Morals

Success isn’t everything

Cal Hockley from the Titanic
Cal Hockley from the Titanic

In our society people such as Cal Hockley from Titanic, “The rich guy” Rose leaves, are looked down on. People like Cal seem to have everything in most people’s mind and viewers are encouraged to look down on him when he doesn’t get the girl. In reality Cal and his upbringing caused him to be too uptight and not fun for Rose. What follows is a story that illustrates the two sides of that argument

The Business Man, the Peddler, and the Onlooker

Part 1

A wealthy business man was walking down a city street. He is stopped by a peddler asking for money. He tells the man no and moves on. A pedestrian sees this encounter and stops him. This is their dialogue:

Onlooker (O): Excuse me sir. I saw you didn’t give that poor man any money.

Business Man (M): That is correct. I didn’t.

O: Hmm, that’s a nice suit. How’d you get it?

M: I bought it.

O: How’d you get the money to buy that suit?

M: I earned it.

O: How?

M: I’m CEO of a large corporation.

O: How’d you come into that job?

M: I ran a few successful companies in the past.

O: How’d you get to run those companies?

M: I graduated from Wharton.

O: How’d you get in?

M: I suppose because I went to a good high school. I had quite a supportive upbringing.

O: So I ask you this, what do you think of that man over there? Why do you suppose he was asking you for money?

M: He probably did not have money for what he wanted.

O: Why do you think you have money while he doesn’t?

M: I was born to a better upbringing.

O: Exactly. You refuse to give money to this man while you have all the money in the world and it was your birthright. You and rest of the 1%’ers are despicable.

M: I see what you are getting at sir and I wish you’d stop badgering me about money. Fundamentally, I disagree with your perspective. It is only natural for men to envy what they don’t have. To always want more. To you I have it all. I have the money you desire. I have the suits you want. The beach villas. The mountainside retreats. To you I have everything. In my perspective, that everything is nothing. I have everything but in my mind I have nothing. I have nothing more to work for.

O: Are you not grateful?

M: Sure I’m grateful but that doesn’t stop me from wanting more. Except I don’t see what more that I wish to accomplish. My success is my curse. I don’t know what more to achieve. I’ve accomplished all my childhood dreams. I should be living the dream only I’ve grown accustomed to accomplishment. It’s what drives me. It’s what keeps me happy. The constant feeling of bettering myself. Only now, I don’t see anything more that I want to achieve.

O: So you, you who own it all are unhappy? You think you are unhappy? I’m stuck in a shitty apartment complex lying to my wife about how much money we have. Every month I’m struggling to make ends meet. Struggling to keep the family together. The look on my children’s faces when I can’t take them on vacations like their friends. The look on their little faces when I can’t give them what they want crushes.

M: Still, sir, you have it better than me. At least you can aspire to improve that situation. You see people living better lives and it gives you something to work for – even if you think they’re rich bastards. I’m stuck in a society that tells me I should be happy once I achieve great wealth and thus I am “successful”.

O: Bah! You argue that I should be happier than you? Nonsense you should learn to be grateful.

M: Please think about what I’m saying. Think about times when you were happiest. Happiness is all about finding a balance between the good and the bad. Too much good becomes bad. The first time I noticed this was when I was just starting in business. When I first had steak. It was miraculous. It was so buttery. It made me feel like I’ve made it in the world. Like I was a real man.

I always loved a good steak. As I became more “successful”, I was treated to more and more steak. I would have steak 4 times a week at the best steak houses in New York city. Only then, it started losing it’s luster. No longer was I amazed by a beautiful cut of meat. Eating steak no longer made me happy. It’s only now that I’ve stopped treating myself to steak that I can appreciate it once again. I had to eat different foods. I have to eat healthy, bad tasting food so that the steak can taste good.

Think about this problem but with money. Like you I always loved getting money. Only now I have too much money. My problem is that, unlike the steak, I can’t just stop having money so that I learn to appreciate it again. Especially in a society that tells me I should love what I have.

This balance of never having it all is more naturally found in individuals in your situation. This balance helps people be happy. That is why I envy people like you.

O: I think I see what you’re saying but how does this relate to beggar. Why can’t you just give him some money? You say you have too much money.

M: I suppose I should. It’s difficult to learn to share success on the path to success. Giving money to people like the beggar is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I’m struggling decide how to get rid of my money. I don’t want to give any beggar money for the fear that it will corrupt him and he won’t contribute to the good of society. However my biggest challenge is trying to decide what that chief good is. It seems that happiness is the ultimate reward but I am unsure of its significance. This is a question for another time. I must run to a meeting. I deeply enjoyed our chat and hope to have more talks like this.

O: Farewell. It seems that part of being successful is being too busy to think.

M: So it is.

To be continued…

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