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Living a Life that Matters: Lessons from Solomon - the man who tried everything
TOO MUCH IS NEVER ENOUGH
What if you could have it all?
Money. Power. Love. Sex. Respect. Popularity.
Absolutely anything you want. Many of us spend our lives wishing for that very scenario---or at least imagining what it would be like. But not many of us get there.
Mel Gibson got there.
Once an unknown Australian actor, Gibson got his fi rst big break starring in the cult classic Mad Max when he was twenty-three. More big roles followed in blockbusters such as the Lethal Weapon series,
Maverick, Ransom, Conspiracy Theory, Payback,
What Women Want and Signs. As his international stardom grew, so did his bank account. He is now one of the top-paid actors in the world. For every movie he stars in, he now gets $25 million.
But acting wasn't enough for him. In 1993 he stepped behind the camera to direct The Man Without a Face. Two years later he earned two Academy
Awards for directing and producing Braveheart.
Gibson's success didn't stop with his career. He's been married to the same woman for 25 years, and they have seven kids together. People magazine named him the Sexiest Man Alive.
Premiere magazine listed him as one of the most powerful people in Hollywood.
Worldwide fame. Unlimited riches. True love. Fatherhood.
Widespread respect for his talent. International renown for his sexual appeal. Virtually limitless power in his career. Rarely does one man get so much in one lifetime.
Mel Gibson had it all. So he must have been the happiest man on the planet, right? He had the power to do almost anything he wanted. The money to buy almost anything he could imagine. Almost nothing was out of reach for him.
Yet Gibson felt something was missing. All that he had wasn't enough for him. So he added some new experiences to the mix.
'I would get addicted to anything,' he admits. 'Anything at all,
okay? Drugs, booze, anything. You name it. Coffee, cigarettes.
Sometimes I used to drive inebriated. I mean, this is the height of careless stupidity. Done a lot of things I'm not proud of.'
Eventually Gibson sought treatment for his addictions. But after getting clean and sober, he found himself right back where he had started: with an emptiness in his life.
'I just didn't want to go on.'
Th at's what he told Diane Sawyer in an interview on ABC's
Primetime Live. All of his personal success had brought him to a place where the most appealing option to him was to jump out a window and end it all.
'You know, I was looking down thinking, man, this is just easier this way,' he said. 'I don't know, you have to be mad, you have to be insane to despair in that way. But that is the height of spiritual bankruptcy. There's nothing left.'
If Mel Gibson had made that jump---if he'd killed himself at the height of his success---he would have joined a list of well-known people who 'got it all' and then decided it wasn't enough. One of the best known is Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. He and his band turned the music world upside down in the early 1990s with what became known as grunge music. They enjoyed enormous success with critics and music lovers alike. Despite that success,
Cobain refused to become a corporate icon and stayed true to his
'slacker' roots. And a generation of fans loved him for it.
Worldwide fame. Big money. Artistic respect. Influential power. Love (Courtney that is). Integrity. Fatherhood. Drugs.
Alcohol. Sex. Kurt Cobain had it all. But all of it wasn't enough to help him overcome his lifelong battle with depression, addiction,
and chronic pain. In fact, some people who knew him said having it all might have made things worse. Eventually, he just couldn't enjoy any of it.
A note he had written shortly before his apparent suicide off ered some clues about the burden his success had become:
'I've tried everything within my power to appreciate it (and I do,
God, believe me I do, but it's not enough).... I need to be slightly numb in order to regain the enthusiasms I once had as a child.'
Later he wrote, 'I don't have the passion anymore, and so remember,
it's better to burn out than to fade away.'
Trent Reznor knows what it's like to have it all, too. The worldfamous front man for the band Nine Inch Nails is respected by fans of industrial metal music for honestly expressing his rage and despair at life's injustice and emptiness. Reznor's lyrics describe his sometimes shocking, usually depressing, views on everything from relationships to sex to religion to love.
Worldwide fame. Big money. Love from black-clad fans and music critics. Power. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. Reznor has almost everything anyone could possibly want out of life. And here's what he said about it: 'It didn't make sense...nothing brought me joy.
After I got everything I ever wanted, I was ****ing worse off than
I was before.'
Something's not adding up here, is it?
If getting everything life has to offer doesn't bring happiness or peace or joy, what's the point of living? That's the question Mel
Gibson, Kurt Cobain, and Trent Reznor---as well as countless other rich and successful people---came face to face with. Those guys got to a place most of us never will. They made their fantasies reality. They indulged in everything life has to off er---alcohol,
drugs, sex, art. You name it, they tried it.
And what conclusion did they reach? Nothing satisfies. Not in the long run, at least. Not in a way that matters.
They weren't the fi rst guys to reach that depressing conclusion.
In fact the viewpoint is as ancient as the Old Testament. A
poet-king named Solomon reached the same conclusion about life on earth 3,000 years ago. In a book called Ecclesiastes, he spells out everything he tried in his quest for meaning in this life---and how all of it left him feeling empty. Like Mel and Kurt and Trent, he desperately wanted to find something that brought him satisfaction.
Maybe you're beginning a similar quest yourself. Most people do, especially when they're young. One thing these searches all have in common is that they contain the word if.
'I would be happy if...'
'I could be satisfied if...'
'I could get past this emptiness and depression if...'
The list of things people assume will fi ll the holes in their lives is long and wildly varied, but here are a few of the most common:
'I would be happy if...
* I had a boyfriend or girlfriend.'
* I could have sex.'
* I could have lots of fantastic sex.'
* I could be free from my parents.'
* I could have a close and loving family.'
* I could get married and have kids.'
* I could get my parents to love me.'
* I could get my parents to love each other.'
* I had enough money to be comfortable.'
* I had enough money to get everything I want.'
* I could get into the college I want.'
* I were smarter.'
* I were faster, stronger, and more athletic.'
How many people do you know who are trying to find meaning or satisfaction in one or more of those areas? How many people do you know who are convinced that money, good grades, a boyfriend,
sex, popularity, a future, or a good reputation will make their lives complete? How many people do you know who are looking for something worth living for?