We are all in search of rewards and awards. Money, fame, power, honor, recognition.
Some admit it more readily than others. Some find the need to camouflage it.
But the quest is universal.
All that changes are the goals. And whatever they are — money, fame, power, honor, recognition– they contribute directly to our personal happiness.
Some admit it more readily than others. Some find the need to camouflage it. But its impact on happiness is universal.
We wake in the morning and we greet the day, prowling for the goals. When we lose to others, we pretend to be happy for them but the truth is, we wish we were in their place. A ‘good loser” is really just a talented actor.
I have been watching the US open tennis this week, seeing the fire in the eyes of the champions, Nadal, Federer, the Williams sisters. On the court, in the heat of the matches, they want it all– the money, fame, power, honor, recognition–
And when they see the up and comers driving themselves to beat the odds and win, the champions double down and find a way to prevail, denying the challengers.
They cannot win enough trophies. They cannot collect enough checks. They cannot accumulate enough adulation. This is all part of human nature. It is what drives human achievement. It is what raises the bar. All who are out of the spotlight, are just as much in “the search” as those who command the headlines.
It all seems inevitable: the quest, the lust to have it all, the impact on personal happiness.
And then a wonderful anomaly strikes out of left field. This summer, Canadian author Alice Munro, was about to have the honor of having her new book, Too Much Happiness, nominated for the prestigious Giller Prize for literature.
Given that Munro has won the award twice before, this would be a crowning achievement placing her in that Pantheon of greatness every writer, athlete, businessperson, scientist would, admit it or not, revel in and use to stroke their personal joy.
But Munro broke convention, defied human behavior, did what virtually none of us would do, and asked that her book be withdrawn from consideration for The Prize.
Why? Precisely because she has won twice before and wants young writers, other writers, to have the opportunity to win.
I know that I don’t have the generosity to act this way. And I have actually never seen it before. And I believe there is a powerful lesson here. I just don’t know what it is yet. I don’t know how to incorporate it into my life. I don’t know how or if to defy “the quest.”
Perhaps the answer lies in the title of the book, denied The Prize by its author.
Perhaps it is Alice Munro who has Too Much Happiness.
Perhaps she is teaching us something.