Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Reason The Rich & Famous Commit Suicide

The realization struck me as I was listening to Darryl "DMC" McDaniels of Run-DMC tell the story of when he sat in his hotel room while on tour and thought about killing himself.

McDaniels thought back over his life and his runaway success and realized that he still wasn't happy.

Many of us go through life dreaming about being rich and famous. Maybe we think that next company will get acquired. Maybe we're secretly practicing for the next round of American Idol tryouts. But as fruitless as those dreams might be, they still give us hope.

We believe that special something might be around the corner, might be able to change everything.

But the rich and famous don't have that luxury. They already have the worldly success that so many of us think will make us happy. And they've discovered that it doesn't.

At that point, there are only two conclusions they can draw.

One, having achieved all the worldly success they ever wanted to achieve without achieving happiness and satisfaction, they conclude that nothing will ever make them happy. In response, they seek oblivion in drugs or death.

Two, having achieved all the worldly success they ever wanted to achieve without achieving happiness and satisfaction, they conclude that worldly success doesn't bring happiness and satisfaction, and that they need to seek true happiness in other ways.

We often think that the rich and famous are lucky, and we envy them their worldly success. But that same success leaves them no excuse for being unhappy. There are many cautionary tales of celebrities, especially those who achieved their fame young, who never managed to get past their moment of truth.

But whether you're rich and famous or poor and obscure, remember one fact--extrinsic motivators like fame and fortune don't make you happy. In fact, they make you unhappy even if you achieve them. Focus instead on the things that really matter--intrinsic motivators like relationships, growth, and giving back.

26 comments:

Jackie D said...

I'll be a jerk and quibble over the phrase "giving back". It perpetuates a collectivist mindset whereby you owe me (and everybody) just because you exist. I find that pretty offensive.

But doing something for someone else, expecting nothing in return, is about as high as you can get without drugs or nudity being involved. "Pain into purpose," as I have heard it described.

If you can't appreciate the gift you're given every day upon waking, the cash and prizes on top of that gift aren't likely to mean much once you get them. Focus on the gift, and hope you get it again tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

This Article made me want to kill myself.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the post. I came to this realization myself. If even after achieving success you are not happy, you become hopeless and death starts to look like a logical and attractive choice.

poster#1 said...

Giving back?? I also find that very phrase disgustingly offensive. Who gave me anything? Chance, circumstance, luck, friends, community? No. And I have nothing to give back to them. Giving to random nobody for things that only I created - well, that is exciting.

Rich Collins said...

Another apropos video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGoTmNU_5A0

Gyl said...

Find God and you will be happy with a piece of cabbage. This world does not have joy.

Anonymous said...

Well, for one, I like the idea of just "giving back." : )

Jay said...

From my interpretation, the 2 words "giving back" does not imply that is must be a 2-way barter trade, i.e. if I give you, then you owe me.

"Giving back" the way I read it just means doing good onto others, regardless of whether they can or cannot return the favor, period.

Anonymous said...

I don't quite agree. I think it could be because they feel somehow feel that they're too rich or too famous to make necessary changes to their lives. It's like they've got a lot to lose so they just can't bring themselves to do anything and suicide happens to be a lot easier.

SamW said...

"Giving back" is a crap phrase. Companies and critics of companies are always tooting this horn. Don't "give back" to the neighborhood, stakeholders, United Way! Pay your employees better! Hire people!

Tony Arcieri said...

Who are these people who find the phrase "giving back" to be "disgustingky offensive"? Misanthropic Randroids?

Anonymous said...

Amen Tony. I'm scared.

Citizen Racer said...

Very nice post. Thanks!

Chris Jones said...

Poster#1 said " Who gave me anything? Chance, circumstance, luck, friends, community? No."

