Like every other immigrant, I've been consumed with the story of the disgraced Raj Rajaratnam and Rajat Gupta unfolding in the Indian American diaspora. As Anita Raghavan's book, "The Billionaire's Apprentice" details, these guys were already fabulously, vulgarly wealthy. (Rajaratnam is the one who loaned Rajat Gupta $5 million at one time.) They had no need to engage in insider trading. How high did they set their sights that being multi- millionaires was not good enough for them? The moving target became: 'The Billionaire's Club'. Reading this book, made me think of Adam Grant's (Wharton professor and author of GIVE AND TAKE) 2011 commencement speech which he based on the concept of "Don't make the Right decision; make the Decision Right”. Grant asked the 2011 class of Wharton graduates: "How do you make your choices?" He proceeded to share a few statements from a decision-making survey created by his colleague, Barry Schwartz. He asked the graduates to take a moment and think about whether they agree with these choices:
- I never settle for second best.
- When I'm in the car listening to the radio, even if I like the song, I often check other stations to see if something better is playing.
- I'm a big fan of lists that rank things: the best movies...the best graduation speeches...the best-looking professors.
- I treat relationships like clothing: I expect to try on a lot before I find the perfect fit.
These statements reflect being a maximizer - someone who always looks for the best option when making decisions. Grant asked: "But is seeking the best always what's best for you, or does being a maximizer come with a cost?"
Researchers Sheena Iyengar, Rachael Wells and Barry Shwartz explored this question in a study of over 500 college seniors searching for jobs. In the fall, the seniors completed surveys to identify the maximizers in the group. Over the following six months, all of the students reported on their progress.
As expected, maximizers did better than their peers. They applied for many more jobs and ended up accepting jobs with 20% higher salaries. This was true even after controlling for their universities, grades and majors. Looking for the best paid off.
Here's the surprise: despite doing better, maximizers actually felt worse. They experienced more negative emotions during their job search, were less satisfied with the jobs they accepted, and were more likely to question whether they made the right decision. Why? They spent more time comparing their outcomes to their peers to figure out whether they really had the "best" job, and ruminated more about "what if" scenarios. Searching for the best made them less happy.
What was different about the students who were happy with their job choices, despite earning lower salaries than the maximiers? These students are what we call satisficers, people who choose an option that's just good enough for them. Instead of spending their lives chasing after the best possible job, car, house, or romantic partner, satisficers take the first acceptable option that comes to them, and they're usually happier with their choices a s a result. (Excerpted from a LinkedIn article by Adam Grant, Aug. 10, 2013.)
The lesson here is: Find the sunny side in your life and quit obsessing that so many others have it good. A Punjabi verse sums it up: Rookhi Sookhy Khai kay Thanda Paani Pee Na Veykhe paraayee chonparian na Tarssain jee (Eat dry bread and drink cold water. Pay no heed or envy to those who smear their chapattis with ghee). Because, as we have seen from the great Wall Street story of the wanna-be billionaires: Greed knows no bounds.