We say things like “money cannot buy happiness“, yet secretly wonder what it would be like to have it all. To live in luxury and rub shoulders with the rich and famous. Yet the flip side of having it all is the risk of losing it all. And that is harder to live with than you think.
“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” – Oscar Wilde
Losing it all
Here’s a list of five multi-millionaires who committed suicide because a financial crisis saw their fortunes evaporate.
- Owner of an Irish property empire worth about €500 million, who shot himself in the head.
- Head of one of the largest property auction houses in the US, who also shot himself this month.
- Businessman worth about £6 billion who jumped in front of a train.
- Chief of private equity house Olivant also jumped in front of a train near London.
- Investor who lost his and clients’ fortunes who slashed his wrists in New York two days before Christmas.
You may have reacted the same way I did: What? Even if they lost millions or billions, they have a few million left. Surely they could live on a million? Gosh, most of us get by on a lot less!
Wealth is just a number
I realised that rich people are like the rest of us. The numbers they work with are just bigger. No matter what your current standard of living, you would probably struggle if I asked you to downsize that. Could you move to a house four times smaller, accept a 75% pay cut, or give away half your bank balance?
There is nothing wrong with having it all, and certainly nothing wrong with wanting it all. As long as you are prepared to lose it all. Because if you are not, having it all makes us prisoners to all we have.
Having it all
When you realise how easy it is to lose it all, and accept that at the end of life we are going to lose it all anyway, then we can truly appreciate what we have now. Every person, every day, every breath, is a gift to each of us.
I still want it all, of course. And when I know that I can happily lose it all, that’s when I really have it all.
46 replies on “Having It All, Losing It All”
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There is not much more to be added to your post so I will just say “GREAT!”
We could say that attachment itself is the root of all evil but money is certainly a big part of that.
Hi Roger, welcome and thank you for commenting. Money certainly causes a lot of attachment so while not wrong per se, certainly something we want to be very aware of.
Good to see you here! Yes, they say the love of money is the root of all evil. It’s okay to have a lot of money as long as you don’t love it too much, then you become attached, as you say.
Health… most of us accept that with age, our health starts to go. But it doesn’t have to be that way if we take care of ourselves. You’re right that this something that’s harder to lose than money.
Thanks for your kind comment, Yan.
What a food for thought!
In reality, the more money we have, the more attached we become. They don’t say “Money is the root of all evils” for nothing, do they?
If there is one thing I could not afford to have it and lose it all is my health.
Wonderful piece of article, Daphne.
Well said about being able to give when you’re poor. Another way of seeing is perhaps this: we don’t give because we are rich, we are rich because we give.
Your comments always make me smile. I can almost picture you in front of the screen putting your feet up on the table and scratching your head thoughtfully… it’s a lovely and cute image! Thank you for your lovely comment.
Wow, thank you for sharing what happened to you. I take my hat off to you for bouncing back the way you have. I haven’t been tested in the same way, and have a lot to learn from you. You are more than OK in my book!
Such insight you have! Well, I’ve been rich, I’ve been poor…rich had it’s perks but if you are not healthy and you don’t have love, money means nothing. Being poor is humbling because that’s when one can learn the most and it is said that if you can’t give what you have away while you’re poor, then you’re not capable of giving from the soul…or something like that.:)
It’s so nice for me to come visit here, put my feet up and scratch my head into thinking quietly. Thank you!
When it comes to money, career, faith, relationships and health, I have already lost it all at one point or other either, via divorce, layoff, losing my home and so on. I survived though it was very difficult at times. Now despite other problems I’m dealing with, I have so much more, but I know if I lost all I have, I will be OK.
Hi Middle Way,
You have the good fortune of having a wise mother! I think she knows the secret of a happy life – to enjoy whatever is on hand at the moment, without needing to cling on to it, and being just as happy if you let it go.
I strive to live like that too, though I’m sure your mother is much further along that path than me. The older generation is awesome in their wisdom and trying to teach us younger ones how to live.
Let’s continue to work on detachment together!
Thanks for leaving a comment, happy to provide a little thought snack now and then! 🙂
This post hits close to home for me because one of my mother’s teachings and staunch beliefs is detachment.
