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Can You Be Happy, Wealthy or Both?

December 3rd, 2007 by Wai Loong (3 Comments)

Last week, I was challenged with one of the hardest decision ever… to choose among being happy with what I like to do, which means to stay in my current comfort zone, or to risk losing some happiness and aim for longer term wealth.

This reminds me of a parable I heard somewhere, and it’s back today on the radio this morning as I caught it attentively. The parable goes like this…

There was this fisherman, who was casually tanning under the sun, enjoying life while waiting for fishes to bite at his baits.

Along came a wealthy man who spread himself comfortably on the beach, all the while watching this young fisherman as he reeled in the catches.

Unable to withhold his curiosity and a knack of businesses, he introduced himself to the fisherman as a CEO of a large seafood company.

CEO: “You know, you could have been doing better by hiring others to fish for you?”

Fisherman: “Gee… you’re probably right!”

CEO: “As you takes small profits, you can save enough to buy some boats to harvest bigger fishes and make more money.”

Fisherman: “Bigger fishes? Sounds great!”

CEO: “By then, you’ll probably make enough to purchase your own fishing vessels and reap the bounty off the shores of this beautiful island. Soon, you’ll start expanding your fleet and you’ll overtake your nearest competitor and become the biggest supplier of seafood in this country!”

Fisherman: “Gee… that sounds very exciting. But guess what? I think I’m just happy with what I’m doing right now!”

Did that parable struck you?

All of us desire to be happy.

All of us desire to be wealthy.

Now, the real question is:

Which is more important? Happiness or Wealth?

Can we have both?

Let’s analyze the situation here. Just what is happiness?

Actually, it depends on individual. To me, happiness is simply doing something I really enjoy, such as value reading, writing useful microcomputer software, creating web designs, image editing and having a cup of hot coffee – all the while away from the crowd in an urban city.

To others, happiness may be being with their loved ones, drive an expensive car, visiting exotic countries… etc.

Noticed the fine differences?

Happiness to me is found within the satisfaction in the things I do, the people I interact with.

Many times, you may realize something and slap your forehead… that most of the happiness is derived from external sources. Even the Buddha teaches us to find the light within ourselves. There is nothing greater than true happiness, a true laughter that illuminates from within our heart.

And that my friend, is the source of happiness.

I remember a scientific approach to explaining the same thing – and it’s by far an exposition of the great theory of quantum mechanics, which was long articulated by the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard:

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth or power, but for a passionate sense of what might be… Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility.”

Did you manage to let that profound statement sink in?

I was completely blown off by the wisdom within!

Here’s another one if you’re a follower of the wisdom from the great Confucius

Recently, I caught a fantastic educational program on ChannelU, entitled “Lecture Room: Yu Dan-Notes On Lun Yu ????: ??<??>??.

In on of the lectures, Professor Yu Dan states that Confucius espouses repaying kindness with kindness, but not to repay evil with good.

Confucius reminded us to speak carefully, and acts with propriety, more than 2000 years ago. It’s in the moral that we carry in dealing with people daily in our lives. Here is the great wisdom I’m about to get at:

???????????????????????????? ????????
Adept Kung asked: “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?”
The Master replied: “How about ‘shu’: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?”

– Analects
XV.24, tr. David Hinton

Touch your heart and ask yourself these questions:

How many times have you impose anything on anyone for your selfish wants?

If you ever wanted true happiness, why do you want to force your will on others?

The key in a happy life is most probably in the Chinese character “?” itself!

Forgiveness by Confucius - Shu

The world stands for “Forgiveness” or “Forgive”. Like what the Buddha has expounded more than 2500 years ago, it’s exactly the meaning of giving up and letting go.

What are you still clinging onto now that’s causing yourself harm (both consciously and subconsciously)?

Think about that and you’ll be surprise about your own findings!

Before we get to that part, let’s analyze the other component of this topic:

Just what is wealth?

To what extend it that enough?

We all live in a society where our success is measured directly by the amount of wealth we can accumulate in this lifetime. But is that really true? Or are we ignoring some important facts?

Let me put some facts and discuss…

Denying that money is not important is utter rubbish in an urban society like in Singapore, the country I live in.

Shortage of this evil (or is it?) in this country can severely jeopardize our lives.

If we think hard enough why that is so, I’ll just create a list of essential material I can think of right now that are needed to support any human life in a city:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Accommodation/Rental
  • Basic body care
  • Basic clothing to cover from heat
  • Basic footwear

If you’re just making $500 a month, do you think that is any problem to live right up to 100 years old? I seriously doubt so. But before you jump on me, allow me to explain the real situation better…

That alone is enough for anyone to life like a tramp, or rather, in a physical slum.

Unfortunately, the evil of senses demands us more than just the basic needs, as proposed to function roughly according to the theory of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

We look outwards and wants a better, a more comfortable way of life, commonly known as lifestyle. And that is the beginning of all evil, or the renunciation of partial happiness.

