Few of us could compare our lifestyle or career trajectory to David Siegel, the self-made millionaire who made his money in time-shares after dropping out of college. And statistics would have it that none of us could compare to being featured as the subject of a documentary about building the largest house in the U.S. as was Mr. Siegel and his wife, Jackie. The 2008 financial crisis, however, descended upon the Siegels at the same time it descended upon the rest of us and, by chance, did so shortly after filming of The Queen of Versailles began.
We see the Siegels, relatively, have to make choices about their priorities. Mr. Siegel’s son reports that the banks offered Mr. Siegel an opportunity to walk away from a resort he has constructed in Las Vegas. Walking away would largely resolve the Siegel’s financial troubles. Mr. Siegel refuses. Work is his life he tells the camera, and he just wants to get back to where he was. He won’t be happy until he is – which leads to the question, is it the function of what of we do that makes us happy or is it the outcome? Or both?
Positive psychology tells us that we achieve flow when we are completely single-mindedly focused on a task – not on a goal to be reached a decade from now, but a task at hand that provides immediate feedback. When experiencing flow we may lose track of time, experience spontaneous joy, or lose our emotions concentrating on the task at hand. We can experience flow gardening, running, playing the piano, ideally, in our work life.
We must all define our own fulfillment. Regardless of the great wealth Mr. Siegel still had at his disposal even after the financial crisis, it is understandable that he would want to regain what he lost. He has tied his identity to success and it is clear he defines success as wealth. But if work is our life and there is only joy in the outcome, fulfillment becomes a prisoner of circumstance just as it did in 2008 for Mr. Siegel.