People can find it much easier to understand a desire to be slim and healthy than a desire for financial freedom. But until we see that we can have a healthy relationship with our desire for wealth, the road will always be difficult, and happiness will be hard to come by.
An art professor was talking to a child.
He said, “I’m a professor of art.”
She said, “What does that mean?”
He said, “Well, I teach people how to draw and paint.”
You mean they forgot?!?
I love this story, and it always helps me with the people I mentor. The primary skills needed to achieve wealth and financial freedom are not rare qualities or skills that need to be learned. They are inherent human qualities that the world has made us forget.
My job is to help people remember.
The other day I went out for lunch for a friend’s birthday. I ended up sitting at the end of the table with three women I hadn’t met. Turned out one of them was an aspiring writer so I mentioned this little blog of mine.
“Really, what do you write about?”
“Well, I help people become wealthy, successful and happy. Or I try to any way… you know, in case they’ve forgotten.”
“And where do you get your ideas from?”
“Mostly just from my own experience. Or, sometimes from talking to lovely ladies in cafes.”
“Seriously though, I’m always interested to hear what people have to say. Get a fresh perspective on things. What do you think the key to wealth, success and happiness is? Give me something good and I’ll use it in my blog.”
They all sat back and thought about it. It’s an interesting question, framed in this way. Ask people about wealth, and they’ll generally be quick to give you whatever financial advice they’re currently running with – property, stocks, gold, whatever. Ask people about happiness and again, they’ll straight up give you a Dalai Lama facebook post or something about spending time with loved ones, making a meaningful contribution to the world etc.
But put wealth and happiness into the same question… it creates a bit of a short circuit and a buzzing sound.
People aren’t used to thinking about strategies that can fulfil both those aims. In fact, most people still labour under the assumption that wealth and happiness are mutually exclusive. Go after money and you’ll be unhappy. Devote your life to happiness and you’ll be broke.
Of course there’s nothing to say that this tension is true, but the belief in it is imprinted pretty deeply.
Anyway, after a while of rolling the concepts around in their mind, Jane comes back with a story about how her grandmother had quite a bit of money, but bought a 2nd hand Ford Fairlane back in the early 80s for a 1000 bucks and drove it into the ground, cruising with her friends (and all their golf clubs in the boot!) around rural Queensland.
Liz remembered her acupuncturist, originally a refugee from Vietnam, who was just happy and grateful to have a steady job in a peaceful country. Anna said she didn’t buy into all these high-end brands, and there are some amazing bargains to be found in op-shops if you’re looking for them.
The conversation rolled on, but I had a good inward chuckle to myself. Such classic responses.
I ask about ideas for achieving wealth and happiness. They give me stories about how it’s not so bad being poor and having no money.
Imagine I said that I had a fitness blog devoted to helping people lose weight. I ask them for ideas about how to lose weight, and I get stories about how it’s not so bad being fat.
Jane says, “My grandmother was fat, and she still had a very enjoyable life, and it helped her connect with her fat friends.”
Liz says, “My friend comes from America, and while he’s still fat, he’s just grateful to be able to live in a country where they’re aren’t waffle houses on every corner.”
Anna says, “If you put your mind to it, there are many ways to live like a slim person, without actually losing any weight. Have you thought about wearing only black or growing a goatee?”
Seriously unhelpful advice.
And why do we still have such a cringe about being rich?
Tell people your new year’s resolution is to lose weight, and no one will try to tell you that it’s not that bad being fat. Tell people you’ve decided to be wealthy, and people will be oh-so quick to remind you that money doesn’t buy you happiness.
We still don’t see any room for a healthy desire to be wealthy.
We can see it with health though. Wanting to lose weight and look good could, theoretically, be taken too far, into vanity and self-obsession. But if you tell people you want to lose weight, no one ever says,
Oop, careful. It’s a slippery slope from losing a few pounds to pride and an obsession with facebook selfies.
Same story with becoming wealthy. Sure, at the extreme it’s unhealthy. You don’t want to end up like ol’ Scrooge or the Christmas Grinch. But that’s at the extreme, and between poverty and that extreme, there’s a lot of room for a healthy relationship with wealth and money.
But for some reason we still don’t see it. We still feel a moral duty to warn anyone thinking about going to a wealth seminar or whatever about the traps of greed and misery.
But until we can make peace with our desire for wealth and financial freedom – see it as healthy and normal – the road will always be difficult, and wealth and happiness will always be strangers to each other.
Thanks for the blog idea girls.