The man who had everything

July 08, 2018

My friend Mike just bought a boat. This wouldn't warrant mention except that I'm pretty sure it's his second or third. After finishing close to a decade of surgical training, he's making a ton of money and acting like a guy who just won the lottery. The boat will be kept on "his land", private lake and all, in Northwest Indiana.

I can't help but think of Louis XIV, king of France during the mid/late-1600s. He ruled almost 70 years, much of it from Versailles, the suburb that housed his royal estate.

Caroline and I visited Versailles on our honeymoon trip last year. It's a popular tourist site, and with good reason: it's incredible. The palace itself is a cross between a government administration building and event hotel, not unlike the American White House. But the Americans toned it down; democracy and all, "we have presidents, not kings". The French kings believed they were chosen by God, and certainly acted the part, with acres of manicured gardens, guest houses, dressage and polo areas, fountains, and multiple ballrooms. The place was basically a huge, year-round party town for the royals, an easy day's ride from Paris. They had everything.

I couldn't help seeing it as a psychology experiment: how did people who had everything—and French royalty did—live?

There's the obvious stuff: great food, material comfort, safety; they had all of that. But Dale Carnegie says humans need "a feeling of importance"—to be admired—and Louis XIV got loads of that too, in addition to great food. From the time the king woke up, admiring hordes flattered him from his bedside, and it continued throughout the day, until he was put to sleep by still more royal butt-kissers.

If you ever make it to Versailles, admire the art and the history; there's a lot. But I'd love hearing what you notice about a place set up to cater to the whims of people who already had everything.

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