Like it or loath it, we all have a relationship with money. We don’t really have a choice; it’s somewhat of a necessity. Unless of course you’re a skilled hunter, gatherer, farmer, living entirely off the land in your own hand-built hut, wearing animal skins and residing in some remote, exotic location. Who happens to have Internet access. Of course.
Part of the human experience
Money means different things to different people. Or different things for the same people at different stages of their journey – stress, anxiety, freedom, choices, arguments, happiness, sadness, motivation, sleepless nights, elation and sadly things like crime, violence, deception, manipulation and even marital breakdown. Like it or not, money is a necessary part of the human experience; something which needs to be negotiated and managed virtually every day of our lives.
What does money mean to us individually?
When we really dumb it down and we take the emotion out of it (yes, some of us are very emotional – periodically irrational – about money), it’s kinda simple; money is a resource. It’s a resource that let’s us do stuff. Drive this car, live in that house, wear that dress or suit, fly to that country, enjoy this type of lifestyle; for some, pretty superficial and unimportant stuff, and for others, very significant stuff. On a certain level, things only have the meaning we give them and unfortunately, many of us seem to have handed over way to much power to the ‘almighty dollar’. And in doing so, we seem to have lost part of us.
Different things to different people
For the majority, money is something to be used in a practical way to live our lives – pay bills, buy food, educate our kids, fix the broken fence and enjoy the annual holiday. While for others, it’s their life-force; it’s what gets them out of bed each day. It’s their obsession. While many see it for what it is (a resource), others make money their god; they worship it and they spend a lifetime being hopelessly enslaved to it. Usually at great personal expense.
For some people, their money is who they are. It’s the thing that gives them a sense of worth; their self esteem, their confidence – or arrogance. Take away their money and they feel worthless and insecure; they lose their identity and their power (or perceived power anyway). Rather than it being a necessary resource, it has become their reason for being. They are captivated by it, driven by it, addicted to it and ultimately destroyed by it. Ironically, their tireless pursuit of wealth at any cost invariably results in bankruptcy in every other area of their life. When we hand over our power to something which can be taken away in a second, we have a tendency to become very vulnerable and insecure. If not, paranoid and obsessed.
Wealth without the money
What about the notion of being rich without having significant money or assets? Well, that depends on your definition of wealth. In my opinion, some of the wealthiest people don’t have much money at all and some of the poorest people are literally millionaires – it’s a matter of perception and definition isn’t it? While it’s not said too often or too loud in mainstream society (political correctness and all), the underlying message seems to be:
Money = happiness
More money = more happiness
Most money = most happiness
Having worked with some obscenely rich folk over the years, I can tell you with absolute certainty that there is no universal correlation between increased material wealth and increased happiness. And no, financial wealth and happiness are not necessarily mutually exclusive either.
At the other end of the scale we can find the anti-establishment, anti-material possession, anti-money brigade who see money as evil and the pursuit of it analogous to sin. This doesn’t seem to be a very practical, realistic or empowering paradigm to inhabit either. There’s nothing wrong with money. After all, money can’t be good or bad, it’s just a bunch of paper that’s been assigned a value by us! No, money only becomes bad or destructive when it comes to represent something that it shouldn’t.
What do I think?
Now before I get three hundred emails telling me that I’m a hypocrite because I charge companies thousands of dollars to work with them, don’t misinterpret my thoughts on money. Making money or being wealthy is not of itself, a bad thing. In fact, for the most part I admire people who succeed in business – as long as that success doesn’t come at the cost of their values, their health, their relationships, their integrity, their life, or their emotional, psychological and spiritual development. As long as we recognise and use money for what it is and don’t bow down before it, we should have a relatively healthy relationship with it. Do I have financial goals? Yep. Are they at the top of my list? Nope. Do I focus on, or obsess about, money? Nope. Have I ever struggled financially? Yep. In fact, for the majority of my adult life I have not earned a lot of money.
By the way, even with my business aspirations and goals I have never been driven by money. Of course it’s an issue and a challenge from time to time, but it’s not why I do what I do. If I was all about money, I wouldn’t be writing this article – I’d be doing something that I get paid for. I’ve been driven by a desire to do whatever I do with excellence, to have fun and to impact the lives of others in a positive way – I see my (moderate) financial success as a by-product of that pursuit.
People often suggest that “money is the root of all evil”, which is actually a misquote of a scripture from the New Testament which says, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy, 6:10). See, even two thousand years ago they were talking about this stuff!
Didn’t know I could be theological did you? Me either!
Tell me about your relationship with, or thoughts on, money.