Steve Jobs, the late billionaire cofounder of Apple. In the late 1990s, the internet created thousands of millionaires — and a handful of billionaires — in Silicon Valley.
The entrepreneurs who rode the wave early and bailed out before it crashed in the early aughts suddenly found themselves in an unfamiliar position: having worked 80-hour weeks at internet startups for the past few years, they now no longer needed to work at all. Ever.
For the millionaires, smart financial planning meant a comfortable life and the freedom to pursue new things.
For the billionaires, champagne baths every morning and new Lamborghinis every afternoon couldn't deplete the fathomless amount of cash on hand. "Your entire philosophy of money changes," writes author Richard Frank in his book, "Richistan." "You realize that you can't possibly spend all of your fortune, or even part of it, in your lifetime, and that your money will probably grow over the years even if you spend lavishly."
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBillionaire Mark Cuban is the owner of NBA team the Dallas Mavericks. There are dotcom entrepreneurs who could live top 1% American lifestyles and not run out of cash for 4,000 years. People who Bill Simmons would call "pajama rich," so rich they can go to a five-star restaurant or sit courtside at the NBA playoffs in their pajamas. They have so much money that they have nothing to prove to anyone.
And the strange thing is that a striking number of them get totally depressed.
Have you ever swung on the Olympic rings at a playground jungle gym? Kids — especially short ones, like I was — have to jump to grab the first ring and then swing like a pendulum in order to reach the next. To get to the third ring, they have to use the momentum from the previous swing to keep going. If you hold on to the previous ring too long, you'll stop and wouldn't be able to get enough speed to reach the next ring.
This is Isaac Newton's first law of motion at work: objects in motion tend to stay in motion, unless acted on by external forces. Once you start swinging, it's easier to keep swinging than to slow down.
The problem with sudden success, it turns out, is that it can be like having someone lift you up to grab onto one of the Olympic rings. Even though you get dropped off somewhere far along the chain, you're stuck in one spot.
Financial planners say that this is why a surprisingly high percentage of the rapidly wealthy get depressed. As therapist Manfred Kets de Vries once put it in an interview with The Telegraph, "When money is available in near-limitless quantities, the victim sinks into a kind of inertia."
Wait — the victim? We're calling the courtside pajama guy a victim?
It's hard to feel entirely sorry for him, but in a sense, yes. For him, life has stopped moving forward. When businesspeople cash out big, says wealth coach Susan Bradley, "Momentum has been building for a while. Then there's this moment that it's over, and all the champagne is gone, and there's this feeling of this drop into an abyss. It's like the beams of a house have gone away and you have to build from the inside out. That sense is paralyzing. It actually affects our cognitive functioning."
I'm pretty sure that acquiring a billion dollars would solve all my problems. However, studies show that the wealthy — especially those who fall into it through inheritance or the lottery or sale of a business — are often not happier once they're rich. A meaningful percentage of them believe that their wealth causes more problems than it solves.
Photographer: Neil ArmstrongBuzz Aldrin walks on the moon. If you want to get really depressed about success, look at what happened to the heroic astronauts of the 1960s and '70s. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon, returned home from the historic Apollo 11 mission and became an alcoholic. Severely depressed, his life unraveled. Aldrin burned through three marriages and wrote two memoirs about his misery.
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.
Courtesy of Shane SnowShane Snow is author of new book "Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success."
This is helpful to know when motivating employees. But it also hints at what billionaires and astronauts can do to stave off the depression that follows the high of getting to the top.
To get out of the funk, say Joan DiFuria and Stephen Goldbart, cofounders of the Money, Meaning & Choices Institute, depressed successes simply have to start the Olympic rings over. This is why so many people who don't need more money still create new businesses. It's why others parlay their success sideways to get into philanthropy. And it's why billionaires like Groupon's Andrew Mason and Microsoft's Paul Allen start bands. Even if their subsequent endeavors are small, they can hold depression at bay by making progress on, well, anything.
They don't have to do something bigger or better to be happy. They just have to keep moving.
This is what psychologist Karl Weick of the University of Michigan calls "Small Wins." "A small win is a concrete, complete, implemented outcome of moderate importance," he wrote in a seminal paper for American Psychologist in 1984. "Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win."
Not every astronaut struggled post-space like Buzz Aldrin did. Earth orbiter John Glenn went into politics. Alan Shepard, America's first man in space and the fifth to stand on the moon, became a successful businessman. Alan Bean, who moonwalked in the Apollo 12 mission, became a painter. And Apollo 15 spaceman James Irwin found fulfillment in helping others as a minister. Each parlayed his momentum into something that kept the wheels of life turning.
For someone who's suffering from a lack of momentum, discouragement comes in part from a feeling of a lack of control. "Small wins are controllable opportunities that produce visible results," Weick says. And that's all it takes to start feeling better.
Shane Snow is author of new book "Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/psychology-of-success-why-billionaires-get-depressed-2014-9#ixzz3EXFnArp1