I remember a plaque hanging in my dad's office when I was a kid that said, "He who dies with the most toys wins." This quote has been attributed to Malcolm Forbes, an American entrepreneur most prominently known as the publisher of Forbes magazine.
The image of the plaque has reentered my life several times, each time bringing with it a certain amount of frustration and contempt. Now I get it. I get why it has bothered me so much over the years. That saying sums up our unhappiness in one pithy, seemingly harmless quote.
First, life isn't a competition. It isn't something we win or lose. We all die at the end and we don't get trophies for who lived best or worst when we do. This societal belief structure that life is a competition is what constantly pits us against one another when it would be much more beneficial if we worked together.
This competition mindset lay the groundwork for creating the us vs. them mentality that plagues our nation, from politics to civil rights and everything in between.
Second, the accumulation of toys isn't the point but rather an exercise in status, ego and selfishness. Wealth isn't the point, despite what advertising and big business and even our nation's leaders tell us.
We need enough money to buy our food and for safety. That's really it. We need food to nourish our bodies and we need shelter to keep us out of harm's way. Beyond that, we don't actually need money or stuff. And we wouldn't be so dependent on high-paying jobs if we weren't so dependent on stuff we don't actually need.
Now, there is one more thing we need, but money can't buy it for us. We need love. Love is the quickest way to happiness. And not the "fairytale storybook ending" kind of love we think.
We need the "accepting, supporting, there for you when you need it" kind of love. That kind of love requires investment in family. It requires investment in community. It requires investment in each other. And we're not talking about a financial investment. That kind of love requires an investment of our time and energy.
You know what's awesome about that? We all have time and energy to invest. It isn't something we have to earn from others or a resource we have to win. We're born with both, and we get to decide how to invest them.
And yet that's the piece of the puzzle we are all trying to figure it out. It's the love piece we spend our lives working toward. That's the piece that drives us to buy all the stuff that will make people love us. That's the piece that we are constantly trying to win. But love isn't bought or won. Love is given and received.
To get acceptance, you have to be accepting.
To get respect, you must be respectful.
To get support from others, you must offer support to them.
To get love, you must give it.
We need to rewrite the story of success. Because it isn't a competition about material accumulation. It's a journey about loving one another.
The ones who die with the most love, die happy.
Let's start investing more in one another instead of competing against each other. Let's lift each other up instead of push others down for our own gain. Let's love more and hug more and listen more and appreciate more. Our pursuit of happiness depends on it.