As children we’re often encouraged to be leaders not followers. We’re discouraged from hanging with the wrong crowd and falling prey to the pitfalls and dangers of peer pressure. As children we want to feel a sense of belonging. We want to be accepted by our peers. We want to be part of the in crowd—the cool people. As a result, as children we engage in many things that we grow to regret as adults. Unfortunately, many adults are still dealing with the scars and wounds brought on by decisions made in their younger years. Decisions that were made for the sole purpose of winning the respect of people they thought were cool, hip and popular.
These wounds include incarceration, teen pregnancy, alcohol and substance abuse and high school and college dropouts. There’s something about appearance. We long to be accepted. We eagerly pursue compliments. We want others to say, “You go girl” or “You go boy,” “He’s the man,” “She’s got it going on,” “They’re doing big things.” There’s a degree of vanity in all of us.
Sophisticated marketers have always known that there’s still a child who lives in all adults. The child’s name is immaturity. Sophisticated marketers create commercials and ads that impress upon our minds their ideology of success. We’ve been pitched the idea that you have to accumulate certain material possessions to be recognized as one who’s made it. The bigger your house, the faster your car, the more radiant your diamonds, the more luxurious your other toys determine your status in life. We mistakenly believe that as we accumulate these items, we’ll find ever-growing happiness.
I’m sure you’ve gone through a similar experience known as “I’ll be happy.” “I’ll be happy when I buy that big screen TV.” “I’ll be happy when I buy my dream car.” “I’ll be happy when I purchase my new house.” You’re excited when you first bought your dream item. Once the novelty wears off, you learn that you’re void of the happiness you thought your dream prize would bring you. Many of us wander through life chasing both status and happiness only to end up broke and wondering what happened.
There’s an old saying—“The happiest people don’t necessary have the best of everything. They make the best of everything.” We fail to realize that material possessions and exotic vacations create fun and good times—not happiness. Happiness comes when you begin to appreciate what you have in life and work hard to make it better. Success isn’t measured by what you do or acquire in comparison to others. Success is measured by what you do and acquire in comparison to what you have to potential to do and acquire.
Adult peer pressure is best stated in the old maxim “Keeping up with the Joneses.” Who are the Joneses? The Joneses are an illusionary model of success.
We measure our relationship to the Joneses—our closeness to success by trying to outdo, outshine, outspend our neighbors, colleagues, church members, alumnus, friends and relatives. We do this in a feeble attempt to win the respect and approval of others. Respect is earned not bought.
Statistically speaking, 70 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, 96 percent of Americans retire or die broke and the average American is saving less than two cents of every dollar earned. Reviewing published financial statistics and knowing that you can’t buy happiness and you can’t buy respect, should make it obvious that the Joneses are broke and unhappy.
I want you to take an honest look at yourself and ask if you’ve been influenced by adult peer pressure. Have you ever spent money you didn’t have or bought something that you couldn’t realistically afford in pursuit of happiness and/or respect? Financial counselor Dave Ramsey says, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” If you are currently experiencing adult peer pressure understand that you can never achieve true happiness or respect if it’s derived from the validation of other people. There’s nothing inherently wrong with acquiring nice luxurious stuff when the reasoning, timing and money is right.
I can attest to being a victim of adult peer pressure. When I initially started my business I decided to grow it slowly by not taking out any loans and continuing to work a full-time job. When I decided to work my business full-time, I heard the constant whispers from family and friends about not having a “real job.” They would often ask, “When are you going back to work?” “Do you need anything?” “Are you and your family going to be okay?”
Some were very straightforward and warned me about the statistics of small businesses failing. These may have been legitimate concerns. However, my prideful nature did not see it that way. I took it as if these people who I respected and admired did not believe in me. Not knowing at the time, I did various things to get these people to respect and approve of my business decision. I wanted them to think I’ve made it. I longed to hear “You go boy.”
Whenever I closed on a decent size deal, I would make copies of the check and frame it so people could see that my business was making money. Whenever I had friends or family visits during working hours, I would act as if I was overwhelmed with work. During this time, I purchased a brand new car just to show them that my business was a “real job.”
A funny thing happens after the novelty wears off and you received the compliments from friends and family. You wake up and realize the Joneses don’t pay your bills.
(Damon Carr is owner of ACE Financial. He can be reached at 412-856-1183 or visit his Web site at www.allcreditexperts.com.)