The Reason So Many Successful People Are Unhappy


Don Colleran reads The Galway Advertiser to Pádraic O Máille aka Reilly

Reilly got the privilege to share a great story this week.

It was called ‘Your Auld Fella Got Me My First Home’ and it appears in this weeks Christmas edition of ‘The Galway Advertiser.’ (

It features the immensely popular Galway Auctioneer Don Colleran and is pure gold reading for anyone in business, or life, for that matter. It touches all the business buzz topics such as market segmentation, customer service, the ethics of hard work and the importance of holding your head up high even when life is cruel.

Most of all however, it illustrates the power of purpose in business and life.

Here are the opening lines of the article.

Don Colleran sold his first house at 17 years old.

In the intervening forty years he has helped hundreds of Galwegians secure their dream home. Only last week he was helping a retired gentleman fill out a Fair Deal application form and when they were finished, the man said to Don.

‘Only for your Father I’d never have gotten this house.’

‘I met your Father at a rugby match in the Sportsground one day and I was explaining to him that I’d never get the money to buy a house of my own. In those days it was almost impossible to get money.

‘Come here with me a minute,’ says your Father after the match ended and he leads me out on to the pitch and introduces me to Mickey Heaslip, who was playing hooker for ‘Wegians’ that day and also the Regional Manger for ‘The Irish Permanent’ in Galway.

‘Come into me on Monday and we’ll organise it,’ says Mickey.

‘This home has been the single best investment I’ve ever made. It’s been a safe haven for my family for over fifty years and now will continue to provide for me in my old age. It’s a gift that keeps on giving and I’ve your Father to thank for it.’

‘And immediately the Carer of the gentleman I was helping pipes up,
‘Your Father got my parents their first home in Renmore too and it’s still my favourite place on earth. There’s a difference between a house and a home.’

‘That makes my day. I’d love that to be my legacy. That someday people would say to my children. ‘Your auld fella sold me my first home.’

Reilly laughed at this because Don gave Reilly a hard time on this topic earlier in the year.

People often ask Reilly what happens at a Smácht session. And truth be told, he often struggles to respond himself. It’s nearly too simplistic. Since Covid began, Reilly has been facilitating groups of business people to meet online fortnightly to focus on ways of growing themselves and their business. Reilly will introduce a topic and the group will discuss it and elicit learnings.

One particular topic that Reilly introduced midway though 2022 was ‘The Power of Purpose.’ It had been inspired by a walk on the Prom that week with Pádraig Ó Céidigh who’d just returned from a Leadership Development Programme in Harvard.

‘Did ya learn anything useful in Harvard that I can share with the lads in Smácht,’ says Reilly.

Pádraig paused for what seemed like an eternity.

‘I learned why so many successful people I know are unhappy.’

‘Wow, that sounds deep,’ says Reilly. ‘What is it?

‘In a word. PURPOSE. Purpose is key. You’d be surprised at just how many people are unclear about what their purpose is in life. That’s my gift for the lads in Smácht this week. Tell them to get clear on their purpose.

‘Ah there must be more to it than that,’ says Reilly, a tad disappointed. ‘The Smácht gang are into practical things. That sounds a bit airy fairy.’

‘What’s your purpose Reilly?’

Reilly was caught unawares by this simply because he’d never really thought the question through but he knew he needed to respond with something.

‘Well I’m planning to build more of an online component to the business so that if I ever get sick again I’ll have something to fall back upon.’

‘That’s not a purpose,’ says Pádraig despairingly.

‘That’s a goal. And there’s a world of difference between a goal and your purpose.’

‘Your purpose is what you exist for. Your purpose is what contributes to your well being now. Your purpose is what drives you when your world is crumbling all around you. Your purpose is what energises you when you should be exhausted. Your purpose is your journey.’

‘AND.’ He said emphatically. ‘The worst thing you can ever do is keep fulfilling a purpose that doesn’t exist.’

Reilly was less than confident introducing ‘The Power of Purpose’ at the Smácht session but he did so nonetheless.

Opinion was deeply divided on the value and relevance of the topic. Smácht participants are busy people with a focus on bottom-line results and are intolerant of anything that lacks immediate impact.

Whilst Christy O’Hara, Irelands leading executive coach in sport to business, immediately agreed that clarifying our purpose should be our primary activity as business people, others were less convinced, none more-so than Don.

‘Come on Reilly. Stick to the practical things like marketing and sales and finance. Purpose statements might look good on the walls of big corporates but not for small businesses like ours. Anyway, how would you ever begin to start clarifying your purpose?’


• There’s a profound difference between goals and purpose. Goals are ‘what’ we do. Purpose is ‘why’ we do them. Without a strong sense of purpose our lives may be outwardly successful but inwardly unhappy, unfulfilled and unlived. Goals can make you rich. Purpose can make you happy and rich. And, as someone said to Reilly earlier in the week, ‘Happiness is the new productivity.’

• Although Don Colleran sells more quality houses than most auctioneers the reason he does it is the great feelings it elicits in those he sells them to. Don gets the subtle difference between a house and a home. Don is both successful and happy.

• Working on goals is tantamount to prostitution. We do it for the money. Working on purpose is responding to a far deeper calling. A calling to contribute and make a difference for others in a significant and meaningful way.

• The simple way to clarify your purpose in business is to ask yourself what you would like customers to say to your kids about you. Complete the phrase ‘Your auld fella or auld lady …….

• When Don did it he came up with ‘your auld fella sold me my first home.’

• If it feels uplifting it’s certain you have a purpose. If it doesn’t it’s likely you have a goal.


The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.’
—Pablo Picasso.


1. What do you want your customers to tell your kids they remember you for?

PS. One of the other great stories Don recalls in the article was the sublime and sensitive way his uncle, Enda Colleran of Collerans Butchers, handled a large and difficult customer in a Christmas rush. Sadly, Enda passed away last week. He will be fondly remembered by thousands of Galwegians who were brought up on the finest of Collerans meat. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n’anam.

BiG-BANG-Event-Galway-2022PPS. Reilly and a large cohort of Smácht members got the privilege to experience Brian O’Driscoll speak at the BiG*BANG on Monday last. Speaking to Margaret Cox, he delivered a most comprehensive speech imparting loads of common sense strategies on how to compete and win at the game of life. It will be the subject of next years post. Well done to Margaret and the dynamic Galway Executive Skillnet for bringing people of this character and competence to Galway.

PPS. Finally, Reilly wishes you a very happy and peaceful Christmas. His wish is that ‘The Life O’Reilly’ helped you grow a biteen as a person and a business this year. That’s his purpose. That someday, someone will say to one of his kids. ‘Your auld fella helped me grow a biteen as a person and as a business.’

Choose and benefit from Pádraic Ó Máille services: Smacht Programme, Keynote Speaker, Business Coaching, Business Mentoring, and One-to-One Coaching.

What’s more, join a Smácht Mastermind group. Learn how to become more decisive and take responsibility for making a difference in the world. Book a call today.

Find Out About SMACHT Here

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