Wanting to Be Special: Would Fame and Fortune Make Us Happy?


“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.” ~Ann Landers

Until recently, the name “Tiny Buddha” didn’t make any sense to me for a website. Why “tiny”?  Yet, an experience I had recently helped me understand why it might make sense to put those two words together.

This experience even led me to ask two key questions that help me to let go of whatever I’m holding onto.

Swimming with “Sharks”

It all started when I got a call from the producers of the TV show “Shark Tank.” The casting producer said he’d heard about my online “happiness course” and thought it would make a great idea for a business to “pitch” on the show—in front of millions of people.

They asked if I wanted to apply for a likely shot to be on their show.

Once I hung up the phone, I was extremely excited. In the 90’s I had been on Oprah a few times, and I loved the added attention and money her endorsements brought to my books. Although I had been focused on my spiritual path for the last fifteen years, I could feel my old longing for fame and fortune come galloping back.

Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I felt like something was wrong. Our Western cult/culture tells us that fame and fortune are good—even wonderful things. Yet, does Donald Trump look happy?

When I reflected on my life, I saw that the happiest times were when I felt connected to others. It feels magical to realize we are all simply small parts in a larger “whole of humanity.” If I so love feeling connected to people, then why was I still holding onto wanting to be “special” so intensely?

Questioning My Motives

Questioning my motives was painful. One part of me really wanted to feel special—even superior—again. Yet, somehow I knew that the real thing I was after was being smaller—not bigger. Only a “tiny” ego can have the spaciousness to see what’s needed in any given moment.

Our parents, our educational system, and our society reward us for attempting to be big—whether that may be in terms of being rich, famous, or successful. 

But who do you really look up to? The business tycoon with lots of power or the loving friend who is always compassionate and there for you?

The problem with “getting small” is that it requires a lot of letting go of the parts of our self that seek out separation, power, and wanting all the attention. Yet, when I let go of my need for constant attention and power, that’s when I realize the world of love and peace are always available here and now.

But letting go is not easy to do, especially when some “sharks” are awaiting you.

The Two Questions

As I struggled to decide about the show, I remembered two questions author Peter Russell said he used to help let go of stuff. The first question was, “If I get this thing I’m holding onto, will it make me happy for long?” The second question was, “If I don’t get this thing I’m wanting, can I still be happy?”

As I reflected on each of these questions, my mind’s “Velcro tendency” to grab and hold on tightly began to soften. “If I get this will I be happy for long?” No, not really. “If I don’t get this, can I still be happy?” Absolutely.

When I called back the producer at Shark Tank and told him I was not going to be on the show, he sounded very surprised. His exact words were, “We’ve hardly ever had anyone say no to an offer like this. You’re missing out on a great opportunity.”

I thought about what he said about “missing out on a great opportunity.” In reality, every time we demand being center stage and trying to be a “big” Buddha, we miss out on a great opportunity.

In fact, each moment is an opportunity if our ego is small enough to allow this magical moment to shine through loud and clear.

Letting Go of Regrets

Right after saying “no” to the Shark Tank show, I had one regret. I would have liked to tell the “sharks” that the endless pursuit of money and fame was a waste of time.

I would have liked to tell them they don’t look very happy to me—and being happy and loving are surely more important than riches.

But I soon realized my desire to “tell off” the famous shark investors on the show was just one more thing my ego was holding onto. So I asked myself, “Would being self-righteous like that really make me happy for long?” No. “If I let go of my self-righteousness, can I still be happy?”  Yes.

Finding the Buddha Within

Happiness and joy are our natural states—just look at little kids. If they’re not in pain or immediate discomfort, they’re pretty happy. So our job is to see and let go of whatever obstacles are in the way of that natural joy of being alive.

For me, being around friends who can remind me that love and happiness are more important than being famous has been key. In addition, asking questions like the ones I presented here have been helpful in assisting me to let go of unnecessary baggage.

The Buddha is already inside of us; it’s our job to make sure our ego and desires stay small enough that they don’t block the view.

Photo by JM Abania

About Jonathan Robinson

Jonathan Robinson is a psychotherapist, the author of More Love, Less Conflict, and has been a frequent guest on Oprah. You can download free methods and info at

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