The Fork In The Road
Be all you can be...
For a moment, I’d like to talk especially to those of you pursuing financial success: wealth building, as I call it. (If you’re pursuing career, sporting or artistic goals, feel free to read on – but I’m going to be talking about money for a bit...)
Early on in this programme, I hoped to plant a seed in your mind that, as you begin to pursue financial success, you may find yourself getting back more than you expected: more than financial rewards. I shared with you my own belief that everything has a purpose – and that, through building wealth, I began to discover mine. I’d always felt I had potential – but for what? I started out with the goal of being wealthy, and it was as I reached that goal that I found the goalposts – the signposts – had moved forever.
How do you feel about the idea of being wealthy? Powerful? Excited? Quietly secure: it’s just a way to meet your day-to-day needs and those of your family? Or perhaps a little guilty or embarrassed? (Some people do.) What possibilities are you allowing yourself to look forward to? And are they really the best you can expect for yourself – and of yourself?
Something like 0.0001% of the world’s population is said to control 99% of the world’s wealth. Apparently, a computer model has demonstrated that if all that wealth was distributed equally amongst every living person, within about fifteen years it would have filtered back to the 0.0001%... Whether this is true or not, isn’t it an amazing concept?
What it means to me is that those few of us who are fortunate and knowledgeable enough to create, control and enjoy wealth have a responsibility towards those who aren’t and don’t. We are not just wealthy individuals: we are custodians of the world’s wealth in our society.
And that means that if you are in the wealth building business, you have a purpose and a responsibility wider than meeting your own needs and the needs of your family. Recognising the responsibility that comes with wealth (and fame, and authority, and excellence, and other forms of success) is actually very liberating. To me, it explains a lot about my success journey. I didn’t immediately get the financial and business success I wanted – and when I did, I couldn’t hold onto it: I had to struggle. Why? Not because the abundance wasn’t there, or wasn’t there for me – but because I wasn’t yet ready to be entrusted with it. I wasn’t responsible enough to be wealthy or to employ other people.
In the struggle towards financial and business success, I learned so much about myself, and others, and how the world works, that by the time money and opportunities and contacts started really flowing my way, I knew what to do with them! I didn’t dam up the flow (to hold onto what I was given) or let it drain away (in pointless consumption): I let it flow through my hands.
• You have to be prepared to receive.
• You have to be prepared, to receive.
‘All that man is, is infinite. All that man has, is finite.’
Some people talk as if ‘you can’t take it with you’ is a negative thing, and a reason not to bother creating wealth or business success at all. Personally, I find it an energising and empowering idea. I can’t take my wealth or achievements with me: therefore, I’ll both enjoy them – and pass them on. While I’m alive, I’m ‘minding’ a portion of the world’s wealth, and I can ‘pass it on’ in all sorts of ways: in improved living conditions and opportunities for others now, and in self-sustaining capital and knowledge for the future.
There may come a time in your success journey when you realise that you have enough wealth to be able to retire. It became clear to me in 1990 that I was getting close: by 1991, I could have retired with an annual income of $300,000 for the rest of my life. It was what I’d always thought I wanted, but when I got there, retiring on my wealth seemed like a huge cop-out. I still needed a challenge and a purpose. And I couldn’t see making more (and more) money, for the sake of it, as very fulfilling or purposeful. That’s when the custodian perspective kicked in, for me.
The rewards of success
We looked at the ‘rewards’ manifestation of the Success Triangle, to identify some of the things we may have been admiring in the success of our role models.
• Clarity is the reward of spiritual development and awareness, arising from focus. Distractions fall away, priorities and paths become clear.
• Contentment/Confidence is the reward of a state of mind in flow: the happiness of enjoying the present journey, and the peace that comes from self-belief.
• Contribution is service: disciplined follow-through in pursuit of selfless goals.
Can I suggest to you what I have found to be profoundly true? That we can have it all. And only when we have it all – the clarity and the contentment/confidence and the contribution – do we attain true success, and find our passion, and fulfil our purpose in life.
“When you work only for yourself, or for your own personal gain, your mind will seldom rise above the limitations of an undeveloped personal life. But when you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break your bonds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” - Patanjali (ancient author of Yoga Sutras)
The small difference that makes a big difference
Giving back is such a powerful spiritual dynamic. In this realm, making a small difference makes a big difference. We all share the responsibility to maintain humanity and justice and opportunity in our society. If this is the kind of thing you’d like to get involved in – whether it’s homeless kids, the disabled, reconciliation or the environment – let me encourage you to do it: it needn’t be too far away.
Some people think you have to receive before you can give – or give ‘back’. They wait until they have abundance before they make a contribution. It doesn’t work that way. Give now – however little you feel you have, and whatever the gift may be – and the abundance flows back to you. ‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap...
For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more!’ Those words are actually part of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, in the Bible. Doesn’t it sound like a good deal? As with every other path on your success journey, you only have to take a small step...
I’d like to tell you another story, told to me by Dr Ron Farmer.
The Old Man and the Starfish
An old man went down to the beach in the morning, where the surf roared onto the still cool sand at the lowest of the tide. And the beach was covered with starfish, stranded by the tide, as far as the eye could see. And the old man bent and began picking up the starfish and throwing them, one by one, back into the water.
A young runner in a grey tracksuit passed, and stopped, and turned, and said: ‘What are you doing? Can’t you see that you’re wasting your time? There are hundreds of starfish here. Your throwing of a few back won’t make a bit of difference.’
The old man simply bent, and picked up another rough shape in his rough hand, and threw the starfish out into the water with a quiet splash. And said: ‘It made a difference to that one.’
The fork in the road
Can I just ask you to continue to be open, as you pursue the success goals you have set for yourself? Because the signposts, when they emerge, may not point to the next step on the journey you thought you had started...