Long ago there was an an Arab King who was said to be so wealthy that he had everything, and yet it was considered customary that visiting royalty would provide a gift to their host. But this posed a problem for a visiting Hindu Prince; what can one give the person who has everything?
One thing the Hindus had that the Arabs did not, was the idea or concept of zero—the idea that nothing had value. So what can one give a King who has everything? The one thing he does not have: nothing.
Do you value nothing in your life? Do you see your time at rest as being as important as your time at work or play? Are you so busy driving your car that you never stop to fill it with fuel? And if so, where do you think that will take you?
In a culture of achievement the focus is on obtaining things, having enviable experiences, or in gaining control over others. That translates to down-time being considered as sinful, bad or weak. So if you’re gaining possessions, money or power, or if you’re having experiences others will envy, then you anoint yourself as successful. And if you feel you could benefit from rest or if you feel patience would be advised, you see yourself as failing. This is craziness.
There is nothing to go get in life. There is nothing to achieve that makes a life worthwhile. Whether you are a beggar or a billionaire, your life is still only a string of experiences and having a billion dollars and tons of apparent control and power doesn’t change that. I’ve known a few super-rich people in my day and all of them suffered as much or more than anyone else I ever met, except they added the frustration of feeling like they’d walked the wrong direction for their entire life because in most cases they actually surrendered uplifting experiences so they could go chase money or power.
Is it so hard to believe that insanely busy “rich and successful” executives wish they had simpler lives with more family or recreation time? Can you understand that they have to worry about the motivation of their lovers, who they know may only be there because they’re rich, or famous, or powerful? Do you understand that these people suffer more because they appear to have won at the game of life, and yet they know that deep down they have the same existential struggles the rest of us deal with?
Stop struggling for things. Stop surrendering life in an attempt to make it more impressive to others. You’re just going to die anyway. Everyone does. You have two dates on a gravestone, and all that matters is that little dash in the middle. The little dash of your life. There will be no balance sheet on your gravestone. There will be no list of achievements. There will only be two dates, and a tiny little dash in time. And the best investment you can make with that little dash is not chasing money or power, it’s through giving love. And if you don’t know that now, I know with absolute certainty that you will come to know it before you die—even if it’s only seconds before.
Your life is fine. You can start where you are and still have a wonderful existence. But that has to be your actual objective. Because no amount of fame, money or power can buy a good life. The only way you get that is by consciously choosing it. Why not start today?
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.