We all have that dream. The dream to have enough money so that we could live out our lives in the manner of our choosing.
Money is always the obstacle.
We either don’t make enough, or we spend too much trying to make ourselves happy, or at least happy enough to continue on wishing we had more.
No matter the circumstance, there has always been a time (usually when sitting in traffic on the way to work) when we’ve wanted to chuck it all and quit our drudge of a desk job. It’s a nice daydream isn’t it? Just imagine: Wouldn’t it be nice to do what you really want to do instead of what you’re supposed to do, or what you have to do?
These questions are the topic of a video narrated by the late author Alan Watts. Watts, a native of London, became fascinated with Far Eastern life at a young age. After a short stint as an Episcopal priest in Chicago, he left the church to focus on Asian studies. His studies led him to Zen Buddhism, which he wrote and spoke extensively about.
Watts’ worldview changed radically with his immersion in Zen philosophy. The video “What If Money Was No Object” is one in a series of audio lectures he recorded before his passing in 1973.
One of the main points of this talk is the futility of earning a college degree simply as a way to earn money. Watts speaks of a situation involving graduating students who come to him for career advice, during a time when he worked as a vocational counselor.
Watts’ first question to the students is, “What would you like to do if money were no object?” The reply was usually, “Well, I’d like to be an artist/painter/writer/….” Watts then turns the conversation back to the point, “You can’t earn any money that way.” What Watts is looking for is an admission from the student that they are only looking for a way to earn money.
The most important point of Watts’ talk is to “do what you really want to do, and money be damned.” His scathing indictment of “working solely for money” is that the chase for riches will cause one to end up working in a job that they don’t like, for their entire life. In his words, “It’s stupid!”
Ultimately, Watts does come back around to earning money. But his advice for earning a living is a much more creative, and satisfying way of doing it. The basic premise is, “Do something you love doing, become extremely good at doing it, then charge a fee for doing it.” Earn money while you do something you love to do.
The importance of Watts interpretation of Zen philosophy, as it relates to our goal-oriented, get ahead world, is refreshing. Yes, money is an object and we all need to take practicalities and realities into account. However, it is worth thinking about and exploring if there may be ways to earn a living that won’t destroy your soul, or your spirit.