Introduction: How It All Began

 

In the 1998 movie The Truman Show, Jim Carrey plays the part of Truman Burbank who lives on a happy-happy, ever-tidy, nice-and-shiny, little island town as an insurance salesman.  He is into his forties before he starts to discover that things may not be what they seem. A stage spot light falls to the floor from out of the sunny sky; he starts to recognize that the same couple pedals by on a tandem bike at the same time each morning; he overhears what seem to be stage directions on his car radio; and when he tries to leave the island, he is given many different excuses as to why this is not possible. Eventually he learns that he is actually the star of the most popular reality-TV show in the world, where his entire life has been broadcast to millions of people on a 24-hour basis. His wife, his friends, and acquaintances are all actors. Finally, he rows a boat out into the ocean and soon collides with and breaks through the set’s horizon, yelling at the show’s director that he can make it on his own.

Like Truman Burbank, I began to discover that the life I had been living was based on a fantasy in 1990, when I was 47. My four business partners and I sold our company for over two million dollars, plus royalties, which gave me a feeling that I had made it—that I was a success in the American Dream. But after moving into a new big house with a swimming pool that looked out over a golf course, I discovered that this did not make me any happier than when my wife and I were going to college living on the GI Bill earning $150 a month in a converted one-car garage. Instead of finding happiness with this new-found wealth, my anxiety level actually increased! I started to worry that someone would break into our house and steal our newly acquired possessions. I also worried that I didn’t have enough money, so I began to work even harder.

Several years after this, my partners and I began a two-year lawsuit after learning that the acquiring company was significantly shorting our royalties. This further raised my stress level, and I began experiencing lower back and shoulder spasms. During this period, my oldest daughter temporarily moved back into our house after graduating from college. She told others that her move-back-in experience was like diving into an ice-cold pool. My stress was affecting how well I was there for my wife, kids, and community.

This monetary unhappiness slowly raised a red flag of suspicion regarding all those promises of advertising, materialism, individualism, and—dare I say it—capitalism:

  1. How much of this is a bait-and-switch game that works off my greed with a sprinkling of lust?  (When I buy the car, I not only get the exhilaration of the drive but also an attractive woman like the one who was standing next to the car in the ad. However, a month later, the car isn’t doing it, the woman never shows up, and I need something else.)

  2. And besides bait-and-switch, how much of this is based on fear that there is not enough to go around so that I need to hang onto all that I can get? This fantasy has both a carrot and a stick!

  3. How has this fiction been established in my head and why?

  4. What is truly the real source of happiness?

 

So, like a bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau (from the movie The Pink Panther), I began a 22-year investigation, which has led to the writing of this book. I have called this investigation “going into a search mode.” This search has taken me into the study of eight sciences (psychology, sociology, archaeology, anthropology, physiology, biology, public health, and climatology), plus a wider exploration of spirituality, with the goal of better understanding what is going on with this happiness myth of money and possessions. I am not an expert in any one of these fields; my background is in electrical engineering and business marketing. However, because of my wide interests and my wife’s help, I have discovered a surprising agreement among all these fields as to where true happiness and resilience can be found! Eureka! For me, when this consensus is viewed as a group instead of examining each individually, it makes the pathway to true happiness and resilience come into a much clearer focus.