The pursuit of wealth is something we are all actively engaged in – after all, it’s part of what we define as the American Dream.  Yet, all too often we see news stories about people whose lust for wealth leads them to do stupid, unethical and even criminal things.

Some of the more well-known stories in recent history include Enron and the sub-prime mortgage scandals.

It has led some business experts to ponder the question of how much is too much?  Why do smart people. who obviously have more money than they will ever need. do such crazy things that could jeopardize their entire fortune and reputation?  Why are so many people who have so much money still so dissatisfied?

Indeed, these are questions for all business people who are striving to build wealth.  One person who has thought a lot about business, work, money, and success is Jacob Needleman, a university researcher.

What gets people into trouble with money is that they are not honest with themselves about how important or unimportant it is to them, he says.  You cannot ignore the fact of money in our culture. And if you do not understand how Americans connect to money in our culture, then you are sure to have problems.  If you do not honestly know your relationship to money, you don’t really know yourself, Needleman says.

As far as the old saying goes, “Money can’t buy happiness,” Needleman agrees.  He says that your life is not determined nearly as much by what’s outside as by what is inside.  If you are an anxious poor person, you’ll be an anxious rich person.  Having a lot of money is not going to change your personality.

Also, having a lot of money doesn’t make you an expert in everything.  You may know a lot about how to make money, but don’t fool yourself into believing you have suddenly become a polymath.

And being wealthy does not always magically confer fulfillment and contentment.  Money and success are not the same thing.  To use all of your abilities to the utmost, to be completely caught up in what you do, that, for Needleman, is to be successful.  He stresses the importance of the immaterial, the spiritual.  The joy, struggle and challenge of doing hard work, work that you love.  Developing yourself as an individual, and developing your character, to him, is the pinnacle of success.

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