Chapter 9. Money is not Happiness

  • My Challenge: Consulting life has me out of my home and away from my son 4 days a week.
  • My Choice: Keep cashing in and not seeing my family grow or quit
  • Vulnerability side of the story: I am addicted to the pay check and the status that comes with being a consultant.

“If it does not make money, it does not make sense.” My life motto for a long time! No wonder that when I chose where to work, the #1 information I looked for was “companies that pay the most” the second information I looked for was “city with the highest incomes.” This is how I first arrived in London, and then in New York City. First in Banking and then in Consulting. Check, check check! Objectives accomplished. I was getting paid. At some point, my salary was doubling every 2 years. It was beyond my wildest dream!

Money, to me, was a measure of “success.” Happiness is an elusive concept. Money was simple. Money = success. People react differently when you show cash. An amazing feeling for a kid like me. I LOVED THAT FEELING!

Now picture this: I am at my money peak in life. I know that if I stick to my current career, I would be making 7 figures a year in a few years. Earning more than a million per year. THE ULTIMATE SUCCESS!

This is also the time when my wife and I decided to try for our first child. We were so grateful that she got pregnant quickly. Now fast forward to decision time. I can stay in my highly paid job and never see my kid because I am on business trips 4 days a week. Or I can look for a different position. Quickly I realize that I am in a tough spot. At best, a job with limited travel would pay half. Ouch… Major step back in my measure of success. So I decided to stick around. At first, we made it work. My wife and son would travel with me. I come back to the hotel late, but I can see them every day, and I know they are comfortable. So it works for a while. I soon realised that this elusive concept of happiness shows one of its facets: spending time with my wife and my newborn. I do not want to miss out on all the “firsts”—first giggle, first roll, first step. On top of that, money is showing its limits. Although we were spending more than $2000 per month on my son’s daycare, we were not impressed by the care he would receive.

So what is it going to be? I was in denial. A little bit like when you are in a bad relationship, but you think you can perform miracles, and everything will be ok. Even if you have no plan and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, and then, when I expected it the least, one of the most successful consultants in the company shared candidly. Short version: His relationship with his kid was crap, mostly due to the time he was spending away from home. In my head, it went like “hold on, wait a minute”. A famous consultant who made the cover of magazines told me, “If I had to do it again, I woud not” 😱.

Now I am convinced. I need to quit. But I can not leave before the bonus. It is a 6 figure lump payment. So I am sticking around for an extra 3 months. But I am clear. My priority is my son. I will spend max 1 night away from him and my wife. You can not imagine how quickly the whole work/life balance speech from some people collapses. I am sure they like the concept… but as soon as a hurdle appears, it is back to “work your ass off as long as it is needed”.

I still managed to leave. It was not easy. I was addicted to the status that comes with the money and being a high profile consultant. Personalized greetings in fancy hotels, upgrades, perks. Status was a tremendous racial equalizer. On a catamaran in Saint Bart, Caribbeans, nobody look twice at you. People wave and say hi. My wife and I still joke about it. It felt like every time we waved we were signaling to each other “Hi, I am rich, how are you doing” When they were waving back, they answered, “Hi, I am rich too, good to see you”.

Luckily I was only addicted to the status. I did not have a super high lifestyle considering my income. So even cutting my income by half, we were still living well. I am grateful that I was not dependent on the status. One of my acquaintances in London was addicted to the status its job brought to him. But when that status was taken away he committed suicide.