Alan Watts Asks, “What Would You Like To Do If Money Were No Object?”
Today’s post contains a video highlighting a profound speech from the late British philospher, Alan Watts (1915–1973). Before viewing the video, let’s take a quick look at who Alan Watts was.
Watts was a prolific speaker and author. He was one of the first to interpret Eastern wisdom for a Western audience and wrote 25 books on the topics of philosophy, the psychology of religion, and mystical experience.
Some of his famous works are:
- The Book
- The Way of Zen
- Become What You Are
- The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety
What do you desire?
What if money were no object? Apart from being the author of 25 books, Alan Watts was an expressive and enthusiastic speaker, which is reflected in the numerous audio recordings of his lectures.
The short video below contains a recording from one of his seminars. In it, Watts asks two seemingly simple questions,
- “What do you desire?”
- “What would you like to do if money were no object?”
These questions not only attempt to stir emotion and tease out answers but also function as a call to action. They encourage you to open your eyes, embrace life, and start doing the things you really love. Questions like this urge you to take a moment to live and dream as if money didn’t matter – as if money was no object.
If you have ever felt frustrated and unhappy with your life or weighed down by life’s pressures, watch this video and ask yourself:
- “Am I putting money-making before happiness itself?”
- “What do I really want to do with my life?”
- “What would I like to do if money were no object?”
What if money was no object?
“What do you desire?
What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like?
Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, well, we’re getting out of college and we have the faintest idea what we want to do. So I always ask the question, what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?
Well, it’s so amazing as a 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. Or another person says well, I’d like to live an out-of-doors life and ride horses. I said you want to teach in a riding school? Let’s go through with it.
What do you want to do?
When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.
And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it – you could eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much. That’s everybody is – somebody is interested in everything, anything you can be interested in, you will find others will. But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like, in order to go on spending things you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach our children to follow in the same track.
See what we are doing, is we’re bringing up children and educating to live the same sort of lifes we are living. In order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing, so it’s all retch, and no vomit it never gets there. And so, therefore, it’s so important to consider this question,
What do I desire?”
– Alan Watts
Alan Watts – audio seminar
Purchase and listen to the entire Alan Watts audio seminar by clicking the following link:
I find Alan Watts to be inspiring. Albeit scary, the notion of dreaming and living without regard for financial reality emits a sensation of freedom – one that can potentially open the imagination to entire worlds that money had previously rendered unrealistic.
I know some people may listen to this and think Watts is being unrealistic when he suggests that we put money aside. From what I understand, Watts is not suggesting that we ‘pretend money doesn’t exist.’ What Watts does ‘suggest’ is that we disallow money to be the primary and controlling factor in our thinking.
Instead, we should create an exercise where we pretend for a moment that ‘money is no object.’ Doing so allows us to clear a mental and emotional space within which we can intuitively determine what we actually want to do with our (often fleeting) lives. Ignoring and not doing what we truly love may deny our core purpose and fulfillment on Earth.
A quote from the speech that resonates with me time and time again is one I have had posted on my fridge for over a year now. It is,
“Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it – you could eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it.” – Alan Watts
It is in my kitchen so that I see it every day. I revisit this quote and many of Alan Watts’ lectures and books often, as I feel they dish out many valuable nuggets of wisdom.
His lectures present me with important questions that help me stay focused on my personal and professional journeys. Regardless of what phase I am in with my life, Alan Watts’ sage words effectively slap sense into me. My focus tends to drift, so it’s helpful for me to listen, adjust course, then listen again… and again.
Talk to me
Let’s kindle a conversation. Tell me,
- What do YOU desire?
- What would you like to do if money were no object?
- Are you truly living a life full of what you enjoy doing? Or are you living life in a downhearted kind of way?
- If you are unhappy, what will it take to create change?
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When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.