Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘Keely Muscatell’

Dan Price – CEO of Gravity Payments – is AMAZING!

I had the opportunity recently to attend a social gathering in which it was apparent that the guests were financially well off. Yet, something was lacking. Genuine laughter was rare – the atmosphere was left wanting. One only had to observe and listen to most of their stories to understand that generally these folks had not found the magic elixir of happiness. They seemed rather guarded, aloof – not particularly comfortable in their own skin. Why – we might wonder would these folks not be outgoing, radiating happiness given their financial comforts. They seemed to want for nothing except authentic happiness … and money could not buy it for them. Here they were – well healed financially – but their faces and body language told another story.

Often we think, ‘If I only had …. I would be happy,’ or ‘If I could just get ahead of the constant barrage of bills I would be more secure.’ The real question is – would we?
Granted when we are struggling to make ends meet we can get overwhelmed and dream of a life where money is no object. We may even become resentful when we see that others appear to have it a bit easier. Yet the reality of it all is that happiness is NOT correlated with wealth!

The Dalai Lama has said the real purpose of life is to be happy and we achieve that by developing love, compassion and gratitude for self and others. It is not attained by getting more stuff. Think of a young child who continually says, ‘I want …I want …I want…’ We want to make them happy but sooner or later realize that their list of wants is never satisfied and as their demands increase their happiness actually decreases! Not only does this happen in children it happens in adults as well. The lesson for us is that we can’t buy happiness for ourself or others because it is a much bigger issue than simply what money can buy.

Determining what causes happiness has become a major topic of research. Many researchers such as neuroscientist, Keely Muscatell, at UCLA has found that wealth ‘quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy and triggers a chemical reaction that causes individuals to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the sentiments needed to be a decent citizen … or even a happy one.’

Considering this research and what the Dalai Lama teaches it seems that money, in and of itself, can be a stumbling block to achieving greater happiness. That is unless you are Dan Price, founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, a Seattle- based credit card payment processing firm. Now here is a success story!

Patricia Cohen in the New York Times wrote about this amazing person. Mr. Price was inspired by an article on the psychology of income and happiness and decided to do something about it. Rather than continuing in the ranks of most CEO’s and amassing millions of dollars in personal income he has chosen to reduce his annual salary to $70,000 and redirect both the salary difference and 80% of Gravity’s annual profits to his employees. Over the next three years ‘even the lowest -paid employee will begin earning $70,000 per year. This is going to make a difference to everyone around me’ said one of the employees.

Love, compassion, gratitude …The Dalai Lama would be proud of you Mr. Price and so are so many, many others. You give us hope. Thank you for being such a remarkable human being!

Have a great few days!

What Truly Causes Happiness?

Over the years as I have volunteered for charity work which often necessitated asking for financial donations from wealthy individuals I have observed certain behaviors among them that have puzzled me. It seemed a predictable pattern emerge in their responses – they seemed primarily focused on their money rather than matters of the heart. Rather than being moved by the plight of others they often responded that ‘everyone has their problems.’ Was I simply being judgmental I wondered? Now the research is verifying my observations. So if you have always dreamed of being rich – thinking you would be happier – you may want to think again as you read this blog.

Many of us yearn for the day when life gets a bit easier financially – that’s understandable. Some, however, dream of being truly rich and think life would be so much easier, more fun and happier if they had all the money they could ever want. Well, the research proves the opposite. In fact, it verifies what many of us have heard or witnessed in the past – being rich is not the be all and end all as some may have thought. In fact, rich people are not happier individuals than those of us whose modest bank accounts require us to budget, plan ahead and save for a needed or special purchase be it a $50 or $500 dollar one.

Having a great deal of money changes people as demonstrated by Dacher Keltner at the University of California at Berkeley. For instance, the drivers of expensive cars were four times more likely to cut in front of others than drivers of cheap cars. These wealthy individuals also ignored pedestrians who had the right of way in a crosswalk 46.2 percent of the time! However, all the drivers of cheaper cars respected the rights of the pedestrians. Well, you might think to yourself, maybe it’s just a driving thing. Not so.

Wealthy people give less of their income – percentage wise – to charities, are more likely to shoplift, and are more inclined to cheat in games involving cash prizes. In another research study they even took candy from a bowl labeled ‘For Children’ more often than others of more modest means. What causes this type of hedonistic behavior?

To understand how money changes an individual a UCLA neuroscientist by the name of Keely Muscatell wrote a research paper that demonstrated how wealth quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy. According to the research wealth “triggers a chemical reaction… it tilts the brain… and causes the individuals to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the moral sentiments needed to be a decent citizen…or even a happy one.”

Now the latest research findings from many other institutions are all indicating similar findings …money above a certain modest sum does not buy happiness – a fact that rich people are unable to wrap their heads around. When questioned, for example, millionaires felt that they would need 2 to 3 times more money to attain happiness! But all is not lost…rich people who are open to these findings can change regardless of the brain chemicals IF they choose to do so. Ahhh….that’s the question isn’t it.

When we look at the year ahead it would do us good to remember that practicing empathy for others is essential – for our own well being as well as others. That being grateful for whatever we have is vitally important and that ultimately being rich may open more financial doors, but often closes the windows to the soul. Something to think about.

Have a great few days!