Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What if money were no object? by Alan Watts

How would you really enjoy spending your life? What would you like to do if money didn't matter? What would be your profession? What would you master? What do you desire?

Inspirational short video (music by Ludovico Einaudi - Divenire):

Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British born American philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. From Wikipedia.

Video's script: 

"What makes you itch? What sort of the situation would you like? Let's suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students: they come to me and say well, we are getting out of college and we haven't the faintest idea what we want to do. So I always ask the question: What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life? Well it's so amazing as the result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say 'Well, we'd like to be painters, we'd like to be poets, we'd like to be writers' But as everybody knows you can't earn any money that way! Another person says 'Well I'd like to live an out-of-door's life and ride horses.' I said 'You wanna teach in a riding school?'

Let's go through with it. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him 'You do that! And forget the money!' Because if you say that getting the money is the most important thing you will spend your life completely wasting your time! You'll be doing things you don't like doing in order to go on living - that is to go on doing things you don't like doing! Which is stupid! Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing then a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you are doing - it doesn't really matter what it is - you can eventually become a master of it. It's the only way of becoming the master of something, to be really with it. And then you will be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don't worry too much, somebody is interested in everything. Anything you can be interested in, you'll find others who are.

But it's absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don't like in order to go on spending things you don't like, doing things you don't like and to teach our children to follow the same track. See, what we are doing is we are bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing. So it's all retch and no vomit - it never gets there! And so therefore it's so important to consider this question:

What do I desire?"

- Alan Watts


  1. Mr. Watts assumes we have a complete list of the things we like to do, and that we consciously decide what path to pursue. We are not omnipotent.

    Upon leaving school, we might know what we like, or what makes us tick. But even if we decide to pursue our passions regardless of money, our knowledge of the probably infinite number of professions in which we could flourish is extremely limited. For me, this is the biggest source of anxiety.

    I'm also not sure that mastering some skill or trade must necessarily be linked to one's job. Many writers work dreary day jobs, write at odd hours of the night, die virtual unknowns, and find fame long after they're gone... but they are masters in their own right. See the bio of Franz Kafka...

    1. Your point is totally valid! When graduating, there are lots of possibilities that we are not even aware that they exist.

      Excellent example with Franz Kafka. Nevertheless it is stated on his wikipedia page: "He began to write short stories in his spare time, and for the rest of his life complained about the little time he had to devote to what he came to regard as his calling. He also regretted having to devote so much attention to his Brotberuf ("day job", literally "bread job")."