Here’s a more realistic list:

  • Cost of public transport
  • Cost of personal transport
  • Better accommodation
  • Better/multiple clothing
  • Better/multiple footwear
  • Cosmetics and perfumes (if you’re guilty of that)
  • Electric appliances
  • Air Conditioners
  • Entertainment equipments
  • Outdoor sporting equipments
  • Membership clubs
  • Expensive car/luxury magazine subscriptions
  • Faster internet connection
  • Personal income taxes (favorite!)
  • etc, etc… the list goes to infinity!

And that if you’re just making slightly or over $500 a month, you might as well put them off as wishful thinking.

To make matter worse, money problems starts trickling off and pounding at your doors like a haunting spirit the minute you’re born to this world till you pay off the day for your death. This fee is commonly known as estate duty and it’s collected by your beloved government.

The greater society bestows us the heavy responsibility of us, as individuals to prepare well into our distant future as when we’re called upon as we passes into the darkness.

Sounds glooming?


Or else you can always pretend to ignore the facts! But what good will that do for you?

Are we all further from what we call happiness as we struggle harder each day trying to accumulate more wealth?

How can we learn to save ourselves from the flames of this endless struggle?

Rather than providing a specific answer, I prefer to illuminate the problem with some questions that only we ourselves can answer that will lead us out of darkness.

Strategies to happiness:

  • Can I still be happy doing what I’m now and still enjoy the freedom of joy in the adversity of uncertain economies?
  • What am I really passionate about?
  • What do I love to do that I can bring its doing into the next 20-30 years?
  • How often do realize myself for defending my own ego when challenged?
  • Do I forgive others easily, or do I bear angers/resentment and grudges to people around me?
  • Am I grateful to be alive when I wake up in the morning?
  • How often did I smile to another human being today?
  • How many joyous laughter did I have today?
  • How many deep breaths of cool fresh air did I have today?
  • How often do I feel excited waking up to a new day?
  • Do I self reflect on my well being at the end of the day?

Tactics to wealth:

  • Can I identify my own strengths?
  • Can I live below my means – below my current income?
  • How can I build upon my strengths to enhance my life and that of others?
  • How much do I don’t know about finances, assets and liabilities that can harm myself and family?
  • Do I have a trusted financial adviser, or even myself to count on to plan my 20-30 years of financial protection?
  • Do I have a group of close friends or relatives that I’ve build up to support me?
  • What plans and massive actions do I have right now to improve my finances in the next 5 years?

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list.

Happiness is right here and only right now.

Similarly, wealth is only as much as we desire.

Live a simple life and cut out all unnecessary noise out there and I guarantee you’ll be a much more happier human being today!

Comments? Feel free to keep me occupied with your insights!

And live a life with passion!

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3 Responses:

Leroy on December 4th, 2007 at 8:41 pm


Couldnt agree with you more that contentment is happiness.

Also wish to make my point that money is not evil. It is neutral, just a concept, an idea. The lack of money IS evil.

How much crimes were committed due to lack of money vs crimes that are committed due to too much money? I think the answer is pretty clear and logical.

Happy sharing! 🙂


“When I Stop Learning, I Stop Living.”

Wai Loong on December 4th, 2007 at 9:23 pm


Thanks for dropping by and sharing your viewpoint!
Knowing is easy, practice is rare and for the brave.

Exactly if money is evil is all in our hearts… and it may be easier to identify by testing ourself using questions only we ourselves can answer.

For example, as I’ve pointed out already, exactly how much money do you want to make to be contented? If the answer is “the more the merrier”, then the lack of money is indeed evil because of there is dissatisfaction, a visual of scarcity is in the mind. Likewise, our relationship with money is evil because we believe that scarcity or absence of it is evil, even though we pretend otherwise. Subconsciously, money to the uncultivated mind is indeed evil.

To understand contentment, live it and integrate peacefulness into our way of living, may be one of the most effective relationship we can have with money. That applies just as perfectly with all other matters in this universe.

Live a live with passion!

Hee on December 27th, 2007 at 10:47 pm

Hi Wai Loong, I chanced upon your blog by accident and I must say u sounded more like an inspirational guru than an electronics engineer. I agree with your views but unfortunately, most laymen do not have as much choices as some of us do. Hope u can touch more lives with your blog.

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About Insights, Inspirations, Tranquility, Peace and Harmony

Ng Wai Loong

Wai Loong is an electronics engineer by profession. He currently resides in Singapore, a thriving hub at the heart of South-East Asia. When he is not so stress out on the computers or laboratory, he enjoys value reading, jogging at his own pace and blogging in his spare time. Other times, he likes to catch up with some close friends over a cup of latte or teh tarik. As a gift from this friend, you are invited to interact freely with him on his personal blog.

PS: May the person reading this blog transforms his/her businesses, finances, relationships and life for ALL to WIN!