The notion that money is the root of all evil is neither a new one nor a disputed one. There are people willing to beg, borrow and steal for it every day, and more than a fair share of the world’s problems are in some way related to money. So what is the human obsession with money?
Understanding money is surprisingly simple. In ancient times, various tribes would barter for goods and the world was just a giant swap meet. Money is thought to have been invented by the Mesopotamians in ancient times, and it allowed people to trade away something they had, for something they had not yet identified. Money gave people the power to diversify their trade and build an economy.
Essentially, the emergence of money allowed people to acquire rights to something they had not even identified yet, and indeed may not even have existed. It became possible to stockpile money, and even lend it to others. People who stockpiled their money could then lend it out to others for interest, and from there emerged modern banking.
However the key driver of money as a motivation came from the ability to own a future promise. Money soon became synonymous with power, and people began to crave money even more than the goods they would ultimately buy. Indeed, the greatest appeal of money often seems to be the ability to spend it, rather then the spoils of a particular purchase.
So let us fast forward a couple of thousand years to the present. Banking has now become so complex that few people completely understand how the global economy truly works. Indeed the economy is so complex that no one is capable of accurately predicting the effects of a particular event or scenario. And yet our society remains a slave to this complex concept that we barely understand.
So how does money affect our lives in the modern world? Consider the house you are currently residing in. Do you think you would be able to build it alone? Probably not. You need to have someone build it for you, someone who knows about houses. You may be good at something else, for which you get paid money for, which you then use to pay someone to build your house. The same principal works with cars, clothes and even food. The big question is: what is it that you actually contribute?
Therein lies the secret to money. If you want to maximise the amount of money you accumulate you need to maximise your contribution. Not everybody can live in their own house, because we don’t have enough people to build them all. So you need to contribute more than the people around you so that you can get more money than them. And so begins the competition of acquiring money.
We all know that deep down if we don’t earn more money than the majority of people, then we will have less things than the majority of people. Buying things does not necessarily fulfil people, and people who chase money relentlessly often live unfulfilled lives. As the saying goes, money does not buy happiness, but it buys a pretty good impression of it.
So in a nutshell, the drive to succeed in our work is tied into the desire to earn more money so that we can live the kind of lives we think we want to lead. There is no doubt that to maintain a basic level of happiness then we need to maintain the basic elements of survival, and these elements cost money. Food, water and shelter are required to an extent, and they are difficult to attain without money.
But one should always take time to consider whether the things we are chasing are actually the things we need to live a meaningful life. If we relentlessly chase money, without the motivation for a specific purchase, what is it that we are actually pursuing. Making money for the sake of making money will not answer any of life’s questions nor necessarily improve one’s quality of life.
So next time you find yourself completely fed up because your slaving away at a job you hate, to make money to buy things you don’t need; ask yourself what money really means to you, and whether it’s worth the trouble.