What does the word “wealth” conjure up for you? Unlimited resources to do what you please? Illegitimate profiteering at the expense of others? People have many unhealthy attitudes when it comes to wealth, attitudes which interfere with both success and fulfillment. This Provision redeems wealth as we start a new series on the subject.
With this Provision we shift into the second major section of my new book, “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Coaching and Profound Provisions for the Trek of Life.” The last time I wrote about wealth, some readers took offense because wealth is not as universally cherished as health. Everyone wants to be healthy whereas wealth, for some people, carries the overtones of what Washington Gladden called “tainted money.” Such people have the sneaking suspicion that wealth is usually illegitimate and detrimental to society.
Even some wealthy people have misgivings about wealth. In a new biography of Benjamin Franklin, who was arguably the original and quintessential self-made millionaire, I found it interesting to learn that wealth was neither viewed as an inalienable right nor even as necessarily contributing to the common good.
Perhaps you know that in the original draft of the American Declaration of Independence, the three inalienable rights were “life, liberty, and property.” That was changed to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” in part due to Franklin’s influence.
Edmund Morgan, Franklin’s biographer, notes that Franklin endorsed the following provision adopted by the state of Pennsylvania in their Declaration of Rights: “That an enormous Proportion of Property vested in a few individuals is dangerous to the Rights, and destructive of the Common Happiness, of Mankind; and therefore every free State hath a Right by its Laws to discourage the Possession of such Property.”
Given Franklin’s involvement in writing and working out the details of the constitutional underpinnings of American society and the American dream, including the right to own and accumulate as much wealth and property as one possibly can, Morgan notes that “Franklin spent ten years arguing for a natural right that existed in American opinion but not quite in his own.” In other words, Franklin was protecting a right that he himself enjoyed and yet saw as fraught with danger.
Millions of immigrants have come to American soil for hundreds of years because of the foundation laid by Franklin and many others, which fortunately included a variety of checks and balances against unbridled greed. Taxation to pay for needed goods and services, such as roads and law enforcement, has also been society’s hedge against the notion that mere self-interest would, through some “invisible hand,” produce the best of all possible worlds. Behind every tax, and especially behind every progressive tax where those who have more pay more, there lies the implicit recognition that those who enjoy society’s benefits have a responsibility to shoulder its burdens.
That principle is the starting point for redeeming the framework of wealth and prosperity. It was certainly ever-present in Franklin’s mind both for himself personally and for society at large. Throughout his life and even in death, his focus was more on giving than on getting. This was as true for individuals as for the workings of government. In his will, he left significant sums of money to the cities of Philadelphia and Boston that served the common good for 200 years. And Franklin strongly supported government taxation as society’s way of mitigating the tyranny of accumulated wealth.
Franklin’s American dream is in no way represented by the tongue-in-cheek quip, “those who die with the most toys win.” Franklin understood a more fundamental truth about wealth and prosperity: if that’s all you want, then that’s all you’ll get, and you probably won’t even get that. The push to get rich, ironically enough, works against the attainment of true wealth.
The pull of living free, both for oneself and for the good of all, makes wealth an almost inevitable consequence, every step of the way. Perhaps that’s why Franklin had Poor Richard quip in his Almanac: “Who is rich? He that rejoices in his Portion.” Or again, “Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it.” Wealth and prosperity are not about the bottom line on your balance sheet. Wealth and prosperity are about the top line on your mind.
Do you get up every morning, looking forward to the day? Can you identify your gifts and do you enjoy using them? Are you learning more about how you can contribute both to your own well-being and to the well-being of others? These are the kinds of questions from which true wealth derives. Hence Franklin’s habit of starting every day by asking himself, “What good am I going to do today?” and of ending every day by again querying, “What good did I do today?”
From this perspective, a person can become rich in very short order. They don’t focus on the end game, “I will be rich when I have achieved a certain level of accomplishment.” They focus on what Tim Gallwey’s definition of wealth, “I am rich when I love my life and work.”
In other words, there really is a get-rich-quick scheme that works. Once you learn the secret of enjoying your life and work on a daily basis, you become instantly wealthy. Abundance defines your very being. Instead of operating from a position of scarcity and striving, you operate from the assumption that who you are and what you do adds incredible value to every situation and moment.
That assumption is inherently true for each of us. It goes with the territory of being alive. Unfortunately, far too many people fail to understand, appreciate, and operate from this assumption. As a result, they diminish the value they add and, in turn, the value they receive. By living from a position of fear, they restrict their freedom and the opportunities that come their way.
This is the mystery of wealth and prosperity that many people fail to understand. Wealth and prosperity are not to be sought in and of themselves; instead, they come our way as derivatives of a life well lived. When you are content with who you are and what you have, even more will come your way. You expand as a personal energy center. Or, to paraphrase a biblical reference, “those who are faithful with little will be given more; those who squander what little they have, will lose even that.”
For the next several months we will explore these redeeming dimensions of wealth and prosperity. As the world plunges into political and economic arrest, it will help to remember the foundations upon which the good life is built. It’s not about fighting and clawing your way to the top; it’s about living and loving your way in the world.
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
I just finished reading your e-Book, “Flesh and Spirit” and enjoyed it so much that I have no intention of using the offered 1/2 hour of free coaching but instead would ask you to use that time to work on your next book. Please sign me up in advance for a copy. (Ed. Note: Thanks! For others who might like to order, go to the e-Book section of our Catalog. Go There.)
Thanks for sharing the sacred trust so well. God’s continuing blessings.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
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