The Key to Great Wealth

William Faulkner loudly proclaimed that it couldn’t be done; bringing his fist down hard on the aged oak table for emphasis.  The other writers gathered there responded that indeed, it was impossible.  The unknown writer who proposed the bet sat stock-still and listened as the debate he started raged for thirty minutes.

All agreed that no one could write a story using only six words… all except one.

Ernest Hemingway, who had been uncharacteristically quiet during the raucous debate assured the dissenters that it could be done. In fact, he assured them, not only could he write it, he could do it immediately.

The writers gathered around the bar and threw down ten dollars apiece to cover their bet. Hemingway smiled and scrawled on a napkin: For sale, baby shoes, never worn.

Stunned and silent, they peered at the paper and sat back in their chairs as Faulkner pushed the money across to Hemingway.

True artists and creative types long have known that constraint is the impetus for creativity; that great art is a subtractive process. Michelangelo explained that he created the masterpiece David by simply removing anything that wasn’t David. It is by taking away marble or stone that shadow and depth renders form to that which is left. It is by taking away the harshness of primary colors by adding them together in differing amounts and combinations that hundreds of colors, tints and hues become possible.

Oscar Wilde observed, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”  As it turns out, he was absolutely correct. Like great art, a great life is one free of unnecessary clutter. It is a life of choice, which by its very nature is a subtractive process. With every choice we make, we eliminate thousands of other choices.

Generally, the greater our wants, the greater our confusion and the greater the chaos we invite into our lives. Those who live truly great lives focus on and seek only a few things and they are very clear about what those are. You never drive through the neighborhoods of people who are living well and see yards piled with junk. That’s the scene you find in poor neighborhoods. Why?  Because those who have attained wealth have done so by making good choices; choices that minimize the clutter in their minds and in their lives.

Most treatises on wealth and successful living teach you how to get more. That’s a backwards approach and why so many programs that purport to produce prosperity fail to deliver. Before you can successfully acquire more, you must make room for it.

A great life, like great art requires constraint; requires that we let go of the things that serve more as shackles than wings. You cannot put life-giving elixir into a cup already filled with contaminated water. You must first empty the cup and cleanse it of the contamination or the elixir will become tainted and you may still fall ill.

Look at your life. What contaminates and what is life-giving? What in your environment do you own and what owns you? What you truly own adds life and vitality and joy to your life. It is the elixir that strengthens and gives you wings to soar to the highest heights.

What owns you holds you down. It contaminates your life and keeps you weak and confined; shackled to a life you don’t want.

Clutter in your home or work environment owns you. It robs you of time and space and a sense of well being. The same is true of clutter in your mind. What ideas do you cling to even though they are keeping you from the realizing your potential and living your dream? What relationships do you tolerate even though they drag you down?

Look at your life. What’s holding you down?  What must you exorcise? What choices must you make to get on your true path and walk it freely? Before you attempt to gain more, decide what you have to let go of in order to create the masterpiece you imagine your life could be, and then let it go.

To have a great life and true wealth, you must first pare away the excess. You must step back and examine your life much like Michelangelo examined the marble slab that concealed David and methodically eliminate anything that prevents your masterpiece from emerging.

Nothing you do in life will get you farther faster than taking this first giant step. Life imitates art. We are the creators of what we live. Will the life you create be an authentic masterpiece or a cheap imitation? The choice is yours.

Opening analogy adapted from an article written by Tim Durkin for the National Speakers Association

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Current Best Business Builder

The Purpose Driven Business

More than three thousand years ago, Greek philosopher, Aristotle, presented what has come to be known as The Golden Mean; that ideal middle ground that lies between two unhealthy extremes. Aristotle defined the behaviors found in the healthy middle ground as virtues and those in the extremes as vices and applied the Golden Mean to all sorts of conditions.

Vices fall into two categories at either end of the spectrum. On the low end, a virtue is lacking or deficient. On the high end, a virtue has been taken to an extreme and the behavior is excessive. Studying the Golden Mean, it becomes apparent that too much of a good thing is just as bad as too little.

Regarding matters of money, such as doing business, Aristotle observed that the primary mean is generosity, where the deficiency shows up as miserliness and the excess as extravagance. Both vices fall short and exceed the balanced state in contrary ways. The extravagant individual exceeds in spending and falls short in earning, where the miser exceeds in earning and falls short in spending.

To have a healthy thriving business, the vices must be avoided and that requires a fine tuned balancing act that can only be attained purposefully.

Unfortunately, few are taught purposeful living. Most people fall into one of the extremes to some degree and we can see the effect of that in the appalling statistics for business success versus failure. According to the Small Business Administration, 95% of all businesses fail within the first five years and the reason can always be traced to some vice. We also see vice in the equally appalling statistics on employee dissatisfaction and disengagement where year after year the number of disengaged employees hovers around 73% according to an extensive Gallup poll. This informs us of how rarely purpose driven leaders emerge.

This is bad news for those working for the average leader and good news for those in business for themselves, provided the business owner decides to lead purposefully. It’s good news for the purposeful leader because there is so little competition in that healthy middle ground, and it is from there that all great and lasting successes flow.

The illustration below demonstrates Aristotle’s Golden Mean. As you compare the purposeful place of balance to the two extremes, it becomes apparent why businesses that fall outside the Golden Mean fail to thrive.

You can go down the list item by item and see how the vices lead to business failure where the virtues drive success.

Let’s take the first set and apply it to sales or promotion, both of which are essential to business success. Whether coming from a place of cowardice or rashness, the result will be poor. Only courage would result in success.