Not allowing oneself to become overly dependent/attached to things, substances, people–to enjoy things in moderation but be completely ok with letting it go.
I need more work on this as I still find myself wanting to make certain outcomes happen!
Thanks for the food for thought!
I am so very sorry about your disability and pain. At the same time, I admire you for sharing it openly with everyone – that in itself is a gift, perhaps painful for the giver, but you never know whose life may be changed and how.
Here’s a touching post by one of my readers, Arswino, about a boy whose suffering didn’t make sense except for how it affected others.It’s called Sacrifice Play and you may like it. Thank you for sharing here, Paul.
I have to agree with you that many people become rich off others’ suffering. I just read that when Ford started mass producing cars, the forests of South America were decimated for the rubber, and countless natives were killed and raped. That’s probably far worse than what Microsoft did. So yes, I can see where you’re coming from, and I respect you for standing up for your beliefs.
I’ll start thinking about a post on consequences – I’m feeling increasingly that some topics are far too big for me, but I also learn so much from readers’ reactions (yours definitely included) that the opportunity cost of not posting seems high as well. I appreciate your presence here, Evan, and the quality discussion that you stimulate.
Welcome! Great comment about attachment. Someone once told me that when we go through a break-up, it’s not really the person we miss but what that person represented – hope for the future, companionship, making us feel a certain way etc. So your question is a good one which I’ll remember – what does this object or person mean to me. Thank you so much for visiting and leaving a comment!
You’re obviously living a life you love, and I’m happy that you adapted to the lifestyle changes needed for you to pursue your passion. That took courage because so many people wish they too could do it but finally cling to security, myself often included.
Glad this post contributed a thought or two to your post on materialism. I’m impressed by the planning you put into your articles – at this point I never know what I’m going to write next! I will have to learn this from you. Thanks for your lovely comment, Celes!
Hey Daphne, wow, this is an excellent article! I agree that it’s the attachment to these external possessions that made those people miserable. When I quit my day job, it was uncomfortable having to be conscious of my expenditure. However, after the first couple of months, the new lifestyle felt strangely and amazingly comfortable. In fact, I realize that a lot of things I used to spend on are actually unneeded expenditures (and I was not extremely materialistic to begin with). Coincidentally I’m currently writing an article on Materialism and your post is giving me the added inspiration! Thank you! 😀
Nice article! I think another way to look at non-attachment is “What does [object or person] mean to me?” For example, we are often not attached to a lover, but rather what the lover represents – companionship, security, lovability, etc.
To add to your comment, I’ve often heard the advice not to go into business with friends because money problems usually affect the friendship. Sad, but true in most cases. And you’re right, it’s even sadder when it happens in families.
The fear of loss runs so deep in us that it’s hard to let go of money and the rest of life’s trappings. I’m glad you found the questions useful. Thanks so much for your comment.
I totally agree that there are consequences for every choice we make, including choices to not do something. Would you be against social entrepreneurship, where people make money by improving the world rather than exploiting it?
The consequences of choices would make a good topic for a post all by itself. I’ll race you to see who makes that post first? 😉
You are too kind. I would be pompous to think that I could personally make the world a better place, except that we all can, can’t we, in our own little way? I am flattered that you think I do.
I like your analogy about confusing the map with the territory. You made me think of tourists I see with their noses buried in their maps, instead of lifting their heads to enjoy the place they travelled so far to see! Thank you for the reminder.
Blessings to you too, CG.
I’m very in favour of social entrepreneurship, “doing well while doing good”. One qualification: means and ends. Bill Gates now gets kudos of giving away money (decidedly surplus in his case). I would be more impressed if the software he sold had been good. More importantly what Microsoft asked of its employees probably lead to a great deal of sickness and parents being absent from their families. There are other models – where workplaces are more humane (the Body Shop, 3M and Google are the ones that spring to mind).
Hope to see your post on consequences. It’s an important topic I think.
In my experience, loss of health – that’s permanent and marked by severe disability and intractable pain – has been by far the worst form of loss I’ve known, and I’ve known all the forms you cite. It’s given a little, but the joys, comforts and possibilities for life that it has removed are far greater.
Prior to this permanent loss, it seemed that in retrospect, pretty much everything that I thought was a negative while it was happening turned out to be a plus. Many forms of loss have much more than a silver lining.
