Is success happiness? Or a Rolly?

“The irony is,” says the guy at the bar (that same bar), “I’m that rare individual who really could have handled success.”

Indeed. Then there’s the guy in the Rolls Royce documentary who was taking his impressive belly for a ride in his new Rolly after winning the lottery. I guess you have to consider winning the lottery a success. And buying a Rolls Royce must be “handling” it.

He seems pleased with his automobile. But like other lottery winners, he is likely to be no more or less happy after winning the lottery than before, or so the researchers say. Happiness, the data tells us, is a pre-existing condition to success. 

That would imply that it really is our good luck that most us will not win the lottery. We get to be happy the old-fashioned way — we have the “opportunity” to decide to be happy before we win the lottery. Then, in the highly likely event that we do not to win the lottery, we still have the happiness.  

It also means we get to make the decision to be happy even before we become wildly successful. After years of wondering how to respond to my unremarkable lot in life, I have decided that happiness is a good choice. Though circumstances and the occasional misstep push back, it generally works for me. 

But let’s not confuse happiness with contentment. It is possible to be happy but rarely content with the status quo. I get up every day to KBO happily, but without the contentment of having reached that thing called success.

One of our Midwest heroes, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, was known as the “happy warrior.” The three times I met him when I was a kid he impressed me with his happiness. But he was not content with the status quo.

He made progress during his lifetime but much more progress has happened from his work after his life. (This speech was a milestone:

Humphrey kept smiling, shaking hands and calling on people to join his happy work for human rights and a better world. He made happiness look successful, even when the outcome was uncertain.

So it looks like happiness doesn’t create success and success doesn’t create happiness. And it does seem more pleasant to be happy as you’re working your butt off trying to be successful. 

At least it can’t hurt to be happy … let’s hope.  

(Thanks to an old New Yorker cartoon for the opening quotation. And check out the Rolls Royce documentary if you like cars. KBO-keep buggering on.)

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