Rich, Happy and Creative: Interview with Tim Brownson

tim brownson how to be rich and happy author
It’s easy to associate creativity with being dirt poor. The term “starving artist” seems to play more often than “creative bajillionaire”.

(This could be because I just made the term up. Not sure.) Regardless, it seems there is a stigma in the creative community that you can’t be Rich and Happy and Creative at the same time.

Or can you? Other smart people like Danielle LaPorte know that money is crucial to creative success.

Tim Brownson’s fantastic book How to Be Rich and Happy turns everything we think we know about money, happiness and the relation to our Work upside down.

Tim was kind enough to answer some questions about how creative people might shift what they think about the relationship between money and happiness.

Glen: So, “rich” and “happy” are words that people might have weird associations with. In the book, you talk about how rich isn’t necessarily money, and happy isn’t necessarily, well, what we think makes us happy. Can you go a little further and tell us what you’ve found about the two words?

Tim: When John first mentioned the title to me I was really worried people would think it was a get rich quick scheme or even worse, a scam. It took me a long time to come to terms with the title because I’m a long way from being rich as most people define it, I don’t even own my own house!

It was John who finally convinced me when he said something like “Tim, you love your job, you walk the dogs when you want, you work when you want, you play golf when you want, you live in a house you love, you have good health and a lot of fun. Is that not a rich existence?”

He was right, I could go back to a 6-figure salaried job like I had before and I’d have more money, but I’d not feel richer.

Happiness is a tough one to define, after all, philosophers have wrestled with the concept for centuries and about all they have come up with, is that happiness is completely subjective and will mean different things to different people.

With the book we try to help people find out what will make THEM happy by studying their values and understanding what drives them at a level of identity. We also go to great pains to help people understand that happiness is never wrapped up in material things.

Glen: Why do people just stick with the status quo? What do you think keeps people from doing what they truly love?

Tim: The only constant in life is change, yet it’s the one thing most people tend to resist the hardest.

There are any number of reasons for this, not least of which is the fact that changes feels awkward. When we do any task for the first time we access our pre-frontal cortex. This area of the brain uses lots and lots of energy and gets tired very quickly. That’s why when you start a new job, no matter how similar it was to your previous job you’ll be exhausted at the end of the day. Everything has to be done at a conscious level to begin with and until the tasks become ingrained in longer-term memory it will take a lot of effort.

So doing nothing is often an easy option for people.

I also know peoples belief systems keep them stuck. The belief that they aren’t good enough, old enough, sexy enough, wealthy enough, tall enough, experienced enough or whatever other limiting belief they care to throw out there.

Often these beliefs go back years and are very difficult for them to break because in their own mind they see them as facts. If you think it’s a fact that you’re not clever enough to go to University, you’ll never apply.

If you then add fear of failure (or success) and apathy in to the mix you can see why most people prefer to stay inside their comfort zone as long as they can.

Glen:What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about humans and lifestyle choices? (I love all the studies and facts you’ve got sprinkled through the book.)

Tim: The Iowa Gambling Test was amazing, but I’m not going to go into that here as it would take to long (people will have to buy the book), but it shows the true power of our unconscious mind.

I think the stat that people who win a 7-figure lottery payout are statistically no happier 6 months after the event than people that were paralyzed in a road traffic accident is fairly mind-blowing.

I researched that from multiple sources because it was so amazing to me and I doubted its veracity.

The weird thing is, most people get that money doesn’t buy happiness, but they get it for other people, not for themselves. They’ll still take that well paid job they hate, or work insane overtime hours to afford a vacation or waste money on lottery tickets or whatever else they think will make them happy.

Once you drag people out of poverty, the link between wealth and happiness is so small as to be statistically irrelevant. If people can truly embrace that they’ll live a much happier and peaceful life.

Glen: What was your process for writing the book? Would you do anything differently next time? (We’re pretty interested in goal setting with respects to creative work around here.) :)

Tim: Oh man it was tortuous trying to marry our writing styles. John is a LOT more serious than I am as I use a lot of humor in my writing. He’s also a better technical writer than me as I tend to write the same way as I talk.

Originally we both wrote the material that we were the most comfortable with on our own and over a period of several months.

