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The Psychology Of Success and The Fascinating Reason Why Billionaires and Moonwalkers Get Depressed -- and How They Overcome It

Stashed in: Steve Jobs, Founders, #happiness, Wealth!, #success, Advice, @mcuban, Billions!, Awesome, Meaning of Life, Manifestos, Kaizen, Depression, ADHD

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They must overcome the feeling of "no mission to look forward to".

Neil Armstrong, the man who stepped out of Apollo 11 just ahead of Aldrin, spent his next few decades figuring out what to do with his life. He briefly taught some small classes at a university, then quit unexpectedly. He consulted a little for NASA and some random companies, and did a commercial for Chrysler, and quit all those things, too. Mostly, he just hid from autograph seekers and sued companies for using his name in ads.

There were certainly multiple factors contributing to these men's post-moonwalk slump, but the question, What do you do after walking on the moon? became a gigantic speed bump.

The trouble with moonwalkers and billionaires is when they arrive at the top, their momentum often stops. They turn into the kid on the jungle gym who just hangs from the ring.

Not coincidentally, this is the same reason that only one-third of Americans are happy at their jobs. When there's no forward momentum in our careers, we get depressed, too.  

As Newton pointed out, an object at rest tends to stay at rest.  

So how does one avoid billionaire's depression? Or regular person's stuck-in-a-dead-end-job, lack-of-momentum-fueled depression?  

Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile took on the question in the mid-2000s in a research study of white-collar employees. She tasked 238 pencil pushers in various industries to keep daily work diaries. The workers answered open-ended questions about how they felt, what events in their days stood out. Amabile and her fellow researchers then dissected the 12,000 resulting entries, searching for patterns in what affects people's "inner" work lives the most dramatically.  

The answer, it turned it, was simply progress. A sense of forward motion. Regardless of how small. 

And that's the interesting part. Amabile found that minor victories at work were nearly as psychologically powerful as major breakthroughs. To motivate stuck employees, as Amabile and her colleague Steven J. Kramer suggest in their book, "The Progress Principle," businesses need to help their workers experience lots of tiny wins.

The concept of TINY WINS is a really useful one. 

I think it's not QUITE as simple as lacking forward progress. One thing I've seen often in the newly wealthy is that... what happens when you're pajama rich, but your friends and family aren't? Relationships are best when you have roughly the same means as your loved ones, and enjoy the same types of activities. It can get awkward really fast when you're on TV next to Warren Buffett talking about giving away tens of millions of dollars, and your BFFs from college thought they were doing well as doctors and lawyers. So now in addition to maybe not having a job, you've also lost a lot of the social support system you used to have. That would be pretty depressing in and of itself.

That's a good point. Plus it's hard to make new friends since the wealth itself is isolating.

Business Insider also published an article this week about how common depression is in startups:


Maybe this is why my ADHD is such a blessing. There are always new things I want to explore.

I never realized ADHD could be a strength!

There many strengths associated w/ ADD, and much has been written on this subject, such as books written by Thom Hartmann and Edward Hallowell. 

I may need to write a book "the multiple blessings of ADHD" (first I need to figure out which brain hack[s] made this work so well for me). 

In all seriousness, I'm not "coping" with ADHD anymore than I'm "coping" with blue eyes or my shoe size. 

That's probably the best case with ADHD: be yourself, and use it as a source of strength.

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