Money is an amazing motivator; it causes us to do astonishing things. Like grind it out in boring jobs, take unusual risks, sacrifice our values, and ignore our families, as well as inspiring us to greatness, to invention, innovation and charity. But does it make us happy?
I met a rich bloke once who answered the question like this: "No." And he gave his reasons. He envied people like me with four kids, a mortgage and school fees. I had purpose. I had passion. I had a father's drive to deliver, financially, for his family. What a task. What a reason to get up every day. What greater purpose?
I was lucky, he said. I had something to live for, a direction, a focus, a knowledge that every day I would set out to succeed. I had the excuse to exercise my brain every day, to constantly develop my intellectual assets.
That's what set me on course, what put me in contact with the interesting, the exciting and the possible. It is what drove me to be innovative, competitive and enterprising. The pursuit of that feeling that you have delivered, handsomely, for your family.
Simply put, it was the challenge of leading an everyday life. He was jealous. For him, it was different. He had no mortgage. School fees were a blip. He found it hard to develop purpose and passion. He rolled slowly out of bed in the mornings. Sometimes he didn't. His intellect was dwindling. He gambled. He had no great purpose. He felt unlucky. He had already delivered for his family. Money bored him and he bored his wife. He was rich. But he was not happy.
There are a few reactions to this story but the most common one is probably why not? Why shouldn't he be happy?
So here is quote from Abd Er-Rahman III of Spain in 960AD to answer that question. "I have reigned for 50 years in victory and in peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to 14."
When the Lord visits you on your deathbed and asks you what you have done in your life that's worthwhile, what will you say? Climbing Everest? Making your first million? Because for many of us money, success and achievement are irrelevant.
Would Bill Gates give up everything he has ever done for the safety of one of his children? You bet he would. The more connections you make in life the more you get out of it. People are your excuse to strive, thrive, to live. An excuse to exercise the fullest extent of your effort and mind. It's our responsibilities that give us passion.
Anyone who has had a health scare, a brush with mortality, will tell you, life is finite and to be appreciated because it all might, suddenly, perhaps abruptly, end. An illness escaped can be a turning point. A minor epiphany, that we're all getting closer to popping our clogs every day. When you realise that, you put a bit more effort into being happy. It's more fun when you wake up just a little bit surprised that you did. In the shadow of death you live. What else are you going to do?
Stop and ask yourself, if you had all the time and all the money in the world, what would you do? You never know, unless you stop for a moment and ask, and you might just find you could be doing it already. Passion. Happiness is something or someone to be passionate about. Are you passionate about anything?
If happiness is an expectation met then a dream fulfilled is even better. You have to dream because most people who bother to pursue their dreams, achieve them. The crime is that they don't dream hard enough.
In the words of Ron Barassi, a master among men: "I don't respect talent, good looks, brains. I don't respect the things you are born with. I respect effort. Getting up in the morning and moving those arms and legs." Success through effort will make you happy. Success alone is not enough. Rich or poor we can have it all. Money, it seems, is only a small part of the equation. If that. What do you hope for? Are you happy? Or is money blocking all else out?
Marcus Padley is a stockbroker and the author of stock market newsletter Marcus Today. For a free trial go to marcustoday.com.au.