Then when we had done that, John took it all and slotted it in some type of order, but it just didn’t work at all. There were too many jokes and snarky comments in my writing and it was obvious when you were reading my stuff and when it was Johns. There was also a lack of flow to the book, it was
very disjointed.

At the time John was in China so trying to work anything out was tricky at best. When he got back we got together in my office to talk it through and had a huge breakthrough.

We decided to think of it more of a manual for life charting the course I would tend to walk an ‘average’ client through, rather than a book simply delivering ‘how-to’ information. Once we started to think about it in that light it was a lot easier.

We set mini-goals for different sections and an overall deadline to get the book finished and on the whole we stuck with these, but as we had nobody to answer to we were fairly relaxed about the process.

When we had it finished at about 100,000 words we went back in and ripped out 25,000 words. We wanted to make it uncondensible (made up word). Most self development books can be condensed into sometimes as little as a quarter of their original length without losing any of the message.

We were determined to remove any filler or anything that may slow down the flow of the book. Every story we have used or research we have referred to is necessary to get the individual messages across.

I think the process had to unfold as it did so I’m not sure I’d change anything although at the time I probably wanted to!

Glen: Your idea for giving away books is incredible. Can you explain a little about what it is and why you’re doing it?

Tim: When we sat down together after the book first came out as an ebook we started to talk about goals because up until then the only goal we’d had was to get the book finished and published.

John has had a couple of best sellers so we wanted to aim really high and decided we’d like to sell 1,000,000 copies which is a huge amount for a self-development title.

We ran the goal through the SMARTER method we explain in the book and got stuck on the last ‘R’. What was our reward for selling that amount of books?

I’m about as un-money motivated as it’s possible to be this side of kipping under a cardboard box, so I knew it wasn’t the money. John is well enough off to spend half his life traveling the globe, so money wasn’t the driving force for him either.

Then we asked ourselves why it is we do what we do? John speaks all over the world and I coach people all over the world. The answer came back that we love to help people and both get a huge buzz out of it.

What bigger buzz than to help people that wouldn’t normally be exposed to such material by giving them the book and hopefully positively impacting their lives.

At that point we knew our real goal and decided that 90% of every book we sold would go straight back in to printing up free copies to give to good causes. At the time of writing we have given over $60k’s worth of free books away, but we still have a looooong way to go to make this happen.

That’s also the reason you can’t buy the book from Amazon as they require 55% from each sale and that’s a non-starter for us. It’s also the reason we are self-published (much to the chagrin of our agent who could sell the rights tomorrow) as no publisher would be onboard with such a project.

I have had a couple of people tell me it’s just a clever marketing ploy, but that comes with the territory and the people that know us and matter to us get what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.


Check out How to Be Rich and Happy, and many thanks to the venerable life coach Tim Brownson for the awesome interview.

Leave a Comment

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Vina April 28, 2017, 8:44 pm

    Wow! So, Bennett finally believes that Obama is a liar? He is an idiot (actually, they are both idiots). What does this arrogant know-it-all now plan to do about it after admitting Obama to Ara&inoz#39;s ballot despite all the advice, warnings and pleadings to demand credible, verifiable, unambiguous evidence of Obama's eligibility to be POTUS?

  • November 12, 2010, 4:05 am

    Yes, almost same.

  • Graeme September 13, 2010, 7:31 am

    Wow, that’s incredible that you just gave away one of your titles like that. I’m not saying that it’s a “marketing ploy”, but I do see this as the direction for a lot of writers. Especially since they can make money from affiliates and advertising (especially if it’s an ebook) in the same way that most online services, like email, have done by going in that direction.

    Props for having the belief systems and fearlessness to make that decision.

    • Willie April 30, 2017, 6:26 am

      Help, I’ve been informed and I can’t become ignanort.

  • Karl Staib - Work Happy Now September 7, 2010, 8:30 pm

    Living a rich life is not about having a huge bank account. Having a rich life is feeling fulfilled by the work, friends, and family in our lives. It’s a shame that more people don’t realize this. More people need to read your book.

    It does come back to beliefs. We need to believe that our lives don’t equate to dollars they equate to love. We can’t break this habit in a few days this takes many years.

    Great interview. Thanks Glen and Tim.