Real happiness comes from the things that cannot be taken away from you.
This was one of Coach Wooden’s favorite ideas and one that he almost always spoke about when giving a speech—usually in the context of discussing the sixth item of his father’s Seven-Point Creed: “Build a shelter against a rainy day.”
Coach put the principle in perspective this way:
Build a shelter against a rainy day—I don’t think Dad was thinking of an earthly shelter.
I think of Socrates when he was imprisoned and unjustly facing imminent death and yet he faced it with serenity. His jailers did not understand this and asked, “Why aren’t you preparing for death?” Socrates replied: “I’ve been preparing for death all my life with the life I’ve led.”
Basketball Hall-of-Famer Pat Williams gives this idea more clarity in his book Coach Wooden:
“The way we build a shelter against a rainy day is not primarily by accumulating assets, but by becoming a certain kind of person. So the issue here is not one of accumulating material possessions, but one of accumulating values, virtues, character traits, faith in God, strong family relationships and enduring friendships. These are the ‘possessions’ that will help us survive the rainstorms and floods of life.”
These are things that cannot be taken away.
The basic principle of looking at others’ material possessions and being able to admire without feeling a need to acquire is helpful in keeping us focused on those things that cannot be taken away.
When I first got married, my wife, Christy, and I had a one-bedroom apartment with no air conditioner in the sometimes rather-warm San Fernando Valley.
I was an air conditioner away from being happy.
My landlord provided us with an air conditioner. A new challenge arose when my friend rented a condominium.
I was a condominium away from being happy.
We got the condo, but then my friend received a promotion and purchased a home.
I was homeownership away from being happy.
We finally made it big and purchased our first home in a nice city named La Crescenta.
Things were going well and then my son joined a basketball team in another city named La Canada. I was asked to coach the team. The homes in La Canada were much nicer, larger and a lot more expensive than the homes in La Crescenta.
At night when I would drop off my son’s teammates at their beautiful homes, I would think, I wish I could buy a home like that for my family.
I was a zip code away from being happy.
One night when I was driving home from La Canada, I thought about Coach Wooden and realized that it was not a better zip code—or an air conditioner, condominium or house—that would make me happy, but my family and friends, the people already in my life, who I loved and who loved me. Things that cannot be taken away.
Instead of chasing material possessions, stop appreciate the things that truly matter, like your values and your relationships. That is where happiness comes from.
Related: Happiness Is All About Perspective
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