As most of you know, I’m currently on a sabbatical, wandering the world, following the sun and my creative muse, devoted to an intense period of self-development and personal growth. The creative energy is electric, and the sequel to Risky Is the New Safe is coming together in ways that are amazing and unexpected. (And if you’re serious about prosperity, I hope you have already read “Risky” at least twice.)
My most recent stop was the National Speakers Association Convention in Philadelphia, where I received the Nido Qubein Lifetime Philanthropy Award and was also inducted into the Speaking Hall of Fame. So it was a charmed week and got me thinking a great deal about what living rich is all about. I miss you guys a lot and thought this would be a great topic for another postcard.
Here’s my take on what it really takes to live rich:
Go After Amazing
Society wants to beat the amazing out of you. You’re surrounded by people who will give you permission to stay the way you are. You’ll get lots of advice to play it safe, don’t take chances, and confirm to the way everyone else does things. Most of those people mean well, but their advice is not going to take you where you want to go.
To live a rich life, you have to challenge yourself and go after BIG dreams. You have to take risks and be willing to fail, knowing that even in those failures, you will be learning lessons, developing character, and moving closer to your goals. The guy or gal who attempts to climb the mountain and fails to reach the summit, still lives a richer life than the person who stays home watching it on TV.
Your gift – the ability to be amazing – is still inside you. You just have to decide you’re not willing to settle for mediocrity any more.
Ayn Rand is best known for her seminal works, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. But perhaps her most brilliant work was a collection of essays titled, The Virtue of Selfishness. Like Rand, I see the word as defining enlightened self-interest. As I shared with the audience when I received the philanthropy award, I give a great deal to many different causes, but do so for a very selfish reason: the joy it brings me.
If you see your main purpose in life as serving others, you probably have a very low opinion of yourself, and have worthiness issues that haven’t been resolved.
People who spend their existence worrying solely about the needs of others and not themselves are not noble, benevolent, and spiritual. They are just crazy. People who don’t look after their own needs first, really can’t help others in a healthy way. They can console them, participate in their drama, or enable their co-dependence, but they can’t offer them real, meaningful help.
Want to save the world? Great, it needs all the help it can get. Start by making sure your own needs are met first. Get the money thing out of the way. Get yourself in a position of strength – and you’ll be amazed how much good you can do. Once you’re there, give generously. But don’t do it for guilt, or because someone or something “needs” it more than others. Do it because you can afford it, doing so makes you feel good, and the cause is deserving of your support.
Exercise Every Day that Ends in ‘Y’
No one lives a prosperous life who doesn’t have good health. Everything starts from there. And every day goes better if you begin it with some strenuous cardiovascular exercise to get your blood moving and respiratory system bringing lots of fresh oxygen into your body. Not only does it help you physically, but you’ll be mentally sharper as well.
When you work out every day, you travel easier, ward off sickness better, and have more sustained energy for the things that matter. And when you’re in shape, you can reward yourself with that occasional pizza, ice cream, or whatever not-so-healthy treat without bad consequences.
Stand Up for What You Believe In
Sometimes you will be ignored. Sometimes you will be ostracized. And sometimes you change the world. That’s not overly grandiose: Every one of us really does have the opportunity to change the world at various times.
There is a tipping point in every movement: an instant when something resets, and the “establishment” is forced into becoming the underground, because it is no longer acceptable in civil society to move forward at the expense of others. Groups like the KKK and the Nazis still exist, but they have to operate from darkness, because good people spoke up.
In Philadelphia I had a chance to stand up for something and I did. If I’m still kicking around twenty years from now, do you think I’ll remember the trophy they gave me, or that I did the right thing?
Speak for those who aren’t able or strong enough to speak for themselves. There are kids committing suicide because they’re being bullied, people getting killed because they’re non-heterosexuals, young people being exploited in the sex trade, women in Taliban controlled territories who fear death because they want to learn to read, and many others without a voice who need yours. It may just someone who needs to hear again that you love them. Be that voice.
Hang Out with Some People Younger than You.
Every generation comes of age with the arrogance that they can do better, and they rebel against the past. They move things like fashion, music, language and culture forward. Then they get old and complain when the next generation does it to them.
Find some people 15 or 20 years younger than you are, and soak up their energy. See the world through the fresh perspective they offer. It will keep you young.
Hang Out with Some People Older than You.
Not everyone older than you is irrelevant or waiting for death. There are some amazing people who have seen, done, and experienced things you can only imagine. They have learned lessons of patience, empathy and understanding.
Find some people 15 or 20 years older than you are, and soak up their sagacity. See the world through the thoughtful perspective they offer. It will make you wiser.
Spend Less than You Earn.
Real prosperity isn’t about getting more money and things. Real prosperity is a mindset. That doesn’t mean you have to sell off everything and live as an ascetic. (Unless you want to.) That doesn’t mean you have to sell off everything and live as a playboy. (Unless you want to.) Prosperity is having the things you need, but knowing also that the desire for more is the universe’s way of forcing you to grow.
It’s hard to feel prosperous when you’re worried about getting evicted or having the power turned off. That is a result that usually comes from making poor choices ahead of that. Making the choice to defer pleasures (or sometimes even needs) because you don’t have the money now is what develops your character for true, lasting success.
It’s quite possible that credit cards are the worst invention of the last century. Many things you buy on credit bring you moderate joy immediately, but great discomfort in the long run. Build your credit worthiness so you have options when you need them. But only an idiot buys a plasma TV on payments.
Stop Caring What Other People Think about You
Here in Sydney where I’m writing this, they call it the “tall poppy syndrome.” Meaning the flowers that rise tallest are the first to get cut. I can’t think of a more depressing philosophy to live by.
Be bold. Be different. Be amazing. And just know ahead of time that some people will think you’re crazy. Some will feel jealousy. Some may even attack you and try to sabotage your efforts. You can’t live your life for the haters. They don’t even really hate you. They hate themselves because they don’t have the guts to do what you’re doing, and they direct that frustration at you. Love them and let them grow. Just don’t spend too much time with them or you’ll start to think like they do.
If you wanted to climb a mountain, you’d take advice from a mountain climber. If you want to learn to fly, you seek guidance from a pilot. So if you want to be rich, stop taking advice from broke people. And if you want to be happy, stop taking advice from people living lives of quiet (or loud) desperation.
Look for the people who are living the kind of life you want to live and find ways to offer them value. Those are the only ones you should care what they think about you. Which leads us to the final thought…
Find Time for the People You Love
That important project at work, the “breaking news,” or slight from your brother-in-law won’t really seem that important when you’re looking back on your life.
Live your life big, out loud, and in color. Go after it. Dare for greatness. Just know that the most important moments will be with the people who matter most to you. That doesn’t just mean liking their Facebook posts. Pick up the phone and call. Send a note or some flowers. Take time out for a visit.
Find a moment to play catch with your child or have tea with an elderly relative. Because one day, one of you will be gone.
And when you can look back on memories of joy with the people you love, you have truly lived rich.