Money or Respect.

When this strip came out, I would have been almost ten years old. I’m not sure how old I was when I actually read it for the first time, but I probably wasn’t much older than that.

This strip offers two choices– Money or respect, but not both. Of course, the punchline is that Dilbert had neither, but this strip stuck with me as a kid. It’s something that I think about often to this day.

This was a no-brainer when I first read it. Obviously I’d rather have a high-paying job where I have little to no respect. Why wouldn’t I? I don’t care if I’m not respected, but money can go a long way.

As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

As an adult, I’ve had jobs in which I was highly-paid while having to endure frequent abuse. (I won’t go into detail publicly.) Now I understand the impact it has. I’ve switched from a high-paying job to a lower-paying job before, and I did so with little hesitation because I was miserable in the high-paying job. I would have no problem doing it again.

There’s an old saying that I’m sure anyone reading this would have heard before– “Money isn’t everything”. I would add to that “Wow, is it ever not.” If you’re unhappy in your high-paying job, you’re probably better off switching to another job. I’ve reached a point where I don’t really care much about how much money I make as long as I’m not destitute.

I am very much aware that this opinion is a luxury that many people cannot afford. I’ve never actually been forced to chose between disrespect and poverty as Phil presented the decision to Dilbert. I know that I’m greatly oversimplifying an extraordinarily difficult topic. Many people would object “What about this? What about that?” There are certainly going to be cases in which it’s necessary to endure painful situations, but that’s really outside the scope of what I’m saying here. What I am saying is simply that if you have the choice (and that’s really the key), choose a good life over wealth.

(As a sidenote, productivity is not merely a means to wealth, and if you read this post as if it were a statement from Diogenes as an excuse to do nothing, I would submit that if you are not industrious, you will die miserable. Productivity is a necessary component of life.  I know this because of how miserable I was during long breaks in college and grad school.)

I’m not strictly speaking on happiness, either, but on all of the greater things in life.  You can fill in the blank on what you would believe those greater things to be.  Wealth is not going to provide either happiness or a better life in and of itself. Wealth is a minor component in life. It is a means to an end and not an end in itself. If you are not progressing towards the end of a life that is whole, then you need to rebalance your life.

This is where it really matters– If you’re unable to seek the greater things in life, the things that make life worth living, because of the damage your job is doing to you, you should probably leave. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36).