Getting something you want'êa promotion, money, a new car'êbrings happiness for only a short period. After six months, one is usually less happy than before. In the latest issue of The New England Journal of Despair Dr. H. G. Rector proposes the SUR theory to explain this phenomenon.
An associate professor of psychopathology at Boston University, Dr. Rector contends that happiness is most affected by one'ês Suck-Up Ratio (SUR), that is the ratio of people to whom you have to suck up (suckupees) to the people who suck up to you (suckupors). Happiness decrease as you must suck up to more people and increases as more suck up to you.
However, the relationship is not even. Dr. Rector'ês research reveals that it takes at least five additional suckupors to offset the pain of a single new suckupee. This explains why getting what you want can decrease happiness. Consider three examples:
Promotion: A corporate controller is promoted to Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Previously she needed to suck up to her boss, the then CFO, and the CEO. In turn, 14 employees sucked up to her producing a happy 7:1 SUR. Now as CFO, she must suck up to the CEO plus the nine members of the board of directors. At best she will add 16 new suckupors in the finance department. Her SUR is now 3:1 and she is miserable.
Money: Suppose through a windfall'êwinning the lottery, receiving a government bailout, or robbing a bank'êyou receive $100 million. You are immediately invited to join the board of a prestigious non-profit institution. Fifteen board members suck up to you, hoping you will write checks to this and other non-profits. Ten consider you an arriviste and expect you to suck up to them.
To maintain 5:1 SUR you need to attract 35 additional suckupors. Attempting to do so you join another board with the same result and are now 79 suckupors short. You are now rich and unhappy.
The above scenario may not hold in all locations. For example, in Seattle social climbing is unknown for the same reasons mountaineering is unknown in Kansas'êthere is nowhere to climb. (We are talking about a town where 'êold money'ê means you invested in Amazon in 1997.)
A new car: You buy your dream car, A 1961 Ferrari Spider for $1,089,900. You now must suck up to Giancarlo, the mechanic on whom you are totally dependent. No one new sucks up to you because you are a fool.
Does this mean we should avoid obtaining things we desire? 'êI'êll tell you once I get tenure,'ê Dr. Rector replies.