I Am Rich, Successful, And Have Everything But Am Not Happy.

I Am Rich, Successful, And Have Everything But Unhappy. Why? Science Reveals Answers

Imagine hitting all your life and financial goals. Sounds great, right?

But many people who get there hit a funk.

Pat Flynn, an online entrepreneur, received this chilling email not long ago. He shared this email in his book Will It Fly? It’s worth sharing if you think money alone is all that matters:

Subject: I make $20,000 per month and I’m not happy.

Hi Pat, I’m sorry to email you like this, but I had no one else to turn to. I feel like I know you because I listen to your voice all day. You’re like a friend, even though we’ve never met. Sorry if that sounds weird.

Anyway, I want to thank you. You don’t know this, but you’ve taught me so much about how to build a successful online business. I currently generate over $20k per month in recurring revenue, but here’s the thing…

I’m unfulfilled. I’m not as happy as I thought I was going to be.

A few years ago, before I started my company, the thought of making this kind of money online was a pipe dream. Now that my “dream” has come true, I realize that I didn’t give my dream much thought at all and there’s much more to life than just making money.

I don’t even know why I’m emailing this to you, Pat. Maybe just to get it off my chest and share it with someone who might understand because you seem to have it all figured out. I don’t know. I just opened my email and started typing, which is funny now that I think about it because I jumped into it without a plan, sort of like how I started my business. Clearly I need to work on that.

Anyway, I don’t expect a reply because I know you’re busy. Thank you Pat, for all you do.


This man is not alone. Throughout my hundreds of hours of study of successful people, I’ve found many celebrities and successful entrepreneurs come forward with the same conclusion that wealth and/or fame doesn’t guarantee happiness.

What separates them from the rich and happy people?

In his book, Pat explains that he frequently meet entrepreneurs like this who have “put their ladder on the wrong building and made it to the top.” They’ve built businesses they didn’t enjoy because they wanted to get rich. Passion matters. But even if you become rich and passionate about what you do the following questions may still pop up: “Is this all there is to it?”, “What do I do now?” and “I don’t feel any happier” pop up.

This is an extra special episode of Will’s Personal Development Podcast because it is a theme that I see is a problem for billions of people who are told by mainstream entertainment that money or fame will make them happy… when it does not. And I will prove it to you, with science.

In this episode, I dive into what to do if you are rich and successful but not happy. I will use science backed answers to explain why this happens and how to fix this. Be prepared to learn:

  • why you do not need to give all your money to charity to feel happy.
  • why people who have nothing can have so much fun and be so happy.
  • what rigorous, unbiased scientific research reveals about the relationship between money and happiness (it’s shocking).

Without further ado, please enjoy the episode:

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Here is a summary of some of the big points I brought up in the podcast for those who are busy:

  • Purpose, constant challenge in your work, and enjoyment of your work contribute to happiness — something money can’t always buy and something some successful people forsake when they get rich and retire. 
  • Generally speaking, people find meaning and fulfillment through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Survival and food come first. Some turn to religion. Others turn to making an impact before they day. Others want to be known and mattered long after they die. Some want to leave a positive impact on society or a certain group of people.
  • Practice happiness-building practices that science shows actually brings happiness (exercise, gratitude, savoring the good, avoiding dwelling on the bad and comparison, and/or religion). See the links in the Show Notes below for specific practices you can take.
  • Don’t get it wrong. Money helps, especially if you haven’t hit the threshold of being able to afford food, healthcare, and shelter. But after that, studies show that the correlation diminishes.

If you are ever struggling with not feeling accomplished or happy with what you have achieved, even if you have achieved a lot, try this:

Compare yourself to where you were in the past rather than to others better than you or your future potential. You may be constantly beating yourself up by always comparing yourself to someone who is better. This creates an endless cycle of disappointment. I learned this technique from the strategic coach, Dan Sullivan, who has coached over a thousand entrepreneurs.

If you are feeling unfulfilled despite being successful by society’s standards, try out a new career, business, or form of work.

Does Money Buy Happiness?

Money can buy pleasure and/or reduce suffering. Pleasure is different from happiness.

This is a subtle difference that even the founder of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, didn’t seem to understand. I was reading his book, Delivering Happiness, and it made a lot of great points on the science of happiness, some of which is mentioned here.

But he referred to moments that were clearly temporary pleasures, like opening a brand new pair of shoes, interchangeably with moments that held long-lasting well-being (happiness), like strong friendships. This frustrated me because not understanding this difference is a huge part of why most people are confused about happiness.

Money can buy all sorts of pleasure. But pleasure would be anything that is superficial or materialistic at its core. Pleasure are moments of temporary boosts in positive feeling and enjoyment, that quickly leave you in the next few minutes, hours, weeks, or days.

True happiness, on the other hand, is enduring, resilient, and can last years no matter what troubles life throws at you.

How do you tell if something will deliver pleasure or real happiness?

Use the superficial or materialistic test. If it’s something that costs a lot of money and returns you to your normal state of happiness after a while, it’s probably a pleasure-delivering item rather than a happiness-delivering item.

Examples include sex, women, fancy cars, mansions, new electronics, vacations, and expensive clothes.

