What if Money Didn’t Matter?

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

 -Howard Thurman


Far, far away, in a distant galaxy, there is a planet where money just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even exist. I’ve dreamed about it. This is a place where you do what you love. You live a very limited time there, as on earth, so it only makes sense.

On this planet—earth’s twin—I’m Travel Writer Girl. Whenever I’m in the mood (which is often), I hop a plane to destinations that inspire me. I take cooking classes in Provence, surrounded by lavender, and in Sicily with a spicy hot chef. I dance reggaeton in Cuba and samba in Brazil.

I tour vineyards in Spain and eco coffee plantations in Guatemala and interview fascinating people who live their passion. I go to places so beautiful it takes my breath away.

I see Lara Fabian sing at the Acropolis and Andrea Bocelli in a hilltop town in Tuscany. I am introduced to incredible music by composers I’ve never heard of before.

I spend more time contemplating in hammocks and on the ocean protecting whales and dolphins. I photograph the blue planet and tell healing and inspiring stories about the wonder of it all. The lines blur between work and play.

That’s what I’d do if money didn’t matter. So what would you do if money were no object?

My nephew recently sent me a link to an Allan Watts clip that I’d previously seen. At that time I went on an Allan Watts binge to learn what I could about this English-born American philosopher and author. The 3-minute clip was compelling and in it he said this when students came to him for vocational counsel:

“What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life? It’s so amazing as the result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say, “Well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows you can’t earn any money that way!” Another person says, “I’d like to live an out-of-doors life and ride horses.”  I said, “You wanna teach in a riding school?”

His advice was to do just that thing and forget the money. If you do what you love, you will become a master of it. And eventually, someone will want to use your services and will pay you a good fee for it.

A friend made a comment to me one day that disturbed me for weeks. It was one that would sadden Allan Watts. Her advice was that, basically, I had to work at something I dislike—that’s what everyone does to pay the bills. Depressing. From this perspective, where does happiness fit into the equation? From this vantage point, one’s imagination gets locked in a closet and dies without light. Watt’s belief was that it is absolutely stupid to waste your time doing things you don’t like and that it is better to live a short life doing what you love than a long one doing what you despise.

Watt’s idea of mastering that which you love aligns with author Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of the “10,000 Hour Rule” outlined in his book Outliers. He says that it is not just raw talent, genius or even blind luck that paves the path to success, but rather an unwavering dedication to a craft. When you hit the 10,000-hour mark of doing that one thing, you enter the arena of mastership.

One of the most sublime examples of both Watts and Gladwell’s philosophies, unified, is a man considered the world’s best surfer, Laird Hamilton. I learned of him on Oprah’s Master Class series.

Hamilton was obsessed with surfing from a very young age. I was mesmerized by his interview and, the chicken-ass that I am, wondered what makes someone driven to conquer the world’s biggest waves, like Tahiti’s mammoth Teahupo’o, and know beyond all doubt that this is his purpose on earth?

His fearlessness is awe-inspiring. As I listened I also wondered, how do you make a living at surfing if you refuse to enter competitions? But I learned how persistent passion and the 10,000-Hour Rule equals incredible success. Through his dogged determination to perfect his art and carve colossal waves, Hamilton pioneered tow-in surfing, hydrofoil surfing, and kite boarding. Check out his site and you’ll see just how amazingly success this man is, all from hanging ten.

I loved the first ten minutes of (my author hero) J.K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech. Actually, it made me cry. In it she said, “Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged.”

In her failure to succeed at that which she was expected to do, she found her voice and dedication to her true calling in spite of being broke and “on the dole.” Did it pay off?

When Jane Goodall (another hero) set out to study chimps at Gombe in 1960, I’m guessing money was the last thing on her mind. Her love of animals led her to a fateful meeting with Louis Leakey. She is the foremost expert on chimpanzees and is a primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist, a UN Messenger of Peace and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute.

All too often when we plan our vocations, we make the decision based on money. My friend Nancy said in planning her education and career she asked herself: “What job can I do easily and make the most money at?” Her decision: Certified Management Accountant instead of her true desire of becoming an architect. What is she doing now? Yoga! Her body was screaming at her to get out of the office and into her body. She became a freelance yoga instructor in her forties.

Another friend, Lynn, reinvents herself frequently. She developed an interest in astrology and began to study it intensely. Now she gets a good fee to read birth charts and has done so for hundreds of satisfied clients.

But, you say, “I have obligations, I have bills, I have complications! Sounds like a nice fantasy, but what of reality?” Let me tell you, nobody knows it better than me, my friend.

Can we live as though money doesn’t matter? Some of the world’s happiest and most successful people seem to think so. Laird Hamilton states emphatically that if he did not surf, he would not be Laird Hamilton.

Have you always had a deep burning desire to do something unrelated to what you are currently doing? Buy that book, take that class, find that instructor, or book that workshop. Start now. Do it in your spare time and if you don’t have spare time, make some. Who knows? Maybe one day in the not too distant future, you’ll be able to take a new fork in the road that will bring you to the original and authentic reason you came here in the first place. Remember, Grandma Moses became a famous cultural icon at 80 … it’s never too late to be you!


Did you enjoy reading this post today? Order Wanda’s latest book here!

Image of Laird Hamilton © tim-mckenna.com

Post © Wanda St.Hilaire

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20 Responses to What if Money Didn’t Matter?

  1. Debbie ferguson says:

    Ya! I loved Alan Watts piece on doing what you want……..reminds me of my son Mike who inspires me every day by being clear and focused on what he wants in spite of judgement…….must be close to 10,000 hours by now…….thanks! Great blog!!

  2. Outstanding post, Wanda!
    I would like to live on that planet where money doesn’t matter.
    I’m going to have to read about the 10,000 hour rule, sounds not only intruiging but life altering.
    Glad I found you blog!

    • wanda says:

      Thanks Gabriella. Yes, the book was rather fascinating and it’s heartening to read stories about famous people (like The Beatles) who got to where they are/were based on the 10,000 Hour Rule. I highly recommend it!

  3. A very, very inspiring post!!!! I believe in the power of happiness. 🙂

  4. Donna Larkin says:

    Thank you…wonderful insightful and inspiring….my children have been some of my greatest teachers and continue to show me how they are paving their way in this world following their
    passions…As a new member of PVWG my world is expanding

    • wanda says:

      Thanks Donna! Children are the best teachers for adults when it comes to living by heart instead of logic. They just follow their passion instinctively!

  5. Donna Larkin says:

    You’ve got that right Wanda…I do not do Facebook, but am realizing i have to become a little more savvy with a few of this social media…question.. your Howard Thurman quotation was used in a daily meditation book i have been working with for years…Mark Nepo’s “Book of Awakening”…the meditation entitled “Work and Passion” was for Dec. 4th, yesterday…mmmmm

  6. I love this post. So inspiring and so beautiful.

  7. Petra Friede says:

    Dear Wanda,
    Thank you for reminding all of us to step out of our “hamster wheel” and remember what our dreams were before we stepped into the “wheel”. We are what we are imagine, I believe I can do better, so let’s work on that !

    • wanda says:

      Absolutely Petra. I think all of us can learn from the “masters” like JK Rowling who just finally decided to do the work she came here to do, period.

      Thanks for reading!

  8. maryanne says:

    Very inspiring post Wanda! I am going to “take the time” to read all that you quoted!

  9. Jo Vella says:

    Awesome post Wanda. Timely! ;o)

  10. Great information Wanda and beautifully written. I also came across Alan Watts clip twice now this morning! Thanks so much for sharing.

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