Being rich only makes you rich. It doesn't make you beautiful, smart, nice to be around, happy, young, healthy, wise, etc.
Being rich means, for a lot of people, that they buy lots of things that require other people to keep going. Companies, houses, cars, boats, planes, huge weddings. That means you spend a lot of time dealing with employees. And they are no substitute for friends. And sometimes rich people get the idea that their friends should be more like employees. That narrows the circle even more.
Becoming rich can be a disaster, especially if they are not yet fully developed as a person. They have the wrong idea of what being rich means to others. They're surprised and angered by the response they get from people who would like to be rich, but feel like it will never happen for them. Being on the receiving end of schadenfreude is tough, esp when you were expecting adulation.
So Sean Parker's wedding was a huge schadenfreude magnet. People who had been reading stories of Silicon Valley billionaires finally had something to attach their anger to. Parker stood up with a big target on his back and wonders where all the arrows came from.
Once when I had a company in nice office on Easy Street in Mountain View, I found out that a guy I knew, who had made a lot of money from some patents, lived in a modest middle-class house down the street. It was a very ordinary house. I asked him why not live in a mansion. And he told me something that stuck with me all these years. He liked living an ordinary life. I remembered his story, but I ended up having to learn it for myself.
A few years later I got hit by the Silicon Valley money truck. I had a big bank account, house, long driveway in the best neighborhood, and was young and beautiful, had everything one could possibly hope for, in terms of possessions, the things money can buy. And then the bottom dropped out of my life out at exactly the moment you would have thought I had it made. I realized I had believed in something that was wrong. That wealth would lead to a feeling of happiness and security. Almost exactly the opposite was true.
As long as I was poor, I had something to struggle for. A reason to justify my unhappiness. Once the struggle was over, how could you explain the empty small feeling inside? That was all that was left after the struggle.
The truth is that no matter how much you have, you still occupy the same amount of space and time. You can buy big things, but they are not you. That's the other side of the sadness of Parker's wedding. His anger isn't really with the Internet or journalists. He's projecting. His anger is with existence. Look, I got all this material stuff, and they don't love me. They aren't impressed. Which is just a trick your mind plays. What the anger really means is that there is no love in here, inside me. My soul is not impressed. All this crazyness isn't me. Help, I'm lost. Where am I?
My friend with his small house on Easy Street had the right answer. Money is nice, but if you let it be everything, you are nothing.
Me, years later, I still need to learn this lesson. I hope to reach a nirvana where everything will fall into place and happiness and security will result. Inside I know this is not true. But my heart very much still wants it to be true. I don't think it ever really gets easier. :-)
Dave Winer is founder and CEO of Small Picture, developers of Fargo, a Dropbox-based outliner and blog publishing system. He helped pioneer the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School and NYU, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in New York City.