I especially like your questions around “losing it all” in the different life areas.
Money can do strange things to people. Look at what often happens when someone dies and there is a dispute over the will. Families turn against each other for good!
Welcome! Yes, we have so much already, why not think about those and be grateful? Thank you for leaving such a nice first comment!
Daphne, I really enjoy your focuses and perspectives! I am thankful that you share them with the world around you—for it is spreading, making better the world I live in.
Money, like all things manifest, are metaphorical/symbolic to the internal/spiritual. Getting attached to ideals, the material, etc. is a case of confusing the map for the thing is represents–a confusion on what is the real thing and what is the symbol representing the real.
—agreed, it can be a rough experience, relinquishing temporal symbol for the eternal.
blessings to you and all you hold dear,
@ Mark, I love your comment. Congratulations first of all on losing it all and making it all back, a few times over. That’s truly experiencing life at all points of the spectrum! You made a good point about playing not to lose, as opposed to playing to win, which is when we play without fear. Thank you for this call to action!
@ Giovanna, you brought up a great example. Randy Pausch certainly realised that he was going to lose it all, and look what that inspired! He left a legacy not only for his daughters but for all who heard or read his lecture. Thanks for reminding us of that.
@ Evan, destiny is a whole topic for discussion by itself, but for now may I put forth that it is not your destiny but rather your choice to be contrarian? 😉 Which is fine since it makes life interesting, and I like the fact that you come back to comment again to keep the discussion going. Let me also be contrarian and point out that there are also social and environmental consequences that result from resignation to not having it all.
@ Arswino, thank you for your encouraging comment. I agree with you that wealth on its own means nothing without happiness, or purpose, or love, or anything else that we sometimes think wealth can bring us. Great point. Thanks for dropping in!
I wasn’t entirely serious about destiny. Though I don’t have a whole lot of choice about what I see, save more or less voluntary blindness.
The part about embracing it was a reference to my choice I think.
There are consequences for every choice we make. My desire was to point out that the usual ways of pursuing wealth have negative environmental and social consequences. I’m happy to discuss the consequences of the different choices we can make.
Excellent post! makes you think about the things you already have, without worrying about what you dont have
Hi Daphne, great points here. Your article has made me thinking again about the meaning of life. I absolutely agree with your saying in the end of the article : … then we can truly appreciate what we have now. Every person, every day, every breath, is a gift to each of us.
Wonderful saying, Daphne. If I may add, without happiness, our wealth is meaningless.
Thanks for sharing this beautiful article, Daphne. 🙂
@ Evan, thanks for shining some of your light this way! 🙂 Your comment about rich people not being fun was funny. Please don’t get me wrong – I am not saying that money is not important. We all need to pay the bills and we all want enough money to free us to do what we want. I just don’t want to get attached to money – I want to know that should I lose it all at anytime, I will still be happy, fulfilled, and raring to start over again from scratch because I still love life.
@ Andrea, welcome to the community here, and your first comment was excellent. Wealth and happiness are two different things, as you point out, and you can have one without the other. And I absolutely agree that the choice is ours either way. Thank you for leaving a great comment.
@ Shamelle, you said in one line what it took me a whole post to say. Wonderful! Welcome to this blog, and thanks for your concise and powerful comment.
@ Stacey, thanks for sharing those personal details with us. I always admire that in a blogger. I too want more, of course. And it is very human to want to better our lot, so there is nothing wrong with wanting a bigger kitchen, bathroom, and might as well throw in a bigger walk-in wardrobe while you’re at it! 😉 I think you’re right – it’s fear that prevents us from acquiring all we want in life, and also fear that makes us attached to what we do acquire. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.
I think I’m destined to be a contrarian (I’ll embrace it). Actually there are all sorts of social and environmental consequences that result from the pursuit of having it all.
About “Are you prepared to lose it all?” I know that I will be fine if I lose it all, after all I came into this world with nothing. At the same time, I don’t know if I am ‘prepared’ to lose it all… When to one begin to prepare? May be if I am like Randy Pausch “the last lecture” And I know my time is up, is that when we prepare?
