I used to believe that money had been the reason why a corporation would stop to innovate, a politician would become corrupted, and how a family would break apart. During my studies of great innovators and leaders, I saw a different pattern on how important people of this world use money — they'd give the more they earn. I wondered then, could money adopt different attributes based on who utilizes it. It taunts on me that money is simply a reflection of our own integrity and our opinions of ourselves. Money is not evil nor a vehicle for self-fulfillment; it can be a way of life, and it is life.
Those who help, become rich.
Three years ago, I began picking up some motivational books, books on innovation, creativity, and texts on philosophy, and what I came to find was that those books slowly emerge toward one conclusion about our purposes in this world — altruism. It is a big word that opens to many interpretations, but my understanding is that altruism is about helping others to help ourselves in order to continue helping others. It is a cycle, and only when it's not in a cycle, problems manifest. Selflessness is the force that moves humanity forward. Fundamentally, money is food, water, and hope. We often mistakenly use it for fulfilling egos and desires when we have plenty. It is when we see and use money that way, we'd forget what's enough and can never be truly happy when others rise above us. If we can be content, we realize we only need so little in life to find real happiness. Money is like water in a way that life thrives where money flows. People don't want to just spray water into the desert. We spray water where there's a possibility to nourish life in the same way that people want to support and sponsor those who'd do good or create better lives for others. We all have this innate nature to want to make the world to be better than when we first found it, and when we don't follow that nature, we'd become bitter and set to destroy others' humanity in order to make us feel better. I’ve finally realized that to be rich financially, it is essential that we'd also be rich spiritually.
"Once you get beyond a million dollars, it's still the same hamburger." — Bill Gates
Why do we find the need to borrow money that's not our's to buy things that we don't need in order to impress people whom we don't care for? A wise man once said our purpose on this earth is to be happy. Happiness is an enigmatic concept because is addiction happiness? Is eating fast food happiness? Is superiority happiness? I think to be happy, we first need to contemplate contention and realize what we truly want deep in our souls. Taiichi Ohno, the pioneer of Toyota Production System in the 50's, developed a technique to investigate a problem by asking why 5 times. Adopting that practice, let's attempt a thought experiment. If I were a billionaire, would I still do the things that I do today? If no, why? If yes, why? And why? And why? And why? And finally again, why? If we were billionaires, where would we want to travel? If we were billionaires, how would we want to live our lives? If we're billionaires, would we still work at the job we currently have? Ask why 5 times for each of the questions. Do we need to be billionaires to do all those things that we've been wanting to do? If I wanted a nice car, was it because I wanted to instill confidence? Can reading more books to make myself smarter achieve the same goal? If it's because I want to help the environment by purchasing an electric vehicle, can I set up solar panels for my house instead for free? If it's because I want to get to point A to point B safer, most cars are safe enough already to drive on the road as long as we drive responsibly. If I wanted a faster ride, can I not just leave the house earlier if I wanted to build a more punctual reputation?
It's worth noting that Mark Zuckerberg drives a $30,000 Volkswagon. Warren Buffett still lives in the same house he bought in 1958 for $31,500.
More power, more responsibility
If I were a billionaire, do I possess the right to over-tip a waiter after a meal? It's long been a question that I believe is none of anyone's business. But again, if I were to imagine the scenario where if every rich person over-tips his/her waiter at a restaurant making such service one of the highest paying job in the country, wouldn't more people want to learn how to wait on tables? Bringing such example to an extreme, we'll witness a whole city becoming a city of waiters. Investors, donors would open universities to teach people how to wait with a $100k a year salary right off college. What then? When it becomes a nation of waiters, do we find ourselves lacking the ability to grow food, innovate, protect ourselves; no one knows how to be the person who pays the bill.
If we can see that every decision in life as an investment, we'd learn to evaluate and make meaningful and positive choices. Investment is an act of sharing resources that defines the path of human evolution. If we were to over-tip a waiter, we're telling the world that such skill is treasured and demanded for our next stage of evolution. We're telling the world that it is where we could make a living and populate. Although it is true that it's our money, we do with it however we want. But what happens when that decision brings about negative influences to the world? When that happens, inbalance in the world would eventually circle back and affect us. Being either selfish or selfless should bring us to the same conclusion — not to squander. With more money or power, we've become more influential in our evolutionary process, and we're certainly given more responsibilities.
