What to do with your millions

Tom Shadyac, director of <em>I AM</em>
Tom Shadyac, director of I AM
What would you do with your millions of dollars? Give it away? Move into a mobile home? Make a documentary?

This past weekend I was inspired, to say the least, by two media productions. The first is Secret Millionaire on ABC. Have you seen it? The show’s premise is to embed a millionaire in an impoverished community to secretly seek out local heroes. Sounds kitchy, but I cried at least four times. When unassuming individuals, who work with little to no resources to help their community, were rewarded (with money) at the end of the show, they were brought to tears. It didn’t seem to matter if they were given pennies or a check for tens of thousands. They were just so happy that someone acknowledged them and that someone cared.

This show made me want to be a millionaire simply so that I can go around and reward deserving people, too. And if I had that money, that’s what I believe I would do.

That’s what Tom Shadyac did. In a different kind of way. You might be familiar with his films Ace Ventura and The Nutty Professor. But his humor fell short when a disease led him to a depression. He began to ask the questions: What is the purpose of life? What is wrong with this world? And what can we do about it?

He set out to create a documentary called I AM. I can’t even begin to describe the enormous lessons learned in this film. I mean, really. You MUST see this for yourself. It will change how you think. The even cooler thing is how it sets forth a very convincing case that science is still catching up to religion and spirituality.

After the screening, Shadyac spoke and here are some Blackberry notes I took that I thought to share with you (fragmented).

  1. When you define others by religion or political party, you have done just that: defined them. And therefore prevented yourself from getting to explore that person any deeper. You believe all your questions about that person have been answered by the label that was given.
  2. “Get serious about your life” is the biggest crock there is, something society has made up for us. “Play” is what G-d may take most seriously.
  3. Never stop learning and your life will be embossed with beauty.
  4. There is enough for everyone in life, so stop competing and start helping. “There is enough for everyone’s need, not enough for everyone’s greed.” — Gandhi.
  5. You are going to achieve the thing you need to achieve, and let go of the rest.

The core of the film, as I saw it, is that the world as we know it is destroying the world as we know it. And the only way to change direction is to change ourselves, and the things we value and the actions we take. Shadyac calls it a “personal revolution.”

The millionaire on the TV show left $100,000 short, but the people he has helped will go on to help others. It’s a clear experiment on the side effect of kindness.

Shadyac, who sold his multi-million dollar home to move to a mobile trailer park, believes he is just as happy, if not happier. As philosopher Noam Chomsky said in the film, the truth is money does buy happiness if you are in a forest, cold in a snowstorm. The lie is if you buy a house twice as big, you will be twice as happy. Human kind, the film claims, desires just enough to be OK and any more than that will not add to a person’s contentment.

Give it away? Move into a mobile home? Make a documentary? What would you do with your millions?

I hope you all get a chance to watch the show and the film. If you do, please let me know what lessons you have learned.