A lifetime ago, when I was nineteen and starting to work my way up the corporate ladder, my boss gave me some valuable advice as I was reaching for the next rung far overhead: “Don’t ask a man who earns $20,000 a year how to make $100,000.”
I agreed at the time—and still agree now—but I have better advice: Don’t ask an unhappy man how to become happy.
Too often we emulate someone without realizing we don’t actually want to be like them. We look up to the person with the high-paying job, the prestigious career, or the material possessions for which we yearn, and we believe we want what they have—all the while not realizing how unhappy many of those people actually are.
Instead of emulating someone because of their accomplishments, then, it seems more prudent to emulate them for who they are: to learn from the person, not their facade of so-called achievements. There’s nothing wrong with earning a shedload of money—it’s just that the money doesn’t matter if you’re not happy with who you’ve become in the process.
Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.