Get All Access for $5/mo

The Key to Happiness: More Work and Less Stuff Learn to live simply. You will find rewards in surprising places.

By Steve Tobak Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

On a comedy TV show the other night, there was a scene with a bunch of stereotypical Millennials throwing an "unemployment party" for a friend who lost his job and got to kick back collecting unemployment insurance for six months.

The partygoers were portrayed as free-spirited, self-absorbed freegans who mostly sat around immersed in their smartphones and eating food they dug out of restaurant dumpsters. At least they drank unused beer. Whew.

One of the show's characters, a somewhat more mature sports agent named Phil, got into an illuminating chat with a couple of the younger guys:

Phil: So, what do you do?
Millennial 1: What I do is not define myself by what I do.
Phil: OK. Well then how do you pay for things?
Millennial 1: What, is money your only benchmark for judging a person's value in society?
Millennial 2: You think you're better than us because you have "a job?" [Gestures with air quotes]

The thing is, that definitely could have been a scene right out of my own college days way back in the Dark Ages. Except for the freegan thing, that is. Sure, I ate two-day-old pizza lying around my college dorm room, but I drew the line at dumpster food.

Related: 6 Epic Online Fails and How to Avoid Them

As a young man I did everything I could to scrape by without working and, since I didn't have much growing up, I wasn't really interested in material things. Besides, all most of us hippie-kids cared about back then was sex, drugs and rock and roll.

What changed? I grew up. I wanted to make something of my life. I wanted to have a family and provide for them. I wanted to be successful. I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I wanted my wife to be proud of me. And I wanted to be proud of myself.

Having accomplished all that – by climbing the corporate ladder and working my tail off for many years in "a job," mind you – I have the means to own a lot of things people covet. The funny thing is I don't. I live a relatively simple and uncluttered life. I'm happy that way.

Don't get me wrong. We have a nice home, but we don't have second and third homes like so many of our contemporaries do. We've lived in the same place for 20 years and we do a lot of work around the property that wealthy people hire others to do. It's hard work but it's outdoors, sort of fun and good exercise, too.

We have a lot more time to enjoy life because we're not going back and forth, moving into and out of, or buying and selling all the homes we don't have.

Related: 7 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Do

We have two cars and a pickup truck that are 8, 11 and 14 years old but they all run well. Why get new cars?

The other day I was advising a friend on which smartphone to buy and she was shocked to learn that I didn't already have an iPhone 6. She said, "You're a high-tech guy from the high-tech industry and you write about technology. How come you don't have the latest and greatest?"

"Because getting and converting to new stuff is a pain in the butt," I said. "If it does what I need it to do and it works fine, I'm happy. And I stick with it until I'm not. Less is more. Simple as that."

Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching teaches, "If you want to be free, learn to live simply." Smart guy, that Lao Tzu.

So why work so hard? Because having "a job," working hard, loving what you do, accomplishing great things, meeting your goals and being successful are all their own rewards. So is providing for your family and keeping them safe, healthy and comfortable.

On the other hand, thinking you're so free-spirited that you don't need to work and eating food out of a dumpster is not my idea of freedom. And neither is being a slave to material things. If you want to be happy, work more and own less. Simple as that.

Related: The One Trait Successful Entrepreneurs Have In Common

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at, where you can contact him and learn more.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Side Hustle

This 26-Year-Old's Side Hustle That 'Anybody Can Do' Grew to Earn $170,000 a Month. Here's What Happened When I Tested It.

Stephen Alvarez was working at a dental supply company and following his passion for cars on the side — then an Instagram ad changed everything.

Business News

Lauren Sánchez Says This Is the One Thing 'People Don't Really Know' About Her Fiancé Jeff Bezos

Sánchez was interviewed by her longtime friend, actor and producer Eva Longoria.

Business News

Costco Is Raising Hourly Wages for Employees, According to an Internal Memo from the CEO

In an internal memo sent on Monday, CEO Ron Vachris informed employees of the $1 an hour pay raise.

Science & Technology

3 Metrics That Matter When Measuring the Success of Your PR Campaigns

ROI is always the goal in public relations. But did you know there are ways to measure it quantitatively rather than just assess it qualitatively? Here are some options to consider to automate and calculate the impact of your PR efforts.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Growing a Business

5 Lessons Learned From a 7-Figure Founder

Five key lessons I wish someone had given me when I first started out on my entrepreneurial journey.