Addicted to Money & American Success


addiction_0309topic1A nasty addiction gets celebrated more often than it’s recognized and treated. Headlines and sound bites trumpet the negative effects of this addiction daily. What’s interesting and hopeful, however, is how holistic solutions to this addiction have become more available and acceptable.

I’m thinking of our addiction to money – and society’s definition of success. More and more of us find our faces pressed into the reality that, no matter how hard we work, we’ll never have “enough” money. We realize and accept that the things we have to give up for more money – our time, our health, lost opportunities, not to mention the national and global trade-offs – end up being worth more to us than the money itself.

What do we do, then? Getting rid of a money addiction is a lot like getting rid of head lice. It’s best not to acquire either problem in the first place. And, nobody takes the problem seriously until they get the itch, so you can’t force the issue. But, once a certain number of people get the itch and cure the problem, we reach a tipping point. From there, it will become much easier to recognize and treat – beneficial peer pressure and time-tested solutions will exist to make the withdrawal easier on the remaining addicts. The ongoing battle against the smoking addiction serves as an illustrative example.

What holistic tools exist for those who already have the itch? One important tool is a more accurate understanding of how the money addiction starts and perpetuates itself. Recognizing that money and our definition of success have become two sides of the same coin helps. The latest research pokes holes in the money-addicted success dogma promulgated since the mid-1700s. These days, if somebody asks what it takes to be successful (not the same as what it means to be successful), I’ll tell them to ignore their copy of The Autobiography of Ben Franklin and direct them to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers.

Gladwell uses the latest research to X-ray the commonly held beliefs about how the big success stories of our culture got that way and discovers the “hidden” drivers. In his words, “The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But, in fact, they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.” This may sound like he’s going to advocate some new type of communism, but don’t worry. His analysis of everybody from Canadian hockey stars to the Beatles, from Bill Gates to Christopher Langan (the man with the highest-known IQ) entertains, inspires and enlightens. After reading his book, you’ll still believe in the American Dream, but will no longer kid yourself about the how and the why.

To cure the addiction, we also need tools and processes uncorrupted by the cultural myths surrounding money and success. As a start, locate a copy of Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. The authors debunk and replace just enough theory and provide the motivating real-life stories to create that “aha moment.” Then they move into sharing practical, proven processes and strategies that hold your hand as you travel from your current, money-addicted status to a life where money no longer directs your focus. Books on money get published each week, but none like this one.

Many readers of The Edge also explore the metaphysical, so I’ll suggest one more resource for those who find themselves wondering why the universe appears to be set up in such a screwy manner and what to do about it. Pick up a copy of Busting Loose from The Money Game, by Robert Scheinfeld. Interestingly, his non-spiritual paradigm overlaps the teachings and methods of spiritual teachers and entities I’ve studied. A word of caution: his explanation of how and why an eternal, enlightened spirit would willingly choose to design and live out a life like mine and yours on a place like Earth will both repel and attract you.

If you can’t stand the thought of spending the rest of your life scratching the itch of more dollars and “success,” then use these resources to start a treatment plan and let me know when you come across other solutions that work.

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Steve Gildersleeve
Steve Gildersleeve is a Twin Cities businessman and writer.


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