By Barry Maher
We all know that you can’t buy your way to happiness. Every guru and every religion teaches that—often right before they pass the collection plate. But we all keep trying. There’s certainly nothing wrong with achieving financial security. But is that all you really want?
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature . . . Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
That’s a great quote. Helen Keller said it. But I don’t think you have to go through what she did to appreciate life as a daring adventure; it shouldn’t even be an advantage.
Recent studies are proving that those who make affluence their focus in life experience an unusually high degree of anxiety and depression, as well as more behavioral problems and even more physical problems than the population in general. Dr. Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at University of Rochester, calls this “the dark side of the American dream,” adding that our culture seems to be built on the very factors that are detrimental to our mental well-being. “The more we seek satisfaction in material goods, the less we find them there,” says Ryan. And the satisfactions we do find are very fleeting.
Ted Turner’s father was a man who achieved his main goal in life—becoming a millionaire—and felt there was nothing left for him to do. Turner believes that was at least part of the reason he killed himself at 53.
The problem of course is not affluence. Nothing wrong with being rich. I would never say there was. First of all, I’d like to be rich myself. Secondly, nobody would pay the slightest bit of attention if I did say it. For good, bad or indifferent, we live in a world where Jesus CEO has taken precedence over the Jesus who said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. I don’t know that that’s necessarily a bad development. I’ve never found poverty to be, in itself, particularly ennobling. In any case, my business is about helping people get what they want, not trying to convince them to want what I think they should.
Still, as far as I can see, affluence itself isn’t the problem; I wish the whole world were affluent. The problem seems to come in what Dr. Ryan calls, “living a life where affluence is your focus.”
Someone once said that life is like juggling in your bare feet. You’ve got five balls in the air: work, family, health, friends and spirit. Work’s a rubber ball. Drop it and it will bounce back. (I don’t think this guy ever worked for some of the companies I’ve worked for, but you get the idea.) The other four balls are made of glass. Drop them and you’ll be walking around on broken glass for the rest of your life. And you’re probably not going to be doing a lot of dancing.
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