The fascinating story behind the short note
bought at auction for an incredible $1.56 million.

It was in 1922, after Einstein had completed his first paper on his unified field theory, that he learned he had won the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics. Instead of going to Stockholm for the customary award ceremony, Einstein felt an obligation to honor a commitment to lecture in Japan and began a stay at Tokyo’s famous Imperial Hotel.

During his visit a bellhop came to his room with a delivery of a package and Einstein, feeling embarrassed that he had no Japanese money on him to offer as tip, decided instead to pen a note on a piece of hotel stationery which he asked the bellman to kindly accept in lieu of cash. “Keep this and perhaps someday it may be worth something.” In the interim, Einstein added, it should serve you as good advice for the rest of your life.

Einstein chose to offer a one-line sentence on the secret of happiness…
“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”

Last week’s seller of the Imperial Hotel note is reportedly a great-grandson of the Japanese bellboy’s brother who lives in Germany. A spokesman for the auction house, Meni Chadad, told The New York Times that it had expected the notes would garner $5,000 to $8,000. When the sale for $1.56 million was announced, he said, the room burst into applause.

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