What’s a billionaire’s definition of happiness?

‘I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.’ Steve Martin

The other day, head down in a pile of admin I’ve been furiously ignoring for weeks, I distracted myself from the horror of spreadsheets with an improving podcast – from the ever-busy über entrepreneur, Tim Ferriss.

Tim Ferriss’ podcasts are excellent value if you’re interested in the habits of success. And who isn’t? Quite.

This episode featured Ray Dalio, founder and now Chairman of the investment firm Bridgewater Associates. He’s a billionaire investor, hedge fund manager and philanthropist.

That’s a lot of experience of money.

I found this fascinating. Because Ray’s world is an alien world to me.

I barely know what this guy does. It’s never been my thing. I’m a hypnotherapist and yoga teacher who has spent her whole career working with words. But I do know this. Money is a massive part of our culture.

When asked about what made him happy, what do you think he recalled?

Was it about making his first billion? Was it about buying his first million dollar house/car/island? Was it about waking up one morning this January to find himself named as being in the world’s top 100 wealthiest people?

No. No. And a big noooooooo.

What lights up Ray Dalio’s happiness heart?

It’s a memory from the early days of Bridgewater, when the team were pitched against the might of competitors like JP Morgans, to win their first big client, Kodak.

So was the happiness moment closing the deal? Scoring the big win over the competitors, in a David v Goliath moment? Partially. He acknowledges that.

But what he loved was the all-nighter with his colleagues where they ploughed through the research for their presentation and the team worked together, fuelled by beer and pizza, to make their own miracle happen.

And his conclusion? His happiness equation?

Meaningful work + meaningful relationships = happiness.

Yes. That’s it.

But it makes sense. 

Throughout history, humanity – even as pre-humanity – needed community to survive. Working together made the difference between surviving and not surviving. All the people who wandered off and got lost, or who hung about at the back of the hunting party, got eaten or didn’t get fed. 

Communities get stuff done. Communities keep each other going through the tough times. Yes, meaningful work helps you earn money too and that’s useful (unless you’re out there with your tribe hunting your own food) but go it alone and you miss a crucial happiness ingredient, according to Ray.

So what’s your definition of happiness? What’s your happiness equation? I’d love to know.

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