Often, the most science-backed factors for improving happiness are free, such as gratitude. But even if they cost little money, it stills require effort. One of the strongest factors are strength of relationships. But if you don’t have friends, it will take effort to go out there and make friends.

Why don’t pleasures bring happiness?

Humans are designed to adapt to them and take them for granted. There is a scientific term for this called hedonic adaptation or the hedonic treadmill, which Wikipedia has thorough documentation on.

The Yes or No Test

These questions will give you a guide towards what you’re missing in your life when it comes to happiness. You don’t have to answer Yes to all of these to reach your peak states of happiness but it’s a red flag if you’re answering No to many or all of these:

  • Are you fulfilled with the work you do?
  • Do you work more than 15 hours a week?
  • Do you have a lot of fun with your job?
  • Do you feel a sense of contribution from your recurring work where you feel you are delivering value to other people?
  • Do you feel a sense of purpose from what you’re doing?
  • Are you challenged by your work (enough that it’s tough but not so much that it’s overwhelming)?
  • Do you have strong social relationships with friends and family and connect with them in person every day or at least once a week?
  • Are you grateful for what you have in life and make an effort to count your blessings at least once a week?
  • Are most or all of your top life goals already achieved so that you wouldn’t regret it if you died today and didn’t accomplish them? If not, are you at least making and executing on a plan to accomplish them?

Show Notes: Links Mentioned in the Episode

    • Dan Bilzerian creating his own video, addressing whether money brings happiness. He says it brings pleasure, but not happiness. When you raise the bar, it becomes your new standard and you get used to it and won’t be satisfied with the lower standard of living you used to enjoy. Climbing the ladder and enjoying the journey will make you happy. “Money and Pussy” are black holes; you can never have enough.
    • Jeff Walker, a famous and wealthy internet entrepreneur, on achieving all his financial goals, still feeling lost, and deciding on a purpose:

Other Useful Resources

  • The world famous supermodel Cara DeLevigne’s talk on happiness:

  • Other successful people coming out about happiness and money.

Get My Happiness Secrets Cheatsheet for Free

I’ve gone through my own struggles with happiness and set out to find the truth. I asked many, including religious people, poor people, and scientists. I found out the truth through rigorous scientific studies that have been done.

If you want a shortcut to your happiness, get this cheatsheet free by clicking the button below.

Yes, I want your Happiness Secrets Cheatsheet for Free.

Here is the question of the day for you: What is the #1 lesson you learned from listening to this episode and how will you put it into action immediately? Please let me know in the comments below.

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  • Saam

    April 29, 2018

    My company has been very successful, and the more successful it becomes the more depressed I am becoming. Perhaps the fear of losing it, or having achieved my basic goals. I make around 200k USD or more per month, and the happiest part is when I am spending on others. When I get home I am alone, through choice. Being depressed even makes me have no interest in a partner. Ive lost a lot of great people in my life from my lack of motivation, my defensiveness, and my misplaced anger during depression. I know many others have it far worse, but its still crippling. Suicide – never seriously thought about it, but it pops in my head from time to time as “I get that it is easier”. I heard depression struck intelligent people more commonly, it’s made me think about my lack of faith, based on my understanding of the non-permanent being I am. I dont expect to live or exist beyond this life. Ive lost people, pets, friendships and lovers. Nothing seems to last. I guess my targets of how much money I could make were based on my expectation that the things it could buy me were the key to my happiness. Now I know – money is really not happiness. But if i would be depressed anyway, id rather have it. I dont need to get out of bed until I want to, i can find good help, and I can get satisfaction by helping those around me. I am overly compassionate to the people I care for, and overly ruthless with those I dont. I feel the pain of those closest to me, and I understand its a pain felt by millions around the world. From single parents who cant buy their children food, to the disabled trapped in a body that cant achieve their dreams. I guess what I am trying to say is I have no idea why depression happens, but I get it, and I think its among the most tragic aspects of life. I dont know if it gets better, or worse. I dont know if i will be trapped in this state for my lifetime. I dont know what it will destroy next. I dont know why I am even writing this, though I guess because sometimes we need to share and talk. Even if anonymously from around the world. I dont want happiness to be an effort. I want it to come naturally, or happiness is draining. I literally enjoy nothing, and am only living for others. I have lived in over 15 countries over 4 continents, and try to keep moving so my mind doesnt become trapped. Good luck to anyone who cant find happiness. I truly hope you do.

    • Will Chou

      April 29, 2018

      Thanks for sharing. Have hope. It’s clear you’ve made enough money and should move on to other areas. Jon Morrow faced a similar disinterest in his company and restructured the company so he wasn’t as much a part of it anymore. Consider selling or hiring others to replace you. It seems a good cognitive therapist can help you a lot by identifying and working on why you struggle with forming strong relationships. I highly recommend checking one out. He or she can help with all your problems, from managing others, putting yourself first, biological depression, and achieving happiness. Good luck!

  • James

    August 23, 2017

    Good article. Chilling…my name is also James…and that sounds like an email/letter that I could possibly write if I ever became wealthy/successful haha! BTW, I was a little uncomfortable putting in my email because I don’t want my picture to be public LOL

    • Will Chou

      August 24, 2017

      Thanks for reading and appreciating the article.


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