Luke Johnson: Happiness, like success, is relative

Working with the super-rich left my friend's father discontented with his merely affluent existence.

by Luke Johnson

There are many secrets to happiness, but I was taught a new one recently by a friend. He described how his father had enjoyed a highly successful career as a banker in the City, and was a confident and accomplished fellow. He possessed a decent London home, a nice ski chalet and all the other trappings of a pretty lucrative life in high finance. Generally, he was a contented fellow, and his friends and work colleagues were of similar social standing and net worth to him.

But then his father made the mistake of taking over the private-client side of the organisation, looking after its most elite clients - almost all of whom were billionaires. And suddenly he spent his time hanging out with the uber-wealthy, with their private jets, mansions in Ibiza or St Tropez, trophy wives, armies of servants, giant yachts and all the rest.

So he no longer felt prosperous, or a high achiever. Suddenly he was something of a pauper compared with those with whom he now worked, and inevitably socialised too. The contrast between his material assets and theirs was stark. And it has made my friend's dad unhappy at an age when he should feel he has done pretty well for himself.

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