Abundance without Attachment

This week, I attended Arthur Brooks’ Ath talk on “Abundance without Attachment.” The talk was initially titled, “How to Live Life like a Start-up,” but was later changed. Prior to the talk, I wondered why Brooks would change the talk from something attention-grabbing to the entrepreneurial spirits of CMC to one that was vague; however, by the end of the talk, it was clear why he had done so. The main crux of Brooks’ talk was on the formula to happiness. While there are many economists and businessmen explaining their steps to living a entrepreneurial lifestyle, there are few that elaborate on the importance of happiness.

As a business and government professor with a Ph.D. and an M.Phil. in policy analysis from the Pardee RAND Graduate School, Brooks engaged the audience through his charismatic take on finding happiness in a capitalist society, making tradeoffs between relationships and career, and other relevant insight. Currently, he is the president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and a bestselling author.

Before his present accomplishments, Brooks spent 12 years as a classical musician. His transition to economics came after his desire to find a solution to poverty. During his trips to India, capitalism became hard evidence of a powerful tool that lifted poor nations from deep poverty. Brooks then decided that he wanted to be a part of the solution and started his career switch.

The question remains: what does the title even mean? The best way to describe “Abundance without Attachment” in western words is “If you love something, set it free.” Brooks argues that capitalism is not evil. Capitalism is a machine run by people, who can be good or not. The abundance of money that rises through capitalism is not bad; however, the distinction is that the attachment to the abundance of money is what causes dissatisfaction.

What should we value instead? Brooks talks about the four aspects to the formula for happiness, which includes pouring ourselves into:

  1. Faith
  2. Family
  3. Community
  4. Meaningful Work

Brooks’ formula for happiness was not groundbreaking to me since it wasn’t the first time I’ve learned about it. I’ve heard about it from my parents, read about it from psychology experiments, and witnessed it firsthand through the fulfillment of my decade-long friendships and sharing life stories with strangers while traveling abroad. However, coming from Brooks, whose background is intertwined in both music and economics (such as mine), the advice hit close to home. Brooks’ talk was a great reminder to continue prioritizing what is most important in life.

Didn’t make it to the talk? Check out the link featuring Arthur Brooks’ commentary on TED.

By: Sharon Chiang