“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor…” ~ Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones
There was a time when I was absolutely crazy about stand-up comedy. I was forever looking for new material to watch. Nowadays my interest has waned but I am still surprised by how many truths were buried under all the jokes I listened to. Some of them are still a pertinent part of my approach to life today. Before you say it….I know its a bit crazy to get life lessons from comedians but hear me out. Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places.
An easy, seriously sanitized example is perhaps Kat Williams. The hilarious, foul-mouthed little man who said, “grown women shouldn’t go around telling men they messed up your self-esteem. It’s called esteem of the self.” Before you write off the underlying wisdom, allow me to quote the same truth, just delivered with more elegance, from Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Another resounding, minimally sanitised, truth hidden in humour came from Chris Rock (I think) when he said “people get rich and we think they’ve made it. We think they have reached the zenith. What we don’t realise is there is huge difference between being rich and being wealthy. Let me illustrate. Shaq O’Neal is rich. The guy who pays Shaq is wealthy.”
There is a huge difference between being rich and being wealthy. A difference that can be summed up in one word…sustainability. Just ask all the washed out entertainment stars who went from “balling” and/or “making it rain” one minute to filing for bankruptcy the next. I still wonder how Mike Tyson managed to lose 300 million dollars? It should be impossible, perhaps even criminal, to be broke ever again if at any point in your life your bank balance read $300 000 000.
As a person who thinks in pictures I finally concluded that being rich is the equivalent of finding a fertile field of money, harvesting a bag then leaving. The bag is finite. Sooner or later it will run out no matter how carefully you spend it.
Being wealthy is owning the field that produces the money. As long as you tend to it like a good farmer, even in the dry season, there will be a harvest to keep you going. When the fruit runs out you can always go and pick some more. Wealth is aiming for the source and not the result.
All this got me thinking about what I aspire to. Before crossing paths with this comedy show, my definition of success was very straightforward. It was going to school. Doing well. Excelling at my exams. Graduating from a good university. Getting a good job with a fat salary with a good employer. Retiring comfortably.
Now that has changed. My definition of success is all about the people who are not afraid to go out on a limb to try to plant their own fields. The ones who take what they earn and plough it into making a long-term plan. The entrepreneurs. My definition of success is not just about making money anymore but about creating a legacy worth leaving behind for my children and theirs. Now I don’t look at the CEO of the fortune 500 company as the standard, but at the shareholder of that company. I look at the hairdresser who ventured out and started her own hair saloon. I look at the women who travel across borders with enormous bags to sell their wares and wind up owning a boutique. I look at the people who have turned blogging into a lucrative business. I look at the newly weds who pool finances to buy their first modest home instead of renting a lavish spread. I look at the taxi driver who owns his one taxi and uses his profit to buy more. I look at the woman who left her desk job at the firm to start a craft shop. I look at the employee who sets aside a little each month to invest. I look at the truly wealthy people… the ones who have stepped out and planted a seed that will become a fruit bearing tree. The ones who are investing primarily in themselves. Those are the people who set my new standard.
Maybe, just maybe, its time we stop looking towards finding employment and we start looking towards creating it.