The Law Mankind Breaks Everyday

I was catching up on Oprah (I’m not a daily watcher but come on it’s her last season!) and she did an interview with Tom Shadyac. Don’t know who he is? I didn’t know who he was but I bet you’ve seen his movies before. Ace Ventura, Liar Liar, Nutty Professor, and Bruce Almighty.

He is the director for those hit movies and made millions of dollars. He lived the glamourous Hollywood life. Big parties. Private jets. Owned three homes including one 17,000 sq ft home with 17 bathrooms and 13 bedrooms!

That is the American dream for most people! That is the picture of success. But is it? Well he wouldn’t be on Oprah now to talk about how much money he has. Oprah’s got him beat!!

He came on to talk about his new documentary called I Am. He talked about how living the glamourous Hollywood life made him feel empty. It was a lie to him. He stopped making big Hollywood movies and started searching for the meaning for his life.

After a hiatus, he took a crew of 4 people (compared to 400 people for his last movie) to find the answer to two burning questions. What’s wrong with our world? What can we do about it?


How it all started

He started like any struggling director till he took a chance on a movie with the white guy from “In Living Color”, Jim Carrey. That movie and subsequent movies propelled him to millions of dollars. He said he used to drive around Beverly Hills imagining owning one of those big homes. That’s what success looks like he thought!

When the movers left after he bought his first 7,000 sq ft Beverly Hills, he stood in the huge entrance way and felt no happier. He didn’t feel sad. He didn’t jump up and down. He felt neutral. Not the type of feeling you’d expect right?

He started searching for more meaning. That journey took 10-12 years according to him. He started to figure it out. Then something happened propelled him to finally do something.

The Accident that Changed His Life

Then he had a biking accident in 2007 and faced death. He had post concussion syndromes so bad he slept in his closet. He thought he would die. He didn’t want to die still without answers for the meaning to his life. He said this

“Facing my own death brought an instant sense of clarity and purpose,” he says in his film. “If I was, indeed, going to die, I asked myself: What did I want to say before I went? It became very simple and very clear. I wanted to tell people what I had come to know. And what I had come to know was that the world I was living in was a lie.”

So he sold his mansions and moved into a mobile home. Ok it’s a mobile home community in Malibu but it’s still a step down from three mansions. He distance himself from Hollywood. He gave most of his money away to charities that needed it more than he did.

The False Definition of Success

Photo by jonrawlinson

The problem that we face in our culture is the definition of success. What’s the first things that people can judge by how successful you are? Cars, houses, jewelry, and clothes. It’s a culture of proving how successful you are. People work hard to get to that level of success and some, like Tom, feel more empty at that point.

That’s probably why growing up so many parents wants their child to be a doctor or lawyer. Because the money they make can buy you things that proves they are successful!

Tom felt like his life was out of balance. If he said he worked 18 hours a day, people would say great and ask what he was working on. If he said he played for for 4 hours today, they would think he’s crazy!!

A Law That’s Been Around for Billions of Years

Watching the interview to talk about what he discovered while making his new documentary, there was one point that really stood out to me.

He mentioned a law that nature obeys everyday and mankind breaks everyday. The law has been around for billions of years. The law is this:

Nothing in nature takes more than it needs.

A enormous redwood tree doesn’t take more water than it needs. A lion doesn’t kill all the animals. Just what it needs.

Photo by Tambako the Lion

In our culture, people buy more homes, more cars, more clothes, and more useless things that they just don’t need. I’ve been guilty of that.

In your body there is a term that exemplifies this. Something in your body takes more than it needs. When it takes all that it can take, it kills the host and it dies too. That thing is cancer. Just think about that. It breaks that law and kills us.

Can’t we apply that to food to? If you consistently eat more than you need, you will get fat. Then you will have clogged arteries, high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and a ton more ailments. It’s not healthy! You’re slowly killing your body!

He stresses you don’t need to take more than you need. Take what you need to for a happy, purposeful, meaningful life! Whatever you own make sure it serves a purpose for you from deep inside.

You might be happy with a 7,000 sq ft home. That’s fine. If it makes you happy inside. There might be a need for a large family, or to entertain guests. It’s perfectly fine. But if you take more than you need, you’re not going to feel any happier. You might feel worse!

Just look inside you and look at what’s true for you. Everyone is on a different path. Don’t fall into the false definition of success. Remember to not take more than you need. Nature has been around for billions of years. Maybe we should follow nature’s lead more often.

