The Investment Scientist

Happiness That Doesn’t Take Money

Posted on: September 15, 2013

images-17Last Monday I went to Philadelphia to visit a client. After the meeting, I thought I would give myself a break. I would go check out a storytelling contest organized by First Person Arts at the World Cafe.

When I got there, they asked me if I wanted to participate. Well, I did not have a story, but what the heck, I’d come this far already. I would make up one on the fly. It would be a thrill to take part in a contest totally unprepared.

I spent the next hour preparing a story, which is based on a real-life experience that I’ve kept a secret thus far.

I went on stage, and the crowd loved my story! There was laughter like every ten seconds. In the end, I won the contest hands down. Now, I am a top ten storyteller in Philadelphia! I will have to go back to contest for the title of “Best Storyteller in Philly.”

I was so thrilled by my win, the excitement didn’t even subside after a whole week. This was a seriously cheap thrill, since all in all I’d spent only $10.

Let me elaborate on exactly why I am so thrilled.

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English is not my first language. It’s not even my second, but my fourth! Five years ago I still could not speak English confidently. But, for my business to succeed, I needed to speak English well. What better way to push myself to learn English than by putting myself on stage to perform storytelling and stand-up comedy?

Admittedly, it was extremely scary to get on stage for the first time. But see what has happened? I can just walk into a contest and snatch a best storyteller title from native speakers, just like that! The thrill comes from the joy of overcoming a once impossible hurdle.

Now let me interject a little bit of personal finance as well. The American dream, when boiled down to the basics, is about the pursuit of happiness. Most Americans, however, have mis-directed their pursuits to a bigger house and nicer cars. These things cost tons of money and don’t bring about much happiness.

How about taking on some challenge, stepping out of your comfort zone, learning a new skill? Experiences that make you uncomfortable initially, also make you grow as a person and they usually don’t cost much. However, they can bring about long lasting happiness.

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Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC.


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