Jim Duffy: Earn money or answer key question of life - why?

Duke of Westminster left his son one of the richest men in the country but you can rest assured he would give it all away for the return of his father. Picture: Getty Images
Duke of Westminster left his son one of the richest men in the country but you can rest assured he would give it all away for the return of his father. Picture: Getty Images
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Too many people are running around chasing a dream that is neither realistic or attainable, says Jim Duffy

‘When I was young the world was a far simpler place… It was all just cops and robbers”. The opening dialogue from one of my favourite movies, Layer Cake. The point here being that life used to be so black and white, so beautifully binary, layered like a Victoria sponge. Choice was an easy thing, usually consisting of one item or the other – one theory versus the other or one political party versus the other. It was Israel and Palestine, custard or rice pudding, Ken or Barbie, right wing or left wing, chicken in a basket or spaghetti bolognaise, first class or economy. But, life has changed. It’s not just a simple as cops and robbers any more. There are more shades of grey out there in everything. And this is causing us all problems.

Money doesn’t make you happy, my old grandma used to tell me. Mind you an hour later she’d tell me that the pound in my pocket was my best friend. As I get greyer, my metabolic rate slows down and my tolerance for loud music diminishes, I do believe what she said was right in both cases. Money does not make you happy. The death of the Duke of Westminster this week brings this home to me. Reportedly worth around £9 billion, the new young duke would probably give it all away to have his father back. The money won’t console him and ease the pain of the passing of his father. Sure, the young duke might sleep on satin sheets and have servants call him sir, but actually what purpose does this add to his life? His best pal has gone and no amount of spending will bring that back.

Having purpose on this planet is so important. The meaning of life for each of us is different. We all want different things and have different expectations of what is important. Many of us find a true calling early. Some people love working with children and they get great satisfaction out of this all their working lives. Others love working with animals. And so it goes on. But, there is a huge swathe of society all at different ages who are unfulfilled, generally unhappy and lacking purpose. In short, they do not know their “why…”

Simon Sinek has written a book on knowing your “why”. He is now carving a nice living out this as the self-help culture is growing exponentially. It has become so relevant in a most confusing, choice ridden, satisfaction-now, social media driven existence, where we are bombarded with 24-hour news and brand marketing that is relentless. It’s very straightforward and simple, yet for so many of us we do not do enough thinking on our own “why”. I meet so many people in the role I am in across the country. Many think they want to run a big business or create a brilliant new disruptive technology that will transform the world. But, after some direct questioning and a tough conversation, more is revealed. Many people think they have to do something that is different. However, they are doing it for the wrong reasons. Starting a business to become a millionaire is a recipe for disaster. Starting a business because you are passionate about it, believe in it and get excited getting out of bed in the morning is far better; if you can create a profitable model along the way, then even better.

Many people are replacing the clear understanding of their own “why” with quick-fix solutions that they believe will make them happy, but are more like heroin on a hot spoon. Spending hours on Facebook to get likes from people far removed is not really developing lasting relationships that will span the test of time. Spending on credit cards to purchase stuff that is irrelevant, but arrives the next day from Amazon, bringing a few moments of short-lived satisfaction, is a fool’s paradise, but makes Jeff Bezos one of the richest men on the planet. Spending hours on Candy Crush or online betting sites brings a quick fix, a quick high, but does not solve what is really missing.

I see so many people trying to be things they are not and I wonder what goes through their mind at night when they put their head on the pillow. All in the pursuit of a happiness that they believe exists, but in essence is just a chimera – a pipedream created by others. So, why are so many people simply existing and not being true to themselves? Why are so many of us being unrealistic or dishonest with ourselves on what we want out of life and the direction we want to go?

There is no doubt that life has become confusing for many. It’s no longer 30 years at work, a gold watch and a pension. And this is where I think is why my old grandma was right on the second count. Yes, money per se won’t bring happiness, but having a pound in your pocket or a reasonable amount saved for a rainy day or retirement certainly feels good. But for so many, that little piece of long-term security is just not materialising. George Osborne must be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He wasn’t prepared for what was going to happen. Nothing planned for the future… And so it passes with his lifetime ISA: a poor man’s pension that can be taken at any time pre retirement.

The youth of today are not being given hope. Hope that they can afford a house. Hope they will be okay in old age. Hope that they can live in peace. Hope that they can do something meaningful. And who is to blame for all this uncertainty?

I don’t know… I’m overly discombobulated and a bit confused.

• Agitator and disrupter Jim Duffy is Head of #GoDo at Entrepreneurial Spark