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Money Can’t Buy Happiness, but Can Happiness Buy Money?

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By Paul B. Farrell

RISMEDIA, August 23, 2007—(MarketWatch)— Let’s explore what’ll really make you happy in the coming weeks and years, with an opening message from Warren Buffett.  “Success is getting what you want,” says Buffett, “happiness is wanting what you get.” And that’s a perfect summary of today’s “Crash Course for Happier Millionaires.”

Happiness? Why bring “that” up in this insane market? Why? Because some of you are like me, with a secret split personality. Sometimes happy, sometimes not — sometimes happier. We know the signals are all there: Bear and recession ahead, with national politics and world jihad just adding fuel to a market on fire. Makes it tough to stay happy. Thank God for Jay Leno, Jon Stewart and Seinfeld reruns.

Yet, amid all the market insanity came a bright light during a Jon Stewart interview of Harvard teacher Tal Ben-Shahar, author of “Happier.” The good doctor is one of Harvard’s most popular lecturers, with 1,400 students every semester, 20% of the university. Nice guy, nice book. It got me thinking about a “Crash Course for Happier Millionaires.”

Then, confirmation for such a “course” came the next day in a new Harris Poll. Turns out 94% of Americans are satisfied with their lives. And get this: 62% even say they expect things to get better over the next five years … so apparently our insane financial markets, skimpy retirement nest eggs, fears of a recession, upsetting political election polls, burgeoning government debt and all the global threats aren’t getting in the way of the “pursuit of happiness” for most Americans. Good news, huh?
Out of the dark side, into the light

So for a few brief moments today, let’s step away from the darkness (we can’t really do much about it anyway), and into a parallel universe. Let’s imagine sitting in an audience watching a new game show: “Who Wants to Be a Happier Millionaire.”

Uncle Warren takes center stage. Here’s his take on happiness: “I may have more money than you, but money doesn’t make the difference … I would rather have a cheeseburger from Dairy Queen than a hundred-dollar meal … If there is any difference between you and me it may simply be that I get up every day and have a chance to do what I love to do, every day. If you learn anything from me, this is the best advice I can give you.”

So sit back, relax, sip your coffee and scan our “crash course” syllabus. Then, in the next few weeks read a few of the books. Pick ones that “speak to you.” Every one’s worked for me over the years, so I can vouch for them. Maybe they’ll touch you.

There’s a rather simple, common theme … You can live with the spirit of a millionaire today and every day … whether you’ve already got that million dollar nest egg … even if you don’t have the bucks yet (which most wannabe millionaires don’t) but you’re working and saving for it … and even if you don’t care about retiring a millionaire (which most people don’t) you can still live with the “happier” spirit of a millionaire.

Here’s your course synopsis, the books, the authors, the messages:

“Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:” Shunryu Suzuki. “Which is more important; to attain enlightenment, or to attain enlightenment before you attain enlightenment; to make a million dollars, or to enjoy your life in your effort, little by little, even though it is impossible to make a million; to be successful, or to find some meaning in your effort to be successful.”

“Stumbling on Happiness:” Daniel Gilbert. Another Harvard professor, who says in his new book: “If everybody realized constant production and consumption aren’t a source of happiness … how many of us would get up in the morning and say: I know it’s not going to make me happy, but I want to keep the economy going?”

“The Art of Happiness:” The Dalai Lama. “Everywhere, by all means imaginable, people are striving to improve their lives. Yet strangely, my impression is that those living in materially developed countries, for all their industry, are in some ways less satisfied, are less happy, and to some extent suffer more than those in the least developed countries.”

“Money & the Meaning of Life:” Jacob Needleman. “The battlefield of life is money. Instead of horses and chariots, guns and fortresses, there are banks, checkbooks, credit cards, mortgages, salaries, the IRS. But the inner enemies remain the same now as they were in ancient India or feudal Japan: fear, self-deception, vanity, egoism, wishful thinking, tension, and violence.”

“The Millionaire Mind:” Thomas Stanley. “As most millionaires report, stress is a direct result of devoting a lot of effort to a task that’s not in line with one’s abilities. It’s more difficult, more demanding mentally and physically, to work at a vocation that’s unsuitable to your aptitude.”

“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience:” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. “Isn’t it funny? I’ve been studying happiness for at least 40 years, but I still don’t have a definition of it. The closest one would be that happiness is the state of mind in which one does not desire to be in any other state. Being deeply involved in the moment, we do not have the opportunity to think about anything but the task at hand — hence, by default, we are happy.”

“Seven Spiritual Laws of Success:” Deepak Chopra. “Everyone has a purpose in life, a unique gift of special talent to give others … Sit down and make a list of answers to these two questions: Ask yourself, if money were no concern and you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do? … Then ask yourself: How am I best suited to serve humanity? Answer that question and put it into practice.”

“The One Thing You Need to Know.” And if all else fails, take Marcus Buckingham’s incredible advice: “Discover what you don’t like doing and stop doing it.”

“The Way of the Peaceful Warrior:” Dan Millman. “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in the capacity to enjoy less … This is the final task I will ever give you, and it goes on forever. Act happy, feel happy, be happy, without a reason in the world. Then you can love and do what you will.”

“The Alchemist.” Paulo Coelho’s novel is a spellbinding must-read about everyone’s lifelong search: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it … God has prepared a path for everyone to follow … The secret to happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”

Happiness is a state of mind. So is being a millionaire. Anyone can get a million bucks. Yes, anyone. The real key is to enjoy the journey, to live like a millionaire before you are one.

As my mentor, Joe Campbell, of “The Power of Myth” fame, put it: “I took a vow never to do anything for money. Now, that does not mean that when I do something I don’t ask for money. I want as much as I can get, but that’s the secondary part of the game. My life course is totally indifferent to money. As a result a lot of money has come in by doing what I feel I want to do from the inside.”

Trust me folks, it works: Anyone can be happier.

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