn’t worth it!

    I’m here to say that when I got back into business 6 years ago my goal was a LIFE and FREEDOM along with the wealth. We’ve been 100% debt free for 3 years now, I’m in my 19th year of homeschooling my kids (have one son who made $350k part time while living a life)… and I have a LIFE!

    My kids enjoy coffee breaks, ice cream, late night movies, afternoons off with me… we live a life that is worth living… balance is the key. Seeking a real life that lasts is the goal… it’s been 6 years now and we’ve gone over the $ 4 million mark…making work a part of the journey and not the all consuming passion.

    By the way I have friends who earn $ 30 million and are in debt and those who earn $ 45k who are debt free. Debt free is a life that until you get there, you’ll never know what it’s like.

    Make the goal a LIFE… freedom and wealth with it.

    What you have written here is absolutely critical! I hope your readers listen. :)

    Sandi

  13. @Sonia & @Vencat: And let’s not forget “Who Moved My Cheese” ;)

    Nice write, Sonia.

  14. ps…. we’ve also funded several adoptions for families who couldn’t afford them, rescued girls & boys out of the sex trade, helped fun an orphanage in Kenya and are now working on the plans for a home for women coming out of the sex trade…. that my friends is real living.. when you work so others can LIVE too! :)

  15. Just finished the e-book, great insights and very thought provoking. Thank-you for making it free!

    I have believed for a long time that the dollar amount on your bank statement does not determine your happiness. Glad to see this validation, looking forward to reading more of the same. thanks again.

  16. @Sonia yeah thats when I started thinking HMMMM maybe the real reason to make money is to do as Bo B Proctors says “whatever, whenever, wherever, however for as long as you want.”

  17. All of the relevant research shows that the happiest people are the people who GIVE! My husband wrote a book about it (shameless plug here), but it’s totally true. His book is: Enjoy Your Money: How to make it, save it, invest it and GIVE it. Because if you manage your resources well (in whatever form they arrive), you have an overflowing abundance to bless others. And, then, and only then, will you find true happiness in this life. I believe it and live this way.

  18. Wow, what a great read. Thanks very much for sharing it.

    I think we would all love to be the 2nd woman in the story, but when you’re in that situation it’s hard to be objective. Especially when you are living the life and the days/years go by so fast. It’s very easy to get sucked into the lifestyle.

    It’s also very easy to be comfortable, once you made it. The drive is no longer as strong as it once was. The trap can seem very comfortable and hard to recognize it for what it actually is.

    Also, I guess it also depends on your definition of ‘rich’. It’s really subjective.

    Karen

  19. Excellent eBook, Sonia. Frankly these are reasons why EVERYONE hate their lives. Although more money just amplifies character, behaviors, and the self-loathing these behaviors create.

    Then and again “rich” is all relative, as you’ve said.

  20. Brilliant timing Sonia. This arrived in my inbox about one hour after my business advisor asked ‘are you taking this seriously?’ I am taking business seriously, but I really want to have some fun with life and include the people that I love in the game.
    Brilliant timing and excellent writing. Thanks for the little pick-me-up.
    @Sandi: I hope you have a red and blue costume sporting a big yellow ‘S’, seriously well done :-)

  21. There are way too many people out there that have just given up to the fact that they are supposed to be chained to a desk and eventually die with a bag full of debt and nothing to show for it, except a few laughs over the water cooler.

    Sure, a job can enhance self-worth, but so can entrepreneurship. That’s the best part about owning your own business. There are very few rules. If you want to pull a George Costansa and sleep under your desk, so be it. If you want to work 32 hours a day, then go for it.

    It’s all about being happy in the end.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  22. Thanks for the advice to schedule time off. I just worked through the holiday weekend and I know I need to take a break soon and regroup.

  23. I think the reason that anyone finds their success unfulfilling and wanting is that they aimed at a poorly defined goal. Either their definition of success was somebody else’s definition (society, Mom and Dad, peers) or they never took the time to really try to understand what success would look like.

    It’s a very difficult thing to work out. It takes years, in my experience, to do the soul searching required to define what a successful life (in all of its aspects) really means.

    Once that goal is defined and you’ve chosen to actively pursue it, a lot of the hard work doesn’t seem like work. It still exhausts and frustrates at times but I’ve found that pursuing my own ideal of success means that every single day I’m doing things that feel good and are fun, even though I may be up until midnight doing them.

  24. I’ve read Stumbling on Happiness; really liked that one. Seligman though, I have to admit… not among my favorites. I a bit of a skeptic on the full-scale version of ‘positive psychology’ (see Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Bright-Sided” for a sharp critique), but I do pick lots of bits and pieces from the movement (Shane: she also critiques ‘Cheese…’ I read and enjoyed that, but always nice to read a critical counter-argument).

    And forgot one grand-daddy in the reference sharing festival: the work of George Vaillant, profiled in this brilliant Atlantic article, What Makes us Happy?.

