During the "Dot Com Explosion" of the late 90's I knew more than a few people who amassed considerable wealth in a very short amount of time. This did not include me, however, because I was becoming increasingly involved with the Buddhist studies I had stumbled upon a decade earlier. Material wealth was something that took a distant back seat to my spiritual wealth back then, so chasing the buckets of money was not a priority. Even so, it was an interesting period in my life precisely because of all the money that was to be had.
And the randomness of where the money went.
Some people I knew stumbled into shit-loads of money almost by accident, but were smart enough to turn it into a personal fortune while the gettin' was good.
One guy... a kid, really... was pulling down thousands of dollars a week just making simple banner ads in his spare time. He not only earned enough money to completely pay for his college tuition, but had enough left over to pay for a bug chunk of his sister's education as well.
Another guy got a full-time job with a massive salary working from home on a corporate website. This occupied so little of his time that he ended up getting two additional "full-time" work-at-home-jobs... all of which he held at the same time. After six months he had enough money saved up that he started his own business, which he ran successfully for nearly a year before selling it for a staggering amount of money. This would be a cool story in itself, but it's made all the more incredible when you know that he kept all three of his "full-time" jobs that whole time!
Still another guy made huge, huge money because he owned a "worthless" low-rent office building that his family had purchased decades earlier. He inherited it after his dad died and had tried to sell it several times without success... until the neighborhood became a hotspot for dot-com start-ups. Luckily for him, he quickly learned the value of what he had, and was able to milk it for incredible profits... before finally selling it to a big company that bought it only so they could tear it down and build their new headquarters on the land.
Money was raining down from the heavens at an incalculable rate, and a lot of people became incredibly wealthy chasing it.
But not everybody.
Some people, try as they might, could never manage to get their piece of the pie no matter how hard they tried. They would start up one failed business after another trying to figure out where the money was... but never managed to find it.
These were some of the most bitter, angry, resentful people I've ever met. And the most educational, as they clearly confirmed that my embracing anti-materialism was the right path to be on. This was never made more clear to me as when I joined a group of them at a housewarming party thrown by a guy who was making bajillions of dollars in dot-com cash. He proudly showed off his incredible new home, only to be cut-up from one end to the other the minute he left the room. At one point some guests were discussing the "horror story" that was the kitchen decor. I found this funny... and said so, which lead to this conversation...
"You actually like that ugly mess?"
"Well, it's not my taste, but he's clearly happy with it. Since he's the one that has to live with it, what should it matter to anybody else?"
"Because he has the money to hire a decent interior decorator and still chooses to have an ugly kitchen!"
This was good for a group-laugh, which was fascinating to me...
"Well, fortunately the only thing wrong with him is something that can be fixed by a coat of paint... we should all be so lucky."
The implication of that statement went right over their heads (thankfully), but stuck with me for a very long time. Even when I strayed off the path of anti-materialism because I realized that some "stuff" made my life much more fun. Like a
Eventually the dot-com bubble burst. Some people who made a lot of money ended up losing a lot more.
This, I'm sure, was a time of glee and much rejoicing by all the bitter, angry, resentful people who were so tortured by the monetary success that eluded them during those heady days. Finally, at long last, those who succeeded where they had failed were "getting what they deserved!"
The irony being that all the bitter, angry, resentful people were getting exactly what they deserved, even if they didn't realize it.
Which is why I am trying hard — so very hard — not to be bitter, angry, and resentful that Justin Bieber's new album, Believe, has just become the year's top-selling debut... despite being filled with songs that I loathe so badly that I can barely listen to 10 seconds of the 90-second preview snippets on the iTunes Store without gagging.
Fortunately, Matt & Kim, a band I love more than buckets of money, just released a new single to keep me on my path...
Life. Is. Good.