What money can't buy: Seven things that really matter in life
As we get back into the daily routine, it's worth recognising there are many things money can't buy.
Let's pretend we have succeeded in the stockmarket. We are rich. We have gone beyond money and its status. What could now elude us in the pursuit of happiness?
Here are a few things on the shopping list, things that money cannot deliver.
Imagine you are standing at the side of the road and a bus is coming. In the middle of the road, oblivious to their impending death, is a person.
You have the option: watch them get run over or push them out of the way and get run over yourself. You or them. No other options. Is there anyone in the world you would step off the kerb for? That's love. Worth more than your life, let alone money.
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? Not so for parents. For parents it's easy. You simply rattle off the names of the kids. They are, annoyingly, more important than anything else.
Money, success, achievement? 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 liabilities (kids) you stack on yourself in life the more you get out of it. Liabilities are your excuse to strive. An excuse to exercise the fullest extent of your mind. It's our responsibilities that give us passion.
Anyone who has had a health scare, a brush with mortality, will tell you that life is finite and to be appreciated because it all might suddenly 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 have to laugh. What else are you going to do?
4. Carpe diem
A photographer turned up at the office the other day wearing a well-worn but tailor-made suit. He was on the other side of 60 and didn't have the equipment you would normally expect of a professional photographer. Something was wrong.
Turns out he had recently retired "rich" as a partner of a major accounting firm and with the cosmos at his feet he had finally taken the time to work out what he really wanted to do: photography, a career he had passed up at university in preference to a degree more suited to his grades, accountancy, and for 45 years of uncreative desk-bound number crunching he harboured the regret. So with all the time and all the money in the world he had gone back to university to fulfill his destiny.
Admirable stuff, but the shame of it was of course that it was something he could have been doing all his life. The moral of the story is that we all need to stop and ask, "If I had all the time and all the money in the world, what would I do?" You never know, you might just find you could be doing it already.
I spoke to a rich man once who complained about his inability to generate passion. In his case he had passionately built businesses and had made a lot of money.
But the prospect of building another business, of making money, had waned and he now almost envied those with debt, responsibilities and desire, because they had a reason to get out of bed, a reason to excel. Instead he rolled out of bed bored with his own existence. For him happiness was something to be passionate about. At least that's what he said.
If happiness is an expectation met then a dream fulfilled is even better.
You have to dream because, as my brother-in-law said to me recently, most people who bother to pursue their dreams achieve them. The crime is that they don't dream hard enough.
In the words of the Aussie rules footballer 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 half of the equation. If that. But probably better to be rich. Back to the stockmarket then.