Will This Make You Happy?

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss what makes you happy and how that relates to Jim Carrey, Nelson Mandela and Eddie Murphy.

First a quick update:

“In Session TruTV – The James Ray Trial”
Watch the interview I will be giving on TruTV’s In Session live Monday March 28 at 2 PM EST when I give insights and analysis about the participant’s behavior and the role that James Ray played in the Sweat Lodge tragedy where 3 people died.

“Chris Brown and racism”
In a contentious interview on Good Morning America, Robin Roberts asks singer Chris Brown about the assault on Rihanna and the restraining order. Subsequently, Chris Brown allegedly became violent in his dressing room, threw an object at a window smashing it, took off his shirt and after several angry confrontations with show staff, left the building shirtless. Following the incident Brown Tweeted ”I’m so over people bring this past s**t up!! Yet we praise Charlie sheen and other celebs for [their] bullsh**t.” Is Chris Brown right? The media continues to hound Chris Brown for assaulting Rihanna while Charlie Sheen still remains the golden boy even though he, too, assaulted a woman; Nancy Grace yesterday attacked Lawrence Taylor for admitting in 2004 to often using 6 prostitutes a day but did she offer the same criticism to Charlie Sheen for the same behavior? Is racism an element in the different treatment by the media towards Brown and Sheen?

Listen to the Radio interview I gave to Jim Peake of MySuccessGateway.com about our biases towards celebrities and violence against women

Now, let’s talk about what makes you happy.

Greed is good!

Have you heard that statement?

It is often quoted from the 1987 movie, “Wall Street.”

In the film, Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, is a Wall Street stockbroker yearning to get to the top and seeks to work with the high-powered, highly successful, ruthless and greedy broker Gordon Gekko played by Michael Douglas. Gekko eventually takes Bud Fox under his wing, promoting his philosophy that greed is good. As Fox works closely with Gekko, he soon becomes consumed by a world of shady business deals, the “good life”, fast money, and fast women, thus putting Fox at odds with his upbringing and his conscience.

The phrase “greed is good” has since been adopted into popular culture, although the actual quote from the movie Wall Street is:

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A.” says Gekko.

The claim – a belief for some – that greed is good has been attacked and blamed for much of today’s financial woes:

“It is perhaps time now to admit that we did not learn the full lessons of the greed-is-good ideology. And today we are still cleaning up the mess of the 21st-century children of Gordon Gekko.” – Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, October 8, 2008.

And in July 2009, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone cited Gekko’s greed is good slogan in a speech to the Italian senate, saying that the free market had been replaced by a greed market, and blamed this mentality for the 2007-2008 financial crisis. You might also recall that following the September 11 attacks in New York, there was a call to Americans to help out by buying more stuff and spending more money. But that wasn’t the answer – terrorism still exists, the real estate industry crashed in 2008 and; the people who were first to rush to rescue people from the burning towers on September 11 (policeman and firefighters), had to also battle congress to approve funding for a health program to treat first responders, construction and cleanup workers and residents who inhaled toxic particles – many of whom were diagnosed with cancer.

So is greed good? Is greed the answer? Is greed, as Gekko professes, ‘right? Does it work and does it clarify? Has it really “marked the upward surge of mankind”?

The dictionary defines greed as an excessive desire to possess wealth or goods with the intention to keep it for one’s self; a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed.

This is one of the themes in the new movie “I AM” by Tom Shadyac – the man who directed movies such as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” with Jim Carrey, “Bruce Almighty” with Morgan Freeman, Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, and “The Nutty Professor” with Eddie Murphy.

“I AM” tells the true story of Tom Shadyac whose life changes when he has a concussion from a bicycle accident leaving him depressed and suicidal for months. When he emerges from the depression and isolation, Tom Shadyac sets out to find answers to the world’s problems, and his own unhappiness.

In “I AM”, Shadyac also explores greed versus cooperation and claims that traditional cultures believe that having more than you need is equivalent to insanity. Shadyac poses the question, if more equals more happiness, is then Bill Gates, who is hundreds of millions of times richer than all of us, hundreds of millions of times happier than all of us? Is someone who owns a house ten times larger than our house ten times happier than us?

In the film, “I AM”, Shadyac relates his story and yes, he definitely had “more”: he flew in private jets, attended all the Hollywood red carpet events, had multiple cars and multiple mansions – one of which was over 17,000 square feet. And yet, Shadyac admits that for a split second, when he first moved into his new Beverly Hills mansion, he stood there and recognized that he was not any happier – but he quickly shut down that voice.

Yes, in the movie, Tom Shadyac reveals that he does sell all of his cars and mansions and now chooses to commute via his bicycle and lives in a mobile home community in Malibu. The critics argue that his mobile home is still worth a million dollars but, as Shadyac points out in the movie, according to the Native American Indian tradition regarding greed, owning a house larger than you need is a sign of a mental illness.

Although the movie explores many themes (greed, ‘survival of the fittest’, aggression, compassion, connection, love, cooperation) and turns to many people for answers (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and others) and cites the lives and works of Ghandi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, it ultimately also indirectly raises a powerful question “will this make you happy?”

Often we are driven to achieve or attain something for the wrong reasons; maybe someone else wants it for us more than we want it for ourselves; maybe we are doing it to prove something to someone or to convince ourselves of our self-worth; maybe we are trying to fill an inner emptiness or trying to make up for a lack of love; maybe we are doing it simply because everyone else is.

Jalal ad-Din ar-Rumi, a 13th century Sufi mystic poet wrote:
I plot to get what I want
And end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others
And fall in.
I should be suspicious
of what I want.

I believe it is more important to know why you want something than it is to even know what you want or how you are going to get it. Read my newsletter from May 2009, “What do you want?”.There is nothing wrong with ambition, goals and wanting to succeed; the danger is often our motives, thinking that something outside of us might make us happy, thinking that stuff will replace love, relationships, meaning and purpose or a real connection to other people. It is possible to find the balance; and after seeking all the answers to his big questions, Tom Shadyac might have chosen to live in a smaller home but he also says he has not lost his passion to make funny movies or to make people laugh. And maybe, that’s what really makes him happy! What makes you really happy?

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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