I think the majority of people in the world, on being given a large sum of money such as from winning the lottery, will try to stop working. How many times have you heard something like, “If I had Bill Gates’ money, I sure wouldn’t be slogging my way to work every day.”? This, of course, is the reason why these people don’t have his money. I would postulate that there is a certain class of people who are rich precisely because they are the type of people who work just as hard, if not harder, when they are already wealthy.
I think people need to have something to work towards and it doesn’t necessarily have to be money, power or fame. It could be knowledge or good deeds or stamp collecting or just about anything that requires some effort and doesn’t give instant satisfaction. The stories you hear of people getting into all sorts of trouble after winning the lottery probably thought that all their life’s problems and goals would be solved by that money. They quickly fall off track, much like second and third generation wealth is often frittered away by spoiled, goal-less heirs or heiresses.
I’ve recently made statements along the lines of the Bill Gates comment above with regard to my brother. By all accounts, he’s got it made. He’s a pediatrician who could have a great job paying lots of money almost anywhere he wanted to go. He’s got a great wife and kid with another one on the way. He’s struggling though. He’s doing his fellowship in Paediatric Oncology out in Vancouver making student wages which don’t even cover his living expenses, racking up debt, putting a huge strain on his family because he has a dream. A dream he had since he was a teenager and his friend’s mother died of cancer. He wants to help sick people and fight the horrible disease and he’s paying a heavy price to do it. I don’t know if he’s going to make it. If you give up on a fellowship, it’s unlikely you’ll ever get accepted again but if it costs you your family, is it worth it?
I had originally thought the choice was easy. Take the money and run. Why would you struggle so hard and suffer as a poor student at the age of 33 when you could be making a fat six-figure salary? That’s what I would do. But that’s also why I have a comfortable job making a comfortable salary and I’m not doing anything bigger than writing some code that other people might get rich off of. If I were the type of person to struggle that hard, maybe I’d be willing to do 20 years of schooling to achieve my goals. I’m not that type of person but I’m beginning to understand that not everyone is like me and I don’t envy the choices he might have to make.