The Monk With A Ferrari
In this post, I share the deeply personal meaning behind my Monk with a Ferrari tagline. Representing my desire to find a balance between ambition and personal satisfaction, the Monk with a Ferrari ideal symbolises my journey to becoming happier. I end by sharing a solution to finding a balance between ambition and happiness that worked for me.
If you are reading this, you have probably seen my tagline ‘Monk with a Ferrari’, which represents my ultimate goal in life. All I ever want to be is a Monk with a Ferrari. Most people think that it’s a kitschy tagline I came up with to sound cool. I mean, it does sound cool, but there is more to it.
When I was little, my dad had a book on his shelf that was titled ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.’ I didn’t understand why the monk had to sell his Ferrari. I had asked my dad, “Why can’t he be a monk with a Ferrari.” I don’t remember what he said, but I still remember asking him that.
As I grew up, I became someone who believed that happiness was a zero-sum game. I think like an economist – to get something you have to give something. I thought that in order to be successful you had to put your happiness on the back burner. If you wanted to be happy, you’d have to give up your ambitions. Worst of all, I had made my happiness contingent on my success.
I didn’t think you could have both. And boy, was I wrong?
I eventually realized that I wasn’t as happy as I deserved to be. And it wasn’t like I was going to wake up one day having found happiness. I knew I had to find a solution.
The problem with making happiness contingent on success is that ambition is boundless, and happiness from success is fleeting. I was never going to stop wanting the next best thing. And once I had it, I wouldn’t be satisfied for long. I dreamed of going to Harvard for so long. I thought I would be happy once I was in. I got in, and I was happy for a while, but then I shifted my focus. Now I wanted to get into different organizations, get a good internship, the list goes on. It’s the same story for many goals. Once you accomplish them, they become your new normal. Psychologists call this phenomenon hedonic adaptation - no matter how positive (or negative) something is, it cannot keep us feeling happy (or sad) for an extended period of time because we adapt to the changes.
Let’s get one thing straight - there is nothing wrong with having ambitions and wanting more. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make more money, or buying your dream car, etc. Wanting more isn’t the problem. The problem is making your happiness contingent on getting what you want. Sure, putting a limit on your dreams is a gross injustice to yourself, but the greatest injustice of all is limiting how happy you can be today and every day forward. You can be a monk with a Ferrari.
If I took the word of some inspirational account on Instagram, I would have bought some story about ‘it’s the journey and not the destination that matters.’ By that logic, it shouldn’t matter whether I was driving a Ferrari or a secondhand Honda as long as the road to both were equally pleasurable. If the destination didn’t matter then I wouldn’t be ambitious, I wouldn’t keep running on the hedonic adaptation treadmill.
Here is the thing though. Those inspirational quotes about finding joy in the journey have merit. Is the Ferrari really worth it if you are going to miserable in your pursuit of it? The journey and the destination matter.
It took me a long time to realize that my journey was not pleasurable because I was picking the wrong destination. My ambitions were misdirected. It was making it a choice between being the monk or the Ferrari.
So how in God’s name was I to become a monk with a Ferrari? The answer was surprisingly simple. Find the right destination. I started asking myself just one question before choosing my goals. Would I do it EVEN IF it did not bring with it any gain? Would I take that class even if I didn’t get an A? Would I want that job if it didn’t pay as much?
Removing the reward from the equation left me making choices that were intrinsically rewarding. I still wanted to get A’s and make money, but I was willing to put in the work even if I may end up failing. Asking the question made me stop worrying about the outcome and start focusing on the process. It helped me start spending my time doing things because I wanted to.
The Ferrari is a metaphor. But, for me, it is also a tangible goal. And so, I will leave you with the questions that I ask myself rather often. Would I still want the Ferrari even if it would bring me only fleeting happiness and I may look kinda weird driving it when I’m not in my roaring 20’s? HECK YA. But would I let my current lack and active pursuit of a Ferrari stop me from being a maximally happy, latte drinking, Lululemon clad monk today? Not a chance.