What is your opinion?


Are you guilty of taking more than you need?


If he asked you ‘What is wrong with our world?’, what would you say?

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  • Nothing in nature takes more than it needs – except humans! Honestly, I’ve been really trying to change my mindset to one of contentment. I try to be content with whatever state I’m in – money, time, work, family etc.

    This is a really great post and it got me motivated!

    • Benny

      Thanks! When I heard that nature doesn’t takes more than it needs but we always try it, it got me thinking as well. It was really powerful. You mention changing your mindset to one of contentment. Have you tried a gratitude journal? Or you can just recognize what you’re thankful for having right now instead of focusing on what you don’t. I’m working on my mindset that way. Thanks for coming by!

  • This was a great writeup. A definition of the human soul and our experience here. Searching for happiness, growth and passion. Along that pursuit often we’re beat down – so we give up on passions and go into the pursuit of brute success.

    • Benny

      You’re absolutely right Christian. You summed it up well. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  • Benny,

    You asked: “Are you guilty of taking more than you need?”

    At this point, I’d say no…because I don’t have much. But I am guilty of “wanting more than I need”, like most people are.

    We pursue “success” for success’ sake because we think that it means bigger houses, expensive cars, etc.

    Success, as you illustrated here, is a particular state of being – not of having. Happiness is a good indicator of success; but, again, no amount of material possessions can define happiness.

    • Benny

      I think most readers to my blog do realize that money can’t buy happiness. But before I thought having so much money would make me happy, regardless of other things in my life! No matter if I hated my job.

      You’re right. Success isn’t defined by a big house or a big car. It’s more than that. There are homeless people who I’m sure are happier than some millionaires. Sounds crazy but it’s true.

  • This made me remember the movie fight club by Chuck Palahniuk; especially the scene where Tyler Durden shoved a convenience store attendant out of the premises and threatened to kill him sometime if he have not pursued what he want in life. After that Tyler then said, let me quote “Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.”.

    I had been into a somehow similar situation and that gave me a sense in life.

    p.s. I guess Tom Shadyac’s star followed his path. Jim Carrey also tried to seek that meaning of life. -> http://youtu.be/ABx5o8EGzmk 😀

    • Benny

      It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Fight Club (I should watch it again) but I do remember that scene. That happened to you too? That’s pretty scary.

      thanks for sharing that Jim Carrey video.He’s definitely trying to seek the meaning of life. Maybe Jim got too famous too fast and having money and material wealth didn’t make him happy.

      • Marco Lee

        Haha yeah, but not exactly that way. I mean, I was mugged up on the street and they threatened me with an ice pick. They told me that they only want my phone, but I said I didn’t have one. So they searched me but found none so they let me go…

        and they even said sorry!

        It was funny because at that time I more feared the scolding of my mother (if I had given the phone to the muggers) other that the muggers themselves. Haha

        That was the incident that woke me up to live life more fully and better. It made me better.

  • Hey there Benny, this was nice to discover, I feel like you almost wrote the continuation to my post. When I read the line

    “Nothing in nature takes more than it needs”

    It caused me to take a low slow whistle, you actually nailed it. That was a really powerful analogy and something that we could all do with meditating on. I’m not too sure about your definition of how we get cancer, but otherwise this was seriously interesting

    • Benny

      Thanks Stacey. Not sure if you misunderstood my analogy with cancer. I didn’t mention how we get it. Of course there are many different ways that science has proved. It’s just that once the cancer is in our body, it keeps eating and eating. It never stops. It takes more than it needs. Eventually it kills its host. That was just an example of what breaking the law will do.

      Yes that line “nothing in nature takes more than it needs” really made me stop and think too. I thought “wow, that is so true”. Too many people in life need more this and more than. Maybe they’re trying to compare themselves with someone else like you wrote about. Whatever their reason, it’s unhealthy. We should follow nature’s lead more often. Thanks for commenting Stacey!

  • Benny,
    It sounds like greed and the Hollywood lifestyle of not enough finally got to him. Good for him that he had his “wake-up” call.

    Sounds like his new documentary will be inspiring.

  • Hi,

    That is some good writing and fantastic story telling on your part. Often people decide that they are defined by their wealth and material possession. However, all these ego is wasted if someone has not helped people in need.

