The Million Dollar Tip

He didn’t have change to tip the courier who brought a message to his Tokyo hotel room.

So Albert Einstein wrote him a brief note on hotel stationery, telling him it might be of some value later.

M. Kahana.Β  2017 photo. Getty Images.

The 1922 message has been called Einstein’s “Theory of Happiness”, and yesterday sold at a Jerusalem auction for a reported $1.5 million.

Translated from the original German text, it reads…

β€œA quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.”

The bidding war quickly escalated, by phone and online, for an item having a pre-auction estimate of $5000 to $8000. The European buyer chose to remain anonymous.

There is no mention of how this Japanese bellboy’s treasure got into the hands of the seller, a Hamburg resident who also remained anonymous.

Note: There was a second handwritten note penned by the Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist which read “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. It is not getting the same attention, nor the same value, as the happiness quote.

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61 Responses to The Million Dollar Tip

  1. joey says:

    I know little about Einstein, but it seems from this, he must also have been wise as well as smart. Interesting story, Van.

  2. Amy🌹 says:

    I love this quote! And yes oh how true it is. I’m just now slowing down getting off the rat wheel and in so doing life once again has returned sweeter then ever. Goosebumps on the price that this quote brought. Thank you, Van!! πŸ’•πŸ‘πŸ’•

  3. Bernadette says:

    Interesting that the one quote is so much more valuable.

  4. A valuable tip indeed! Thanks for sharing, Van.

  5. I love the quote, a precious gift in so many ways πŸ™‚

  6. Elyse says:

    I love this story!


  7. George says:

    I love the quote and wonder what happened to the bellboy..:)

  8. Erika Kind says:

    Thank you for sharing this amazing story behind the paper! Amazing!

  9. This story hits me on several levels. First of all, I’m struck by the fact that Einstein was prescient enough to know that his fame would make that napkin worth so very, very much.

    Then, I have to admit that I think, “Huh. Arrogant, much?” I know those words are uncharitable of me, and certainly more revealing of my personality than his, but there you are.

    THEN, the words themselves. “A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.” I try to live by those words, and I sure do wish that others tried to, too.

    Because, clearly many others are not and they are scrambling to outdo, outbid, and to claim ownership of a scrap of decades old paper with a message that urges them to stop scrambling, to stop trying to outdo.

    So ironic.

    • He was already pretty famous in 1922, the message was said to notify him of his Nobel Prize while he was on a lecture tour in Japan. So, I guess he knew.
      I get the irony in the mad bidding for his note, and maybe in the contrast to the 2nd note that professed “where there’s a will…” ? It seems to point to that pursuit of success. Thanks, Maggie.

  10. Ally Bean says:

    I’m amazed at how much someone spent for this bit of wisdom. I agree with the sentiment, whole-heartedly, but I don’t see how anyone could spend that kind of money for it. Perhaps I’m just too quiet and modest…

  11. This quote is a win/win on the value market.

  12. I miss our elders, they went through hard times, remembered what it did to their family and never wanted to live like that again if possible. My vote for President every election is Rosevelt. He took a country starving and no money and created jobs, one of which my gramps worked on after leaving the military. It’s a absolute shame these great people are relegated to school books or the one of story. My grandparents were always thankful to him. As my gramps said, not in the exact words, he had balls!!!!!! That or a Vagina with a head full of ideas on how the government will work together and not bend over overtime someone gets feelings hurt.
    My 2 cents.

  13. C.E.Robinson says:

    Love the quote l, Van! You find interesting bits of info to share with us!! Thanks! πŸ‚πŸ Christine

  14. Einstein was such an amazing wit. The more I read about him, Van, the more he intrigues me. This is a great story… what a premonition. πŸ™‚

  15. prior.. says:

    oh this quote info is so true and fascinating story – and wow – that sold for a lot of moola

  16. That’s a $B tip Van.

  17. I truly believed when I was much younger my passion in life would make me famous one day. Living and experiencing life, I quickly learned anonymity produced greater peace and self awareness resulting in great personal joy and happiness. I never had to worry about an enlarging cranium (“developing a BIG head.”) Ego was easy kept intact. I learned to measure success not on personal accomplishments, but on accomplishments I helped other’s achieve.
    After reading your post and learning about Einstein’s message, it’s nice to know my vision in life was shared by such an amazing individual.

    • Glad to hear that, Doc. For myself, that restlessness was sort of vague. I didn’t strive for fame or wealth, I just always wanted to know what I was truly meant to do in life. In many ways, it’s still that “I wonder what I’ll be when I grow up” thing, that lasts a lifetime. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Reading this post reminded me of what my father always said about Einstein (whom he said he knew, since he was one of my father’s nuclear engineering Ph.D. advisors) – and BOY do I wish he’d saved and passed along a few of those notes he undoubtedly received during that time!

    My father’s Top Secret security clearance precluded sharing much about his work, but he did say, more than once, “Einstein could explain the most complex matters in such simple language that anyone with just a bit of the proper background could understand them.” When acknowledged for this talent, according to my father, Einstein always said that he felt that if someone couldn’t explain something simply they simply didn’t understand it well enough themselves.

    That did NOT mean “dumbing down,” either in concept or language, however. There is a way to introduce unfamiliar terms so that their meaning becomes clear. Apparently Einstein was a master at that as well, along with possessing many other talents in other arenas, far beyond the level of competency.

    Only savants are uni-faceted in their brilliance – and even they have more to them than meets the eye.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    • I bet you do wish you had some of those documents from your dad’s files, M. How cool is that ? What you say just proves that Einstein was a genuine teacher. I’ve known so many folks who are experts in their field, yet could not explain anything on a level that made sense to the average listener. Thanks for sharing this.

  19. J.D. Riso says:

    Brilliant. Whenever I happen upon an Einstein quote, I nod my head in agreement.

  20. Pingback: 7 Days, 7 Photos – Day 4 | A Momma's View

  21. Wow to that note, and reading through the comments, I was so interested in reading Madelyn’s reply too.. He had a brilliant mind and such a deep knowledge..
    Thank you for sharing this Van..
    Have a lovely weekend.. sending you Hugs xx ❀

  22. -Eugenia says:

    This is very interesting, Van. Thank you for excellent weekend share.

  23. dgkaye says:

    LOVED this! πŸ™‚ xx

  24. Love the quote. and…what a tip! “Big tipper” comes to mind!

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