A recent article in The Atlantic, “The Fortunate Ones,” previewed some of the findings of a not-yet-released study conducted by Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy that examined the impact of wealth in shaping people’s lives. One of the researchers, also a counselor to the wealthy, said:
“One of the saddest phrases I’ve heard is when the heir to a fortune is told, ‘Honey, you’re never going to have to work.’ The announcement is often made… by a rich grandparent to a grandchild – and it rarely sounds as good to the recipient as to the one delivering it. Work is what fills most people’s days, and it provides the context in which they interact with others. A life of worklessness, however financially comfortable, can easily become one of aimlessness, of estrangement from the world.”
Who among the less “fortunate” has not once wished they could exercise the choice to walk away because the next paycheck didn’t matter and it never would again? Who among us has never fantasized about how we would spend our time if we were free from the routine of work?
We would shape ourselves in the ways we wanted to be shaped. We would learn to speak another language, we would read Ulysses, and we would travel. We would have all of the experiences that the realities of work and limited wealth prevent. We would have rich, inner lives. But if we had never worked, to what would we compare our experiences that fortune provided? For many of us, it is experiencing the realities of work – disappointment, failure, hope, and accomplishment – that prompts our desire to figure out what we really want. To figure out how our inner life and work can intersect. To figure out fulfillment