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Enrich friendships, not your wallet, to lift your life

When my friend Gerry Bellotti (vice president of the Independent College Fund of New Jersey) invited me a few years ago to speak to a group of nonprofit leaders on the subject of “purpose with a passion,” I agreed before I had even thought about how I would address this interesting topic.  The two key words —…

When my friend Gerry Bellotti (vice president of the Independent College Fund of New Jersey) invited me a few years ago to speak to a group of nonprofit leaders on the subject of “purpose with a passion,” I agreed before I had even thought about how I would address this interesting topic.  The two key words — purpose and passion — resonated with me, but I had no idea how I would shape a relevant message around them.

Of course like everyone today, I started the process by searching the internet.  As I did so, I quickly came across Robert Kriegel’s book “If It Ain’t Broke … Break It!: And Other Unconventional Wisdom for a Changing Business World.” In it, the author shares the details of a study of 1,500 new workforce entrants who were asked if they thought it could possibly be profitable for them to pursue a career where they would love what they do. 

In other words, they were asked to think about what they would expect to happen if they put passion at the top of their list of life’s goal instead of profits.

At the outset of the study, the group was divided into two groups:

  • Group A was comprised of 83 percent of the 1,500 people. They were the ones who embarked on a path they chose specifically because of the prospect of making money early in their careers, with the expectation that they could do what they really cared about later in life.
  •  Group B consisted of the remaining 17 percent. These were the employees who chose their career path for the exact opposite reason from their colleagues in Group A. They had made the decision to pursue what they wanted to do immediately without focusing on becoming profitable or financially successful. Their professional purpose was their personal passion.

The researchers followed the experiences of these 1,500 employees over a 20-year period. At the conclusion of the study, the final data revealed some stunning results:

  • At the end of the 20 years, 101 of the 1,500 had become millionaires.
  • Of the millionaires, all but one — that is 100 out of 101 — were from Group B, the group that had chosen to pursue what they loved rather than aim for millionaire status.

Reading the results of the study forced me to stop and give real consideration to what matters most in life.

This is not a new concept. Professionals in the human resources field have long pointed to statistics that support the premise that most employees are concerned about good benefits and flexibility more than salary. Others support the theory.

For example, in an article published in Inc., Geoffrey James reminds us that, “Contrary to popular belief, employees value many things more than the amount of money they’re being paid.” What he discovered through his conversations with employees and employers is a comprehensive list of attributes that employees care about, including feeling proud, being treated fairly, having an influence, having flexibility and a personal life and being less stressed.

So the facts tell us that the opportunity to live a quality life often outweighs the desire to take home a big paycheck. Repeated research across many disciplines bears out the famous quote by Mark Twain, who said, “If you turn your vocation into your vacation, you will never work another day in your life.”

I would rely on practicality to draw a conclusion from this conversation that those of us who have pursued passion first have a significant advantage in life. The benefit we have is that we have found a way to pursue happiness.

But that brings up another question. What is happiness? There are endless answers to this age-old question, but the most often cited sources agree that happiness is consistently correlated to one’s ability to generate personal relationships. That is, what happy people have in common is that they form meaningful connections. Money alone is not a key factor in measuring happiness.

In fact, there are more important contributors, as pointed out in a newly released study on happiness by This study ranks Finland as the happiest place to live in 2018, despite the fact that the sun doesn’t even rise for 51 days a year in a portion of the northern part of the country! While it seems that sunshine might be overrated, what does matter is politics, economic stability and strong social support.

We are right back to the place we began – with a recognition that social ties, interpersonal contacts and strong social support really do matter most.

Whether you are observing people around you, reading the experts’ research or thinking about your own feelings, it is pretty obvious that for most of us, the measurement of happiness is based on close relationships and having passion for a job or hobby.

So if you are considering improving your own professional success and enhancing your personal success and you’ve decided you want to be on a path to becoming a millionaire, you might reference Kriegel’s work and all the volumes written on this topic.

I won’t even charge for this advice: I’d suggest you consider putting your time and effort into building and reinforcing your friendships, become more deeply involved in those areas where you feel a sincere and genuine passion and focus on gaining balance in your life rather than gaining a bigger bank balance.  Enrich your friendships instead of enriching your wallet to enrich your life.

Sally Glick is principal of the firm and chief growth strategist at Sobel & Co. LLC and president of the Association for Corporate Growth in New Jersey.