On the first day of summer, Mr. Everit invited me to his house. The sun felt ever so good as we sat poolside, casually munching on a small mountain of nachos.
"You have to see this," he nudged me, handing me a copy of USA Today and pointing to a small illustration of a yellow smiley face. "The newspaper did a survey asking highly successful people which came first: happiness or success? Sixty-three percent said they were successful because they were happy. Thirty-seven percent said they were happy because they were successful."
Does Your Happiness Depend on Your Success?
"And which category do you fit into, Mr Everit?"
"It's a no-brainer," he answered. "If your happiness depends on success, any little setback will plunge you into upset. People who decide to be happy no matter what the stock market is doing, find all kinds of things to feel successful about — and attract more."
Then he shrugged his shoulders and stated, "I don't need any more money ... I have enough."
His statement jarred me; I'd never heard anyone say they had enough money. Even the wealthiest people I know always need more.
"You're really satisfied with what you have?" I asked, incredulous. "Don't you want to get richer?"
"I'm already rich," he answered authoritatively. "In fact, I'm the richest man in the world."
What? "Oh, come on, now, Mr. Everit, I know you have a few bucks in the bank, but you're no Bill Gates or Oprah."
He smiled. "Of course I'm no billionaire. If you define riches by money, I'm just an average Joe. But if you consider the immense good in my life, I am loaded. I have a loving wife . .. a fulfilling job .. . friends I laugh with .. . magnificent sunsets . . . inspiring books . . . music that feeds my soul. Sure, I have my challenges, but they help me get stronger. If I start to go into a funk, I remember how blessed I am, and things shift. What more could any man ask for?"
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Finding the Riches That So Many Seek
He leaned back and took a deep thoughtful breath. "When it comes to true wealth, I'm richer than a king"
There was not a thing I could say to that. Bert Everit had found the riches so many seek, but so few find. I began to consider that I, too, might have enough without even realizing it. Maybe I was doing better than I thought.
He read my mind again.
"Enough is not a number or condition to be attained," he explained. "It's an attitude you cultivate. Most people go to great pains to decide how they will invest their money, but think little about how they are investing their thoughts, which are more crucial. They spend most of their attention on the one thing that went wrong, and overlook the thousand things that went right. They don't realize that you get more of whatever you focus on."
"So everyone on the planet is living in their own reality, and we all just keep finding evidence to prove what we believe?"
"Couldn't have said it better myself," he echoed. "Take your basic supermodel, for example. People 'ooh' and `aah' over her perfect body wherever she goes. But she's never quite beautiful enough for herself. She is terrorized by the tiniest wrinkle, wart, or sag. She lives on one lettuce leaf a day and purges if she eats a doughnut. Constant fear and anxiety. A self-critical mind in a perfect body translates to one hell of a life."
I'd never thought of it like that before.
Deciding to Enjoy the Ride
"By contrast, when Marlene and I visited a beach on the Black Sea, you wouldn't believe the condition of some of those bodies on display! Men with surgical scars longer than Amtrak, and women with breasts sagging halfway to Albania. Yet they just march around topless and in little bikinis, as if they were Julia Roberts! I must say I was quite impressed by their relaxed attitude. A self-accepting mind in an imperfect body translates to one wonderful day at the beach."
Okay, I got the idea. "But if everybody just accepted everything as it is, we'd never get anywhere," I argued. "There'd be no striving for improvement. Isn't it important to set goals beyond your current level of attainment?"
"Exactly! Just don't be disappointed if you never get everything done. You will never wake up one day, wipe your hands clean, and declare, 'There, that's it! I'm done: There will always be more that you want or have to do. Like the Lexus ad that asked, 'Why pursue perfection when you can drive it?' Lots of people are pursuing perfection; very few are driving it. You don't need a Lexus to drive perfection; you just need to decide to enjoy the ride
I had to laugh; he had a point.
Appreciating What We Have: Being Happy & Hungry
"So the process of reaching for perfection is part of perfection?"
"Absolutely. We can appreciate what we have while striving for better. The two are not mutually exclusive. We can live 'happy and hungry.'"
Happy and hungry. I'd not thought of those two on the same playing field. A few people I know are happy. Most are hungry.
A strange question occurred to me. "Are you really happy, Mr. Everit?" I blurted out."Do you ever get afraid or depressed?"
Bert Everit was silent for what was probably just a few seconds, but seemed like ten minutes to me. Then he nodded, "Sure ... like you, I am a work in progress."
"You always seem so upbeat and together. Sometimes I wonder if you make mistakes."
"Good Lord," he laughed. "Everything I know is a result of the mistakes I've made! I've messed up so many times that I'm an expert in what not to do! Mistakes have been my greatest teachers.
©2011 by Alan H. Cohen
Reprinted with permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Co.
Dist. by Red Wheel Weiser. www.redwheelweiser.com
How Good Can It Get?: What I Learned from the Richest Man in the World
by Alan Cohen.
About The Author
Alan Cohen is the author of the bestselling A Course in Miracles Made Easy and his newly-released inspirational book, Soul and Destiny. Join Alan and musician Karen Drucker for a transformational in-person ACIM-based retreat in California, Into the Light, December 6-10, 2021. For information on this program and Alan’s other books, recordings, and trainings, visit AlanCohen.com