Friday, 24 February 2012

The girl next door who got lucky

Family first: Victoria Beckham at 
Simon Fuller's induction into the
Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Now, Victoria Beckham is not known for dropping pearls of wisdom from those pouty lips. In fact, the former Spice Girl rarely speaks, other than to drop clangers along the lines of “David likes to borrow my knickers.” *

But I was struck by her self-effacing honesty in a recent interview in Guardian Weekend. She admits that, despite having an entourage to help her,  she sometimes struggles with the demands of her life.  “It got to the point, just before Christmas, when for the first time ever, I wasn’t actually sure I could cope,” she says.
I imagine jaws up and down the land dropped open in disbelief at the idea that life could be a struggle for  Victoria. After all, at the latest count, the Beckhams were reported to be worth around  £165m. However, juggling life with a new baby, three boys, a high-profile husband and a career as a fashion designer is still a tall order, no matter how much you’ve got in the bank.

Wealth alone is not the secret of great happiness, although many people believe it is. Most of us have said at one time or another: “If I could only win the lottery, all my problems would be solved.” Well, winning the lottery would solve your money problems, fair enough, and paying off debts does bring peace of mind. But once money worries have been dealt with, having a mountain of cash won’t guarantee a happy life.
Getting the most out of wealth requires wisdom, or emotional intelligence, which is something you can’t buy, but it is something that can be taught. Lottery winner Michael Carroll, of Swaffham, Norfolk, was just 19 when he hit the £9.7million jackpot back in 2002. He was unemployed at the time and had already had a few run-ins with the law, in fact he collected his winnings wearing an electronic tag for being drunk and disorderly.  However, Carroll  insisted he would spend the money carefully  - he  just wanted a modest house near a lake, where he could go fishing.

Surrounded by hangers-on, Carroll blew the money on houses, fast cars, drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, quad bikes and gold jewellery. By 2006, he was in prison for affray. Two years ago he was officially declared bankrupt and tried to get his old job back as a binman.  Last year, he attempted suicide twice and is now living on benefits. One week ago, he was back in court for shoplifting booze and a sandwich.
To be fair to Michael Carroll, he didn’t have the greatest start in life. When Carroll was just 18 months old, his father was sentenced to 11 years in prison for stabbing a couple at a dance.  Michael’s parents separated when he was seven and he was only 10 when his father died. He also had a number of stepfathers  – one of whom beat the young Michael and locked him in a room for hours.

Small wonder then, when he got his hands on a lot of money, he used it to finance several years of self-destructive hedonism. He has, however, taken something from the experience. When asked in a interview on BBC Look East  what winning the lottery  had taught him, he replied: “You don’t trust no-one.”
Victoria, by contrast, had a very stable upbringing. She once said: “I’m the girl next door who got lucky,” and this, no doubt, has helped her form a set of values which she adheres to, no matter how huge the size of her wealth.

Her core value is “children first”, which is why she and David decided to stay put in LA and turn down the offer of a move to Paris, even though it would have been good for both their careers.  Victoria lists her second joy as working on her fashion label: “I was never going to be the best singer and it wasn’t my passion,” and in this moment of insight, she reveals the secret of a happy life.
It doesn’t come from money,  nor does it come from fame. Happiness stems from the ability to align what you do with what you are – not what you, or other people, think you should be. It’s called authenticity, and it gives you the staying power to keep going, even when times get rough. Authenticity helps us live our lives with few regrets.

And no amount of money can buy that.

*Channel 4 Big Breakfast TV program in 2000

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