Confessions of a billionaire: Shari Arison reveals why money can’t buy It

The Carnival Cruise Lines heiress and richest woman in Israel comes to terms with her wealth, her father and her faith

Shari Arison put her yacht, "My Shanti," up for sale at $100 million

Shari Arison


— In my decades of seeking inner peace, I have become increasingly aware of the fierce battle raging within me — between sadness and happiness, between acceptance and frustration, between praise and envy, between strength and lack of confidence, between the adult and the child. I have recognized the evil inclination within me. The dark side. The closer we get to our inner essence, to the divine spark that resides in every human being, the closer we get to the basis of the evil within us.

Just as I saw God within me, the Garden of Eden within me, so I saw Satan and hell within me. This can be a harrowing experience; it is exceedingly difficult to accept that we have within us something that is evil. Acknowledging this can be painful, but to be able to choose the good, to opt for life, we must reach this place.

When I would tell people that happiness, tranquility, and peace are not connected to anything external but flow from within, they would always respond: “Ah, that’s easy enough Shari Arison for you to say. You’ve got money, you’ve got a yacht, you’ve got a plane.”

shari-arison-wpNo one understood that none of this is connected to anything. On the contrary. For a long time, I was tormented by possessions like my yacht or my private jet, things that are supposed to bring me pleasure, but which I never truly enjoyed. I possess these things for reasons that are external to me: for my children, for my husband, for the status, for entertaining guests.

But I suffer from the fact that they are in my possession. From an ecological perspective, from the standpoint of sustainability, I feel that it simply isn’t right to own these things; they are too flashy, too extravagant, too wasteful. In short, they are not consistent with my values. Not that I have anything against private jets or yachts as a matter of principle. There is nothing wrong with being content with what you have, and if this is what you have — that’s terrific. But I was never able to be happy about material things. In fact, just the opposite is true.

For years, I debated whether or not to sell certain items like the yacht and the jet, and when the global economic crisis hit, I felt, among many other things, a certain sense of relief. It provided me with the perfect excuse to put them up for sale, in addition to sharpening my understanding that we do not have to consume more than we really need. I saw that many people, myself included, had lost a sense of proportion, behaving as if there is no end to material desire without being fully aware of the consequences of this excessive consumption upon their soul, and upon the world.

The ultimate letting go: “we cannot take money to the grave”

I’ve always thanked God for the many gifts I have received, and I’ve never taken material things too seriously, because I know that what’s here today will not necessarily be here tomorrow. I realize that whatever happens to me, I will see it as a part of my mission, my path, something that had to occur, a lesson. We cannot take money to the grave; we can take only our values with us to the world beyond. This is the only “commodity” the soul accumulates.

During most of my life, I have been very sad and very frustrated, and all the money in the world could not have helped me get rid of those negative feelings. Because just as the good begins and ends within me, so does the bad. I could be on a dream vacation — blue skies and sunshine, parties galore, crystal-clear water, plus quiet and tranquility — and within a split second, I could be in hell, despite having the best room and the best food and the best of everything. Because hell or heaven is within, and each of us can choose in which of them we wish to spend our lives.

Read the first excerpt from Shari Arison’s candid memoir here.



To order Birth: When the Spiritual and the Material Come Together, go to:

From the early 1990s until September 2009, Shari Arison served as the chairman of the Arison Group, Arison Investments and the Ted Arison Family Foundation. For an overview of Shari’s good works, visit:


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7 Responses to “Confessions of a billionaire: Shari Arison reveals why money can’t buy It”

  1. I will definitely be using some of these quotes! It’s awesome to know there are some grounded billionaire’s out there because they have some of the best potential to make AWESOME changes in our world!! This was really great to hear, thanks, Cyndi!

  2. Why do we need the emergence of a new “multi-millionaire guru”? I agree that many of Ms. Arison’s insights are really good. But I also think that people who are multi-millionaires can never know what it’s like not to have that kind of wealth. They can’t identify with or understand the plight of people who make more modest incomes and who are faced with challenges such as job loss, lack of employment opportunities, socio-economic disadvantage, etc.

    Some may argue that a multi-millionaire spiritual person will be a role model. But instead it often has the opposite effect. The “average Joes and Jills” compare themselves to that person’s success and feel inadequate. That’s why I think so few people actually make any kind of real personal change after listening to a well-heeled guru. They feel they can’t compete with that level of success.

    I do not mean any disrespect to Ms. Arison or to her message, but I don’t think we need more multi-millionaire gurus who have never known financial struggle, or who have never experienced any kind of worry about where their next meal is coming from. Instead, we need leaders who emerge from the ranks of the “rest of us”. We need people who know what it’s like to have real-life worries about survival. Chris Gardner is one such person who comes to mind. He lived through a difficult period of homelessness and broken dreams, and turned his life around. He knows what it’s like to be faced with real economic struggles. And he also knows what it takes to work one’s way out of those struggles. I highly recommend his book, Start Where You Are.

    One part of Ms. Arison’s message is really salient here, I think–her assertion that wealth does not bring happiness. So instead of chasing wealth, those who teach about the true roots of happiness are indeed the best teachers. And so maybe Ms. Arison can be a voice for good in that sense because she’s not out there preaching that you can’t be “successful” unless you’ve got big bucks. Instead she’s talking about other much more important things. But I also think that her multi-millionaire status still distances her from the very people she would like to help. So money not only does not buy happiness; it also cannot really bring people together at the level of the heart.

  3. Good point, Sharon. You’ve got to read the book, which I just did.
    She was on the outs with her father for the first half of her life, and actually worked at a fast-food outlet in Miami for a time — not at her dad’s Carnival Cruise Line.

    She was a bit of an outlier in the family who only came into her inheritance after decades of reconciliation and an almost last-minute change-of-heart and change-of-the-will by her father before he died.

    I get the sense that she did not take the wealth or creature comforts for granted, and that that’s how she came to a spiritual path in the first place. She was a spiritual creature, first, long before material wealth came into her sphere.

    Thanks for your book recommendation! Paul

  4. What a wonderful and inspiration story! So glad you shared it! What a true gift when our spirtuality opens our heart to listen to our knowing and to give and receive the blessings that are intended for all of us!

  5. I identify with Shari’s feelings and experience though I come from a working class family. Actually I see her as less free than I was until a few weeks ago. Her message carries meaning, insight and wisdom for all of us who approach it with a quiet mind. I just ordered a copy of Shari’s book and look forward to its arrival. Her words resonate with me profoundly. Jimmy Piver.

  6. Wealthy or poor, hats off to anyone willing to take a public stand to help make the world more peaceful, balanced and sustatinable.

  7. Hi its very touching word( THINK GOOD, SPEAK GOOD, DO GOOD, HOW MANY CAN DO AS SHE SAYING .