Can You Have Too Much Money?

Money Root Of All Evil

I took this photo inside a 16 Handles that sells frozen yogurt and toppings. 


The cashier had put out this cup for tips.


On the cup is a sign that says:


“Money is the root of all evil.  Cleanse yourself here.  Thanks.”


Sort of a smart way to get people to give. 


Afterwards, I was mulling over whether it’s true–is money “the bad guy” in life or what makes us do bad things?


Sure, people want money–and they usually like lots of it–they want to live “the good life” –with big houses, fancy cars, nice clothes, good food, exotic vacations, and financial security–how sweet it is!


And so often when people can’t get it legitimately, they will resort to lying, cheating, and stealing to get it.


But fortune is just a facet of something larger that gnaws at people souls –and that is greed. 


People don’t just want money, they are also greedy for power, fame, brains, brawn, sexual satisfaction, and a long (or immortal) life to enjoy it all. 


So probably greed is the real root of all evil and money is just one of the larger branches.


Perhaps that is why religion and piety is often associated with asceticism–avoiding indulgence–and instead devoting oneself more to spiritual pursuits in life and to servitude of G-d. 


Also of course, devotion to family, friends, and community–doing good deeds–giving and not taking–are held in high esteem for people looking for something more meaningful and devout in life.


Also, having recently seem some people with “too much of a good thing”–I realized that when people actually get all the material things they want and in such complete abundance–they can literally drown themselves in it.  


It’s sickening after a while–literally–the law of diminishing returns kicks in, and the things that are so coveted just become overwhelming and poisonous to the person. 


I saw this in a movie once too where the person who stole from the king is punished by having swathes and swathes of molten gold poured down the person’s throat–“You want it that bad, well here it is!”


There comes a point, a maturity, a depth, a realization, when a person just wishes for enough in life, for the people they love, and for happiness with them–they find genuine contentment–and that is something worth being greedy for. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Happiness Meter

The Happiness Meter

Ever realize that no matter how hard you strive for happiness, it almost always seems just as elusive.

There are many explanations for this:

Of course, it could also be that just because you think something will make you happy, doesn’t mean it will. Often, the fantasy does not live up to the reality, and so rather than achieve happiness, we end up disappointed.

Another explanation, from economics, is the law of diminishing marginal utility that tells us that more of a good thing, does not make us incrementally happier, rather the benefit and satisfaction that we receive from each additional unit of consumption is lower. Let’s face it, the 5th mouthful of chocolate cream pie is not as satisfying at the first, second, or third. And at a certain point, you actually will want to puke!

The Wall Street Journal had a brilliant piece on this that explained this from an evolutionary perspective–fitter organisms are more likely to survive and reproduce, so every time we make a positive decision in our life, rather than find happiness, our “happiness meter” resets to zero, forcing us to make the next positive move in our life to make us better, if not necessarily happier. In other words, keeping us unhappy, forces us into perpetual striving.

So while happiness has been correlated with our genetic makeup, life events, and values (New York Times) or even exercise, altruism, and supportive relationships (CNN), real happiness comes from living a life of meaning, where we find satisfaction in the journey itself, and not rely only on the destination.

For example, Buddhists understand that life is suffering and that we need to escape the hamster wheel of jealousy, aimless external desire, and quenchless ambition and instead seek to do good and find inner contentment.

One colleague (ex-army) of mine used to say, “everyday that I am not in Iraq and Afghanistan is a good day” and perhaps we need to think in those terms too, as we all know things can always be worse, so we would do well to find happiness not just in what we have or achieve, but in thanksgiving for what we are spared as well. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Toward A User-Centric Government

My new article in Government Executive is out today. Called “Too Big To Succeed”–the article talks about the importance of simplifying and organizing large, complex organizations, such as government, to achieve transformational and valuable change. The article is anchored in the Law of Diminishing Returns and the Law of Large Numbers.Although the article doesn’t use the term user-centric government, this is exactly the point and continuously driving forward with advanced technologies can help us make the leap. Hope you enjoy reading! Andy

>EA and the Law of Diminishing Returns

>One of the best known economic laws is the law of diminishing returns, which states that past a certain point, the more input of something, the less additional output. While this law is typically applied to production, I believe this can also be applicable to the growth of service organizations (like those found in government or the private sectors) in that past a certain size, adding more people, funding, or whatever yields less additional benefit for the enterprise.

In the organization, size matters. In a larger organization, the diminishing returns takes the form of more complexity and less efficiency. While in a positive sense, a larger organization can do more, service more people, generate more goods, and overall accomplish more. However, as the enterprise grows, it benefits less and less, since the organization get “weighed down”. Bigger often (but not necessarily) is not better, since it can mean more stovepipes, more redundancy, more levels of management and oversight, more bureaucracy, more complexity and so on. While on the other hand, lean can often mean more nimble, flexible, and agile. To me this is similar to the story of David and Goliath, where the giant Goliath is outmaneuvered and taken down by the smaller David.

The Law of Diminishing Returns with respect to large organizations has two major implications to EA:

  • In a larger organization, the size and complexity can make executing a sound EA program more challenging. In some cases, there may actually be multiple EA programs or no viable EA programs, because “everyone is doing their own thing”, and seemingly no one can make them stop.
  • A large (unwieldy) organization can actually benefit from EA more than a smaller one, since EA is designed to help those areas that weigh the large organization down. For example, EA looks to eliminate stovepipes in the organization. EA works to reduce gaps and redundancies. EA looks to establish standards and build interoperability. EA shores up and provide support to the organization collapsing under it own weight.

So large, complex organizations can be a challenge to the EA practitioner, but they can also yield the biggest dividends.