This is selfish claptrap :)

No man/woman is an island. You are what you are, and you have what you have, and you have done what you have done, because of all of us, and because of all of what we have, and because of all of what we have done :)

That doesn't compel you to not turn your nose up at 'giving back', it's still your choice, but please don't pretend you are some colossus of achievement who never depended on a functioning society. There are barely a handful of people alive who can claim that, and the very definition of their existence means they are not on the Internet talking about it ;)

Anonymous said...

"Giving back" acknowledges that you have "received" life, love, opportunity, skills, whatever. Not from the individuals who may benefit from your giving, but from the world at large, the cosmos, some god or other, gaia, providence, fate, whatever you want to call it.

You would not exist were it not for the actions (ad inactions) of countless people around you and countless who preceded you. Had your parents not had the particular waiter at the restaurant when they decided to marry; had your grandfather not been given a day off when something momentous happened; had you not had a specific teacher or parole officer ...

You get the drift? You yourself are an important part of who and where you are, but so is everyone else. It is important to realise and acknowledge this, which will let you "give back".

NeilK said...

Another $0.02 on "giving back".

We are all born completely helpless and utterly ignorant. No one would get far without someone in our lives being sacrificing something. Maybe you can argue this is the "selfish gene" at work for parents and relatives, but it is harder to explain this for that teacher who gave you a little bit extra, the librarian, the cop, the neighbor, the people who wrote your constitution or fought in whatever conflicts were necessary to secure your freedom. Or even the programmer who worked a little bit harder to ensure that protocols on the Internet were free.

Nature is pitiless and cruel. Most creatures on this planet live out lives of intermittent starvation and terror.

If you have gotten to the point where you now have the illusion of being completely independent, that just shows how much has been given to you.

Anonymous said...

I'll be a jerk and quibble over the phrase "giving back". It perpetuates a collectivist mindset whereby you owe me (and everybody) just because you exist. I find that pretty offensive.

Have you invented fire? Have you built the US? Have you made your own language to speak? Have you fed and cloth you when you were a baby?

If not, then, yes, you DO owe everybody just because you exist.

Anonymous said...

“If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can't buy” ...maybe you have to better define your goal in life "I want to be rich"

Paul said...

In my experience, having known many a celebrity I've found that the one's who don't feel as though they deserve the success they've attained are usually the one's who are more self destructive over it.

Those that feel as though they've worked hard for it - whether they actually did or they didn't - don't nearly have the problems the others do.

Many times success is simply timing and luck parading as knowledge and skill - that's not just in entertainment but all walks of life.

As to 'giving back' - I understand those who hate that term, and for the same reasons such that no one is owed nor should they be forced, I agree.

But in the pure sense that in living a life of service towards others, we ourselves are far more enriched, the whole notion of 'giving back' (despite the terminology) is a great thing.

uhjcbe said...

How many rich do not commit suicide though only because of their wealth? Some people truly are happy only because of their money.

Chris said...

Jackie,

I used the term "giving back" simply because that's what Deci originally used in his formulation. Contributing to community or society might be a better term.

Chris said...

poster#1,

All humans are born into the world as helpless infants. Unless you sprang from the womb and began hunting your own food immediately, you owe your mother or other caretakers for the time and energy they invested in keeping you alive until you could fend for yourself.

Chris said...

Paul,

You make a very great point--it's a lot easier to be happy with deserved success than undeserved success.

Yet even someone like DMC, who had certainly deserved the success he achieved, still felt empty when all he focused on were the external trappings of worldly success.

Chris said...

uhjcbe,

In general, the rich are happier than the poor. Wealth does increase happiness, although the effect gets much smaller once you get past the poverty mark.

What I'm trying to address is the mystification we feel when we read about the self-destruction of another celebrity to whom it seems so much has been given.

The key is that outward success is not true success or a guarantee of happiness.

Liv said...

Thank you Chris. A great reminder in busy times to find happiness in the important things.

you-mei said...

giving back for me is taking care of my family :) and yes, it is indeed important to be aware of all these fuzziness that's happening around us :)