Today at Gotham, we were posed with a brain-bender, courtesy of Alex, the President. He asked the office this:
“Would you keep the money you have now, or have a billion dollars?”
On the surface, this seems like an easy question—of course you’d take the billion dollars. But as the old Hindu saying goes (according to Alex at least, I found no record of it)—“have cow, have care of cow.”
If you choose the billion dollars, you then have to ask yourself what becomes of it. Do you quit your job? Do you give a chunk of it to charity? To family? You have a pseudo-obligation to do good things with that money. Maybe you just put it away and live off the trickle effect. You disappear, move to your own island, and enjoy life as best you can. Whatever the case, there is now a billion dollars that requires your immediate attention.
Which can be stressful.
Dana posed a good point—would the hunger go away? Not the literal hunger, for food, but the hunger to be someone, to do something. If money is no longer a motivation, would you then settle into a comfortable life and set aside whatever you wanted to do with it? Or do you keep pushing, money be damned, and not let yourself become a complacent billionaire, removed from society?
Natalie asked an important question—would it cheapen the value of things? Would you still appreciate vacations like you once did? Or would it feel commonplace?
There were a spattering of answers in the Gotham office. Some said they would take the money. The majority of the people that said that, said it because they didn’t have a lot of money. Seems simple enough.
Personally, I didn’t see what the big deal was. Hand me a billion dollars and I’ll keep writing. Having money doesn’t make me the person I want to be. I still have work to do to get to the place that money can’t take me to. It can help though. It can pay my rent. It can facilitate a life to get me there faster. But maybe I’d be singing a different tune if I was sleeping in sheets sewn of $100 bills. I tend to doubt that, though.
There were people who disagreed with the simplicity of the question, who said they would stay where they are and not take the billion. The concern was that, as is the analogy with the cow, once you have that money, you have to care for that money. There is a certain stress involved with what that money would be put towards.
It’s a question of what’s important to you, and how much you trust yourself to stay true to who you are. Money corrupts. Of course it does. But it doesn’t have to. Just because you’re handed a billion dollars doesn’t mean you’re immediately going to start living the life of a crime lord on a yacht off the coast of the Canary Islands.
Or maybe it does.
So what would you do? Would you take the billion or would you stay where you are?