Here are articles on polls

Can taxes buy happiness?

In yesterday’s post Can money buy happiness, people seemed to agree that money doesn’t buy happiness directly, but it can buy choices, security, freedom, etc., which can help happiness.

This question isn’t for the book, but for my own curiosity. I was talking with several people from European countries this February. We compared tax rates, and when you add in state, federal, FICA, and sales taxes, I pay as much of each dollar in taxes as they do.

Among the things they get: national health insurance (or in some countries, national health care directly), guaranteed mortgage payments on their home made if they’re past retirement age so they know they’ll have a place to live, six to eight weeks a year of vacation, nanny care for new mothers, etc.

We don’t spend our tax dollars that way. We spend roughly 20% on military, 20% on interest payments on our national debt (increasing at record rates, by the way), and 20% on Medicare. Everything else (education, social programs) all squeezes into the remaining 40%. (See here for reference.)

Once we’re done paying our taxes, if we want any of the freedoms and choices that some other countries have, we must pay for them ourselves with after-tax dollars. (Security’s a fine example. 20% of tax dollars go to physical/military security, but not other forms of security like housing, food, or education/prep-for-future.)

In America, we’ve very successfully adopted the knee-jerk idea that “taxes are bad” so we never look at the other side of the equation: what our tax dollars actually provide.

So here’s the question: if we had social programs provided by or supervised by the government that provided things that gave you more time, choices, or freedoms, would you be willing to pay more in taxes? If so, which choices or freedoms would you want provided? If not, why not–are the choices/freedoms not important to you, are you already happy, etc.?

Oh, crap. Maybe money CAN buy happiness.

Well, isn’t that just the cat’s pajamas. There’s a new study out that shows that happiness may be linked to absolute levels of income, after all. Of course, as the article states, it’s linked to other things as well, like time spent with friends. This may change part of my thesis for the book. …. pondering

In my life, money hasn’t bought happiness. In fact, regardless of how much I’ve had, made, or lost, I’ve pretty much always felt insecure and panicked, thanks to some early experiences involving not really being able to afford food. Only in the last year have I really sorted through the issues enough that they seem to have let go.

While lack of money is stressful for me, past a certain point, more doesn’t make me happier. Other things take over as the most important. Fun, community, challenge, meaning, and contribution all seem more important to me just now.

How ’bout for you? Is you life happier because of money? Is acquiring money sufficient for happiness? Is it necessary?

Do you improve your decision quality over time?

In my business blog today, I got a little, er, hot about tax season. In my footnote, I flamed on about the 2004 elections, noting:

One thing I’m sure of: none of you stopped to analyze the quality of your 2004 decision-making and explicitly change the criteria you used to make your bad decision. It may be 2008, but you’re about to use the same broken decision-making process in November and you’ll wonder why politics doesn’t change.

Political flaming aside, when you make a decision that turns out badly, do you explicitly learn from it? And if so, do you use an explicit “post mortem” process? And do you tend to learn about specifics of a situation (e.g. “I’m never voting for candidate Z again because they lie”), or do you actually change your decision-making process (e.g. “next time, I will look at voting records and read news articles on opposing web sites and supporting web sites before making my decision.”)?

What would you do if you knew you *would* fail?

There’s a motivational question people ask: What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? It’s a good question for getting over the hurdle of fear of failure.

For me, it can kick me into action. Once I’m in action, though, my immediate instinct is to do what makes the most sense to reach the goal.

But it seems to me that it isn’t failure we’re afraid of, it’s uncertainty. So I tried asking, “What would I do if I had to do something, but knew I would fail anyway?” (Eliminate the uncertainty, but make it a guarantee of failure rather than a guarantee of success.)

Much to my surprise, my approach became a game. It freed my thinking in a way that the other question did not, and I began coming up with very “out-of-the-box” ideas.

(This reminds me of the essay The Wisdom of No Escape, by Buddhist nun Pema Chodron.)

What’s your experience? Does the question “What would you do if you knew you would fail?” do anything for you?

What would make this book unique?

A friend asked a very good question: how will my book be different from the other productivity books on the market?

My intent is to provide tips that cover a wide range of emotionally-powerful issues that have simple, behavioral solutions that impact people’s feelings of happiness and success. To me, the point is to live a happy life, and my tips are oriented around the elements of productivity that contribute to happiness, not simply to making your boss richer.

Yet even this positioning isn’t exactly unique. Covey’s Seven Habits does life-success disguised as business productivity as well.

What I know is unique is that (a) my tips sometimes take a perspective that no one else has, and (b) my literary “voice” is a lot more fun than most of the business books out there.

Is that enough? Any thoughts on what could make this book unique, given the podcasts of mine you’ve heard?

What issues do you have focusing on your most important life goals?

@chrisbrogan was asking how to focus on life goals. Is this an issue you have, too? How come? What gets in the way?

It seems to me two important aspects to focusing your life on your goals are:

  1. Know what your goals are.
  2. Say ‘No’ to time uses that aren’t aligned with those goals.

What are your obstacles? How have you overcome them? (Or if not, what’s gone wrong?)

How does the concept of failure serve you?

In a rather extensive twitter thread, we’ve been discussing how “failure” serves us. The consensus seems to be: failure is a good thing if we learn from it. So if it’s a good thing, why do we fear it? (Since after all, we can always elect to learn from it.)

  • @candees: we’re afraid of others’ perceptions of us when we fail.
  • @harrowdrive: we get conditioned to fear failure as kids.
  • @starshyne: we equate project failure with failure as a person
  • @smsaxon: we think failure will be permanent
  • @erebor (Ryan Waldron): we don’t know the cost beforehand, so we fear the cost will be too high.
  • @cathystucker: failure is embarassing

When others fail

We’re pretty much not as judgmental as we fear others will be.