If ever you’ve heard the short excerpt on What if Money was No Object speech from Alan Watts, you’ll be no short of feeling fully inspired and just, well, gosh darn it, you want to do what you love right now.

As Watts eloquently said “Better to have a short life that is full of which you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.”

Alan Watts - Philosopher, Writer and Speaker, spreading the Eastern philosophy to Western audiences

Alan Watts – Philosopher, Writer and Speaker, spreading the Eastern philosophy to Western audiences

It seems rather unfortunate, isn’t it. We’re so wrapped up in bills, and payments, and loans and mortgages and the never ending cycle of paying off someone or some thing that we’ve seen it as the norm to lead our lives. As if we’re just living to pass by this stage of life to move on to the next. Not really realising that if this is our only chance to be here, how do we want to experience it?

Of course, we can’t deny that the world runs with money. We pay taxes to feel safe and secure. We pay rent to have a roof over our heads. We pay the creation of food, art and entertainment to enjoy life. So yes, having money can provide us opportunities. It can get us out of debt and it can allow us to experience new things. But when we start thinking it’s the only means to obtain all those things, or even appreciate what we have, then we’ve missed the true value of self, life, and relationships.


It’s a question thrown around us daydreamers often. A random, out of the blue, unexpected moment of wonder between friends who lack in money but not in an imagination of it.

So, what would you do?

“It’s not about how we count. [But] what we actually count truly counts.” – Chip Conley

Chip Conley - Founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels and author of the New Yrok Times bestseller, Emotional Equations.

Chip Conley – Founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels and author of the New Yrok Times bestseller, Emotional Equations.

I’ve often find that we are the most creative, the most resourceful, the most reflective and the most driven when we are hungry. When we’re living in utmost care and worry when we live pay check to pay check. Or barely living from pay check to pay check. When we’re scrapping all our bags and flipping through books for our secret stash of emergency cash. When we’re constantly slipping into the mindset of oh-shit-I’m-so-broke-that-I-shall-live-on-soup-and-canned-goods.

There are a million and one ways that money can make life a lot easier. But making life easier means it’s easier to get by, not easier to understand.

Money, to me, is like the “Get out of Jail” card in Monopoly. You bypass all the rules and you’re instantly free. But it doesn’t tell me how to get out of jail should it happen again. Situations that beat us down will constantly happen. Life happens. Shit happens. There is an infinite number of ways shit can happen but the cash will always be finite. Especially if you’re not careful. And it’s an easy tendency to spend more when we earn more.

There are also a number of ways having loads of cash, may not be the best idea.

We take money for granted

It boils down to how we begin to devalue many aspects, such as the effort it takes to make money.

Perhaps I’m naive, so feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken. But I find that no money ever comes for free. Money is always earned by someone. Hard work makes sure that money is being churned out for the effort that they put in. Let’s take winning the lottery as an example.

When a person wins the lottery, it literally looks like free money. However, when you calculate the percentage of people who had earned their money and chose to spend it on buying lottery, the winner is essentially earning the money of these large group of people.

It is not free money but a redistribution of it.

By gaining access to this so called “free” money, we are disillusioning ourselves. We don’t acknowledge that the money you’ve gained is someone else’s blood, sweat and tears.

Sure, you may argue that these people have made a choice to place their own money forward. We cannot be blaming them for doing so. And you’re right, we shouldn’t be. Everyone has the right to make their own decisions.

But allowing ourselves to believe that money can fall from the sky means we become lazy. We lack the importance of hard work and most importantly, the appreciation for it. And having gratitude reflects in our attitude towards others. We treat others with respect and we don’t take anyone for granted. Money can give you access to grander things but it doesn’t give you entitlement.

Money doesn’t sustain you, you sustain yourself

“Don’t think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money.” – Voltaire

Voltaire - a French Writer, Historian and Philosopher

Voltaire – a French Writer, Historian and Philosopher

We all know the famous phrase, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The thing is, when we simply take without understanding or knowing how to obtain it, we’d never learn how to earn it. What does it take to earn a million dollars? What kinds of knowledge and experience are we losing if we don’t work for it ourselves?

I was interviewing a couple once regarding their journey of opening up their own social enterprise. When asked what they would do if someone gave them all the money they need now, they said that if they did, they would not be where they are today. They have not started it yet, but they have been introduced to people with decades of experience and are given opportunities to learn and grow as people and as business people.

Patience and strength are also values that come about when you choose the longer path. As technology moves fast, we assume that we should move fast too. We should move faster to get that job promotion or move faster to gain that raise. Unfortunately, experience doesn’t increase because you’ve obtained it faster. Moving faster means there are less times for you to stop and reflect.

It’s like the fishing analogy, when you’re actually fishing, there are always moments of silence and waiting. You reflect and analyse the ways you’ve fished before and think of new ways you could possibly catch more fish. It’s also a time for you to breathe and appreciate the nature around you. Feeding yourself is thus no longer about an immediate satisfaction but the strength and patience to sustain yourself.

Valuing yourself

Perhaps it’s currently what I’m surrounded with but we often seem to equate the amount of money we get paid with self worth. If we don’t make a certain amount or lead a certain lifestyle, we’re worth lesser than others.

Valuing ourselves shouldn’t be about how much money we can pocket but how much time are we willing to put in to make ourselves happy.

Money is important. Whether we like it or not, if we want to stay in the society we are in, it’s important for rent, for bills, for entertainment, for groceries and so on. But it’s not important for gaining knowledge, for learning life lessons, for valuing others and for our survival.

I leave you with words from an amazing American Comedian, Groucho Marx:

“While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.”

Groucho Marx - American Comedian

Groucho Marx – American Comedian

So what would you do if you won a million dollars?

Cleo Ngiam

Cleo Ngiam

Graphic & Web Designer at Melewi
Cleo Ngiam is a writer, designer, simple cooking enthusiast, and a travelling junkie.
Cleo Ngiam

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