Is wealth really the key to happiness, or is it something deeper?
I know lots of rich people. Not like big house, nice car rich; I mean rich as in wildly, audaciously, mind numbingly buy-the-world rich.
I know poor people, folks who wake up everyday with a singular purpose: to find a way to eat.
I know middle path folks, people who make enough, spend enough, do some good, have some fun, struggle occasionally but don’t wake up in the night panicked (mostly).
I have a good friend who once bought a $900,000 boat, and when we pulled it into his “boat garage”, I mentioned it looked like he had another one just like it. He responded, “Oh man, I forgot.”
I have a good friend who considers any available couch his home. Everything he owns fits in his Fiat, and there is still room for me to ride along.
Both these guys are authentically happy. They both serve the world in their own way. The rich boat dude employs countless people—I actually think he has a person who retrieves cash each morning from the bank and delivers it to him, his “pocket money” for the day. He makes the world beautiful by building things, and he helps people all the time in indirect ways.
If I needed anything, I am certain he would send a brigade of planes around the world to retrieve it—I’ve seen him spontaneously buy someone a house, a car, even a dog.
The homeless Fiat guy travels around, teaching people meditation. He is so singularly focused on adding more love to the world that he has dedicated his entire life to helping people find a mindfulness practice, and to sharing the benefits of loving-kindness and finding peace within. He only owns a guitar, a bike, his car and a couple articles of clothing.
I know people with amazing jobs, who travel the world and get paid to have amazing adventures, whose every dream has come true. But I’ve noticed one thing about these people I know, from the art buyer, whose budget often exceeds 10 million a week, to the guy who stocks the supplies in the bathroom of every Mobil Gas Station in a 100 mile radius of Chicago:
All are sincerely, authentically happy.
I know the most beautiful people who think they are ugly and the most ugly people who radiate a joy and beauty that blows people away.
I know people who leave every job and every relationship because it’s awful and hard and “other” people are always creating an unhealthy environment.
I know people who believe that every room is a classroom and every person a teacher.
My kid has friends who come from “perfect” families, but who are addicts, and sort of gross, and getting bruised from top to bottom by the struggle of this life.
My kid has friends who come from the craziest family environments I’ve ever seen, but who are the kindest, most radiant and wonderful humans I’ve encountered.
I’ve traveled the world and had lots of things, and lived a life lots of people want, but have been really miserable, feeling horrible about my life and myself.
I’ve had everything fall apart. Everything I know has blown up or not worked, and I’ve struggled to navigate through this life for the next hour, not even trying to make it a whole day. But I’ve been seriously happy and joyful and radiant and kind in the midst of it all.
I’ve traveled across the world to the most beautiful beach and not noticed any beauty in it. I’ve been in the slums, the graffiti plastered underpasses of the inner city, and been completely overwhelmed by how beautiful this life is.
I’ve been rich—financially rich and spiritually rich. I’ve been broke—financially broke and spiritually broke.
But amidst all the ups and downs, happiness was present.
I still find myself contemplating if my happiness is a result of the resources I have to support it. Certainly that’s part of it. Resources do support happiness, let’s be honest. Money can make things easier and can free you up to do other things that support happiness.
But it’s not essential—not even close.
As I review what I know, as I consider all the people I’ve met, as I remember my own happiness and struggle, I become certain that happiness is within us and is accessible in any environment.
When I think about what my rich boat friend and my homeless Fiat friend each want, it’s the same. When we hang out, they want my time, kindness, respect. They want to feel heard and appreciated. They want to laugh and cry together, to feel a deep connection and to experience joy.
It’s what I want too.
I suspect it’s universal.
At the end of the day, how that happens, where it happens, and what resources it takes doesn’t seem all that relevant.
Tyler Lewke tried the simple life. It wasn’t for him. Instead, he’s an unlikely CEO and hard core believer in spirit at work. He’s irreverent and adventurously kind, committed to conscious living and helping wake up the world. On any given day, you can find him hiking the pacific coast, writing his daily blog at postsfromthepath.com, or in a board room in the Midwest redefining business as usual. Reach him at [email protected].
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Asst. Ed: Jessica Wallin/Ed: Bryonie Wise