    The earth is being devastated by over consumption. We also need to consume individually but some do it beyond their requirements.

    Great post.
    Ashvini

    • Benny

      Thank you Ashvini. I like that you said “the ego is wasted if someone has not helped people in need”. The ego sometimes gets blinded by material things for happiness but it’s searches for a much deeper reason to be happy. Thanks for coming by and sharing your thought!

  • Great post Benny and I’m behind on Oprah’s shows! LOL!!! Yep, I tape them all but haven’t had a chance to watch any of them. Oh well, there aren’t many left now.

    Wonderful story and I can totally relate. My parents wanted us to be more so that we would live comfortable lives, not have to struggle or need anything. I definitely don’t have any more than I need or want. I live just within my means. My home is small, my car is old and I’m not a shopper. I learned a very very very long time ago that life is too short. Enjoy and appreciate everything you have because it could be gone in an instant. You can’t take the fancy car or the million dollar mansion with you when you go. They are just things.

    I wish more people would realize this but I don’t fault them for having what they want if they can afford it. To each his own.

    Thanks for this reminder and will look forward to watching that interview.

    Adrienne

    • Benny

      I have taped them too but am behind as well! You are absolutely right when you said “to each his own”. Everyone is on a different path. I say if you have the money buy what you want, if you’re happy with it. If I had millions of dollars I would buy luxuries that I’ve dreamed about but I would make sure first that I’m happy with work, my family is happy, and I’m happy with my life. Then I can enjoy the private planes and fancy cars. 🙂

      But I know if I hated my job, fought all the time at home, buying that stuff wouldn’t make me happy at all.

  • I couldn’t agree more. One thing I’ve consistently noticed in some people is that they seem to confuse owning fancy things with happiness. Stuff doesn’t necessarily increase happiness.

    I’m guessing that his near-death experience made him re-evaluate his life and put everything into perspective on what really mattered. In the end, we only really need a certain lifestyle level to live comfortably. Anything more probably wouldn’t increase our happiness all that much. Too bad it took him a bad accident to make him figure out what he wants.

    • Benny

      I think because he lived in Hollywood he imagined that success was owning big houses. That’s what his peers were doing. Later he realized it wasn’t for him.

      I used to think owning more things would make me happy. They just temporarily made me happy. Thanks Steve for sharing your opinion!

  • This is a very thought-provoking post. I recently read a case-study on the happiest countries. I was given the papers by a friend, I honestly don’t know if the source is accurate, but it still makes for interesting contemplation. We (USA) may be one of the wealthiest, and most priviledged countries, but we are only the 15th happiest. The country at the top of the list is Denmark. Denmark is the happiest country. Then coming next is : Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Costa Rica, then Israel. The list goes on, but these are the top 7. Like I said before, America is the 15th. That makes you think. It says that only 57% of us American’s are happy! For those of you wondering, United Kingdom comes in at 17, and Mexico is 18th. Like I said before, I don’t have a reliable source, but it’s still interesting, cause you’d think they couldn’t be to terribly far off!! Anyway, I loved the post, thanks for stimulating my brain cells! 🙂
    ~Pianolessongirl,
    Dakota

    • Benny

      You’re welcome! I do believe it is Denmark that is the happiest country on earth. I think they have nationwide free health insurance. How great is that?? It definitely takes more than owning a lot of stuff to be happy. Thanks Dakota for leaving a comment!

  • Hi Benny,

    Great post! Just last week I had a personal encounter with this idea, on a smaller scale. I was introduced to a store called Plato’s Closet. I had never heard of it before, but it works off the premise of buying and selling ‘gently used’ clothes.

    When I was walking around the store the most expensive item was $12. I thought to myself these exact words, “I can get so much, for so little.” Afterwards I noticed how I completely bypassed the thought that I could just get one thing for 8 or 9 bucks and went directly to the idea that since this was so cheap, “I need to buy more of it.”

    That’s when I began to see how needless abundance was running my life. It is unfulfilling and it causes an attachment to the material instead of enjoying a living freedom.

    (I did walk out of the store, not having bought one thing – true story)

    Cheers!

    • Benny

      Chris, thank you for reading! I know Plato’s closet. There is one where I live. You are correct in that it would be so easy to get carried away to buy so much in there. I do believe you walked out and bought nothing! 🙂

  • Hey Benny, just come across your site, it rocks man!

