How to be rich and happy

Please don’t make the mistake I made.

When I was young, I wanted to be a writer. That was my dream. I loved reading and the feel and smell of books. I haunted libraries and bookstores, imagining my own books in the windows and on the shelves.

I was a voracious reader. Non-fiction and fiction. Business, marketing, biographies, history; mysteries, thrillers, detective novels, science fiction. And books on writing.

But while I have written extensively throughout my career, early on, I somehow convinced myself that writers don’t make much money and I needed to do something more remunerative. Make money first, then I can retire and write all I want.

I now know this is folly.

To deny your passions, no matter the financial ramifications, is to deny the truth of who you really are. Working to make money so you can then do something else is simply bad advice.

But what if what you are passionate about is a one way ticket to financial mediocrity? At some point, you have to ask yourself, “What’s more important, money or happiness?” Yes, money is important and having more of it gives you more options. But having money does not guarantee happiness. Legions of unhappy wealthy people attest to that.

How about asking a different question: “What if what you are passionate about can lead to wealth and happiness?” It can, you know. In fact, I believe that following your passion is a much better road map to prosperity than working for money.

I’ve accomplished a lot in my career. I’ve done well financially.  And now, decades after my childhood passion first stirred in me, I am writing. This blog is just the tip of the iceberg.

How does it feel? It feels. . . right. I can’t describe what I feel as excitement, it’s more a feeling of serenity, of “this is who I am and where I belong”.

But I also have flashes of regret.

What if I had listened to my inner child, the one who wanted to be a writer? What if I had ignored the voice of “logic” that told me to do something else? Where might I be today?

I don’t know if I’d be rich, but I know I’d be happy.

If I’d read the story of “The Rich Fisherman,” I might be in a different place today:

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish. The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”

The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.

The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman. “I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continued, “And after that?”

The businessman laughed heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

The fisherman asked, “And after that?”

The businessman said, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, and sing and dance throughout the night!”

The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”