Decades ago, the famous television comedian Jack Benny did a routine that played off his reputation as being a cheapskate. In the sketch, a robber came up to him with a gun and demanded "Your money or your life!" Benny just stood there, silent, staring into space. The robber said something like "Come one! What'll it be?" And Benny replied with frustration, "I'm thinking. I'm thinking."
Let me ask you a question. Why do you do what you do? Is your goal in life to make as much money as possible? Maybe that's not a realistic aim in your current job. But is it a dream? Many people tell me that they indeed fantasize about "The Number" - the amount of money they'd have to make and save in order to just stop working and enjoy themselves lavishly for the rest of their lives. The fantasy is one of immense wealth and all its trappings. So they start a company, or play the lottery, whichever path their circumstances seem to allow. Some people work almost all the time, in pursuit of that number. They'll do whatever it takes. They'll pay any price.
But do a thought experiment with me. Suppose you came across a wise person with the ability to see the future. Imagine that she's always right. She has an unblemished track record. She could see what is to be, and also what would be if you were to keep on your current path. Imagine then that you shared with her a dream of riches and she said to you, "You can be wealthy beyond imagining, if you choose, but you will be miserably unhappy if you take that path." Let's say you asked for clarification. She replies, "Chase money, and you'll be wretched. Pursue a greater purpose and you'll find happiness."
How would you react? Would you doubt her words? Or would you heed them?
Many people replicate the Jack Benny skit in their lives. The guy with the gun is just pointing out the choice they face. Will they give up their entire lives just to get as much money as possible? Or will they give up some money for the sake of a life?
I attended a meeting the other day where my friend Matt Ham spoke to a real estate company on the topic of his new book, Redefine Rich. His presentation was about how to define riches in a way that will be deeply satisfying, and and that will lead you to pursue all the right things, so that the treasure you attain will be something that no one can take away. There is no amount of money that's forbidden to a wise person, as Thales in the ancient world demonstrated. But there are ways of living that are. When we understand that, we truly prosper.