It it Really OK to Get Rich?
I got this question from Victor, a young friend of mine who’s struggling to put his business together, and, at the same time, struggling to reconcile “greed” with “doing good.”
He comes from a particular religious persuasion, as you’ll see here….
If I was to state my life mission in exact order, I would say that I want
to serve God, my fellow man, and be financially free. My problem, though,
is that I always have this habit or need to immediately justify the
financial part, as if it needs to be eliminated from the picture but I’m
trying to save it.
I was raised to always remember that the love of money is the root of all
evil, but my question is: What does that truly mean? What is the love of
money and where do I draw the line? Am I lying to myself when I want to
serve God and man with the help of money?
And, yet, in Luke 16:9 it says: And I say unto you, Make to yourselves
friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may
receive you into everlasting habitations.
I know there can’t be a straight-out answer to my questions, but I’m
looking for ideas – something to stimulate my thought process and prompt
me to ask more questions.
I’ve never met any particular kind of person from any faith or culture who doesn’t somehow struggle to answer these kinds of questions.
If you’re a spiritual person who’s going to be successful in business, you’re going to have to come up with a good answer. Until you do, you will manage to sabotage yourself somehow, some way. And, you’ll go around in circles and live a tortured existence of lame excuses and indecision.
(I think a lot of people kill their own business success because of this issue).
If you have in your heart a drive for excellence, a desire to be influential, a desire to go where no man has gone before, a desire to transcend the limitations of being “broke” or not having enough resources, if you desire to give more than most people give to go to places most people don’t go, and if you have a desire to express your individualism, then you MUST figure this out.
For me, the starting point was asking, “What’s the alternative?”
There are alternatives, you know. They include the following:
1) You can take a vow of poverty. You can literally give everything you own to the poor.
2) You can be an activist, a monk, a missionary, or a Mother Teresa. You can volunteer at the animal shelter or work for Greenpeace or whatever you’re passionate about.
3) You can be solidly middle class, having no more or no less than all the particular people who happen to live around you.
4) You can punch the clock 40 hours a week and take whatever you get.
5) You can set your heart’s deepest desire on “getting rich.”
6) You can work to be as competent, as excellent, as wicked-good at whatever it is you do as you possibly can to excel above all others.
7) You can make a list of life goals and dreams, whatever they may be, and work to create a business that supports those goals and dreams. (A room full of people can have an enormous variety of goals and dreams. Endless. Some want to be mathematicians. Some want to grow orchids. Some want to own Virgin Airlines. Some want to find a cure for AIDS.)
I seriously considered all of the above. I know people who have literally done #1 and/or #2. They live in places like Mozambique and Kenya and India. They devote their entire lives to doing things like running orphanages.
I cannot possibly overstate the respect I have for these people. If it’s true that the first shall be last and the last shall be first, then these folks are going to be in the front of the line when it’s time to meet Saint Peter at those pearly gates.
I’m dead serious. If that is what your heart is telling you to do, if that’s your calling, then do it now and do it without hesitation. Obviously, this is not the path for everybody. It’s the road less travelled. Let’s talk about #3 and #4. And, since Victor is asking a Christian question, and since I’m a Christian guy, I’m going to pick on the Christians for a minute.
If you do #3 and #4 simply because it appears to make the ‘tough questions’ go away, then you’re just dodging responsibility. I have no problem with living #3 and #4 if you really and truly have a good reason to do so. But, for most people, it’s just total mediocrity and wholesale avoidance. What’s that saying about spitting people out of His mouth because they’re neither hot nor cold?
Life in the #3 and #4 zone is really this: I’ve got just enough money to be comfortable and indulge myself in trivial things, but I don’t have enough money to feel as though I have many choices about what I do with it. So, thankfully, I don’t have to make those choices. It’s a very comfortable, average, non-inspirational life without very many choices and not much freedom.
Why doesn’t that life have much freedom?
Because freedom has been abdicated. It’s been handed over to other people. It has the appearance of not being a choice, but, in reality, a very boring choice has already been made by default.
The punch-the-clock mentality that most people have is an invisible prison. It drains away every single precious day in an existence where you’re always vaguely… waiting. Waiting for something. Waiting for 5 o’clock. Waiting for the bell to ring. Waiting for lunch time. Waiting for Friday. Dreading Monday. Having somebody else tell you what to do. Becoming a drone.
