How much of our lives are guided by the proverbial paper chase called making money? I ask this question because so many (I’m including myself in the “so many”)are consumed with the drive to make money for a multitude of reasons. We all have bills to pay, of course, but let’s be honest: We all like our “things.”
Maybe your thing is going on a nice vacation, having the latest smart television, the latest computer, or a brand new car. Maybe it’s wanting some breathing room from the monthly crush of the mortgage or rent, car note, student loans, medical bills, or all things associated with raising children. It seems the pursuit of money consumes our lives to the point that it is all we think about.
I was like this for years. I believed that the end goal of every dream, every pursuit had to include some tie-in to a financial reward. My dreams usually went something like this, “I want to do 8000 sit-ups in three weeks. And oh yeah, I want to make $1 million in the process.” Or how about this one: “I want to work 100 hours per week, and I want to make $100 million.” Now, don’t get me wrong; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with money. Money can open doors of opportunities beyond our wildest imaginations, and for the longest time, I thought the act of making it was my life’s purpose. However, my life changed the moment I met John.
John is a gentleman from Nigeria. He was a banking executive before immigrating to America. I happened to meet John during a consulting engagement for John’s employer. After an employee meeting that John was a part of, he asked me if he could share some insights on how my client could improve their process-driven systems. For the next two hours, we discussed all of the plans that John had devised on how he could help to increase the overall production structure of the company.
The conversation moved from business to his belief that the problem with America was our obsessive focus on money at the exclusion of helping to care for others. He spoke of the harsh conditions he grew up in Nigeria and he said, “Despite my people’s suffering, we still looked out for each other. We loved each other, and we knew that the more we did for others would result in our own lives being blessed with good fortune. I wish Americans would realize that when you do good by others, the money will come.”
I was jolted by this statement for the simple fact that in my quest to make more, I rarely considered that if I focused on helping others the money would come. I accepted John’s challenge, and I got to work. I created a scholarship at my old high school, Lutheran North, in my father’s name. My wife and I increased our donations to charities here and abroad. But more importantly, I put in the work.
I made it my mission to help 30 million every year for the rest of my life. Is this overly ambitious? Sure.
But where is the harm in wanting to make life better for everyone you encounter? Maybe I will miss my goal of 30 million people, or maybe I will exceed it. Who knows? What I do know is that this focus on helping others has created a shift in me that is hard to explain. We have a responsibility to help and support each other, because we truly are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
Maybe it’s planting a garden for your neighbor or giving a friendly hello to the person walking past you on the street. Perhaps it’s buying coffee for the person standing behind you in line. Regardless of the act, you have the power to change someone’s day or even someone’s life by giving them the gift of kindness. You may find the more you give of yourself, the more your life will change for the better. Because, in the end, love and kindness are the only currency that truly matters.
This post is republished on Medium.
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