Or consider the sloth-AMBITION-greed spectrum. Walk into just about any organization and you will see the two extremes operating everywhere. They counterbalance one another. Where you find greedy leaders, you find an over abundance of slothful followers and where you find slothful leaders, you find an over abundance of greedy followers. In either case, the environment is absolutely toxic.

Then there are those rare exceptions of ambitious young companies, such as Google, where the leaders purposefully engage their people and encourage innovation.

Looking at the modesty scale, one might question how humility is a vice. We tend to see humility as a good thing today, but what we call humility today is what Aristotle called modesty. He defined modesty as “high-mindedness” and humility as “small-mindedness.” To Aristotle, humility was the inability to accept compliments or credit for one’s achievements, or to extend them to others, where pride referred to taking credit where no credit is due. Clearly leaders who operate from either extreme would fail to attract loyal followers.

Aristotle’s Golden Mean is a great tool for checking your own attitudes and actions as you go about your day. It helps to know whether we are on the side of too much or too little in any particular area because knowing gives us the opportunity to make the proper adjustments and finally arrive at that place of balance which Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence andWorking with Emotional Intelligence coined as (yep, you guessed it) emotional intelligence or EQ.

Although there are plenty of examples of companies that have survived and even thrived in the short term with ruthless leaders at the helm, that can only work where the organization is already so large and established, and the ruthless executive so protected, that it takes a long time for the effect of his or her bad behaviors to surface. They usually get canned once the destruction they cause becomes apparent. And if you go back to the founder of that large, established company, you will always find someone who operated from the Golden Mean. Sam Walton of Wal-Mart is a classic example. Wal-Mart has had lots of negative press since Walton’s passing; but while he was alive, Wal-Mart was the darling of the retail world and those running it today are still riding on the momentum Walton built.

Entrepreneurs and small business teams don’t have the luxury of deep pockets and established momentum, and absolutely cannot survive, much less thrive, unless they are functioning from the Golden Mean. It is only through this balanced, emotionally intelligent, purposeful approach that a small business can succeed.

An Eye-Opening Exercise

1. Take a few moments to go over the Golden Mean chart and think about your outcomes and/or the outcomes of people you know when they fall too far above or below the mean. What happens when an individual is cowardly, stingy, slothful, small- minded, secretive, morose (or ill-tempered), quarrelsome, self-indulgent, apathetic or indecisive? Have you ever seen a truly successful person that lived on this end of the spectrum?

How about someone who is rash, extravagant, greedy, prideful, too chatty or talkative to listen (loquacious), absurd, who flatters insincerely or who is insensible, irritable and impulsive?

2. Think of people you know or know about who operate from one or more of the vices. Jot them down on a sheet of paper. Include people you know as well as those who you are aware of through news reports, such as Bernie Madoff, the Enron folks, and the politicians that bicker and pout like little children.

3. Now, make a list of the people you know or know of who have (or had) a reputation that makes it apparent that they function from the Golden Mean, such as Steve Jobs.

4. Now compare the two lists. You will readily see how wide open the world of purposeful living and purposeful leadership really is.

Purposefully seek the Golden Mean. If you do, you will arrive at a place in your business and in your life that is truly golden.

A purpose driven business operates purposefully on every level and is always driven by a purposeful leader. The stated purpose of an organization will not be sustained for long if the leader lacks the emotional intelligence necessary to steer the business, and those who help to keep it running, in purposeful ways along that Golden Mean.

To have a greatly successful business, begin with yourself. The nature of your business will revolve around you so step into the zone of the Golden Mean and make the most of it.

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The Super Highway to Success

The Super-Highway to Success

There are three areas in the lives of most people that are critical to happiness and a sense of well-being: health, relationships and money. To the degree that  any of these is missing, happiness and well-being are diminished. 

I will be covering all three from time to time, but am beginning with money. The reason is because, without money we cannot afford nutritious food or medical care to sustain health. Without money, we find ourselves in a worry loop that increases stress and the health hazards related to stress, and we are not very good company so our relationships suffer.

So how do we best amass enough money to live a wealthy lifestyle, epsecially in a world that encourages an ever-growing gap between the rich and ordinary people?  The answer?  Entrepreneurship. 

There is no better way on Earth to amass wealth than to have your own business – provided you are in the right business and are running it well. Unfortunately, where that is not the case, running your own business can be a bottomless time and money pit. 

The Small Business Administration estimates that 95% of all small business that get started fail within the first 5 years. The reason for the appalling statistics is that the majority of entrepreneurs go into business not knowing what they are really passionate about and/or not knowing how to leverage what they know into a thriving business.

Tools to Help You Get Where You Want to Go Faster

In the next few posts, I will be covering tips and tactics you can use to get to where you want to be faster, better and a whole lot easier. There is no value in struggling to achieve the lifestyle you want and deserve. In the fast-paced world we live in, we need to get off the many avenues that move too slow or lead us nowhere and get on the super-highway to success.

Tip one

Until you find your own true passion, you cannot achieve the levels of success that result in wealth. Passion and interests are not the same thing. Most people are interested in a lot of things that, while enjoyable, will not sustain interest long enough to build a successful business around.

To discover your passion, list your interests and project yourself doing each thing for a year. If you would still feel excited about doing that regularly, it likely fits with your passion. 

Once you know your passion, start thinking of ways to build a business around it. If you are already in business, how can you incorporate it into what you do?  If you want to achieve true and lasting wealth, you must be following your passion. Wealth and passion are synonymous.   

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