"Money doesn't buy happiness!"
"Do you live in America...? Because it buys a wave runner."
Comedian Daniel Tosh began a segment with the previous monologue in his stand-up special, Completely Serious. Whenever I have gotten into conversations about money and happiness, I have always cracked back with that quick joke Tosh taught me. A teacher rhetorically asked a class I was in, "Do you REALLY think money can buy happiness?" to which I replied, "money buys wave runners, and no one has EVER been unhappy on a wave runner." Recently, however, I caught myself in the midst of a daydream, thinking of all the luxuries I could purchase if I was a billionaire. A big mansion in Florida, two Lamborghini's, three Ferrari's, a 90 inch television, a Rolex collection, a 40 foot fishing boat, cashmere bed sheets, you know, Jordan Belfort, Dan Bilzerian type rich...and then I asked myself the question 'would having all these material items make you truly happy?' I didn't have an answer for myself. So, naturally, I come here and write my thoughts down, figuring out, piece-by-piece, my answer while sharing with you my thought process, and I hope by sharing this, you can pave your own way to finding what your true happiness would be, as well.
First, I figured it was important to define what true happiness is to me. I think the most important thing about defining happiness is the word true. Wave runners make me happy. But, does that happiness last? In my dreams, I was alone. I had all these things, but I had no one else to share them with. Tosh was right when he said that wave runners make people happy, but to what extent? Ask yourself, how long does the immediate return of material items last? Sure, a wave runner makes you smile, but if you ride one every day, it becomes monotonous.
That's when I began to realize, true happiness cannot be inspired by monotonous experiences. However, communicating with others is what makes one's earthly experience grow to its full potential. Personally, experiences that make me feel the most whole inside are those from which I learn the most, feel the most, do the most, or think the most. Experiences that stretch out my mind and personality are what shapes me into the person I am, and are where I find true happiness. Without the exchange of thoughts and ideas, we are left wandering in this sub-reality of what we believe to be true. Without supportive, conflicting, or even neutral arguments, what we think we know means nothing. True happiness comes from knowing...knowing that what we believe is supported, knowing that our loved ones love us, and knowing that we have meaning in our lives.
As the late, great Jim Valvano said in his iconic 1993 ESPYS speech, “To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think -- spend some time time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that's a heck of a day.” Nowhere in there does Jimmy V say that riding a wave runner, or encountering any other material, is necessary for a good day. I find in my own life, and from talking to those around me, that life is at its best and we are happiest when doing the things we love most, but more importantly, being with the people we love most.
To answer the question, yes, money can, in fact, buy happiness. Tosh is right, no one ever frowns when riding a wave runner! But, you can't ride a wave runner forever. Money can only buy temporary happiness. Money cannot buy permanent, fulfilling, true happiness. That can only be attained through the experiences we have with the people we love. True happiness can only be bought with experience.
Lastly, I want to conclude with a few quotes that helped me along my search for true happiness.
+ "If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can't buy."
+ "A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms, even when his hands are empty."
+ "Money isn't everything... it can buy a bed, but not sleep. It can buy a clock, but not time. It can buy a book, but not knowledge. It can buy a title, but not respect. It can buy medicine, but not health. It can buy blood, but not life. It can buy you sex, but not love."