  25. You have to find a steady balance between work and the other variables that keep life dynamic. Remember Friends aren’t a mile across an inch deep, in the real world they’re the complete opposite. Take care of the ones you have.

  26. Bob Jenkins :

    There are spiritual and environmental themes running silently under the surface of this report. Those perspectives give depth and credibility to Simone’s philosophy. Nice piece of work.

  27. @Sandi, I love it!

    @Valerie, totally true. You don’t have to wait until you’re rich to hate your life. :) And by the standards of most who live on the planet, we’re all pretty rich.

  28. Thank you so much for this Sonia. This was a well timed book.

  29. Some of the wealthiest people I know are also the best, most humble and generous people I’ve ever met. From what I’ve read already, I am excited to finish the report. Thanks for putting your time to good use like this so we can have inspiring reads.

  30. Sonia, you’re wise beyond your years.

    (But still, one of my favorite quotes is, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it’s a hell of a down payment.”)

  31. I like that, Andraya!

    @Elizabeth, I’ve met some amazing wealthy people and some horrible wealthy people. And some who were definitely a mix!

  32. This is something I truly needed! In particular the part about identifying yourself as smart and talented. Don’t we all think this way? How many things have we dismissed as achievements based on the idea that it was easy for us? Mindset is so casually overlooked, and yet has such a powerful influence.
    Thanks for the link and the post Sonia!

  33. I finished reading the book, and to be honest I haven’t been feeling well today due to running around and trying to learn everything and make the business grow. But it never hit me that most businesses never have an ending, it keeps going if we make it. And that’s kind of scary.

    But what I also enjoyed was the fact that to take our relationships as serious as our business. I never thought about it that way myself when I’m coaching others but that was such a great reframe.

    I really needed that book today Simone! Thank You.

  34. Sonia, what a wonderful resource and article! I will definitely be sharing it around.

  35. Funny. I was pondering a situation of somebody winning the lottery and how much their life would change.

    I remember thinking about how sad it would be if somebody quit their fun job just because everybody else (almost) forced them to look at themselves as better off without one. Also, it would be difficult to not have a challenging life, because that seems to be what life is.

  36. Hey Thanks for the free E-book. I shall spread it around to others. Thanks.

  37. If a Boeing 747 just collided with a B-2 Bomber in your brain, it doesn’t matter how beautiful and exquisite the exterior of the person, the home, and the car.

    Can’t wait to download the report!

  38. Sonia, I’m fairly new to CopyBlogger, Third Tribe, and the idea of entrepreneurship as an actual possibility in general, but I’m quickly becoming obsessed. I haven’t been able to stop talking about your ebook since I read it earlier today, and I’ve already passed on my printed copy to a colleague, who like me, is transitioning away from teaching and excited about the possibilities.

    With a BA in English and a Masters degree in teaching, I was conditioned to think that business was evil, so thanks for being a part of the team that’s showing me another side to this big wide beautiful world. Oh, and since I’ve long loved Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” and Haidt’s “A Happiness Hypothesis,” I’m going to pick up one of your other suggestions. So thanks for those too.

  39. @Catherine, I was a history major and come from a family of stone liberal arts geeks, so I know exactly where you’re coming from. :)

  40. A recent experience that showed me that sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to be rich:
    http://umairkazi.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/irony-on-wheels/

  41. What a wonderful outlook and educational tool. Thank you for making this available to all – clearly shows you are practicing what you preach.

  42. Hello Sonia. Thank you for taking the time to write this blog post and the free report. I really enjoyed it. Never thought that I would be reading about being rich here.

    I agree with you on the stereotype about the fear of success. TV has made success look evil. Those who chose to believe that will never be successful in life.

    It’s the same stereotype about being rich and having lots of money. Money is the root of all evil, they say. What crap! Lack of money is the root of all evil.

  43. Great post. So often we hear “rich people” characterized in narcissistic, greedy terms and smugly think a monetarily wealthy person must be secretly miserable on the inside. “Money doesn’t buy happiness” is true, but money also does not exclude happiness.

    Thanks for showing both sides to the story. There are rich people who are miserable and those who are happy because their money serves them and others. There are also poor people who are miserable and those who are happy with a simple life. What’s important is living the life you WANT to live and doing some good in the world through it.

  44. “But by now she was addicted to the high income, and it was too late to turn back.”

    Business hasn’t been so great this year, and I can’t work out why I’m so down in the dumps and anxious to be “surviving” (my words) on what’s considered an average wage, rather than enjoying the time to do all those things I wanted to do when business was going great and never had the time. It’s definitely a headset thing. My health is one thing that has definitely improved though! Anyway, I’m keen to give this a read.

  45. Great post Sonia – really thought-provoking stuff.

    I know that here in the UK people almost frown upon success, which is a really negative view. But the big issue is continuing to be fulfilled once you are successful and rich – which is why doing good things for the less fortunate is so life-affirming.