If this was the year 1500 and you were a servant for some aristocrat in Southern Italy, then maybe you had no choice.
But, this is 2014 and the whole world is your oyster. You have every kind of technology, every kind of information, access to trainers and coaches and education programs for doing literally anything and everything.
If you give up your freedom just because it’s ‘easy’ or ‘convenient’ then you’re LAZY. You’re squandering the talents you’ve been given. You’re peeing your life away, one day at a time.
I’m not a huge fan of #5 – “Getting Rich”. I’m sure it’s a perfectly good option for some people. But, I don’t personally believe in pursuing money purely for money’s sake. Surely, you can find more reasons than that for whatever it is you do. I think it’s often exasperating and people can easily wear themselves out chasing dollars.
They tend to wear a lot of other people out, too.
This is my personal bias, but I also think it’s kind of boring. It makes everything one-dimensional. It turns the assessment of your entire life into a number. Frankly, I think this is what the great spiritual teachers from many different faiths have always warned about. Don’t sell your soul for a dollar. Don’t compromise your ethics for a dollar.
If #5 has a powerful appeal for you, run – do not walk – to Amazon or the nearest bookstore and buy a copy of “How to Get Rich” by Felix Dennis. He’ll inform you of all the pros and cons and he’ll mince no words. He’ll also give you some very sound advice on how to do it.
#6 has always intrigued me. I didn’t really understand it at first; I just knew I liked it. When I was in junior high and high school, I built stereo equipment. It was my first business. But, it was more than a business. It was a total fascination and obsession.
I spent endless hours studying the designs of various high end manufacturers like B&W and KEF and Klipsch and Quad and Duntech, as well as not so high-end companies like Bose and Polk and Boston Acoustics.
I explored their product lines and consumed their brochures and spent hours upon hours in stereo shops where I never spent any money because I didn’t have any.
What inspired me was their pursuit of excellence. Like I said, I didn’t really understand why it inspired me so much, I just knew that it did.
Yes, on one level it seemed kind of superficial to relentlessly pursue the ever-elusive “ultimate listening experience” with speakers and stereo equipment when the world had so many huge problems. Shouldn’t I be helping
Mother Teresa instead? But, on the other hand, art is art and beauty is beauty and you can only make the world a better place by creating more of it.
Is the world a better place with Mother Teresa? You bet.
Is the world a better place when the English Concert playing the Four Seasons sounds like a real chamber quartet right in your living room?
Yes sir. It sure does ease the stress of a long day, that’s for sure.
Maybe there’s room in the world for both. Perry, maybe you should follow your heart and pursue that passion and allow the answers to the Big Questions to unfold by themselves.
And, who knows, you might just find that in the process of selling truly excellent audio equipment to doctors and lawyers, you’re also able to rub a few coins together and give them to Mother Teresa. Maybe it’s not either/or.
#7 was the one that really made sense to me. I said to myself: “Self, you’ve been given a certain amount of talent, a certain number of gifts, a certain amount of time, and a certain amount of freedom. Are you going to take the ‘safe’ path and do something predictable and restrictive? Or, are you going to choose a path where you at least have a fighting chance at fulfilling your own personal vision in the world?
I knew that I was either going to be working to fulfill my vision or somebody else’s.
In other words, in Option #7, money serves YOU…Not the other way around.
THAT is the difference between loving money and using it. You don’t use people and love money. You love people and use money. You always put the people first.
I knew that most people who feel guilty about pursuing business success ultimately just end up going in circles and working for ‘The Man’ and making him successful at their own expense.
That, to me, was unthinkable. Not that I had any problem with working for other people per se. What I had a problem with was letting somebody else run my life. I said to myself: Perry, you’re going to need a certain amount of money to live your life. You can earn that money over the next 40 years, one year at a time, or you can earn it faster and get yourself free. And, then you can go do what you really want to do.
That’s trickier than it sounds because:
You have to trust yourself to be responsible with that freedom
Freedom actually scares most people to death. Sure, they talk about it, they envy it, daydream about it. They imagine what it might be like. But, when it stares them in the face with all its strangeness and all the questions and choices that come along with it, they run and hide. You can’t be a free man and sleepwalk at the same time.
It’s much safer to just punch the clock. Much more predictable to just follow the other commuters’ tail lights to work every morning and follow them home at night.
