Wealth lasts forever. Money comes and goes.
Wealth saves us time. Money costs us time.
Wealth is how we’re remembered. Money is our transfer vehicle.
Wealth is up to you and me. Money is elusive.
Wealth is a foundation. Money is an accelerant.
Wealth is limitless. Money is finite.
During a recent phone conversation with a nearly life-long mentor, he spoke one of his timeless pieces of wisdom that left me scrambling for a paper and pen.
“Ah, yes. We cannot seek money directly. Money is granted to us.”
He was responding to my plea for others to understand the difference between wealth and money. Wealth being a story of how we choose to spend our time, create value, and how we’ll be remembered. Money being simply how we transfer that time and legacy.
The basis of my plea is observation of both content and discontent people. Particularly during the pandemic, many true colors are revealed. “Money can’t buy you happiness” is an incredibly old phrase, though I think it helps to expand upon.
Because, if we don’t start with specificity on where we choose to spend our time and offer our value, money can accelerate in the wrong direction – which in the end, leads to either unhappiness or costs money to unwind.
Ironically, too, if we start with a foundational concept – like the story of our wealth – money usually comes more abundantly as we’ve chosen to be authentic. Sacrificing too much of ourselves for more money now eventually costs in the long run (ask someone who married for the money or moves their family across country exclusively for higher pay). This was my mentor’s point: “We cannot seek money directly”.
As mentioned above, wealth is up to you and me. Money is elusive, often slipping through our fingers the harder we seek it.
As such, we get to choose what a wealthy life looks like. We can choose how we spend our time. Largely, we can impact how we’re remembered and what sort of legacy lives on. This point is completely independent of how much money we each have. Mother Theresa is a good example.
Regarding time, some of it is spent sleeping. And, wealth will make money while we do this – investable assets, company ownership, brands. Money is simply how we transfer that same wealth and, if not mindful, we end up only trading our time for the transfer tool.
There are more grave examples in history – wars, significant technological and cultural changes, and (apparently) pandemics that support the theory of focusing on our wealth before our money.
For example, wealth is the reason why concentration camp prisoners in World War II “agree that the most depressing influence of all was that a prisoner could not know how long his term of imprisonment would be. Memories were lost to apathy. Their future worth was no longer known.” This was later called “provisional existence” and attributed to more deaths than typhus by most psychologists. (Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning).
In other words, they lost track of time. How to spend it now, how they were going to spend it in the future, how they were going to be remembered spending it. Later studies showed that, overwhelmingly, most survivors maintained some glimmer of their past, who they were in the present, and who they might be on the other side. To survive, they needed the ability (or hope) to create worth – not money itself.
It seems that we frequently search externally for that sense of contentment we all desire, particularly with money:
I’ll be happy when…
- I pay off my credit cards
- I make this improvement to my house
- I make $xxx, xxx
- I have $1mm, $10mm, $100mm
- I have this title at work
- I have ‘x’ # of customers
The answer is the inversion.
We need to answer what is asked of us. Where are we urged to add value and contribute professionally and personally. In other words, how do we spend our time? How will we spend our time? And, is that something that builds value or simply chases currency? This sometimes uncomfortable question is where wealth is built and money will follow.
“Ah yes. We cannot seek money directly. Money is granted to us.”
Until we confront this, we’re trading time for money.
An industry colleague in San Diego uses the tagline for his firm: “Stay Wealthy”. That seems appropriate to steal for this week:
Stay calm. Stay wealthy.
Thanks for reading,