  46. @ Catherine:

    With a BA in English and a Masters degree in teaching, I was conditioned to think that business was evil

    Once upon a time, that was me too. Poetry is my main passion, and I thought business was The Enemy. I’ve eaten a lot of humble pie since. Now, I see entrepreneurship as potentially just as creative and fulfilling as the arts.

  47. Thanks for the great read. It’s true, money isn’t the be all and end all. Nor is it a path to happiness. From where I’m sitting though a little more would be nice.

  48. Mary E. Ulrich :

    Oh But… if we really believe that rich people are unhappy it takes off the pressure to want to get rich.

  49. The scales have fallen from my eyes. That was the best, and most painful read that I’ve had in years – I hated every minute of the truth I read about myself in there.

    I’m referring to the download, by the way.

    “Your business will eat all of the time you make available for it. And it will still be hungry, no matter how much you give it.”

    God damn it, that quote is so painfully true, and is so me.

    I think some business-bulimia is now in order.

    I genuinely can’t express the effect that has had on me, a book that felt like a talking mirror.

  50. Thank you for sharing your report, Sonia. It definitely struck some cords here. Things I really already knew, but have been ignoring, such as the importance of getting enough sleep. Thank you!

  51. @Daz, we all definitely face that one. And the only one who can set the boundary is us. Good luck with it!

    @Mary, true, it gives us a very handy excuse, doesn’t it?

  52. Mike Korner :

    Thank you Sonia!

    As one of the workaholics you mention in #8, I’m happy to report that I’ve been living computer-free Saturdays for most of this year. It drives me crazy sometimes — the computer is such an awesome tool — but I really enjoy being unplugged for a day each week. I’m definitely planning to keep doing it.

    Life is short — thanks for reminding us to make the most of it.

  53. Ah, Ethics.

    Ethics, ethics, ethics. I have told lies, and I have done evil. I have taken the easy path and for whatever gain you get monetarily. It starts small, and it can consume you.

    The biggest thing about lying is that it distorts how you view yourself. You start justifying failure as “not that bad,” and you start lying to yourself easily. “My business is working, things are good.” slides off the tongue, and you’re not adjusting to reality.

    I know.

    And then you get the stink of desperation on you and that is the most repulsive thing an entrepreneur can have (Hey, what made you come to buy a car today.”

    You tolerate deceit and it changes your ability to correctly perceive and adapt to reality…and so you lie more and the cycle is hard to break.

    (If anyone is a liar and wants to know how to break it–it’s all about humility. Get humble on purpose and you learn that you don’t matter that much.)

  54. Brilliant!

  55. Accurate report Sonia,

    I’ve been working with millionaires for over 25 years now and definitely the happiest ones are those who ‘give’.

    One guy who loved to throw elaborate parties would then invite the blokes who set up the bouncy castle to attend……

    For him his parties were not about status or impressing the ‘right’ sort of people, for him it was about fun and about enjoying each and every day. If you were fun he would include you, if you were a misery guts he didn’t want to know you.

    He once said to me about work, if its not fun, why on earth would you do it!

    Love what you do every day and everything else will sort itself out.
    Cheers
    Ian
    And Oh. The multi millionaire who lived to have fun……..he became seriously ill and died aged 50. Boy, I bet he was glad that he lived his life and hadn’t buried himself in the business…….

  56. @Sonia, so I thought I’d check back in, and give you some news.
    I set myself a boundary. Yes, my ears work. So I took it easy for a few days, just tinkering here and there.
    Your quote: “Affiliate marketing can be quite lucrative” mmm.. I thought, I’ll give it a bash.

    So I signed up for a single merchant, in our field of course, and put an Ad’ on our site and sent a couple of tweets out.

    I thought, I’ll leave it a couple of weeks and see what happens. So, that was Monday. By Tuesday lunchtime I’d earned $400 commission!

    So, what I want is for you to tell me it was a fluke, right? It’s not meant to happen that way, right? I fell, and landed Jam side-up, didn’t I?

    Surely, you don’t get $400 for 35 minutes of work, straight out of the box. Do you?

  57. nice one :) i can’t seem to download the pdf file :( it’s only showing as No Image.

  58. hi sonia thanks so much for the book, you are the type we looking for. am building a live tvshow for the wealthy and hope you will be there to help me out. keep fighting the good fight cheers

  59. Awesome post. It’s true, we can’t see money as the solution to our overall happiness. But it can be used as a tool to get what we want and help other’s along the way. There are so many poor people in the world today and the only way we can help, is by determining not to be in their position.

  60. I like your post and I am interested in reading the e-book you have written. All of the links to the e-book that I have found are broken. Do you know where I can gain access to the e-book?

  61. right at dis site a enjoy good comments and reasonable advice thanks sonia its all your work