The Mad, Mad Life of a Billionaire and What It Can Teach You About Being Happy

“Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit.”   Hosea Ballou

How much is a great memory worth?  The laughter of a child, sharing a sunset with the one you love.  Is there any price you wouldn’t pay to have five more minutes with someone you’ve lost?

For some reason, though, we often find ourselves not pursuing beautiful memories to cherish, but pursuing money and power and fame as if they are the true source of happiness.

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”  William Bruce Cameron

I was reading a biography of Howard Hughes and was struck by the sadness and dysfunction of his life.  Hughes was wildly successful by the world’s standards – handsome, successful and wealthy.  As a pilot he flew around the world and set world records; he was a successful engineer and founder of Hughes Aircraft; he was a business magnate and Hollywood movie producer, and he was a billionaire.  Yet his life was anything but happy.

howard hughes

Fame and fortune did not bring Howard Hughes happiness.  He became a recluse, shutting himself off from the world.  He often locked himself away in a hotel for months on end, watching movies around the clock, often the same movie, over and over again.  He had servants on hand to take care of his many requests, but spent almost no time with the people in his life, including his wife.

Hughes had everything money could buy.  He had relationships with the Hollywood stars.  He had a brilliant mind.  He had people on hand every moment to bring him anything he desired.  But when asked if he was happy, his answer was simply, “No.”

Howard Hughes spent the last 26 years of his life cut off from the world, a hermit addicted to pain killers, living a life of bizarre eccentricities.  He died at the age of 70, a shell of the man he once was.

Sometimes it’s helpful to pause and reflect on the lives of those who “have it all”, to realize that fortune and fame don’t bring happiness.  How disappointing it would be to spend your entire life pursuing money and success only to attain them and realize that these are not the worthy and great things of life.

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”  Frederick Keonig

3 comments

  1. I believe Howard had wealth, but not worth. He never seemed to feel (studied him too), he was good enough in his own skin. So he looked to satisfy his lack of self-worth with things. Although he gave so much to the world, I don’t believe he believed there was a return on his investment, especially deep down in his soul.

    It touches me deeply to know that this kind of pain exists in the world, and that nothing external can quiet it. Sadly, there are many such Howards’ in the world today, who are never quite convinced of their own self-worth. Look inward people ’cause this is where your true riches reside. Many years ago, I watched a movie called: “Cry for Happy!” It holds a special place in my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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