The older I become the more I realise that more of what we believe to be ‘truth’ or ‘facts’ are actually cultural myths rather than absolute truths. The route to happiness and success consists of removing these cultural biases from our minds and thinking in a larger dimension. Take, for example, a common myth around money and possessions. The western cultural belief on money is that the more you have as an individual, the happier you will be. This is simply not true in my view and many other cultures in the world would think that this is a crazy notion.  

Markus Persson, creator of Minecraft, sold his company to Microsoft for £2.5Bn in 2014 and less than a year later tweeted, “Hanging out with a bunch of friends and partying with famous people, able to do whatever I want, and yet I have never felt more isolated.” Scientific studies also backs this up. Various research has been done comparing individual happiness on a scale of increasing income. And whilst happiness increases up to a level around twice the average income, it then starts to decrease thereafter. Once people can live in a house with maybe a garden and go on holiday a couple of times they don’t become happier by accumulating more wealth. In fact, the opposite happens as perhaps they start to worry about where to spend or invest.

In many Eastern cultures, happiness is far more linked with the richness of relationships rather than material possessions. So within those cultures what does someone do when they inherit money or have financial success in other ways? They will give much of it away and enjoy being generous. This is one key to happiness, both personally and within business, to be generous. There is great joy in being able to give to others and maybe in some circumstances bring others out of poverty. Sometimes when we give money or possessions to others we are doing an internal calculation of how we will get something back from the person. That is called giving with strings attached and is not generosity, it is a deal. True generosity is about giving with no emotional strings, just for the joy of giving.

So, I would encourage any business leaders or aspiring business leaders not to have your main objective of being in business to accumulate wealth for yourself, but to be in a position to be generous to others. Often it is by giving that we receive back and then will have more to give, and it is those people who have learned to be generous and not put trust in riches for happiness that will end up as the successful ones. As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”