For many if not most people the idea of wealth relates to an abundance of money. To be “wealthy” is to be rich, a millionaire or perhaps billionaire. And so the typical thought goes being wealthy is where we want to be because it relieves many of the burdens placed upon those of us clearly below the level of financially wealthy. After all rich people live in big beautiful homes, drive fancy cars and wear the finest clothes and jewelry. So goes the thinking those rich folks have our world by the tail while the rest of us just struggle to get by. Dang! I want to be rich too goes the very common thought. Well consider this.
ReiJane Huai was a very wealthy man. He was a software engineer and known to be an extremely hard worker. He was one of the founders of FalconStar where he eventually became the CEO. The company enjoyed great success. In 2008 Forbe’s Magazine named FalconStar one America’s 25 fastest growing companies. A year later in 2009 Ernst and Young named ReiJane Huai entrepreneur of the year. ReiJane Huai was riding high, truly a very rich man living in a mansion and enjoying the good life. But ReiJane Huai had become money obsessed, so much so that he would do almost anything to gain even more money for his company and himself.
At one point he paid an employee of J.P.Morgan Chase a tidy little $185,000.00 to secure millions of dollars in new business. Obviously, a wise investment thought Huai but the Securities and Exchange Commission saw it more as a bribe. That brought about an investigation by the SEC, criminal charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a class action lawsuit filed by shareholders against FalconStar resulting in ReiJane Huai being removed from his office of CEO.
Not long after one Monday morning longtime friend billionaire Charles Wang and legal advisor Roy Reichbach arrived at Huai’s mansion only to discover a gruesome scene. ReiJane Huai was found dead from suicide. So now what was all of that success and fortune and fame and glory worth to ReiJane Huai?
Sadly Huai’s tragic end is not all that unique. Over the years there have been many instances of millionaires and even billionaires committing suicide proving conclusively that money alone does not assure happiness. Very recently a television personality Anthony Bourdain whose show, Anthony Bourdain – Parts Unknown I have long watched in envy, seemingly committed suicide. Here is a man who literally traveled the world and made a great deal of money in the process – what could possibly be a better life I thought. Yet there he was far too prematurely dead proving yet again that wealth is much much more than just money and surely far more than fame.
When we contemplate wealth it is important that we always look at the far larger picture. The dictionary definition of “wealth” is: abundance of valuable material, possessions or resources. That does lean heavily toward the concept of material and or financial wealth. But note: abundance means a lot of things that are “valuable” including material, possessions or resources.
It is true that not all valuable resources are directly linked to money. A large group of good friends or the unity of a large happy family are resources that are very important to our lives. Even an abundance of good health is a critical resource providing us with the ability to enjoy all of the other resources in our lives more fully and longer. In case you aren’t getting my point consider this. You have lots of money, you are a multi-millionaire but by ignoring your health, let’s say by becoming and remaining a heavy smoker, you develop lung cancer and become severely ill or even die. Absent the resource of good health the monetary resources really aren’t worth much then are they?
And let us also consider the enormous value of happiness in our lives. Life as we know is finite, but the greater the happiness we enjoy the better is our overall experience. This, however, opens up a trick bag, In the process of seeking happiness we do sometime run the risk of endangering the health element that is also so important. One of the sadly too common ways in which we can seek happiness in a way that can ultimately bring precisely the opposite result is through drug and alcohol abuse,
So when you look at the larger picture what emerges is a clear message to keep all things in BALANCE. Yes, by all means pursue financial success and material wealth but don’t let it overwhelm you to such an extent that you will commit crime in furtherance of that pursuit, Always keep in mind the absolute need to maintain good health to achieve maximum enjoyment of life. And sure, enjoy that glass, maybe two, of wine from time to time, but always keep it within safe and rational proportions. Yes lots of money is great but to achieve maximum long term pleasure it is critical that we always strive to maintain a true balance in our lives.
Let me just conclude with this observation. Plenty of money is a wonderful thing, but not without good health and a true opportunity to experience happiness and joy. So the real goal is always to achieve and maintain balance.
All photos: Courtesy of Ron Irwin unless otherwise noted.
One way to increase happiness is to enjoy a good read.