Imperfect action is better than No Action
About “Are you prepared to lose it all?” I know that I will fine if I lose it all, after all I came into this world with nothing. At the same time, I don’t know if I am prepared to lose it all… When to one begin to prepare? May be if I am like Randy Pausch “the last lecture” And I know my time is up, is that when we prepare?
Imperfect action is better than No Action
To be able to lose it all, to live a life of detachment is truly to live free! I have lost in all a few times in my life and I know that I could lose it all today and it would not change who I am. Those who cling on to their possessions, relationships, etc are playing not to lose, which is a high stress way to live and one or two missteps from losing. When we play to win, when we are not living in fear of loss, that is when life really is living and magic happens.
Interesting. My husband and I live in a modest house and while I love it and am very comfortable here I do wish I had a larger bathroom and a much larger kitchen. I love to cook!
That said, there are other areas of my life that I don’t wish for more- I drive a 2001 Honda Civic that is in great condition. I don’t need fancy cars, that is not important to me. I’m happy with what I drive now.
I think in reality I could live with less than i do now – I don’t need to eat out as often, maybe we could get along with 1 car instead of two, but since we can have these comforts, why not? We are happy where we are now – we have enough – but we often think about what life would be like with just a little bit more. I think that is the society we live in. And to the point made by some other comments – I think it does boil down to fear.
Wow, thanks for sharing your personal situation. I think it is courageous of you to start two businesses.
Is your current business life coaching? I visited that site and found it impressive. I’m sure that with time, your clients will spread the good word and your business will grow. I’ve heard that in business (much like blogging, I guess) growth is exponential which means it’s frustratingly slow at first but could eventually grow beyond your wildest dreams.
Yes, it’s true that money is a big consideration when we choose jobs, careers or businesses. Yet there was a time when the world got by without money – it was a simple barter system where if you have something I want, and vice versa, we’d trade and that’s it. So you’re right, it boils down to whether you have something that someone else wants. If you do, you’ll get paid, whether in money or in kind.
And I’m sure lots of people want your wisdom and compassion. I’m rooting for your business to take off, and think it will because you’re doing what you love and helping people. And that’s the basic formula for every successful business isn’t it?
Thank you so much for your authentic and inspiring comment, Davina. It has given me much to think about.
Eye opening post.
Sometimes in life, only when we loose all … we realize what we had it all 🙂
Interesting article! I don’t know about living in a state of being “prepared to lose it all.” I do think true detachment is recognizing that our state of happiness and fulfillment has absolutely NOTHING to do with our external circumstances. We can be financially wealthy and miserable, or wealthy and happy. Being miserable or happy is our choice, and detachment means knowing that, no matter what, that choice is always available to us.
@ Giovanna, you are so right that money is a unit of measurement, used as a medium of exchange, and not of value in itself. Yet so many people get stressed over it instead of focusing on what really matters. I am definitely not detached from it myself either, but would like to be less attaached than I currently am. Thanks for your honest comment.
@ Evelyn, I know exactly what you mean. I love material comforts too. That minimum standard of living, for me, keeps becoming a bigger and bigger ‘minimum’! Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I had no ‘minimum’ – would I feel more free or more grumpy?
@ Jay, I must admit I’m also holding on to spare cash now because of the uncertainty this year. At the same time I need to remind myself that should I lose it all, life will still go on and not to make such a big deal of financial losses. Thanks for your comment!
@ Lance, this was hard for me too. Financial security is a big thing for me. That’s why when I read about the latest high-profile suicide and thought how sad it was that these people were ruined by financial loss, I suddenly realised that I was exactly like them, just on a smaller scale. This post was also directed at myself, wondering how attached I am. Thanks for being ‘real’ in your response.
@ Jocelyn, I love what you said – that things we have really loved will never be lost to us. I didn’t think of that and it’s so true. When you love something, it is part of you and you don’t fear to lose it. So you are detached and can live and love freely. That’s a profound thought which I will have to chew on. Thanks so much for highlighting this!
@ Liara, wow. Your comment made this topic more real to me than my entire post did. I appreciate your sharing about a personal experience that must have been very painful. It’s so true that at the moment of death, all money is meaningless and we just want the person back. That’s when all our delusions and illusions fall away, and we see very clearly what’s really important. Yes, it’s sad that they didn’t manage to work through their fears and arrive at a place where they could see a way forward in life. I think your blog is a very useful resource for people who need to manage stress and depression and turn those into stepping stones instead. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment, Liara. I am very moved.