I chose #6 and #7. In particular, I chose a path that gave me the flexibility to be the Renaissance Man, to make the discoveries, to explore and experiment, to have side projects, to help the Mother Teresas of the world and pursue excellence in all the various things I like to do. It’s like being a business apostle. I get to meet all kinds of interesting people who do all kinds of interesting things and there’s never a dull moment.
Ever. I think a lot of this comes down to whether you trust yourself to grow and manage yourself.
Do you trust yourself to grow and manage whatever it is that you create with your time, your money, and your freedom? Do you believe in investing in yourself?
Personally, I do not think it’s selfish to try to be successful. I think every human being is designed and gifted to want to be successful. You need not be at war with yourself. I think every single human being can, at least in theory, achieve some kind of success that is meaningful for them.
A couple of years ago I wrote a very famous blog post called “Perry’s Greed.” In that blog post, I defended my right to charge $725 per hour and turn down lunch invitations from whoever I didn’t feel was going to be a good use of my time.
It ticked a ton of people off. It went viral—all over the web. In that blog post, I explained that I can give my limited time to orphans in India or I can help middle-class aspiring entrepreneurs in the USA, but I can’t help both. I have to choose one or the other.
I explained that I charge as much as I can and deliver as much excellence and expertise as I know how to deliver, for as much money as I can possibly get for it, and that’s how I’m able to help people who truly cannot help themselves.
I believe that middle-class Americans can help themselves just fine, thank you very much.
It was quite obvious that most readers of my blog entirely missed this point. It sailed right over their heads. It was as though orphans in India were invisible to them. Well, for a lot of folks, I guess they are. But, they’re not invisible to me because I’ve travelled abroad and met them.
You must pick your battles. But, in order to pick a battle, you need to have earned yourself enough freedom to choose that battle in the first place.
Look, if you’re punching the clock in a factory someplace and you get a 30-minute lunch break, the only people you’re having lunch with is Joe in Quality Control and Nancy in Receiving.
You aren’t having lunch with Donald Trump, you aren’t having lunch with Mother Teresa, and you sure aren’t having lunch with any middle-class aspiring American entrepreneurs at that job. Not unless they can drive to the factory and sit with you in the cafeteria. Ready-set-go. After you’ve picked up your lunch tray you have 24 minutes to talk and eat. That’s it. So, talk fast.
It’s a miserable confining existence. If you possess the talent to do something better, then you have a moral and spiritual obligation to do it. If you have talents, then you are expected to use them.
A dreary factory job sounded like hell on earth to me. I would go crazy if I got myself stuck in some routine that I could never get out of. In my 20’s, I was nothing less than obsessive about escaping from the squirrel cage as fast as I possibly could. I didn’t want 3-5 kids, a mortgage, and a stack of obligations to close me in and shut off all my options.
I didn’t want to live a life of quiet desperation. I didn’t want to be 50 years old and wishing I could go help Mother Teresa and have zero ability to do that. I didn’t want to feel like the slice of pie that was mine was being sliced thinner and thinner with each passing year.
I knew that if I DID get trapped in that lifestyle, it would be MY fault because I had the chance and I let it pass me by. I cannot think of anything more soul-crushing, lazy, or irresponsible than letting 10 or 15 hours of TV time every week rob you of your last chance for freedom.
Hey, it doesn’t have to be TV. It can be Xbox, surfing the Internet, arguing with people about Barack Obama on Internet discussion boards, Facebook, Twitter, model airplanes, or whatever.
If you know deep in your heart that you have things you need to do in your life and they require freedom and resources, then get humpin’, pal. You only have one life and this is musical chairs; you don’t know when the music is going to stop. You had better create some options for yourself so you have a chair to sit down in when the music does stop.
Use these fantastic tools to make friends and allies. Gather advisors and mentors and contacts and connections. Make friends with interesting people who open their worlds up to you and show you things you never dreamed of. Find itches and scratch them. Find needs and fill them. Invent. Create. Imagine. And, most of all, execute.
The only reason anybody gets to argue about whether I can decide who to have lunch with is because…. I get to decide. I earned myself that freedom.
I want YOU to earn that freedom. You’ve been given equality. Use it to become un-equal. Your very act of doing that will empower someone else to be more equal… and unequal.
To your success,
It it Really OK to Get Rich?
Thank You Very Much for stopping by GOD Bless spread the Word.
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