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The Pursuit of Happiness in MLM: a Case for Balance

I recently had an interesting exchange with a man named Mike within a post on the MLM.com forums. I thought it was entertaining enough that I would share parts of it with all of you.

It started with a re-post of an article/sentiment that has been circulated in many other places about the promise of direct selling vs. typical employment. It extolled the virtues of working hard in direct sales in the short-term so that you can achieve long-term dreams.

In general I agreed, but made an argument for balance. I wrote,

Yes, like just about any entrepreneurial effort, direct sales can provide great financial freedom and flexibility. But how many of us entrepreneurs sacrifice years of enjoying important personal and family moments with the idea that we’ll somehow get more of those moments in the future?

Money is fine but not actually critical to happiness. And time only exists right now. So whether you work for yourself or someone else, or both :-) , balance is where it’s at – especially when it comes to making time for others. …A reminder to myself more than anything.

To which my new buddy Mike replied,

Money is fine but not actually critical to happiness - post

You couldn’t convince that’s true to billions of people so lacking in money they go without daily food, clothing and shelter.

And time only exists right now. – post

Because so many people live like that without planning for the future they end up in the future more broke and hopeless than ever.

And my reply to that,

When I said “money is fine but not actually critical to happiness,” I thought I was replying to a post about balance coupled with prosperity on an internet discussion board perused by people who probably have a place to live and food to eat.

I didn’t realize my sentiment would be read by “billions of people so lacking in money they go without daily food, clothing and shelter.” Otherwise I would have certainly encouraged them to earn some money first before pursuing balance.

And with regards to encouraging myself and others to live in the moment, I agree with you that that cannot come at the expense of preparing for the future. However, if you read that entire paragraph of mine you’d note the message is to reserve “time” to care for other people, now.

I assume you’re not proposing that because others are poor and suffering, money should be our life’s primary aim; nor that we should so singlemindedly pursue wealth for tomorrow that we ignore the needs of others today.

I suppose everybody defines happiness and balance somewhat differently, but could the two of us possibly be that far apart?

Here’s an interesting report to consider. It is about the measurement of happiness in various parts of the world. Surprisingly, many 3rd world countries top the list:
Nigeria Tops Happiness Survey.

And here is a more recent happiness study wherein the researchers conclude, “Money’s pretty powerful, but it’s not the whole story…”

They add, “…benevolence and expressions of gratitude appear to be subtle but powerful ways to bring happiness into one’s life and to extend it. Religion and solidarity in the community play a big role in this, he says, but any positive belief system can help.”

Some “balanced” food for thought…

And here is Mike’s reply to that,

Money is such a multi dimensional multi leveled concept and provider of happiness that it resists any singleminded want or pursuit. And the needs of all people today require money unless they are people who live totally off the land for food, clothing and shelter and buy nothing at all.

For all the rest of us money is the great provider and however we get it or like what we do to get it it remains the great provider.

We’ve heard many times: I’m just in this to help people. Great – help them by referring them all to me and that will satisfy your need to help.

When you love what you do all the better and living like an artist passionate about your life your business your art – they are the same – is a reasonable goal. It’s the only goal I’ve ever had and I believe it’s the best way in the world to live.

But regardless of that, you can’t ignore money when you pay attention to people’s needs today – it’s a contradiction.

And my final reply,

Mike, dear Mike. You didn’t read those 2 articles in my last comment, did you? wink I’m thinking you couldn’t have because there’s no way you could have resisted attempting to debunk them. And I saw no debunking, just more insistence that “…the needs of all people today require money unless they are people who live totally off the land for food, clothing and shelter and buy nothing at all.”

Au contraire. Remember studying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in high school or college? It’s a pretty common model for understanding the types of “needs” that all people have.

A focus on money effectively ignores an individual’s highest needs. Most people you and I meet really already have their basic physiological and safety needs met. So can money buy love/belonging, self-esteem and/or self-actualization? Nope. It can help grease the machine a bit, but it’s not necessary. (Again, those two worldwide happiness studies I previously linked to are insightful.)

So you absolutely can “ignore money when you pay attention to people’s needs today.” It’s not a contradiction. The key is actually caring enough about someone else that you find out their real and immediate needs and sincerely try to help them – with no thought of personal gain.

In most cases, the people we meet and especially those close to us, need our time and attention not our product or business opportunity. However, maybe sometimes those come later, after we’ve proven we view them as more than a pawn in our own pursuits.

Sorry for making this post so long. But ultimately we all want to be happy and I think the pursuit of happiness is a struggle of balance and priorities. So it’s important to constantly question ourselves, our motives, actions, thoughts, etc. In the middle of making a living, are we really concentrating on what will bring us the greatest happiness? If we truly care about others first, won’t our businesses thrive as a nice by-product?