@ Vikum, welcome to the community here, and thank you for posting your comment! I’m glad you found this eye-opening. This post was a challenge to myself as well, after reading the news about money-related suicides. I wondered if I was as prone to such attachment as they seemed to be. Once again, welcome and I hope to see you around!
Actually I have no desire to be with rich people. They are usually not much fun.
Money is not only a means of exchange. It is also a store of value. This is extremely important.
I want enough to live on and get on with doing interesting and useful things.
Really, I am here to shed light. Making money from this is my current challenge (hoping blogging may be the answer, or part of it).
Hi Daphne. I was just thinking about this yesterday. I’ve been on a quest after losing a job over a year and a half ago to start a business. The first one failed and the second is taking off slowly.
Meanwhile all gov’t funding stopped last year and I’m learning to surrender. I’m fearful, because welfare could be the next step and well… I don’t want to go there. I’m focused on trusting the process I’m going through without that being part of the solution.
While I was thinking about “what I’m here to do” I had the thought that it’s not about earning money. It’s about doing what I’m here to do.
I think we so often try to think of what we can do with money being the outcome of it all. Obviously I need money to pay rent, buy food etc., but somehow this thought took a weight off my shoulders. That is a gift in itself.
I realized that if I could just balance and connect with the flow of doing what I love and helping people, the money would take care of itself… naturally.
Pretty clever you are to post on such a timely topic and this is very well said.And any attachment can brings us same tragedy as well as money depending on how far we are attached as I think.
And Daphne my thanks to you about posting such eye opening posts.
No person is burdened by any need to hide from their feelings, and yet many people do this. Why? They often become overwhelmed and do not learn to work through things as they arise. Everything relates back to fear; fear of not having, not succeeding, not performing, not achieving, nor measuring up to expectations. Every last one of these fears are illusions for which people resist taking responsibility. Many people are also unaware what they do or why Society does not each these things.
This post topic hits home for me. I have a relative who committed suicide due in part to his illusions about money. His thought process contributed to his depression. He started to feel as though he was not measuring up at work and that he was not performing as he should in other ways. These were lies he was telling himself to reinforce his illusions of insecurity and inadequcy. He had taken out a large life insurance policy and it paid off to support his family after his passing. They had no need for the money. What they had wanted was him. The passing of a loved one under such circumstaances prompts one to reflect on money differently, including the warped ideas people devise to delude the self about its importance.
Thanks for sharing! I never thought many rich people had already been more affected by the economic crisis than I have been. I guess those who possess more really have more to lose, and more to fear losing perhaps. And there lies detachment.
We are detached to things we’re afraid we could lose.
In effect, this is also saying that the things that really matter most to us, are also the things we don’t need to be so detached to (in fear), because we’re not afraid we could lose them. We know we wouldn’t. They would always be a part of who we are.
Things we have really loved can never be truly lost. They need only be found again and again and again 🙂
I’m having a hard time with this one. And it’s because of precisely what you’ve said – we become attached to money, or the lifestyle that money affords us. Could I live on 1/4 of what I have? I’m sure I could, somehow. Would I want to try that out? No! When it comes to money, I like to plan, I like to feel secure. Giving all that up would be very hard for me to do.
Daphne, this is really is a thought-provoking post…how attached am I? Much to think about…
In theory I know money is cyclical- it comes and it goes, and hanging on to it is a silly ritual that will only lead to the poverty mindset. However, I do find myself trying to hoard it from time to time, especially when times are tough, like now. What we need is to have more reminders like this one. Thanks Daphne!
I cannot say that I am above it. I enjoy my material comforts and I will most certainly need money to maintain a minimum (as I perceive it) standard of living.
I appreciate your view that when I know that nothing is permanent, that is when I become appreciative of what I have right now.
Wow, this is a eye opening post! How attached are you to money? I have to say as much as I know it is not about the money, for us to value to things we put a dollar amount on them. So I don’t know if I can ever say that I am totally detached with money. Who can honestly say that?
Imperfect Action is better than No Action