What is the measure of success?
Here in Vietnam – like most other places – it is often measured in material possessions.
But does ‘stuff’ actually make us happy?
I would argue that it doesn’t. There are far more important things in life such as health, happiness and family.
Try convincing someone of that, though, as they sit in a Hanoian traffic jam in their air conditioned Bentley or Mercedes. Their riposte might be ‘I would rather cry in the back of a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce than on the back of a bicycle.’
It is arguable whether they have a point or not.
Personally, I think having a car in Hanoi is bonkers. The traffic is crazy and there is a perfectly good bus network to get around on. (I once met a Vietnamese guy who sold his car and bought a motorbike because he was fed up of having to park his car a kilometre away from where he wanted to be.)
My take is that status symbols are only important to shallow people with low self esteem. On a cosmic scale ‘stuff’ is immaterial. What is truly significant are those things that money can’t buy; health, longevity, happiness and love.
When you strip everything else away these are the fundamentals that truly matter. Anything else is a bonus.
I often quote the fact that if you have a roof over your head, enough to eat and a refrigerator then you are wealthier than 75% of the world’s population. It is a sobering thought that puts into perspective the pursuit of motorized shiny metal, smart phones and big houses.
In our dim witted rush to consume we are losing sight of the big picture. We are forgetting the sometimes intangible issues that make us worthwhile, interesting and fulfilled humans.
Legend has it that John Lennon was asked by a school teacher what he wanted to be when he grew up. Lennon replied that he wanted to be happy.
When the teacher said, ‘John, you don’t understand the question,’ the soon to be Beatle allegedly replied, ‘You don’t understand the answer.’
If true, it is an inspiring outlook. Perhaps we all ought to aspire to such a goal.
I suspect it would make for a more contented life than trying to scale the greasy corporate ladder in order to earn enough to buy a Ferrari.