    I love this post, it reminds me of an old Stephen Covey saying: “Many people climb the ladder of success, only to find it was leaning against the wrong wall.” (or words to that effect!)

    Us humans do have a habit of taking far more than we need, but that doesn’t guarantee any sort of fulfilment. I think that many people who have never experienced great wealth become disillusioned with what success is, it’s far more than money and what we have to “show” for our hard work.

    People living “beyond their means” has been a large cause of the current recession, it’s easy to blame others and “society”, but everyone needs to take responsibility for themselves. They can start doing that by just taking what they need and nothing more.

    Keep up the good work my man! Awesome blog, I’ll be on here more often from now on! :p

    Rob

    • Benny

      Thank you very much Robert! I appreciate that.

      I like that Covey quote. I’ve never heard that. Very cool though. I’ll definitely stop by your blog as well! I see you have an interview with JK. Man that guy is everywhere!

      • Thanks man, glad you like that quote.

        Yeah Jk is getting around these days! He’s a really cool guy with a great deal of value to add!

        Thanks for replying,

        Speak soon

  • Ahh yes, the cancer that we are. Agent Smith had something to say about that:

    “I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.”

    Great post.

    • Benny

      Wow Brad. Thanks for sharing that quote from Agent Smith. Great quote!

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  • Benny, Great post.

    i know exactly how the director felt as he stood in his mansion that he worked so hard to earn. I didn’t have a mansion, but i definitely worked hard to climb the corporate ladder. It was only when we became unemployed and started living more simply did i realize that i was actually not happy in my all American dream life.

    I never had the chance to experience any other life until i was laid off and started living a simpler life. Had i not been laid off, i think i would have kept on going and going with my eye on the prize (money, title, things). They were like blinders

    I think we are conditioned and taught from an early age that we need to work towards having a certain lifestyle. We blindly believe that at any cost, we must work towards having the idea life. That idea life might be to have a big house, nice cars,, fancy gadgets.

    Then we need to upkeep all those things. We struggle struggle for gross abundance leaving us no time to enjoy those abundances or our family and friends and live.

    I’ve been Living simpler for a year now. I have less but it has given me a chance to see that i didn’t need all those things. In the end, they just weighed me down.

    Don’t get me wrong, i’m no minimalist. I still believe in saving for a rainy day. Simple necessary abundances, like a chipmunk who collects nuts for the winter. Maybe, i’ve turned into the equivalent of a human chipmunk 😉 Scary thought. I digress 🙂

    • Benny

      Thanks for sharing! I’m not minimalist either. I won’t be owning just 30 things any time soon. We think material things will make us happy and some do but most just make us happy temporarily. I’ve been guilty of that. Also a simpler life just means you have less clutter and less things to take care of right? Again, thanks for stopping by Annie!

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  • Hi Benny,

    I came to this post because Rob from Belief and Action had the link on one of his posts. Anyway, I am really glad I read this. I am thinking about what I take and right now, I don’t really have a choice to take more than I need, but then again, I actually find myself doing that! Even living on the tightest budget I have ever in my life, I still find myself taking more than I need. The other day I went out to eat when there was food in my apartment. I know I shouldn’t deprive myself of entertainment and fun things, but I get so mad when I spend money on something I dont actually need. I dont hope to live like this forever, but when on a budget of so little, it is good to be reminded of what I ACTUALLY DO NEED. Thank you! Great post!

    • Benny

      Hi Julia! Glad Rob liked it enough to post my link. This is one of my favorite posts actually.

      When I first heard about that law that man breaks every day, it blew my mind. I started to look at myself and realized all these years I’ve taken more than I needed. It hasn’t made me happier. Instead I have a house full of stuff I haven’t used in years! Yeah the same goes with food too. I’ll have food at home but I’ll still go out to eat.

      I’m with you in trying to remember just take what we need. I know we’ll feel happier that way too.

      Thanks Julia!

  • “God, please help the poor get rich and the rich get poor so they know what it feels like. And then God, let everyone switch back to medium and let everyone have the same amount of food and money.”

    Ben’s prayer, age 7

    It seems more than just a matter of “stuff doesn’t make us happy” though. It seems much more like a justice issue. Our abundance at the expense of a world in poverty. At least that is how it feels to me right now. Do I struggle with having too much – absolutely. Do I struggle with the insecurity that leads me to think that an ipad will make my life better? Yes. But I’m fighting.

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