The pride we take in the amount of money that we earn is in direct correlation to our talent and potentials. We often don't disclose that information leaving that information as a mystery or imagination based on the appearance we present. Do we go and have a $200 meal with friends because we can afford it, so we can save face in front of our friends, or so we feel like we're living a life closer to our dream of success? The reality is that those who struggle to become a billionaire do so by being extremely frugal. In reality, $200 for us is 1/5,000,000 of a billion dollars. It's affordable for a billionaire. But let's consider if $200 is 0.01% of our savings, then in the case of spending 0.01% of a billion for a meal would be the equivalent of a billionaire spending $100,000 on the same meal just to display status.
The rich get richer, the poor, poorer.
If there's one thing the richest man in Babylon has taught me is that the poor remain poor is because they'd always pay other people first before paying for themselves. After a day's work, the poor would pay for a waiter, a chef, the restaurant/bar's rent, electricity, and gas before s/he buys the grocery and prepare his/her own meal at his/her own home where most of that has already been paid for. To save up enough to allow money to make more money for us, it's said to always save 10% of everything that goes into our pocket into a well guarded account. We often can't save up enough because we'd always have some sort of emergencies or reasons to spend our savings. Don't we wonder, why in our desperate times or our poorest moments, we're still able to pay off traffic tickets, medical bills, or buy a lottery ticket. Those are unconditional yet we can always manage to pay for those expense while maintaining our life style. We’re always capable of earning more, but when we’re challenged financially, we often ask the wrong question. Instead of asking “why don’t I have more money”, we should ask “how do we make more money”. To build up a savings account, the richest man in Babylon describes a well-guarded city. The wall has to be so thick and tall that no adversary can get in to kidnap its citizens nor any soldiers can ever go out without capable of bringing more back in. This way, if we don't have enough in the bank to pay for a traffic ticket or a medical bill, we would always ask how can we earn more money instead of taking money out of our savings or borrowing from a bank.
Pursuing frugality is pursuing a higher quality of life.
I've observed that while being frugal makes us richer, being cheap, on the other hand, would make us poorer. Frugality is not about living a lesser life. It is about living a much better life with much less money. It is the discipline of resourcefulness and being smart. That mindset is to allow us to be billionaires before we’ll become close to one someday.
We are what we eat. A wise man once compared our body to a country and explains how each cell is a worker. What we eat or how late we decide to sleep determine the level of respect we have for our cells, which metaphorically resemble the workers we manage or govern. Ancient eastern philosophies dictate that we must take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. That is why if a country is not in order, it has no business controlling any foreign affairs. If we want to be a good influence, we first must be a good influence to ourselves and family first. Learning how to treat our body, our friends, family with respect is a testament of how we treat others.
Rich people are rich not just because they are frugal financially, they are frugal every aspect of life. Being resourceful is the prerequisite for greatness, and their accumulated wealth is only a reflection of their discipline in such philosophy. We can easily apply the discipline of frugality to almost everything in life and in our career. To say they are frugal is to say they are extremely efficient and positive in managing their resources not just financially, but to their time, attention to family, employee delegation, corporate expansion strategies, investment ideologies, and more. If we cannot restrain from spending 0.5% of our savings account on unnecessary luxurious items, how can we be trusted to manage a multi-million dollar firm?
After a year of learning about money, I’ve come to believe that being frugal is the true essence of obtaining more, not just more money, but spirituality, morality, intelligence for everything in life. It's about learning to differentiate the essentials in life from the unessentials. Do we hoard things we don't need? Do we take thousands of photos we'll never go back and revisit? Do we get more when we already have enough? Are we being responsible when we have more than others do? Can we be content? Can we save lives? Can we save the world? Money is evil if we see it as evil. In the eyes of a great man, however, money is indeed noble.