This week I met up with Shaolintiger for coffee. We were catching up when he was just telling about a few new things he has in his life. One of which is his new car that he's really really proud of: A Mitsubishi Airtrek.
He was so proud of his new car that he insisted he take me for a ride in it and it was beautiful even on the inside. For the first time in my life, I was looking at a man who displayed an aura of content and bliss as he sat in his driver's seat. He didn't need a big house in Damasara Heights, or a BMW or Porsche. All he needed was a car he liked and maybe some time in the future, a house he could call home.
It got me thinking. Being Chinese, we all grow up thinking of how we must strive for successful careers. How we must live our lives to accumulate a lot of money to buy big houses and big cars with them. How we must all one day strive to own our own businesses. These material dreams though come at a cost.
I don't own a big house nor have I accumulated vast amounts of money but I do own a business. Not a big one but a medium sized one and one of the costs of that business is that it takes away my peace of mind. Weekends never feel the same again because your mind doesn't stop working even then.
I have many friends who work on weekdays to service their housing and car loans but I see them on weekends and they are truly relaxed. Some of them don't own a lot on paper but they genuinely are happy. So while money is important to provide a certain level of comfort, how much of it do we really need?
I think that probably differs between people and where we all go wrong is when we start to compare ourselves with others. You may have saved for many years to buy your dream car, say a Honda Stream but one day you see a few of your friends driving a Mercedes E Class and that somehow makes you less proud of your Honda Stream when it shouldn't. But can you blame us for being like that? For naturally having to compare ourselves with our peers? That's how we were all brought up.
Remember how in primary school your mum would compare you to her friend's son or daughter who was doing better than you in school. So we all grow up comparing ourselves with one another and when we do so we sometimes pay too little attention to what we should be grateful we have and too much attention to what others have.
If you can imagine a group of Tai Tai's comparing who has a more expensive and exclusive bag and who has a bigger diamond. The ones with the least to show of the group probably still has a Chanel and a diamond ring that most of us don't have but she ends up feeling a little bad about it because all her peers have more expensive items.
I think the root of happiness is being happy with what we have in a material sense and achieving a good balance in other areas in life like family. I know right now that I could never be truly happy with all the money in the world if I didn't have a family, with wife and kids that I love and who love me as much in return. Having happiness after all is what success should be measured by right? Not money. But happiness.
What do you need to make you happy?