Of­fice jobs equal un­hap­pi­ness is a para­dox in China

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Sky Xu

Iwas at an event the other night with 100 well-dressed, good look­ing, English­s­peak­ing Toky­oites, lis­ten­ing to this guy in his 40s with his hair tied into a tiny bun talk about how to be happy.

He started with his per­sonal story, and it was a fa­mil­iar one. Grow­ing up he fol­lowed the path so­ci­ety ex­pected of him and be­came very suc­cess­ful. But he was not happy. So he quit his job and trav­eled around the world for six years with a neu­ro­sci­en­tist and a psy­chol­o­gist. He then made this jour­ney in search for hap­pi­ness into a doc­u­men­tary called HAPPY. He now wears Uniqlo in­stead of Ar­mani suits and is, of course, much hap­pier.

The crowd was ap­plaud­ing and cheer­ing fa­nat­i­cally. I ad­mit he seems like a bril­liant guy and does in­ter­est­ing things, but I was not con­verted. Noth­ing I haven’t heard be­fore. At the cen­ter of the nar­ra­tives of “find­ing hap­pi­ness” is some­one who used to be very suc­cess­ful but re­al­ized one day that money doesn’t make them happy or that a nineto-five of­fice job is sim­ply un­ful­fill­ing. So, he quits his job and trav­els around the world in search for the se­cret to hap­pi­ness. He finds it and comes back to spread the mes­sage, be it mind­ful­ness, yoga, liv­ing in the present, min­i­mal­ism or “fol­low your heart.” And now he lives hap­pily and spends his days help­ing more peo­ple find hap­pi­ness and mean­ing in life.

And their mes­sage boils down to this: What­ever you do, do not get a reg­u­lar job. Be a writer, a mu­si­cian, a film­maker or a surfer. Open a small flower shop or a café, any­thing but an of­fice job.

Sure, there might be some truth in the say­ing that money doesn’t buy you hap­pi­ness, but take a mo­ment and ask your­self why we lis­ten to these “gu­rus?”

We give them our at­ten­tion, buy their books and go to their talks. Why? We do it be­cause they’ve “made it,” they were suc­cess­ful and most likely still are. When is the last time you have seen a starv­ing per­son preach­ing hap­pi­ness – how­ever suc­cess­ful they used to be? And it’s not likely that any­one in the au­di­ence that night was starv­ing ei­ther. Just like the “re­li­gion of suc­cess” tells peo­ple that if you don’t get a good job, earn this much and own a house you are a fail­ure, the “re­li­gion of suc­cess” tells peo­ple if you work in a cu­bi­cle, you are a loser. Ul­ti­mately the two dis­courses aren’t that dif­fer­ent. Put aside the point that hap­pi­ness and suc­cess means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, such dis­courses make us feel some­thing is wrong with us if we aren’t a cer­tain way. I get it. It’s the first time for all of us in this life, and we could all use some guid­ance. But where is the guide­book to be­ing or­di­nary? Most of us are go­ing to live an “or­di­nary” life, bor­ing even. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a good life. But you prob­a­bly won’t ever see a book about it be­cause it’s not sexy and won’t sell. At the end of the day, the farm boy from The Princess Bride (1987) was right: “Life is pain, high­ness. Any­one who says dif­fer­ently is sell­ing some­thing.” The opin­ions ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are the au­thor’s own and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of the Global Times.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Pe­ter C. Espina/GT

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