Rule#13: Its not about the money.
There has been a sort of inside family joke for years when we talked about money and business:
“Its not about the Money. ITS ABOUT THE MONEY!”
Meaning of course was that the reasons we work, the reason we get up at 5:30am everyday to do battle in the corporate arena is to- get the money. And to a large part, this is the truth.
But as I have gotten older I am less certain of this being the only truth.
I have realized the thing that we spend most of the waking ours doing, work, may serve a purpose far greater than our family joke. Maybe , just maybe it is not just about the money.
But I am working against trends in our society on this rule.
There are a whole slew of expressions and cultural examples that exists that illustrate the point that over the last 50 years there has been a steady decline of the value of work in our society. One of my favorite examples is the expression:
Nobody on his deathbed ever said, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”
It feels like our society has separated the function of work from feelings happiness. A job for many of us has become just that a job, a way to make money, nothing more.
I think is can be more.
I think it should be more.
As Andrew went off to Georgia to join our company as an adjuster, and as Matthew started working as a underwriting clerk I saw what a job can mean to our lives. The job is a paycheck- but also so much more…
It validates a useful purpose in society.
It can build a sense a pride and self worth.
It gives you a vehicle to impact the world.
Until I saw Andrew and Matthew go into the workforce full time I had forgotten what a job meant to my life.
I grew up in the 60’s, went to college in the late 70’s and had most of my early views of what a job “is” formed by the first a period of terrible economic conditions, that I refer to as the Jimmy Carter years, then a period of rapid almost uncontrolled business expansion in the 80’s and 90’s.
After the Vietnam war, Watergate and the dark ages of Jimmy C virtually everyone in our society has become a bit jaded about both our leaders and our world. We all stopped looking outward and started looking inward…trying to protect ourselves from what was rapidly becoming a world of distrust.
About this time corporations focused inwardly as well. These collections of “people” working in business became less concerned about their customers, employees and communities and almost entirely focused on themselves as stockholders. Focusing only on the money.
Somewhere in the 80’s we started believing as a people that it wasn’t about building somthing of value through work, it was about getting as much as you could before someone else got it.
I think it all stemmed from a lack of trust in the system, a belief that life was like a dinner of KFC, and if you didn’t grab through the bucket first you would be left with a tigh or wing. It no longer mattered if you were at the table with friends or strangers we were all shifting to the mentality that if you didn’t grab for the good piece of chicken nothing would be left for us.
The Gordon Gecco belief that was not only good( as in “Greed is Good”), it was the natural order of things became common.
– You can’t trust your government, so cheat them out of taxes
– You can’t trust your employees , so lay them off and cut their benefits- loyality is an illusion
– Customers are not loyal and will dump you in a minute, make money when you can
This warped view on life became the new order in life, the belief was that work had no other purpose except to get us money and the “smart people” grabbed the best pieces of chicken first.
But after witnessing this decent into this cruel natural order world of work I have realized that we have lost some of the things that are very important to us in life, the things that made the “chicken” taste good.
It felt like the economy has failed us. The system lead us to become animals fighting over meaty profits, not aware of the employees, customers or communities.
Capitalism has been distorted by some and demonized by others.
I don’t think it was Capitalism that failed us, it is the way in which we approached it that did.
We approached it without respect or rules.
I think of the capitalist markets as a giant playground of life, the free market basically is the thought that you can do anything from joining a kickball game, to swinging on the swings, to just standing in the corner talking to you your friends.
What would make playground not fun is if a group of the older kids in the school told the younger ones they couldn’t play basketball or use the gym sets. If the playground was overrun by bullies and gangs no one would want to play there.
Also if the school decided that to control the bullies and gangs it needed to set up “monitors” and “teachers” the protection of the playground would become overwhelming It would become both safe and very boring.
The best playgrounds are where their are very few rules, but the rules that do exists are fairy enforced and understood by everyone. The playground would be run not by the teachers but by the kids who all know that playing with kindness and trust of others is what makes the place a fun place to be.
Work can be that perfect playground for us.
We have to be sure to make is becomes this by doing a couple simple but important things:
1. Choose Fun– most of the people do not approach work with happiness and positve energy. I promise you if you choose to be happy and positive you will find both.
Be the positive force and everyone will be attracted to you. Being positive sounds easy but it takes a concentrated effort to remain positive when others are so down on everything.
2. Be Present– people who get the most from work are those who choose to commit themselves to what they are doing. As Woody Allen said, ” 90% of life is just showing up”. Most people in their work may be physically there, but not mentally and emotionally invested. The joy that comes from being completely invested in a project or task is hard to fully comprehend until you truly try it.
I see people everyday that ” get this” and are completely engaged. These are the waitresses that make the meal fun, the teachers that inspire you kids and the plumbers that finally fix that leak- these aer the people that ate present in their jobs.
3. Do Good by Doing Good– find a charity you care about, it can be anything from curing cancer to spaying stray animals, just something that has value to society. Then look for ways to help the cause through work. I may be fund raising, or volunteering or just contributing 3% of your income to it- but make your work a way to help others.
Bobbi and I have become involved in lost of things from high school athletics to research on Autism and used work as the vehicle to impact those causes. It is making the difference with these causes that has brought the most happiness to our lives.
By doing good or businesses have thrived, and we have gained far more in our lives than we have given.
Do good by doing good means that finding the way to help other often leads to helping yourself in the process.
You as my children really need to focus on using work as a way of giving back to the world and start that habit early. The $100 or $200 you give now at the beginning of your career than the $20,000 you give at the end…the giving is a pathway to happiness.
If you can’t afford it now help others in the work place- make other people successful and they will work to raise you up with them.
With all this said I can honestly say…Its not about the money.
But two absolute truths about me remain-
1. I like money
2. Much of what I do is to get more of it
But I am also a person who now realizes the joy I have gotten in work has been from the interaction and inclusions of others on the playground. That the money is less important than being a developer of a culture to allow others to enjoy the playground of work.
Nothing has made me realize this more than to have my sons involved in my business.
Seeing the development of you boys as you worked hard and achieved success made me realize that this happiness was the real goal all along.
My rule is to guide you to search not for money but for happiness….you will find plenty of both if you do.