Money = Happiness only if it's an investment in experiences. I'm living proof.

Money can lead to greater happiness for the person possessing it and those around them, if it is used to buy experiences, not possessions.

This explains why a spoiled rich kid can have all the toys in the world and still be empty inside. Buying stuff is a short term high, but money also lets you experience more too, and that's what matters in the long run. I'd add another aspect to this -- money is needed to let you connect to other people.

Last year, I spent many thousands on pro camera equipment (dSLR, pro lighting gear, top quality lenses and all the accessories). But along the way, I discovered that I absolutely loved capturing the beauty of life in photos. I got to go to concerts for free, get to know party promoters, connect with cool local SF bands, and help them on their road to stardom in some small way with my concert photography. Same with the various models I did promotional shoots with. I got to take photos on editorial assignments with a hip hop magazine Hood Star Magazine, and got to see a side of hip hop and street culture from the inside I would never have seen otherwise.

My first interaction with Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston of Y Combinator was actually through my photos of Startup School. Shortly afterwards, one of my photos appeared on the front page of the Startup School -- with thanks from PG himself. Awesome, I thought. It might well have given us a small push when we applied for YC later that year. When Jessica invites me to an event these days, she makes sure to ask if my camera is coming too. =)

I also learned the wonder that is a great, functioning user-generated content community (Flickr), and it helped Sachin and I every step along the way as we designed Posterous. Flickr addiction taught me the virtuous cycle that can happen when personal creativity gains a very real audience.

So I think the money was well spent. The experiences it purchased altered the very trajectory of my life. It put me in touch with new and awesome creative people, let me express myself in a powerful new medium, and in aggregate I'm happier and more engaged in my life now than ever before.

The next time you're considering whether or not to drop the cash on that new gadget or that trip or whatnot, think about whether it will unlock new avenues. If it will, consider it an experiential investment. Take that path and good thngs will come.

Moral psychology: The 5 key tenets of morality underpin whether one is liberal or conservative (TED)

Really amazing and fascinating TED talk by Jonathan Haidt, professor of psychology and creator of In a nutshell, morality can be described as: caring about harm against the defenseless, fairness, loyalty, respect of authority, and overall purity. Conservatives consistently rank all 5 at about equal weight, whereas liberals rank harm against the defenseless and fairness far above the others.

Liberals value fairness and helping the weak above others for the sheer fact that in a society, the other 3 perpetuate and hold down the weak, defenseless, helpless and the victims of discrimination. Respect of authority is maligned because it is authority that traditionally perpetuates the systems of oppression.

Yet as Haidt points out, these 5 tenets of morality exist to create self-organizing society. Without all five, we would have never been able to create tribes and governments. Perhaps there would still only be anarchy. This stability sustains normal life and underpins the welfare of all.

I wonder in a historical context what red state vs blue state will really mean in the long run. Is 1960's era blue state liberal ideology a temporary and necessary concept in order to bring fairness and civil rights for all? Or is red state conservative ideology an anachronism now in the time of a fully multicultural, interconnected, global, modern society?

PS, TED is using Posterous. Subscribe to the TED Blog Posterous and welcome them to the neighborhood. =)

Conformity is hard-wired into the brain

You're in a room with 10 other people who seem to agree on something, but you hold the opposite view. Do you say something? Or do you just go along with the others?

via CNN on Why So Many Minds Think Alike

Neuroscientists have experimentally confirmed that the brain reacts to disagreements with the larger group in a similar manner to punishment. Groupthink exists, and exists on a massive scale. This makes more and more sense in the mass media age where we consume the same media (NY Times, TechCrunch, and Hacker News for me) and read the same forums and talk about all the same ideas. While the Internet revolution has brought many more voices to the foreground and reduced the role of traditional media (1000 channels on TV instead of 5, 1 million blogs instead of 1 local newspaper), this effect still plays out heavily throughout society. Whenever there is a crowd, there will be group consensus.

The CNN article mentions that groupthink will overwhelm even obviously correct thinking: "The most famous experiments in the field were conducted by Solomon Asch in the 1950s. He found that many people gave incorrect answers about matching lines printed on cards, echoing the incorrect answers of the actors in the room."

This is significant for entrepreneurs. Apple was absolutely on to something when it said: Think Different. Why think different? Because the masses are wrong. (In fact, the masses are asses. =) ) And this is why many startups and entrepreneurs are perceived to be pursuing inane, crazy or irrelevant ideas. Prevailing wisdom isn't, and it takes a crazy dreamer to ignore the massive and overwhelming tidal wave of group think.

Impostor syndrome

Regardless of what level of success they may have achieved in their chosen field of work or study or what external proof they may have of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced internally they do not deserve the success they have achieved and are actually frauds. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they were more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

--Impostor syndrome via Wikipedia via Hacker News Comment
via Dustin Curtis's blog post about The Rich and Powerful

The existence and recognition of the existence of such a syndrome can also lead to delusion / inflated ego. Just as some people really have achieved great things by their own talent and merit, some people certainly have succeeded through luck alone. Well, at least once. =)