Somehow I’ve gotten into the terrible habit of compulsively checking No Impact Man’s ranking on Technorati to see how it compares with other blogs (1,422 as of this writing, by the way). How pathetic I am in this regard became all the more apparent to me when I mentioned the compulsion to a friend who didn’t even know what Technorati was (it’s the search engine for blogs). How could I let my concerns get so rarified?
But it’s good to get caught up in one’s humanity every once in a while, in this case because it helps me to understand the Silicon Valley multimillionaires, written about in Sunday’s New York Times, who continue to work their butts off to get even larger wads of cash. As the Times reports, many of them feel worried to death that they still don’t have enough and toil for the day when they do. A couple of quotes from the story:
- “Everyone around here looks at the people above them,” said Gary Kremen, the 43-year-old founder of Match.com, a popular online dating service. “It’s just like Wall Street, where there are all these financial guys worth $7 million wondering what’s so special about them when there are all these guys worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
- Along with two partners, [Celeste Baranski] founded a software company, Vitamin D, and already she is resigned to the sleepless nights and other stresses that await her. “I ask myself all the time,” Ms. Baranski confessed, “why I do this.”
- “Here, the top 1 percent chases the top one-tenth of 1 percent, and the top one-tenth of 1 percent chases the top one-one-hundredth of 1 percent,” [Umberto Milletti] said. “You try not to get caught up in it,” he added, “but it’s hard not to.”
I worry a lot about this keeping-up-with-Jones’s stuff because I believe that many of us compulsively work our butts off to get more stuff—which means more resources have to be dug out of the planet’s guts and more pollutants have to be vomited into the air, earth and water. And what stings is the fact that we often find out that getting more isn’t making us happier.
The solution, according to the Times, for an unhappy Silicon Valley millionaire? Get even more, because the problem must be still not having enough. It’s just a matter of buckling down to become a billionaire.
Which brings me back to my Technorati rating. The other day, I was obsessing about turning the corner between being ranked over 1500 to being ranked under 1500. Michelle kept telling me, “It’s not going to make you happier.” And when I screeched through to the 1400s, I discovered she was right. In fact, what happened was I started obsessing about breaking 1400 (22 to go). Getting a better ranking doesn’t make me happier, but it helps fool me into thinking that I’m at least approaching the magic number—whatever it is—that actually will make me happy.
But of course that number doesn’t exist. Just as it doesn’t exist for the Silicon Valley millionaires.
The point is that it is very human to aim for these illusory goals and to hope that they will make us happy (or safe or secure) when we achieve them. The danger, though, for me, is that I attach to goals like these, find out that I’ve used up my limited time in this life on something—a Technorati rating, God help me—that is essentially meaningless, and meanwhile, in my tunnel-vision, manage to hurt myself, the planet and other creatures by not attending to what is really important.
The antidote? I try to remind myself to stop running from my insecurities and fears, to see them for what they are (illusions), and to have faith in what is. The Buddhists call it returning to the moment. The Christian’s call it trusting in God’s will. The shrinks might call it getting rid of anxiety. The Tao te Ching just says that a man who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
Image of woman on a treadmill courtesy of Inmagine
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.