Grand Canyon sunset | James Brandon

Money, Happiness and Doing What You Love | The Endless Delusion

Six years ago today I was sitting at a desk working at Bank of America as a personal banker and loan officer. It was a means to an end, nothing more; the pursuit of a paycheck by any means necessary. I was dead inside. I always felt bad about hating it because I would always remind myself of how fortunate I was to have this white collar job, selling everything from free savings accounts to multi million dollar homes. People think that if you’re making money, you are blessed.

I’m here to tell you that mindset is bull crap.

Why haven’t we ever learned this and moved on? Why is the pursuit of happiness so synonymous with the pursuit of wealth? Every single day I turn on the news and hear about some celebrity who committed suicide, ended up in rehab, got a divorce or ended up in prison because of a DWI. These are the people that seemingly have it all; endless wealth, mansions, italian sport cars, closets full of designer clothes, butlers, private jets, private islands, yachts…the entire world at their fingertips. They are undoubtedly also doing what they love, whether that be acting, singing or being paid tens of millions of dollars to play a sport. So why are they all so damn unhappy?

Get ready because I’m about to lose some followers. That’s ok. There are three things that I believe contribute to true and lasting happiness. Here they are…

A Strong Family Life

Four Generations | James Brandon

Four generations in one photo. My wife, her grandfather, her father and our son 🙂

A while back I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Happiness.” It discussed a survey that found that the average American is no more happy than a person living in the slums of Bombay, India. This should be an absolutely shocking revelation fore most people. How can this be? Well, like I said before; wealth, fame, endless riches…all of that means literally nothing if you’re dead inside and alone. The reason that people in the slums are at the same level of happiness is because (despite their current conditions) they all for the most part have large and close knit families. Strong families support each other, they love each other, they keep each other humble and they are always there for each other in times of need. That trumps everything else that you can gain from being rich and having things.

The Decision To Be Happy

Super Cell Near Ardmore, Oklahoma

Storms make me happy 🙂

The pursuit of happiness is foolish. It’s an ever-moving target if you think about it as something you must go out and find. Happiness starts with a decision to be happy. That’s it. If you are reading this sentence then it is almost guaranteed that you have a computer. That also means that you have a roof over your head. You most likely eat three meals a day (at least) and have a way to get from point A to point B when needed. You also probably have family members who love you, regardless of your current relationship with them. All of that put together means that you are literally amongst the wealthiest people on this planet. When you can truly put all of that into perspective, you’d be a fool not to be happy.

Keeping up with the Jones’s is a fools errand. Stop spending money you don’t have to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t even like. You know what I’ve discovered in my brief time here on Earth? It’s this: nobody gives a crap what kind of car you drive, how big your house is or how much money or influence you have. Going broke in order to impress other people is one of the most backwards-thinking ideologies in existence. Once you’ve “impressed” someone, now what? What did you accomplish? Well, here’s what you accomplished: You made that person feel inferior. Good job.

A True Relationship With God

Balanced Rock Sunset | Arches National Park

Sunsets like this one are enough to make me believe.

This is obviously going to be the controversial item of the bunch but I don’t really understand why; most polls show that 90% of Americans believe in a god. Here’s the thing though: Believing in a god or “being a Christian” doesn’t equal having a relationship with God. Going to church doesn’t mean you have a relationship with God. There are people within the church, people in church leadership…who are just as miserable as the celebrities I mentioned earlier. Again, being a Christian and believing in God doesn’t make you any happier or better off than anyone else. When you actually accept Christ into your heart and start seeing the world through His eyes and start knowing Him; you begin to realize that you are never alone and therefore never lonely. You’re self worth is no longer tied up in the people you know, the number of zeroes on your checks, or the size of your house.

For those who have been hurt by Christians I would say this: How a person treats you has nothing to do with the God they claim to represent. A hypocritical church or a hypocritical church leader doesn’t equal a hypocritical God. People are capable of terrible things, we all know that. People have done horrific things in the name of faith but that’s because the people doing those things are horrific people and have twisted views on just about everything. The crusaders and Mother Theresa all believed in the same God. The difference was not the God they served. The crusaders were evil people with twisted minds and Mother Theresa was a good and righteous person. That’s it. There is so much more to it than that but I assume that you’re either going to be with me or against on this. If you want to discuss it further, feel free message me.

Conclusion

In the beginning of this post I mentioned my time as a banker and how I was dead inside. I left that job in the pursuit of happiness and became a photographer. Years later I found myself shooting weddings and everything else you could think of. I was no more happy than I was at the bank. Now I’ve all but stopped taking clients and am focusing on what I truly love; capturing the beauty of this world and teaching others how to do the same. That certainly helps with the whole happiness thing (doing what I truly love to do) but it fades in comparison to the three things on that list above.

I’m fully aware that some people will see the last point on that list and get upset. I certainly don’t claim to know everything and I absolutely don’t claim to have all the answers. But what good I have found in my life, I want to share it. It’s up to you whether or not you will receive it.

This photo also makes me happy, and that’s why I used it for this post 🙂