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Monday, January 7, 2019

Riches and Rags

Riches and Rags

From Riches to Rags

According to the Harvard Business Review, wealth and happiness are not positively correlated, because wealth may make people less generous and more domineering. In addition, wealth may not bring out the best of an individual: the more money that individual has, the more focused on self that individual may become, and so the less sensitive to the needs of people around, as well as the more likely to do the wrong things due to the feeling of right and entitlement.

A Case in Point

Barblara Woolworth Hutton, also known as “the poor little rich girl”, was one of the wealthiest women in the world during the Great Depression. She had experienced an unhappy childhood with the early loss of her mother at age five and the neglect of her father, setting her the stage for a life of difficulty in forming relationships.

Married and divorced seven times, she acquired grand foreign titles, but was maliciously treated and exploited by several of her husbands. Publicly, she was much envied for her lavish lifestyle and her exuberant wealth; privately, she was very insecure and unhappy, leading to addiction and fornication.

She died of a heart attack at age 66. At her death, the formerly wealthy Hutton was on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of exploitation, as well as her own lavish and luxurious lifestyle.

Barbara Hutton was the unhappy poor little rich girl! She was widely reported in the media, and her story was even made into a Hollywood movie: “The Poor Little Rich Girl.”

From Rags to Riches

Christopher Paul Gardner, an American entrepreneur, investor, author, and philanthropist, was very poor and homeless in the early 1980s. Sleeping on the floor of a public toilet, Gardner never dreamt that he would become a multi-millionaire one day. His inspiring life story was made into a hit Hollywood movie: “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

Gardner was brought up with the belief that he could do or be anything that he wanted to do or be. He was homeless, but he was not hopeless. He dreamed of wealth and success, and his dreams were not mirages. Because of his right doing, he made his dreams come true.

Initially, Gardner made his living by selling medical equipment. He did not make enough money to make both ends meet, and his poverty made him homeless for a year.
Then, one day, Gardner met a stockbroker in a red Ferrari, who offered him internship because of his incredible drive and sustained enthusiasm. He had a successful investment career, and he subsequently opened his own investment firm, Gardner Rich & Co.

More than two decades later, after the death of his wife, who challenged him to find his true happiness and fulfillment in the remainder of his life, Gardner made a complete career change. He became a philanthropist and a motivation speaker traveling around the world, focusing not on his own wealth, but on humanity and helping others to get their happiness.

According to Gardner, life journey is always a process of lesson learning and forward moving:

“People often ask me would I trade anything from my past, and I quickly tell them no, because my past helped to make me into the person I am today.”

On that life journey, mental focus is essential: focusing not just on the big things in life but also on the small things as well; appreciating what you have rather than dwelling on what you lack.
       
“Then again, what seems like nothing in the eyes of the world, when properly valued and put to use, can be among the greatest riches.” 

“Wealth can also be that attitude of gratitude with which we remind ourselves everyday to count our blessings.” 

“The balance in your life is more important than the balance in your checking account.”

The bottom line: according to Gardner, everything begins with self-belief and doing.

“I just wanted to make a million dollars. But I couldn’t sing and I couldn’t play ball, so I said to my mother, ‘How am I going to make a million dollars?’ And she said to me, ‘Son, if you believe you can do it, you will.’” 

“It can be done, but you have to make it happen.” 

Conventional Wisdom

Studies after studies by psychologists have shown that there is no correlation between wealth and happiness. The only exception is in cases of real poverty, when extra income relieves suffering and brings security. But once the basic material needs are satisfied, the level of income makes little difference to the perceived level of happiness.

The bottom line: let go of the madness of materialism! The Beatles rightly said in their song that money can’t buy love, and neither can it buy happiness.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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