There is more than just money

Money indeed can buy happiness. If you don’t agree with that statement, at least you will agree with: having no money in society can bring you sadness. What you need at least is enough money to make you happy. If you want to be happier, the amount of money required is increasing exponentially. Not precise, but at least it is.

Well, take that aside. We won’t talk about the relation between money and happiness here. I am talking about whether you are doing your job is just for the money or not. At least for myself, it is more than just money that I’m doing my job. It’s a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction to it.

Maslow’s pyramid

Taken from wikipedia,

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review.[2] Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity. His theories parallel many other theories of human developmental psychology, some of which focus on describing the stages of growth in humans. Maslow used the terms “physiological”, “safety”, “belongingness” and “love”, “esteem”, “self-actualization”, and “self-transcendence” to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through.

If we ordering the source of work motivation from bottom to top, we get:

  1. physiological
  2. safety
  3. love
  4. self-esteem
  5. self-actualization

Money can only fit into number 3 and half of number 4. Having money will grant physiological, safety, and love (love can’t be bought, but love’s safety can be enhanced by money). It can also grant some of self esteem up to some factor, but not all. Then what money can’t buy is the rest part of self-esteem and self-actualization.

One part of self-esteem

There is one part of self-esteem that cannot be bought by money. It is a part of pride. Even if you have money from prostitution, there is one part of pride that cannot be achieved. But Bill Gates, ex-chief executive officer of Microsoft, will have pride and self-esteem of his profession.

Meanwhile the other part can be easily bought by money, because money is socially accepted as indicator of success. Having good car, houses, watch will provide you some self-esteem.


This is the source of motivation that can produce masterpieces.

Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be.

What has Mahatma Gandhi done for the Hindu is part of self-actualization, or even greater is part of Self-transcendence. He has no motivation for money, love, or pride. He struggle for what he want to do and what he feels right.

Beethoven is same. Even if his ear does not function well, it does not prevent him from creating more art works. Again not for money, he just want to do it. Now imagine if you offer him a good business that is profitable (say, restaurant), will he take it? He won’t, because he is not in passion for that.

Hitler on the other hand, is also part of self-actualization. Interestingly, his passion is drifted from the original artist path, into a nation leader and dictator. If only fueled by money as source of motivation, he won’t be as great as that.

What if self-actualization is achieved

When the source of self-actualization has been achieved, it is possible for you to be lost interest in it, be bored and even depressed. In this case, usually the person try to find another passion to pursue, or rest for a while until higher goal is set. It happened at the case of Michael Jordan. He retired when he found no challenge anymore, feels that he already achieved his goal.


There is more to do at working than just looking for money. It is divided into hierarchical reasons, and money cannot fulfill all the reasons. If you are working for the highest reason of motivation, self actualization, then you will find yourself at highest motivation.

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