Money clearly plays an important role in our lives. We need it in order to survive, and we also need it to thrive. But in my mind, it is not money that we’re after, but rather the experiences that we believe money can offer. First of all, money is not wealth. Money is just a commodity that stores value and that gives us purchasing power, but wealth is spiritual. Wealth is about gratitude and is not about what you have, but how grateful you are for what you have. We often grow up with beliefs about the importance of money, but how often do we question how we value money? I think many of us are living with a value system that ascribes the wrong sense of understanding about what money is meant for in our lives. Money in many ways allows us to grow through our ability to use it to accumulate growthful experiences. The flow of money has a rhythm, and if you study that rhythm, you can make a lot of it. But the goal is not to make more money just for the sake of making it, but for the belief that when we make it we will know how to use it responsibly, both for our benefit and the benefit of others. Money is required for survival, but once those needs are met, it is far more important for the experiences that it allows us to purchase in the physical world that make us more complete spiritually, which is what provides us with fulfillment and meaning. And many of those experiences that we need can only be attained when we put our money at risk.
We have to create new associations with risk because what we risk in financial terms we stand to gain in spiritual ones. There is opportunity cost in everything. My decision to sit here and write this article means that I don’t get to do something else that could have the benefit of adding to my life in some way. But I assessed my options and am making this investment of my time because I enjoy writing and because I feel it’s important to share a message. I use this example to explain further my point about taking risk. What we gain in one area, somewhere we are giving up in another. That is to say when you choose not to take a risk, you might preserve the physical amount of money that you have, but compromise your spiritual sense of wealth, which could end up making you more money in the long run – not to mention increasing your sense of self.
Many us are so afraid of losing money, and the very fear of losing it inhibits our growth because it prevents us from cultivating a repertoire of experiences that will give us the skills to make more money in the future and develop the experiences that give our lives texture and meaning. Sometimes when you lose, you actually win. Just know that sometimes no matter what the physical scorecard shows, the emotional scorecard is the one that is the better gauge of success because it carries with it a sense of spiritual fulfillment not just prosaic return.
We have to start thinking of ourselves as the best asset that we have. Our portfolio is us, which comprises all the experiences that we accumulate throughout our lives. No matter how great of a stock you pick, or bond you buy, there is a high probability that that particular asset will fluctuate in value. Investments in this sense are able to deliver one form of appreciation: pecuniary. But you as a person have the ability to appreciate emotionally, physically, intellectually, spiritually, economically – a much more dynamic proposition. So think of taking risk not as a potential sign of what you stand to lose, but as the ultimate gain, because it delivers for you an experience and an opportunity to grow. When you take a risk by investing in a business, seminar, or vacation, you are providing yourself with a new toolkit and perspective that will enrich your life in some way, a way that no stock or bond is capable of adding value to your life. Sometimes your net bank account balance might have declined, but your spiritual account will have multiplied immeasurably. We all have to pay for our education at some point. Too often we just think of education as taking place within the confines of an academic institution, but sometimes we need to pay for our education by investing in other areas in order to learn more about it until we are in a position to earn healthy economic profit from it.
Life is not merely about accumulation. There is value in simplicity. As Bruce Lee once said, “One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” If the purpose of our financial lives was just to gain always and end up with more money than when we started, then we should just invest in long-term bonds that pay us interest and hold them to maturity until we get our principal back. But I think we can all agree that there is an opportunity cost for doing this. Not only do we face inflationary concerns, but also concerns that our money could be better spent or invested elsewhere, whether it be in equities, real estate, a car, or a trip around the world. Let’s bring a greater sense of awareness to the way that we let money govern our lives. We should be governing it and not the other way around. We should be seeking to earn it for the benefits we know that it will afford to us, our family and those that are less fortunate than us, and for the experiences that will allow us to grow into more complete human beings with a greater sense of historical perspective, vision for the future and humanity. We need to come to better terms with the why, and the how will always be accessible.
Money is not the issue; it’s our underlying intentions for the acquisition of money that is. After all, it is dollars that buy cars, TVs, and clothes and also dollars that build schools for underprivileged youth, are used to restore communities such as New Orleans and Haiti, and provide college scholarships to give students the priceless gift of education. It is not the dollars that are different, but the intentions of the person using those dollars, and that’s where a greater sense of awareness about how we value money comes into play. Let us resolve to raise our standards and challenge ourselves – and one another – to come to terms with money that are going to be both more spiritually and financially rewarding. Money is not just about the physical world. There is a spiritual relationship that we have with money too, and the more attuned we can be to it, the more potential there is for economic profit and profit of the soul, which is the real return that will allow us to experience a greater sense of fulfillment in our lives and allow us to make a bigger difference in the lives of others than ever before.